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In-Helmet Social Networking: Influential Ex-General’s Vision of Future War
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n-Helmet Social Networking: Influential Ex-General’s Vision of Future War


[Image: scales-660x440.jpg]




In the near future, infantrymen will be selected by psychologists, train like football teams and tap online social networks of military experts as they enter a war-zone village. The soldiers will rely on overseas translators to talk to the locals, drive all-electric vehicles and have their vital signs constantly monitored by their superiors. And thanks to new “weapons and sensing technologies and the creation of hyper-performing small units,” a small handful of troops will be able to control vast swaths of territory and influence large populations.
That’s the future, at least, as sketched out for Gen. James Mattis, the nominee to take over U.S. Central Command, by retired Maj. Gen.Robert Scales, a well-known military futurist. Earlier this year, Scales and Mattis were sharing ideas about the next generation of small units — something the two iconoclastic senior officers have done repeatedly over the last six years.
But rather than codify the notions into a formal policy paper or into a PowerPoint briefing, Mattis asked Scales to write him a story. “One of his favorite pieces is Ender’s Game,” Scales says, referring to the science-fiction classic. In that spirit, Scales penned Jerry Smith’s War: 2025.
For a second he felt the Coach nodding in approval. Just before pulling out of Fire Base Tiger Jerry took a moment… to go over the game plan and audibles with his virtual friends one last time. He said “Online” into his helmet phone and a familiar voice drowned out the rush of background noise:
“Jerry, how are you?”
“I’m OK, Martha, just a little stressed thinking about what’s out there in front of us. This is my first mission in command and I can feel the team watching me.…”
“Martha” was a pseudonym for the Pastun interpreter connected to Jerry through the online hookup. She had his back and he could express his concerns to her without fear it would be seen as a sign of weakness. More importantly, she knew a lot that could help him. She was born near Fire Base Tiger and had immigrated to the states just a few years ago….
“You’ve not taken this route before, Jerry, so Tim will be your terrain guy today. He’s monitoring from DC and as you know he’s been over this route a hundred times… George, from JIEDDO University in Newport News is on the line to follow your route using your video stream and will look for anomalies in the ground. He’ll also inform you of all the latest IED hot spots. I’d like to introduce Sam from Minneapolis. He’s a soldier wounded recently in a fire fight along your route and he’ll punch in as you get closer to your expected danger area… So call us when you need them. Look, Jerry, we can tell from your most recent bio-feedback data that you and your team have been pushed by seven firefights in six weeks. So we’re monitoring your condition very closely. Good luck and we’re with you all the way.”
Orson Scott Card, it ain’t. But the 36-page short story does lay out the thinking of a deeply unconventional, deeply influential thinker in national security circles. Scales’ client list includes government agencies from the CIA to the U.S. Navy. For years, Scales has been a paid consultant and informal adviser to Mattis, who’s now slated to oversee both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
In the mid-90s, Scales headed up the Army After Next program, which eventually lead to Future Combat Systems, the $200 billion plan to remake the entire Army as a network-centric force. Even before FCS was set, however, Scales became a fierce critic of its technological determinism, and its failure to account for the human dimension of conflict. FCS eventually collapsed under its own weight. Scales went on to push for the military to incorporate broader social and cultural expertise. That contributed to the rise of the controversial Human Terrain System, which embeds anthropologists and other social scientists in combat units. That project has also repeatedly teetered on the brink, after the deaths of civilian field researchers, and accusations of sloppy management and training. As an advisor to Mattis, Scales also did some of the intellectual legwork which led to the Combat Hunter project that teaches big-game safari skills to marines and to the Infantry Immersion Trainer, a 32,000 square-foot high-tech close combat simulator.
Today, Scales’ focus is on turning small units, like the ones fighting in Afghanistan, into the centerpieces of the armed forces’ strategy and operations. Jerry Smith: 2025 is part of that push.
Scales is also taking aim at the U.S. military’s hierarchical command-and-control networks, which he says are meant to “feed orders from the top-down and feed information from the bottom up.” (Mattis made similar complaints as the head of Joint Forces Command.) Instead, Scales contends, networks should tie one infantryman to another (and to resources back home) in order to address their need for companionship, connection, and reassurance that they won’t die alone. In other words, Scales isn’t one of those futurists who think technology replaces the human dimensions of war. He’s harnessing technology precisely to address some of soldiering’s most immediate and human dimensions: emotional strain.
“What does a soldier need? ‘I’m lonely,’” Scales says. “As the battlefield expands, the space between soldiers expands geometrically, and primal fear escalates. The need for psychic glue increases an order of magnitude.” Which is why he’d like to have veterans, translators, cultural experts, and battle buddies all connected in a social network for war.
“Soldiers don’t break from hunger, thirst or poor leadership. They break from emotional collapse,” he says. To keep that from happening, “maybe someone far away, like [National Security Agency headquarters] Ft. Meade, could monitor [troops] for emotional and biological signs — heart rate, galvanic skin response, a tremor in a soldier’s voice — and then aggregate it into a dashboard.”
Scales also believes infantry units should spend years together, instead of “sending out a pickup squad that’s broken up every 18 months.” Like football players, each member of the unit should have specialized skills that mesh together. And like some pro athletes, those troops should practice group “visioning” — creating mental images of their wartime goals. “Empathy,” not aggression, should be the new must-have trait of any military leader. And soldiers need to develop a respect and an affinity for foreign cultures. Scales believes current U.S. ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry best personifies this comfort, which is why he calls it the “Eikenberry gene.”
It’s doubtful whether all (or even most) of these ideas will become military doctrine. And some of Scales’ tech suggestions seem just as brittle, and just as prone to cause strategic interference in tactical affairs, as the systems he criticizes today. But with Scales’ record of pushing projects — and with his influential circle of high-ranking friends — it’d be a mistake to dismiss Scales’ notions. The military’s future might not turn out exactly like Jerry Smith: 2025. But it might not be all that different, either.
Photo: USNI

Tags: Army, James Mattis, Marines, Robert Scales, Strategery


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Quote:In the near future, infantrymen will be selected by psychologists, train like football teams and tap online social networks of military experts as they enter a war-zone village. The soldiers will rely on overseas translators to talk to the locals, drive all-electric vehicles and have their vital signs constantly monitored by their superiors. And thanks to new “weapons and sensing technologies and the creation of hyper-performing small units,” a small handful of troops will be able to control vast swaths of territory and influence large populations.
That’s the future, at least, as sketched out for Gen. James Mattis, the nominee to take over U.S. Central Command, by retired Maj. Gen.Robert Scales, a well-known military futurist. Earlier this year, Scales and Mattis were sharing ideas about the next generation of small units — something the two iconoclastic senior officers have done repeatedly over the last six years.

StupidStupidStupidStupid

A neo-fascist wet dream, refracted through the banal prism of American football and cyberpropaganda.

An iconoclastic vision?

Nah. Just plain embarrassing.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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