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Document created: 1 December 07
Air & Space Power Journal - Winter 2007

Dawn of the Cognetic Age

Fighting Ideological War by Putting Thought in Motion with Impact

Lt Col Bruce K. Johnson, USAF

Editorial Abstract: Colonel Johnson uses the term “cognetic” to mean putting thought into motion, ideally with global impact. Militant Islam has proven very adept at exploiting the cognetic realm to foment disillusionment and advance its agenda. The author urges the United States, starting with policy makers responsible for national security, to adopt and apply cognetic thinking in order to reorient US grand strategy so that the nation can wage and win ideological warfare.

This article introduces the term cognetic, coined by the author from the root words cognitive (relating to thought process) and kinetic (relating to, caused by, or producing motion). Currently, the term lacks a single, accepted meaning. I intend to use it in a unique way in order to define the essence of today’s fast-moving, unrestrained, nonstop global media (the Internet and transnational television) and their effect on public opinion and behavior. To be cognetic is to put thought in motion with impact. Thought takes the form of messages created by specific arrangements of images, sounds, and words. Motion signifies the global media’s unrestrained and rapid movement of messages to a target audience. Impact represents the effect on public opinion and behavior caused by perceptions generated by the message. Violent public reactions in the Muslim world to the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and to Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about Islam epitomize the term cognetic—putting thought in motion with a global impact.1 Unlike bombs and bullets—the effective conventional weapons of the Industrial Age—imagery, sounds, and words serve as the effective ideological weapons of the Cognetic Age.

The US government recognizes the importance of the ideological component of its war with militant Islam, calling it a battle of ideas, but lacks a shared, systematic way to conceptualize, communicate, and carry out this type of war. Top-level US strategy documents, such as the National Security Strategy, National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, and Quadrennial Defense Review Report all state the importance of countering militant Islam’s ideology.2 However, the United States continues to emphasize tangible, conventional military solutions to fight an intangible war of ideas while pursuing security policies counterproductive to building and maintaining public support. Symptomatic of an unsustainable and ineffectual grand strategy, these facts are largely responsible for increasing the strain on the military and for rapidly decreasing domestic and international support for the “long war.”

This article advocates adopting cognetic thinking to create a shared, systematic way of conceptualizing, communicating, and carrying out ideological warfare against militant Islam. It does so by applying principles of maneuver warfare so that we can understand our enemy’s use of global media as an ideological weapon of mass influence. Additionally, it encourages the use of cognetic thinking to conduct a rigorous risk-versus-return analysis of post-9/11 security policies vis-à-vis militant Islam in an effort to create a sustainable and effective grand strategy to win the long war. This requires championing policies that constructively build and maintain US and allied resolve to fight, attract the uncommitted to our side, and drain away militant Islam’s desire to continue fighting.

Understanding militant Islam’s use of global media as an operational weapon of mass influence requires understanding the nature and dynamics of ideological warfare in the Cognetic Age. Doing so necessitates building a lens to see the underlying operational doctrine used by enemy forces to carry out ideological war. Looking through this lens, national-security policy makers will find themselves in a better position to formulate policies, strategies, and doctrines needed to promote an effective wartime grand strategy for the long term with an eye toward shortening the war. To build this lens, we need shared terminologies, concepts, and principles to help us think differently and communicate clearly about the ideological war.

Think Differently—
Communicate Clearly

Adopting shared terminologies, concepts, and principles is critical to developing a new capability for ideological warfare if the military services and various government agencies wish to avoid the misperceptions and negative baggage associated with old terminology and thinking. Many terms and concepts held over from the Industrial Age prevent us from thinking and communicating clearly about new threats we face in the Cognetic Age. For example, propaganda does not fit today’s decentralized information-communication environment because we associate it with the centralized control and management of information and communications that reflected the concentration of power during the Industrial Age. With the advent of the Internet and globalization, this concentration of power no longer exists in the hands of the few; indeed, many people now have access to it. This shift in power is the defining feature of the Cognetic Age. Moreover, considerable negative baggage has attached itself to propaganda, a word continually used to describe almost any activity having to do with influencing perceptions, whether for good or ill. This intellectual burden stifles our ability to fight ideological war by tying our minds and tongues to the dogmas of the past. By providing perceptually neutral terms and concepts, cognetics eliminates the knee-jerk reaction to propaganda, thus freeing our minds and enabling us to think differently as well as communicate more clearly about the ideological battle we face.

Cognetics is a new concept of ideological warfare, based on principles of maneuver warfare. Referred to as “blitzkrieg of the mind,” it occurs in a virtual place created by global media. Time and space, which constrain physical maneuver, are almost nonexistent here. The term cognetic effect expresses how the emotive content of messages delivered by global media influences public opinion and behavior. A force multiplier, cognetic effect empowers nonstate actors to influence public opinion and behavior on a global scale. By means of cognetics, the United States can win ideological warfare by advancing truth, dispelling rumors, correcting misinformation, and combating enemy psychological operations and perception influence. For militant Islam, the cognetic effect offers disproportionate power to drive people to action. Seen most vividly, the cognetic effect of the Jyllands-Posten’s Muhammad cartoons struck the Muslim world like a meteor, setting off shock waves of anger and sparking violent demonstrations from London to Lahore.

Nature and Dynamics of the
Cognetic Age

Opening the window of understanding to this dawning age requires a new interpretation of warfare—one better suited for the nonstop global-media environment. In this environment, the nature and dynamics of warfare take on different forms and emphases as the conventional concepts of ordnance, delivery platforms, and targets quickly morph from the physical to the virtual.


The nature of warfare in the Cognetic Age is ideological—something inherently antithetical to conventional war because “an idea cannot be destroyed with a bullet or a bomb; it must be replaced by a better idea.”3 On a deeper level, militant Islam’s belief system runs counter to that of the civilized world. A self-admitted al-Qaeda member, commenting on the Madrid train bombings in 2004, summed up the opposing systems by saying, “We choose death while you choose life.”4 Given this mind-set, threatening militant Islamists with death will not deter them because that is what they seek.

Furthermore, under the intense media spotlight of the Cognetic Age, just a flash of an image can neutralize conventional military power. Pictures of dead women and children, the “collateral damage” of war, carry more explosive weight than a B-52—a weight measured not in tons of explosives but in negative perception, which translates to reduced public support for government policies and initiatives. Acting like a ball and chain, reduced support impairs the ability of governments to prosecute a long-term war without suffering significant political consequences. Likewise, unintended killing and maiming of civilians only motivate the uncommitted to join the fight, creating an uncontainable spiral of events that depletes limited resources and hinders the ability of the United States and its allies to sustain the level of effort required to kill and capture new recruits. An operation that kills five insurgents is counterproductive if collateral damage leads to the recruitment of 50 more.5

The US defeat in Vietnam, as well as continuing political and military difficulties in Afghanistan and especially Iraq, underscores the limits of America’s hard-won conventional military supremacy. That supremacy has not delivered decisive success against nonstate enemies who practice protracted irregular warfare. On the contrary, America’s conventional supremacy and approach to war—especially its paramount reliance on firepower and technology—often prove counterproductive.6

It follows, then, that our overreliance on conventional war—the kind for which we have spent trillions of dollars to organize, train, and equip—cannot produce the decisive results we seek. In fact, this overreliance prolongs the war by continually feeding new recruits into the Islamic cult of death. Conventional warfare in the Cognetic Age has clearly lost its efficacy. Internalizing this stark reality is the most important step in changing the way we think about and approach the current war.

Ordnance and Content

The physical weapons of the Industrial Age—plane, tank, and rifle—use a wide variety of ordnance, including bombs, shells, and bullets specially designed to create specific effects on specific targets. Similarly, the virtual weapons of the Cognetic Age (the Internet and transnational television) have a wide variety of content (imagery, sounds, and words) specially designed to create specific psychological and behavioral effects on specific audiences. Cognetics offers a needed alternative to conventional-warfare thinking; it provides the means to effectively engage militant Islam ideologically by using images, sounds, and words—the ordnance of choice in this new age.

Delivery Platforms: Global Media

Many terror groups have media capabilities to propagate their ideology and launch cognetic attacks against their enemies. Hezbollah was the first organization of its kind to establish its own international television station, Al-Manar, for use as an operational weapon and an integral part of its plan to reach not only the citizens of Lebanon but also the broader Arab and Muslim worlds.7 Al-Manar employs sophisticated methods to influence public opinion and behavior, targeting every segment of Palestinian society, beginning with children. Hezbollah seeks to incite and mobilize people to take action against Israel and the United States, specifically by propagating repetitive messages of hate and violence designed to induce the young and impressionable to join the cult of death or, at a minimum, induce sympathy for Hezbollah’s cause.

Al-Manar officials assert that they strive to create music videos with the level of professionalism that they see on US television networks, specifically Music Television (MTV). The videos tend to feature violent images and incendiary language designed, by the station’s own admission, to foster suicide operations by inciting individual viewers to violence. Ayat al-Akhras, a young Palestinian, reportedly watched Al-Manar incessantly before blowing herself up in front of a Jerusalem supermarket in March 2002, killing two Israelis and wounding 28—a chilling example of cognetics putting thought into motion with a deadly impact.8

Like Hezbollah, al-Qaeda promotes its long-term strategic agenda through a public-relations and media production company known as As-Sahab. Osama bin Laden uses As-Sahab to address the governments and citizens of Europe as well as the United States directly in an effort to discourage support for their foreign policies in the Islamic world. In the absence of major attacks, As-Sahab has become al-Qaeda’s only means of making a strategic impact on the world outside the Afghan-Pakistani border region.9 Al-Manar and As-Sahab are examples of the multitude of militant organizations that make use of global media to promote their strategic goals. The absence of a capability to defend the United States against cognetic attacks means that these organizations go unchallenged as they influence public opinion and behavior with their messages of hate and incitements to violence.

Target: Public Opinion

Abraham Lincoln once observed that “our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much.”10 His message cuts to the heart of a major lesson of war, namely, that those who most effectively master the medium of communication which influences public opinion can determine the outcome of wars. Many examples from our own short history reinforce this statement.

During the London blitz of World War II, CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow effectively built US public support for coming to the aid of Great Britain by bringing the war and stories of British heroism into the living rooms of America: “He was just a journalist, but he realized he could use the young medium of radio to galvanize public opinion and push US policy makers.”11 One analyst noted that “the Tet Offensive of February 1968 had a huge impact on American public opinion and led to substantial changes in American support for the [Vietnam] war.”12 North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, enabled by widespread television reporting, grabbed a psychological victory from the jaws of military defeat. His perceived victory decisively undermined American public support for continuing the war, leading to the eventual withdrawal of US forces in 1973 and the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975.

Viewing today’s situation in the context of these past examples underscores the use of global media—the most effective communication means available—by adherents of militant Islam as a strategic weapon of mass influence. They use these weapons to attack America’s spirit, morale, and value system—our psychological center of gravity—to influence public opinion and behavior. The enemy seeks to do so through tactical, media-amplified terror and intimidation operations in an attempt to force us to do his will by abandoning our vital strategic interests in the Middle East.

Ironically, mainstream media becomes an accessory to militant Islam’s messages of terror and hate through repetitive broadcasting to the Western viewing public. The number of mainstream-media channels massively amplifies and disperses terror, directly aiding the assault on America’s psychological center of gravity. Furthermore, US government actions perceived to run counter to its culture and values offer militant Islam opportunities to exploit the moral level of war to its advantage. Hot-button issues such as the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, indefinite detention and alleged torture at Guantánamo, secret CIA prisons, and apparent favoritism toward Israel, among others, fuel a highly negative, charged background, opening the United States up to increasingly powerful cognetic attacks.

Building the Cognetic Lens

Throughout military history, two distinct styles of warfare have existed: attrition, based on firepower, and maneuver, based on movement.13 These fighting styles reside at opposite ends of the spectrum of warfare. Attrition-style warfare includes such bloody slugfests as the American Civil War and World War I, whereas Hannibal’s victory over the Romans at Cannae and Germany’s blitzkrieg invasions of Poland and France during World War II typify maneuver warfare.14

Warfare by maneuver stems from a desire to circumvent a problem by attacking it from a position of advantage rather than meeting it straight on. With its goal the application of strength against weakness, maneuver, by definition, relies on speed and surprise because without either, one cannot concentrate strength against an enemy’s weakness. Tempo, itself a weapon—often the most important—in turn requires decentralized control. Although attrition operates principally in the physical realm of war, maneuver produces both physical and moral results. Maneuver seeks not so much to destroy physically as to shatter the enemy’s cohesion, organization, command, and psychological balance.15

Maneuver warfare focuses on the human (moral-psychological) element—the true center of gravity of any type of warfare—making it an excellent basis for cognetics. On close inspection, the principles of maneuver warfare largely apply to the way militant Islam employs global media to carry out cognetic attacks on public opinion. Drawing on these similarities, the following five principles help build a lens needed to see how militant Islam uses global media as an ideological weapon.

Principle One: Speed and Surprise to
Pit Strength against Weakness

In the opening stages of World War II, Germany launched surprise invasions of Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, and France. The Germans bypassed enemy strong points—such as the Maginot Line—and, using tanks and airplanes with radio communication, punched through enemy weaknesses. They followed the path of least resistance, drove deep into the enemy’s rear, cut lines of communication, disrupted movement, and paralyzed command-and-control systems. German forces moved so fast that the enemy simply could not understand what was happening and came unglued.16

Unable to attack the United States directly since 9/11, al-Qaeda uses global media to bypass the strength of our homeland defenses, follow the path of least resistance through our open society, and attack our psychological center of gravity. Because we do not censor the Internet or transnational television, images of death and destruction from terror attacks speed unimpeded (like Germany’s tanks and aircraft) across the flat plains of the global media directly to our TV screens and computer monitors, delivering a mental blitzkrieg attack measured not in explosive weight but in the weight of perception.

Principle Two: Tempo

The decisive application of maneuver warfare requires operating at a faster tempo by staying one or two steps ahead of the enemy—specifically by acting inside the enemy’s time scale, generating a rapidly changing environment by engaging in quick, disorienting activity that appears uncertain or ambiguous to the enemy. A sufficiently fast tempo inhibits the adversary’s ability to adapt and creates confusion, which in turn causes the enemy to over- or underreact. Whoever can handle the quickest rate of change survives.17

Members of militant Islam can easily stay two steps ahead by using the speed of global media to launch cognetic attacks. They do so unimpeded and with great speed, enabling them to lash out at their enemies worldwide with near-instantaneous psychological effect. Unencumbered by the physical size and weight of conventional military hardware or the endemic sloth of government bureaucracy, they set their own tactical and operational tempo and compress time by generating a rapidly changing environment. Conversely, strategically speaking, militant Islam uses a longer time scale. By its own admission, al-Qaeda employs a strategy of exhaustion, forcing the United States to expend resources and effort in an open-ended struggle outside our time scale.

Principle Three: Decentralized Control

Unleashing the power of maneuver warfare requires breaking the centralized command-and-control system into multiple, independently acting, decentralized elements focused on the same goal. For decentralization to work, subordinate commanders must make decisions on their own initiative, based on their understanding of the senior’s intent, rather than pass information up the chain of command and wait for a decision. Further, a competent subordinate commander at the point of decision will naturally have a better appreciation for the true situation than a senior at some distance removed. Individual initiative and responsibility are of paramount importance.18 Similarly, militant Islamic groups use the decentralized nature of the Internet to launch cognetic attacks simultaneously on many fronts. Broadly, these groups share the same goal—to overturn the current order of things and replace it with one of their choosing.

Principle Four: Fingerspitzengefuhl

Someone possessing the quality of Fingerspitzengefuhl, literally “fingertip feeling,” has such a high level of competence that he or she can make decisions without hesitation, based on intuitive competence at all levels—from private to general. In addition to proficiency with weapons at the individual level, “intuitive competence” also applies at command level, where it refers in general to the “feel” that great commanders have for the progress of the battle and in particular to their seemingly uncanny abilities to detect and exploit openings while they still present opportunities. It comes from years of practice at ever-increasing levels of complexity.19

Principle Five: Schwerpunkt

Carl von Clausewitz introduced the term Schwerpunkt, sometimes loosely translated as “center of gravity,” in his classic book On War.20 Over time, the word shifted in meaning somewhat until by World War II, German general Heinz Guderian used it to orchestrate a new form of decentralized warfare called blitzkrieg. For Guderian, Schwerpunkt represented a unifying concept that provided a way to rapidly shape focus and direction of effort as well as harmonize support activities with combat operations, thereby permitting a true decentralization of tactical command within centralized strategic guidance—without losing cohesion of the overall effort.21

In terms of cognetics, successfully applying these principles requires first knowing the Schwerpunkt to bring a decentralized group together for a common cause. Once each independent element of the group understands the focus of effort, it is free to act according to the on-scene commander’s feel for the situation (Fingerspitzengefuhl). Doing so helps the entire enterprise achieve harmony of action, allowing on-scene commanders to take the initiative, control tempo, and maximize speed and surprise to pit strength against weakness when opportunities present themselves. In today’s relentless media environment, employing these principles will enable national-security policy makers to first see and understand the contours and dynamics of the Cognetic Age. Once they understand, they will find themselves in a better position to mitigate cognetic effects and employ cognetic thinking to wage ideological warfare.

Looking through the Lens

Samuel B. Griffith’s translation of The Art of War offers insight into how Sun Tzu sought to win without fighting, eerily paralleling how militant Islam and other US foes employ cognetics to divide and conquer America and its allies. According to Griffith, “The master conqueror frustrated his enemy’s plans and broke up his alliances. He created cleavages between sovereign and minister, superiors and inferiors, commanders and subordinates. His spies and agents were active everywhere, gathering information, sowing dissension and nurturing subversion. The enemy was isolated and demoralized; his will to resist broken. Thus without battle his army was conquered, . . . his state overthrown” (emphasis added).22

By examining a cross section of significant terrorist attacks since 9/11 through the cognetic lens, one clearly sees that militant Islam is pursuing a cohesive and comprehensive strategy similar to Sun Tzu’s. This strategy relies upon the media amplification of violence and threats of violence to divide and conquer the “coalition of the willing” and create cleavages between the American government and its people. The following examples exhibit principles of cognetics used to carry out Sun Tzu’s strategy of winning without fighting.

Frustrate Plans

The daily news is filled with negative stories about Iraq and Afghanistan, giving a strong perception that US plans to bring democracy to the Middle East are being frustrated. Unquestionably, both Iraq and Afghanistan remain central to the war on terror; Pres. George W. Bush has said so repeatedly. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates understand this and do their utmost to confound US plans. Allowing democracy to take root would signal a major strategic blow to our adversaries. Conversely, failure of democracy to take hold in Iraq and Afghanistan would stymie the American goal of promoting it as the antidote to militant Islam’s ideology.

Break Up Alliances

On 11 March 2004 and again on 7 July 2005, loosely affiliated terror groups inspired by al-Qaeda’s Schwerpunkt of resurrecting the Islamic caliphate carried out large, well-coordinated surprise attacks that struck at the hearts of Madrid and London, killing hundreds and wounding thousands of civilians. The attacks galvanized the populations of each country, aided by widespread, real-time media coverage. The repeated images of death and destruction magnified the psychological effect of each attack. Both were timed for maximum impact.

In terms of Fingerspitzengefuhl, al-Qaeda made the most of leveraging the Madrid train-bombing terror attacks immediately before the Spanish election by successfully focusing the weight of Spanish voter perception against the pro-American ruling party of José Maria Anzar to elect the antiwar Socialist José Zapatero. Shortly after the election, Spain pulled its troops out of Iraq. As for the British, large-scale opposition to the war jumped to new heights following the attacks of 2005. The online newspaper Telegraph reported one year after the London bombings that 80 percent of those polled believed that England should split from the United States and pursue its own course in the war on terror.23 Both examples highlight militant Islam’s use of cognetics to pursue its strategic goals by attacking populations directly and amplifying the psychological effect of vulnerability through the media in an already negatively charged atmosphere to undermine US foreign policy.

Cause Cleavages

In terms of causing cleavages within the American electorate and government, a quick tour of the headlines since 9/11 bears witness to Griffith’s observation of Sun Tzu’s methods. A significant turn of events marks the years since 9/11. Initially, President Bush attained a popularity rating in excess of 80 percent, along with solid bipartisan support for an aggressive response to the terrorist attacks. Fast-forwarding to November 2006, we see a deeply divided electorate dropping that rating to less than 40 percent, resulting in a tectonic shift in leadership that transferred power from Republicans to Democrats in both the House and Senate.24


By its very nature, every form of warfare is competitive. Winning requires finding and employing the most effective means of gaining an advantage over the opponent. In the Cognetic Age, the global media’s power to influence vast numbers of people worldwide gives militant Islam an advantage over the West in the ideological war.

Continuing at a disadvantage by emphasizing conventional military solutions to fight an ideological war will only draw out this conflict. Thus, counteracting the long-war premise requires a decisive change in thinking to reorient our current grand strategy away from its heavy emphasis on conventional military force toward one that focuses on fighting an ideological war. This does not mean abandoning the punishing stick of military force. We will still need it for coercive effect to some degree, but it will not win the war. To win, we must neutralize militant Islam’s advantage in the global media.

Doing so takes new thinking. Cognetics gives us both the system to think within and a way to conceptualize ideological warfare. Based on the well-known doctrine of maneuver warfare, cognetics lends itself to the decentralizing world. Business, finance, manufacturing, and the service industries, to name a few, are undergoing massive change due to the decentralization of information and the pressure to compete in a dynamic environment.

After six-plus years of war, the time has come for the US government to take advantage of decentralization by employing global media to fight the ideological war. To do so, it must adopt the new terminology, concepts, and principles of cognetics. More importantly, our leadership must leave behind the Industrial Age–centralized mind-set, along with its outdated terminologies and concepts, and embrace a new way of thinking better suited to fighting ideological war in the Cognetic Age by putting thought in motion with impact.


We must adopt cognetic thinking to create a shared, systematic way of conceptualizing, communicating, and carrying out ideological warfare against militant Islam. The top US strategy documents all recognize that winning the war against this foe requires winning the battle of ideas. Cognetics provides the terminology, concepts, principles, and system needed to harmonize diverse government entities into a coherent and cohesive whole, thus enabling the government to mount a well-coordinated and effective ideological assault on militant Islam.

Moreover, we must reorient US grand strategy to create a sustainable and effective strategy needed to win the long war by conducting a thorough risk-versus-return analysis of post-9/11 security policies that apply cognetic thinking. We must ask tough questions to determine whether our policies promote or hinder our ability to maintain the vital support of the American people and our allies for conducting a long war. Our leadership plainly states that we are engaged in such a war, possibly lasting a generation or longer. Our grand strategy must reflect this basic assumption. Therefore, policy objectives must bolster our resolve to continue the struggle, attract the uncommitted to our side, and drain away militants’ resolve to continue the struggle. If our policies support the objectives, we should stay with them; if they do not, we must change them.


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1. The Jyllands-Posten controversy began after 12 editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad, were published in this Danish newspaper on 30 September 2005. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Jyllands-Posten Muhammad Cartoons Controversy,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammed_cartoons. The Pope Benedict XVI controversy arose from a lecture he delivered on 12 September 2006 at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The lecture received ample doses of both condemnation and praise from political and religious authorities. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v., “Pope Benedict XVI Islam Controversy,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_regensburg_speech.

2. According to the national security strategy of 2006, “In the long run winning the war on terror means winning the battle of ideas.” The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, DC: The White House, March 2006), http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss/2006/nss2006.pdf. See also National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President, September 2006), http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/wdc/documents/wh_terror060905.pdf; and Quadrennial Defense Review Report (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 6 February 2006), http://www.defenselink

3. Insight provided by Col Gary L. Crone, chief, Air Force Reserve Strategy Division, Pentagon, Washington, DC.

4. Steven Stalinsky,“Dealing in Death: The West Is Weak Because It Respects Life? Too Bad,” National Review Online, 24 May 2004, http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/stalinsky200405240846.asp. On the morning of Thursday, 11 March 2004, 10 explosions occurred at the height of the Madrid rush hour aboard four commuter trains, killing 200 people and wounding scores more. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “2004 Madrid Train Bombings,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madrid_Train_Bombing

5. Field Manual 3-24 / Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3-33.5, Counterinsurgency, December 2006, 1–25, http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-24.pdf.

6. Jeffrey Record, The American Way of War: Cultural Barriers to Successful Counterinsurgency, Policy Analysis no. 577 (Washington, DC: CATO Institute, 1 September 2006), 1, http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa577.pdf.

7. Avi Jorisch, Beacon of Hatred: Inside Hizballah’s al-Manar Television (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2004), xiii, xiv.

8. Ibid., xv–xvi.

9. “As-Sahab: Al Qaeda’s Nebulous Media Branch,” Stratfor Crisis Center, 8 September 2006, https://www.stratfor.com/offers/alerts/index.php?ref=FOX&camp=stratforalert&.

10. Douglas L. Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 145.

11. Philip Seib, Broadcasts from the Blitz: How Edward R. Murrow Helped Lead America into War (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2006), ix.

12. John A. Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 167.

13. US Marine Corps Staff, Warfighting: The U.S. Marine Corps Book of Strategy (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 35.

14. Hannibal’s Carthaginian army annihilated a numerically superior Roman army. Although the battle failed to decide the outcome of the war in favor of Carthage, today it is regarded as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Battle of Cannae,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle _of_Cannae. Kenneth Macksey, Guderian: Panzer General, rev. ed. (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003), 80–96, 97–126.

15. Ibid., 36–37.

16. Ibid., 333.

17. Robert Coram, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2002), 328.

18. US Marine Corps Staff, Warfighting,78–79.

19. Chester W. Richards, A Swift, Elusive Sword: What If Sun Tzu and John Boyd Did a National Defense Review? (Washington, DC: Center for Defense Information, May 2001), 27, http://www.cdi.org/mrp/swift_elusive_sword.rtf.

20. See Vom Kriege (Berlin: Dümmlers Verlag, 1932), http://www.clausewitz.com/CWZHOME/VomKriege/VKTOC2.htm. The English version translates Schwerpunkt with a number of subtle variations ranging from center of gravity and center of attraction to center of effort.

21. John R. Boyd, “Patterns of Conflict [December 1986],” slide 78, Defense and the National Interest, January 2007, http://www.d-n-i.net/boyd/patterns.ppt.

22. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. Samuel B. Griffith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 39.

23. Toby Helm and Philip Johnston, “Ditch US in Terror War, Say 80pc of Britons,” Telegraph.co.uk, 17 August 2006, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/08/17/nterror17.xml.

24. “President Bush: Job Ratings,” PollingReport.com, http://www.pollingreport.com/BushJob1.htm.


Lt Col Bruce K. Johnson

Lt Col Bruce K. Johnson (BS, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee) serves as Air Force Reserve chief of strategic communication plans, Pentagon, Washington, DC. Previous staff assignments include Air Force Reserve chief of strategic assessment and future concepts as well as chief of combat forces, Pentagon, Washington, DC. A master navigator with more than 3,000 hours in both the F-111F and C-130H aircraft, he served in a variety of operational capacities: radar strike officer, weapon and tactics officer, operational planner, information warfare/tactical deception officer, current operations officer, chief navigator, assistant operations officer, combined air operation center’s senior offensive duty ­officer, and deployed mission commander. While serving in these capacities, he took part in a wide range of global operations, including Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Coronet Oak, Nomad Vigil, Shining Hope, and Iraqi Freedom. Colonel Johnson completed Squadron Officer School and Air Command and Staff College by correspondence and is currently enrolled in Air War College by correspondence.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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