Dispelling JR / GAB's Brain Fog Fever

Jeff Bone jbone at deepfile.com
Wed Apr 9 18:33:30 PDT 2003

On Wednesday, Apr 9, 2003, at 16:47 US/Central, James Rogers wrote:

> Blowing only a billion dollars of ordnance while taking a large 
> country with
> few casualties in a matter of weeks is pretty damn efficient for that 
> task.
> It certainly isn't comparable to dropping a couple skyscrapers.  If 
> the goal
> of the military was to drop the two towers, it would have cost them 
> almost
> nothing.

Let me introduce you to my friend "normalization."  By this process, we 
can compare apples and oranges by calling them both pears, then 
distorting other parts of the equation proportionally. ;-)

OF COURSE dropping a couple of buildings isn't the same as taking out 
even an impoverished country's military and regime.  But that --- 
strategic political objective achievement alone --- is not the 
comparison of interest.  We're talking about "efficiency" -wrt- the 
Shock and Awe stratagem, and I'm asserting that (a) it's very difficult 
to measure the efficiency of Shock and Awe, because it's hard to 
measure the effects, and (b) it's beside the point anyway, entirely the 
wrong criteria to try to use, because Shock and Awe is all about 
"effectiveness."  "Efficiency" in that context is a boondoggle.

The comparison, as Greg IMHO correctly pointed out, is about the 
relationship of input to output.  Shock and Awe itself isn't in any way 
about achieving a particular effect efficiently --- it's all about the 
effect, it's about rendering an enemy psychologically impotent.  This 
does as a side-effect hopefully shorten the engagement / make it less 
costly in terms of casualties and materiel in the long haul.  And yes, 
the latter *can* be measured, eventually, but none of us on this list 
are in any way equipped to perform that calculation at this time.  
Neither is CENTCOM, for that matter.

Also pertinent:  the actual strategy that ended up being deployed in 
GWII, FOX News talking heads and Rush Limbaugh aside, is not in fact 
Shock and Awe.  It much more closely resembles the surgical strike 
doctrine  employed during the Gulf War --- just much more intense.  And 
surgical strike doctrine, like most modern warfighting doctrines, IS 
very concerned with efficiency.  And on that basis, we can make some 

Ignoring the particular operational theory behind Iraq for a moment, a 
fair set of metrics for input might be lives committed / spent and 
dollars spent on ordinance / materiel.  A fair set of metrics for 
output might be lives taken / dollars in economic utility destroyed.

== Al Qaeda, 9/11 ==

Input:  19 lives, $45 in box cutters, <$30,000 in plane fare.
Output:  3300 lives taken, ~>$1T in direct and collateral economic 
Yield:  174-to-1 kill ratio, 33M-to-1 economic yield

== USA v. Iraq, GWII ==

Input:  dozens of lives, let's say 100, $B in costs, let's say $20B 
(low-side conservative)
Output:  10k Iraqis (high-side conservative), $30B in in economic 
damages (~Iraqi GDP [1])
Yield:  100-to-1 kill ratio, 1.5-1 economic yield

So whatever the current operational philosophy, it's CLEAR to anybody 
who can drive a $3 calculator and a Web browser that on at least two 
important dimensions asymmetric "terror" war is far more "efficient" 
than traditional warfare.  And in terms of psychological output, it's 
hard to argue against the efficiency of terror:  the U.S. economy and 
society is still reeling from 9/11, from the brilliantly sick 
application of 19 fanatic lives, 19 box cutters, and 19 plane tickets.

And that was all I was really saying, here --- I was not criticizing 
Shock and Awe, surgical strike, or any other stratagem *or* our ability 
to achieve our goals efficiently.  Because we are a law-abiding (ahem) 
nation-state, we do not have access to the tools of our opponents, the 
tools of asymmetric warfare.  And therefore we will never achieve the 
levels of efficiency that terrorists achieve in their hostile endeavors.

My point stands:  "efficiency" is a characteristic of terrorism, Greg 
got it backwards, and my conclusion has been effectively demonstrated.


[1] http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/irq3-22.htm

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