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System Shock: The Archetype of Operational Shock

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Technical Report,05 Jul 2016,25 May 2017

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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The primary research question for this study is whether the US can use the concept of system shock to better operate in the Gray Zone. System shock combines ideas from systems theory, chaos theory, and complexity theory to link the ideas of bifurcation and operational shock. System shock is an archetype for military operations that focuses on bifurcating any opposing system to achieve operational shock. This monograph argues that system shock provides military leaders and planners with a framework to fight and win in Gray Zone environments and that this concept nests within Unified Land Operations ULO doctrine by testing three claims. The first claim is that system shock is a useful framework to interpret and affect system behavior. The second claim is that the Gray Zone is a complex adaptive system, which allows the system shock framework to apply. The final claim is that system shock nests within current US Army ULO doctrine. The theory of system shock does not dictate specific action. Instead, it proposes a conceptual framework to interpret and understand how operations progress and to train the military planners mind to look for connections in more places and with a greater purpose behind short-term gains. The theory of system shock can help leaders and planners best identify and address the correct problem in the Gray Zone and other military operations. Therefore, this monograph provides operational artists and military practitioners with an additional lens to use when planning and executing operations.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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