Accession Number:



Embracing Nonlinearity: Leveraging Systems Thinking to Frame an Operating Environment

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Monograph]

Corporate Author:

US Army School for Advanced Military Studies

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Despite the United States militarys power, it has struggled to achieve objectives with lasting meaning during the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. This has caused some national security experts to wonder if the United States has a strategy problem. Critics of United States foreign policy in the Middle East argue that the strategies executed in the region lack coherence. However, the problem with American strategy in the Middle East is not the policy aims exclusively. Instead, it is indicative of a problem regarding how the United States thinks about understanding the Operating Environment OE and how it applies that flawed understanding during war. Drawing from recent experiences and through an acceptance that future wars will predominantly not be linear endeavors, the US military should consider re-orienting the enterprise towards an approach that takes into account the holistic complexity found in a given operating environment. Systems thinking offers this alternative approach. This method emphasizes acquiring situational awareness to describe the OE using a nonlinear mental methodology instead of the linear processes found in doctrine such as Political, Military, Economic, Social, Information, Infrastructure PMESII, and the Center of Gravity COG analyses. This approach focuses on thinking about understanding in a manner that will aid in generating more effective versions of military strategy and operational art.


Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]