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THROUGHOUT THE MODERN history of bombardment, targeting philosophies have remained deeply rooted in industrial-age mind-sets and mechanistic, linear analyses of systems as engineered entities. As a result, in most significant bombing campaigns, targets have been classified by their physical attributes alone. For example, in the "serial bombing" philosophy of World War II, aircraft attacked large sets of physical targets sequentially. (1) Contemporary targeting philosophy--the "parallel warfare" employed during the Gulf War--advocates attacking targets with more simultaneity yet still focuses almost exclusively on their physical attributes and their engineered physical interactions. (2) In general, these targeting constructs are exceedingly inefficient, requiring inordinate amounts of "inputs" (tonnage of bullets and bombs, amounts of information warfare [IW], etc.) often not justified by or traceable to observed "outputs" (effects). Since the end of Operation Desert Storm, bombing campaigns have evolved in co ncept toward an objective of having specific effects on the enemy and his systems; in practice, planners still choose targets based upon engineering analyses of physical systems and physical interactions inside those systems. Little has changed.
Recent research asserts that the American military has historically misunderstood the systemic nature of targets. (3) Targeting has remained inefficient and unpredictable because most targets of military value are elements in complex adaptive systems, which behave according to a radically different operating dynamic than do mechanistic systems. An evolving body of scientific work, based on understanding the emergent behaviors of large collections of interacting entities, describes the behavior of these systems. Although this body of work is collectively referred to as the "new sciences," this article uses the terms complexity theory or complex adaptive systems theory. Whereas industrial-age Newtonian analysis focuses on classifying targets according to their physical nature, complexity theory allows targeteers to focus on how targets interrelate, particularly in nonphysical ways. Complexity-based targeting emphasizes and exploits the characteristics of complex adaptive systems.
Theory of Complexity-Based Targeting
Two concepts from complexity theory underpin complexity-based targeting: complexity and entropy. Complexity is a measure of the degree to which a system contains large numbers of interacting entities with coherent behavior. Notionally, one can measure complexity from a value of zero to some maximum number. Zero complexity indicates a completely simple system; few entities have either minimal or no interactions. Generally, one can account for the behavior of such a system with a simple set of equations or a short description--for …