Art vs Science in Army, Painting, and Life

     I’ve reading quite a bit on art and science lately.  It’s become apparent to me that science includes principles and knowledge.  Art is the arrangement of those principles in a creative way, with forethought, to reach the spectacular, novel, and innovative.  It is the ability to play with the arrangement of scientific principles – both using and ignoring them as best fits the end goal.  Most people aren’t artists (and never will be), so they learn the science of a particular subject, and then apply the principles in an imitative way that they’ve seen in the past, or in a manner without forethought toward the spectacular.

     As an example, let’s look at painting.  The student will learn about line, color, shade, form, balance, proportion and scale, contrast, repetition and pattern, unity, and harmony.  He’ll then apply these principles when painting.  But the application of these principles does not make him an artist.  It makes him a scientist of art’s principles.  Over time (Gladwell said 10,000 hours) he may become an artist, but it is not likely.  Most painters will remain scientists in practice.  They may appear to amateurs and other scientists to be artists, but this isn’t the truth.

     As another example, let’s look at the Army.  The officer will learn about the characteristics of the offense, of defense, stability operations, tactics, logistics, anticipation, and decisive points.  He’ll apply these principles in his planning an operation to defeat, destroy, or neutralize an enemy.  He might even win the battle.  But the winning and the application of principles do not make him an artist.  The true artist in war sees the enemy’s move before the enemy sees it.  He recognizes second and third order effects.  He uses the principles of doctrine and ignores them when arranging operations for the greatest success.  As with the scientific painter, the scientific general may appear to his subordinates as an artist, but most of the time he is imitating actions from past battles and copying doctrine.

     I’m not certain if everyone can reach the point of becoming an artist.  I think it requires knowledge and careful study of science.  I think it also involves practicing as a scientist for a long time.  Maybe we become artists gradually over time.  Maybe we’re never complete artists.  Have you ever been so good at something that you are an artist – that you’re 50 moves ahead of everyone else – that you’re as fast as Neo from the Matrix?  I hope to get there some day.  -Carl Miller  

Army, Systems, & Centers of Gravity

The Army (and probably the civilian world as well) has the idea that we should look at our adversaries as systems with nodes and links, rather than as entities as a whole.  We should attempt to see their capabilities, strengths, and vulnerabilities.  An adversary’s Center of Gravity (COG) (a vulnerability) is the point at which we should apply the utmost pressure.  This is because the COG is where many of the nodes in the system are linked together.  If we disable/disrupt/destroy the adversary’s COG the other nodes within the system, in theory, won’t be able to function (as well).


So, the COG is an adversary’s chief vulnerability.  It is the source through which he is able to generate strength (by building equipment/massing his force), maneuver freely (so he can seize the initiative  – and thereby control the tempo/conditions of the engagement), or maintain the will to fight.  For instance, when the US-led coalition sacked Iraq in 2003 they determined that the Center of Gravity was Saddam Hussein.  He was a jealous and paranoid leader who feared that his generals may someday team up and overthrow him.  So, he didn’t allow them to coordinate with one another.  So, if we could silence Saddam we could make it so that the Iraqi Army both didn’t have orders coming down from the top and wouldn’t coordinate with one another out of fear from Saddam’s reprisal.  We isolated smaller chunks of his army and destroyed them with our massed force.  Saddam enabled their freedom of maneuver through his commands.  We disrupted that.  Then we took their will to fight by destroying units one-by-one.  Much of the will probably wasn’t there in the first place since he was horrible to the Shia and the Kurds.   


Of course, by destroying Saddam’s Iraq system we created another (tougher) system to fight.  The new system had a less clear COG, too.  But we did resolutely topple the Iraq system in 2003…and we did it by attacking the COG.

I think nowadays we’re in a constant state of semi-war with everybody, and every other nation is also in a pseudo-war with every other nation.  It’s not happening with guns per say, but with economies, alliances and diplomacy, messaging, and offensive/defensive cyber-operations.  We’re always setting the conditions for when war does breakout.  We’re always searching for the adversary’s COG, trying to create one, and protecting our own.  These pseudo-wars can even result in indirect operations to attack a COG without a shot being fired.  In actual war we generally attack directly – it’s obvious.  Not so in today’s world.  -Carl Miller