Image from page 5 of Image from page 5 of “quad fold” for  US Army TRADOC PAM 525-3-1.

By Major Matt Cavanaugh

I recently listened to Lieutenant General HR McMaster speak at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.  Note that this program is available in podcast via iTunes and you should download it and listen to it (now) as I can affirm it will be worth your time. In fact, to be honest, I listened to it twice because I felt like there were some things that I missed and wanted to hear again.  He’s smart and engaging which is something rare in security circles.

I find that listening to podcasts often creates portals to other ideas – gateways to knowledge that I otherwise would not have been able to come into contact with.  Lieutenant General McMaster referred to some of the things his organization (Army Capabilities Integration Center; ARCIC) is doing to prepare for future warfare, including a specific description of the types of ways hybrid actors seek to use force.  This idea was more fully described in an ARCIC “quad fold” document, which I’ve taken a screen shot of above.  This quad fold is an example of doctrine writing that begs for improvement.   For these ideas to be truly useful for human beings we should use the elements of eloquence to make dynamic doctrine.

Essentially, alliteration (repetition of letters and sounds) is the oldest and most useful way of getting people to remember a phrase.  Think: “Where’s Waldo?” or “dead as a doornail,” or “whole hog.”  Slightly more memorable than “Where’s Ricardo?” or “dead as a piece of iron” or “entire pig” – right?  So let’s apply the same principle to the doctrinal document above:

Hybrid Enemies will Employ strategies designed to:

  • Evade – Joint, interorganizational, and multinational strengths and capabilities
  • Exclude – Friendly capabilities from contested zones through strikes to reduce freedom of action
  • Emulate – Friendly technical and tactical capabilities
  • Expand – influence by employing proxies and criminal networks

In sum, hybrid threats seek to produce the “Four Killer Es.”  Cynics will charge this is a silly exercise, and, moreover, that it’s imprecise.  Take a look at the shift from “disrupt” to “exclude” – those words clearly don’t mean the same thing.  There is no direct line transfer here, no synonym that works as a perfect fit for “disrupt.” The subtle change to “exclude” was the best on offer from among “eject,” “evict,” and “enfeeble.”  So there is a bit of an accuracy issue there.  This seems a small price to pay for creating doctrine that has a much higher stickiness factor.  In the contest between memory and precision, there are tradeoffs, and we ought to be willing to give a bit on precision to make gains in memorability.  After all, that is what doctrine ought to be – mental modeling for the military mind (sorry, can’t help that alliteration!) – and so anything that can be done to make the glue better is a good thing.  So remember your Four Killer Es:

Hybrid Enemies tend to Employ strategies designed to Evade, Exclude, Emulate, and Expand.