October 1, 2008  

EBO begone

To Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis for expunging the term effects-based operations (EBO) from Joint Forces Command’s doctrine. In a memo, the JFCom commander makes a clear case against EBO and its related technology- and acronym-reliant concepts of operational net assessment (ONA) and system-of-systems analysis (SoSA). These have been de rigueur among those who believe network-centric technology is America’s magic wand for winning wars on a clean and calculable basis. But there’s no magic, only illusion. “War is not composed of the tactics of targetry or an algebraic approach to measuring effects resulting from our actions,” Mattis writes, and any concept that runs contrary to war’s fundamental nature of complexity and unpredictability “will always come up short.” So EBO, ONA and SoSA have been struck from JFCom’s training, doctrine and use. Mattis’ memo’s most powerful point is that EBO has been ineffective from Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom to the Israeli Defense Force’s use of it during the 2006 Hezbollah conflict.