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The Dead Metaphors of National Security


"To grapple with today’s complex security environment, we must first think about it realistically. Our terminology — not our technology — is key."

Why is this important?

"Unfortunately, our continued use of legacy metaphors, especially when applied to the broader strategic environment, has just reinforced our old and now unrealistic mindsets and expectations. In particular, those Newtonian metaphors are fortifying our assumptions and expectations that today’s security environment will demonstrate the same attractive, linear attributes—reducibility; clear cause and effect; repeatability; and proportionality of input/output—that characterized the Cold War environment and gave it a comforting manageability and predictability. In turn, it is no wonder that we are so readily perplexed by this new, much less manageable or predictable security environment, characterized by emergent behaviors quite different from those of the previous era."


Josh Kerbel

Publication Date

May 1, 2018