Avoiding the Stellenbosch Syndrome
A Strategy, Operational Concepts and Measures of Effectiveness for the War on Terror

14 February 2004
By Lieutenant Colonel David E.A. Johnson (USA) *
November 8, 2003 **

Executive Summary

SUBJECT: Avoiding the Stellenbosch Syndrome: A Strategy, Operational Concepts and Measures of Effectiveness for the War on Terror
  1. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to recommend a framework for the War on Terror that provides direction and efficiency for Military operations.

  2. GENERAL: The US faces an asymmetric, non-linear, multi-polar battlefield without clearly defined victory conditions, blurring the distinctions between civilian and military, War and Peace. We recommend a strategy based upon adaptation of the risk management process to identify victory conditions. We further identify the following operational concepts that support this strategy: transformational intelligence-driven operations, Operational Net Assessment and the use of targeting processes, Special Operations Forces (SOF) executive agency and control of large General Purpose Force (GPF) formations, and Joint and Interagency operations that focus all lines of operations. Finally, we illustrate how we can develop measures of effectiveness tied to the risk management strategy.


    1. Traditional militaries deal with greater uncertainty by dividing terrain into sectors, inefficiently dividing scarce resources, and failing to identify a main effort or measures of effectiveness. This results in subordinate commanders making force protection the primary measure of performance and awaiting rotation to a better-understood environment, creating a reactive paralysis.

    2. Political objectives can be implied from the National Security Strategy. It is risk to these objectives that must be reduced by creating appropriate military conditions.

    3. Risk and Threat are synonymous. Probability can be measured by factors, which create intent to act hostile to our political interests. Severity can be measured by factors, which create a threat capability to damage these interests. Threat factions and fault lines can be quantified to prioritize efforts using an adapted risk assessment matrix. These threats can be reduced in turn.

    4. To reduce threat intent or capability requires understanding threat systems: leadership, ideology, structure, control, sanctuary, and supply to see first, then strike. Once these systems are understood a modified target analysis and Joint Targeting Board process can select subsystems and nodes. The best method to address the objective battlefield is to use a like force. This tool is a super-Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, which should be the Combatant Command main effort. GPF should be in support of SOF efforts. All operations should integrate Operational Maneuver, Operational Fires, Unconventional Warfare, Information Operations, and Civil Military Operations.

    5. Measures of effectiveness (MOE) are determined by the factors used to judge threat intent and capability in the risk assessment matrix. Thus MOE are tied to the risk management strategy. Risk and MOE are only pseudo-quantifiable and used to judge prioritization of effort and as a general indicator of required force structure, since this battle is primarily political art. "Conditions-based" decisions must be tied to both MOE and Measures of Performance.

    6. As interests of factions and multinational partners diverge from our long-term objectives, a risk management strategy, which includes "outside the box" threats", will cue forces to shift focus, preventing us from winning the fight against one faction only to lose the war to another. Failure to establish a framework with Strategy, Operational Concepts and MOE will result in inefficient use of resources and a longer process to the advantage to our adaptive enemies.

          DAVID E. A. JOHNSON
          Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army

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*About the Author

David E.A. Johnson, Senior Fellow

Lt. Col. David Johnson is a senior research fellow with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Paris in Theoretical Information Science. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, a Graduate of the Command and General Staff Course, the Joint Defense College (France), and holds a Masters Degree in the History of Strategy from the Sorbonne. An Army Strategist, he has recently served as an Army Legislative Liaison with the House of Representatives, Chief of Plans for the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Northern Iraq and Chief of Plans for the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force for the Arabian Peninsula. He is currently assigned as Chief of the Special Operations Theater Support Element-Central Command. His dissertation is in the domain of intention awareness with implications for wireless encryption and the creation of organization independent software. He has participated in numerous working groups for the development of military decision-making systems, both American and French. He has published articles in Infantry and Special Warfare magazines.

** Note

This work is posted along the "Fair Use of Copyrighted Works" provisions. This work was originally published by:

The Center for Advanced Defense Studies
The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052
with the following provisio:
This work reflects the opinions of the author and not the official positions of The George Washington University, The Department of Defense, or any other organization with which the author is affiliated.

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