The Power of Will in International Conflict: How to Think Critically in Complex Environments

October 2021 No Comments

Speaker(s): Hall, W. M. (Brigadier General, US Army, Retired); Finkelstein, M. (Chief Scientist, Hughes Aircraft, Advanced Concepts Directorate, Space and Communications Group & President of FlightScience, LLC); Citrenbaum, G. (President/Chief Scientist of Systems Analytics, SoSACorp)

Date: 2 November 2021

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Wayne Michael (Mike) Hall (Brigadier General, US Army, Retired), Marc Finkelstein (Chief Scientist, Hughes Aircraft, Advanced Concepts Directorate, Space and Communications Group & President, FlightScience, LLC), and Gary Citrenbaum, PhD, (President/Chief Scientist of Systems Analytics, SoSACorp) as part of its SMA General Speaker Series.

The duration of a conflict is directly influenced by the combatants’ will to fight and their inability to reach a compromise. All combatants share several traits such as a resolve and desire to win their conflict. If decision makers can better understand their own soldiers will to fight and the resolve of adversary leaders, then the US will better be able to compete with state and non-state actors alike. Mr. Hall commented that incorporating the study of will into the educational and organization curriculum of the DoD and certain technological advancements will help quantifiably, measure, and predict an actor’s will to fight. This educational curriculum should focus on 14 elements of will that can be binned under three categories: moral, physical, and intellectual. 

One method for understanding combatants’ will is by quantifying the individual leaders’ will by scoring their feelings, perception, and resolve relating to individual issues. After the data has been collected, analysts can identify outliers and group thinkers by clustering the data. This clustering method is already used by many private companies to inundate consumers with adds and content tailored to them. Mr. Finkelstein commented that this type of clustering allows these patterns to be found quickly even in large datasets. Dr. Citrenbaum commented that this type of cluster analysis combined with the correct technology can help military operators with intelligence gathering, mission analysis, planning the course of action, and mission execution. While this analysis can predict actors’ willingness to fight and actions they will take, these predictions are not certainties.

Speaker Session Recording

Note: We are aware that many government IT providers have blocked access to YouTube from government machines during the pandemic in response to bandwidth limitations. We recommend viewing the recording on YouTube from a non-government computer or listening to the audio file (below), if you are in this position.

Briefing Materials


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