Congress is calling on Pentagon red teams to model potential adversaries more accurately. It’s a mandate akin to Sun Tzu’s age-old maxim, “Know thy enemy.” Unfortunately, for every 100 persons who remind us to know our enemy, perhaps five know how to practice it effectively.
To be fair, it’s a hard problem. Maxims help, but the real world is much more complex than we usually care to admit. Our adversaries are rarely unitary and completely rational. Nearly every adversary sees the world differently. Few adversaries tell the truth, and fewer still perceive the truth. Many are deceived by their own hubris. Some will uncover a short cut we haven’t anticipated. And all of this applies to us in reverse. It’s why we red team, but it’s also why red teaming is so difficult. If we’re honest, understanding reciprocal perceptions in conflict is more akin to a wild scrum of Hungry, Hungry Hippos than an artful game of chess. Know thy enemy? Good luck with that!