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Operationalizing the Science of the Human Domain in Great Power Competition

Woven through contemporary debate are threads of different schools of thought that cross but lack a central thread which closes the seam. One school of thought sees a return of great power competition and argues for an emphasis on lethality and warfighting competency. Another sees a change in the character of conflict and competition where adversaries pursue their ends in the space between peace and war. Above all, and critical to stitching multiple paradigms together, is the one which is eternal in all war and immutable—the human domain. War is always a political act done by humans. Regardless of which school of thought gains the most currency in national security debates, Special Operations Forces (SOF) must continue to build capability and capacity to scientifically understand, accurately interpret and effectively influence human behavior.


in this paper and upcoming presentation, Dr. Aleks Nesic and Lt Col Arnel David argue that the current level of understanding in the complexity of the human domain lacks true scientific depth and application, and propose SOF pursue training and education in the emerging multidisciplinary science of the human domain that will enhance its ability to gain indigenous knowledge and enable improved performance in the conduct of warfare in the 21st century across all domains. The authors demonstrate the essential components of the science of the human domain currently in development, and highlight analytical frameworks that SOF can use to develop these new skills. The knowledge, skills and abilities to analyze the operational environment by leveraging both big and thick data to map human geography, navigate a kaleidoscope of complex psycho-social and cultural landscapes, and use new skills from conflict science to assess these complex social dynamics among people cannot be sacrificed for the pursuit of the changes only in the physical domains. The essence of complex modern warfare continues to occur among the people and will continue to be driven by the people. As such, SOF will always need the scientific ability to understand, work with, and influence, people.  

This research will be presented at this year's Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) and Special Operations Research Association (SORA) Symposium titled "The Role of SOF in an Era of Great Power Competition."

You can download the program for the symposium here or visit the SORA website for more information.



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