Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Asymmetrical Adversaries

Asymmetrical Adversaries

Attrition is generally considered to be “the American way of war,” inasmuch as the United States has been able to bring to bear overwhelming firepower thanks to its industrial and technological superiority. But what American-style warfare generates more than anything is— paper. The conventional wisdom in the halls of the Pentagon is that developing the average American weapon system generates between five and ten million pieces of paper, while “big ticket” items such as the M-1 tank, B-2 bomber, or the Advanced Tactical Fighter may take twenty years to get from concept to battlefield and generate over 200 million pieces of paper. All that paper means that a large number of paper-pushers are needed to fight the war. To support the paper-pushers, other people have to buy the paper, pens, and computers, and still others—the bean counters—have to count how much paper the paper-pushers are pushing, and still others—the filing clerks—must sort it all out and make it accessible.

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