Potential forms for expressing Deleuzian Folds
23 December 2021

Deleuzian Folds: Alternative Strategic Arrangements in Complex Warfare

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Original Blog can be found here:

This is an excerpt from a design monograph that addresses design, NATO operational planning and Joint planning methodologies (NATO-OPP, JPP, and various service-specific deviations therein). This monograph is pending publication and was produced through the Joint Special Operations University where the author is a design educator (contractor) for the U.S. Special Operations Command. The title of the monograph is: Disrupting Modern Military Decision-Making: Deconstructing Institutionalized Rituals through Design Synthesis.”

In the post-Afghanistan defense context of late 2021, modern militaries including NATO and Joint Forces are experiencing pressure for reforms and change. The rapid and unexpected collapse of Kabul to the Taliban followed with criticism and demands for accountability concerning national foreign policy, intelligence agencies as well as NATO and the U.S. Department of Defense. Ellehuus and Morcos summarize the fallout with:

In the United Kingdom, during an extraordinary session of the House of Commons on Afghanistan, Conservative lawmaker James Sunderland remarked, “The fall of Kabul, like Suez, has shown that the United Kingdom may not be able to operate autonomously without U.S. involvement.” Sunderland was not the first to use this historical analogy to convey the sense of disillusion and anger prevailing in London, with British defense secretary Ben Wallace calling it a “failure of the international community.” Armin Laschet, leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and candidate to succeed Angela Merkel, went further, declaring this “the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding.” While such emotional sentiments reflect the frustration and anger of the present and may soften over time, the withdrawal from Afghanistan is likely to have both immediate and long-term effects on Europe, NATO, and transatlantic relations.[1]

In the post-Afghanistan NATO security world, European countries now have concerns in late 2021 of a rise in international terrorist groups of Afghan origin or involvement, as well as potential increased illegal drug trafficking, migration surges, humanitarian crises as well as a reshuffling of major national influence and power concerning unstable conflict regions including but also beyond Afghanistan. NATO’s credibility now appears at risk, with the recognition that “for the first time, the transatlantic alliance has lost a war. The trauma of that experience- and the sidelining of its European members- has big implications for NATO’s future.”[2] That the Afghanistan conflict includes two historic firsts for NATO is significant. It was the first time any NATO member invoked the Article 5 mutual defense obligation as done by the United States in 2001, and 20 years later almost exactly, the first time NATO has lost a war. Many of the arguments now unfolding concerning NATO, partners and alliances of western industrialized democracies are indeed political, social, and cultural. Yet one clear consistency throughout the entire Afghanistan conflict has always been the unified military reaction to initial and subsequent national and international policy: the NATO-OPP and JPP methodologies for military decision-making have been rigorously implemented and followed for every single security activity from individual tactical actions to the comprehensive campaign planning orchestrated by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and associated security entities.

Yet despite clear history of absolute military devotion to the NATO-OPP or JPP doctrine and processes, modern militaries could not get their methodologies to succeed. This was not for lack of trying, as annual ISAF campaign planning products numbered in the thousands of pages, supported by massive PowerPoint slide decks, created and briefed by thousands of experienced military professionals reliant on perpetual production and reformatting of military doctrinal manuals and concepts. The findings of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (called the ‘2021 SIGAR Report’) published in August 2021:

Effectively rebuilding Afghanistan required a detailed understanding of the country’s social, economic, and political dynamics. However, U.S. officials were consistently operating in the dark, often because of the difficulty of collecting the necessary information. The U.S. government also clumsily forced Western technocratic models onto Afghan economic institutions; trained security forces in advanced weapon systems they could not understand, much less maintain; imposed formal rule of law on a country that addressed 80 to 90 percent of its disputes through informal means; and often struggled to understand or mitigate the cultural and social barriers to supporting women and girls. Without this background knowledge, U.S. officials often empowered powerbrokers who preyed on the population or diverted U.S. assistance away from its intended recipients to enrich and empower themselves and their allies. Lack of knowledge at the local level meant projects intended to mitigate conflict often exacerbated it, and even inadvertently funded insurgents.[3]

NATO forces had for decades followed and repeated military-decision making methodologies from the strategic level of overarching campaign design and diplomatic engagements down through tactical levels of multi-national as well as host-nation security partnered (Afghan security forces) missions and those undertaken by specialized and elite forces with unique skills and capabilities. Defenders of modern military decision-making can easily cast blame upon policy makers as well as individual commanders and staffs that made poor decisions, but a fair amount of blame remains for the particular warfighter framework of theories, models, methods, and language indoctrinated into the armed forces. The rapid and spectacular collapse of Kabul only accelerated institutional frustration with what went wrong for the most technologically advanced, highly trained, and perpetually overmatched military force that fought a low-technology, poorly resourced and educated third-world insurgency. The strategy, operational design, and everything else outside of localized and temporary tactical excellence had failed in real-world application.

In the initial response to these wide-ranging concerns, policy makers and political groups debate over reassessing how NATO operates, whether a reformation of the transatlantic alliance must occur, whether NATO might shift from “costly, open-ended missions outside of NATO’s area of responsibility… [to a refocus] on collective defense.”[4] At the security organizational level where decision-making methodologies attempt to translate political guidance and foreign policy goals into tactical actions, “allies are also more likely to be more discerning about when and under what conditions they join operations…they may seek more specifics on the duration, end-states, and exit plan of a mission; seek assurances in terms of support; or demand a greater say in shaping or leading the mission.”[5] These introspections of how political and strategic dialogues ought to foster military activities in alternative ways is significant as they appear to be the first time in NATO’s history of such proposals as well as disillusionment with how the legacy system produced this outcome. Within military forces themselves, similar discussions are ongoing with what sort of military reforms are needed, as well as various factions seeking to return to simpler and more stable times when warfare and security affairs appeared to function as intended.

In military discussions today across the international community, many military forces are wanting to reset the focus toward missions, processes, and roles that avoid the messiness of the Afghan insurgency. Former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army General Jack Keane’s statement on the post-Vietnam military reaction was cited in the SIGAR report on Afghanistan: “After the Vietnam War, we purged ourselves of everything that had to do with irregular warfare or insurgency, because it had to do with how we lost that war. In hindsight, that was a bad decision.”[6] Similar to the post-Vietnam military reaction, in this current post-Afghanistan response, militaries are avoiding the same necessary introspection and instead seeking to capitalize on military activities that accelerate rapid, visual and reliable success.

“We need to be focused on quick wins” is something proposed in various military forums, as was “we need to ensure our return on investment is prioritized” in security activities being planned at strategic and operational levels. Another reoccurring sentiment is: “we have a desire to standardize” for what sorts of military reform ought to occur in doctrine, training, education and military organizational change. In a recent military strategic session the author attended, one briefer stated: “the end state [of these military activities] is to execute operations and spend less time understanding the task [emphasis added].”[7] These various statements can be appreciated as voicing the desired outputs advocated by the modern military warfighting paradigm where linear causality does systematically generate clear, deliberate, and decisive ‘wins’ that can be achieved rapidly and with standardization to repeat rapidly. To generate many ‘quick wins’ that can be uniformly repeated and standardized to increase speed would, in this mindset for warfare, incrementally and progressively move the organization to a pre-determined strategic goal through more operations and less time invested in making sense of complexity where tasks may or may not help move things along.

Shifting the modern military decision-making mindset (one oriented upon systematic logic and linear-causal campaigning through Newtonian Styled sequences of reverse-engineering) requires the application of different philosophical concepts. These would be immediately antagonistic and even incommensurate (lacking any commonality to begin to realize differences) in how each frame understands warfare. Thus, these concepts that draw from postmodern sources are quite dissimilar to the modern military frame for understanding everything it maintains on what war is (and is not). This last concept provided in this monograph is termed a ‘Deleuzian fold’ and is named after the postmodern theorist that created it.

Deleuzian folds are still experimental in their limited application in organization theory, literature, information sciences and several other disciplines, with no known examples of the concept ever being applied in a military setting. This is in part because the concept provides ways of escaping the foundations of Western, industrialized, and systematic thinking and in turn becomes a ‘shock’ to an organization comfortable with understanding reality as unfolding in a linear, sequential, stable, and orderly manner. Deleuzian folds shift away from thinking about processes in the organization (such as how to better optimize execution of NATO-OPP/JPP) to how the organization should think about the processes and whether institutional frames are omitting essential alternatives outside of artificial, conceptual limits of this select worldview.

Deleuzian folds employ non-linearity, movement over established ordering, a concept of ‘drift’ where despite efforts to organize or orchestrate, reality hosts a rich and emergent transformation where construction occurs over and over in the folding and unfolding of many different relationships, patterns, and activities. “The fold… is enigma and intricacy; it complexifies, introducing detours, inflections, and instabilities into systems.”[8] Deleuze suggested that the fold refers to form in that folding involves enveloping or developing and involution/evolution.[9] He compares the concept of folds to that of the Russian doll (dolls within dolls) because there are interiors and exteriors folding within one another. The exterior of one doll is interior to another, the interior of a smaller doll contains yet another exterior of an even smaller doll. Deleuze also uses the metaphoric device of origami “because it has processual characteristics that refer to the transformation of the form.”[10]

Postmodernists again return to biology to take additional concepts and apply them differently, with Deleuzian folds applied through the transformation of organic and inorganic folds when the caterpillar develops (unfolds) into the butterfly… the butterfly itself starts as folded within the caterpillar (the caterpillar form envelops that of the butterfly initially), and later still the butterfly dies “and involutes (refolds) back into its constituent parts. These constituent parts become inorganic folds that wait to evolve again into an organic fold- through a different form.”[11]There are organic folds that are the interior envelopments of other organisms such as a mother and her unborn baby, or the potential metamorphosis of an organism from one form into another one. There are inorganic folds in this construct too.

The inorganic aspects of the Deleuzian fold feature simple and direct folds that are “exterior sites, including water, air, fire and rocks, that flow in, through on and around organisms (organic folds) … [Deleuze] also argues that no separation exists between the organic (interior) and the inorganic (exterior) because the inorganic folds into the organic and the organic folds into the inorganic.”[12] An example of a mountain range with a series of tunnels used by a terrorist cell can be used here. The mountain itself is an exterior (inorganic) site, but it is infused with the terrorists as well as local civilians, herds of mountain goats, and other wildlife and vegetation. The snow falling onto the mountain is inorganic and a crystalized form of water molecules, with flowing mountain streams also expressing inorganic water in movement. Yet inside the terrorists flows more water, with the inorganic (exterior) folding within the interior (organic) at fractal scales such as the earlier Russian dolls metaphor. Within a mountain goat standing on a hillside, inorganic water molecules flow through its blood and tissues, while folded still further within is the organic potential of all future goat offspring that extend infinitely forward for every successful generation of goat decedents that at this moment in time could emerge.

The folding provides a different way to frame organizations as well as socially constructed reality (shared beliefs, values, symbols, meanings, culture) with the physical (objective) world of things and tangible actions. As the folding and unfolding provides a nonlinear, emergent, and ultimately a rhizomatic mode of making sense of a complex reality (and complex security affairs within), this way of modeling strategic design blurs the once solid boundaries between significant concepts that order the way militaries approach warfare. “The fold not only refers to organized processes of unfolding and refolding but also calls attention to the fuzzy and indeterminant nature of the difference between the internal and the external. In this respect, the fold can be seen as disorganized. The rhizome can be seen to refer to the organization as not disorganized and not organized.”[13]

Folds, if arranged in a manner that breaks with the centralized hierarchical mode of linear linkages between things and bounded objectivity will provide a way of thinking about complex reality (and warfare) so that everything becomes connected to everything else. Yet “these connections are not disorganized in that various planes of multiplicity exist, but they are also not organized in that there is a constant flow and flux of new connections being made between multiplicities. Combining the fold and the rhizome metaphors can seemingly help us think about organization in new ways.”[14] Before providing some graphical suggestions on a few ways to apply Deleuzian Folds and rhizomes, readers will be shown some familiar forms of military analysis already quite popular in mainstream NATO and Joint Planning activities. Moving from examples of centralized hierarchical linkages and analytical optimization of systematic logic to those that depart from those frameworks through Deleuzian Folds and rhizomes (systemic logics) will form a striking contrast.

Michael Goodman, “The Iceberg Model” (Innovation Associates Organizational Learning, 2002),

Above, the ‘Iceberg Model’ demonstrates a centralized hierarchical linkage of bounded, rationalized events, things or snapshots in time arranged within the metaphoric device of an iceberg in water. [15] The ‘events’ are placed at the surface, illustrating that the things most obvious in reality are akin to the visual spectrum of humans (or other animals) recognizing the ‘tip of the iceberg’ above the surface of water. This is not a centralized hierarchy for an organization where the top leadership would occupy and direct commands downward while pulling information upward from the organization. Instead, the Iceberg Model organizes an analytical framework for considering a complex reality where the events are identified first (what is happening) and the linear linkages are established from these starting nodes. Next, immediately below the waterline and obscured from the observer’s view (implied awareness of conceptualization), the ‘patterns of behavior’ link to the events as depicted in the graphic.

The linkages of ‘patterns of behavior’ promote a ‘trend, pattern, change’ relationship between events that draw attention of the analyst to what the analyst believes are expected causal relationships where ‘what happens now’ ties with ‘what has happened before’. Referring to the earlier ‘limits of technical rationalism’ section in this monograph, the iceberg model seeks a systematic conclusion where ‘input-output’ or ‘cause-effect’ is recognized by directing the analyst to correlate ‘what is happening’ to ‘what one has seen previously that seems familiar or related to this new stimulus.’ This is linear-causal and systematic reasoning arranged in a hierarchical mode of system behaviors using a ‘tree-root’ model inspired by the shape and characteristics of an iceberg. The iceberg is understood in a Newtonian Style, where ice floats and a physics dynamic governs how this model functions. The analyst is subsequently encouraged to build upon this linear correlation of observed activities (events) and preconceived ‘patterns of behavior’ curated in their institutional knowledge (how one is instructed to analyze reality to deconstruct patterns according to the institutional paradigm). The ‘structures’ portion occurs next in the hierarchical, linear sequence of linking meaning to events.

Structures are explained in the Iceberg Model where rules, plans, or organizationally sanctioned models, methods and theories define the relationship among the parts. This is significant in that the Iceberg Model ultimately applies a modern strategic worldview where ontologically, the world is in a state of being where reality can be frozen in time and space, isolated into distinct, definable things or bounded entities, where one thing can be linked in some relationship form to other things. The rules, maxims or principles that govern how these linkages occur are explained by various conceptual models utilized by the social paradigm that the individual analyst is taught so that they can function within the institution. Again, NATO and Joint Forces use their decision-making methodologies where SWOT analysis, COG analysis, stakeholder analysis, and CARVER-like targeting models that direct analytical framing of how tangible things might be understood in relation to other things. The core level of the iceberg, and conceptually the most abstract and remote portion of reality from those observable events at the surface are ‘mental models.’

In the Iceberg Model, the mental models form the foundation of complex reality and form a direct, linear linkage between these belief systems and the very events occurring at the surface that are most easily observed by the analysts. Yet the Iceberg Model, arranged in a vertical hierarchical model, forms a linear-casual linkage that is an inverse of the centralized hierarchy or ‘root-tree’ construct. It is from the bottom base of the iceberg that all power exists, and where all ultimate sources are for driving system behavior. The phrasing of “what values, beliefs, and assumptions do you have about teaching” is positioned in a non-reflective mode that prevents reflective practice or ‘triple loop thinking’ where one considers the limits of one’s social paradigm. It is possible for reflective practice to occur within the Iceberg Model if an analyst is already capable of such thinking, but the model itself does not promote such consideration therein. The model reinforces a vertical sequencing and channeling of events, institutionally sanctioned models and recognized patterns, isolation of parts of a system in a reductionist, systematic mode of analytic inquiry, and organizes these parts from the ‘top’ of the relationship in the abstract down in clear, linked relationships to the ‘bottom’ where physically observable, tangible reality occurs above the waterline.

The Iceberg model is itself a categorization model[16] in which the operator often performs institutionalized thinking that is non-reflective and self-referential to what the dominant social paradigm is (the overarching military belief system on how war is supposed to occur). Yet the ‘iceberg’ construct becomes inverted in application, where out of a vast and dynamic sea of many events in a complex reality, select ones are isolated and categorized into pre-selected and institutionally sanctioned mental models. It is the reason for the creation of such models for operators within the social paradigm’s control that events correspond to particular ‘patterns of behavior’. Military strategists and planners invest significant energy and resources into analyzing data and sorting it through descriptive modes of systematic logic so that one ‘thing’ observed as a significant event is clearly linked to other relevant ‘things’ in recognizable patterns. These patterns (models of military decision-making) are structured in a sequence of formal decision-making, whether the Joint Planning Process, NATO-OPP, or other related assembly line of manufacturing ideas to deliberate, coordinated actions in time and space. At the deepest level, the Iceberg Model converges even further into a select grouping of core values and the underpinning military belief system, the modern military paradigm for warfare. Reality is simplified down in a convergent, linear process of linking tangible, quantifiable things and isolated events to ontological and epistemological stances held by Western Industrialized defense organizations.

author’s original graphic

Thus, while the Iceberg Model is depicted graphically as a divergent, ever-expanding metaphoric iceberg below the surface where observable events link to abstract complexity, the above illustration depicts what most practitioners instead accomplish in performing the Iceberg Model in security contexts.[17] Events are interpreted using institutionalized beliefs through the indoctrinated methods, models, language, and theories practiced by the military profession in imitation of natural science disciplines.[18] Vastly complex events woven into an ever-changing fog of dynamic reality are eventually boiled down into patterns and structures approved by overarching mental models that reflect the deep ontological and epistemological belief systems of modern militaries. This occurs not just in examples of the Iceberg Model, but in multiple expressions of military analysis where complex, dynamic security challenges are rendered into some institutionalized meaning that simplifies and isolates. The infamous “Afghan Complexity Map” incorrectly attributed to a PowerPoint Slide[19] below made the front page of the New York Times as direct criticism of how the Coalition of military forces led by the American Department of Defense were trying to make sense of that frustrating conflict.[20]

Elisabeth Bumiller, “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint,” The New York Times, April 26, 2010, online edition, sec. World,

The article, published in 2010 during the sudden surge of violent insurgency in Afghanistan and political debate on how and why strategic change was required, would ignite criticism on the inappropriate use of PowerPoint slides for coordinating military activities. Yet the deeper debate on military strategic design was not the use of PowerPoint, but how the graphic below grossly oversimplified a complex insurgency into “rigid lists of bullet points… that take no account of interconnected political, economic, and ethnic forces.”[21] Bumiller cites General McMaster’s critique where “If you divorce war from all of that, it becomes a targeting exercise” which also echoes similar comments by General Mattis on ‘Effects Based Operations’ and the oversimplification of turning everything in warfare into the kinetic targeting of things to break up linear linkages to other things.[22]

The ‘spaghetti chart’ above, as it has been nicknamed in a derogatory fashion, is another example of systematic logic and ‘root-tree’ organizational categorization. While the Iceberg Model is not shown, it is entirely feasible to suggest that some version of ‘Iceberg categorization reasoning’ occurred when the analysts created this graphic, and such thinking guided the entire production of such a product. This mechanistic form of military analytical thinking “views the relationship between actors and phenomena in instrumental terms.”[23] Reality is categorized into tangible things so that they can be connected in linear, sequential patterns to a host of other things similarly defined. This enables an illusion of control, risk-reduction, efficiency, and prediction of a complex system that rejects such attempts.

Strategic designers might move away from ‘root-tree’ models and systematic, analytic reasoning on warfare (repeating Iceberg Models upon complex reality in various incarnations) is to consider Deleuzian Folds instead. Several figures below provide suggestions and possible ways of using these systemic and postmodern options to transform existing modern military decision-making such as the RAMP toward novel alternatives that address complex security challenges in ways that legacy military methods cannot. These applications do insert alternative philosophical language, metaphors, and constructs into what has previously been an exclusively systematic, reductionist and ‘Newtonian styled’ mode of modern military decision-making. Critics of postmodernism aside, Chia offers the observation of Serres (one of France’s most gifted and original thinkers) with: “whether knowledge is written in philosophical, literary, or scientific language it nevertheless articulates a common set of problems that transcend academic disciplines and intellectual boundaries.”[24] As military organizations must address some of the most complex, even chaotic sort of human challenges in existence, the legacy barriers against philosophical, literary, and scientific concepts that do not reinforce institutionally recognized beliefs or values must be softened.

In the below illustration, Deleuzian Folds are presented in the Russian Doll metaphoric device of various folds creating interior and exterior interactions in three different areas of security interest. ‘Organization’, ‘beliefs’, and ‘actions’ are granted folding treatments. It is important to highlight the complex fusion of tangible (objective) and intangible (subjective, social) aspects of these three suggested folds. Folding objects, stakeholders, nation states, or other clearly bounded, isolate-able and quantifiable constructs would potentially encourage strategists and planners to reinforce systematic thinking such as how the Iceberg Model does. “Under the fold’s regime the self ceases to be individual, offering in its place a plenum of infinitely permutating bodies”[25] where the interaction of interiors and exteriors dismantles the traditional boundaries of things, people, bounded concepts, and rigid organizational frames. In the illustration below, a pattern of folding, unfolding and refolding interactions expresses through each treatment, where the numbered sequence ‘1, 2 and 3’ present one way of exploring complex relationships, nonlinear networking, and emergent patterns that are relevant to the security challenge under inquiry. Each folding treatment offers bullet statements that correspond with examples of systemic appreciation of how those strategic designers might explore through Deleuzian Folds.

author’s original graphic

Deleuzian Folds present different philosophical (epistemological and ontological difference on what war is, how and why it forms and functions) constructs that are not a substitution for the familiar legacy modes of decision-making. Thus, inserting a Deleuzian Fold approach into some step in NATO-OPP or the Joint Planning Process while leaving the rest of the framework largely unchanged will not accomplish much and likely create confusion and hostility toward this alien interlocuter. Such application of a postmodern construct requires different language, the application of unfamiliar metaphoric devices, new methodologies and the formation of different conceptual models that draw from different theories on war. “The mind folds a body that floods another body’s mind until… your own discourse is the other’s unconscious.”[26] The swirling of ideas, objects, minds, and living beings become tangled in relationships that shatter traditional (Western, modern military) orderings of things. In another suggested example of how strategic designers might apply Deleuzian Folds, the unfamiliar mathematical and scientific concept of a ‘Mobius Strip’ is incorporated as a metaphoric device and modelling framework. The illustration below introduces a Mobius Strip to operate in the similar ‘Russian Doll’ series of complex folds.

A Mobius Strip is a peculiar construct discovered in Germany in 1858, several decades after the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz’s theory of modern nation-state warfare would publish. Yet despite the close chronological ordering of the ideas, the Mobius Strip has never (in any searches conducted by the author) been applied to warfare or military strategy. This is probably because the concept itself is challenging and disruptive, and in many ways paradoxical to Newtonian Style thinking. The Mobius Strip presents several curious properties that make it quite different from straight lines of effort, systematic causal (input leads to expected output) structures and other spatial frameworks that underpin classical military thinking; the traditional domains of land, sea and air that fostered much of modern military theory and practice does not have many practical examples of what the Mobius Strip introduces. It is the simplest non-orientable surface in three-dimensional space, meaning it is a surface with only one side and does not feature the concepts of ‘clockwise’, ‘counterclockwise’, or other orientable phenomenon of everyday life.

author’s original graphic

For instance, were one to start at one point on a Mobius Strip and begin a path around the entire surface, at the completion of the strip one is in an opposite point to where one began. Only by completing a second full loop will one return to the original starting point, making the strip a peculiar non-orientable surface. Were an object to rotate around a Mobius Strip and attempt to look at oneself as if in a mirror, there would be no ‘mirror effect’ because anything within a Mobius Strip cannot orient to itself. In orientable contexts and spaces, a person can look into a mirror and see everything reversed. The peculiar property of a Mobius Strip denies this phenomenon for those existing within a reality shaped in a Mobius Strip form. There are several other unique mathematical properties of the Mobius Strip that exceed the intent of this section, and for a Deleuzian Fold application for strategic designers the illustration below builds off the previous graphic in the Russian Doll ‘nesting’ for folds. However, this nesting arrangement now has Mobius Strips within other Mobius Strips, creating folds within folds, where each Mobius Strip creates itself with a twist in its one-sided surface and the nesting of multiple Mobius Strips creates interiorities and exteriorities of Deleuzian Folds as well.

If readers reapply the same ‘1, 2, 3’ sequence of organizational, belief-based, and action-oriented security topics from the earlier Deleuzian Fold illustration here once again, the peculiar twists of the Mobius Strips arranged in a nesting relationship of folds, unfolding, and refolding provides a sophisticated arrangement of ideas on a complex security challenge differently than possible in traditional military campaign designs or strategies. This does not correlate to ‘better’ or any potential evaluation, rather the change in rendering complex security challenges using postmodern ideas enables a greater opportunity to think divergently, toward potential advantages when considering complex, dynamic systems, and an ever-emerging reality. There are an infinite expansion of other ways to envision Deleuzian Folds for complex security challenges; these two examples are provided to stimulate further research and experimentation by strategic designers.

This monograph introduced Deleuzian Folds along with the overlapping postmodern concept of ‘rhizomes’ as part of the idea of indirect strategic design and how complexity requires vastly different conceptual tools than what the legacy frame for warfare offers. Defenders of the modern military institution may object to these positions as well as the notion of bringing postmodern concepts, complexity theory, systems theory, and social paradigm theory into a Newtonian Styled, technologically rationalist approach to modern warfare. Yet modern military decision-making methodologies and strategies have never successfully accounted for how objectivity (science of war) and subjectivity (art of war) interact systemically. McCaffery cites Merleu-Ponty with an important idea on this: “No matter how strict the connection between external facts, it is not the external world which is the ultimate justification of the internal; they participate together in an ‘interior’ which their connection manifests.”[27] This perspective illustrates how Deleuzian Folds work logically, where the interiority of ideas within an individual mind fold and unfold with external reality.

Objective facts that are quantifiable interact with subjective perspectives enabled by a second-order complexity of human socialized construction where qualitative is perhaps the only option of inquiry. This gap between qualitative and quantitative is itself an artificial imposition created by academics of rival disciplines and belief systems, yet both ultimately admit that complex reality encompasses both of them… and neither can ever sufficiently address that complex reality in total.[28] Modern militaries are institutionalized to obsess over scientific objectivity and analytic optimization at the detriment of subjectivity, interpretivism, and those significant phenomenon and patterns in warfare that cannot be measured, isolated, or rendered predictable in formulas and rules. NATO and Joint Forces use their military decision-making today to attempt an objective rendering of a complex reality. Tomorrow’s military decision-making design could shift from this and consider alternatives that might produce deeper appreciation of those same complex security challenges.

This excerpt is part of a larger monograph pending publication in 2022.

For more, follow Ben Zweibelson, subscribe to ‘Think JSOU’ on YouTube, consider JSOU courses, research and educational outreach by visiting , and also connect with Ben on LinkedIn to learn more about this monograph and the planned publication in 2022.

[1] Rachel Ellehuus and Pierre Morcos, “The Fall of Kabul: Inconvenient Truths for NATO,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, August 27, 2021,

[2] Dave Keating, “Can NATO Survive the Afghanistan Debacle?,” Internationale Politik Quarterly, August 17, 2021,

[3] “What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction” (Arlington, Virginia: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, August 2021), x–xi,

[4] Ellehuus and Morcos, “The Fall of Kabul: Inconvenient Truths for NATO.”

[5] Ellehuus and Morcos.

[6] “What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction,” xii.

[7] The author works for the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) as a full-time contractor and supports a wide range of Special Operations Forces, Department of Defense organizations, U.S. Government agencies as well as many international security forces for JSOU educational outreach and mission support. These statements are from several nonattributable sessions where the speaker, location, unit and topic are removed from the record.

[8] Steve McCaffery, “Blaser’s Deleuzian Folds,” Discourse 20, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 101.

[9] Pick, “Rethinking Organization Theory: The Fold, the Rhizome and the Seam between Organization and the Literary,” 803.

[10] Pick, 803.

[11] Pick, 803.

[12] Pick, p.803; Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 9.

[13] Pick, “Rethinking Organization Theory: The Fold, the Rhizome and the Seam between Organization and the Literary,” 805.

[14] Pick, 805.

[15] Michael Goodman, “The Iceberg Model” (Innovation Associates Organizational Learning, 2002),

[16] Snowden, “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making”; Snowden, “The Cynefin Framework.”

[17] This assertion by the author is based on strategy, planning and design sessions involving thousands of students over a decade in military educational, training, and practical applications using the Iceberg Model.

[18] For example, see: David Maxwell, “Do We Really Understand Unconventional Warfare?,” Small Wars Journal, October 23, 2014, Maxwell depicts Figure 1–1 of covert and overt functions of unconventional warfare employing the Iceberg, with the bottom-most mental model a “dissatisfaction with [PEMSII framed] political, economic, social administration…” and associated categorical examples.

[19] While General McChrystal did view this graphic in a PowerPoint briefing deck, the analysts created the graphic in another software mapping tool. PowerPoint was merely the presentation device used.

[20] Elisabeth Bumiller, “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint,” The New York Times, April 26, 2010, online edition, sec. World,

[21] Bumiller.

[22] Mattis to Zweibelson, “RE: Design for Defense Book PDF Manuscript,” September 16, 2021; James Mattis, “USJFCOM Commander’s Guidance for Effects-Based Operations,” Joint Forces Quarterly 4th Quarter, 2008, no. 51 (2008): 106–8.

[23] Tsoukas, “Refining Common Sense: Types of Knowledge in Management Studies,” 766.

[24] Chia, “Teaching Paradigm Shifting in Management Education: University Business Schools and the Entrepreneurial Imagination,” 414.

[25] McCaffery, “Blaser’s Deleuzian Folds,” 103.

[26] McCaffery, 106. McCaffery cites Nacal.

[27] McCaffery, 110.

[28] Pamela Tolbert and Lynn Zucker, “The Institutionalization of Institutional Theory,” in Handbook of Organizational Studies, ed. S. Clegg, C. Hardy, and W. Nord (London: Sage Publications, 1996), 175–90.

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