Newton’s Gravitational Pull and Modern Warfare Ritualization:

Ben Zweibelson, PhD
15 min readDec 30, 2021

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.” (Follow Ben Zweibelson at Medium to see more on strategic design, war theory, operational planning and military philosophy).

After the systematic linkage of desired future end states to strategic intent and recognizable ‘problems’ paired to existing institutional solutions, NATO-OPP and JPP processes continue operational design by directing staff to identify and analyze ‘centers of gravity’ or ‘COG.’ Joint planning defines a COG as: “the source of power or strength that enables a military force to achieve its objective and is what an opposing force can orient its actions against that will lead to enemy failure.”[1] Joint planning expands what a COG might be from clear entities (a leader, a force, a capability or function) to abstract concepts such as national will, beliefs or ideas. NATO-OPP restrains their COG definition to something that “is always an entity” and must therefore remain identifiable and actionable through quantitative, analytical and objective constructs.[2] The COG is a conceptual model employed in modern military decision-making methodologies such as NATO-OPP and JPP in order to apply military theory to how complex warfare in reality is occurring. COGs were first conceptualized by the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz and would in the last two centuries of warfare gradually entrench in Prussian, Russian, and later still Anglo-Saxon military doctrine and practices.

COGs are foundational models in all versions of modern military decision-making, applied to linking desired ‘end states’ and objectives to desired effects of military tasks so that by targeting adversarial COGs and protecting friendly ones, a military force can systematically build elaborate ‘input-output’ formulas of missions, tasks and effects that should accomplish broader…

Ben Zweibelson, PhD

Philosopher of Conflict; Director for the U.S. Space Command’s (USSPACECOM) Strategic Innovation Group; Author of 'Understanding the Military Design Movement'.