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As LiNE Zine’s autumn issue goes into production, the United States and allies are heading into war with the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and the crash in Pennsylvania. The tactics, firepower, and strategies of each side are being dissected by legions of commentators—and indeed all of us anxiously want to know how and whither this war, how long it will last, can it be successful?

Like most wars, this one will be fought on many fronts and in many dimensions. One aspect too little talked about is learning’s role in the war. If, as the now cliché goes, “Competitive advantage goes to those who learn faster,” it is no less appropriate to military and covert operations than to the corporate settings we usually focus on. Indeed, superior learning has already marked the first blow of the terrorists. The suicide operators patiently took courses in flight training schools and mastered simulators. Their study and identification of the best opportunities in terms of fuel-loaded flights on paths to key targets; their patient assimilation of all details about those flight, and the habits and patterns of the crews took time and patience. They also studied the vulnerabilities of the security and ticket check-ins. Indeed, the terrorists took flight after flight to confirm all that they had come to know, and to prepare for their final deadly mission.

Now the learning challenge passes to America and its allies. As we begin our war to bring the perpetrators to justice, we have every need to increase our understanding of the movements and habits of Osama bin Laden. We need to better grasp the means and opportunities to strike back; to assimilate thousands upon thousands of details, relationships, reports, and somehow separate the false, deliberately misleading, and inconsequential from the true and significant. Yes, of course, it is a military operation and a war of intelligence—but also a war of learning. Intelligence is never static, and in war, as in peace, learning is the means to dynamically adapt and win. As the war progresses, the learning challenge will only become steeper. Our enemies will be learning constantly, matching our efforts as best they can. We at LiNE Zine hope that every leading practice and way of increasing human capability can be brought to bear for the side most deserving—for all of us who cherish freedom, peace, and security for all.

Brook Manville

brook@linezine.com

October 2001