Date of Award

Winter 2005

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Kurt Taylor Gaubatz

Committee Member

Steven A. Yetiv

Committee Member

David Dryer


This dissertation proposes an approach and methodology for the utilization of the fundamentals of systems theory as an aid to national security decision-making. At its core is an examination of the elements of nations' or non-state actor's power resources. The product of the analysis is the compilation of a set of nodes, and the relationships between these, upon which actions may be taken to achieve desired effects. Since the boundaries between the subsystems of power resources are flexible and permeable, and there will be interactions between elements in different subsystems, a system of systems approach is essential so that the functioning of the system may be better understood and the secondary consequences of actions considered. The premise is that changes cannot occur in isolation, and that alterations in one component will result in modifications (intended or unintended) to related elements. The goal of the approach is not precise prediction of the effects of actions, but rather to provide for understanding of the relationships between elements of national power that will lead to expectations of the consequences of those actions. The hypothesis is: If national power is characterized as nonlinear and complex; and, if approaches recently developed in mathematics and the physical sciences provide a means of enhanced understanding of nonlinear systems; then, utilization of such an approach may provide a metaphor or model for increased understanding of the system and the secondary effects of coercive actions taken to achieve objectives. This dissertation will attempt to confirm the existence of the first two conditions, and will provide arguments and a design for accomplishment of the third. An ex post analysis of three conflicts where coercion by military means was the primary strategy---Somalia, 1992-1995; Kosovo, 1999; and, Afghanistan, 2001---will be used as case studies. These examples will provide illustration of the utilization of the principles of the system of systems construct and exposition of the potential of this methodology to enhance the understanding of the effects of coercive actions.


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