Despite popular claims to the contrary, you – and everyone else – want to dominate.  You want to have what you want, when you want it, despite any opponent.  Don’t fool around with words like, “superiority,” “advantage,” and “supremacy.”

General Dominance Theory (GDT) and Cyber Dominance Theory integrate the concepts of Sun Tzu, the OODA LoopClausewitz, and others into the concept of Dominance.  Still, some argue against the concepts of GDT and against the use of the term Dominance.  This is the battle of dominance vs superiority.

You are Human; You Want to Dominate

Fundamentally, you want what you want, when you want it.  This is the core of Dominance as defined in General Dominance Theory.  Dominance doesn’t mean “you destroy everybody else.”  It means that as a result of the totality of reality you have what you want.

A hare
This guy is the fastest. He has superiority. Want to be like him?

This is how we all operate and how we are all wired, whether we think of it in these terms or not.  Any time that you do not have something you want, you must undergo a struggle to achieve it.  That struggle may be as simple as bringing a bite of food to your mouth or as complex as international diplomacy or interstellar travel.

Dominance is about end states.  The means are important, but the means are not the focus of dominance.  If you have what you want, ultimately that’s all that matters.  Dominance is about focusing on those things you want and doing what it takes to get them.  You don’t just want to “be fast.”  You want to “win the race.”

Dominance IS the Right Word

GDT captures an idea with the word Dominance, integrating the following concepts:

  • Opponents can be different.  They can have different strengths and weaknesses.
  • Some things cannot be shared by opponents.
  • Some things CAN be shared by opponents.
  • An opponent with less capable tools can overcome an opponent with more capable tools.  Tools are only means to an outcome (end state).
  • The wants of an opponent can change.
  • There can be multiple winners.  Two opponents can achieve an acceptable level of “wants” simultaneously.  This of course depends on which of their desires are mutually exclusive.

While many people consider war, business, or any competition as a win or lose affair – GDT points out that thinking in such a win/lose frame of mind is erroneously limiting.  If you agree with the idea that peace is possible and desirable, then there must be a point at which each side has enough of what they want.

Some critics of GDT argue that the word dominance is the wrong word to use.  They instead suggest usage of the term superiority.  For some, this simply because a US Navy Admiral decided to ditch the term dominance in favor of the term superiority.  It might seem needlessly semantical to argue the difference, but words have meaning and words shape our ideas.

Dominance considers everything you want.  It is achieving the sum of your desires at a given time.  Superiority only describes a single dimension of capability.  You can have superiority in a particular facet while failing to hold dominance.

Superiority is not Dominance

The term superiority has gained favor over the last few years in the US Navy as a replacement for the term dominance.  There are three problems with the word superiority:

  1. it is a nod to the military industrial complex (MIC), where the US military spends billions of dollars on weapon systems each year.  While the MIC has some benefits, the current manifestation of the MIC has created leaders that believe that tools win wars – not coherent strategy and tactics.  Tools are the lazy man’s tactics.  And in a world where everyone has advanced tools, the lazy man doesn’t win.  To be superior means to have the best tools.  Superiority implies that we can mindlessly continue to develop better weapons without needing to know how to employ them in concert with other instruments of power in a unified strategy.
  2. it dangerously implies that any opponent not “superior” is not a threat.  It implies that there is no struggle.
  3. it is not focused on Desired End States.  Being faster and stronger is not why we wage war.  We wage war to achieve something, such as “our merchant ships are not sunk when transiting the Atlantic Ocean.”

Two Valid Terms; Two Different Meanings

The term superiority does have a place in the lexicon, but it should not replace dominance.  Each of the concepts is useful in the pursuit of your desires.

Dominance considers the whole of what you want.  It is the result of achieving the sum of your desires at a given time.  The nature of the term superiority means that it can only be used to describe a single dimension of capability.  You can have superiority in a particular facet while failing to hold dominance.

For example, you could have cyberspace superiority while simultaneously NOT having airspace superiority.  Assuming you want both, you do not have dominance.  If you want both, superiority is too limited a term.

Tools are the lazy man’s tactics.  And in a world where everyone has advanced tools, the lazy man doesn’t win.

Full-spectrum superiority (as defined in Joint Publication) is the closest to the concept of dominance:

Full-spectrum superiority: The cumulative effect of dominance in the air, land, maritime, and space domains; electromagnetic spectrum; and information environment (which includes cyberspace) that permits the conduct of joint operations without effective opposition or prohibitive interference.
– Joint Publication 3.0

But “full-spectrum superiority” (and all other variants of the term superiority in Joint Publication) is limited because it only addresses the conduct of operations, not the achievement of desired end states, as in GDT.

Superiority in multiple dimensions can certainly increase the likelihood that you will achieve Dominance.  But Dominance is the art of considering the many dimensions of the struggle to achieve what we want.

Embrace the Domination

When pursuing your goals, don’t get distracted by terms that advocate simply for being “better” or “faster” or “stronger.”  You need a holistic approach to achieving your desires.  General Dominance Theory provides such an approach by developing the concept of Dominance into a framework that doesn’t just “make you faster,” it helps you “win the race.”

A Tortoise
The other guy may have been faster, but this guy actually won the race. Superiority takes a back seat to Dominance any day.

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