Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dave Davison recently reminded me of the artistic prowess of Peter Durand of Alphachimp Studio being utilized to visualize the ideas of ' thought leaders". Here are some samples- first from The Embracing Complexity Conference:

Here's some political analysis:

Peter has done some work on Tom Barnett too at Pop!Tech:

More of Peter's interpretation of Dr. Barnett's work here.

This excellent, cognitively speaking, for activating multiple centers of the brain to wrestle with concepts that are normally presented via words, or if with images, very sequentially. It is even better for your brain if you go beyond "reading" and attempt to create a visual of your own.

Reader Dominic C. recommended taking a look at Complexity Digest and I agree -it's good ! Much thanks, Dominic !
Sunday, October 29, 2006

A number of worthy bloggers were kind enough to link to my post on super empowered individuals, comment or send in some thoughts via email which I would like to highlight. Much thanks to everyone who took the time to comment, your ideas sometimes send me off in new directions.


Dave at the Glittering Eye has Napoleonic commentary on super empowered individuals.

Dan of tdaxp launches a systempunkt on the concept of systempunkt.

John Robb is pleased.


From Dr. Von:

"This post is one of the natural extensions of what we have been discussing. I don't think there is any doubt that it is inevitable. I suppose the 'when' depends on what system is perturbed/attacked. It will be done as our understanding of network theory and complexity advance; to have, say, an individual do tremendous damage, that person will need the means of mapping out and understanding the levels of connectivity inherent to the system, whether that system is social, electronic, environmental, industrial, etc. Even with a lack of understanding of the system's multi-dimensional topology in whatever relevant phase space, I can imagine someone developing and using one of these newer adaptive genetic computer algorithms...this type of program can 'learn' as it crunches data, and can adapt itself to the system. It is along the lines of the programming being tried for intelligent robots, etc. That is probably the scariest scenario to me"

From Fabius Maximus of DNI:

"I'll stake out an extreme position on this (there is a first time for everything). Not much time, so I'll sketch out some thoughts on this, however incoherent and ill-supported.

1. I disagree with the foundation assumption of Robb's, the instability that result from modern systems higher levels of dynamic interconnectivity. In general, modern systems are more -- far more -- stable than pre-networked systems.

There is a large body of expert discussion on this, in various fields. No room in the margin here to prove this (or even discuss with the depth it serves). In fact, no proof is possible, we'll just have to see.

The accompanying disadvantage of modern systems is that, although they have greater stability and adaptability, they often fail catastrophically -- instead of degrading gracefully (service declines, or fails locally).

Also -- as you note -- we are working to make our essential systems more resilient. Including the human element. Note the boom in first aid and disaster prep courses and organizations.

2. American culture has possibly lost its balance between the needs/focus on the individual and the group. Note the focus in comic books and movies on individual action -- as opposed to groups. X-files shows this taken to the logical extreme, the isolated individual -- who is of course powerless.

The overemphasis on the individual actor is a snare, a significant but delusional belief resulting from overdevelopment of one aspect of American culture -- built on a false assumption.

Strength, the ability to create the future (the past and present being, of course, frozen), come from groups.

There are two concepts here. Leaders of deep and wide movements -- like the NAZI party are distinct from individual actors -- like the mythical super scientist who saves the world, ie. Archimedes and the mirrors.

The first are important. But would the movements occur without the leader? This is the great man of history debate.

The second is in my opinion a topic most suitable for fiction. Individuals can destroy dozens, hundreds, thousands -- perhaps millions ... but nothing of significance from a historical perspective. "

From T.M. Lutas:

"It would seem to me that global guerrillas, in the sense that they are different than regular old guerrillas are a more primitive form of super empowered individuals. The damage that a national army used to be needed for is down-sized these days according to Barnett. Eventually you down-size right down to the individual level and thus alienated super empowered individuals become a new threat. In between, you get global guerrillas.

But if two or more super empowered individuals act in concert, does that mean they cease to be super empowered? If a global guerrilla acts alone, does that make him a super empowered individual?

So the Barnettian identification of the grand movement of downsizing violence is affirmed and two instantiations of the phenomena are global guerrillas and super empowered individuals.

Now most super empowered individuals remain only potentially dangerous. Bill Gates or Oprah are very unlikely to morph into Spectre type villains. This is a separate question from whether they can. I think it's pretty obvious that they could if they wanted to.

Similarly, the number of potential global guerrilla groups out there is vastly larger than the actual number in active operations. One of the things that make's John Robb's vision much less scary is the simple fact that the operation of global guerrillas are likely to activate other potential groups dedicated to neutralizing the first bad actors. The GG phenomena is thus much less likely to bring bad results to the entire system as these groups will not operate all from the same playbook. In Iraq the great Sunni insurgency is breaking up on the rocks of the Shia and Kurd death squadswho are not global guerrillas only by virtue of the simple fact that they gain nothing by adopting those systempunkt tactics."

From Lexington Green:

"A second theme is that due to globalization the complicated economic and technical machinery we are increasingly vulnerable to attacks on "vital nodes" which can cause cascading failure -- hence creating juicy targets for 4GW warriors and our putative nuke-armed Ted Bundy.

I find this second idea unconvincing. The essence of a market driven, networked, non-centrally-planned economy is the diffusion of skills and knowledge, redundancy, the capacity for work-arounds. The model I have in mind is the German economy in World War II. It was able to respond to devastating levels of attack and keep on going. And that was without cell phones, computers, the internet, etc. Just telephones, radios, and paper files and manual typewriters. Even if, as the Rand study posited, there were a nuke attack on the Long Beach container port, and it took $1 trillion off the top, it would not be fatal. We'd do workarounds. It would totally suck. No doubt. But we'd survive.

In other words, we are resilient, and we have the capacity to become much, much more so when the incentives shift to make us want to be more so."

From Shloky:

"This will only still work while there are locks on knowledge/tech. Like Lexington touches on technology and information always move towards freedom. Including nuclear tech/knowledge. Give it another couple decades and the whole game changes."

From Eddie:

"Reading the post, I think in the end you focus on those who would undertake action with malicious intent, but the other side is more disturbing IMHO, those who undertake action without realizing the extent or consequences of their actions."

From Purpleslog:

"Bill Gates will nudge more toward 5GW territory as he will devote his time and his vast money (soon to be with a big chunk of Warren Buffet's money too) to making changes to the world. George Soros has also been edging this way"

As per the question raised by Curtis, I think Gates certainly commands the resources required to effect super empowered strategems. Soros has definitely tried to do so, in a number of countries, including in the last U.S. presidential election, but he has not acheived very much in proportion to his expenditures, perhaps because he is not flying below the radar. Oprah - well, I know a little bit about her through an acquaintance who was once very high up at Harpo - let's say I don't see her succeeding on any issues outside of her natural comfort zone and audience which is basically apolitical, middle and upper-middle class, American boomer women. The potential is there however.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Man is something that should be overcome"
-Friedrich Nietzsche

What defines " superempowerment" ? How is the dreaded " super empowered individual" a different actor from a group engaged in systempunkt or old fashioned sabotage and demolition ?

In my view, leverage time and scale.

Super empowered individuals were something once relegated to the annals of science fiction, a creature of Hollywood movies or comic book villains. Some figures in history presaged "superempowerment" - from Archimedes of Syracuse burning the Roman fleet with reflective mirrors to bloody conquerors like Adolf Hitler, there have been men who succeeded in stamping themselves on their age.

Previously, such " empowered individuals" were forced to act through some kind of collectivity, be it a Mongol horde or a modern state. In the near future, perhaps today, that will not be the case. Technology and knowledge and the will to power, will allow them to create global upheavals, unmediated and with perhaps the click of a mouse.

A super empowered individual, in my view, is autonomously capable of creating a cascading event that grand strategist Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett has termed a " system perturbation"; a disruption of system function and invalidation of existing rule sets to at least the national but more likely the global scale. The key requirements to become "superempowered" are comprehension of a complex system's connectivty and operation; access to critical network hubs; possession of a force that can be leveraged against the structure of the system and a wilingness to use it.

Military theorist John Robb has weighed in repeatedly on the instability that higher levels of dynamic interconnectivity wrought by globalization have brought. This connectivity and lack of redundancy and artificial " brakes" in system flows extend the reach and amplify the magnitude of system perturbations. Local physical destruction, while spectacular or horrifying (9/11, 3/11, Beslan, Bali) is a distant second or even tertiary in importance to the ripple effects of a " big bang" in the domains of economics, politics, law and mass psychology. High explosives will do less damage than could manipulation of derivatives, nanomachines or the DNA of an already lethal virus. Potential destruction of a catastrophic scale has been reduced to the time frame of individual choice.

On the other hand, the aspect that makes super empowered individuals potential "black swans" mitigates against any long run success. They are by their nature "one hit wonders" who succeed with the element of surprise and will be deadliest as "super empowered suicide bombers", making no attempt to survive their cataclysm much less escape. Getting a "second bite at the apple" on that scale is virtually impossible as the system responds to the perturbation with a horizontal scenario that destroys, degrades or contains the non-state actor. The inability of these highly idiosyncratic super empowered individuals to coordinate their preparations or even be aware of one another, hobbles their longitudinal strategic capabilities.

How to deal with these known unknowns ? Two possibilities occur, the first is benign and the second is worrisome.

First, building systemic resilience should be both a national as well as an international priority. To quote Steve DeAngelis:

"The platforms for globalization -- operating within and between modern states – increasingly are private-sector institutions. The modern, globalized state could not function without critical infrastructure industries, such as financial services, telecommunications, energy, healthcare, and food supply -- all of which meet public needs, but are held in private hands. Essential talent and assets reside within those entities. And the private sector is the primary engine of innovation"

These systems need to become more resilient in the face of systemic attacks by incorporating redundancies, "circuit breakers" and the increased adaptive capacity and automated reactivity that DeAngelis terms "Development in a Box".

Second, is the countertintelligence equivalent preemptive war, discerning alienated but highly capable and dangerously positioned potential super empowered individuals before they become active and then taking some kind of action. This is a scenario rife with morally and constitutionally troublesome possibilities but the fact that the technology exists ( or soon shall) to do that kind of meta-data mining and pattern recognition means that it is going to be done - and not only by governments.

Our operative question is going to be how shall it be used and for what end ?


Dave at the Glittering Eye has Napoleonic commentary on super empowered individuals


"Prologue: The Super-Story" by Thomas L. Friedman

"System Perturbation: Conflict in the Age of Globalization"-Thomas P. M. Barnett and Bradd C. Hayes

"The American Way of War" -Arthur K. Cebrowski and Thomas P.M. Barnett

"Letters to the Editor, Proceedings, March 2003, pp. 24-25." - Brigadier General Michael Vane, U.S. Army, Deputy Chief of Staff

"Deleted Scenes" -Thomas P.M. Barnett

"My own personal 5GW Dream" -Thomas P.M. Barnett


"5GW Revolutions" - Zenpundit



" The Open Source War" - John Robb

"Catastrophic Black Swans" -John Robb

"THE CHANGING FACE OF WAR: Into the 5th Generation (5GW)" - John Robb

"Failure of Net-Centric Policing (Super-Empowered Locals or Super-Empowered Courts)" -Dan Abbott

Go Deep (OODA and the Rainbow of Generational Warfare) - Dan Abbott

Dreaming 5th Generation War -Dan Abbott

"5GW and Beyond" -Shloky

"Barnett and Robb" - Curtis Gale Weeks

"Rule-Sets, System Perturbations and 5GW" -Curtis Gale Weeks

"5GW Thought: Would a Goal of a 5GW Organization Be To Reduce the Resiliency of the Target State?" - Purpleslog

"let’s get real about 5GW" - RevG

( Special thanks and hat tip to Tom's trusty webmaster, Sean Meade whose recent creation"Tom and friends" made researching and assembling this post worlds easier)
Thursday, October 26, 2006

An eclectic bunch. Varied but exceptionally good:

Dave at Thoughts Illustrated - "The Atomizing Hand" and "The Economics of Media 2.0 "

The Drs. Eide at their Neurolearning Blog - "Link to Visual Processing PPT"

Dr. David Friedman at Ideas -"The Economics of Status"

Dan of tdaxp - "Genetics and Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors?" ( Take away the question mark and you have a killer title. I also recommend that you check out Dan's Learning Evolved series)

Critt has given Conversationbase a major overhaul and launched Project Honduras News.

Col. Austin Bay had a fantastic article up at Strategy Page. (Hat tip Tom )

The late Colonel John Boyd at DNI - his classic " Aerial Attack Study"

Eddie at Live From the FDNF - "Licensed To Kill Review"

That's it !

This is definitely the "Blogger" of wiki-ing but it is going to be a useful tool ( much like Zenpundit himself).

Go ahead and laugh Critt, Sean, Dan...I do not need to be Picasso to hold a paintbrush :o)
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Two items both intriguing for regular readers.

First, John Robb's new book Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization is available online. Congratulations John, I look forward to reading it soon. ( hat tip Shloky)

Secondly, Uncle Sam wants YOU....to write papers on 4GW warfare and SyS Admin intervention !


Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors:
Implications for the U.S. Army

11-13 September, 2007
Fort Leavenworth Frontier Conference Center
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Organizers: The United States Army Combat Studies Institute,
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Combat Studies Institute will host
a symposium entitled "Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors:
Implications for the U.S. Army." The symposium will include
a mixture of guest speakers, panel sessions, and general

This conference will explore the impact of conflict between
nations and non-state combatants within a historical context.
The conference will examine current issues, dilemmas, problems,
trends, and practices associated with conflict between
constituted nations and trans-national, religious, ethnic or
criminal groups.

Proposed Program: CSI will issue a Call for Papers in October
2006. While the symposium program is tentative and flexible,
CSI expects it to include the following panels and topics:

- Non-State Actors and their impact on strategic communications
and Information Operations.

- Law of War and Military Doctrine dealing with Non-State Actors.

- The military's role in conflict termination and securing the
political end state especially if one or more combatants is a
Non-State Actor (e.g. Hezbollah, IRA, FARC, FMLN, al Qaeda).

- The armed forces as part of the interagency process.

- Military operations with International Government Organizations
and Non-Governmental Organizations.

- Tactics of militaries and rogue organizations or Non-State
Actors on the battlefield.

- The military and cultural awareness.

- The role of technology in empowering and combating Non-State

- Impact of Non-State Actors on Global economics and Non-State
Actors' financing.

For more information on the symposium, please contact CSI at
913-684-2139 or email: CSIconference07@leavenworth.army.mil

Ricardo A. Herrera, Ph.D.
U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute
201 Sedgwick Ave
Ft. Leavenworth, KS 66027

O: (913) 684-2126
F: (913) 684-4861



Great comments on prior posts - will respond in the a.m


I'm currently suffering from attention scarcity.

I would estimate that I currently need, roughly, about 15 hours of uninterrupted time to simply catch up on a mixture of priority "need to do" tasks with high-value "want to do" tasks, mostly functional, skill-learning, kinds. This does not even consider lower priority " need to do" or "should do"items that I know can continue to simmer (or fester, depending on your perspective) on the backburner.

I forsee that "disconnecting" vacations are going to increase in popularity. ;o)

Going for a run to Border's tonight. What's at the top of your reading list these days ?


Lexington has an impressive list.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Powerpoint brief "Designing Business for an Open World" on competing models for an open-source world by futurists Howard Rheingold, Andrea Saveri, Ming Li Chai and others at Institute for the Future and Herman Miller, inc.


CooperationCommons original post.
Monday, October 23, 2006

This will continue the System Perturbation discussion on 5GW on from Part I. and comment on select elements in the following posts:

"'Global Guerrillas' as 5GW Warriors" by Curtis at Dreaming 5GW

"Toward Ensembles Acting with Authority" by RevG at Christian Soldiers

First off, I liked both of these posts for the depth at which each author considered the implications of the system perturbation concept as applied to human affairs. I have points of agreement and disagreement but I will limit myself to a few examples of each.

Curtis Gale Weeks wrote:

" ...have said many times: the hardest thing to track is a meme. But I have never given an explanation for why this is so. Here it is: memes do not travel. They are not transmitted. They emerge. Within individuals. This is OODA. "

This was interesting. I agree there are clear-cut instances of memetic emergence - take for example, calculus with Newton and Leibniz. On the other hand, the track record for transmission of long existing memes by observation seems to be pretty well established across the animal kingdom, though in the collective sense, with culture, individual transmission of menes would amount to emergence. Depends on the perspective at which we are arguing this point.

"However, these various GG rule-sets will emerge in multiple places, as the result of slightly or perhaps very different observations or of different immediate concrete effects / environments. In Robb-speak, this means that the various GG factions will have no ‘common’ motivation. He once said that they will have a similar objective; and, I responded at the time that a similar objective is a similar motivation, insofar as objectives motivate individuals to act"

Generally, Global Guerillas will not manage to set off system perturbations, such events are rare things, but their destructive actions will add to the aggregate amount of "noise" in the system. The "noise" or "chaos" ( or "entropy" or " novelty") is the the disintegration of the old system which creates a certain fluidity or space in which people will naturally seek out rules to create certainty. The weakening of the old system's authority makes the construction of new rule-sets both easier and harder while creating the necessity to do so.

So Global Guerillas might have a "common effect". And should they succeed in setting off a system perturbation what is accomplished is a dramatic acceleration of the process.

RevG wrote:

"Those who act upon fundamentals analysis require relatively stable systems or at least ones where system perturbation can be anticipated. System perturbation creates novelty, a kinder term than chaos or entropy but functionally identical. Their fundamentals analysis apprehends a historical view anticipating traditional cause and effect chains to continue intact. The required assumption of continuity is key with significant system perturbations necessitating a new or at least revised fundamental analysis. As human endeavor has evolved these chains have become both more complex and more complicated. Complexity has increased as the number of chains has propagated. Even though each chain may be simple, the sheer number of cause and effect chains has increased by a huge factor. This has lead to the emergence of unpredictable secondary effects due solely to there being vastly more cause and effect chains. This proliferation of the number of cause and effect chains, this increase in complexity, has contributed to a higher level of novelty"

True. The effects go beyond secondary - the number of variables and the outlier levels to which a major system perturbation can " ripple" makes it difficult to get a mental handle on the logical outcomes, much less the unintended and unanticipated ones. It is not something easily done even with sophisticated computer models, as attempts to model global warming have demonstrated, a considerable sacrifice in accuracy is incurred. The strategic question is which players are best placed to find oportunity rather than loss in such a disruption ?

"The current environment already possesses a high level of novelty and novelty levels will only increase. More complexity and complications will increase novelty levels. Attempts to reduce complexity and complications will also reduce interconnectivity, which will increase novelty levels. This leads to the question of how to effectively act while implementing analysis of the current environment before increasing levels of novelty invalidates the analysis. The answer involves speed of action relative to analysis. Increasing levels of novelty increase the need for speed. As this development accelerates anything that retards action relative to analysis will possess ever-lessening utility. This has a direct bearing upon the location of the authority to act with profound implications for human society."

As discussed in the earlier comments, increased speed ( or modulation of speed) is a strong possibility. It is however, not the only way to " get inside" your opponents OODA Loop and what matters is thay you get inside. This would lead me to suggest that one way to characterize the difference might be is that 4GW had asymmetric warriors while 5GW will have asynchronous ones.

"Fifth Generation Warfare is and will be conducted by ensembles acting with authority. The protected hierarchies’ authority distributed through unity of organization will be replaced by unity of purpose among ensembles or there will be no unity among the ensembles at all. Protected hierarchies must shift to providing unity of purpose in the vacuum created by the loss of unity of organization or atrophy. Ensembles acting with authority guided by unity of purpose are the immediate future of human society if human society is to have a future at all. "

I like the ensembles analogy. Distributed actors with "smartmob" action that have the capacity to dominate a much larger network.


Shloky has his own reflections to offer

A busy weekend and busier Monday has left me little time for blogging, at least until tonight, but there's a nice piece on horizontal thinking at Cooperation Commons. The emphasis is on the lateral thinking work of Edward De Bono.

"Remember Lateral Thinking?"

"...Alvin Toffler in the Third Wave, talks about Second Wave info-space as being extensive but non-active. Filing cabinets, libraries and accounting systems. The info space of the third wave being extensive and active. But it appears there are problems with the third wave info space though. A lot of authors are trying to describe the problem, some more sucessfully than others. Chris Anderson's book, The Long Tail, talks about the shelf as a place where things go to die. Clay Shirky has explored this idea of shelving systems too in his writings and talks. Are we trying to impose old metaphors on new situations, technology and social organisation? What is so crucial, and so missed by thinkers on third wave info space technology - is that De Bono exposed years ago, that the human brain itself, is indeed a place where ideas go to die. By nature of the way in which ideas arrive, they are organised in a non-optimal fashion. Rearrangement of ideas is sometimes impossible. One has to realise, that the human brain itself is a very imperfect environment for containing anything, or generating alternative solutions. Does this remind you at all of problems with wiki-pedia?

For all the talking and phDs, and talent thrown at the problem, people have tended to ignore the one important fact - the structure of the human brain itself. Big companies are trying to solve the wrong kinds of problems. People working on this are being side tracked. At great cost in time, effort and financial investment. The best commentators are circling around the problem I think. This web site about the commons, which looks back to ancient civilisations and early group behaviours is insightful enough. Steven Johnson deals with the human brain issue, in Emergence and his book about things that make us smarter. Malcolm Gladwell, has compiled many useful observations on how the brain functions. Even my auntie could read Gladwell and learn a lot. Which is great, because she deals with children a lot in her job - young brains and how they work. I must say, Blink is a most useful reference. "
Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fewer blogs, more posts. And some comments:

Kent's Imperative - "Searching Starlight" and "The influence of the spear"

Attempting to get a person who does not understand the relative cognitive effect of perspective to a point of internalized comprehension is hard; but boy, if you do, there is a tremendous analyical payoff if you succeed. A light goes on - it's like a V-8 engine suddenly finding the gas pedal. The second post wins plaudits for the apt phrase " revolution in intelligence affairs", alone.

Michael at Haft of the Spear - "Trying to Re-Tool IC HR", "IC Strategic Human Capital Plan: Part I Challenges", "IC Strategic Human Capital Plan: Part II The Vision" and "IC Strategic Human Capital Plan: Part III Goal I".

What does the military, the State Department and the intelligence community all have in common ? Badly antiquated personnel systems where the incentives are out of whack from our national priorities. Or even the ostensible mission priorities.

Nice to see a few more kindred spirits.

That's it.
Thursday, October 19, 2006

Curtis, at his new group blog, Dreaming 5GW, analyzed system perturbations and the differences that Thomas P.M. Barnett and John Robb have had recently over 5GW. I thought I would offer my views on some of the points and questions Curtis raised ( his remarks in bold) in "'Global Guerrillas' as 5GW Warriors". I'm doing so in two parts to separate personalities fromthe substantive issues:

"Perhaps it is the Zen in the ZenPundit that has led Mark Safranski to ask, “5GW Emergent — But What is It? while maintaining neutrality between the opposing views. Neutrality is of course the wrong word, since he views both approaches with interest and not a little agreement either way."

I'll use the opportunity Curtis provided to clarify.

It is true that I intentionally look for connections, congruence and consilient elements as a standard analytical approach but in the case of PNM and GG, as both Tom and John are dealing with military affairs " in the context of everything else" with " everything else" being a dynamic system, I think the approach is warranted. In my view, the strategic theories they have created are strongly complementary tools for statesmen and soldiers to bring intellectual order to a world that seems ever more chaotic.

Frankly, they desperately need these tools. The community of defense intellectuals is not exactly a large one and those offering imaginative, paradigm-shifting, solutions is a smaller grouping still. Obviously, I'm deeply invested in Tom's vision of shrinking the Gap as a grand strategy consistent with both America's national interests and moral values but that does not mean other approaches or insights require a pro forma rejection as if we were sectarian Trotskyite Leftists going after Bukharinite Revisionists at the Grand Sixth International and Coffee House at CUNY, circa 1934. There's far, far too many people in government and academia who are comfortable with the dysfunctional status quo for the * exceedingly small minority* seeking change in defense policy to waste energy on pointless feuds. Dr. Barnett's work is an art of synthesis and originality - to remain sharp, the blade of PNM must be unsparingly tested against other ideas and GG is the whetstone.

The same goes for Global Guerillas. Dan of tdaxp threw the kitchen sink at it the other day on the issue of 5GW, but as much as I'm certain that Dan's post irritated John, over the long haul, good theories are only improved by unstinting criticism like Dan's, while bad theories fade. For myself, I'm not ready to draw a rigid demarcation line between 5GW and 4GW yet; while I am one of the first ( perhaps the first) to suggest that Tom's Sys Admin might be 5GW, I'm pretty sure 5GW will run the tactical-operational-strategic gamut from destructive to constructive like previous generations of warfare.

We need more brainstorming, frank exchanges, open minds, healthy skepticism and the firsthand observations of warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as veterans of other small wars. We need data and sound metrics to undergird our speculations; but if we do these things, and do them properly, we all have the potential to make a real contribution.

Coming Soon: Part II. - Thoughts on System Perturbations.

Consider that you intend to play a game of chess with another person and you intend to win. Then, in addition to being able to move the pieces, you can change the shape of the board itself before you even sit down to play. And perhaps the other person has never played a game of chess before, so you rewrite some of the rules of the game. Then you play a game.

That's shaping the battlespace.

A couple of noteworthy posts from blogfriend Lexington Green at Chicago Boyz :

"Old, Old News"

"Having mediocre politicians is a consequence of our having a superb private economy. We are, actually, fortunate that we have some relatively competent and public-spirited people in public life at all.

This is not a problem with a solution, but a permanent, structural condition.

Nor is it one that needs to concern us much.

We do not rely for the success of our public institutions that they be staffed by geniuses or the shining lights of the age. To the contrary, as Walter Bagehot noted, we rely on our legislatures to act in the aggregate, to be wiser and abler collectively, or at least able to discern and respond to the public mood and public interest, than the mere sum of its parts, to capture the "wisdom of crowds". The process seems to work. Despite all its defects, our Congress, in much this form, has legislated for the country throughout its rise from a strip along the Eastern Seaboard to global power. The system works despite the apparent, even manifest, deficiencies of its components, as it it was designed to do."

While I agree, I will take time to note that we seem to have a surfeit of deficient components these days, on both sides of the aisle. No Daniel Webster serves in Congress today, much less an American Pericles. H.L. Mencken would have had a field day with the 2006 election.

"DC Trip -- Claudio Veliz Lecture, Anglosphere Institute Launch"

"This led to his conclusion, which he left as an open question. Will the English speaking world die out? What could cause it to fade away as the prior culture-forming civilization of Greece died out, giving rise to a Hellenistic successor civilization? He seemed to believe that there is nothing in the world that is a mortal threat from outside the Anglosphere (a word he did not use). Rather, the danger is from a lack of understanding and a lack of cultural confidence within the Anglophone world. In other words, the danger is not conquest from without but suicide from within."

Read the whole thing here. Victor Davis Hanson had some interesting commentary on Alexander and Hellenism in Carnage and Culture while Rene Grousset shed some light on the most exotic outposts of the Hellenistic world, the Greco-Buddhist syncretic kingdoms north of the Syr Darya and west of Tibet in his classic, Empire of the Steppes.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A very interesting article in The New York Times, "The Emperor of Math" about star mathematician Dr. Shing-Tung Yau who teaches and researches at Harvard even as he attempts to cultivate future generations of Chinese mathematicians:

"For nine months of the year, Dr. Yau is a Harvard math professor, best known for inventing the mathematical structures known as Calabi-Yau spaces that underlie string theory, the supposed “theory of everything.” In 1982 he won a Fields Medal, the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel Prize. Dr. Yau can be found holding court in the Yenching restaurant in Harvard Square or off the math library in his cramped office, where the blackboard is covered with equations and sketches of artfully chopped-up doughnuts.

But the other three months he is what his friend Andrew Strominger, a Harvard physicist, called “the emperor ascendant of Chinese science,” one of the most prominent of the “overseas Chinese” who return home every summer to work, teach, lobby, inspire and feud like warlords in an effort to advance world-class science in China. "

Yau is the harbinger of things to come - a growing generation of Chinese and Indian immigrants and their descendants who use their world class Ameican university educations to become the catalysts of human capital " back home", that never quite becomes " home" again. They will be joined in the next two decades by increasing numbers of Koreans, Malays, Thais and Vietnamese who will become a cycle of intellect linking East and West, enriching the world with ideas and enterprises.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Noteworthy posts on the subjects of learning, teaching and public education.

Dan of tdaxp has posted Part III., Part IV and Notes in his Learning Evolved series which in turn grew out of the prior, very interesting, series on Classroom Democracy.

Dr. Von, back from a short blogging hiatus, brings us a damning report on the state of colleges of education.

Ignorance is not bliss.

A great deal of posting on 5GW has occurred ( a new one from Tom, recently from Purpleslog, Christian Soldiers...) which brings me to the general subject of theory. Not everyone is enamored with theories or theorizing. Bruce Kesler, a friend who blogs at Democracy Project is one; a marine veteran of Vietnam, his patience for speculations that stray too far from real-world experiences is fairly short. I have heard similar views expressed from time to time at The Small Wars Council and at Military.com, which often invigorate partisans of a particular view to make their case and defend the insights a particular theory might offer. This is unsurprising as antipathy toward purely theoretical investigations is pronounced in the American character, our pragmatic bent having been observed by Alexis de Tocqueville long before the arrival of William James and John Dewey.

Nevertheless, theories are relevant and useful tools for interpreting the world in direct proportion to their reliability, validity and ease of use. The greater their explanatory power, the greater the longitudinal impact they will have on civilization. Truth has traction.

A rough and ready yardstick that I use for evaluating theoretical speculations is consiliency - how wide can the principles the theory purports to assert be applied with similar validity ? Take the late Admiral Arthur Cebrowski's theory of Network-Centric Warfare for example. Cebrowski was primarily concerned with warfare where his theory deeply influenced U.S. military operations, but his ideas on information have obvious application to economics, sociology and business management to name just a few fields. In turn, general network theory and related concepts like resilience and complexity have so many applications across diverse fields of science, mathematics, technology and social science that my attempt to make a comprehensive list here would be futile.

So as we look at 5GW concepts, let's see where else they might work before we adopt them as dogma in war - and be ready to discard what does not.
Monday, October 16, 2006

Sound and fury -and some solid thought - on the next generation of warfare:

"Attempting to visualize a Fifth Generation from where we are now is like trying to see the outlines of the Middle Ages from the vantage point of the late Roman Empire."

- William Lind

"....fourth-generation wrfare is more than seventy years old and is reaching maturity. While we are only beginning to understand it clearly, history tells us the fifth generation has already begun to evolve"

- Colonel Thomas X. Hammes

"Things would be bad enough with just fourth generation opponents but as the research on global guerrillas has borne out, a new more dangerous generation is forming: potentially a 5th generation of warfare. Much of this new generation was derived and accelerated in cauldron of Iraq, just as the basis for 3rd generation of warfare was proved out in the Spanish Civil War"

- John Robb

" BFA suggested the institutional changes and strategic alliance choices necessary to move us beyond 4GW engagement (the Long War, as we call it now) and into what I would call 5GW shaping of the future battlespace (by locking down Asia and gaining its strategic aid in shrinking the Gap in all those places where our enemies are--to date--not yet strong, such as the entire Gap outside of the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan/Pakistan). "

- Thomas P.M. Barnett

Tom and John both had sizable posts today on 5GW, approaching phenomena of war and strategy, as they so often do, from related but opposing perspectives. Their common thread is contemplating 5GW as an event of a system with systemic effects. After that, they tend to diverge.

"My own personal 5GW dream" - Thomas P.M. Barnett

Dr. Barnett is doing a lot of online horizontal thinking these days which people accustomed to his more analytical news pieces find jarring or confusing; personally, with my interest in cognition, I like to see ideas gestate. Normally, we have to wait until a writer dies and the heirs let scholars (hopefully) edit and publish the thinker's drafts, notes and marginalia to gain insight into this process. Blogging it lets us all see the idea process in real time.

Shaping the global battlespace is the emphasis here which means the statesman, the salesman and the spy will have more longitudinal effect than the soldier. A good historical example of shaping the battlespace would be the "Present at the Creation" wise men after WWII whose work - Bretton Woods, IMF, World Bank, GATT ( todat the WTO), The Coal-Steel Community (today the EU), NATO, The Marshall Plan, the UN, Containment - won the Cold War and helped midwife globalization.

Today of course, it won't just be governments or "wise men" but entities like Google or Microsoft and -ultimately - emergent social networks using open source platforms, who will do a significant part of the shaping. They will also ride the major flows of globalization, taking advantage of the momentum of the environment in which they operate. This is the ultimate constructive goal of grand strategy - steering a civilizaton.

"THE CHANGING FACE OF WAR: Into the 5th Generation (5GW) " by John Robb at Global Guerillas

Robb's piece is tighter, polished and summative of his ideas. Probably the best look-see we will get on Global Guerillas until John's new book hits the stores.

"Granularity" is a word Robb has invoked on occasion and it is a good descriptor of the major trend line in world affairs caused by Globalization, the decline of the state and the 4GW that Robb examines daily. Disintegration, devolution, reductionism to smaller actors without a corresponding proportionate loss of power. Robb has an excellent logical case that the core of Global Guerillas -open source warfare, system disruption and virtual states - comprise a generational improvement on 4GW. Certainly, an order of magnitude improvement in terms of decentralization, area of operation and strategic effect.

Either-or on these strategic visions ? No. Both at once - though the momentum at various times may tip toward creation or destruction before swinging back again. Globalization, which has eroded artificial barriers that once slowed transaction rates for capital, information, technology and people, has vastly accelerated the net rate of exchange in the global system. Dynamic systems are exactly that - dynamic - which involves continuous change even when they appear to have enduring continuity. The argument here - seen most clearly when Barnett and Robb discuss "Big Bang" system perturbations - is over how much instability is in the global system and the desirability of provoking more.

Additionally, outside of Barnett and Robb, 5GW may very well involve what Dan of tdaxp termed " SecretWar" -an idea very much in keeping with the spirit of Sun Tzu. Steering emergent scenarios before an opposition realizes they are an opposition is far cheaper a policy than fighting after the fact. A policy of preemptive manipulation to which 4GW creates every incentive for using and which omnipresent communication networks enable.


For an understanding of System Perturbations, I modestly suggest the series I did in the aftermath of Tom's first book, The Pentagon's New Map:



Dr. Barnett's Commentary on above.


Dr. Barnett's aggregator post with commentaries


Aherring at Dreaming 5GW -" Rule-Sets, System Perturbations and 5GW"
Sunday, October 15, 2006

This post was prompted by a pleasant debate I am having with Cheryl "CKR" Rofer over at Whirledview, who unlike most bloggers, actually has professional experience with nuclear weapons issues. A fairly methodical and seemingly nonpartisan history of North Korean nuclear activities up until 2002, can be found at NITI: Country Overview: North Korea Profile.

First my remarks:

The DPRK has just been sanctioned by the UNSC for its renegade nuclear test. The sanctions are trivial and mild but still noteworthy for securing, for the first time, the assent of China and Russia in punishing Pyongyang. The ire in Beijing over Kim Jong-Il's latest gesture of defiance must have been quite significant, as the Chinese government also permitted unflattering horror stories from the North Korean border to reach the Western press, something the Chinese government normally would suppress. North Korea, the most isolated and hellish regime on earth, has managed to discover a whole new lower level of global detestation.

But to my mind, not yet low enough.

The answer to the North Korean threat, other than a a blockade, is a new security structure for the Far East, modelled on Euro-Atlantic institutions, ultimately morphing into an Asian NATO that includes the United States. This solution, aside from create a concert ofnations to deal with Pyongyang, has the utility of killing multiple birds with one stone including incipient Sino-Japanese, Korean-Japanese, Sino-American and the existing Indo-Pakistani arms races. The more erratic and destabilizing the nuclear activities of North Korea, the more attractive a formal regional security relationship will seem in Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul and New Delhi.

Like the crazy loner on a neighborhood block who has been threatening his community for years with a gun only to have it be inconveniently be discovered by neighbors that the gun is unloaded, North Korea's failed nuclear test has confirmed to the world that the regime is both malevolently intentioned and incompetent. In another era, the phrase would have been " paper tiger".

The Bush administration should press the issue while North Korea has offended its last patron, alarmed adjacent countries and is enduring a serious loss of face. China and South Korea fear to be left " holding the bag" in the advent of a regime collapse in the DPRK and a subsequent humanitarian catastrophe as North Koreans attempt to flee en masse. We should make clear that managing the North Korean problem is not confined to nuclear weapons but is designed for sharing the burden resulting from any implosion. We might find more willing partners that way.


American Future, Glittering Eye, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Josh Manchester, Armchair Generalist,
William Arkin, Beacon, Rebecca MacKinnon, The Useless Tree, Sun Bin, The Asia Pages, Washington Post, New York Times, Don Surber, Duck of Minerva, PINR, Captain Ed, Steve DeAngelis

Tom's intrepid webmaster, Sean Meade expresses a yen for the dark side of his youth.

Up next, a ZP homage to Blade Runner..... ;o)

Following up, catching up and posting up:

Chirol at Coming Anarchy - "Georgia: Little Engine that Can?"

Gunnar Peterson at 1 Raindrop -"Decentralization and "Good Enough" security Part 3"

Dan of tdaxp - "Learning Evolved, Introduction: The Revolution Against the Standard Social Sciences Model" and " Learning Evolved, Part I: Darwinism-Cognitivism" and "Learning Evolved, Part II: Social Motivation"

Kingdaddy at Arms and Influence - "Mahan redux, sort of"

Austin Bay - "the Left’s new history on missile defense"

Bruce Kesler - Democracy Project-"Kissinger on Acheson: We're Again Present At The Creation & Learning"

CKR at Whirledview -"Breaking Out of the Proliferation Box"

Marc at American Future -"Eugenics Is Alive and Well in North Korea "

Dr. Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News -"How Do Editors Decide to Publish Classified Info?"

That's it !
Friday, October 13, 2006

Going to have to systematically review the damn thing for dead blogs and changed URLs soon and delete/fix them but in the meantime, some new voices:

1 Raindrop

Gunnar Peterson on the intersection of tech, security, distributed systems, cyberthreats and related subjects.

Qahwa Sada

A blog journal on the Middle East organized and edited by Dr. Marc Lynch a.k.a Abu Aardvark, that intends to publish posts from across the political and methodological spectrums.

Kent's Imperative

Specialist blog on IC analytical practices, other tradecraft and literature.

Check them out and enjoy !
Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chirol at Coming Anarchy artfully expands on the Micropower discussion that went down recently at Global Guerillas, also adding a visual homage to Valdis Krebs. I'm not sure Ukraine can be regarded as " micro" given its size, population and economic potential, but I think Chirol is illustrating possible strategic behaviors for a state as much as he is categorical characteristics of micropower status.

A future discussion of geographic micropowers that are economic macropowers, like Singapore or the U.A.E. , is warranted. Small states can acquire considerable amounts of economic " hard power" - or for that matter, illicit, " black globalization" flows via tight bank secrecy laws or porous borders.

Three worthwhile posts on the state of the IC to peruse:

Gunnar Peterson - 1 Raindrop - " Decentralization and "Good Enough" Security" and "Decentralization and "Good Enough" Security (cont.)"

"There are several parallels in the challenges addressed by the DoD and the enterprise environment, and they all get back to how do you realistically deploy/manage/scale security in a large decentralized system. (hint: the answer is not centralizing security)"

Michael - GroupIntel Blog -" **** or Get off the Pot (Updates)"

"I don’t know why the thought didn’t come to me earlier (alcoholic blackout?) but reading this latest account of FBI fits and starts as it tries to become both an intelligence and counterterrorism agency on top of a law enforcement agency I am had to ask myself: why are we spending so much time trying to retrofit the Bureau when it is painfully clear that it does not want to be anything more than it is?

There are any number of texts explaining why the FBI can do the domestic intelligence (in the most benign sense) job and the CT job; and an equal number of arguments against those positions. So far proponents of the former have won out, but judging by the comments made by Bureau staff in the first few paragraphs of the story it seems to me that they are not much interested in doing what is necessary to fulfill intelligence and security needs. Note that they talk a good game about how they’re improving in the intelligence and CT fields, but they’ve either driven out anyone who tries to make changes or stick whatever executive short-timer they can into what is arguably one of the most important jobs in the agency. Nobody who is serious about a mission has seven bosses in five years."
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

An interesting congruence of posts lately.

Steve DeAngelis of ERMB, who has been turning his insight to wider horizons on his blog, brought up the subject of "innovation", a critical economic advantage of free market economies:

"Scarcity, Innovation, & Resilience"

"This summer, as oil prices looked like they were heading towards $80 per barrel, Stephen L. Sass, a professor of materials science and engineering at Cornell University, penned an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled "Scarcity, Mother of Invention" [10 Aug 2006]. Sass wrote his article to calm the handwringers who see ahead of us a bleak and unhappy future....

....Sass then continued with a brief history lesson about how scarcity led to innovation.

Consider the transition from the use of bronze to iron in making tools and weapons, which occurred around the 12th century B.C. Early in the second millennium B.C., iron was known as the stuff of meteorites. It was rare and highly prized: if you wanted to give a gift to a pharaoh or a king you didn't give a gold dagger but an iron one. But when the eastern Mediterranean fell short of tin from which to make bronze, a technological revolution occurred. Artisans learned to extract metallic iron from iron-rich materials by heating with charcoal (a process called smelting), which caused the price of iron to fall by a factor of 80,000 over 1200 years. The Iron Age had begun.

....The bottom line is that the very process of developing alternative sources of energy to replace fossil fuels may yield benefits beyond our imagining. "

Over at The Cooperation Blog, Howard Rheingold drew attention to the concept of " Mass Creativity" in Charles Leadbeater's upcoming book We Think:

"Immersive multi user computer games, such as Second Life, which depend on high levels of user participation and creativity are booming. Craigslist a self help approach to searching for jobs and other useful stuff is eating into the ad revenues of newspapers. Youth magazines such as Smash Hit have been overwhelmed by the rise of social networking sites such as MySpace and Bebo. What is going on? We-Think: the power of mass creativity is about what the rise of the likes of Wikipedia and Youtube, Linux and Craigslist means for the way we organise ourselves, not just in digital businesses but in schools and hospitals, cities and mainstream corporations. My argument is that these new forms of mass, creative collaboration announce the arrival of a society in which participation will be the key organising idea rather than consumption and work. People want to be players not just spectators, part of the action, not on the sidelines"

Creativity is an important aspect of resilience in the sense that when faced with a threat, deficit, setback, obstacle or stressor, a creative approach will increase the parameters of your options. Perhaps turning a serious crisis, as noted in Steve's post, into an opportunity to secure a comparative advantage through innovation. There is considerable dispute among experts over the nature and biophysical process of creativity on an individual cognitive level. Organizations, however have always placed some value on creative talent and the premium for such abilities appears to be on the upswing.

Mass Creativity is acheived through an "open source" and interactive model of development that accelerates innovation ( thus enhancing resilience) by functioning as a creativity aggregator and meme distributor. The latter part should not be underestimated in terms of its economic importance. Insights are often generated by connection to out of field concepts that suggest analogies or parallels to vertically trained experts; this includes the use of descriptive metaphors to explain concepts that are still only partly-understood but are intuitively reasoned to be potentially viable areas of investigation. Distributing ideas on a wide-scale through an open-source model can yield wholly unrelated spin-offs that increase net economic activity and have large downstream effects.

Resilience is determined by the nature of your response.

They appear to have been severely hacked.

Hope they recover soon. Not looking forward to having to code my giagantic blogroll into the template if they do not.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Some posts by or about historians or history. Most of them are, like myself, veterans of H-Diplo.

Bruce Kesler - Democracy Project " Did France Cave to “Jewish Fundamentalists”?"

My friend Bruce takes issue with a historian who uses her careful documentation of Nazi collaborationist crimes against Jews by Vichy officials to equate Israeli policies toward Palestinians with Nazism.

David Kaiser - History Unfolding " Kissinger then and now"

Kaiser and I have had many differences of opinion ( a situation I imagine will continue) but he is always an interesting read; moreover, his criticism of the evolution of the historical profession is spot on. Kaiser's use of FRUS in this post demonstrates the strengths that professional historians can bring to blogging as a medium.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer - HNN -"The Geneva Conventions Are Dead"

Controversial but logically correct. Geneva has been undermined by an international refusal to tolerate severe punishment of those, terrorists or rogue state officials, who habitually break its rules ( before people go berserk in the comment section: I think the Bush administration policy on illegal combatants is wrong. The captives should have been giving fairly speedy hearings to adjudicate their status; those who were not paroled immediately or granted POW status should have face a traditional court-martial or military tribunal modelled on Nuremburg and been tried for war crimes, with those found guilty being sentenced to death).

Ralph Luker - Cliopatria "KC Johnson, Blogger Extraordinaire"

Agreed. KC has shown a demonstrated commitment to following the evidence wherever it leads as a historian, blogger and public intellectual.

That's it.

Winning The War: Advanced Weapons, Strategies And Concepts For The Post-9/11 World
Colonel John B. Alexander

Global Brain
Howard Bloom

Still reading:

The Third Reich in Power
Richard J. Evans

Just ordered tonight:

Networks, Terrorism and Global Insurgency
Robert J. Bunker

I suppose it is too ambitious to promise to review all of these books, but I will commit to Global Brain ( which Dan of tdaxp has reviewed) and the Bunker book ( hat tip to John Robb). If I can muster the energy for the other two as well, fine.

This must be short as I am multitasking my way to amusement while attenpting to do mindless administrivia, but there were some excellent bursts of feedback from the 5Gw discussion initiated by Tom and continued by John, myself, Dan, Curtis, Purpleslog and perhaps others (will check later and update).

From Phil:

"Yes. The contest over globalization is more than just about laying fiber optic cable, building power plants and adopting certain financial and political institutional structures, it is at a very fundamental level, about people's attitudes, beliefs, identities and aspirations. Shrinking the Gap needs to be accompanied by an effort to export and foster the kinds of beliefs, attitudes, ideas etc. that are necessary to sustain a successfully connected society. As you mention, the foot soldiers of Islamic extremism are connected, but are suffering from status anxiety, alienation and loss or absence of a viable identity, etc. The fundamentalists swoop in and fill that vacuum with their ideology. The Long War will be won or lost in the minds of millions of people. So what ideas do we export to counter those of the extremists?

Well, a few days ago
Tigerhawk posted a comment by a young Saudi blogger:

"Looking forward to the future, I wonder: do we dare to dream? I, for one, do. I dare. And I don't have only one dream; I have many dreams actually: I want to live to see the day when this country becomes a real democracy with a fully elected parliament; when freedom of expression is guaranteed to all, and no one is afraid to speak his mind no more; when women have their full rights and stand on equal foot with men. This was to name a few. Call me a dreamer. Maybe I am. I know one thing for sure, however: change is coming. This country is changing, not as quickly as I wish maybe, but it is changing nevertheless. Probably I'm just a young lad who can't wait for this to happen, but who can blame me? If it wasn't for the young to push change then who would?"

This young Saudi dreamer, and many more like him around the Muslim world, is the antidote to Islamist extremism. His dream is the alternative to the Islamist's Caliphate. What needs to happen is that he and his fellow dreamers throughout the Muslim world need to create the kinds of networks amongst each other that the Islamists have used so successfully. They need to share ideas, inspire and support each other, and just know that there are others out there who feel the same way. Any pro-Globalization campaign will have to include these kinds of networks. We also need to connect with them to disseminate ideas based on our experience. Development in a Box allows us to combine the aspirations of the dreamer with practical steps to achieving the dream."

From Purpleslog:

"The strategic choice isn't globalization or statism so much as globalization vs. anarchy - and even that failed state chaos contains a a corrupt strand of connectivity to the Core."

I am not so sure about this. The third force out there is a sort of global-islamofication force that is different then anarchy or globalization as we think of it in the West. Imagine a PNM theory variant for Global-islamafication that has it building connection among itself (the G-islam core) and the gap. There is a war of ideas that PNM theory does not seem to address directly or recognize.


The same shows up in Bobbit state evolution model that has the nation-state giving way to the market state (with 3 three variants). It is really giving way to a post-nationalism state. The postnat-state has as variations the globalization friendly market-state, the somewhat globalization friendly prosperous-autocracy-state. It also has the globalization unfriendly (global-islamoficiation friendly) Caliphate-state (note: I swiped the term from an old post of yours). The world of course will still have nation-state or partial-nation states for awhile (along with the odd state-nation like North Korea)."


"Blogospheric 5GW, with short comments" -tdaxp

"Lots of Fifth Generation Warfare Posting" - Purpleslog

More later.....


"Developing a Strategy for Fifth Generation Warfare" - Mitchell Langbert

Monday, October 09, 2006

John Robb - " Lot's of discussion of what 5GW is"
Thomas P.M. Barnett -"Fifth Generation (political) warfare"

Notice how in these two posts how both Tom and John link 5GW on the expanding potential of individual actors, whether it is political conflict (Tom) or military conflict ( John), to achieve a systemic effect.

The vulnerability of individual actors vis-a-vis groups or the state puts a premium on secrecy for 5GW actors, as previously noted by Dan. The state in turn, is vulnerable to a proliferation of such superempowered individuals and will have to defend itself with a combination of surveillance and active cultivation of primary loyalties ( reducing the motivation for such individuals to act out in antisocial ways).


Shloky mates the 5GW superempowered individual with Ray Kurzweil's Singularity.

Curtis asks if Thomas Barnett is a 5GW Warrior ?.
Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dr. Barnett dramatcally revived last year's discussion of 5GW with his post today, putting theoretical speculations into a concrete, global, context. Tom's post was a tour de force and I had to go back and re-read a number of the links, in particular Dan's excellent exploration of OODA Loop implications, before finishing it:

"The sandwich generations-of-war strategy"

I'm now going to offer commentary on some of Tom's points. Dan of tdaxp is also providing feedback with a post "5GW and Ruleset Automation " :

"One reason why I never advocate getting rid of the Leviathan is because it keeps the door closed on Great Power War (essentially Third Generation, or WWII-style warfare)."

This point is underappreciated by strategists who give short shrift to economics.

China and the EU, Japan or Russia or a future emerging New Core power like India all maintain a more limited degree of conventional military power than they otherwise would because the attainment of parity or near-parity with the U.S. in military power is prohibitively expensive and is affected by diminishing returns. Not merely in absolute dollar terms for procuring high tech equipment, but longitudinal GDP costs in investing in the infrastructure, R&D and human resources required to build and maintain that kind of defense establishment. The opportunity costs here are very high. The United States itself never would have done so either had not the U.S.S.R. represented an absolutely existential threat to its security.

And of course, American primacy and global power projecton capabilities damp down, on the margin, the natural incentive for great and middle powers to war against one another. Our intervention would too easily tip the scales regardless, thus making their additional military expenditure beyond a certain useful regional balancing point, a waste.

"Logically, nukes would have generated its own generation of warfare, but because of their overwhelming destructive power, they instead killed great power war (ending its generational evolution at three). As such, limited war rose to the top of the operational pile in the form of insurgencies, and the "victories" of 4GW (I say "victories," because I've yet see one generate a truly out-of-system outcome over the long haul, as yesterday's 4GW "victors" become today and tomorrow's "emerging markets") basically defined the low-end of the cost-benefit ratio for great powers in warfare (I will wage war by proxy, but not directly--and only if the cost doesn't get too bad)."

Again, there is an important point of economic history in the subtext of Dr. Barnett's post.

The last genuine opportunity for an alternative economic model to globalization to succeed was in the 1930's when Fascist and Communist states practiced a radical form of autarky based on Military Keyensianism, state capitalism and managed trade. The defeat of the Axis and the reintegration of western Germany ( the industrial heartland of Europe) and Japan into the Western economy and the end of European empires isolated the less productive Communist economies which eventually gave up the Stalinist ghost (Russia, China) or today rattle a tin cup ( Cuba, North Korea).

"Now, the natural counter is simply to support authoritarian regimes across the Gap as the next best alternative, but that likewise favors the 4GW warrior over the long haul by creating horrible political and economic and social conditions that feed popular support for insurgencies and rebels and jihadists because--hey--how much worse could it get under them?"

The strategic choice isn't globalization or statism so much as globalization vs. anarchy - and even that failed state chaos contains a a corrupt strand of connectivity to the Core. 4GW forces are primarily reactionary movements, regardless of whether they are Nepal's Maoist guerillas or al Qaida's neo-Salafi terrorists, trying " to stand athwart history and yell 'Halt!' " ( National Review writers with IED's instead of typewriters). Being reactionary however does not mean that these insurgencies are without moral traction for the reasons Tom cites. Who are al Qaida's foot soldiers ? Not the poor of the Islamic world, but middle-class engineers, doctors, lawyers and other university graduates suffering from status anxiety, alienation, a lack of opportunity, misgovernment and oppression.

"But say we get the SysAdmin up and running, are we entering the realm of 5th Generation Warfare?

I would say yes. "

Me too. Offensively shaping the battlespace and...

"The key phrase from Dan's analysis that clicked it for me is that once you're observed doing your thing in 5GW, the gig is up, and that follows nicely with my NASCAR scenario (BTW, Art Cebrowski and I were going to set up a research project on this concept at the Naval War College, but our dual "falls" prevented that--his from disease, mine from whatever it was that got me fired).

But the natural counter to that (much like relying on authoritarian govs in the Gap as the natural counter to 4GW--although it's a long-time loser strategy) is the notion that you win by extreme transparency: you democratize "observe" for the world, for nations, for individuals"

And defensively bring the Gap into the light.

This part is very, very interesting in terms of dynamic tension and success here is going to depend on a number of variables that have not been in evidence in the American performance in Iraq ( the good news is that globalization is bringing many of them anyway). Vastly increasing the connectivity and transparency of a Gap state also increases the opportunities and parameters for John Robb's Global Guerillas or superempowered individuals - we can see this in how the Islamist insurgency makes use of, for example, the internet. On the other hand, it expands opportunities for millions of others at the same time who will use the increased individual choices (which most insurgents are fighting to deny) in constructive ways.

Who will win this contest over Globalization will depend on who dominates and shapes issues at the moral level -us or the insurgents - and does in conditions of real-time global connectivity.

"Development-in-a-Box really gets you into 5GW because it alters the observed reality--pre-emptively--in a sort of bribe-the-proles mode that steals the thunder of the 4GW warrior of today in the same way that social welfare nets and trade unions stifled the rise of socialism in Europe.

So, in effect, DiB helps move the Core from the Horatio Alger phase of lecturing the Gap (just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try all over again!) to the seriously seductive phase of active recruitment "

The trade union movement was a neat analogy.

Revolutionary pressure was defused in Western Europe to the point where the extreme Left's few attempts at violent seizure of power - the Paris Commune, the Spartacist Revolt - were speedily crushed. Interestingly enough, when the system failed to keep both its capitalist and welfare state promises during the Great Depression, it was the radicalized reactionaries -Fascists and Nazis - who came to power instead of the totalitarian Left who were awaiting capitalism's collapse. Likewise, the threat today to Globalization does not come from Nasserites or Baathists, their ideology is dead, but from apocalyptic Islamism. Reducing the appeal of Islamist extremism with practical improvements and nonzero sum partnership is vital.

Strategy cannot be compartmentalized into separate boxes anymore.


Curtis Gale Weeks has launched a blog devoted to 5GW
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" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli

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