Sunday, December 31, 2006

Somebody who does not have a Blogger account, please try to leave a comment on this post. Thanks !


Thank you to all who commented - I think it is now functional.
Saturday, December 30, 2006

Lexington Green was kind enough to let me know that comments were not functioning properly today. Trying to fix it now with a test post. My apologies to anyone who experienced problems.

Let us not waste too many words on the late Saddam Hussein, at best he tasted only a small measure of the misery and fear he dealt out to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis but as he had but one life to give for his crimes, that will have to be enough.

Predictably, the special pleading is rolling in from Sunni, Palestinian and pan-Arab apologists for Saddam, sounding remarkably like elderly Nazis and Stalinists defending their respective monsters. As if Saddam's tyranny ever took a holiday for Eid. Where were these false pieties when Saddam was in power? Perhaps if the complainers should begin to petition Khartoum, Teheran and Damascus to ease up on human-rights violations, I'll give their hand-wringing over Saddam's execution a shred of credence.

Until then, this was exactly the demographic we intended to upset and demoralize by bringing Saddam to justice.


The Glittering Eye with a round-up of Iraqi blogger reactions.

Bruce Kesler -"The Morality of Saddam's Hanging"

LTC Rick Francona -"After Saddam’s execution, outlook for Iraq grim"

Juan Cole (at Salon) - " The Death of a Dictator"

Counterterrorism Blog -"Saddam Hussein, Longtime State Sponsor of Terrorism, Executed by Iraqis "

Mudville Gazette

Abu Aardvark

Thomas P.M. Barnett
Friday, December 29, 2006

A good time to push the new, tie up loose ends and entertain a few tangents. No theme today.

Top billing far and away goes to the thread "Kilcullen -- New Theories for a New Way of War " at The Small Wars Council, begun by DNI's Fabius Maximus. The high quality of the discussion and the no-holds barred debate makes this one a definite " must read" for anyone interested in COIN, 4GW, military strategy, defense policy or Iraq. It is long, so pour yourself a cup of coffee ( or something stronger) and enjoy.

Dan of tdaxp completes his series on The Wary Guerilla that I first featured here. The series in its entirety:

1. Abstract 2. Terrorism 3. Predictions 4. An Experiment 5. Results 6. Absolute Guerrilla
7. Those Who Cause Less Pain 8. Future Research 9. Political Implications 10. Bibliography

Chris Heffinger - "The Ideological Voices of the Jihadi Movement" at Jamestown Foundation.

Nathan Freier - " Primacy without a Plan? " in PARAMETERS .

Collounsbury - "Islamic MBA"

Wiggins at Opposed System Design -"Knowing the Enemy Part III: Sources of Radicalization" ( Part II. and Part I. here).

Wretchard at The Belmont Club -" The Blogosphere at War"

Colonel W. Patrick Lang - "A Concert of the Greater Middle East" at The National Interest

"Why the U.S. Should Spring for a New Particle Accelerator" at SEED .

"2006 a Year of Invention" in New Scientist.com

That's it !
Thursday, December 28, 2006

Of a book that intersects Cold War history, intelligence and Iran -The Rise and Fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty: Memoirs of Former General Hussein Fardust - reviewed by Hayden B. Peake for Studies In Intelligence.

"Hussein Fardust was a childhood friend of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last shah of Iran, one of the few non-family members Reza trusted throughout his life. They attended schools together in Iran and Switzerland, and after the prince assumed the throne in 1941, Fardust was sent to Britain for intelligence training. On his return he became head of the Special Information Bureau, an organization akin to Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). At one point he was also deputy chief of the SAVAK (Iran’s secret police) and was responsible for its reorganization.

Fardust’s memoirs give a detailed look at some familiar and less familiar events in Iran’s history from the other side. He begins with the Anglo-Iranian oil relationship, moves to the 1953 coup and the background to the overthrow of Mossadeq, describes the shah’s extensive cooperation with Western intelligence— mainly CIA and MI6—and Iran’s relationship with its Middle East neighbors, including Israel, and the long war with Iraq. There are several chapters on Iran’s intelligence services in which their organization and operations are described in greater detail than in any other English-language source. In 1977, public protests began in part because of the shah’s corrupt government, the “use of torture and political persecution” by SAVAK, and near 50-percent inflation. (377) Whether the shah grasped what was happening is unclear, though Fardust does say, “No one dared to tell the truth to the Shah.” (543).

The politics of the frustrating but inevitable collapse of the regime are described, as is the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, which led to the revolution and the shah’s permanent departure. The takeover of the American embassy is barely mentioned (Fardust was gone by that time). In a bid to escape the executioner he went into hiding, though he was arrested after five years and confined to his house. It was then that he wrote his memoirs, but he died in 1987 of a heart attack before finishing them. The translator has added some details about Fardust’s final days and in the process noted that the Islamic regime was quick to establish its own Intelligence Ministry. This book is filled with essential background on Iran, a country that is often hard to understand."

This one will have to be interlibrary loan as I do not expect it to be on the shelf at Border's and in any event, I'm not shelling out $ 56 for a new copy, cheap bastard that I am. As if I don't have a three foot high bookpile....
Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Warning! Lighthearted post to follow!

Physicists have speculated on the possibility of alternate or multiple universes for some time. That concept remains a staple of science fiction and has creeped in to the historical community, where "counterfactual history" has become popular reading material.

What would an " alternate blogosphere" look like ? Here's my idea...

The Coming Oligarchy:

A trio of monocultural, Ivy League MBA, WASPs discuss the challenges of balancing stock portfolios, employing hot nannies, prep school traditions and finding the " right" gated community.

The Butt of The Spear:

A look at the national security and intelligence communities by a former Congressional Committe staffer who once got to play " junior senator" at a hearing and asked James Woolsey a few smart-aleck questions on late night C-Span2.

The American Failure:

Marc Sulemain's New York Times worshipping blog. Noted for his militant enthusiasm for Hezbollah and his savage personal attacks on " that neoconservative bastard, Juan Cole".

John Rebbe:

An advocate of " open-source religion" and an expert on "4GH" or " Fourth Generation Hasidism", Rebbe dusts off arcane points of interfaith dialogue each week to demonstrate the increasing convergence of high church Episcopalianism with obscure faiths like Jainism.

Tommy Barnett:

Acclaimed NFL color commentator in Green Bay, " Doc Barnett" pontificates daily on the need to redesign the gridiron into a dodecahedron in order to spread the values of American football to places like Botswana and Montenegro ( Barnett's webmaster, Sean of Interdict, embarrasses his boss regularly with simple grammatical errors and odd uses of syntax).

The Glaucomous Eye:

Cat-fancier Dave, a longtime member of the Waiter's Council, sporadically gives vent to incoherent rants and periodic posts extolling the virtues of women's roller derby. Dave frequently clashes with Sulemain of American Failure over charges of Zionist imperialism and retro-Trotskyism.


Scandinavian-descended bore whose tedious blogging on the intricacies of corporate tax accounting has not impeded his building a massive readership through the liberal posting of pictures of nude Swedish women.

The Blackberry:

Eccentric Americanophile English immigrant, famous for his groveling politeness toward commenters and fondness for tractor pulls, Pentacostal Church socials and Tex-Mex cuisine. A strict teetotaler and socialist.

The West Side Boys:

A group blog of white suburbanites who have immersed themselves in the rawest aspects of gangsta rap and underground hip-hop culture. The West Side Boys are noted for a lively comment section where whole paragraphs seem to be profainity interspersed by conjunctions and slang words of unknown meaning.


Unhinged conspiracy theorist who decorates his blog with crudely rendered cartoons, no one ever has the least idea of what DAXTP getting at and we all find his frequent portfolios of scantily-clad male models disturbing, to say the least.

Emphatic Constable:

The laconic yet ferocious Curtis Weeks belches forth fire and brimstone posts in the best dry Baptist splinter group tradition, condemning most aspects of Western society that emerged after the early 17th century. Frequently flames DAXTP who responds with uncomplimentary internet graffitti; Emphatic Constable also disputes with John Rebbe on various aspects of religious mummery.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gerald R. Ford, former President of the United States, passed away Tuesday at the age of 93, having become the longest lived president in American history, surpassing John Adams and Ronald Reagan. Ford should be remembered not merely for his fundamental decency but also his sense of restraint and deference to the national interest above that of the political interests of himself or his party. No greater recognition of the ethical difference between Jerry Ford and most other politicians of the time exists than can be summed up in but two words: President Agnew.

While Mr. Ford was the subject of many jokes during his tenure, it must be pointed out that in Ford's place, many of his ambitious peers would have cut corners where Gerald Ford walked the straight and narrow. Ford knew that issuing a pardon to Richard Nixon would immediately end his " honeymoon", poison his relations with the press and Congress and devastate his chances for election in 1976. He did it anyway and called up the Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill beforehand and explained why without spin or sleight of hand that it was, he believed, the right thing to do for the country.

Ford was forced to clean-up after two great debacles, the Vietnam War and Watergate. It was a volatile time where respect for traditional American institutions, and in particular the presidency, was at low ebb. Ford understood that and his administration conducted political triage with policy and gesture. Having a "Watergate Baby" Democratic Congress that was filled with inexeperienced new members, very few of whom were Republicans and most of whom were more influenced by the antiwar and civil rights movements than their own party elders, Ford continued to pursue detente with the Soviets and avoided new military engagements. He eschewed trappings of the imperial presidency and where Nixon had isolated himself, Ford attempted to engage. Few presidents were ever less hated by their contemporaries than " good old Jerry."

As President, Ford helped boost the political careers of a number of men who went on to make a national impact, including Donald Rumsfeld, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Dick Cheney, Alan Greenspan and David Gergen. His naming of Nelson Rockefeller to the Vice-Presidency effectively rewarded the latter man even as it represented the swan song of liberal "Rockefeller" Republicanism. After losing the race to Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ford enjoyed a low-key retirement, occasionally providing quiet advice to his successors and counseling the G.O.P. to exercise caution during the impeachment crisis of President Clinton.

Gerald Ford was dealt the weakest hand of any president in the history of the Republic, and for the most part, played his cards with realism and skill, being the right man for a troubled time.

Godspeed, Mr. President


Bruce Kesler

The Glittering Eye

Steve DeAngelis

American Future


Chicago Boyz



The Duck of Minerva


RealClear Politics

Foreign Policy magazine online speculates on the tenure of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, with quotes from Andrew Krepinevich, Noah Schachtman, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Thomas P.M. Barnett. An excerpt:


Gates spent 26 years in the CIA—two as its director—but he has come under fire for allegedly politicizing intelligence into spin his bosses like to hear and not revealing all he knew about the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s. Regardless, his nomination has been greeted with enthusiasm by former intelligence officers, who point out that Gates will take a renewed interest in stalled intelligence reform. Under Rumsfeld, the Pentagon took expanded control of intelligence operations, often working in isolation from the civilian intel agencies. Stephen Cambone, the Pentagon’s top intelligence official and a close ally of Rumsfeld’s, has already announced that he’ll resign at the end of the year, a signal that Gates will likely assert more control of intelligence gathering at the Pentagon with an aim to speed its integration with the other agencies.


Former CIA Middle East specialist Reuel Marc Gerecht told FP that Gates’s views on Iran are “profoundly wrongheaded.” Gates has advocated “direct dialogue” with Tehran for more than a decade (longer, if you count Iran-Contra), and in 2004 he cochaired a major report that called for “a new approach” to U.S.-Iranian relations. His has become the “consensus position” in Washington now, says Iran expert Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations (though there’s still great debate about the “how” of negotiations). As for the U.S. airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities advocated by some neocons, including Joshua Muravchik in FP, Takeyh says the chances “went from 0.01 percent to 0” with Gates’s nomination. In his Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Gates said that though he was “not optimistic” about discussions with the Islamic Republic, he “would counsel against military action, except as a last resort.”

The War on Terror

Gates is a Cold Warrior, and his outlook on the war on terror mimics his experience in facing down the Soviet Union. He has said that “[t]errorism is a global challenge that will take many forms and many years to defeat or contain,” but he dismisses the idea that the threat can be eradicated completely. With that outlook, he’s not expected to rock the boat in Washington. Don’t look for any deviation from current national security priorities and strategies in the fight against terrorism. Ditto military commissions, the U.S. detainee policy, Guantánamo Bay, and the application of U.S. military power around the world. If anything, expect Gates to push for improved intelligence capabilities"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Unlike radio hosts, bloggers generally don't do " best of " posts but I figured newer readers might find a few old posts interesting and old readers who fired away in the comments section might get their dander up.

Moral Countermeasures Against Anti-Globalization Guerillas

The Borders of our Imagination

Creating a Culture of Mediciexity

The Resilience of Civilizations

Globalization and War Symposium Day I, Day II. and Day III.

Complexity and Connectivity: Bar-Yam Again

Cultivating Strategic Thinking -The U.S. Needs A Foreign Policy DARPA

Understanding Cognition Part I , Part II. and Part III.

On Music and War

The Superempowered Individual


Dan of tdaxp has a great series, The Wary Guerrilla, that he has been running this week where he continues his exploration of the evolutionary influences on political behavior. The series so far:

1. Abstract

2. Terrorism

3. Predictions

An excerpt:

"In some economic games, income, education, small town origin, and sex (female) increases empathy (Sautter, 2006). Men may be more favorably disposed to cooperators than females (Price, 2006) but also are less empathetic toward punished cheaters (Singer et al., 2006). Players in general are generous to helpless fellows (Oppewal & Tougareva, 1992). Likewise, there are robust distinct player types of altruists, free-riders, and generally cooperative people (Kurzban & Houser, 2005). Players reject small offers rarely but more than would be predicted by game theory (Eckel, Johnson & Wilson, 2002). Along with this, players often give more than should be expected (Thaler, 1989; Fong & Bolton, 1997). The operating assumption is that these behaviors will be exhibited by wary guerrillas, as both wary guerrillaism and these traits appear to be expressions of a pro-social orientation. Thus we propose the the following hypotheses:

1.The Wary Guerrilla is correlated with small town origin

2.The Wary Guerrilla is correlated with income

3.The Wary Guerrilla is correlated with sex

...While specific religions are sometimes associated with violence in the minds of people (Abrahamian, 2002; Gerges, 1997), perhaps the real determinant is general religiosity. Ancient religious terror groups were very highly organized (Rapoport, 1984) and their analogues still exist (Rapoport, 1988). Religion has played a major role in both successful and failed liberation struggles against powerful states (Bosch, 1974; Rapoport, 1979; Husband 1988) and has been offered as a possible cause of suicide terrorism (El Sarraj & Butler, 2002). Additionally, among religious traditions where an alternative to faith is eternal damnation, religiosity may be correlated with riskier behavior (Miller, 2000). Logically, religion may indicate non-secular preferences (Euben, 2002) or secular preferences working on religious themes. Religiosity may enable even rational actors to behave in apparently irrational ways (Iannaccone, 1990, 1995, 1997, 1998). The Wary Guerrilla is an obvious candidate for a type that would engage in this behavior."

Read the whole thing here.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A number of email exchanges and blog posts at various sites recently spurred me to put my finger on something that has long troubled me about 4GW theoretical analysis; namely, a significant blind spot regarding economics that at times borders on sheer contempt. A few examples:

William Lind, writing in "Barbarians at the Gates"

"Buchanan breaks new ground in his discussion of the Republican Party’s disgusting defense of open borders, a position justified by the argument that the resulting cheap labor is good for the economy.

Scholar Jon Attarian gave a name to the cult that has captured the party of Goldwater and Reagan: “economism.” This neo-Marxist ideology is rooted in a belief that economics rules the world, that economic activity is mankind’s most important activity and the most conducive to human happiness, and that economics is what politics is or should be all about.

Economism does not just believe in markets, it worships them…The commands of the market overrule the claims of citizenship, culture, country. Economic efficiency becomes the highest virtue.

So far has the cult of economism spread that many conservatives now believe it defines conservatism. It does not. On the contrary, conservatives have never regarded efficiency as an important virtue. Buchanan does not fall into this vulgar error. He devotes an entire chapter of State of Emergency to the question, “What Is a Nation?,” and his answer would please Edmund Burke much more than it would Jeremy Bentham"

Lind has an extensive thesis on political correctness as cultural Marxism aping economic Marxism and P.C. advocates having a general and verifiably illiberal hostility toward Western culture and political norms. I think in many instances, at least where you deal with the zealous activist base of the academic/NGO hard left and its fellow travellers, Lind's theory holds water. My problem is where Lind generalizes off of that to an assumption that consideration of the actual weight of economic variables in a situatuional dynamic makes you a "neo-Marxist". No, it simply makes you intellectually credible.

Because Lind is an (if not " the") authoritative voice in the 4GW community, this anti-market attitude has been transmitted as if by osmosis to his followers and admirers who express it now almost a priori. Even John Robb, who certainly knows better than most about the power of the market as a complex adaptive system, wrote today on his less formal blog:

"This is the crux of the Bush/Neocon/Barnett plans. The only difference is the method. All of them assume they know where history is headed. All of them are wrong.

Even worse, they have recast Adam Smith as Che:

She attributed the setbacks to "counterrevolutionary forces" seeking to undo U.S. success in the region.

That's a little over the top. As the world's rentier elite, it's hard to imagine that we are a revolutionary force. The real revolutionary forces are destroying states."

There is a proper name for the valuation of atavistic identities uber alles - organic conservatism-
it has a very long pedigree and provides genuine saliency as an analytical perspective because group identities based on ethnolinguistic considerations, religion and culture are powerful political touchstones in their own right. They are very real factors in politics and war as Lind correctly emphasizes. What they do not do is cancel out or replace economic relationships but instead interact and coexist alongside them.

In my view, 4GW as a school of strategic thought has a number of critical insights to offer on geopolitics and military strategy that the official defense establishment has for too long resisted (or stridently attacked) that it would do well to consider in earnest. What 4GW thinkers in turn should do is make room for the power of economic drivers in their analysis. Disliking the cultural effects of the free market is fine, wishing them away is not.

Dave Schuler's colloquium continues with an intriguing Day 3 and a military-centric Day 4 at The Glittering Eye ( one that also feautures the Packer article).
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Michael Tanji of Haft of the Spear has a tough op-ed in The Weekly Standard entitled "Intellipork" calling for financial accountability in the Intelligence Community:

"IF THERE IS AN AREA OF GOVERNMENT we should expect to get more than our moneys worth it's national security. As the recently declassified "Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate on Global Trends in Terrorism" has revealed, for all the money we spend on secret intelligence, the end-result is not very impressive. If there is one criticism of intelligence products held by both ends of the political spectrum, it's how pedestrian they are: few keen insights, no groundbreaking assessments, and obvious, wishy-washy conclusions. You would think that for a few billion dollars the cumulative effort of 15 agencies would be much, much more impressive. "

Tanji is no Otis Pike or Frank Church looking to slash and burn the CIA for poltical jollies. If anything, he is looking to make sure that every dollar in the IC is wisely spent where it will do the most good.

Amen, brother.

I thank the many people who have brought this to my attention by blog, thread, comment and email. It's a remarkably good piece. Key excerpts:


"During the years that Kilcullen worked on his dissertation, two events in Indonesia deeply affected his thinking. The first was the rise—in the same region that had given birth to Darul Islam, and among some of the same families—of a more extreme Islamist movement called Jemaah Islamiya, which became a Southeast Asian affiliate of Al Qaeda

...“I saw extremely similar behavior and extremely similar problems in an Islamic insurgency in West Java and a Christian-separatist insurgency in East Timor,” he said. “After 9/11, when a lot of people were saying, ‘The problem is Islam,’ I was thinking, It’s something deeper than that. It’s about human social networks and the way that they operate.” In West Java, elements of the failed Darul Islam insurgency—a local separatist movement with mystical leanings—had resumed fighting as Jemaah Islamiya, whose outlook was Salafist and global. Kilcullen said, “What that told me about Jemaah Islamiya is that it’s not about theology.” He went on, “There are elements in human psychological and social makeup that drive what’s happening. The Islamic bit is secondary. This is human behavior in an Islamic setting. This is not ‘Islamic behavior.’ ” Paraphrasing the American political scientist Roger D. Petersen, he said, “People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.” He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates.

....Last year, in an influential article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency.” The change in terminology has large implications. A terrorist is “a kook in a room,” Kilcullen told me, and beyond persuasion; an insurgent has a mass base whose support can be won or lost through politics. The notion of a “war on terror” has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine, which was first laid out by the British general Sir Gerald Templar during the Malayan Emergency, armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required. A war on terror suggests an undifferentiated enemy. Kilcullen speaks of the need to “disaggregate” insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai-Malay border so that they aren’t mapped onto the ambitions of the global jihad. Kilcullen writes, “Just as the Containment strategy was central to the Cold War, likewise a Disaggregation strategy would provide a unifying strategic conception for the war—something that has been lacking to date.” As an example of disaggregation, Kilcullen cited the Indonesian province of Aceh, where, after the 2004 tsunami, a radical Islamist organization tried to set up an office and convert a local separatist movement to its ideological agenda. Resentment toward the outsiders, combined with the swift humanitarian action of American and Australian warships, helped to prevent the Acehnese rebellion from becoming part of the global jihad. As for America, this success had more to do with luck than with strategy. Crumpton, Kilcullen’s boss, told me that American foreign policy traditionally operates on two levels, the global and the national; today, however, the battlefields are also regional and local, where the U.S. government has less knowledge and where it is not institutionally organized to act. In half a dozen critical regions, Crumpton has organized meetings among American diplomats, intelligence officials, and combat commanders, so that information about cross-border terrorist threats is shared. “It’s really important that we define the enemy in narrow terms,” Crumpton said. “The thing we should not do is let our fears grow and then inflate the threat. The threat is big enough without us having to exaggerate it.

....Kilcullen’s thinking is informed by some of the key texts of Cold War social science, such as Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer,” which analyzed the conversion of frustrated individuals into members of fanatical mass movements, and Philip Selznick’s “The Organizational Weapon: A Study of Bolshevik Strategy and Tactics,” which described how Communists subverted existing social groups and institutions like trade unions. To these older theoretical guides he adds two recent studies of radical Islam: “Globalized Islam,” by the French scholar Olivier Roy, and “Understanding Terror Networks,” by Marc Sageman, an American forensic psychiatrist and former covert operator with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. After September 11th, Sageman traced the paths of a hundred and seventy-two alienated young Muslims who joined the jihad, and found that the common ground lay not in personal pathology, poverty, or religious belief but in social bonds. Roy sees the rise of “neo-fundamentalism” among Western Muslims as a new identity movement shaped by its response to globalization. In the margin of a section of Roy’s book called “Is Jihad Closer to Marx Than to the Koran?” Kilcullen noted, “If Islamism is the new leftism, then the strategies and techniques used to counter Marxist subversion during the Cold War may have direct or indirect relevance to combating Al Qaeda-sponsored subversion.”

Read the whole thing, which is much longer, here.

What is depressing is how far removed from influencing operations, much less informing the reconfiguration of strategy, Kilcullen actually is, despite the unusual position he holds as a citizen of a foreign (albeit closely allied) state. Turning the Queen Elizabeth on a dime is easier than moving the USG to abandon outdated institutional cultures.

This post has been prompted by Lexington Green, who was kind enough to give me a nudge via email.

Recently, Chris Anderson, the editor of WIRED magazine and author of The Long Tail , had a recent " thought" post proposing radical transparency as an innovative vehicle for Wired magazine, which he followed up with further thoughts. While Anderson was concerned with print media becoming more interactive, his prescriptions have widespread application to different types of organizations, particularly those in which the manipulation of knowledge is a critical skill-set.

Show who we are.
Show what we are working on.
"Process as Content."
Privilege the crowd.
Let readers decide what is best
Wikify everything.

Anderson's "tactics" represent a nice synthesis of ideas that have been emerging in various tech centered fields in recent years that Chris has welded together to make a media hybrid that fuses a traditional "gatekeeper" controlled, closed shop media with new "open-source" production trends. Applied to a magazine like WIRED, this is a strategy for media modularity.

Chris' post elicited two responses that extended the discussion. Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine insightfully suggested:

"Ah, but those two tactics still separate the magazine from the crowd. It’s still about commenting on what the magazine does (’but enough about you…’). Go the next step, Chris: Recognize that the crowd has stuff to say that may have nothing to do with what the magazine may be working on but that is of value to the rest. Or as a group, they have information that is valuable to the group. I’ve been saying I want to know the best-selling books among New Yorker readers. I also want to know the best-selling phones among Wired readers (and why).
The magazine is the crowd."

This is using a conversation to build a community, albeit a virtual one; which, if more transient than a physical community, is also more dynamic, flatter and trends toward a higher velocity of conceptual transactions. Strengthening communty ties (i.e. building a social network) as outlined by Jeff cultivates a sense of primary loyalty in members by the psychological attachment created when membership in the community helps individuals satisfy their needs.

John Robb moved the dialogue to a new domain, national security, when he tied the transparency tactics to building societal resilience and increasing moral cohesion:

"Within the context of 21st century warfare, moral cohesion and innovation (particularly given open source opponents) have emerged as paramount concerns. Up until now, nation-states have relied on propaganda to mobilize the public for war and maintain the effort. In parallel, black box decision making has been relied upon to produce ongoing improvements in capabilities/technology. However, in this long war, these methods are more of a liability than an asset. Propaganda has proven to be both ineffective and harmful (see my critique: "Propaganda Wars" for more on this) -- and -- black box decision making has yet to yield any meaningful improvements in capabilities. In my view, an update to our decision making process (to take advantage of vastly superior information flows) through radical transparency would be a far superior means of maintaining our moral cohesion and innovation over the long haul."

In the early Cold War years, when the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe broadcasts were first being made, there was considerable internal USG debate as to whether to use these media organizations as vehicles for black propaganda and disinformation campaigns against the Soviet Bloc or to keep their journalistic mission uncontaminated by PSYOPS meddling. Forgoing the short-term benefits of crude propaganda paid longterm dividends as the credibility of these organizations gave them believability, authenticity and most importantly - moral authority -in the eyes of their target audience. It wasn't so much that the Soviet nomenklatura that tuned in to the VOA on their illegally imported foreign radios thought that everything Western media reported was true -they just knew most of what their own Communist media reported was false. Credibility once lost, is lost.

Decentralized input of information and analysis accelerates the correction of mistaken assumptions. Transparency enhances credibility and discourages shilling by the negative feedback it immediately produces so decisions produced carry greater weight for having been systematically vetted by an unforgivingly ruthless process of open examination that respects the cultural norms of official institutions to a far smaller degree. This does not guarantee perfection or prevent all errors, blind spots can be a collective as well as an individual phenomenon, but it reduces some of the wanton distortion of insider groupthink.


"Open Source Center Runs Closed Intel Shop" -Shloky

"Getting wiki with it " - Haft Of The Spear

"Breaking the analyst / collector divide" and "Google adds Wiki to the Blog" -Kent's Imperative

"Security: Power To The People" - John Robb

"Of Moral Resilience and Technical Resilience" - Opposed System Design


"The virtuous circle on security: the slippery slope to resiliency" - Thomas P.M. Barnett

"Civilizations, Complexity & Resilience" - Stephen DeAngelis

"Self-organizing Rule Sets" - Stephen DeAngelis
Sunday, December 17, 2006

Busy day in the non-blogosphere world for me. Hope to be online later tonight but here are some fast and furious recommendations, Iraq themed:

Dave Schuler's Colloquium -Directions on Iraq : Day 2 receives top billing.

The Small Wars Council - " Victory in Iraq" thread.

Colonel Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis -"Stalingrad on the Tigris? "

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett -" The freeze out of the Iraq Study Group seems complete:"

William Lind at DNI - " Knocking Opportunity"

John Robb - " The Darwin Principle"

Victor Davis Hanson - "War-Making and the Machines of War"

Parenthetical aside: Hanson is a historian whose work I genuinely enjoy reading, but nevertheless, find at times to be irritating. It's fine to take 4GW and Network-centric Warfare to task as he has done on various occasions, but it would really be helpful if Hanson first took the time to understand what the hell they actually were. Just a thought.

Wiggins at Opposed System Design - "Iraq, Vietnam and Legacies"

Dr. David Kaiser at History Unfolding -" Confirmation from Washington"

That's it!

Courtesy of tech business guru Dave Davison of Thoughts Illustrated, I encourage you to check out Shelfari - a new social networking site for serious readers. I began constructing "my shelf" this morning, though despite Shelfari's user-friendly app it is going to take some time to get even a reasonable percentage of my collection up online, given the volume of books.

Tailor made for a number of my blogfriends. :O)
Friday, December 15, 2006

Dave Schuler's colloquium on Iraq has formally begun !

Here's a snippet:


The opening contributions in the colloquium are from James Hamilton, Michael Cook and Shivaji Sondhi, and Rasheed Abou Al-Samh.

In his contribution James Hamilton makes the case that creating an economic system in Iraq that generates jobs and incomes, particularly for the Sunni Arabs of Iraq, is as important as military action or political reconciliation in the country.

In his contribution Rasheed Abou Al-Samh hones in on the concerns of Saudis at the plight of Sunni Arabs and the prospect of a Sunni-Shi’a conflict in the Middle East.

Shivaj Sondhi and Michael Cook propose that the United States focus on reassuring the Sunnis into accepting a regional solution to their aspirations in Iraq - specifically, that it underwrite a deal in which the Sunnis secure their provinces
in return for their share of national oil revenues."

Go to The Glittering Eye to read Part I. :

Steve DeAngelis at ERMB had a post today on the attempt to revive world class higher education in globalizing India ( most non-Western universities, even national flagship institutions like the cited Tokyo University, compare unfavorably with well-funded "Big State" public universities in the U.S. such as the University of Illinois, much less Harvard or MIT). DeAngelis was calling attention to the NYT op-ed by Yale's Jeffrey Garten, "Really Old School" on a proposal to revive the ancient, polycultural, Indian university of Nalanda. This is the functional equivalent of the EU deciding to rebuild Aristotle's Lyceum.

Steve quite sensibly opined:

"Garten is right about the importance of "global connectedness," even in education. It is an important part of the movement of people necessary to make globalization work. For Asia, a world class university that can rank among the world's top institutions would foster cultural pride as well as new knowledge. Among the billions living in Asia, there are undoubtedly new Pasteurs and Einsteins waiting to have their intellects unlocked. "

(I also recommend an earlier, related, post by Steve -"Raising the Educational Bar" and today's NYT article "Expert Panel Proposes Far-Reaching Redesign of the American Education System")

Which brings us to the point that world class universities are about something far more critical than possessing awe-inspiring endowments and first-rate brick and mortar facilities; it is about building resilient"cognitive cultures" that emphasize intellectual curiousity, resolutely defend free inquiry and reward creativity. None of which Asian educational systems are fostering at present, by the admission of the high education officials from these nations themselves ( arguably, you could make a case that, despite ostensibly having these values as a raison d'etre, American universities aren't doing as good a job at these things either. Or at least a universally good job. It's just that we are relatively better at it than is the rest of the world).

In early 2006, Dr. Von related his experience consulting with educational officials from Singapore:

"I know from personal experience Singapore is serious about trying to change their system to some degree to begin to mimic aspects of the American education system. Last spring I was asked to meet with a group of educators from one of Singapore's top science and math high schools. They were here observing both successful high school and university programs, and I met with them at Northwestern University. They picked my brain about how to get beyond student memorization of facts and more into developing creative solutions and higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills, which are much more important in the long run than memorizing a few facts (that can be easily forgotten after a test). It is one thing to remember a solution to a particular type of problem and repeat the solution on a test, and something entirely different to truly learn an important principle or concept, and then having your brain take it and use it to create a new/original idea, discover a new principle, or expand on someone else's idea.

Part of the process is to get kids thinking about how the material applies to their lives, and allowing them to discuss that and put it into their own words. The guests from Singapore had not really thought that something like this should be a priority. Zakaria's article[1] brought this back into my mind because he mentions that a friend of his from Singapore recently moved back from America and put his kids into one of the top Singapore high schools. He described the difference, that "In American schools, when my son would speak up, he was applauded and encouraged. In Singapore, he is seen as being pushy and weird." This is a vital observation and feature of our schools, and we should continue to pursue and push for it. Our children must continue to be encouraged to think and contribute, and not just sit there and memorize test strategies and facts that are gong to be on the next standardized test

The culture of expectations shapes not only academic performance but cognition as well.

You can very easily vertically educate the creativity out of anyone and, to a large extent, with our k-12 public education system, we do. Our school system is regimented by the clock, institutional legacies, non-academic socialization priorities and frequently defective teacher education programs to produce an atmosphere that mitigates against students practicing valuable cognitive behaviors in favor of memorization and practicing basic skills.
The difference with Asian school systems is that the wider American culture and economy contradicts rather than heavily reinforcing the habits of mind inculcated by formal schooling. Our relatively egalitarian higher education system also provides the broadband access for late bloomers to rise.

My advice, were it to be heard by the governments behind the Nalanda project, would be not to simply look backward to ancient Buddhist India. Or even to make a carbon-copy of a top tier American university as a regional center ( though that would be a major accomplishment in itself). The monks of Nalanda did not build their innovative university by retreating into the distant past but by creating something new. Instead they should think systemically and create boldly.

The 21st century will not belong to those who can best ape the old forms but to those who can usher in the new.

1. "Newsweek (Jan. 9, 2006; page 37)
Thursday, December 14, 2006

First, new to the blogroll:

Juice Analytics - Focus on business intelligence and analysis.

Strategic Security Blog - From the Federation of American Scientists.

Extending on previous posts of late:

From Dan of tdaxp - the remainder of his fine Learning Evolved series -"Overcoming Doubt" and "Conclusions".

From Chicago Boyz discussion forum (hat tip to Lexington Green) - "The Allende Myth"

Dr. Barnett on the Saudis.

More to come later today.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in a rare burst of emphatic public diplomacy, is attempting to forestall any change of course in American policy in Iraq by the Bush administration. This is coupled with the abrupt resignation of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, former longserving intelligence chief, Prince Turki bin Faisal. It was Turki who was the Saudi bagman to the Afghan mujahedin and later to the pro-Wahabbi faction of the international Islamist movement.

Turki is the bursar of Sunni jihad and a one-man liason with a dozen foreign intelligence services and Turki's departure from Washington should be seen in that light. In case any of our more provincial members of Congress missed the significance, the KSA regime added the infamous tagline " to spend more time with his family". Kudos to the al-Saud for attempting to speak the language of the natives!

Clearly, the senior princes and King Abdullah are quite exercised over the ISG report. As they should be. Regardless of the content of the report, it represents pressure by the American elite on the Bush administration to change the status quo on Iraq and the House of Saud prefers the misery of the present to the risk of uncertainty.

This begs the question of what role backstage Saudi pressure and patronage of their Sunni co-religionists have played in the debacle that was the Iraqi occupation ? The Saudis were one factor among many the Bush administration had to consider and, naturally, the KSA would be playing to its perceived interests as was Israel, Turkey, Iran, Syria and Jordan, not to mention the European allies. But the drip, drip, drip of compromises to soothe Saudi sensibilities may have added a large weight on the scale toward the state of paralysis in which we find ourselves.

Or not. It will be sometime after 2008 when the memoirs start cranking out and even longer to the distant day when FRUS 2001-2004 is published.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Starting this Friday, Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye is hosting a distinguished panel of Mideast experts for an upcoming blogging series on aspects of Iraq and American policy toward the region. So far, the line-up includes:

"John Burgess is a former U. S. foreign service officer who has had two tours of duty in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the first in 1981-1983 and the second 2001-2003. He reads and speaks Arabic and has spent the bulk of his career in the Middle East with assignments in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and Bahrain in addition to his assignment in the KSA. His blog, Crossroads Arabia, is one of the blogosphere’s finest resources for information and commentary on the KSA.

Michael Cook is the Cleveland Dodge professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. In 2002 he was awarded the Andrew Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award.

James Hamilton is a professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego. His special area of study is oil economics. His blog, Econbrowser, is a premier econblog.

Rasheed Abou Al-Samh is a Saudi-American journalist based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He is a senior editor at Arab News and a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Times, Al-Ahram Weekly, and Forbes Arabia. His blog is Rasheed’s World.

Shivaji Sondhi is a professor of physics at Princeton University

Having put together one online symposium myself (" Globalization and War"), I appreciate the hard work that Dave has put into organizing this event, to which I am looking forward to reading and commenting upon. Here Dave explains his vision for the colloquium:

"I don’t know if you’re as discouraged by the present political climate and the likely turn of events with respect to Iraq as I am (not to mention Iran) but I’ve been wracking what I like to think of as my brains for some time now trying to consider U. S. interests in the region, how they’re likely to be affected by a withdrawal of U. S. troops before the country can be stabilized, what other measures are available to secure those interests in the event of such a withdrawal, and so on.

I’m also discouraged by what I consider the poor level of analysis being done both in the blogosphere and in the larger world. The Iraq Study Group’s report has been somewhat disappointing, not offering much in the way of new perspectives, and I doubt that the Democrats’ forum on the subject announced a week or so ago will be a great deal better.

So rather than continue speculating myself I thought I might try to organize a blogospheric colloquium, basically a cross-blog discussion, on the subject. I’ve tried attract participants better informed than I (that leaves the field pretty open). Among the general topics I propsed were:

military issues
diplomatic alternatives
regional stakes
economics and development
communications and information

The general format of the colloquium will be that each participant will elaborate on a topic in a post of his own (the contributions of participants without blogs of their own will be hosted here).

Participants and, indeed, all readers would be encouraged to address questions to the participants either in the pages of the participants’ blogs or here
: "

I will be linking and commenting daily and look forward to learning something new !
Monday, December 11, 2006

To paraphrase an old Saturday Night Live punchline, General Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, is still dead.

Unfortunately, his ghost will continue to haunt us for some time as he remains a figure of menace and loathing far beyond his actual crimes, which were considerable. Naturally, for Chileans, Pinochet's polarizing yet iconic status makes sense, they, after all, lived through the Pinochet regime while we did not. Yet from the rhetoric you might think the ancient generalissimo of Santiago had eclipsed Stalin, Hitler and Mao in the pantheon of tyranny. For example:

Christopher Hitchens:

"And, also like Franco, he earned a place in history as a treasonous and ambitious officer who was false to his oath to defend and uphold the constitution. His overthrow of civilian democracy, in the South American country in which it was most historically implanted, will always be remembered as one of the more shocking crimes of the 20th century."

Well. If we start with Imperial Germany's democide of the Herrero in Namibia and work our way forward from there to the year 2000, given the stiff competition Pinochet has in the mass murder department, I'm not really capable of the same level of shock as is Christopher Hitchens. The current ruler of the Sudan, General Omar Bashir, has racked up around 100 times as many dead as did Pinochet and Bashir does not even play in the truly big leagues of genocide ( not yet, but give him time). So the normative issue here really isn't one of body counts.

wu ming of ProgressiveHistorians , gets the reason for Pinochet's "celebrity" status among dictators, right:

"Pinochet came to power in a military coup on September 11th, 1973, backed and advised by the Nixon regime as and bankrolled by corporations such as ITT, Anaconda and Kennecott, as well as banks such as Chase Manhattan and Bank of America, against the democratically elected Socialist President Salvador Allende, uncle of Chilean author Isabel Allende. Allende was later found shot to death, ostensibly as a suicide, but more likely assassinated. Piniochet's death squads tortured and killed political dissidents, leftist intellectuals, and musicians such as Victor Jara, with exceptionally gruesome methods, and without the families of los desparecedos ever knowing their fate. And all the while, the American government happily supported those crimes, out of fear for peacefully elected socialists."

In other words, Pinochet was not only an evil, murderous and vainglorious thug, more importantly, he was a successful counterrevolutionary ! That's why Pinochet is accorded the political attention less competent but equally (or more) sinister ex-dictators like Baby Doc Duvalier, Suharto and Idi Amin are denied.

Allende's martyrdom ( I agree with wu ming that Allende was probably assassinated) has long obscured his close ties to the Soviet and Cuban intelligence services that preceded his election and the large financial investment the KGB secretly made in Allende's political career ( slush funds that mirrored the better known CIA payments to Allende's political rivals) [1]. That Allende wished to bring Chile into " the socialist camp" in an alliance with Cuba and the USSR is fairly certain. Less certain, is the domestic regime he might have eventually imposed in Chile, had he outmanuvered his opponents on the right and consolidated his rule, but " peaceful" and " democratic" would have been unlikely descriptors.

While long memories of the Left and Pinochet's own affectation for comic opera fascist uniforms, have propelled Pinoochet into a league of infamy where comparisons are regularly made with Franco, Milosevic and Hitler, a far better historical analog might be the Roman dictator Sulla. It was Sulla, whose bloody career was was a mix of dreaded proscriptions and sound structural reforms that stabilized the late republic and restored prosperity. It was Sulla, who surrendered power and enjoyed a luxurious (if notorious ) retirement, even as his fellow citizens did not again breathe easily until Sulla himself drew his last.

Let Chile catch its breath.

1. Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin. The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB And the Battle for The Third World, p. 69-85

Dr. Richard Florida of The Creativity Exchange has put out a " Creative Compact", a social contract of sorts, for the knowledge-based, increasingly networked and open-source age. It struck me as fitting the mold of an attempt to hypothesize a social contract for Philip Bobbitt's emergent " Market-State" by helping to guarantee a maximization of opportunity, one that does not neatly fit into a partisan column.
Sunday, December 10, 2006

A lengthy one, with " nation-building", pro and con, as a theme. Some comments to boot.

Dr. Barnett - "Nation building on our plate"

For those that follow theory, you can see where Tom has synthesized aspects of 4GW that critically impact the ability to carry out a Sys Admin action without adopting a Kaplanesque worldview.

Fabius Maximus at DNI - "What should we do in Iraq?Part II of a series"

(The first part was "Situation Report on the Expedition to Iraq"). Fabius Maximus offers a 4GW school counterpoint to Dr. Barnett, rejecting both "nation building" and connecting the Gap as a useful employment of American military power.

Gregory Scoblete at TCS - "What Rumsfeld's Critics Don't Get"

I have to endorse Greg's take on Rumsfeld's tenure at DoD and the ideological split between Rumsfeld and the second generation Neocons like Bill Kristol (despite Rummy being lumped together with them, he's a Nixonian hardliner, not a neocon). I believe he has that nuance exactly right. One of those rare pieces of which I can say " Hmmm - wish I had written that." ( Big hat tip my friend Bruce Kesler who sends me many useful things).

Chirol at Coming Anarchy - "Corporate Armies"

Chirol spurred a wickedly interesting debate on PMC's, Free Companies, mercenaries and nation-building by corporations.

raf at Aqoul - "Islamist Networks: The Afghan-Pakistan Connection"

raf reviews the work of Oliver Roy and Mariam Abou Zahab. I note that Aqoul is also a Weblog Award finalist.

I will now shift gears entirely in terms of topic:

Dan of tdaxp has a new, and as usual, excellent, series - Classrooms Evolved - for which he has already posted "Introduction: A Philosophy of Teaching", " PartI: Traditional Methods",
"Part II: Social Grading" and "Part III: Deliberative Learning"

Dan offers many incisive criticisms of current practice - and some solutions. A must read for those in the classroom.

Dr. Von picks up where I left off with " Physics is a Good Domain for Horizontal Thinking"

like Von, I'm an enthusiast for the ability of physics to shed light in the inner workings of many other domains, from economics to microbiology (so long as we avoid the simplification trying to reduce everything to mechanistic physics - an error of the Newtonian oriented philosophical determinists of the 19th century who were unaware of quantum mechanics or relativity).

That's it !
Friday, December 08, 2006

My good friend Dave Schuler has had his excellent blog, The Glittering Eye nominated for " Best Centrist Blog" in the 2006 Weblog Awards and he is now a finalist. Aside from being highly intelligent and a hell of a nice guy, Dave is a first rate blogger, which is why it is no surprise to me that he has been a finalist for two years running.

Dave however has some very stiff competition in this category and he needs your support. If you are a regular reader and have enjoyed my posts, I have a small favor to ask in return: when you visit Zenpundit, take a second and vote for The Glittering Eye. If everyone does that then we can swiftly put Dave into the running ( you may vote once per day).

Cast your vote for The Glittering Eye !

Much thanks to all who take the time to click !

Horizontal thinking is often most productive when it begins from a platform of expertise in a given field, using the accumulation of knowledge and vertical thinking skills as a platform to see patterns and analogies across domains. The question is, what is the best " platform" ? here are some possibilities, broadly defined, for consideration:






The Arts

Classical Liberal Education

Each would appear to offer some distinct advantages in terms of inculcating cognitive habits and frames of interpretation.

Mathematics offers rigor, precision in conceiving problems and at a certain level, the capacity to construct algorithmic models. Philosophy directs out attention toward our own epistemology, metaphysics and logical reasoning. History offers the largest collection of reference points and a methodology for establishing causation. Physics promotes a comprehension of the operation of massively complex systems, cause and effect and almost as much rigor as mathematics. The Law teaches the use logic, evidentiary consistency and accelerated, extemporaneous reasoning. The Arts require the type of intuitive, nonverbal, pattern recognittion and synthesizing thinking that are conistent with good horizontal thought. Liberal education partakes of all of these to some extent and imparts skepticism in the student.

While I naturally incline toward history my respect for the arts and physics stand very high. If I had to go back in time, I can say I'd take far more physics the second time around. Where do you stand ?
Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iraq Study Group Report

More later...


Having gone through the ISG report at breakneck speed, I have a few comments on this document and its nature.

First, I would suggest that anyone who reads it, and wishes to understand it's actual purpose should begin with the last page and work forward.

Secondly, there are many people on the right becoming quite exercised (or the left celebratory) about some of the language used in the report or the recommendations being "surrenderist". Or implicitly rebuking Bush. Or the Neocons. Or the military Or Israel. Or whatever.

Well, my advice is to calm down, at least for the moment. Some recommendations are excellent and long overdue, such as establishing interagency "operational jointness" on the Goldwater-Nichols model. Others are merely common sense. Some would appear to be, superficially, gratuitous concessions to our enemies. Or are even patent nonsense at odds with reality. However it doesn't really matter. No particular point in this report is meant to be taken at face value per se but as a collection ( hence the stupendous laundry list -something for everyone). That's not why the ISG was established or why the particular personnel associated with this project were selected with such obvious care.

The ISG was established because the Bush administration has completely paralyzed itself in Iraq and the first objectives in issuing this report are:

a) To open up the widest tactical options for the United States in Iraq and the ME as can be mustered.

b) To restore a consensus at the moral level for an American foreign policy and political elite that is badly divided along partisan lines as well as between subgroupings like " realists", "neocons" and " antiwar critics". This is a formal signalling for a "closing of ranks" at the top in the face of Iraq's effective disintegration into sectarian anarchy.

The specifics of any given recommendation here matter a great deal less than communicating to other parties that a window of diplomatic oportunity with the United States has abruptly opened, a moment of uncertain duration. We will be making choices in Iraq and once America goes down a new path the window is going to slam shut as our new policy acquires a logic of momentum. That is what the ISG is about, not making the government of Iraq an effective partner in fighting al Qaida or stopping infiltration from Syria, neither of which is going to happen.

The former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, is not a strategist or an idealist. Baker is not even a tactician so much as he is a highly gifted, political, fixer. Despite his courtly demeanor and Beltway "gravitas", Baker is the most ruthless bureaucratic infighter of our generation who has left dozens upon dozens of political corpses in the wake of his climb to the top with the Bush family. Baker has lined up the heavyweights of both parties behind the ISG in order to get the U.S. and President Bush out of a jam, not out of Iraq, though the latter will probably occur along the way.

Assessments[ Updated]:
Thomas P.M. Barnett, Robert Kaplan, tdaxp, Ralph Peters, Kobayashi Maru, Bruce Kesler, American Future, Abu Aardvark, Aqoul(raf) , Atlas Shrugged, Captain's Quarters, Dean's World, Kevin Drum, Redneck's Revenge, Small Wars Council, Mountainrunner , Dreaming 5GW, Duck of Minerva, Rightwing Nut House , Don Surber, QandO, The Glittering Eye, Matthew Yglesias, Counterterrorism Blog, Hugh Hewitt

Though he himself did not put it that way. Here is a short post from Edward Tufte on "Metaphors, Analogies and Thought Mappings" where he makes a critical observation, followed by some comments from me:

"Roald Hoffmann has a fine essay in the recent American Scientist on metaphors, which he describes at one point as "thought mappings." Hoffmann suggests that metaphors may be at times useful for (1) explaining technical results to a general audience and (2) achieving and understanding technical results.

In my work, the thought mapping "data graphics should operate at the same resolution as typography" (more generally: data graphics ~ words) was most helpful in creating and justifying sparklines. This mapping provided direct advice about the design of data graphics, and it also had a sustained quality since it carried through to ideas that sparklines could appear wherever words (and numbers) appear and that paragraphs of sparklines should be constructed. There is certainly something of an after-the-fact quality to some of this, and the mapping (data graphic ~ word) has its rhetorical as well as technical value in writing about sparklines.

Of course loose or strained metaphors notoriously produce loose thinking. "When a precise narrowly focused technical idea becomes metaphor and sprawls globally, its credibility must be earned afresh locally by means of specific evidence demonstrating the relevance and explanatory power of the idea in its new application. It is not enough for presenters to make ever-bolder puns, as meaning drifts into duplicity. Something has to be explained." (Beautiful Evidence, p. 151). "

[Emphasis mine]

Tufte ignores the powerfully generative aspect of metaphors and analogies that inspired Hoffman, in favor of concentrating on their communicative utility. However Tufte brings focus to a frequently ignored point that the use of metaphors, parallels ana analogies across domains needs to be tested and validated. Vertical thinking field experts add value to the horizontal thinking process when you are speculating across domains. It may be that your insight from Art History will open up new vistas in molecular biology but if so, then your first stop should be with a molecular biologist.

Not every metaphor needs to achieve universal consilience to be " true". Often concepts will be valid within a body of cognate fields and a few unrelated domains that have some parallel dynamics or methodological tools ( such as modelling complex adaptive systems, for example). That's a significant contribution in itself. Very few phenomena will ever have fundamental, proven, application to all fields of knowledge.

To Dr. Daniel Nexon of The Duck of Minerva for bringing up the Amazon Associates program. I'm primarly interested in putting icons of book recommendations in the margin but hey, if anyone buys off of a link from Zenpundit, thanks !
Monday, December 04, 2006

Mind Mob



As we approach the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, military uber-historian John Keegan, reflects in an article for HNN. An excerpt:

"In fact the operators had detected the approach of the aircraft of the Japanese combined fleet, which were already flying off to attack Pearl Harbor. The fleet consisted of six large carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku, which embarked 460 torpedo bombers, dive bombers, high altitude bombers, and their escorting fighters. The carrier fleet was accompanied by large numbers of destroyers, cruisers, and battleships and presented a large target to a vigilant defender. The defenders were not vigilant. At 7:55 A.M., as the Pacific Fleet began to hoist colors for the start of the day, the Japanese attacking aircraft arrived overhead and began to deliver ordnance against Battleship Row, where eight battleships were moored in pairs in the lee of Ford Island. The Japanese also attacked Hickham Field, barracks, and naval and military installations. The alarm was sounded, accompanied by the loud-speaker warning "This is no drill!" As ships began to sink, their shocked crews manned their guns and began to fire back at the attackers. Aircraft took off from Hickam Field. Some Japanese aircraft were hit, but at 8:50 A.M., a second wave of attackers appeared. Resistance was by then better organized and 20 of the attackers were shot down. Those losses were heavily outweighed by those suffered by American forces. Five of the eight battleships had been sunk and 188 out of 394 American aircraft destroyed and 159 damaged. Of the 94 warships in harbor, 18 had been sunk or seriously damaged. Almost the only consolation for the U.S. Navy was that none of its aircraft carriers were present at Pearl Harbor on December 7. They were either in the continental United States or delivering aircraft to U.S. island bases elsewhere in the Pacific."

Read the whole thing here.
Sunday, December 03, 2006


Via the consistently interesting Kent's Imperative, we have news of a major effort to develop a new domain of intelligence analysis called " visual analytics". What is it ? From the NVAC website:

"What is Visual Analytics?

In the fight on terrorism, analysts are bombarded with enormous volumes of data coming from a variety of sources: documents, emails, measurements, images, numbers and even sounds. Often, this information is incomplete, fuzzy, disjointed, or out of context.

Recognizing that humans have a keen ability to process visual information, researchers are creating computer tools—known as visual analytics—that can interpret and analyze vast amounts of data. Visual analytics is the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces. People use visual analytics tools and techniques to:

Synthesize information and derive insight from massive, dynamic, ambiguous, and often conflicting data.
Detect the expected and discover the unexpected.
Provide timely, defensible, and understandable assessments.
Communicate assessment effectively for action

Although visual analytics has multiple uses, its use in biology and national security is an integral part of our nation’s overall efforts to protect against terrorism and reduce our vulnerability to terrorist attacks. By uncovering hidden associations and relationships, analysts glean insight and knowledge to assess terrorist threats to detect the expected and discover the unexpected. "

This research is interesting on a number of levels.

Traditionally, ever since the IC expanded beyond purely service-based military intelligence it has, starting with the OSS and going forward to today, attracted a relatively limited set of personality types that emphasized certain modes of thought. Broadly, speaking you had field operatives ( think Kermit Roosevelt, Jr, Milt Bearden and Robert Baer), analysts ( Sherman Kent, Robert Gates or Michael Scheuer) and the IT/Cryptologic/R&D crowd that are integral to the IMINT/SIGINT agencies. For the most part, the first and third groups have fed their information to the analysts and the analysts have not had a very direct influence over collection, a compartmentalization that made some sense in the Cold War era ( though not to the extremes to which it was taken, which nevertheless, did not prevent the Soviet Bloc from penetrating America's IC).

As a group, analysts tend to be cut from a cloth not unlike what you see in professional academics. A strong bias toward verbal-linguistic and mathematical-logical intelligence and vertical thinking expertise, a highly focused outlook whose intellectual narrowness is further aggravated over the course of a career by security requirements and bureaucratic/political "red lines". The analytical community is not unaware of its own structural tendencies toward cognitive bias; the in-house CIA journal Studies in Intelligence as well as periodic " reform" commissions have raised these questions repeatedly and diligent analysts attempt to guard against them.

To an extent, the National Intelligence Council should be injecting outside or unorthdox viewpoints or perspectives into the analytical process for high priority, summative, reporting. How successfully the NIC has been at doing this is difficult for an outsider like myself to measure ( has it ever been systematically evaluated?) . While non-career figures are sometimes tapped as National Intelligence Officers, and this is helpful, they too usually come from the same background as do analysts, being academics or think tank experts or perhaps, military officers. This cognitive homogeneity can lead to mental gaps knawn as lacunas of activity where certain patterns are simply not likely to be recognized easily.

This is where visualization of problems or scenarios as envisioned by NVAC 's " visual analytics" may prove remarkably helpful as visuals activate a " kaleidiscopic range of brain processing" ( about 1/3 of the population are primarly visual, nonverbal, problem solvers but I would wager only a tiny minority of IC analysts are). Simply framing the known differently can, by itself, be a spur to creative or critical thought and the speed of comprehension with a visual far exceeds any verbal brief. Or even reading text. A picture being worth a thousand words is apparently true in terms of cognitive neuroscience. Howard Gardner's theories evidently have something for spies as well as school children.

A few caveats are in order.

As visualization can be powerful, visuals can be powerfully wrong if the underlying analytics are less well considered than the effort going into constructing elegant visualizations ( the image point where commanding a high level attention intersects with conveying high level of added meaning). We don't want stovepiped errors to become more persuasive, we want visualization to disaggregate stovepiped errors before they get going, by causing analysts to say " Hey...on second thought....".

On the flip side, I'm not sure having these "visual analytics" developed exclusively by engineers and scientists at NVAC is the smartest way to go. Engineers, who while strongly spatial are also notoriously linear and bifurcative in their thinking styles and their favored imagery is likely to be, I expect, unduly rigid compared to the actual world in which we live. Sometimes concepts or scenarios are alinear and are best conveyed by ambiguity and paradox and the input of actual artists whose processing may be more intuitive and actively visual might give the data an entirely different, possibly better, spin.


Gunnar Peterson of the highly regarded 1 Raindrop blog stopped by to direct our attention to juiceanalytics. Thanks Gunnar !

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" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli

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