Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Defense and The National Interest has two powerpoint briefs up that are worth your time to read and review:

The first is in file format ( thus no link) available for download by Dr. Chet Richards, provocatively entitled " Neocons and neolibs: Their Edifice Has Crumbled".

Richards work is always worth consideration for the combination of conceptual boldness and analytical precision he employs. For example, instead of running with 4GW a priori, Richards asks and then answers the question if we are facing a new form of warfare:

"We don’t know – still being worked out. To be useful, it has to be something other than state military vs. state military or insurgency vs. a state. Possibilities include state vs. state (nonmilitary) and state vs. nonstate (other than classical insurgency)."

Like most of his previous briefs, Dr. Richards wastes little time getting to the heart of the matter in COIN situations - political and moral legitimacy - a difficult intangible to directly establish with military operations, particularly without the larger non-military context in mind and well-understood. This powerpoint is also, again like Richards' earlier pieces, deeply rooted in the ideas of Colonel John Boyd. Richards suggests the possibility of aligning with, rather than against, insurgencies as a better geopolitical bet. Though he does not mention it, this was a policy most recently used by the United States in the 1980's against Soviet clients in the form of The Reagan Doctrine with varying degrees of success, but abandoned by the first President Bush in favor of a return to direct military intervention.

The second brief is by Colonel G.I. Wilson, one of the originators of 4GW theory, entitled "Terrorism:Psychology and Kinetics" (PDF). A short meta-analysis of literature on terrorist psychology, the most interesting sections deal with the terrorist profile and cognitive restructuring to dehumanize potential terrorist targets ( a process we also see, historically speaking, on a larger scale to psychologically prepare a society or movement to commit genocide). Wilson stresses the heterogeneous nature and rational functionality of terrorist groups, at least within the context of their own cognitively restructured terms.

This strikes me as likely, as I recall reading that researchers had previously determined from the 1970's and 1980's studies that " professional" terrorist recruiters were at pains to screen out the obviously disturbed psychopaths and nut cases who might threaten group harmony.

More posts to come later today.
These two new DNI presentations are brilliant & well-researched, as usual. Both Richards and Wilson have great records.

ALERT, STUPID QUESTION FOLLOWS! (Too much eggnog over the holidays.)

I found one aspect of Wilson's "Terrorism" slides difficult to understand. Can anyone explain it to me?

Roughly 80% plus of it applies equally well to our military, due to the *very* broad definition of terrorism. For example, it is so broad that many of our actions in Iraq fall within it.

I could change the pictures in these slides, substitute “Marines” for “terrorists”, delete a few lines, and it would be “US Marines: psychology and kinetics.”

This is a not a new observation; many experts have discussed this over the past few decades.

He could have said “terrorists are in many ways similar to us” or “resemble us just as our enemies have in past, more conventional wars”, or noted that our behavior in Iraq differs not in kind from the insurgents – but only in degree. Many provocative deductions might follow from this path.

As it is, lacking a mention of this except in a peripheral form (“terrorists are normal”), academics might see this and write about our military’s inability to see the “other”, and “projection.”

So what is Wilson's message in these slides?
My take was the opposite of Fabius's: the definition of terrorism is very narrow. It excludes both "global guerrillas" style economic warfare by guerrilla forces, as well as targeted assassinations (that work by removing nonreplaceable agents, as opposed to instilling fear).

I'll also use this opportunity to self-promote a study on terrorism I recently posted ... ;-)
You're right, of course. I meant specifically that it was so broad as to include many of our actions.

Either way, what is he telling us? Implications?
Hi Fabius, Hi Dan,

That's easy enough.

Wilson has opted for a definition outside the context of established rule-sets -in this case, the Westphalian-based laws of war.

Unsurprising, as using a functional definition of terrorism implicitly aligns both with the normative preferences of hard-core 4GW thought and avoids tedious hairsplitting argumentation that accompanies discussions that hinge on anything involving international law.

Nevertheless, there is a qualitative moral difference between armed force exercised by groups with the sanctity of law and armed force exercised in defiance or outside of it.

So far, 4GW groups have been adept at exploting that difference to their operational advantage without suffering the appropriate penalty at the moral level of war. However that is due more to the disorganization and ineptitude of state actor opponents than to a natural or permanent advantage.
"qualitative moral difference"

“sanctity of law”

As you know, Western philosophy generally determines morality by some combination of the INTENT or goal, the MEANS used, and the ENDS achieved.

In Iraq, how does "sanctity of law" justify our actions (i.e., means used).

The Iraq "government" admits it has little control over its military, which are in the de facto control of the Coalition. It certainly has near-zero control over use of force by Coalition forces.

Nor has Iraq, so far as I can determine, signed a “status of forces agreement” with the US.

What is the basis for the “sanctity of law” defense of US operations in Iraq? From a different perspective, what does Iraq law prohibit the US from doing?

Also, what is the “qualitative moral difference”? (There is, I suspect, a qualitative difference in the scale of terrorist operations between those of the insurgents and Coalition – but am not sure in whose “favor” it is.)

I remain confused as to how this relates to Wilson’s presentation about terrorism, and the apparent overlap between (in his definition) terror/terrorist and US military/soldiers, as seen in a wide range of operations in Iraq.

The definition Wilson uses is explicitly operational, with no reference to morality in any of the three moral dimensions (intent, means, ends):

“Marsella defines terrorism as the use of force or violence (i.e. kinetics), by individuals or groups that is directed toward civilian populations and intended to instill fear (i.e. psychology) as a means of coercing individuals or groups to change their political and social positions.”
“Marsella defines terrorism as the use of force or violence (i.e. kinetics), by individuals or groups that is directed toward civilian populations and intended to instill fear (i.e. psychology) as a means of coercing individuals or groups to change their political and social positions.”

-- This is interesting, because the definition has been made too broad. Really, that is a definition of EBO in its broadest sense: after ruling out the utter destruction of an enemy, we must focus on how we might influence his thought processes (and resulting actions) by altering the physical environment.

Breaking apart various EBO practices and strategies, however, we might find a distinction hidden in the above definition: Is the attempt at influence -- through changing an environment -- founded on the building of fear/terror, or is it founded upon something else? For instance, we might alter an environment in order to cause an opponent to see a reality which he does not fear but nonetheless which will result in changing his foundational principles and the actions resulting from them. All of this has corollaries with the generational warfare model, as outlined by that last link. If instilling fear/terror through changing the environment is the process being used, then that particular EBO process would be terrorism.

So then the answer to Fabius' question might be better considered through this lens: What is the approach taken by the American forces in Iraq, and is it different than the approach taken by a terrorist group like al-Qaida?

I would like to say that the American forces are trying to change hearts and minds and the resulting activities of its targets by instilling a vision of prosperous order & peaceful security & harmonious interactions among the factions in Iraq -- but I'm not at all sure that such a scheme is behind their present efforts at altering the environments in Iraq, although in some respects they seem to have fleeting dreams of doing so.
Curtis --
Interesting observations! As for terrorism, your view shifts the distinction to one of "intent."

That is of course the most etherial of the three. We can see the means and the result, but how to we see and evaluate terrorists' intent?

Perhaps they have a vision of a peaceful, prosperous, Islamic state -- not only good for its people in this world, but helping them to go to Paradise in the next?

Like similar reformers in our past (Calvin in 16th century Geneva) is not this a goal as worthy -- or even more so -- than ours?

On the contrary, the distinction is about the ways the environment may be changed to produce results.

I think you mean to introduce the possibility that causing fear may be a result of anything done in warfare (fear has been felt by warriors and so-called innocent civilians throughout history during war), and so how can America's actions be any different than al-Qaida's, etc. But that's the wrong way to look at it.

Similarly, intent always sits behind focused activity. Do I intend to blow up a bridge? Yes. Does that mean that my strategy which includes blowing up that bridge can only be defined by my intent? No. It can also be defined by means -- how I blow it up -- and the desired ends (which probably inform the intent: EBO.)

By saying that creating terror is a strategy for terrorists, the means and the ends cannot be separated from the intent. In order to equate American activity in Iraq with terrorist activity, we would also have to say that American forces focus their strategy for victory on being able to cause terror which will paralyze the opponent, cause him to quit the field of battle, or otherwise confuse him or his activities through the creation of fear. But I do not believe that this is the strategy being used by American forces in Iraq.

"Perhaps they have a vision of a peaceful, prosperous, Islamic state -- not only good for its people in this world, but helping them to go to Paradise in the next?"

This question cannot follow from my example,

I would like to say that the American forces are trying to change hearts and minds and the resulting activities of its targets by instilling a vision of prosperous order & peaceful security & harmonious interactions among the factions in Iraq

-- because I was talking about instilling a vision, and you are talking about the vision held by the warrior. These are two separate things. One might be achieved by altering the environment in order to instill that vision, whereas the other vision does not need to be achieved for the warrior -- it already exists.

Would you say that altering the environment in order to instill terror is the same as altering the environment in order to instill a vision of peace and security and cooperation between multifarious factions? That's an odd equation indeed.
We can discuss the legality of the Iraq war if you wish FM, but that wasn't what I was getting at.

The armies of modern states are bound by two kinds of law - international law/laws of war and positive law. In the case of the American military, we have the UCMJ and a few SCOTUS decisions and statutes touching on war powers.

Admittedly, this is sometimes a nominal affair. The Red Army under Stalin was governed by Stalin's will despite a hypertrophied state superstructure. But with many militaries of advanced great powers, law carries real weight. It affects doctrine. It affects training. It affects operations on the battlefield and being an armed force sanctioned by law carries with it perceptual expectations and moral advantage.

Not so these nonstate military forces called " terrorists". They have neither internal positive law for their organizations nor admit to the jurisdiction of international law. They are outlaws and we expect them to behave as such -and when they do outlaw type things, like beheading civilians on the internet or blowing up a wedding in a hotel we are repelled in part by their rejection of civilized norms.

Now state militaries also violate civilized norms from time to time but these actions are considered a priori illegal by perpetrator, victyim and observer alike. They carry risk of punishment and meet with swift condemnation when they become known. However we are far better off with a military regulated by law, however imperfectly it may execute the law and police itself than we are with non-state actors who are inherently a law unto themselves.

So, Wilson leaving out the legal aspect in defining terrorism is ok as far as discussing psychology of terrorism but not for politics. Terrorists and soldiers are not the same thing even when they are engaged in the same actions.
how do current MIL. ROE's color our
interchangability (self identifying)as
Marine <=> terriost
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