"Follow up on this vein of research suggests that as the task gets more complex, that decentralized networks actually do better than centralized. An interesting and relevant critique of this research, by Guetzkow and Simon (1955), was that all-channel networks can and do sometimes perform better than hub-spoke networks. That is, the performance of all channel networks was contingent on how they were used. The original Bavelas findings were based on the fact that they were usually used badly." - David Lazer
Sounds reasonable to me. If you have ever been part of a team that seemed to reach a moment of " flow" where everyone was intuitively "in synch" in handling a creative or complicated performance task, then that dynamic probably "felt" much like the findings of the research described by Lazer.
Applicable, it seems to me, to any " free play" group learning scenario - whether it be small unit combat, improv theater, team sports and many others.
"Gangs and Iraqi insurgents, militias, and other non-state groups share common origins based on tribalism, and therefore, it is expected that they will exhibit similar structures and behaviors. It is our belief that further insight into Iraq’s present situation and future prospects may be derived from a perspective utilizing 3rd generation gang (3 GEN Gangs) studies which present lessons learned from the emergence and spread of gangs within the United States, and other parts of the world, over roughly the last four decades. (1) Basically, from a 3 GEN Gangs perspective, three generations of gangs have been found to exist: turf based, drug based, and mercenary based. The first generation gangs, comprising the vast majority, focus on protecting their turf. These gangs, the least developed of the three generational forms, provide both protection and identity to their members and little more. While some drug dealing is evident, it tends with these gangs to be a sideline activity. ....From a 3 GEN Gangs perspective, Iraq has been essentially overrun by 3rd generation gangs and their criminal-soldier equivalents. This is reminiscent of the nightmare scenario for the US already starting to develop in Central and South America (and, to a lesser extent, within the US) with the emergence, growth, and expansion of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and other Maras. In many ways, the ‘Gangs of Iraq’ are a prelude to the ‘Gangs of the Americas’ that we will be increasingly facing in the Western Hemisphere."
The first is the relatively small number of specialists in military affairs, serious students of geopolitics and bloggers who are already avid readers of Robb’s Global Guerillassite. For them, Brave New War is a systematic and footnoted exposition of the theories of conflict and “dangerous ideas” that Robb discusses daily on his blog. They will be entertained and challenged by the same analysis that makes them return again and again to Global Guerillas to debate John Robb and one another.
The second audience is composed of everyone else. Brave New War is simply going to blow them away.
Brave New War is a tightly written, fast-paced work on the emergent nature of warfare, conflict global society with a decidedly dystopian take. In a mixture of original ideas and synthesis of the works of other cutting edge “thought leaders”, Robb, a platform designer and former mission commander for USAF Counterterrorism operations, draws analogies from the tech world to explain changes in warfare in the age of globalization. Calling the Iraq War “ the modern equivalent of the Spanish Civil War” Robb highlights a robust number of critical concepts in Brave New War that are, in his view, altering international and subnational conflict, including:
Bazaar of Violence Black Swans Brittle Security Dynamc Decentralized Resilience Emergent Intelligence Fourth Generation Warfare Guerilla Entrepreneurs Global Guerillas Market-States Minimalist Platforms Open-Source Warfare Plausible Promises Primary Loyalties Stigmergic Systems Superempowered Groups Systempunkt The Long Tail of Warfare Urban Takedowns
Robb is betting heavily on increasing levels of global instability and systemic breakdown as “feedback” from global guerillas overloads “the system” and disrupts globalization. It is this orientation toward discerning the worst-case scenarios and descent into entropy that will raise hackles amongst some readers, though Robb ultimately predicts a strengthening of systemic resilience and a burst of innovation as a result of these tribulations.
First, the privatization of American professional intelligence by companies former CIA and other IC veterans is the " white" mirror-image of the " black" downsizing and privatization of Eastern Bloc intelligence professionals during the 1990's where you had ex-KGB mafiya clans and ex-Yugoslav pros running international safecracking rings.
The cream of this group ( typified by TIS) will always be closely tethered to the official IC by virtue of steady Federal contracts and media scrutiny. The problem is going to be with the marginal PIC's of uneven or uncertain performance which, before too long, will be found in some decidedly "gray" areas in order to maximize profit ( or sustain financial solvency).
The antics of the subpar quarter are what may bring about loud calls for regulating an industry that exists primarily because of the prior legal constraints and bureaucratic compliance that has calcified the official IC. This in turn will lead to the use of unofficial, sub rosa, networks that are pulled together ad hoc and paid off of the books, possibly by private sources.
Assuming this is not being done to a considerable extent already.
With the award comes the solemn responsibility to pass the torch to five new nominees., according to the hallowed rules as handed down by the thinking blog:
"1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think
2. Link tothis postso that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternativesilver versionif gold doesn't fit your blog)."
I gave the matter some serious thought. There are a number of blogs within my " koinon", certainly more than five, who make think on a regular basis and are duly rewarded with frequent links and commentary. A number of these bloggers have become my friends, yea, even unto the real world. Aside from not wishing to have to choose amongst friends, I would like to use this opportunity to highlight some blogs outside of the political-historical-foreign affairs-military-intel genre that figures so heavily here. It's a little more objective too as I have no personal connection to the following nominees beyond reading their posts and leaving the occasional comment:
FIVE BLOGS THAT MAKE ME THINK:
5. Edge Perspectives With John Hagel: Hagel is not a frequent poster but each of his essays are strategically thought out, imply numerous ramifications across domains and are amply linked and sourced. A blog that will put you ahead of the curve.
4. Complexity and Social Networks Blog: This Harvard University-based group blog inhabits the zone between pure academia and making the discussions of networks and complex systems accessible to all intelligent and interested laymen.
3. Ideas:Professor David Friedman, who authors heroic fantasy novels and plays World of Warcraft in his spare time, is "an academic economist who teaches at a law school and has never taken a course for credit in either field". He's also a libertarian. Needless to say, the posts at Ideas have a certain quirkiness of perspective.
2. Milt's File: University of Chicago professor and longtime ( I think since the late 1960's) host of Chicago'sExtension 720 AMradio program, Dr. Milt Rosenberg's blog. As a blogger, Milt is a linker but you can listen to him as a thinker online by tuning in to his nightly broadcast at his WGN site. A Chicago institution.
1. The Eide Neurolearning Blog:Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide deal in the meta-analysis of peer-reviewed research where most bloggers are offering mere speculation and they back that analysis with insights from their own research and experience as physicians. Expert blogging at its best!
WWII HISTORIOGRAPHY ON THE EASTERN FRONT IN THE ATLANTIC
"The war between Germany and Russia is not a war between he two states or two armies, but between two ideologies–namely, the National Socialist and the Bolshevist ideology. The Red Army must be looked upon not as a soldier in the sense of the word applying to our western opponents, but as an ideological enemy. He must be regarded as the archenemy of National Socialism and must be treated accordingly" General Reinecke of OKW , on Hitler's "Commisar Order".
Benjamin Schwarz reviews the latest historical scholarship of the frozen meatgrinder called the Eastern Front, in " Stalin's Gift" in The Atlantic.
Historian Norman Davies is dead wrong on Soviet participation in Hitler's defeat "tarnishing" the war. Ok, I'm understating. Frankly he's a borderline idiot. What would he have prefered ? A Nazi empire from the Azores to the Urals ? The U.S. carpet bombing Europe with atom bombs in 1946? What ?
A great historiographic review that added a number of books to my reading list.
( Yes, hideous subscription wall. Yes, shortsighted on the editor's part, I realize. Get a subscription, you cheap bastards, and you won't be inconvenienced)
I do not often link to the Asia Timesanonymous essayist "Spengler" ( though I do read him on occasion) but who knew that the man ( assuming he is a man) was a fellow Tolkien fanatic ? He gets things mostly right in my view and I'm not inclined to nitpick tonight.
"Tolkien's popular Ring trilogy, I have attempted to show, sought to undermine and supplant Richard Wagner's operatic Ring cycle, which had offered so much inspiration for Nazism.  With the reconstruction of the young Tolkien's prehistory of Middle-earth, we discern a far broader purpose: to recast as tragedy the heroic myths of pre-Christian peoples, in which the tragic flaw is the pagan's tribal identity. Tolkien saw his generation decimated, and his circle of friends exterminated, by the nationalist compulsions of World War I; he saw the cult of Siegfried replace the cult of Christ during World War II. His life's work was to attack the pagan flaw at the foundation of the West.
It is too simple to consider Tolkien's protagonist Turin as a conflation of Siegfried and Beowulf, but the defining moments in Turin's bitter life refer clearly to the older myths, with a crucial difference: the same qualities that make Siegfried and Beowulf exemplars to the pagans instead make Turin a victim of dark forces, and a menace to all who love him. Tolkien was the anti-Wagner, and Turin is the anti-Siegfried, the anti-Beowulf. Tolkien reconstructed a mythology for the English not (as Wainwright and other suggest) because he thought it might make them proud of themselves, but rather because he believed that the actual pagan mythology was not good enough to be a predecessor to Christianity.
"Alone among 20th-century novelists, J R R Tolkien concerned himself with the mortality not of individuals but of peoples. The young soldier-scholar of World War I viewed the uncertain fate of European nations through the mirror of the Dark Ages, when the life of small peoples hung by a thread," I wrote in an earlier essay.  Christianity demands of the Gentile that he reject his sinful flesh and be reborn into Israel; only through a new birth can the Gentile escape the death of his own body as well as the death of his hopes in the inevitable extinction of his people."
The last and by far the darkest of J.R.R. Tolkien's epics, The Children of Hurin, is now available for sale almost ninety years after Tolkien first set pen to paper. For those unfamiliar with the ancient history of Middle-Earth narrated in The Silmarillion, the story is the tragedy of Hurin Thalion ( "Hurin the Steadfast"). Hurin Lord of Dor-Lomin, was an ally of the Elf- Lords and the greatest warrior among men, whose unbroken defiance of the great Dark lord Morgoth brings horror and doom upon his family in the form of a terrible curse as Morgoth's cruel will twisted the lives of Hurin's children.
The axe-wielding Hurin is captured by Morgoth's armies after singlehandedly slaying seventy trolls and assaulting Morgoth's captain, Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs, Hurin's men having sacrificed themselves to permit the retreat of Turgon, the King of Gondolin. Brought face to face with the godlike Morgoth, Hurin is undaunted and spurns Morgoth; the enraged Dark lord binds Hurin to a seat in the high mountains of his fortress of Angband and through his power, permits Hurin to watch the doom that unfolds over the long years on Hurin's children Turin and Nienor. It is Hurin's son Turin, wielding an accursed black sword, who inadvertantly sets in motion the ruin of Doriath* the last great Elf-Kingdom of Beleriand ( the Westernmost part of Middle-Earth that sank beneath the sea at the end of the First Age) as well as suffering griefs akin to those ofOedipus.
Tolkien, who had been a soldier on the Western Front, began writing the story of Hurin in the shadows of a war that consumed most of his classmates and childhood friends. He never finished the story to his satisfaction, nor did he quite manage the Silmarillion either, both of which have been edited along with Tolkien's voluminous papers, by his youngest son, Christopher Tolkien. It is interesting to contemplate how WWI impacted Tolkien's thought as the First Age and the Wars of the Jewels in Beleriend represented a scale of grandeur and power lost and only dimly remembered by the Third Age and time of the War of the Ring. Frodo's Middle-Earth represented a much diminished and fading world in Tolkien's mythology, which had it's fate sealed by the destruction of the One Ring.
As terrible asSauronappears in The Lord of the Rings, he was a shadow of the power and evil of his former master Morgoth. While Sauron had his One Ring, the whole world - which Morgoth defiled during the moment of creation - was as Christopher Tolkien has written, " Morgoth's ring". This brings into the mix Tolkien's religious convictions and Christian mythology regarding Satan's rebellion in paradise and subsequent status as "the lord of the world". And like Satan, Morgoth and Sauron are eventually "cast out" through " the doors of night".
My perception, being familiar with various versions of the story, is that The Children of Hurin will be purchased but not much enjoyed by, the casual Tolkien fan, particularly Americans who are fond of happy endings. There are no happy endings here; Hurin and Turin, much less Nienor, do not even have, properly speaking, the hubris of Greek heroes who bring destruction upon themselves.
Instead it is visited upon them by a foe far beyond their power to reach, only to defy to the end.
* Blame for which is shared by Thingol, King of Doriath who coveted a Silmaril, the disasterous results of which are told in a separate epic The Lay of Beren and Luthien. And prior to that, the malign oath of Feanor and the doom on the Elves for the Revolt of the Noldor.
Admittedly, I am far from the best person to do blog posts on things technological but via Ross Mayfield, I found this platform aggregator/bundler application Suite Two which handles RSS feeds, wikis, blogs, social networking and more.
While I personally don't need something this elaborate, if I was trying to jump my organization into the Web 2.0 world in one leap it would be handy to have a one-stop-shop site with which to launch everyone from the same page at the same time.
I welcome comments from the IT guys in my readership.
Initially, I left out 5GW as there is no consensus among bloggers, much less professional strategists, as to what it is or if it exists at all. However, as questions about 5GW were already raised by commenters, I will do a short follow-up with a selection of links.
A hectic day. There will not be much blogging tonight as I am preparing the third installment of my Military Theory series at Chicago Boyz, hopefully will put it up tomorrow. The rest of the evening was devoted to gathering some of my material for Sean and Tom and, most importantly, helping my daughter with her dinosaur diorama. An effort that involved large amounts of colored clay, toothpicks, a shoebox and crayon drawings of Megalosaurus in action.
IS J.L. KIRK AND ASSOCIATES AN EXAMPLE OF "AUTO-BORKING"?
When Ronald Reagan nominated the highly regarded but arch-conservative legal theorist Judge Robert Bork in 1987 to become a justice of the United States Supreme Court, liberal activist groups in conjunction with the then monolithic MSM, "swarmed". Judge Bork was slandered by Senator Ted Kennedy in an opening salvo of an unprecedented political campaign by the Democrats to personally destroy a judicial nominee out of loathing for his judicial philosophy and fear of his intellectual prowess. Judge Bork's nomination was duly defeated, the Reagan administration was dealt a severe political setback and a new verb entered the political lexicon; to be vilified and disqualified from a position was to be " Borked".
Good job boys! Just think of the trouble you might have avoided by being gracious and helpful to your customer instead of belligerent and aggressive. You'd almost think that a company that pro-actively litigious had something to hide
As someone who did extensive - verging on the tedious - research in grad school into the heart of darkness called the Nixon administration, I really enjoyed this piece; Tom wraps up some excellent historical analysis in the very limited (in terms of word count) format of a newspaper column. An excerpt:
"Nixon's reaching out to both the Soviet Union and China in the early 1970s could not have been more surprising, given his pre-presidential history as a vicious anti-communist. But, by doing so, Nixon effectively ended the Cold War by the start of his second, deeply troubled term in 1973.
In forging a detente with the Soviets that included limitations on strategic arms, Nixon basically killed the worldwide socialist revolution. For once, Moscow - that movement's leader - entered into such agreements with its capitalist archrival, it admitted to both itself and its empire of imprisoned satellite states that its model of socialist development suffered limited appeal.
...In short, Nixon revealed this emperor had no clothes
...By some definitions, China will possess the world's largest national economy within a quarter-century's time, and the man who set that all in motion was Deng.
Rarely in history has one dictator held in his hands such discretionary power to choose between further enslavement of his subjects and their rapid empowerment through economic liberation.
In disassembling Maoism, Deng chose the latter route, validating both Nixon's previous strategy and discrediting Gorbachev's later decision to pursue political glasnost before economic perestroika in the now-defunct Soviet Union." The story of Deng Xiapoing'spolitical career is far less well-known to Americans than is Richard Nixon's, obscured as it is by partisan feelings stretching all the way back to the Hiss Case. Like Nixon, Deng was highly placed in politics for a half century ( more actually as Deng was a veteran of the Long March) and like Nixon, Deng suffered political disgrace and manuvered his way back to the apex of power. Unlike Nixon, the stakes for Deng were much higher; he could have easily met his death at the fickle hand of Mao as did numerous top leaders of the CCP. In the struggle to succeed Mao, the sinister Gang of Fourcertainly sought Deng's death and Hua Goufenghis permanent retirement (or worse) from politics.
Another parallel with Nixon would be Deng's pragmatic, if brutal, realism which expressed itself both in Deng's relative indifference to Marxist dogma and a willingness to use force to preserve national "face" ( Nixon would have said " credibility"). Deng's punishment campaign against Vietnam in 1979 and his crushing of incipient Chinese democracy in 1989 flowed from the same line of reasoning. Moreover, unlike the Soviet Communist Party leadership where the Red Army was separate and subordinate to the Party, China's Maoist guerilla legacy meant that for the first two generations of leaders that the Party was the Army and the Army the Party. Deng was a famous military leader and commanded the moral authority within the CCP to act as a "commander-in-chief" figure in a way only a few other aging seniors could match.
Naturally, the parallels are less significant than the differences between the two men. Richard Nixon was a master politician who loved power and had an enemies list but Nixon operated in a democratic system and an open society. Deng did not need to make any lists and his relatively benevolent treatment of fallen party rivals in his later years should not ( as with Nikita Khrushchev's career under Stalin) be allowed to erase the bloody history of his service to the CCP under Mao ZeDong.
That being said, I believe Dr. Barnett has weighed both men on the scales of history with rough justice; Nixon and Deng had a global impact that was more to the good than to the bad.
The Russians may not have invented, strictly speaking, "Disinformatsiya" but they certainly were good at it back in the day. We still have idiots running around who believe that J. Edgar Hoover wore a dress or that the CIA/Pentagon created AIDS, as a result of KGB memes.
Mountain Runner is one of those rare blogs that consistently punch above their weight in terms of quality. Highly recommended for blogroll addition if you are looking for one that covers national security issues.
"Schuler’s skepticism is warranted, but self-limiting. As we used to say in the Marine Corps: The Difficult We Do Today; The Impossible Just Takes A Little Longer. That’s not meant to infer that our foreign policy become Marine-like in spirit, but to suggest that focus and organization coupled with faith in mission will overcome. ....I believe that although difficult, and the impossible will take a bit longer, that one inevitable result of our current troubles will be the development of a flatter interdepartmental foreign policy and execution that will be much more informed, prescient, coordinated, and effective."
I agree. This is going to be politically difficult because we are proposing taking some power away from senior Washington mandarins - both in the positive as well as the liberum veto sense - and moving it to the experienced field hands who will be collectively given the financial independence ( perhaps by initiating " foreign policy block grants" instead of line-item departmental appropriations) and tasking authority to accomplish foreign policy objectives. If ever seriously proposed by a president ( even in watered down form), there will be an epidemic of apoplexy inside the beltway and every knife will come out to stop this reform from becoming a reality. Nevertheless, the weight of cultural evolution, technological innovation and globalization will continue rushing forward in the world whether bureaucrats like it or not. Networks are here, friendly and hostile and they must be engaged.
Regarding Mr. Hoglund's post, the "Jacksonians" occupy an aggressive but "swing" position in American politics according to the taxonomy developed by Walter Russell Mead( a subject Dave has previously explored in his informative posts here and here). Their attitude might be epitomized by the military writer Ralph Peters - they are seekers of clean and clear victories and have scant patience for the building of nations. Despite my being more " Wilsonian" than is Hoglund, he has keyed on to the same problem that I have discerned (frankly, the current foreign policy process is going to produce mediocre results regardless of whether the president is a neoconservative adventurer or a dovish isolationist - the bureaucracies pursue their agendas under every president). An excerpt from "Taming the Turf Wars ":
"The topics cited in the Article I cover inReforming the Intelligence Community, which looks at the massive and internecine 'turf wars' as the main problem for the IC and getting the best cross-specialization INTEL available for multi-level analysis and then synthesis of knowledge. This would require not only a complete overhaul of how work is approached, but remove the Agencies from the 'product ownership' area and put them into a 'skills management' role. By enforcing the idea that certain types of INTEL can stand alone, the entire IC is dysfunctional as there is no lower level cross-agency working system. Thus each Agency gets its own view of the INTEL it *has* but no ability to synthesize across many Agencies and outlooks. Here non-traditional INTs such as economic and agricultural forecasting would also come into play for a full synthesis of necessary knowledge types available. By removing the Agency fiefdoms and making INTEL gathering and analysis a shared Community Level activity, the internecine turf wars are removed and Agencies are judged on how well they manage contributed skills within the Community at large, not how much work product and viewpoint they turn out. This does require moving clandestine ops back to something directly under Presidential control, like the old OSS. They can be sent to gather specific INT needs, but only with full knowledge and approval of the President."
Aside from my remarks that Bruce has published, theNational Intelligence Councilis supposed to help in the synthesizing process and was somewhat more aggressive in doing so, reportedly, under NID John Negroponte. Assuming that was the case, that synthesis is being layered on top of the analytical process, like frosting on a cake, rather than occurring in the mixing of the batter by the analytical " cooks". There people out in the blogosphere with direct experience working in the IC and the NIC who are better placed than I to comment further here.
Most bloggers are pleased when a post generates some decent traffic and an intelligent remark or two in their comments section or email box. Therefore, it was quite gratifying to see how many thoughtful and incisive thinkers took the time to critique "Modern Foreign Policy Execution" at Democracy Projectthe other day. ( I'd also like to thank Bruce Kesler for kicking my butt into gear).
While I keep email correspondence private unless the author indicates otherwise, I've gathered some excerpts of the rebuttals that have appeared online below:
"Bureaucracies are not networks. And never the twain shall meet. Bureaucracies are hierarchical, rules-based, static, slow to adapt, and have a single, constant imperative: survival. Networks are flat, conventions-based, highly adaptable, and, consequently, varied. They can spring into existence when a need arises and vanish when the need has ended. Networks are a challenge and a rebuke to bureaucracies. ....I think that Mark’s proposal, while interesting, is doomed. The existing bureacracies will fight any change tooth and nail simply because it is a change, simultaneously insisting that any new institutions be subsumed into their own bureacratic structures, effectively strangling them at birth." Steve Schippert at Threatswatch -"Monolithic Foreign Policy Needs A Net-Centric Overhaul"
The crucial issue is the existing institutions’ inability to regularly interact and cooperate with any alacrity, consistency or theater-level effectiveness. As a prime example of the absence of synergy, consider the foreign policy turf war on displayrecently in Somalia
The apparent currentsearch for a ‘Czar’to address the same problems is not the solution. The current bureaucratic inefficiencies and ineffectiveness is akin to viewing State, Defense and other institutions as individual trains, bound to their own tracks and propelled by their own inherent inertia. The solution, as Safranski ably elaborates, needs to be implemented at the 1,000 ft. to ground-level in respective regions and/or theaters. It cannot possibly be effectively employed in this manner from the 25,000 ft. level of a Washington, DC über-bureaucrat."
"It sounds great - in theory - and in theory I'm right there with him on this. But unfortunately, in practise the current administration would see such modular networks as an anathema to their rigid top-down heirarchy unless the whole process of creating these teams could be politically controlled and biased. Thus, team leaders would inevitably be cronies and yes men rather than actual experts. Or if experts at all would be hand-picked from the ranks of the neoconservative think-tankersfavored by the likes of the Democracy Projectwho have made good use of the revolving door between those think tanks and the Bush administration to push their own failed ideology of American hegemony. " John Burgess of Crossroads Arabia( in Glittering Eye Comment section)
"A network of really smart people (I’m drawing a best-case here) can certainly come up with policies. But governance isn’t the same as finding the most efficient solution to a traveling salesman problem. It depends on politics and political will and that’s not just a matter of routing the salesman around a broken bridge. It’s also the matter of dealing with the salesman who won’t go over particular bridges because of factors non-essential to salesmanship, but vital for other reasons. It has to deal with the destination that simply won’t accept your salesmen or don’t want your product. When you try to figure out all the potential variables you simply run out of computing time.
I do think that networking as described can play a vital function within bureaucracies. Many–and I put State at the head of the list–are now dysfunctional due to their near-total top-down orientation"
Through the kind invitation of my friend, columnist and former FPRI analyst, Bruce Kesler, the well-regarded blog, Democracy Project, is running a guest post "Modern Foreign Policy Execution" by your humble host, subtitled "Instead of Crowning a New Czar, Bush Should Ignite A Revolution", where I offer some suggestions for changing the decidedly broken interagency process for foreign policy. A brief excerpt:
"Secretary Rice rattled cages at Foggy Bottom by prioritizing Iraq assignments over the “old boy” network and PC concerns that dominated past FSO assignments, making official the informal practice that prevailed under Secretary Powell. Resistance by diplomats and bureaucrats to working in dangerous locales that are critical national security priorities remains unacceptably high. This is partly due to reasonable safety concerns but also stems from political opposition to administration policy and simple resistance to a synergistic mindset that requires housing “other agencies” in “their” embassies. Even the DIA has been credibly accused of holding back Arabic linguists from Iraq duty and of having managers who retaliate against analysts with Arabic skills who volunteer for Baghdad duty and of enforcing a “groupthink” company line in analysis. Frankly, this is no way to run a foreign policy in a time of peace, much less one of war. "
A personal aside: Bruce is a veteran of the Vietnam War and he has both an interest and some healthy skepticism toward the many newer military theories. One of those is 4GW, which I believe has utility for analysts, historians and statesmen as well as for military professionals. While I write about 4GW with some frequency, it is properly associated with William Lind, Martin van Creveld, Chet Richards, Thomas X. Hammes, "Fabius Maximus" and other writers featured at the excellent and always thought-provoking Defense and the National Interest.
Why are Americans in love with the "Czar"metaphor?
First, we are a liberty-loving democracy without an autocratic tradition. We like inefficient government with lots of checks and balances, staggered electoral terms, judicial review and leaks to the media. Secondly, it is not as if the"Czars" ( henceforth spelled correctly as "Tsar") have an impressive track record that we should be following, just read the Marquis de Custinesometime.
Tsar Paul was mad and several others were feebleminded; Catherine the Great was an usurper and poseur French intellectual-wannabe; Tsar Nicholas I and Alexander III were iron-fisted tyrants; and the last Tsar, Nicholas II " the Unlucky" was a complete incompetent who ended up being slaughtered in a basement by third-rate Bolshevik revolutionaries who threw the body of Russia's last Autocrat down a mineshaft. Because of Nicholas, Russians suffered seventy years of Communist totalitarianism, terror, famine and poverty. Hoo-boy! I want him running the war in Iraq! He did such a great job on the Eastern Front!
Even the "good Tsars" were no great shakes. Peter the Great was a far-seeing modernizer but his namesake capital, St. Petersburg rests upon unnumbered bones of the serfs who toiled in the swampy mire to build it. Russia's equivalent to Abraham Lincoln, Alexander II "the Tsar-Liberator" freed the serfs but left them landless and impoverished, ended his life being blown up by an anarchist's bomb. These two top the Tsar-list; it goes downhill from there.
And then of course, there is Ivan Grozny or "Ivan the Terrible", the terrifying medieval Tsar whom Stalin idolized as a role model. It was Ivan who drove away the ferocious Tatar hordes, unleashed Russia's first secret police, the Oprichnina, had his nobles torn apart by dogs and even killed his own son in a fit of blind rage. Tsar Ivan was feared by all of Russia's neighbors and none dared stand against him.
Hmmm....maybe that's exactly the kind of "czar" we need after all.
A few days ago, I did a focused skim British Army GeneralRupert Smith's memoir , The Utility of Force. Smith deals in detail with scenarios that readers here would recognize as "System Administration" and "4GW", though Smith uses neither of those terms. Smith also understands that war is no longer compartmentalized but is part of a seamless arc of conflict going on at multiple levels. Interview video clip of General Smith talking to Jon Stewart here.
I should trim the deadwood as well. If you are alive and intend to return to blogging and wish your dormant blog to stay on my roll a bit longer, drop me an email. Inert links irritate a portion of the blogospheric audience.
If you are a regular reader of Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye, then you know that he is a dog aficianado who raises them for show and for specialized training. Naturally, the contamination and recall of pet food was a story he had been following with a considered care that I have not. Dave has put forth an intriguing thought experiment however "Wargaming an attack on the food supply":
"Although we have an entire enormous expensive facility within DHS ostensibly devoted to the subject of biodefense including agro-terrorism, the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, to my eyes much of what’s available in open source form on this subejct seems very rudimentary.
Much of it deals with something along the lines of an industrial sabotage model—risk assessment is done from the point of view of companies trying to prevent damage to their facilities. Useful as that may be I don’t think that it really corresponds to what we might actually experience, which presumably would conform more to a product tampering model.
Here’s how I think that a real attack against our food supply might be likely to unfold.
*a toxin or pathogen would be introduced into a basic food item either via a producer, distributor, or manufacturer *the item would be packaged and distributed throughout the country
*the retail products would be purchased by consumers
*individual cases of injury or death would begin to appear
*complaints would be made to retailers and/or brand name vendors
*at some point relevant government agencies would become engaged
*there would be a scramble for causes and sources
*conflicts between agencies would emerge
*at some point the toxin or pathogen would be identified, its source might be identified, and a solution put into place
Some number of lives would have been lost, resources consumed in pursuing the problem, and the ultimate solution would bring that process under control but the objective of the attack would already have been accomplished: there would be a diminution of confidence in government, society, and other people.
A modern economy and modern society operates on trust."
If you recall the infamous anthrax letters, Dave is outlining a hypothetical 4GW style systempunkt test of our bureaucratic response capacity, which I am sad to say, remains obtuse and palsied in the face of the non-obvious.
A substantial and well researched essay by Marc and, for me, a timely one as I had my students begin reading Orwell late last week. Marc has also, incidently, given American Futurea facelift. Looks sharp !
"A Chinese initiative sets out to train 1.3 billion scientists--one farmer at a time". China is junking hoary Communist ideology in public education in favor of science. The Chinese only really need to succeed in inculcating scientific literacy with a tiny fraction of their rural population to ultimately increase the number of scientists on a global scale by several orders of magnitude. In 2030 there will be PhD's running around born in the hinterland villages of Shaanxi.
I've started a series of posts at Chicago Boyzentitled "Cutting Edge Military Theory: A Primer (Part I.)". It is intended to be an introduction for a general audience that may be unaware of folks like John Boyd, Art Cebrowski, Tom Barnett, William Lind, John Robb, John Arquilla, Chet Richards, Thomas Hammes and the bewildering array of acronyms, concepts and neologistic jargon they have unleashed on the world of warfare. It was an idea, originally suggested, as it happens, by Lexington Green.
Those of you with expertise or strong opinions on military matters, feel free to hop in on the comments section at Chicago Boyz and make free with the questions that may arise.
"The House Armed Services Committee is banishing the global war on terror from the 2008 defense budget.
This is not because the war has been won, lost or even called off, but because the committee’s Democratic leadership doesn’t like the phrase.
A memo for the committee staff, circulated March 27, says the 2008 bill and its accompanying explanatory report that will set defense policy should be specific about military operations and “avoid using colloquialisms.”
The “global war on terror,” a phrase first used by President Bush shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., should not be used, according to the memo. Also banned is the phrase the “long war,” which military officials began using last year as a way of acknowledging that military operations against terrorist states and organizations would not be wrapped up in a few years.
Committee staff members are told in the memo to use specific references to specific operations instead of the Bush administration’s catch phrases. The memo, written by Staff Director Erin Conaton, provides examples of acceptable phrases, such as “the war in Iraq,” the “war in Afghanistan, “operations in the Horn of Africa” or “ongoing military operations throughout the world.”
Because of course, prohibiting discussion of the strategic context of current military operations against Islamist terror networks itching to topple regional governments or kill thousands of Americans in 9/11 style attacks will make that threat go away. Political correctness for terrorism analysis!
Well, not really. What it is intended to do, I infer, is allow the new House majority to deprioritize, over time, the importance of fighting al Qaida type groups so as to make it politically easier to allocate legistative time and resources to those domestic issues that excite the liberal activist base. If you are a House chairman or Democratic presidential candidate, looking toward 2008, ideological spin is fun, substantive foreign policy, by contrast, is a major headache. Being the most hawkish Democrat on al Qaida is about as about as rewarding, in terms of winning influence within the party, as heading the Republicans for Choice Caucus would be within the GOP. It won't kill you politically, per se but being out of step with your party is more anchor than sail.
Now, I realize there are many Democrats and liberals who are passionate about America having sound and strong defense, foreign and national security policies. A number of them are on my blogroll because I respect and read their views. At the end of the day, however, a Democratic majority will reflect not their minority views or priorities but those of the Boomer activist Left whose formative experience was the Vietnam antiwar movement, the radicalized phase of Civil Rights protest and the Women's movement. It is they who dominate the Democratic Party, not the DLC or the "liberal hawks". Except when you have an overriding political concern from the public, or a Democratic president of Clintonian influence who can temporarily pull his party toward the center, you can expect the Democrats to govern like Democrats, not like Republicans Lite.
"Let's say it up front: GWB and co. are a bad lot; arrogant and embodying the most resistant strains of cultural conservatism and capitalism in American society. Blame it on Texas, if you need an explanation, as the historical magnet for the most exaggerated and aggressive characters of the old South.
They have a predatory mentality, a game-winning mentality. The executive branch is their team base, and they go out every day in eye black to compete with Congress, the Democrats, the courts, the media, and they play to win. Whatever tactics serve them against you, they will use, however shamelessly hypocritical it is of them. If they can slip one past you, they will. It's up to you to catch them.
None of which is illegal. None of which is cheating. It's football; it's courtroom, it's stock exchange, it's boardroom, all the places all these people came from. If you expect your federal government to be collegial, more concerned with process than results, don't elect these guys. And if you do elect them, expect the game to change. A chess match can degenerate into a brawl, but a chess match never breaks out during a brawl. " George W. Bush and his administration are not liberals or bipartisan figures. They are not Jack Kemp style free-marketeers, Reaganesque small government types or even old Right, neo-isolationist paleocons like Pat Buchanan. Instead, they are basically the last Nixonians - centralizing, more partisan than conservative, hierarchical, national security oriented, big government Republicans, who aligned themselves primarily with moderate big business, the religious right and neoconservative intellectuals. Seldom have they reached beyond this base and, if anything, the Bush White House has retreated to ever more narrowly circled political wagons. They will govern from this precarious perch until their last days in office.
We are in a long war against a global insurgency of Islamist fanatics whether our generals are permitted to say that or not. The country needs a stronger, more vocal, middle ground...at least when we look beyond the edge of our shores.
"I tend to believe that many are falling into the usual trappings we humans are prone to do. The concept of 'Groupthink' has its positive features, but I fear it does hamper creativity. It often takes revolutionary thinkers, who are largely isolated from the establisment, to go against mainstream beliefs to get at deeper truth and innovation in thought. It was to Einstein's advantage that he was isolated from the bias of academia at the turn of the last century, so he could reach the conclusion that Newtonian physics had limits and the world worked in very different ways than what the 'Group' thought. We will always need that individual freedom working in parallel with the Group. Creativity and innovation can come from either branch, so we cannot fall into a phase of 'all group, all the time,' as some might be suggesting. It reminds me a lot of how we need both pure and applied science, and both horizonta l/vertical thinking. This relates to some thoughts about intellectual absolutism that have always bothered me...it won't help us figure out the complex systems and problems we are dealing with."
I agree both specifically to the point regarding revolutionary thinkers coming from outside the mainstream as well as for the general philosophy of accepting the paradox of opposing ends of spectrums in order to gain comprehension.
My qualification to Von's comment is that the isolation he cites here is of an intermediate variety; Newton was a social misfit but was still connected to the formal academic world. Freud and Einstein, contemporaries, were initially marginalized in their fields prior to their respective breakthroughs due to their dissatisfaction with prevailing orthodoxies ( Newtonian physics and physiologically based psychology) as well as their status as Jews in conservative, Catholic, Imperial Austria-Hungary. Brilliant outlier figures who well understood the premises of their fields and found them inadequate, rather than hermits or dilettantes.
If you live North of Chicago or have an interest in education, Dr. Von is being the good citizen and is running for his local school board. Aside from his past scientific work at Fermilab, Von's experience in innovative educational programs, such as Project Excite, which is supported in part by Northwestern University, is both extensive and impressive. He could use your support and feedback, if you are so inclined, here is his site.
The new grazr in the sidebar ( whichSean and Tomshould appreciate) was made possible by Critt, which I casually "liberated" to replace my old, deceased, version. I may throw in new sidebar grazrs as Critt appears to be a grazr machine and grazr is posting new ones by users kind of like youtube or slideshare does.
That Iran's illegal propaganda circus with captured British military personnel continues is an indication of the factional state of Iran's leadership. Returning to the same provocative well once again is a sign that Ahmadinejad's hardline Pasdaran faction behind the well-planned seizure have not garned the expected payoff that they most likely predicted would occur. So they are playing for time, hoping for a deus ex machina to whip the Iranian people into a nationalistic frenzy.
A second sign is the rather pathetic effort by the regime to employ a rent-a-riot "popular demonstration" against the British embassy. Aside from the laughably small number of "protestors"( probably Ansar Hezbollah or Basij goons), which indicates that the top clerics are keeping a very tight leash, as they could deploy thousands of paramilitary thugs in mufti, if they chose, there is a strong whiff of nostalgia here for the symbols of the 1979 Revolution. What appeal this political gesture will have to the vast number of Iranians too young to recall the seizure of the American embassy, I cannot say but to me it seems like something that would excite only the most partisan elements of Ahmadinejad's base.
Ahmadinejad is painting Teheran into an increasingly isolated corner. Hopefully, the Bush administration will tailor their moves to maximize and profit from Iran's diplomatic self-immolation rather than distract from it.
"Our business institutions over the past centuries have focused on scaling push programs. Toyota and other pioneers of lean manufacturing “pull” systems have more recently begun to pursue limited pull approaches among a limited number of business partners. The next wave of innovation will focus on the development and deployment of pull platforms across a very large number of institutions. These pull platforms will not only transform business institutions, but other forms of institutions as well.
Traditional educational institutions represent classic examples of push programs. We project far in advance what students should learn and then develop curricula and programs to push that knowledge at the appropriate time. Just like the push programs in business, that model is now coming apart at the seams."