TANJI INTERVIEWS ROBBMichael Tanji
, the IC veteran at Haft of the Spear
, interviewed John Robb
about his new book, Brave New War
over at Tanji's MSM gig, The SPOT Report
( have to add that to the blogroll...).
"Brave New War Interview (Part I)
"Brave New War Interview Part II
"Brave New War Interview (Part III of III)
The interview is excellent. Tanji gets beyond the usual superficial questions into the meat of Robb's analytical worldview. A sample:
" TANJI: In The Long Tale of Warfare Emerges you take an Occam's razor through the fundamentals about the size and capability of the insurgency. We can kill with precision and to any scale, but apparently cannot get the basic math right. Is dogma driving us to perform data-free analysis or are we just not preparing our strategists and planners to address complex or asymmetric problems?
ROBB: The problem may be whether or not we operate on best case data or worst case. If you always select the best case data in order to bolster the moral cohesion at home, then you are really lying to yourself -- essentially, breathing your own exhaust. Another reason may be that that our intelligence system can't handle the level of complexity involved within a closed environment (locked down by artificial barriers of secrecy). It's not tapping into the vast pools of talent outside the organization effectively.
TANJI: Let me ask you a question that I get asked a lot: Why no major attack in the US since 9/11? Is it a question of difficulty in setting off systemic cascading failures? If major attacks suffer from diminishing returns and small attacks ratchet up the "tax" on targeted cities, why haven't we seen IEDs on Wall St. or Main St.?
ROBB: Here are a couple of reasons. First is the diminishing returns of symbolic terrorism A big attack like 9/11 is hard to top. Anything less would hurt the al Qaeda brand and fail to return fear to anything near the levels of 9/11. Second, al Qaeda was severely damaged when we invaded Afghanistan. Those resources it had left were spent on staying alive and helping launch the operation in Iraq. Remember, a major reason for 9/11 was to get the US into a guerrilla war in Asia and repeat the experience of Russia's Afghanistan. In terms of systems disruptions, this method has only recently emerged from the experience in Iraq. Not everyone gets it yet, but the insight is spreading quickly in an organic fashion. You could conclude that the attack on Abqaiq and the Golden Mosque were examples of systems disruption (the latter being social systems disruption) that al Qaeda didn't have to project power to the US to accomplish. "
I found the section in BNW on Urban Takedowns problematic as well. I liked Robb's concept of a " terrorism tax" on targeted cities because that jives with a systematic understanding of applying market forces to societal analysis. I think, on the margin for certain important, narrow, questions, this idea works very well. OTOH, historically, all cities were essentially death traps that could only be sustained by a daily influx of migrants ( usually peasants fleeing rural poverty) that exceeded those dying from disease, violence, fire and malnutrition at a rate that vastly exceeded the toll taken by today's terrorism. Only in advanced states, with the creation of modern sanitation and water systems, public health, police and fire services has this dynamic changed for the better. Many cities in the Gap and a few in the New Core are still in this " feral" state. The point being that as a complex social and economic networks, cities may have greater resilience than we realize, which makes estimating terror effects problematic.
Labels: book, brave new war, haft of the spear, john robb, military, military reform, SPOT, tanji, theory, war, warriors