Thursday, August 30, 2007

Great piece by Colonel Kilcullen at SWJ Blog on the "flipping" of Anbar province by the tribal revolt against AQI:

"The implications of the tribal revolt have been somewhat overlooked by the news media and in the public debate in Coalition capitals. In fact, the uprising represents very significant political progress toward reconciliation at the grass-roots level, and major security progress in marginalizing extremists and reducing civilian deaths. It also does much to redress the lack of coalition forces that has hampered previous counterinsurgency approaches, by throwing tens of thousands of local allies into the balance, on our side. For these reasons, the tribal revolt is arguably the most significant change in the Iraqi operating environment for several years. But because it occurred in ways that were neither expected nor accounted for in our “benchmarks” (which were formulated before the uprising began to really develop, and which tend to focus on national legislative developments at the central government and political party level rather than grass-roots changes in the quality of life of ordinary Iraqis) the significance of this development has been overlooked to some extent."

We should run with the grassroots and try to get tolerably effective Iraqi self-government at the local and provincial level and simply cut our losses with the central government. Let it fade into irrelevance as most Iraqis already ignore its edicts anyway.

The opportunity of the democratic elections were blown when the Iraqi power brokers (few of whom could be considered democrats in any meaningful sense and see a truly democratic system as inimical in principle to their own in-group leadership) were permitted to drag out negotiations over forming a government until legitimacy and popular interest generated by the elections eroded. We should have instead, followed the example of the noteworthy "Small Wars" fighter, General Leonard Wood.

The general, who was running occupied Cuba as the military governor in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish-American War, faced a similar situation with the intransigence of wealthy, landed, Cuban elites who filled the legislature who were attempting to outwait Wood by creating a political deadlock until the Americans went home. General Wood, who understood the game being played and the free-for-all that would ensue if American troops left Cuba without a functional government, simply locked the doors of the parliament and his armed soldiers refused to permit anyone to leave until the legislators finished their business and also ratified the unpopular Platt amendment.

The latter effectively made Cuba a protectorate of the United States in name as well as fact but from a realist perspective, it also quashed the possibility of civil war, boosted Cuba's economy and guaranteed a functioning civil government in Havanna for two and a half decades, even if it required a new military intervention. Iraq is not nearly so well off.



Glittering Eye

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Global Guerillas

Iraq the Model

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I've been going full-tilt since last weekend and now that I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel, the system just crashed on my PC a half hour ago. Hopefully, I'll get it up and running soon as I find laptop blogging to be a pain.
Apologies to all who have sent me email, I will try to get to it later tonight or tomorrow

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lexington Green sent me this impressive essay on 300 in the Michigan War Studies Review. If you liked the movie, give it a look.

Insanely busy these past few days.....

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fast and dirty....

Dan of tdaxp - "The Diplomatic Surge We Need"

Cognitive Daily - "Why are visual memories so vivid when visual memory is so limited?"

BusinessPundit -" Clustered Social Networks Lead to Company Innovation"

Coming Anarchy -"The Human Footprint on Earth"

Opposed System Design - "More Gibson Reading" and "Strategy is Hard, Process is Easy"

That's it!


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Justly praising The Small Wars Journal, Kent's Imperative raises an idea up the flagpole. Who will salute ? "Micheal Tanji...Tanji....Anyone....Anyone ?"

I'll kick in something of journal quality, outsider's perspective of course, if that will help fill space. I strongly suggest, however, inviting some ex-DCI's for the launch issue. Also, Baer, Scheuer, Bearden.... Christopher Andrew or another " popular" historian of intelligence for name rec, street and academic cred ( umm..maybe Tanji and Scheuer shouldn't be in the same issue). Mix people on the MSM radar with unknown but great IC insiders.

If you ask 100 and get 10, you're viable.

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Lt. Colonel John Nagl, author of Learning to Eat Soup With A Knife and and the new Counterinsurgency Field Manual, had a very effective performance on a segment of The Daily Show. Colonel Nagl carried the whole effort off quite deftly.

John Stewart's show reaches an enormous segment of the American population that only tangentially consumes news media information, More than likely, the viewers were hearing things from Nagl about warfare and Iraq for the first time that have been discussed on blogs and at The SWC for years but have been below the media radar. Certainly, host John Stewart seemed engaged in the topic and impressed.

Hat tip to Dave Dilegge of the The Small Wars Journal.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eric Martin who blogs at TIA and American Footprints has a guest-post at The Newshoggers entitled "Guest Post - Who's Killing The Clerics Of Najaf? ". An excerpt:

"The situation in Najaf for Iraq's premier Grand Ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani,
has been growing rather precarious as of late:

Four aides to Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have been killed in Al-Najaf over the past two months, raising many questions as to the safety of Iraq's supreme Shi'ite leader and the motives of the perpetrators of the attacks.

According to media reports, aides to Iraq's three other grand ayatollahs have also been threatened. "The assassination operations are organized and big resources are allocated [to carry them out], which makes it difficult to accuse any local side of being behind" the attacks, the assistant director of the office of Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, Muwaffaq Ali, told the London-based "Al-Hayat" this week.

This is a story that I have been attempting to track over at my other blogospheric venues, but it is an opaque tale of shifting political intrigue that defies easy analysis. For example, it is still unclear which party (or parties) has been behind this series of assassinations, and to what purpose (or purposes). The first two or three killings were thought to be the work of Moqtada al-Sadr's forces - which is completely plausible in at least one of those cases (especially given the history between Sadr's forces and the target in the third killing). But this is speculation, and by no means a given. Such uncertainty is quite remarkable given the stakes involved (and the fact that, generally speaking, parties seeking to send a message in such a manner want the targeted group to know who the sender was). "

Read the whole thing.

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A while back, while sitting around an alcohol -laden table with Dan of tdaxp, Shlok and Isaac and listening to an evolving debate (primarily between Dan and Isaac) over the probable nature of AI, references to William Gibson's first novel, Neuromancer were made. I then chimed in that I had never read the book - a statement that was greeted with surprise and some degree of mock horror. This had happened to me once before with Dave Schuler and Lexington Green, except that in that instance the author was Philip K. Dick and the book then was The Man in the High Castle. Evidently, something about having drinks with fellow bloggers is a spur to my reading classic science fiction.

Admittedly, I am not a great reader of fiction, at least if " great" means " broadly read". As a youth, I did dive deeply into J.R.R. Tolkien, Ayn Rand and George Orwell - I've probably read every word ever published by the first two authors and much by the third. Russian lit figures prominently, especially Dostoyevskii and Solzhenitsyn. Of American writers, I've read a scattering of Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck and a few others, but none systematically or deeply.

I've meant to read Quo Vadis, Don Quixote and Blood Meridian for years and have yet to do so. I have only a few works of Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Koestler, Balzac and Victor Hugo under my belt. The reason being that for me, the siren call of non-fiction is all too strong. There are too many important books that " must" be read ASAP, piled on top of others that " should" be read; picking up good fiction under those conditions almost feels like shirking a responsibility.

I say this as a preface to acknowledging how much I enjoyed reading Neuromancer. While the book is old hat to sci-fi fans, it came as a fresh voice to me, mixed with an unfolding appreciation of how Gibson's fictional efforts have influenced or anticipated the evolution of the culture. Movies, TV shows, references, characters all flashed through my mind as I read it and Gibson's economy of explanation allowed my mind the freedom to engage the text and fill in the blanks. Reticence is a vital skill that few authors ever manage to master but Gibson has it. I'm sorry that I didn't read the book back in the early 1980's when the novelty of the book's imaginative scenario were at peak.

Isaac has pointed me toward Pattern Recognition and I now have an itch for Spook Country as well. If you have read Gibson's books, what do you think of them and what titles do you favor ?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Here's the news story.

The SWJ Blog links to the IG Report executive summary. (PDF)

Here are a few reactions ( originally, I planned a wide spectrum of blogospheric opinion but found too much of it to be simpleminded, partisan, blather, so I stuck with the available informed commentary):

Haft of the Spear:

"They are basically saying that not only were parts of the system broken, anyone with half a wit should have been able to see that and take action (or at least raise an alarm). That no one bothered says that either leadership was not all it was cracked up to be, or that the way the system treats squeaky wheels is such that no one - witless or not - thought raising a stink was worth the risk. Stupidity and fear, fortunately, are not excuses."

Sic Semper Tyrannis:

" The CIA like the DIA failed miserably to penetrate the apparatus of the takfiri jihadi networks. Such penetrations would have enabled the US to anticipate coming jihadi actions.
Once again it will be said that penetrating these groups is "too hard to do." Rubbish. I know better. Why were these groups not penetrated?

Timidity. Fear of Risks, Bureaucratic inertia. Poor leadership at the top in all the significant organizations. Has anything changed? I doubt it. If it had, bin Laden would be dead by now."

When a system is fundamentally broken you do not need to simply look for loose bolts or missing parts or even a new mechanic ( though firing an old one might be a useful message to send to their replacement) - what you do is find some engineers and a drawing board.

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Beltway based Pundita observes:

"The US is fighting a war in a region where we've been very hostile to two countries bordering the war zone. Pundita is of the mind that the top priority is to win the war, and for that we need all the help we can get.

Right now Syria's government is overwhelmed with looking after refugees from Iraq. So I would try offering Syria considerable help in exchange for vigilance with foreign travelers.

When it comes to asking Iran and Syria for help with Iraq, I see too much halfhearted trying from the US, then waving of hands and saying, 'See, they won't deal.' Try harder

I agree. Iran and Syria are nasty regimes whose actions we must often oppose but where they are willing to cut some fair deals we should get down to business. Freezing Castro in the diplomatic equivalent of absolute zero has only served to help preserve his Communist- caudillo regime until the dictator's old age while irritating most of our allies and trading partners. Do we really want a 92 year old Bashar Assad still in power someday ?

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Monday, August 20, 2007

An interesting confluence of information has crossed my computer screen in the last 24 hours.

Fabius Maximus was kind enough to send me a PDF, "Cognitive biases potentially affecting judgment of global risks" by Eliezer Yudkowsky, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. It's a very interesting paper on analytical thinking - or s even though a number of the points made by Yudkowsky I have seen previously made elsewhere ( the blogosphere revels in hyperactive disconfirmation biases). Their central cognitive philosophy - "....the one whom you must watch above all is yourself", is spot on.

Secondly, over at Kent's Imperative, one of the Kentians, let's call them "Most Formal Prose Kent" had a highly congruent post to the Yudkowsky paper, "The sins of analytic methodologists ":

"There is an increasingly common conceit that reliance on the analyst - subject to, cognitive bias, information overload, and human fallibility – can be engineered out of the process of doing intelligence. Instead, certain methodologists would substitute organizational structures, workflow re-organization, and the introduction of supposedly superior quantitative metrics in order to create a new standard for “answers”. The underlying thrust of these efforts is to reform intelligence activities towards a more “repeatable” process, often described by industrial or scientific metaphors such “foundry” or “lab”. These typically originate from the engineering and technical intelligence disciplines, and are usually directed as criticism of typical all source efforts – particularly those grounded in social science fields or qualitative methodology.

...The fundamental flaw in many of these methodologists' efforts is that they are essentially reductionist attempts to force the difficult and oft-times messy art of intelligence entirely into the narrow box of its scientific side. While there is a place for scientific approaches, particularly in the grounding and validation of assessment, the inherently creative, non-linear, and even non-rational elements of the profession can never be completely discarded. Most recent intelligence failures have occurred, not due to a lack of precision in judgment, but from a lack of imagination in identifying, describing, and forecasting the uncertain dynamics and emerging complexities of fast-changing accounts."

Sagely described.

Clear thinking is difficult. Few of us begin by checking our premises or, sadly, our facts. Even in the domain of the concrete and verifiable factual information, so much rides on our implicit opinion of what exactly, in terms of data points, constitutes a " fact" that we are usually off-base before we begin. Even if we are cognizant of these variables from the inception of forming a question, we might be horrified to discover, with some dogged investigation of the finer details, how fuzzy at the margins that even our peer-reviewed, "valid and reliable", facts can be - much less the breezy assertions delivered by the MSM.

Then, more to the point of the KI post, there is the hasty selection of particular, reductionist analytical tools that a priori blind us to the nature of the emergent unknown that we are trying to understand. We become prisoners of our chosen perspective. One problem with human perception is that there is no guarantee, having recognized the existence of a novel dynamic phenomena, that our perception represents the most significant aspect of it. Much like conceptualizing an Elephant in motion from blind contact with it's eyelashes. Or it's feces.

Human nature is a perpetual rush to judgment. We must rise above that.

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Via Politics In The Zeros (Hat tip), I learn that netwar theorists Dr. John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt have revisited their 1999 essay "The Promise of Noopolitik" with an updated postrscript. An excerpt:

"As America’s soft power rises and falls, so do the prospects for noöpolitik. And right now, America’s soft power is unusually questionable. America has long stood for vital ideals — freedom, equality, opportunity. America has also stood for ethical ways of doing things: competing openly and fairly, working in concert with partners, seeking the common good, respecting others’ rights, and resorting to war only after exhausting non–military options. By doing so, America built its legitimacy and credibility as a global power in the twentieth century. But lately, due to assorted sorry matters this decade (some but not all involving the war in Iraq), leaders and publics around the world have become increasingly doubtful that America is deeply dedicated to the ideals and practices it professes. U.S. public diplomacy is on the defensive more than ever before. Oddly, China is said to be more effective at soft–power appeals and techniques "

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Top Billing! Bruce Kesler at Democracy Project - "Congress: Lawfare Vs. Warfare "

Jason at Armchair Generalist - "William Gibson's Spook Country" and "Casual Fridays review of John Robb's Brave New War.

Dr. Sam Crane at The Useless Tree - "Childhood"

CKR at Whirledview -"The Bloggers Develop US Nuclear Policy" (More on this later....)

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett - "Email: exception on Iran" and "More Iran email"

Max Boot at Contentions - "Giuliani vs. Edwards"

Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen - "Interconnectedness and "becoming the Buddha"

SWJ Blog - "Strategist Behind War Gains"

Studies in Intelligence - "The Intelligence Community's Neglect of Strategic Intelligence "

Der Spiegel - "Hope and Despair in Divided Iraq" ( Hat tip to CavGuy at The SWC)

PARAMETERS - “Iran and the United States: The Emerging Security Paradigm in the Middle East” (PDF) by Gawdat Bahgat and "Epochal Change: War Over Social and Political Organization " by Dr. Robert J. Bunker

The Jamestown Foundation - "The Father of the Taliban: An Interview with Maulana Sami ul-Haq"

SEED - "Rise of RoboEthics: Grappling with the implications of an artificially intelligent culture"

ScienceDaily -"Cognitive Revolution: Integrating Computing, Nanotech, Simulation And You"
That's it !


Saturday, August 18, 2007

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I have been inundated with a series of small tasks. None of them are particularly large or weighty but the combination is most excellent for creating a sensation of constant interruption in which nothing seems to get accomplished. I'm going to try to get some chores out of the way today and clear my head, in order to do some quality blogging.

I have a number of book reviews on my agenda, some foreign policy commentary on which to bloviate as well as a few more esoteric items. Hopefully, coming soon. :o)

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Friday, August 17, 2007

A set of papers from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy entitled "Deterring the Ayatollahs: Complications in Applying Cold War Strategy to Iran".

Hat tip to Jedburgh of The Small Wars Council.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

When Robert Gates, the current Secretary of Defense, retired from government service after the end of the first Bush administration, he wrote a memoir , From the Shadows, in which he described the no-nonsense, George Schultz as " the toughest Secretary of State I ever knew" who " saw no contradiction" in bleeding the Soviets in one part of the world while negotiating with them in another. Secretary Schultz, whose opinion of the CIA on a 1 to 10 scale hovered in the negative integers, was not nearly as complimentary to Robert Gates in his own, ponderously unreadable, memoirs, but that is a story for another day.

I bring this anecdote of a less complex era up because of the furor over the Bush administration classifying the Pasdaran ( the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) as a terrorist organization in order to take action against those business enterprises that are connected to the Pasdaran. The objections to this move appear to be two-fold: first, that it hypothetically puts American military personnel at risk of maltreatment and, secondly, that it could disrupt negotiations with Iran on a range of bilateral and international issues, most importantly, Iraq.

The critics are incorrect. It is a move a quarter-century overdue.

In the first instance, correctly identifying the Pasdaran as a state sponsor of international terrorism, which as a matter of historical record, it clearly is, does not prevent treating it's uniformed personnel as POWs in case of an armed conflict between Iran and the United States. The Pasdaran, by contrast, has already tortured two Americans to death - Beirut CIA station chief William Buckley and USMC Colonel William Higgins - at a time of peace between Iran and the United States.

Cry me no river of tears for Pasdaran agents in Iraq being held captive by the U.S. military or who are being whacked in some alleyway by Sunni tribals in our employ. The Iranians knew the risks, from the inception, of the rules they chose to operate under, violating the most basic precepts of international law. It did not have to be that way - even the CIA and the KGB came to a rough modus vivendi during the Cold War that prevented most escalatory incidents - Teheran though has chosen to play rough. Let them enjoy the bed they have made for themselves.

Secondly, until we have an agreement with Iran we do not have any agreement and the regime should be squeezed at every point until we do. I'm all for negotiating in earnest, making the realistic, even generous, concessions that we can easily afford, finding areas of common interest and ( eventually) normalizing relations. We should scrupulously keep our word and demonstrate to the Iranians through actions that we will deliver exactly what we promise. But until that point in time, Teheran should get no favors, no breathing space, no economic freebies of any kind until we come to an arrangement.

The leadership of Iran is a nasty and brutal group. Within that circle, Ahmadinejad represents some of the regime's worst elements but, as a whole, the Iranians do not seem irrational, simply adversarial. We can cut a deal with them but we should proceed without any illusions.


Thomas P.M. Barnett

The Newshoggers

Counterterrorism Blog

The Glittering Eye


Right Wing Nuthouse

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The office of Comptroller-General of the United States , who heads the GAO and serves for a 15 year term, is hardly a political powerhouse inside the beltway and, generally, these appointees labor in bureaucratic obscurity. The current Comptroller-General, David M. Walker, a Clinton-appointee, has been making the rounds giving speeches calling for both transformation of archaic governmental practices and a return to fiscal conservatism in national policy, yet with more optimism than is typical for traditional "green eyeshade" worldviews.

Worth a read ( Hat tip to Fabius Maximus).

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I generally eschew writing about pure partisan politics. Mainly this is because that subject was something that interested me deeply in my teens and early twenties, a time before the last drop of spontaneity and authenticity had been wrung out out of American politics. Today, any well informed person can script the talking points that will come over the TV on the Sunday morning talking head shows, so sterile and homogenized, yet polarized, has public discourse become.

Nevertheless, I found James Carville's FT.com piece on Karl Rove interesting. The number of living folks who have run a presidential campaign would not fill even a small room but it is a room that would contain both Karl Rove and James Carville. Carville is spinning hard but prior to driving home his selected memes, he does offer up a tribute of sorts to one of the few men who counts as a peer of James Carville:

"Nationally he has pulled off some of the most unexpected and impressive victories of modern political history. (I will not be debating the 2000 election for the purposes of this article, but I also will not be crediting him with it, so let us just move on to the next cycle.)

Mr Rove picked up seats in what was an almost historically impossible context in 2002. Then in 2004, he engineered one of the most remarkable feats in American politics. He got Americans to re-elect a president who they really did not want to re-elect. Even the Republican defeat in 2006 was predictable and well within the range of historical norms so, by this sport’s standard of winning and losing, there is still no black mark on Rove’s record.

If we concluded our analysis in 2007 and confined our judgment merely to Mr Rove’s immediate electoral record, we would have no choice but to judge him a spectacular success. There is no doubt that Mr Rove won elections. He has perhaps one of the most remarkable win-percentages in modern American politics."

I've never been in awe of Karl Rove who took on a mythic (if demonic) and quasi -lightning rod quality in the Left blogosphere and was an understated presence on the Right ( perhaps because he had occasional meetings with top ranking conservative bloggers who were therefore loathe to annoy him). His sense of history always struck me as badly strained and Rove's ability as a political image-maker and message strategist paled next to that of Reagan consultants like Roger Ailes, Lyn Nofziger, Michael Deaver, Ed Rollins and David Gergen.

But the man knows how to win elections.

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New article in The City Journal by John Robb.

John is in the important post-publication stage of proselytizing his work and worldview which he introduces well to City Journal readers. As someone more familiar with Global Guerillas, I especially liked John's neat summative explanation of networks, tight coupling and cascading effects in a social-political-economic-infrastructural complex system.

Network theory is one of the key concepts for the intelligent public to understand for the 21st century.

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"Super-empowered individuals are practitioners. Fifth Generation Warfare is a doctrine

....It makes sense that Super-Empowered Angry Men are most likely to choose the most violent and destructive doctrine within their means. I do not think the essential nature of Fifth Generation Warfare with its long-term planning horizon fits that description. For super-empowered individuals with a strategic mindset, 5GW may be an attractive doctrine and super-empowered individuals may prove to be 5GWs most effective practitioners."

Nice distinction and clear thinking by Arherring at Dreaming 5GW, where the conversation continues in successive posts.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

"It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."

- John F. Kennedy, President of the United States

"Acquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so. And if I seek to acquire these weapons, I am carrying out a duty. It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims."

-Osama bin Laden, "amir" of al Qaida

Both the Soviet Union and the United States amassed immense nuclear arsenals during the Cold War of approximately 50,000 warheads of various sizes and a range of systems with which to deliver these terrifying weapons. A number of other second and third tier states later joined "the nuclear club", seeking a hedge against regional enemies or desiring the totemic status in international relations brought by possession of nuclear arms.

None of these states, not even Israel which is reputed to have up to 200 nuclear bombs, ever developed a nuclear weapons capability that remotely matched that of the superpowers. A number of nuclear-capable states have either eschewed building nuclear weapons (Germany, Japan, Taiwan) or have been persuaded to disarm those that they had inherited or assembled ( Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and South Africa).

So lopsided are the throw-weight ratios between countries with small yield or primitive atomic weapons and the stockpiles retained by the U.S. and Russia that most of the nuclear club have arsenals that are useful only for deterring a military attack from their immediate non-nuclear neighbors or a nuclear peer. Pakistan's nuclear status was of no help in warding off American demands after 9/11; had Islamabad attempted to brandish, much less use, nuclear weapons in defense of their Taliban clients, it would have surely invited Pakistan's immediate destruction.

Cheryl Rofer of Whirledview, had a post "The Necessity of the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent: A White Paper" that analyzed a recent quasi-official document “White Paper on the Necessity of the U. S. Nuclear Deterrent” authored by a cluster of national security VIPs, including several past CIA directors and current advisers to the US Strategic Command. The paper summarizes many obvious points about American nuclear deterrence and calls for a " debate". Cheryl found the paper to be lacking:

"No real threat assessment is offered, just vaguely threatening words about Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. For a group of folks trying to move out of the Cold War mindset, that’s an interesting ordering of countries.

....Is the white paper saying that US nuclear policy is only about deterrence? Nothing about the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its obligations? Nothing about the uselessness of deterrence against mobile subnational groups with no territory to defend? The only thing that is important to our allies is US security assurances, backed up by the threat of nuclear warfare?

....This white paper is stuck in the the Cold War, circa 1969. "

I think the white paper authors are correct that the perceived credibility of American nuclear guarantees dampen down potential nuclear arms races among third parties, notably in Northern Asia. Cheryl however, is correct on the larger point that the analytical assumptions of the paper are shot through with Cold War legacy mentalities.

Arguably, the white paper does not even match the Cold War era in terms of nuanced thinking. In 1958, in Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, Henry Kissinger wrote:

"It is the task of strategic doctrine to strike a balance between the physical and the psychological aspects of deterrence, between the desire to pose a maximum threat and the reality that no threat is stronger than the belief of the opponent that it will in fact be used. A strategy which poses alternatives that policy-makers are unwilling to confront will induce either inaction or improvisation. A strategy which establishes a superior balance between power and will may then gain a crucial advantage, because it permits initiative and shifts to the other side the risks inherent in making countermoves" (Kissinger, 175)

CKR aptly pointed out the obvious alternative of non-state and subnational actors with nuclear weapons that the white paper's authors were " unwilling to confront" in their state-centric focus.
Here are a few others that would relate to the state of American deterrence, enhancing or undermining it:

* Potential, novel, weaponization of of aspects of nuclear particle research outside classic uranium 235 and plutonium bombs.

* The need for more effective controls and tracking of trade in esoteric, dual-use, technologies of weaponization that make nuclear devices useful militarily. Increasing transparency level of same.

*Identifying non-nuclear technologies that could result in weapons of a comparable order of magnitude of destruction or loss of life as with low-level nuclear weapons.

* Strengthening and expanding the inspections regime under which NPT signatories are permitted access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Addition of automatic penalties if NPT signatories are caught cheating, subject to removal or waiver by the UNSC ( putting the burden on the accused proliferator to come clean instead of on the IAEA or UNSC states to get any meaningful sanctions applied).

* De-escalating the potential for future conflict between nuclear and nuclear capable states by instituting new regional diplomatic and security structures.

* International nuclear convention regarding the security of nuclear materials and command and control by the nuclear weapons states.

* Moral-political-legal campaigns that degrade the credibility of American deterrence by ratcheting upward the "unthinkability" of nuclear weapons use, thus tempting potential adversaries to risk the very brinksmanship scenarios ( war, apocalyptic terrorism) that would make the use of nuclear weapons possible or likely.

* Avoiding "nuclear weapons deflation" as an unintended consequence of arms control. Striking a balance between reducing large American and Russian arsenals and unduly increasing the military value of small ones and the temptation to increase them in order to reach "parity" with America and Russia ( "linkage" for all nuclear club arsenals). Or worse, the temptation to sell or use them.

* Removal of strategic nuclear materials from the global black market by vastly accelerating certified destruction or reprocessing of obsolete national stocks.

* Developing new models of deterrence that would be concurrently perceived as credible by states, non-state actors and subnational/ transnational networks who may all be within an interdependent nexus of responsibility for a catastrophic WMD attack.

* Identifying and categorizing non-state network threats to American security with potential WMD capacity.

* Understanding the parameters of the possible in terms of private networks and WMD capabilities, through intellectually honest red team exercises.

* Examining the balance of utility between emphasizing clarity and uncertainty in American nuclear response and deterrence policy in a multi-polar and non-state actor era.

Many of my variables are not new but they are of at least more recent vintage and of a broader horizon than what the white paper has considered. I'm interested in hearing your thoughts as well.

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Going to open with the center-Left today and close with the center-Right.

Top Billing!: CKR at Whirledview -"The Necessity of the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent: A White Paper"

This post, which grew out of a discussion with Cernig at The Newshoggers, is important because Cheryl Rofer brings professional experience in nuclear arms issues to the table. She also identifies serious weaknesses in the analytical approach used by the authors of the white paper. I will have further commentary about the state of American nuclear deterrence in a later post.

Cernig at The Newshoggers - "What's the U.S. Nuclear Policy? "

Here Cernig responds to CKR's post and moves into the realm of specific proliferation and nuclear security problem states like Pakistan.

Dr. Daniel Nexon at Duck of Minerva - "Concert of Democracies: the liberal internationalist case"

Dr. Nexon critiques both Ivo Daalder's and Robert Kagan's "Concert of Democracies" opinion-editorial and the bitter Left-blogospheric reaction it incurred, by laying out a liberal case for a democratic club ( note to self: I should critique this as well).

The fact that this case has to be laid out at all - and probably is regarded as counterintuitive by Leftist bloggers, if not openly scorned - demonstrates how far the American left has wandered away from the values of traditional American liberalism as expounded by people like Adlai Stevenson or Franklin Roosevelt ( how would the left blogosphere have greeted the Atlantic Charter ?).

Matt at MountainRunner - "Two surveys on robots and war"

Matt following up on his prior research post on robotics and warfare.

Dave Dilegge at SWJ Blog - "Words of Wisdom - Let the Warfighters Focus on the Real Issues"

An officer in Iraq weighs in on the antics of the media, the blogosphere and one Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp.

Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse - "IS THIS HEAVEN? NO. IT’S IOWA"

I have not followed the GOP race with much attention to detail but Rick has and he knows his inside baseball. Laboring under an incumbent president of their own party, far from election day, makes it difficult for the Republican candidates to get the same media splash as their Democratic counterparts. Or money, for that matter.

Colonel Austin Bay - "Quick US Exit From Iraq: Seven Scenarios"

A staccato burst of Iraqi end games from a journalist/novelist/soldiering blogfriend.

That's it!


Friday, August 10, 2007

Dave Schuler has a superb examination about Governor Bill Richardson's major foreign policy essay in the Harvard International Review.

I can applaud the serious effort by Richardson, a former high level diplomat, to address foreign policy in a thoughtful way, even though I agree with Dave that many of Richardson's proposed solutions do not logically address the strategic trends he identifies ( thought they probably appeal to regular, middle-class, Democratic activists if not the wackiest of the wingnuts).

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

I think Dave Davison spends his time combing Slideshare for their conceptually-rich top 1 % the way most of us surf through youtube

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Steve DeAngelis of ERMB has journeyed to the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq a second time on Enterra business. He's had several posts reflecting on his experiences working in " the other Iraq" or about the Mideast in general.

Probing the Edges of Globalization

Lessons from the Edge of Globalization: Part 2, Day 1

Labor Reform in the Middle East ( Dubai focus)

Islamic Finance

Kurdistan's clan-based rulers and Peshmerga leaders have been exceptionally deft players in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, managing to have excellent relations with the United States, Iran and ( allegedly on the quiet) Israel. Quite a neat trifecta. Only Turkey remains a serious problem, deeply fearful of Kurdish revanchism, PKK terrorism and having assumed the role of protector of the Turcoman minority in Iraq ( ironically, reprising the posture that imperial Russia once assumed toward Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire that the Sublime Porte found so offensive).

To be a state or not to be a state, a choice the Kurds must make. One of the few things most countries can agree on is that international borders are no longer up for grabs via the use of force - Europe's peace was built on the permanence of German borders and the Europeans are not going to reopen that topic, even in principle. The road to sovereignty, independence and NATO membership for Kurdistan runs only through Ankara but it requires strategic choices not seen in Mesopotamia since 1919.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Blogfriend Matt at MountainRunner is concerned about the military use of robots and the perception such use in warfare may possibly create. He also is taking a survey which I hope that you can give him a hand with by taking a few moments to fill out.

And...as a reward for your presumptive online altruism:

" The Terminator vs. Robocop "

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dr. Barnett, opining yesterday on the recent NYT op-ed on Kennan:

"The dearth of strategic thinking reaches a new low, or maybe this is just a Kennan scholar pre-hawking his new book.

Now we get the out-of-time argument that containment is the answer on radical Islam.

It's not much of an argument, but rather a decent rehashing of Kennan's thinking on the Sovs. The problem here, of course, is that al-Qaida doesn't translate well to an authoritarian empire already in existence.

Another problem, which I flayed at length in PNM, is that global historical forces are moving in a direction very different from that of the late 1940s and early 1950s. We're not in some bilat standoff of camps with little dynamic interchange between them. We're watching a consolidation period unfold following a massive expansion of globalization, one that's simultaneously accompanied by its further expansion thanks to the huge resource draw from rising Asia. "

We have a severe shortage of Kennans these days. While of course, there was only one Kennan writing the Long Telegram there were also the Stimsons, Marshalls, Achesons, Nitzes, Forrestals, Vandenbergs, Lovetts, Dulles', McCloys, Wohlstetters, Kahns and many others who came before and after Kennan who made their own contributions to the development of the Containment strategy. Our diplomatic and national security bench was deep in those days and often, these statesmen brought real experience in international finance, logistics and linguistics to the table ( Wohlstetter and Kahn were the cutting edge of the academic -strategist wave that replaced the Wall Street and Railroad company lawyer generation).

Today, we see most of our big picture and thinkers outside of government and often academia as well, writing books, giving speeches or building private sector companies. Tellingly, the most innovative policy of Bush's second term was developed not by a White House aide or a Cabinet secretary but by General David Petraeus - and his counterinsurgency strategy for Iraq was only accepted by the powers that be out of political and military desperation. The Democrats are no better, having had essentially no new policy ideas in almost two generations and a deep desire to ignore the existence of foreign policy altogether.

In part, this is a generational problem. Not only are the Boomers an amazingly self-centered lot, endlessly obsessing on ( and trying to re-live) the political traumas of their now distant youth, but the statesmen among them cut their teeth on the Cold War, bipolar, pre-Globalization, rigidly hierarchical world and are, for the most part, unwilling to revisit their anachronistic assumptions. There are exceptions but these people are usually outliers in some way, personally or professionally.

We may need to construct our defenses for the 21st century by retooling civil society to become more resilient, adaptive and dynamic - for the short term, our governing class may be a lost cause.

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Who ruled the Middle-East? 5000 years in 90 Seconds:

Hat tip to Prometheus6

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Monday, August 06, 2007
AUGUST 6, 1945

"It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth"

"Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than 2,000 times the blast power of the British "Grand Slam," which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid manyfold. And the end is not yet. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form these bombs are now in production, and even more powerful forms are in development.

It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

Before 1939, it was the accepted belief of scientists that it was theoretically possible to release atomic energy. But no one knew any practical method of doing it. By 1942, however, we knew that the Germans were working feverishly to find a way to add atomic energy to the other engines of war with which they hoped to enslave the world. But they failed. We may be grateful to Providence that the Germans got the V-1's and V-2's late and in limited quantities and even more grateful that they did not get the atomic bomb at all.

The battle of the laboratories held fateful risks for us as well as the battles of the air, land, and sea, and we have now won the battle of the laboratories as we have won the other battles

Beginning in 1940, before Pearl Harbor, scientific knowledge useful in war was pooled between the United States and Great Britain, and many priceless helps to our victories have come from that arrangement. Under that general policy the research on the atomic bomb was begun. With American and British scientists working together we entered the race of discovery against the Germans

The United States had available the large number of scientists of distinction in the many needed areas of knowledge. It had the tremendous industrial and financial resources necessary for the project, and they could be devoted to it without undue impairment of other vital war work. In the United States the laboratory work and the production plants, on which a substantial start had already been made, would be out of reach of enemy bombing, while at that time Britain was exposed to constant air attack and was still threatened with the possibility of invasion. For these reasons Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt agreed that it was wise to carry on the project here

We now have two great plants and many lesser works devoted to the production of atomic power. Employment during peak construction numbered 125,000 and over 65,000 individuals are even now engaged in operating the plants. Many have worked there for two and a half years. Few know what they have been producing. They see great quantities of material going in and they see nothing coming out of these plants, for the physical size of the explosive charge is exceedingly small. We have spent $2 billion on the greatest scientific gamble in history--and won

But the greatest marvel is not the size of the enterprise, its secrecy, nor its cost, but the achievement of scientific brains in putting together infinitely complex pieces of knowledge held by many men in different fields of science into a workable plan. And hardly less marvelous has been the capacity of industry to design, and of labor to operate, the machines and methods to do things never done before so that the brainchild of many minds came forth in physical shape and performed as it was supposed to do. Both science and industry worked under the direction of the United States Army, which achieved a unique success in managing so diverse a problem in the advancement of knowledge in an amazingly short time. It is doubtful if such another combination could be got together in the world. What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history. It was done under high pressure and without failure

We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan's power to make war

It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam.* Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware.

The secretary of war, who has kept in personal touch with all phases of the project, will immediately make public a statement giving further details

His statement will give facts concerning the sites at Oak Ridge near Knoxville, Tennessee, and at Richland near Pasco, Washington, and an installation near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although the workers at the sites have been making materials to be used in producing the greatest destructive force in history, they have not themselves been in danger beyond that of many other occupations, for the utmost care has been taken of their safety

The fact that we can release atomic energy ushers in a new era in man's understanding of nature's forces. Atomic energy may in the future supplement the power that now comes from coal, oil, and falling water, but at present it cannot be produced on a basis to compete with them commercially. Before that comes there must be a long period of intensive research

It has never been the habit of the scientists of this country or the policy of this government to withhold from the world scientific knowledge. Normally, therefore, everything about the work with atomic energy would be made public

But under present circumstances it is not intended to divulge the technical processes of production or all the military applications, pending further examination of possible methods of protecting us and the rest of the world from the danger of sudden destruction.

I shall recommend that the Congress of the United States consider promptly the establishment of an appropriate commission to control the production and use of atomic power within the United States. I shall give further consideration and make further recommendations to the Congress as to how atomic power can become a powerful and forceful influence towards the maintenance of world peace."

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States

Hiroshima Anniversary Links:

The Glittering Eye

Kiko's House

Wizards of Oz

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At some point it would be nice if the reality of how our government treats American veterans matched the rhetoric politicians like to employ about the value of their service.

Hat tip to eddie.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

My friend, Bruce Kesler was gracious enough to offer me a guest posting opportunity on the topic of 4GW at the well-respected group blog Democracy Project. Bruce's only proviso was that the piece should be aimed at the general reader and not the academic specialist or military professional and I have endeavored to comply.

With far more patience than I deserve, Bruce waited for me to finally get my post together and he has put it up this evening:

"4GW Primer"

Much thanks to Bruce Kesler for allowing me to expound on this topic for DP readers!

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First, a hearty congratulations to Curtis Gale Weeks for expanding his impressive stable of bloggers at Dreaming 5GW. In addition to himself, Arherring, Purpleslog and Dan of tdaxp we will now enjoy the writing of Shane Deichman and subadei. An excellent combination!

Frank Hoffman at SWJ Blog - " The Proverbial Contest"

Soob - " Barack's World"

The Strategist - " The White Man's Anger"

Colonel W. Patrick Lang - "O'Hanlon, Pollack and Bernard Fall"

AFJ Roundtable - "What's America's grand plan?"

That's it!


Friday, August 03, 2007

"Learning to Eat Soup With A Knife -Book Review" is now up at Chicago Boyz.

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From Dave Davison at Thoughts Illustrated:

"Here is a test presentation of a new slideshare feature I have been waiting for. Combine your slideshare presentations with an audio track and Voila! an audiographic presentation. Voice over PPT - Very effective for rehearsal or for cleaning up and redubbing a previous audio recording of your presentations. Also useful as soundbite creator for selected segments of a presentation. And, all nicely microformatted by Slideshare to support remixing. Could be a new style of podcasting."

Here is the slidecast that Dave was writing about, "Differentiation and Engagement" by Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen ( kudos on the blog name, Garr !):

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Der Spiegel recently had an interview with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ( hat tip to M. Gemmill). At 88, Solzhenitsyn has lost neither his mental acuity nor his uncompromising vision of Russia that made him the most feared of dissidents by Soviet leaders, until his expulsion from the USSR in 1974, four years after being awarded the Nobel Prize. Some excerpts of Solzhenitsyn's answers from the interview:

"The prize in 1990 was proposed not by Gorbachev, but by the Council of Ministers of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, then a part of the USSR. The prize was to be for "The Gulag Archipelago." I declined the proposal, since I could not accept an award for a book written in the blood of millions.

...I have grown used to the fact that, throughout the world, public repentance is the most unacceptable option for the modern politician.

....Vladimir Putin -- yes, he was an officer of the intelligence services, but he was not a KGB investigator, nor was he the head of a camp in the gulag. As for service in foreign intelligence, that is not a negative in any country -- sometimes it even draws praise.

....Only an extraordinary person can turn opportunity into reality. Lenin and Trotsky were exceptionally nimble and vigorous politicians who managed in a short period of time to use the weakness of Kerensky's government. But allow me to correct you: the "October Revolution" is a myth generated by the winners, the Bolsheviks, and swallowed whole by progressive circles in the West.

....However, when you say "there is nearly no opposition," you probably mean the democratic parties of the 1990s. But if you take an unbiased look at the situation: there was a rapid decline of living standards in the 1990s, which affected three quarters of Russian families, and all under the "democratic banner." Small wonder, then, that the population does not rally to this banner anymore. And now the leaders of these parties cannot even agree on how to share portfolios in an illusory shadow government."

Solzhenitsyn has never been a voice of liberalism or even Russian nationalism in the traditional pan-Slavic, imperial and chauvinistic sense the term is usually meant. Rather he has propagated Russophilism, even to the extent of using archaic Russian words without modern foreign antecedents, when possible, in his writings. Solzhenitsyn's emphasis on the unique cultural and spiritual traditions of old Russia is one that excludes other peoples - including those like Jews and Ukrainians- who have been deeply intertwined with or innately part of Russian history.

Part of Solzhenitsyn's thunderous moral denunciation of the monstrosities of the Soviet system were because of the ruin of the old Russian patrimony under the profoundly alien doctrines of Communism, a Western import. I would not be surprised if Solzhenitsyn traced the origin of Russia's sad history to Peter the Great as much as to Vladimir Lenin.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cheryl "CKR" Rofer of Whirledview dissects in great detail the Foreign Affairs articles by Senator Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. It was a yeoman effort on Cheryl's part to drill down that much detail in a blog post.

I'm curious to know the "how" of these articles - ghostwritten? Personally revised drafts written by junior staff? Written in conjunction with a key adviser or two ? Fundamentally their own views ? Knowing that would tell us as an awful lot about the candidate's real comfort zone with foreign policy issues.

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A New Power Is Rising

In the spirit of Russia's recent and entirely specious claim to the sea floor of the Arctic Ocean , I would like to formally announce my claim to the imperial crown of Greenland as well as subsidiary overlordship over Baffin Island. Once the grateful natives and polar wildlife acclaim my benevolent, absentee, rule of the Greenlandic Empire, I will get about the business of issuing postage stamps, selling foreign ship registries and writing a few, slightly shady, bank secrecy laws.

Sure, Denmark already has de jure sovereignty over Greenland and they still have some kind of quaint, Scandivanian, bicycle-riding, monarchy rattling around Copenhagen and, technically, my blog is not yet considered a sovereign power, but what the hell ? The rule book has been thrown out! I don't even think you need to be a nation-state anymore - call it a virtual, fourth generation, imperium. Plus, the chances of a punitive military expedition from Denmark reaching the Chicago area are relatively low. It's not even that great that they'd make it to Greenland.

On a more serious note, the Russian claim to the Arctic may be complete nonsense in legal terms but the strategic energy policy behind the outrageous territorial grab it is not. It makes good sense for Russia to attempt maximize it's future share of a tightening global oil and gas market as a way of boosting it's geopolitical and economic influence. Without making too much of it in terms of noise, Washington needs to firmly rebuff Russia's claim because any success will set off a scramble of imitators and splendid little wars across the globe between third and fourth tier powers. Or worse, larger powers like China with extensive but quiet claims of their own might begin to press them with greater vigor.

The world has enough headaches without re-starting the 19th century.

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Zenpundit - a NEWSMAGAZINE and JOURNAL of scholarly opinion.

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