Sunday, September 30, 2007

William Lind had an interesting piece on the weaknesses inherent in decentralized, 4GW insurgencies ( hat tip John Robb). Which in turn, led me to ask myself a question:

How do we know the difference from a state military that has adapted sufficiently to fight 4GW-style warfare effectively from a state military that has moved into waging 5GW decisively ? Where is the demarcation point ?

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tom Barnett pointed out this tome to me in the comment section of his blog:

As I have not read a new economics book since Freakonomics came out, I'll grab this the next time I run over to Border's ( despite Col. Frans Osinga's Science, Strategy and War, sent courtesy of Shane, sitting there, staring me in the face, taunting me). Idoru needs to be finished too and...

So many books. So little time.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Recent additions to my blogroll, all worthy of attention, though having little in common, certainly not politically or topically, other than that fact.

Network Weaving ( Valdis Krebs' blog)

Permanent Innovation Blog


Wolf Pangloss

Social Edge

Presentation Zen

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Better late than never - yes ?

Top Billing! Edge Perspectives With John Hagel - "Convergence or Divergence?"

I think Hagel operates on the theory that your blog will always have fantastic posts if you only write ten or twelve of them per year.

Steve DeAngelis at ERMB - "Radical Collaboration" and "Complexity and Resilience"

Complexity and Radical Collaboration are two elements of operating at "the intersection", the creative verge of multiple domains. This is the field of play for the horizontal thinker! More on this topic very soon but read Steve's take first.

Haft of the Spear -"Words are Important" and "this is funny"

Tanji en fuego !!

Fabius Maximus - "Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq"

Part of a DNI series by FM on Iraq. Some of which is sensible and some of which will provoke the readership and cause gnashing of teeth - perhaps on both ends of the political spectrum.

Thoughts Illustrated - "What goes around, comes around! " and "Too many ripples in the pond? "

The first post by Dave is some tech history and the second deals with an important concept (ROA) for anyone considering issues of attention scarcity.

The Long Tail - "Social Networking is a feature, not a destination"

Thoughtful commentary on the cultural-technological evolution of social networking apps by Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail.

The Small Wars Journal Volume 9 (PDF)

'Nuff said.

That's it !



As Dan of tdaxp would say,"Woot!".

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As you are no doubt aware, Buddhist monks have led the largest protests against Burma's military-socialist junta, which has misruled Burma in various guises for almost sixty years, since the student democracy movement was crushed in 1988. Given the track record of this exceptionally brutal regime, only intense international pressure from the US, the EU and especially, Burma's major economic trading partner and supplier of military equipment, China,prevent an epic massacre.

As my blogging time is sharply constricted at present, I can recommend others who have been following these developments:

Pundita: Burma: Oh ho! The aged emperor is isolated!, Hello, CNN, we're trying to prevent a massacre, Diamonds are a dictator's best friend; beware the white heads!

Duck of Minerva: Crackdown, Photos from Myanmar

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lightning has fried my internet connection and blogging and email can now only be performed from an "undisclosed location". Your patience is appreciated until we can return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Swedish Meatballs Confidential:

"If we are to take the idea and actions of the Long War seriously then we must immediately come to terms with the full spectrum of consequences of our nation engaged in COIN everywhere and always. For this, only IO against self can provide us the slightest of chances for persevering without being sundered from within by the trauma of old school losses coming back to gnaw at a Will reared on the decisive and temporally compartmentalized wins of the history books that have reared us. Otherwise we would do best in working for outlooks and solutions beyond the framework of the Long War. However, such choices are perhaps best left for consideration by more driven and invested minds.

So what do you say, Bernays - any hidden costs? Is this where democracy ends or perhaps where democracy only truly can begin?"

Matt at MountainRunner:

"The answer: Yes and no to both. In part, Smith-Mundt is a response to Bernays' activities thirty-five years earlier. During the massive restructuring of the United States to counter the emerging ideological threat coming from all angles (remember the National Security Act of 1947 was passed during the two years of debate on Smith-Mundt), Smith-Mundt was to protect democracy, not from itself but from the outside. Protection inside was mainly for the broadcasters, which Benton vigorously and successfully courted the broadcasters and continued to do so afterward its passage in a period of increasingly rapid (relatively) news cycles and accessibility.

The Swede is right, something significant needs to be done with Smith-Mundt, but attempts at an outright dismissal will be met by a swift and emotional counter-reaction. What is necessary is a conversation on the topic to understand its purpose and intent. "


A few days ago, I discussed H-Diplo (a Listserv) as weaker platform than a blog, despite the past richness as a community of interest ( some folks feel the time of H-Net is long over). Today, I featured an H-Diplo roundtable that could only be most easily put together by a high-powered community of vertical-thinking experts. That is a listserv operating at it's best, showcasing an exchange of real scholarly depth and nuance.

Nevertheless, the exchange that just occurred between SMC and Matt would never have happened on a moderated forum like H-Diplo. Too cross-disciplinary. Too idiosyncratic. Too controversial. Too much a square peg in the round hole. Too...too...undisciplinary!

Either platform serves a purpose but one is fading and the other is rising.

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H-Diplo released a roundtable discussion (PDF) on the recent books about Richard Nixon by the following scholars:

Robert Dallek - Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power

Margaret MacMillan - Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

One end of the continuum: Ruth Benedict's classic The Chrysanthemum and the Sword was a groundbreaking effort by the USG at attempting to understand the mass psychology of an enemy in wartime.

There must be something in the water lately as I have been getting an upsurge of inquiries and public comments regarding information operations, public diplomacy, "soft power" agents of influence, 5GW and similar matters. There are other blogs I can recommend as being better on this score - Beacon, MountainRunner, Kent's Imperative, Swedish Meatballs Confidential and Whirledview to name but a few. Also, I would suggest that interested readers search the archives of Studies in Intelligence, PARAMETERS, The Strategic Studies Institute, Combined Arms Research Library and the threads at The Small Wars Council. Genuine expertise may be found there and for discussions of theory and emerging trends, I recommend Dreaming 5GW.

That being said, I will offer my two cents anyway.

One point of agreement across the political spectrum and that of informed opinion is that the USG has not done a particularly good job of managing "the war of ideas" in the conflict with Islamist terrorism. Or against state adversaries. Or with persuading neutrals and even our own allies to our point of view. When you are having difficulty drawing even in a global popularity contest with a crowd of bearded fanatics who put beheading videos on the internet, it's time to admit there's a problem.

Our difficulty did not start with the Bush administration, they simply ramped up a negative dynamic that began in the 1990's with the budgetary dismantling of USG public diplomacy, information agencies and CIA clandestine operations, in order to "reinvent government" or to save "Peace Dividend" pennies for pork barrel expenditures. Official America's withdrawal from the information playing field also happened to coincide with the rise of baby boom, New Left, '68 er's as the managing editors, producers and shapers of opinion in European media, as well is in places like South Korea, that had it's own veteran cadres of dissenters against the ROK's old military regimes.

Harboring relatively critical and anti-American views from the outset, this generational class interpreted clumsy, abrasive and at times deliberately antagonistic rhetoric from the second Bush administration through their own negative political lens. It was a particularly unfortunate combination as far as American interests in foreign policy were concerned. Nor has there been much interest or competence applied subsequently by Bush administration officials in order to make their ongoing global communication more effective.

Ironically, strategic communication was once a field in which Americans in the private and public sectors excelled. The First World War brought the management of news and propaganda through the Committee on Public Information under journalist George Creel, who had the help of two brilliant men who became giants in the field of influencing public opinion, Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays. After WWI, Lippmann had a long career as an adviser to presidents and consensus-builder for the Eastern Establishment ( playing the role of America's ur-Pundit) while Bernays virtually created the field of public relations, applying principles of mass and Freudian psychology to commercial advertising.

Psychoanalyst Walter C. Langer's psychological profile of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, written for the OSS during WWII, represented a second major analytical departure for the USG.

Lippmann's focus upon the elite and Bernays manipulation of the crowd represent two poles of communication with and comprehension of, an audience. In their case, the audience was primarily a domestic one while the exigencies of WWII and the Cold War forced American policymakers to look overseas and try to grasp the perspective of foreign worldviews boasting complex and alien ideologies of a militant character. Again, the dichotomy of examining elite leaders and the mass-society were followed in the respective landmark studies by Ruth Benedict and Walter C. Langer.

Benedict, a disciple of Franz Boas, carried out a cultural anthropological analysis of the Meiji-Taisho-Showa era Japanese mind, culminating in her book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Benedict characterized the Japanese people as "debtors to the ages" and explained the apparently suicidal fanaticism of the Imperial Army soldier as a psychological legacy of the "On-Giri" honor and debt social traditions of Japanese society. This technique of cultural analysis, which is also visible in Raphael's Patai's The Arab Mind, elevates deep-set cultural behavior patterns ( though it can also lead to distorting exaggerations and a misplaced attempt to apply aggregate stereotypes to explain individual behavior).

Langer and his team of psychoanalysts, likewise made their study from a distance and began the field of pychological profiling with their study of Adolf Hitler and other top Nazi leaders. While Benedict's effort was explanatory, Langer's was also intended to be predictive. In both instances, their work was available to high level policy makers for the making of strategy, propaganda and operations that were termed for the first time, "psychological warfare". The integration of social science expertise into official and "black" USG communications and diplomacy would continue to evolve during the Cold War until the Vietnam War brought a serious break between the academic community and the CIA and Pentagon, that continues, for the most part, until this day.

While our political appointees, diplomats, CIA officers, military IO and PSYOPS specialists are getting a beating (often deserved) in the MSM and the blogosphere for the poor state of affairs in which they labor, fairness requires the observation that their task today is immeasurably more complex than that of their forerunners. This is a point that cannot at present time be overstressed. Set aside the deficit of trained linguists in "hard" languages, the paucity of firsthand HUMINT with which to work, the normal interagency obstructionism and bureaucratic warfare and the frustrations of out-of-touch management. Those are tactical and organizational difficulties which could be remediated.

Here are the daunting structural and strategic challenges faced in crafting a unified and persuasive "American message" in the war of ideas:

The cultural multiplicity of the global audience, which is/are:

- Tiered from real-time postmodern transnational elites down to pre-modern tribal villagers still relying upon an oral tradition who receive their information flow hours, days, weeks or later.

- Viewing events from worldviews based upon five or more major civilizational traditions and many times that number of major subnational or subcultural traditions .

- Often times the audience is locked into a feedback loop with relatively sophisticated and influential (or impoverished and alienated) expatriate communities in the West and United States.

A multiplicity of information platforms which are:

- Spreading access to information with increasing rates of economic efficiency in a way that leapfrogs people over Gutenberg and directly into the World Wide Web.

- Are evolving technologically both in terms of processing power and parameters of expression that defy linear trend predictions (there are really more usable app ideas than ever get fully developed for reasons of return on investment and IP issues).

- Are evolving at a speed beyond which bureaucratic acquisition and budgetary schedules can adjust in order to keep USG employees in line with the tech capabilities of the private sector.

A multiplicity of information messages in a net volume that:

- Creates sheer "Attention scarcity" problems in target audiences -usually elite - which have begun to operate psychologically under the dictates of the "attention economy".

- Creates a deafening "White Noise" through which critical messages to the target audience can neither be seen nor heard nor reinforced with reliability or be perceived in the proportion or perspective desired.

- Ratchets up the Darwinian velocity of the marketplace of ideas to snuff out or mutate memes faster than IO planners can adjust while also trying to bring along the portion of the audience still processing at much slower rates of comprehension.

What is to be done? I fear that I have no silver bullet solution. Reader Dominic C. suggested yesterday in the comment section:

"On 4GW front, there is a constant debate about why "public diplomacy" and "information war" / propaganda is poor. Surely the basic reason is that there are very few top quality marketing professionals who understand psychology and the few who exist do not work for the govt/mil. To the extent they are involved in politics, they usually roll in for elections and roll out.

If I were in charge of a 4GW campaign, I wd integrate professionals like Cialdini in my comms structure. There is an abyss between (a) the subjects studied in traditional politics, history, military etc and (b) marketing, psychology, cog sci, evolutionary bio etc.

America plus allies needs a 21st Century version of Moltke's Prussian General Staff that combines these two branches into a training system so that politicians and soldiers have inter-dsciplinary skills"

This seems quite sensible as a first step to gaining a strategic grasp over what is really an "information ecosystem as a battlespace".

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As I have been importuned to discuss the relatively inept full-spectrum communication of the USG, I cheerfully decided to do so. Unfortunately, a few appointments clog my calendar this fine Sunday morning, so blogging will have to wait until later today. A good Recommended Reading is also in the works.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Your Host

An anonymous but quite gracious commenter from Britain wrote in, asking:

"....what I would find really helpful is if you did a sort of re-introduction - something on what your influences are, what you're trying to achieve, what books you think are most important in your area - it would be a good way of educating us latecomers..."

Fair enough. The durability of my regular commenters tends to make me forget the dynamic nature of blogospheric audiences. A brief history of Zenpundit:

My background is in diplomatic and economic history, where my mentors were from " the Open Door School" and " the Maryland Mafia" circle of historians, respectively. As a result, I received a thorough schooling in economic forces as a major driver of historical causation ( though I disagreed with many of their normative conclusions). A secondary influence were the late historians, Jordan Schwarz (American political history) and W. Bruce Lincoln (Russian history). My primary area of research interest was Soviet-American relations during the Nixon administration and American foreign policy during the Cold War but I spent almost as much time on what is loosely called "Soviet Studies".

Authors who had an impact on shaping my worldview, earlier on, include Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Eric Hoffer, Ayn Rand, Alvin Toffler, George Kennan, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Galbraith, Adam Ulam, Machiavelli, George Orwell, Thorstein Veblen and a few others. Generally, it was systemic thinkers and iconoclasts who caught my eye. My library shelf (part of it, anyway) is visible for your perusal at Shelfari

Blogging became attractive for me when the H-Net listserv, H-Diplo became somewhat overmoderated some years back. Evidently, others felt the same way because other posters on H-Diplo who have also joined the blogosphere include Juan Cole, Austin Bay, Rick Shenkman, Judith Klinghoffer, Bruce Kesler and David Kaiser. I'm sure by now there are many other H-Diplo veterans busy blogging. Another well known H-Diplo member, though he seemed to be more active on C-NET, was David Horowitz, the conservative author and publisher of Frontpagemag.com. It was a vibrant listserv back then, with many brilliant and accomplished scholars participating ( or getting unceremoniously kicked off for intemperate posts) but blogging ultimately offered a better platform for debate and intellectual dialogue.

After connecting with Tom Barnett shortly after his first book was published, I've increasingly become more interested in strategy, intelligence, military theory, technology, futurism and social networks with less time for diplomatic history and "pure" foreign policy postings. However, as the blog tends to reflect what I'm reading at any given time, the subjects can wander fairly far afield.

Hope this helped fill in any blanks for new readers. Thanks again to anon for his suggestion!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007
200,000 HITS !

Today, someone from Washington, D.C. was the 200,000th visitor to Zenpundit. They stayed for about a minute and a half, reading a post about Tom Barnett's ideas.

Small beer, I realize, compared to the daily traffic of the top ten 800 pound gorillas of the blogosphere. Nevertheless, it is very flattering that, over the course of a few years, close to a quarter-million times, other people felt it was a worthy expenditure of their time to stop by, read a little, or even comment. If Zenpundit was a book, I'd be a market success.

Thank you all very, very, much!



Can you read Demotic ?

Linguistic diversity, historically under the pressure of the homogenizing forces of empire-builders, market connectivity and nationalism, appears to have reached a crisis point with the era of globalization:

"While there are an estimated 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, one of them dies out about every two weeks, according to linguistic experts struggling to save at least some of them.

....Losing languages means losing knowledge, says K. David Harrison, an assistant professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College.

"When we lose a language, we lose centuries of human thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday."

As many as half of the current languages have never been written down, he estimated.

....Harrison said that the 83 most widely spoken languages account for about 80 percent of the world's population while the 3,500 smallest languages account for just 0.2 percent of the world's people. Languages are more endangered than plant and animal species, he said.

The hot spots listed at Tuesday's briefing:

Northern Australia, 153 languages. The researchers said aboriginal Australia holds some of the world's most endangered languages, in part because aboriginal groups splintered during conflicts with white settlers. Researchers have documented such small language communities as the three known speakers of Magati Ke, the three Yawuru speakers and the lone speaker of Amurdag..."

Around the turn of the 20th century, the last known speaker of Dalmatian, a bastardized vestige of the tongue spoken by the ancient Dalmatae tribes of the Balkans, was killed in a terrorist bombing and the language was forever lost. This was in the heyday of linguistic scholar-adventurers when the mastery of twenty or forty languages by experts was not unusual. Today, it is not that unusual to have monolingual "linguists" who study the neurology or grammar of languages but not the tongues themselves.

As human population has increased, linguistic diversity has decreased. This may simply be a correlation but I think it is causation; increasingly complex societies can ill-afford the added inefficiencies of the uber-multilingualism of hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects. Political power and market dynamics exert pressure for a leveling of languages down to a common tongue. The process is not a rational one, as evidenced by the global ubiquity of English, riddled as it is with illogical exceptions to jerry-built rules.

For myself, I am, admittedly, exceedingly mediocre at learning foreign languages. I have no more ear for it than I do for music. At best, I mastered enough Portuguese to read Brazilian newspapers and today I'd be lucky to be able to ask where a bathroom was in a Sao Paulo hotel. That being said, lost languages represent a loss to the cognitive capacity of humanity. Every language contains a nucleus of effectively untranslatable words that express the unique insights of particular cultures. When languages become extinct, these insights vanish from the cultural heritage of mankind.

Of new languages in the last millenium, the only real creative growth appears to be in the realm of computers and the programming languages that make the internet hum. What does this portend for the future ?


The esteemed Dan of tdaxp is the apostle of linguistic efficiency.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A much more creative version of Terminator III:

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The enigmatic M-1 of the lively IO/PSYOPS blog Swedish Meatballs Confidential graced the comment section of the previous post and posed an excellent question:

"Q: Can there per definition exist legitimate* 4GW entities? If so, could you please, at your convenience,name any number of them."

I can attest, from some years of studying diplomatic history, that "Legitimacy" in international relations is a lot like obscenity - hard to define but everybody knows it when they see it. The problem is that scholars, diplomats, jurists and intellectuals tend to see legitimacy most clearly when it happens to accord with their own interests.

For example, Neo-Realist IR theorists, Islamists, Marxist-Leninists, Burkean Conservatives, Lockean classical liberals and Liberal Internationalists will all construct arguments that appeal to the legitimacy, or argue the lack thereof, in certain regimes or institutions. Their premises differ as to the origin of legitimacy but the concept itself is regarded as sound across a wide political spectrum - excepting perhaps the fringe of Gramiscian -postmodernist-deconstructionistic radicals, whose tireless efforts to de-legitimize and dismiss nearly everything in the Western intellectual tradition only emphasizes the importance they really attach to legitimacy (At this point, I'd like to invite Dr. Daniel Nexon of The Duck of Minerva to add anything on academic perceptions of legitimacy, disagree with me or generally put in his well-informed two cents).

That being said, as average people are not afflicted with the abstruse theories of intellectuals, I think the Lockean concept of "consent of the governed" is most useful here in addressing M-1's question. Most people stuck in a conflict zone are going to be pragmatists, interested in the restoration of peace on the best terms possible for themselves. It is for their affinity that the 4GW game is played.

Consent does not require democratic elections. Elections make popular consent visible, quantified and, where society operates under the rule of law, elections are a regular, contractual, but temporary grant of authority from the people to their government. Authority can also be granted implicitly by consensual, popular, deference as with homage given to Shiite maarjas, the King of Thailand, the Pope, the Emperor of Japan and the Supreme Court of the United States, whose powerful judicial role is formidibly augmented by the widespread acceptance of it's moral authority as the legitimate arbiter of the meaning of the Constitution.

4GW entities, like states, can acquire ( and lose) moral authority and thus, political legitimacy, through their actions. We may not find this to be logical or objectively factual when Hezbollah or al Qaida are measured against a theoretical ideal. That however, is irrelevant to most the audience in the conflict zone. What matters is what you are measuring the 4GW entity against in the real world. A corrupt, incompetent, oligarchy? A vibrant, prosperous, liberal democracy? A constitutional monarchy backed by long tradition? A Communist regime? A hated dictator ? A foreign army? What ?

Much like time, legitimacy is entirely relative. The people might yearn for steak but if one side is providing nothing but crumbs and the other promises chicken - and can come across with a drumstick now and again - the side with the chicken wins.


Soob weighs in as well with an appropriately timed taxonomy.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

"al Qaidastan" Rising

Fourth Generation Warfare, according to it's leading theorists, is designed to challenge the legitimacy of the state. It's "kinetic" attacks are really a form of ju-jitsu designed to strike the enemy society at the mental and moral levels and thereby cripple the state apparatus through which modern nation-states govern themselves.

Repeated successful mitary forays by 4GW entities, perhaps in alliance with local ethnic and criminal organizations, can create a "TAZ" or temporary autonomous zone, outside the rule of law. "Temporary" is a useful descriptor because, frequently, police, paramilitary or Army units are able to "re-take" the TAZ from 4GW control because these decentralized forces melt away, go underground or shift to a less direct form of conflict such as system disruption or the use of IED type munitions.

However, there are now enough examples of recent vintage to tentatively answer the question of what happens when a TAZ under the domination of a 4GW group slides toward permanency? Al Qaida, is now doing so for the second time in it's history, as detailed by Pramit Pal Chaudhuri:

"Confederation of Terror

On September 6 the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan marked the first anniversary of its de facto recognition. On that day last year, the Taliban used the name when it signed a ceasefire agreement with the Pakistani government. The ceasefire is in tatters, but the terror trail of the recent plots in Germany and Denmark indicates that the Emirate is doing fine.

The Emirate's writ is spreading among the mountainous areas that make up the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that run along the Pakistan-Afghan border. Going by trends, the Emirate is more than just a safe haven: It is on a nightmare path of nation-building. Osama bin Laden will be its sultan; Mullah Omar its spiritual leader; heroin and smuggling its economic drivers; and terrorism its primary export. "Al Qaeda is building a mini-state, an enclave, in the FATA," says Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside al Qaeda.

Besides the heartland of South and North Waziristan, "al Qaedastan" also encompasses a belt of tribal land going up to Mohmand and Bajaur areas. Its sphere of violent influence, says a former member of the Afghan National Security Council, includes bordering Afghan provinces like Loya Paktia and, increasingly, Nangarhar...

...The malik, a local chief who helped keep the peace since the British Raj, and represented an older secular Pashtun nationalism, has been marginalized. The mullah now holds sway. "The Durrani tribal maliki that once dominated these areas is being physically eradicated," says Michael Shaikh of the International Crisis Group.

Some argue this is nothing more than Durrani nobility being replaced by an upstart subtribe, the Ghilzai. But the spread of Islamicism is blurring tribal distinctions. "Today's Taliban are fighting for an extremist ideology, not for Ghilzai supremacy," says an Afghan official. An example of how this ideology is taking root is how it has ended the centuries-old feuds between the Waziri and Mehsud subtribes.

The "al Qaedaization" of the Taliban can be seen in their use of suicide bombing, human shields and bloodier kidnappings, practices abhorrent in traditional Pashtun culture. The Afghan government has no doubt this represents foreign tutelage. Says the Afghan ambassador to the U.S., Said Tayeb Jawad: "Al Qaeda is the commander, the Taliban the foot soldier. Al Qaeda provides strategic guidance

William Lind, during the Israeli-Hezbollah War, suggested that after having attained a critical mass of legitimacy through sustained political-military success, 4GW organizations faced a choice of "To Be or Not To Be, a State". Lind argued that statehood was equivalent with vulnerable "targetability" and that Westphalian-era mummery was something that 4GW forces could best do without.

To an extent, Lind was correct. Neither Hezbollah, nor the Islamic Courts Union, HAMAS, al Qaida or even the Taliban during the period of their rule of Afghanistan, have ever formed a proper and recognized state apparatus. Nor have they, when enjoying longer-term territorial control, remained covert guerilla-terrorist networks either. Instead, they have tried to lock in their comparative advantages with an Anti-State model existing alongside or symbiotically integrated with, the sovereign state.

The 4GW Anti-State has certain recognizable characteristics or tendencies:

*Corporative: The 4GW organization openly lives by it's own codes, not the state's, with final authority for enforcement. The 4GW entity may impose these codes on the people over whom they exist (Taliban), or apply them primarily to their own membership (HAMAS) but the state has de facto ceded that prerogative.

*Post-Westphalian: The borders and claims of the nation-state are irrelevant, whether we are discussing a Pushtunistan-based "al Qaidastan" that crosses the Durand Line or a Transnational Criminal Organization network like a Russian mafiya clan with cells under discipline from Novgorod to Brighton Beach to Budapest to Tel Aviv. The 4GW Anti-State can be geographic or virtual as the primary loyalty attachment for the membership is a psychological and social one.

*Hegemonic Governance: The 4GW entity frequently, as HAMAS and Hezbollah have amply demonstrated, provide a sophisticated array of public goods and other services, often free of charge, in order to cultivate political legitimacy among the larger population. They do not accept all of the de jure responsibilities for the local population that are normally traditional for a rcognized sovereign and suppress rival authorities or independent-minded individuals with arbitrary force. In matters outside of the interests of the 4GW entity, residents are left to their own devices ( or the mercy of smaller predators) so that resources are conserved.

*Symbiotic Coexistence: The 4GW group is shielded, to a degree, from international intervention by coexisting within the confines of a recognized and sovereign nation-state that is unwilling (Sudan, Iran) or unable (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq) to bring them to heel and even more unwilling to let outsiders do so. Like a parasite, a 4GW entity, if unchecked, is capable of hijacking it's host nation-state to serve it's own needs as al Qaida did in Afghanistan before 9/11.

The Anti-State model is useful for 4GW forces at a certain threshold of magnitude because it offers some of the defensive advantages of statehood with far fewer of the responsibilities or liabilities with running a state.


John Robb was kind enough to link and had this comment:

"Mark, over at ZenPundit, has an excellent (!) post on the virtual-state (not sure that 4GW, as a description of a form of warfare, works as a label for this). "

Thanks, John! I'm not sure it works either - LOL! An explanation though:

I used "4GW" primarily because I was interested in how such movements are developing semi-permanent, alternative, forms of governance to the nation-state. Bobbitt's "Virtual-State" could work well in many instances for what 4GW forces are in a structural or behavioral sense but the term also has broader application.

Then there is also the issue where 4GW entity is overlapping pre-modern (at times, ancient), subnational, territorial/tribal identities that are the very antithesis of "the state". A schizoid hybrid, if you will. The analogy can be misleading because these phenomena have aspects that are very unlike the state of Max Weber, despite usurping some of the functions, so I used " Anti-State". I'm not wedded to the term yet as the whole issue needs more fleshing out and discussion (and as Fabius noted in the comments, empirical investigation).

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Wow - seems like I just did this....

Swedish Meatballs Confidential - "Financial Warfare 101"

Generally, governments do more economic damage to themselves through bad fiscal, regulatory and monetary policies than they could ever suffer through international sanctions or sabotage, but mucking around with market instruments might be a sharp blow to the solar plexus. Beware feedback loops, however.

Complexity and Social Networking Blog -"Campaign contributions and the network of hedgers"

Mapping the California "Big Donors" who are hedging between Obama and Clinton. Tailor made for the political geek.

Haft of the Spear - "everything old is new again"

A depressing political signal, I agree. Hopefully, we'll be pleasantly surprised.

Thomas P.M. Barnett - "What our 'lost year' in Iraq ends up costing America"

Counting the costs of disconnecting from the strategic and grand strategic levels of war in Iraq.

Below A Rare Photograph Of A Barnett Ancestor Engaging in Grand Strategy:


Saturday, September 15, 2007

I have a number of posts in the works but professional and personal committments are sharply reducing blogging time. Should have some new posts up either later this evening or early tomorrow. Things should hopefully lighten up around Tuesday.

However, I did help spark a cross-blog conversation on 5GW and generations of war theory between ProgressiveHistorians and Dreaming 5GW. Pundita was also kind enough to feature a few remarks of mine that I sent via email. Check out the discussions.

Finally, congrats to A.E. of Simulated Laughter for being the latest to join the impressive stable of writers that Curtis has given a home to at Dreaming 5GW.

Going offline now....over and out!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

If you are a blogger and you link to me, and, heretofore, I have not linked to you or generally appear to be unaware of your existence, drop me an email so that I can check out your blog. I like to extend reciprocal blogroll linkage, except where ppl seem like they might be a little bit crackers and wearing one too many layers of Reynold's Wrap on their cranium.

If you are a diamond in the rough, I'll try to bring you to the attention of smart ppl in my network.

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Despite some reservations about Howard Gardner's normative weighing of various "multiple intelligences" and uneven conceptual development in his earlier works, I'll give Five Minds For The Future a preliminary endorsement. The chapters on the disciplinary, synthesizing and creative minds are worth the purchase price alone.

There are some very sound observations on these cognitive outlooks on Gardner's part - readers here will see vertical and horizontal thinking well represented, though Gardner eschews the use of those terms ( he does cite De Bono's lateral thinking exercises). Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a strong influence on the creativity chapter though, as an aside, I do not always buy into Csíkszentmihályi's social/collective/domain/peer ratification of creativity as a standard as Gardner does.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In memory of those who died 11 September, 2001.

Special thanks to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and officers of our intelligence community currently serving in harm's way in the long war and, most of all, to those who will never return. America is in your debt.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Top Billing! SWJ Blog - "General Petraeus / Ambassador Crocker - Boots on the Ground Assessment"

Dave and Bill should be thanked - the post includes access to the full transcript and briefing slides. How many bloggers in the next few days are going to bother reading in full before launching into their pre-scripted ( and largely cocked up) talking points ?

Co-Top Billing! CKR - "The Presidential Candidates’ Foreign Policy Statements: Early Observations" plus "The Presidential Candidates’ Foreign Policy Statements: Rudolph Giuliani" and "The Presidential Candidates’ Foreign Policy Statements: John Edwards"

Kudos to Cheryl Rofer for the heavy lifting on this important series.

Callimachus - "Contemptible"

I never liked Brian De Palma anyway. Overrated ripoff artist at his best.

Col. Pat Lang - "Petraeus and Crocker - Interesting "

The colonel gives his " old hand" take on the report testimony

Nonpartisan - "9/11: The Mouse that Roared "

NP, the motive force behind ProgressiveHistorians blog, writes from the Left in the first of a 9/11 series, with a critique of Orson Scott Card (which will interest some readers here) and he draws on the actuarial argument about terrorism risk assessment ( also of interest).

Soob - "The Other Long War "

Nice post. I'd say bite the bullet and decriminalize. Addicts will then be a public health issue but the global revenue flows of narcotics trafficking will no longer be a national security issue.

Steve DeAngelis -"Explaining Development-in-a-Box™"

Required reading for understanding the evolution of the Sys-Admin spectrum.

That's it!


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Steve Guerra, convicted FALN supporter, top Illinois state government official and protege of Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Il).

Hyperbolic charges are thrown with great regularity and unfairness in American politics. Character assassination is a form of art and negative campaigning is the norm. Most of the time, it's a useful rule of thumb to take whatever perjoratives are commonly used with a grain of salt. And then there are the exceptions that are so absurd as to make the usual slander an understatement.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich - who hired Steve Guerra as his $ 120,000 a year deputy

The Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday ran a front page expose on Steve Guerra, a top official in the administration of Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was hired despite having gone to prison for refusing to testify before a Federal grand jury about what he knew regarding a terror bombing campaign carried out by the Puerto Rican terrorist group, the FALN. The revelation has caused an uproar among the family members of the victims of the FALN terrorists and only slightly less outrage among Illinois Democrats and Republicans in the legislature who were already unhappy with Gov. Blagojevich.

Why would Governor Blagojevich, currently floundering even among his own Democratic supporters, take a risk and hire a sinister figure like Guerra, a felon who obstructed a murder investigation of one of the FALN's victims with his refusal to testify ? Two reasons:

First, Illinois politics is replete with shadowy tough guys, mobbed-up businessmen and fixers with criminal pasts who cracked a few skulls here and there in their youth. Such folks, who like Mr. Guerra, often appear to lack a neck, are not rare here. From, Taylor Street in Chicago to Cicero to Rosemont to small towns in the collar counties, you have lots of people in both political parties involved in retail politics who are "connected". Granted, they usually mean to men nicknamed "Big Tuna" or " the Clown", and not to Marxist terror groups, but chances were that if Guerra had kept a low profile, no one living in a glass house themselves was going to be seen pitching stones any time soon.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Il) - a history of pulling strings for convicted FALN terrorists

Secondly, Guerra is a close, personal, friend of far-left but Daley machine-backed, Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Chicago. Representative Gutierrez has made constituent services to imprisoned FALN members something of a minor hobby during his years in Congress. It was also Gutierrez who helped persuade President Clinton to grant clemency to FALN terrorists convicted of bombmaking, sedition, robbery, conspiracy and other lesser charges. By hiring Guerra, the struggling Governor Blagojevich was reinforcing a political connection to an influential figure in the Daley machine and Chicago's Puerto Rican community.

The remarkable aspect of this episode is not that in this day and age, an American politician would knowingly hire or assist an individual with strong ties to a terrorist group but that the moral state of politics in Illinois is so low, that hiring Guerra raised no eyebrows among party insiders in Springfield.

At least until the story hit page one.

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This will amuse certain parties.

A few weeks ago, I had a post on William Gibson and in the course of the post, solicited reader opinions on Gibson. This sparked a lively discussion and many recommendations for further sci-fi reading in the comments section.

The other night, Mrs. Zenpundit had a surprise gathering for me, to honor the annual increase in my age, at one of the better local restaurants. One of the frequent lurkers here, "Dona Julia" and her husband "The Brown Guitar", had read the post and comments and, as a result, presented me with copies of:

All Tomorrow's Parties
Virtual Light
Ender's Game
Speaker For the Dead

A rare instance of life imitating the blogosphere. Much thanks to Dona Julia, her Guitar and Mrs. Z. for yesterday evening and to the readers for their helpful suggestions.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

What to make of Osama Bin Laden sounding less like a radical Salafist in his recent video than the infantile Sean Penn on a hysterical political rant, throwing in an homage to Noam Chomsky and global warming ? Well, government sources are pointing "Azzam the American", the young Californian convert, Adam Yahiye Gadahn as the origin of the more childish rhetoric that seems to be ripped from the memes of the Lefty Wingnut blogosphere.

In my opinion, that is a stupid interpretation. If it comes from our intelligence agencies, and not some staffer at the White House, all the worse for us.

First of all, such an analysis gives far too much emphasis to the role of Gadahn, a relatively juvenile character. Al Qaida does not lack members with the ability to read English or surf the internet. The radical Islamist-terrorist community have long monitored American websites, particularly those related to military and intelligence circles; one of their favorite theorists appears to be none other than William Lind! Gadahn's help in video production is a triviality, not a primary concern.

Secondly, the hodgepodge nature of the speech with Bin Laden zooming from Sarkozy to tax rates is indicative of an intentional raising of the noise to signal ratio. Much of this verbiage appears to me to be - well - irrelevant crap. It attracts media attention while distracting observers from two of the more ominous elements present in bin Laden's speech - his continuing fascination with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the call to embrace Islam. The latter being a religious duty for pious Muslims prior to the unleashing of war and ruin upon an enemy; a call once uttered by the generals of Arab caliphs and Turkish sultans half a millennium ago, before the sacking of infidel cities by Muslim armies.

The Germans just rolled up a major al Qaida cell days before an attack was to take place. Perhaps we should be looking at potential problems just a little bit harder ourselves.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Social networking theorist/mapper Valdis Krebs, has a blog, Network Weaving. How'd I miss that one ?

Hat tip to Der Shlokmeister.

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If the Bush administration really wants to cripple Iran, instead of planning an EBO attack or using IO scare stories about nuclear weapons, we should simply encourage Iran to adopt Ahmadinejad's economic program.

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Very seldom do I ever lift something from the archives, but I came across a guest-post I did a number of years ago for blogfriend Josh Manchester at his now defunct The Adventures of Chester blog. The basic content of the post has held up fairly well, though some of the original links that supported the data have since vanished ( reminding me that links are really, really, transient but a footnote is forever); most of the economic data came from NIC/CIA.gov PDFs that have been moved or removed from the web, so take that for what it is worth (the dollar figures are more than stale now, regardless):


When Saddam Hussein emptied his prisons prior to the Iraq War it seemed at the time a sign of his regime’s impending doom. Either Saddam’s amnesty was an act of desperation to shore up support among the Iraqi people or his grip on power had so weakened that he had lost control even over elements of his own security apparatus. In actuality, the dictator had made a preemptive asymmetrical strike against American forces by releasing Iraq’s professional criminals whose well-organized networks badly undermined the CPA and today are connecting an otherwise heterogeneous insurgency. Although this move ultimately did Saddam Hussein little good it demonstrated the potential power that
Black Globalizationhas to effect the outcome of military interventions, even those of the United States.

It’s rather strange that given our history, American intelligence did not forsee this outcome in Iraq. It was the United States government that used the Mafia of Charles “ Lucky” Luciano to gather naval intelligence, suppress sabotage on the dockyards and enlist the Sicilian Mafia to undermine Mussolini’s rule to soften the island for Allied invasion. WWII however was the age when nation-state control and the exercise of sovereignty and economic autarky were at their zenith and non-state actors like criminal syndicates were peripheral to events.

Today, the strategic situation is vastly different. The relative primacy of nation-state sovereigns has been eroded by globalization that opened their economies and borders to greater flows of “connectivity” and challenges to their political legitimacy mounted by international, transnational and subnational actors. Some of these, the WTO or the internet for example, at least have brought tremendous benefits. Not so the metastasis
of transnational criminal networks that constitute black globalization and have an economic reach that in the aggregate, rivals the greatest of regional powers and are centered on a few geographic nexus points. A sampling of annual estimates:

Governmental Corruption $ 500 billion

Global Narcotics trafficking $ 400-500 billion (matching or exceeding U.S. Defense budget)

Conflict Diamond trafficking $ 24 billion/ 10 % world market

Human Trafficking $ 7 billion

Stolen Automobile Smuggling $ 9 billion

Piracy ( maritime) $ 16 billion ( high end estimate)

Even leaving aside minor or hard to estimate contraband markets or legal “ gray “ markets like international arms dealing, these revenues are enough to field armies or acquire the most expensive technology to evade capture or launch asymmetrical attacks on state forces.

Clearly, the days
when even a weak state ruler like Ngo Dinh Diem could scattter a criminal organization with a whiff of grapeshot are over. Expeditions into failed Gap states like Somalia or major military invasions of countries like Iraq must take Black Globalization networks into account during strategic planning as they would subnational or even full-fledged state actors. In terms of on the ground, policy, options for U.S. policy makers and commanders for engaging these networks would include:

Alliance ( Luciano Model)

Benign Neutrality ( Transactional Model)

Armed Neutrality ( Deterrence Model)

Active Containment ( Limited military action)

Belligerence (Counterinsurgency model)

Ideally, the U.S. would seek to prevent the Black Globalization network from actively aligning itself with the enemy and avoid direct engagement to suppress the network until the primary mission was accomplished. Imagine the state of Iraq today if the criminal networks were working hand in glove with American and Iraqi troops to root out the insurgency instead to aid the insurgents against coalition forces. Circumstances, however may not always prove to be so simple, corrupt and violent networks being what they are, any negotiated result is at best transient.

A second indirect form of pressure could be exerted on the money laundering aspect of Black Globalization which must at some point attempt to “ clean” their cash flow through or by acquiring legitimate banks and financial markets in Western countries. Strategic financial attack was evidently taken against the major backers of Slobodon Milosevic during the Kosovo War with positive results. Exploiting this avenue might require that the Marines have more than just a few good accountants, a genuine financial intelligence service would be required to maximize effectiveness.

The complexity of small wars is almost enough to make diplomats and generals long for the good, old days of the Warsaw Pact. Almost. "

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Can't log on today. Hmmm.

Dave has thoughts on the ROA ("Return On Attention") from microblogging on Twitter

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Economists have long used the terms Public Good and Private Good to describe categories of valued and useful goods and services with the latter being rivalrous and excludable and the former not. The arrival of information technology and an online culture has birthed a strong intellectual movement in favor of an intermediate, collaborative and robust " creative commons", as promoted by such thinkers as Lawrence Lessig, Howard Rheingold and the authors of Wikinomics, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams (Wikinomics is, incidently, an excellent book. A highly stimulating, must read).

Historically, the intellectual atmosphere available to millions in "the creative commons" of the internet was something available to a rarified and usually economically advantaged, few. Only until very recently, it required a career in a university or at think tanks like RAND to find such an atmosphere. In previous centuries, it was the salons of Paris, London's Royal Society and the courts of the Italian Renaissance that served as hubs for intellectual ferment. American founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush among many others, kept up a voluminous correspondence in order to grasp at the straws of such interaction.

Today, all that is required is a cheap PC and a reliable ISP connection and more brilliant intellects are potentially available for connection to any given individual today than ever before. The magnitude of such interactions are greater than at any time in history and as social networking and Web 2.0 apps, wikis and iPhone type devices become as ubiquitous as email and webpages, this trend is likely to continue upward for decades. Which leads me to ask if these interactions and the forums in which they take place ought not to be considered " cognitive goods" transitioning between those that are public and private?

While intellectual activity can be considered a non-economic pastime or an amusement in the traditional sense economists have contemplated pleasure-seeking activities, cognitive goods are somewhat different. Obviously, these experiences are highly valued by their participants who invest considerable time on intellectual give and take on blogs, wikis and listserv groups, but they do not rise to the category of a financial investment in formal research ( though they could easily lead to that happening). While intangible, cognitive goods are frequently stepping-stones or catalysts to productive economic activity down the road and the creation of new or improvement of existing private or public goods, unlike say, eating a piece of cake, playing volleyball or watching television.

Moreover, the creative commons licensing structure encourages concepts to be kept in play for others to use, adapt and expand at a future date into useful goods or services. Arguably, the case can be made that cognitive goods would serve a transitional, facilitating or storage function for potentially, economically productive, ideas (Tapscott and Williams have an interesting chapter on the forums themselves that they term "ideagoras").

I'm not settled on this concept and I'm interested in hearing reader thoughts, particularly if you are well versed in economics, IP issues or related fields but the floor is open to anyone. Good idea ? Poor? Redundant? Needs more work? What ?

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Monday, September 03, 2007

An unusually high quality selection - any of them in a normal week would merit consideration for the "top billing!" designation. An embarrassment of riches!

The actual winner of the title is Art Hutchinson of Mapping Strategy, for intellectual firepower on a topic that is generally misunderstood:

Top Billing! Art Hutchinson - "What Can and Cannot Be Predicted (and Thoughts On Telling the Difference)" (Hat tip to Wiggins at OSD )

Swedish Meatballs Confidential -"Perception Management Fur Alles - Dones, Doings and To-Do's"


Dave Schuler - "Gripes About Public Discourse"

Fabius Maximus - "News from the Front: America’s military has mastered 4GW!Part II of a Series"

Dave Davison - "Paul Saffo - Mapping the Cone of Uncertainty "

Steve DeAngelis - "America Remains in the Broadband Slow Lane" and "WiMAX and the Evernet"

Ross Mayfield - "Decoupling Decision Rights and Decentralization"

Dr. Chet Richards and Maj. Don Vandergriff - "Summary Report
2007 Boyd Conference

Garr Reynolds - "The creativity imperative: nurturing what is our nature"

I also endorse the video clip of thought leader Tony Buzan, featured by Garr ( Dan of tdaxp, Don Vandergriff, if you happen to read this, you two in particular should view the segment)

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

A little change of pace.

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett at TED (TED videos are usually outstanding - someday I'll have to finagle an invite to TED). Tom's presentation skills have really been honed in the sense of taking insider mil-issues and getting the concepts across to a lay audience, slick and fast, on their level, without oversimplifying. It's an artful trick that takes considerable practice to master, much less make look easy.

Conversations With History, featuring Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens is always an erudite interview, this is no exception.

On a lighthearted note, some pedagogy from the masters of slapstick. ;o)

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My PC problems continue apace after the second system crash in as many weeks. It's up and running again but the question is for how long ? It's the oldest computer in the house and has worked well for the most part but it may be time to start saving all my files and scanning for the next generation of home electronics. The laptop is cool to take to work, not so cool to hunch over for an hour writing blog posts.

As I was reloading lost programs and apps last night, I fiddled with the SpringWidget in the margin to add some new RSS feeds to my own( Tom and The Small Wars Council). I'll round it out in a few days with a mil-theory circle of bloggers and sites. Once I'm done, readers who really enjoy this genre can simply copy the embed code and stick it on their own pages (it goes into blogs, myspace, xanga -whatever) or modify it as they wish.

If you are, unlike myself, genuinely computer-crafty, you might wish to look at Grazr's capabilities first, as this app migt suit your needs better. Critt, who was an early adapter of OPML, can do some amazing things with a grazr.

The blogroll needs updating, pruning and featuring of new additions.

Much to do. Much to do....

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Props to Curtis for his altruistic act of blogospheric historiography in creating an online 5GW Timeline. It will be highly useful to know exactly who said what/when before writing any more 5GW posts. Thanks, Curtis!

Dreaming 5GW is on a roll lately. Check out Shane Deichman's "xGW Evolution: Purely Reactionary" and Subadei's "Hammes 5GW Redux:Via Phil" ( original post by Phil at Pacific Empire is here, plus Phil's previous "“Fourth-generation warfare expert to speak in Wellington on Monday”).

Great work, gentlemen.

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Zenpundit - a NEWSMAGAZINE and JOURNAL of scholarly opinion.

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