Wednesday, October 31, 2007

John Malkovich, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie. Hmmmmmmmmm.......

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Wolf Pangloss has a series of interesting posts on 4GW and information operations that readers might care to consider in light of the discussion that has ensued in the comments section of the post on the strategic analysis of Fabius Maximus. Wolf's posts are:

Democracies at 4GWar

4GW Jihad and the role of the World Media

Conflict Map of the Counterjihad

Media Cheerleaders for Despair

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I have fallen behind on both comment and email response this week for which I apologize to my readers. I read everything and try to answer all messages relatively promptly but at times, this effort collides with real world commitments. Hopefully, I should be caught up tonight or sometime tomorrow.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

" To summarize, we seek to radically change the cultures and political systems for much of the world, to halt foreign revolts and civil wars of which we do not approve, to bring global peace and prosperity, to make friends (even with those states whose rise we seek to restrain), and to “transform” our so far unreformable national security apparatus. Those who thought President Bush was kidding about these learned better in the months following our invasion of Iraq."

- Fabius Maximus

For some time now, an author whose nom de guerre is "Fabius Maximus", after the ancient Roman general of the Punic wars, has been a regular and at times, prolific, contributor to the Boydian and 4GW school oriented Defense & the National Interest. Fabius, who comments here at Zenpundit on occasion, also set off one of the most popular, if heated and controversial, threads at The Small Wars Council, catching the attention of noted COIN strategist Col. David Kilcullen. Kilcullen's theories later became a subject of frequent critique from Fabius in his DNI articles.

While I had hoped to meet Fabius in person at Boyd 2007, he did not attend and I am not privy to his identity or professional background. Fabius' arguments must rise or fall entirely on their own merit and he has been content to engage his critics on this basis at the SWC and elsewhere. Clearly he is a member of the 4GW school and is an admirer of Col. John Boyd, William Lind, Dr. Martin van Creveld and Dr. Chet Richards but has not shrunk from advancing his own ideas or original criticisms.

Recently, Fabius completed his tenth article in a series on America's Long War for DNI and, as Fabius has entertained and enraged members of the community of "reform" defense intellectuals and COIN practitioners, it is timely for us to take stock of his strategic argument:

The Long War Series - from DNI's Fabius Maximus Archive

Part X - One step beyond Lind: what is America’s geopolitical strategy?
Part IX - 4GW at work in a community near you,
Part VIII - How to accurately forecast trends of the Iraq War,
Part VII - Kilcullen explains all you need to know about the Iraq War,
Part VI - The bad news is that Lind’s good news is wrong,
Part V - The Iraq War as a warning for America,
Part IV - Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq,
Part III - Stories or statistics? Read and compare to find the truth!
Part II - News from the Front: America’s military has mastered 4GW!
Part IAmerica takes another step towards the “Long War,”

I have read the roughly 20,000 words offered here previously and I re-read them for this post. I have also read most of the authors of the original works that Fabius Maximus cites in his series. Therefore, I feel qualified to offer a few observations in regard to the strategic paradigm that this body of work represents and the assumptions, clearly stated as well as implicit, upon which it is built.

Many of the specific analytical criticisms of American policy and performance in Iraq and Afghanistan made by Fabius are incisive, some are rather questionable and a few are brilliant. I encourage you to read his efforts for yourself rather than simply accepting my word for it. What interests me most though, given the scope of the series, are his premises. As I discern them, they are:

That 4GW is the environment in which we find ourselves conducting operations - and doing so quite poorly at that with a military predisposed toward 2GW offensives. Or irrelevantly on the strategic level where we happen to be executing COIN well on the tactical level.

We cannot significantly affect the internal dynamics of alien societies that we understand poorly or not at all, regardless of the carrots or sticks used. We are marginal factors at best.

American war policy is being constructed on the false analogy of the Cold War model.

Al Qaida is more phantom than menace.

War is the wrong conceptual metaphor and the wrong operational-bureaucratic response to the conflict in which we find ourselves.

Our response, which serves bureaucratic and factional interests at homes, undermines our global strategic position and wastes our economic strength.

A better grand strategy for America is nonintervention and reducing friction with the rest of the world. Or failing that, at least bolstering states, any states, rather than collapsing them into failure with military attack or other pressures ( Lind's "Centers of Order vs. Centers of Disorder")

If George Kennan argued for "Containment" of Soviet Communism in his "X" article the best descriptor of the grand strategy of Fabius Maximus might be " Conservancy" - dialing down our kinetic response to terrorism to the surgical level and recognizing this contest as more ideological conflict than war and, in general, recognizing our limitations in attempting to become masters of the universe. Many readers would associate this paradigm with the Left but I believe that to be incorrect. Instead, reflecting a deeply paleoconservative reading of history and American traditions in foreign policy that historian Walter A. McDougal called "Promised Land" and others "city on a hill" and " isolationism".

The virtues of "conservancy" as I interpret Fabius is that it minimizes both costs and future commitments for the United States, leaving us better able to afford to deal with strategic threats to vital national interests, when unanticipated threats arise, as they surely will. It would serve as a reality check on statesmen to pursue fewer, more coherent, simpler, more easily realizable and markedly cheaper objectives, which will have far higher probability of success ( as opposed to say, attacking Iran while engaged in Iraq. Or perhaps invading Russia in winter or fighting a land war in Asia. Some folks around PACOM with a few years ago with uber-journalist Robert Kaplan's ear, thought an unprovoked war with China was a splendid idea). When forced to intervene, our footprint will be light; more like British frontier agents of old or the 55 advisers in El Salvador in the 1980's than the invasion of Iraq. As a nation, our foreign policy would stay on the good side of the diminishing returns curve.

The drawbacks include, in my view: being flatly incorrect about al Qaida's potential to initiate attacks on the operational or strategic level specifically, and about the threat of radical Islamist-Mahdist movements in general, when coupled with increasing capacities to leverage against complex systems ( see John Robb's Brave New War); underestimating the geopolitical ripple effect of the U.S. shifting to a conservancy posture, upending the global security arrangements upon which the calculations of statesmen currently depend. The unanticipated consequences of the latter are large. Within two to three levels of unfolding decision-tree possibilities, any potential response by the U.S. is simply swamped. We benefit by the status quo. Changing our position imposes costs.

I invite Fabius Maximus to respond as he likes and I will publish his remarks here, unedited. Readers are invited to offer their own critique in the comments section.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blogfriend Critt Jarvis has reinvented his online presence and returned to some of his original intellectual concerns from back in the days when he was a founding member of The New Rule-Sets Project, later purchased by Enterra Solutions. Critt is jumping off a post by Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion and extending the argument with "Steve Rubel is right, do you know why ?":

"He’s right. Here’s why. Web portals are social networks, and social networks aggregate to a global conversation market.

Like global or world cities — for example, New York, Paris, Tokyo, London — where, from the transparent nexus of culture, governance, infrastructure, commerce, and fashion, we expect to consistently have a really good time,

The global conversation market has the necessary resources to accommodate a global social network.

For a really good time in the global conversation market …

Find your portal to social networks

Web portals provide stability in social networks, requisite to emerging conversation markets.
Web portals provide growth of social networks.
Web portals provide resources for social networks.
Web portals provide infrastructure for social networks.
Web portals provide money for social networks.
Web portals provide rules for social networks.
Web portals provide security for social networks.

And remember this

Absent stability, there’s no conversation market.
Absent growth, there’s no stability.
Absent resources, there’s no growth.
Absent infrastructure, there’s no resources.
Absent money, there’s no infrastructure.
Absent rules, trust me, there’s no institutional investor money.
Absent security, the rules don’t work.

For me, the social networking wars are over. What I need to do now is find my place in the portals. Which makes me wonder, What is going to happen to Twitter?"

One of the interesting things about Critt is his ability to embed a large number of important concepts at the implicit level in his writing. Critt's primary interest for the past few years has been facilitating "global conversation"; that is people to people connection on a global scale of magnitude. An interest that is congruent with his expertise in technical platforms as tools of communication.

These platforms and by extension, the portals that serve as gateways, represent rule-set systems that offer maximum connectivity and transaction of a certain kind with a minimum of friction and direct cost. These are rule-sets for the enjoyment of "ordered liberty". For example, Second Life provides the user with system access and tools with which to communicate and create but within these strong minimalist confines, citizens of Second Life primarily must self-regulate. This contrasts with the fairly stringent, proprietary, ethos of other MMORPG like Everquest or World of Warcraft.

These services, while entertaining, stifle user creativity and innovation via techno-paternalism. Arguably, in an economic sense, these companies have a business model that opts for maintaining hierarchical control over outcomes within their system over maximizing the growth of their market share or the growth of the user-market itself by limiting user transactions by orders of magnitude. Ultimately, as Web 2.0 concepts permeate the wider global culture, this position becomes self-defeating - the creation of virtual ghettos.

Mr. Jarvis understands that, in the long run, it's a road to nowhere.

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Very short today. Working on several posts right now.

Michael Tanji at Threatswatch - "Self Defense is National Defense"

Permanent Innovation Blog - "Mind Mapping Permanent Innovation"

Thomas P. M. Barnett - "The Map at State"

Chirol at Coming Anarchy - "Turkish Options"

That's it!


Friday, October 26, 2007

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La Cosa Nostra, the Italian mafia of Big Al Capone and Lucky Luciano is on the skids these days.:

"The mob's frailties were evident in recent months in Chicago, where three senior-citizen mobsters were locked up for murders committed a generation ago; in Florida, where a 97-year-old Mafioso with a rap sheet dating to the days of Lucky Luciano was imprisoned for racketeering; and in New York, where 80-something boss Matty "The Horse" Ianniello pleaded to charges linked to the garbage industry and union corruption.

Things are so bad that mob scion John A. "Junior" Gotti chose to quit the mob while serving five years in prison rather than return to his spot atop the Gambino family.

At the mob's peak in the late 1950s, more than two dozen families operated nationwide. Disputes were settled by the Commission, a sort of gangland Supreme Court. Corporate change came in a spray of gunfire. This was the mob of "The Godfather" celebrated in pop culture.

Today, Mafia families in former strongholds like Cleveland, Los Angeles and Tampa are gone. La Cosa Nostra — our thing, as its initiates called the mob — is in serious decline everywhere but New York City. And even there, things aren't so great: Two of New York's five crime families are run in absentia by bosses behind bars.

....The oath of omerta — silence — has become a joke. Ditto for the old world "Family" values — honor, loyalty, integrity — that served as cornerstones for an organization brought to America by Italian immigrants during the era of Prohibition.

"It's been several generations since they left Sicily," says Dave Shafer, head of the FBI organized crime division in New York. "It's all about money."

At the peak of the mafia's power, the 1950's, it had only 5000 "made" members but it was deeply entrenched in a powerful national labor movement, was entwined in a numerous big city Democratic machines ( notably Chicago's notorious old 1st Ward, where Sam "Momo" Giancana's minions hustled out the ghost vote for JFK) and enjoyed the tolerance of the immensely powerful FBI Director J.Edgar Hoover, who had a taste for the track and shady associates in his off-hours. The mafia not only had mystique and physical force at their disposal, they had the political juice, having in classic Boydian fashion, strategically connected themselves to as many other centers of power as possible.

What happened to the Mob sbsequently is a lesson for all those who study the potential of networks vis-a-vis states. Despite their fluidity and adaptivity, networks are not ten feet tall. They can be disconnected and isolated. Their internal cohesion can be disrupted. Their OODA loops can be disoriented and only in the rarest of circumstances can networks stand toe-to-toe in the open with the massive power of state hierarchies. They are beatable with patience, strategic thinking, consistency and time.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I attended an interdisciplinary-but-history centered conference on Monday that included some presentations by well regarded scholars like David Kyvig and Artemus Ward. However, I was most intrigued by a sociologist who was recounting the evolution of CAPS, which is Chicago's community policing program. In essence, CAPS is COIN doctrine carried out by civil agencies. Anyone who has read John Nagl or David Kilcullen or follows the tenets of the 4GW school, will immediately recognize the premises of CAPS, though my intuition is that the OODA Loop has been much slower with the City of Chicago than it has been even with CENTCOM.

Amusingly, the professor, a younger, urban hipster-type female, reacted with visible anxiety when I pointed out the similarities with counterinsurgency doctrine.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jedburgh of The Small Wars Council posted Arab Insight, Fall 2007 (PDF) which has the theme "Do We Hate America? The Arab Response". Definitely worth a look.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Reinhold Niebuhr

The Atlantic Monthly has a sometimes thoughtful, at times irritating, article by Paul Elie on the late theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, and the political struggle being waged by the Left, Middle and Right over his intellectual legacy. An excerpt:

"The biblical sense of history can make Niebuhr seem like something other than a liberal. In the '60's, his religiosity made him suspect on the New Left, and in the years after his death, his work resonated with the thinkers who were turning against that era's liberal reforms"

It wasn't Niebuhr's religiosity that made him suspect with the New Left but his anti-totalitarianism, something that a movement deeply afflicted with an authoritarian certitude and spasmodic nihilism could ill abide; indeed, they still seem to despise Niebuhr for his unwillingness to equivocate about Leftist tyranny. Elie is correct though, that the original Neoconservatives (the ones who actually made an intellectual journey from Left to Right) such as Norman Podhoretz had high regard for Niebuhr's writings. I myself first heard of Niebuhr from reading David Stockman's bitter memoir The Triumph of Politics. Stockman may have repudiated Ronald Reagan but he remained true, almost adulatory, to Niebuhr:

"The scales fell from my eyes as I turned those pages [ of Children of Light, Children of Darkness - ZP] Niebuhr was a withering critic of utopianism in every form. Man is incapable of perfection, he argued, because his estate as a free agent permits-indeed ensures -both good and evil...Through Niebuhr I dimly glimpsed the ultimate triumph of politics" ( Stockman,24).

I do not profess to be an expert on Reinhold Niebuhr or his philosophy, having read only one of his books, but the polemical war over Niebuhr that Elie critiques has, in my view, an air of ahistoricality to it. Perhaps with not the completely unhinged lunacy of the similar debate over Leo Strauss, but like Strauss, Niebuhr has been lifted by both sides out of the mid-20th century intellectual context that illuminated his ideas, in order to serve as a barricade for the political battle over Iraq and the Bush administration.

My gut reaction is that Niebuhr, were he alive today, would be writing things that would not sit well with some of his would-be reinterpreters and with more nuance and wisdom than for which his contemporary critics give him credit.


Peter Beinart, who comes in for much criticism from Elie for the following link, on Reinhold Niebuhr.

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Away today at a history conference - " 21st Century Freedom" - a refreshing combination of GWOT from a historian's perspective combined with Web 2.0 changing society and the discipline of teaching history. Back later tonight.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

First, I'd like to welcome two fine new blogs to the economy-sized Zenpundit blogroll:

Kings of War

The Grand Strategy Blog

And now, on to the recommended reading portion of our post.

SWJ BLOG - "COIN of the Realm"

Wizards of Oz - "Trafalgar Day"

Citizen Netmom -"Liveblogging: EdEvangelist Ian Jukes "

Curzon of Coming Anarchy - "Technology lessons from the Iraq war" and "Superstates"

HNN - "The Beginning of the End of the Facade of Russian Democracy"

Russia Blog - "Does Putin Seek to Retain Poweror Preserve His Legacy?" and "Kremlins: KGB, Gulags, Putin is Evil…blah, blah, blah…"

Ross Mayfield - "Choice Drives Change" (hat tip to Chris Anderson)

Thoughts Illustrated -"Innovation-What's Luck got to do with it?"

History Unfolding -"Rivers in Egypt"

Charlie Rose TV interview of Col. David Kilcullen ( Hat tip to John Robb)

That's it!

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I decided to take advantage of the pleasant weather this weekend, taking The Firstborn and the Son of Zenpundit out with friends to a pumpkin farm that featured a corn maze, pony rides, hot apple cider, a petting zoo and various folksy activities. A good time was had by all.



Eddie ( who credited Abu Muqawama) sent in a link to a Mother Jones issue that has a veritable roundtable of experts commenting on withdrawing from Iraq. I was impressed with their selection and below I highlight links to some of the experts who would be of the most interest to readers here:

Colonel T.X. Hammes
Colonel H.R. McMaster
Lt. Colonel John Nagl
Dr. Andrew Bacevich
Dr. Bary Posen
Dr. John Pike
General Anthony Zinni
Dr. Anthony Cordesman
Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski

Give it a look.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

From Robert Coram's biography BOYD, courtesy of DNI:

"Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road,” he said. “And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.” He raised his hand and pointed. “If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.” Then Boyd raised his other hand and pointed another direction.“Or you can go that way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted
and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and toyourself. And your work might make a difference.”

He paused and stared into the officer’s eyes and heart. “To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do. Which way will you go?"

Leadership is not management, though the latter is a skill that has it's time and place. Ultimately, leadership is about service and example, pointing the way moreso than teaching and meeting challenges in the place where wisdom joins with determination. The leader is a person whose words carry far because they are wings lifted by the winds of action.

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Via Organization Theory and Collaboration Blog, I see that the DNI, has a 500 day plan to greater IC integration (hat tip Jesserwilson). OTC's "wilsonml" summarizes:

"Each of the focus areas has a set of core and enabling initiatives:

1. Core: treat diversity as a strategic mission imperative; implement civilian IC joint duty program. Enabling: formalize National Intelligence University; improve recruiting, hiring and retention of heritage americans; develop an intelligence enterprise exercise program; improve foreign language capability; strengthen recruiting relationships with colleges and universities; complete design, begin development of an IC performance-based pay system; catalog and connect IC human resource capabilities.

2. Core: enhance intelligence information sharing policies, processes, and procedures. Enabling: create a single information sharing environment; implement attribute-based access and discovery; provide collaborative information technology to non-IC partners; and establish a single community classification guide.

3. Core: create collaborative environment for all analysts; establish National Intelligence Coordination Center. Enabling: Develop common standards and guidance for HUMINT activities; strengthen foreign intelligence relationships; expand hard target integrated collection strategies; develop IC-wide collection management tools; strengthen analytic tradecraft across the community; improve and expand use of the National Intelligence Priorities Framework; and strengthen science and technology analysis capabilities.

4. Core: Implement acquisition improvement plan. Enabling: build an IC technology transition plan; complete the stand-up of the IARPA; establish a systems engineering and arhitecture group; and develop an agile acquisition requirements process.

5. Core: modernize the security clearance process; and align strategy, budget, and capabilities through a strategic enterprise management system. Enabling: analyze and improve IC relationships with clients; collaborate to protect privacy and civil liberties; identify a common core human resources information system; and improve the IT certification and accreditation process.

6. Core: update policy documents clarifying and aligning IC authorities. Enabling: Define Director of Defense Intelligence authorities, roles and responsibilities; update DOD intelligence agency charters; develop a capstone IC doctrine and lexicon; foster integration and collaboration in the IC legal community; harmonize IC policy on “U.S. Person” information; revise and enhance the national intelligence policy process; and submit annual intelligence authorization act proposal."

Sounds great in terms of reforming structure and process, if not strategic vision or analytical methodology. Ambitious. Perhaps it will come out better than the last well-intentioned 500 Day Plan to transition a massive and unwilling, Cold War era, bureaucratic superstructure.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm tired and mentally foggy but still have an itch to blog a little, so I'm going to do something I don't usually do outside of twitter - microblog!

Shloky was justly praised for Naxalite Rage. Not a conflict of which I know much about but Shlok will help get me up to speed.

Wikinomics is a book worth the time spent reading, despite my not being a fan of "business lit". It bridges those constraints to also be a " big idea" book.

Regarding the Mukasey hearings, the Left seems less interested in stopping intrusive electronic surveillance of Americans than it does of throwing up abstruse procedural delays to monitoring foreigners who are suspected Islamist terrorists living overseas in third countries. The Liberal Democrats in the House have so voted:

"Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter did something unusual however, in the hearing on legislation to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--she announced at the start of the hearing that no amendments of any type would be allowed for debate. Committee Democrats followed Slaughter's lead and voted against amendments to: authorize surveillance of those engaged in the creation of Weapons of Mass Destruction; authorize surveillance of foreign terrorists outside the United States; extend liability protection to telecommunications companies that relied on government directives and shared information deemed necessary for protection from terrorist attack; and, allow a debate on the Bush administration's alternative."

Hat tip to Bruce Kesler.

This is why, despite everything the Bush administration has done wrong in Iraq, that the Democrats still have a " national security problem" with the public. Frankly, they always will ,so long as the Boomer-Left remains generationally dominant in that party.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A CFR interview with Walter Russell Mead about God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World . ( Hat tip to Lexington Green)

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Monday, October 15, 2007

In Part I. , we looked at John Kao's call for a more innovative America and Howard Gardner's analysis of the mindsets that would be required for creative, innovative endeavors. In Part II. we continue with the analysis of Frans Johansson in The Medici Effect .

Blogfriend Steve DeAngelis of ERMB has referenced The Medici Effect many times in the past two years; in his initial post on Johansson's work, Steve gave a superb summary of the Medici Effect concept:

"In his very interesting book The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures, Frans Johansson talks about the value of creating a space in which people from diverse fields of expertise can get together to exchange ideas. The Medici's, of course, were a wealthy and powerful Italian family who played an important role in the Renaissance. The family's wealth permitted it to support artists, philosophers, theologians, and scientists, whose combined intellect helped burst the historical pall known as the Dark Ages"

Johansson's thesis is that breakthrough innovation is generated most frequently at "the intersection" where two or more different domains meet rather than by predictable, linear, improvements within one field (" directional innovation"). Intersectional opportunities are increasing, Johansson argues due to increased migration, trends toward scientific consilience and ready access to the improved computational tools of the information revolution.

In The Medici Effect, Johansson tackles both cognitive tools as well as social environment that facilitate innovative thinking and productivity. Like Edward DeBono's lateral thinking exercises, Johansson encourages conscious and methodical attempts to find novel, intersectional, combinations of concepts; he points to cultivating an autotelic mindset; reversing one's premises to smash through "associative barriers"; using multiperspectivalism ( agreeing here with Howard Gardner); and defusing the social factors that inhibit organizations from effectively brainstorming. These are all solid suggestions, though most have been made elsewhere as well.

More attention is paid in The Medici Effect to the social environment that is interactive with the innovator in helping to create a climate conducive to synthesis and the generation of insight. moreover, Johansson identifies the creation of a dynamic and stimulating "community"as a critical factor for sustaining an innovation:

"Garfield offer's two reason for Magic's [ a sword & sorcery card game that was a cult hit] success: a prolonged and exciting learning phase and an expanding community of players. Examined closely, you will see that he is talking about the intersection of games and collectibles"

Gaming is itself, a very powerful tool for teaching adaptive thinking skills and for driving the assembly of a " value network" that can be turned toward productive purposes. Indeed, Johannson spends a great deal of time discussing the potential of these networks to function as a two-edged sword in regard to innovation. Moreover, the social and financial organization clustered around the innovator can be determinative in the success of the innovation in a way that is wholly counterintuitive, according to Johansson. Excess support brings restrictions in the form of vested interests from old value networks, stigmatizing failures that are a necessary part of the learning curve and blunting internal motivation with the distracting prospect of extrinsic reward. There is cognitive strength in " staying hungry" and needing to stretch resources with value-added thought ( see Don Vandergriff's Raising the Bar).

What Is To Be Done?:

Looking elsewhere, like The Smithsonian Magazine's "37 under 36 Young Innovators" we see many mining Johansson's intersections or using Gardner's Synthesizing and Creative Minds but these bright folks are social outliers. What we need is re-engineering of institutional cultures and structures, particularly that of our educational system to balance the development of analytical prowess with generative, creative, synthesisizing, capacities. John Hagel recently had a post at Edge Perspectives with a number of sage suggestions for driving innovation:

"Diversity. As Scott Page and others have persuasively suggested, new insight and learning tends to increase with cognitive diversity. This principle highlights the importance of designing institutional arrangements that extend well beyond a single institution, with particular attention to the opportunity to connect to diverse pools of expertise and experience. Diversity can often be enhanced by connecting into spikes – geographic concentrations of talent – and by targeting “brokers” within social networks, creating a multiplier effect in terms of the number of participants that are potentially accessible.

Relationships. It is not enough to have cognitive diversity. By itself, cognitive diversity often breeds misunderstanding and mistrust, seriously limiting the opportunity for people and institutions to learn from each other. Long-term trust based relationships, on the other hand, make it easier to engage in productive friction – the clash of diverse perspectives in ways that produces deep new insight and learning. The challenge is that these kinds of relationships often take a long time to develop and are hard to scale. Innovative institutional arrangements can help to accelerate and scale the formation of these kinds of relationships.

Modularity. When activities are tightly specified and hard-wired together, the opportunities for experimentation and tinkering are very limited. Segmenting people and activities into discrete modules with well-defined interfaces can help to create much more space and opportunity for distributed innovation and learning."

Read the rest here.

In practical terms, what does this mean for schools, corporations, universities and governments ? In my view, "hard-wired" hierarchy with rigid requirements, stiff penalties and centralized decision-making is going to have to be relegated to niches in the future rather than being the dominant form of organization that it is today. Hierarchy, with it's mania for control and accountability, remains useful for transactional delivery systems upon which reputations depend, logistical flows upon which production processes depend and security procedures upon which safety may depend. That being said, hierarchy will have to yield to more lateral, more collegial, more networked, more ecologically oriented models of connectivity where the generation of new ideas represents the lifeblood of an organization.

Hierarchy is Newtonian; Free Scale and Modular Networks are Darwinian. An innovation nation is, by definition, adaptive.


Sir Ken Robinson " Do Schools Kill Creativity?"

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Top Billing! " 'Band of Brothers' Kinship Endures"

Easy Company's new authors, William "Wild Bill " Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron.

Having been the focus of several best selling military histories, including Band of Brothers and an acclaimed HBO miniseries of the same name, two veterans of the celebrated "Easy Company" have told their own story in a joint memoir Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends.

Matt Armstrong -in GOOD Magazine - "America Should Hire al-Qaeda’s PR Agent"

A short but pungent critique about fortress embassies and IO incompetence.

Swedish Meatballs Confidential - " You Can't Polish a Turd"

Well...that's quite an icebreaker of a post heading.

Pundita - "Strategic Communication: how to get your message across when the enemy's agitprop is better than yours"

Pundita takes a break from her excellent, in-depth, coverage of Burma to comment at length on one of my prior IO posts, taking the counterintuitive path in her conclusion.

Kings of War -"Smart army but what is it good for?"

Critique of the Kilcullen/Nagl COIN transformation from the Brit perspective.

William McCallister at SWJ Blog -"Pamphlet: COIN and Irregular Warfare in a Tribal Society "( read the pamphlet here -PDF)

More of a journal article (72 pages) than a pamphlet, McCallister gives a substantive overview and analysis of working with tribesmen.

That's it !


Friday, October 12, 2007

Generally, I avoid commenting on primarily political stories but this one merits an exception.

Former Vice-President Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, in conjunction with UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Regardless of what one thinks about Mr. Gore as a politician or of his heavily propagandistic but Oscar award winning film, the Nobel Prize represents the capstone of one of the most remarkable political comebacks in American politics since Richard Nixon.

It is true that Al Gore did not self-destruct after his razor-thin defeat in 2000 ( yes, give it up, he lost) quite the way Nixon did when he lost the California Governorship in 1962 back to back with the presidency in 1960 but neither did " the New Nixon" of 1968 reach such illustrious heights. Americans with Nobels are rare; Americans with Peace Prizes are the most exclusive circle of all. Many conservatives are quite upset at this development and are venting, some of their complaints have my sympathy but their sense of timing does not. They are spitting into the wind right now and to the extent that anyone outside the movement conservative choir is paying any attention, bitter anti- Gore jeremiads only serve to alienate moderates.

For once, I can say the Bush administration struck the right political note with a simple gesture of congratulation to a former adversary enjoying a moment in the sun, without getting too excited about it. If anything, given recent decisions by the Nobel Committee to honor Communist frauds and terrorist kleptocrats, we should be relieved that the Peace Prize this year went to Al Gore and not, say, Kim Jong Il or Robert Mugabe. I'm the first not to confuse Mr. Gore with Andrei Sakharov or Aung San Suu Kyi but even I must concede he is a qualitative moral improvement over Yasser Arafat by many orders of magnitude.

Much speculation (i.e. wishful thinking) exists as to whether Gore will now jump into the race for the Democratic nomination for president. That would be fun to watch but I doubt that will happen as it would require that Gore extricate himself from around $ 100 million dollars of VC enterprises that he is deeply involved in, so as to compete at a complete organizational and financial disadvantage with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Why accept those headaches and fritter away his newfound political capital when as the Democratic Party's star elder statesman and counterweight to the Clintons, Gore is a " must-have" insider for a new Democratic administration ? That's a lot of clout to throw away on a last-minute vanity campaign.

Mr. Gore is enjoying his moment but in all probability, this episode represents his peak.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Via Kent's Imperative, I learned that George Friedman of Stratfor is now blogging. KI also has a critique of Stratfor itself, a taste below:

"Stratfor thus stands somewhat apart from the rest, as an independent shop in continuous operation for over a decade. But in that decade, its track record has been exceptionally unsteady. It first made its bones during the Kosovo crisis, with unique new information sources (in an area where few shops had anything at all) and the occasional innovative but solid analytic line. Its attempt to act as a “global” shop in the mould – and even, boastfully, claiming competition with – CIA, did not fare so well over subsequent years. Occasionally, they have a good piece. But often their analysis reflects their hiring strategies, which Friedman himself proudly holds up as an ideal model – the selection of young students, fresh from university, with no prior intelligence experience. Stratfor claims this allows them to build new analysts with no “bad habits” that might have been learned in the intelligence community. However, it ensures that they have a workforce that will always lack substantive experience, creating a shallow bench on accounts. This can be quickly and professionally fatal on hard targets, or when they step into areas in which existing analysis is a career long affair for an entire analytical sub-specialty (such as oil market dynamics). While we are great believers in the value of the beginner’s mind, and of the importance of Smoking Mirror, we think Stratfor’s approach goes a bit too far."

Personally, I have never been as high on Stratfor's products as other bloggers in the foreign policy/intel/military/national security area (nor have I ever slammed them, for that matter), my preferences running toward RAND, The Jamestown Foundation, PINR and several other think tanks. I tend to mentally segregate Stratfor in an unnamed category alongside Seymour Hersh and Yossef Bodansky but many rungs above MEMRI and the DEBKA file. I'll read what they had to say and go "Hmmmmmm...." Perhaps this is unfair; I candidly admit this arises from an intuitive prejudice or instinct on my part rather than any kind of systematic analysis and if anyone cares to argue otherwise, I'll give them a fair hearing in the comment section.

I'm not really intending to post on comparative value of analytical sources, however. What I found interesting in this bit of information was that Dr. Friedman, already having a substantial platform in Stratfor, arrived at the conclusion that blogging would, nevertheless, be a value-added activity for his ROA ( "return on attention"). Why ?

My guess is the interactivity and connectivity/network-building of blogging is a qualitatively different medium for broadcasting information from the very Web 1.0 Stratfor. One that reaches an audience of potential allies, not mere consumers of information.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

On Part II of the Innovation-Intersection series.



My copy of The Mislabeled Child by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, that I ordered through work last spring, finally arrived the other day ( Use private sector Amazon.com, the book arrives in a few days. Use an educational bureaucracy and it arrives five months later). I have been looking forward to reading this for some time ( literally).

The Drs. Eide, in addition to being authors, clinicians and researchers, also have two excellent blogs, The Neurolearning Blog and The Classical School Blog, where they share their professional expertise and deep interest in enhancing learning for children, particularly those in outlier populations with special needs. The Eides have been less active in the blogosphere this year but The Neurolearning Blog is one of my few daily "must reads".

It's a moderately thick text with an impressive bibliography for a book written for laymen rather than specialists. I look forward to diving in and learning something new!

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Monday, October 08, 2007


The new, somewhat meandering, official U.S. State Department blog. This site has potential, if not squelched by unhappy seniors, to bring some of the 21st century's Web 2.0 interactivity into the insular world of Foggy Bottom. We'll see how it evolves, right now they seem to be experimenting. Perhaps Colonel Kilcullen can give his former diplomatic colleagues a blogging tutorial ?

The Diplomad

I just noticed that State's " conservative underground" has reactivated the once highly popular and long dormant Diplomad blog, absent the former Chief Diplomad. Regardless, I'd like to say welcome back to the blogroll to the Diplomadmen.

Jesserwilson's Blog

Wandered over there via a recommendation from Michael Tanji. Mr. Wilson is off to a stronger start as a blogger than is the U.S. Department of State.

CSIS Commission on Smart Power Blog

The awkwardly named group blog of the CSIS Commission on Smart Power that sort of reads as a CORANTE site for foreign policy wonks. They should get Nye and Armitage to write an occasional post ( Nye has guest-blogged at Paul Kretkowski's Beacon)



My friend Shane Deichman had an important post at Wizards of Oz - a review of Dr. John Kao's new book, Innovation Nation (Kao's site is here). I have not read the book yet but Shane's review of Kao's work struck a chord with my interest in educational reform. We are living in a transformative era but our educational system's paradigm, structures and methodologies are looking dangerously anachronistic. Shane writes, in part:

"He is also a man with a true “long view” – a vision not just for our immediate future, but for this and the next century. In Innovation Nation, Kao describes the evolution of “innovation models” – from individual achievement to today’s “version 4.0” that rapidly adapts best practices across a globally diffuse environment of open architectures and collaboration. America is the “incumbent”, but also seemingly blind to the challenges posed by emergent innovation powers like Singapore, Denmark and Finland.

The book continues with an honest critique of America’s education system, comparing and contrasting our response (in terms of funding, curriculum development, teacher training, school construction, etc.) to Sputnik and President Kennedy’s famous challenge at Rice University in 1962 to today’s sagging U.S. aptitude test scores and lackluster performance in math and science. John compares the high barriers to entry (both literally and figuratively) of our nation’s immigration system to that in global innovation hot spots, along with the perils they bring

Read the rest here.

What can be done to ramp up American creativity and innovation ? Many things, most of which are outside the scope of this post, but Kao hones in on addressing the fundamentals, which includes our educational system and also our culture ( or rather, our institutional cultures). Together they compose a social platform that will either inhibit or accelerate the rate of innovation in America.

Looking at the cognition of creative thinking and innovation.

Two books that might help in re-engineering the culture in the direction that Kao envisions are that of fellow Harvard professor Howard Gardner's Five Minds For the Future and also The Medici Effect by strategic consultant Frans Johansson. While both authors explore individual thinking and the mentalities of organizations, Gardner, a popular guru in the field of educational psychology, emphasizes the former.

Gardner's book explores five "minds" or cognitive approaches that he believes will be important for the 21st century. They are:

"The Disciplinary Mind: the mastery of
major schools of thought, including
science, mathematics, and history, and of
at least one professional craft.

The Synthesizing Mind: the ability to
integrate ideas from different disciplines
or spheres into a coherent whole and to
communicate that integration to others.

The Creating Mind: the capacity to
uncover and clarify new problems,
questions and phenomena.

The Respectful Mind: awareness of and
appreciation for differences among
human beings and human groups.

The Ethical Mind: fulfillment of one's
responsibilities as a worker and as a

While the last two are outside of this discussion, the disciplinary mind has been discussed here many times under the auspices of the term "vertical thinking" and Gardner does an excellent job on explaining how that kind of training for subject mastery creates a base for the development or refinement of other kinds of thinking.

Having the disciplinary mind of a vertical thinking expert is particularly complementary to the practice of horizontal thinking, though many experts resist horizontal thinking out of habitual analytical reductionism, the legacy of academic culture or ego, fearing to be seen operating outside one's area of known competence. Gardner likes to make the analogy of an intellectual laser vs. a searchlight in comparing the two.

Gardner, under the influence of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, divides the cognitive activities of horizontal thinking, into the Synthesizing Mind and the Creative Mind, which would be drawn upon during the process of innovation. Like Csikzentmihalyi, Gardner's definition of creativity is product-oriented and scalar - the results of creative thinking must approach a certain, tangible, magnitude of effect to count - "Big C" creativity, in Gardner's words.

I've never agreed with that distinction. First, it discounts the effect of stochastic tinkering, which are simply creative tweaks on the micro scale that can be very significant, especially when collectively harnessed on a wikinomic/mass collaboration platform. Secondly, the small scale creativity is a necessary developmental step to take, cognitively speaking, before running with grand accomplishments later in life. Even geniuses and polymaths like Isaac Newton and Mozart who demonstrated tremendous creative breakthroughs of a global impact at a relatively young age, went through periods of early, if precocious, experimentation.

Gardner's chapter on synthesis is worth the price of the book alone as he gives it a thorough summative treatment, detailing eight kinds of synthesis that have four components and three kinds of motivations. John Boyd wrote of the process of synthesis as a "dialectical engine"; if so, Gardner would consider metaphors to be the spark plugs of integration and innovation, a valuble tool that helps connect a brain with a "massive modularity" in physiological structure. Gardner considers accomplishment of true interdisciplinarity to be hard but acquisition of "multiperspectivalism" among practitioners to be a realistic goal for synthesis.

Creative Minds, in Gradner's view, are interactive, working within a " social field" that validates their accomplishments but are not confined to the boundaries of a disciplinary field that inhibits most practitioners from discovery or innovation. He is very cautious of " false creativity" or precipitous claims of "creativity" from those jacks-of-all-trades who have yet to master a single domain. Writing on American public schools in the 1980's, Gardner states:

"In schools (and in after school sites) the compelling need was for the achievment of genuine mastery of a recognized discipline: not only was there no need for educators to wave the flag of creativity; it might have been counterproductive to do so. Only through the honing of discipline would genuinely creative options emerge." (Gardner, 85)

Gardner's books are often of an uneven quality of depth. His chapter on the Creative Mind is not nearly as thorough as the one on the Synthesizing Mind ( not surprising as Gardner has not laid out a convincing case, in my view, why the two ought to have been separated in the first place; moreso, by his section on their interrelationship). He does give more practical examples from the corporate world and discuss the potential of online platforms for creativity in terms of a Wikipedia -Britannica continuum.

Innovation depends upon the ability to generate new insights and bring these to practical fruition. Cognitively, our tools would include metaphors, analogies, visualization, consciously systematic lateral thinking in the syle of Edward DeBono and harnessing the powers of intuition and imagination in a conceptually-rich intellectual environment.

End Part I.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

A lengthy two-part post, later today.

It would be up already but this has been a heavy family activties/company-over-to-the-house weekend.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wizards of Oz, Enterprise Resilience Management Blog, Thomas P.M. Barnett, TDAXP, Hidden Unities, Pundita, Agam's Gecko, Democracy Project , Simulated Laughter -New!

Free Burma!

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The most comprehensive, English-language, ideological analysis of Islamist extremist and terror movements yet compiled; assembled by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Executive Summary (23 page PDF)

Research Compendium (361 page PDF)

Hat tip to Charles Cameron for the title of this ( actually, many) interesting scholarly work and to Right Truth for the URLs.


Heh. Plagued by basic reading comprehension problems last night. Title corrected. Gracias, Charles!

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Senior General Than Shwe of Burma

Than Shwe and all members of the instrumentalities under his authority as commander-in-chief and Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, are accused of crimes including, but not limited to, actions defined under Article II. and Article II. of The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:

"Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:

(a) Genocide;(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;(d) Attempt to commit genocide;(e) Complicity in genocide. "

The mass and systemic suppression and extrajudicial murder of Buddhist monks and ongoing ethnic cleansing campaigns against the Karen minority qualify for a referral to the UNSC for the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate, indict and try Burmese leaders suspected of crimes against humanity and genocide.

Free Burma!

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

American political extremists try to bridge an ideological gulf to hammer out an agenda for secession:

"Tired of foreign wars and what they consider right-wing courts, the Middlebury Institute wants liberal states like Vermont to be able to secede peacefully.

That sounds just fine to the League of the South, a conservative group that refuses to give up on Southern independence.

"We believe that an independent South, or Hawaii, Alaska, or Vermont would be better able to serve the interest of everybody, regardless of race or ethnicity," said Michael Hill of Killen, Ala., president of the League of the South.

Separated by hundreds of miles and divergent political philosophies, the Middlebury Institute and the League of the South are hosting a two-day Secessionist Convention starting Wednesday in Chattanooga.

They expect to attract supporters from California, Alaska and Hawaii, inviting anyone who wants to dissolve the Union so states can save themselves from an overbearing federal government"

One of the major barriers to gaining momentum toward serious consideration of secession is the inherent lack of political attractiveness of the two groups pushing the idea. They wish a regional audience where their implicit political agenda is less marginalized than the current national one where their philosophy and motives are suspect as...well...tin-foil hat wearing wingnuts.

That being said, most separatist movements probably start that way - with groups trying to leverage relatively greater local acceptance as a wedge to accrue legitimacy vs. the state. For example, the wacky, chauvinistic, quasi-fascist, Pamyat parlayed minor grievances of the Russian majority population into a Russian nationalist wave against the USSR ( and Jews various other ethnic minorities)in the late 1980's.

Pebbles and avalanches.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The State Department's E-Journal abandons terrorism and counterinsurgency for an issue that covers "U.S. Food Aid: Reducing World Hunger".

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Monday, October 01, 2007

I liked these posts quite a bit; nicely done Strat.

"Guns for Hire"

"How to Survive in Modern Times"

"Great Generals of Rome"

My survival kit has cheaper whiskey, I fear.

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Absolutely no reason for this, I admit.

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Free Burma!

The Burmese government is now engaged in wholesale massacres of it's Buddhist opposition:

"Burma: Thousands dead in massacre of the monks dumped in the jungle" -The Daily Mail

" Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed. The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand." Mr Win, who spoke out as a Swedish diplomat predicted that the revolt has failed, said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men. He has now reached the border with Thailand. "

eddie of Hidden Unities sent me the following article from TIME:

"But while the junta can control the street, the monasteries and even the web, they can't control the sky. On Friday the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), working with Burmese groups, released a new analysis of high-resolution satellite images that pinpointed evidence of human rights violations in the eastern Burma. For the first time in Burma, scientists were able to use orbital satellites to confirm on-the-ground reports of burned villages and forced relocations of civilians by the military. The technique has already been used to document human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and Darfur, but in Burma, a closed country that often seems like a modern-day version of Orwell's 1984, it's almost like turning Big Brother against itself. "We are sending a message to the military junta that we are watching from the sky," said Aung Din, policy director for the U.S. Campaign for Burma. "

What if NGO's, IGO's and national governments geographically divided Burma into "observation zones" and used government and commercial spy satellites to accumulate evidence of crimes against humanity by the military regime, making these images available on a public wiki ? An open-source pressure campaign for the prosecution of Burmese leaders before a special tribunal or the ICC ?


Free Burma! is a central site for "International Bloggers Day for Burma -October 4 "


The Glittering Eye New!

Swedish Meatballs Confidential New!

Pundita and here

Hidden Unities as well as here

Jules Crittenden

Agam's Gecko

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