Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Through the very kind agency of Bruce Kesler, The Democracy Project posted a short piece from me on PNM theory and promoting Global Democracy in which I draw from Blueprint For Action by Dr. Barnett. A short piece with some exceptionally generous introductory remarks by Bruce ( thanks again !), it contains a few of BFA's key points for the interested reader.

There may be more posts here at Zenpundit, very late this evening, when I can catch my breath.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Curtis Gale Weeks of Phatic Communion had some excellent comments the other day to my post on America's Internal Non-Integrating Gap ( itself inspired by Chirol's Domestic PNM post) and then followed these with an examination of the thread in light of Plato's Republic. This folks, is damn fine blogging - and sure to cause no end of delight in some quarters.

If like me you haven't read The Republic in a while, Curtis gives you a cogent review of Plato's theory of forms of government and mines some interest nuggets that connect Platonic thought to Dr. Barnett's System Adminstration concept. Admittedly, Mr. Weeks read greater parameters of State intervention into my post than I had intended but the fault there is mine - clarity was sacrificed for brevity. On the other hand, if I get critiques of this quality by being vague, perhaps I should start being intentionally ambiguous.

At the end of his post, Curtis poses some questions and observations, to which I will add my comments in regular text:

"Looking at Plato’s paradigm, and considering Mark’s, I wonder if the desire to focus on a systemic education of the young (for uniting the State), is an effort to break the generational shift from one form of governance to the next lower.

Yes. The idea would be to " re-set" the youngest generation of the underclass and their neighborhoods to the societal baseline. Dr. Von would go farther but I think dealing with simply breaking the cycle of disconnection with the children already " in the system" is task enough in terms of magnitude without also engaging in perfecting the marginally competent.

The dysfunction mentioned by Mark, and alluded to by others including myself, most resembles the dysfunction outlined by Plato in his consideration of Oligarchy: the impoverished drones sometimes have stings, become criminals, and must be subdued…for what purpose? The rulers of an Oligarchy seek to protect their personal wealth and power from these criminal members of their society. Or perhaps the libertine belief in absolute freedom, in this Democracy, has led to a relativism in the “disconnected” classes, who are following the path of their own pleasures in ways which seem criminal to the neo-oligarchic elements of modern America?

The last part is an interesting sociological question. Certainly, there is no moral difference between the choice of mind and mood altering substances favored by the well to do compared to those indulged in by the very poor. The wealthy and middle-class have greater reserves in terms of resources to mitigate the negative effects of addiction than people living an already marginal existence but that is irrelevant to the nature of the act itself ( as an aside I'm in favor of decriminalization of drug use - the War on Drugs is a tremendous waste by any economic measure).

To return to the point of purpose, my motives were both altruistic and cold-bloodedly pragmatic. Altruistic in the sense of giving the underclass children a way out of their exile from the mainstream tht is no fault of their own. Pragmatic in the sense that unmaking the American underclass and short-circuiting a subculture of self-destruction is in the long run, much cheaper for society than continuing to manage it with prisons and an unfocused shotgun approach to welfare state bureaucracy.

I also wonder how we measure “connectedness” and “disconnectedness,” since all members of our society are just that: present within the Society.

Good question. When I first became involved in discussing PNM and made contact with Dr. Barnett, I suggested that the degree of connectivity was something that could in fact be quantified by a good economist - though the object of discussion was nation-states. People would be more subjective and harder to evaluate.

They may be involved in different tasks, different goals with different motivations, but I’m of the same mind with Plato when he asserts that any system of society is a reflection of all the actual members of a society. I.e., we are already connected within the society, even if we don’t always notice the connections or recognize the type of connections that are present. These questions seem paramount, if we are to decide what, exactly, will be taught to the children of our society: what values, what merits, what future."

I think here the concept of marginality would be helpful. The disconnected are still part of society, not complete aliens, so the disconnectivity is indeed relative. But they are beyond the equilibrium point where you might find the merely asocial, the misanthropic or the dissenter. The underclass are at the point where a majority of their behavior is in conflict with major societal Rule-sets and at times, self-preservation.

Comments as always, are most welcome.

The German Left at any rate. It is a useful contrast to note the response of the American public and the Bush administration to the Tsunami disaster and the gloating combined with irrational malice in Germany's papers over hurricane Katarina. Can you imagine the U.S. doing anything but rushing aid to Germany in the advent of a natural disaster ? No wonder that sixty years later Germany's neighbors still do not trust her - with a mindset like this the old British adage that the Germans are either at your throat or on their knees makes a lot of sense. Let's all be glad of the wisdom that NATO showed in never allowing these people to have their own nuclear weapons.

Of these malevolent jackasses writing these editorials in Germany I wonder how many are alive only because we - we meaning the United States - kept their parent's generation from starving and freezing to death in the years following WWII when the Russians and the French would have been gleeful to see them go under ?

I have several meaty posts in the works that should be finished soon as well as a short piece for another website that I will link to when it is up.

Moreover, I need to answer the last comment ( and subsequent posting) from Curtis of Phatic Communion who is now taunting me as a closet neo-Platonist and the one from Dan of tdaxp ( whom I'd thought we'd lost to strong drink and the subtle pleasures of graduate school).

More later.....

I was proud to see Zenpundit on the blogroll of Live from the FDNF , a blog written by a member of The Forward Deployed Naval Forces. Anytime I can entertain, inform and support the men and women serving the United States overseas by scribbling on my blog is time well spent !
Monday, August 29, 2005

Perhaps there will be time for commentary later tonight in an update....but not right now

"The Physics of Societal and Cultural Change" by Dr. Von

"Necessary War" by Callimachus of Done With Mirrors

More later.....
Sunday, August 28, 2005

A bit of personal trivia.

Blogging was light today due to a special family outing to take The Firstborn of Zenpundit to see " The Lion King " - which was absolutely amazing. The costumes and set design in particula exhibited aesthetic brilliance. The Firstborn, like the rest of the children in the theater sat entranced at the performance.

Well, almost. Naturally, seated directly behind us was what I can only describe as a multigenerational, matriarchy in motion of Suburban hillbillies who seemed unaware that the performance was not taking place in their living room. Either that or being unfamiliar with the theater they just went went with the standard etiquette of the Friday Night Open-League Bowling tournament.

I could take the non-stop,whiny, running commentary of the anemic five year old, her mother's automatic and duly ignored attempts at idle-threat " discipline", the occasional " I'm bored" announcement from the petulant 14 year old boy and the miscellaneous antics of the rest of the brood showing evidence of being sired by more than one father. That's nothing you can't see at any given mall. Or at least at a convenient passing carnival.

No, what grated on my nerves was the behavior of the grandmother. For a woman of some advanced years, she could give out the most violent guffaw - and did so regularly with each and every punchline. And then she repeated the punchline out loud to the brood and surrounding audience who had just heard it 3.5 seconds earlier- just in case the joke had escaped anyone - and guffawed again. Louder. She was like Max Cady in a fanny pack.

We shhhed. We asked for quiet. We glared. I finally made a rude remark of my own( it began with " Ignorant" and was well-seconded) but the only sustained peace we received was after the intermission when continued talking would have interfered with their rapidly consuming a hay bailer of popcorn and several pounds of candy apiece . I was kind of amazed at how a group so socially inept could have had the economic means to purchase about $600-700 of tickets and probably close to that much in junk food. Oh, the topper was the five year old reaching into Mrs. Zenpundit's hair - which Mrs. Z. wisely did not tell me about until we were in the car and on the expressway.

The Firstborn however saw none of this nonsense. She was in the world of The Lion King and was completely oblivious and raved afterward about how wonderful everything was.

That made the day :o)

Chirol of Coming Anarchy asks about " Domestic PNM Theory "

"Like Curzon and Younghusband, I’m a big fan of Thomas Barnett and the Pentagon’s New Map. While we at ComingAnarchy, and many others, have debated the implications his theory has in the domain of international relations, one interesting question came to me, namely, the implications of it for domestic policy. If we accept that disconnectedness equals danger, then what kind of social and criminal justice policies should we be pursuing? Barnett advocates a so-called SysAdmin force to police the world and rebuild failed states into functioning members of the Core. If one then were to imagine a city with its suburbs, downtown and ghetto, what kind of SysAdmin force and policies would PNM theory dictate?

Since the primary goal of a domestically aimed PNM program would be to connect disconneted people with mainstream society, who would be targeted (i.e. what are the signs of disconnectedness) and how would they be connected? Given that Barnett’s theory is so complimentary of capitalism and views globalization, the international incarnation of capitalism, as the savior of our world, I find it interesting that on a domestic level, his theory would tend to recommend policies essentially socialist in nature."

The Core-Gap-Seam taxonomy developed by Dr. Barnett is a good " horizontal model" that can be applied to other domains besides international relations and military grand strategy. In fact, Tom Barnett and Stephen DeAngelis are currently looking at applying PNM concepts to business strategy, international law and public education. I will leave international law and business strategy aside for another day and concentrate on Chirol's question on domestic disconnection.

It is popular to divide America into Red states and Blue states these days and look at the shrill rhetoric that exaggerates differences and obscures commonalities. I have news for the internet partisans of both sides. They're on the same side. They're all connected. They're in the system. They have the luxury of time, education and DSL connections to worry and fight over permutations of John Roberts attack ads, the lunacy of Cindy Sheehan and other future historical trivia.

The real " other side" is neither Left nor Right but the disconnected denizens of America's Educational Gap. They are the children of Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities who meander through stark lives of unquiet desperation. They come from bookless homes with parents who are at best marginal figures, often consumed by drug addiction and mental illness, when they are present at all. Ubiquitous violence and conflict from an early age leave them emotionally disconnected at a neurological level from societal norms and at times a sense of empathy. The range of the moment oriented skill-sets they develop to survive the conditions of their dysfunctional world coupled with the basic education left unlearned in subpar schools leave them virtually unemployable in mainstream society. America has developed a durable underclass and contrary to popular belief it is not an exclusively Black or urban demographic.

Chirol asks if applying PNM theory, a domestic " System Administration" force, to America's internal Gap requires " socialistic" measures. It's a good question. My answer is that it does not. What is required is that all measures both public and private, State and Federal, current and future be designed, concentrated and coordinated with the systemic effect in mind. A trillion dollars of public and private money directed at two or three objectives instead of twenty-thousand directions is going to have a significant effect.

Secondly, that if we truly wish to make significant headway and solve rather than manage this problem and " shrink the gap" I would suggest that a certain realistic ruthlessness is required to make the very young the focus of all our efforts for the first time and write off the already badly screwed-up, incompetent and sometimes criminal adults in their lives. For two generations we have worked through and subsidized the dysfunctional adults and I have to say, anecdotal happy cases aside, this strategy ran counter to basic economics, psychology, sociology and educational theory and has, unsurprisingly, yielded consistently miserable results.

My prescription fits poorly into a Left-Right spectrum and would draw upon policy ideas from conservatives and liberals alike without adopting the worldview solution of either being primarily goal-directed. A massive redirection of societal resources toward our most At-Risk and vulnerable children coupled with a systemic intervention against socially disruptive and incompetently disfunctional behaviors that create the conditions for anarchy and violence.
Friday, August 26, 2005

Bruce Kesler, who has been active in politics since the Nixon administration ( I believe Nixon disdained Kesler as a " hippie") and writes for several venues, sends me interesting things on a regular basis. Today, in " Analogy Inanities" at The Democracy Project, Kesler takes on the " Iraq is Vietnam" meme, currently enjoying renewed popularity among the MSM lightweights:

"We are being smothered in asserted analogies between Vietnam and Iraq, between the 1968 or 1972 presidential elections’ candidates, issues and outcomes and those predicted for the 2008 election three-plus years hence, or between various mid-term Congressional elections and that of 2006. Almost all of these analogies are fairly worthless, in one or more of logic, facts, causes, knowledge, or connections. They may fill space in pundits’ columns, activists’ causes or politicos’ campaigns, but are pretty poor indicators of understanding the present and, especially, understanding a still quite unclear future.

Analogies are basically illustrations serving arguments. By drawing a picture of a previous event, and drawing a parallel picture of a current event, then inferring or pointing out the similarities, a conclusion is argued.

The logical quality of the analogy depends upon the empirical facts, or as close to that as one can get, of what is included and excluded from the past and current situations, and of the causal factors and the connections between cause and effect in each case and between cases. The persuasive power of the analogy depends upon the extent of fact-checking knowledge by and available to the listener, the relevance and appeal to the listener of the connections made, and the presentation of the analogist.

These latter “emotional” factors, naturally, are more important to the ignorant or partisan than is logical quality. Counter-arguments based on facts and logic are aimed at the more cognizant or open-minded. Counter arguments more based on the emotive factors are necessary for reaching or neutralizing the determinedly ignorant or partisan, but the arguer’s integrity depends upon taking much care to not stray into poorly defensible argumentation.

Sometimes analogies are useful to argumentation, or to begin to understand a difficult subject by using a set of different simple cases, and some actually contain high logical and persuasive quality.

More often, there are more factual and contextual differences than similarities between what is presented as the previous case in the analogy and the current case, the causal and logical connections within and between the two are even more extended than presented, and thus the conclusion argued is more tenuous than real or instructive.

I am not contesting Santayana’s famous dictum, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I am saying that it is incomplete and inadequate. The elements that can make an analogy of greater quality or worthlessness apply, of course. In any event, and even for the best of analogies, it is still essential to deal with the current and probable details and differences. Getting lost in a past event or one’s understanding of it can be as or more dangerous than not knowing the past. It can also restrict one’s imagination, thinking and planning as to the present and future actions that can result in a more favorable outcome.

Great pundits, activists and politicians recognize that the future can be made, not just repeated

Analogies are powerful tools for horizontal thinking. A fact recognized by many higher educational institutions that rely on the MAT to screen prospective graduate students. Well constructed analogies emplasize the parallel nature of operational premises or major structural features of two dissimilar things. Poorly constructed analogies rely on superficialities or non-critical aspects to try and draw a hasty generalization.

In my view, the Iraq and Vietnam fall into this category as Iraq is about as much like South Vietnam as it is like the Moon, something recognized by more perceptive antiwar types. Perhaps we should have a contest to see what other specious antiwar Iraq analogies we can inject into the debate. Bonus points for historical obscurity. The winner is the first blogger who finds somebody on the Left using their slogan seriously.

I open with " Iraq will be America's Agincourt !"


First a minor correction. Mr. Kesler began his activism with the Johnson administration, though the earlier hippie reference stands.

Secondly, Mr. Kesler writes in reference to comments section:

"There is not a space limitation at Democracy Project, outside of decent writing. Beyond about 1-thousand words can be carried over on to a connected page, as was done with my debut post about the sad state of ombudsmen (third in a series I've been doing). The reason that I did not go further into illustrations or analyses of examples is that I wanted to concentrate the reader's attention on the framework of analysis, for the reader's own critical thinking, without distractions of my further views or the reader's own dispositions.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I'm very sorry for the diminished posting the last few days. And email contact with several of you.

My powerpoint presentation has been rendered moot after much investment of effort, sweat, blood, tears and toil; and I have just had my ass handed to me tonight in high stakes Texas Hold'em. As in, on a platter, minimum " 4" to open. Normally this is far too rich for my blood but I was on fire earlier in the evening and managed by guile, luck and stealth to get above my station in life .To make matters worse I was a finalist before being taken to the cleaners by the arrogant, cigar-chomping, bitter-enders.


I am going to bed.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dave at The Glittering Eye has an excellent post up on determining the credibility of sources . The nature of one's sources is a key question in the field of history and in theory at least, a budding historian should expect that their footnotes on any work they publish will receive merciless scrutiny from their peers. In practice of course, the checking is spotty to nonexistent as the embarrassing case of Michael Bellesiles proved.

Historians mostly use the honor system regarding sources and only really dig in to the footnotes when some biting yet veiled remark from another historian drives them into a mad-dog fury and they go on an academic jihad to destroy their critic's credibility by impeaching their sources. Sometimes these bizarre historiographic grudge matches will play out in front of a live audience at conferences to the great amusement of onlookers ( My own mentor for some reason had a longstanding feud going with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., whose name he usually prefaced with " the wicked"). Or online, as I have seen a number of scholars, some of them well-regarded, end up being banned by H-Diplo or simply found that the moderators stop accepting their posts without extensive time-consuming redacting and editorial changes.

The stakes, seemingly so low, are actually high. Credibility once lost...is lost. You become known as a crackpot and are either ignored entirely or become something of a laughingstock. Like historians, for bloggers credibility is a quality not unlike honor - it is a coin paid out that buys you the reader's respect.

Without credibility you might as well hang up your keyboard.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Frontpagemag.com, run by conservative activist and writer David Horowitz is generally a scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners style of website. Every so often though, they take a break from bare-knuckle brawling with the radical Left and Jamie Glazov has a round-table on larger issues. This one was on African development - or rather the lack thereof- and featured some big names including Ralph Peters and Michael Radu. An excerpt from Peters:

"To remain with eastern Africa, I believe that Dr. Dalrymple is right on target when he faults tribal mindsets and inherited behavior patterns. Given that the French and Dutch just voted along tribal lines in a set of referenda on the proposed European constitution, perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised at the persistence of tribal loyalties in history-shocked societies in Africa. The tribe remains the bedrock of security. In up-country Kenya, economics traditionally have been viewed as a zero-sum game. What one tribe gains, another loses--a reasonable proposition in a cattle-raiding culture or where fertile land is scarce and water precious. Corruption--the greatest plague of all upon the developing world--comes naturally to these paternalistic societies and, as pointed out by other participants, is not viewed as corrupt in our sense. On the contrary, it is our behavior that seems unfathomable and terribly risky.

So you have these ferocious, persistent cultural inheritances that are very hard to change--there's no formula--and natural blood loyalties that, viewed objectively, make more rational sense than the interfaith, interethnic, interracial trust acquired so painfully in North America (still far from universal even in Europe). And, around the world, I've seen the proof of the maxim that any society in which blood ties remain the basic principle of social and economic organization simply cannot compete in the 21st century (even in American society, those groups and regions in which blood ties remain tenacious are the least economically successful)."

Sometimes Glazov includes figures from the Left or even the far Left in these symposiums though this does not appear to be the case today.

( hat tip Milt's File )

jb expresses shock and awe.

Dave reveals the terrifying truth of the Blogosphere.

My strategy has always been to shoot for quality over quantity. Frankly, its a relatively thin demographic slice of the population that cares about or would understand many of the topics about which I enjoy writing. And going for quantity as a blogger is a huge amount of work - quality, ironically, comports far better with sloth :O)
Monday, August 22, 2005

I spoke to Critt Jarvis this morning on the telephone regarding a new project and also the acquisition of The New Rule-Set Project by Enterra Solution's Stephen DeAngelis. Dr. Barnett explained the numerous advantages to this collaboration for him on his blog and for Critt's part, he was made the new Director of Corporate Blogging. Now this is something entirely new but I expect that as striking as Critt's title is today, in five years it will be as commonplace as a company having a Chief Information Officer or a Director of Human Resources.

Marshall McLuhan is seldom remembered these days but he was the insightful media guru who was most famous for his statement " The medium is the message". McLuhan left a large body of work on the fundamental relationship between media and people, thought and society and not only would he have immediately grasped the change implied in Critt's new job but would have expected it.

New methods of communication actually re-train the mind to think somewhat differently than it did before. Socrates bemoaned the advent of literacy because texts were frozen in time, unlike rhetoricians, and people would inevitably lose their taste for the discipline of extended memorization. Joseph Pulitzer created the modern - who, what, where, sum it up in the first paragraph news frame that we are all familiar with and use to distinguish " news" from other forms of literature. Television's vapid mesmerization of the Baby Boomers led Newton Minow to condemn TV as a " vast wasteland" but TV helped change how politicians and journalists behaved, how wars were fought, who exercised the right to vote and how justice is done in this country. The internet and blogging continue that cultural evolution, altering societal expectations and accelerating our decision cycle - to a certain extent, shifting our worldview.

Director of Corporate Blogging ? McLuhan would have been proud.
Sunday, August 21, 2005

"What America Needs to Do to Achieve Its Foreign Policy Goals ... Improving Intelligence Capabilities- Part V." by William R. Polk at HNN.

When I mention " the bipartisan foreign policy elite" I'm speaking about people like Ambasador Polk, whose exceptionally distinguished career epitomizes that demographic in all its virtues, vices and emoulments, from a Harvard PhD. to marrying into the European aristocracy. He's actually a throwback to what used to be called " The Eastern Establishment" that ran this nation until the 1970's. I disagree with many of his views ( at times strenuously) but his breadth of experience should always get him a fair hearing. The man literally worked with giants.

" A Cruel, New Canada" by Geitner Simmons at Regions of Mind

Geitner's heavy responsibilities as an editor and writer no longer leave him the time that he once had for blogging but his occasional posts still stand out for their quality and intelligence in a blogosphere all too often devoted to the partisan squabble of the moment. Anyone just starting out as a blogger should stroll through the archives at Regions and see the level they should be shooting for.

As an added bonus, Geitner has actor Ian McKellan and noted historian Robert McDougall in the same post. Must be a Scotch-Irish day or something in Omaha :o)

" Cindy Calls for Volunteers " Vanderleun at American Digest

This one is admittedly a minor triviality. Vanderleun is also by the way, a thoughtful foreign policy blogger and there are other posts of his I might have featured- but this one....psychologically...had the same fascination for me as a rubbernecking a car crash. I read it three times over and I still feel both appalled and filled with pity.

" Germanic Jihad" by Younghusband
" Rules are Made to Be Broken" by Chirol
" Stalin Was Right" by Curzon

Always provocative. Ever thoughtful. A sense of humor as well as decorum. Articulate in multiple languages - I read a lot of blogs but I hang out at Coming Anarchy.

Bruce Kesler, businessman, activist and columnist has been exceptionally prolific of late ( unlike myself) but I liked his " Constitutional Common Sense" on the Iraqi Constitutional process

" The Case Against Withdrawal" by Bradford Plumer.

Relatively new to my blogroll, Brad, who has guest blogged for Kevin Drum has great posts and an intelligent readership to spar with in the comment section, if you are so inclined.

"“Nashi” – building civil society or a Kremlin jackboot?" by Peter Lavelle of Untimely Thoughts.

This is Peter's weekly expert round-up on Russian affairs. A definite must read for me as the American MSM coverage of Russian politics usually ranges from the superficially mediocre but semi-accurate to the completely worthless. Untimely Thoughts is a useful antidote.

Finally, if you are reading this on Monday, Mr. Critt Jarvis has strongly suggested that you check out Dr. Barnett's blog. He only gave me tantalizing hints via email so I'm in the dark like the rest of you.

That's it.

I see that my blogroll needs tidying. Too many of you people are migrating to new URLs these days - Marc, Col, Dr. Milt to name a few,and I need to add a few more voices who were kind enough to link to Zenpundit on their own blogs. I'm pleased that I can find a home on blogs that stretch from the neocon Right to the antiwar Left - either I'm eminently fair and reasonable here or there's a shortage of blogs starting with the letter " Z" or both.

Regarding this site, not a few of you have suggested Zenpundit migrating off of blogger to a more professional stand alone website and a number of you, notably Younghusband of Coming Anarchy, offered me assistance for which I am grateful. Utimately, I
decided to take the lazy man's route and send Mrs. Zenpundit back to school and let her become my webmaster when she's ready - LOL ! Right now she's busy mastering HTML and something called " cascading tiles"(?) - whatever, better her than me.

When things are far enough along I'll give readers a preview of the new blog and solicit commentary from my technically learned friends out there.

I will have some posts up today but they are apt to be shorter and lighter as I am working on a new project for work, a powerpoint presentation tentatively entitled " Perception, Cognition and Worldviews" that I would like to be flexible enough to use both with students and for staff development training seminars. My theory here is to try to create educational products that are self-contained in terms of Bloom's taxonomy so that they allow the user to bring an audience up the entire hierarchy of thinking or just target particular levels of thought and experience.
Friday, August 19, 2005

Link Preface

" Right-Bolshies, Magical thinking, Diplo Reform " - Lounsbury

"Part I." - Zenpundit

To continue (after an unpardonable delay), in this section I intend to explain the nature of State " obstructionism" that Dave, Jeff and I have decried and how reform might mitigate it.

I am going to set aside a semantic debate about the political coloration at State. Collounsbury argued for small " c" conservative. Jeff and Dave and I said " liberal" or " dovish". I think I could make a good case for examples of liberal pedigree during the 80's at the ARA desk but that's not particularly important right now. As Matt said, clashes over foreign policy do not fit neatly into a Left-Right spectrum anyway which is true enough so I'm going to stick to bureaucratic imperatives instead.

Let us simply state instead that the premise is that the State Department's senior civil service in Washington and the lower level political appointees follow the natural tendency of a bureaucracy to try to dominate policy making for their area of responsibility. Added to this is the self-consciously " elite" culture of the Foreign Service, the wide latitude given to desk heads and appointees for their area of responsibility, poor to nonexistent mechanisms of accountability and you have a recipe for free-lancing. Henry Kissinger and George Schultz were both exceptionally strong, hands-on and authoritative Secretaries of State. Shultz in particular was described by Robert Gates as " the toughest Secretary I knew" yet each man complained at length in their memoirs about subordinates and the bureaucracy at State attempting to go against official policy.

The NSC is supposed to act as a counterweight by managing the Interagency process so that one bureaucracy ( usually State but sometimes Defense or the CIA) does not run wild and deny the president alternative views. Unfortunately, as every happy NSC is alike - organized, methodical, unbiased, inclusive and enforcing accountability- every dysfunctional NSC is dysfunctional in its own way. Only two NSC interagency systems have really worked properly - under Eisenhower and Bush the Elder- all the rest from Truman to George W. Bush have teetered between impotently presiding over bureaucratic warfare to becoming part of the problem. Since as Col- correctly noted, the NSC process is reset anew by each incoming administration, reforming the NSC interagency process itself is a post for another day.

As far as State is concerned there are a number of additional reforms that I might suggest to reduce its capacity to obstruct administration policy without shutting down the flow of expert information from State that policy makers absolutely need to hear:

My first suggestion would be to get rid of the antiquated, geographically-based, regional desk structure which is where most of the antics and information bottlenecks seem to occur. The structure can be re-orged in any number of different ways. By policy or administrative task, regrouping regions along geoeconomic lines of development, category of relationship ( state to state, state to transnational body like the EU or NATO, state to NGO) and so on. The point here is to mainly break up the bureaucratic empires that prevent cogent advice from flowing up from embassies to policy makers and clear instructions from flowing back down.

Secondly, the Undersecretary should stop being the utility player of State who does whatever the Secretary thinks is important and become the formal, institutional, monitor of State's internal bureaucracy who enforces accountability and ensures the flow of information.

Third, State personnel need greater experience and insight outside their narrow domain of international diplomacy. The world is far more integrated thanks to globalization than it was thirty years ago and while it was once sensible to let State steer most diplomatic relationships on autopilot, foreign policy needs to be tightly integrated with the perspectives from other fields, particularly economics. It would be a good idea for State's fast-track, rising stars to do some early career stints- call them visiting fellowships, internships, whatever - at Treasury, the Fed, the CIA or NSA, the Pentagon and so on.

Another place where State could use broadening is in the messy world of politics to get a better grip on where key Congressional players on foreign policy are coming from. Spending six months to a year helping appropriations and foreign relations committee staff would keep State personnel attuned to American politicos and, I think, help the committee staff, Congressman and Senators get a keener understanding of and sympathy for State's needs and the limits of the possible in diplomacy ( reducing the propensity for magical thinking during a crisis). It would be a good two-way educational street.

State's culture and habits of mind go back not to the Cold War but to the Great War when the United States began to accept a wider role in global affairs during the progressive era and the 1920's. The time for renovation is long, long, overdue regardless of whether Iraq is going well or ill or if the president in 2008 is a Republican or a Democrat. State is far too important to national security to be marginalized or left to muddle through on its own, making policy in ad hoc fashion in response to the overriding pressure of the day. It's time to contemplate change.

Dr. Von, experimentalist physicist, educational innovator and an extraordinairily able writer of Federal grants, was moved to give some expert commentary on my consilience post:

"The idea of 'resiliency' is important in scale-free networks. While there are many nodes in any sort of complex network, whether social, business, electronic (i.e. Internet), biological (food webs, metabolic processes, etc.), or other, what makes a network scale-free is that some small number of the nodes have many more links than the vast majority of nodes (which only have a few links). These highly linked nodes are the hubs of the network, and in some sense are responsible for holding the network together.

From the standpoint of software, perhaps the biggest fear is the computer virus wiping out a company's computer network. Of course, the obvious choice is to hit the network servers and routers, which are the hubs. And these hubs are the most obvious parts of the network to protect. But what one cannot forget is that if nodes on the periphery are infected, it is very difficult to kill the virus completely.

Now add in Wilson's idea of 'consiliency.' How can a network make use of fundamental principles from a variety of fields to enhance the performance of the entire network? In everyday terms, to me this almost sounds like multitasking. One needs to have members of the network who have studied and are trained in multiple fields, or small numbers of individuals who know something about a lot of different fields...research shows this multitasking tends to *reduce* productivity if you take the individual route. I may be a bit off on this, but in network theory, there is a hierarchical structure to some real networks that was discovered in ~2002. There are naturally forming, self-emergent networks within networks. There is still a scale-free mathematical structure to the more complex networks, and they are now called modular networks. A large company does this by having different departments, which by themselves are networks of workers. But the hubs, department managers, perhaps, are the links between the departments (modules) to form an ever more complex structure. The Internet and biological cell are naturally occurring modular networks, and the more people look, the more this structure is found in real networks.

Modularity makes use of a variety of local information for the global success of the overall network. The fact that this occurs naturally through the evolution of many types of networks is intriguing. Perhaps this is what Wilson's intuition was telling him. If I were a manager, I suppose I would encourage interaction between my department and others, to cross-feed each other with our knowledge and find out how to push the boundaries of our business.

This is one thing I wish happened more in schools, as Wilson also suggests in education, because teaching techniques and methodologies can be used across disciplines and subject areas...this seems to be an efficient and effective way of promoting horizontal thinking, because teachers can break away from 'standard' ways of teaching our own subject and learn some new ways of teaching from someone else in a different department. We need to take advantage of the departmentalized, intellectually specialized modules in such networks in order to help find new insights and breakthroughs. "

Von detailed some thoughts on network theory and al Qaida a while back as well. Before the Drs. Eide went on vacation, they posted on multidisciplinarity vs. interdisiplinarity models, which has some bearing on Dr. Von's description of human " modular networks".
Thursday, August 18, 2005

A while back, Dr. Barnett and Critt Jarvis entered in to a "strategic alliance" between The New Rule-Sets Project and Enterra Solutions, which is the baby of Stephen F. DeAngelis to develop " Enterprise Resilience Management"(TM). It would seem to be at once a concept, a service and a systemic software tool for organizations to efficiently manage dynamic changes in regulations, security, information flow and market environment. From Enterra's website:

"Resilient organizations turn security, compliance, information integration and business process management from non-strategic cost items into the strategic components of a sustainable competitive advantage. The positive benefits of Enterprise Resilience Management™ range from increased valuation, marketability and corporate responsibility to a lower cost of insurance and lower total cost of ownership. Additionally, ERM assists in lowering potential damage to an organization's reputation and critical assets. This helps to create internal controls and solutions that protect senior executives and organizations from legal liability."

The target demographic are corporations, government agencies and militaries. I'm not qualified or familiar enough to discuss the software aspect but I find the focus on " Resilience" to be very important conceptually. DeAngelis has written about his ideas on cultivating organizational resilience here and here. Like Tom, DeAngelis is a visionary writer so his pieces tilt toward shifting your perspective on old worldviews and like Dr. Barnett he understands that freely evolving complexity in systems has significant ripple effects - hence his making " resilience" the core of his philosophy.

Why is this important ? " Resilience" in free scale networks refers to how resistant the network is removal of its nodes ( removing a node lowers the efficiency of the network by increasing the distance between nodes or disconnecting them entirely). Corporations, government agencies - all groups in fact - are networks. Because most formal organizations in American society still carry the structural and cultural legacy of the industrial revolution they tend to be hierarchical, vertically-organized, culturally-rigid and are less than resilient. Take out key actors - the " nodes" -and institutional paralysis ensues. Possibly collapse.

So the Enterra-NRSP partnership is really selling network efficiency and survivability. In PNM terms, engineering a robust defensive capability against System Perturbations that would allow an organization reeling from cascading effects to " bounce back" from an attack. As I said earlier, resilience a key concept and quality in terms of importance. But what about...offense ? Or expansion of the network or the network's radius of influence ? What about structuring an organizational network to gear its behavior, culture and strategic thinking in terms of "Consilience " as well ?

Consilience was a term rescued from obscurity by Edward O. Wilson, the famous sociobiologist in his book of the same name that means a " jumping together" or unity of knowledge. Consilient thinkers look for the common underlying Rule-sets in disparate phenomena ( all phenomena at their most ambitious) - like Horizontal thinkers they are seeing connections across domains but the interests of Consilient thinkers are directed at the root level - the fundamental laws, principles and axioms applicable to all domains. In Wilson's words:

"The trend cannot be reversed by force-feeding students with some of this and some of that across the branches of learning; true reform will aim at the consilience of science with the social sciences and the humanities in scholarship and teaching "

You can't get a whole lot more horizontal than that ! What would be the advantages of building " Consilience" in to a network's structure, system and culture ?

How consilience would be designed in terms of software applicatons is something far beyond my ken but it would seem to be a fruitful conceptual field to explore.


Jeremiah of Organic Warfare, who consistently has interesting material and provocative opinions on his blog, is on a related tangent here.


John Robb of Global Guerillas has a superb post on "Neo-Tribalism" and his thoughtful analysis is matched by a link to a paper by David Ronfeldt of RAND on al Qaida as a tribe waging " segmental warfare". Terrific reads, both of them.

Yes, I have not forgotten about " Reforming State Part II." - I simply have a couple of projects going this week that are eating time at a ferocious rate.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005

196.201.87.# (ISP Cote d'Ivoire). Twice today.

Search Words: " 2005 emails contacts of cultivation members of agricultural service activities in poland"


Search Words:" email contacts of big man in algeria"

Weird. I see you and other people do too.

In the earlier 5GW thread I speculated that 5GW would feature " autonomous surrogates" from human networks to robotic substitutes. Jeremiah at Organic Warfare has a post on the development of the army's Future Combat Systems that you should check out.

I haven't gotten around to one of these posts in a while and as a result, there is a backlog of fine posts and articles worthy of attention.

"Best Practices in Counterinsurgency" in Military Review with a commentary post by Nadezhda at Liberals Against Terrorism. This one is the winner du jour.

"Campaign Design for Winning the War....and the Peace" by Pierre Lessard at Parameters.

"Series: What America Needs to Do to Achieve Its Foreign Policy Goals ... Dealing with Terrorism -Part IV." by William R. Polk at HNN.

" Common Sense and Science" by string theorist Lubos Motl at The Reference Frame and Pure Science vs. Applied Science by Dr. Von at Vonny.

" Sheik of Sheiks " on networking principles from the Scythians by Dan of tdaxp

"War for Sale" by Brad Plumer

"Is Europe Dying? Notes on a Crisis of Civilizational Morale" by George Weigel at HNN

"China's New Old Civic Mythos" by Matt McIntosh of Conjectures and Refutations.

That's it.


Another stellar piece from DNI - "From The Military: Applying 4GW Theory to The Intelligence Community" by Myke Cole.
Monday, August 15, 2005

Link Preface:

" State Sanity I " - Caerdroia (Jeff)

"State Sanity II" - Caerdroia (Jeff)

"What should (and won’t) happen at the State Department" - Glittering Eye

" On Diplo Services and Reform" - Lounsbury

"Yet Another Missed Opportunity"- Whirledview (PHK)

"A State Department Worth Creating" - Zenpundit

I've been pondering the reforming of the State Department in light of these posts ( and comments made on the posts) and will try to clarify a couple of points:

a) Regarding why the deep expertise advocated by myself, Col and PHK is a good thing in a FSO.

b) The nature of State " obstructionism" that Dave, Jeff and I have decried and how reform might mitigate it.

Deep expertise in a foreign nation or region - where somone has effective mastery of language, cultural and social nuances, history, religious traditions and politics plus a network of personal connections - is an invaluable platform for making informed policy choices. It also takes at least a decade to cultivate, including academic study plus considerable periods of time of immersion " in-country" but this can be regarded as an investment in a FSO will will have an effective 25 -35 year career. The current rotation policy for FSO's makes this kind of knowledge acquisition very difficult without bringing any tangible benefits to the United States ( except perhaps for the Chiefs of Mission who can send troublesome or subpar functionaries into somebody else's bailwick).

Ironically, in the unenlightened days before WWII, the State Department had, relative to its total number of employees, many " old hand" experts of this type. The combination of high prestige and miserly government salaries tended to attract a lot of wealthy Wall Street lawyers and international bankers ( or their sons) to the Foreign Service. These predominantly WASP Ivy leaguers usually started out politically connected ( The Dulles brothers for example had Secretary of State Lansing as an uncle) well-travelled, multi-lingual and arrived with a set of interests in a foreign land or two that they continued to develop.

Having these " old hands" kind of FSO's like George Kennan, Chip Bohlen and Joseph Grew around provided the Secretary of State and the President with a source of informed and coherent advice at critical moments in American history. Grew was partly responsible for the policy of co-opting Hirohito as an adjunct of the Occupation, sparing the United States the costs of a massive occupational garrison and frequent bloodshed. Old Hand expertise was not always a guarantee of sage advice- the " China Hands" who were persecuted by McCarthy had understood China well but badly misjudged Communism as a revolutionary ideology. Mao was no agrarian reformer nor could he and Chiang have built a coalition regime.

On the other hand, Right-wingers getting rid of State's China experts ended up blinding successive administrations to the Sino-Soviet split and aggravated problems during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Likewise, leftists and fellow travellers in the Roosevelt administration who successfully intrigued to abolish State's Russian division in 1937 and destroyed State's files on the Stalinist terror deprived FDR of realistic advice regarding the USSR, Stalin ( which of course was their intent) and State's own internal security. The only clear-headed advice Franklin Roosevelt received on Stalin came from Winston Churchill and Henry Stimson, not his State Department with pro-Soviet functionaries like Winnant, Davies and Hiss in the driver's seat.

End Part I.

Dave Schuler of the Glittering Eye had an unconventional post " The Best Weapon is a Trained Mind" last week on his philosophy of self-defense that was sparked by a discussion at
Dean's World:

"First, let me establish some credentials. I’ve studied martial arts longer than many of my readers have been alive. My first Judo instructor was a U. S. national champion. My second Judo instructor and Taekwondo instructor was the head instructor at the most prestigious martial arts school in South Korea (the name escapes me at the moment). My kendo instructor was the head kendo instructor with the Japanese Imperial Army in Manchuria (he didn’t spread it around too much for obvious reasons but odd things come out in post-practice drinking sessions). I’ve also studied aikido and fencing. I used to be a passable shot with both gun and bow.

I taught judo for six or so years and women’s self-defense for five years. I received thank you notes for several years thereafter from women who’d successfully used the training I gave them.

I’ve found myself in situations in which I was compelled to use my training, successfully, a couple of times.

...However, I don’t think that’s quite the whole story. I think that it doesn’t matter a great deal if you’re empty-handed or whether you go out with a machete in one hand and a howitzer in the other. The only genuine weapon is the mind. Armies train for reasons and among those reasons is that it takes training to overcome the reflexes and inhibitions that prevent effective response to attack. Regardless of how determined you may be when fighting actually starts without serious training it’s pretty likely you’ll just freeze.

The most effective form of self-defense is recognizing dangerous situations and avoiding them.
Failing that the very first line of self-defense should be flight. Preferably yelling or screaming your head off, blowing a whistle, and generally making a ruckus.

Avoid being the first one to resort to violence. If your opponent is bigger or more skilled than you are you may be in for a world of hurt. And the instinctual response of your opponent to attack may be fight rather than flight. Or freezing.

...Avoidance is best. Then flight. "

Smart advice. Miyamoto Musashi would have no doubt approved.

Generally, in civilized societies you can walk around, even at night, without fear of being accosted. Unfortunately, most places in the world aren't quite up to that standard and that includes many neighborhoods in Chicago to say nothing of regions of the world where the police might be more dangerous to encounter than the criminals.

Compared to Dave's expertise, my martial arts skills are rudimentary. I studied Northern Shaolin Kung-fu for a couple of years and some kickboxing as well. I coached wrestling for a number of years and while my skills are certainly decent, a national collegiate champion managed to tie me into a pretzel in about a minute despite my being far stronger.

I'm better with firearms. I'm a crack shot with a rifle, having shot competitively through my adolescence in a club that produced two national champions. I'm also pretty good with a pistol though I have not practiced in ages and don't own one anymore. My real area of accomplishment though is in the weightroom. Depending on the grip used, I've benched 485 -545 without using any drugs, bench shirts, elbow wraps or any other training supports other than a belt. My other lifts are heavier than that and while I have made an effort to cut back a bit in terms of size ( buying suits was expensive) I'm still about 230 and that scares away a lot of potential miscreants and my strength means that when I have sparred I hit harder and tired less easily.

None of that really matters though. Anyone taken by surprise no matter how strong or skilled is in serious trouble and you have probably only a few seconds to make a life-altering or life-saving decision. Getting the hell out of there, as Dave suggests, is still the best option - even if the opponent has a gun because most people can't shoot straight beyond five to ten feet or will hesitate to shoot at all.

If you can't get away though you need to upset the opponent's game plan in some way to introduce uncertainty, the more the better. Noise, the unexpected action, fight dirty and then get away. Standing there and going toe to toe - when you can get out of there - just to make a point by kicking ass is to look for trouble which can easily find you. All the moreso if you are introducing a firearm into the situation. Anybody who carries a gun without getting the proper training is a goddamned fool and what legally constitutes a righteous act of self-defense in Texas may get you an involuntary manslaughter charge in Illinois. I favor conceal and carry laws but I favor even more people knowing what they are doing if they opt to have a deadly weapon on hand.

Real life ain't the movies.

I should have a heterogeneous mix of subjects up today, plus a continuation of the " reforming State" discussion going on below (Dave, Collounsbury and Jeff have made a few remarks already this morning but I will address them fully later ). The children need to be hustled out the door to their activities as I have a workman coming this afternoon.
Friday, August 12, 2005

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The Bush administration announced today an intention to perform a major overhaul of the State Department ( hat tip Combat Boots). This move ( assuming it results in real reforms) will not be welcomed by many members of the Foreign Service who are already balking at the strategic objective/mission/task orientation demands of the Bush White House. Nor will it be welcomed by many liberals or Democrats who will no doubt suspect a purge is in the offing, motivated by Republican partisanship against a bureaucracy widely ( and correctly) perceived as leaning liberal and dovish.

Both groups may be correct to worry but it is also true the State Department is in dire need of reforms as its antiquated regional desk structure, byzantine personnel assignment policies and insular culture are inadequate to meet the challenges of a radically different world from the Cold War era. I would also add that State and its Foreign Service officers need not just a new culture but more resources in order to do their jobs - sometimes dangerous jobs I might add- effectively. The historic pennypinching of Congress, to nickel and dime common sense requests from State, line by budget line, while at the same time appropriating megabillions of pork for the district back home has to end. It impacts our national interests and even our national security.

In what way should the State Department be changed ? A few suggestions:

Outreach: The Department needs to be deeply engaged in public diplomacy and connecting with the American public about the importance of foreign affairs. It's great to build embassies that cannot be easily blown up by terrorists, not so great if diplomats do not leave their desk located in what amounts to a nuclear war bunker built to look like a suburban community college campus. Might as well stay in Georgetown. If we aren't mingling with ordinary locals as well as host government officials we can hardly be aware of what is really going on " in -country".

Strategic Thinking: George Kennan and Paul Nitze attempted in the 1950's to reverse State's intrinsic love affair with crisis management, muddling through and a day to day time horizon in favor of long-term strategic planning. While they instituted strategic policies they never managed to inculcate strategic thinking.

While you might disagree with the Bush administrations " transformationalist" priorities, getting State Department personnel habituated to think and act in terms of a set of strategic priorities is a good thing. The age of ad hoc, seat of the pants, diplomacy has to go and the State needs to reorg an internal structure that perpetuates empire-building and encourages end-runs around the president's stated policy or the Secretary of State's instructions.

Depth: FSO's should not rotate everywhere without rhyme or reason. Their regional area/major nation should be their career so true depth can be cultivated. Yes, I realize " clientism" would be a problem. My answer to that is it is a problem now except, on average, it's a less-informed clientism than if someone spent say, thirty years as a Sinologist.

Secondary areas of expertise for FSO's should be non-regional - economics, business and international finance, IT, counter-terrorism, intelligence, military affairs, public health, management, law and so on. Real expertise here as well should be the goal.

Jointness: State, the IC and the Pentagon need to learn operational " jointness" in foreign affairs the way the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines had to adapt to planning, buying and executing missions in the field in unison ( actually the military is still learning...but they're better at it than they used to be).

This is going to take some time and new blood to achieve but America needs more of a team and fewer prima donnas in foreign policy.

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I've been reading Tom Holland's well-received Rubicon - best described as a " retro history" with modern America as the model for understanding the late Roman Republic. This technique violates major precepts of the historical profession but it also makes Rubicon a very refreshing read. The stuffiness and pomposity that are germance to classical history as a field are absent from Holland's prose.

Holland took special delight in drawing the following parallel with the Pirate chiefdoms of the Mediterranean sea:


...Calculated acts of intimidation ensured that they could extort and rob almost at will. The scale of their plundering was matched by their pretensions. Their chiefs claimed for themselves the status of kings and tyrants, and for their men, that of soldiers, believing that if they pooled their resources they would be invincible.

...The shadowiness of the pirate's organization, and their diffuse operations, made them a foe unlike any other.' The Pirate is not bound by the rules of war, but is the common nemy of everyone" Cicero complained. ' There can be no trusting him, no attempt to bind with him with mutually agreed treaties'. How was such an adversary ever to be pinned down, let alone eradicated? To make the attempt would be to fight against phantoms.' It would be an unprecedented war, fought without rules, in a fog': a war that appeared without promise of an end".

What happened ? Much dithering and desultory, half-hearted campaigns, turning a blind eye to increasing pirate outrages by the Roman elite, until the populace made its will felt.

"...it was a Tribune, in 67 BC who proposed that the people's hero [ Pompey] be given a sweeping license to deal with the pirates. Despite an impassioned appeal from Catalus not to appoint a " virtual monarch over the empire' these citizens rapturously ratified the bill. Pompey was granted the unprecedented force of 500 ships and 120,000 men, together with the right to levy more, should he decide that they were needed. his command embraced the entire mediterranean, covered all its islands, and extended fifty miles inland."

The result ?

"As it proved, to sweep the seas clear of pirates, storm their last stronghold, and end a menace that had been tormenting the Republic for decades took the new proconsul a mere three months...Even the Romans themselves appeared to have been a little stunned."

A lesson for today ? Maybe. But the ancient world also offers the lesson of the expedition to Syracuse, an undertaking of similar magnitude in which the Athenians fared not quite so well as did Rome.
Thursday, August 11, 2005

Some paleoanthropologists and evolutionary biologists once speculated that Homo Sapiens won the genetic arms race with their Neanderthal cousins because of the development of language by the former facilitated an enormous non-zero sum cultural revolution that the latter could not match. A one-sided linguistic advantage for Homo Sapiens may not have been true but language certainly represented the greatest innovation in human history and even today, often structures the core of our personal and collective identities.

I make mention of this because there were two very interesting posts today relating to language and its uses by Younghusband of Coming Anarchy, who is himself a linguist and also at NuSapiens ( hat tip to Dave ).

Younghusband lambastes the theories of George Lakoff, the Democratic Party's " framing" guru who I have blogged on previously. An excerpt from YH's post "Highjacking the American Language":

[On Lakoff's " Framing"] "Unfortunately this is pseudo-science at best, and is based on the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis which was effectively disproven by the cognitive revolutionaries of the 60’s, and absolutely demolished by my linguistic hero Steven Pinker. The point is, people don’t think in words, thus you cannot control their thoughts by controlling their language. Sorry Mr. Orwell! Ever knew what you wanted to say but couldn’t put it into words? Ever have an idea that you couldn’t explain? As much as the military says “collateral damage” everybody really knows what it means. A “Personal Hydration Engineer” is really just a “waterboy.”"

Over at NuSapiens, we have some speculation on the mechanics by which Indo-European languages replaced their indigenous predecessors in "Some Thoughts on Language Replacement":

"In a nutshell: I wonder whether Indo-European can be seen as an ideology associated with a technology, rather than a language associated with an ethnicity or culture. Many people associate the spread of IE languages with the spread of agriculture in Europe following the last Ice Age. But how did Indo-European replace indigenous European languages? Maybe old languages don't die, they just fade away. Reductionistic linguistic models might miss this by looking for the wrong things: maybe change happened gradually without anyone realizing they were "adopting a new language.

...Our model biases our view: we look at European languages, and see them as Indo-European. We look for common grammatical structure, common words, etc. But what about other variable elements, such as tonality or "accent"? A Spaniard once described Spanish to me as "Latin with a Basque accent." Well, what is this "accent," something linguistics might consider random or trivial? Remember, modern linguistics is part of the Indo-European linguistic-thinking system, so how can it objectively view itself? The parts considered trivial or invisible are most likely to maintain survivals of pre-IE influences. "

There's some logic here but being a certified outsider to the field of linguistics, I'm wondering how this hypothesis stacks up by looking for Indo-European's " invisible" connections with Uralic languages and Basque ? Any ideas out there from my learned and multilingual commenters ?
Wednesday, August 10, 2005

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Dr. Barnett was kind enough to have his publisher send me a copy of the uncorrected proof limited edition of his Blueprint For Action for me to review for another venue ( which I will cross-post here at Zenpundit) allowing me to get the jump on the rest of the blogosphere - and not a few old media reviewers.

If you have been following Tom's blogging this past year you already have some idea of the shape of BFA but as I scan quickly, there are some twists and surprises in the text even for those familiar with PNM. I'm going to start digging in this weekend but my tentative impression - coupled with a close reading of Dr. Barnett's interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for Esquire magazine - is that BFA may be a far more influential book in terms of public policy than The Pentagon's New Map.

The first book was the vision. The second looks to be the structure.

Jeff Medcalf at Caerdroia had an excellent post "Towards a New Understanding of National Sovereignty, and the Utility of the UN "- on the impact that the traditions of diplomatic make-believe regarding sovereignty and legitimacy now have as an increasing number of states slide into dysfunction and state failure. An excerpt:

"Pakistan does not control its northwestern provinces. Mexico does not control Nuevo Laredo or most of the rest of the US border area, nor does Mexico control Chiapas. In what sense can Pakistan or Mexico be said to be sovereign over these areas? Well, in a legal sense, but that only. The modern definition of sovereignty dates from after the Renaissance, and was more or less formalized in the Treaty of Westphalia. I don’t believe that the issue has been addressed in formal international law since the Montivideo Convention in the 1930’s.

...While most of the challenges to sovereignty come in the form of transnationalism - that is, most of the challenges have been attempts to tear down nation-state structures and replace them with broader and generally less representative structures. The ultimate end goal of this would be a single government encompassing the entirety of humanity - there is no requirement that sovereignty be understood in that light. It is equally plausible (and far more sane in view of the various horrors visited upon humans throughout history in the name of centralization of power) to devolve sovereignty onto each individual person, and have governments obtain their sovereignty explicitly from the individuals who form them."

As usual, Jeff nails a large number of salient points with a very economical use of words. There's more to his post and you should read all of it.

Transnational Progressivism, in theory aspires to erecting an international supragovernment - not the " one world government " once feared by the John Birch Society, that would be far too accountable and easily blamed - but a diffuse mosaic of transnational entities with ill-defined but very broad, overlapping, jurisdictions and vaguely articulated but far-reaching powers. All of course, that would claim to legitimately supercede the rights and powers of nation-state governments. That is theory.

As a matter of practical application, most of these trans-prog NGO activists content themselves withad hoc legalistic gambits to hamstring the execution of legitimate, democratically-elected and accountable state authority. The documents they do manage to produce at a diplomatic level - Kyoto, The ICC agreement, the EU Constitution - are all noteworthy for their convoluted and excessively complicated structures and avoidance of responsibility in terms of the purpose for which they were created. Their spirit is not democratic but oligarchical, giving shadowy groups of unelected activists on the NGO circuit the power to gum up the works.

Take for example, the ICC; a great moral idea, one consistent with the spirit of Natural Law and the Genocide Convention. Unfortunately, the ICC as it stands today adds nothing because any signatory to the Genocide Convention already has the legal jurisdiction to punish genocidaires. Secondly, the ICC is dominated by states whose jurists would refuse on principle to mete out death sentences - giving defendents convicted of crimes against humanity 10-15 years in jail isn't much punishment for herding thousands of people to their deaths. Or a deterrent against future acts of genocide.

What the ICC does well is constrain great powers from intervening to stop acts of genocide by hanging the prospect of politically-motivated prosecution over their heads. Or failing that, force the intervening power to adopt so restrictive a set of rules-of-engagement for their troops that they are rendered militarily impotent in the field. The howls of European outrage over the bilateral agreements negotiated by the United States and countries in the Gap indicate that the Europeans viewed the ICC at least partly as a wedge to get more of a say on how the Pentagon uses the American military.(If the Europeans were sincere about genocide rather than leverage, they'd have put 500,000 troops in Dar Fur).

The old Westphalian Rule-set is dying. Sovereignty is being challenged by forces of transnationalism, subnationalism and state failure. There is of yet, no agreement on the Rule-Set to replace the current standards of international diplomacy that rely increasingly on polite fictions that are at ever greater variance with reality. There is in fact, much dispute over whether the cognitive dissonance of treating geographic expressions like Somalia as nation-states is even a problem.

We need a Rule-set reset to move international law into better alignment with reality but before that can happen a cognitive reset must occur to force global elites to acknowledge that reality.

From the Eide Neurolearning Blog we get an article from IT heavyweights hailing the coming of the uberconnected society with all the important socioeconomic and psychological paradigmatic shifts that entails. I previously speculated on " The Coming of the Global Hypereconomy" and Tom Barnett's special edition newsletter features an IT specialist and scientist Dr. Stephen DeAngelis on the emerging tech of Rule-set compliance.

I also note that blogfriend Stu Berman has published a piece on IT security in Network Magazine called " Take my Social Security Number - Please!" that complements the above topics nicely and puts the accent correctly on individuals, not the state, controlling their information profile.
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