Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Link Preface:

"The Failure of Global Guerrillaism: Democracies Withstand Economic Pain" by Dan of tdaxp

"Cascading System Failure" and " State Failure 101" by John Robb

"Network Theory with an Emphasis on al Qaeda" and " Emergence" by Dr. Von

"The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation" by William Lind, Keith Nightengale, John F. Schmitt , Joseph W. Sutton ,Gary I. Wilson

"Thomas P.M. Barnett: Deleted Scenes" and " The Virtuous Circle on Security: The Slippery Slope to Resiliency" by Dr. Barnett

"Reviewing the Deleted Scene on System Perturbation Part II." and "Rules, Rule-Sets And Social Systems" by Zenpundit

The Sling and The Stone: On War in The 21st Century by Thomas X. Hammes

State-Building:Governance and world order in the 21st Century by Francis Fukuyama

The hydra-like insurgency in Iraq has drawn attention to the political conundrum faced by state authorities when facing unconventional opponents. Whether they come in the form of traditional guerillas, transnational terrorist networks and even looser " leaderless resistance" movements that attract superempowered individuals, State actors often face the damned if you do, damned if you don't cycle of reaction and retaliation. Drifting into a seemingly permanent loss of initiative, the state allows the non-state actors to " write the script" in the political and moral dimensions of the conflict, creating strategic losses even out of tactical and operational victories.

This has led some military theorists of the 4GW school to make particularly gloomy forecasts in regard to not only Iraq, but toward all "state-building" interventions and even the long-term stability of the states of the Core. 4GW and "Open-Source " warfare of Global Guerillaism are inarguably very effective and these methods of warfare, when a State reacts conventionally and with political ineptitude, place the very legitimacy of the state itself is in jeopardy.

It would be a grave mistake however to conclude that these forms of warfare represent a magic anti-state bullet. They do not. 4GW forces can lose wars and have. Much of the current track record of 4GW success rests primarily upon the recurring failure of their state opponents to deliberately maximize their existing advantages and secondarily to develop and employ countervailing tactics. In other words, these represent failures of strategic vision on the part of statesmen and commanders who get caught up in the small-picture dynamics of the scenario rather than directing their attention to shaping the scenario itself. Some quotations to keep in mind here:

" Super-empowered individuals may rule vertical scenarios, but nation-states still rule horizontal scenarios. "

Thomas P.M. Barnett

" ...we must learn to function as a practical network"

" History has shown our fourth-generation opponents know how to fight us. Fortunately, it has also shown us how a democracy can defeat such an enemy. The British experience in Malaya, Kenya, Aden and Borneo all show that an integrated, coordinated, interagency approach can win the war of ideas rather than just winning in the field"

Thomas X. Hammes

Too often statesmen fail to mobilize the overarching panoply of resources at the state's disposal in diplomacy, intelligence, law, economics and politics to work in sync with military operations to close off all possible options for 4GW opponents. Or they crumble in the face of relatively minor damage, effectively abdicating their position. The reason for either scenario amounts to insufficient State Resiliency, a crucial element for surviving and prevailing during the stress imposed by wartime. Resilience may not guarantee victory in the war but it certainly improves the chances and imposes far higher costs on the opponent.

State Resilience, as the term implies is a state having the quality of adapting and continuing to function despite severe trauma or losses. When under attack, Non-resilient States lash out stupidly, retreat or collapse. Resilient States adjust and hit back from an unexpected direction. The term indicates a fusion of political will with executive competence and material means.

Nation-states are at root simply very large, very complex, networks with the capacity to determine the rule-sets that govern the behavior of all the smaller, internal, subnetworks they contain or the external networks with which they come in to contact. The greater the legitimacy of the state, the less frequently it need employ physical force to assure compliance. with legitimacy, the state's rule-sets exude enough moral authority and secure the nonzero sum outcomes that win voluntary obedience. Legitimacy in turn is secured when the governed implicitly recognize in their leadership a reflection of the deepest of their societal values.

A state whose leaders exemplify a nation's creed and demonstrate courage or intelligence can find men who will march for them to the Gates of Hell. A great empire, governed by hypocrites and thieves, will dissolve into mist as we discovered in 1991. No legitimacy, no resilience. No resilience, no state.

Legitimacy is often conferred by democratic elections, though not always. The Weimar Republic had one of Europe's most liberal and democratic constitutions in the interwar period but a majority of Germans decisively rejected liberal and democratic values. Thus, Weimar crumbled in the face of organized mob violence, implied threats and elite betrayal. Imperial Japan was oligarchic and authoritarian and grew moreso during the course of WWII but had Americans landed on Honshu as they did at Normandy then oppressed Japanese civilians would have marched off to their collective doom, shouting " Banzai!". Japan was as resilient in defeat as most nations only are in moments of victory because the Japanese imagined their Emperor as the living embodiment of Japan.

Against secure State Resiliency, a 4GW movement can make no headway, unless perhaps it would be to represent themselves as more truly " authentic" agents of society than the state itself. This is in fact the card that Osama bin Laden and radical Salafis and Deobandis seek to play in the Arab-Muslim world. It is a claim that has traction because so many regimes in that region of the world are unrepresentative, incompetent and deeply corrupt -in fact the degraded nature of these governments fostered the emergence of the terror networks dedicated to their destruction. Where the rulers are both self-confidently ruthless and are reflecting some degree of popular values of their own, usually nationalism, then the appeal of Islamism is muted.

Broadband connectivity style State-building is a positive endeavor, a useful prophylactic in weak States before trouble begins and a vital support where resilient states are effectively combatting 4GW attackers. Resiliency however is critical to state survival - it is the foundation that will support the range of State-building programs and will be reinforced by them. Nurturing resiliency should be the pivotal aspect of any System Administration intervention.

Without resiliency, State-building is nothing more than the creation of an empty suit.

Extremely good post. Very thought-provoking, and I will try to respond with a worth-while comment soon.

In the meantime, what are the major differences between deobandians and salafis? You've addressed this before (The Taliban were D, Wahabis are S, etc), but what are the doctrinal differences?

Dan tdaxp
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Well the deleted post was certainly a strange one....

Hi Dan,

Collounsbury would be beter placed to answer your question than me but here's my understanding.

Wahabbis adhere to a form of Sunni Salafism originating in Saudi Arabia in the 1700's. It was originally quite hostile to the form of Salafism emnating from Egypt's al-Azhar (the first 19th century Islamists Mohammed Abdub and al-Afghani were modernizers). Even as late as the 1920's and 1930's, Saudi Ikhwan loathed the Egyptians. This has changed as the Qutbist Salafis fled Nasser's repression in the 1960's and settled in KSA universities ( Bin Laden was taught by Qutb's brother) radicalizing the already xenophobic Wahabbi fringe.

Deobandis are a school of thought from Northern India similar to Arab Salafis in that they seek to find purer, older Islam without innovations. Like the Islamists they were anti-Western from the start and emphasized the obligation of jihad against infidels and Shiites. There are some differences of opinion though with Salafis over what Islamic practices and beliefs are " truer" than others but close enough that the relations between KSA and the Taliban were quite warm. If anything, Pakistan Deobandis are more reactionary and anti-modern than their Saudi counterparts.

I'd recommend checking out Gilles Keppel on this one for fine points.
One thing you may want to consider is that autocracies aren't a problem for us until they direct internal anger at their rule outward towards us.
Well, Mark, this is a very interesting post, and I wonder if this was the big project you were promising...

I have some problems with your method -- or maybe, they are questions -- but I'm a little too exhausted at the moment to force myself to explicate, and I'm not sure I have the words/terminology I need. I'll have to think about it.

In general, though, I'm a little troubled by the focus on "the State" which largely ingores the constituency of that state. If a state is a system (as it surely is), then any discussion of states fighting 4GW opponents would need to take a hard look at the constitution of that state, or the nodes and connections which make up that system. Resiliency (as I understand it) is not a top-down undertaking (or not only a top-down accomplishment).

Your post has me thinking that we are approaching the vs. 4GW question all wrong. Perhaps the 4GW opponent is so threatening, and often successful, because it doesn't quite need the "State." That is, if my fingertip-feeling is correct, then the network we call "The State" is one which is not a scale-free network (to borrow Vonny's conceptualization of it): for a "state" to be recognizable, it must be definable, or have definition, and when we consider or conceptualize a state, we tend to think of a very organized -- perhaps a rigid - entity. To borrow from Vonny again, consider the removal of one branch of government, or of the Constitution, and then ask if the system would hold. For another example, Vonny's description of a hierarchical, "tree branch" system of government strikes me as being a description of virtually every state (especially, every democratic state) in existence. In America, the Constitution of the U.S. is the trunk, and various branches rise from it to form the three branches of the federal government and also the states and their state government agencies, etc.

If resiliency is as Vonny described it, then a truly resilient state would need to be a scale-free network.

I don't think the ideas I've skimmed over here are antithetical to the ideas in your post. However, I do believe that the constant focus on "the State" as the primary actor which will defeat 4GW foes introduces too much rigidity, dooming dreams of a truly resilient and efficient entity. It ignores the people, the constituency of that entity, and thus ignores the variety and, well, cosmopolitan nature of the system: a necessary bit of chaos in a system which wants to be resilient (if only "the State" will let it.)

I think it's good to dream that a charismatic leader or set of leaders might pull all the threads together --

A state whose leaders exemplify a nation's creed and demonstrate courage or intelligence can find men who will march for them to the Gates of Hell.

-- but I think it is a dream that can come true only in short (and thus, largely ineffective) bursts in a democratic nation or with great vitality but also long-term inefficiency via a dictatorial mania-driven program. See again my post on Flu(n)x: Your idea of "a nation's creed" implies a fantasy homogeneity at worst; at best, it implies strength where one or few common core values will only produce a weak national unity, in most cases. (The wish for survival of the self, however, is quite strong, and might work all by itself, under the right circumstances.) In fact, I think that such a formation around one person or a group is the very opposite of resiliency, since that one human node holds all together.

Of course, these musings have inspired many practical ideas about true democratic resiliency against a 4GW foe, but as I said, I'm a little too exhausted at the moment to go further!
Hi Curtis,

No, the big project is still on the way. Hopefully I can announce it tomorrow or Friday.

I too am really beat so these will be short points:

The state was the focus of my post but I am not implying an either/or situation.

You are right to look at the State's constitution.

Not all networks are scale free and I think formal state constitutional structures are not.

On the other hand, scale free networks of a professional, social and political nature constantly form within government institutions. The function and form of the State institutional structure would also tend to " shape" the growth of such networks to an extent even as these networks emerge to remediate the state's own functional shortcomings.

The State does not have to be the only actor engaged in defeating a 4GW opponent but if it isn't at least primus inter pares it risks vanishing altogether regardless if the 4GW opponent is defeated.
My gut is telling me that, properly speaking, there is no state. What we call "the state" is merely our description of the actors within it: the larger system/network formed by all the interactions of the actors. "State" is shorthand for that. To the degree that this "state" is not scale-free, or is rigid or functions through linear paths, the interactions of those within it are also rigid, linear, unable to adapt to new parameters -- at least, unable to adapt without also causing a change in the whole, or the "state."
Legitimacy is similarly at the heart of the Weberian bureaucratic state. We could define a state's response to 4GW in bureaucratic terms as primarily a problem of coordination -- devising and executing responses across a wide range of dimensions -- and organizational adaptivity. I'm not sure where thinking about the state as a network-of-networks gets you beyond what Weber would provide. Certainly network analysis is helpful in looking at specific spaces -- issue areas or action areas. But do we gain any distinctive insights about legitimacy when we view the state as some sort of amalgamation or aggregation of networks? Or when you're identifying legitimacy as a key characteristic of resiliency are you highlighting the interpenetration of the state with civil society through shared networks of elites?
"If resiliency is as Vonny described it, then a truly resilient state would need to be a scale-free network."

NO!!! Just the opposite! A scale-free network is very vulnerable to an "intelligent attack" A scale free network collapses very quickly when < 5% of its best connected nodes are disabled/disrupted.

We know how to attack a scale-free network -- Saddam's Iraq, but we are not effective in fighting a distributed network -- post-Saddam insurgency. Which is more resilient?

Those of you that are "in love" with scale-free networks need to read more than one book on networks!
I just visited Valdis' site - I'll have to go back and review it in detail but it is certainly information-rich on network theory and its applications -

Dr. Von if you are reading this today, you in particular should take a look
I'll certainly look at Valdis's site, and he is absolutely correct about scale-free networks being greatly affected if small numbers of the larger hubs are taken out. But keep in mind that something like the Iraq network, where Saddam was THE main hub and was removed, does not entirely collapse because there are smaller nodes (i.e. with few connections to other members of the network) still out there on the periphery of the network, as we learned in the insurgency.

A more resilient network is a modified version of a purely scale-free network, and tht is one with modularity, where subgroups in the network do their own thing but have some connectivity with other subgroups (along the lines of a corporate structure, where various divisions specialize on different jobs...if one division goes down, the others have a higher degree of independence and may not be affected, even though they all exist as members of the larger network). Perhaps this is what Curtis had in mind.
I'll take a look at Valdis' site, even though I am not "in love" with scale-free networks.

Vonny is tracking my mind.

Actually, I've been thinking of attractors, and the ability of systems to adapt or change attractors without being utterly changed or destroyed -- with the idea that "strangely attracting" systems would be more resilient than systems which have fixed point or limit cycle attractors. (Here of course I am separating the concepts stability and resiliency to get a better look at it.) I'm not altogether certain (am even doubtful) that the term "networks" will be sufficent for describing democratic "states" -- perhaps we should be thinking in terms of complex systems rather than complex networks.

And of course the idea of a pure "scale free" network doesn't fit neatly with the idea of scaling and self-similarity for the network of nodes; but the idea of scale-free networks Valdis seems to hold assumes a small set of "best connected nodes" -- which in turn implies a scale. (Best connected node, better connected nodes, connected nodes, less connected nodes.) So modularity might be considered for scale-free networks, in which such a scalng becomes less significant: an attack on one or many of those nodes doesn't upset the operation of the others.

Valdis' scale seems to imply a state with a few fixed-point attractors or a cyclical attractors -- i.e., like an electrical grid, activity flows through a set of major hubs and, between the hubs, an enclosed and cyclical pathway. Even the "less connected" nodes in such a system nonetheless depend on those major nodes and pathways.

But, you know, I'm no expert.
I'm late to the party, but this post is making me want to go back and look at the 90s counterinsurgency work by the Egyptian government, or its ongoing low-level war in the Sinai.
Hey Curtis,

From an earlier comment you wrote:

"What we call "the state" is merely our description of the actors within it: the larger system/network formed by all the interactions of the actors"

No, the continuity of new actors over time being required to network in exactly ( or substantially) the same way is the state, not the actors themselves. The difference between patrimonial medievalism and constitutional nation-state forms.

Nadezhda wrote:

"Or when you're identifying legitimacy as a key characteristic of resiliency are you highlighting the interpenetration of the state with civil society through shared networks of elites?"

Always glad to have you commenting here Nad - very insightful. Yes my use of legitimacy - admittedly a slippery concept but one that defines a real characteristic - hews more to the latter.

Hi Prak !

How's the Arabic training going ? You could probably add something to Dan's Salafi/Deobandi question.

If i recall, the Egyptian response in terms of CI was ramped up after the major tourist attack ( Karnak?)

I read the other day that the U.S. Army has only recently rebuilt its CI programs *after* the invasion of Iraq. Great for future soldiers but right now Majors LTC and Colonels are trying to ad hoc train troops in the field in Iraq.
The big attack was the machine gunning of several dozen Swiss tourists at the Hatshepsut temple in Luxor, I believe.

As for doctrinal differences between salafism and Deobandism, I think that Deobandism is actually a subset of salafism. A regional variant, if you will, which reflects the culture of the Indian subculture as well as the extreme views of Mawdudi, the school's founder and ongoing inspiration. I would be hard-pressed, however, to go into details--suffice it to say that Deobandis are extremist though not necessarily violent.
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