Saturday, December 31, 2005

" Breaking the Proconsulate: A New Design For National Power" by Mitchell J. Thompson in PARAMETERS

A worthwhile read. Thompson argues for instituting true " Jointness" across the spectrum of national power instead of the wary separation between combatant command like CENTCOM or PACOM modelled on the Vietnam era CORDS program. The current interagency structure for coordination, according to Thompson, does not work:

" The cataclysmic events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent Global War on Terrorism accelerated efforts toward interagency coordination, though Joint Forces Command already had been working on ways to achieve better integration at the strategic and operational levels. In October 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed that each Combatant Command form a “Joint Interagency Coordination Group” (JIACG) for a six-month trial period. The Secretary’s guidance to the Combatant Commanders stated, “JIACGs will be organized to provide interagency advice and expertise to Combatant Commanders and their staffs, coordinate interagency counterterrorism plans and objectives, and integrate military, interagency, and host-nation efforts.”17 This was clearly a more expansive mandate than anything previously envisioned. The November 2003 Joint Operations Concepts continued to wax eloquent on the value of the JIACGs:

'JIACGs at each Combatant Command headquarters will significantly increase civilian and military coordination and enable a more complete understanding of policy decisions, missions and tasks, and strategic and operational assessments. They enable collaboration to integrate the capabilities from all instruments of national power to more effectively achieve the desired end state.18 '

Joint Forces Command and European Command created free-standing directorates, while Pacific Command, Central Command, and Special Operations Command embedded their JIACGs within their respective Operations Directorate (J-3). The JIACG is usually headed by a civilian director at the senior

executive service level, with approximately 11 on-site civilian and military personnel. The civilian members may include representatives from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Departments of State, Treasury, and Justice. This is conceptually enhanced by “virtual” (i.e., electronic) representation from other agencies. JIACG functions include participation in the full range of Combatant Command planning activities; advising on civilian agency campaign planning activities; presentation of agency perspectives, approaches, capabilities, and limitations; and providing habitual linkages to Washington, D.C., planners.19 As Colonel Harry Tomlin notes, the JIACGs bring “developed national and international contacts and networks that were previously unavailable to the Combatant Commander.”20

But the JIACGs have critical, even crippling, deficiencies. First, it is not possible, absent legislation, to mandate non-DOD participation. Indeed, the list of participants in the European Command JIACG as late as July 2003 was depressingly thin. As of February 2005, Central Command (CENTCOM) asserted that it conducted daily interagency coordination with the Departments of State and Treasury, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the FBI in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, but it is unclear which of these were actually represented on the JIACG or how institutionalized this support actually was.21 The non-DOD agencies are usually operating on far more limited resources than the military, and the costs of JIACG participation often outweigh any perceived benefits. Second, there are strict limitations on the roles and responsibilities of the JIACGs. They cannot task civilian agency elements or personnel, reorganize civilian agency elements, prioritize the efforts of civilian elements, or unilaterally commit agency resources. They are a coordinating element only. Likewise, the Combatant Commander’s authority is “exclusively exercised over military organizations and units. [The JIACG] does not authorize or entitle the Combatant Commanders to direct the actions of those elements in theater representing non-DOD agencies, institutions, and organizations.”22 Third, and most fundamentally, the vastly differing organizational cultures of the civilian and military agencies that constitute the JIACG greatly hinder its smooth functioning. Tomlin writes that “few [non-DOD agencies] have cultures that embrace doctrinal structure, and it is often perceived as being confining and rigid. The absence of formalized procedures pertinent to interagency cooperation and interoperability can challenge and impair the JIACGs’ potential.”23 Even Joint Forces Command admits that there is a “hesitant buy-in” by the civilian agencies, who perceive “coordination” with DOD as tantamount to ceding control.24 The JIACGs have served a useful purpose; however, they are clearly not the final answer for interagency unity of effort at the strategic or operational level
. "

Thompson even points to the need for flexibility in what amounts to Leviathan vs. System Administration scenarios:

"Roman proconsuls were military governors, but a “holistic understanding of the operational environment” in any AOR today would have to recognize that the military element of power will often not be predominant. Indeed, one draft “Joint Operating Concept” states, “During conflict the joint force is the ‘supported’ agency. In prevention and reconstruction operations, the joint force is the ‘supporting’ agency.”44 The Department of Defense early on took the lead in the planning and execution of the Global War on Terrorism, with the quiet acquiescence of the National Security Council. This was despite the proclamations of the President, and near universal recognition in the federal government, that the Global War on Terrorism is a multiagency effort. This was partly due to the practical reality that the resources available to DOD dwarf anything else in the US government, but it was also due to institutional habit and inertia. The Department of Treasury is not accustomed to campaign planning, but CENTCOM does it for a living. Nonetheless, success in a conflict such as the Global War on Terrorism requires that the US government break these old habits and the proconsulate system that sustains them"

Given the right kind of high-level team this model could work very well. Eisenhower, for example, was the Allied Supreme Commander in the European theater but his shadow was Robert Murphy, who managed secret diplomacy and clandestine OSS operations for Eisenhower as the personal representative of the President of the United States. In Vietnam, another good example of a " fusion" role would have been John Paul Vann in his civilian capacity of Senior Advisor in II Corps Military Region.

However institutionalizing this model would take a considerable amount of time. " Jointness" in planning and executing military operations took years for the armed services to reach a level of reliability. How much longer would it take to bring Treasury and the Energy Department on board or overcome the notable reluctance of State or the IC to become tightly integrated with bureaucratic behemoth that is the Pentagon ?

Secondly, the senior figures with the statesman-like qualities and the experience to manage the military appropriately are relatively few in number. Thompson is proposing replacing a " proconsular" military system with a set of figures who are a combination of Secretary of State, Defense Secretary and CIA director in miniature. Less experienced appointees are simply going to be bamboozled by their own staff and military advisers and more senior figures who have the requisite experience from say, having been National Security Adviser, are unlikely to accept so junior a position in an administration's hierarchy.

Nevertheless, a concept that bears further examination.

Hmmm...let's see how I did. Here's my post from January 2005:

1. "Increasingly desperate and frustrated at his inability to maintain command and control over al Qaida cells and his political relevance, Osama bin Laden will abandon some of his trademark patience and preference for apocalypric terrorism. Bin Laden will begin taking greater personal risks and authorize larger numbers of smaller-scale attacks in order to maintain his personal preeminence and to prevent Zarqawri from emerging as his successor. Chances of a " break " happening to capture or kill Bin Laden will be increased."

Well, we stand no closer to catching Bin Laden today than a year ago. Zarqawi is the annoited
"emir" of al Qaida Iraq but al Qaida has not, by accident or design managed any apocalyptic actions of terror on the scale of 9/11.


2. "The United States will eventually adopt a " controlled civil war" strategy in Iraq to contain the disorder of the Sunni Triangle by actively building up Kurdish Peshmerga and Shiite militias to complement the emerging forces of the central government and U.S. military personnel. The goal for the former forces would be increased stabilization and presence of their home areas to " ratchet down" the insurgency's geographic area of operation. Sunnis will face a Hobbesian choice of turning to the central government for protection or taking their chances in territory controlled by an insurgency that will be turning on Sunni civilian " collaborators" with increasing ferocity under the ghoulish influence of Zarqawri and brutal ex-Baathist commanders. If this strategy succeeds, terror in Iraq may decline to Baader-Meinhoff/Red Brigade/IRA heyday levels or the Sunni triangle may become " Little Algeria ", reminiscent of the democidal civil war between the GIA and the Algerian government. If the strategy fails completely, a full scale civil war could erupt out of the control of American military forces."

I called this one - we just haven't reached the endgame yet.


3. "Domestically, the Bush administration will heavily favor minorities and women in their high profile political and judicial appointments to neutralize expected Democratic attempts to play the race and abortion cards. Karl Rove will be looking to cement a structural realignment in American politics via " peeling off " the critical percentages of minority and women voters that Democrats need in competitive districts and states to win elections. Administration policy proposals will be in line with this strategy. Assuming Condi Rice gets the Senate's nod for Secretary of State she will be one of a handful of people the Bush administration will be " grooming" for 2008."

I'd say I did well with women - Rice, Spellings (Sec. of Education), Huges, Miers - though the latter nomination proved to be a debacle it certainly bore the Roveian signature to divide Senate Democrats. Alberto Gonzales and Carlos Gutierrez ( Sec. of Commerce) were high profile appointments aimed at the Hispanic community. The previous effort, so visible in Bush's first term, to court African-Americans via high-profile appointments has been limited to Condi Rice, albeit at the most prestigious cabinet post. So, I was corect in emphasis but not intensity with minorities.


4. "The Bush administration will surprise the world by offering Iran " a grand bargain" on relatively generous terms which the clerical regime will ultimately reject, clinging to their hopes of a breakthrough in their nuclear weapons program. A joint American-Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is high as the Bush administration, unlike its predecessors, will not feel that the good opinion of the Arab-Islamic world or EU diplomats is worth the risk of letting Teheran in the nuclear club."

The Iranian pot continues to simmer while the loose-cannon lunacy of ultrahardlineIranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes the prospect of a strategic " grand bargain", all but impossible. A military strike on Iran by the United States, Israel or both is a real possibility but has yet to occur.


Overall, not bad. About a .350 average as a prognosticator. I'll take it.

Dave at The Glittering Eye evaluates his own ability as a seer and oracle.
Friday, December 30, 2005

For those of a pessimistic bent - I don't agree with everything these authors have to say in their respective critiques of U.S. military and foreign policies - the Germanomania that sometimes prevails at DNI is most odd considering that the Germans lost both world wars through strategic and tactical blundering - but they raise points that are worth careful consideration:

" Lessons Learned from the American Expedition to Iraq" by " Fabius Maximus " at DNI

I'm not privy to the identity of the writer who posts under this nom de guerre but he has an excellent command of history. I tend to agree with his assessment that our grasp of the Salafi-Jihadi -Qutbist-Takfiri network is remarkably poor considering that we are four years into a global unconventional war. That however, comes from having a drastic shortage of military and intelligence personnel with the requisite language skills and deep in-country experience and not moving heaven and earth to train more. Fundamentals should be our first priorities.

From "Kingdaddy" at Arms and Influence - The Counterinsurgency Series:

"Counterinsurgency is Hard, Part IV"

"Counterinsurgeny is Hard, Part III"

"Counterinsurgency is Hard, Part II"

"Counterinsurgency is Hard, Part I."

Whether I agree or disagree with their conclusions, it is always a pleasure for me to see a person with some expertise take pains to share their knowledge at this level of depth. There is much to like here as " Kingdaddy" understands the importance of leverage, legitimacy and systems in waging unconventional warfare as a moral and political conflict as well as a military one.

That's it.
Thursday, December 29, 2005

I had lunch with my friend and fellow blogger Dr. Von in unlovely Schaumburg yesterday and between bites and social chatter, Von did his level best to enlighten me about the finer aspects of network theory and the discovery of the operation of power law across different fields. Another topic we touched on was the ideas of the educational and cognitive theorist Howard Gardner.

According to Von, who has posted on Gardner's latest book, Gardner posits " Six Constants of Leadership":

1. An Identifiable Story or Message

2. Consideration of the Audience

3. The Development of an Institutional or Organizational Foundation

4. The Embodiment of the Story by the Leader

5. The Interplay betwen Direct and Indirect Leadership

6. The Issue of Expertise

Dr.Von has an analysis an explanation for each of these "constants" so I am not going to reinvent the wheel but I was struck at how well Gardner's argument fits in with my call for building " state resilience" and John Boyd's constructive concept of having a" Theme for Vitality and Growth". If you look at ideas in history that enjoyed explosive growth - Christianity, Islam, Nationalism, Communism, Fascism, Democracy - you see time and again leaders who embody ( or appear to) the the revolutionay qualities they preach and by this synchronicity between message and action, shift cultural paradigms ad spark revolutions.

Moral conflict can change scenarios - not merely battle within them.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dr. Demarche at The American Future posed a fundamental question the other day. as a rule, I like questions of this nature because they are helpful in terms of quickly putting matters into perspective. the good doctor's question was:

"...is there such a thing as "the" international community? If so who are its members? In what arenas does this community act? What is America's role in this community, and that of the U.N.?"

In my view the various nation-states of the world form a "community" with a level of communal fellowship several orders of magnitude less than what prevails in a given New York city subway at about 1 a.m.

The phrase " international community" is a popular one but it remains an oxymoron. States do not have anthropomorphic qualities though we are fond of imagining that they do because artful phrases reduce complex dynamics to simple, easily understood, imagery. Even if states did have such intrinsic behavioral qualities the " international community" resembles nothing so much as hapless mob, milling about, some fighting amongst themselves, while the ten largest, strongest and best armed men half-heartedly attempt to keep the chaos at a tolerable level.

Any " community" that the media speaks of really refers to a transnational elite of diplomats, high government officials, journalists, academics, central bankers, bureaucrats of international organizations and a strata of highly connected and influential private citizens. A relatively tiny group that nonetheless numbers in the tens of thousands, many individuals " know" each other at least in the sense that residents in a small town know one another. Westerners, particularly Europeans and Americans, dominate the decision-making process of this " community" when the rare occasions occur that effective action is actually going to be taken.

Despite the great diversity of nationalities in this " community" you find that the members hold similar opinions and values on many subjects, particularly relating to political economy and their own self-importance. Few of the have much in common with the average citizen of the countries they purport to represent or any sense of moral urgency in a crisis - unless that crisis threatens to destabilize the status quo in which they themselves are personally invested in terms of their career. Several million dying of starvation, genocide, AIDS, warfare or natural disasters is of less concern than protocol and precedence.

They are seldom the working diplomats, war correspondents or aid workers who go to dangerous places with a real risk of getting their heads shot off by wild-eyed young men. There is an enormous difference between talking to locals in Herat and to an ABC news crew in Manhattan, Brussells or Washington, DC. They have acquired, to paraphrase John Keegan, " the air of the seminar" about them.

But an international community ? No.


Callimachus at Done With Mirrors takes another view

More posts on " international community" from:

The Glittering Eye
Marc Schulman
Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Marc Shulman of The American Future has an excellent review up of Taming American Power by the eminent political scientist of the Neo-Realist school. Dr. Stephen M. Walt . Marc's review has more range and depth than I am discussing here because I want to focus on one particular point of Marc's critique:

"In my view, Walt has considerable difficulty fitting al Qaeda and other Islamic terror organizations into his conceptual framework. This is probably true for most or all neo-realists. A school of thought that has the balance of power as its foundational principle is ill-equipped to understand a world in which the primary security threat is from transnational, religiously-inspired terrorist groups. For the U.S. or any other country to base a foreign policy on the assumption that al Qaeda will respond to carrots and sticks in the same manner as states would be the height of folly. "

Very well put. The dominant schools of thought in IR are Liberalism and Realism with Realism having more of an edge among practitioners in the diplomatic corps, intelligence services and staffers on the Hill ( among whom you also find idealists of various stripes). Neither Liberalism nor Realism/Neo- Realism have come to grips with Islamist terrorism or the broader phenomenona of the deterioration of the Westphalian state system, the rise of non-state actors or even, in my view, the implications of globalization. Both schools are simply too state-centric in their analytical orientation and are intellectually very, very, insular. They are not yet getting the context of everything else, nor do I think they will any time soon.

Abu Aardvark had a very interesting discussion recently on IR theory and al Qaida.

"Many more states are threatened by al Qaeda and/or al Qaeda-inspired terrorism than by aggression from another state. Given the nature of the threat and the unmatched strength of the U.S. military, balance of power theory, if it is to have any validity in the current era, would have to say that other states would have moved into ever-closer relationships with America in the years since 9/11. Except for heightened behind-the-scenes cooperation within the intelligence community, quite the reverse has happened. The counter-argument is that, as has been shown in several public opinion polls, many populations fear U.S. power more than terrorism — even if their governments do not. It would be absurd for America to assign a greater priority to appeasing foreign publics than to eliminating terrorists."

To generalize and simplify Marc's point, globalization has made it far easier for non-state and subnational actors to destabilize nation-states by striking at systemic " choke points" and causing an enormous amount of economic and moral damage via ripple effects at a very low cost in terms of investing resources. Bin Laden spent pennies to cause millions of dollars of damage. On the flip side, state vs. state war between major powers has grown increasingly unlikely.

Hence the increasing popularity and traction in government circles of explanations by defense intellectuals like Dr. Barnett's PNM theory, William Lind's 4GW and John Robb's Global Guerillaism, all of which begin with a strategic and systemic orientation.

"If al Qaeda and the like were not part of the equation, Walt’s thesis — that the Bush Doctrine, because it has intensified anti-Americanism among peoples and governments, and allies and enemies — would have merit. But, not only is al Qaeda part of the equation, it is the most important part of the equation. Given that there is scant evidence that the policies of the Bush Administration has undermined relationships among intelligence organizations, it is far from clear that altering these policies in a manner that would lessen anti-Americanism would aid in the fight against al Qaeda. There may be — and, in my opinion, there is — a trade-off between improving our relations with foreign governments and our overseas approval ratings, and the efficacy of our efforts to defang the Islamic terrorists."

Here I must disagree with my friend Marc.

Of course the Bush Doctrine intensified anti-Americanism - there were many statesmen who were quite content, privately, to see the United States under attack, despite their loud public declarations of sympathy just as there were some genuinely hostile statesmen who were quite alarmed at al Qaida's brazen attack ( if Bin Laden can hit the U.S. then...) and gave the U.S. a surprising amount of sub rosa help. The intelligence information Teheran provided on the Taliban and Iraq was substantial - something neither Khameini nor President Bush are likely to shout from the rooftops.

The Bush Doctrine forced many players to put some cards on the diplomatic table that they would rather have kept in their hand. Regardless of their view of American policy on its merits, I think most foreign leaders would have preferred that we had pretended we were keeping to the status quo even as we toppled the Taliban and invaded Iraq. We denied a lot of important people a face-saving lie in front of their own people and forced them to take a position. Nor does a more assertive " hyperpower" suit any of the would-be regional hegemons from Paris to Moscow to Beijing - their interest lies in a United States that is a passive and restrained stabilizer of the international system.

Now I think the old, Cold War status quo was as dead as Julius Caesar and admitting that the international system is totally broken, as Bush did, will be to the long-term good because eventually it will force the great powers to find a new consensus - but it is undeniable that the Bush Doctrine came with some sizable short term costs.

Read Marc's review in full here.

Evo Morales, the leftist advocate of coca legalization and next president of Bolivia has been the subject of much speculation. Now the Power and Interest News Report is offering their analysis:

"Morales' unexpected vote tally indicated that he had drawn support from groups outside his base, particularly the small business sector that had been economically hurt by the blockades and had calculated that it would be more advantageous to have Morales on the inside than in the opposition. He also attracted support from urban professionals and government workers who had become disaffected in response to the economic situation and corruption.

Although Morales has legitimacy, the announced loyalty of the military and the temporary acquiescence of the opposition, the path to reaching his goals is not clear. His highest card is the fear of the opposition that, if he is thwarted, he could unleash his energized base and move to authoritarian rule that could involve expropriation of land and resources, which -- at the moment -- he has promised not to do.

The opposition's highest card is the threat to take the lowland provinces into secession if the economic interests of that region are severely damaged. Morales also faces the need for capital investment to develop the gas industry and Bolivia's dependence on aid and trade preferences from Washington, the latter of which have been instrumental in developing the country's textile and furniture industries."

Historically, developmental alternatives to the capitalist market model are usually based on commodity exports, employment of forced labor or both. This is true as much for the antebellum South as it was for Stalinist or Fascist command economies. Not infrequently, " land reform" based on breaking up large private landholdings and the distribution of small plots to impoverished peasants is tried in the early stages of an anticapitalist regime. This policy usually fails and is radically reversed because the objectives of the peasantry ( subsistence farming) and the regime ( commodity export for hard currency) are ultimately incompatible so reconcentration of land under state control to gain economies of scale is imposed. Sometimes bloodily.

Morales however may try to craft a " hybrid " political economy that reassures foreign capital while using commodity revenues to fund development projects and reward his political network, much the way Hugo Chavez is doing in Venezuela. This would be the smartest long-term move for Morales - given Bolivia's dependence on foreign aid and need for investment capital - but the firebrands in his Movement Toward Socialism and those further to the Left ( Morales is not an extremist by Bolivian standards) may not permit a moderate course.

According to the Jamestown Foundation, al Qaida is placing its hopes for a next generation of terrorists in a demographic Islamists call "Rakan bin Williams" - white, Western converts to radical Salafi Islam.

"According to the statement, recruiting Westerners is part of al-Qaeda's strategy to respond to the "war on terrorism" and the resulting restrictions placed on its members. The statement indicates that following September 11, there was a special focus given to Saudi Arabia”or the Land of the Two Holy Mosques (as described by the statement)”in that most of the attackers originated from the kingdom. Later, however, al-Qaeda carried out its next attack in Indonesia by the hand of Indonesian nationals, and followed by a "strategic" threat to Europe by attacking its borders with the Islamic World in the east (Turkey) and west (Morocco). When Europe failed to recognize or react accordingly to the warning, al-Qaeda targeted Madrid”in an attack carried out by North Africans”shifting scrutiny to Arabs in Europe. Then, in what came as a surprise to many, London was targeted in an attack carried out by British-Pakistanis. This attack may well have resulted from Europe's failure—in the eyes of bin Laden—to accept the truce offered in regard to Iraq. (Moreover, al-Qaeda misled Europe, and others, into believing that the next target would be Italy). The statement finishes by vowing that the next al-Qaeda recruits will be "Rakan Bin Williams," which is the name it gives to white Europeans."

While such a turn of events will result in greater security threats for the United States and Europe, it also represents some good news.

First, it means the al Qaida leadership are feeling frustrated by Western security policies that are preventing the terror group from mounting another spectacular act of catastrophic terror using Arab or Central Asian muslim adherents.

Secondly, opening their ranks to white Westerners is a two edged sword; the greatest problem American counterintelligence officials have faced is infiltrating al Qaida or even al Qaida's " gateway" groups, heavily based on national-tribal and madrassa ties, who use mosques, political groups, charitable and educational organizations as fronts to select recruits and raise funds.

Silver linings.
Monday, December 26, 2005

It wasn't a bad couple of days - driving out to Glenview and then north of Gurnee was probably more car time I'd have liked but the roads were snow free and we only saw one car burst into flames on the tollway this year.

On to today's picks. No theme, just good posts:

From Amendment Nine - " Here's a Little Lemma" - some Constitutional political theory on the state of the Republic. Brings to mind the philosphical arguments between Adams and Jefferson.

From Dan of tdaxp his latest series on PNM Theory:

"Embracing Defeat, Part I: Barnett's Two Strategies"
"Embracing Defeat, Part II: Blood and Will"
"Embracing Defeat, Part III: The Born Gimp"
"Embracing Defeat, Part IV: Embracing Victory"

From Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria, II " Fourth Generation War and Other Myths"(PDF) - probably best described as a scholarly equivalent of a nuclear strike against the ideas of William Lind and Dr. Chet Richards as presented at DNI. It will be interesting to see their response and since I see that they too have posted a link.

That's it !

Bill Roggio, formerly of the The Fourth Rail and a founder of Threatswatch, is featured in a story by The Washington Post. Roggio was not only invited to blog from Iraq by the USMC but AEI saw fit to affiliate and extend journalistic accreditation to Roggio's efforts.

It's not how many readers Bill has ( though he has quite a few) - its who reads him in demographic terms that makes blogging an attractive form of media narrowcasting to would-be influencers.

(Hat tip: Memeorandum)
Sunday, December 25, 2005

Attention Clausewitzians, horizontal thinkers and advocates of " Fingerspitzegefuhl" :

A provocative article by Dr.William Duggan from the Strategic Studies Institute entitled
" Coup D'Oeil:Strategic Intuition in Army Planning" contrasts the generation and use of insight vs. tradtional Army analytical methodology.

There are some very Zen-like qualities to the mental state the author is encouraging experienced military commanders to habituate. Great commanders and strategists, I would hypothesize, arrive at this kind of " flow" state because they had developed into horizontal thinkers out of a need to make greater use of a natural bias toward nonverbal thinking - particularly mathematical and spatial reasoning. Consider a few examples:

John Boyd --------------------------->Fighter pilot, engineer

Stonewall Jackson ------------------>Physics, Artillery

Albert Wohlstetter------------------>Mathematician

Napoleon Bonaparte---------------->Artillery, mathematics

Peter the Great-----------------------> Artillery, shipbuilding,

Alexander the Great----------------->Philosophy, medicine, science

Herman Kahn------------------------->Physics and mathematics

Now, this most likely would not hold true for every great commander or strategist but I would wager, on average, you will see considerable abilities in fields that correlate with high levels of nonverbal reasoning.

Hat tip to Dave Dilegge of The Small Wars Council.

John Robb, the global guerillas military theorist and consultant does not maintain a blogroll. Nevertheless, Robb has brought a number of stellar blogs to my attention, which I am happy to add to my blogroll, including:

The Long Tail

Bruce Schneier

Rough Type

Keep them coming John !
Wednesday, December 21, 2005

" Now Watergate does not bother me...Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth "
- Lynard Skynard

"a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

- One Hundred Seventh Congress of the United States of America

" The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "

- The Fourth Amendment to The Constitution of The United States

This has been a very difficult post for me to write. While it is common to always suspect the worst of the other side, I think intellectual honesty requires the admission that there are serious, valid, competing, Constitutional claims being made regardless of the motivations of those making them. I doubt if I am going to please anyone with this post but let the chips can fall where they may.

The Bush administration has and is authorizing the NSA to conduct " warrantless searches" via SIGINT related to al Qaida terrorism without following the procedures set forth in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and subsequently amended. There are three questions at issue in my view:

1. What actually happened ?
2. Was is it Constitutional ?
3. Whether it was wise ?

What actually Happened:

Despite the flurry of press, we do not actually know what happened beyond he fact that (at least) 30 authorizations for warrantless surveillance have been given presidential approval since 9/11. The source for the warrantless searches who leaked the story had the option of leaking selectively only those instances that would do the most serious political damage to the Bush administration, knowing that left the Bush administration with the unpalatable option of revealing intelligence successes or sources to defend itself. We may or may not be looking at the puzzle in its entirety.

This was an effective power play by an IC or DOJ insider who is operationally part of or at least reviews top secret SIGINT programs. Given the amount of time that has passed from the time of the leak to publication on the NYT, this person may no longer even be employed by the Federal government (Note the swift depature of longtime CIA senior managers both before and shortly after Porter Goss became DCI, over a year ago). While I personally assume that the motivations in leaking were partisan, they may be related to intra-bureaucratic warfare instead of party politics or it may be generic " whistleblowing" to stop the program on principle. We don't know.

Was it Constitutional ?

The administration has laid out their legal case. While I have read some of this case law previously I am a diplomatic historian and not a constitutional scholar by training so I write the following from a historian's perspective.

The Framers of the Constitution, as is clear from the language of the document and their own writings, did not regard wartime as a normal state of constitutional affairs. Madison and the Convention took pains to insert qualifying phrases for war, rebellion, invasion and public danger. They chose define treason as a crime possible only in the context of betraying the country to an enemy in time of war. The Congress was given the power to declare war and the President to be the Commander-in-Chief in unequivocal language. War did not suspend the constitutional guarrantees but it did make certain actions possible - like suspension of habeas corpus and quartering troops via legislation - that were otherwise constitutionally impossible.

When it comes to the constitutionality aspect based on " inherent war powers" - provided the surveillance was in fact organically and directly related to foreign intelligence against al Qaida - the Bush administration has a much better Constitutional case than the technical legal argument that they, in fact, followed FISA. The " inherent powers of the presidency" argument is not not new and has some merit - in fact FISA acknowledges the legitimacy of this inherent presidential power as it relates to war in the text of the legislation by setting a 15 day time limit on warrantless searches for foreign intelligence and formal procedure for implementing them. So the question arises, is such a restriction of the powers of Commander-in-Chief by the Legislative branch constitutional or an infringement on separation of powers ?

All three branches of government rely to an extent upon the assertion of unspecified, inherent, implied powers to carry out their duties - the doctrine of judicial review being the cardinal example. Few of the liberal critics of the Bush administration would interpret the powers of Congress or the judiciary as narrowly as they are doing for President Bush in the case of warrantless searches. Few of them yelped when Clinton did similar things. On the other hand, few conservative defenders of the Bush administration today would grant such a similarly broad field of authority to the Congress or, especially, to the courts. Partisanship is affecting constitutional analysis.

FISA, like The War Powers Act or The Tenure of Office Act is simply a statute intended by the Congress to circumscribe by legislation the powers of the Commander-in-Chief. This kind of claim for the Legislative Branch is dubious or at least debatable which is why no member of Congress ever pressed the War Powers Act to SCOTUS and why no president has accepted its constitutionality.

Moreover, in historical terms, this warrantless NSA surveillance is very small beer considering the scope of the president's powers during wartime. Past presidents have ordered actions as wartime measures as Commander-in-Chief that, in comparison, are breathtaking- including:

Mass relocation and internment


Deportation, confinement or restriction of enemy aliens

Emancipation of enslaved persons


Military tribunals for civilians who are saboteurs or spies

Imprisonment and punishment of combatants on foreign soil

High alert for strategic nuclear forces

Abraham Lincoln also suspended habeas corpus (which the Constitution assigns to Congress), openly defied rulings of SCOTUS, placed regions of Union States under martial law and approved summary executions carried out by military authorities.

Regarding the Fourth Amendment and modern jurisprudence; it strains credulity that a Supreme Court that can find a reasonable and compelling state interest in having police stop and make a warrantless search of every vehicle on a road at checkpoints, simply on the premise that some driver might be drunk, is going to find signals intelligence directed at 30 suspected al Qaida terrorists out of 300 million people to be unreasonably intrusive. It would be hard to rationalize that a random drunk driver is a greater threat and thus, a legitimate exception to the 4th Amendment, than a terrorist who might potentially have access to a weapon of mass destruction.

Was it Wise ?

Whether it was overriding operational importance for the Bush administration to avoid going to the FISA court in these instances depends on the facts and the sensitivity of the source or method of collection. Since the Bush administration has not avoided the FISA court on other matters, it raises the question of whether these cases were of unquestionable sensitivity to national security and public safety or if the administration was simply making a political stand to preserve the presidency's claim to possess " inherent authority". This question can only be answered by an investigation by the Intelligence Committees of the House and Senate.

I think it is safe to say that this move by the Bush administration was very unwise in at least the political and Boydian " moral" senses, even if it was warranted by national security considerations or imminency of a threat.

The sharp partisan divisions that affect this country have sapped the government's moral authority to command the respect and legitimacy that garners voluntary compliance, regardless of who might be in the Oval Office. George W. Bush is a viscerally polarizing president much like Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln or Bill Clinton. As such, half the country and most of the world believes, regardless of the reality, that Bush and Cheney are up to something nefarious, so they should take care not to feed that perception. Programs that smack of " Big Brother" are rightly suspected by the public as being naturally prone to abuse even under the best of circumstances and the Bush administration simply does not have the presumption of goodwill needed to carry something like this off.

The American people want to hear that warrantless surveillance is an action the Federal government takes only in extremis to prevent acts of catastrophic terrorism and to prosecute the war against al Qaida- any appearance of lazy and unjustifiable" fishing expeditions" will - correctly in my view- raise a political firestorm. Absent the need to protect exceptionally delicate sources or methods or stop an imminent disaster, going to the FISA court should be the first choice because of the political and moral dividends of being able to point to a systemic check and balance on such an awesome power.

Like Caesar's wife, the exercise of that kind of power must be above all reproach.

Document Links:




Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act 2004: "Lone Wolf" Amendment to FISA, CRS Report

Bush administration brief

Recommended Reading on Warrantless Searches/War Powers From:

The Glittering Eye
Bruce Kesler
Unclaimed Territory
The American Future
Bruce Shneier
The Anchoress

I'll have something up tonight....I have a surge of email today that requires half-way intelligent answers and some mundane real-world chores are calling...

Dave picks up the ball and runs with it.

As does Marc....and Dan of Bloggeldygook ...and CKR...
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In the comments section of Richards Brief post, Dan of tdaxp asked, in reference to my crticism of the assertion by Dr. Chet Richards that Afghanistan represented a " proximate cause" of the Soviet Union's collapse, that I explain further my contention that:

"Thirdly, Dr. Richards vastly overestimates the role of Afghanistan in provoking the Soviet collapse. While the war in Afghanistan certainly did not help matters for the Soviets, the cost of battling mujahedin was fractional compared to the vast sums the Soviets were spending as a percentage of GDP on military and state security services. Morally, the regime had crippled itself in the mod-1960's when Brezhnev-Kosygin-Suslov reversed Khrushchev's attempts to morally reconnect the regime with the Russian people and imposed a creeping " neo-Stalinist" orthodoxy that became more sterile as the Politburo grew grayer. Afghanistan was a product of the Soviet leadership's total moral isolation and the regime's economic implosion, not the cause."

In 4GW theory, a school of thought that draws deeply from the ideas of the late Colonel John Boyd, moral conflict is a more important (i.e. decisive) domain in which to orient strategy than the physical or mental. As DNI puts it on their website:

"The focus (Schwerpunkt) of the non-state player's operations is to collapse the state morally, that is, to rob it of its will to continue the fight. What is new is that one of the states in question may be a distant superpower and the non-state participant a transnational, ideological group"

Now for some background in Soviet history to provide the context that explains why I think Dr. Richards has Afghanistan " backwards" as a cause when it is really an effect of a preexisting moral collapse of Soviet power.

Nikita Sergeievitch Khrushchev is generally misunderstood by the Western public and not a few scholars. Most people recall Khrushchev as a dangerous buffoon who banged his shoe at the UN and blinked during the Cuban Missile Crisis that he recklessly provoked. This is, in my view, a serious misreading of a very ruthless Soviet politician; one who rose under Josef Stalin and succeeded him as ruler of the Soviet Union while supposedly better men like Kosior and Voznesensky went to unmarked graves.

Khrushchev came to power after Stalin had throroughly terrorized Soviet society for nearly thirty years, slaughtering some 20 to 61 million citizens along the way, the final figure depending on what kind of yardstick of moral responsibility one cares to use. After orchestrating the 1954 coup against Beria, Khrushchev was always more than simply primus inter pares but he never enjoyed Stalin's undisputed power, instead checking his Presidium rivals through his dominance of the Central Committee of the CPSU and his support in the early years from the marshals of the Red Army. To understand Soviet foreign policy in the Khrushchev era one must realize that he was also manuvering against internal rivals - first Beria and Malenkvov, then Molotov and Kaganovich and finally Suslov, Kosygin and Brezhnev.

Stalinism had thoroughly demoralized Soviet society as evidenced by the near total collapse of Soviet armies during the initial phase Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Were it not for the politically obtuse racial barbarism of the Nazis that provoked a desperate resistance and the placement of SMERSH and NKVD machine gun units to prevent Red Army units from retreating, it is doubtful the USSR would have survived WWII. After the war, Stalin and Beria set about reimposing the terror system and many historians believe that Stalin was at the point of initiating a new, mammoth, antisemitic, purge when he suddenly died in March 1953.

Khrushchev, who was of the generation that experienced both the Bolshevik Revolution and the savage Russian Civil War, sought to revive the status of the CPSU, rehabilitate its reputation and secure his own position by restoring the Soviet Union to the true " Leninist" path, relegating Stalin's crimes to an aberration. He did so through a contradictory program of:

De-Stalinization - via the "Secret Speech", the Khrushchev thaw and emptying the camps

Peaceful Coexistence with the West - competing through space and economic development

Support for " Wars of National Liberation" - and leaders like Nasser, Castro, Nehru.

Consumerism, Soviet style - de-emphasizing heavy industry, slashing conventional military budgets, investing in light industry for consumer goods and agrarian development of " virgin lands" to raise Soviet living standards.

In short, Khrushchev's program which he brought about by tactical shifts and improvisation, ran against many key tenets of Stalinist thought. As erratic as Khrushchev may have seemed at the time, his policy was " Re-Legitimization" of the regime; to try and bring real benefits to the Soviet citizen either materially by raising living standards, culturally by relaxing censorship or in terms of prestige and national pride by achievements like Sputnik and ICBMs. He tried to portray the Communist Party as a another victim of Stalin's homicidal paranoia by stressing the events of the terrible 1937 "Yezhovschina " - ignoring of course Stalin's Ukranian genocide or Collectivization, both of which had left Khrushchev's own hands dripping with blood.

All of Khrushchev's rivals except (ironically) Beria and Kosygin were either die-hard Stalinists like Molotov and Suslov or nostalgic neo-Stalinists like Brezhnev who wanted a velvet glove, " soft" version of the dead dictator's U.S.S.R. While Khrushchev's program in terms of its parts were incompatible, he was popular outside of the Nomenklatura and secret police ranks whose prerogatives and status were made insecure by his quixotic reforms. Some of Khrushchev's ideas, at least in the Soviet central planning context, made a good deal of sense and ideologically at least, his foreign policy, however provocative, was far closer to Lenin's than Stalin's imperial realpolitik ever was.

Brezhnev, prompted by Mikhail Suslov, eventually reversed all of Khrushchev's reforms, he tightened up censorship, broadened the powers of the KGB, poured 25 % of Soviet GDP into military industry ( even Stalin would have balked at that figure !). The Nomenklatura that Stalin once terrorized into robotic obedience, Brezhnev bought off with an indulgence of widespread corruption. The Soviet populace, as Hedrick Smith recorded at the time, were left deeply alienated, cynical and in despair.

Then in December 1979, an ailing Leonid Brezhnev, who was then only capable of working 2-3 hours per week, met with Stalin's last Politburo appointee, Mikhail Suslov and his fellow septuagenarians, Andropov, Gromyko, Ustinov and Chernenko and gave his feeble assent as General Secretary of The Communist Party of The Soviet Union to the invasion of Afghanistan.
Monday, December 19, 2005

Quick and dirty...yet still good.

"The No Free Lunch Theorem and Resilience" at Opposed System Design

"Civil War in Iraq" by Bruce Kesler at The Democracy Project

"What Extremists Are Saying" at CENTCOM.mil has a synopsis of the latest al Qaida tape by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. CENTCOM does not do archived posts in this section so what you get when you click on the link will reflect what CENTCOM has up on the day you click it.

"The Best Machine Wins" by the semi-ubiquitous praktike.

"Global Swarm: Explaining GWOT through Thomas Barnett, Huntington, Global Guerillas" by Strategy Unit

That's it.

Kobayashi Maru tagged me with the 7X7 Meme which I am now answering and passing along to unfortunate blogging victims. The Meme goes like so:

1. Seven things to do before I die
2. Seven things I cannot do
3. Seven things that attract me to (...)
4. Seven things I say most often
5. Seven books (or series) that I love
6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would if I had time)
7. Seven people I want to join in, too.

Here I go:

Seven Things To Do Before I Die:

Publish a great book ( or two)
Explore Australia and New Zealand
Learn Kendo
Finish the doctorate
Visit Tibet and Bhutan
Test myself to the physical limit and prevail
Raise my children to be more than their father

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

Feign the slightest interest in major league baseball
Refrain from mocking my co-workers
Stay organized
Watch most television programs
Pretend that evil and small-minded people are not what they are
Enjoy casserole
Ask for help

Seven Things That Attract Me to...Conversing With Other Smart People

The chance to learn something new
I seldom need to explain my jokes
Chances are, given enough time, they will reveal something wacky about themselves
To measure myself against them
Comfort Zone
They actually read books
It energizes me

Seven Things I Say Most Often

" Dude"
" counterintuitive"
" Perhaps"
" Before it breaks bad..."
" Domain"
" Time to post up"
" Quite an icebreaker"

Seven Books That I Love

The Prince
The Lord of The Rings
The Gulag Archipelago

One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich
Atlas Shrugged
The Art of War

Seven Movies That I Watch Over and Over Again:

The Matrix
12 Angry Men
Lord of The Rings
Rebel Without a Cause

Seven People I Want To Join In Too

Dr. Von
Dave Schuler
TM Lutas
Seven Inches of Sense

"For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. "

- Sun Tzu

Dr. Chet Richards, the editor of Defense & The National Interest, former collaborator with military theorist Colonel John Boyd and author of A Swift Elusve Sword, has posted a brief based on his forthcoming book, Neither Shall The Sword . It's a breathtaking piece of work that argues not for a mere "revolution in military affairs" but that the nature of warfare is undergoing an epochal shift.

Even if you have read The Sling and The Stone or are generally familiar with the ideas of John Boyd or other theorists like William Lind, Thomas P.M. Barnett or Philip Bobbitt this one by Dr. Richards is a fall out of your chair brief.

Drawing on Martin van Creveld, William Lind, John Boyd and Thomas P.M. Barnett, Richards illustrates the general theory of 4GW and takes that premise to their most radical logical conclusions regarding the appropriate military structure and geopolitical strategy for the United States. Conceding that we still do not know the final shape that 4GW will take, Richards points to the known aspects or tendencies of 4GW movements to be:

Frequently anti-State and not just anti-regime

Ideologically motivated

Emphasize conflict at the " Moral" level

Uses the modality of guerilla warfare

The strategic posture the United States should adopt in the view of Dr. Richards is containment of problem regions and privatization of military and security functions. His rationale is that nuclear weapons makes State vs. State warfare among Core nuclear powers exceptionally unlikely and the massively expensive" Leviathan" conventional military cannot be employed effectively against 4GW insurgencies, is ponderous and too slow to adapt. We do not know how to " rollback" nor do we reconstruct adequately or without fostering corruption. PMC's on the other hand, being creatures of the market rather than the State, are creative and adaptive; moreover the history of pre-Westphalian era private warfare stretches back to the ancient world, so PMC's moving to the forefront represents a return to the historical norm. Problem states will be integrated the way we absorbed the old Soviet bloc, with soft power and incentives and contained until they are ready to join the civilized world.

My Commentary:

Dr. Richards deserves great praise for his willingness to challenge not merely conventional thinking but the validity of the paradigm in which most discussions of military strategy and policy take place. It would be hard to imagine any government entity - even forums like the National Intelligence Council and the Defense Science Board, where unorthodox viewpoints are supposedly encouraged - creating so highly original a brief that challenges so many fundamental assumptions of U.S. military doctrine.

Secondly, in regard to the collapse of the Westphalian state system and the rise of PMC's as increasingly significant evolutionary trendlines, Dr. Richards is, in my view, quite correct in emphasizing their strategic importance. They represent major changes in the global balance of power and the parameters by which that power may be exercised. PMC's have become a necessary adjunct even to the mighty U.S. military but for small to medium sized but wealthy states, PMC's represent power-multiplying leverage that can be hired far more cheaply than could be developed internally. If we are entering, as Philip Bobbitt argues, the era of the "Market-State", then military power represents a commodity and not merely a public good for the State.

Critically speaking, I have a number of problems with the proposed strategy of Dr. Richards:

Foremost, is the problem of State power calculus. Currently, all the world's actors, State and non-State, begin with the premise of American military preeminence and the substantial " gap" between the United States and any potential first rank peer competitor. Even in our currently strained condition, national leaders are well aware that America is still capable of dealing out tremendous damage by air and sea on very short notice with a fraction of our total forces. Removing that power by a dramatic downsizing to expeditionary PMCs will badly destabilize the global system of states by lowering the risks for interstate warfare. Globally, military agression will be given newfound incentives from which unforseeable ripple effects will follow. Moreover, the PMCs themselves will make warfare more likely between minor states or lesser powers by creating a highly mobile, global labor market for advanced military skills.

Secondly, the oft-cited maxim from Mao ZeDong that " power flows from the barrel of a gun" is in my view a good reason why PMC's, as efficient, creative and useful as they might be, should not become completely untethered from the supervision of Core states. Nor Core states too dependent on PMC's for their national security. The Pre-Westphalian era was not just the age of the warrior-prince but also of the freebooter amd mercenary usurper. The Free Companies that once ravaged France, Spain and Asia Minor are not a model for growth we want PMC's to adopt. The 21st century does not need its own version of "Catalonian Revenge" playing out in Africa or Central Asia, much less in Europe and North America.

Thirdly, Dr. Richards vastly overestimates the role of Afghanistan in provoking the Soviet collapse. While the war in Afghanistan certainly did not help matters for the Soviets, the cost of battling mujahedin was fractional compared to the vast sums the Soviets were spending as a percentage of GDP on military and state security services. Morally, the regime had crippled itself in the mod-1960's when Brezhnev-Kosygin-Suslov reversed Khrushchev's attempts to morally reconnect the regime with the Russian people and imposed a creeping " neo-Stalinist" orthodoxy that became more sterile as the Politburo grew grayer. Afghanistan was a product of the Soviet leadership's total moral isolation and the regime's economic implosion, not the cause.

Fourth, I would like to see more of what would constitute " containment" of Gap State problems in Dr. Richards view. I'm dubious that in the absence of economic development or connectivity inside the Gap that the Core can contain the resultant migrational pressures. William Lind has written about having to wage " Roman, that is to say annihilatory" campaigns in response to terror emanating from these states, but Julius Caesar put uncounted Germans to the sword in Gaul; his successors launched expeditions into the Rhineland, Britain and Dacia. In the end, the empire became Germanized and fell, with Rome having been sacked by Vandals and menaced by Huns.

If the utterly ruthless Romans could not make "containment" permanent, how can we ? Without some strategy to relieve the pressure of human misery we are containing, how can we "win" ?

Nevertheless this powerful brief marks Never Shall The Sword as a " must read"book for policy makers, military officers as well as academics and journalists interested in military affairs. Dr. Chet Richards has offered a provocative and radical vision that is likely to be as deeply influential in the long-run as it will no doubt be controversial in the short-term.


Read the first review of the Richards brief by Evan Lehmann.

Read the Introduction to Never Shall The Sword by Chet Richards.

Watch the Conflict in The Years Ahead brief by Dr. Richards ( hat tip: Jacob H.)
Sunday, December 18, 2005

As erratic as the Bush administration execution has been in Iraq, the Republicans at least do not have this problem:

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.

Pelosi said Democrats will produce an issue agenda for the 2006 elections but it will not include a position on Iraq. There is consensus within the party that President Bush has mismanaged the war and that a new course is needed, but House Democrats should be free to take individual positions, she sad.

"There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position," Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors. "

A "source of strength" ? Give me a break. The antiwar wingnut, DailyKOS contingent are ready to lynch Joe Lieberman and Joe Biden and pelt Hillary with rotten eggs. That kind of fratricidal feeling is a sign of strength ? Shades of the Whigs in 1852 and 1856. And the Democratic Party itself in 1860. Can you imagine Pelosi or any other top Democrat saying that Abortion, Gun Control or Tax cuts " were a matter of individual conscience" ?

The Democratic Party is torn on foreign policy itself, not just the war in Iraq. And they are torn because a significant part of the activist base are ideologically motivated by the New Left critique of America from the Vietnam War era that views the United States as fundamentally unjust, racist, imperialist and illegitimate. They view Bush as a war criminal, the attacks of 9/11 as just deserts or at least an understandable Muslim response to U.S. support for Israel. They hope for an American defeat and sometimes call for it openly. To them events today are to be viewed and analyzed through the prism of the politics of the long-ago 1960's antiwar movement.

This stance puts them at odds with those Democratic activists who are " party regulars" interested in winning elections and at least half of the rank and file Democratic voters ( to say nothing of independents, moderate Republicans and conservatives). When Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago blasted Illinois Senator and Democratic whip Richard Durbin's " gulag " comments it was because Daley the political boss knew that while such remarks might please Hollywood, Manhattan liberals and readers of The Nation, they didn't play well in Peoria. Senator Durbin, with a relatively safe seat, was playing to national party activists, not to voters back home but eventually he backed down and apologized rather than cross the powerful Daley machine.

There is however, no equivalent to the Daley machine in the national Democratic Party. The left-wing extremists can and do censor the internal party debate required to formulate innovative Democratic positions for national security and foreign policy. Hence, the situational paralysis that Pelosi was trying to spin into a positive.

A major political party that cannot bring itself to speak at all on a fundamental component of national policy because of deep internal divisions is not just a party that is going to lose elections.

It is a party that is going to split.

Thanks to your support Zenpundit made a respectable 4th place showing in the 2005 Weblog Awards !

Special thanks to:

Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye for nominating me.

Dan of tdaxp, Austin Bay, Coming Anarchy, Simon , The ( newly expanded)American Future, Interact, Live from the FDNF, and The Small Wars Council for their active endorsements.

To Dr. Ralph Luker of Cliopatria for the nomination mention.

To blogging and non-blogging personal friends and colleagues Joel, Judy, Larry, Nick, Lara, Tammie, Mike, Allison, Sereen, Julie, Jeff, Jacob H., Bruce Kesler, Geitner Simmons, Nadezhda, Myke Cole, Lt. Brian Anderson, Dr. Clare Spark, Dr. Doug Macdonald, Dr. Judith Klinghoffer, Dr. Von , Dr. Barnett and others who took the time to vote early and often. Your support was very much appreciated by me.

As Cubs fans like to say...wait 'till next year !! :o)
Saturday, December 17, 2005

Decorated the tree this afternoon with the kids who are now finally at an age where they can actually hang more ornaments than they break. Dad here had the usual frustrating Xmas light string experience and while I might have wanted to hack the goddamned tree into small pieces with a broadsword at one point, in the spirit of Christmas I refrained.

Ho ho ho.

I have a " mega-blogging" session scheduled for Sunday as I have some committments today that are going to preclude writing anything weighty but I will try to put a few items up throughout the day. I come out of a U.S.-Soviet diplo history and econ history background and as such, following economic, ideological and intel developments were always critical to trying to understand the big picture.

There are profound, revolutionary, changes going on in the world right now. Globally, it is 1789, 1848 and 1945 rolled into one. I can't recall a time period, except perhaps from the " Benning Revolution" to Hiroshima where U.S. military doctrine and structure needed to undergo ( and went through) such a dramatic shift. And I fear I am understating.

Well, with that in mind, here are some things to ponder:

Dr. Von on " A Step Toward Quantum Computing". This is a critical breakthrough technology.

Kobayashi Maru on the little known routing of electronic communications in light of the NSA story.

Dr. Lubos Motl on the concept of Sustainability.

The Drs. Eide on the neuroscience of visual media communication. Want to craft a global, universal, message ?

Disturbing news from GlobalSecurity.org that the U.S. military is just starting to fundamentally invest in building and organizing a first-class counterintelligence information system. All I can say here is, WTF ? Better late than never, I suppose.

Ad hoc design is not strategic policy.

That's it.
Thursday, December 15, 2005

This short PDF file from The National Security Archive is a good primer for understanding the underlying international dynamics of the nuclear proliferation standoff with North Korea have changed little in three administrations - until, it must be fairly said - George W. Bush came into office.

There is a brand new blog by an anonymous defense analyst called Opposed System Design that is well worth checking out - so much so that I have blogrolled it already. This post " DoD 3000 and Global Guerilla Thinking" is a winner:

"Both men are identifying the same dynamics. They just come to the discussion from opposite directions. Robb approaches the discussion from the GG perspective, asking “how can I disrupt this?” Barnett approaches the discussion from the Core (aka good globalization) perspective. His thinking focuses on “how do I keep this going?” Both men recognize that firewalling is not an option. Global Guerillas are a thinking adversary with powerful tactics at their disposal. No attempt to passively armor ourselves will succeed. Resiliency is our goal, not invulnerability."

YES ! This is a guy who " gets it". Dr. Barnett's systemic perspective is " constructive" and
" synthesizing" which is why he frequently is described as a " visionary". PNM theory is a grand strategy to build something new, in Boydian terms it provides a moral vision to inspire as well as pursue. John Robb's systemic perspective is " destructive" and analytical - a tactical and grand tactical approach to break the societal machine into isolated and demoralized components. Here's more:

"Barnett’s focus on the scale of grand strategy makes him talk about the long-term sustainable solution: shrink the Gap. Resiliency is the near-term tactic we use to survive until the Gap is shrunk and the threat is reduced. Robb’s focus on the tactical level makes him cognizant of the challenge we face in shrinking the Gap. In the near term, we face GGs who are intent on shrinking the Core. More failed states and TAZs mean more and bigger markets for black globalization. Robb recognizes the power of the decentralized networks GG use. Therefore he is critical of Barnett’s focus on bureaucratic reforms (such as DoD 3000) because decentralized networks will always overwhelm sclerotic bureaucatic structures. Furthermore, Robb questions the accuracy of Barnett’s grand vision of global peace through a Fukuyama-esque “end of history.”

Go read the whole thing:
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dr. Barnett hails a DoD commitment to building the Sys Admin force that he is busy briefing(PDF) about in the halls of power. Giving proof that even today, ideas matter.

John Robb says, "Thomas, thou art but mortal".

Dan of tdaxp accuses Tom of " Embracing Defeat"

From Foreign Policy:

"The New Coalition of the Willing:

Private security firms in Iraq are hiring an increasing number of ex-guerrillas and soldiers from Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Chile. A recent ad on Iraqijobcenter.com, for example, offered the services of a thousand Colombian combat-trained ex-soldiers and policemen for security work in Iraq. This year, U.S. security firm Halliburton employed Colombians to protect oil installations in several Iraqi cities. Blackwater, another private security firm, has had a group of soldiers who once served for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on the payroll. Recruits often come from militaries known for human rights abuses or paramilitaries with ties to narcotrafficking. So why are U.S. contractors hiring Latin American mercenaries? If a contractor is killed, says Peter Singer, an expert on private military firms at the Brookings Institution, it is less likely to make the news than if its a U.S. soldier. If its a contractor from another country, it is even less likely."

This is a very interesting development in terms of globalization and war because it implies that market forces are balancing the " open-source" nature of Iraq's insurgency. The implications here go far beyond Iraq however. I had an excellent email discussion today on this topic with
" the " authority on "global guerrillas", the knowledgeable and gracious John Robb. Hopefully, he'll post his take on this topic soon as he has interesting and important things to say but in the meantime, here's mine:

What this phenomena represents is an increasing flexibility in the labor market for war where Loyalist Paramilitaries begin to leave their home context from where they acquired their moral center (" moral" as in a Boydian ideological anchor and motivation) and become decontextualized and - with PMC orientation and training - increasingly professional mercenary warriors. As with the laws of physics, war is also governed by the laws of economics.

On the positive side, I can imagine that very poor Gap states - say Eritrea vs. Ethiopia - will soon find their pointless military conflicts de-escalated as wealthy PMC's make lucrative offers for that these states can neither match nor their limited pool of talented personnel refuse. While the state can always make their troops the infamous " offer they can't refuse" in extremis, this will not be possible as a long term policy for obvious reasons of morale. Whole third world armies, guerilla movements and paramilitaries that are currently functional ( ex. Nigeria's) could within a matter of months during a time of high demand, be reduced to a mere rabble as the " stars" of the officer and NCO corps cash out. Anything that damps down the capacity of these incompetent states to play at war of conquest or civil war helps.

On the negative side, nation-states are playing with fire by allowing this development in the PMC market to progress unimpeded. PMC's are on " good behavior" because the bulk of their revenue flow depends on the goodwill of states, especially the Core states, both for contracts and immunity from prosecution(Mercenary activity is technically against international law but the definition of a mercenary used by the UN is so narrow as to be legally meaningless except for politically motivated prosecutions). Problems will arise when PMC revenues become " de-coupled" from state patronage in a situation where the state has hired one or several PMC's and has subsequently ceased to exist, leaving unpaid PMC forces to fend for themselves amidst chaos. This would be System Adminastration's psychotic and evil twin, a military Mr. Hyde cut loose in the land of Thomas Hobbes ( and even then the " wild" PMC's might still be morally preferable to an indigenous force that resembled the Lord's Resistance Army, the Interhamwe or the Khmer Rouge. Choices in the Gap are not going to be sunny ones).

We are so far removed from the age of the bloodthirsty Earl of Warrick's " bastard feudalism" or the depradations of the condotteri warlord, the Count of Carmagnola, that we are not mindful of the economic dynamic that may mercenary companies possible in the pre-Westphalian era can be recreated locally or regionally by state failure. Africa in particular was spared this outcome only because PMC's were then in their infancy. Central Asia could easily become the Africa of the 2010's if these states do not join the New Core.

It is in the collective, long-term self-interest of all states to prevent PMC's from evolving from contract employees - where they can be useful, supervised and held accountable - into independent powers, " armies without states" or virtual states. Unfortunately, the pervasive " free-rider" problem in international security has left the U.S. less and less willing to shoulder the military cost-shifting of Europe and Japan. Every Blackwater or Dyncorp private warrior hired by the Pentagon is a missing soldier of the Bundeswehr or Japan just as every billion in T-bills purchased by China represents the absent defense expenditure contribution by our NATO allies. De facto, China is more our ally in Iraq than any NATO ally except Britain. Therefore, short-term interest rules the scenario.

This is not, as one might suppose, an anti-PMC rant. A majority of PMC employees of first rate companies are ex-American special forces soldiery. They are mostly " the good guys"with rarified skills that they know have a limited shelf-life and like guys who fight oil-well fires, they are getting theirs while the market is good. Fifty thousand PMC troops hired by the UN might do wonders for the people of Dar Fur.

But high demand is diluting this sterling labor pool with Latin American combat bums, secret police torturers and the alcoholic, blood-soaked, dregs of the Balkans.

This is not a polyglot force I want unmoored from the suzerainty of a powerful state.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dr. Barnett, who seems to be in Beltway Briefing Whirlwind mode with various DC movers and shakers, found time to expound on Syriana's theme vs. reality.

Another review you won't catch from Roger Ebert ( it must be National Syriana Day in the blogosphere).
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" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli

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