Friday, June 30, 2006

Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz had a kind word for Zenpundit and related blogfriends while pointing to Curzon's latest travelogue at Coming Anarchy. Lex was referencing the evolution of discussion between a number of bloggers and Dr. Thomas Barnett:

"Barnett has a small selection of blogs on his blogroll, among which the ChicagoBoyz are honored to have a place (due I think primarily to this and this). A few of these blogs have been engaged in something like a polymorphous, attenuated and elaborated conversation with Barnett, and with each other, which is greater than the sum of its parts"

I agree. In the cross-blog discussions I know that my views have changed or new ideas have arisen because of the comments and insights of other bloggers.

Speaking of crossblog conversations, here is a literal example I recommend listening to in podcast form.
Thursday, June 29, 2006

Brief commentary on the Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan case.

The Bush administration lost this case not because detainees cannot be tried for war crimes, or that they must be classified as P.O.W.'s or because the Bush administration opted for military commissions per se but because they were following neither international law, statutory law nor even the precedent of Ex Parte Quirin, which I have long argued is the governing standard. The Supreme Court, at least in the part highlighted by SCOTUSblog, agreed:

"Quirin held that Congress had, through Article of War 15, sanctioned the use of military commissions to try offenders or offenses against the law of war. 317 U. S., at 28. UCMJ Art. 21, which is substantially identical to the old Art. 15, reads: “The jurisdiction [of] courts-martial shall not be construed as depriving military commissions … of concurrent jurisdiction in respect of offenders or offenses that by statute or by the law of war may be tried by such … commissions.” 10 U. S. C. §821. Contrary to the Government’s assertion, even Quirin did not view that authorization as a sweeping mandate for the President to invoke military commissions whenever he deems them necessary. Rather, Quirin recognized that Congress had simply preserved what power, under the Constitution and the common law of war, the President already had to convene military commissions-with the express condition that he and those under his command comply with the law of war. See 317 U. S., at 28-29. Neither the AUMF nor the DTA can be read to provide specific, overriding authorization for the commission convened to try Hamdan. Assuming the AUMF activated the President’s war powers, see Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U. S. 507, and that those powers include authority to convene military commissions in appropriate circumstances, see, e.g., id., at 518, there is nothing in the AUMF’s text or legislative history even hinting that Congress intended to expand or alter the authorization set forth in UCMJ Art. 21. Cf. Ex parte Yerger, 8 Wall. 85, 105. Likewise, the DTA cannot be read to authorize this commission. Although the DTA, unlike either Art. 21 or the AUMF, was enacted after the President convened Hamdan’s commission, it contains no language authorizing that tribunal or any other at Guantanamo Bay. Together, the UCMJ, the AUMF, and the DTA at most acknowledge a general Presidential authority to convene military commissions in circumstances where justified under the Constitution and laws, including the law of war. Absent a more specific congressional authorization, this Court’s task is, as it was in Quirin, to decide whether Hamdan’s military commission is so justified. Pp. 25-30"

Having wandered in a weird zone of their own making for several years in an effort to make no clear decision between the differing agendas of the Departments of Justice, Defense and State; and to delay military trials that could result in death penalty convictions that would offend European and Muslim opinion, the Bush administration is now back to square one. He who hesitates, is lost.

To be tried, the detainees must face a court-martial or properly constituted military commission. It may have been possible, under the standard of "exigency", to have conducted battlefield trials by commission in Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of the Taliban by the loose and somewhat incoherent structure set up by the Bush administration but not several years after the fact. Time for calm reflection negates exigency.

Having precedents from WWII available in regard to commissions and ample time to ask for legislative authorization I can only conclude that the Bush administration's entire legal strategy was to secure not an ultimate conclusion for their judicial process, but an unlimited delay. Their preference for trying small fry and marginal figures,when they finally began judicial proceedings, instead of al Qaida operatives of unimpeachable guilt like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, adds to my suspicion in this regard.

What should the Bush administration do now ? Go to Congress and ask for legislation on military commissions whose procedures fits precedents from our past wars and satisfies the complaints SCOTUS outlined in their Hamdan decision. Then let the commissions roll.

Hat tip to Memeorandum.


Glittering Eye
Captain's Quarters
Volokh Conspiracy
Brad Plumer(MoJo)
Dean's World
Chicago Boyz
Wednesday, June 28, 2006


File this under wacky and potentially worrisome ideologies.

I am passing this along because, as goofy as this will read, it is not the first time I have heard rumblings about the following nonsense "Neo-Eurasianism" and its purveyor, Aleksandr Dugin.

From HNN - " The Rise of Integral Anti-Americanism in the Russian Mass Media and Intellectual Life" by Dr. Andreas Umland.

An excerpt on Dugin's Neo-Eurasianism movement:

"Whereas most nationalist authors and journalists remain within the limits of traditional Russian anti-Westernism, Dugin’s writings and speeches are informed by his intimate knowledge various non-Russian forms of anti-liberalism including West European integral “Traditionalism” (René Guénon, Julius Evola, Claudio Mutti, etc.), European and American geopolitics (Alfred Mahen, Halford Mackinder, Karl Haushofer et al.), the German so-called “Conservative Revolution” (Carl Schmitt, Ernst Jünger, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, etc.) and the francophone, neo-Gramscian “New Right” (Alain de Benoist, Robert Steuckers). In most of his public statements, to be sure, Dugin plays down the influence of Western authors on his thinking, and instead uses the term “neo-Eurasianism” (an explicit reference to a reputed Russian émigré intellectual movement of the 1920s and 1930s)—an obvious attempt to hide his true sources.

In his many books and articles, Dugin draws the picture of an ancient conflict between

*free-market, capitalist, Atlanticist sea powers (“thallasocracies”) that go back to the sunken world of Atlantis, are in the tradition of the ancient states of Phoenicia and Carthago, and are now headed by the “mondialist” United States, on the one side, and

*autarkic, etatistic, Eurasian continental land powers (“tellurocracies”), originating with the mythic country of “Hyperborea,” continuing the tradition of the ancient Roman Empire, and now having as its most important component Russia, on the other.

The secret orders or “occult conspiracies” of these two antagonistic civilizations—Eternal Rome and Eternal Carthago—have been in an age-old struggle, an occult Punic war, that has, often, remained hidden to its participants and even its key figures, but has, nevertheless, determined the course of world history. The confrontation is now entering its final stage, the “Great War of the Continents.” This demands Russia national rebirth via a “conservative” and “permanent revolution.” The new order to be created would be informed by the ideology of “National Bolshevism” and an exclusively “geopolitical” approach to international relations. A victory in this “Endkampf” (final battle; Dugin uses the German original as introduced by the Third Reich) against Atlanticism would create a “New Socialism,” and imply territorial expansion as well as the formation of a Eurasian bloc of fundamentalist land powers (including, perhaps, a “traditionalist” Israel!) against intrusive, individualist Anglo-Saxon imperialism."

While the bizarre occultish references are reminiscient of the faddish, theosophical and volkisch fringe of German politics circa 1890-1920's, Neo-Eurasianism would not be entirely alien to the most mystical cultural traditions of Russian Pan-Slavism and Russophilism. " National Bolshevism", moreover, was influential in Russian emigre communities in the 1920's and 1930's as an attempt to conciliate Russian nationalists with the Stalinist U.S.S.R.

While officially disapproving, Stalin did have some sympathies toward using the "National Bolshevist" program's Russian chauvinism and anti-semitism to strengthen popular support for his terror regime. Elements in Soviet policy that emerged most strongly during and immediately following WWII but enjoyed a sinister revival in the 1980's, prior to Glasnost when persecution against dissidents and Jewish "Refuseniks" were at its peak.

Where this silliness matters is as an ideological wedge to move Russia away from connectivity and globalization and to justify the reimposition of a more statist, autarkic, political economy. The Neo-Eurasian foreign policy fits comfortably with siloviki (Putin's political clan) determination for Russia to reassert itself in its "Near Abroad" but runs against siloviki economic interests of developing Russia's potential as a global energy exporter. While Dugin has gained a following of sorts, it would appear, he (and Neo-Eurasianism) is not yet a player of great significance. Let's hope it stays that way.


"RP’s Weekly Russia Experts’ Panel: Defining the “Post-Soviet Space” -Untimely Thoughts
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

This should delight the boys at Coming Anarchy.

Proceedings, the journal of the U.S. Naval Institute, has an article " Control of the Sea Protects the New Global Heartland " (registration req.) by Commander Henry J. Hendrix that pays a nod to one of the fathers of geopolitical theory, Sir Halford J. Mackinder:

"Mackinder wrote in his original paper that the central Asian pivot area occupied "the central strategical position . . . she can strike on all sides and be struck from all sides . . . ."2 Today, Southwest Asia occupies the "central strategical position" internationally. But instead of drawing that importance from its geographic position, it finds itself pushed to the fore by its abundant energy reserves. Southwest Asia exports only about 25% of the world's energy needs, but it has about 75% of the world's energy reserves.3

Over the next ten years, as Asian powers such as India and China continue to improve the standard of living for their people, automobiles will become increasingly common. With larger population bases, this movement will in turn drive energy demand to the point where the oil beneath the sands of this strategic region will increasingly attract the interest of all global powers.
4 One report predicts energy consumption will increase by 50% over the next two decades, a sharp rise over the 34% increase that occurred over the past 20 years.5 China alone is projected to see its energy consumption rise by 150%, while India is expected to double its energy demand. Energy will dominate these two nations' foreign-policy calculations in the years ahead.6 "

Not a mind-blowing piece but it was nice to see an article about modern naval policy with that kind of historical connection.

Blogfriend Marc Schulman at American Future properly takes New York Times executive editor, Bill Keller, to task:

"It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it."

By publishing the story, the Times is passing judgment on whether the program is legal. I doubt very much that the Times would publish an article having as its headline "Secret Intelligence Program Is Legal". If the paper thought it was legal, what would be the point of disclosing it? To publish an article on a secret program after the government has requested that it not be published necessarily implies that the Times believes that its legality is questionnable. And to do so without having identified any privacy abuses is to indict the government for a victimless crime. "

Well said. If anything, Marc is too kind to the Times whose editors were well aware that the intelligence program was targeting members and suspected associates of al Qaida, that it was working well and without any abuses of power or constitutional questions. And nevertheless, they chose with deliberate intent, to compromise it.

The appointment of a special prosecutor is warranted.

Read Marc's post in full here.


Austin Bay has much to say on the topic with which I agree.

How does intelligence affect decisions for peace and war ? This has been a subject of much partisan rancor regarding the case made by President Bush and his administration for war in Iraq but the Iraq War was hardly the first war in which intelligence and its accuracy played a critical but disputed role. Intelligence as a factor in decisions for war has generally been ignored or underplayed by diplomatic historians until recent times. The opening of Soviet and Eastern Bloc archives, and lesser efforts at declassification on the American side during the Clinton years, have caused historians to begin to take a second look at well known events.

The CIA's new issue of Studies In Intelligence has an interesting review of What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa by David E. Murphy, a former CIA Sovietologist. The reviewer, CIA historian Dr. Donald P. Steury, correctly frames the historical questions:

" The German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 was one of the pivotal events of the 20th century. It transformed the Second World War and led, perhaps inevitably, to the Cold War and the half-century domination of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union. It was, furthermore, one of the most brutal campaigns of modern times, bringing unspeakable atrocities and the near-annihilation of whole nationalities. The Nazis probably bear the principal responsibility for the character of the campaign, but the Soviet regime must shoulder some of the blame.

The sheer enormity of the event long has cried out for explanation on the strategic, political, economic, and even cultural level. At the heart is the question of why it happened at all. Why did Hitler attack the Soviet Union, thereby virtually abandoning his war with Britain and France at the very moment that he seemed about to achieve victory? Why did the attack come as such a surprise to the Soviet Union? How was Stalin, the canny, ruthless Realpolitiker in Moscow, flummoxed by the half-crazed ideologue in Berlin? Why did Stalin ignore the yearlong military buildup in eastern Europe and the (by one count) 87 separate, credible intelligence warnings of the German invasion that he received during 1940–41?"

If you pick up any decent biography Stalin, the chapters on the events of 1936-1941 will usually be among the most interesting. A period that saw the convergence of Soviet foreign policy with the internal policy of Stalinist terror - the dictator's unholy mixture of brutal realpolitik with ideologically paranoiac mass-murder. As Operation Barbarossa approached however, Stalin's rejection of unwelcome news about Hitler's intentions extended even to Stalinist insiders in the secret police hierarchy like Dekanazov ( then also Soviet ambassador in Berlin), not just to foreign statesmen, professional Soviet diplomats and militay officers and spies like Richard Sorge.

Steury describes the evidence in What Stalin Knew:

" Murphy massively documents the in-pouring of intelligence from all over Europe and even Japan, warning of the German military buildup for invasion. Insofar as this intelligence was used at all, it was to avoid any action that might be seen as a provocation. German aircraft were allowed to fly reconnaissance missions deep into Soviet territory; German troops were allowed to violate Soviet borders in search of intelligence. All this was intended to remind the Germans of the depth of Soviet resolve, while demonstrating that the Soviet Union was not about to attack. Moreover, Stalin was absolutely convinced that Hitler would attempt nothing until he had resolved his conflict with Great Britain. He was encouraged in this preconception by a well-orchestrated German deception operation—including the two letters to Stalin—that was, at least in part, personally directed by Hitler. Thus it was that Stalin was able to ignore the massive military buildup on his borders and to dismiss every warning of a German attack as disinformation or provocation, right up until the morning of 22 June.

In describing how intelligence was collected and reported to Moscow, Murphy chillingly documents what it meant to be an intelligence officer under Stalin by following the careers of three men. NKVD foreign intelligence chief, Pavel Fitin, whose agents reported on German plans for BARBAROSSA right up to the attack, served throughout the war, but was in disgrace afterward. Ivan Proskurov, an air force officer and head of military intelligence during 1939–40, insisted on telling the truth to Stalin. He was shot in October 1941. Proskurov’s successor, Filipp I. Golikov, suppressed or altered intelligence reporting that did not meet the Soviet dictator’s preconceptions. He prospered under Stalin."

This self-imposed isolation and distortion under which Stalin received intelligence and acted as his own analyst was replicated by Saddam Hussein in 2003, himself an admirer of the Soviet dictator's methods, to even worse consequences. Foreign Affairs has published an excerpt, "Saddam's Delusions", from the Iraq Perspective Project that demonstrates that in comparison to Saddam's fantasy world, Stalin's decision making in 1941 was the epitome of rationality and clear thinking. The position and perspective of leadership inherently contains an element of distortion but it is evident that totalitarian, hyperviolent political systems like those created by Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein magnify the distortions a thousandfold.

Interestingly enough, Steury points to the possibility that even completely accurate information might not sway megalomaniacal dictators. His source is Adolf Hitler, reflecting upon the errors in German intelligence prior to Barbarossa:

"In closing, it is worth noting that there was another failure of judgment in BARBAROSSA, that of Adolf Hitler. Hitler, like Stalin, was a victim of his own preconceptions, but, in contrast to Stalin, he was ill-served by his intelligence services. Suffering from what the Japanese, from bitter experience, would call “victory disease,” the Germans overestimated their own capabilities, even as they underestimated the Soviet capacity to resist. In July 1942, one year after the start of the campaign, Hitler admitted as much to Marshal Carl Gustav Mannerheim, the Finnish military leader, on a visit to Helsinki—Finland then being a cobelligerent with Germany in its war with the Soviet Union. “We did not ourselves understand— just how strong this state [the ussr] was armed,” Hitler told him, “If somebody had told me a nation could start with 35,000 tanks, then I’d have said, ‘You are crazy!’ . . . [Yet] . . . We have destroyed—right now—more than 34,000 tanks . . . . It was unbelievable . . . . I had no idea of it. If I had an idea—then it would have been more difficult for me, but I would have taken the decision to invade anyhow . . . .”[8] History does not record Marshal Mannerheim’s reaction."

[ Emphasis mine ]

Statesmen who deal with information from a variety of sources, including intelligence, need to step back a bit and assess the limitations and gaps, the potential for error, self-referential bias and outright lies. Everything needs to be questioned and taken with a grain of salt. Yet in the end, decisions have to be made and neither credulity nor paranoia will serve.
Monday, June 26, 2006

My friend Bruce Kesler, at Democracy Project, has a sober and overdue examination of secrecy, leaking and national security in the wake of The New York Times intentionally perverse outing of a critical intelligence program designed to track the financial transactions of terrorist groups. "Transparency Needed To Control Leaks" cuts to the heart of the problem - some excerpts:

"The furor over the New York Times and other newspapers’ publication of national security secrets disguises a larger problem: the media and government knowingly collude in leaking secret information. There is a federal law against leaking communications intelligence (U.S. Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 37, Paragraph 798) that has not been enforced. For those who wonder why there are not prosecutions of leakers of national security programs, this wider collusion between the media and government officials may be partly responsible

...However, leaking is a two-edged sword, as the administration and those close to it employ leaks to get their side of stories published or to lead discussion of selected issues. The revelation of the secret briefing by General Casey about the proposed draw down schedule of U.S. troops in Iraq, subject to events and negotiations with the Iraqi government, may be aimed at defusing Democrat calls for setting a rigid timetable.

...One can point to a long tradition of presidents and senior administration officials “speaking off the record” to reporters on sensitive issues. However, one can also point out that self-restraint by the media on matters of national security was greater in previous times. This means of communication to further the public’s understanding of issues and to build mutual trust was useful to the government, to reporters, and the public.

...What is required is new legislation that broadens the existing U.S. Code to include all matters of national security, applicable to all present and former government employees and officials, Congressional members and staff, and the media, coupled with confidential prior judicial consideration and enforcement mechanisms, and strict prosecution of those not abiding.

If this or any administration has something worth keeping secret, it should be willing to seek prosecution of its own employees who break that trust. If Congress needs more information to perform its representative functions, it must be willing to be policed for those who break trust. If media are to be a “fourth estate” instead of a “fifth column,” it must respect judged national security and be willing to be restrained. "

Read it in full here.

I have to second much of Bruce's argument, though with less eloquence.

The leakage in Washington is an elite bipartisan effort to use the products of the IC as political clubs with which to beat one another, costs to the rest of us be damned - Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, the CIA, the State Department, reporters, editors, Republicans, Democrats - no one has clean hands here. A major part of the problem is that the Federal government is to the designation " top secret" what the Weimar Republic was to money. The hyperinflation in secrecy classification is mostly used to hide that which is politically embarrassing or, frequently, rather trivial, for decades. Additionally, it is applied to what can only be described as a cosmic number of documents. This mindboggling expansion of what is considered "secret" radically degrades respect for what ought be considered, and kept, truly secret.

A reduction of official secrecy by about 90 % would do national security no harm but democracy a whole lot of good.

Speaking as a historian, even most of even what should be considered " secret" - for example, time sensitive information related to diplomatic negotiations - can be safely published in just a few years time. Far less time, in fact, than what is currently used to declassify papers for each new edition of FRUS. Intelligence sources and methods - especially those of ongoing covert operations like the one destroyed by the editors of the Times - are another matter. Publication here does serious damage to U.S. interests and in some instances, endangers lives. Other than in cases of alerting the public to grave wrongdoing by government officials, this behavior is both unethical and illegal and should be subject to prosecution, as Bruce suggests.

Can we trust administration officials -this one or any other - to make the right call here ? Or the Congress ? Or bureaucrats ? Unfortunately not, as history shows that officeholders have a natural inclination to hide as many activities as possible from public view. For its part, a media that feels professionally inclined to be "neutral" between apocalyptic terrorists and their own government that is trying to defend them is no safe guardian either.

A law, narrowly defined to relate only to intelligence operations that have been properly reported to Congress, should suffice to protect that which should be truly kept secret but the political will to punish leakers and the wisdom to use it wisely must come from the American people themselves.

Their elected representatives, their journalists, left to their own devices, are self-serving and faithless.
Sunday, June 25, 2006

Watched Steven Spielberg's Munich last night.

What struck me most was the amateurish, almost primitive, level of the terrorists and the Israeli deep undercover assassins who hunted them down. The fanatical nihilism of today, present in terrorists like Zarqawi, was absent in the Black September hostage takers. We view them as bad men or enemies but as understandable ones and not as incomprehensible aliens.

Also missing was the cool, high-tech, hypertrained, professionalism of modern counterterrrorism units. Things are figured out on the fly, bombs are jerry-rigged from WWII surplus, basic tradecraft (in terms of espionage, mission security) are ignored. For example, after Avner is approached by an attractive "swallow" in a hotel bar and realizes that his group's cover is blown, instead of getting everybody out of the hotel and disappearing, he lets one of his team members go hang with her while he goes to his room and places a direct call to the apartment in New York where he is hiding his wife and child. Not something I wager many intelligence or counterterrorism agents would do today.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the film, which has been criticized by former members of both Black September and the Mossad but it is dubious that Spielberg could have satisfied both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute plus neutral historians and still produced a watchable, entertaining, film. I give it...three stars !
Friday, June 23, 2006

President Bush makes my day !

Sure, executive orders can be repealed by any future administration but the move isn't entirely symbolic either; legally, Federal agencies must now err a little closer to respecting property rights under the 5th amendment. A rare gesture these days.

It was also a nice political rebuke to SCOTUS for their nod toward oligarchy in Kelo v. City of New London.

Some interesting things for interesting times:

Sonny at FX-Based has Part III of "In Defense of EBO" up. Sonny's series is written as a refutation of "Bloodless theories, bloody wars; Easy-win concepts crumble in combat", a highly critical piece by Ralph Peters.

Steve DeAngelis of ERMB explains "Development -in-a-Box" in the context of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Earl of Prometheus6, unlike most of us, has some firsthand experience with the big IC/NYT story of the day.

This next one was fun. At least for me, and highly recommended:

Curzon of Coming Anarchy unsheathes dagger and sword to avenge Coming Anarchy's patron saint, Robert Kaplan, from a somewhat prissy and and faux-intellectual attack job. Defending Kaplan brings out Curzon's more creative powers of rebuttal and this post does not disappoint.

Bill Petti of The Duck of Minerva and I probably would not agree on all aspects of foreign policy but I like the way he chooses to frame his analysis.

PurpleSlog coins a phrase that will create instant arguments, regardless of the merits of the underlying issue. On the other hand, however you care to phrase it, he's discussing an intellectual phenomenon we have seen before.

That's it!

The New York Times revealing the apparently very narrow intelligence monitoring of international financial transactions by suspected al Qaida couriers, operatives and financiers by the Treasury Department and IC was exceptionally damaging to American national security.

Unless the Bush administration is up to something else entirely different, publication here was particularly irresponsible and pointless partisanship by the Times editors. Covert or cut-out financial transfers of funds are the lifeblood of jihadism and terror operations and detecting these activities is now going to be immeasurably harder, as more al Qaida funds transfers are shifted to alternate, underground, networks. Great job guys !

As for the leakers inside the IC who first alerted the Times, they need to be identified, their security clearances revoked, fired and prosecuted.
Thursday, June 22, 2006

I'm finding that I share a number of interests with Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz, including it seems, a fondness for scholarship in Russian history. If you like that subject and know it well enough to see the salience between Russia's past and the problems Russia and the West face today, then you should like Lex's post, "Russian Backwardness Revisited".

Green quotes University of Chicago historian Dr. Richard Hellie's review of Russia in the Age of Peter the Great:

"Regrettably, neither Peter nor his admirers and imitators had the slightest understanding that human rights and dignity and personal autonomy were and are absolutely essential to sustain a cohesive, responsible, self-generating, productive society. For half a millennium autocrats, absolute rulers, and dictators in Russia (and elsewhere) have been picking and choosing from the Western technological and cultural package in hopes of surviving, maintaining independence, or overtaking and surpassing the West. The lesson would seem to be that anything less than the entire package will yield disappointing results in anything other than the short term. "

And Lexington himself goes on to add:

"It is noteworthy that Peter the Great himself contrasted Russia with England. It is noteworthy also that Hellie elaborates that by noting the absence of "social cohesion", the rule of law and the sanctity of contract. Alan Macfarlane, picking up from F.W. Maitland has shown the central place of the law of trusts in the growth of civil society in England. (Macfarlane video of a lecture on Maitland here.) The peculiar freedom of the English courts from monarchical control was also uniquely English. And a society based on contract not status was much more elaborated in England than elsewhere. These Anglospheric inheritances were distinctly Western, and spread reasonably quickly and took decent root in Western Europe. Alas, for the poor suffering people of Russia, they have not transplanted so well in the foreign soil of their Byzantine-derived civilization, with -- as John points out -- the additional historical baggage of its period of Mongol rule. "

Interesting analysis.

It is certainly true that the lack of personal autonomy in Russian culture has proven to be a primary stumbling block in terms of retarding national development. It is a phenomena that went beyond a mere absence of freedom - the concept of individualism was simply alien and incomprehensible in the Russia of Peter's time and long, long after that. The Russian nobility, the Muscovite boyars and the later Petrine dvoriane, were never " free" men in the modern sense. Instead, the nobles were "Raby" or slaves, of the Tsar. Titled slaves, exalted slaves but still, theoretically speaking, slaves. Of all the peoples of Old Russia only the Cossacks, who owed feudal military service to the Tsar as a collective host under their Atamen, could consider themselves free .

Peter the Great's westernization policy, as limited as Hellie may describe it, was nonetheless radical. Peter was attempting to impose a secular state structure on a people for whom the only conception of government was personal, patrimonial and holy and for whom Russia itself was a vague abstraction. To give you some idea of how drastic a change of mentality Peter tried to impose, when Peter forced the nobility to adopt Western modes of dress and shave off their beards, not a few of this class, the most advanced in Russia, saved their shorn beards in little boxes for fear of not being able to enter Heaven without them.

Moving such men in a single generation to the worldview of the West, with its more individualist conceptions and complex civil society was for all practical purposes, an impossible task. Which is why Peter had to surround himself with foreigners like Francis LeFort and parvenu creatures like Alexander Menshikov in order to carry out his reforms. In all likelihood, Peter's transformation of Russia was understood by most of his Russian comtemporaries only as the inexplicable whims of the Tsar, something to be endured. Which is why a person like England's Lord Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke, arguing the necessity of judicial independence with King James, had no Russian equivalent.

Such a thing was beyond imagining to the Russian mind, including Peter's, who saw himself as the first servant of an all-powerful state.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Jesus! Things must really be going poorly if the liberal internationalist leaning, FSO journal, American Diplomacy is publishing articles calling for a reinvigoration of American counterinsurgency capabilities.

They are even talking about "shaping the strategic environment".

A breezy but still useful web exclusive on Iraq's insurgency by Foreign Policy magazine. A quick read.

Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye recently had a similar post - except more detailed, well-written and informative.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006

To Mike at Grazr for the fast tech support help. Now, on to Blogger to address the atom.xml feed problem.....

Experiencing technical difficulties...please stay tuned for posts coming up later today.
Monday, June 19, 2006

Hmmm...Blogger seems to be in rebellion against the Grazr. *&%#@!& ! Atom feed!

Hey Critt -where do I load the data for this thing ?
Sunday, June 18, 2006

Federalist X (finally) has his third installment of his Liberal Education series. (Worth waiting for, so go read it !)

Dan of tdaxp's excellent profile and analysis of the creativity of Coming Anarchy ( two of my favorite blogs), part of Dan's SummerBlog '06:

Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Stephen DeAngelis of ERMB was invited to speak at The State Department on the topic of "Resilience and WMD Threats"- resilience as a concept is now at the level of the policy makers! Also commentary on Steve and his post/speech by Dr. Barnett.

That's it !

Courtesy of Jedburgh of The Small Wars Council, I bring you the remarkable Army Reserve Colonel Dr. William Bernhard, age 75 - yes, that is correct, 75 years old - also a veteran of the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps. Colonel Bernhard is about to deploy to Afghanistan.

"...Having joined the Marine Corps in 1950, Bernhard was soon discharged due to a knee injury, which he said was a major disappointment. He joined the Navy as an anesthesiologist and served 10 years on active and reserve duty, then switched to the Army Reserve for 22 more years. When Bernhard leaves his home tomorrow, he will spend about five days at Fort Benning, Ga., before traveling to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. From there he'll fly to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, then convoy into Kabul, where he will connect with the Oregon Army National Guard's 141st Support Battalion.

"I don't sign up when I go overseas for anesthesia because I've done all that," he said. "I'd much rather sign up to be a field surgeon, which means that I can work at a battalion aide station and at a trauma station, and I sign up to work also as a flight surgeon, and that gets me flying a lot of missions and taking care of aviators." Last year, he deployed to Iraq with the Mississippi Army National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team. He took charge of medical facilities at five forward operating bases west and south of Baghdad... "

Wow !
Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dan of tdaxp has added an interesting counterpoint to my last post on modularity where he expands the concept with a look at research into brain physiology and cognitive function in "Evolution Away From Modularity". An excerpt:

"[Evolutionary Psychologists interpret the] Watson selection tasks [as meaning] subjects appear to reason more effectively about social contracts than about non-social contracts... subjects ignore the logical properties of the condition they're evlauation and focus exclusively on whether someone is receiving a benefit without playing the correspond cost... subjects... focus on whether someone has taken a benefit from them without paying a cost to them." (Buller 171)"The theory behind the cheater-detection mechanism module should lead us to expect a mechanism that is specialized in detecting cheaters in the domain of social exchanges. But the experimental results that purportedly support the existence of a cheater-detection module involve detecting cheaters int eh domain of social contracts." (Buller 172) (a problem for EP or a distinction without a difference?)"

Interestingly enough, I've found out from Dan's post that there is a "Massive Modularity Thesis" about the brain but I'm not sufficiently well informed here to evaluate the pro and con positions ( a good question for the Drs. Eide !). My intuitive guess is that modularity is a meta-principle and wherever you have complex systems you will also have some evidence of modularity and that the human brain will be no exception. That is however, only a guess.

I'd love to have any experts with a medical, psychological or scientific background, who might be reading this, to weigh in on this question.

One of the great difficulties in effective communication is that to be a great messenger you need more than something important to say or the capacity to say something well. Your most important act is to win the attention of those who you want to receive the message. Without that, your effort goes for naught.

Attention is actually a scarce commodity. While we like to attribute that to living in an age of cell phones, PDA's, the internet, 500 channel cable TV, video games, treos, blackberries ad nauseum, I suspect that we are exaggerating their collective effect and that inattentiveness and a proclivity to distraction is our natural state. We like to imagine that in the past, we had a simpler, more solemn and focused age. Well, at the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas spoke before crowds of up to 20,000 - who milled about, coughed, laughed, cheered, jeered, engaged in conversation, hollared, smoked, spat, ate food, held wailing babies, argued, fought with fists, tended horses and meandered about drunk. As one historian put it:

"At some of the debates there were no ladies present, but at others, they were there and given the only seats that were available except for the Conestoga wagons and the covered wagons that some of the people arrived on. People sat on their wagons. It makes one wonder how many people actually heard the speeches and how many people were out for the celebration. You know, you had ice cream being consumed and picnic barbecues, liquid refreshment -- a lot of liquid refreshment -- fights breaking out in the back of the auditorium, the back of the crowds, a cannon being fired off. Douglas traveled with his own cannon. That was the only amplification around. He traveled with a brass cannon, and his supporters were instructed to fire it every time he got off a good point against Lincoln. So there was lots of noise, lots of crowd yelling and cheering and booing and talking back, nothing like the debates today where our candidates make such an intentional and careful effort to take the high ground and to be very calm and not answer. Negatives and fighting and audience attacks were part of the game."

Not quite the school textbook image. I have to wonder how many people heard even half of what was said, given that these debates ran for three hours straight. Lincoln's propensity for jokes, irreverence and colorful stories for which he was sometimes criticized, as unbefitting the dignity of his office, were learned on the stump as devices to entertain and win the crowd's attention. The fact that sound bites on TV have grown more effective as they have been made shorter is a poor indication of what the actual average American attention span might be.

As poorly as we sometimes are at paying attention extrospectively - we could benefit far more by greater attention or some old fashioned Zen "mindfulness" being directed inward. Metacognitive regulation requires an introspective monitoring of one's thoughts and ideas, which means active, conscious, effort to pay attention. This requires practice to sustain for any length of time though on the other extreme, master Yogis and Zen monks have exhibited the ability to effect significant physiological changes through meditative concentration. Having acquired sufficient attention to engage in metacognition, we can begin to select our cognitive frames and approach problems with greater discrimination and conscious choice, rather than being driven frantically by events, simply reacting.

It pays to pay attention.
Thursday, June 15, 2006

Aside from being honored with requests to guest post by such sterling individuals and uber-bloggers as Bruce Kesler, Austin Bay and Chester, I have pretty much stuck to an individualist course in the blogosphere. I have always liked that Zenpundit represents my particular voice even though there have been many, many, times I've wished for an extra hand to tackle some important topic.

Well, I intend to keep blogging solo here as energetically ( or slothfully, depending on your point of view) as before, but I am now also part of a group blog -or a "blogject" - Discover the Rules, organized and inspired by "Captain" Critt Jarvis to investigate gaming as a platform for connectivity to the wider world. My esteemed fellow crewmembers include Dan of tdaxp, Sean Meade, Larry Dunbar, Shawn in Tokyo and Sokari Ekine, a diverse and talented team that spans generations, continents and hemispheres.

We are still getting our " sea legs" under us but stop by, leave your comments, ask your questions and help us discover the rules !
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A great post by Steve DeAngelis at ERMB, "Globalization and Resilient Enterprises", neatly explains the cutting edge trend for large organizations that wish to survive and dominate their market or environment. Some excerpts:

"What Palmisano calls "the globally integrated enterprise," is what I have been calling the "Resilient Enterprise." Whether you call it a globallly integrated or a resilient enterprise, isn't as important as the fact that what we are describing is a momentous shift in the global business paradigm -- it's not just a name change. Palmisano continues:

Let me describe this new creature. In a multinational model, companies built local production capacity within key markets, while performing other tasks on a global basis. They did this in response to the rise of protectionism and nationalism that began with the first world war and carried on late into the twentieth century. As an example, American multinationals such as General Motors, Ford and IBM built plants and established local workforce policies in Europe and Asia, but kept research and development and product design principally in the "home country". The globally integrated enterprise, in contrast, fashions its strategy, management and operations to integrate production - and deliver value to clients - worldwide. That has been made possible by shared technologies and shared business standards, built on top of a global information technology and communications infrastructure. Because new technology and business models are allowing companies to treat their functions and operations as component pieces, companies can pull those pieces apart and put them back together in new combinations, based on judgments about which operations the company wants to excel at and which are best suited to its partners.

The key to this paradigm is the ability to "pull apart" business processes and "put them back together" as needs dictate. Of course, this kind of talk excites me because Enterra Solutions is in the business of enabling globally integrated corporations and turning them into Resilient Enterprises. Tom Barnett and I spend a great deal of our time addressing multinational corporations about this subject. We talk about the need for the next generation Enterprise Architecture, which pulls apart business processes and turns them into automated rules sets that can be recombined as required in the corporate DNA. Because it utilizes a service-oriented architecture and a standards-based business process layer, the next generation Enterprise Architecture enables integration across departments and, as Palmisano notes, across the globe. "

Pulling apart segments of an organization and reassembling them to fit the conditions of a new and different scenario is a description of modularity, a critical principle for "managing complexity" (This capacity, incidentally, also increases organizational resilience by increasing the internal link density of the entity). Ideally, with modularity you want to have an organization where the parts, while able to function independently if need be, achieve net gains in effeciency and parameters of capabilities by integrating into a synergistic network.

If your organization must make decisions in a chaotic, "noisy" environment then modularity offers a significant advantage. Unsurprisingly, with war being the ultimate in disorderly environments, the U.S. Army has begun to experiment with a " modular" structure though the costs and the execution are proving controversial. The next evolutionary step in organizational modularity will be when the modules of an organization are able to self-organize in terms of reacting to an event without requiring central direction to " pull them apart". In other words,
" smart modularity".

The very acceleration in decision making tempo created by Gobalization's drive toward a 24/7 world hypereconomy, a dilemna that DeAngelis described as "The problem is that the landscape is changing so fast we haven't figured out how deal with it.", is going to force large organizations -corporations, states, armies, social movements - to go modular or go the way of the dinosaur.

Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz noticed that the British Ministry of Defense seems to have an admiral who echos John Robb and Robert Kaplan:

"Very Global Guerillas-esque vision -- From the British MOD"

"Quoting Rear Admiral Chris Parry, head of the "development, concepts and doctrine centre at the Ministry of Defence", who is "charged with identifying the greatest challenges that will frame national security policy in the future."

He identified the most dangerous flashpoints by overlaying maps showing the regions most threatened by factors such as agricultural decline, booming youth populations, water shortages, rising sea levels and radical Islam. Parry predicts that as flood or starvation strikes, the most dangerous zones will be Africa, particularly the northern half; most of the Middle East and central Asia as far as northern China; a strip from Nepal to Indonesia; and perhaps eastern China. He pinpoints 2012 to 2018 as the time when the current global power structure is likely to crumble. Rising nations such as China, India, Brazil and Iran will challenge America’s sole superpower status. This will come as "irregular activity" such as terrorism, organised crime and "white companies" of mercenaries burgeon in lawless areas.'

Hmmm. I'd like to see the map. I bet it looks a lot like the Gap.

Meanwhile, the Brits are probably going to be axing one of their planned aircraft carriers. Wise move to ditch a Cold War anachronism -- or foolish move, sacrificing a valuable 4GW power-projection platform? I suppose it depends on what the person with the checkbook wants to hear.

The Brits are speculating about (reconfiguring for?) a new Barbarian Invasion. And it sounds kinda plausible.

That concerns me."

Globalization and immigration are not incompatible with assimilation nor must they result in catastrophic security problems. However when you opt to allow in large numbers of foreigners (U.S., E.U.), lack real border controls (U.S.), discourage assimilation of immigrants by promoting crackpot multiculturalism (U.S., E.U.), encourage the dole instead of employment (E.U.) , make acquiring citizenship nigh impossible (parts of E.U.) then you have to expect to have problems in your immigrant communities, at least on the margin.

Immigration can be reduced, assimilation can be encouraged, Islamist Imams can be prohibited entry or kicked out, inane economic policies that create permanent unemployment can be reversed. Actions can be taken to prevent autocratic kleptocracies from easily exporting their spillover costs from incompetent governance. Captured terrorists can be tried and hanged instead of being given "culturally sensitive" MRE's.

We have choices. We are not doomed.



The DDC link is worth an extended examination along the lines of the National Intelligence Council's 2020 Project.

"Beware: the new goths are coming" at Times Online

The Small Wars Council

"Modern-day Goths and Vandals threaten the West via cheap flights and the net" at The Australian.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The National Security Archive has published a 28,000 page collection of formerly top secret "memcons" from Henry Kissinger from the years 1969-1977 and made them available online.

"According to Kissinger biographer and president of the Aspen Institute Walter Isaacson, "Henry Kissinger's memos of conversation are an amazing, fascinating, and absolutely indispensable resource for understanding his years in power." Nearly word-for-word records of the meetings, the memcons place the reader in the room with Kissinger and world leaders, and future leaders, including Mao Zedong, Anwar Sadat, Leonid Brezhnev, Georges Pompidou, Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Donald Rumsfeld, and George H.W. Bush."

An indispensible gift to historians. I wonder how many books about the Cold War, Vietnam, Nixon and Sino-American relations still in print will end up being quietly revised ?
Monday, June 12, 2006

A burst of uber-blogging !

Dan of tdaxp, fresh from his sojourn in China, discusses culture and evolutionary psychology in his post on "Notes on Summer Reading".

Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye laments the end of the Brandeis Book Sale ( the Chicago institution that allowed me, back in the day, to build a sizable personal library for pennies on the dollar).

Colonel Austin Bay on "Bolton:”no grand bargain” with Iran"

Dr. Lubos Motl on "Some philosophy: consciousness".

James McCormick at Chicago Boyz reviews Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near.

At DNI, A. Scott Crawford on "Regarding "Leadership for the Fourth Generation: Preparing Leaders to Out-Think Our New Enemy",by Capt Robert Kozloski, USMC"

Kingdaddy at Arms and Influence asks why the Democrats have"Nothing to say".

Marc Schulman at American Future highlights some satirical mockery of the MSM.

Simon asks " How well has China governed Hong Kong ?"

Blogroll Addendum:

New to the blogroll.....



Secrecy News

Rightwing Nuthouse

Discover The Rules

GroupIntel Blog

Check'em out !
Sunday, June 11, 2006

Here's a thought that occurred to me while writing the previous post:

Humans have been organizing themselves into complex social networks simce they emerged from the stage of tiny hunter-gatherer bands. They did so " naturally" and unconsciously without understanding how this pattern mirrored that of other complex systems. Complex networks is a young field, not having only started until the late 1990's but the promise and potential therein for heightening our understanding of the world is nothing short of vast.

Now that principles of scale free and small world networks are begining to be recognized, it is inevitable that this knowledge will in turn affect our behavior to an increasing degree. There are already attempts to understand networks in terms of terrorism and military strategy and these efforts to exploit this information in order to reap a comparative advantage will only proliferate, perhaps exponentially. In other words, as complex network theory meets cultural evolution, humans will attempt to consciously " steer" the evolutionary devlopment of social and, eventually, biologically engineered networks.

The most likely and frequent social outcome of ' steering" will simply be the creation of semi-hierarchical modules within larger networks for reasons of utility (i.e. a decentralized, regional, fire department still needs a specialized bomb squad or CBR WMD team). On the other hand, "steering" of network formation might be very much like the " pruning" of neuronal connections in the human brain, as the nonzero sum logic of cultural evolution begins to drive applications of complex networks, creating possibly dramatic systemic changes in our political and economic worlds.

Or, to take a page from Ray Kurzweil, our own evolution as a species.
Friday, June 09, 2006

I am in the process of reading Martin van Creveld's The Rise and Decline of the State. It is, on it's merits, an interesting book and unusual for the enormous scope of history in whch the author dares to make his argument. Historians, by and large, are a cautious breed who like to make their boldest claims only for minute stretches of time and space. The most intriguing historical writers though, go against that grain. Whether it is Thucydides or a historian of the modern era like Frederick Jackson Turner, Charles Beard, Richard Hofstadter or Eugene Genovese, those who tackle the larger canvas seem to produce the most provocative and enduring contributions.

Along with William Lind and the late Colonel John Boyd, Martin van Creveld's ideas underpin the theory of Fourth Generation Warfare, which is not merely a school of thought about the history of military strategy, or a mere model of warfare but is implicitly a theory about the direction of history itself. Among historians and philosophers, it simply does not get any bolder than that and there is no harder argument for a scholar to prove. Just ask Karl Marx.

I am pleased to report that van Creveld has been, on the whole, far more nuanced than many of his 4GW followers who run around asserting that the Treaty of Westphalia gave the state a monopoly on the legal use of violence; a claim that causes a great deal of bewilderment among other historians and political scientists who are not familiar with van Creveld's book ( it certainly puzzled me at first brush). Without commenting on the global validity of van Creveld's thesis, I'll save that for another day and a different venue, his ideas have a lot of resonance for policy makers and military officers dealing with regions of failing and failed states brimming with insurgencies, terrorists, tribal warriors, sectarian zealots and narco-criminal syndicates.

I will say that while van Creveld is right that the traditional nation-state is in relative decline in many places, I think that network theory is going to provide increasing evidence that Philip Bobbitt's assertion in The Shield of Achilles that the state is simply evolving into a new form that Bobbitt terms a market-state, and is not disappearing or declining. Markets, except perhaps under theoretical conditions of perfect competition, seem to have a strong bias toward creating enduring networks as a stabilizing function, as the many industries that are effectively oligopolies would tend to prove. How much of that is due to the random effects of competition sorting out " winners" who later lock in their comparative advantages and how much derives from the behavior of humans, rooted in evolutionary psychology, to cluster socially, I can't say.

What I can discern is that globalization and the removal of artificial barriers to connectivity on a grand scale is giving a wide field for networks to rise.

A few brief comments about the death of al Qaida terrorist leader and loose cannon Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

First, let me congratulate the military personnel in Iraq, at CENTCOM, in the IC who worked long and hard on this difficult operation. You pulled off a genuine coup for which you have not gotten adequate thanks or credit in the media or the blogosphere. Fantastic work !

And yes, the Bush administration deserves credit as well.

Secondly, the unseemly rush among pundits, partisans, cynics, politicians like Representative Pete Stark (D-Cal.) and carpet-chewing, mentally unbalanced, haters of the Bush administration to screech how Zarqawi's death is irrelevant, a political stunt or a hoax is revolting as well as stupid. Yes, Zarqawi will be replaced. Admiral Yamamoto was replaced as a commander by the Japanese Imperial War Cabinet when we shot his plane out of the sky, but his death was still a great day for the Allies and a blow to the Japanese.

I'm sorry that some on the Left are so obsessed with George W. Bush that American victories cause them to feel depressed and bitter, but the fact they they are blindly partisan fools shouldn't be allowed to detract from the accomplishment of the troops. No, this isn't everyone on the Left or even a majority but it isn't a fringe sentiment either.

Thirdly, overselling or overhyping the long-range implications of Zarqawi's death, as some Bush administration officials were doing yesterday, is unwise and undercuts the real benefits derived from killing Zarqawi.

Fourth, that Zarqawi may have been betrayed " from the inside" is no surprise. Bin Laden's career as a terrorist mastermind was launched most likely by complicity in the death of his friend, patron and mentor Abdullah Azzam at the hands of other Islamist radicals ( most likely affiliated with his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri). There is no honor among thieves or takfiri extremists either.

All in all, a great day.
Thursday, June 08, 2006

There's no shortage of hot topics to blog about but my brain is completely fried by a combination of very long hours since Thursday of last week, deep thinking about two special projects, lack of sleep and the joys of two high intensity small children.

I am drinking a Sam Adam's that I chiled in the freezer for a bit and I will then turn my attention to something entertaining, yet, completely mindless.

Cheers !
Wednesday, June 07, 2006

According to ScienceDaily, researchers Mark Newman and Valdis Krebs have mapped networked political communities in the blogosphere and from Amazon and discovered that political networks can become so "tight" in terms of internal links that they resist becoming fragmented:

"When analyzed using Newman's method, the network of books separated into four communities, with dense connections within communities and looser connections between them. One community was composed almost entirely left-wing books, and the other almost entirely of right-wing ones. Centrist books comprised the other two categories. The computer algorithm doesn't know anything about the books' content---it draws its conclusions only from the purchasing patterns of the buyers---but Newman's analysis seems to show that those purchasing patterns correspond closely with the political slant of the books.

"It is particularly interesting to note that the centrist books belong to their own communities and are not, in most cases, merely lumped in with the liberals or conservatives," the paper stated. "This may indicate that political moderates form their own purchasing community.

In another example, Newman used the algorithm to sort a set of 1225 conservative and liberal political blogs based on the network of web links between them. When the network was fed through the algorithm, it divided cleanly into conservative and liberal camps. One community had 97 percent conservative blogs, and the other had 93 percent liberal blogs, indicating that conservative and liberal blogs rarely link to one another. In a further twist, the computer analysis was unable to find any subdivision at all within the liberal and conservative blog communities.

"This behavior is unique in our experience among networks of this size and is perhaps a testament not only to the widely noted polarization of the current political landscape in the United States, but also to the strong cohesion of the two factions," the paper stated. The network of blogs was compiled by another U-M professor, Prof. Lada Adamic of the U-M School of Information."

The implications here are very interesting, both good and bad. First the bad:

Of immediate concern, it would seem that in terms of its political partisans, America is on a trajectory for the kind of mutually hostile, mutually self-isolating, societal dynamic that is so often seen preceeding civil wars. Or for that matter, our own Civil War, where intense sectional feelings destroyed the Whig and Democratic Parties and nearly the United States along with them. It would also seem that the alienation of moderates and independents from the two major political parties is " condensing". Meaning that no matter who wins elections, it is a conceivable that a majority of the population, if not the voters, would regard the winner as illegitimate.

This utter resistance to communication, engagement or dialogue with the " other" is actually a form of resilience taken to an unhealthy extreme. Sort of an ideological immune response to prevent " invaders" - links - from connecting to " the network". Socially, one example of this behavior can be seen in the comments sections of many blogs where some "regulars" act as enforcers of the party line, parroting pet phrases (whether or not they actually make sense in terms of relevance) and using ad hominem abuse to attempt to smother dissenting views.

Now for the good:

4GW thinkers and Global Guerilla theorist John Robb have been acutely attentive to fragmentation and reversion to primary loyalties - or going toward an even greater breakdown that John has described as " granular". I agree with Robb that this phenomenon is happening and it is a powerful, entropic force, but how might it be prevented or reversed ?

In light of the research by Newman and Krebs, the answer would seem to be to create networks that horizontally cross the primary loyalties existing within a society, the more links the better. Historically, Americans had a particular genius for doing this kind of social linking across class, ethnic, regional and sectarian lines, foundering only upon race, an aspect noted way back by Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America. While totalitarian societies were specifically designed to atomize demographic groups into isolated, disconnected, individuals vis-avis an all-powerful state, America's individualistic ethos allowed its people to freely aggregate themselves into a powerful and dynamic civil society.

"Disconnectedness defines the danger".


Steve DeAngelis, the noted expert on resilience at ERMB, was also intrigued by the research of Newman and Krebs (Valdis Krebs is frequently cited for his social network analysis of the 9/11 highjackers) and expanded on another point in the article:

"Safranski ends by referencing Tom Barnett's mantra, "Disconnectedness Defines Danger." I wish I could be as sanguine as Safranski. I agree with his prescription - dialogue and honest debate are good things. But in a world where people are deliberately avoiding such dialogue and prefer retrenchment to rapprochement, making connections is difficult. Does that make me a pessimist? Not exactly. I'm by nature an optimist and by training a problem solver. So what is to be done? The ScienceDaily article points to an answer from nature:

Newman's methods have also been adapted by researchers working in molecular biology to study metabolic networks, the chemical networks that power cells in human and animal bodies. In a recent paper in the journal Nature, researchers Roger Guimer and Luis Amaral from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., found that metabolites that straddle boundaries between groups in metabolic networks show persistence across species. Commenting on the work of Guimerà and Amaral, Newman says that this could be a sign that the division of the network into modules corresponds to different roles that metabolites play within the cell, and could suggest new directions for interpreting data on biochemical networks.

What jumped out for me in that paragraph were the "metabolites that straddle boundaries between groups." I was also interested in the fact that these metabolites were shown to be persistent across species. In any given situation, we must ask, "Who or what are the metabolites that straddle groups?" Those individuals or groups are the keys to success because they represent the connectedness about which Safranski writes.

In many post-conflict situations, the "metabolites" are business people or women's groups. NGOs are often such metabolites because they seek to relieve suffering not take sides. Finding existing "metabolites" and supporting their efforts are key factors in stopping (even reversing) the fracturing process. Strategies that try to fracture tightly grouped networks are doomed to failure. It is the connections between them (not within them) that is the key to a better future."

An excellent point by Steve, one that I unfortunately had missed. The role of women, household or community " economies" (those involving an array of exchanges, usually non-monetary but significant to the actors) and market actions are playing a critical role here but have been insufficiently examined ( Another vital point of investigation is the develpment of modules within networks in the research of Luis Amaral and Roger Guiner).

The movie Downfall sparked some enthusiastic responses in the comments section. Lexington Green of the Chicago Boyz reviewed Downfall in some detail back in April of 2005. An excerpt:

"The Third Reich was hammered into the dirt once and for all sixty years ago this month. To celebrate this most fortunate turn of events, I went to see the movie Downfall. (Incidentally the Amazon reviews are very good and worth looking at if you want to know more about the movie.) My short version: It is a 4.5 star movie. Brilliant acting, sets, costumes -- impeccable. Bruno Ganz is a very convincing Hitler. The films is shown mainly from the point of view of Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge, played by a talented and beautiful actress Alexandra Maria Lara, which is an effective way to tell the tale. It loses half a star because the battle scenes, raved about by other reviewers, struck me as inadequate. Mostly people running across rubble-strewn streets and diving to the ground as shells come down. We get only one T-34/85 tank? And we see Hitler pinning an Iron Cross on a kid for killing two Soviet tanks with a panzerfaust, but we don't see him do it. This is just not sufficient. The capture of Berlin was the crescendo of the Soviet war effort, and this movie conveys nothing of the vastness of what was going on. The people who made this movie should have spent the money to have at least one scene with swarms of Soviet tanks, or a duel between tanks and anti-tank guns, or something. Film-makers used to know how to make massive war movies that were appropriate in scale to their grand themes. They don't want to spend the money anymore, alas. These are decadent times we are living in. (Where are Lord Lew Grade or Darryl F. Zanuck when you need them?) But this quibble aside, this is far and away the best of the three Hitler-in-the-Bunker movies. You must go see it. "

Lex's post makes me think that while reenacting the scale of major WWII battles on the Eastern Front would be prohibitively costly with live actors and 1:1 replica tanks( Kursk would not be "Braveheart with Panzers", too much space with roughly 3000 tanks- what would constitute the set ? Western Kansas ?), computer animation is a real possibility.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"This was an emotional day.

The ceremonies honoring the fortieth anniversary of D-Day became more than commemorations. They became celebrations of heroism and sacrifice.

This place, Pointe du Hoc, in itself was moving and majestic. I stood there on that windswept point with the ocean behind me. Before me were the boys who forty years before had fought their way up from the ocean. Some rested under the white crosses and Stars of David that stretched out across the landscape. Others sat right in front of me. They looked like elderly businessmen, yet these were the kids who climbed the cliffs.*

We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.

Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your "lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor."

I think I know what you may be thinking right now -- thinking "we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day." Well everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren't. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him -- Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, "Sorry, I'm a few minutes late," as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles, who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold; and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore; The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots' Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's "Matchbox Fleet," and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought -- or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying. And in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: "Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do." Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance -- a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. The Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It's fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II. Twenty million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We're bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We're bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we're with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their value [valor] and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all. "

- Ronald Wilson Reagan, President of the United States, June 6, 1984

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