Monday, July 31, 2006

It was 97 degrees in the Chicago area today, not sure what the heat index was but it felt darn hot. And if that wasn't warm enough I almost torched myself tonight with the gas grill.

I had just put five pounds of chicken on and gone back inside with the tray when I turned to see the propane tank shooting a rather impressive amount of flame from the spigot and along the length of the gas hose. My first instinct was to try to shut off the gas ( radiant heat quickly quelled that idea) and I then realized that the tank might make a nifty bomb at any given moment; so I hustled everyone out of the house and called the fire department. Meanwhile, the gas hose disintegrated and the tank/miniature flame thrower rolled free, setting various objects on the deck on fire in the process. Quite surreal, watching things you own ignite.

Ultimately, no great harm done. I'm out a grill, various minor items, a chair and the deck needs replacing, but no one was hurt. The Fire Department said it looked like a case of product malfunction with the regulator and wrote a report for the insurance company.

If you can't stand the heat.....

This Monday's segment of the Soft Power/Public Diplomacy series, Paul Kretkowski's Beacon features Joshua S. Fouts, director of USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy and co-director of the Center’s "Public Diplomacy in Virtual Worlds" project.

An excerpt from Dr. Fouts' post:

"Public Diplomacy Dateline 1994: From Monologue to Dialogue as VOA Picks up the Phone

In 1993, shortly after taking over the helm of the Voice of America, director Geoffrey Cowan said that it was time to stop talking to audiences overseas and time to start listening. One of the hallmarks of U.S. democracy, he noted, was our ability to tell the good with the bad and, perhaps more importantly, to engage in debates about them in an open forum. Why not bring the world audience into the conversation?

At the time, China still jammed VOA broadcasts quite heavily, and anecdotal evidence in Iran told us that equipment that could be used to access overseas broadcasts—satellite receivers, for example—was heavily banned by the Mullahs. But we knew were getting through.

Cowan announced that we would start a call-in show to these regions—first in Mandarin and later in Farsi. VOA had hosted call-in shows before, but never on a regular basis and infrequently in languages of countries in which jamming was prevalent. Further, he pushed us to embrace the evolving pace of technologies and make the information accessible on multiple venues—satellite and Internet.

....To describe the first shows as emotional is an understatement. Listeners embraced the platform and filled up the phone lines. They asked tough questions of guests from the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, to a stream of politicians, diplomats and pundits. More importantly, we listened, we discussed and debated. And the world talked back."

Read the post in its entirety here:


Though several requests were put in for this post earlier today, the aftermath of Qana seems an even more appropriate moment to survey how one of the most competent and effective of earth's armies finds itself frustrated and outgamed by a small terror militia dependent on third rate foreign powers for logistics and intelligence support. The answer to Israel's inability to come to grips with Hezbollah in Lebanon hinges on the fact that all military actions occur in a geopolitical, economic and diplomatic environment, or as Dr. Barnett likes to say " in the context of everything else".

You need a strategy in order to navigate that global context and I'm not sure what Israel's strategy actually is in Lebanon -or if they have one at all. Whatever the IDF is using, all observers seem to agree that it is not working very well in terms of advancing Israeli interests. Hezbollah, and frankly I see them as a very nasty, dangerous and destructive force, has managed to finesse a near disaster into a diplomatic coup and a military stalemate, primarily because they have kept their eye on their strategic goals and consider human life to be a very cheap price to pay for coming out on top.

Some informed commentators, notably Colonel Patrick Lang, have pointed to the IDF chief, a career air force man, as the source of Israel's current debacle, as General Halutz is the advocate of Israel's EBO attack on Lebanon, there's no doubt some truth to that. But General Halutz is the chief of staff, not the Israeli Cabinet, which contains no small number of politicians with experience in Israel's previous wars. Nor is he the Prime Minister of Israel. EBO is a tactic, a very effective one against states, but it is not an end in itself. Why, Israel would use an EBO attack and against whom counts for much more.

That was a question of strategy for Israel's government to decide for General Halutz, because for a small state like Israel, no matter how militarily effective it might be, diplomacy and leveraging the psychological dimensions and moral level of warfare matter about as much as bombs and bullets. Israel has no strategic depth, no room for error, while Hezbollah has depth clear back to Teheran. Instead, Israel went with the easy and tactically certain course of degrading Lebanon's systemic infrastructure -slowly - and is painting itself into a strategic corner as a result, having done insufficient damage to Hezbollah to justify the costs of the campaign.

In fairness to PM Olmert and the Israelis, we do not know the backstory here. The popular assumptions are that the Bush administration egged Israel on to attack Lebanon and, conversely, that Hezbollah is being run from Iran. These assumptions may very well be wrong. The Bush administration may have vetoed an Israeli EBO attack on Syria, a campaign that would have made far more strategic sense, given Syria's indispensible role as a conduit of Iranian aid to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. Likewise, while the Pasdaran and MOIS keep Hezbollah fine-tuned as a terrorist machine, Nasrallah may have manuvered Ahmadinejad and Khameini into backing Hezbollah's confrontation with Israel the way Ho Chi Minh and Giap once played Kosygin and Mao for fools. We don't know what options were foreclosed in a priori.

As Hezbollah is a semi-4GW organization, it obeys no recognized rules of warfare yet escapes much in the way of blame, and intentionally seeks maximum civilian casualties among Lebanese Shiites from Israeli retaliation, there are certain political realities that cannot be ignored:

First, even careful Israeli retaliation will kill plenty of civilians.

Secondly, if you are going to retaliate and kill civilians, the faster you react, the better you will appear to the rest of the world. Time lag and killing civilians does not mix for a power that needs diplomatic ratification to secure its strategic gains.

Third, if you are going to kill lots of civilians, there needs to be a realizable, acheivable, end-goal in mind. Pushing Hezbollah's rocket line back in terms of geography is meaningless because either Hezbollah will tweak their rockets to improve the range or Iran and Syria will provide better rockets. What happens when Hezbollah launches rockets from north of Beirut ?

The only meaningful strategic goal here for Israel was the total demilitarization of Hezbollah, an objective that coincided with the national interests of not just the U.S. but that of France, and therefore, in a languidly trailing and desultory way, the EU. The key to that objective was Syria, not Lebanon, and making the hapless and ineffectual Lebanese government instead of the "strong", generally unpopular and very "targetable" Syrian regime the focus of Israeli wrath - followed by real negotiations of things Damascus is interested in talking about - was a mistake. Carrots and sticks. Much more efficient use of Israeli political capital than bombing Lebanon or engaging in bloody house to house fighting in the Bekaa ( the only way to actually root out Hezbollah's fighters). A better route for Israel to have taken if it wanted an EBO campaign.

And of course, in five or six years, if Nasrallah were to have an accident, by then Israel will probably only be one of the suspected culprits. Perhaps not even at the top of the list.


Abu Aardvark

American Footprints ( Haggai)

American Future

Arms and Influence

Armchair Generalist

Aqoul ( Tom Scudder)

Austin Bay ( Bill Roggio guest post)

Bliss Street Journal

Bruce Kesler



Counterterrorism Blog

Dan Drezner



Don Surber

Fabius Maximus (DNI)

John Robb

Juan Cole

Lexington Green

Live From the FDNF ! - New !

Martin Kramer


Middle East Perspective

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Sun Bin - New !


The Glittering Eye

Threatswatch ( Schippert)

William Arkin

William Lind (DNI)

Winds of Change ( Donald Sensing)
Saturday, July 29, 2006

Dr. Daniel Nexon had a thought-provoking post at The Duck of Minerva entitled "Failed state and the global war on terror". His post is long and contains many points worthy of attention and indeed, I could not help but leave comments on some of them at The Duck. I suggest you read Dr. Nexon's post in full as I am going to critique particular sections.

Here follows excerpts from Dan's post and my observations and questions:

"....I argue in the book that there are a variety of generalizable principles concerning religious conflict and the dynamics of imperial control. But these "lessons" tend to be rather indirect.When we got back I returned to the process of converting the footnotes from plain text to Endnote (note to all dissertation writers: use citation software now; doing so will save you a lot of time later) and realized that I could draw one rather immediate and, in some ways, rather banal lesson: if your aim is to limit the impact of trans-national religious movements, then your focus should be on enhancing state capacity. As some analysts might put it, the best way to limit "networks" is to develop "hierarchies."[1]"

I would agree. There's only so much social " battlespace" in a given population and the unconstrained growth of hierarchies can crowd out potential competitors by thoroughly dominating the environment the way trees shade out grass. Taken to an extreme you have the Nazi "coordination" of all German institutions, professions, industries, charitable associations until effectively the civil society independent of National Socialism ceased to exist or was forced into collaboration with the regime. Or the Soviet Union where all private associations were simply abolished and replaced by Bolshevik ones.

Unfortunately neither of those examples are attractive options for a liberal democracy, representing a cure worse than the disease. The very definition of a liberal and open society is one in which its citizens are relatively free to associate and interact without government supervision and intervention which is where we'd like most Gap states to be someday. Yet most weak states are in danger of failing from an inability to provide basic security or attract the primary loyalty of its citizens and fear liberalization would cause what little authority they have to come unglued. Therefore I've argued that the United States should pursue building state resilience in a focused manner which means strengthening institutions in terms of their legitimacy and not simply showering weak states with massive amounts of aid money. Without a degree of resiliency and functional transparency the aid cannot even be effectively absorbed.

"As John Mueller remarked to me about a number of African polities, "their central governments are so weak that they face serious threats from roving bands of two hundred or so thugs." In fact, the relative strength of central power across early modern Europe was a decent, if imperfect, indicator of whether or not religious contention would fragment a polity. Early modern European states tended to be relatively weak, composite entities with imperfect, at best, monopolies on coercive military power. The fact that they developed in relatively centralized and strong states later on rendered them, all things being equal, both relatively resilient in the face of such threats and decreased the likelihood that such threats would emerge in the first place."

Here's an interesting counterpoint, going back some 700 years earlier, the Byzantine Empire, a highly centralized polity tearing itself apart over the Iconoclast movement ( a religious reform that was also a bid for even greater centralization in religious or political affairs). That being said, I'm pretty sure Dr. Dan is right about early modern Europe.

"Israel's policy of trying to compel the fragile Lebanese state to "take on" Hezballah not only seems to be failing at both the strategic and a "war of ideas" level, but, as I noted in my first attempt at videoblogging, looks almost like its designed to create a failed state--a consequence that would be far worse for Israel than intermittent low-level attacks from a relatively restrained (if odious) quasi-state organization in the country. Remember the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982? They drove out the PLO and got Hezballah in exchange."

EBO attacks are, as John Robb once noted, system disruption warfare designed to produce failed states. This tactic was successfully used by the Clinton administration against Iraq with Operation Desert Fox and against Milosevic in Serbia in the Kosovo War. In both cases, the objective desired (" Get the Serb paramilitaries out of Kosovo") was viewed as less costly a capitulation by the target government than suffering a destroyed state. Lebanon is simply unable to comply with Israel's demand; even if Hezbollah was not actively supported and supplied by Syria and Iran, Hezbollah is far more likely to disarm the Lebanese Army than the reverse. An EBO attack on Syria, however, might have produced the result Israel wanted but that ran the risk of provoking wider regional war - and was perhaps vetoed by the Bush administration.

( For more on EBO, see Sonny's series " Defending EBO" at FX-Based)

"Strong states, simply put, are a important firewalls against "global guerillas." Destroying them for the express purpose of creating democracies? Not such a good idea.[2] Strong states make it less likely that regional, substate, and transnational non-state actors will threaten US interests. Even though some of those "strong" states (such as Iran) sponsor violent non-state actors (such as Hezballah) the ultimate threat from those movements is very much conditioned by the number of low-capacity states in the world. Moreover, strong states do have the capacity to limit the activities of their proxies, and present themselves as targets for coercive leverage of the kind that might actually reduce the resources and capabilities of their clients"

They are certainly better than weak states or failed states however I would argue that legitimacy and demographic homogeneity are important factors here, not just expertise at social controls and potential police and military powers. Japan is not particularly vulnerable to Global Guerillas in the way that India or China might be.

"I believe, in fact, that these outcomes reflect a tension in US occupation policy between its "unite-and-rule" goals (e.g., the kind of intense "nation-building" that Bush derided in the 2000 campaign) and its commitment to providing the absolute minimal resources it can to the effort. This raises an interesting question: does a governing party have to be social-democratic or otherwise "statist" to do nation-building right? "

Bismarck, a conservative-nationalist junker, was a nation-builder par excellence as was General Douglas MacArthur, whose political views were both far-right and egomaniacal. Lyndon B. Johnson's efforts in South Vietnam were as unsuccessful as those of Richard Nixon's ( which is saying something, as Nixon came into office looking to get out of Vietnam as cheaply as possible). George W. Bush has spent a large amount of money in Iraq but to very little substantive effect.

Getting things right in terms of nation-building, I suspect, depends a great deal on understanding what you have to work with.


Dr. Demarche weighs in on the problem that this scenario presents for statesmen in a guest post at Austin Bay's blog.


John Robb's incisive analysis of Hezbollah's performance against Israel's IDF has particular salience for this discussion. Israel's unwillingness to accept casualties or inflict them effectively ( either by accurately hitting a high ratio of Hezbollah fighters or callously using the same WWII meat-grinder tactics Russia used when it took Grozny) has put the IDF at an uncharacteristic military disadvantage in Lebanon. The IDF can chew up Hezbollah but not without bringing it's full power to bear and inflicting massive civilian casualties

Lots of great things to comment on - too many in fact - and it's a hell of a nice summer day outside. So, I'm taking the kids to a nearby festival with a petting zoo and overpriced concessions.

Be back online tonight.
Friday, July 28, 2006

For Thursday's segment of the series, Paul Kretkowski's Beacon features a post by the eminent scholar Joseph S. Nye, Jr., father of the "Soft Power" concept itself and the former Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Nye has also served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Chair of the National Intelligence Council, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology.

A excerpt from Professor Nye's guest post:

"Public Diplomacy Dateline 1958: Perestroika Begins When a Soviet Visits Columbia UniversityI think the single best episode of public diplomacy of which I am aware was the U.S.-Soviet exchange program that brought Alexander Yakovlev to study at Columbia University in 1958. He was greatly taken by the theories of pluralism taught by Professor David Truman. He applied these ideas as a key exponent of perestroika and glasnost after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the 1980s. This helped to accelerate a peaceful end to the Cold War and to the Soviet Union. Although it took two decades to pay off, it is difficult to think of a greater impact than that. (I describe the event in more detail in Chapter 2 of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.)"

Read Dr. Joseph S. Nye's post in full here.

1958 must have been quite a year at Columbia for future Soviet bloc historical figures. That year also saw as exchange students the future KGB General Oleg Kalugin and Hafiazullah Amin, the bloodthirsty Marxist Prime Minister of Afghanistan who was toppled and murdered in the Tajbeg Palace by special KGB commandos in the Soviet invasion of 1979.

Blogging Note:

More to come tonight.....

The Eide Neurolearning Blog, one of my favorite stops in the blogosphere, had an important post for those concerned with creativity, learning and cognition. "Beyond Black & White: Learning to Tolerate Ambiguity ". An excerpt:

"The picture below shows an interesting view into the biology of perceiving ambiguity - when decisions about categories are not so clear. And, it shows that frontal striatal circuits play an important role in recognizing ambiguity.

... In fact, ambiguity is not well-recognized as an important part of nearly all creative processes (some examples below). In brainstorming sessions, innovative work teams may practice with ambiguity exercises like those posted in the bottom link. There's a book called The First Honest Book About Lies* that we like...at the bottom of the cover it says *You always have to read the asterisk. It has its humorous side, but about ambiguity - it hits the mark. The book starts out with optical illusions (these are ambiguous, aren't they?), then moves on the topics like white lies and propaganda. In a gentle way, it introduces the idea that real life lived is filled with ambiguity and nuance - and you may find it a valuable starting point for discussion."

Zen, particularly the practice of meditating upon the meaning of koans, riddles that are constructed paradoxically or seemingly irrationally (" what is the sound of one hand clapping?") that are meant to be understood not by reasoning, but by insight, relies heavily upon ambiguity as a trigger. Some aspects of Sufi stories or parables also demonstrate this cognitive quality.

My speculation here is that the use of ambiguity prevents the brain from engaging in a kind of autopilot filing process and instead has to try and " search" among a variety of possible contextual meanings, leading to new connections.
Thursday, July 27, 2006

For Thursday's segment of the series, Paul Kretkowski's Beacon features a post by Dr. Nancy Snow. Professor Snow is a senior fellow at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. An excerpt:

"Soft Power: Fulbright’s International Character Keeps Paying Dividends

As for soft power, I am eternally biased in favor of the Fulbright program. I knew Senator Fulbright personally and I've yet to come across an octogenarian who could elicit Rock Star status with international Fulbright scholars as I saw on many occasions during my graduate school days living in Washington, D.C. Fulbright was very realistic about his namesake's appeal: it must not come across as propaganda or appear too linked to government public diplomacy goals. It must stand on its own attractiveness (beauty for beauty's sake) as an important tool in building mutual understanding. That's soft power at its best, for I do believe that the United States still holds great pulling power as a seat of outstanding education and openness in the pursuit of ideas. (Or at least I would hope so!)

The beauty of Fulbright is that it is a truly international program that works with nongovernmental organizations and governments throughout the world in the furtherance of such openness. Its very mutuality in structure is what makes it a soft power all-star for a multitude of countries but with an American heritage."

Read Professor Snow's post in full here:

I have to add that a recently retired colleague of mine was a Fullbright scholar and I observed that her overseas experience was less a snapshot in time than the establishment of ongoing relationships. Not certain if that was typical of the Fullbright program but I strongly suspect it is.

Dave Schuler, who I have discovered has a polymathic grasp of most subjects, had an important post at The Glittering Eye that I would like to direct to the attention of those readers inclined to strategy and military affairs. I have reproduced Dave's post in it's entirety:

The adaptive functionality of limitations on war

"At Gene Expressions, matoko-chan has posted a consideration of just war theory from an evolutionary standpoint, reflections on a give-and-take we’d had in the comments of one of my posts on just wars.

It’s important that we not lose track of the fact that human social systems and the laws and rules of ethics that come with them are technologies, tools for living happier and more satisfying lives. The ethical and legal principles governing the decision to go to war and how war should be conducted most definitely has benefits. They enable members of societies that practice them to specialize and, as has been known for nearly 300 years, that has economic benefits—we’re more prosperous as a result and live healthier, more fulfilling lives as a result. Practicing such principles allows the societies to avoid certain costs.

I am concerned that what we’re seeing in the hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, both on the part of the Israelis and on the part of Hezbollah, will become the future way of war in a post-Westphalian world. This is the world being created by the radicals and ideologues who have degraded the role of states in human society by attempting to reduce the role of states and treating non-states as though they were states. That is the nature of radicals and ideologues: they hurry to discard social technologies without understanding the purpose and workings of the technology they’re discarding. I think it’s a world that will be poorer and meaner.

If you want to understand the social, economic, and psychological costs of this new world, look to Israel. They’ve been adapting to them for the last 50 years."

I'm reserving comment for the moment hoping that those of you who have been deeply engaged in thinking about emerging military theories ( or, alternatively, attacking them) will offer your views on Dave's post either here or at The Glittering Eye.

Steve DeAngelis of ERMB and EnterraSolutions is at the cultural tipping point where his message, once reserved for consultations in elite corporate settings, IC and DoD related forums, think tanks and discussions on esoteric blogs like this one, is entering the MSM. I'll have some comments later but first here is the context of Steve's argument:

U.S. News & World Report quoted DeAngelis in "Multinationals 2.0", an article that examined the position put forth by IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano that multinationals as a business structure have outlived their time and are due to be replaced by a radically decentralized, networked, corporate entity called " globally integrated enterprises". Steve explained why to U.S. News:

"Here's the even bigger vision: As more and more countries--particularly the developing ones in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East--become more interconnected and dependent, it will result in a safer, more orderly world. "The business world has this enlightened self-interest in integration," says Steve DeAngelis, CEO of Enterra Solutions, a software solutions company that helps global companies integrate far-flung operations. "Look at China and the United States. Look at all the economic bridges we are building. Each one we build is a step away from military conflict." So while multinationals have traditionally been stereotyped as corporate villains--for polluting the environment or attempting to overthrow unfriendly Third World governments--the new organization would supposedly make the planet a better place."

Steve added some important observations in a post at ERMB

"The article notes that the old business model for multinationals was the "hub and spoke" model, where corporate headquarters was the hub and subsidiaries were the spokes. Business moved in direct relationship with the hub (which is a problem in a 24/7 world). Mohanbir Sawhney, a technology professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, agrees that this approach is no longer viable. In order to be resilient in today's business climate, a business must "end up with centers of excellence distributed around the world." In other words, instead of one hub with multiple spokes, you have multiple hubs (or nodes) of excellence which are connected and supportive. "

Structurally this would mean shifting away from the extreme hierarchical centralization of 20th century corporations. A centralized, bureaucratic model that resulted from adoption of Taylorism in production process, seeking economies of scale and the consolidation of industries into oligopolistic markets, a situation later ratified by New Deal regulatory supervision. The
"globally integrated enterprise" is structured somewhat closer to a scale free network, though it actually isn't one, it would still be a radical departure from past practices for most companies.

Technically, we are talking about a corporation that would be a modular hybrid that employs a devolution of decision-making power and organizational decentralization to increase the corporation's resiliency. There would still be some hierarchy and strategic direction but a GIE is a much flatter model than the pyramid-like IBM of 1965, 1985 or even 1995. In a globalized market a GIE is much harder for individual states to damage through inept regulatory, fiscal or trade policies than a multinational HQ that can be "held hostage" to erupting political controversies in a particular state or trading bloc.

On the flip side, the increasing ubiquity of real-time global communication has made corporate reputation a vital but fragile commodity. The room for error, scandal or ethical shortcomings is virtually nonexistent once a story has arrived on the global media radar. As with militaries or heads of government, corporations have only a few hours, perhaps minutes to react to an emerging story in a way the global audience will consider credible, sufficient and responsible. It is here that a resilient structure is required, specifically, as Steve wrote:

"...the essence of a Resilient Enterprise -- freer linkages, richer exchanges, greater feedback loops, and improved environment for sharing and innovating."

This kind of a structure is an advantage in two ways to a corporation facing a crisis. First, the freer flow of information from the outside, closer to real-time, simultaneously throughout the organization reduces the distortion of stovepiping and groupthink and prevents many problems from arising in the first place. Secondly, there is an acceleration of organizational response time, particularly where pro-active, autonomous, decision-making is part of the institutional culture.

It is important to point out that " Multinationals 2.0" represents a model far more than a reality but it is a model that the economic conditions of globalization would tend to reward. Multinationals 2.0 would also be a structure and a culture that would be easier to build from the ground up than try to retro-engineer into a venerable corporate giant like IBM with a longstanding institutional habits of mind ( Palmisano gets all the more credit for moving in this direction instead of taking the easier, short-term path of most CEO's) .It will be interesting to see how foreign multinational models like the Japanese Kereitsus, Korean Chaebols or European conglomerates with strong state and union corporate governance, choose to engage this concept or if they will try an alternative strategy to build resiliency.


Dr. Barnett

Dan of tdaxp
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

As the resident tech wizard Critt has defined " public transcript"today and Dave has published that kind of a limited sketch on his blog Thoughts Illustrated, I can now point to the recent permutations of a side project that I have been involved in for the last couple of months. What began as an idea Critt had for an online " game" experience has certainly journeyed some distance.

Watching the creative business process unfold has been an education for me, particularly as it involved the IT field in which Critt and Dave are so well versed. Dave's depth of experience and range of contacts are amazing; I recommend those readers, particularly those who, for academic or professional reasons, drill down deeply into intelligence, military and diplo affairs to the exclusion of other subjects, take a close look at Thoughts Illustrated. Dave regularly highlights emerging tech, trends and links worth knowing about, particularly in regard to networks.

Blogging Note:

More posts to come later this evening....

For Wednesday's segment of the series, Paul Kretkowski's Beacon features a post by Dr. Nicholas Cull , the new head of the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy. A excerpt:

"Public Diplomacy Dateline 1940: The British Cultivate Edward R. MurrowMy all-time public diplomacy coup would be the British decision to cultivate Edward R. Murrow as a means to address the neutral U.S. in 1940. It paid off big-time, both drawing the U.S. into the Second World War and building lasting links between British and U.S. broadcasting communities. I also suspect that Murrow's approach to public diplomacy was much influenced by his British experiences."

Read Dr. Cull's post in full here.

Wiggins at Opposed System Desgn responded to my prior post with further insight into the difficulties of accurately estimating the potential outcomes of a given scenario, with his post "The Limits of Universality". Commenting on the importance of examining premises, Wiggins writes:

"Albert Wohlstetter often said that the most important part of an analysis was the examination and choice of assumptions. More recently, I believe it was Ralph Keeney who pointed out that millions of dollars and years of effort can be devoted to analyses whose assumptions were decided upon in a superficial five minute discussion. Ed Paxson, who is often credited with creating the field of systems analysis, ran into this issue during one of his studies while he was at RAND. He created a remarkably complex analysis of nuclear combat, but based it upon a modified logistics model so that the goal was to “deliver” the maximum payload of bombs to a specified target list at the lowest cost per pound of bombs dropped (I think I got this account from Kaplan’s The Wizards of Armageddon, a solid secondary source but woefully thin on interpreting Wohlstetter). The Air Force dismissed Paxson’s results. "

It is important to note, regarding " that millions of dollars and years of effort can be devoted to analyses whose assumptions were decided upon in a superficial five minute discussion" that quite often our first good idea about a given subject or problem is not always our best good idea. "Brainstorming" is an overused and much abused term, but done properly, and with an eye to starting a cognitive process rather than securing a finished result, brainstorming is enormously helpful in generating alternatives. Submitting those alternatives to a robustly critical examination before launching forward, is also a pretty good standard practice.

Minutes spent beforehand translates into thousands of hours saved afterward.

I have a number of topics today including Day 3 of the Beacon series, but I'm juggling a few projects at the moment. If you have emailed me in the last few days and not yet received a response, I sincerely apologize for the delay. I will be caught-up on my correspondence by late afternoon and back to blogging.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

For Tuesday's segment of the series, Paul Kretkowski's Beacon features a post by Professor Patricia Kushlis, a retired Foreign Service Officer and specialist in Europe, Asia, the U.S., politics, public diplomacy and national security. Kushlis is also part of a trio of experts at the highly recommended foreign affairs blog, Whirledview.

An excerpt:

"Public Diplomacy Dateline 1975: A Meeting in Helsinki

In 1992, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) held its first major conference in Helsinki, Finland, a fitting memorial to the Cold War’s end. This 54-nation conference also commemorated CSCE’s 1975 beginning—the initial 35-state conference held in the same city but at a different time in a polarized world. The U.S. had only reluctantly agreed to participate, perhaps simply because the idea of a pan-European security conference had Soviet origins. America’s cold warriors—still smarting from Vietnam—feared wrongly the conference might hurt U.S. interests in Europe, the chief battleground between East and West. Baltic émigré communities also objected because they believed the conference would legalize then-national boundaries, keeping the three small Baltic countries forever in Soviet hands.

The 1975 conference included a human rights “basket” or negotiating group. Its negotiators drafted a declaration of support for individual human rights. The declaration became known as the Helsinki Accords—that first CSCE conference’s most important act. I don’t know why the Soviets agreed but they did—perhaps because they thought no enforcement or verification mechanisms existed, and so assumed the human rights provisions were empty words.

In the end, the Helsinki Accords—unbeknownst to us—provided the chief protection for and inspiration of tiny groups of anti-Communist dissidents from Prague to Moscow. They ultimately inspired the many to challenge the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union and to end Communism in Europe."

Read Patricia Kushlis' guest post in full here.

Kushlis is correct, in my view. Helsinki's outcome on human rights was perceived as such a diplomatic disaster by the Politburo that the lead Soviet negotiator, a rising star who had expected a promotion to the "commanding heights" of the nomenklatura, went into a swift political eclipse. On the American side, former DCI Robert Gates, known as a "hardliner" among Sovietologists in the IC community during his tenure, lauded the political and psychological effects of Helsinki in his memoirs.
Monday, July 24, 2006

Wiggins, at Opposed System Design, had the following comment in a post " Evolving Thoughts on Terrorism " recently which I had meant to blog about at the time but have only gotten around to addressing now:

"As a rule I am wary of metaphors that involve the second law of thermodynamics, Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems, quantum physics and evolution. Sometimes they are truly appropriate (this is why John Boyd rocketed to the top of my esteem). Usually they are not. I’m not passing judgment here yet. Just musing that when making comparisons to nuanced concepts, it is very easy to slide into sloppy generalizations. "

A very useful caveat in my view, and one that spurred me to further thought.

There are a number of such metaphors applied to complex adaptive systems, including social ones. I do it frequently here myself. Sometimes I am simply making an analogy and at other times I am writing about a phenomena that is actually in play in a given situation. Some of these phenomena are considered universalities - the Laws of Physics being one example - that seemingly govern all situations or at least enough of those in a humanocentric scenario as to be perceived as being universal. Evolution would be another example and Robert Wright once wrote a well-considered book on that very topic.

Sometimes, however, these universalities do not seem to apply very well to a specific situation, one noted by Wiggins in his post. Most of the time this may be due to the "sloppy generalizations" to which Wiggins alluded. At other time it may be that the role of a universality in a particular situational dynamic, that while still present, is not very important for the following reasons:

a) Time frame of the scenario

b) Relative effect in comparison to that of other universalities is not significant on human scale

c) Perspective of the observer

d) Local vs. Global scenarios

e) Complexity of net variables

I'm certain Dr. Von or Wiggins could think of more possibilities than can I.

Analysts attempting to game the probable outcomes of hypothetical scenarios for complex social systems ( say " Invading Iraq") have to weigh the universalities against each other as well as the particularities of the context. The greater the simplification employed in making an analogy between two dissimilar contexts affected by the same universality then, I would argue, the longer the time frame required to see if the analogy has validity.

Paul Kretkowski's Beacon features a post by John H.Brown, a former Foreign Service officer and the compiler of the respected Public Diplomacy Review. An excerpt:

"Public Diplomacy Dateline 2001: Willis Conover, the American Deejay Who Penetrated the Iron Curtain for 40 Years

My best episode of public diplomacy in my 20-year foreign service career is a 2001 jazz festival in Moscow honoring Willis Conover, the legendary host of the 40-year Voice of America Jazz Hour program that had such an impact on Eastern European audiences during the Cold war. The event, organized by the cultural section of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and Russian jazz organizations—and financially supported by the State Department and the Voice of America—commemorated the fifth anniversary of the death of this extraordinary disc jockey, whose unforgettable baritone voice, turning his heartland American English into a kind of musical composition of its own, introduced millions outside the United States to the uniqueness—and universality—of jazz.

American and Russian musicians took part in the two-day celebration, which drew a packed house and many young people. It was wonderful to see how Willis—without whom, arguably, the Cold War would not have ended—was remembered with such affection and admiration in what was formerly “enemy” territory. Conover had become a part of the collective memory of jazz lovers, an artistic genius (so unlike crude propagandists involved in the East-West struggle) who made the best of American cultural achievements accessible to information-starved listeners behind the Iron Curtain eager for an alternative to communist efforts at mind-control.

It is ironic that Willis is practically unknown in his own country, as his programs were not aired stateside due to the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which prohibits the domestic dissemination of U.S. government-supported information products intended for foreign audiences."

Read John H. Brown's guest post in full here.
Sunday, July 23, 2006

Other online projects and fun family activities have put a dent in my blogging lately but I'll try to remediate that this week. Here are my picks this Sunday:

Dr. Sam Crane at The Useless Tree -" The Middle East War: What Would Sun Tzu Do? "

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett - " WWIII is the wrong metaphor" ( incidentally, I agree)

William Lind at DNI -" The Summer of 1914"

John Robb at Global Guerillas -" ISRAEL'S LEBANON MASHUP"

Valdis Krebs at Orgnet.com - "A Self-organizing network model of the Mideast"

Federalist X at Amendment Nine -" The Better Barnett"

Dan of tdaxp - "AfroIslamic Gap v. New Core, Reloaded"

Younghusband at Coming Anarchy-" WWIII is not realism, it’s romanticism

CKR at Whirledview -" War Talk"

Eddie at Live From the FDNF -" Does The Blank Check Bounce On July 31st?"

LTC Rick Francona at Middle East Perspectives -" Israel-Hezbollah: Preparing the battlefield "

That's it !

Paul D. Kretkowski, journalist and proprietor of Beacon has invited me to participate next weekin a blogging series to answer the question" What was the best single episode of public diplomacy ever, and secondly, what has been the most influential element of soft power of all time?".

Kretkowski has assembled an impressive team of contributors and I'm flattered to be included amongst them. They are:

"—Former Foreign Service Officer and Public Diplomacy Reviewer John H. Brown

—University of Leicester and USC professor Nicholas Cull

—Former FSO and WhirledView contributor Patricia Kushlis

—Harvard professor and Soft Power author Joseph Nye

—Intel/military maven and ZenPundit founder Mark Safranski

—CSU Fullerton associate professor and USC senior fellow Nancy Snow"

I will be linking to each contributor's post daily but I encourage you to visit Beacon and offer your comments on this important series.
Friday, July 21, 2006

Blogfriend Josh Manchester of The Adventures of Chester has become a contributing writer at TCS Daily and his first article is " Shaken, Not Stirred ". Congratulations to Josh on the new writing gig.

I like to see my blogfriends rising in the world.
Thursday, July 20, 2006

By Human Rights Watch, according to Marc at American Future, for possibly deliberately targeting civilians.

This should be a link of interest to readers Left, Right and Center - particularly if political history is their thing.

Eric Alterman is best known for his partisan commentary in The Nation and blogging at Altercation ,but he is also an academic, when not engaged in polemical pursuits, with a Ph.D in History from Stanford. In his scholarly role, Professor Alterman has a new book out, When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences, which has been reviewed by an H-Diplo Roundtable. That in itself is an endorsement of the book's quality.

I was surprised to learn that Dr. Alterman had studied under the eminent historian Walter LaFeber, which I found somewhat ironic as Eric and I have swiped at each other a few times on H-Diplo, yet my own mentor in history was a friend and classmate of LaFeber's when both were studying under William Appleman Williams ( as a result I think I read every book and most of the papers LaFeber had published up until the mid-late 1990's).

The roundtable is a thorough and scholarly treatment of the book from historians across the political spectrum and Dr. Alterman is given an opportunity to resond to criticisms and make extended comments. It's a good online read ( PDF format).

These symposiums represent H-Diplo at its best.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tom and Steve were debating changing Enterra's conceptual brand from "Development-in-a-Box" to "Connectivity-in-a-Box". After some online angst by Dr. Barnett, it seems DiB won out but Tom is looking to retrofit connectivity in the proper place.

The difference between the two concepts comes down to ends and means.

While it is true that "development" is a actually a process, " Development in a Box" is a phrase that screams " Outcome !". In contrast, " connectivity" has a range of possile understandings that can indicate only the potential for future exchanges or mass migration or ongoing flows of economic and military might. Therefore, what "Connectivity" yells is "Change !".

Connectivity is inherently crucial to development - Dr. Barnett mentioned the economic impact of mobile phones in Gap states and as mobile phones effectively transition to mobile computers with wireless broadband, that effect will multiply by orders of magnitude. If anything was ever "outside the box", it's the evolutionary, revolutionary, power of connectivity.

Tom should keep connectivity in his mantra and link it categorically and irrevocably with Steve's DiB.

Just don't put in a box :O)
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

From Michael Tanji of GroupIntel Blog, rare good news in the guise of quiet change of practice in the IC:

"But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence seems to be casting an unusually wide net as it seeks the best qualified staff it can find in academia and the public interest sector.
Historian Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, a China specialist at Georgetown University, became an Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analytic Integrity in January 2006, and was appointed last month as the first ODNI “analytic ombudsman.” (She also previously served in the State Department...

Trying to get IC leadership to hire people from outside the gene pool is something akin to cold fusion: we’d all like it to happen, but progress has been limited and tainted by hoaxes. A lot of potential hires don’t get accepted because while their real-world experience is stellar, the lack of clearance means tendering an offer is a crap-shoot; maybe they get cleared but it takes a year; maybe a year passes and they fail the poly. “Outsiders” tend to only be strangers from a given agency and inevitably golfing/poker/drinking/academy buddies of the guy running the show. There is a certain amount of tradition to the practice and sometimes it actually works, but there is nothing like creating new high-end gigs and then filling them with your pals to depress the workforce and make them wonder if directorship brings with it ownership papers. Even cross-pollination of disciplines is rare, even when such moves would make supreme sense. “Not invented here” syndrome has a little-known cousin, “Not hired here.”

Counterintelligence security is an important concept but as it was practiced during the Cold War may not be the best practice for the War on Terror in an increasingly open source, high complexity, deep uncertainty, world. No group, however bright and well-trained, can maintain its analytical edge through institutional insularity and isolation.

Opening up to outside "superstars" and mixing them with the cream of the insiders is a must to shake things up in a way that will not be reflected by little boxes and dotted lines on an org chart.

Some interesting blog posts by

Austin Bay ( Top billing for addressing the Westphalian aspects)

In no particular order....


The Glittering Eye

Dan of tdaxp

Arcmchair Generalist

American Footprints



Counterterrorism Blog

Rodger Payne at The Duck of Minerva had a clever post " Ladder of Escalation" that tied two colorful intellects, the late Herman Kahn and the very alive Newt Gingrich, to the stategic implications of the Terror War. On Gingrich's recent comments, Rodger writes:

"In any case, Kahn is known for a number of interesting ideas, including the so-called "ladder of escalation." Essentially, Kahn's term explains gradations of conflict, from "ostensible crisis" up 40+ rungs to "spasm" thermonuclear war.

Such a spasm is to be avoided, obviously.

While Kahn developed the ladder as part of his critique of the "massive retaliation" doctrine of the Eisenhower administration, the notion of "winnable" nuclear war-fighting took on a life of its own during 1970s and 1980s strategic debates.

I'm referencing Kahn because he also reminds us that crises, conflicts and wars can escalate -- perhaps in unexpected ways, though Kahn was a game theorist and wanted to think rationally about the unthinkable.

To some extent, Kahn was right. Leaders and scholars do have to think about the possible, not merely the probable.

...I'm not writing this to scare anyone, but I do think it is patently obvious that world leaders ought to be doing everything they can to try to de-escalate the current ongoing crises

De-escalation, incidentally, is a major tactical prescription of 4GW school of thought, specifically William Lind's (I'll try to find the link), for states in implementing a defensive and isolating strategy against non-state opponents. I don't agree with isolation in the way Lind used it because it simply isn't physically possible or economically desirable, but political and moral isolation and de-legitimization of the enemy is another matter. As I remarked in the comment section at the Duck:

"The statements are classic Gingrich; an important and substantially correct analytical perspective delivered in a rhetorically couterproductive manner.

Gingrich is 100 % correct that our bureaucratic response to the geopolitical crisis with Islamism is tardily done and is cognitively inadequate to the complexity of the task at hand. He's also right that we have an interrelated mix of state sponsors, societal substate sponsors within allied states and non-state actors that confounds our traditional approaches to war and diplomacy.

Unfortunately, the "WWIII" rhetoric that Gingrich is using to accurately denote the *magnitude* of the crisis to an American audience and get people's attention misfires overseas where we want to isolate and politically discredit the Salafi-Jihadi lunatics from even socially conservative, pious but peaceful Middle-Class Muslims. It is WWIII only in terms of difficulty or importance but not "Us vs. Them " like with the Soviets.

We need to light a fire under our own side without making our enemies look like the "good guys" to their home audience in the process. Escalate our strategic operational response while de-escalating their emotional response."

Find another way to light the fire, but "WWIII" or "WWIV" terminology should be junked unless we think that energizing Osama Bin Laden's base for him instead of demoralizing it is a good idea.
Monday, July 17, 2006

John Robb has a very interesting post up, "Recipe for Destruction" on the Kurzweil-Joy NYT op-ed "Recipe for Destruction".

Recently, Dr. Daniel Nexon delivered his first video broadcast at The Duck of Minerva. Dan did a nice job for his first time out and while he may not have been as smooth as a CNN talking head he was far more substantive. A couple of weeks previously, Dan of tdaxp was the subject of an an extended podcast interview by Phil Jones which was enlightening and interesting, reminding me somewhat of Dr. Milt Rosenberg's WGN720 radio show.

It is apparent that blogging is evolving toward a multimedia presentation of personal expression requiring a combination of platforms and media that are called "mash-ups". What we see today is likely to look crude and primitive five years from now, perhaps less. Even so Bloggers will be wanting tools to organize the flow of information. Here are two:

The first is the GRAZR, the odd window that appeared on my blog margin a while back. My grazr is not currently being utilized to any great extent because I set it only to feed Discover The Rules, a blog for a project with Critt Jarvis, now on the backburner. If I wished, I could have bundles of feeds, podcasts, dynamic reading lists, files and a number of other possible options. There is also a grazr blog for the geek inclined.

Secondly, there's an open source aggregation manager Blogbridge that also is starting a Blogbridge Feed Library . Even I, with my limited technical aptitude, found Blogbridge easy to begin using. I have not used aggregators all that much in the past because I don't do news of the day blogging per se but Blogbridge has search tools that can be pre-set for topics I'm interested in and save me time.

Thanks to Critt for connecting me, once again, with new tech ideas.
Sunday, July 16, 2006

Not initially what I logged on to write about but interesting enough to merit passing along.

"Blogs Study May Provide Credible Information" at Transformation/DefenseLink

" The Air Force Office of Scientific Research recently began funding a new research area that includes a study of blogs. Blog research may provide information analysts and warfighters with invaluable help in fighting the war on terrorism.

...“It can be challenging for information analysts to tell what’s important in blogs unless you analyze patterns,” Ulicny said....Patterns include the content of the blogs as well as what hyperlinks are contained within the blog. Within blogs, hyperlinks act like reference citations in research papers thereby allowing someone to discover the most important events bloggers are writing about in just the same way that one can discover the most important papers in a field by finding which ones are the most cited in research papers.

...The new portfolio of projects consists of three areas of research emphasis – incomplete information and metrics; search, interactive design, and active querying; and cognitive processing.

...“Relevance involves developing a point of focus and information related to a particular focus,” Kokar said. Timeliness has to do with immediacy – how important is a topic now. “Credibility,” he continued, “is the amount of trust you have in an information source.”

"Credibility" ? Hmmm...I can think of a few big name blogs who won't make the cut there. But then again neither, would CBS.

I would be intrigued to know how much weight here is being given to the information derived from aggregate patterns (or for that matter the pattern of the blogosphere as a whole and those of the Left vs. Right blogospheres) relative to drilling down to those blogs given 4 star credibility ratings. I would also speculate that the military and IC are very interested in discovering the "deep influencer" blogs - those that consistently or frequently demonstrate an ability to initiate the spread of new memes.

(Indirect Hat tip to YH)

Secondly, from Bruce Schneier - " Complexity and Terrorism Investigations":

"The Committee's report accepts that the increasing number of investigations, together with their increasing complexity, will make longer detention inevitable in the future. The core calculation is essentially the one put forward by the police and accepted by the Government - technology has been an enabler for international terrorism, with email, the Internet and mobile telephony producing wide, diffuse, international networks. The data on hard drives and mobile phones needs to be examined, contacts need to be investigated and their data examined, and in the case of an incident, vast amounts of CCTV records need to be gone through. As more and more of this needs to be done, the time taken to do it will obviously climb, and as it's 'necessary' to detain the new breed of terrorist early in the investigation before he can strike, more time will be needed between arrest and charge in order to build a case.

All of which is, as far as it goes, logical. But take it a little further and the inherent futility of the route becomes apparent - ultimately, probably quite soon, the volume of data overwhelms the investigators and infinite time is needed to analyse all of it. And the less developed the plot is at the time the suspects are pulled in, the greater the number of possible outcomes (things they 'might' be planning) that will need to be chased-up. Short of the tech industry making the breakthrough into machine intelligence that will effectively do the analysis for them (which is a breakthrough the snake-oil salesmen suggest, and dopes in Government believe, has been achieved already), the approach itself is doomed. Essentially, as far as data is concerned police try to 'collar the lot' and then through analysis, attempt to build the most complete picture of a case that is possible. Use of initiative, experience and acting on probabilities will tend to be pressured out of such systems, and as the data volumes grow the result will tend to be teams of disempowered machine minders chained to a system that has ground to a halt. This effect is manifesting itself visibly across UK Government systems in general, we humbly submit. But how long will it take them to figure this out? "

Some degree of probability analysis might be a start. Speaking of which.....

"Robust Decision Methodology for Reasoning Under Deep Uncertainty"

Despite the sexy title this not a ponderous tome but a sparkly powerpoint presentation. Worth looking at because time, politics, stress and human frailty causes us all to take cognitive short-cuts from time to time ( or in some cases, all the time). Echoes things I have read in Studies in Intelligence. Perhaps Art can be enticed to comment ?


Curtis recommends the following article on Brain-nanotech interface and I agree.

While it might be hard to tell sometimes, this is actually a blog that has something to do with foreign policy. After some appropriate links, my comments on the war between Israel and the PA, various terrorist groups, Islamist militias and their state supporters, Syria and most importantly, Iran.

Blogging the War:

Abu Aardvark, Atlas Shrugged, Aqoul , American Footprints, American Future, Austin Bay, Belmont Club, Bliss Street Journal, Captain's quarters, Collounsbury, Chicago Boyz, Centerfield, Cliopatria, Coming Anarchy, Counterterrorism Blog, Dan Drezner, Deja Vu, Democracy Project,
Glittering Eye, Global Guerillas, History Unfolding, Instapundit, Iraq the Model, Juan Cole, Memeorandum, Michael Totten, Middle East Perspectives, OPFOR, Penraker, Rightwing Nuthouse, Shloky, Sic Semper Tyrannis, SyriaComment, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Whirledview

Now that the Right, the Left, the Middle, scholars, amateurs, soldiers, strategists, journalists, partisans and professors have had their say, I'll weigh in with a brief analysis:

Iran, and specifically Ahmadinejad's faction in the leadership, have sought to provoke Israel into action for some time now. Scratch Hezbollah enough and you find the Pasdaran - particularly when Hezbollah suddenly demonstrates newfound military capabilities.

Conflict serves to strengthen Ahmadinejad's hand and allow Shiite Iran to pose as the champion of Islam against the "Zionist Entity"- a goal of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and a dual propaganda blow against both the conservative Sunni monarchies of the gulf and the radical Salafist movement that regards Shiites as "apostates". Provoking Israel distracts the Europeans away from Iran's illegal, covert, nuclear weapon program and toward the more comfortable and politically safer topic of condemning Israel for defending itself.

On the Israeli side of the equation, it is evident that invading Lebanon will not get any kidnapped soldiers back nor is it intended to do so. It is primarily intended to disrupt the Hezbollah, Pasdaran and Syrian intelligence networks in Southern Lebanon and secondarily as a punitive expedition against Lebanon for Hezbollah's ( read Iran and Syria's) transgressions. In principle a good thing, but it would be of more practical use directed against Syria and cause Israel far less political damage. The Lebanese state may be passively complicit in Hezbollah's attacks and be legally responsible, but Damascus is actively complicit as Iran's satellite, and is a better target in terms of maintaining Israel's moral legitimacy. The Lebanese government no more controls its own territory than the Governor of Maine controls the Mexican border.

If Israel rolls through Lebanon, destroys and disperses the Hezbollah network, hangs Nasrallah or some other notorious figure from a nearby tree and gets out quickly, the Israelis will at least win some tactical gains. They will also send a message to Syria and Iran that proxy warfare is going to be regarded as warfare - particularly if some Syrian infrastructure takes some heavy hits along the way. If Olmert drags the military process out and replays Begin's televisually shocking seige of Beirut, he courts strategic defeat.

As for the soldiers, they will only return through quiet negotiations, if at all, after the dust settles.
Friday, July 14, 2006

Dr. Von had a timely and useful post today, one that will interest Steve, Dave and Curtis among others, addressing the issue of using network theory as a predictive model for social networks. In " Will we ever be able to predict what social systems and networks will do? Perhaps globally, but likely not locally" Von differentiates between systems and individuals in terms of rule sets:

"In a physical system this is similar to studying gases. We can in principle use Newton's laws to predict what should happen to individual atoms and molecules, but collectively we need to resort to a statistical/probabilistic approach. Collectively, there are set probability distribution functions for something like molecular speed, but that is meaningless to an individual molecule of the gas. In social systems, we are dealing with complex, unpredictable individual agents that make up the system, and this makes things considerably more difficult to analyze than a gas, whose individual agents are governed by deterministic rules (at least to a good approximation using classical physics). It will be quite difficult to accurately model emotion and religious fanaticism, for example, for individuals in a social system. We can guess and try to take a statistical approach, but this leaves some degree of uncertainty in results and predictions. It will be very difficult to model and predict what is going on in the head of a leader such as Osama bin Laden; there is a good deal we can only guess at, even though there has been research and progress in figuring out how his larger terror network operates and is structured. This is the difference between local and global environments and rulesets."

The post should be read in full.

I'll have a (somewhat distantly) related post up later tonight.
Thursday, July 13, 2006

John Robb points to this very disturbing post by Larry Johnson that indicates that the furor over SWIFT might have been a distraction from a leak that was a far more serious and damaging national security. (Yes, I'm aware that Larry tends to hyperventilate about politics but he also has actual expertise worth considering).

My basic position remains the same as with SWIFT - these leaks are remarkably unhelpful and must stop, which means that " bigfoot" leakers - those filling positions from the EOB apex down to the deputy assistant secretary level, plus the CSRA 1978 "superclass" of senior bureaucrats and key Congressional staffers - need to be prosecuted and do some jail time. Yeah, a whistleblower exception makes sense but only if narrowly defined.

So, I may very well have blown the call on SWIFT, and for that I apologize. A good reminder for me to "watch your friends as closely as your adversaries". Thank you, John.

Have to pick up that Susskind book.....
100,000th VISITOR !

Zenpundit crossed the 100,000 mark this morning with a visit from a reader at NASA !

The anonymous visitor has won "the Musashi" award in recognition for their fine contribution.



The Cooperation Blog

Readers with a bent toward futurism, technology and social change will enjoy these two blogs quite a bit.

Gracious thanks to Dave Davison, Howard Rheingold, Mike Love and Andrea Saveri for reaching out. I look forward to learning and sharing.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A hot topic, broadly defined, in the blogosphere these past few days.

Fabius Maximus at DNI has offered up some geopolitical predictions. An interesting piece - I found myself both nodding in agreement as well as disagreeing throughout. Fabius has a nice spread of geographic regions and topics in a relatively brief article.

LTC Dr. Thomas P. Odom has a great article in the new edition of The Small Wars Journal entitled "Guerrillas From the Mist: A Defense Attaché Watches the Rwandan Patriotic Front Transform from Insurgent to Counter Insurgent. Dr. Odom is not only an interesting writer and sharp debater, as the article shows, he's put his boots in some of the world's more hellish places.

The Grand Strategist reaches out to the Global Guerilla and the Global Guerilla reaches back.

Speaking of which....

John Robb had a strategic assessment of the terrorist bombing in Mumbai. Then, Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz disputed Robb's interpretation, essentially pointing to the Strategic Bombing Survey that, as in the case of the Third Reich, a system's resiliency is too easily underestimated. Then Tom Barnett weighed in, arguing that while Robb is correct that terrorists are pursuing "systempunkt" in the end "Terrorism is a strategy of the weak, and it earns them only what the powerful decide they no longer want." I tend to agree; 4GW movements that remain locked into a 4GW mindset degenerate into nihilism, unless they can make the cognitive jump to becoming a constructive force that articulates what Colonel John Boyd called a " theme for vitality and growth".

Finally, to blow my own horn, the thread at the Small Wars Council, Theory & Practice , that became a guest post at the invitation of Bruce Kesler at Democracy Project, was placed by Eddie of Live From the FDNF at Mudville Gazette and picked up, again courtesy of Mr. Kesler, by Military.com. Nice !

Evidently, asking a question and getting the hell out of the way while smart folks respond is a good blogging strategy for me. Much thanks to Bruce as well as to Dave Dilegge and Eddie. A team effort from start to finish !

That's it!


John Robb offers rebuttal and clarification to Lex and Tom

Out most of the day. In addition to hosting kiddies and consequent visit to the swiming pool, our new dog got hold of some kind of medication, ate it and had to go to the vet. Followed by a trip to the nearest animal hospital, many injections, tests and a $ 1300 bill. Ouch.

I am now drinking a cold Sam Adams. Cream Stout to be specific.

It won't be the last.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

This guy is either a major admirer of Martin van Creveld, William Lind and John Robb or he owes somebody some serious royalties. This article could be Cliffs Notes for The Rise and Decline of the State. Yet not a word of acknowledgment. For good measure, he also borrows the term " Gap" from Tom Barnett but mostly he just cribs from the 4GW school.

Uncool. Attribution is important.
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