Friday, September 29, 2006

Will return to normal blogging come Sunday. Right now, too many irons in the fire for anything but the most superficial posting. Have a great weekend !
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Be interesting to compare his end of liberal imperialism thesis for the horrors of the 20th century with van Creveld's decline of the state thesis.

I'll get to reading it by Christmas.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Thanks goes to Dave Dilegge of The Small Wars Journal for his speedy posting. Major hat tip.

"Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate. Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States.

Dated April 2006

Key Judgments

United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa’ida and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qa’ida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movement—which includes al- Qa’ida, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells—is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts.

• Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.

• If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide.

• Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit. Over time, such progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al-Qa’ida, could erode support for the jihadists.

We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse. New jihadist networks and cells, with anti- American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.

• We assess that the operational threat from self-radicalized cells will grow in importance to US counterterrorism efforts, particularly abroad but also in the Homeland.

• The jihadists regard Europe as an important venue for attacking Western interests. Extremist networks inside the extensive Muslim diasporas in Europe facilitate recruitment and staging for urban attacks, as illustrated by the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London bombings.

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

• The Iraq conflict has become the .cause celebre. for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

• Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1)
Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq .jihad;. (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims.all of which jihadists exploit.

Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists. radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.

• The jihadists. greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution.an ultra-conservative interpretation of shari.a-based governance spanning the Muslim world.is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists. Propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.

• Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.

• Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.

If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.

Al-Qa’ida, now merged with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role.

• The loss of key leaders, particularly Usama Bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Zarqawi, in rapid succession, probably would cause the group to fracture into smaller groups. Although like-minded individuals would endeavor to carry on the mission, the loss of these key leaders would exacerbate strains and disagreements.

We assess that the resulting splinter groups would, at least for a time, pose a less serious threat to US interests than does al-Qa.ida.

• Should al-Zarqawi continue to evade capture and scale back attacks against Muslims, we assess he could broaden his popular appeal and present a global threat.

• The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of al-Qa.ida in Iraq might lead veteran foreign jihadists to focus their efforts on external operations.
Other affiliated Sunni extremist organizations, such as Jemaah Islamiya, Ansar al- Sunnah, and several North African groups, unless countered, are likely to expand their reach and become more capable of multiple and/or mass-casualty attacks outside their traditional areas of operation.

• We assess that such groups pose less of a danger to the Homeland than does al- Qa.ida but will pose varying degrees of threat to our allies and to US interests abroad. The focus of their attacks is likely to ebb and flow between local regime targets and regional or global ones.

We judge that most jihadist groups.both well-known and newly formed.will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks focused primarily on soft targets to implement their asymmetric warfare strategy, and that they will attempt to conduct sustained terrorist attacks in urban environments. Fighters with experience in Iraq are a potential source of leadership for jihadists pursuing these tactics.

• CBRN capabilities will continue to be sought by jihadist groups.
While Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, remain the most active state sponsors of terrorism, many other states will be unable to prevent territory or resources from being exploited by terrorists.

Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to pinpoint.

• We judge that groups of all stripes will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train, and obtain logistical and financial support."


This seemed a good time for a classic study:

"Estimates and Influence " by Sherman Kent

Monday, September 25, 2006

Click the links for the full posts. Followed by a brief comment from me:

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett

"This analysis is typical intell stuff: obvious, useless, and playing into a do-nothing mind-set that here says, "Do nothing to piss off the terrorists!"

...The issue isn't our military involvement, which has been constant for decades now, but the everything else that we suck at: our diplomatic, economic and social engagement with the region. Criticizing our military in the region is perfectly fine, but most of that criticism (from me included) revolves around how poorly we do the everything else--not the mil stuff per se."

Colonel W. Patrick Lang

"Since the reforms of recent years, the CIA no longer runs this "show." It is among the many functions that CIA has lost to other parts of the government. The NIC now works for John Negroponte as the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). It appears that Negroponte is trying to let the NIC function as it should, in splendid isolation from the policy confirmation needs of whatever administration might currently be in power. It must be difficult. The neocons believe that they "know better" than the intelligence people, and that estimates should be written on the basis of the needs of an administration for propaganda support of policy. Negroponte evidently resisted that demand in this NIE. He has tried to publicly distance himself somewhat from the judgments of this NIE, but he let it be published. Congratulations Mr. Negroponte. Congratulations."

GroupIntel Blog

"First, I helped put together one or two NIEs and other NIC documents in my day but even without my insights it should strike everyone as fairly obvious that this assessment likely says a whole lot more than just this heavily flogged and hyped data point. If I had to guess I’d say you’re talking at least 15 pages of material that runs across a wide spectrum of terrorism-related issues, so either that’s 15 pages of variations on the “Iraq is the source of all our woes” theme or there is a certain element at work that would like you to believe that is true by leaving out what the other 14 pages says. I’ll let you guess which is more likely."

Dave Schuler

"I do wish that people would stop chiding us, the Administration, the President for not seizing on alternatives that we didn’t have. "

Counterterrorism Blog

" The claim in the NY report would echo judgments of some of our Contributing Experts, notably Evan Kohlmann as early in May 2005, that the Iraq war has been an "engine of international terrorism." But it's also true the NIEs have certainly included some major blunders. The 1997 NIE, the last one before the 9/11 attacks on global terrorism, mentioned bin Laden in only three sentences as a "terrorist financier" and didn't reference al-Qaeda at all. And of course, it was the October 2002 NIE which was a significant factor in the decision to use force against Iraq by famously asserting, "Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade."


"I was sitting in on a small conference with the intelligence community last year and a prominent member of the IC railed against the phrase 'connecting the dots'. He was frustrated with that analogy because the child's game the name comes from and intentionally implies has labelled dots to serialize actions. The IC, he argued, does not know what the end product will look like and isn't given instructions on which dots to connect. Instead, it must infer and figure it out. In the case of the insurgency in Iraq and global extremism, how could one not see the next step from each prior? Action--> Reaction"

I would like to repeat and perhaps, extend, a remark I made on this topic over at The Small Wars Council yesterday.

The great, seldom reported story, here is the unrelenting bureaucratic guerilla warfare being waged by senior career management in the IC, especially at the CIA, against the policies of the Bush administration. It's like nothing I have seen in my lifetime, including the Nixon administration.

This is not to say that the Bush administration appointees have always been right and their internal critics wrong or that the unwillingness of political appointees to entertain dissenting views didn't help fuel the scenario in the first place. That is a foolish and blind position to take. But from where I sit as an outsider to the process it would appear that the adversarial dynamic has long since taken on a life of its own - a dangerous one for the USG.

Nor are we getting an accurate view with this story [ Austin Bay points to this rebuttal by the White House; also by Negroponte ]. The contents onf the NIE were selectively leaked and, as with any NIE, some of the most interesting data points never made it into the document; either because the confidence level was not sufficiently high to merit inclusion or they were too controversial for the "consensus" approach. What was left on the cutting room floor ? And why ?

Furthermore, who composes this determined cadre of highly positioned, apparently untouchable, IC leakers and what are their motives ? To whom are they connected in the political world, if at all ?


Bush to order declassification of the NIE.

While it will be potentially amusing and enlightening to see the degree to which the IC insiders and the NYT were conducting an IO against the administration by the selective leaking and spinning of a classified document*, this is probably not the most responsible course of action that the President could take. Publication of so recent a vintage NIE gives too much meta-analytical insight into the current thinking of the IC. Not that I won't read it myself but if I can draw the appropriate conclusions so can others. Sometimes, being in power means sucking up a few the low blows on the merits and then retaliating politically elsewhere, in a more legitimate context, at a later date.

* be interesting to know if any emails whizzed between the NYT reporters and editors working on the NIE story prior to publication and various apparatchiks in the DNC, Capitol Hill and K Street.
Saturday, September 23, 2006

In the midst of a time of family celebration, Mrs. Zenpundit and I were hosting a sleepover involving the Firstborn of Zenpundit and a couple of other girls in the same early elementary range. From my fatherly perspective, it would seem that a girl's sleepover primarily involves two things:

a) The consumption of large quantities of processed simple sugars.

b) Squealing.

Lots and lots of squealing.

Yields a highly stimulating debate.
Thursday, September 21, 2006

Can't focus today...but other people did. LOL !

Purpleslog on King Arthur

The " Strategic Compression" Thread at The Small Wars Journal

Colonel Lang on the aesthetics of Neoclassic beauties

MCQ on the Hugo Chavez Effect.

Nick Carr pummels Clay Shirky about the face and head.

Lord Curzon on the humor of Terra Cotta

That's it !
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Critt Jarvis today had a profound post on the latest iteration of his start-up company, Conversationbase, LLC. that has, I strongly suspect, a general psychological validity:

"D’oh! It’s the network, stupid!

September 20th, 2006 by Critt Jarvis
Hmmm… Conversation Base… what am I trying to do here… content or social…

Wikipedia: Compare and contrast content network with social network.

Okay, the first clue is that the term “content network” doesn’t merit its own page on Wikipedia. But I read the entry for Content Delivery Network.

Content Delivery Network: a system of computers networked together across the Internet that cooperate transparently to deliver content (especially large media content) to end users.

Social network: A social network is a social structure made of nodes which are generally individuals or organizations.

What’s this mean to me ? A content delivery network wants the bits delivered, end to end; while a social network wants information delivered, end to end. Thus Conversation Base is in the business of enabling social networks, which organize around content.

Now I have to think about replacing “Content” with “Social” in my outline titles."

This is a very powerful combination in terms of brain physiology to link conceptual intellectual stimulation with adaptive social behaviors ( throw in audiovisual stimulus and you have a cognitive trifecta. Turbocharged "infocrack"...Myspace for MENSA...you get the idea). As a business model, you have a network that could possibly encourage emergent communities within or across disciplines.

Given the power of synthesis to be a dialectical engine of creativity as per John Boyd, my vote is to opt for the latter.

Dave at Thoughts Illustrated has a high-impact graphic you need to see.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

John Robb had a great post at Global Guerillas entitled "CATASTROPHIC BLACK SWANS". An excerpt:

"If we follow this trend line, the path in development is clear. First, over the next decade, the size of the group necessary for global warfare will continue to decrease and decentralize (through a near term shift to systems disruption and open source organizational forms). Second, we will eventually reach a point when the weaponry available to these groups will enable them to initiate a catastrophic black swan (an event that is impossible to predict). "

I would argue that the devolution is really toward the emergence of superempowered individuals, Ted Kaczynskis on steroids, who realize that their total anonymity and lack of prior activity or membership in known networks, renders them the best possible secret first-strike weapon.

On the other hand, there are factors that mitigate such risks. The number of individuals with the requisite intelligence, knowledge base of systems, resources and sufficient degree of alienation and task persistence to carry off a singlehanded 9/11 are relatively few. Moreover, the only way these potential superempowered individuals can be " activated" by al Qaida and retain their capacity for stealth, is by inspiration. This elevates the premium on IO, cyberpropaganda, symbolic terror operations and efforts by al Qaida to reach beyond their narrow popular base to non-Salafi or even non-Muslim demographic groups that might share al Qaida's anti-American strategic goals for their own reasons.

Gave a presentation today which I had to put together on relatively short notice, one of the numerous things putting a dent in my blogging time lately. It was also cutting ito my sleep time, leaving me feeling fatigued and flat when it came time to give the talk. It went over well enough, as far as the audience was concerned, but I definitely did not feel " in the groove" when I gave it. The next two weeks promises to be even more hectic.

Going to bat out a couple of short posts and then go offline for some "down time".
Sunday, September 17, 2006

I fear this post may be an example of public rumination on my part as I am simply reflecting on many inspirations: a recent conversation with a research neuropsychiatrist; reading Howard Gardner's Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century ; Dan of tdaxp's posts "Fingertip Feeling, and Other Implications of a Modular Mind", "Time, Orientation, Universalism, and Vocab: Notes from Chapter 2 of "Adapting Minds" by David J. Buller", "Social Teaching Strategies" and "Genetic and Experiential Individuality" ( the latter inspired by J.R. of Edgewise who asked Dan as well as myself via email about Rudiger Gamm).

Pondering these things is leading me in the direction of concluding that the public school system will only be successfully reformed if it is redesigned with the primary objective of producing autotelic learners. Such an outcome would certainly be beneficial for the students whose productive working life may stretch to America's tricentennial and who will have to demonstrate nimble cognitive adaptivity in order to prosper through waves of technological and societal changes.

Unfortunately, such an objective runs counter to:

a) the priorities of the American educational establishment who are deeply invested in the current institutional structure of public schools and universities, a highly regimented, 19th and early-mid 20th century, mass-system, hybrid.

b) the political and social goals of public education's harshest conservative critics, who while open to considering radical changes in institutional structure, are often inclined to authoritarian models of curricular instruction that actively deter the emergence of genuinely independent thought.

These are very broad generalizations. Exceptions exist of course.

Students today live at the onset of a radical globalization and violent countervailing forces amply detailed by Dr. Barnett in PNM and BFA. That however is not the entire longitudinal picture. Consider just these few fields of research:


Quantum Computing

Genetic Engineering


There are others, say Complexity, Network, String theories, Brain research and so on. The list can be increased or reduced but the point remains the same. Each of these fields are in a different stage of development but all have the potential to yield results with significant to highly significant society changing effects. And all are likely to intersect during the lifetime of today's kindergarten student. Thus, they face a near-future world that may- from the standpoint of society if not biology - have not just one but many potential points of "singularity". To say that these students will need to be resilient in the face of these changes is the acme of understatement.

What are we doing today to prepare these students ? Not all that much. NCLB, which is a stupidly blunt and economically wasteful instrument, has laudable goals of enforcing a national minimal standard of content richness, student skill mastery and teacher quality. It is about raising the floor a little, not about fixing the collapsing roof, broken wndows or decaying walls. Neurolearning research has, for some time, demonstrated evidence that the human brain has the quality of modularity but the educational system up to a least the undergraduate level continues, predominantly, to push instruction in a starkly linear fashion.

And American education will continue to do so, despite the best intentions of its teachers or political leaders or legislative mandates, because that is what it is structurally designed to do and can do nothing else.


Dan of tdaxp ponders the question further.
Saturday, September 16, 2006

Some chilling food for thought in the tradition of Herman Kahn. Calculating the outlier ripple effects of a nuclear blast at an American port city, a paper by RAND.

Hat tip to Jedburgh at The Small Wars Council.

Dr. Demarche alerted me via email about a drive to support Operation Gratitude for the troops overseas this holiday. This very worthy cause brings some cheer and creature comforts to those serving far from home and facing danger during the holidays. There are a number of ways to participate in this program and I encourage you to take a look. I know that I will be getting my workplace involved in this effort.

A Hat Tip to the good Doctor for this timely heads-up.
Friday, September 15, 2006

Trying to post short and sweet today.

Dr. Barnett has two interrelated posts up to which I would like to direct your attention:

"NCW/4GW false dichotomy"

"Only time will tell, but when you add up the signature Cebrowski/OFT items, like Streetfighter, Project Sheriff, Stiletto, etc., they do come off collectively as more SysAdmin than Leviathan, proving IMO my contention that it's a false dichotomy--this perceived choice between net-centric and fourth-generation warfare"

I agree. There is a lot of heat between advocates of NCW and 4GW, which in my view has a lot to do with interservice budget rivalries moreso than theoretical principles. Both schools of strategy draw from common Boydian roots but the USAF-Navy implementation of NCW uses hyperexpensive, high tech, platforms that often come at the expense of commonsense expenditures for the manpower needs of ground forces. Not that the Army brass is committed to 4GW, or even COIN, but you can't do either well ( or large scale Leviathan wars) with chronic shortages of troops.

"The tempting path of limited regret says SOF can do it all"

"Again, fine as a holding strategy, and yes, it plays to all the romantic images of SOF: they dress local, wear their hair longer, act like prima donnas in the chow line, etc. We love our badasses and we give them the toughest f--king jobs, but don't confuse that romantic, limited-regret approach with a long-term solution. It's a delaying action and nothing more. Do it too long and you're basically taking an "Escape from New York" approach to the region in question: containment yes, but no serious effort at integration. You're simply stabilizing in the traditional way of colonial powers throughout history.

I know that's counterintuitive. "Isn't it less colonialistic to go in with the small-footprint SOF, co-opt the local heavies, and then let them rule instead of trying to build something more 'modern' that will just generate resistance?"

The reason I have been a longtime reader of Dr. Barnett is that he is one of a very limited number of thinkers who knows the difference between means and ends and analyzes
scenarios throughout the entire scale. A rare quality.

More later today.
Thursday, September 14, 2006

Posting will be erratic for the next few weeks due to heavy professional and personal obligations - I will probably end up posting in bunches followed by some days without any activity. Normal blogging should resume 1, October.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Does anyone out there have a good explanation for the intellectual exhaustion that prevails in our national political class, Left and Right ?

Perusing the Republican National Committee website, the featured issues are tax cuts, tax reform, fiscal restraint (LOL!), expanded oil exploration and nuclear power, education accountability, faith-based initiatives, straddling the fence on immigration reform, Social Security reform and "strong" national security.

With the surprising exception of a section of "faith-based initiatives" that targets counseling prisoners, the official GOP agenda is approximately a quarter century old. Some of it, such as fiscal restraint, amounts to only a ritual nod ( or perhaps, in the case of the Bush administration, an inside joke at the expense of Bob Dole and Herbert Hoover). I liked and still admire Ronald Reagan, but he isn't on the ballot this year. Or in 2008. Guys, time to live our own history.

If the Republican vision is getting long in the tooth, then the Democratic Party has a platform ready for a decent burial. The Democratic National Committee is evidently marshalling it's forces to elect Harry Truman, as so much of their current agenda - with the glaring exception of his robust foreign and defense policies - was first said by him. I think if the Democrats used an inverse approach, they might sweep all three branches in 2008 ( Ok, ok, I'll be serious now).

The most modern aspect of the DNC website is a monomaniacal desire to sort all of us into assigned demographic P.C. castes, something that came of age in the 1970's. Not sure how they handle crossover cases - how do you count a "young" and now " disabled" "veteran" who is a "woman" and a "Native American" who is a member of a " union" as well as a " rural American" (WTF???) and a member of the "LG & T community". Jesus H. Christ - maybe she just needs some better job creation policies ? Or decent schools in her neighborhood ?

All sarcasm aside, I see a tremendous cognitive disconnect here by both parties from the emerging conditions of the globalized world and the concerns of those Americans who, while educated and intelligent, have disassociated themselves from politics in a way that bewilders blogospheric hyperpartisans. Alvin Toffler once predicted the coming of a Future Shock. Recently, John Robb linked to a futurist, William Gibson, who argued that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift, the understanding of which eludes the decision makers.

As most of the "key" people in government subcabinet and cabinet positions ( and their partisan Democratic "shadows") are within a stone's throw of fifty to over seventy in the case of Donald Rumsfeld ( of whom it must be said, at least came in to office reconsidering the entire status quo), I think that's a valid argument in terms of aggregate mean perceptions.

Should the major parties fail to generate some new, creative and relevant ideas in a short time horizon - something that is not likely to happen in my view - it means that 2008 is wide open for somebody "outside" the system who can bring both vision and financial wherewithal to the table as an independent candidate. And of the two, the former is far more important because via the internet the vision will attract the financial muscle.

The bipartisan system was lucky in 1992 in that H. Ross Perot did not actually want the job of being president and had little that was substantive to say beyond reducing the budget deficit. He was a flaky, billionaire, protest candidate who was interested mainly selling an old value of republican ( small "r") civic virtue and stirring up the masses. Perot's success was but brief.

A true visionary though, one who epitomizes the spirit of the times and moves like one who is three steps ahead, will hit the system like a tsunami.
Monday, September 11, 2006

Today is not the day to make partisan points.

My condolences to all those who lost loved ones or suffered injuries on 9/11 and bled for their country in the mountains of the Hindu Kush and the heat-seared roads of Iraq. The nation has not yet risen to the occasion of your sacrifice but it is fitting and proper that we at least acknowledge our debt.

"We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow..."
- John McCrae

Bruce Kesler -" 9/11, For Our Children"

Don Surber - "9/11/06 "

Steven Den Beste -"The Disunited States of America"

Sean Meade-"In memoriam: September 11th, 2001"

Mary Madigan -" Never forget"

Steve DeAngelis -"Remembering 9/11"


James R. Rummel - "Five Years On"

Dan Drezner -" 9/11 -- five years on"

Marc Schulman - " Remembrances of Things Past "

Thomas P.M. Barnett -" Five years in, remembering why we'll win "

Peter Howard - "Five Years Later... "

Chirol -"The Tragedy on 9/9"

The Belmont Club -"The shadow of our hand "

Dave Schuler -" Five years after: what if?"

Grim's Hall - "When Peace Comes"

More to come as appropriate.
Friday, September 08, 2006

To Eddie of Live From the FDNF, for the fine reading material he has sent me via email, despite being on liberty in one of the more pleasant destinations in Southeast Asia. Much obliged my friend !

To Marc Schulman of American Future for putting a scholarly eye to the record of The New York Times in his commemorative 9/11+5 series Part I. and Part II. Well done !

The Ralph Peters op-ed has sparked a much more interesting discussion of strategy, Pentagon policy and Iraq at the Small Wars Council than is contained in the original article. Nice work, guys !
Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Bush administration is pushing through a much needed reform of overseas personnel assignments in the State Department that prioritizes national security over careerism, PC gender/multiculturalism concerns and "office politics" connections that dominated the previous selections process:

"The State Department has begun the first major overhaul of its assignment system in decades, making it more difficult for U.S. diplomats to avoid serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other dangerous posts that the Bush administration views as crucial in the war on terrorism.Senior department officials said that no jobs will be available for bidding by Foreign Service officers until all open positions in the critical posts have been filled. They also said that they would resort to "directed assignments" if the new scheme fails to achieve the desired results."We are going to start filling the toughest posts first," one senior official said. "We are still doing this on a voluntary basis, but, obviously, if we ever have to go to directed assignments, we will, because the bottom line is, you have to get your best, most talented people in the hardest and most important positions." Another official said that the best way for Foreign Service officers to ensure they have another job when their current assignment ends will be to opt for Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan and other hardship posts in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia..."

I wish to emphasize that I have great respect for FSO's. The risks that many of them face, sometimes operating in dangerous and fluid situations, are often unknown to the public and usually are forgotten by Congress. More of their unvarnished observations should make it up the food chain to key decision -makers than actually survive, in watered down form, armored by caveats into a state of meaninglessness. The State Department historically, for its many faults, does not receive the appropriations it actually needs to do it's job properly, invest in its personnel or carry out long-term strategic planning. Our career diplomatic personnel, particularly those who land difficult field assignments, need more support and fewer constraints from Washington.

That being said, our national security priorities must drive State Department policies, not the reverse. If you are in the Foreign Service and the idea of serving in Iraq is too much for you because of the danger or because you fundamentally disagree with the Bush administration's entire Mideast policy, then now is the time to look for another line of work. Presidents will come and go and policies will change, but any given president must be able to allocate diplomatic resources to critical foreign policy hot spots on an as-needed basis.

A more engaged diplomatic corps may mean less need to use the Marine Corps.

Hat tip to Dave and The Small Wars Council
Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Steve DeAngelis of ERMB ( and a newly minted Visiting Scientist at the prestigious Oak Ridge National Laboratory -congrats Steve!) is commenting with greater directness these days on military , intelligence and foreign policy questions. This a welcome development and no doubt a result of Steve's collaboration with Dr. Barnett and recent ventures by Enterra to connect with the IC.

Yesterday, Steve took a look at the new National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism released by the Bush administration, and offered a cogent analysis:

"The new strategy notes that the war on terrorism is about both arms and ideas. "Arms and ideas," however, provide too narrow a focus for countering this very complicated challenge, a point the document actually makes.

...What struck me most about this long-term strategy is how closely it parallels what I have been promoting for our Development-in-a-Box approach. First, it talks about establishing international standards and best practices, which is exactly what makes Development-in-a-Box different than past approaches. Second, the strategy talks about needing a new architecture for dealing with this problem. Enterra Solutions is working with a number of groups to help them develop a Resilient Technology Architecture to help meet this need. Finally, the strategy stresses the need for establishing a community of practice, an approach I have indicated is critical in the development world as well. The President is simply encouraging the establishment of one of many such communities that need to be created. We all know that drafting a strategy doesn't necessarily mean that it will be implemented properly. The basic approach for long-term success is promising. Let's hope it survives a change in administrations."

Steve elucidated the DiB principles at greater length in a prior post, "Wiring Rwanda to the World":

"1. Start with security. When Kagame seized control of Rwanda, he tried to establish a coalition Tutsi/Hutu government that would make all citizens feel more secure. Were a civil war still raging in Rwanda, Wyler’s venture would never have gotten off the ground.

2. Use accepted standards and best practices when establishing infrastructure. Wyler transplanted technologies and standards used in the U.S. to ensure that once his system was in place it would work properly.

3. Create a customer base. Wyler tries to make every customer a sales person for his services. By selling cheap Internet access in small increments, Terracom has hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of potential customers. Wyler also showed others how they could be entrepreneurs themselves by selling Terracom products.

4. Establish a community of practice. By starting with schools, institutions, and small businesses as well as working with the government, Wyler concentrated on building a community of practice that could help him succeed in his venture. They became virtual owners of the project, because their future success in some measure would be determined by Wyler’s success.

5. Seek alignment among all players. When Wyler found it difficult dealing with the government-owned monopoly, he bought it. When that avenue is unavailable (which it rarely is), a way must be found to align government and business policies so that unnecessary conflicts don’t stymie progress. Wyler didn’t enter the Rwanda market out of altruism. He expects to make money. The government understands that profitable companies pay better wages, pay more taxes, invest more in their infrastructure, etc. The goals of one enterprise (though different than the goals of the other) are different but complementary. Complementary strategies among players can generally be found and they should be a priority. "

A few brief remarks by me; I will analyze the strategy paper itself in a separate post and will limit myself here to the intersection of DiB and implementation of the counter terror strategy:

DiB point # 3, " Create a customer base" is on par in terms of counterterrorism with providing security. It is simply that important and has been the area of greatest American weakness. The efforts and developing a culturally attuned, linguistically competent, intellectually creative, strategic influence policy aimed at isolating Salafist-Jihadi extremists from their co-religionists have been insufficient.

Part of the problem is the need for an unavoidably time-consuming build-up in personnel with the requisite cultural intelligence and linguistic skill-sets to do the variety of tasks - analysis, interrogation, translation, operational planning, information operations - that need to be done. At best, it is an 8-10 year investment but our current deficits can be remediated to a degree by point # 4.

Moving the IC and military out of the highly compartmentalized, vertical thinking, Cold War era, view of internal security uber alles and toward building a counterterrorism Community of Practice is vital. A community that embraces expertise outside of the insular and narrow confines of beltway bureaucracy and integrates private sector, academic and where appropriate, foreign talent to vastly accelerate the cycle of innovation and knowledge dispersal. Greater horizontality in thinking, greater interconnected modularity in community structure.

In turn, this morphs into Steve's fifth point of seeking alignment. I would go a step further - the broad private-public community of practice should be "aligned"; the public IC-diplo elements should leapfrog beyond alignment to begin building "jointness" in their activities the way the military began to do in the early-mid 1980's. A system administration force for counterterrorism where synergy of action, not bureaucratic chart reorgs, is the objective.

DiB principles can be directed as usefully at our own bureaucratic systems as societies languishing in the Gap.


tdaxp -"Like CPUs and Operating Systems, Countries Matters

Dr. Barnett "Jaffe profiles Abizaid and his definition of SysAdmin as the tool to win the Long War"

Conversation Base Blog "Systems approach on a global scale: Military-Market Nexus"

Homeland Security Watch -"DHS issues final rule for handling private-sector CI information"


The Long Shadow of Richard Nixon: Foreign Affairs

When I was an undergraduate, one of my professors, who was a political historian and an avowed liberal Democrat, said that he expected that if Richard Nixon lived long enough, America would see his final comeback as Secretary of State. Well, Nixon did not live quite that long, but he did survive to become the elder statesman of American foreign policy receiving warm receptions in such surprising quarters as the Clinton White House. Far warmer and more public a reception than Nixon had received under Clinton's Republican predecessors.

Richard Nixon, by virtue of the Watergate conspiracy that forced his unprecedented resignation from the Presidency of the United States, ranks near the bottom of presidents in annual polls of American historians. Yet despite this grand debacle, Nixon's accomplishments as president and politician dwarf all but but those of our most respected chief executives. Richard Nixon stood for a hardheaded brand of realism in foreign policy, a pursuit of American interests executed with an almost Machiavellian level of intrigue, directed as much against his own subordinates or the Congress as at America's adversaries.

Most presidents, being politicians previously interested in domestic policy, come to learn about foreign affairs "on the job" and usually leave office with a different perception of foreign affairs and the exercise of American power than the one with which they were elected. "Doves" like Jimmy Carter grew more "hawkish" under the weight of constant crisis and Cold War "hardliners" like Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan all sought peace agreements with " the Evil Empire". Experience tempers preconceptions and ideology through hard lessons.

Nixon is one of the few exceptions who came in to the presidency ready not to learn about foreign afffairs, but to teach.

From his earliest days as a congressman, Nixon thought deeply about foreign policy questions and actively tried to burnish his credentials on international affairs at every step of his career, cultivating foreign statesmen and willing Establishment figures with whom Nixon otherwise had serious political disagreements, like Thomas Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger. In contrast, Nixon appeared at times to think most of his natural allies on the anti-Communist right, with the exception of Robert Taft, were only little better than fools (in some instances, such as his unsavory colleagues at HUAC or the hapless William Knowland, Nixon was right).

Despite Nixon's strenuous efforts to court the GOP wing of the Establishment that viewed him with disdain, and to keep the loyalty of a conservative wing that increasingly harbored suspicions, Nixon might never have been elected president were it not for the Vietnam War. It was this strategic disaster by the Kennedy-Johnson administrations that ressurrected Nixon from the political grave and divided the majority party sufficiently that a basically unpopular man from a minority party could win in 1968. LBJ, with an assist from the stridently belligerent racism of George Wallace, had managed to make even Richard Nixon look like the candidate of hope.

Nixon's particular genius was to enter office aware not that American foreign policy needed to change but the world had changed and that this shift was transcendant in its importance. Nixon perceived the twilight of bipolarity not as something to be resisted but as an opportunity to be seized and Nixon seized it with a surprising ruthlessness. Nixon penned a critical article in Foreign Affairs in 1967, "Asia after Vietnam" where he obliquely indicated that America's strategic future was not in Europe, or Saigon but north of Hanoi. And Nixon pursued this vision with zeal and daring.

It is sometimes argued, that Nixon's opening to China is an overrated diplomatic event, that restoration of ties between the United States and China were an eventual certainty. These critics lose sight of the fact there is a qualitative difference in diplomatic relations with China today because a powerful United States took the initiative to reach out to a weak and vulnerable China instead of waiting until the day when China itself had grown too powerful to ignore.
Nixon's farsighted acceptance of a distant but emergent multipolarity created a triangulation with an expansionist USSR that created "room" for other centers of power to grow alongside the United States but in opposition to Soviet hegemony. The longitudinal " correlation of forces", to use Communist parlance of the time, that had favored the Soviets for a quarter century, had been at a stroke, reversed.

Richard Nixon was never much of an economist, it was a subject off of his radar screen and he leaned heavily on George Schultz, John Connally and others, but it was Nixon who helped set the geopolitical table for globalization to happen sooner rather than later.

Next, Part IV - Watergate and the Legacy of Richard Nixon
Monday, September 04, 2006

A mix of blogospheric hits...as I see it.

From Bruce Kesler at Democracy Project -" 9/11 is Democracy Day (NY Daily News)" which highlighted the op-ed "Make 9/11 a national holiday? Yes " by Dr. Philip Napoli.

James McCormick at Chicago Boyz - "VD Hanson -- A War Like No Other". I was also the recipient of kind words from Lexington Green who is patiently waiting for me to finish my Nixon piece.

A dour assessment about Iraq by Colonel W. Patrick Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis. Lang also has another post that indicates evidence of John Robb's hypothesis of Iraq's "granular" intra-sectarian disintegration.

Marc Schulman at American Future on the transnational progressive attack on the ancient right of self-defense ( and one completely bizarre in terms of reasoning as trans-progs casually invoke natural law theory when it suits their agenda to do so).

That's it.
Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Bush administration, in a clear diplomatic signal, granted a last minute visa to former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami to attend not only a session of the UN, but the conference of the Islamic Society of North America in Chicago, where he delivered the keynote address ( conveniently, the Undersecretary of Defense was also in town). Khatami has also been invited to speak at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and at Harvard University.

This was a win-win diplomatic move by the Bush administration. At one stroke, the opportunity for quiet, frank, unofficial but very high level dialogue was created; Khatami was given prominent public forums to insulate himself from hardline criticism at home when he returns with American messages; Some wind is taken out of Ahmadinejad's sails by the deference shown to his predecessor; Critics of the Bush administration at home and in Europe are also disarmed by the gesture which doesn't fit their political script, strengthening the U.S. position before the UNSC has to discuss sanctioning Iran for illegal nuclear activities.

Not sure who engineered this move, but they deserve a pat on the back.
Saturday, September 02, 2006

Adam Garfinkle writing at FPRI. argues that the worldviews created by different cultural precepts than our own can fatally undermine the logic on which our nuclear deterrence doctrine is based:

"...U.S. and Soviet caution in strategic relations stemmed from a fact we still tend to take for granted: Both leaderships actually cared about the well-being of those they ruled, even if in the Soviet case the population’s production capability rather than human value was uppermost. But we saw repeated demonstrations of mass murder inside Iraq by the Sunni ruling elite against Kurds and the majority Shiite population during Baath rule, without regard for the injury done the state, and it is not unreasonable to wonder whether the fragility of the civil bond between rulers and ruled in multiethnic and highly stratified Middle Eastern societies weakens significantly the fundamental social basis of deterrence."

Worldviews are exceptionally powerful filters for perception and the integration of information. Much of the debate about problems in the intelligence community in the run-up to Iraq revolved around questions of "groupthink" and " stovepiping" and that was an intra-societal question where everyone held the same overarching worldview as Americans, if not the exact same worldview as individuals. Inter-societal questions are far more problematic than the former kind.

The Russians may have been ( to quote a former Soviet MoD official active at the time) "shitting in their pants" during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but that did not mean that Soviet leaders entertained the same concepts regarding nuclear deterrence as did Robert McNamara. The subsequent, "heavy" throw-weight ICBM nuclear build-up that was maniacally pursued by Brezhnev, indicates the USSR did not. "They" or " the other" does not think like you do, nor could they reasonably be expected to do so, even if "they" are receiving perfectly accurate and timely information about our moves from unbiased sources. Which, of course, "they" are not (and neither are we, for that matter. An important point that frequently gets forgotten).

Which, to put it mildly, undermines some of the deterrence assumptions drawn from decision models like game theory.


Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye has related post - "Why is Iran pursuing an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle?"
Friday, September 01, 2006

Warming up in my reading "bullpen" to be read as soon as I finish the Evans book:

Global Brain by Howard Bloom ( read a review by Dan of tdaxp )

Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century by Howard Gardner

Hmmm..looks like this is my " Howard" edition post. Nothing by Howard Stern or Howard Rhinegold today...but I'm sure they'll have something out soon.

Jeff Medcalf at Caerdroia has added his own take to the discussion on abolishing the CIA that was initiated by Dave. An excerpt:

"The entire structure of our intelligence agencies — military and civilian, agency- (CIA, FBI) or department- (State, Defense) based — is structured to prevent an enemy from acquiring the capability, and acting on the intent, of using their military to attack an unprepared United States. At that function, our intelligence agencies are supremely good, probably unmatched except by the British and possibly the Israelis.

But our intelligence agencies are unable, due to the very structure that makes them good at preventing a Pearl Harbor repeat (think 9/11 with bombers instead of terrorists), from institutionally understanding non-state actors the way they can understand states. And since that is structural, nothing short of structural reform will fix it: Dave is absolutely correct there. But I do agree with Mark, also: we don't want this to be a purely military function.

What I would suggest as an organizational model is a broadly-distributed network with minimal bottlenecks and control nodes. There should be small agencies geared to particular methods of intelligence gathering (electronic intercept, covert spying, reading the newspapers of the world, etc) or particular types of information (military construction, equipment design, agricultural output, talking points in negotiations, etc). These agencies should feed the information and the source of the information into a single agency whose job it is to evaluate the intelligence's credibility based on past experience with that source or method rather than on how "believable" the intelligence is, and to sanitize the information to include the evaluation of reliability, but remove any information that would identify the source or method used. This evaluated information could then be used by analysis cells attached to every policy decision maker, as well as feeding into certain field operations (most notably, the military). Organizations with particular needs (battlefield and theater intelligence for the military, political intelligence for an embassy) would retain the ability to gather intelligence themselves, and use it directly, while also feeding it into the evaluation agency for the rest of the government to use. "

I would add the suggestion that an analytical unit dedicated to the alternate methodology of scenario forecasting, which could be housed in the NIC, would be a useful addition. In particular, for problems in which there rests a high level of uncertainty. Another one, would be to build more thorough metacognitive practices into the analytical process, as suggested in this substantive, yet very readable, CIA monograph:

The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis


Art Hutchinson of Mapping Strategy stopped by to offer a clarification in the comments section. As Art is a nationally known consultant on strategic thinking, I thought it would be useful to highlight his remarks here:

"Scenarios and forecasts are fundamentally different animals, though they share the quality of being subject to rather easy manipulation by those responsible for architecting the process. The one (scenarios) imagines possible futures, some of which may be well outside the realm of what one might call a "forecast" for the purposes of getting groups to think outside a conventional frame. The other (forecasts) are IMHO useful in the current geopolitical context only to the extent that they incorporate dynamic, highly distributed opinion-forming mechanisms (of which highly distributed sources are a necessary but insufficient component)... which brings the whole thing back 'round to prediction markets - those clever devices that Tradesports is using to precisely forecast things like presidential elections better than polls or pundits, but which died an ugly death in the public square with the tarring and feathering of Adm. Poindexter and the Policy Analysis Market 3 years ago.

Net/net: Yes, the CIA could benefit from both interactive scenario-based thinking processes and prediction markets. They will not benefit if they seek simply to divine a single "most probable" future scenario. Once birthed, those behemoths tend to live on for decades in big institutions and reduce rather than facilitate the clear synthesis of unexpected data."

Thanks Art !
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