Thursday, November 30, 2006

Here's something interesting I just read; and it is bound to fluster some of my more ideological readers, be they right or left.

Nonpartisan, the guiding spirit at Progressive Historians, which Cliopatria's avuncular Dr. Ralph Luker called " A sort of Daily Kos for the historical set" has posted a ringing defense of Woodrow Wilson and Wilsonianism from a progressive perspective:

"Woodrow Wilson to historians: Stop lying about my record! "

"That's it. I'm sick and tired of people unfairly maligning Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy. I'm tired of people like John Lewis Gaddis calling Wilson's foreign policy "Fukuyama plus force." (That's the same Francis Fukuyama, if you didn't know, who declared American hegemony the beneficent and permanent result of "The End of History.) And I'm particularly fed up with people like Tufts professor Tony Smith calling Bush's imperialism Wilsonian:

The repeated assertions by President George W. Bush since 2002 that the national security of the United States depends on the spread of democratic government to the Middle East qualifies to make the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 a Wilsonian undertaking.
Woodrow Wilson was NOT a neocon (though his predecessor and sometime opponent, Theodore Roosevelt, was). He was not an imperialist. The differences are subtle but critical; they have to do with how Wilson viewed America and now the neocons view it. And some people could stand to get a clue.

....Wilson's America, the one I believe in, was exceptional and unique, but not because the American race or country deserved to be supreme. Rather, America was a vehicle for one of the greatest ideas in the history of the world: democracy. America was beautiful, but democracy was sublime. America only mattered, in Wilson's view, insofar as it could assist in the spread of democracy to the world.
This may sound like a neocon position, but it isn't. Neocons switch the two priorities and declare America the supreme goal of the world, with democracy as its mechanism. The result is the narrowest kind of nationalism, blind support of American supremacy at whatever cost. This can include toppling popularly elected regimes like that of Hugo Chavez because they subvert American ends. Or banning the crack trade and thus putting the desires of American social conservatives over the need for Colombia's elected government to defund murderous Marxist rebels. Or supporting an unelected dictator like Pervez Musharraf because he abets American hegemony. Or pulling out of international treaties like Kyoto and the International Criminal Court because they try to treat Americans equally. Or -- most notably of all -- de-funding the UN because we disagree with its priorities.

When Wilson wanted to bring America into the League of Nations in 1919, it was the paleocons like Henry Cabot Lodge who brought down the idea and the President. Sure, nutty isolationists like Hiram Johnson and William Borah were its most vocal critics; but it was Lodge and his confreres who shot down the League of Nations, the bilateral security treaty with France, and the International Criminal Court -- all because of a desire for worldwide American hegemony -- and then lamely signed a no-more-war treaty with France (yeah, that big enemy of ours) nine years later

Read Nonpartisan's post in full.

Provocative and debatable.

Theodore Roosevelt, of whom I am a qualified admirer, was a nationalist and at times an imperialist but he would not have been a neoconservative, despite Bill Kristol's affinity for "national greatness conservatism". T.R. was very much a progressive at home, at times moreso than was Wilson, particularly on racial questions, an issue that carried over into foreign affairs with Japan and China. While Roosevelt was a gung-ho militarist, he strived to prevent a general war from breaking out amongst the great powers in his diplomatic efforts and in doing so, tilted against the interests of autocratic states like Imperial Germany and Tsarist Russia. States, T.R. correctly perceived as potential threatening to peace and unadmirable in their political systems. Roosevelt was, far and away, a more effective diplomat than was Wilson, though Wilson's visionary ideas of national self-determination, democracy promotion and a League of Nations made the greater longitudinal impact on the world stage.

Given Wilson's record in Mexico, I find the idea of Wilson chumming up to Hugo Chavez a stretch. If anything, it would be Chavez and Pancho Villa who would be knocking back tequilas together if the latter were alive today. On the other hand, I think Nonpartisan is right on Wilson's motivations regarding democracy and America's role in world affairs. Wilson was an intellectual and approached the world through a prism of abstractions.

While I understand Nonpartisan's partisan motivation in casting out the neocons as apostates in the Wilsonian Church, and his description fits for some of them, it doesn't fit for all of them. For those neoconservatives for whom the intent to plant democracy in Iraq was sincere, that idea is firmly in the Wisonian tradition of teaching South American republics to " elect a few good men".

Reader thoughts ?
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A great post by the Drs. Eide at their Neurolearning Blog, entitled "Priming the Pump - Optimizing Science Learning Through Analogy"

Analogies and metaphors are powerful tools for crystalling moments of insight and stimulating horizontal thinking. Why this is the case exactly science is only beginning to understand, as in the MRI study cited by the Eides but I'd posit that successful analogies work toward maximizing the brain's natural structural-cognitive modularity (in other words, if understood, analogies are efficient connectors of brain regions and maximizers of utility).

The Eides explained:

"When researchers studed how top molecular biology labs conducted their research, they found that causal reasoning re: unexpected findings was driving much of the reasoning and analogical reasoning was used for hypothesis and explanations. When the process of analogical reasoning was studied, there appeared to be a two-part process - first, there had to be multiple potential areas for overlap, second there had to be a decision to integrate or select the best fit between the two.

The presentation goes onto compare museum exhibit learning experiences, and makes a persuasive case for successful exhibits having multiple conceptual binding points - like "things to notice", "vocabulary necessary to discuss it", "pictures that relate it to real world phenomena", "questions that lead them to notice salient aspects of the exhibit."

Analogical reasoning can appear as early as the kindergarten or early elementary school years, but Dunbar's work reminded us that in order to be successful, the pump needs to be primed. Everyone comes with different experiences, familiarity, and observational skills - if we want students to really learn analogical reasoning and not simply memorize the right answers, then education and experience "in steps" might be in order first."

This would not apply merely to students but to any situation where learning or problem-solving is a required skill-set. One link in the post at the Eide Neurolearning Blog related to negotiation in applying analogies and using strategies in a fluid manner. Analogies could also aid collaborative groups in moving past conceptual stumbling blocks and re-energize their creativity.

Prime your pump !
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Smithsonian Magazine is always an excellent read. It doesn't get much play in the blogosphere because the contents are usually as eclectic as the Smithsonian itself and are not as partisan as the usual online suspects that bloggers love to quote or fisk. But it came in the mail today and the article " Presence of Mind: Man of the Century" on the 100th anniversary of The Education of Henry Adams immediately caught my eye.

Henry Adams 1838 -1918

Many readers of this blog have already read this classic work (or, if in college or grad school, it is probably on the bookpile) which is notable for its depth of introspectively minded, societal and historical commentary by a man who today would be called a" public intellectual" though Adams no doubt would have eschewed such a term. Henry Adams had a discerning eye in part, as the author Peter Hellman relates, because like his brother and fellow historian Brooks Adams, Henry Adams was a man out of his time:

"And even as the information age sweeps the world, Adams' book remains a compelling self-portrait of a man trying to keep his feet as the ground shifts around him.

Henry Brooks Adams' great-grandfather, John Adams, was the second president of the United States; his grandfather, John Quincy Adams, was the sixth; his father, Charles Francis Adams, was a congressman and U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Civil War. Education, which Adams wrote in the third person, begins its chronological march with the author's privileged birth on Mount Vernon Street in Boston on February 16, 1838. But it also notes his feeling that his lineage conferred no head start "in the races of the coming century."
But as the 20th century approached, Adams worried that, by inclination and education, he was better equipped to be a mid-19th-century man. Among his concerns were the 1905 Russo-Japanese War over Manchuria, rioting against the czar in St. Petersburg and whether Germany would align itself with Russia or Western Europe.

Wondrous, but still worrisome, were such new sources of energy as radio waves and radium (though his narrative goes through 1905, he does not mention Einstein's publication that year of the theory of relativity). He was not religious, but technology made him devout. He pondered the "great hall of dynamos" at the Paris exhibition of 1900, where he felt the mighty machinery "as a moral force, much as the early Christians felt the Cross."

The earth itself, he writes, "seemed less impressive, in its old-fashioned, deliberate, annual or daily revolution, than this huge wheel, revolving within arms-length at some vertiginous speed and barely murmuring—scarcely humming an audible warning to stand a hair's breadth further for respect of power—while it would not wake the baby lying against its frame. Before the end, one began to pray to it; inherited instinct taught the natural expression of man before silent and infinite force."

Adams had the self-awareness to sense his alienation with the major trends of his age, a quality that is lacking in most people who are disconnected from the flow of events. Adams, unlike his famous forbears, never sought high office though he was in the circle of those who did, including Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred T. Mahan and Theodore Roosevelt, early partisans of of America as a world power. Unlike Adams, they were ahead of the curve on the approaching spirit of the times that would later be called " the American Century".

If only some our politicians, statesmen and foreign policy elite had some of Adams' self-reflective humility today. Reading Foreign Affairs is often a depressing sojurn into the expositions of men who are anachronisms before their time, left behind by globalization and war in the prime of their careers and yet are unwilling to recognize that their comfortable old ideas provide few solutions to new problems. Dr. Barnett wrote the other day about the limitations of Scowcroft-think realism which was fitted to handle the delicate balance of nuclear terror in a bipolar Cold War but not messy 4GW insurgencies:

"The real problem with Rice is that she came from the Brent Scowcroft school of realism and national security advising. After Iran-Contra, the Brent Scowcroft school of national security advising came into vogue: the national security adviser and the NSC staff became super-apolitical. Instead of being the government-wide advocator of national security policy and an active player in its own right, the NSC and its boss became foreign policy super-clerk to the president, the main job being protecting POTUS's ass from any blame.

This is essentially the Scowcroft model, and it reflected his realist take on things: no advocacy and no idealism from the NSC. It doesn't lead, it merely coordinates.

That became the preferred mode post-Iran-Contra, and it survived the Bush 41 administration nicely, segueing into the emasculated NSC of the Clinton years, when the NEC (national economic council) was actually more powerful because Rubin at Treasury topped any of the unmemorables at Defense.

When Rice came in with George, the NSC embraced the Scowcroft "we're-just-here-on-background" model. The staff I interacted with were all the same. I called them the "Joe Fridays." They'd come, they'd take notes, and that was it. They had no ideology to speak of. They were responsible for nothing. They just coordinated.

We won in Iraq--the war, that is.

What we continue to lose in Iraq in the peace. That loss occurs primarily because we're under-allied and under-coordinated interagency-wise. You place that blame on State and NSC. Rice ran NSC through the disastrous "lost year" following the invasion's successful conclusion (when Saddam's regime fell). Rice has been in charge of State for the last two years, during which our under-allied approach has proven quite isolating for us and quite invigorating for the insurgency and now sectarian warriors. "

The foreign policy elite that includes Rice, Scowcroft, Kissinger, Albright, Christopher, Holbrooke, Berger ad infinitum are upstanding, patriotic, deeply serious, often intelligent but at times, seem no more ready to tackle the realities of the 21st century than did Henry Adams at the close of the 19th. Not enough attention is being paid to fundamental shifts in military and economic power devolving downward from the hands of the state. Hamstrung by their own mistakes in Iraq, the Bush administration has regressed toward paralysis. The Democrats offer no alternatives except the non-solution of unilateral withdrawal. The refusal to make any strategic choices that might allow the U.S. to regain the initiative has set in, rejected in favor of papering over problems and muddling through, the default stance of the foreign policy elite since the Vietnam War.

We are being ruled by twentieth century men.


Actually, it is just a calm, explanatory, rebuttal...but I liked the title. :o)

Steve DeAngelis responds in part of a post on Web 2.0 to criticism levelled by John Robb that ResilienceNet was a " Byzantine" solution. The key excerpt from Steve's post:

"Since the Esquire article about me appeared and the Institute for Advanced Technologies in Global Resilience (IATGR) was introduced to the world, there have been a number of posts made about whether the kinds of solutions we hope to work on will actually work. John Robb, for example, believes that things like ResilienceNet are Byzantine because they seek a centralized solution to a myriad of problems. Robb writes:

'I contend that within exceedingly complex environments, the only true way to approach resilience is through decentralized processes. If you don't approach the problem from this perspective (a philosophy of system design), the complexity overwhelms you and you fall into a cycle of rapidly diminishing returns.'

Robb is correct that our approach is to connect valuable information from varied sources and automatically analyze it using Oak Ridge super computers, providing the results of that analysis to those who with a need to know. He fails to recognize, however, that the system is taking advantage of decentralized processes to generate value added rather than trying to create a super system that stands on its own. Others are concerned that those super computers offer a single point of failure for such a system. Ultimately, I see the system using the power of grid computing to overcome this vulnerability. In much the same way, Web 2.0 is using mash-ups, our approach to security will present information in a much more meaningful and timely manner to those who must respond to prevent, mitigate, or recover from adverse events. In other words, what looks like centralized system is much more likely to be decentralized and distributed in ways that even Robb would agree were resilient. The entire conversation is worth following on Robb's blog. Another blog worth reading on the subject is
Shawn Beilfuss' post on The Age of Resilience. "

I agree with Steve that the quality of discussion in Robb's thread was exceptional. An interesting aspect was that all of the participants could be classified as proponents of engineering resilience into systems by technical design and political policy but clashed over what would constitute the ideal premise (or " philosophy") for building resilience.

I am currently multitasking; more thoughts later in an update.


"scalefree" posted the following in the thread at John's site:

"The way you build in strong & resilient structures is by taking the math of resilience into account. The math of resilience is the math of networks, which says (very very simplified) that when you want to make a system strong & resilient, you distribute, decentralize & make redundant its structures. If you want to do it properly you use some specific algorithms to figure out how it should be decentralized, but that's the basic idea. "

True enough. Mapping out a network or analyzing an existing one is a mathematical process and the structure of the network establishes functional parameters. On the other hand, how many dimensions are there to the concept of resilience in play here ?

How a network may be used by external actors is not always a variable that may be anticipated. The internet is a case in point. The cultural evolution of message texting as related in Rheingold's Smartmobs is another. The mathematical arguments hold true within the network itself but not always extrinsic to it. I'm not sure the two - user and network - can be cleanly separated or controlled by algorithmic logic.

I'm open to thoughts here from the math-science whiz crowd....
Sunday, November 26, 2006

HNN has a great review of the history of Small Wars thought by Larry Kahaner, author of AK-47:The Weapon that Changed The Face of War. An excerpt that will sound a familiar refrain to many readers:

"The other, and much bigger obstacle to winning small wars, brings a moral dilemma. According to Callwell, to win small wars, mere victory isn’t enough, the enemy must be thoroughly and utterly destroyed to the last man, woman, and child – which means enormous civilian casualties. For citizens of most modern democracies, this is an unacceptable stance. The level of violence and barbarism it would take to beat an insurgent force -- torture, wholesale executions, leveling of towns -- is a place where most democracies refuse to go. This keeps victory out of reach.

....If Callwell got military scholars to think more clearly about small wars, a group of Marine Corps officers in the 1930s took it to the next level with production of the Small Wars Manual based on US experiences in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. While building on Callwell’s work, this landmark book published in 1940, points to what some say is one of the most important aspects of winning small wars - understanding the role of indigenous religion, ideology and tribal relationships. The manual not only talks about the military aspects of winning small wars – and yes, they can be brutal - but of more importance is a deep understanding of a society’s language, culture, religion, history, economic structures and mores. The manual is a hot seller from a much-clicked website, The Small Wars Center of Excellence, run by the Marine Corps, which advocates the use of simpler weapons and more complex soldiers in small wars – the opposite of current conventional wisdom. This is not the only take-away message from the manual, but it is a vital one."

Read the whole thing here.

Quiet day so far in the blogosphere...

Howard Rheingold at Cooperation Commons - "Wikinomics -- Forthcoming book by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams"

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett - "Will Democrats build bridges or walls? "

Critt Jarvis -" The Resilience Conversation: How big is this BOGGSAT?"

Nick Carr -" Is Web 2.0 the wrong path?"

Dr. Richard Florida -"War for talent" ( Hat tip to Eddie)

That's it !
Saturday, November 25, 2006

The assassination of ex-KGB spy and Putin critic, Alexander Litvinenko by a lethal dose of radioactive polonium 210 ( not it seems, irradiated thallium, a nasty KGB trademark going back to at least the 1950's) sparked Curzon of Coming Anarchy to draw comparisons with the death of Leon Trotskii. Curzon's timely post has opened up a number of further historical and contemporary angles. But first, an excerpt:

Trotsky’s Shadow

"Deathbed accusations shouldn’t be taken at face value, but Litvinenko’s horrible poisoning, probably designed to 1.) make him suffer a painful death, and 2.) terrify other potential critics into silence, conjure up images of Trotsky’s assassination during World War II. The Stalinist dissident survived several attempts on his life before he was finally killed with an ice pick in Mexico City (Stalin was so delighted at the method that he gave all agents involved medals.) "

The Trotsky assassination had been a priority for Stalin and, despite a stable of NKVD killers with experience icing White generals in Paris and Spanish anarchists in Barcelona, it proved to be an operation that successive Soviet secret police chiefs had difficulty pulling off. Beria succeeded after having assigned it to Pavel Sudoplatov and Leonid Eitington. (Sudoplatov, who died a boastful and unapologetic Stalinist spymaster, published his colorful memoirs Special Tasks in the mid 1990's with the help of scholar/journalists, Jerrold and Leona Schecter. The memoirs are revealing and entertaining, yet must also be parsed with considerable care). Ramon Mercader was the actual assassin who killed Trotskii with an icepick during a private visit, after previous attempts at armed frontal assault on Trotskii's Mexican compound failed.

Medals notwithstanding, none of the assassins got off scott-free. Mercader suffered at the ungentle hands of Mexican police and penal authorities until his Soviet connection was revealed. Sudoplatov and Eitington were eventually purged as "Beria-ites" and were fortunate to escape execution, merely undergoing disgrace and imprisonment.

Curzon continued:

"And Litvinenko isn’t alone. Recall the recent attempts on the lives of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the former being barely unsuccessful and the later being gruesomely successful. While it might seem absurd to murder these individuals because it has made their causes known far and wide, it undoubtedly has a chilling effect on other potential agents who are scared silent by the the consequences of turning their back on Mother Russia. And that should terrify all of us."

Less the mores of the old KGB than of Al Capone. Which raises interesting questions about Putin and his siloviki regime.

The first thing to understand about internal politics in modern Russia and most of the post-Soviet states is that "good guy -bad guy" can be thrown out the window. Or at least be conceived in very relative terms. Corruption and gangsterism are pandemic and the actual liberals and democrats are unpopular and without real influence. Litvinenko was a brave man but certainly shady. The oligarch opponents of Putin are " mobbed up" billionaires. Think George Soros crossbred with Tony Soprano. Ex-KGB are on all sides and available for hire to boot.

Putin is ruthless and authoritarian but his professional appreciation for well-executed tradecraft must be slipping if he signed off on this assassination. The Russians have quieter poisons. And his political timing as well, considering Litvinenko's high profile death coincided with Russia's arms deal with Iran. Not a great image juxtaposition for Russia. Perhaps Putin was going for the double middle finger toward the West or perhaps Litvinenko was simply played by some of his dangerous friends, knowing the political effect of a splashy poisoning. Putin issued an angrily denial, but who would give that any credence? The Russian president could hardly announce to the press " We got the bastard!" while jumping in the air and kicking his heels.

I'm not excusing Putin's government. It is entirely possible, even likely, that they bear the responsibility for Mr. Litvinenko's assassination and the institutional legacy of wet affairs and of sinister killers like Bogdan Stashinskii in Russia is a very long one. One that makes the CIA's history in this regard pale by comparison, so they are not boy scouts. On the other hand, with all the consideration of 5GW in the past year in this section of the blogosphere, we might pause to at least ask " Who benefits?".


Kent's Imperative -"Mokrie Dela"

Jamie Glazov - "Symposium: To Kill a Russian Journalist"

I recently had lunch with Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye and Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz, and during the course of the conversation, Dave and Lex spoke animatedly about science fiction author Philip K. Dick and his novel, The Man in the High Castle. Outside of Russian lit, I haven't read much fiction since my teens and early twenties ( my last sojurn was re-reading The Catcher in the Rye and Babbitt in Jamaica last year) and I had not heard of the book that had made such an impression on them.

Lex was kind enough to lend me a copy, which I finished reading the other day. The Man in The High Castle is a fabulous read, and if you like science fiction or counterfactual history and have not read it, you might wish to pick it up.

I won't spoil the plot, but the setting is in a world where the Axis utterly won WWII. America is divided into an East coastal United States occupied by the Third Reich; a Pacific States of America on the West coast under Imperial Japanese hegemony; and a nominally independent, lightly populated Rocky mountains- Great Plains state. The South, with an indulgent nod from Berlin, has reinstituted slavery for African-Americans. As Lex and Dave had suggested, an intriguing aspect of the novel is the depiction of Americans with the mentality of a conquered people, inadvertantly admiring and aping their foreign rulers despite themselves. A psychology that is entirely outside the American historical experience, excepting of course, in the old South.

As I have mentioned previously, counterfactual thinking is useful as well as entertaining. It leads us to give old ideas a second look in a new light. The greater the "realism" of the counterfactual scenario, the more attractive it is to puzzle through. Philip K. Dick did his homework with his novel, obviously having dipped into Hitler's infamous " second book", unpublished in the dictator's lifetime, records of his table talk and perhaps some of the Nazi-Japanese diplomatic exchanges. His scenario follows what Axis leaders speculatively sketched out for " the next war" in the 1930's when they were still planning the "limited "wars that set off WWII and ended their quest for world domination.

I won't give away the specifics of the plot for The Man in The High Castle but the counterfactual aspect is worth your time alone.
Thursday, November 23, 2006

Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) this week renewed his call for a reinstitution of conscription. Despite Rangel's intent to tweak the admnistration on Iraq, and perhaps engage in a bit of personal nostalgia (Rangel is a Korean war vet), his legislation was immediately disavowed by Democratic Party leaders, including Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi(D-Ca.).

I'm reproducing some of my remarks here from a thread at The Small Wars Council. In 2003, prior to the invasion of Iraq, I took a look at the manpower needs of the U.S. military in an article for HNN:

"Why we should consider bringing back the draft"

Despite the headline ( which are selected by HNN editors, not authors), I'm ambivalent about conscription, as it will not be a magic bullet for our military and strategic problems but it is something that should be considered in combination with other approaches ( like simply raising new divisions of volunteers in the ground forces). The problem is that few solutions of any kind are being seriously considered at all by our politicians, despite urgent pleas from the military leadership like we saw yesterday. Washington is whistling in the dark.

Aside from the question of utility, as a serious infringement upon personal liberty, the American public will only accept a draft if they see a clear and direct need for one. I'm highly skeptical that there is sufficient trust in the government or a sense of urgency in the public mind today, to make conscription politically acceptable. Frankly, I do not trust the current administration to make wise strategic decisions regarding such a use of manpower that a draft would provide and I trust the Democrats even less. Only a military disaster of epic proportions will change the current dynamic.

Finally, many of the advantages to our current situation that would have accrued from a draft required implementation circa 2002, not in 2007. To an extent, the draft question is a debate among politicians about who can close the barn door with the most flourish. They need to move beyond cheap grandstanding and go to work on providing real support to our soldiers in the field.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
NOVEMBER 22nd, 1963

"Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, and where there is no vision the people perish"." -Proverbs

The Kennedy assassination was the moment where the Boomer generation started to go off the rails.

Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, jr. and Robert Kennedy, rioting, the New Left, the 1968 Democratic Convention, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate - all these events left their psychological mark. We can hardly see the deserts of Iraq for all the rice paddies that permeate the mental landscape of the mainstream media and senior government officials. Our presidential elections re-argue the events of a war that ended before most younger voters were even born.

Would things though, have come out much differently for America, had Kennedy lived ?
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Victor Davis Hanson writes with muscular prose and has been a provocative and successful historian, comfortable in going against the academic grain. I confess to rather liking many of the things he has to say in his books about the ancient world, not that I am any kind of an expert in the classics. On the other hand, as a pundit, Hanson has a tendency to make rhetorical leaps based upon assumptions that I would argue he has not thought through very well.

VDH's comments on new developments in military theory, for example, showed him to be poorly informed about 4GW and NCW, though it would have been simple enough to do some basic reading before going off on a tangent. Similarly, today's pessimistic post "Will the West Stumble?" shows a certain analytical hastiness and factual sketchiness in Hanson's rush to gloom. His heart is in the right place; Hanson worries about all the right things to be worried about in the Terror War but I'm not inclined to believe, even with the extent to which we have bungled Iraq, that everything is going to come out exactly wrong for us in the end.

Hanson reminds me a lot of Jean-Francois Revel, the brilliant, anti-communist, French intellectual who thumbed his nose at European opinion and fearlessly penned How Democracies Perish in 1983, a searing look at the West's faltering confrontation with Soviet Communism. The only problem with Revel's deeply thoughtful but despairing analysis was that he wrote it but two years before Gorbachev would introduce glasnost and perestroika, six years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and eight years before the USSR itself ceased to exist.

The Soviets were not ten feet tall. Our Islamist enemies today are even shorter. We will take knocks along the way but pessemism be damned, America is going to win.

A few new adds of late.....

Redneck's Revenge

Progressive Historians

Larry Dunbar

The Creativity Exchange

Larry is a frequent commenter here as well as at closely related blogs like Tom Barnett and tdaxp. The Creativity Exchange is a new blog by " thought leader" Dr. Richard Florida. Like Dr. Barnett, Florida has been featured at PopTech! and, as you can see below, had his ideas captured by artist Peter Durand:

Monday, November 20, 2006

I've decided to make an early endorsement of Newt Gingrich, who is not yet officially declared, for the GOP 's 2008 nomination for President of the United States. Why am I doing this ?

It's not because Newt's earlier quasi-libertarian, Toffler-futurist, conservatism meshed well with my own views, though it did. It's not because Newt is likely to win the presidency, he's a long shot at best even for the Republican nomination. I'm not endorsing him simply because he's a historian, drinks Guinness, likes paleontology and writes book reviews on Amazon.com - though these are all fine things in my view.

I'm endorsing Gingrich simply because it will be healthy to have a candidate on stage who actually reads books and takes ideas with enough seriousness to effectively communicate them to a mainstream audience. Win or lose, Gingrich's intellectual presence and inclination toward impulsive, rhetorical bomb-throwing will disrupt the hyperscripted performance of everyone else, something that will be all to the good. Frankly, I want to see all hell break loose on national television in such a way that the candidates might blurt out what they actually believe. Create enough of a media firestorm and all the Democratic candidates will have to respond as well.

Gingrich has the luxury of a win-win scenario. At a minimum, running a serious race raises Newt's media profile, his influence and his future income stream from lectures and books; at maximum, lightning may strike and Gingrich could end up on the national ticket or at least resume his place as a powerbroker inside the Republican Party. He does not need to adopt the cautious, mannequin-like, " frontrunner" posture that turns so many voters off to politicians. Gingrich can simply have fun.

Chances are, when Newt is long gone from the race, the ideas he bombastically injected into the body politic will still be very much part of the debate - much to the discomfort of the actual nominees.
Sunday, November 19, 2006

Dan of tdaxp, who is deep into grad studies on the genetic factors involved in education, socialization and politics, launched a lightning bolt at the theory of the stages of moral development advocated by the late social psychologist, Lawrence Kohlberg . Personally, I like Kohlberg as an instrument for inspiring critical thinking and Dan has been provoked to do a critical appraisal of that instrument itself:

"Confusing morality with rationalization is insane.

For quite a while I've felt that Kohlberg's stages of moral development are balderdash. The more I learn, the more skeptical I become. Kohlbergism is the bastard offspring of a rape of naive Piagetianism by blithering Vygotskianism.

...One way to attack Kohlberg is to argue him to absurdity by demonstrating situations where a higher "moral" stage of development leads to actions considered immoral. (That we even have to confuse normative ideals and substantive facts like this is demonstrates another Kohlbergian absurdity, but that would be a post for another time)."

For those unfamiliar with Kohlberg, his theory was based on an effort of decades collecting cross-cultural examples of moral reasoning, from which he constructed his six stages of moral develpment. The sixth stage is representing ( as I interpret Kohlberg) self-actualized moral exemplars like Mohandas Gandhi or the Dalai Lama ( or whomever) who articulate an appeal to "higher" or " universal" moral truths that superceded their society's - actually, all societies - conventional morality. This is what appears to be ticking off Dan, as one could just as easily argue for including Nietzsche's Ubermensch in the sixth stage, as we could for the Mahatma.

Effectively, Kohlberg's theory is a reified example of pattern recognition, a set of categories known as a taxonomy. Taxonomies are extremely useful and powerful cognitive tools, indeed having been used formally for at least two thousand years. They are the basis of natural history but can be found to some extent in almost all disciplines. Their explanatory power has definite limits however.

First, a taxonomy defines a phenomena organizationally and in terms of relative value. It does not automatically grant insight into the mechanics of the interrelationships. Indeed, Kohlberg's theory is weakest in explaining the specific nature of the dynamic psychological transition between stages and relies on an uncertain arbitrariness of the authority (Kohlberg) who is constructing the taxonomy.

4GW theory suffers from the same defects as Kohlberg's stages of moral development, being essentially, a taxonomy of warfare. 1GW did not have to begin where it did. Lind and his co-authors could have began with the advent of ancient tyrannies and metal weaponry or Roman logistics or whatever point they felt was the best historical benchmark. The choice was, to an extent, arbitrary, if reasoned. PNM theory too has been criticized on the grounds of where does the Core really and truly separate from the Gap ? Taxonomies by their nature cannot avoid such criticisms.

Secondly, taxonomies impose entirely artificial " borders" separating the phenomena, isolating and fracturing it unnaturally from the rest of the complex adaptive system that comprises the known universe. The real world is always far more connected, linked, paralleled, networked and wired for feedback than in our neatly demarcated mental models. Reality is messy and taxonomies help bring cognitive clarity to at least a fraction of it. That clarity will always come at a cost of inaccuracy or holistic myopia but great taxonomies represent launching pads for further investigation.

They are the " shoulders of giants" for the rest of us mortals to stand upon.


Dan presses his critique of Kohlberg's theory in light of evolutionary psych research:

"I think Mark's criticism of the Stages as a taxonomy are right on, but my distaste goes deeper. If anything, Kohlberg is measuring amoral or immoral rationalization ability. Kohlberg is measuring a social derivitive of linguistic intelligence. Kohlberg is measuring an ability to please.

Kohlberg talks about laws, but in the general way that people have who do not know them. Laws were created and could be erased at any time. They typically were created incompetently and the whole reason for my parents' profession was that cleverness counted more than wisdom. One could find evidence in the Law for nearly anything. What counted was the fashions of the time for some words on some texts.

It's clear that instead of a universal moral development, the change in answers Kohlberg observed are an interaction between a basic drive for fairness and rhetorical dexterity. The first is widespread among the most popular human phenotype of “wary cooperators” or “strong reciprocators.” Berk adequately covers a genetic predisposition to fairness on pages 476-477, so instead I will focus on the role of practice.

Read the rest here.

I'm admittedly out of touch with what is happening in Ed journals these days, but I'm inclined to believe that Dan has in his post, a good start on writing something really provocative for publication.

I just noticed this evening that Art Hutchinson has begun posting again at Mapping Strategy after being on hiatus since early last summer. Art is one of the very few " go to " experts that I would pick if I had a question regarding strategic thinking, scenario planning or organizational resilience. I also had the pleasure of collaborating in an exploratory group project with Art last spring and while the project itself did not bear the fruit we had hoped for, I would definitely jump at the chance to work with Art again and use that opportunity to pick his brain.

For those readers not familiar with Mapping Strategy, I suggest the recent post "WaPo Misguided on 'Experts' vs. the Swarm". An excerpt:

"What the article doesn't take space to note (but which I know Wolfers and Hanson know well) is that prediction markets do an even better job of rewarding experts because 1) they are able to increase their influence as a direct result of, and in proportion to the stupidity or inaccuracy of the dilettantes and 2) experts betting anonymously or pseodonymously can bring in information that they otherwise might be reluctant to offer under their own name."

Welcome back Art !

Dave at Thoughts Illustrated - " The Starfish and the Spider - The Unstoppable power of leaderless organisations "

Looks to be a good book, so new though that it is not in stock in the major bookstore chains in my area, except downtown so I'm going to be ordering online. No book is worth driving on the Kennedy these days.

Curzon at Coming Anarchy - "Korea admits Tokyo War Crimes Tribunals Void?"

South Korea's postmodernist-nihilist Left, has done incredible damage in their time in power. Much like the American academic Left, which tried to use the occasion of the anniversary of Hiroshima to construct an apologia for Japanese ultranationalist fascism at the Smithsonian, ROK leftists have adopted an appalling " blood and soil" approach to " truth" that essentially has the same effect, albeit more indirectly.

Eide Neurolearning Blog - "What You Believe Matters - Can You Change Your Brain? "

The amazing power of neural plasticity combined with what Howard Bloom termed " inner judges" to shape brain structure and cognition.

That's it !
Friday, November 17, 2006

DNI's Fabius Maximus has a wry piece up, "Situation Report on the Expedition to Iraq ". The dry title belies a somewhat swiftian comparison of the Bush administration policy in Iraq with the classic seven stages of grief. Unfortunately, unlike Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal,
Fabius has posited criticisms that are not merely satirical.

"As many 4GW experts forecast, the western nations’ (largely US and UK) Expedition to Iraq was doomed before it began. As such the Kubler-Ross “Death and Dying” process offers the best metaphor for our conduct of the war. 1/

Shock & Denial: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news: trying to avoid the inevitable.

Anger: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.

Bargaining: Seeking in vain for a way out.

Depression: Final realization of the inevitable.

Testing and Acceptance: Seeking realistic solutions; finally finding a way forward.

America’s elites remained for a long period in Denial, and then moved into Anger. 2/ They directed their anger at anybody other then themselves: Bush/Hitler, Leftist traitors, “Neville Chamberlain’s” in the Democratic Party, Al Qaeda, various elements of the Iraq people, and Iran. There have been, of course, few mea culpa’s from our leaders, Democrat or Republica

While we can differ on details, I am more or less in agreement with Fabius that America's elite, both Left and Right, have failed the people and the soldiers in Iraq with their uncertainty, fecklessness, paralysis and addiction to self-absorbed partisanship. America needs a new elite, the old one has lost heart, nerve and to a certain extent -their head. They lack the will to prosecute the war on terror and the skill to execute it well. I'm not sure we'll see great improvement in statesmanship either until the Boomers start yielding their place to GenX'ers.

Fabius has not yet posted his recommendations but I have two observations on the second part of his article where he criticizes the remaining options left to salvage the situation in Iraq ( Fabius presumes it not to be worth salvaging and counsels that defeat be accepted).

Fabius is correct that withdrawing to the desert helps nothing except to delay the inevitable. He's right. It's a form of avoiding choosing sides in a multi-ethnic and sectarian civil war, which will neither prevent the civil war nor do us much good. One potential solution is to forswear supposed neutrality, which no Iraqi believes of us anyway, and put our weight behind the likely winners so they win faster and with less ultimate bloodshed ( this is relative and bloodshed will happen regardless. The question now is: How much ?).

Another choice is to opt for what Fabius derides, an alliance with a Kurdish client state that comes to an agreement with Ankara, so that at least there is a zone of stability and civil peace in one section of old Iraq. As far as " stable platforms" are concerned, Kurdistan need not be West Germany circa 1985, just be non-anarchic and open to connectivity to the West.

Is this a perfect solution ? No, not in my view. Are Barzani and Talabani the reincarnations of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams ? No. But they aren't Saddam Hussein or Pol Pot either and seem to grasp Kurdistan's delicate geopolitical position and need of American support. Reasonable, if self-interested, partners who command disciplined fighting forces. Can anything similar be found among Shiites or Sunnis ?

What the Kurds represent is only a realistic opportunity to hedge against total disaster and the U.S. should take it with their eyes wide open. Kurdistan also fits the size of the forces we have committed while Iraq as a whole does not. Having thrown away every strategic opportunity that emerged in Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam's overthrow, policy makers need to adjust their sights now toward accomplishing minimalist goals.


Discuss Fabius' article at The Small Wars Council
Thursday, November 16, 2006

"There were Giants in the Earth in those days"

Professor Milton Friedman, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, the father of monetarism and easily one of most influential economists of the twentieth century, passed away today of heart failure at the age of 94.

An ardent and lifelong exponent of free markets and individualism, Freidman never lost his intellectual curiousity or his willingness to reexamine his ideas about markets and the state and critically review his own prior arguments. Friedman's ideas provided the intellectual power behind a sigificant part of the modern conservative movement and continue to influence the culture to this day. His seminal work, Capitalism and Freedom, sits alongside The Road to Serfdom, Atlas Shrugged, The Conservative Mind and Conscience of a Conservative in the pantheon of books that gave rise to the generation of activists who made up the New Right and rode to power with Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Rest in peace, Dr. Friedman.

I had about three items that I promised some blogfriends to get up tonight and I failed on two of them. As I really need to get some sleep ( I get up about 5 a.m.) they must carry over to the next evening. I'm beat.

As noted by Dr. Barnett, Stephen DeAngelis of ERMB, Enterra Solutions and now a co-founder ( with Oak Ridge National Labratory) of the Institute for Advanced Technologies in Global Resilience, has been named one of Esquire Magazine's "Best and Brightest". Steve has been made the subject of a feature article "The Age of Resilience" by Brian Mockenhaupt, who has lucidly explained Steve and Enterra's mission:. An excerpt:

"Squirreled away in an office building a half hour outside Philadelphia, Enterra's small staff of tech whizzes and programmers is breathing life into Resilience Net. They huddle around computers writing language that translates regulations, laws, and accepted business practices into automated rule sets—if A and B, then C. These rules, which might tell a busi¬ness how to order new parts or com¬ply with the Patriot Act, are amassed in virtual libraries as algorithms. The system can think and react, much the way your antivirus software detects a threat, sends in a report, and brings back a patch to fix the problem while it inoculates other systems. The rules decide what information needs to be analyzed and shared, then how to disseminate it to the right people. If a law changes, new rules are added to the library and the system updates and learns. Now the organization can act with minimal human involvement, and as new sensors, databases, or analysis techniques are developed, the overall network grows in strength. With different groups using the same rules library, translating information into code every¬one can understand, communication is streamlined. This is how you connect the dots.
But Enterra's creature needs skin and bones, and Oak Ridge has the scientists. The laboratory was a key play¬er in building the first atomic bombs, which is fitting, because DeAngelis sees the new institute as another Manhattan Project, a group of disparate players com¬ing together to solve a special problem. Oak Ridge is well suited to the role. After the lab lost the spigot of cash that flowed during the cold war, it devoted itself to increasing American competitiveness, teaming with private enterprises to devel¬op new technologies. Companies working with Oak Ridge draw on a deep and unique resource pool—cutting-edge and hugely ex¬pensive facilities, some of the best minds in the country, and co operative agreements with top university research departments. Give Oak Ridge a problem and it can probably solve it. Its $1.4 billion spallation neutron source can peer inside materials and map their atoms. Its electron microscopes can see to a ten millionth of a millimeter. And its banks of supercomputers can apply Enterra's rules to a million scenarios and spit out solutions while there's still time to act."

(A personal aside; having been through Fermilab's nuclear particle accelerator lab on a couple of occasions as a guest of Dr. Von, I found the description of Oak Ridge's facilities and partnership with Enterra to be darned interesting)

Steve too had some remarks on his blog where he added some information to the Esquire article:

"As the Founder and Executive Director of the Institute, I have started recruiting some of the world’s best minds and will continue that effort. Some of those brilliant individuals undoubtedly would like to know exactly what the relationships are between Enterra and the Institute. In order to fully understand that relationship, you have to understand the relationships between the Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT-Battelle, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and the Oak Ridge Center for Advanced Studies. I’m going to give you just a brief version of those relationships.

...Although Enterra Solutions helped establish the Institute, it is independent from Enterra's commercial ventures. We deliberately sought a forum that would make it clear that Enterra’s involvement is not a subterfuge to attract business or tap free labor. That is why the academic association is so important. The company does support the Institute with pro bono assistance (I serve as Executive Director and Shane Deichman, another Enterra employee, serves as Managing Director). Our interest, however, is advancing technologies and ideas, not generating business leads.

We do hope that some of the work that we do in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory finds it way into Institute publications so that it can be discussed and applied in other sectors to make them more resilient. The most promising of these ventures, and the one discussed in the Esquire article, is ResilienceNet™. ResilienceNet is Enterra’s concept to complement Oak Ridge National Lab’s SensorNet program.

ResilienceNet is an intelligent, rules-based sense, think, and act application that enables decision support and secure information sharing based on real-time data sources such as SensorNet. SensorNet is an ORNL research program that addresses technical challenges associated with real-time sensor systems for national security and other large applications. ORNL and Enterra Solutions are collaborating to enable advanced ResilienceNet applications to interface with SensorNet interoperability standards. These tools will create an automated sense, think, and act capability in response to Chemical, Nuclear, Biological, Cyber and Explosive threats that should make existing nuclear emergency response capabilities even more effective

The important aspect of the Esquire piece, aside from the nice honorific element, is that it will help take the concept of " resiliency" out of the esoteric realm of defense intellectuals, network theorists and adolescent psychologists and inject it into the world of mainstream journalism and political discourse. Making organizations, networks, institutions and America itself more resilient requires tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of decisions by local and midstream deciders.

"Opting for resilience" is non-obvious from a short-term balance sheet perspective. It requires some education and diffusion of knowledge throught the culture so that the resiliency becomes a standard " option in play" when entrepreneurs, agencies and communities are planning for the future. As it stands, in most public debates, the benefits of building resiliency is usually understood only by engineers who usually prove less persuasive before political bodies than do bean-counters or self-aggrandizing special interest voices.

( A second personal aside: in a fit of civic idealism, I once served for a number of years on a planning commission for a midwestern municipality; a commission that had unusually broad powers over economic development. As a rule, engineers do not win arguments with lawyers when the judges are laymen, unless the engineer can point - in bold colors - to the imminent disaster some proposed course of action will cause. Hypothetical but reasonable probabilities are a concept that is totally lost on the general public)

Steve has a company. Enterra is not in the business of losing money. But in preaching the gospel of resilience, Steve is also working toward the public good. A public that must live in a world that increasingly resembles an ecology as much as an economy - a dynamic, complex, adaptive system whose evolution appears to be acclerating even as it's internal " brakes" and " circuit-breakers" are being eliminated. Resiliency cannot be done by an American GOSPLAN, it is something that people will choose if they understand the advantages.

When the next Hurricaine Katrina or a biological 9/11 hits, America will discover that resiliency is not an option.


Dan of tdaxp - "Web 3.0"

Asia Logistics Wrap - "Semantic Web for the Supply Chain"
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

As I was drawn into some annoying, time-wasting, online nonsense earlier today, I thought it might be amusing to highlight that experience with a link to Flame Warrior. A lighthearted look for anyone who has dealt with roving bands of trolls.

Hat tip to Prometheus6 who brought it to my attention a while back.
Monday, November 13, 2006

A while back, at the prompting of Dan Abbott, I picked up Howard Bloom's excellent Global Brain:The Evolution of Mass Mind From the Big Bang To The 21st Century. The book lived up to the billing Dan gave it and I was as impressed with Bloom as I have been with such eminent scholars as Robert Conquest, E.O. Wilson or Jacques Barzun. Which is to say, that Global Mind is a work of a rare intellectual caliber.

This however, my opening paragraph to the contrary, is not a review of Global Mind. Instead, I would like to draw attention to a section where Bloom has, correctly in my view, pointed to a dichotomy of paradigms that describe two espistemological -cultural meta-strategies for civilizational resilience:

" ...But the subcultural struggles retarding science's advance are minor maladies of mass mind compared to a set of twenty-first century clashes in which Sparta and Athens remain vigorously alive.

Today's cyber-era Spartans are bone crushers of conformity. they are the fundamentalists of both the left and the right. Some are godly, some are secular. Religious extreminsts, ultranationalists, ethnic liberationists and fascists fall on the fundamentalist side of the line. Brooking no tolerance of those who disagree, they invoke a golden past and a higher power, both which demand submission to authority. The worst shoot, burn and bomb to get their way. Their opposites are Athenian, Socratic, Aristotelian, diversity-generating, pluralistic and democratic....these champions of human rghts use the word 'freedom' to liberate he individual, not hammer the triumph of a chosen collectivity."

Count me as an Athenian.

Nevertheless, while I find the people who are Bloom's Spartans or Eric Hoffer's True Believers to be anything from misguided to dangerous, I am aware that both the Spartan as well as the Athenian approaches to life represent resilience strategies. Each with particular advantages and dangers.

Spartans are resilient in the face of ideological and often physical attack. They react with moral certainty and outrage toward threats to deeply cherished beliefs. They have the solidarity of moral cohesion and rigidly disciplined unity and the heightened attention, even paranoia, of a people under siege. Hallowed traditions and unifying themes become banners of war, metaphorically or literally. This is a response of vigilance appropriate for an existential threat or similar grave emergency.

Athenians are resilient in the face of shifting conditions of the environment. They react with debate, analysis, multiple perspectives, insight and experimentation. They have the creativity of competent, self-confident, individuals and do not fear to hazard risks. Hallowed traditions that no longer serve are quickly discarded in favor of efficiency and effectiveness that force Rule Set resets. This is the response of adaptive evolution, even revolutionary change, appropriate for epochal shifts and long term adversity.

Each has their flaws. Spartans stubbornly corner themselves in mental cul-de-sacs built from self-imposed blindness, Athenians bicker over the existence of a threat at all even as the enemy is at the gates -or even after he has breached the walls. Of the two, though, I will place my bet on the Athenians. They can correct errors more readily.

Creative resilience deals with the unknown unknowns over the long haul as they emerge in a way that the most violent and reflexively vigilant response cannot.
Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hmmm...let's go with strategic analytical perspectives this morning ( ok, afternoon, it was a late night yesterday).

Pride of place today goes to....

Kent's Imperative for " War in the next generation" and "The spread of hostile memes".

Very nice to see some of the PNM/4GW/5GW concepts discussed here and in the old koinon moving into professional IC circles.

Dr. Barnett in his syndicated column on " Time for a new generational voice in politics ".

As an aside, I am not in sync with Senator Obama's politics though an understated factor in his charisma may be that he comes across as an earnest, responsible, adult in a chamber filled with political hacks ( case in point, Obama's senior colleague from Illinois). With the Senate in Democratic hands, Obama will need to tie himself to at least one prominent legislative issue -and help steer it to passage - if he wishes to make the leap to the next political level.

Re; Tom's take on worldviews -identifying, critically analyzing and metacognitively asserting control over one's worldview is something I emphasize to my students.

Josh Manchester of The Adventures of Chester -"Radio: Interview with Fred Ikle"

Josh is an old blogfriend and a rising multimedia presence these days. Here he interviews a senior defense intellectual, Dr. Frederick C. Ikle on Ikle's hot new book Annihilation From Within.

Steve Deangelis at ERMB - "An Electoral Lesson in Resilience"

Mostly in agreement with Steve - it will be interesting if the Democrats make a new start in terms of ideas or revert to type under the pressure of the party's Liberal-Left gerontocracy in Congress.

John Robb at Global Guerillas -" GLOBAL GUERRILLAS IN THE UK"

John's post raised the practical question for me of how long does the state permit these networks to mestastisize simply because they have them successfully under surveillance and "the devil you know" is better than dealing with " unknown unknowns" ?

I would also add that not nearly enought thought has gone on in government circles into how authorities can demoralize these networks on the moral level, in conjunction with surveillance, prosecution and punitive action.

Critt Jarvis at ConversationBase - "CSR: ROI in the context of everything else"

Stakeholders is a useful analytical concept for defining " who is affected ?" but is often a poor model for " who gets to decide ?". Inequalities of information flow, knowledge and provision of resources often lend themselves to manipulation more than true consensus. Nevertheless, key stakeholders who remain unaware or ill-informed about the interests of lesser players are doomed to strategic errors and will reap excessive friction. Reaching out is a better move.

Sun Bin - " Machiavelli on Iraq"

Scathing. Machiavelli remains, however, a useful primer and classic lens for analysis as Sun Bin demonstrates.

That's it !
Friday, November 10, 2006

Errr...people with different browsers...is this thing working ?

Exclaimable.com is the source for this tool. Below, I try my hand at a self-portrait with their art function.

Rembrandt appears to be in no danger from me, but the palette tool is cool. Mrs. Zenpundit suggests can substitute some kind of drawing pad pen for the mouse and gain finer line control. There are other things that the crafty types like Critt, Sean, Younghusband and Dan might want to investigate.

Thanks to Howard Rheingold for alerting me to this tool via group email.

Adrienne Redd was kind enough to remind me the other day that today and Thursday represented the 68th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi's " Night of Broken Glass" where Stormtroopers, SS men and frenzied mobs vandalized Jewish-owned businesses, burned synagogues, beat and murdered German Jews. The blogosphere has been relatively quiet on this topic. No doubt in part due to the intense focus on the aftermath of the election but in part, I believe, that we are slowing starting to forget.

Despite recitations of "Never Again", the effort at memorials such as the National Holocaust Museum and Yad Vashem, the tireless witness of figures like Elie Wiesel or successful forays into global culture with such films as Schindler's List and The Pianist, imminence of the Holocaust is fading in the public mind. Every year there are fewer survivors, every year more of the "Greatest Generation" that liberated the camps and brought home tales of unspeakable horror, pass away. Soon, the aged voices that strain with moral authority and remembered pain, voices that prick our conscience and discomfort our leaders, will be gone.

What then ? In the advent of the greatest industrialized mass-murder scheme in history, one carried out by the most modern of nation-states with the cooperation of hundreds of thousands and passive acquiescence of millions more, Hitler is reputed to have asked his nervous henchmen" And who today remembers the Armenians ?". Who indeed ?

When Pol Pot, the lunatic Maoist, turned Cambodia into a vast charnel house with his autogenocide, only the Israeli representative at the UN called the international community to account on behalf of millions of innocent victims. When the Kurds were gassed by Saddam, we looked away. When Slobodan Milosevic butchered 200,000 Muslims and Hutu death squads were hacking nearly a million Tutsis to death, the genteel Secretary of State Warren Christopher contented himself with lawyerly instructions to State Department officials to draw ever finer semantic distinctions to avoid using the word "genocide" in public. Today in Dar Fur, the policy of the West follows in the tradition of calmly waiting for democide to wind down as the perpetrators start to run short of victims, before contemplating some form of action.

Only in Kosovo, has America acted in time to prevent slaughter on a grand scale as the Genocide Convention obligates the international community. Our sole companion in this lonely club of leading by example is that paragon of human rights, Communist Vietnam - which toppled the Khmer Rouge only because Cambodia as a Chinese satellite was a security risk to Hanoi. All this reticence and dolorous inaction with the example of the Holocaust fresh and looming by historical standards.

What will happen when it ceases to loom ? Will the twenty-first century be a better one than the twentieth ?
Thursday, November 09, 2006

In my view, was Secretary of State Condi Rice, whose warm working relationship with Robert Gates goes back to the days of Bush I, when both were key deputies to National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft. Assuming confirmation, the two will work in tandem, not in opposition, on Iraq and they will eventually dominate the foreign policy process in the last two years the way Cheney and Rumsfeld did in the first.

Dr. Barnett today had a take that attributed the nomination of Robert Gates to the rising grey eminence of former SecState/SecTreasury/WH Chief of Staff, James A. Baker III:

"Consensus growing that Rumsfeld had to go to clear way for Baker's solution set to fly.

No big surprise there. Real clearing is Cheney's, with Rummy as surrogate.

Missing in the analysis so far: with caretaker in Pentagon, Baker now takes over de facto control of the war, as almost his own national security adviser, SECDEF AND SECSTATE.

No big whup for Gates. He knew that coming in. Quiet Hadley will do as told, as will Rice, but in reality, Rice's been replaced without leaving office. Imagine being SECSTATE and kicked off the one foreign policy issue that defines the administration.

Yes, yes, expect many protestations to the contrary and watch Baker go out of his way, using the study group as cover, not to upstage her.

But make no mistake, we now have caretakers (and not the real players) in both the Building and Foggy Bottom"

I don't disagree here with Tom so much that I am pointing out that Baker's newfound premiership rests on the sand of George W. Bush's desperation. Gates and Rice will have the bureaucracies, levers of power that will endure even when Bush's gratitude to his father's mentor/alter ego does not.

Baker's best move is to strike hard and fast, effect some substantive policy changes while everyone is casting about for a life preserver, and then get the hell out of town with his dealmaker reputation intact. Sticking around will only mean twisting in the winds of shifting political fortune.


Veteran journalist Robert Novak posts the first " hit piece" on Gates - full of a fair amount of misinformation. Gates the anti-Soviet hardliner at Bill Casey's CIA was a "liberal" ? WTF ????

Thank you to RealClearPolitics, Done with Mirrors, The Small Wars Council and Interact for the links.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Not only has the field changed with the 2006 election but so have the choices. The question for everyone is whether this watershed rebuke by the electorate represents a tipping point toward disaster a turning point for something better?

President George W. Bush has to face the fact that he has not only been sharply reprimanded by the voters, as often happens to the Chief Executive in midterm elections ,but he has squandered the lease on power the GOP had in controlling all three branches of government. Never has a party worked so long for such power, used it for so little lasting effect and lost it as quickly as have the Republicans.

How the Bush administration acts over the course of the next two years will weigh heavily in 2008 to determine whether the voters who deseted the GOP wil return to the fold. While I genuinely admire Rumsfeld and feel his accomplishments as SecDef are being ignored by those who once were heaping accolades on him not long ago, his position was untenable as of this morning. Even the Congressional Republicans disliked him and if someone had to go, Rummy was highest profile stand-in to atone for the president's mistakes. His departure - and the Democrats own weak position despite being flushed with victory -buys the administration a breathing space to reconsider their political strategies and style from top to bottom.

On the opposite side, the Democrats are to be congratulated for running a smart race in a technical sense and for avoiding their usual ideological self-destruction. The Democratic leadership talked moderate, walked moderate and ran moderates in GOP-leaning states instead of sacrificial lambs hailing from the lunatic fringe of liberalism. James Webb is literally a very conservative" Reagan Democrat" who, frankly, I am more comfortable with politically than his socially conservative Republican opponent. Two years ago, if somebody told us that Democrats would elect a James Webb, Rush Limbaugh would have been doing backflips.

If Pelosi and the Democrats listen to folks like Rahm Emanuel for the next two years and formulate a coherent and honest strategy on Islamist terrorism that actually involves fighting Islamist terrorists rather than patting down Scandinavian grandmothers at airports, they will be well-positioned for 2008. If the elderly liberal bulls, like Waxman, Kennedy, Leahy, Dingell and Conyers, who soon will be easing themselves into chairmanships, drive the agenda and wave " bloody shirt" leftist issues to the ecstatic ululations of the Moveon.org/DailyKos wingnut base, then 2009 will see the inauguration of President McCain.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006

“I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.”

- William Marcy "Boss" Tweed

Boy, they really are an oddly designed piece of crap - though the machines used in Illinois, a least in my precinct, print an official paper ballot. While I voted in about a minute, the voters older than, say, 45, appeared bewildered by the computer format and took inordinately long to cast their ballot. I was bewildered by the bizarre hand-crank wheel user interface - who thought adding a feature from a Ford Model T to a voting booth was a good engineering choice ?

It would also seem that the ID code you need to enter coupled with the tear-off tab from the voters registration file pretty much would eliminate the secret ballot, if anyone cared to correlate the information. Maybe Dave can explain that feature to me ?
Monday, November 06, 2006

Cheryl "CKR" Rofer had a kind word for me in a lively discussion in the comments section at American Footprints ( much appreciated Cheryl !) in a post by Blake Hounshell entitled "Who Reads the Right?". It is a short post that sets up an intriguing dialogue, so here it is:

"A short post of mine yesterday on Tapped -- asking "why read conservative blogs?" -- spawned a pretty good discussion, with thoughtful contributions from Ben Adler and Sam Rosenfeld. Even K-Lo noticed that Sam labeled the Corner "the Conservative Id." Ben and Sam agree that the Corner is a particularly good place to check the conservative "pulse"--a microcosm, if you will, of a movement gone off the rails. There seems to be consensus among Tapped readers that the thoughtful conservative blogs are those that have spit up the Kool-Aid and broken with the Bush administration. I read a few of these, such as Greg Djerejian, who has morphed from a tepid advocate to a must-read critic of Bush and his team (especially Rumsfeld). I don't read the American Scene too often, also recommended by readers, but I was pleased to see that Ross Douthat had recently dealt with what he calls "the Conservative Cocoon." So, do our readers here still check up on what they're saying on that side of the 'sphere? I know Eric does, but perhaps only when he's looking for hanging curveballs?"

Some of the commenters were quick to recognize the danger of cocooning, a phenomenon that is as prevalent among bloggers as it is deleterious. It's dangerous to read things that make you feel too comfortable - even if you are largely correct on some issue, it dulls your wits not to expose yourself to a different perspective. By " perspective", I mean political, philosophical, methodological, cultural and so on.

Most "big name" blogs, Right or Left, I read off of Memeorandum. My current favorite "liberal" or " progressive" sites, BTW, include Whirledview, Prometheus6, Progressive Historians and Kevin Drum -most of Kevin's commenters these days are parrots and trolls, but Kevin lost control of the mob a long time ago, so I don't hold it against him. The price of popularity is an increase in the nut factor. Better discussions occur at smaller blogs.

Even diversifying the spectrum of political blogs you read still leaves you stuck in a "political" frame of mind, so I like to peruse blogs or sites dealing with the sciences, information technology, psychology, area studies, futurism and business. I particularly favor anything brain or network theory related and I sometimes cruise over to Gene Expression , NuSapiens and -increasingly -tdaxp for genetic/Ev psych commentary. After enough of this esoterica or equally abstruse miltheory 5GW discussions, I'm ready to return to my roots and read some undiluted historical writing.

If I had more online time, I'd make an effort to vary the domains I explore even more widely, but, alas, there are only so many hours in a day.
Zenpundit - a NEWSMAGAZINE and JOURNAL of scholarly opinion.

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