Sunday, December 10, 2006

A lengthy one, with " nation-building", pro and con, as a theme. Some comments to boot.

Dr. Barnett - "Nation building on our plate"

For those that follow theory, you can see where Tom has synthesized aspects of 4GW that critically impact the ability to carry out a Sys Admin action without adopting a Kaplanesque worldview.

Fabius Maximus at DNI - "What should we do in Iraq?Part II of a series"

(The first part was "Situation Report on the Expedition to Iraq"). Fabius Maximus offers a 4GW school counterpoint to Dr. Barnett, rejecting both "nation building" and connecting the Gap as a useful employment of American military power.

Gregory Scoblete at TCS - "What Rumsfeld's Critics Don't Get"

I have to endorse Greg's take on Rumsfeld's tenure at DoD and the ideological split between Rumsfeld and the second generation Neocons like Bill Kristol (despite Rummy being lumped together with them, he's a Nixonian hardliner, not a neocon). I believe he has that nuance exactly right. One of those rare pieces of which I can say " Hmmm - wish I had written that." ( Big hat tip my friend Bruce Kesler who sends me many useful things).

Chirol at Coming Anarchy - "Corporate Armies"

Chirol spurred a wickedly interesting debate on PMC's, Free Companies, mercenaries and nation-building by corporations.

raf at Aqoul - "Islamist Networks: The Afghan-Pakistan Connection"

raf reviews the work of Oliver Roy and Mariam Abou Zahab. I note that Aqoul is also a Weblog Award finalist.

I will now shift gears entirely in terms of topic:

Dan of tdaxp has a new, and as usual, excellent, series - Classrooms Evolved - for which he has already posted "Introduction: A Philosophy of Teaching", " PartI: Traditional Methods",
"Part II: Social Grading" and "Part III: Deliberative Learning"

Dan offers many incisive criticisms of current practice - and some solutions. A must read for those in the classroom.

Dr. Von picks up where I left off with " Physics is a Good Domain for Horizontal Thinking"

like Von, I'm an enthusiast for the ability of physics to shed light in the inner workings of many other domains, from economics to microbiology (so long as we avoid the simplification trying to reduce everything to mechanistic physics - an error of the Newtonian oriented philosophical determinists of the 19th century who were unaware of quantum mechanics or relativity).

That's it !
Thank you for the link to Barnett's latest. I don't see him much since I dropped the Comedy Channel from my cable package.

This is rich...

"The good news? America's Army and Marines are changing this strategic mindset rapidly through improved training, doctrine and tactics."

How many times have we heard this since the initial wave of enthusiasm for counter-insurgency warfare during the Kennedy years?

How many times more will we hear and applaud such nonsense before we realize that deep structural factors in our State and Defense Dept's prevent development of effective US capability in these areas?
Hi Fabius,

That's one of Tom's syndicated columns so it is written for a more general audience than even for the average surfer of blogs, much less the avid reader .mil and strategy blogs.

Robert Coram did a good job of detailing the Marines improvement of doctrine under the influence of John Boyd in his bio of the latter. That intellectual strand ran its course but that will happen if innovators do not focus on bringing up a set of successors.

The 4GW school, or at least some like Lind, is very hostile to Tom's ideas but I have to say, there's strong Boydian elements in Barnett's PNM and Cebrowski's NCW ( which is more than advocacy for goldplated technology, though a lot of DoD apparatchiks grabbed hold of NCW for that reason).

Constructive, non-zero sum strategies cannot simply be abandoned to the enemy and Tom puts much of his effort here. This is good, in my view, and altogether rare these days.

You are smart person, and your comments are, I’m sure, correct from a technical perspective. But your innate courtesy might not be deserved by these guys.

But ... we've heard this nonsense about military "reform" for almost 50 years, and still no substantial results.

Time to call the game and consider why these efforts -- however promising -- produce so little.

Worse, each time we're told that the new new Army or Marines have learned from past failures -- and the next war shows that they have not.

The consequences of playing along with this game have, I believe, grown too large for continued "let's pretend."

Shoveling this nonsense out to a mass audience, who does not know better, should not go without comment IMHO.
I didn't say that right above. I meant that Mark is an expert in these things, and I am sure his comments are correct from a technical perspective.
"But ... we've heard this nonsense about military "reform" for almost 50 years, and still no substantial results."

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge for the last 50 years. But I guess some people are stuck in a time warp.

Desert One. A complete disaster revealing our total inadequacy in joint specops. But we fixed that and now we have the premier joint specops on the planet.

We have learned from our mistakes in unconventional war. But we need to keep learning.

We need to figure out how to win COIN and other asymmetric forms of war and we need to figure it out now. This is not something we can ignore or put off for another time. The time is now. This is not an optional, academic exercise. This is our weak underbelly and that is what our enemies will be going after for the next few decades until we prove that we can't be beat that way.

F-Max, all I want to know is how do we win? Everything else is bullshit. I don't want your attitude, I want your insight about how we can win and survive as a civilization. Our enemies are going to be coming after us, attacking our weaknesses. How do we shore up our weaknesses and organize for the counterstrike? We have something worth defending, so how do we defend it? Give me something I can work with.

"How many times have we heard this since the initial wave of enthusiasm for counter-insurgency warfare during the Kennedy years?"

So you're saying we should quit, give up, surrender? There's no use, we're doomed!

When American troops landed on North Africa in 1942 we had never fought a mass armor/mechanized infrantry war. The consequence was Kasserine Pass and a lot of casualties and mistakes. Should we have just quit when in the depths of our incompetence? Or fought on until we figured out how to win that kind of war?

Quitting is not an option. The jihadists will just keep coming. And as the Flying Imams have shown it's not just going to be traditional terrorist tactics and its not just going to be in Iraq. So, F-Max, your cynicism is irrelevant to the reality we face, in fact it is an obstacle to our success. All I care about is how do we win, everything else is a personal problem.
I think you just wrote one of the best comments in the history of the blogosphere, Phil.
While I thank you for the compliment Fabius, I feel the need to clarify.

While none of us, including myself, have all the answers, Tom Barnett has a good deal of things right. More than most. Moreover he is acutely correct where 4GW theory is weakest, geoeconomics.

Making Barnett a generic stand-in for the Pentagon/Big Army is to create a straw man. The 4GW school has been ignored by the military establishment, to the cost of the United States in Iraq, but it was hardly Tom who has been responsible for that
Phil raises a good point. I have written 12 thousand words in reply. That's service you don't get at Burger King!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 goes up in a week or so, subject to the processing schedule in the DNI command bunker. Part 4 a week or so after that.

There are, as everyone reading this knows, no easy answers.

Does everyone here know how to eat soup with a knife? (don't bother reading Nagl, he IMHO missed the point of Lawrnece's message). Perhaps Mark will award prizes to the first 3 solutions.
Heh. Anyone who can eat soup with a knife hardly needs an award from me. ;o)

It's easy. You're thinking inside the box. It's like the too-theoretical thinking that has crippled our efforts in Iraq.

Pour some soup into a bowl. Look around the kitchen. How can eat you eat this soup with a knife?

No slurping from the bowl like a dog!
"No slurping from the bowl like a dog!"

You nuke'em!??

You put a knife to their throats and say, feed me!
Larry, speaking for the Jacksonians/Ralph Peters Brigade, thank you. That is one way.

Haven't read the Nagl book. Here's my ideas.

Forget bowl. Puncture can.

Use knife to acquire something tastier than soup

One drop at a time.

Puree vegetables, meat in soup with knife to thicken it and ladle out with blade.
Mold your knife into a spoon, however that leaves you without the knife, when you need to cut meat.
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