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    Reading “Hard” Books vs. Pretending to Do So

    Posted by Zenpundit on 15th December 2014 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted from zenpundit.com]

    The other day, some friends shared an old post by controversial conservative activist, writer and publisher of  The Federalist,  Ben Domenech, that struck a chord:

    The Top Ten Books People Lie About Reading 

    Have you ever lied about reading a book? Maybe you didn’t want to seem stupid in front of someone you respected. Maybe you rationalized it by reasoning that you had a familiarity with the book, or knew who the author was, or what the story was about, or had glanced at its Wikipedia page. Or maybe you had tried to read the book, even bought it and set it by your bed for months unopened, hoping that it would impart what was in it merely via proximity (if that worked, please email me). 

    I have not, though I frequently catch many people in conversation and even more online who do.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Book Notes, Diversions, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous | 25 Comments »

    Review: I Knew Hitler by Kurt G. W. Ludecke

    Posted by Zenpundit on 10th November 2014 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted from zenpundit.com]

    I Knew Hitler by Kurt G.W. Ludecke 

    The widely forgotten Kurt G. W. Ludecke was a gambler, a charming womanizer, wandering adventurer, sometime writer and armed bohemian of Weimar Germany’s Volkisch right, also became a very early member of the Nazi Party in 1922. Quickly gaining the confidence of Adolf Hitler and the would-be Fuhrer’s inner circle through his intelligence and desperately needed financial donations, Ludecke possessed an intimate entree to the highest leaders of the Nazi Party from before the Beer Hall Putsch to the weeks before the Night of the Long Knives, at which point Hitler threw him into the Oranienburg concentration camp as his personal prisoner.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Europe, Germany, History, Politics | 1 Comment »

    American Spartan

    Posted by Zenpundit on 15th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from Zenpundit.com

    ]

    American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant by Ann Scott Tyson 

    When I first posted that I had received a review copy of American Spartan from Callieit stirred a vigorous debate in the comments section and also a flurry of email offline to me from various parties. Joseph Collins reviewed American Spartan for War on the Rocks , Don Vandergriff posted his review at LESC blog , Blackfive had theirs here,and there was an incisive one in the MSM by former Assistant Secretary of Defense and author Bing West, all of which stirred opinions in the various online forums to which I belong. Then there was the ABC Nightline special which featured Tyson and Gant as well as an appearance by former CIA Director, CENTCOM, Iraq and Afghanistan commander General David Petraeus:

    Major Gant was also a topic here at ZP years ago when he released his widely read and sometimes fiercely debated paper “One Tribe at a Time“, at Steven Pressfield’s site, which launched all of the events chronicled by Tyson in American Spartan.  To be candid, at the time and still today, I remain sympathetic to strategies that enlist “loyalist paramilitaries” to combat insurgencies and other adversarial irregular forces. It should only be done with eyes wide open as to the potential drawbacks (numerous) and it won’t always work but the militia option works often enough historically that it should be carefully considered. With that background in mind, on to the book.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Biography, Book Notes, International Affairs, Islam, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    War on the Rocks: A New Nixon Doctrine – Strategy for a Polycentric World

    Posted by Zenpundit on 8th July 2014 (All posts by )

    I have a new article up at War on the Rocks.com, solicited by the editors, on the history behind the Nixon Doctrine and its implications for today. For those not familiar with WotR, if you like defense, foreign policy, national security and intelligence community topics, it is a great site to read. Most of the articles are by active duty or retired members of the armed services or various national security agencies with a mix of academic specialists, journalists, former officials and bloggers making up the remainder of the authors. You get a nice cross-section of views of the broad defense and national security communities and the opinions are usually strong.

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    I have a new piece up at the excellent War on the Rocks site that is oriented towards both history and contemporary policy Some Excerpts:

    A New Nixon Doctrine: Strategy for a Polycentric World

    ….Asia was only the starting point; the Nixon doctrine continued to evolve in subsequent years into a paradigm for the administration to globally leverage American power, one that, as Chad Pillai explained in his recent War on the Rocks article, still remains very relevant today. Avoiding future Vietnams remained the first priority when President Nixon elaborated on the Nixon Doctrine to the American public in a televised address about the war the following October, but the Nixon Doctrine was rooted in Nixon’s assumptions about larger, fundamental, geopolitical shifts underway that he had begun to explore in print and private talks before running for president. In a secret speech at Bohemian Grove in 1967 that greatly bolstered his presidential prospects, Nixon warned America’s political and business elite that the postwar world as they knew it was irrevocably coming to an end [….]
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    The Darkness behind Colonel Nightingale’s Two Great Truths

    Posted by Zenpundit on 13th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Colonel Keith Nightingale, was featured  at Thomas Rick’s Best Defense blog  “future of war” series at Foreign Policy.com. It is a strong piece, well worth reading:

    The seven ingredients of  highly adaptive and effective militaries  

    The there are two great truths about the future of war.
    The first is that it will consist of identifying and killing the enemy and either prevailing or not. We can surmise all sorts of new bells and whistles and technologies yet unknown, but, ultimately, it comes down to killing people. It doesn’t always have to happen, but you always have to prepare to make it happen, and have the other guy know that.
    The other great truth is that whatever we think today regarding the form, type, and location of our next conflict, will be wrong. Our history demonstrates this with great clarity.
    Well then, how do we appropriately organize for the next conflict if both these things are true? There are a number of historical verities that should serve as guides for both our resourcing and our management. In no particular order, but with the whole in mind, here are some key points to consider that have proven historically very valuable in times of war. The historic degree of support for any one or all within the service structures usually indicated the strengths and shortfalls of our prior leadership vision, preparation, and battlefield successes or failures at the time…..
    Read the rest here.
    .
    Nightingale goes on to explain the important variables of technology, intelligence, personnel quality eccentric or maverick thinkers, linguistic and cultural expertise, deployability and leadership. His points are sound and I recommend them with general agreement.
    .
    One area I wish he had spent more time expounding upon was the part “prevailing or not“. We face a major problem here in that the current generation of  American leaders, our bipartisan elite, our ruling class – call them whatever you will – do not seem to care if America wins wars or not.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Dealing with the China we Have Rather than the China we Wish to Have

    Posted by Zenpundit on 25th March 2014 (All posts by )

    cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    A Sinocentric view of the maritime world courtesy of  The Policy Tensor (hat tip Historyguy 99)

    An amigo who is an expert on China pointed me toward a couple of links last weekend. Here is the first:

    Japan-China COLD WAR 8 / CPC decisions made under layers of veiled obscurity 

    ….Whenever a crisis occurs, diplomatic authorities typically attempt to assess the situation by contacting their counterpart of the country concerned to investigate, if any, what their intentions are. For example, the incident could merely have been an accident or a calculated act sanctioned by those at the center of the administration. But when the Chinese become involved, such diplomatic approaches may no longer be a possibility.

    The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which is supposed to be the equivalent of the U.S. State Department or Japan’s Foreign Ministry, is “merely an organization which carries out policies decided by the Communist Party of China (CPC),”a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

    Foreign Minister Wang Yi is just one of 205 members of the Central Committee of the CPC, and is not even included in the 25-member Politburo, which is regarded as the party’s leadership organ.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Current Events, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    New Book: American Spartan by Ann Scott Tyson

    Posted by Zenpundit on 11th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant

    Was just sent a review copy of American Spartan courtesy of Callie at  Oettinger & Associates which tells the story of Major Jim Gant, the special forces officer and AfPak hand who pushed hard for a controversial strategy in Afghanistan based on arming and training loyalist paramilitaries out of Afghan tribesmen ( or whatever localist network would suffice when tribal identity was weak or absent). I am looking forward to reading this book for a number of reasons.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Book Notes, Current Events, Military Affairs, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    2014 Midwest Business & Markets Conference

    Posted by Zenpundit on 9th March 2014 (All posts by )

    cross-posted to zenpundit.com

    The Union League Club of Chicago Building

    Yesterday, I attended the 2014 Midwest Business & Markets Conference at the historic Union League Club of Chicago. While business conferences are far afield from my usual interests, the main draw for me was seeing Lexington Green speak about the book he co-authored with James C. Bennett, America 3.0

     

    Michael J. Lotus (“Lex”)                       His book

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Business, Chicagoania, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Economics & Finance, Education, Entrepreneurship, Illinois Politics, Internet, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, The Press, USA | 9 Comments »

    New Op-ed at War on the Rocks

    Posted by Zenpundit on 4th March 2014 (All posts by )

    I have a new op-ed on the Crimean crisis up at the military and national security site, War on the Rocks.

    Let’s Slow Roll Any Move Toward Crimean War II:

    One of the more curious implicit assumptions about the crisis in Ukraine is that the subsequent occupation of the Crimea by Russia represents some kind of triumph for President Vladimir Putin and a defeat for the United States. It is a weird, strategic myopia that comes from an unrealistic belief that the United States should be expected to have a granular level of political control over and responsibility for events on the entire planet. We don’t and never can but this kind of political megalomania leads first to poor analysis and then worse policies.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 38 Comments »

    New Book Review at Pragati Magazine – The Violent Image by Neville Bolt

    Posted by Zenpundit on 25th October 2013 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted from zenpundit.com]


    The Violent Image by Neville Bolt 

    I have a new book review up at Pragati this morning. (Pragati magazine is India’s equivalent of The National Interest with some emphasis on freer markets and economic liberalism in the classic sense):

    Lethal ideas and insurgent memory 

    ….One expert who does acknowledge a paradigmatic shift and posits a powerful explanatory model for the behavior of what he terms “the new revolutionaries” is Dr Neville Bolt of the War Studies Department of King’s College, London and author of The Violent Image: Insurgent Propaganda and the New Revolutionaries. Taking a constructivist view of irregular military conflict as the means by which insurgents weave an enduring political narrative of mythic power and shape historical memory, Bolt eschews some cherished strategic tenets of realists and Clausewitzians. The ecology of social media, powered by decentralised, instant communication platforms and the breakdown of formerly autarkic or regulated polities under the corrosive effects of capitalist market expansion, have been, in Bolt’s view, strategic game changers “creating room to maneuver” in a new “cognitive battlespace” for “complex insurgencies”.  Violent “Propaganda of the Deed”, once the nihilistic signature of 19th century Anarchist-terrorist groups like the People’s Will, has reemerged in the 21stcentury’s continuous media attention environment as a critical tool for insurgents to compress time and space through “…a dramatic crisis that must be provoked”.

    As a book The Violent Image sits at the very verge of war and politics where ideas become weapons and serve as a catalyst for turning grievance into physical aggression and violence. Running two hundred and sixty-nine heavily footnoted pages and an extensive bibliography that demonstrates Bolt’s impressive depth of research. While Bolt at times slips into academic style, for the most part his prose is clear, forceful and therefore useful and accessible to the practitioner or policy maker. Particularly for the latter, are Bolt’s investigations into violent action by modern terrorists as a metaphor impacting time (thus, decision cycles) across a multiplicity of audiences.  This capacity for harvesting strategic effect from terrorist events was something lacking in the 19th and early 20thcentury followers of Bakunin and Lenin (in his dalliances with terrorism); or in Bolt’s view, the anarchists “failed to evoke a coherent understanding in the population” or a “sustained message”.

    Read the rest here.

     

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, War and Peace | Comments Off

    David Ronfeldt’s In-Depth Review of America 3.0

    Posted by Zenpundit on 23rd September 2013 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

     

     David Ronfeldt, RAND strategist and theorist has done a deep two-part  review of America 3.0 over at his Visions from Two Theories blog. Ronfeldt has been spending the last few years developing his TIMN analytic framework (Tribes, Institutions [hierarchical], Markets and Networks) which you can get a taste from here  and here or a full reading with this RAND paper.

    David regards the familial structure thesis put forward by James Bennett and Michael Lotus in America 3.0 as “captivating”  and “compelling” for  “illuminating the importance of the nuclear family for America’s evolution in ways that, in my view, help validate and reinforce TIMN”. Both reviews are detailed and should be read in their entirety, but I will have some excerpts below:

    America 3.0 illuminates significance of nuclear families — in line with TIMN (Part 1 of 2) 

    ….Bennett and Lotus show at length (Chapter 2, pp. 29-45) that the nuclear family explains a lot about our distinctive culture and society:

    “It has caused Americans to have a uniquely strong concept of each person as an individual self, with an identity that is not bound by family or tribal or social ties. … Our distinctive type [of] American nuclear family has made us what we are.” (p. 29)And “what we are” as a result is individualistic, liberty-loving, nonegalitarian (without being inegalitarian), competitive, enterprising, mobile, and voluntaristic. In addition, Americans tend to have middle-class values, an instrumental view of government, and a preference for suburban lifestyles. 

    As the authors carefully note, these are generally positive traits, but they have both bright and dark sides, noticeable for example in the ways they make America a “high-risk, high-return culture” (p. 38) — much to the bane of some individuals. The traits also interact in interesting ways, such that Americans tend to be loners as individuals and families, but also joiners “who form an incomprehensibly dense network of voluntary associations” — much to the benefit of civil society (p. 39). 

    In sum, the American-style nuclear family is the major cause of “American exceptionalism” — the basis of our freedom and prosperity, our “amazing powers of assimilation” (p. 53), and our unique institutions:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, America 3.0, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading, Morality and Philosphy, Organizational Analysis, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA | 5 Comments »

    How to Lose a War: A Primer

    Posted by Zenpundit on 29th July 2013 (All posts by )

    cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Since Pakistan is now attempting to get its victory over the United States in Afghanistan formally ratified, now seemed to be a good time to reflect on the performance of American statesmen, politicians and senior generals.

    It has occurred to me that we have many books and papers outlining how to win wars. Certainly the great classics of The Art of War, The History of the Peloponnesian War and On War are the foremost examples, but there are also other useful classics in the strategic canon, whole libraries of military histories, memoirs of great commanders and an infinite number of PDFs and powerpoint briefs from think tanks and consultants. Strangely, none of these have helped us much. Perhaps it is because before running this war so few of this generation’s “deciders” read them en route to their law degrees and MBAs

    We should engage in some counterintuitive thinking:  for our next war, instead of trying to win, let’s try to openly seek defeat. At a minimum, we will be no worse off with that policy than we are now and if we happen to fail, we will actually be moving closer to victory.

    HOW TO LOSE A WAR

    While one of these principles may not be sufficient cause for losing an armed conflict, following all of them is the surest road to defeat.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Big Government, Book Notes, Current Events, History, International Affairs, Iraq, Military Affairs, National Security, Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    New Article in Pragati Magazine: The Re-industrial Revolution

    Posted by Zenpundit on 15th March 2013 (All posts by )

    I have a new piece up at Pragati Magazine  this morning, which focuses on a book review of Makers by Chris Anderson:

    The Re-industrial Revolution 

    ….If anything, Anderson has managed to understate the velocity with which the technology is advancing and the creative uses to which users are putting their machines. Since the publication ofMakers, a succession of news stories have revealed everything from Formlabs’ slickly designed Form 1 machine to users printing functional (if fragile) assault rifles, car bodies and biomedical surgical replacements for missing pieces of the human skull. One gets the sense that the genie is out of the bottle.

    Anderson is not merely making a technologically oriented argument , but a profoundly cultural one. In his view, the existence of the Maker movement, operating on the collaborative, “open-source” ethos is an iterative, accelerative driver of economic change that complements the technology. Anderson writes: “…In short, the Maker Movement shares three characteristics, all of which are transformative:

    Read the rest here.

    Crossposted from zenpundit.com

    Posted in America 3.0, Announcements, Business, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, India, Science, Society, Tech, USA | 5 Comments »

    Sixty Years after Stalin

    Posted by Zenpundit on 6th March 2013 (All posts by )

    Sixty years ago one of the greatest monsters in history, a mass-murderer of tens of millions many times over, the yellow-eyed, “Kremlin mountaineer”  breathed his last.

    We live, deaf to the land beneath us,
    Ten steps away no one hears our speeches,
    All we hear is the Kremlin mountaineer,
    The murderer and peasant-slayer.
    His fingers are fat as grubs
    And the words, final as lead weights, fall from his lips,
    His cockroach whiskers leer
    And his boot tops gleam.
    Around him a rabble of thin-necked leaders -
    fawning half-men for him to play with.
    They whinny, purr or whine
    As he prates and points a finger,
    One by one forging his laws, to be flung
    Like horseshoes at the head, to the eye or the groin.
    And every killing is a treat
    For the broad-chested Ossete.
    - Osip Mandelstam

    So great was the terror he had inflicted that many of his victims, dazed and bloodied by decades of fear, savage oppression and war, openly wept. The greatest fear of the late dictator’s closest henchmen and accomplices, who had more than likely escaped the conveyor belt of torture, gulag and execution only by their master’s death, was that the people would think that they had murdered their dear vozhd and would storm the Kremlin and tear them to pieces.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Biography, Europe, History, Leftism, Russia, War and Peace | 27 Comments »

    The Apple II of 3 D Printing?

    Posted by Zenpundit on 28th February 2013 (All posts by )

    It may be 1977 all over again.

    Check out the Form 1 Kickstarter page 

    The Formlabs home page and their blog.

    I recently reviewed Chris Anderson’s book Makers. What 3 D printing needs is the affordable, user-friendly, versatile device to move 3 D printing from the arcane realm of  techno-hobbyist geeks to the general population’s “early adapters”, which will put the next “consumer model” generation on everyone’s office desk; eventually as ubiquitous as cell phones or microwaves.

    Formlabs should send one of these to John Robb and Shloky for a product review.

    Hat tip to Feral Jundi

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Predictions, Science | 1 Comment »

    High Ground in Chicago at the Siskel Center 2/21- 2/23

    Posted by Zenpundit on 20th February 2013 (All posts by )

    HIGH GROUND 

    Hat tip to Kanani Fong of Kitchen Dispatch 

    At the Siskel Center, 164 N State St, Chicago. IL. 60601
    (312) 846-2600

    The award -winning film HIGH GROUND :
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Announcements, Arts & Letters, Film, Iraq, Miscellaneous, Society, USA, War and Peace | Comments Off

    The White Paper and its Critics

    Posted by Zenpundit on 11th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Someone for reasons unknown last week leaked the classified Department of JusticeWhite Paper” on targeting with drone attacks the numerically tiny number of US citizens overseas who have joined al Qaida or affiliated groups. The leak set off an outburst of public debate, much of it ill-informed by people who did not bother to read the white paper and some of it intentionally misleading by those who had and, frankly, know better.

    Generally, I’m a harsh critic of the Holder DOJ, but their white paper, though not without some minor flaws of reasoning and one point of policy, is – unlike some of the critics – solidly in compliance with the laws of war, broader questions of international law and the major SCOTUS decisions on war powers. It was a political error to classify this document in the first place rather than properly share it with the relevant Congressional committees conducting oversight

    Here it is and I encourage you to read it for yourself:

    Lawfulness of Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qa’ida

    Much of this white paper debate has been over a legitimate policy dispute (“Is it a good idea if we use drones to kill AQ terrorists, including American ones?”) intentionally being mischaracterized by opponents of the policy (or the war) as a legal or constitutional question. It is not. The law is fairly settled as is the question if the conflict with AQ rises to a state of armed conflict, which SCOTUS dealt with as recently as Hamdi and for which there are ample precedents from previous wars and prior SCOTUS decisions to build upon. At best, framed as a legal dispute, the opponents of the drone policy would have a very long uphill climb with the Supreme Court. So why do it?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Afghanistan/Pakistan, History, International Affairs, Law, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    US Foreign Policy, Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

    Posted by Zenpundit on 31st January 2013 (All posts by )

    The Obama administration, though they would not characterize it as such nor have much desire to acknowledge it at all, have attempted  a strategic detente with the “moderate” elements of political Islam.

    This policy has not been entirely consistent; Syria, for example, is a quagmire the administration has wisely refrained from wading directly into despite the best efforts of R2P advocates to drag us there.  But more importantly, under President Obama the US supported the broad-based Arab Spring popular revolt against US ally, dictator Hosni Mubarak, and pushed the subsequent ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Libyan revolution against the entirely mad Colonel Gaddafi. These appear to be geopolitical “moves” upon which the Obama administration hopes to build.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, International Affairs, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 5 Comments »

    The Controversial CTC Report

    Posted by Zenpundit on 26th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from Zenpundit.com

    The Center for Combating Terrorism at West Point released a report on domestic terrorism that raised hackles for a number of reasons. Despite the dismissals of liberal political pundits, the reasons for objections to the CTC report are legitimate but they did not need to arise in the first place and might have been avoided with a slightly different editorial approach or appropriate caveats (I just finished reading the report, which is primarily focused on the usual suspects). Here’s why I think the normally well-regarded CTC stumbled into a hornet’s nest:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Law Enforcement, Libertarianism, Military Affairs, National Security, North America, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, Terrorism, USA | 12 Comments »

    “Sustaining” your Way to Serfdom as a Grand Strategy

    Posted by Zenpundit on 14th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Originally posted at Zenpundit.com

    Friend of the blog, commenter L.C. Rees, likes to point out that one of the most important part of a grand strategy, particularly one that is maintained despite evidence of being a geopolitical failure, are the domestic political effects that work to the advantage of the faction supporting it.  In my view, grand strategy usually has a political or cultural evolutionary component and, human nature being unchanging, Rees’s cynical observation has merit.

    Last year, a couple of JCS aides/field grade officers wrote a grossly overpraised paper that was pushed by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Thomas Friedman and assorted worthies, that purported to be about a new grand strategy with which America could navigate the world. Mostly it centered on a preference for an America being run by a vaguely EU-like, technocratic, regime under the rubric of “sustainment”, in which the authors wisely folded in a number of  shibboleths popular with the corporate-liberal upper class who write large donation checks to think tanks or make their living in public policy and academia.

    The talk of this nature died down when the election cycle began, but the themes were recently revived by the New America Foundation’s Grand Strategy Project whose director had an op-ed in Foreign Policy to reintroduce this agenda to the chattering classes now that the pesky voters are out of the way until 2014:

    A New U.S. Grand Strategy 

    ….Walkable communities: The first pool of demand is homegrown. American tastes have changed from the splendid isolation of the suburbs to what advocates are calling the “five-minute lifestyle” — work, school, transit, doctors, dining, playgrounds, entertainment all within a five-minute walk of the front door. From 2014 to 2029, baby boomers and their children, the millennial generation, will converge in the housing marketplace — seeking smaller homes in walkable, service-rich, transit-oriented communities. Already, 56 percent of Americans seek this lifestyle in their next housing purchase. That’s roughly three times the demand for such housing after World War II.
    If only Bismarck had included some “walkable communities” for Prussia, Europe might have avoided the tragedy of World War I.
    .

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, National Security, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA | 18 Comments »

    Does Culture Trump Strategy?

    Posted by Zenpundit on 1st November 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    The always interesting John Hagel tweeted a link recently to an old post at  Mill’s-Scofield Innovanomics, a blog run by a business strategist and consultant with a science background, Deb Mills-Scofield.

    Summer’s Trump Cards 

    ….Culture Trumps Strategy: The best made plans are worthless if they’re not aligned with the culture. Sometimes the strategy can help transform the culture (for good or bad), but if the culture doesn’t support it, it won’t happen.  Perhaps that’s why I think CEOs need to be CCS’s – Chief Culture Stewards.

    Challenge:  Start to check the health of your culture – really, be brutally honest -before the end of August.

    This was interesting to me.

    Obviously, Mills-Scofield was concerned here with “business strategy” and organizational theory and not strategy in the classical sense of war and statecraft. As Dr. Chet Richards has pointed out, unlike a military leader in war, businessmen are not trying to destroy their customers, their employees or even their competition, but while not the same kind of “strategy”, the underlying cognitive action, the “strategic thinking”,  is similar. Perhaps the same.

    So, shifting the question back to the original context of war and statecraft, does culture trump strategy?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, History, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Society, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    A Light at the End of the Tunnell

    Posted by Zenpundit on 23rd October 2012 (All posts by )


    Colonel Harry Tunnell 

    Michael Yon recently published a remarkable and courageous letter by US Army Colonel Harry Tunnell to the Secretary of the Army regarding deficiencies in our military operations in Afghanistan.  Colonel Tunnell is now retired, but the letter was sent while he was on active duty in 2010. Yon calls it “stunning” and I wholeheartedly agree. It is a “must read“.

    Colonel Tunnell is a controversial figure in the Army. A bluntly outspoken critic of COIN with strong views on military professionalism and tactical leadership, he served as a commander of combat troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq, where he was badly wounded. Overcoming his injury, Colonel Tunnel returned to command a Stryker brigade in Afghanistan and clash with his ISAF superiors over his use of older Army doctrine on counter-guerrilla operations instead of the pop-centric COIN of FM 3-24.  Tunnell aggressively and repeatedly attacked the Taliban in his area of operations, pressing them, which resulted in frequent combat and casualties on both sides – something that was out-of-step with ISAF’s tactical guidance. Several enlisted soldiers in the Stryker brigade were convicted of the infamous “Kill Team” murders which led to Tunnell being investigated and cleared by the Army which found no causal responsibility from Tunnell’s advocacy of aggressive tactics but nonetheless reprimanded him for “poor command climate”.

    In light of  Tunnell’s letter to the Secretary of the Army, interpret that administrative action as you wish. Afterwards, Colonel Tunnell continued to be a harsh critic of COIN and the focus of periodic,  extremely one-sided, negative stories in the media.
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    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Harvey Mansfield on Elections and Democracy

    Posted by Zenpundit on 1st September 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Professor Harvey C. Mansfield of Harvard University and a fellow at the Hoover Institution is famous for his scholarship on classical political philosophy (I often recommend his edition on Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy) as well as his provocative commentary on social and political issues.  While I liked his take on Machiavelli, I warmed to him further when, after his book on manliness came out and some reporter asked Mansfield if it was “manly” to carry a gun? He answered to the effect, “Yes, but not as manly as carrying a sword”.

    Mansfield has a new article out in Defining Ideas  on the nature of elections and democracy worth reading:

    Are You Smarter Than a Freshman? 

    ….Machiavelli believes that human beings are divided into the few who want to rule and the many who do not care to rule themselves but do not want to be ruled by others either. Then those who want to rule must conceal their rule from the many they rule if they wish to succeed. How can they do this? Machiavelli went about conceiving a “new mode of ruling,” a hidden government that puts the people “under a dominion they do not see.” Government is hidden when it appears not to be imposed on you from above but when it comes from you, when it is self-imposed.
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    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Politics | 2 Comments »

    Two New Articles at Pragati Magazine

    Posted by Zenpundit on 7th July 2012 (All posts by )

    My amigo Adam Elkus and I each have an article up at the newest issue of Pragati magazine. Adam is reviewing the Sanger book on Obama and national security and I tackle the strategic implications of drones and cyber warfare:

    Adam Elkus – Confront, Conceal, Leak 

    David Sanger’s Confront and Conceal is best used as a Rosetta stone for deciphering DC discourse. Its true utility lies not in its uneven discussion of Barack Obama’s national security decisions, but in the way it reveals both mundane and alarming traits of American foreign policy debate. Sanger’s obsession with a supposed “split” between values and interests, mistaken belief that international security should be conducted according to the Golden Rule, and exposure of sensitive leaks all tell a story about the state of national security debate in 21st century Washington. Although the message is muddied and the narrator unreliable, Confront and Conceal is gripping reading.

    Sanger’s self-designated task is to illuminate, through judicious research and both on and off the record interviews, the Obama administration’s struggle to operationalise its new vision of foreign policy. Sanger is at his best when exploring the way high-level officials engage in bureaucratic judo. His Obama is a canny political operator that compensates for relative inexperience with self-awareness and vigor. Even in the face of strategic surprise and bureaucratic infighting, Obama keeps a firm hand on the steering wheel. Sanger aggressively promotes a reading of Obama as driven operator rather than spectator, a portrayal that rings true when compared to other popular accounts of Obama’s foreign policy leadership style…. 

    Mark Safranski -Drone invasions and cyber dystopias 

    ….Of the two, drones have the older history, going back almost a century to the Great War where experiments in auto-piloted planes were financed by the US Navy, but for much of the twentieth century, military applications for drones (or “remotely piloted vehicles”) were sharply limited. The technological capabilities of drones always lagged far behind the advances in manned aircraft and they were extremely vulnerable to modern anti-aircraft systems, or in some cases, small arms fire. While drones had some marginal utility for battlefield surveillance or as decoys, during the Cold War they were never the primary collection tools for sensitive intelligence that the U-2 Blackbird, listening posts and spy satellites were.

    Several factors in the twenty-first century have pushed drones to the forefront as a weapon of choice for the Pentagon and the militaries of major powers. First, has been the relative decline of the probability of major interstate war since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the corresponding rise of irregular warfare in the form of insurgency by terrorists, guerrillas and rebellious tribes. Generally, these low-tech combatants reside in poor and remote areas and lack the capacity to detect or defend against drones except by concealment. Secondly, drones offer a tremendous economic advantage and battlefield return on investment (ROI) per enemy killed over advanced fighter aircraft.  A new F-22 costs $150 million to buy and $45,000 an hour just to fly with a pilot whose training costs the USAF $2.6 million; a reusable, propeller-driven Predator only costs slightly over $4 million. About the price of two and half Tomahawk cruise missiles….

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, India, International Affairs, Internet, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Book Review: The Snake-Eaters by Owen West

    Posted by Zenpundit on 8th June 2012 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted at zenpundit.com]

    The Snake Eaters by Owen West 

    Owen West, commodities trader, novelist and USMC Major in the Reserves has written a remarkable book in his war story of counterinsurgency in Khalidiya, a decaying rural town in the deadly Anbar province, heartland of Iraq’s Sunni insurgency. A success story for COIN, but also a very cautionary tale of the transformation of the Iraqi Brigade 3-1, from a dispirited, ill-equipped, poorly led unit distrusted and ignored by it’s American “partner” battalion and under siege by a hostile population into a self-confident, elite, combat force, “the Snake-Eaters”, feared by insurgents and respected by townspeople – and of their American advisors of Team Outcast who struggled to broker this transformation.

    After reading The Snake-Eaters and reflecting, the book speaks to readers at different levels.
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    Posted in Book Notes, International Affairs, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 3 Comments »