"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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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:
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 »
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.
Someone for reasons unknown last week leaked the classified Department of Justice “White 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:
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 »
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 »
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’sGrand 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:
….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.
….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?
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”.
Professor Harvey C. Mansfieldof 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’sDiscourses 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:
….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. Read the rest of this entry »
My amigo Adam Elkus and I each have an article up at the newest issue ofPragati magazine. Adam is reviewing the Sanger book on Obama and national security and I tackle the strategic implications of drones and cyber warfare:
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….
….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….
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.
Having worked with such students in my classroom, words fail me.
Steve Hynd, the progressive blogger at The Agonist and Newshoggers.com did some digging and discovered The Judge Rotenberg Center has deep and exclusive financial ties to a powerful coterie of Massachusetts Democrats:
Congress passed a law – by unanimous consent in the Senate and by a suspension of rules in the House – to permit the Federal government to arbitrarily arrest and imprison for up to ten years members of the serf class (formerly known as “American citizens”) whose presence annoys or offends specially designated members of the elite and foreign dignitaries. A list that will no doubt expand greatly in future legislation to include very “special” private citizens.
Think about that, future “Joe the Plumbers” or Cindy Sheehans, before you ask an impertinent question of your betters or wave your handmade cardboard sign. Is ten seconds of glory on your local ABC affiliate news at 5 o’clock worth that felony arrest record and federally funded anal exam?
No? Then kindly shut your mouth, sir. Learn your place.
….Into the breach strides eminent diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis, offering a magisterial 784 page biography, a quarter- century in the making, George F. Kennan: An American Life. Gaddis, a noted historian of the Cold War and critic of revisionist interpretations of American foreign policy, has produced his magnum opus, distilling not only the essence of Kennan’s career, but the origins of his grand strategic worldview that were part and parcel the self-critical and lonely isolation that made Kennan such an acute observer of foreign societies and a myopic student of his own.
Gaddis, who is a co-founder of the elite Grand Strategy Program at Yale University, had such a long intellectual association with his subject, having been appointed Kennan’s biographer in 1982, that one wonders on theories of strategy at times where George Kennan ends and John Lewis Gaddis begins. Giving Kennan the supreme compliment among strategists, that he possessed in the years of the Long Telegram and the Policy Planning Staff, Clausewitz’s Coup d’oeil, Gaddis does not shy away from explaining Kennan’s human imperfections to the reader that made the diplomat a study in contradictions….
World affairs are much more like spider’s web than the neat little drawers of an apothecary’s cabinet. In the latter, the contents of each drawer are cleanly isolated and conveniently compartmentalized. What you do with the contents of one drawer today has no bearing on what you do next week with those of another. By contrast, with a spider’s web, when you touch a web at any point, not only do you find it to be sticky in a fragile sort of way, but your touch sends vibrations through every centimeter of the lattice.
Previously, I read and reviewedBrynjar Lia’s Architect of Global Jihad, about Islamist terrorist and strategist Abu Musab al-Suri. A sometime collaborator with Osama bin Laden and the AQ inner circle, a trainer of terrorists in military tactics in Afghanistan and an advocate of jihadi IO, al-Suri was one of the few minds produced by the radical Islamist movement who thought and wrote about conflict with the West on a strategic level. Before falling into the hands of Pakistani security and eventually, Syria, where al-Suri was wanted by the Assad regime, al-Suri produced a massive 1600 page tome on conducting a terror insurgency, The Global Islamic Resistance Call, which al-Suri released on to the jihadi darknet.
Jim Lacey has produced an English digest version of al-Suri’s influential magnum opus comprising approximately 10% of the original Arabic version, by focusing on the tactical and strategic subjects and excising the rhetorical/ritualistic redundancies common to Islamist discourse and the interminable theological disputation. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.
I spend a lot of time reading and writing and I do so primarily within a specific environment – my home office. The space reflects the man, to some degree.
Surveying my office space here at home, I noticed that my desk has begun, like a coral reef, to accrete various objects, oddments and curious like a layer of bric-a-brac sediment. Some objects change, others stay forever. Exclusive of papers, books, printers and a computer, here’s what my desk holds: Read the rest of this entry »
[NEW! Incoming link from Outside the Beltway - see addendum below]
There has been much ado about Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s enunciation of “Responsibility to Protect” as a justification for the Obama administration’s unusually executed intervention (or assistance to primarily British and French intervention) in Libya in support of rebels seeking to oust their lunatic dictator, Colonel Moammar Gaddafi. In “R2P” the Obama administration, intentionally or not, has found its own Bush Doctrine, and unsurprisingly, the magnitude of such claims – essentially a declaration of jihad against what is left of the Westphalian state system by progressive elite intellectuals – are beginning to draw fire for implications that stretch far beyond Libya.
People in the strategic studies, IR and national security communities have a parlor game of wistfully reminiscing about the moral clarity of Containment and the wisdom of George Kennan. They have been issuing tendentiously self-important “Mr. Z” papers for so long that they failed to notice that if anyone has really written the 21st Century’s answer to Kennan’s X article, it was Anne-Marie Slaughter’s battle cry in the pages of The Atlantic.
The following is a post by seydlitz89, a noted Clausewitzian commentator who has participated in three round tables here at Chicago Boyz, and who wanted to respond to a recent post of mine that discussed strategy and superempowered individuals, a discussion that also involved Joseph Fouche, Charles Cameron and others. For many readers in this corner of the blogosphere who are interested in strategy, Seydlitz should need no introduction, but for those that do:
seydlitz89 is a former US Marine and Army intelligence officer who served in a civilian capacity in Berlin during the last decade of the Cold War. He was involved as both an intelligence operations specialist and an operations officer in strategic overt humint collection and now blogs and posts on the internet and can be contacted at seydlitz89 at web.de. He lives with his family in northern Portugal and works in education. His writings have appeared at Clausewitz.com, Defense and the National Interest, Milpub and on threeChicagoboyz Roundtables.
Politics Requires People (a Response to “War, the Individual, Strategy and the State”)
By seydlitz89, 3 August 2011
I would like to first off thank Zen for this opportunity to guest post on his great blog.
I am essentially a small town Southern conservative who is dissatisfied with both US political parties. I search in vain for a conservative politics worth the name. So my politics are out of the way and any potential ideological influences indicated.
Strategic theory is a means to understand strategic reality (for lack of a better term). There are times when it’s just kind of interesting and times when it can help you literally survive, say if you and your Greek family lived in Smyrna in 1919 and knew that the Greek Army had just landed to fight the Turks, and that the Turks would probably win this war and treat the Greeks in Smyrna none too kindly. You would probably think it prudent to leave the city and go someplace safer, like Athens, Cyprus or Crete. Strategic theory is kind of like that, it provides understanding to events and possibly a general direction those events may take, although it is primarily a tool of military historical analysis. That is future prediction is not really part of the deal, but sometimes the relation between the stated political purpose and the military means available, not to mention the character of the enemy provide such a clear indicator of how events are going to turn out, that it becomes clear either figuratively or even literally that it is time to “get out of town”, so to speak.
Strategic theory uses a system of interlocking concepts which comprise for Clausewitzians Clausewitz’s General Theory of war. The General Theory postulates that there exists a system of common attributes to all wars as violent social interactions and that war belongs to a larger body ofhuman relations and actions known as “politics” (all wars belong within the realm of politics, but not all politics is war). While all wars share these characteristics, warfare, as in how to conduct wars, is very much based on the society and level of technology existing at a specific time. War doesn’t change whereas warfare goes through a process of constant change. Clausewitz’s General Theory need only be flexible enough to adequately understand war and act at the same time as a basis for war planning. It need not be perfect and is not expected to be so. Essentially , it need only be better than the next best theory, and so far we Clausewitzians are still waiting for this second-best theory to make its appearance.
Warfare is thus the specific “art of war” for a particular period ofhuman history, but would have to be compatible (following Wylie) with the General Theory. On War presents at the same time Clausewitz’s General Theory and his art of Napoleonic warfare, that is a theory of warfare for his time, which is one of the reasons readers find the book confusing. As new methods of warfare come into practice, new theoretical concepts emerge. It is one of these potential concepts that this particular paper and the discussion which initiated it is all about, that being the superempowered individual.
….Rumsfeld’s and Schoomaker’s redesign of the Army into a lighter, more mobile, and more expeditionary force seems permanent. Gone is the Cold War and Desert Storm concept of the long buildup of armor as prelude to a massive decisive battle. Instead, globally mobile brigade combat teams will provide deterrence, respond to crises, and sustain expeditionary campaigns. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the current Army chief of staff (and soon to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) recently described a sustainable brigade rotation system, an expeditionary adaptation that the Navy and Marine Corps have employed for decades. In addition, both the Army and Marine Corps have drawn up plans to shrink their headcounts back near the Rumsfeld-era levels. Rumsfeld’s concerns about personnel costs sapping modernization are now coming to pass.
There now seems to be a near-consensus inside Washington that the large open-ended ground campaigns that Rumsfeld resisted are no longer sustainable. The former defense secretary’s preference for special operations forces, air power, networked intelligence, and indigenous allies is now back in vogue. Even Gen. David Petraeus, who burnished his reputation by reversing Rumsfeld’s policies in Iraq, will now implement Rumsfeld’s doctrine in eastern Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, the U.S. will counter the deteriorating situation there not by shifting in conventional ground troops for pacification, but with “more special forces, intelligence, surveillance, air power … [and] substantially more Afghan boots on the ground.”
A kindergarten teacher in Mexico seeks to protect her students and calm their fears as narco-cartel fighters conduct a raging gun battle outside the window of her school. The woman has nerves of iron.
But hey…..Mexico can’t have an “insurgency” because the narcos don’t have “political” goals. Or a unified political goal. Or because there are still good vacation deals there at all-inclusive resorts. Or….Or…Or…. whatever flimsy rationale helps policy makers continue to punt the war next door.
Altars to Santa Muerte, “Saint Death” to the poor and the narcocultos
SWJ has been en fuego the last few days and this is the first of several that I recommend that readers give close attention.
Dr. Robert J. Bunker and Lt. John Sullivan are indicating that the canary in the coal mine phase of Mexico’s narco-insurgency has passed. Mexican society is entering a new and more dangerous period of accelerating cultural devolution. Narco-insurgent violence has shifted from the economically motivated and brutally instrumental of organized crime syndicates everywhere to culturally totemic and ghastly ceremonials out of tribal prehistory:
Even many Pakistanis believe the ISI was harboring Osama bin Laden, so there’s a lot of blame-shifting and finger-pointing going on in the government. And, as B. Raman details in his May 17 post, the armed forces feel humiliated because the U.S. was able to pull off the raid in Abbottabad right under their noses.
However, the military has told so many lies over the years to puff up their efficiency that several Qaeda-friendly jihadi groups in Pakistan don’t believe the raid could have been carried off without cooperation from a branch of the military. So those groups are on a rampage against Pakistan’s military.
In short, Rawalpindi is getting it from all sides in the wake of the Abbottabad raid. For that reason Raman is concerned that Rawalpindi might try to put a shine back on its tarnished reputation by directing terrorist attack at India. That would be a stupid move because it took everyone outside Syria all of 6 minutes to figure out that Syria’s government was behind the Palestinian ‘freedom protest’ against Israel on May 15 — 1 minute to realize what the government was up to (Bashy Assad’s attempt to deflect world attention from his brutal quashing of Syrian protests) and the remaining 5 minutes to attempt to figure out whether Bashy thought the year was 1990 or 1982. (1)
….The only people in Washington still pushing the line are influence agents in the pay of Pakistan’s government and U.S. defense analysts and NATO toadies who are so daffy they couldn’t find their hands with a flashlight. Either way, nobody’s buying the line anymore that Pakistan carries out atrocities because it’s scared of India.
Understand? Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall. If Islamabad and Rawalpindi think China can help put Humpty back together they’re not only behind the times, they also don’t understand the Chinese.(2)
More than they want to see India destabilized, more than they want to see the United States preoccupied with the war on terror, more than anything in the world, the Chinese want China to be a great nation and to be seen as such on the world stage. The Chinese know what it takes to be seen as a great nation. So, only provided the terrorists Rawalpindi nurtured kept it down to a dull roar was Beijing was willing to support Pakistan’s bloody-minded machinations against India and the United States. But if Pakistanis think the Chinese will risk everything they’ve sacrificed for, just to be seen by the world as supporters of a nation of anarchist terrorists, those Pakistanis need their heads examined.
If Rawalpindi doesn’t want to believe me, it needs to believe this: At the end of April, China’s government published in English) a white paper on the country’s planned next phase in its foreign aid policy . The government has more than a $1 trillion to lavish on aid. About half the aid is earmarked for North Korea but a large chunk of the remainder Beijing plans to lavish on investment in U.S. companies.
The plan is not made from the goodness of their hearts; the leaders want concessions from the U.S. government in return for their largesse. But the new policy also indicates that China’s government has listened to every criticism that’s been voiced about its earlier foreign-aid policy and is adjusting the new policy accordingly.