In my comments on Lex’s post on 4G warfare, I argued that Fourth Generation Warfare didn’t really exist, at least, not as usually defined. I thought I would expand on my arguments because I think that the myth of 4GW diverts attention from the reality of most modern conflicts and frustrates our ability to win such conflicts.
Archive for July, 2007
Most urgently Robb almost begs for the US to radically restructure the electricity grid. Again, those who can afford it will simply go off the grid – through the use of wind, solar and other types of generation. Another interesting point he made is that some municipalities may just go ahead and create their own power generation and distribution. A wonderful example he provides is suburbia – I think Chicago. Many suburbs are breaking apart from large cities as we speak to ensure their own safety and care. This is an excellent point. IIRC there is a suburb in Atlanta doing this exact thing right now and I would argue that many suburbs in the Chicago area will eventually break away from the black hole that is Cook County. Do you honestly think that people in places like Downers Grove will ever send their kids to the Chicago Public Schools? On the flip side, what sort of parent, if they have the resources and live in the City of Chicago wouldn’t send their kid to a private school? That would be borderline child abuse.
De-centralization of everything seems to be Robb’s key point.
Read the whole thing.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Boyd 2007 Conference held at the Gray Center at Quantico. Dedicated to the memory and strategic theories of the late Colonel John Boyd, the conference was organized by a number of his former associates, notably Dr. Chet Richards and attracts primarily defense scholars and military personnel (active/reserve/retired) who are professionally interested in counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and unconventional warfare.
I have been to many conferences and seminars, primarily historical or for educational issues in my time but few approached this one in terms of intellectual seriousness and lack of pretense on the part of panelists and audience. The ideas clearly mattered most, not ego; four star generals mixed easily with graduate students, bestselling authors with bloggers, scholars with Iraq war veterans. The Marines and civilian employees I met at Quantico could not have been more cordial or helpful to the many visitors in their midst.
I strongly encourage those interested in military history, strategy or 4th generation warfare to consider attending next year ( and reserving a slot early – they go fast). It was a wonderful experience from which I learned a great deal and met many interesting people.
A selection of links that provide more background on Boyd 2007:
After Ginny’s post, I’d like to return to my theme of pressure testing narratives with some concrete examples. Narrative is useful, and it’s fun, so in the previous post I was in now way suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Regarding narratives: Yes, it is our human nature to seek a satisfaction that is not always true.
Nonetheless, here is a simple narrative of challenges overcome – from the one-room schoolhouse to the Congressional Gold Medal, from a world prophesying famine throughout Asia to a world of a booming India: Norman Borlaug’s life has been long and useful. This story from a student newspaper may lead us to hope that a model such as this can be internalized by those who read it. This is a heroism of unbelievable productivity, of humility, of a passion for others. That mildness may well have saved billions of lives; few in man’s long history can claim (not that he does, of course) such an effect. Mostly we think in terms of death, so many died because of Stalin or Hitler we say. To think of lives is harder to wrap our minds around – we compare an absence, a nil, with a presence. But how wonderful each presence is. People like Borlaug are the quiet heroes that we can hope win hearts and minds.
Posted by Lexington Green on 17th July 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
No one is doing this in any serious way, so far as I can tell, almost six years after 9/11. Future historians will be scathing.
A book length publication that looks very interesting, after a skim. The authors say the main, under-utilized weapon in the US arsenal against terrorism is ridicule.
The report shows that media outlets and products created by Sunni insurgents, who are responsible for the majority of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and their supporters are undermining the authority of the Iraqi government, demonizing coalition forces, fomenting sectarian strife, glorifying terrorism, and perpetrating falsehoods that obscure the accounts of responsible journalists. Insurgent media seek to create an alternate reality to win hearts and minds, and they are having a considerable degree of success. … [However] insurgent media have not yet faced a serious challenge to their message on the Internet.
In in this article we learn many valuable Arab words. Our military, and government, and media should adopt these more accurate terms for terrorism. Perhaps in the blogosphere we can lead the way:
irhab (eer-HAB) — Arabic for terrorism, thus enabling us to call the al Qaeda-style killers irhabis, irhabists and irhabiyoun rather than the so-called “jihadis” and “jihadists” and “mujahideen” and “shahids” (martyrs) they badly want to be called. (Author’s lament: Here we are, almost six years into a life-and-death War on Terrorism, and most of us do not even know this basic Arabic for terrorism.)
I wish our soldiers well in their struggle against the irhabis in Anbar province.
Jonathan and John Jay say much that is wise about the nature of evil. However, not surprisingly, I have great affection for narratives. It isn’t just because I majored in lit; though I can be mean-spirited, anecdotal gossip helps me arrive at a greater understanding of human nature. We see conversation as a series of formed narratives – with structure, implicit thesis, tensions & resolutions. Unfortunately, I have an acquaintance who retells events honestly and factually; she never imposes interpretation – indeed, she has no interpretations, no ends, and no broader applicability to her life or mine. As I listen, I become frustrated, realizing how much I expect a conversation to be a series of narratives.
Posted by Lexington Green on 15th July 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Who was it who said “how can I know what I think until I say it?” Substitute “say” with “blog”.
The United States has suffered at the hands of what are called Fourth Generation Warfare opponents for some time now. Iran presents us with the opportunity to wage 4GW ourselves. John Boyd said that war is fought on the moral, mental and physical planes, and that the physical is the least important and least decisive. The Mullah regime is morally and intellectually bankrupt. It needs to be attacked on that level. The end game is something like 1989, where there are no NATO troops on the street, but the Warsaw Pact evaporates. A strong background military threat is imperative.
Now, what I mostly see about 4GW is stuff from William Lind or his spiritual father Martin van Creveld, in which the nation state is basically doomed to lose to 4GW opponents, assisted by knowingly or foolishly complicit people in civil society who are duped and coopted by the 4GWarriors. John Robb seems to think the global guerrillas will get more and more powerful until our current political organization crumbles and is replaced by something networked and post-Westphalian. Thomas X. Hammes at the end of his book suggests at least the possibility of a 4GW type of military which could be networked and agile, but it is more of a sketch than a full-blown set of proposed reforms. Other writers suggest various sensible reforms the military might adopt — e.g. Donald Vandergriff, and sometimes Ralph Peters.
But what I want to know is this: Can the US military, with or without the engagement of other parts of the government, with our without the assistance of other countries, initiate, wage and win a 4GW campaign? More narrowly, what would a U.S.-led 4GW campaign against the Iranian mullah regime look like? or, rephrased, can the “soft kill” or the “non-kinetic kill” be a set of actual policies with a viable chance of success, rather than (potentially) a mere cover for inaction? And finally, whatever set of policies, strategies, tactics and tools are employed to do the non-kinetic kill against the Mullah regime, does the 4GW or 5GW terminology add anything of value? Does it lend clarity, cause confusion, or do nothing at all?
I’m on a mission from Lex. On Thu 12 Jul at 5:34 PM CDT, he wrote me:
> Are the Millennials Different?
> I know you are a fan. Any response must be cross-posted on CB!
I can think of nothing better to do on a fine Bastille Day evening — having missed the concert by virtue of being 400 miles to the southwest — than consume modest quantities of ethanol in the form of Boulevard Lunar Ale and compose a rambling post for infliction on the readership here. By way of my usual thinning out of my prospective audience, graze on over to Arcturus for what has become known as the Baby Boomer Apocalypse post, which will 1) impart what I think is the most important aspect of Strauss & Howe’s model and 2) very likely cause you to decide you’ve got better things to do than read the rest of this.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Lexington Green on 14th July 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Details here. If you are in the Chicagoland area, drop by: 1172 E. 55th, 7:00 pm.
(Jimmy’s has been aptly described as “like colonial Williamsburg for booze hounds”, as well as being the watering hole of the University of Chicago. This is the perfect excuse to visit a cultural landmark.)
Posted by Mitch Townsend on 14th July 2007 (All posts by Mitch Townsend)
“We have not released giant badgers in Basra, and nor have we been collecting eggs and releasing serpents into the Shatt al-Arab river,” Major David Gell told reporters.
Cue the Monty Python references.
Your heroes will help you find good in yourself
Your friends won’t forsake you for somebody else.
They’ll both stand beside you thru thick and thru thin
And that’s how it goes with heroes and friends.
from “Heroes and Friends” by Don Schlitz and Randy Travis.
My heroes – say Brian Lamb and Denis Dutton – help me become more tolerant and curious. Franklin’s example helps me work a bit harder; the loving generosity of a woman in my Sunday School class encourages me to be more gentle with my tongue. Kids need heroes but so do adults. We make better choices because our imagination has been stretched with the sense of heroic possibilities. If we assume that we share with others a common humanity, a common human nature, and each of us has the potential to act in a way that transcends our baser selves, then stories of heroism resonate (no matter who nor where the actor). Those we admire may be consistently virtuous or consistently heroic, but often they are not; still, in an act of nobility and purpose we see something that makes our breast swell with pride because we have seen the potential of our common humanity. We come to know that the hero at the Alamo drank too much, that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, Abraham Lincoln took a long while to reach the ideas of the Emancipation Proclamation, Faulkner wasn’t always faithful. But we also know that, in the end, they made heroic choices, probably because they, too, could draw from narratives of others they nurtured within their hearts. Narratives give us strength; that the founders were willing to risk fortunes, reputations and even lives is admirable. They are like us; but they delved into themselves and found courage, wit, perseverance, nobility.
British secondary schools will drop Winston Churchill from a list of figures to be mentioned in history teaching. Also dropped: Hitler, Gandhi, Stalin and Martin Luther King. The schools will now be emphasizing “lessons on debt management, the environment and healthy eating.”
Schools are also being told to tear up the timetable of eight lessons a day and introduce classes lasting a few minutes – or several hours – by mixing different subjects together.
Five-minute lessons on spelling, French or German could be “drip-fed” throughout the day.
The architect of the new curriculum, Dr Ken Boston, insisted traditional approaches had been “exhausted”.
Check your calendar. This is not April 1.
Related: The Trivialization of Science Teaching.
(cross-posted at Photon Courier)
Oren, Michael B., Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present, Norton & Co., New York, 2007. 778pp.
History, at its most useful, steadies the nerves and provides perspective on the events splashed daily across TV screens and PC monitors. It should also give us a feel for the problems amenable to solution and those that are permanent (or, at the very least, enduring).
By these criteria, Michael Oren’s Power, Faith, and Fantasy is a history book that should be on the shelf of most American homes … and available at every public library.
The author has made an explicit attempt to write a history of America’s relations with the Middle East that serves the general reader rather than just an academic audience. Practically speaking, this means drawing more extensively on biography and the popular culture of each period of American history to illustrate relations with the Middle East. To better organize the book’s contents, he employs the three themes listed in the title. Power references American trading initiatives, commercial interests, and security concerns. Faith refers to the Christian and Jewish religious interests in the Middle East (as home to Holy Places, putative location for Christ’s reappearance, potential source of converts, and national homeland for the Jews). Fantasy describes the American representations of the Middle East, first triggered by the anonymous 1706 English translation of the Arabian Nights, and elaborated in subsequent years in many books, exhibitions, social fashions, and movies.
Oren weaves the impact of these three themes through the different eras of American history … from the turbulent post-Revolution, pre-Constitution time up to our own. Post-WW2 American involvement in the Middle East is already very thoroughly documented in English, so Oren provides a quick summary of the most recent period in his book. It’s a worthwhile coda but primarily serves those not already familiar with the details. The bulk of Power, Faith, and Fantasy focuses on the period 1776 to 1950.
Risking gross over-simplification of a very large and careful summary, I’d like to highlight the historical phases in America’s relations with the region, as presented by the author.
Posted by Lexington Green on 11th July 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
I have long been an advocate of the “soft kill” on Iran (i.e. here, here, here and here). The government there is at odds with its people, and has shown signs of decay for some time now. The Mullah regime that came in in 1979 is in its Brezhnevite phase of sclerotic senility, as Zenpundit recently opined. This recent piece from Foreign Policy describes in detail how Ahmadinejad’s regime is crumbling. The reason he is ratcheting up the rhetoric is that a foreign war is the only thing that can keep him in power. The conclusion:
… the only thing that could save him now is the United States. Nobody knows this better than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As his support within Iran has evaporated, he has cranked up the anti-American rhetoric, and the U.S. military has publicly accused the Pasdaran of arming insurgents in Iraq and even Afghanistan. At this point, the only way Ahmadinejad can revive his flagging fortunes is by uniting his country against an external threat. U.S. officials adamantly maintain that Washington is committed to using diplomacy to resolve the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program and its aggressive role in the region. Yet pressure is mounting in some branches of the Bush administration to take military action against Iran. That pressure should be resisted. For military action would give Mahmoud Ahmadinejad exactly what he wants most: job security.
The soft kill is the way to go in this scenario. Embrace the Iranian people. Don’t kill them. Five years ago Robert Kaplan said: “I think it is interesting that the population of Iran is very pro-American, because they have actually had an experience on the ground with an Islamic revolution and it has been terrible.” Based on lots of reportage and anecdotal evidence, these trends have continued. The Iranians have a positive attitude toward Americans and they have contempt for their own government. But they will rally to it if their country is attacked, as anybody would. We need to be patient and firm with the current regime, and let it die of its own ravaging internal illnesses. Containment worked against Russia and it will work against these idiots. Time is on our side. We should act accordingly.
I remember my Russian Civ teacher 25 years ago saying that Jimmy Carter was stupid to pull the US out of the Olympics in Moscow. Instead, he said, the US Government should have subsidized a massive influx of Americans into Russia with duffel bags full of cassettes of rock music, Sears catalogs, blue jeans, and other Western goodies. We should be doing the same kind of thing with Iran now. 50,000 American tourists would do more good than 50,000 troops shooting the Hell out of the place. I hope to God our president does not decide to throw one more Hail Mary pass before he leaves office.
…because it increasingly seems that the first 3 digits must be one, nine, and three.
British film-maker Richard Littlejohn has released a documentary titled The War Against Britain’s Jews. Read this article, in which he talks about some of the things he has learned in his research.
I believe this program ran on Britain’s Channel 4 on Monday—don’t know if any reruns are planned.
Posted by Lexington Green on 9th July 2007 (All posts by Lexington Green)
My band Bald Cow will perform at Jimmy’s, in beautiful Hyde Park (near the University of Chicago) this Saturday, July 14, 2007, at 7:00 p.m. This is only our second show since 1990. Our 2004 show was “reviewed” here. We have practiced a few times and I think I can hit most of the notes. (Our MySpace page has some songs recorded back in 1990, and two videos from the 2004 show.) The musical style is traditional 1970s punk rock, with some pretensions to grandiosity.
Jonathan beat me to one of the core ideas of a post I’ve been working on for a few days – a post about evil, art, and self-delusion. Here goes anyway.
Concerning the New Deal, John Updike is a poet in the Platonic sense. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.
The impression of recovery–the impression that a President was bending the old rules and, drawing upon his own courage and flamboyance in adversity and illness, stirring things up on behalf of the down-and-out–mattered more than any miscalculations in the moot mathematics of economics.
To which the great Greg Mankiw replies:
When evaluating political leaders, it is better to trust “the moot mathematics of economics” than “the impression of recovery.”
Wise words, but hardly new ones. In the fourth century B.C.E., Plato is said to have uttered pretty much the same thing:
A view from one of my son-in-law’s window, where he has now been joined by my middle daughter. My other son-in-law is spending his time looking at his wife, my older daughter who is entering the last weeks of pregnancy.
This is quite a good Belmont Club thread. Be sure to read the comments too.
(One of the Belmont commenters mentions this video, which I liked, about evil and The Sopranos. I don’t think I’ve watched the show more than once, in part because I don’t watch much TV but also because I don’t find criminals appealing as subjects of drama. Or maybe I don’t want to find them appealing. Familiarity breeds contempt or at least nonchalance, and the phrases, “there but for the grace of God…” and “don’t go there” come to mind. One way to avoid heroin addiction is to avoid lesser drugs, because once you try the lesser drug and find that you are not immediately disabled by addiction it becomes easier to try heroin. Wretchard and the narrator of the YouTube video apply a variant of this theory to evil behavior. I think they have a point.)
(Cross posted at 26th Parallel.)
Intoxicated people have much greater control over their behavior than generally recognized. For example, in those societies in which people don’t believe that alcohol causes disinhibition, intoxication never leads to unacceptable behavior.
Research in the US has found that when males are falsely led to believe that they have been drinking alcohol, they tend to become more aggressive.
So it isn’t simply a case of “the alcohol made me do it.”
The article goes on to note that in tests drinkers performed as well as sober people if they were offered small rewards.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that absolving criminals from responsibility for their actions for any reason whatsoever is going to increase crime, especially violent crime. Until 2003, when our most senior federal court here in Germany decided otherwise in a fundamental test case, intoxication was generally considered an extenuating circumstance; in cases of extreme intoxication defendants could literally get away with murder. Quite predictably, habitual drinkers who planned to murder someone, usually their wifes or girlfriends, made sure that they had blood alcohol levels upwards of 0.2 percent before they did the crime. Especially galling was that this very obviously required premeditated planning, but bleeding-heart judges were only too happy to let them get off with a slap on the wrist: “The poor man, losing his wife in such a tragic manner!”
At any rate, in my personal opinion it should nver be an excuse. There may be some rare cases where somebody loses control under the influence after all, but it then is their personal responsibility to keep their hands off of alcoholic beverages.
Blog-city is closing my personal blog account, and given their spotty service, I’m not going to pay to upgrade to their premium service. For my personal blog, I am going into a joint venture with my blog-buddy CW (who is much more interesting than I am, and is worth reading just for his sleuthing on the missing 727 alone). For the next few months, I’m going to be recycling some old posts, and given Ralf’s post below, I thought that the links in this one might be interesting to some of you:
It is well known that a large contingent of German soldiers fought with the British in the American Revolution, most of whom hailed from the Landgraviates of Hesse-Kassel. These troops were not mercenaries in the traditional sense, since rent-a-regiments were common in 18th Century Europe – it gave the home state revenue, it gave the troops something to do other than cause trouble at home, and it kept the troopers at peak combat readiness. As part of the rental agreement, the Hessian state received guarantees of mutual defense from England in case of attack by France, so in a sense the Hessians were fighting for their homeland by serving the British Crown. What is less well known is that some of those troops stayed in America after the war.