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More on R2P, Second Thoughts by Slaughter? Plus, Drezner on Networks

Friday, September 30th, 2011

R2P is in the news while I slowly and laboriously wind my way through writing the next edition of the R2P is the New COIN series.

LATimes R2P and the Libya mission:When does ‘responsibility to protect’ grant countries the right to intervene?

The Palestinian bid for statehood and traffic congestion weren’t the only things going on in New York last week as the 66th U.N. General Assembly convened. One of the issues privately discussed by foreign ministers at the United Nations was the “responsibility to protect,” or R2P. This concept was central to the U.N. mandate to protect civilians in Libya, which led to NATO‘s aerial involvement there. As the dust settles in Tripoli, it has become necessary to refute a powerful myth that has developed among some pundits and politicians. That myth is that R2P bestows “the right to intervene” in Libya.Even though R2P features in just two paragraphs of the 40-page “outcome document” of the 2005 U.N. World Summit, historian Martin Gilbert has suggested that it constituted “the most significant adjustment to national sovereignty in 360 years.”R2P’s core idea is that all governments have an obligation to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It is primarily a preventive doctrine. However, R2P also acknowledges that we live in an imperfect world and if a state is “manifestly failing” to meet its responsibilities, the international community is obligated to act. It is not a right to intervene but a responsibility to protect.

The distinction is not diplomatic artifice. After the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the 1995 massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, the international community resolved to never again be a passive spectator to mass murder. Still, it would not have been surprising if R2P had quietly expired after 2005. The United Nations, after all, can be a place where “good ideas go to die.” Instead, within the U.N. the debate now is about how R2P should be meaningfully implemented, rather than whether such a responsibility exists….

If I were the House Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee or the Senate Armed Services Committee, I sure would like to know what those foreign ministers and especially our SECSTATE or UN Ambassador were saying about R2P! I might even suggest that,  in televised hearings, that before the US endorse or adhere to any newly fashionable concepts of sovereignty, the elected representatives of the people of the United States should be informed and consulted.

Simon Adams, like most commenters in the R2P debate, is focused on the impact an R2P doctrine as part of international law would have on military intervention, especially the frequency of American military intervention. This is reasonable because, logically, R2P implies much larger burdens and more frequent interventions overseas. But the flip side, if you look at the implication of “new sovereignty” as articulated by Dr. Slaughter, are changes to how we as Americans govern ourselves, transfers of power and authority to unelected officials, private interests and even foreigners, as well as  limitations on democratic consent.

[Limitations on the democratic consent of the unwashed masses seems to be popular lately with the political elite]

Speaking of Anne Marie Slaughter, she recently penned a curious op-ed about Afghanistan that is not a retreat from R2P, but comes across as at least a step back from seeking maximalist policy objectives with military force, in the face of messy realities:

Where the Afghanistan effort broke down

….For a long time I was convinced that the NATO intervention in Afghanistan could be successful at building a functioning Afghan government that would provide basic services to its citizens. My views were largely shaped by my regular conversations with my long-time friend Sarah Chayes, who lived in Kandahar for much of past decade running first a dairy cooperative and then a soap and fragrance business with Afghans. We were failing, in her view, because of the high NATO tolerance for the cancerous corruption that was sucking the life out of the country, starting at the top. Her book Punishment of Virtue tells the tale, describing how Afghans genuinely committed to rebuilding their country have been systematically driven out or killed by their compatriots who are profiting from the enormous in-flux of money and opportunity that inevitably accompanies large-scale Western intervention in a poor country. She thought, and I agreed, that the U.S. had had an opportunity to help rebuild a very different Afghanistan immediately after the invasion, and that it was still possible to empower the good guys if we were really willing to take on the bad guys profiting at the local, regional, and national level.

Over the past two years, I have reluctantly changed my mind. I have come to believe that where the problem is a predatory state, which the very presence of massive Western resources tends to fuel, it is essentially impossible for outsiders to spur or even effectively support a process of reform from within when we are a big part of the problem by being there in the first place. Stewart makes the argument succinctly and effectively: “the international community necessarily [lacks] the knowledge, the power, and the legitimacy to engage with politics at a local provincial level.”

I would add a much more personal dimension, one that is consistent with a 21st century focus on social actors and social relations as well as on governments and inter-governmental relations. The “international community” does not engage with Afghans. Individual men and women (mostly men) do. Those individuals – diplomats, soldiers, development professionals – develop personal relationships with Afghan officials at the national, provincial, and local level. They have to work together on common programs; moreover, the Americans or Europeans are doing their best to cultivate personal relationship in part to garner exactly the knowledge they know they lack. But once those relationships are established, how exactly is a general or a captain, an ambassador or a political counselor, a USAID Mission Director or a field development expert supposed to turn to his or her Afghan counterparts and interlocutors and explain that they should really stop taking bribes and looting the funds intended for their fellow Afghans? And once the denial is issued, as of course it must be, then what?  Accuse him or her of lying? The problems that are most central cannot even be talked about honestly. They are always someone else’s fault. But if they cannot be acknowledged, they cannot be resolved.

It is at this micro-level that policies must actually be implemented. And it is at this level that I conclude state-building military interventions are much more likely to fail than to succeed.

Slaughter, in my view, is more insightful with her empirical analysis of the granular mechanics of international relations than the theoretical and especially legal constructs she builds from them. Military force is a blunt instrument; whether you approach it from a Clausewitzian perspective or one partial to Sun Tzu, the ability to extract desired political concessions with violence – to compel the enemy to do your will – becomes more difficult and costly as your ends are at once both expansive and “fine-tuned”. We transformed and fine-tuned the societies of defeated Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, but only after waging the greatest  total war since the Mongols sacked Persia. Bismarckian strategic talent to accomplish major ( but not maximalist) strategic goals at reasonably affordable ( but not cheap) costs is an extreme historical rarity.

Finally, Dan Drezner has re-engaged Slaughter on the point of networks in international relations and politics:

Do networks transform the democratic political process?

….As a social scientist, I must acknowledge that this is a powerful prima facie data point in favor of Slaughter.

And yet, it’s worth pushing the NYT thesis a bit. What happens when the coalition of like-minded individuals stop being of like mind? These sorts of protests can be very powerful on single-issue questions where a single policy change is desired. Maintaining this level of activism to affect the ongoing quotidian grubbiness of politics, however, is a far more difficult undertaking. Even if people can be mobilized behind the concept of “Policy X is Stupid!” getting the same consensus on “Policy Y is the Answer!” is harder. Over time, these kind of mass movements have an excellent chance of withering away or fracturing from within. See, for example, the Tahrir Square movement in Egypt.

Another thing, and this is important: unless the people in these movements actually vote in elections, then their agenda will be thwarted in the long run. Even if these kinds of networked movements are new, the political imperative to get elected and re-elected is not. If they don’t vote, then officials have a pretty powerful incentive to curry favor with the people who do vote, don’t take to the streets and don’t like these young whippersnappers with their interwebs have different policy preferences.

On the transformative nature of networks, I think Slaughter is, in the big picture, correct that scale free networks are different from hierarchies in important behavioral and structural ways. RAND scholar David Ronfeldt, a friend of this blog, has a paper that I would strongly recommend that looks at the sociopolitical nature of  tribes, hierarchies, markets and networks that has great relevance to this discussion. Drezner’s counter-point to Slaughter has traction because although networks are powerful, it is a matter of comparative advantage over other social forms in certain environments, but not all environments.

Moreover, a lot of what Slaughter is calling “networks” – especially the “governmental networks” that occur in and within IGOs are really organizations with the characteristic of modularity and are not naturally emergent scale free social networks like your twitter follower list. Secondly, networks have weaknesses as well as strengths and history is replete with networks – like political and social protest movements, peasant rebellions and revolutionary conspiracies – that were unceremoniously and thoroughly crushed by the power of ruling hierarchies. Third, and most important, the de facto existence of  tacit, dynamically evolving, social networks as political movers to be taken seriously is not itself a good reason to grant them de jure status in international law as legitimate, authority-wielding, actors.

In fact, I can think of many good reasons not to do so.

[Belated hat tips to Cheryl Rofer, Bruce Kesler, David Ronfeldt]

Diesel Boats Forever! or ever?

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

German and Italian Type 212

Modern German Diesel Electric Submarines (Type 212)

by J. Scott Shipman (diesel electric submarines, naval strategy, Taiwan, Republic of China, submarines)

David Trombly at the new Fear, Honor, and Interest blog posted a thought provoking article on Taiwan, sea denial, and the bounding of US dominance.

This post caught my eye for several reasons, not the least of which is that in another life I rode submarines (ballistic missile subs: USS VON STEUBEN (SSBN-632) and the commissioning crew of USS PENNSYLVANIA (SSBN-735). Another is I attended on behalf of a former employer in 2001/2002 an industry day event soliciting interest in the US production of diesel electric submarines for the use of Taiwan (Republic of China, or ROC). US production was authorized (see background: here) because the ROC was having difficulty purchasing through European diesel boat manufacturers. Germany, Sweden, and France have proven platforms, as do the Russians and their KILO class. All of these nations export submarines, but few want to antagonize the ROC’s increasingly global neighbor China.

The industry day event was well attended, but as I sat there I had little confidence there would ever be a diesel electric submarine produced in a US shipyard. Here’s why: the US Navy is heavily vested in nuclear powered submarines which are incredibly expensive, with the most modern VIRGINIA Class coming in at around $2B a copy. When compared to modern diesel boats which run between $200-$300M, Big Navy understandably wants to avoid any possible comparisons—or for the question even to be raised. The industry event was more a public show of supporting Congress and the president than a serious inquiry, and nothing more than slides were produced (which is often the case in Washington, btw).

The USN is overextended by almost any measure, our national shipbuilding infrastructure is perhaps at its lowest point and our Fleet has less ships (about 283) than any time since WWI. We have about 70 submarines (18 OHIO Class of which 4 are guided missile submarines, 7 VA Class, 3 SEAWOLF, and about 43 older Los Angeles Class). These boats spend about half their time deployed, which drives up maintenance costs and cost to crew separated from family [the OHIO Class ships rotate crews about every 90 days] Our submarines are built exclusively in Groton, CT, and Newport News, VA. We have naval shipyards for heavy modifications, nuclear refueling/overhauls in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Bremerton, and Pearl Harbor (though I don’t believe Portsmouth or Pearl are authorized refueling facilities).

In this environment of increased op-tempo, and low numbers of ships/boats we have continuing challenges to the maritime domain, including China’s increasingly muscular approach in the South China sea and that age old naval scourge, piracy. (H/T Feral Jundi at Facebook)

These realities, combined with an ally in need (and perhaps many more potential customers) seem to form a perfect storm of need for a small fleet of stealthy, American-made diesel electric submarines. If the Obama administration wanted to strengthen it bonafides in East Asia and with the American public, it would reengage on the Taiwan submarine issue and this time, instead of a deal neither side could abide (our side the very thought and insane requirements, their side appropriating the funds). If Taiwan is willing to pay for R&D, allow the building shipyard to keep the design, and find an American suitor, that all translates into that three letter word Joe Biden is so fond of: jobs. Jobs that would have little to no reliance on the increasingly precarious federal government and shrinking defense budgets. Taiwan and the region would gain stealthy deterrents to potential Chinese mischief, the US could invigorate a fairly inbred shipbuilding industry with new talent, new ideas, and new competition, and maybe, just maybe we could build a few boats for those missions too mundane or cost-prohibitive for our nuke boats (like the piracy problem for a starter).

Postscript: As a former nuclear navy submariner, I am intimately familiar of the many positives nuke boats offer (I once spent 82 days submerged). My musing here is not a call for replacement, but rather to point out yet again (see this analysis), that our navy should have room for both in our increasingly complex world.

Please read my exchange with David at the Fear, Honor, and Interest post, as some innovative ideas not included in this post are presented. But I thought I’d share with the zenpundit audience as we spend a great deal of time talking strateegery here, but rarely naval issues, and I don’t post often enough…

Hillary Should Dare to Break State in Order to Save It

Thursday, December 18th, 2008


Senator Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State designate of the incoming Obama administration has been given the most prestigious post in the Cabinet by her former presidential rival but also one of the toughest jobs in the U.S. government. The diplomatic challenges facing the United States are numerous, daunting and dangerous even as we are embroiled in a war against a global insurgency composed of radical Islamist terrorists and their local tribal, religious and governmental sympathizers. America’s diplomatic “brand” is sorely in need of rebuilding and our oldest security pillar, NATO, is failing in Afghanistan. There are herculean tasks awaiting Senator Clinton.

However prepared or determined Hillary Clinton might be, the U.S. Department of State is not up to the job.

I say this not to bash foreign service officers. The average career diplomat is no more responsible for bad bureaucratic behavior in Foggy Bottom than a U.S. Army major in Iraq should be blamed for cost overruns for the Future Combat System. The problems of the State Department are systemic and there’s more than enough blame to go around. When State has reached the juncture where it is crippled in carrying out it’s core mission of diplomacy because it’s people lack language fluency, seldom leave massive fortress embassies and labor under a byzantine and dysfunctional personnel system marred by favortism and seniority, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. The window of opportunity is now.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently told a brutal truth about American foreign policy:

“My message is that if we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad. In short, based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former Director of CIA and now as Secretary of Defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use “soft” power and for better integrating it with “hard” power

One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win: economic development, institution-building and the rule of law, promoting internal reconciliation, good governance, providing basic services to the people, training and equipping indigenous military and police forces, strategic communications, and more – these, along with security, are essential ingredients for long-term success.  Accomplishing all of these tasks will be necessary to meet the diverse challenges I have described.

….What is not as well-known, and arguably even more shortsighted, was the gutting of America’s ability to engage, assist, and communicate with other parts of the world – the “soft power,” which had been so important throughout the Cold War. The State Department froze the hiring of new Foreign Service officers for a period of time. The United States Agency for International Development saw deep staff cuts – its permanent staff dropping from a high of 15,000 during Vietnam to about 3,000 in the 1990s.  And the U.S. Information Agency was abolished as an independent entity, split into pieces, and many of its capabilities folded into a small corner of the State Department.

….Funding for non-military foreign-affairs programs has increased since 2001, but it remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities. Consider that this year’s budget for the Department of Defense – not counting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – is nearly half a trillion dollars.  The total foreign affairs budget request for the State Department is $36 billion – less than what the Pentagon spends on health care alone. Secretary Rice has asked for a budget increase for the State Department and an expansion of the Foreign Service. The need is real.   Despite new hires, there are only about 6,600 professional Foreign Service officers – less than the manning for one aircraft carrier strike group. And personnel challenges loom on the horizon. By one estimate, 30 percent of USAID’s Foreign Service officers are eligible for retirement this year – valuable experience that cannot be contracted out.”

There many things wrong with the State Department as an institution and with the frankly insular and anachronistic cultural worldview that it tends to inculcate but starving State of operational funds and personnel – the historic reflex of the U.S. Congress – is not the road improvement. While money for “more of the same” is not an acceptable answer, demanding that diplomatic miracles be performed by the seat of the pants on a shoestring budget is a position worthy of a village idiot.

Now is the time for a strategic rebuilding of the State Department, as well as the Foreign Service, as the linchpin in a new national security system conceived in terms of interagency jointness, a Goldwater-Nichols Act on steroids. The old State Department structure was reformed by Charles Evans Hughes, who as Secretary of State in the early 1920’s found that his staff was too small and procedures too antiquated, to adequately cope with the modern world. So Huges rebuilt it, creating State’s specialization and mission structure that yielded a constellation of statesmen and grand strategists a generation later, including Dean Acheson and George Kennan, when America and the world needed their vision most. Great leaders either found new systems or they are the ultimate product of them.

Secretary Hughes did a superb job but America can do better than our great-grandfather’s State Department.

Senator Clinton, President-elect Obama and the next Congress should move boldly and retire the State Department as it has been the way Hughes waved goodbye to the quaint and time honored practices of the 19th century. We need not a half-step but a leap:

In broad terms, the White House and Congress need to look for a new model for a Goldwater-Nichols II to create a flatter, more adaptive, fast-moving, structure for foreign policy implementation than the industrial age mammoth bureaucracies with their rigidly compartmentalized, hierarchical “cylinders of excellence“. With economic interests and non-state actors attaining prominence alongside traditional political and military concerns, our response time needs to be keyed to adversaries and partners who have a network structure rather than a hierarchy. As RAND scholars John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt have suggested, networks are more easily attacked by other networks, not by slow-moving hierarchies .

Technically, what I am proposing is in organizational terms is that the United States began executing foreign policy through modular networks, which combine the advantages of specialization and control offered by hierarchies with the supple resilience and adaptive capacity of scale-free networks. In practical terms, this would mean pulling experienced, suitably senior, personnel out of their respective bureaucracies and putting them into IT-networked multidisciplinary, field teams with a strict task orientation and real decision authority. A reform that will only bear fruit if future budgets and individual promotions are removed from the hands of bureaucratic managers back in Washington and tied directly to team performance, with team members practicing a 360 degree review system .

These field teams must be financially autonomous, answering not to their departmental hierarchies in Washington but to the NSC collectively, with the National Security Adviser as liason. The current situation, where many have the ability to say “No” with no one person having the clear authority or accountability being able to say ” Yes”, must go. Reforming the foreign policy process by “flattening” it, will yield a number of advantages over the present system:

* The orientation is on mission task rather than bureaucratic “turf”. Everyone sinks or swims together.

*Foreign policy problems will be analyzed holistically and decided upon collaboratively instead of in a compartmentalized and adversarial fashion.

* Most decisions will be made much closer to the problems. And be made by people whose knowledge reflects true depth of understanding.

* The time required to move from proposing foreign policy options to presidential policy is much reduced.

* Streamlined information flow, minimizing the ability of senior departmental managers in Washington to spin, edit and water down unwelcome news.

* Instead of putting State or Defense in charge across the board, as is customary in today’s interagency process, leadership of a field team can be quickly moved to the member whose expertise or skill-sets are most closely related to the problem.

* Shifting the worldview of an age cohort of officials from a parochial departmental perspective to one that embraces a broader, “horizontal” analytical framework.

* The system will be oriented to provide career incentives to the collaborative problem-solvers rather than obstructionists and bureaucratic saboteurs

And we should reach beyond the confines of the USG and other states and IGO’s; the questions are, “Who has the capability? Who has the money ?”. In Great Powers: America and the World After Bush,  Thomas P.M. Barnett wrote:

 “To be effective, then, America’s grand strategy needs to connect its total DIME package-as much as possible-to those tail end “E” players in the private sector, thus avoiding the self-delusion that globalization expands primarily in response to public sector supply….the truth is that the vast majority of infrastructure devlopment ($ 22 trillion over the next decade alone) inside emerging and developing economies comes as a result of private sector demand ” pull” – those 3 billion new capitalists and all the resources they need to catch up in economic development”

State should fit into the interagency -System Administration system as the “old hands”; their diplomatic careers need to be about regional, in-country depth that is rich in tacit, “local” knowledge that can read strategic advantage in subtle nuance and build connections across diverse communities ( the CIA is there to talk to the really dirty but not to be ignored players). They are our relationship builders across the DIME spectrum and premier OSINT operators but to be effective, diplomats need to be invested long term. Shuttling from post to post across the globe, Yemen one tour, Thailand the next, then Washington with Paris as a pre-retirement plum is a damn stupid way to cultivate your diplomatic talent pool. Letting an old boys network determine their assignments rather than national security needs is also asinine. Get the career incentives right.  Patricia Kushlis, blogging at Whirledview, nailed the problem with the current mentality of State:

“But if service in Iraq, or at other hardship posts, is truly valued, maybe by-the-by, State could rethink how it hands out awards. Why, for instance, was the Deputy Chief of Mission (second in command of the embassy) in the US Embassy in Rome anointed DCM of the year? Great hardship post that it is.

….Of the 11,500 total, 6,500 are Foreign Service Officers the other 5,000 are Foreign Service Specialists and the Service is so short-staffed – thanks to the Bush administration and a recalcitrant Congress that have been unwilling to increase the size of the service – the 270 officers and specialists or so assigned to Iraq mean positions elsewhere go begging.”

Would Senator Clinton do something like this? Or even recognize the magnitude of the problem that needs fixing? This may be one of those moments where an intense personal ambition is in harmony with partisan politics and national interest. In 2016, America will not elect a  querulous old woman but they might decide to elect an iron lady of a statesman. I am no friend of Hillary Clinton, but by dragging the State Department into the 21st century, Hillary Clinton would be validating a President Obama’s choice in her as Secretary of State and rendering a great service to her country. As a candidate for president, she would have an unimpeachable gravitas that no other candidate could match.

The Department of State needs to be broken so that it may become stronger.


Here are some great suggestions from Matt Armstrong at MountainRunner:

Reforming U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century

Very quickly (warning: it may be too quickly written), here are some complimentary and possibly opposing ideas I’m throwing out into the ether on reforming public diplomacy not necessarily addressed in Heritage’s report:

  • Establish both an objective and principles of international engagement. Understand why we are engaging – not just communicating – with the world. The national security policy and this mission must be synchronized. Public diplomacy, strategic communication, or whatever you want to call it is central to our national security. Bullets and bombs do not protect our financial system from rumors. They do not protect our health when we need to respond to pandemics and they do not deny sanctuary for terrorists and insurgents and their ideology. Suggested principles: telling the truth, explaining the motives of the United States, bolstering morale and extending hope home and abroad, giving a true and convincing picture of American life, methods and ideals, combating misrepresentation and distortions, and aggressively interpreting and supporting a smart American foreign policy developed and implemented in conjunction with the above principles and long term views. This should also lead to a much simplified National Security Strategy with easy to read, translate, and PowerPoint bullet points.
  • Convince Congress of the need to accept and support the principle(s) of engagement. “Real security, in contrast to the relative security of armaments, could develop only from understanding and mutual comprehension.” Congressional support is required for any revamp. They must be assured the problems from the past are the past and the future is well thought out. Promise serious and critical semi-annual public reports to be presented to Congress written by people who understand the issues. The threat is not just from “radical Islamists”, but from the criminals, the Chinese, the Russians, and others.
  • Realize that we need a Department of Non-State. The DNS could be conceptual or a separate entity, but realize that extracting public diplomacy from State means we should similarly gut DOD, FDA, USDA, and DHS from their ability to communicate with the world. Extracting “R” from State would mean it is only the Department of State at a time when not only are non-state actors from Al-Qaeda to Hamas to No Mas FARC to the Gates Foundation more important and powerful than ever, but engagement with states is increasingly a public affairs. The USIA was a DNS, however a future DNS/USIA/USAGE (U.S. Agency for Global Engagement, my preferred acronym) didn’t have the power it would need today. Coordinating requires right of oversight on key personnel choices and input on programming across the board, not just access to the President. Perhaps it should have two masters like the DOD does. It may be best to keep this in State as State must transform from the 19th Century organization it is.
  • Re-align State’s regional bureaus with DOD’s Combatant Commands. Increase the power of these regional bureaus by having “super-ambassadors” akin to Combatant Commanders. World affairs are decreasingly subject to the geopolitical borders on which the State Department is aligned. AFRICOM could provide some lessons with its co-deputy structure of State and Defense. State must have a greater presence and power to operate regionally. Create and empower more DASS positions like Colleen Graffy’s who operate regionally rather than within country. This will not to diminish country teams but provide greater regional / cross border integration. It will also help align with and increase collaboration with DOD.
  • Realize Foreign Aid and Humanitarian Relief and all manner of capacity building is “public diplomacy” in action. The Marshall Plan, the greatest reconstruction, stabilization, and education and exchange program ever put forward was a program that was in large part a denial of sanctuary program. In response to the MP, the Communists flipped and reorganized and vastly increased their volume and tempo of their lies and distortions. The bad guys don’t like stability. The Smith-Mundt Act was passed largely as a response to the uptick in Communist propaganda against the MP. Don’t exclude Foreign Aid from the picture today.
  • Break down the barrier between Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy in the State Department. This is global communication and there is a need to be agile, cooperative with the media and very often “pre-active” to help shape discussions by informing and educating along the way. Drop zero-tolerance for errors, push down “PA authority” to lower levels, give everybody media training, and adopt the 4-E’s Caldwell is pushing at Leavenworth in new Army Doctrine: empower, educate, equip, and encourage. Engage the public, domestic and foreign, at every opportunity. Use social media, blogger roundtables, and other means to engage in Q&A. Increase language training and have websites like state.gov available in multiple languages with the headlines on the major pages reflecting the likely interest of the linguistic profile. This is common in our allies, why not the U.S.? Increase the agility of DipNote and America.gov. Increase the flexibility of America.gov and similar assets to report on foreign policy of the U.S. and not simply echo press releases.
  • Re-align the walls between Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Psychological Operations. PA is largely re-active and IO and PSYOP understand the power of information. Much of what they do is “white” and overt so move the lines to remove the “stigma” and empower the “PA” who should be “communication officers” or something similar. Agility is required today.
  • Return to the original purposes, principles, and intent of the Smith-Mundt Act that included the principles listed above. Dropping the firewall will increase American’s knowledge and oversight of overseas activities conducted in their name and with their tax dollars, raise the bar for domestic media who once through foreign bureaus were a public service, and accept that the truly global information environment does not stop at the water’s edge.

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007


This is some cool techno-foreshadowing that will warm the hearts of geeks, nerds and sci-fi aficianados everywhere. ” Superbots” – robotic modules demonstrating emergent behavior. To quote Dr. Von:

“I just found it fascinating that these concepts are now being introduced and perfected in robotics, where a USC group is demonstrating that robotic modules can act independently, but when combined can communicate with each other, adapt, and perform multiple functions”

Von has posted and linked to a set of videos like this one.

Now imagine this concept married to nanotechnology where each superbot is at the mirco- or nano- level, perhaps in a buckeyball design, and you have a collective superbot that could dynamically adapt to virtually any environment.

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