zenpundit.com » recommended viewing

Archive for the ‘recommended viewing’ Category

Recommended Reading & Viewing

Monday, July 27th, 2015

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

Top Billing (Multi-post Blogging)! Cheryl Rofer of Nuclear Diner, on the Iran DealYes, There Is An Iran Deal , Approaching The Iran DealThe Fun Part Of The JCPOATaking Samples – Not As Simple As You Might ThinkThe Volunteer Verification CorpsThe JCPOA – Monitoring Uranium EnrichmentTwenty-Four Days

….A number of you have requested posts on JCPOA verification and the “24-day” issue. A way to start is with Jeffrey Lewis’s request for how environmental remediation relates to JCPOA verification. It’s something that I will need to refer back to in discussing those issues. And it’s clearly something that numerous commentators have no idea about. Basically, the requirements for sampling should be pretty much the same for IAEA inspections as for environmental remediation. Both have to stand up to legal scrutiny.

I’ll use three sites as examples: a metal plating bath outflow that was one of my responsibilities at Los Alamos, the Parchin site in Iran, and Al Kibar. I’m not making any big points here about Parchin and Al Kibar. I am using them to show what sampling requires.

Sampling is easy, right? You dig up some soil and put it in a baggie, or you swipe a wall with a tissue, and then you send it to the analytical lab and they tell you. BZZZZT! WRONG!

Sampling starts at a desk. First, you have to figure out the question you are trying to answer. The environmental remediation questions are pretty standard – what is there, how much, and where it is spread to – but the IAEA’s questions tend to be more varied. At Al Kibar, the question is whether there was a reactor there before the Israeli raid and the Syrian cleanup of the site. The situation at Parchin is more complicated. Three types of experiments are alleged to have been done in a containment chamber inside a building, after which the Iranians made many modifications to the site, including modifications to the suspect building, soil removal, and asphalt overlay. The basic question is which, if any, of those experiments took place there.

Second, you have to figure out what kind of samples you need to answer the question. For the plating outflow, that meant going to the archives to find out what kinds of metals and other chemicals were involved in the plating operation, what was released in the outflow, when and for how long. You also need to know what kind of samples the analytical laboratory will need to get good analyses. If you spend days getting 10-gram samples and the lab needs 100 grams for the analysis you want, well, you’ll have to do it again. And the IAEA doesn’t always get to do it again. [….]

David Brin – Altruistic Horizons: Our tribal natures, the ‘fear effect’ and the end of ideologies 

….Deep thinkers about human nature start with assumptions. Freud focused on sexual trauma and repression, Marx on the notion that humans combine rational self-interest with inter-class predation. Machiavelli offered scenarios about power relationships. Ayn Rand postulates that the sole legitimate human stance is solipsism. All are a priori suppositions based on limited and personally biased observations rather than any verified fundamental. Each writer “proved” his point with copious anecdotes. But, as Ronald Reagan showed, anecdotes prove nothing about generalities, only about possibilities.

In fact, while the models of Freud, Marx, and Machiavelli (also Madison, Keynes, Hayek, Gandhi etc.) attracted followers, I think a stronger case can be made for tribalism as a driver of history. 

….When the ambient fear level is high, as in civil war-riven Lebanon, loyalties are kept close to home. Me against my brother. My brother and me against our cousins. We and our cousins against the world. Alliances merge and are broken quickly, along a sliding scale that appears to be remarkably consistent. The general trend seems to be this: the lower the ambient fear level declines, the more broadly a human being appears willing to define those tribal boundaries, and the more generous he or she is willing to be toward the stranger.

Lexington Green – “… a cyber attack has the potential of existential consequence.” 

“Based upon the societal dependence on these systems, and the interdependence of the various services and capabilities, the Task Force believes that the integrated impact of a cyber attack has the potential of existential consequence. While the manifestation of a nuclear and cyber attack are very different, in the end, the existential impact to the United States is the same.”

Bruce KeslerA Marine Murdered In Chattanooga Comes Home With Proper Respect

War on the Rocks – CHINA’S NEW INTELLIGENCE WAR AGAINST THE UNITED STATES and IRAN DEAL OR NO DEAL 

Small Wars Journal – Despite Nuclear Deal, US and Iran Locked in Regional Shadow War and Why Troops Avoid a Fight 

Fabius Maximus – Martin van Creveld: Our armies become pussycats, part 1 and Martin van Creveld: Our armies become pussycats, part 2 

Chet Richards – On OODA Loops, Fast and Slow 

Scholar’s Stage – “The OODA Loop, Ancient China Style” 

Venkat Rao –The Boydian Dialectic 

Steven Metz – Why Americans won’t like the New Middle East Order 

The Bridge –The Cockroach Approach: Bombing Our Own Failed Narrative

Feral Jundi –Books: Composite Warfare, By Eeben Barlow

Cicero MagazineDisarming the Profession of Arms: Why Disarm Servicemembers on Bases? 

Aeon MagazineCheeseburger Ethics  

Smithsonian – How Geography Shaped Societies, From Neanderthals to iPhones

RECOMMENDED VIEWING:

 

Sunday surprise: De Niro’s recommended reading

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — preferring Jarmusch’s Hagakure in Ghost Dog to Grovic’s Hesse and Sunzi in Bag Man ]
.

In a film that the critics panned, Netflix offered, and I watched without much comprehension, Robert De Niro, playing the part of Dragna — “a dude who wears plaid jackets, thick glasses, and his grey hair in a swoopy high pompadour” who has assembled a motley team of killers in a seedy Bayou motel — educates John Cusack as his fav killer, Jack, by recommending he read certain books — notably Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game aka Magister Ludi:

De Niro goes Magister Ludi

De Niro goes Magister Ludi 2

Magister Ludi means Master of the Game.

Dragna apparently believes Hesse’s Game is best played by pitting assassins, here including cops, a “whore” and a dwarf as well as Jack, against one another in that seedy motel.. and is not altogether satisfied with the result, which shoots him shortly after he announces his own mastery of the game.

De Niro goes Magister Ludi 3

**

Zenpundit regulars who lack my enthusiasm for Hesse’s Game — quite different in style and tone from the one writer-director David Grovic proposes in his film — may at least be gratified to see his other recommendation:

De Niro goes Sunzi

**

I would have done better to re-watch Jim Jarmusch‘s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai with Forest Whitaker, with its extensive quotations from the Hagakure:

That’s what I’ll watch tonight.

Aircraft Carriers and Maritime Strategy – a debate

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

[by J. Scott Shipman]

Last Friday night at the U.S. Naval Academy, retired Navy Captain Henry “Jerry” Hendrix and Commander Bryan McGrath debated the future of the aircraft carrier. My wife and I were fortunate to attend. Given the pressure placed on the Navy’s shipbuilding budget, the debate could not have been more timely. Commander McGrath argued the “nuclear aircraft carriers with air wings are the most cost effective and efficient platform to project power in the maritime and littoral realm to support U.S. national security interests in current and future security environments.” Captain Hendrix argued against this resolution. While both arguments hold much merit, I tend to side with Captain Hendrix.

Lots of numbers and statistics were thrown around, but one issue did not enter the debate: it has been 70 years since an aircraft carrier was shot at. The lesson of the Falklands War underscores the potential power of modern precision munitions, and carriers are big targets.

This video is highly recommended. C-SPAN also recorded the debate with a transcript here.

Recommended Reading Listening and Viewing

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Top Billing! SWJ  Small Wars Journal El Centro Senior Fellow Dr. Robert Bunker Wins The Elihu Root Prize

The Elihu Root Prize is an annual award by the US Army War College for the best article (or articles) published in Parameters on the topic of Strategic Landpower. The Quarterly’s Editorial Board selects nominees from a given volume year (Spring-Winter) and evaluates them based on the degree to which they enhance the understanding of any aspect of Strategic Landpower, whether within a historical or contemporary context. Any article published on any theme related to Strategic Landpower is automatically considered, but winners will be selected based on analytical depth and rigor. The prize(s) include an award certificate and honorarium, and are presented by the Commandant of the US Army War College at an annual ceremony.

Friend of ZP blog, Robert Bunker’s prize-winning article “Defeating Violent Nonstate Actors.
Parameters 43, no. 4 (Winter 2013-14): 57-65

Hearty congratulations to Dr. Bunker!

Infinity JournalJim Storr  Warfare and Strategy 

….The definition of warfare seems quite simple. In essence, it is ‘how it is done’. So, for example, much military history is the history of warfare; how wars have been fought. That could refer to war at: the national level; the theatre or campaign level; or the battlefield, tactical level. Much of the history of warfare looks very much at the mechanics of the tactical level: for example, studying trench warfare in the First World War; or the tactics of the Battle of Britain.

A separate aspect of warfare refers to how armed forces can, do or should operate. That is the non-historical part. In war, history is often our only guide to the future; so the history of warfare really should inform future practice. It could be said that the only real value of the study of the history of warfare is how it informs practice (other than as an interest in itself). Many people, mostly men, do find it intensely interesting. I do. However, to reiterate, the only real value of the study of the history of warfare is in how it informs practice. (I restrict myself largely to land warfare simply because that is what I know most about).

The definition of strategy seems more problematic. Let us take the three options above. They are intended to be broad and cover a range of areas. So, if you don’t agree that strategy is one of the above, please ask yourself whether it is close to one of them.

When defining strategy as (1) ‘the art of generals’, we open up a can of worms. Firstly, ‘art’ probably should mean ‘craft’. It probably doesn’t mean ‘art’ as opposed to ‘science’ so as to differentiate it from the technical aspects. It probably means ‘craft’ as in ‘what generals do’.

If one defines strategy as ‘the artistic or creative bit’ you run into problems. Do you, for example, imply that the creative aspects of a Brigadier General’s plan in, say, the Western Front in the First World War is strategy? Probably not. It’s probably better to consider ‘what generals do’ as an aspect of warfare, recognising that some aspects of warfare are intensely human and therefore involve creative and inspirational elements

James Joyner – Hagel’s Fate was Sealed Long Ago 

….In both instances, the qualities that got them chosen made them poor fits. In an administration that sees foreign policy as an extension of domestic policy, simply asking “What’s in the US national security interest?” isn’t enough. In case after case, the administration chose half measures that would appease the Democratic base while minimizing criticism from Republicans on the “weakness” front.  So, they announced a military surge in Afghanistan that was far less than requested by the commanding general while simultaneously announcing a premature deadline for withdrawal. They authorized military action against the Gaddafi regime in Libya, the Assad regime in Syria, and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but without any obvious consideration of the strategic consequences.

It didn’t help that Jones and Hagel were outside the inner circle of foreign policy advisors that Obama had brought with him from the campaign and the Senate. Their willingness to work across the aisle may have won them plaudits from the broader foreign policy community but it meant that they would never be trusted team players. They were constantly being sniped at by anonymous staffers in the press and were ready scapegoats for failed or unpopular policies. Meanwhile, the president has shown steadfast loyalty and infinite patience with Susan Rice and others.

Hugh White –China is trying to intimidate America 

….We explored some aspects of this issue on The Interpreter back in May, specifically in relation to China’s conduct in its maritime disputes with Japan and its Southeast Asian neighbours. I argued then that China uses these disputes specifically to weaken US regional leadership and strengthen its own by showing that America cannot or will not any longer support its friends and allies in Asia militarily as it used to do.

….But I think there may be a more specific answer: the main target of China’s sticks in the East and South China Seas is not its neighbours themselves, but Washington. It wants to convince America to step back from leadership in Asia by convincing Washington that it will have to confront China militarily to preserve its regional primacy, and that the costs and risk of doing so would be immense. It is trying to intimidate America, in other words. There is a good chance that it is working.

Friend of ZP blog and terrorism expert J.M. Berger has a new book coming out!

War on the Rocks BACK TO NIGHT RAIDS: COUNTERINSURGENCY OR COUNTERBUREAUCRACY?

Cicero Magazine – National Security Policymakers—No Experience Necessary? and What the War Classics Teach Us about Fighting Terrorists

Steven Metz – Understanding the Enemy: Inside the Mind of the Islamic State

USNI Blog –To Defeat ISIS, Hawkeyes Required

Parameters –     Understanding the Strengths and Vulnerabilites of ISIS by W. Andrew Terrill

Studies in IntelligenceOperation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program to Bring Nazi Scientists to America 

Michigan War Studies ReviewOne Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare

Chicago Boyz –On Russia and Ukraine

O’Reilly Radar –Privacy is a concept, not a regime 

Presentation Zen –10 tips for improving your presentations & speeches

FOXnews – Researchers Unearth New Clues About Ancient Computer

Richochet – When Did the Left Turn into Rick Santorum? 

The AtlanticWhat the Media Gets Wrong About Israel 

The New RepublicFeminists need to Stop Spreading False Alarms about Sexism 

Mother JonesThis is the Left’s Confidential $ 100 Million Plan to win back the States

RECOMMENDED LISTENING:

The Break it Down Show Podcast – All about the Story with Jim DeFelice 

RECOMMENDED VIEWING:

The Art of Future War?

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — coloring outside the lines of the challenge ]
.

http://www.desura.com/mods/dune-wars/images/new-soldier-and-infantry-units
Civ4 Dune mod, “Worm attack”, from Desura

**

I’m all in favor of the Atlantic Council‘s Art of Future War Project:

It is a moment to seek out new voices and ideas from artists who can range much farther out into the future. Artists are adept at making sense of disorder while also having the ability to introduce a compelling chaos into the status quo. In other words, they are ideally suited to exploring the future of warfare. Writers, directors and producers and other artists bring to bear observations derived from wholly different experiences in the creative world. They can ask different kinds of questions that will challenge assumptions and conventional ways of tackling some of today’s toughest national security problems. Importantly, they can also help forge connections with some of most creative people in the public and private sectors who otherwise struggle to find avenues for their best ideas.

That’s excellent, and as a poet and game designer with a keen interest in war and peace, I hope to contribute.

**

Funny, though, their first challenge looks, to my eyes, just a little bit back to the future:

The Art of Future Warfare project’s first challenge seeks journalistic written accounts akin to a front-page news story describing the outbreak of a future great-power conflict.

Why would we want to produce something “akin to a front-page news story” at a time when news stories are already more web-page than front-page, and perhaps even tweet before they’re breaking news?

In any case, the good people at Art of Future War offered some clues to those who might want to take up their challenge, and I took their encouragement seriously —

The historical creative cues included below are intended to inspire, not bound, creativity.

**

Their first clue did indeed inspire me, though not to write anything akin to a front-page news story, “between 1,500 and 2,500 words long”. The clue they gave was the Washington Times lede I’ve reproduced in the upper panel below —

SPEC DQ slomo death

while the lower panel contains the quote their clue led me to, by an associative leap of the kind artists are prone to — drawing on the vivid imagery of Peter Brook‘s play, The Mahabharata, which I had the good fortune to see in Los Angeles, a decade or three ago.

**

My own leap backwards — to an ancient and indeed originally oral epic, the Mahabharata, rather than to century-old newsprint — won’t win me the challenge, since it doesn’t answer to the rules, nor will it provide useful hints as to what war will look like a decade from now.

The sage Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharata at the dictation of the god Ganesh, might have been able to predict the future of war — I certainly cannot.

What I can do, and hope to have done, is to suggest that the whole of human culture has a bearing on war and how we understand it.

James Aho‘s Religious Mythology and the Art of War should be on every strategist’s reading list, as should Frank Herbert‘s Dune (see gamer’s mod image at the top of this page), JAB van Buitenen‘s Bhagavadigita in the Mahabharata and Brigadier SK Malik‘s The Qur’anic Concept of War — and Akira Kurasawa‘s Kagemusha on the DVD shelf, too:

There, I have managed to contribute something useful after all.


Switch to our mobile site