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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 Intelligence -Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program to Bring Nazi Scientists to America 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Recommended Reading and Viewing, First of 2014

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

Top Billing! Tom NicholsThe Death of Expertise 

….More seriously, I wonder if we are witnessing the “death of expertise:” a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between students and teachers, knowers and wonderers, or even between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all.

By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields.

Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live. A fair number of Americans now seem to reject the notion that one person is more likely to be right about something, due to education, experience, or other attributes of achievement, than any other.

Indeed, to a certain segment of the American public, the idea that one person knows more than another person is an appalling thought, and perhaps even a not-too-subtle attempt to put down one’s fellow citizen. It’s certainly thought to be rude: to judge from social media and op-eds, the claim of expertise — and especially any claim that expertise should guide the outcome of a disagreement — is now considered by many people to be worse than a direct personal insult.

I meant to comment on Tom’s post at the time which created a large stir, as I agree with some parts wholeheartedly while perhaps being more cognizant where and when expertise – a marvelously effective tool of western civilization also known as “specialization” - has its limits.  There are also different kinds of expertise which we should think of as cognitive tools or lenses that can provide better answers if used synergistically  than you can sometimes get from one form of expertise alone.

There are also problems that because they may be fundamentally new or previously unrecognized – as happens when hard science fields push against current limits of knowledge in physics, chemistry or biology  – or massively interrelated and complex “intractable” or “wicked problems” of social systems, that we lack any expertise that fits the problem well in terms of arriving at accurate analysis or economical solutions. This goes even more to the latent but difficult to perceive opportunities that seem obvious only in hindsight after someone has made a breakthrough and exploited it effectively. These kinds of pathbreaking solutions tend to be profound in their impact, to paraphrase Freeman Dyson, because they are often remarkably simple.

The Bridge  (Brett Friedman) Strategy as Narrative 

Strategy is a form of communication; a message that you have the intentions and capabilities to impose your will, and the enemy cannot impose theirs. Aswar can be likened to two combatants trying to impose their will on the other, they must communicate their will and their intention not to abide by the will of the opponent. Since war is a human endeavor, this communication occurs in the same manner as other forms of communications. For example, the Six Phases of Joint Operations, found in JP 5-0 Planning, mirror the plot structure of theatrical drama as identified by Gustav Freytag. JP 5-0 lays out five phases for joint operations: Shaping, Deter, Seize Initiative, Dominate, Stabilize, and Enable Civil Authority. “Deter” is a throwaway; if it works, then no conflict occurs. It rightfully belongs as a subset of shaping, in my opinion, so I omit it below. The five remaining phases match up with Freytag’s plot structure: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement. Humans have been communicating using this structure for centuries and it’s no accident that a cohesive strategy would match it. 

War on the Rocks (Thomas Lynch) -Confronting Reality: The Saudi-Pakistani Nuclear Nexus 

….Western nonproliferation pundits have generally dismissed the possibility of such nuclear proliferation collaboration, viewing the risks to Riyadh and Islamabad to be too high and the whispering campaign to be a Saudi effort to put pressure on the United States to be more firm with Iran.  Analysts of the Saudi monarchy also have argued that its conservative nature wouldmitigate against it going to Pakistan for a nuclear weapons “chit.”

But a more careful assessment of trans-regional history and Saudi-Pakistani interrelations over time makes analysts like me – who both have lived in Middle Eastern countries and who analyze Pakistan and Saudi Arabia security matters from a South Asian security perspective – far less certain that the Saudis are bluffing.  Saudi Arabia’s unique relationship with Pakistan during the period of Islamabad’s civilian nuclear power and nuclear weapons development programs makes this an especially important connection in the event of an ever-widening chain of nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East and South Asia. Although officially denied by Riyadh and Islamabad, many South Asia experts, includingBruce Reidel of the Brookings Institution, believe that a secret and long-standing agreement exists that Pakistan would provide the Kingdom with nuclear technology and weapons should the Saudis feel threatened by a third party nuclear program.  Furthermore, Pakistan has a recent history of responding positively to Saudi security requests, most notably in the spring of 2011 Saudi royals feared spill-over of a Shi’ite uprising in Bahrain and requested Islamabad ready an expeditionary military force to deploy upon request.  Pakistan did so without hesitation. 

Seydlitz89 -A Clausewitzian View of the Current Conscription Debate in the US – Part I

Conscription is defined as “compulsory enlistment of citizens or residents of a political body for national service”. It dates back to the Babylonian Empire but the modern variant traces back to revolutionary France of the 1790s, and thus has a significant political element regardless of the political system employing it. Most modern wars have required some sort of conscription by one side or both in order to procure the necessary manpower to wage the war in question.In this essay I would like to first present the state of conscription in Europe prior 1793, followed by French mobilization to form the Grand Armee. Clausewitz’s view on conscription as well as Prussian reforms will follow. Finally I will present some recent examples in the current debate in the US regarding the reimplementation of conscription. I think this will show that Clausewitz’s views are pertinent to the discussion and even explain the motives/thinking of some of the current proponents. This is due to the fact in my view that regarding conscription we are dealing with basic political questions, that in the US context are long overdue in airing.

Dart Throwing Chimp -Relative Risks of State-Led Mass Killing Onset in 2014: Results from a Wiki Survey and Why More Mass Killings in 2013, and What It Portends for This Year 

To fully understand why a spate of mass killings is happening now, I think it helps to recognize that this cluster is occurring alongside—or, in some cases, in concert with—aspate of state collapses and during a period of unusually high social unrest. Systemic thinking leads me to believe that these processes are interrelated in explicable ways.

Just as there are boom and bust cycles within economies, there seem to be cycles of political (dis)order in the global political economy, too. Economic crunches help spur popular unrest. Economic crunches are often regional or global in nature, and unrest can inspire imitation. These reverberating challenges can shove open doors to institutional change, but they also tend to inspire harsh responses from incumbents intent on preserving the status quo ante. The ensuing clashes present exactly the conditions that are ripest for mass killing. Foreign governments react to these clashes in various ways, sometimes to try to quell the conflict and sometimes to back a favored side. These reactions often beget further reactions, however, and efforts to manufacture a resolution can end up catalyzing wider disorder instead. 

Cyclical behavior in social macrosystems is a favorite theme of pop science thinker Howard Bloom 

Kings of War (Jill Sargent Russell) -The Art of Victory 

Delphi Brief – DOD Releases Roadmap for Hunter and Killer Robots: Looks 25 Years Ahead in Unmanned Vehicle Vision 

SWJ Blog -Warfare Is Changing In 3 Ways 

Feral Jundi -Podcasts: Boyd Briefing On Organic Design For Command And Control 

LESC Blog -Don’t Fear Failure; Instead Make Failure Your Classroom 

AFJ  (BJ Armstrong)-Unmanned naval warfare: Retrospect & prospect 

The Bridge (Jeremy Renken) -Renken on Strategy as Fiction 

Global Guerrillas-Another Massive Cyber-attack on US Citizens and Nobody Cares 

tdaxp – Value Added Testing 

Steven Pressfield Online “He’s a Winner!” 

Michigan War Studies Review – Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze and Eisenhower in War and Peace 

Scientific American -The Most Fascinating Human Evolution Discoveries of 2013 

The National Interest – Asia’s Worst Nightmare: A China-Japan War 

RECOMMENDED VIEWING:

On Islam 1: Reuel Mark Gerecht

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — on an impressive video, featuring Matt Levitt and Reuel Gerecht on Hezbollah ]
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Matthew Levitt‘s contribution to a recent panel at the International Soy Museum was a tour de force. Levitt, whose work as a CT analyst has included stints with both the FBI and Treasury, was discussing his most recent book, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God — both the book and his talk are strongly recommended.

It is, however, his colleague Reuel Marc Gerecht‘s contribution to that session that I wish to highlight here, because [starting at 44.40] he made a point about Hezbollah from his own CT experience that he still finds it necessary to make in 2013, some two decades after his service with the CIA commenced in the 1990s:

One of the things I was struck by when I came into the Agency, and I was struck by it on the day that I left the Agency, which was: you almost never had officers either on the clandestine side or in the directorate of analysis, the Directorate of Intelligence, talk about God. You just didn’t have that many people sort of put it together and talk about what actually motivated people.

You know, there was almost an assumption out there, Oh, the Iranians were upset with us because of our dealing with the Shah etcetera, but the actual analysis of the Iranian complaint against the United States was distinctly secular. Even the analysis of the Hezbollah was distinctly secular. And it never made any sense, particularly if you started to have some exposure to these individuals, and you suddenly realized that no, their motivations aren’t secular usually, their motivations are actually deeply spiritual, they’re religious, they’re about God.

— and [starting 53.04]:

There is a profound reflex in the West to look at a group like Hezbollah, and to look at their Iranian sponsors, and to take God out of the equation. Don’t do that. We wouldn’t do it with al-Qaida. Don’t do it with these groups either. If you do that, if you neuter them of their religious belief, if you look at it as just an ethnic movement, if you look at it as just a sectarian movement, if you look at it as just the Shi’a getting even in Lebanon, then you’re making an atrocious analytical mistake, which will bushwhack you, I guarantee you, over and over again. You have to keep God in this equation…

The one bright spot in this dismal account of the secular mindset blinding itself to religious passion is Gerecht’s statement: “We wouldn’t do it with al-Qaida”.

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For more on the way our own worldviews can blind us to the worldviews of others, see my post on Gaidi Mtaani, together with the two follow ups to that post which I shall be posting here shortly.

Recommended Reading & Viewing

Monday, November 25th, 2013

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

Top Billing! TechCrunch – Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries 

I found this one fascinating and entertaining on several level: an orthodox PC liberal doing a sort of anthropological drive by on an obscure ideological sect where the Far Right intersected with Silicon Valley, but rejected the libertarian adherence to classical liberalism for a mystical-mythologizing ethos ( they seem to admire the mid 20th C. mummery of Julius Evola).

….Perhaps the one thing uniting all neoreactionaries is a critique of modernity that centers on opposition to democracy in all its forms. Many are former libertarians who decided that freedom and democracy were incompatible.

“Demotist systems, that is, systems ruled by the ‘People,’ such as Democracy and Communism, are predictably less financially stable than aristocratic systems,”Anissimov writes. “On average, they undergo more recessions and hold more debt. They are more susceptible to market crashes. They waste more resources. Each dollar goes further towards improving standard of living for the average person in an aristocratic system than in a Democratic one.”

Exactly what sort of monarchy they’d prefer varies. Some want something closer to theocracy, while Yarvin proposes turning nation states into corporations with the king as chief executive officer and the aristocracy as shareholders.

For Yarvin, stability and order trump all. But critics like Scott Alexander think neoreactionaries overestimate the stability of monarchies — to put it mildly. Alexander recently published an anti-reactionary FAQ, a massive document examining and refuting the claims of neoreactionaries.

“To an observer from the medieval or Renaissance world of monarchies and empires, the stability of democracies would seem utterly supernatural,” he wrote. “Imagine telling Queen Elizabeth I – whom as we saw above suffered six rebellions just in her family’s two generations of rule up to that point – that Britain has been three hundred years without a non-colonial-related civil war. She would think either that you were putting her on, or that God Himself had sent a host of angels to personally maintain order.”

T. Greer – Another Look at ‘The Rise of the West’ – But With Better Numbers 

Why the West? I do not think there is any other historicalcontroversy that has so enthralled the publicintellectuals of our age.  The popularity of the question can probably be traced to Western unease with a rising China and the ease with which the issue can be used as proxy war for the much larger contest between Western liberals who embrace multiculturalism and conservatives who champion the West’s ‘unique’ heritage. 
A few months ago I suggested that many of these debates that surround the “Great Divergence” are based on a flawed premise–or rather, a flawed question. As I wrote:  

“Rather than focus on why Europe diverged from the rest in 1800 we should be asking why the North Sea diverged from the rest in 1000.” [1]

I made this judgement based off of data from Angus Maddison‘s Contours of the World Economy, 1-2030 ADand the subsequent updates to Mr. Maddison’s data set by the scholars who contribute to the Maddison Project.

As far as 1,000 year economic projections go this data was pretty good. But it was not perfect. In many cases–especially with the Chinese data–it was simply based on estimates and extrapolations from other eras. A more accurate view of the past would require further research.

That research has now been done. 

Small Wars Journal- ( Sullivan and ElkusThe ‘New’ Playbook? Urban Siege in Nairobi 

Urban siege entails combined arms, ‘swarming’ attacks that bring multiple assault squads into play to attack a target or targets.  The goal is to draw in defenders to prolong the attack and maximize casualties and disruption.  By leveraging multiple, simultaneous assaults (known as swarming) response is complex. As a result, fog, friction, and the smog of terrorism is amplified. As the START Background Reporton the attack noted, extended hostage-barricade attacks with durations over 24 hours are nearly five times as lethal as those that end within a day.

The most notable antecedent to the Westgate siege was the Mumbai attack. In that 2008 action Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) conducted a series of assaults—including complex hostage barricade situations—on seven separate targets in Mumbai, killing 171 and wounding over 250 during their three-day siege.  We viewed that as a seminal event in contemporary urban siege.  Indeed in our paper “Postcard From Mumbai: Modern Urban Siege” we called it a ‘Back to the Future’ incident where terrorists returned to urban guerilla tactics.

War on the Rocks (Evans) -WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH CHINA’S NEW AIR DEFENSE IDENTIFICATION ZONE? 

According to a spokesman for the PLA, the zone “is an area of air space established by a coastal state beyond its territorial airspace to timely identify, monitor, control and react to aircraft entering this zone with potential air threats. It allows early-warning time and provides air security.” It has issued a set of rules for aircraft to follow, including identification of themselves and their flight path.  Ominously, the PRC states, “China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions.”

China claims the zone “is not directed against any specific country or target,” but this is clearly not the case.  The zone covers territory claimed by both Japan and China – the Senkaku Islands – and there have been a series of incidents and disputes related to this territory.  China claims to be “following international practice” but it is not clear what practice they are referring to. They claim it is “a necessary measure taken by China in exercising its self-defense right. It is not directed against any specific country or target. It does not affect the freedom of over-flight in the related airspace.” 

Business Insider -US NAVY: Hackers ‘Jumping The Air Gap’ Would ‘Disrupt The World Balance Of Power’ 

Chicago Boyz -Daniel Hannan’s new book: Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World  

The National InterestInterpreting the new Iran Deal  

Shloky.com – Announcing the Origins of the Lean Start Up

The National Interest - Interpreting the new Iran Deal

Recommended Viewing:

J.M. Berger being interviewed on his book Jihad Joe:


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