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The Cockroaches of War. And of Jihad

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a "zen"]

John Robb had a cool post on the ultra-radical takfiri insurgency ISIS/ISIL and their self-proclaimed SunniCaliphate“, the Islamic Statewhom he gave as an example of “the cockroaches of war”:

ISIS Opens The World’s Biggest Bazaar of Violence

ISIS is a marketplace — a freewheeling bazaar of violence – and it is rapidly expanding.   

So far, it’s been very successful:

  • it operates freely in an area bigger than most countries (and it has lots of oil),
  • it has been attracting the participation of a growing number of organizations and individuals, and
  • it’s financially successful and self-funding (it’s already made billions of $$ from oil, crime, bank robberies, and more).

This success is due to the fact that ISIS isn’t trying to build a “state.”  It’s not a government. 

….This bazaar was built for one purpose:  perpetual expansion and continuous warfare.

To keep things running, ISIS offers a minimalist, decentralized governance.  Day-to-day life is governed by a simple, decentralized rule set: Sharia Law.

Participation is open to everyone willing to live under Sharia and able to expand the bazaar to new areas.

The strategies and tactics ISIS uses are open sourced.  Any group or individual can advance them, as long as they can demonstrate they work.  

Weapons and other technologies needed for war are developed, shared and sold between participants and the pace of development based on previous examples is very quick.

Making money through criminal activity is highly encouraged.  Mercenary work is encouraged.  

Read the whole post here.

ISIS recently captured a town in Lebanon and Iraq’s largest dam, adding to the dams they already control in Syria. More importantly, ISIS fighters outsmarted a Kurdish Peshmerga equivalent of a battalion, using artillery and snipers, to force the Kurds to withdraw from the town of Sinjar where they have begun persecuting the Yezidi minority. This is significant as the fearsome Peshmerga are no pushovers. To put this in perspective, this was a military feat by ISIS that Saddam’s vaunted Republican Guard had great difficulty accomplishing without air support. It also reveals the Kurds may have some deficiencies with their logistics and operational level leadership (allegedly, the Peshmerga ran out of ammunition).

Absurd mummery about “Caliph Ibrahim” aside, as a fighting force and religious-political movement, ISIS has momentum and possesses the initiative. Despite their flamboyant cruelty, ISIS is attracting jihadis to a broken Iraq the way disaffected and radicalized German ex-soldiers swarmed into Freikorps units after the Great War. Reportedly, more British citizens have signed up with ISIS this year than have joined Britain’s territorial Army. Part of the reason is that ISIS, despite its obvious extremism and malevolence, is fighting successfully at the moral and mental levels of war and not merely the physical.

The strategist Colonel John Boyd described the purpose of fighting at the moral level of war as follows:

Essence of moral conflict

Create, exploit, and magnify
• Menace:
Impressions of danger to one’s well
being and survival.

• Uncertainty:
Impressions, or atmosphere,
generated by events that appear
ambiguous, erratic, contradictory,
unfamiliar, chaotic, etc.

• Mistrust:
Atmosphere of doubt and suspicion
that loosens human bonds among
members of an organic whole or
between organic wholes.

•Idea:

Surface, fear, anxiety, and

alienation in order to generate

many non-cooperative centers of
gravity, as well as subvert those
that adversary depends upon,
thereby magnify internal friction.

*Aim:

Destroy moral bonds
that permit an organic
whole to exist

To be a politically attractive force at the grand strategic level while doing morally reprehensible  things at the tactical level on a regular basis is no small strategic feat. Not a unique or impossible one though; both the Nazis and especially the Communists were able to continue to attract credulous Western supporters despite voluminous evidence of crimes against humanity and genocide (Communism still has western apologists in the media and academia). ISIS uses extreme violence but does so strategically with a vision of Caliphate to – 1)  to split Iraqi society into Sunnis vs. everyone else and split Sunnis into those who support ISIS and those who are “apostates” like the Shia, and are deserving of death; and 2) to destroy the Western concept of nation-states, replacing Iraq, Syria, Lebanon with a borderless Caliphate to rule over the Ummah.

The ISIS message is simultaneously highly exclusive (extreme Salafi version of Sharia) as well as wholly universal. This – along with identifying the Shia as the enemy force -allows ISIS to fold in a large array of disaffected, angry, rival Iraqi Sunni factions under the aegis of their movement while still attracting a global swarm of jihadi volunteers.  Compare this with the self-isolating messaging and behavior of HAMAS who, despite fighting the “Zionist enemy” Israel, are thoroughly despised in the region by most of their natural Arab state allies, the Palestinian Authority and even the radical jihadi groups. Nor is HAMAS able to escape moral damage from committing war crimes in the eyes of the international community the way ISIS escapes harm from committing worse ones ( Not only do they escape moral costs, ISIS flips their atrocities into a net positive by terrorizing the potential opposition and looking self-confidently defiant of world opinion in Islamist eyes).

In ISIS, Global Guerrilla strategy is fusing with the penultimate radical jihadi ideology.

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New E-Book from John Robb

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

I have been a long time fan of John Robb’s Global Guerrillas blog for many years and strongly recommend his military theory book  Brave New War for anyone interested in changes in warfare in the 21st century.  If you have been following GG, you know that John’s interests have turned in recent years  from the destructive part of  Boyd’s strategic continuum (tactics-operations/grand tactics -strategy) more toward the constructive ( grand strategy – theme for vitality and growth) with increasing examination of economic, ethical, legal, cultural and moral dimensions of societal rule-sets.

John has a new E-Book out, first of a series, that lays out his thinking in this area and how we can fix what ails America.

The American Way

My new booklet, “The American Way” is now on Amazon.  

If you are wondering what is wrong with America.  This booklet provides a concise answer.  

Also, this booklet provides a way to get us back on a path towards economic progress.  

Be forewarned, this booklet is just the start.  I’ll have more concrete ways to do it in booklets to be released over the next three months.  

Enjoy.  

PS:  I’ve got a booklet on iWar coming out next month too.

John gave me a preview of the manuscript and I thoroughly endorse the direction in which he is going with The American Way. America’s economic and political problems and strategic dysfunction have epistemological and moral roots.

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Robb on the Networked Age

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

John is en fuego today:

Life in a Networked Age

.….In the last thirty years, we’ve seen a shift in the technological substrate.  This new susbstrate is increasingly a family of technologies related to information networks.

As this new substrate begins to take control, we’re going to need new management forms.  Both bureaucratic and market systems are proving insuffient solutions to the challenges of a networked age.  

In both cases, the emergence of a global network is eroding the efficacy of bureaucracy and markets as solutions.  How?  One reason is scale.  

A global network is too large and complex for a bureaucracy to manage.  It would be too slow, expensive, and inefficient to be of value.  Further, even if one could be built, it would be impossible to apply market dyanmics (via democratic elections) to selecting the leaders of that bureaucracy.  The diversity in the views of the 7 billion of us on this planet are too vast.  

In terms of markets, a global marketplace is too unstable.   Interlinked, and tightly coupled markets are prone to frequent and disasterous failures.  Additionally, a global marketplace is easy for insiders to corrupt and rig, as we saw with the 2008 financial melt-down.   Given instability and unmitigated corruption, markets will fail as a decision making mechanism.  

So, what’s going to replace bureaucracy and markets?

Read the rest here.

In very strong agreement with John. I like markets and think they produce efficient and optimized results for many things ( not all things) but free markets currently face massive (and sadly bipartisan) efforts to rig them by the oligarchy here at home, much less in autocratic states where the  practice of state socialism, kleptocracy and government by mafia or tribal/sectarian minority is the norm.  People will seek work-around structures to adapt, thrive and evade extortionate schemes by elites that have hijacked the state.

Hat tip to Lexington Green

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Some unknown calculus

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron -- thinking inside and outside the pack, Robert Wright, John Robb, Iran, outliers ]
.

1.

Robert Wright just closed his Atlantic piece on Why Bombing Iran Would Mean Invading Iran with an exchange from a couple of years back between Gen. James Cartwright, then Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Sen. Jack Reed:

Senator Reed: I presume that [a bombing campaign] would not be 100 percent effective in terms of knocking them out. It would probably delay them, but that if they’re persistent enough they could at some point succeed. Is that a fair judgment from your position?

General Cartwright: That’s a fair judgment.

Senator Reed: So that the only absolutely dispositive way to end any potential would be to physically occupy their country and to disestablish their nuclear facilities. Is that a fair, logical conclusion?

General Cartwright: Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, it’s a fair conclusion.

2.

Look, I’m way outside my zone of focus here, but that phrase “some unknown calculus” intrigues me.

Maybe Robert Wright should read John Robb. Maybe that “unknown calculus” is in Robb’s post, Israel, Iran and the Poor Man’s Cruise Missile:

One of the Stratfor research “findings” (culled from the Wikileaks stockpile) is that Israel claimed its upcoming strike on Iran would be “catastrophic enough” to cause a regime change. This claim was made both to dissuade Iran from going forward with its program, physically eliminating their ability to move forward with the program, and persuade the US to act instead of Israel.

Running through all of the potential scenarios, only one emerges that makes sense.

A strike on Iranian oil facilities. A strike so devastating that it disrupts all of its oil production, currently at 4 million barrels a day.

How to do that? Drones.

Look, Robb’s piece came out yesterday, Wright’s piece came out today — and who knows how long the editorial process might have taken. So I don’t blame Wright.

3.

The point is, Robb doesn’t think with the pack. And that means he comes up with ideas the pack is blind to.

Outliers.

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Private Drone Wars

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Here’s a legal question:

Do I own any of the airspace above my property?  If so, how high up? If not can somebody float camera-laden drones up to first and second story windows without breaking trespassing laws? How about following a person walking on their private property or in public by hovering uncomfortably  nearby their personal space? Flying over privacy fences or at an angle to peer over them?

Well, this story raised all these questions:

Animal rights group says drone shot down 

A remote-controlled aircraft owned by an animal rights group was reportedly shot down near Broxton Bridge Plantation Sunday.

Steve Hindi, president of SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness), said his group was preparing to launch its Mikrokopter drone to video what he called a live pigeon shoot on Sunday when law enforcement officers and an attorney claiming to represent the privately-owned plantation near Ehrhardt tried to stop the aircraft from flying.

“It didn’t work; what SHARK was doing was perfectly legal,” Hindi said in a news release. “Once they knew nothing was going to stop us, the shooting stopped and the cars lined up to leave.”

He said the animal rights group decided to send the drone up anyway.

“Seconds after it hit the air, numerous shots rang out,” Hindi said in the release. “As an act of revenge for us shutting down the pigeon slaughter, they had shot down our copter.”

He claimed the shooters were “in tree cover” and “fled the scene on small motorized vehicles.”

Read the rest here.

Generally, laws permit you to film (but not always audiotape) people in public but not always where an expectation of privacy exists and certainly not via criminal trespass. If I own thirty acres, and your drone flies up to my house you have negated the value of owning so much property as to keep the public at a reasonable distance.

I can see how people might not find that acceptable and might start using strategies to discourage that. If I “accidentally” crash my drone into yours (Oops! Sorry) a court might perceive that as a risk entailed in such hobbies. I beam your craft with my DIY energy weapon and you are out $300 and can’t legally come on my property to retrieve it.

Or maybe, if I know who you are, I buy a drone and send it out after you. Or, if I have a screw or two loose or are from the shady side of the street, worse.

This could get seriously out of hand.

 

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