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Archive for August, 2006

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

The Third Reich in Power by Richard J. Evans.

A masterpiece by a historian at the top of his game.

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Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

BARNETT ON ROBB

Dr. Barnett offers a helpful critique of John Robb’s recent analysis “PLAYING WITH WAR

While Robb’s post was excellent, I disagree with Robb’s certainty of “It is not possible to reverse the clock” on the scenario he describes. Of course it is. The ” clock” is a metaphor for a political dynamic, in this case, a global one, which is why it is going to be very difficult to change, hence the resonance of Robb’s reasoning. However, if you create a provocation of a sufficient magnitude then you enter a revolutionary moment where the previously impossible or unthinkable suddenly has become all too present or real. That’s the nature of revolutions, system perturbations and paradigm shifts; they represent creative destruction unfolding.

UPDATE:

John disagrees.

To an extent, I think there’s a tendency to talk past one another in the short blog post format. It would be rather cool to put together a symposium with Tom and John and invite some other ” big names” like Martin van Creveld, William Lind, Chet Richards, Ralph Peters, Antulio J. Echevarria, Robert Kaplan, John Arquilla -perhaps a senior general officer or two like Abizaid and Petraeus or a military historian like John Keegan. Let them hash out the future of globalization and war at a high profile location – say, West Point in front of an audience of cadets -and televise it on C-Span.

The discussion could only do the country some good.

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Monday, August 28th, 2006

BLOG ADMINISTRIVIA NOTE

For whatever reason – being trendy is my guess, though control-freakishness or co-worker stupidity with spam and viruses is not to be excluded – my place of work has blocked all the mainstream, major, email sites. So if you send something to zenpundit@hotmail.com during normal business hours I am now unlikely to see it until late evening. Thus, email responses from me ( and I try to respond to everyone in a timely fashion, though, admittedly, I do not always succeed) are now subject to a minimum 24 hour delay.

If anyone knows of a reliable but obscure email service that flies under most IT department radar (I know they have blocked only specific sites) I’m open to suggestion for an alternative.

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Monday, August 28th, 2006

RAMBLING RECOMMENDATIONS

Due to an aggravating surfeit of mundane but absolutely necessary tasks, the third part of the Nixon series will have to wait a day or two.

Some minor recommendations:

Secrecy News put out by Dr. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists is a high quality, almost unbelievably good, blog deserving of much wider notice. I say this as someone who thinks that while Dr. Aftergood is sometimes too cavalier in his attitude toward what I would regard as vital (i.e. things that actually should be classfied) secrets, he shines a much needed, expert, light on the counterproductive secrecy empire of the security bureaucracy.

Shloky.com is also, IMHO, vastly underrated. A blog that punches well above its weight class.

John Robb highlighted ISN Blog recently. Worth checking out.

Vibrant and edgy discussion about Iran’s latest nuclear technology provocation at The Glittering Eye. Jeff Medcalf and Collounsbury are going head to head.

Two gentlemen I respect: Colonel Austin Bay features a guest post by Naval War College professor Dr. Tom Nichols.

Two important military theory related posts by Dr. Barnett and John Robb that I probably would have critiqued at length had I not spent the last hour trying to fix the F-ing dresser that the Son of Zenpundit somehow damaged ( I strongly suspect there was some kind of “ladder” scenario going on with the drawers to get the “Buried Treasure” hotwheel type toy that was out of reach).

An article: ” A Decisive weapon: A Brigade Commander’s Perspective on Information Operations” (PDF). Hat tip to PHK of Whirledview.

I’m going to get another glass of vino now….

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Sunday, August 27th, 2006

ON NIXON, PART II.

One quality Richard Nixon possessed that seemed to be acknowledged by friend and foe alike was a capacity to think deeply and long on difficult questions. From his days as a young man at Duke Law student with ” an iron butt” to his old age, a widower, staying up underlining passages in texts on classical philosophy, Nixon appears most at ease with himself when he was wrestling with problems alone.

Even on the famous Nixon tapes, which are slowly being released and transcribed by the National Archives ( and are mostly being ignored, except perhaps by historian Stanley Kutler , Chicago Tribune reporter James Warren and the odd grad student), Nixon is at his most revealing when he is engaged in a monologue with a trusted aide or one of his few personal confidant. If Nixon was equal to his predecessor LBJ in deviousness and casual profainity, he had none of Johnson’s garrulous extroversion and manic need to make a human connection. Nixon viewed small talk with distate and emotional scenes with dread. Relentlessly, Nixon pressed H.R. Haldeman to reduce his level of contact with Congressmen, Cabinet appointees and even his own White House Staff.

Nixon’s preference for self-imposed isolation and his analytical bent paid dividends in terms of insight. I offer a sampling of Richard Nixon, drawn from many sources, in his own words:

“…our diplomats have a pervasive tendency to negotiate with themselves on behalf of the Soviets. Every hardline negotiation option discussed within the U.S. government encounters a chorus of derision on the grounds that ‘ the Russians will never accept it’ “.

“Our first task is to distinguish between vital interests, critical interests and peripheral interests….strategy means means making choices, and making choices means enforcing a set of strategic priorities”

” What we do outside our negotiating sessions is as important as what we do inside them “

” Democratic government is an art that requires vision”
“Public opinion polls are useful if a politician uses them to them only to to learn approximately what the people are thinking, so he can talk to them more intelligently”


“Public opinion responds to threats, not oportunities. It is easy to mobilize support to meet a clear threat but difficult to rally to seize a fleeting opportunity. If our leaders put foreign policy on the backburner until world events produce a new threat, our moment of opportunity will have vanished”

“…reaction and response to a crisis are uniquely personal in the sense that it depends on what an individual brings to bear on the situation”
“Reading can be particularly useful in times of crisis. It is then that a leader most needs perspective. If he is to keep his mind focused on his long-range goals, he must step back from the problems of the present. Reading helps him do that. He may not find the answer to his problem in what he reads, but new thoughts will refrsh his mind and permit him to tackle problems with renewed energy

“Small states love to play a role – that’s why we used Ceaucescu with North Vietnam. He was a good channel.”
[ Ed. Note: Ceaucescu was also used by Nixon to contact China before using Yayah Khan of Pakistan. Khan received few rewards for his troubles but Ceaucescu was richly rewarded by Nixon with access to trade, diplomatic honors and Western credits]

“This is what the Chinese have done. They have scrapped the economic side [ of Communism] in order to hang on to the political side. This is why the hardliners in China, like Li Peng, want to isolate China and the reason why they want the United States to isolate them. Then their political power is ensured. They won’t have to worry about all this corrupting Western influence”

” The Chinese will watch what the United States does elsewhere in the world just as carefully as they watch what we do in China.”

“The toughest personnel choice he [ the President] has to make is between a friend who is loyal but not competent and someone else who is competent but not necessarily a friend”

” In the last forty years, the upper crust of America in terms of education, money
and power has lost its sense of direction in the world.”

Coming soon, Part III: Nixon’s Long Shadow.

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