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Archive for March, 2009

Recommended Reading

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Top Blling! Dr. Steven Metz at SWJ BlogTrends, Threats, and Expectations

Big Steve sets off a robust discussion after his participation in a Pentagon conference on strategic futurism and a SWJ Blog post.

Chicago Boyz (David Foster)Indoctrination at U-Delaware

The heavy, taxpayer-subsidized, propaganda hand of the multiculturalist-critical race theorist Left at the University of Delaware.

FT.comChina calls for new reserve currency

I see this more of serious signal to the American elite from their nervous Chinese counterparts that the moves by the Fed to counter a deflationary spiral by running the printing press are viewed in Beijing as a serious threat to Chinese national interests. In a world of fiat currencies, a “supra-fiat currency” backed by the IMF that depends heavily on the U.S. is a hollow threat to the dollar except as a technical toy for tweaking currency fluctuations. The IMF has no economy, no vital resources, no global stockpile of gold and no ability to project military power to back such a supra-currency and give the paper value. The dollar only matters because of global faith in the power and standing of the United States – a quality swiftly being discounted due to the policies of Bernancke and the Obama administration.

Other views on this or a related topic: John Robb , The Newshoggers.com  , naked capitalism  , The Moderate Voice ( Ironically, I checked out sites by actual economists tonight, including Brad DeLong and they didn’t have anything up on this yet. Weird. Kinda like me ignoring a new war)

Fabius MaximusAll you need to know about Ayn Rand, savior of modern conservatism

FM opens up a can of worms by posting on radical free marketerr philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand, who in point of fact bitterly repudiated conservativism  (William F. Buckley and Whittaker Chambers returned the compliment by savaging Rand in a hysterical review of Atlas Shrugged in National Review). Interestingly, some of FM’s anti-Rand commenters link Atlas Shrugged with The Lord of the Rings. Amusingly, they are correct in the sense that both J.R.R. Tolkien and Ayn Rand were believers in the rebirth of the romantic epic.

SoobMexico’s Middle Class Head North

A really bad sign. Which makes me wonder in another domain if capital flight from the U.S. has begun yet?

Red Team Journal (Elkus)Military Futurism

Heavy on the Futurism aspect.

CTLab ReviewCTlab Symposium on P.W. Singer’s Wired For War

This is great! I have a copy of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
but I doubt I will get it read in time. Here’s the details:

CTlab’s second symposium in its 2009 series starts next week, on Monday, 30 March, and will run for four days, until 2 April (or until participants run out of steam, which might take longer). The subject: Peter Singer’s new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and  Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin Press: 2009).

This is going to be an exciting booklab, on a work that’s been getting broad exposure, in an out of the blogosphere. Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution Senior Fellow for Foreign Policy, and Director of its 21st Century Defense Initiative, will be participating on day 1. Proceedings will be compiled and indexed on a separate page for ease of reference, here.

Confirmed participants include:

  • Kenneth Anderson (Law; American University)
  • Matt Armstrong (Public Diplomacy; Armstrong Strategic Insights Group)
  • John Matthew Barlow (History; John Abbott College)
  • Rex Brynen (Political Science; McGill University)
  • Antoine Bousquet (International Relations; Birkbeck College, London)
  • Charli Carpenter (International Relations; UMass-Amherst)
  • Andrew Conway (Political Science; NYU)
  • Jan Federowicz (History; Carleton University)
  • John T. Fishel (National Security Policy; University of Oklahoma)
  • Michael A. Innes (Political Science; University College London)
  • Martin Senn (Political Science; University of Innsbruck)
  • Marc Tyrrell (Anthropology; Carleton University)

That’s it!

New Post at Clausewitz Roundtable

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

I have a new post up at the closing Clausewitz Roundtable at Chicago Boyz.

Clausewitz, “On War” Book VI: The Shadow of the East

….One of the anomalies of the crusade of Napoleon’s Grande Armee into the Russia of Tsar Alexander is that the Russians began in a position of numerical inferiority, something that had not happened at any other time except during the Mongol Yoke. Even Hitler’s massive onslaught of 150 Wehrmacht divisions hurled into the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa in 1941 did not enjoy the advantage in numbers held by Napoleon in 1812. Napoleon’s host had an almost mythic quality, reminiscent of the army of Great King Xerxes in The Persian Wars. Historian Alan Schom writes:

“Napoleon’s mighty force was phenomenal in size and strength as it continued its advance. They were marching by the thousands, the tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands. It was incredible, it was fascinating, it was aew inspiring, but above all, it was terrifying. All Europe was trembling at the very thought of this massive Gallic-led horde, the likes of which had not been seen since the eighth century invasion of Europe by the Arabs and Berbers, and before that by Attila the Hun. Bavarians, Wurttemburgers, troops from Berg, Hesse-Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Nassau-Aremberg, Isenburg, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Wurzberg, Saxony, Anhalt-Berburg, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Waldeck, Schaumburg-Lippe, Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, occupied Denmark, occupied Prussia, occupied Spain and Portugal, occupied Holland, occupied Switzerland, northern Italy, the occupied Papal States, Danzig and Illyria, tiny San Marino and the miniature principality of Liechtenstein….the marched hundreds of miles, some ultimately two thousand miles, because once more Napoleon Bonaparte had refused peace, because – obsessed beyond any rational thought – he demanded war and further conquest”[1]

Tsar Alexander responded to the “Gallic horde” by trading space for time, evacuating Vitebsk and famously, Moscow, which was set to the torch. Alexander made use of the terrain, Russia’s vast and unforgiving span of earth to decimate the invaders whose lines of supply stretched vaporously thin.

Read the rest here.

The roundtable has been of superb quality and I will do a final aggregation post of the final third of the contributions once everyone has posted their concluding remarks.

Apology for Technical Difficulties

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

To: Anybody who has sent me a message recently using the contact form.

I just discovered that my email from Siteground has been routed into my junk folder in my main account since….well….I’m not sure how long. If you sent me something and never received a response, you have my sincere apology and please do not take it personally; in all likelihood, I never saw it at all.

I’m currently responding to what I have from the last ten days but if you sent me something before then that you’d really like me to look at, leave a note in the comments so I can get in touch with you.

CIA Clandestine Operatives: Horizontal Thinkers or Just in Need of Ritalin?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Jeff Stein of Spy Talk had a fascinating interview with Dr. David Charney, a CIA psychiatrist specializing in treating professional spooks. The whole article is interesting but the following caught my eye:

….But for case officers at the tip of the CIA’s spear, he said, the problem tends to be A.D.D., Adult Attention Deficit Disorder
“They seem to be highly functional A.D.D.’s,” Charney said. “You might think a person with ADD can’t tie their shoelaces, but quite the opposite.” To them, “boredom equals death,” 
Charney says, not really joking. 

“They’re energetic, restless, people who have to physically keep moving. Lock them to a desk, and they can’t deal with it. They can’t stand to be bored…” 

But A.D.D. can be an asset, too.  “They have the ability to absorb things from 360 degrees,” Charney marvels. 

“Contrast that with people who are linear, like your book-keeper or accountant, who chug along in a channel and get things done by going from one thing to another. But A.D.D. minds tend to be very synthetic. They reach out and pull things out of the air, or through other persons who are not linked in any way. They see patterns that other people don’t see. They can gather together unusual elements and bring them together into a whole that is a brilliant synthesis of things that would be lost on other people.  

“They have a sensitivity to ambient thoughts going on that a good case officer needs to pick up, little nuances, little hues, little things said that let you know if the agent you’ve recruited is telling the truth, or which is partly the truth … which buttons to push to manage the person, how to absorb material and put it into a whole. And the good ones have that ability.”

This is classic horizontal thinking with an emphasis on connections, patterns and synthesis driven by an internal “restlessness” – the kind of persona seen in such disparate occupations as fighter pilots, inventors, physicists and artists. There has long been a comparative and to an extent correlative association of ADHD or “hyperactivity” with creativity, high levels of intelligence and depression though of course not everyone with ADHD is creative, intellectually gifted, depressed or working for an intelligence agency. The correlation though has also been noted in MRI brain scan studies of children so it would appear to have a physiological basis that might explain why the CIA needs to have its own psychiatrists for reasons beyond the stress generated by a career in intelligence work – self-selection bias in people who apply to become employees.

(Hat tip to….one of my twitteramigos….I can’t find the tweet, damn it!) 


Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

I wanted to say “thank you” to The Watcher’s Council for having a post of mine under consideration ( I came in 2nd in their non-Council category) and to Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye for the nomination. The fine blogs that compose The Watcher’s Council are:

Watcher of Weasels
The Education Wonks
The Glittering Eye
Rhymes With Right
Soccer Dad
The Colossus of Rhodey
Bookworm Room
Cheat-Seeking Missiles
Wolf Howling
Hillbilly White Trash
The Razor
Mere Rhetoric
The Provocateur

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