Have not done one of these in a while. Fortunately, that means there’s lots of good material.
“Chief Zazai: A tribal leader is elected by the tribes. A warlord is a self-imposed body on the tribes and the people. A tribal leader does not get elected if he has blood on his hands. A warlord cannot survive unless he has killed many innocent people, looted people’s livelihoods and been involved in the opium and drug trade. A tribal leader only gets elected when he, his father and grandfather have been servants of the community. A warlord does not need these recommendations. A warlord gains his position by force of arms and is only interested in personal gain. A warlord has no problem with reelection as this summer’s so-called election has shown. In this case the gun is mightier than the pen.”
Steve has an amazing set of interviews with Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai, an elected tribal leader in Paktia province Afghanistan who was educated partly in Canada and fought in the Soviet War.
Tom weighs in with an Esquire column on all the serious countervailing trends against a hardline policy squeezing Iran sufficiently to make the regime cave on nuclear programs, short of war. Dr. Barnett is right here; if there was an easy or cheap policy solution on Iran, we’d have done it already.
…Used to be that hardcore sanctions focused on weapons of mass destruction. But post-Bush, 21st-century sanctions offer “a pretty rich list to pick from,” as Robert Gates put it – Iran’s energy sector with bans on foreign investment and travel, the elimination of shipping insurance, and possibly the prohibition of oil-and-gas exports. But expect Tehran to activate workarounds wherein it reduces profit margins while muddling through with these wonderfully fungible assets. For example, Iran is vulnerable because it imports one-third of its gasoline, but ravenous Chinese oil companies are already filling the kinds of voids that sanctions could create, meaning that Europe’s temporary market loss will be China’s permanent strategic gain.
The wild card though, is the Mahdist Hojjatiyeh strand within the Pasdaran clique that seized power from the clergy in the wake of the stolen election. Are these IRGC powerbrokers more secular, corrupt, neofascist thugs or are they millenialist true believers?
Frank Hoffman –AFJ – Hybrid vs. compound war
“I would like the Pentagon and the defense community to use the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review to debate the range of threats we face and their potential combination. We need to assess today’s likely irregular threat and potential for high-end asymmetric threats. But this raises a critical issue in our evaluation of the emerging character of conflict: Is the character of conflict diverging into lower and higher forms, or converging, as the hybrid threat suggests? Defense Secretary Robert Gates appears to embrace the convergence of threats and assesses this as likely and dangerous”
Rand emeritus David Ronfeldt applies his post-political spectrum TIMN Model to analyze capitalism, democracy and radical ideologies.
Col. Kilcullen is very brief here, focusing on legitimacy and good governance.
Major kudos to Josh for snagging a high-profile op-ed on an important and generally mishandled problem of the USG giving due diligence to helping those who help us, usually at great risk to themselves. From the Montagnards and Hmong to Afghans and Iraqis, we need to institutionalize our response. If we can lard money on contractors who move toilet papers and MRE’s, a compensatory package for locals should be a no-brainer.
Strategic Studies Institute – Dr. Max G. Manwaring – A “New” Dynamic in the Western Hemisphere Security Environment: The Mexican Zetas and Other Private Armies
This is good. Why Mexico and the war next door gets less media coverage than Iraq amounts to a case of national denial. Things are getting worse south of the border and we are not prepared.
Dr. Sebastian L. v. Gorka – How to Win in Afghanistan
A back to basics approach on historical COIN examples; an Afghan war strategy the fits well with Steve Pressfield’s posts above.
“….And that’s a problem, as the core of the Singularity argument is actually pretty interesting, and worth thinking about. Increasing functional intelligence–whether through smarter machines or smarter people–will almost certainly disrupt how we live in pretty substantial ways, for better and for worse. And there have been periods in our history where the combination of technological change and social change has resulted in quite radical shifts in how we live our lives–so radical that the expectations, norms, and behaviors of pre-transformation societies soon become out of place in the post-transformation world”
Fabius Maximus – Theories about 4GW are not yet like the Laws of Thermodynamics
….The value of these kinds of insights was well expressed by a post Opposed Systems Design (4 March 2008):
A deeper understanding of these dynamics deserves an organized research program. The first concept – an artificially binary distinction between “foreign COIN” and “native COIN” – has served its purpose by highlighting the need for further work on the subject.
One reason for our difficulty grappling with 4GW is the lack of organized study. We could learn much from a matrix of all insurgencies over along period (e.g., since 1900), described in a standardized fashion, analyzed for trends. This has been done by several analysts on the equivalent of “scratch pads” (see IWCKI for details), but not with by a properly funded multi-disciplinary team (esp. to borrow or build computer models).
We are spending trillions to fight a long war without marshaling or analyzing the available data. Hundreds of billions for the F-22, but only pennies for historical research. It is a very expensive way to wage war
Christopher Albon – The Social-Systemic Consequences of War
Diaspora and social network effects.
Good review by Dan of an important book on the China opening by the author of 1919.
Coming Anarchy (Curzon) – The Hakka People, China’s Leadership Caste
This is a remarkable ethnographic marker of which I had not been aware. Akin to the disproportionate influence of Ashkenazi Jews in science or medicine.
Critt Jarvis – Why evangelize for Honduras? Energy and guts
Critt is back from Honduras and preaching the word.
John Hagel – A Labor Day Manifesto for a New World
A call for “passionate creatives” to organize to reform and innovate the dead hand of hierarchical, taylorist, institutions.
Major Mehar Omar Khan – Small Wars Journal – “Don’t Try to arrest the Sea: An Alternative Approach for Afghanistan” (PDF)
Major Khan is a Pakistani officer on exchange in the U.S. and he argues that COIN strategies that ignore or attempt to “reform” major cultural-historical aspects of Afghan society in top-down fashion are less likely to succeed than strategies that flow with the cultural current and start with small but acheivable “lighthouse” projects.
NewScientist.com – Campaign asks for international treaty to limit war robots
Basically an incipient, NGO-ish, effort to try and preempt and limit avenues of development and field use of armed robots by state militaries. The problem is, that most of these tinkering innovations are going to be well within the realm of modestly funded private groups or well-heeled individual “hobbyist” inventors, not just governments. With some kind of draconian, ill-considered, treaty restrictions, we could end up with insurgencies or terrorist groups that have better and more lethally employed robots and robotic countermeasures, than do conventional militaries. At least for one-shot attacks.
Harper’s Magazine – “American coup d’etat: Military thinkers discuss the unthinkable”
Andrew Bacevich, Charles Dunlap, Richard Kohn and Edward Luttwak discuss the possibility of a military coup in the United States. I owe someone a hat tip for this one but cannot recall who or what site or social network was involved.