Recommended Reading

Have not done one of these in a while. Fortunately, that means there’s lots of good material. 

Top Billing! Steven PressfieldAn Interview with an Afghan Tribal Chief, Part #1 and Interview with a Tribal Chief, Part 2: Warlords

Ah, I am a sucker for posts on warlords.

“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.

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett10 Reasons Why Sanctions on Iran Won’t Work

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 HoffmanAFJHybrid 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”

David Ronfeldt –  TIMN: some implications for thinking about political philosophy and ideology

Rand emeritus David Ronfeldt applies his post-political spectrum TIMN Model to analyze capitalism, democracy and radical ideologies.

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