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Spread of 5GW Terminology

Friday, June 20th, 2008

My friend Bruce Kesler sent me a link to an article in David Horowitz’s Frontpagemag.com by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld  and Alyssa Lappen from the American Center for Democracy , Frontpagemag is a conservative site which mostly concentrates on purely political and cultural battles with the Far Left, that had a very interesting title:

The Fifth Generation Warfare

The article is actually an excerpt from an academic study prepared by the U.S. Naval War College, Armed Groups: Studies in National Security, Counterterrorism, and Counterinsurgency and the section used is focused on financing of Islamist terrorism and related activities. For example:


Funding the jihad, i.e., financial jihad, or Al Jihad bi-al-Mal, is mandated by many verses in the Qur’an, such as chapter 61, verses 10.11: “you . . . should strive for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives,” and chapter 49, verse 15: “The [true] believers are only those who . . . strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah.” This has been reiterated throughout Islamic history and in recent times. “Financial Jihad [is] . . . more important . . . than self-sacrificing,” according to Saudi and Muslim Brotherhood (MB) spiritual leader Hamud bin Uqla al-Shuaibi.6

Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most prominent Sunni scholars in the world today, reiterated the legal justification for “financial jihad [Al-Jihad bi-al-Mal]” in a lecture he gave on 4 May 2002 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to him, “collecting money for the mujahideen (jihad fighters . . . ) was not a donation or a gift but a duty necessitated by the sacrifices they made for the Muslim nation.” 7

This is more or less in the vein of “Unrestricted Warfare” on the Chinese model but readers can read for themselves. What I find interesting is that the 4GW/5GW ideas and terminology that have been kicked around this corner of the blogosphere for the last four or five years are creeping in to mainstream use across the political spectrum as academics, journalists and politicos try to get a handle on the evolution of irregular warfare.


A site called “Arabic Media Shack” emailed me today and pointed to this post by one of their bloggers “Grandmasta Splash” on perceptions of what is and what is not considered moderately conservative vs. extremist within the Muslim world. Later on, in an unrelated conversation, a source of great street cred gave Arabic Media Shack an unprompted personal endorsement. So, here they are.

The Suffering of Forgotten Allies

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Sometimes, in the long run, you are better off to have been America’s enemy than America’s friend. Few peoples epitomize our poor track record in this regard than do the Montagnards of Vietnam, who still suffer persecution, repression and ethnic cleansing at the hands of Hanoi’s Communist government a generation after the end of the Vietnam War.

My friend Bruce Kesler, a veteran of Vietnam, has remained active on issues related to the consequences of the war and has brought to my attention the recent human rights report on Vietnam’s ongoing brutal campaign against the Montagnard people -“Vietnam’s Blueprint For Ethnic Cleansing.” . A campaign that sails along underneath the media radar.

Kesler writes at Democracy Project:

In hopes that the blogosphere will also send the message that anyone cares, I’m sending key excerpts to you. First, a brief definitional discussion may be needed to clarify the dimensions of the case.

Genocide is a term reserved for wholesale, purposeful, government-organized, technological extermination of an identified group, and is even reserved for specific types as laid out in Geneva Conventions. There’s justifiable discouragement of excessive use of the term as cheapening the scale and suffering of those subjected to it.

Ethnic cleansing is a term for grayer areas of such horrendous efforts, when the effort is not as whole-encompassing, or there’s lack of global opinion agreement that it rises to genocide.

….I think the Montagnard Foundation is hesitant to use the term genocide, to avoid being caught up in definitional arguments, but what you’ll read below certainly seems to be more than “mere” ethnic cleansing relocation of a group. There’s many specifics, footnoted, and photos.

… Examining the evidence collectively, a blueprint of ethnic cleansing emerges as these human rights violations, including official and spontaneous transmigration policies, large scale deforestation, abuse of family planning methods, religious persecution, land confiscation, torture and extrajudicial killing, have been directed against a specific race of indigenous peoples….

Vietnam is a poor but developing country that needs outside aid and especially, trade, if it is not to devolve into a satellite of China. Pressure for better treatment of the Montagnards by the U.S., Japan and the West can easily be applied if the will exists.

A Call For Radical Transparency in Politics

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

My friend Bruce Kesler, who keeps a sharper eye on the fine details of American politics than I do, is dead square right in a recent post at Democracy Project that I reproduce here in full:

Hidden Foreign Contributions Affect US Elections

US election law forbids non-Americans to contribute directly to federal candidates, and qualified donations above $200 are available to public scrutiny. There is a huge loophole – or, more correctly, shroud – over contributions by foreigners to US non-profits, who heavily shape public discussion affecting our elections – and other policies. (There’s, also, some indication that the $200 cut-off for full disclosure of contributions to our campaigns may be another loophole being exploited by some foreigners.)

IRS Form 990 generally requires that non-profits list contributors and their addresses who give $5000 or more. However, non-profits are not required to publicly divulge who they are (with the exception of private foundations and 527’s).

Non-profits include 501(c)(4)’s, which are estimated to spend in 2008 well more than the $424-million that 527’s spent to influence the 2004 elections.

Another area of concern is donations made by foreigners to our universities. Although New York State requires that such contributions be revealed, there is no enforcement and filings are often not made.

In Britain, it is estimated, more funding comes from the MidEast for Islamic Studies departments than from the government.

Ministers labelled Islamic studies a “strategic subject” and said the “effective and accurate teaching” of it in universities could help community cohesion and counter extremism.

Similar concerns have been raised in the US about the influence of MidEast contributors on our universities’ curriculums, and the faculty who influence public discussion. See here and here, for examples.

Former presidents Carter and Clinton have received tens of millions in donations, and more, from foreign sources for their foundations, yet the public knows very little about from whom or how much. Meanwhile, Carter and Clinton take frequent public stands on public policy and candidates for office.

A draft has been released of a revised IRS Form 990. It increases exposure on governance issues, but retains the shroud over contributors to non-profits. At the very least, foreign contributors should be revealed publicly, at least for amounts over the $200 of election laws.

You can send your comments to the IRS during the comment period. It’s as simple as an email to Form990Revision@irs.gov

Bravo to Bruce for highlighting this important but generally unrecognized problem. 

One of the ironies of Beltway incumbent preferred campaign finance regulation like the odious McCain-Feingold law is that it manages to combine restrictions of the political activities and free speech rights of American citizens while granting opacity to wealthy foreigners who seek to influence political discourse here through generous donations to foundations, educational organizations, think tanks, universities, presidential libraries and other institutions that shape our intellectual life. It is completely understandable, given the potential impact of American policies on the rest of the world that other states and their sundry notables would seek to make their voice heard here. To a certain extent, when it’s above board public diplomacy and cultural exchanges, it’s even a good thing. What’s unacceptable is that foreign interests can often buy such influence – which is what they are really doing – under the radar or even behind the shield of legal secrecy. If some of our finest universities were people then they would have already had to register as foreign agents a long, long, loooooooong, time ago.

The same might be said of some former presidents. Or of presidential candidates.

The answer here is not to go on a fruitless legal jihad to ban foreign money, which at times does get turned toward humanitarian or genuinely educational purposes but to require radical transparency of our think tanks, universities, charities and other institutions enjoying tax deductible status but are dedicated to indirectly influencing the political process or policy formation. If an American institution or scholar wants to shill for the Wahabbi Lobby by working for a tank on the take from a senior Saudi prince, or accept grants from PLA-affiliated Chinese corporations, Japanese billionaires, mobbed-up  Russian “businessmen” or other foreign sources, fine, but a highly visible disclaimer to that fact ought to be mandatory. If Carnegie or AEI or Harvard departments are advising presidential candidates on Mideast policy then contributions emanating from that region are relevant to the discussion.

If accepting the check in public is cause for dismay then there’s a word for what’s really going on:


MountainRunner at Democracy Project

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Usually, when I link to Democracy Project it is to highlight some important problem that my friend Bruce Kesler attacking head on. Today, Bruce has invited another friend, Matt Armstrong of MountainRunner, to share the spotlight in a special guest post in an area of expertise – the crisis of American public diplomacy:

U.S. Tongue-Ties Self In Talking To World

To begin with, we must accept that the romantic days of the United States Information Agency are gone. So many confuse the USIA and the other information services, such as Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, of recent decades with the USIA that was engaged in the active psychological struggle that largely ended with détente and the finalizing of the European partition.

Unlike half a century ago, the U.S. military has a clear voice and is arguably our dominant public diplomat. Therefore, simply resurrecting “USIA” without reorganizing our national information capabilities across civilian and military lines would turn it into just another voice struggling to be heard over America’s military commanders, spokespersons, and warfighters.

The candidates must look deeper than re-creating an agency and or re-establishing old outreach programs. They must show strong leadership and have a bold vision to rally the government and country to adapt to a world that requires understanding the information effect of action, agile response capabilities, and above all, credibility and trust.

Read the rest here.

A Jeremiad Against the Establishment

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

My friend Bruce Kesler sent me an article by Dr. Angelo Codevilla, “American Statecraft and the Iraq War“, a senior scholar at The Army War College, that appeared under the aegis of The Claremont Institute.  The critique offered by Codevilla is scathing; in many places his argument is quite insightful and in others, his heavily state-centric approach to international affairs shares the blindness of the elite he criticizes. An excerpt:

“The occupation was unnecessary to any rational American purpose. As President George W. Bush spoke on April 30, 2003, under the banner “Mission Accomplished,” representatives of the State and Defense Departments in Iraq were putting the finishing touches on the provisional government to which they were to devolve the country’s affairs two weeks later. There was to be no occupation. Iraqis would sort out their own bloody quarrels. The victorious U.S. armed forces, having turned Saddam Hussein’s regime over to its enemies, would challenge the Middle East’s remaining terror regimes to adjust their behavior or suffer the same fate. But even as Bush seemed to be recruiting a sovereign Iraqi government, he was interviewing the disastrous Paul “Jerry” Bremer to be Iraq’s viceroy and preparing United Nations resolution 1483 to “legitimize” the occupation. The Bush team then declared that occupying Iraq was necessary to transform it into a peaceful, united, liberal democracy, whose existence would coax nasty neighboring regimes to be nice. Bush had acceded to the private pleadings of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, as well as of British Prime Minister Tony Blair-whose advice reflected the unanimous wishes of Arab governments. While the administration’s newly minted mission was abstract and inherently beyond accomplishment, the Arab agendas-which had nothing in common with Bush’s-were intensely practical. And they prevailed.

The occupation of Iraq should go down in history as a set of negative lessons about war, the relationship between ends and means, the need for unity of purpose and command, and dealing with the world as it is rather than as one imagines it to be. The occupation, a confection of the U.S. foreign policy establishment’s hoariest recipes, is yet more evidence of that establishment’s bankruptcy. Media myth notwithstanding, the administration’s neoconservative component was sidelined as the occupation began. Bremer’s political advisor was the realist Robert Blackwill of the Council on Foreign Relations, and his military advisor was Walter Slocombe, a liberal internationalist from the Carter and Clinton Administrations. By 2007 the occupation’s military policy was being shaped by Stephen Biddle, another Kissingerian realist from the Council, for whom success means persuading somebody to accept America’s surrender. Bush confused statecraft, the pursuit of the country’s interests, with administrative politics-the consensus of constituencies in the bureaucracies (and their contractors), the prestige media, and the academy. As the disaster became undeniable, no one in the establishment dared to try to measure the occupation of Iraq against the standards of statecraft. “

Codevilla skewers the ideological assumptions of Washington officials and intellectuals from the Neocon Right, to the Liberal internationalist Left, to those of Realist scholars and diplomats. Kesler, in a post at Democracy Project, incisively interprets Codevilla’s philosophical approach to foreign policy analysis:

” Codevilla is a student of Machiavelli, who described the rules of the game of power. The rules may be used for good or ill, but to negate the ends accomplished by the necessary means is to create weakness and allow the field to those willing to use the rules for ill ends.

“a prince … cannot observe all of those virtues for which men are reputed good, because it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state.”

Codevilla takes the US severely to task for its failure to follow the rules in Iraq and the broader Middle East. His critique should be read in full. It’s not what most, either conservative or liberal, neocon or realist or defeatist, are accustomed to hearing. But, it cuts to the heart of our bleeding for four years, and the limited best outcomes we face. Codevilla has been consistently opposed to our entering Iraq, seeing bigger game afoot, and the confusion of our aims. He’s been proven correct, so far. His forecast, therefore, should be taken seriously. Most important, his indictment of our befuddled policy class requires a new realism in Washington.”

A weakness in Codevilla’s analysis is that while he correctly identifies the culpability of regional Arab states and Iran in sponsoring and tolerating terrorist groups and argues for meaningful penalties to be applied to such regimes, he overestimates the competency and resiliency of these states and simply dismisses the extent to which globalization has made non-state actors functionally independent of state patrons, who are quite helpful operationally but are no longer the existential requirement they once were in the 1970’s.  Economics and network-theory are entirely absent from Codevilla’s analytical framework and while Islamic religious identity is admirably included, it is considered a primarily reactive (even understandably so) phenomenon, which even a casual study of the 120 year evolution of Islamist ideology would refute. States still rule all, in Codevilla’s vision, an assumption that deserves careful reexamination. 

Nevertheless, a worthwhile and thought-provoking critique.

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