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Break it Down Show with Zen Co-Hosting: Mazarr on Leap of Faith

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

[mark safranski / zen]

Friend of ZP, Pete Turner invited me to join him at his place The Break it Down Show to interview RAND scholar Michael J. Mazarr about his new book Leap of Faith Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy :

Mike Mazarr – Leap of Faith Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy

Mark Safranski joins Pete A Turner with author, think-tanker Dr Mike Mazarr.
Mike’s book is called, Leap of Faith Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy
Why is the invasion of Iraq viewed as a tragedy? Mike explains to us and draws conclusions to help us better understand by comparing and contrasting past conflicts to Iraq. Mark, brings his experience understanding presidential security council dynamics to push the show to even great depth and uniqueness.

Listen to the episode here.

Without giving way any spoilers, Mazarr has penned our time’s version of The Best and the Brightest. It’s a step by step reconstruction using the best evidence available and extensive interviews of principal figures or their aides and colleagues to explain how the Bush administration decided to go down the road to war in Iraq.  Like David Halberstam explaining the origins of Vietnam, Mazarr’s task was to explain how so experienced a national security team as the one that served George W. Bush could make so catastrophic a strategic error, the effects of which continue to unfold to this day.

See the source image

 

New Book from SWJ! The Plutocratic Insurgency Reader

Friday, July 26th, 2019

[Mark Safranski / zen]

Plutocratic Insurgency Reader edited by Robert J. Bunker and Pamela Ligouri-Bunker

The newest book published by Small Wars Journal contains 376 pages of essays by 15 contributors, a foreword by Nils Gilman and conclusion by longtime criminal insurgency analyst John SullivanWhat is a “plutocratic insurgency” you ask?

According to Robert Bunker:

The plutocratic insurgency concept dates back to 2011 and has been influenced by earlier work done by John Robb (Onward to a Hollow State, 2008) and Nils Gilman (Deviant Globalization, 2010). As a theoretical construct, it was further inspired by the global street protests and demonstrations of the Occupy movement taking place during that period. Research on this topical area for its U.S. national security threat potentials has been conducted related to U.S. Department of Defense and Army programs, with a number of works produced or derivative of these efforts; Op-Ed: Not Your Grandfather’s Insurgency (2014), Global Criminal and Sovereign Free Economies and the Demise of the Western Democracies (2014), and Old and New Insurgency Forms (2016). Of these works, the “Foreword: The twin insurgency—facing plutocrats and criminals” written by Nils Gilman for the derivative 2014 edited book project—and reprinted online as The Twin Insurgency in The American Interest—is by far the best known and eloquent of these writings:

The defining feature of the plutocratic insurgency is its goal: to defund or de-provision public goods in order to defang a state that its adherents see as a threat to their prerogatives. (Note that, conceptually, plutocratic insurgencies differ from kleptocracies; the latter use the institutions of state to loot the population, whereas the former wish to neutralize those institutions in order to facilitate private-sector looting. In practice, these may overlap or co-mingle.) Practically speaking, plutocratic insurgency takes the form of efforts to lower taxes, which necessitates cutting spending on public goods; reducing regulations that restrict corporate action or protect workers; and defunding or privatizing public institutions such as schools, health care, infrastructure, and social space.

Two unexpected signs of the same intelligence at work

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — two instances in which land is returned to tribal peoples who previously tended it ]
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**

Sources:

  • Bold Nebraska, In Historic First, Nebraska Farmer Returns Land to Ponca Tribe
  • Forest News, Indonesian president hands over management of forests to indigenous people
  • **

    Wallace Black Elk told me the Americas were his altar, and that on this altar guns are not permitted. He also offered to get me a Lakota passport, which would allow me to fly into US airports without having to pass through customs.

    but these ideas are a bit farther along the timeline, I think, from the two land exchanges detailed above.

    The British Are Coming

    Monday, May 20th, 2019

    [by J. Scott Shipman]

    The British Are Coming, by Rick Atkinson

    A couple of Rick Atkinson’s books (WWII) are in my anti-library, but on the urging of a friend, I purchased Mr. Atkinson’s first volume of a planned trilogy on the American Revolution. About 100 pages in and I find myself trying to make time to finish (it doesn’t help that I’ve embarked on a project that requires even more reading…). Mr. Atkinson may be the best narrative historian since William Manchester.

    Preemptively highly recommended.

     

    The thing about a carrier strike group and John Bolton

    Friday, May 10th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — strategy / metacognition — here’s an easy to feel, hard to conceptualize notion: the threat to Iran is a human+carrier-group threat, not just a carrier-group threat, okay? ]
    .

    The U.S. Navy’s Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group includes guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, and missile destroyers USS Bainbridge, USS Gonzalez, USS Mason and USS Nitze. Photo by MCS3 Stephen Doyle

    As the son of a captain RN, I can’t resist images like this:

    **

    Aside:

    Let me start by noting that MSNBC’s Richard Engel today mentioned that North Korea expresses varying levels of frustration by exploding underground nukes when “really, really angry” — and then in descending order firing off ICBMs and then short-range missiles — the stage we’re at this week, indicating “moderate displeasure — but why? — And Engel suggests the Kim regime is signalling that it “wants to get back to the bargaining table”..

    So the firing of missiles, albeit into the Sea of Japan, an act of aggression on the face of it, and plausibly a bit of a threat — an example of “saber-rattling”, as Engel goes on to say — can carry a message of tghe wish to negotiate, if not for actual reconciliation.

    I mention this merely to indicate that threat — along with such related categories as exercise, deployment, war-game, &c — is a polyvalent matter.

    But that’s just to open our minds to the matter of The thing about a carrier strike group and John Bolton…

    **

    Main point:

    John Bolton just announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln was hastening to the Persian Gulf “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

    That’s a threat.

    Presumably, as far as Bolton is concerned, the threat in this case is the Lincoln strike group and accompanying bomber wing — the deployment of massive lethal force.

    I don’t think that’s the threat — or to put it another way, I think that’s only half the threat, or more precisely, it’s y in the threat xy.

    What I’m getting at is on the one hand patently obvious, and on the other, conceptually difficult to handle: that the threat is in fact John Bolton force-multiplying the carrier strike group..

    John Bolton is a hawkish hawk — Trump himself said today with a laugh that he’s the one who has to “tempers” Bolton, rather than the other way around — Bolton, if I may say so, is somewhere between a rattling saber and a loose cannon. He may be in complete control of himself, full of sound and fury purely for effect, and far more cautious in purpose and action than he lets on. But his hawkishness is unpredictable, and it’s that unpredictable bellicosity — multiplied by the lethality of the carrier group — that constitutes the real thread.

    It’s easy to feel that, particularly if you’re an Iranian honcho — but not so easy to think about it or discuss it strategically, because there’s no such conceptual category as a human-warforce hybrid.

    We need that category.

    Because the threat to Iran is a human-warship threat, not just a warship threat. And when the human is John Bolton — watch out!


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