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Paging John Arquilla & David Ronfeldt

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — on the West Coast ]


  • John Arquilla, Killer Swarms
  • RT, East coast of US braces for billions-strong cicada swarm
  • **

    Exodus 10. 3-6:

    And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me. Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field: And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day.

    Qur’an, 7. 133:

    So We let loose upon them the flood and the locusts, the lice and the frogs, the blood, distinct signs; but they waxed proud and were a sinful people.

    And the Eastern seaboard of the US is way more sinful than the ill-reputed West?


    For a different view, we turn to Basho. Here are the earlier and later forms of one of his poems:


  • Eleanor Kerkham, ed., Matsuo Bashô’s Poetic Spaces: Exploring Haikai Intersections
  • Arquilla on the New Rules of War

    Thursday, February 25th, 2010

    John Arqilla, along with David Ronfeldt, was the pioneering military and security theorist who forseaw the rise of networked non-state adversaries, which they detailed in their now classic book, Networks and Netwars. Below, in a Foreign Policy mag article, Arquilla expounds on the failure of the Pentagon to adapt sufficiently to leverage the power of networks or counter those opponents who have done so.

    The New Rules of War

    When militaries don’t keep up with the pace of change, countries suffer. In World War I, the failure to grasp the implications of mass production led not only to senseless slaughter, but also to the end of great empires and the bankruptcy of others. The inability to comprehend the meaning of mechanization at the outset of World War II handed vast tracts of territory to the Axis powers and very nearly gave them victory. The failure to grasp the true meaning of nuclear weapons led to a suicidal arms race and a barely averted apocalypse during the Cuban missile crisis.
    Today, the signs of misunderstanding still abound. For example, in an age of supersonic anti-ship missiles, the U.S. Navy has spent countless billions of dollars on “surface warfare ships” whose aluminum superstructures will likely burn to the waterline if hit by a single missile. Yet Navy doctrine calls for them to engage missile-armed enemies at eyeball range in coastal waters.
    The U.S. Army, meanwhile, has spent tens of billions of dollars on its “Future Combat Systems,” a grab bag of new weapons, vehicles, and communications gadgets now seen by its own proponents as almost completely unworkable for the kind of military operations that land forces will be undertaking in the years ahead. The oceans of information the systems would generate each day would clog the command circuits so that carrying out even the simplest operation would be a terrible slog.
    And the U.S. Air Force, beyond its well-known devotion to massive bombing, remains in love with extremely advanced and extremely expensive fighter aircraft — despite losing only one fighter plane to an enemy fighter in nearly 40 years. Although the hugely costly F-22 turned out to function poorly and is being canceled after enormous investment in its production, the Air Force has by no means given up. Instead, the more advanced F-35 will be produced, at a cost running in the hundreds of billions of dollars. All this in an era in which what the United States already has is far better than anything else in the world and will remain so for many decades.
    These developments suggest that the United States is spending huge amounts of money in ways that are actually making Americans less secure, not only against irregular insurgents, but also against smart countries building different sorts of militaries. And the problem goes well beyond weapons and other high-tech items. What’s missing most of all from the U.S. military’s arsenal is a deep understanding of networking, the loose but lively interconnection between people that creates and brings a new kind of collective intelligence, power, and purpose to bear — for good and ill…..”

    Read the rest here.

    It was nice to see Arquilla give some props to VADM Art Cebrowski, who is underappreciated these days as a strategic thinker and is much critricized by people who seldom bothered to read anything he actually wrote. Or who like to pretend that he had said a highly networked Naval task force is a good way to tackle an insurgency in an arid, mostly landlocked, semi-urban, middle-eastern nation.

    It also occurs to me that one of the reasons that the USAF resisted drones tooth and nail is that robotics combined with swarming points to en end ( or serious diminishment) of piloted warplanes. Eliminating the design requirements implicit in human pilots makes for a smaller, faster, more maneuverable, more lethal aircraft that will probably be infinitely cheaper to make, more easily risked in combat and usable for “swarming”. Ditto attack helicopters.

    Of course, nuclear bombers will probably stay in human hands. Probably.


    Contentious Small Wars Council thread on Arquilla begun by “student of war” and defense consultant Wilf Owen. I have weighed in as has Shlok Vaidya.

    Podcast: Arquilla on CyberWar

    Friday, June 20th, 2008

    Courtesy of blogfriend and cybersecurity guru Gunnar Peterson:

    Cyberwar: An Interview With John Arquilla at WorldPoliticsReview.


    Check out Gunnar’s Information Security Reading List

    Democracy Journal

    Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

    Much thanks to Eddie Beaver and Lexington Green who separately but nearly simultaneously sent me links this morning to a very fine e-zine, Democracy Journal.org. What caught their eye were the following articles by some familiar names:

    Pentagon 2.0” by Colonel T.X. Hammes

    The author of the critically acclaimed The Sling and the Stone reviews the latest book by another premier military theorist, John Arquilla’s Worst Enemy and finds it wanting.

    Return of the Jihadi” by Andrew Exum a.k.a. “Abu Muqawama

    Exum methodically analyzes the implications of “when Omar comes marching home” and offers sensible solutions I would describe as “Interagency COIN Jointness”.

    Parenthetical aside: One side effect of the GWOT/Iraq War/Afghanistan, I think we shall see in the coming decade, is to have created a generation of future policy makers and statesmen like we have not seen since WWII.

    Monday, August 20th, 2007


    Via Politics In The Zeros (Hat tip), I learn that netwar theorists Dr. John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt have revisited their 1999 essay “The Promise of Noopolitik” with an updated postrscript. An excerpt:

    “As America’s soft power rises and falls, so do the prospects for noöpolitik. And right now, America’s soft power is unusually questionable. America has long stood for vital ideals — freedom, equality, opportunity. America has also stood for ethical ways of doing things: competing openly and fairly, working in concert with partners, seeking the common good, respecting others’ rights, and resorting to war only after exhausting non–military options. By doing so, America built its legitimacy and credibility as a global power in the twentieth century. But lately, due to assorted sorry matters this decade (some but not all involving the war in Iraq), leaders and publics around the world have become increasingly doubtful that America is deeply dedicated to the ideals and practices it professes. U.S. public diplomacy is on the defensive more than ever before. Oddly, China is said to be more effective at soft–power appeals and techniques “

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