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Archive for July, 2004

Saturday, July 31st, 2004


While driving down to Boston from Bar Harbor the other day I mulled over the new type of force structure that Dr. Barnett envisions called ” System Administrator ” that would complement the already existing ” Leviathan ” capability of the United States military. In part Dr. Barnett is asking the USG to reorganize some of the things the military already does in ” missions other than war ” but he’s also indicating the need for evolution toward a whole new service. ” Small Wars ” involve ” Big Chores ” that extend beyond blowing up bad guys and their real estate. I’m going to blog in more detail later but here’s the difference, as I see it, between ” Leviathan ” and ” System Administrator ” in quick and dirty conceptual terms. First, what Leviathan is:

Leviathan :

Unidimensional ( warfighting)





Regime Change

Unconditional Surrender




Total War


Hard Power

Rule Sets

Chain of Command


Leviathan would be the composed of the core forces assembled to fight ” the big one ” – carriers, armored divisions, strategic bombers and the like. A very large and dramatic iron fist designed to do one thing – swiftly crush an opponent completely and utterly.

By contrast, System Administrator would have to be good at many things traditionally done by peacetime governments while still retaining the organization and combat ability of a military force. The purpose here is ” Connectivity ” for struggling or failed states; the System Administrator comes in and helps these societies connect to the Core by alleviating multiple problems long enough for the Gap state to ” catch it’s breath ” and stabilize. In other words, the System Administrator would have significant para-civilian program capabilities backed by military prowess.

System Administrator:



Regional or Local






Rule Sets

Regime Build





Limited War

Smart Power






A System Administrator force is much more like an expedition than an invasion. Sure there are Special Operations guys to engage in counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and training but the army engineer, the medical corpsman or the legal advisor might be, in a given situation, just as important to the success of the mission to ” Shrink the Gap “. Flexibility, adaptibility and creative engagement would be the watchwords of a hypothetical System Administration force.

Sort of the Alliance for Progress…. but with Apache helicopters for air support.

Saturday, July 31st, 2004


And nary a word about John Kerry.

Mrs. Zenpundit and I have just finished a pleasant week in greater New England. We watched the sun set on the Cadillac summit on Mount Desert Island, hiked through Acadia national park, ate ice cream in Amherst and Kennebunkport and went to the Saint Aggripina fest in North End tonght in Boston. By the way, if you visit Bean Town, have the veal at Antico Forno. It’s delicious !

It’s been a good vacation but I’m ready to head back to Chicago.

Saturday, July 24th, 2004


I’m headed to Boston Saturday morning and then on to New Hampshire and Maine, perhaps with a short jaunt to Nova Scotia.  When I return in a week I’ll have some posts on cultivating strategic thinking, the memetic danger posed by Europe’s transnationally progressive” Kantian rule-sets” and some more thoughts on PNM – particularly on the Big Chores of the Small Wars of the Gap.

In the meantime check out Soxblog and Flit(tm) , now added to the blogroll.  Both were featured recently on Dr. Barnett’s blog and T.M. Lutas had very astute observations regarding the Europeans in the comments today. If you are interested blogging at the Democratic Convention with an emphasis on that party’s Foreign Policy issues, particularly those of the Mideast, visit Kirk Johnson’s U.S. Amnesia blog.

See you in August !

Friday, July 23rd, 2004


Tom Barnett has an excellent post on the utter failure of our national security pros, our elected leaders and the 9/11 Commission  to engage in strategic analysis. The McClellan metaphor is apt. Our foreign policy elites – the CFR/NYT/Kennedy School of Government/Carnegie – love Powell because he represents the security of inaction and watchful waiting as the answer to all problems. We are to move only in concert with every major power to accomplish the marginal after the bulk of the crisis has passed. It’s a posture of fatalism and acceptance of decline.

Here’s a few good quotes from Tom’s blog:

“But guess what? Altering the Intelligence Community’s organizational charts won’t do that. At best we may understand the world a bit better only to find the IC at greater odds with the Pentagon regarding what needs to be done about it. We are not going to generate a new grand strategy from the IC up (if you want to see how bad such strategies can be, read Anonymous or Richard Clarke), and it sure as hell won’t be centered on winning the hearts and minds of would-be terrorists—much less killing them in increasingly clever ways. This is symptom-treating at its worst, but we reach for it because—frankly—it’s the easiest approach for Congress to take: write a bill forcing a certain amount of organizational change and then designate some counter-terrorist center (or better yet, designate a whole slew of them and spread them around numerous congressional districts) and be done with it. “



“I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War” on DVD as I exercise on the treadmill late at night, after the kids go to bed. Whenever I watch anything on the Civil War, it reminds me that, in many ways, it marked the beginning of the world we now live in. The first great wave of Globalization began soon after its conclusion, and the nature of that war presaged the two world wars that would later be fought around the planet, but primarily within Europe as civil wars themselves.

When I watch the documentary series, I see a Core-North imposing its will and integration upon a Gap-South that prefers to continue with its exclusionary rule sets by which some rule and others are ruled. I see a Core-North with all its frightening mixing of the races and cultures and industries and ideologies bearing down on the bucolic South that seems so pristine in its oneness—albeit bought at the price of slavery. I see southern insurgents fighting. Why? As Shelby Foote puts it (I paraphrase here), “Because you Northerners insist on coming down here and changing our ways.” I see the Gap-South’s romanticism of the land and its rejection of modernity and change and industrialization. I see the Core-North’s ruthlessness as an invading force decried and yet embraced as the necessary “remedy.” I see a war that begins as one to save the Union swiftly becoming one to rid the Union of the terrible scourge of slavery—the ultimate in disconnectedness. “


Americans are not good at strategic thinking because our time horizons are too short and our chains of reasoning are too linear.  We think end of quarter, end of day, range of the moment, hierarchy, chain of command,  rigidly, catergorical and compartmentalized, A to B to C.  This makes us very adaptive in terms of tactics but you can win all the battles and still lose a war.

Strategic thinking requires a panoramic view,  longitudinal decision tree possibilities, calculating probabilities, intuitive connections across domains,  ” global” right and left brain cognition.  A good supply of historical and scientific information helps flesh things out and keep the strategy anchored in reality.

We need Sun-Tzu and Machiavelli, not Clausewitz and McNamara.


Friday, July 23rd, 2004


Blowing My Own Horn Department:  Yesterday I wrote about Sandy berger’s pilfering in the National Archives….

“Probably Richard Clark had a strong ” get bin Laden ” recommendation in his after-action report that Bill Clinton personally nixed or something of that nature.”


Today, according to  an editorial in the New York Sun,  the 9-11 Commission Report states:

“On December 4, 1999, the National Security Council’s counterterrorism coordinator, Richard Clarke, sent Mr. Berger a memo suggesting a strike in the last week of 1999 against Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. Reports the commission: “In the margin next to Clarke’s suggestion to attack Al Qaeda facilities in the week before January 1, 2000, Berger wrote, ‘no.’ ”     In August of 2000, Mr. Berger was presented with another possible plan for attacking Mr. bin Laden.This time, the plan would be based on aerial surveillance from a “Predator” drone. Reports the commission: “In the memo’s margin,Berger wrote that before considering action, ‘I will want more than verified location: we will need, at least, data on pattern of movements to provide some assurance he will remain in place.’ ”     In other words, according to the commission report, Mr. Berger was presented with plans to take action against the threat of Al Qaeda four separate times — Spring 1998, June 1999, December 1999, and August 2000. Each time, Mr. Berger was an obstacle to action. Had he been a little less reluctant to act, a little more open to taking pre-emptive action, maybe the 2,973 killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks would be alive\ today. “

A career ruined to stupidly cover up a lapse in judgement on the importance of terrorism widely shared by the entire bipartisan foreign policy establishment stretching back to the 1970’s.  

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