zenpundit.com » 2005 » July

Archive for July, 2005

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005


Out of happenstance I came across three links that give some historical background to different strands of Islamist thought for the general reader:

Kharijite Islam” at GlobalSecurity.org, “What’s Worse than Violent Jihadists?” on Mahdism by Timothy Furnish at HNN and finally from an article originally in the ME Quarterly, ” Fundamentalist Islam: The Drive for Power” by Martin Kramer ( though Kramer leaves out Muhammed Abduh’s contribution, he does cover al-Afghani).

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005


In my mispent youth as a naive undergrad I by chance had an old and wizened professor of history who was a Chinese specialist. He had starting teaching Chinese-related courses way back in the 1950’s and spoke Mandarin, Han, Japanese and some dialects of interest only to professional linguists. When China opened up to the world he was among the first batch of American academics to go there while China was still deeply under the influence of Maoist Communism. He liked to go off on tangents on the differences between Wade-Giles and Pin-Yin transliteration, the influence of the Whampoa Academy on the Kuomintang, the Chinese view of American noses and sometimes even played the guitar in class.

In his view, an entire career could be profitably spent studying a single dynasty, so he explained that he would instead use our very limited time to give us a good, basic, understanding of Chinese philosophy. The history of China we could go look up ourselves later. And he did ! It was an excellent and systematic introduction to Eastern philosophy and the great ideas of Sinocentric cultures. Of all the courses I took as an undergraduate that one was in the top three and it definitely steered me in the direction of exploring Zen.

So, to my pleasure today, a reader Sam C. informed me that he has started The Useless Tree, a blog looking at world events and history but centered on Chinese philosophy. A post of Sam’s that caught my eye was ” Mao as a failed Legalist “. The Legalist ( sometimes called “Realist”) school followed the philosophy of Prince Han Fei-Tzu, perhaps best understood by westerners as the Machiavelli of the East whose ideas were implemented in an anti-Confucian, proto-totalitarian fashion by the short-lived Qin dynasty that unified China. An excerpt:

But however much Mao may have revered the first Qin emperor, who was a staunch Legalist, the Communist leader ultimately failed to appreciate one of the finer points of Han Fei Tzu’s writing:

In his chapter on “Precautions within the Palace,” Han warns that the ruler must be careful not to “afflict the people.” His worry here is not humanitarian (Legalists really don’t feel your pain), but political:

‘If too much compulsory labor is demanded of the people, they feel afflicted, and this will give rise to local power groups…Hence it is said, if labor services are few, the people will be content; if the people are content, there will be no opportunity for men to exercise undue authority on the lower levels and power groups will disappear.’

This is a fair description of what happened in the People’s Republic during the disaster of the Great Leap Forward (ca. 1958-1961).

Mao Zedong may have imposed Marxism-Leninism on China and scorned Khrushchev and his successors for criticizing the ” Elder brother” Stalin, but Mao always remained first an egocentric revolutionary whose ideological dogmatism correlated directly with how a policy affected his personal power and iconic status. Chinese philosophical precepts and Marxist orthodoxy were not graven in stone.

At least where Mao himself was concerned. Everyone else had to tow the line.

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005


Dr. Barnett on ” SysAdmin ain’t your Daddy’s Military-and that’s Ok

“The SysAdmin force is waking up to non-lethals in a big way. This is a “new development” and a “revolution in thinking” and a host of other superlatives that indicate that most journalists’ sense of history is frighteningly thin.

…So Zinni was the bureaucratic push within the Marine Corps to start the Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate down in Quantico, Virginia. I’m familiar with that effort, which later morphed into the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, because I, along with Gen. Paul Van Riper and John Nelson, were part of a group of consultants that the Directorate used in the late 1990s to engage in strategic planning, under the guidance of a charismatic former Marine-turned-analyst called Butch Foley. “

Jodi of The Asia Pages on ” The Death of Korea’s Last Prince” on the end of Korea’s Chosun dynasty with the death of the childless heir, Prince Yi Gu:

“It seems to me that while such marriages are often formed out of love, at the end of the day it is duty that defines the relationship. Duty to produce a male heir. Duty to live a role that is perhaps more restricting than is healthy and duty to please everyone but yourself. It seems like a very selfless role, if you ask me and I for one would never want such a job.”

Callimachus of Done With Mirrors on ” The Nazi Slur“:

“But there is something about the Germans’ stagger into darkness in the 1930s that thoughtful Americans can take as a warning. It’s particularly worth our while to study and learn that dreadful wrong turn, and how it happened. And maybe, by keeping the “Nazi” insult alive as the worst one in our cultural vocabulary, the partisan loudmouths are doing us a small favor.”

Rob at BusinessPundit on ” Opportunity Science“. The cognitive phenomena herehas far wider applicability than just entrepreneurship:

If we look at what differentiates successful entrepreneurs from the unsuccessful ones, the most important craft is opportunity recognition. This is a process that we have learned how to systematize and teach to entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs who have the most success are those who are able to find a real niche in the market that offers enough of a margin to meet their needs and aspirations. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of “failing on paper.” They carefully assess their idea to make certain that it has an adequate market and enough profit margin before they ever launch their venture”

That’s it.

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005


Jeremiah of Organic Warfare ( great strategy blog, check it out !) and Steve made some observations and asked some excellent questions. Dan of tdaxp helpfully answered some in the comments section of the previous post but I thought I’d add to the discussion as well. My comments will be in regular text.

Jeremiah wrote:

“It’s worth mentioning that 5GW is not limited to governments at all, or even to transnational groups. So-called “lone wolf actions” have become part of the lexicon of white supremacist groups, and I suspect that the concept will be spreading. No network to analyze, no cell structure to surveill and roll up.”

Agreed. ” Leaderless resistance” was a concept of Louis Beam, a brilliant, eccentric and dangerous guru of the extreme racist right underground and this modality of terrorism in the actions of Timothy McVeigh were responsible for the second worst terror attack in American history. Lone Wolves like the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski ( who actually served time with McVeigh and Ramzi Youzef) and the DC Sniper John Muhammed were far less destructive but that was due primarily to lack of imagination and overriding personal obsessions. They did however succeed in spreading a climate of fear and diverting considerable law enforcement and media attention from other matters.

“* More highly connected networks create group loyalty transcending national boundaries

* Greater empowerment of the individual through information and technology allows one person or a small group to do immense damage: the depths have not yet begun to be plumbed

* Highly concentrated information, energy and economic hubs allow small attacks to produce faliure cascades, often capitalizing on stored “work” in the form of fuel or otherwise to produce catastrophically greater damage

Again I am in full agreement here with Jeremiah. My first post on 5GW touched on superempowerment while my series on Dr. Barnett’s PNM deleted scenes discussed the effects of System Perturbations and vulnerabilities to such attacks.

Steve wrote:

“Is Network-Centric Warfare considered as refinement (or optional add-on) to 3GW, or is it a complete alternative to 3GW4GW5GW?”

Network-centric Warfare is the theory of Admiral Arthur Cebrowski, the former head of the Pentagon’s Office of Defense Transformation, an adviser to Donald Rumsfeld, a mentor to Dr. Barnett and an organizational genius. To use a religious analogy, Network-centric Warfare is an alternative to 4GW theory in the same sense that Protestantism is an alternative and rival to Catholism. Both schools of strategic thought are influenced by the ideas of John Boyd and see networks as a central variable to understanding and dominating warfare. Right now the two sides are as chummy in the halls of the Defense Department as the Protestants and Catholics once were in Germany during the Thirty Year’s War. Perhaps a Westphalia is coming ?

Cebrowski on Network-centric Warfare

A 4GW reading list

Also the “Global Guerillas” idea: Is that a refinement (or optional add-on to 4GW), or is a something complete alternative to 3GW/4GW/5GW/NCW?”

Good question. I very much like John Robb‘s ” Global Guerillas” and ” Open-source warfare” concepts. I believe he is in the process of putting his ideas in a book format which I look forward to reading since he strikes me as having both great field experience and considerable conceptual ability as a theorist. I won’t categorize him though until I’m familiar with the entire range of his ideas but I will say he seems very sympathetic to 4GW theory.

“Would there be at least 2 directions in 5GW: One more tech-focused, and the other more information/people focused? Or would that be the distinction between 5GW and 5GP?”

I would say that’s an excellent description of the 4GW vs. NCW no-hold’s barred, barroom policy brawl going on right now moreso than 5GW.

“How would a Nation-State defend against 5GW?”

First and foremost by awareness. A large part of 5GW may not be directed at states so much as within states to hijack the levers of power, though 5GW attacks on states to bring them down will no doubt occur. Antonio Gramsci, the Marxist radical theorist conceived of a ” Long March through the institutions” to capture Western states for socialism but his concept of the Left was a massive entity compared to a 5GW group. Or even a 4GW group for that matter.

“How would a non-State defend against 5GW?”

We really haven’t gotten to defense yet :o)

“Wouldn’t 5GW be perpetual war alternating between “hot” 5GW and “cold” 5GW periods?”


An arc of conflict of which “war ” is but a part – and probably a small part – is a better way of loooking at 5GW. Machiavelli, Han Fei-Tzu and Sun Tzu for visionaries.

“The “cold war” 5GW might look like paranoia to those who are not focused on detecting/fighting it. I suppose that is one way somebody would fight 5GW: Portray those detecting it, as paranoids/crazy/eccentric to marginalize them among those on there own side”

We have met James Jesus Angleton and he is us. Another bias is seeing conspiracies out of mere and genuine coincidences.

“Are democratic governments inherently poorly organized to fight 5GW? What structures (gov and non-gov) should a democratic nation-state develop to fight/detect 5GW?”

I think open societies are actually better poised than authoritarian or totalitarian ones to survive 5GW attacks because decision-making is decentralized, information flows are wide open and the degree of transparency is far higher ( if not actually transparent).

Nicolae Ceausescu was undone by elements within his own Stalinist security apparatus that kept him in the dark, manipulated and betrayed him. By his own orders and actions Ceaucescu’s information feedback loop had come to resemble a funhouse mirror so that he did not even seem to realize that he had become the most hated figure in Romania until a fenzied mob was shouting for his blood. He died running frantically around a room screaming as Army recruits vied to be the first to blow his head off at close range. Three days earlier Ceaucsescu had the life of every Romanian in his hand – or so he thought.

Monday, July 25th, 2005


Preface :

Recently, Dan of tdaxp posted a remarkable essay recently entitled ” Dreaming 5th Generation War “.

Additional, 5GW related links:

Fifth Generation Warfare ? ( Lind)

Fifth Generation Warfare ( anonymous Army CI )

Unto the Fifth Generation of War (Zenpundit)

Go Deep( OODA and the Rainbow of Generational warfare) (tdaxp)

5th Generation War in the OODA Loop (Zenpundit)

5GW ( Coming Anarchy – Younghusband)

Emerging Netwar/Secretwar Tactic: Shareholder activism (tdaxp)

SecretWarriors Walk Without Rhythm, Won’t Attract the Worm (tdaxp)

5GW ( Phatic Communion)


Fifth Generation warfare may not quite be here yet but the concept is certainly fodder for speculative analysis. Dan’s “Dreaming ” post was among his best and his previous OODA/5GW post attracted the attention of at least one field expert, ” Open Source warfare” guru and military analyst John Robb. Possibly another expert as as well by email. That my friends, is the power of horizontal thinking, methodically applied !

Dan has articulated several concepts in his 5GW posts that have genuine resonance. Here is one:

“If traditional war centered on an enemy’s physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength.”

Consider the evolutionary shift toward managing information flows in real-time as critical variables in terms of economic growth, communication systems and network-centric warfare and you have to consider that Dan may have had an insight of fundamental importance. Not only would it seem to be in synch with conditions emerging for a globalized information economy future but also consistent with principles of warfare from the past:

“Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy”
– General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

Finding a position where you can reach an opponent, realizing when the opponent has not yet determined what to do, you strike directly, as fast as possible, without moving your body or fixing your attention
Miyamoto Musashi

“All warfare is based on deception.”

“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”
– Sun Tzu

A second major point of Dan’s 5GW concept involes the primacy of secrecy as a tool of war:

” In 5GW, secrecy is vital for success. While this has always been true on some levels, secrecy has never been vital on the grand-strategic level before 5GW. In 5GW the enemy’s knowledge of your existence all but ends your plans.

…being secret is more important than being completely “right” in 5GW.”

What is secrecy ? Secrecy is a comparative advantage in information. The U.S. government loves secrets. It has a detailed hierarchy of secrecy and a set of security clearance rules, $ 50,000 FBI-DIA background checks and bureaucratic obfuscation that drives Dr. Steven Aftergood and practicing diplomatic historians up the wall. Ironically, most of these millions of documents aren’t actually secret just as most “covert-operations” and ” undercover” CIA and DIA personnel aren’t secret either. These are examples of restricted classes of information, not secrets.

5GW secrets are secret even from the government striving to implement a 5GW policy and tactical moves will be done so under plausible reasons congruent with existing factional interests and well-known public goals. The 5GW network does not come to power by a political revolution from below but by moving up through legitimate channels to implement an invisible evolution from above. Their ” Future worth creating” appears by to come into being by chance, not design.

I do have an important caveat in pondering Dan’s excellent 5GW work. What he and other commenters have or may have discerned about 5GW is less than what 5GW will comprise when it is fully realized and a generational shift in warfare has taken place. We have to hold out the possibility that “attacking the enemy’s intellectual strength” and secrecy as proposed by Dan and my “longitudinal vision-short execution” and “shaping the battlespace” may end up be less significant than aspects of 5GW that have yet to materialize. Societal shifts by 2050 or 2080 are likely to be sizable – perhaps more extreme than the changes that occurred from 1860 to 1945 – and these shifts will produce new advantages and conditions that may favor defense over offense.

Comments as always are welcome.

Switch to our mobile site