zenpundit.com » 2006 » December

Archive for December, 2006

Friday, December 22nd, 2006



Dan of tdaxp has a great series, The Wary Guerrilla, that he has been running this week where he continues his exploration of the evolutionary influences on political behavior. The series so far:

1. Abstract

2. Terrorism

3. Predictions

An excerpt:

“In some economic games, income, education, small town origin, and sex (female) increases empathy (Sautter, 2006). Men may be more favorably disposed to cooperators than females (Price, 2006) but also are less empathetic toward punished cheaters (Singer et al., 2006). Players in general are generous to helpless fellows (Oppewal & Tougareva, 1992). Likewise, there are robust distinct player types of altruists, free-riders, and generally cooperative people (Kurzban & Houser, 2005). Players reject small offers rarely but more than would be predicted by game theory (Eckel, Johnson & Wilson, 2002). Along with this, players often give more than should be expected (Thaler, 1989; Fong & Bolton, 1997). The operating assumption is that these behaviors will be exhibited by wary guerrillas, as both wary guerrillaism and these traits appear to be expressions of a pro-social orientation. Thus we propose the the following hypotheses:

1.The Wary Guerrilla is correlated with small town origin

2.The Wary Guerrilla is correlated with income

3.The Wary Guerrilla is correlated with sex

…While specific religions are sometimes associated with violence in the minds of people (Abrahamian, 2002; Gerges, 1997), perhaps the real determinant is general religiosity. Ancient religious terror groups were very highly organized (Rapoport, 1984) and their analogues still exist (Rapoport, 1988). Religion has played a major role in both successful and failed liberation struggles against powerful states (Bosch, 1974; Rapoport, 1979; Husband 1988) and has been offered as a possible cause of suicide terrorism (El Sarraj & Butler, 2002). Additionally, among religious traditions where an alternative to faith is eternal damnation, religiosity may be correlated with riskier behavior (Miller, 2000). Logically, religion may indicate non-secular preferences (Euben, 2002) or secular preferences working on religious themes. Religiosity may enable even rational actors to behave in apparently irrational ways (Iannaccone, 1990, 1995, 1997, 1998). The Wary Guerrilla is an obvious candidate for a type that would engage in this behavior.”

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, December 21st, 2006


A number of email exchanges and blog posts at various sites recently spurred me to put my finger on something that has long troubled me about 4GW theoretical analysis; namely, a significant blind spot regarding economics that at times borders on sheer contempt. A few examples:

William Lind, writing in “Barbarians at the Gates

“Buchanan breaks new ground in his discussion of the Republican Party’s disgusting defense of open borders, a position justified by the argument that the resulting cheap labor is good for the economy.

Scholar Jon Attarian gave a name to the cult that has captured the party of Goldwater and Reagan: “economism.” This neo-Marxist ideology is rooted in a belief that economics rules the world, that economic activity is mankind’s most important activity and the most conducive to human happiness, and that economics is what politics is or should be all about.

Economism does not just believe in markets, it worships them…The commands of the market overrule the claims of citizenship, culture, country. Economic efficiency becomes the highest virtue.

So far has the cult of economism spread that many conservatives now believe it defines conservatism. It does not. On the contrary, conservatives have never regarded efficiency as an important virtue. Buchanan does not fall into this vulgar error. He devotes an entire chapter of State of Emergency to the question, “What Is a Nation?,” and his answer would please Edmund Burke much more than it would Jeremy Bentham”

Lind has an extensive thesis on political correctness as cultural Marxism aping economic Marxism and P.C. advocates having a general and verifiably illiberal hostility toward Western culture and political norms. I think in many instances, at least where you deal with the zealous activist base of the academic/NGO hard left and its fellow travellers, Lind’s theory holds water. My problem is where Lind generalizes off of that to an assumption that consideration of the actual weight of economic variables in a situatuional dynamic makes you a “neo-Marxist”. No, it simply makes you intellectually credible.

Because Lind is an (if not ” the”) authoritative voice in the 4GW community, this anti-market attitude has been transmitted as if by osmosis to his followers and admirers who express it now almost a priori. Even John Robb, who certainly knows better than most about the power of the market as a complex adaptive system, wrote today on his less formal blog:

“This is the crux of the Bush/Neocon/Barnett plans. The only difference is the method. All of them assume they know where history is headed. All of them are wrong.

Even worse, they have recast Adam Smith as Che:

She attributed the setbacks to “counterrevolutionary forces” seeking to undo U.S. success in the region.

That’s a little over the top. As the world’s rentier elite, it’s hard to imagine that we are a revolutionary force. The real revolutionary forces are destroying states.”

There is a proper name for the valuation of atavistic identities uber alles – organic conservatism-
it has a very long pedigree and provides genuine saliency as an analytical perspective because group identities based on ethnolinguistic considerations, religion and culture are powerful political touchstones in their own right. They are very real factors in politics and war as Lind correctly emphasizes. What they do not do is cancel out or replace economic relationships but instead interact and coexist alongside them.

In my view, 4GW as a school of strategic thought has a number of critical insights to offer on geopolitics and military strategy that the official defense establishment has for too long resisted (or stridently attacked) that it would do well to consider in earnest. What 4GW thinkers in turn should do is make room for the power of economic drivers in their analysis. Disliking the cultural effects of the free market is fine, wishing them away is not.

Thursday, December 21st, 2006


Dave Schuler’s colloquium continues with an intriguing Day 3 and a military-centric Day 4 at The Glittering Eye ( one that also feautures the Packer article).

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006


Michael Tanji of Haft of the Spear has a tough op-ed in The Weekly Standard entitled “Intellipork” calling for financial accountability in the Intelligence Community:

IF THERE IS AN AREA OF GOVERNMENT we should expect to get more than our moneys worth it’s national security. As the recently declassified “Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate on Global Trends in Terrorism” has revealed, for all the money we spend on secret intelligence, the end-result is not very impressive. If there is one criticism of intelligence products held by both ends of the political spectrum, it’s how pedestrian they are: few keen insights, no groundbreaking assessments, and obvious, wishy-washy conclusions. You would think that for a few billion dollars the cumulative effort of 15 agencies would be much, much more impressive. “

Tanji is no Otis Pike or Frank Church looking to slash and burn the CIA for poltical jollies. If anything, he is looking to make sure that every dollar in the IC is wisely spent where it will do the most good.

Amen, brother.

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006


I thank the many people who have brought this to my attention by blog, thread, comment and email. It’s a remarkably good piece. Key excerpts:


“During the years that Kilcullen worked on his dissertation, two events in Indonesia deeply affected his thinking. The first was the rise—in the same region that had given birth to Darul Islam, and among some of the same families—of a more extreme Islamist movement called Jemaah Islamiya, which became a Southeast Asian affiliate of Al Qaeda

…“I saw extremely similar behavior and extremely similar problems in an Islamic insurgency in West Java and a Christian-separatist insurgency in East Timor,” he said. “After 9/11, when a lot of people were saying, ‘The problem is Islam,’ I was thinking, It’s something deeper than that. It’s about human social networks and the way that they operate.” In West Java, elements of the failed Darul Islam insurgency—a local separatist movement with mystical leanings—had resumed fighting as Jemaah Islamiya, whose outlook was Salafist and global. Kilcullen said, “What that told me about Jemaah Islamiya is that it’s not about theology.” He went on, “There are elements in human psychological and social makeup that drive what’s happening. The Islamic bit is secondary. This is human behavior in an Islamic setting. This is not ‘Islamic behavior.’ ” Paraphrasing the American political scientist Roger D. Petersen, he said, “People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.” He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates.

….Last year, in an influential article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency.” The change in terminology has large implications. A terrorist is “a kook in a room,” Kilcullen told me, and beyond persuasion; an insurgent has a mass base whose support can be won or lost through politics. The notion of a “war on terror” has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine, which was first laid out by the British general Sir Gerald Templar during the Malayan Emergency, armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required. A war on terror suggests an undifferentiated enemy. Kilcullen speaks of the need to “disaggregate” insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai-Malay border so that they aren’t mapped onto the ambitions of the global jihad. Kilcullen writes, “Just as the Containment strategy was central to the Cold War, likewise a Disaggregation strategy would provide a unifying strategic conception for the war—something that has been lacking to date.” As an example of disaggregation, Kilcullen cited the Indonesian province of Aceh, where, after the 2004 tsunami, a radical Islamist organization tried to set up an office and convert a local separatist movement to its ideological agenda. Resentment toward the outsiders, combined with the swift humanitarian action of American and Australian warships, helped to prevent the Acehnese rebellion from becoming part of the global jihad. As for America, this success had more to do with luck than with strategy. Crumpton, Kilcullen’s boss, told me that American foreign policy traditionally operates on two levels, the global and the national; today, however, the battlefields are also regional and local, where the U.S. government has less knowledge and where it is not institutionally organized to act. In half a dozen critical regions, Crumpton has organized meetings among American diplomats, intelligence officials, and combat commanders, so that information about cross-border terrorist threats is shared. “It’s really important that we define the enemy in narrow terms,” Crumpton said. “The thing we should not do is let our fears grow and then inflate the threat. The threat is big enough without us having to exaggerate it.

….Kilcullen’s thinking is informed by some of the key texts of Cold War social science, such as Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer,” which analyzed the conversion of frustrated individuals into members of fanatical mass movements, and Philip Selznick’s “The Organizational Weapon: A Study of Bolshevik Strategy and Tactics,” which described how Communists subverted existing social groups and institutions like trade unions. To these older theoretical guides he adds two recent studies of radical Islam: “Globalized Islam,” by the French scholar Olivier Roy, and “Understanding Terror Networks,” by Marc Sageman, an American forensic psychiatrist and former covert operator with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. After September 11th, Sageman traced the paths of a hundred and seventy-two alienated young Muslims who joined the jihad, and found that the common ground lay not in personal pathology, poverty, or religious belief but in social bonds. Roy sees the rise of “neo-fundamentalism” among Western Muslims as a new identity movement shaped by its response to globalization. In the margin of a section of Roy’s book called “Is Jihad Closer to Marx Than to the Koran?” Kilcullen noted, “If Islamism is the new leftism, then the strategies and techniques used to counter Marxist subversion during the Cold War may have direct or indirect relevance to combating Al Qaeda-sponsored subversion.”

Read the whole thing, which is much longer, here.

What is depressing is how far removed from influencing operations, much less informing the reconfiguration of strategy, Kilcullen actually is, despite the unusual position he holds as a citizen of a foreign (albeit closely allied) state. Turning the Queen Elizabeth on a dime is easier than moving the USG to abandon outdated institutional cultures.

Switch to our mobile site