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Archive for April, 2007

Monday, April 30th, 2007


Brave New War by John Robb is a book that was really written for two audiences.

The first is the relatively small number of specialists in military affairs, serious students of geopolitics and bloggers who are already avid readers of Robb’s Global Guerillas site. For them, Brave New War is a systematic and footnoted exposition of the theories of conflict and “dangerous ideas” that Robb discusses daily on his blog. They will be entertained and challenged by the same analysis that makes them return again and again to Global Guerillas to debate John Robb and one another.

The second audience is composed of everyone else. Brave New War is simply going to blow them away.

Brave New War is a tightly written, fast-paced work on the emergent nature of warfare, conflict global society with a decidedly dystopian take. In a mixture of original ideas and synthesis of the works of other cutting edge “thought leaders”, Robb, a platform designer and former mission commander for USAF Counterterrorism operations, draws analogies from the tech world to explain changes in warfare in the age of globalization. Calling the Iraq War “ the modern equivalent of the Spanish Civil War” Robb highlights a robust number of critical concepts in Brave New War that are, in his view, altering international and subnational conflict, including:

Bazaar of Violence
Black Swans
Brittle Security
Dynamc Decentralized Resilience
Emergent Intelligence
Fourth Generation Warfare
Guerilla Entrepreneurs
Global Guerillas
Minimalist Platforms
Open-Source Warfare
Plausible Promises
Primary Loyalties
Stigmergic Systems
Superempowered Groups
The Long Tail of Warfare

Urban Takedowns

Some of these concepts are Robb’s, some belong to others and in Brave New War you will find citations for figures as diverse as William Lind, Chris Anderson, Nicholas Nassim Taleb, Valdis Krebs, Eric S. Raymond, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Philip Bobbitt, Moises Naim and David A. Deptula. One of the great strengths of Brave New War is Robb’s capacity as an analyst and theorist to apply the revelations of research into network theory to warfare, and to conceptualize armed political conflict within the framework of platforms and ecosystems. This gives Robb’s arguments a degree of horizontal “interconnectedness” seldom seen in works on military affairs ( except, as Robb himself points out, in the work of his frequent online sparring partner, Thomas Barnett).

Robb is betting heavily on increasing levels of global instability and systemic breakdown as “feedback” from global guerillas overloads “the system” and disrupts globalization. It is this orientation toward discerning the worst-case scenarios and descent into entropy that will raise hackles amongst some readers, though Robb ultimately predicts a strengthening of systemic resilience and a burst of innovation as a result of these tribulations.

Brave New War is the must read book of 2007.


Haft of The Spear

Simulated Laughter


Sunday, April 29th, 2007


Shorter today as I have some irons in the fire:

Top Billing! Hidden Unities ” Children of War” Series:

Children At War I , Children At War II: What Can Be Done To Help Stem It? and Children At War III: Beyond The Paralysis Of Pity And The Trauma Of Fighting Children

A subject and set of posts deserving of greater attention.

How to Work With Tribesmen” by Col. W. Patrick Lang. (Hat tip to Tequila)

Danger Room offers up Laser Rifles and Lightning Guns ( “Holy Nikola Tesla, Batman!”)

PINR – “Afghanistan’s Role in Iranian Foreign Policy

That’s it!

Friday, April 27th, 2007


This article is a shot heard round the world:

A failure in Generalship” by LTC Paul Yingling.

WaPo has picked it up here “Army Officer Accuses Generals of ‘Intellectual and Moral Failures'”

The Small Wars Council is discussing it here.

How much you want to bet that this article has crossed the desk of Secretary Gates ? And it should.

Required reading.


SWJ Blog – “A Failure in Generalship”

Interview with LTC Paul Yingling Combined Arms Research Library ( thanks, Lex !)

Thomas P.M. Barnett -” New Officers”

Friday, April 27th, 2007


Read a few things this week that gave me pause on the subject of intelligence.

Kent’s Imperative – “Network analysis in historical contexts

The Small Wars Council – ” Blackwater Brass Forms Intelligence Company

Bill Sizemore – “Blackwater brass forms intelligence company

Total Intelligence Solutions, inc.

The longitudinal implications here are very interesting.

First, the privatization of American professional intelligence by companies former CIA and other IC veterans is the ” white” mirror-image of the ” black” downsizing and privatization of Eastern Bloc intelligence professionals during the 1990’s where you had ex-KGB mafiya clans and ex-Yugoslav pros running international safecracking rings.

The cream of this group ( typified by TIS) will always be closely tethered to the official IC by virtue of steady Federal contracts and media scrutiny. The problem is going to be with the marginal PIC’s of uneven or uncertain performance which, before too long, will be found in some decidedly “gray” areas in order to maximize profit ( or sustain financial solvency).

The antics of the subpar quarter are what may bring about loud calls for regulating an industry that exists primarily because of the prior legal constraints and bureaucratic compliance that has calcified the official IC. This in turn will lead to the use of unofficial, sub rosa, networks that are pulled together ad hoc and paid off of the books, possibly by private sources.

Assuming this is not being done to a considerable extent already.

Thursday, April 26th, 2007


Nonpartisan, the genteel founder of ProgressiveHistorians, was kind enough to “tag” me, along with four others, with the ” Thinking Blogger Award“. I thank NP for his gracious nomination, all the more pleasant as it comes from across the political aisle. I’ve always felt very welcome joining in the discussion over at ProgressiveHistorians and that kind of civility and serious intellectual engagement is a quality that far, far, bigger bloggers could emulate more often.

With the award comes the solemn responsibility to pass the torch to five new nominees., according to the hallowed rules as handed down by the thinking blog:

“1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme

3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).”

I gave the matter some serious thought. There are a number of blogs within my ” koinon“, certainly more than five, who make think on a regular basis and are duly rewarded with frequent links and commentary. A number of these bloggers have become my friends, yea, even unto the real world. Aside from not wishing to have to choose amongst friends, I would like to use this opportunity to highlight some blogs outside of the political-historical-foreign affairs-military-intel genre that figures so heavily here. It’s a little more objective too as I have no personal connection to the following nominees beyond reading their posts and leaving the occasional comment:


5. Edge Perspectives With John Hagel: Hagel is not a frequent poster but each of his essays are strategically thought out, imply numerous ramifications across domains and are amply linked and sourced. A blog that will put you ahead of the curve.

4. Complexity and Social Networks Blog: This Harvard University-based group blog inhabits the zone between pure academia and making the discussions of networks and complex systems accessible to all intelligent and interested laymen.

3. Ideas: Professor David Friedman, who authors heroic fantasy novels and plays World of Warcraft in his spare time, is “an academic economist who teaches at a law school and has never taken a course for credit in either field”. He’s also a libertarian. Needless to say, the posts at Ideas have a certain quirkiness of perspective.

2. Milt’s File: University of Chicago professor and longtime ( I think since the late 1960’s) host of Chicago’s Extension 720 AM radio program, Dr. Milt Rosenberg’s blog. As a blogger, Milt is a linker but you can listen to him as a thinker online by tuning in to his nightly broadcast at his WGN site. A Chicago institution.

1. The Eide Neurolearning Blog: Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide deal in the meta-analysis of peer-reviewed research where most bloggers are offering mere speculation and they back that analysis with insights from their own research and experience as physicians. Expert blogging at its best!

Congratulations to the winners!

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