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Archive for August, 2008

CKR on The Utility of Force

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Cheryl Rofer pens a thoughtful review General Rupert Smith’s highly regarded The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage):

…So that long-ago post was naïve, but now I’m pleased to find that a military guy agrees with me. General Rupert Smith has written a book about how war has changed in the past couple of centuries. He documents the development of what he calls “industrial war,” the sort of war that mobilizes and destroys entire industrial societies, the world wars of the twentieth century, the mental model of war that we have carried into the twenty-first. Napoleon started it, and the industrial culmination, the utilization of the energy from smashed atoms, finished it.”War no longer exists,” as Smith begins his book.

He distinguishes war from confrontation and conflict. War no longer exists, but confrontation and conflict are very much with us. The Cold War was a long confrontation, and what happened in Georgia was conflict after a continuing confrontation. It’s hard to imagine how or why any country would provoke an industrial war. Even if nuclear weapons had not been invented, the two world wars would probably have convinced us that we can’t do that any more. Nuclear weapons merely provide the emphatic ending.

But we still plan for industrial war, we expect our wars to follow that pattern, and the media reports wars that way. The US military is built around industrial war, as is the military-industrial complex, which, Smith tells us, has removed the flexibility to plan for any other kind of conflict. Industrial war means big, expensive weapon systems with long lead times. Big, expensive weapon systems mean big profits and continuing employment in as many congressional districts as possible. I’ll draw on some half-remembered economics to point out that money spent on weapons doesn’t benefit the economy as much as money spent on roads, schools and other ways to improve things here at home.

Read the whole thing here.

Recommended Reading

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Well…..I didn’t quite get the time I expected this weekend to do much posting but I’ll see what I can manage in the next few hours.

Top Billing! CTLab ReviewNotes Toward a Theory of Asymmetric Warfare (Dr. Tyrell)

My CTLab colleague Marc Tyrell, also a SWC member, is high on my list of mil theorists. CTLab itself is sporting a new look as the site moves toward “formal” roll out (in September, if I recall correctly).

Thomas P.M. Barnett –  What reviving Cold War will end up costing us

I’m in sync with Tom on this subject – legacy thinking is a form of national security escapism to get around the hard thinking needed to craft a foreign poolicy toward Russia that deals with frictions and opportunities.

On “Hybrid Wars”: 

Dr. Erin Simpson – Thinking about Modern Conflict: Hybrid Wars,Strategy, and War Aims

Frank Hoffman –  Lessons from Lebanon: Hezbollah and Hybrid Wars  and How Marines are Preparing for Hybrid Ears

( hat tip to Dave Dilegge writing from SWJ Blog and CTLab)

Jesserwilson’s Blog Social Software Use in the Intelligence Community: Interview with Mr. Chris Rasmussen

This link is a couple of months old but, I think, of interest to many readers who are into Web 2.0 and/or IC issues.

Good Lord! Kent’s Imperative is back !! – Unintended learning objectives

I’ve never been in a formal intel program that KI describes but the “disease” of which KI speaks has deeply infected the field of history and the humanities for years. A result partly of cultivated dogmatism and partly from a longstanding decline in the frequency with which students are required to critically assess one another’s reasoning, their own – and that of their instructor – for errors of fact, logic, context and proportionality.  Michael Tanji has his say too.

John Hagel –  Stupidity and the Internet

Hagel never writes a bad post and this one is spot on.

Open the Future Thinking About Thinking

Adapting ourselves (literally) to cognitively master changing environments

Foreign AffairsThe Next President’s Daunting Agenda by Richard Holbrooke

A possible future SecState takes a partisan swing at grand strategy and quickly drifts into diplomatic mechanics, pet causes and what appears to be a thinly veiled but longwinded campaign commercial for Barack Obama.

That’s it!

Bleary Eyed

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Up late doing readings for a degree program that I’m doing for my day job and had to bound out of bed this morning because the upstairs neighbor’s furnace leaked water through the ceiling of the garage ( which now has to be replaced) and contractors had to get into the garage to try to access the leak. I have to wonder what nut of an architect designed this mess as the neighbor is not directly above our unit.

Dr. Barnett on American Grand Strategy and Russia

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

One of the longer pieces that Tom has blogged in some time and it’s really good to see him go en fuego on such an important topic. Dr. Barnett puts the costs of playing the Russo-Georgian War ( and/or demonizing China. Some out there would like to do both!) in an unthinkingly “feel good” way as throwing away most of our gains from winning the Cold War. The Russians, meanwhile, demonstrate that there is no monopoly on strategically shortsighted hotheadedness by having bellicose generals issue aggressive bluster that alienates all of Russia’s neighbors and makes our job of rounding up diplomatic support in Europe about ten times easier. That was a complete gift ( and also an example on how events can start to spin dangerously out of control).

The Core comes with competing rule sets

…The same would be true for a Russia that militarily subdued the Baltics or Ukraine. When you re-introduce war into situations where the Core has collectively said to itself, “We think we’ve got this one in hand for the long haul,” then you’d shift defense thinking inside the Core away from its post-9-11 tendency to focus on the Gap and once again have it start giving preeminence to defending against such possibilities inside the Core. This, to me, is how you destroy globalization. Depending on how we play Russia in the weeks and months ahead, we can certainly put much of Europe and the U.S. on that pathway.

I see that as a stupid strategic choice that throws away decades of effort and sacrifice to get our international liberal trade order (just the West til about 1980 and called the global economy and globalization since) to where it is today, with just a mere one billion truly offline and the Gap eminently shrinkable–albeit with plenty of social tumult and violence to accompany that process (but not too much to handle for a Core whose attention isn’t diverted back to senseless intra-Core conflicts). I thought along these lines for a long time before PNM was published. My first major effort at the Center for Naval Analyses in 1991 saw me advocate radically ramping up navy-to-navy cooperation with the Russians. So I’ve been making this argument for 17 years and am not (surprise!) eager to trash the situation over Georgia’s miscalculations. If we put immature democracies (who start wars more than any other type of state historically) in that driver’s seat, we’re screwed.

Despite his muscular prose, Tom is actually understating the costs of a crashed globalization and defense budgets ramped up as far as the eye can see. I can’t put a dollar figure on it but the working denomination here is “trillions”.  We should really stop a moment and think about that and start calculating three or four steps down the road rather than tacking our moves to the needs of the MSM news cycle.

Galrahn at Information Dissemination, aside from some very kind words for me, which I appreciate,  dives into Tom’s post and adds his own excellent analysis:

Russia – Georgia Analysis We Can Support

….Russia and the US are not equals, but can be in their approach to the gap. I would also include other major powers in this equation. I love that piece by Tom, because in a great many words, he is essentially invoking our Yin Yang theory for strategically approaching our national interests.When any major power exercises power in the gap, it ultimately represents an opposing (competitive) and, at the same time, complementary (completing) application of power towards the ends of shrinking the gap. Tom found the Yin Yang.

In this case, Georgia, which has a relationship with the United States is being consumed by Russia, and ultimately will be regardless of what the United States does. This represents a loss of influence for the United States and Europe, a gain of influence for the Russians. BUT this also represents a long term complimentary action to the strategic goals of everyone in the core. Why? Because successful military intervention by a core nation into the gap shrinks the gap.Apply the same theory to Iraq. The US military intervention there represented a loss of influence by Russia and Europe, and a gain of influence by the United States. The result is an action that is complimentary to the strategic goals of other core nations (think China and energy here), and the effects of this intervention are broad. Consider what we see in the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait and we have movement towards more shrinking of the gap. There is no reason to believe that Russian intervention in Georgia couldn’t have a similar effect on regional nations, including Ukraine

The new states of the “near abroad” like Georgia are vulnerable to Russian meddling not because they are militarily weak but because their populations are disunited and their governments operate with dubious legitimacy, excess opacity and a systemic mafiya corruption that saps their national vitality. To stand strong, they need to clean up their acts in their own best interests so the help we extend can be effectively used.

Swamped Today

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Sorry for the silence but I had to attend to matters related to the day job. This weekend should see some good posts up here and and at associated sites, plus…. a cool announcement coming very soon. 🙂


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