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Archive for June, 2009

1913 Debate Continues

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009


Cheryl raises the question of “Evolutionary psychology” in considering nuclear deterrence.

An intriguing angle. Going to think about this and respond a little later.

Chavez Playbook Fails in Honduras

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

With an arrest warrant from the Honduran Supreme Court (hat tip NYkrinDC), the Honduran military today removed from office President Manuel Zelaya, a political protege of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, for proceeding with an illegal referendum designed to lay the groundwork for an unconstitutional additional term in office. Zeleya has been sent into exile in Costa Rica.

Zelaya’s referendum had been rejected by the Supreme Court, the Congress and even his own political party. Zelaya had ordered the military to support the referendum, when Army chief  Gen Romeo Vasquez refused, Zelaya attempted to fire him and subsequently took possession of the ballots by leading a large crowd of supporters to a military base where they had been impounded.

The Congress had already moved to investigate Zeleya’s fitness for continuing office prior to today’s coup. Venezuelans and Nicaraguans had been infiltrating Honduras in order to help Zelaya’s supporters with the referendum, and predictably, Chavez reacted with frustration at the setback dealt to Zelaya’s Bolivarian “soft coup” before it could even get off the ground to change the system itself.

Given Honduras unhappy history, military involvement in politics is naturally suspect, but in this instance, it was the civilian president who was determined to act against the constitutional order, operate outside it and break the rules in his own political interest. What happened in Honduras seems to me to be less a pro-active coup than a reactive counterrevolution by the military and broad elite. That Hondurans resented the hijacking of their country by the international left, orchestrated at home by a Chavez stooge is unsurprising, but the best strategic move now would be for the Honduran military to turn over power to Zelaya’s constitutionally designated successor, Congress President Roberto Micheletti, and let the civilian government take appropriate legal action, if any, against Zelaya and any foreign ALBA apparatchiks active in this crisis.

According to Zelaya’s initial comments, the USG has thus far,  mostly stayed out of this affair, refusing to sanction Zelaya’s removal, except to issue a mild reprimand against the Honduran military’s action.


The State Department attempts to square the circle with intellectually incoherent positions.


Chirol at Coming Anarchy weighs in:

….Former President Manuel Zelaya, ally of Venezuelan thug in chief Hugo Chavez, sought to illegally hold a referendum on changing the Honduran constitution. This could have allowed him to run again in violation of the country’s current term limits. It’s a classic trick of would-be-dictators and luckily did not succeed. While some in the media and elsewhere are labeling this a coup, I would not not. It’s rather a ‘coup’ in the same sense as Turkey has experienced several times whereby the military removed leadership that was violating the country’s laws.

Some may argue that the military’s removal of the president by force was not democratic. Indeed, on the surface it would seem to be illegal, however given that the president was pressing on with his illegal actions, declared so by the supreme court, congress and the military, it was in fact a fairly reasonable and foreseeable response. While of course, I do not encourage such actions by any military in general, in the case of Honduras, the constitutionally mandated checks on presidential power had failed. Since Zelaya blatantly continued his illegal activity, we can in fact be thankful that he was ousted before having a chance to rewrite the constitution and turn the country into an even poorer, worse off Venezuelan satellite.


Having just suffered a humiliating electoral defeat at home, leftist Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez, vows to accompany Zelaya back to Honduras.

Recommended Reading & Recommended Viewing

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Top Billing!  Information Dissemination – Theories and Considerations

Missed this when Galrahn originally posted it. It’s a “must read” post for understanding where US Navy strategy could go in the next decade. First rate work!

Thomas P.M. Barnett –  “Why Ahmadinejad Is Better for the U.S. Than Moussavi

I strongly agree here with Tom that the Pasdaran clique of Iranian “siloviki” from the IRGC and security ministries have now gained the upper hand over the clergy as a whole, by aligning with the hardest line minority of clerics. Guns trump turbans.

Whirledview (CKR)Turning Points

Cheryl Rofer’s next post in our 1913 discussion.

Edge Perspectives with John Hagel- Shift Happens Redux

John details his new longitudinal Shift Index.

The Committee of Public SafetyThe Soviet Package of Liberty

The Soviets as strategic spoilers.

Rough TypeThe sour Wikipedian

Nick Carr makes the argument that Wikipedians – and by extension, social media user types – are basically loner a-holes. Thanks Nick! 😉

Zero Intelligence AgentsInterstate Conflict and Genetic Similarity; Consequences for COIN  and Fog of COIN

The second post is not by Drew Conway, but is a guest post by Thomas Zeitzoff of NYU and a review of David Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla.

Progressive Historians (Ellman)Living On $2 A Day: An Interview With Economist Jonathan Morduch

A fascinating look at the often sophisticated market activity of the world’s “bottom billions”.

SWJ Blog (Dilegge) – War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age

Book review.

physicsworld.comIn search of the black swans

Is the professional and institutional culture of scientists discouraging future paradigm shifts ?

Howard BloomIn Praise Of Consumerism – Bees, Bacteria And The Value Of Wasted Time

The latent creativity and discovery for the many in the “wasted” time of the few.

PARAMETERS –    “The End of Proportionality” and    “Responsibility and Proportionality in State and Nonstate Wars”

Jonathan F. Keiler and Michael Walzer discuss how the concept of “proportionality” in the Laws of War are applied and (more frequently) misunderstood and misapplied.

SEED Did Cooking Make Us Human?

Did a piece of cultural evolution – cooking food – drive human evolution ?

The Jamestown FoundationMystery Surrounds Alleged Hezbollah Links to Drug Arrests in Curacao

A somewhat older article. It begs the question of  to what degree has Hezbollah penetrated the Lebanese and Arab diaspora in Latin America?


Paul Collier on “Post-Conflict Recovery” – salvaging failed states (2009).

Iran’s internal politics,  a conversation with Karim Sadjadpour (2007)

Following Up

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Busy today with some personal matters, but I wanted to draw attention to some blogfriends who are extending the discussion of recent posts:

Josephfouche of The Committee of Public Safety, analyzing the the 1913 debate and providing an excellent, explanatory, graphic to boot:

Strategy and the Race to the Sea

….The logic of disarmament runs counter to the logic of strategy. Strategy seeks to pit strength against  weakness. If that isn’t available, it seeks to pit strength against strength. The least palatable option is to pit weakness against strength. A tie between two opposing wavelengths of equal strength on two opposing spectra of power is better than nothing. In the case of the most extreme end of the spectrum of power, annihilation, there is currently a tie between the nuclear armed Great Powers. That section of the spectrum has been taken off the table. To reopen the annihilation wavelengths will merely tempt others to seek advantage where the bravely virtuous have renounced their warheads and beat them into flower pots.

An “evolved sensibility” will not save you where sensibility is not backed by effective counter force. Evolved sensibility is merely the glove hiding the iron fist. Conflict, as Clausewitz explained, is a trial of moral power through the medium of physical power. Morality can only constrain where the correlation of forces is favorable. If the correlation of forces shift, every thing becomes a repeat of the Race to the Sea.

Adam Elkus at Red Team Journal, continuing the robust argument over Grand Strategy started by Smitten Eagle ( I have been working on a post, on and off, to respond to SE’s original post. As many other voices have joined this debate in the past week, I’m still tweaking mine) and added to recently by FLG of Fear and Loathing in Georgetown.

Do We Need a Grand Strategy?

….Of course, FLG is correct that we haven’t suffered as much from our poverty of grand strategy as, say, Philip II of Hapsburg Spain. But I would argue that in this case America’s compelling enemy is not so much a looming adversary as the entirely human tendency states have to make poor decisions regarding the use of force, the expenditure of resources, and our strategic elites’ perception of political, economic, and cultural trends. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we need a hegemonic concept like containment-I felt that Joseph Fouche did a good job of arguing that a nation is better served by multiple grand strategies. But states do need larger guidance as to how they use resources-both human and material-to achieve strategic ends.

Check’em out.


Fabius Maximus has a large number of posts related to grand strategy at the Military and strategic theory section of the FM site. One example:

The Myth of Grand Strategy 

Primal Strategies

We often see something like a grand strategy in the early years of some societies, when the people have a single-minded commitment to a goal, often just a drive to grow. A primal strategy is an expression of this people’s core beliefs. It is non-intellectual, with no need for theories and plans.

  • Rome conquered the Mediterranean world, driven by self-confident belief in their fitness to rule others.
  • Men like Pizzaro and Cortes conquered much of the world for Spain and Christ.
  • The British Empire was built by men like Robert Clive and Warren Hastings, whose acquisitive drive and energy brought India into the British Empire – often without instructions or even against their government’s wishes.
  • Nineteenth century Americans felt it was their manifest destiny to extend America from ocean to ocean.

We can describe these as “grand strategies”, but to do so has an element of falsity. Such intellectual analysis, based on theory, had no place in the hearts of these peoples. History also suggests than leaders cannot manufacture a primal strategy. You either have it, or you do not.

“This is For the Mara Salvatrucha”

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Samuel Logan, security specialist, author and sometime ZP commenter has a new book that will be released in early July, This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America’s Most Violent Gang.

Sam sent me an advance copy and I have read the first few chapters, which begins at the most granular level of an outlier cell or street crew of MS-13 and a crime committed that ultimately allows law enforcement to penetrate what had been a highly secretive, as well as extremely violent, transnational street gang rooted in Central American immigrant communities.

The book is tightly written with an edge for gritty reality and will be of great interest to readers interested in criminal networks and insurgency; I will be looking to see how, from Logan’s depiction, MS-13 meshes with John Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker’s concept of 3rd Generation gangs.

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