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Archive for August, 2011

New Book: The Five Percent by Coleman

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts  by Peter T. Coleman

A courtesy review copy just arrived. Intriguing, because the study here is about intractable or seemingly “wicked” socio-political conflicts. Coleman is an academic, researcher and activist in conflict resolution studies. Perhaps it will have some nuggets of wisdom for “de-escalating” 4GW or Hybrid wars.

Two Links on Political Economy

Friday, August 19th, 2011

That are complementary:

Fabius MaximusOur fears are unwarranted. America is in fact well-governed.

….America is in better shape than Europe and Japan.  We have good demographics, sound fundamentals, relatively easily solved problems, and no powerful enemies.  Why the constant sense of crisis?  QE2, hyperinflation, climate armageddon, Obama the socialist, AIDS, alar on apples, jihadists, debt, swine flu – a constant drumroll of doom, explained by Peter Moore in “The Crisis Crisis” (Playboy, March 1987).   Answer:  elites govern a weak people by exploiting their fears.  For example, look at the “government is broke” panic.

  • The Federal government’s net debt is only 2/3 of GDP, well below the 100% of GDP “red line” (that Italy reached many years ago).
  • The short-term deficit is mostly the result of the recession.  The medium-term deficit results from the Bush tax cuts.
  • Social security’s funding gap is small vs. GDP and easily fixed.
  • The massive funding gap is mostly Medicare, easily fixed by adopting features from the mixed public-private systems in Europe.

Panic pushes Americans to allow cuts to popular social services plus increased and highly regressive taxes.  No matter who wins, after the 2012 election our representatives will implement the necessary policy changes:  raising taxes, cutting expenditures, rebuilding our infrastructure, and beginning the long process of reforming health care.  It will be another morning in America.  There is no crippling polarization, just distracting noise masking a consensus between both parties about the key points of economic and foreign policy.

We do not see this long-standing pattern (see the previous post for details) because our collective OODA loop is broken (see section 6 here).  That makes us easier to lead.  Relying on wealth-based elites to run the country has a cost.  They take a large share of the pie; we take a small slice….

Global Guerrillas –JOURNAL: Global Financial Cancer

….A couple of years ago, I wrote that the underlying structure of the global financial system was a “bow-tie.”  Here’s what I said (it’s worth going back and reading the entire article and this paper on bow-ties from John Doyle at Caltech):

If we look at this new global system from a distance, its architecture is something called a bow-tie. This is a universal control system architecture that underlies complex systems from the Internet to cell metabolism.


What is a Bow Tie?

The bow-tie is a very powerful approach to organizing a complex system (it’s a system design that is used by controls engineers.)  Visually, it starts with complex inputs (the left side of the bow-tie), boils them down into simple build blocks (the knot), which then allows the construction of complex outputs (the right side of the bow-tie….

….Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the earlier article, bow-ties are vulnerable to organisms that attach themselves to the knot at their center (like the way cancer uses the body’s metabolism system).  These organisms relentlessly use the bow-tie’s knot to for selfish ends (rapid growth).  The end result is typically death for the system.  My suggestion was that the instability we were seeing in the financial system was an indication that it had been co-opted by a malicious, self-serving organism.

Of course, at the time there wasn’t much data to support this systemic analysis.  That has been rectified with a new paper, The Network of Global Corporate Control by Vitali et. al. from ETH in Zurich.  This paper finds, through extensive network analysis, that a small group of tightly intertwined financial institutions control the bow of the global financial system.  It is in effect, the world’s first super-organism….

They are both right. Probably not perfectly, the American economy, even more the world’s, is too complex a subject, but right enough.

FM is right that the emerging class of people I have been calling “the Oligarchy” the past couple of years do not intend to deliberately implode the system that is working outrageously to their benefit. They are currently in the stage of trying to come up with an arsenal of tax-farming schemes that will pass political muster (i.e. – not provoke uncontrollable, “Arab Spring” street demonstrations or a successful populist electoral revolt  that would eject their sycophants from government en masse in a single election) and are quietly, methodically and strategically neutering the capacity of the populace to resist their rule over the long term. It is there that we see seemingly unrelated measures as the coordinated political attack on public education and university education, restrictions on the ability of citizens to get courts to review arbitrary actions of Federal agencies, imposition of laws to permit total surveillance of US citizens and acquisition of their personal information and so on.

The elite, who are not completely cohesive or formally organized, are supremely confident in their ability to manage the technocratic economy they are putting into place, or if bumps in the road appear, to squeeze sufficient new leverage from the populace through inflation, devaluation and other forms of expropriation. Unfortunately, I am not confident that these folks are nearly as competent as they imagine themselves to be. Nor am I sure that the global system that they have built, a high-performance, deeply complex, ultra-leveraged, financial sector dominant political economy isn’t as fragile and dangerously unstable as people like John Robb and Nassim Nicholas Taleb have maintained it is. The system might not just crash, it could crash to extreme depths with unprecedented speed with unforseen consequences (financial systems also ensure the reliable and continuous logistical flow of *food* and *power* to population centers).

Pressfield and Instapundit

Friday, August 19th, 2011

One of the blogosphere’s few true 800 lb gorillas, Professor Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame, interviews best selling novelist Steven Pressfield:


For one thing, I hadn’t realized Reynolds does short, Larry King-style vignettes. Considering that the MSM and the social media crowd have been going around the last few years saying “blogging is dead”, bloggers who can roll out professional quality television type productions without anyone batting an eye testifies to the durability of the medium.

Secondly, Steve probably sold more books with an Instapundit appearance than any other media venue, with the possible exception of a NYT book review.

Book Review: Architect of Global Jihad by Brynjar Lia

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Architect of Global Jihad by Brynjar Lia

Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of al Qaida Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri is Brynjar Lia’s definitive biography of the shadowy terror theorist, Islamist intellectual and sometime jihadi, Mustafa bin Abd al Qadir Sitt Maryam.

Sitt Maryam, who went by al-Suri in jihadi circles, was a red haired, fair-skinned Syrian renegade from the Muslim Brotherhood who was trained in military tactics and explosives in Saddam Hussein’s terrorist camps, passing on his skills to fellow “Arab Afghans” during and after the Soviet War. Attracted to secular military theory, guerrilla warfare tactics and strategy rather than theological disputes, hating the West but despising Salafist radicals, Lia’s Abu al-Suri is an isolated and anomalous figure in “the jihadi current” of the 1990’s and post-9/11 era.

“A born critic” with a grim and unsmiling demeanor who entangled himself in acrimonious personal feuds with leading jihadis, including Osama bin Laden, al-Suri failed to win many adherents to his insightful “system not organization” (nizam la tanzim) theory of jihad until his arrest caused his writings, especially his magnum opus The Global Islamic Resistance Call to go viral in the Islamist darknet.

A true intellectual, widely read in western literature and military writings, al-Suri crafted a stategy of jhad that adapted arguments of 4GW, “leaderless resistance” and classical Maoist insurgency to suit Islamist purposes and conditions while rejecting secret, hierarchical, organizations and al-Qaida’s “Tora Bora mentality” as historical failures. Self-radicalization and “sudden jihad syndrome” among alienated Western Muslims was the stuff from which al-Suri hoped to build a massively decentralized, open source, self-sustaining campaign of terrorism.

A hundred and forty some pages of text in Architect of Global Jihad are devoted exclusively to excerpts from al-Suri’s 1,600 page treatise on terrorism operations and strategy. He was a serious and determined opponent of Western civilization’s core values, despite having enjoyed long stretches of reasonably comfortable Western exile in Spain and “Londonistan” to such a degree that al-Suri was in no particular hurry to rejoin the jihad and even acquired the unenviable (and inaccurate) reputation of only being a “pen jihadi”.

Musab al-Suri, who is likely dead at the hands of Baathist jailers, is best described as an Islamist parallel to Vladimir Lenin before the Bolshevik Revolution. The similarities are striking, the irascible temperment, formidible intelligence, the frustrating politics of exiled revolutionary communities, the ideological marginalization both men endured as radicals in a community of already extreme activists and the embrace of terrorism (tactically in Lenin’s case, strategically in al-Suri’s). al-Suri and Lenin, despite wide ideological differences, as revolutionaries represent the psychological type Eric Hoffer termed “true believers” – pitiless, absolutely committed, intellectually rigid on matters of principle but tactically flexible and creative in terms of method.

Such men are dangerous, to themselves as well as to society.

Strong recommendation:


Related posts on or including Abu Musab al-Suri

Lexington GreenAbu Musab al-Suri: Theorist of Modern Jihad and The Networked Jihad: Parasitic on Developed World Technology, Information, Ideas

Charles CameronA Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad: Deciphering Abu Musab al-Suri’s Islamic Jihad Manifesto

John RobbSURI: nizam, la Tanzim (system, not organization) – Global Guerrillas

The Jamestown FoundationThe Jamestown Foundation: Al-Suri’s Adaptation of Fourth  , The Jamestown Foundation: Al-Suri’s Doctrines for Decentralized  and The Jamestown Foundation: Abu Mus’ab al-Suri and the Third

Jihadica Abu Mus`ab Suri: Architect of Global Jihad Neglected? and Training for the Lone Jihadi

The Hoover InstitutionThe Terror Fringe

The OODA of Fouche

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Did not want this fine graphic of Joseph Fouche lost in the dread comment section:

The fog and friction is a nice touch.

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