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Recommended Reading – 100% Cyber Free Edition

[ Mark Safranski – a.k.a “zen“]

As you may have noted above, starting today I am following Charles, Scott and Lynn in adding my name to my posts. With four bloggers here and perhaps more to come in the future, it is becoming too confusing for occasional or new readers for me to continue to leave my posts “unsigned”.

Going to catch up now with the best of the non-cyber posts and articles of the last few weeks:

Top Billing! The National Interest (BJ Armstrong) – Mahan, the Forgotten Grand Strategist

Armstrong is also the editor of the newly published 21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era. 

….Before Thomas P.M. Barnett ever introduced international relations theorists and futurists to the idea of the “core” and the “gap” nations, Mahan was writing about two groups of people in the world. Mahan suggested that advancements in the west “have extended the means whereby prosperity has increased manifold, as have the inequalities in material well-being existing between those within its borders and those without.” This, he believed, would result in conflict. Globalization and the technological development of the West certainly had increased the standard of living of most Americans and Europeans, but Mahan knew that the economic difficulties of the rest of the world were just as important to the international order.

Mahan recognized the “inequalities” could cause conflict and he warned that “those who want will take, if they can … for the simple reason that they have not, that they desire, and that they are able.” The challenge to international order was something Mahan foresaw, despite the fact that thinkers like Normal Angell were writing that globalization would mean the end of war. Other writers during his time believed that since economic difficulties were shared challenges they would balance one another. Mahan, on the other hand, realized these challenges would be shared unequally, and inequality was only going to add to international instability and stoke the fires of conflict. 

John Hagel– Strategy Made Simple – The 3 Core Strategy Questions 

The ultimate goal of differentiation is to avoid direct confrontation with our competitors. In the words of SunTzu and The Art of War, if we have to engage the enemy in battle, then we’ve already lost. If there’s any uncertainty about why we are different, we won’t be able to focus effectively and we’ll be fighting an uphill battle to gain and sustain the attention of our audience.

Of course, differentiation has always been important to success in any environment.  What’s different now is that people face an exponentially increasing array of alternatives.  They have more information and more ability to switch across as larger and larger array of options. In a world of power laws, we’re competing not only with the blockbusters in the head of the power curve, but an ever expanding long tail of options that are able to serve very narrow niches. That’s why it’s more critical than ever to be able to answer this question clearly and compellingly, for ourselves and the people we want to reach.

War on the Rocks has been launched!!!! Congrats to the gents involved.

War on the Rocks is a web publication that serves as a platform for analysis, commentary, and debate on foreign policy and national security issues through a realist lens. It will feature articles and podcasts produced by an array of writers with deep experience in these matters: top notch scholars who study war, those who have served or worked in war zones, and more than a few who have done it all.


Washington Times (Brahma Chellaney): Afghanistan’s Looming Partition 

Chellaney is a national security/strategy eminence grise in India. Read this op-ed as Indian elite alarm over America’s pending withdrawal from Afghanistan that might leave Kabul a Taliban dominated, anti-Indian, ISI satrapy. Note a “Greater Pushtunistan” would leave Pakistan a rump Punjabistan plus Sind.

….Foreign military intervention can effect regime change, but it evidently cannot re-establish order based on centralized government. Iraq has been partitioned in all but name into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish regions, while Libya seems headed toward a similar tripartite, tribal-based territorial arrangement. In Afghanistan, too, an Iraq-style “soft” partition may be the best possible outcome.

Afghanistan’s large ethnic-minority groups already enjoy de facto autonomy, which they secured after their Northern Alliance played a central role in the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban from power in late 2001. Having enjoyed virtual self-rule since then, they will fiercely resist falling back under the sway of the Pashtuns, who ruled the country for most of its history.

For their part, the Pashtuns, despite their tribal divisions, will not be content with control of a rump Afghanistan consisting of its current eastern and southeastern provinces. They will eventually seek integration with fellow Pushtuns in Pakistan, across the British-drawn Durand Line — a border that Afghanistan has never recognized. The demand for a “Greater Pashtunistan” would then challenge the territorial integrity of Pakistan (itself another artificial imperial construct).

Dr. Tdaxp –Review of “America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century-Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come ,” by James Bennett and Michael Lotus 

….What keeps America 3.0 from being simply an economic-determinist, however, is Jim Bennett’s focus on the Anglosphere, and particularly Lotus’ and Bennett’s theory of what makes English-speaking countries nearly unique in the world: the “Absolute Nuclear Family” and the Common Law. According to America 3.0, this style of family is shared between English speaking countries, and some areas of Denmark and the Netherlands where the Anglo-Saxon-Jute peoples were active fifteen centuries ago. The Common Law, a result of the eradication of Roman Law and subsequent British hostility to the re-imposition of the Roman-based Laws latter (partially as a result for how Roman Law conflicts with the Absolute Nuclear Family type), also creates a difference.

….The standard economic-determinist answer to the important of economic foundation is “a whole lot.” This makes sense to me. We’re still a way from a scientific study of history — a cliodynamical analysis of the role of steam, say, in American history — but all-in-all I found this part of the book to be insightful and non-controversial. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy all differed on many things, but all agreed on the importance of economies of scale, which were themselves clearly enabled by steam.

Maggie’s Farm –What could have beens in Vietnam

SWJ – Economic and Religious Influencers in the Era of Population-centric Warfare 

America 3.0 Are Breitbart.com’s Standards Falling Down?

Not the Singularity – Then they Came for your Snail Mail

Ribbonfarm –Players versus Spectators 

Slightly East of New – New Edition of the Origins of Boyd’s Discourse 

Scholar’s Stage – Rise of the West: Asking the Right Questions

Slouching Toward Columbia – On Reappraising the Civil War

The Glittering Eye –Defining Genocide Down 

Campaign Reboot –Constraining Creativity 

The American Thinker- The Fall of the Humanities

14 Responses to “Recommended Reading – 100% Cyber Free Edition”

  1. prbeckman Says:

    This too: “Alliances: three cheers for the Anglosphere” by The Strategist ASPI
    “The Anglosphere makes it possible for Australia to operate a defence force and prosecute a sophisticated strategic policy that we would have no chance of matching based solely on our own resources.”

  2. Madhu Says:

    Slightly tangential to one of the links above but still related, the desire to “refight” aspects of Vietnam in Iraq and Afghanistan is surely going to be one “lens” through which future scholars view the intellectual doctrinal (emotional?) underpinnings of both campaigns.
    My coulda woulda shoulda: what if as much time was spent studying the history of American relations in the Cold War periphery countries, especially South/South West Asia, as in attempting to relive Vietnam only as a win this time?
    Pat Buchanan over at The American Conservative (I know, I know) repeats one such myth of our relations, that we had ideological Cold War allies in South Asia as opposed to an alliance of opportunity–which is nothing against opportunists. That is life. “They chose us,” he claims. Goodness. After all that has happened in that region prior relating to 9-11. Well, maybe that’s not the myth so much as we reacted instead of the active approach we took starting from the 1950s. We were more involved than our  mythos allows us to see, IMO.
    I hope veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan don’t do the same thing, view all future conflict through the lens of “we didn’t have enough resources to do COIN.”
    But here I am being hugely unfair, I think, since I do the same thing when I look at that part of the world through my own emotional lenses…. 

  3. Madhu Says:

    What is up with that America 3.0 review? Geez, I didn’t recognize the book at all. Arthur Herman, eh? Read some of his columns once and it completely fits into my thesis in the comment above.

  4. Madhu Says:

    Oh, sorry, to clarify: the Brietbart review of America 3.0 mentions Arthur Herman’s book. I’m assuming same as the columnist? If not, forget my comment above. Still, it’s a weird review, isn’t it?

  5. Madhu Says:

    Zia Mian is quite good to read on the history of the American military training ‘fellow’ armies in that part of the world, especially the 1950s. Also on the Harvard scholar types and economic policy from the 1950s.

  6. Cheryl Rofer Says:

    Eh, War on the Rocks has one female contributor, so the address “gents” is not quite right.
    Sadly, continues the dearth of women in national security and foreign policy commentary. 

  7. tdaxp Says:

    Hey Madhu, are you referring to the tdaxp review?

  8. Madhu Says:

    Yeah, a la Cheryl, I would like future posts to add “and to our crazy commenting sister Madhu, and other non-crazy sisters” to the gents address. 
    What? The arty sites have all kinds of fun with this stuff. Get in touch with your inner artist, milbloggers! You know you want to!!!!

  9. Madhu Says:

    @tdxap – no, the Breitbart review. Haven’t had time to read yours, will when I get the chance.

  10. Madhu Says:

    Sorry, I always mess up letters in words.

  11. Scott Says:

    I see a number of women posting at Duck of Minerva ( http://www.whiteoliphaunt.com/duckofminerva/ ) including Charli Carpenter and Megan Mackenzie.  But I figure someone should start a group blog (obviously not me, since I’m male) that would be all women.

  12. Cheryl Rofer Says:

    Um, try Nuclear Diner, Scott! There are three of us!
    But we don’t discriminate. It’s possible we might add one of the other sex in the future.

  13. zen Says:

    hey Cheryl – thanks for catching that. My bad. The folks over at WotR seem to be recruited primarily from the Warlord Loop group, which has a number of sharp women defense/natsec experts as members. There was also a general call by one of the editors prior to their public launch for list members to get involved if they wished and submit posts. Hopefully, some of the women will step up. Some won’t/can’t though due to the nature of their USG job, same for many male members, open forums are not in the cards for some DoD positions

  14. DrTdaxp » Science and Steam Says:

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