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Recommended Reading

Top Billing! PunditaAlden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 2: Once upon a time in Saigon and Mumbai

A post of dramatic scope and fury as Pundita deftly sifts the shadowy underground of Af/Pak policy:

 ….Washington has yet to confront that the insurgency in Afghanistan, to the extent it exists, is miniscule and can be handled largely by non-military means. The major part of the fighting against NATO troops in Afghanistan is directed by Pakistan’s military and their intelligence service. As Rajeev Srinivasan explained earlier this month:

[…] Pakistan has clearly articulated its pursuit of strategic depth which, for instance, involves having a Plan B even if its major cities such as Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, close to the Indian border, are obliterated in a possible Indian nuclear second strike (after Pakistan has wiped out Delhi and Mumbai in a first strike). They want to regroup from Afghanistan and continue their jihad against India from there.The Taliban, of course, are Pakistani Army and ISI soldiers dressed in baggy pants and beards for the occasion. The fact that alleged seminary students (whom the Taliban are supposed to be) suddenly started driving tanks and flying planes is indirect evidence that they were trained soldiers.Therefore, Taliban rule in Kabul means Pakistan has achieved its strategic depth. Clearly, they have no desire to fight or eliminate the Taliban, despite the fact that some factions (such as the one from the Mehsud tribe) have begun to inconvenience Pakistan through a campaign of suicide bombings. Dead Pakistani civilians are considered acceptable collateral damage by the ISI, but their attacks on the military apparatus is a big no-no. They are clearly ‘bad Taliban’, and will not get any share of the spoils.[…]

Got all that? As to what to do about it: For a few minutes set aside al Qaeda, the War on Terror, and Islamism. Get into the ballpark of what’s actually going on in Pakistan. From there it’s a hop and skip to working out a better war strategy in Afghanistan. Reaching the ballpark starts with realizing that we can’t ‘solve’ Afghanistan until we confront what Pakistan is and what we’ve been supporting in Pakistan since (drum roll please) 1947: a form of feudalism that’s supported by a caste system.

….There’s no need to ask, ‘How did it come to this?’ We just need to look back down the yellow brick road. What started with a photograph in LIFE ended up with many American troops murdered in Afghanistan by agents of a U.S. client state — and with Washington’s only protest to engage in butterknife rattling at the client state. And, perhaps in the hope that two clattering butterknives would equal the sound of one rattling saber, London joined Washington in telling Pakistan’s military and ISI that if they didn’t stop blowing up ISAF troops in Afghanistan, well, they needed to stop. This tough line was followed by Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown fobbing hush money on Pakistan’s government to the tune of £60m, “which will include funds for education and clean drinking water for children, to be delivered before the end of the financial year.”

A collection of related links to the acclaimed “Ecology of War” paper in Nature by Boorquez, Gourley, Dixon, Spagat, and Johnson. No, I have not finished digesting all of this yet:

Nature: -“Common Ecology Quantifies Human Insurgency
John Robb: JOURNAL: A Quantitative Examination of Open Source Warfare, JOURNAL: A Critique of Open Source Warfare
Drew Conway:On the Ecology of Human Insurgency, Response to John Robb Re: Ecology of Human Insurgency
Dr. Sean Gourley: – “The ecology of war” on the cover of Nature, Can there be a mathematics of war?, It’s more than power-laws and statistics, Quant Analysis and Open Source Warfare, 14 key features that define a successful insurgency, Mathematics of War.com

Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett –Neocons are Alive and Kicking

Tom attacks the policy vision of the Krauthammers and Perles in this WPR piece but waxes brutally honest on the nature of China’s “authoritarian capitalism”

….Obama must spell out to Beijing the limits of America’s willingness to safeguard the developing world for China’s mercantilist resource-plundering strategies. And, quite frankly, Afghanistan is a great place to start, thanks to China’s recent $3.5 billion investment in one of the world’s last-remaining unexploited copper reserves. My guess is that, sometime just before his re-election effort, Obama will quietly deliver the following message to the Chinese: “I’ve held this line for as long as I can. Now it’s your turn to bodyguard yourself.”In the larger strategic sense, Obama has little interest in prematurely forcing this path upon the Chinese, since China’s underdeveloped capabilities would force Beijing to rely on a rapid expansion of its cash-centric form of “state graft.” Left to their own devices, the Chinese would simply turn much of the underdeveloped world into a sad, carbon copy of North Korea’s nationwide slave labor camp, self-righteously justifying such tactics as “non-interference.”

SWJ Blog – In Afghan war, officer flourishes outside the box

Good article. This guy isn’t following a recipe.

JFQ – “A Better War in Afghanistan” by Dr. John Nagl

Steve PressfieldInterview w/Tribal Chief #10: Pakistan, Interview w/Tribal Chief #11: Pakistan, continued

More grist on our “ally”, Islamabad.

MetamodernThe promise that launched the field of nanotechnology, Molecular Manufacturing: Where’s the progress?, Basement development? Big leaps?

Dr. Eric Drexler’s nanotech series.

When the first million readers encountered “nanotechnology”

Now, over 20 years after the fact, it is often forgotten that a concept called “nanotechnology” first swept into the minds of a large, science-aware public quite abruptly, in November 1986, when nearly a million readers encountered the cover story of a leading general-audience, science-oriented magazine of that time, OMNI. A month before this, the term and idea had been known to almost no one beyond early readers of Engines of Creation

FSJ – “My Secret Police File“- Frederick Quinn

Remembering the halcyon days of thuggish, East Bloc, state security goons and gumshoes.

Dr. Jarrett BrachmanJihobbyists: Come One, Come All, Ansarnet Jihobbyists Stumble Over Each Other to Respond to Me, The English-Language Jihobby Clownshow, Ansarnet’s Jihobby Orcs are at it Again, Making Jihobbyists our New Secret Weapon in Combating Jihobbyism, The Pros and Cons with “Jihobbyism”, “On Practicing What We Preach,” By Ansarnet Posters, The Fresh Face of American Jihobbyism: Abdullah as-Sayf Jones

Yes, this is an abusively large number of links from one blog but I’m highly amused by Dr. Brachman’s successful effort at annoying the Salafi equivalent of Trekkies living in their parents basement community. I’d like to encourage the spread of Brachman’s term “Jihobbyism”to tarnish the macho self-image of Islamist wannabes and fighting keyboardists everywhere.

That’s it.

UPDATE! Recommended Viewing:

Talk given by Dr. Noah Raford on complexity and strategy for organisations at the London School of Economics . I used the title “Dr.” because Raford has an academic-style beard.

10 Responses to “Recommended Reading”

  1. J. Scott Says:

    Bless your heart, Zen…if I didn’t already have a list 65 books deep (and growing), I could put an oar in the water here…if we get points, I read the Drexler piece (I visit his site daily and have developed a curiosity concerning photonic crystals and nano-optics (between Drexler and my interest in Feynman’s work). Alas, I have a business to keep afloat—and thankfully many of my interests are in line w/those of the business. Great post—I’ll cherry pick. Cheers!

  2. zen Says:

    Hi Scott,
    Gracias! I like Drexler as well but I need to get around to reading Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman one of these days. As you said, real life interferes 🙂

  3. J. Scott Says:

    Zen, Surely You’re Joking is a great book! As Lex says, I wish I had a 400 year life span, unlimited budget, and time to read…for there is much to learn. Your blog helps…

  4. Chris Says:

    The Human Face of War sounds like a great book.  Let’s just bounce on over to Amazon and…94 DOLLARS! 

    That’s like my old Physics textbooks.  For what I paid for his book, I bet Jackson drives a Lamborghini.

  5. T. Greer - The Scholar's Stage Says:

    Pundita is so on target that it scares me. Just after reading her piece this dropped into my RSS feed:


    ‘Good’ Taliban destroy Afghan Army base
    Bill Roggio. Long War Journal. December 20 2009.

    Forces under the command of a leader considered to be one of the "good Taliban" by the Pakistani military destroyed an Afghan Army camp. Taliban forces commanded by Mullah Nazir blew up an the Afghan Army base, which was just across the border from the Angoor Adda region in Pakistan. The region is under the control of Nazir, a Pakistani Taliban commander….

  6. zen Says:

    Hi Chris,
    The price is outrageous, though not the worst I have seen from this kind of press ( Frans Osinga’s hardback edition of Science, Strategy and War took that prize). I have been told by Wilf that they are negotiating for a reasonably priced softcover edition to be released in the US. Hopefully, that will come soon but in the meantime, a fair number of readers here have departmental budgets, corporate cards etc. to draw on.

    Hi T. Greer,
    Miss Pundita packs a powerful punch.

  7. Chris Says:

    That’s a good point.  Hopefully, the Gray Research Center will do the heavy lifting of purchasing this for me. 

  8. Joseph Fouche Says:

    The Pundita piece is infuriating. Most of the time this country does an intelligence operation, it fails dismally. Now we have an account that the US engineered the rise of Diem through a successful black ops operation. Like Kermit Roosevelt’s little shindig in Tehran about the same time, it was probably penny wise but pound foolish, operationally asute but strategically inept. Now we have the Bush-Obama duo propping up yet another wayward client whose amputating the hand that’s feeding it with it’s sharp teeth. More short term calculations leading to long term complications.

  9. onparkstreet Says:

    It is infuriating, but it’s been the policy since the country was founded, I think. For a variety of reason, money just flows one way. Even the sanctions were for such short periods, and some millions still flowed through. Zenpundit is right – it is the elephant in the room and the FP elites seem not to know what to do, other than use aid: military and pushing from the right, civilian and cajoling from the left.
    We have to rethink our aid regimes. They are unsustainable, and often, counterproductive.
    – Madhu

  10. onparkstreet Says:

    Okay, to clarify: since, like, about 1947 or so we’ve been propping out this client. What gives? Location, location, location?

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