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Recommended Reading

Top Billing!Lexington GreenAfghanistan 2050 Roundtable Summing-Up

Lexington Green wraps up the Afghanistan 2050 Roundtable with an analytical essay:

[….] B. Failure of the American Effort in Afghanistan

Our posters were nearly unanimous that the current American effort in Afghanistan would not succeed, or even have a long-term effect on Afghanistan. That is an expected, but still damning vote of no confidence on the decade-long Bush-Obama non-strategy for Afghanistan. The strongest counter-example was Trent Telenko, who suggested a strategy to secure the country that sounds plausible to me, an non-expert.

Joseph Fouche had my second favorite observation of the Roundtable: “America has the firepower to destroy a large country, the heavy forces to invade a medium country, and the manpower to occupy a small one.” The USA and its military are not configured to do the kind of nation-building the US Government seems to want to do. Thomas P.M. Barnett has long observed that these tasks, if they can be done at all, require lots of people. The USA has a military composed of a small number of highly trained and expensively equipped people. The only way that a country the size of Afghanistan could be pacified is to put lots of boots on the ground. The only countries that have that many boots are China and India. Afghanistan will not be pacified by the USA, using hearts-and-minds methods. It may be pacified by one of the two large Asian powers, using more direct method. Jim Bennett speculated on what it would look like if China moved in, bulldozer fashion. His vision seems highly plausible over the long term.

Fringe provided a thoughtful analysis of the US failure in Afghanistan, which I won’t summarize but I strongly suggest you read. I think it is the single most informative post in the Roundtable. He notes that successful US wars have not had an “exit strategy.” To the contrary, they consisted of a battlefield success followed by an extended occupation. This provides an initial test, before the outset of a war. If it is not worth an occupation, it is not worth invading in the first place. “With few exceptions, if it’s worth a war, there is no exit strategy.”

One intriguing set of predictions was of ongoing, networked non-governmental efforts to provide some relief for the Afghan people. Dr. Madhu predicts ongoing turmoil, with NGOs doing humanitarian work where governments are unwilling or unable to go. David Ronfeldt foresees a “secretive ethicalist netfirm” operating swarms of surveillance UAVs to protect Afghan women. While this seems exotic at first glance, David is probably tapping into what seem to me to be the likely trends.

Radical advancement in technology may make much of our current thinking obsolete by 2050, and probably a lot sooner. Zenpundit noted in a comment that “[t]he DIY movement combined with high tech sectors like desktop manufacturing and nanotechnology are going to permit [individuals] and small groups to have their own capacity for military intervention.” The bad guys will take advantage of this first, since governments will try unsuccessfully to control the process. Once that fails, we will see a massive breakout of self-help as military scale violence becomes accessible and ubiquitous. Once this happens, the nation-state itself will be an over-priced, unusable legacy system that not only fails at providing the core function of providing physical security, but obstructs it. We will have to move to a different arrangement entirely. Goodbye, Westphalia, you won’t be missed very much. The good guys will win but the process will be ugly. This was roughly what I predicted in my initial post, with a posited dissolution of the USA, followed by a networked regrouping of the successor entities

The New LedgerChris Albon and Craig Hooper A Second Great White Fleet

….After January’s earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. military and Coast Guard vessels transported supplies, provided security, and even conducted air traffic control for Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport. During the ongoing flooding in Pakistan, helicopters from U.S. warships have delivered critical food aid and airlifted thousands to safety. Both disasters presented a side of America that is too rarely seen on the world stage: young American men and women sent to aid beleaguered nations.

However, in both these cases the U.S. flotilla was ad hoc, assembled either by reassigning ships from more traditional duties or, as in the case of the hospital ship U.S.N.S. Comfort, deployed from port only through the Herculean efforts of her crew. There was no dedicated squadron trained and tasked for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. We should change this.

Thomas P.M. Barnett – Deep Reads: “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” (1979) & “Theodore Rex” (2001)

Anyone who’s read my history-of-America in “Great Powers” knows TR is the pivotal figure in so many ways, not the least of which being the profound influence he had on his cousin–FDR.

If you’re only going to read one, read the first, simply because the ride up is always more interesting than the time at the top. As soon as I read this book, I thought to myself, why isn’t there a big Hollywood movie of such a seminal figure in our history. Scorsese is making a movie of the book, with DiCaprio in the title role. Scorsese makes a lot of sense, because of the NYC connection.

Seydlitz89 – A Total War Doctrine Masquerading as Strategic Theory?

Here we see the distinction between the study of “war” and the study of “warfare”. War remains the same and a general theory may apply, whereas warfare is specific to the time and interaction in question. Each of the theorists I mention above – -including Clausewitz – dealt with both in their analyses, many times quoting Clausewitz or assuming a general theory foundation and then developing their own specific “art of warfare” based on military history/personal experience for their own epochs. It is this art of warfare for the particular epoch which in turn supplies the basis for military doctrine

John RobbJOURNAL: Koran Burning

An unexpected global event occurs.  What caused it?  The event was produced by an individual, relatively powerless by traditional standards.  However, since this is the 21st Century, this individual is able to use unfettered access to a global super-network to leverage and amplify his actions.  The event he creates disrupts established global social networks and puts them into turmoil.  That turmoil creates the opportunity and sustenance needed to activate dozens of small subnetworks/groups.  As these groups interact, a new dynamic is formed.  

  • Here’s an interesting theoretical question:  How long will it take for someone in the open source swarm forming around this, to surpass and replace Terry Jones now that a systempunkt has been both identified and proven to work?  His fumbling makes it possible for new entrants to run with this.  These efforts don’t meet the level necessary to surpass/trump the efforts of Jones, but they add to the confusion.  
  • Eide Neurolearning Blog –Risk-Taking and the Entrepreneur Brain

    ScienceDailyMental Maturity Scan Tracks Brain Development

    Current IntelligenceHannah Arendt and the Challenge of Modernity

    SWJ BlogHezbollah in South America

    That’s it!

    6 Responses to “Recommended Reading”

    1. onparkstreet Says:

      Re: John Robb’s excerpt:
      The event was amplified by many forces outside the individual. The individual – in a sense – is completely irrelevant. The individual acts in a way that resonates with larger forces and the more powerful among us. They direct attention.
      I guess what I am saying is that you don’t have to play. You don’t have to say a word. The event was not created by the individual. He’s still powerless unless the act fits a larger narrative and catches hold of the imagination.
      Hmmm, where am I going with this? 🙂
      – Madhu

    2. onparkstreet Says:

      Oh, yeah. Why did the more powerful allow themselves to be caught up in a global act of theater? They should have refused the theater tickets and stayed home with a nice novel.
      – Madhu

    3. zen Says:

      Hi Doc Madhu,
      "Oh, yeah. Why did the more powerful allow themselves to be caught up in a global act of theater?"
      Good question. You raised it the other night but we did not delve. Here’s my take:
      The reason the powerful took the bait is because the scenario was "bait" to them; it played viscerally into their deep-seated prejudices, anxieties and challenged their professed political pieties. So they reacted rather than thought. That’s how most ppl, even highly educated and intelligent folk go through life, on autopilot.
      The minister was a redneck from a white clapboard, po’ white trash, born-again, perhaps a Holy Roller (charismatic) Christian denomination in the cultural context of the deep South. In the elite worldview, he’s a villainous caricature. Burning a Koran ( or any book) is a gesture of rage or hatred, not an argument, which violates elite sense of discourse but most importatly the tenets of multiculturalism which has a moral calculus that is weighted by race, gender and degree of "victimhood" much the way Marxists used class to mete out "revolutionary justice".
      Personally, to me burning a book is a fascist act but there is something deeply troubling about the elite worldview that 100 x more attention was given by them to this minister with a Koran that didn’t burn than was given to the little girls that radical Islamists burned alive.  Or gassed. Or doused with acid.
      Are ppl who conflate all Muslims with Islamist terrorists making a grevious error ( and driving normal Muslims toward radicals) and committing slander? Sure. But the intellectual flip side to that Islamophobia is the unending special pleading Islamophilia on behalf of the acts of Islamist monsters that the world would not condone from any other group.

    4. Thoughts from seydlitz89 « The Committee of Public Safety Says:

      […] It was like being linked by Ashton Kutchner. Then seydlitz89 linked to Lex’s post, Zenpundit linked to seydlitz89′s post, and Lex replied to […]

    5. onparkstreet Says:

      On a related note, I call out for your – or your readers – expertise in the following post:
      – Madhu

    6. onparkstreet Says:

      Thanks for responding, zen. I learned a lot from that thread.

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