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Recommended Reading

Top billing SWJ- (Munson) Q&A with Owen West: Advisors in Iraq and (Elkus) A Critical Perspective on Operational Art and Design Theory 

Two very different, but must-read pieces. Owen West comes off in his interview as incisive and provocative while Adam Elkus tackles the murkily defined concept of Design and it’s relationship with Operational Art:

….Design is conceptually linked, though not identical to, operational art. But what is operational art? Ideas of operational art and the alleged “operational level of war” are heavily contested in military doctrine and theory. The preeminent questions guiding the study and practice of the operational art have hardly been resolved. Is operational art a cognitive process that links tactics to strategy, as Huba Wass de Czege has argued? Or is the operational level an empirically valid evolution in the structure of the military art? James J. Schneider has observed a qualitative difference in pre-industrial warfare, governed by concentration into a small space to achieve tactical effect, and the industrial practice of distributed campaigns and massed firepower. Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive. Operational art could be both cognitive device and historical fact. But Schneider, and landpower specialists like Christopher Bellamy discuss landpower in strikingly different terms than Wass de Czege, emphasizing the physical element of operational art over the cognitive emphasis of campaign planning. 

Line of Departure (Mike Few)Finding Niebuhr

Mike Few returns to the blogosphere with a guest post on the complex and deeply influential theologian and public intellectual, Reinhold Niebuhr:

The Serenity Prayer was penned by Reinhold Niebuhr, the most influential American theologian of the 20th Century.  Originally a German-American socialist and pacifist  who spent his youth striving for social justice for factory workers of Detroit’s auto plants, Niebuhr in his middle years became a liberal interventionist.

He advocated armed American intervention to defeat the evil of Nazi Germany.  In his silver years, he also provided the philosophical and moral bedrock of America’s containment policy against the Soviet Union.  As such, the Calvinist evangelical preacher helped to articulate the meaning of our nation’s new-found political, economic, and social power in the mid-20th Century.

For a generation of Cold Warriors, Niebuhr became a trusted counsel, explaining to them just war theory, the meaning of freedom and the need for social justice, both here and abroad.

A key architect of the Truman Doctrine, American diplomat George Kennan rightly proclaimed  Niebuhr “the Father of us all.” The Rev. Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail that Niebuhr’s gift to us was the terse reminder that ultimately “groups are more immoral than individuals.”

TechCrunchInterview: John Robb | TechCrunch 

….Drones. Robots are transforming the US military and warfare. I’m a former military pilot. I have seen first hand what drones are doing to the Air Force. Already more than half of all of the people going through pilot training end up flying drones. There are more military drones flying right now than manned planes. We’ve also seen the development of the last manned fighter (the F-35) and I doubt anybody anywhere will produce a new one. Around the world, drones are being deployed permanently (eliminating the need for soldiers) and they are being used frequently (they kill thousands). Unfortunately, this makes sense. Drones are nearly costless. They don’t generate any public push back (no US casualties) and they are much less expensive than people (no retirement/health/etc.). They can also be controlled from Washington. What makes them really scary is how fast they are becoming autonomous, smaller, and less expensive. It’s easy to envision a 10 million drone swarm pacifying a 30 m person city in 20 years time (completely controlled by just a few people at the top).

Cheryl Rofer –We Need Some Disruptive Thinking Here 

….Kissinger and Scowcroft’s first three points are straight out of Herman Kahn: strategic stability, and second strike. Strategic stability is a concern, in the credibility of reductions. Their fourth point almost addresses this, but it is in the Kahnian mode. Verification is the basis for this credibility, but, rather than the uncertainty associated with the measurements, the methods are the primary concern. Credibility now lies in the status of warheads taken out of service. That means counting warheads and access to storage and decommissioning facilities, unthinkable in Kahn’s time.

Their point five would apply Kahnian logic to the up-and-coming nuclear powers: China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea. But until the United States and Russia come down to several hundred nuclear weapons, this is simply not an issue. The analysis may be worth doing, but it is hard to see how being in the same range of nuclear numbers would damage strategic stability. In any case, none of those countries poses a serious threat to the United States. And joining up together? Please.

Diane Ravitch –NY State Education Department is a Problem and New York’s Bargain Basement Tests 

Corporate ed reform, with some exceptions, is largely a political fraud designed to re-route tax dollars to politically connected equity investor groups and testing companies; but in New York, under billionaire autocrat Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo, corporate ed reform is also an intellectual embarrassment.

Climate scientist journalist longs for a planetary dictatorship and gets a platform at Scientific American 

….Unfortunately, far more is needed. To be effective, a new set of institutions would have to be imbued with heavy-handed, transnational enforcement powers. There would have to be consideration of some way of embracing head-in-the-cloud answers to social problems that are usually dismissed by policymakers as academic naivete. In principle, species-wide alteration in basic human behaviors would be a sine qua non, but that kind of pronouncement also profoundly strains credibility in the chaos of the political sphere. Some of the things that would need to be contemplated: How do we overcome our hard-wired tendency to “discount” the future: valuing what we have today more than what we might receive tomorrow? Would any institution be capable of instilling a permanent crisis mentality lasting decades, if not centuries? How do we create new institutions with enforcement powers way beyond the current mandate of the U.N.? Could we ensure against a malevolent dictator who might abuse the power of such organizations?


Talk about self-referential cluelessness.

Feral JundiPublications: Selective Privatization Of Security: Why American Strategic Leaders Choose To Substitute PSC’s For National Military Forces, By Bruce Stanley

….This study argues that when political leaders chose to reduce their nation’s military force structure, they may face conflicts beyond their anticipated scope and duration. Such decision- makers are left with no choice but to legalize and legitimize the use of PMCs resulting in the increased use of PMCs as a deliberate tool of foreign policy. Using “supply-demand” theory as the theoretical approach, this dissertation built upon the three key influences emphasized first by Singer (2003) and then by others: the decreasing supply of national troops, decreasing national defense budgets, and the rising demand from global conflicts and humanitarian emergencies.

The Creativity PostHow Geniuses Think | The Creativity Post 

National Defense MagazineToo Much Information, Not Enough Intelligence 

Nick Carr –A debate on the substance of nothing 

Ribbonfarm –Can Hydras Eat Unknown-Unknowns for Lunch? 

That’s it.



One Response to “Recommended Reading”

  1. @shooteyeout Says:

    The internet changes everything.Why read Clauswitz when I can look up 100 different points of view on the same thing and have a computer sort them according to probability? Can I use Zen as part of that? 😉

    We are learning about what the brain is now. It is not a fixed design that works one way. It changes all the time throughout our lives. There are physical changes in the brain of people that use the internet compared to those who do not. The brain is plastic.

    War and military is a concept, a way of thinking. It may be based on ancient hard wired emotional instincts buried in the brain by evolution, but the cognitive analysis on top of that is only a way of processing information – and that processing is extended far beyond just one person or just one leader now. Militaries can no longer control the information that soldiers get realtime. The soldier has the political analysis of his actions on his smartphone now. He/she talks by video conferencing via things like Skype to his/her family all the time. Soldiers today think differently than in 1945 or 1975 or 1985, reading 18th century philosphers is something for entertainment and a class in collage about how brains thought 300 years ago in different times. 


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