Sunday, December 30, 2007

Underwriter Warfare

I've been reading The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World by Frank Lambert and came across this example of economic warfare by the British. Everything old is new again.

In late 1784 and early 1785, while deploying a naval squadron to patrol the Mediterranean and thereby protect His Majesty's shipping, the British circulated reports that the Algerines had captured an American ship and planned to seize others. Though the reports proved groundless, the damage to American shipping was real and immediate. One Henry Martin explained to Jefferson, "In consequence of these reports, the underwriters at Lloyd's will not insure an American Ship to Cadiz or Lisbon for less than 25 percent whereas the customary insurance for English vessels is no more that 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 percent and therefore no American Ship has any chance of getting freight either to Spain or Portugal." America and the Barbary States confronted each other in the shadows of the Union Jack.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I've discovered this new thing I like to call "the internet"

NOTE: In Feb. 2008 I attended a talk by Jeffrey Gedmin that gave me more insight into his thinking beyond the quote in this article. This quote left me thinking that he was out of touch, but after listening to his talk I realized that that was not the case, he has a clear understanding of the media situation we are dealing with.

OpinionJournal has an excellent article by Matthew Kaminski on the US government's broadcasting (RFE/RL, Radio Farda, etc). The article is long and worth reading in its entirety, but I'm going to pick out one thing that really had me shaking my head:

Mr. Gedmin [president of RFE/RL] says the radio needs to push further into cell phone texting, podcasts and other new technology to deliver its programming. He hired a new editor for its dowdy Internet site.

With the crackdown on independent voices in Vladimir Putin's Russia, the Russian-language Radio Liberty will have to find new ways to broadcast radio, television and written news and analysis into the country through the Web.

"The Russians are kicking us off the air," Mr. Gedmin says. "Pretty soon we're going to have to go to an Internet strategy. If we get it right, it could be the refuge for liberal thought in Russia."

Got that? 2008 is right around the corner and "Pretty soon we're going to have to go to an Internet strategy." Are you effin kidding me? We should have had an internet strategy 10 years ago. This is a perfect example of why I started thinking in terms of the strategic citizen. We cannot rely on these government bureaucracies to adapt quickly enough to changes in technology. We cannot rely on them to think creatively about strategic communication. Therefore they cannot be relied upon to contribute significantly to the current war of ideas. Oh they'll continue plugging along doing the same kind of news shows they've been doing for the past 50 years. But they will not be innovators, rather like other industrial age media organizations they will stick to their outdated methods until change is forced upon them. Strategic citizens offer the only effective way to keep up with the pace of change.

Fortunately the article also includes a couple of paragraphs about a strategic citizen-type of organization, Layalina Productions:

Layalina is dedicated to bridging the growing divide between the Arab world and the United States by fostering cultural, educational, and professional dialogues through effective television programming.
Layalina Productions, Inc. was inaugurated in March 2002 as a §501(c)(3) non-profit, private sector corporation.

Layalina develops and produces informative and entertaining Arabic-language programming for licensing to satellite and cable television networks throughout the Arab Middle East and North Africa. 

Layalina's programming consists of debate, drama, entertainment and educational shows that forthrightly address the most controversial issues affecting U.S.-Arab relations.

Produced in the United States and throughout the Arab world, our shows largely air in primetime on pan-Arab free-to-air satellite television networks. Layalina's programming thus reaches a target audience of tens of millions of viewers. 

Hollywood's best develop our programming with input from our Program Production Advisory Board. We recruit top talent from the U.S. and the Arab world. Our Academy® and Emmy® award-winning writers, producers, and directors work alongside Arab and American television broadcasters and industry leaders to ensure that our shows are culturally appropriate. 

Layalina's efforts represent the first private sector initiative to establish new lines of communication and dialogue with citizens and key opinion leaders throughout the Arab world. We realize that no single television program or series will immediately alter increasingly hardening attitudes, but America cannot afford to forfeit the terrain in the battle of ideas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Citizen Diplomacy

It's good to see the citizen self-mobilization meme continuing to spread:

When will we realize that reversing these dangerous trends is not a one-person job? In fact, unless exponentially more American citizens appreciate their own responsibilities for U.S. public diplomacy, no undersecretary — no matter how talented or well-connected — will make real progress.
Government packaging cannot do what ordinary citizens can do: build understanding and mutual respect, irrespective of the person in the undersecretary for public diplomacy's chair, or even in the Oval Office. Mrs. Hughes conveyed this when she stated: "We must empower our most important international asset: individual American citizens." Citizen diplomacy is the concept that, in a vibrant democracy, the individual citizen has the right — even the responsibility — to help shape U.S. foreign affairs. Citizen diplomats are people who recognize that by reaching out to people around the globe, we can make the world a better, safer, more compassionate place, one handshake at a time.
Citizen diplomacy consists of ordinary folks reaching out internationally — not in the service of a government campaign, but with private- and public-sector support for their own efforts.It involves engaging communities abroad honestly, respectfully acknowledging human differences and appreciating common human aspirations. It involves building trust and understanding one person at a time. Citizen diplomacy includes inviting foreign visitors into our homes, schools and offices. Itwelcomes learning about other cultures, countries and religions. Citizen diplomacy strengthens our communities, our nation and our international relations.

Whether we are students befriending an international scholar in a college classroom, business representatives who take the time to learn about the customs and protocol of another nation or athletes welcoming a foreign teammate, we can make a difference.
So while we lose another undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs in Washington, we gain a new citizen diplomat in Texas. We welcome Citizen Diplomat Karen Hughes.

We hope she will focus attention on and participate in various citizen diplomacy organizations hard at work in her home state known for its expansiveness and hospitality. We hope she will choose to host international visitors or foreign students at her home, foster global service, build international business ties, support contributions to global scholarship and science or counterterrorism through international exchange. As a private citizen, she can make a difference.

Via Small Wars Journal

A Post-Scientific Society?

Our civilization is going through a period significant change that will have a transformative effect on every aspect of our society, at this point however we can only glimpse the general outlines of how these changes will play out. Will these changes result in the US becoming a Post-Scientific Society?

A post-scientific society will continue to use the latest in scientific discoveries, theories, and data as the foundation for innovation and change. However, producing new science at home will give way to using new science that is developed elsewhere. The new science that underlies innovation in a post-scientific society will often appear in U.S. organizations not as data and theory but as knowledge embodied in devices, components, systems, and routines obtained from anywhere else in the world. A post-scientific society will need fewer researchers than a scientific society, and fewer young people will be drawn into scientific fields by the promise of exciting opportunities and excellent salaries. Firms in a post-scientific society will hire fewer scientific professionals than in the past, and their role will be more to serve as translators and exploiters of new science than as original contributors to the body of scientific knowledge. Firms will reduce their commitments to long-term basic research and will depend more on third-party providers of new knowledge.

In the post-scientific society, the creation of wealth and jobs based on innovation and new ideas will tend to draw less on the natural sciences and engineering and more on the organizational and social sciences, on the arts, on new business processes, and on meeting consumer needs based on niche production of specialized products and services in which interesting design and appeal to individual tastes matter more than low cost or radical new technologies.

Businesses will not succeed in the post-scientific society by adopting a fast-follower strategy, seeking to emulate the products first brought to market by firms in other countries. Rather, success will arise in part from the disciplined search for useful new knowledge that, regardless of its origins, can be integrated with intimate knowledge of cultures and consumer preferences. Networks of highly creative individuals and collaborating firms will devise and produce complex new systems that meet human needs in unexpectedly new and responsive ways.

In the post-scientific society, producing new science at home will give way to using new science that is developed elsewhere.

The emergence of a post-scientific society in the United States is, in a sense, simply the latest working out of the logic of comparative advantage among nations. The United States remains a world leader at doing basic scientific research. However, when the costs of doing research in the United States are compared with doing it elsewhere, much of its advantage is lost. Some of the comparative advantage of other countries in conducting science arises from currency misalignments and from government actions, but even accounting for these market interventions, it is often less expensive to do science-world-class science-in other countries.

As more and more nations have achieved a medium-to high stage of political and economic development, they have been able to establish the necessary conditions in which scientific research can thrive. These include stable infrastructures for energy, telecommunications, water, and sanitation; a high-quality educational system for at least some of its people; a commitment to challenging the status quo; a source of funds; and a reasonably stable political culture. Bright people are a natural resource everywhere, and if the conditions listed above exist, science can thrive. Throughout the post-World War II period, the United States and other nations, as well as the major international development organizations, have worked to strengthen scientific infrastructures in many countries. It is now becoming apparent that those efforts, as well as the substantial efforts made by developing countries on their own, have been successful in many places.
The positive side of the transition to a post-scientific society story is that the United States has increasingly turned its attention to matters that are more complex than fundamental science. It is moving up the scale of intellectual and societal complexity by specializing in activities that require the integration of all knowledge and capabilities to better serve the needs of individuals, families, companies, communities, and society as a whole. It still needs to be able to understand and use the fruits of scientific research, wherever it is done, and it will continue to need a significant number of active scientists and other researchers working at the frontiers of knowledge. In key areas where it maintains a solid lead, as in fields of biomedical science, its incredible investments and deep intellectual infrastructure may suffice to enable it to dominate the research activities of other countries. Yet, even in biomedicine, it is increasingly clear that improving the quality of life for the majority of people involves not just applying sophisticated science-based medicine but also the integration of multiple disciplines concerned with human health, from nutrition to exercise physiology to gerontology to social work.

Beyond the question of support for and conduct of science, however, the post-scientific society involves something much more. This is becoming a society in which cutting-edge success depends not on specialization, but on integration- on synthesis, design, creativity, and imagination.
It would be overreaching to argue that the United States has completed the transition to a post-scientific society. Instead, as with all such transitions in the past, the characterization of cultural eras is a statement about the leading edge of social and economic development. Just to highlight the point, although we ordinarily think of the Stone Age as the time before our prehistoric ancestors discovered metals, we continue to build in stone to this day and are proud of it. Likewise, if we have left behind the agricultural age, the machine age, and the age of steam, we still grow food, use machines, and depend on steam for our well-being. We will continue to need and nurture science, but it will, like the dominant cultural developments that preceded it, recede into the background as a necessary but no longer defining characteristic of our age.
Higher education is beginning to respond to the demands for new kinds of programs to meet the needs of students and employers interested in multidimensional, multidisciplinary educational experiences. For example, an increasing number of universities are offering degrees and concentrations in fields such as information technology, multimedia production, entrepreneurship, service science, innovation studies, creativity, and other cross-disciplinary fields. Whereas just a couple of decades ago universities tended to treat interdisciplinary work as an intrusion into the "real" work of the institution's disciplinary departments, today the ability to inspire and lead such work has become a standard expectation of university administrators. Companies are stepping up the hiring of social and behavioral scientists, artists, designers, and poets.

Via EconLog

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Radio Warriors

I just started reading War of the Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War which I discovered via Mountainrunner's public diplomacy/info ops book list at Amazon.

For most of the cold war Western propaganda was subtle. The Americans soon learned that the brash frontal attack was less effective than the low-key approach of the British. The message was to convey not just a social system or politics or economics but a total culture. Russian Communists saw the dangers for them in the Radios' techniques of inspiring confidence by admission of the faults of the West and the development of a tolerant and neutral reaction toward gentle criticism of socialism. pop music and talk about consumer goods conveyed the message that life abroad was better and, thus, spread discontent and insecurity.
Communism wanted to make everything and everyone the same. But the Radios always emphasized individuality, variety, difference. They developed the critical faculties of their listeners. The Radios did not only convey information. They helped convey the concept of a civil society and of basic human values; they preserved a sense of national identity and made the connection with the broader cultural movement of Europe.

Newsweek on Al Qaeda's Media Strategy

Newsweek has an article on "Al Qaeda's Latest Media Strategy":

Behold the latest phase in Al Qaeda's media strategy. The shadowy terror network is offering up Ayman al-Zawahiri, to any journalists with questions for its No. 2 man. The invitation, issued by the group's media arm, As-Sahaab (The Cloud), came at the end of a 90-minute video message from Zawahiri, posted on one of the group's various militant Web pages.

In the statement, released Dec. 16, Zawahiri invites "individuals, agencies and all media" to submit written questions via one of As-Sahaab's Web forums. He calls upon the "brothers" who supervise the site "to collect the questions and transmit them without alteration, whether it is coming from someone who agrees or disagrees."
Recent messages from both Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri have specifically called on Americans to embrace Islam and turn against the governments they deem to be enemies of Islam.  Counterterrorism analysts say the offer of an online exchange with Zawahiri is part of its broader emphasis on connecting with new audiences. "While Al Qaeda has its own media institutions, it well understands that Western audiences don't necessarily tune into those sources of information," says Sawyer.   "Because of that, this allows them to reach Western audiences and it gives them some degree of legitimacy in terms of who the interviews are conducted with."

From Hizbullah to Al Qaeda, Islamic terrorist groups have commonly embraced the newest forms of communications technology to boost their access to potential recruits and spread their message to the largest possible constituency. In October 2005, Al Qaeda even used one of its Web sites to post a help-wanted ad for a job as a communications specialist. The job vacancy called for someone with exceptional English and Arabic skills able to collect and disseminate news on Iraq, including audio and video clips.

The strategy guiding jihadist Internet use was demonstrated when Al Qaeda's Saudi Arabian network, Muaskar al-Battar (Camp of the Sword), launched its Web site in January 2004. Its introductory message read: "In order to join the greatest training camps, you don't have to travel to other lands. Alone, in your home or with a group of your brothers, you too can begin to execute the training program. You can all join the Al-Battar Training Camps."  Jarret Brachman, a former CIA analyst now in the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point describes this as playing to the YouTube generation. "It completely fits Al Qaeda's communications strategy over the past two years, which is how to get people more invested in the movement."

Via Long War Journal

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Hey folks, just wanted to provide a status report since there hasn't been much blogging here recently. A few weeks ago I moved to the DC area and began a course in video/audio production and so I've been swamped with school, commuting and moving, which is why I haven't had a chance to blog. But there will be more blogging coming up, hopefully this weekend. And Cannoneer, I apologize for not responding to the request you left in the comments. I do have some general thoughts on the topic and will try to get them up when I get a chance. So the conversation will continue...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

On The Frontier

The frontier remains a place of archetypal significance for the American imagination. Although the combination of historical ignorance and the deliberate campaign to delegitimize the American enterprise have done serious damage to our cultural memory of what it took to build this country. Here are a few frontier memoirs that are worth reading:

The classic frontier hero of course was Daniel Boone. It wasn't until last year while browsing around the internet that I discovered that Boone had written an account of his experiences:
The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon: Formerly a Hunter: Containing a Narrative of the Wars of Kentucky originally published in 1784. This should be mandatory reading in elementary school.

Davy Crockett also wrote a memoir: A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett. (Haven't found an online version.) Crockett was apparently no fan of Andrew Jackson and the book is peppered with snarky comments about Jackson.

Project Gutenberg is one of the great online resources. They have online versions of two books by William Drannan recounting his experiences in the West:

Thirty-one Years on the Plains and Mountains Or, The Last Voice From the Plains. An Authentic Record of a Life time of Hunting, Trapping, Scouting and Indian Fighting in the Far West

Chief of Scouts: As Pilot to Emigrant and Government Trains, Across the Plains of the
Wild West of Fifty Years Ago

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rebranding Russia

We have a lot of catching up to do. More than 6 years after 9/11 and we still don't have an IO-political warfare-strategic communication effort going, and that's just for the radical Muslims. So how are we going to deal with the Russians? My argument is that Strategic Citizens should step up and take action, since our government isn't willing or capable of waging the kind of IO campaign that is required. But citizens seem to be even less interested than the bureaucrats. It seems that we are running on fumes, but the Russians appear to be grasping the social netwar/4GW/IO/Strategic Communication/Meme War stuff:

So how is Russia being rebranded? In a February 2006 speech, Vladislav Surkov, Putin's deputy chief of staff and main ideologist, laid out much of the vision.

Addressing activists from the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, Surkov said the collapse of communism had led to a "deformed democracy" dominated by a corrupt oligarchy and susceptible to Western efforts to weaken and exploit Russia. Putin's election in 2000, Surkov argued, was the first step toward recovery.

But the West and its sympathizers inside Russia, he continued, are unhappy with this revival -- and intent on overthrowing the Kremlin leadership using methods similar to those of Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution. Surkov ominously warned about "the soft conquering of Russia" by the West, with the help of "orange technologies" in a time of "decreased national immunity to foreign influence."

In such an environment, Western-style democracy and an open free-market economy would leave Russia unacceptably vulnerable to the machinations of Western governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational corporations. To protect Russia's independence, Surkov argued for a statist and nationalist political system that he called "sovereign democracy" -- with the emphasis clearly on sovereign. "Sovereignty," Surkov said, "is the political synonym of competitiveness."
Underlying all of this is the message that Russia is a force to be reckoned with after being victimized by the West throughout the 1990s, and -- flush with energy wealth and the influence it buys -- it can and will vigorously defend its interests.

To that end, the Kremlin was quick to hire the Western public relations agency Ketchum in 2006, during Russia's critical tenure at the helm of the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrialized nations.

A Ketchum executive at the time described the firm's mandate as "not changing Russian policy, but helping on the presentational side" -- lifting the veil on Western media techniques, logistics, and web materials. In a year when Russia was dogged by complaints about its aggressive energy policy, its G8 chairmanship emerged as a solid, well-managed highlight.

"The Kremlin's principal intention at this time is to show a resurgent Russia in a multipolar world, a world in which Russia is confident," says Steven Lock, who heads the Russia office for the Mmd public relations firm. The upcoming publicity storm likely to surround the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi is just one example, he notes, adding, "'Brand Russia' will be as sophisticated about promoting itself as Russian companies have become about promoting themselves."
In shaping this virtual reality, Putin's strategists rely on many traditional tools, like near-total control of the broadcast media, careful management of the news cycle, and strict message discipline among officials.

They also have become adept at using carefully choreographed set pieces -- manufactured conflicts, subterfuge, provocations, and diversions to influence the general climate of opinion at home and abroad and to make it more fertile for the Kremlin's preferred message.

But this is not your father's Soviet propaganda machine. Gone are the presenters in boxy gray suits, the monotone cadences, and poor production value that characterized communist-era news broadcasts. Such an approach would fall flat in today's Russia, where an increasing number of people are plugged into a global media culture. "In the society of the spectacle, your spectacle has to be spectacular," says Andrew Wilson, author of "Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World."
Today's news anchors on Russia's state-controlled television channels are young, their outfits hip, the sets modern, and the production top-rate. Putin's message may be a bit retro, but his medium is big, shiny, and high-tech. Analysts say the Kremlin has become frighteningly good at conjuring up its own version of reality and selling it to the Russian public -- and, to an extent, the outside world -- to serve its own political ends.
A good example is a prime-time documentary aired on state-controlled Rossiya television on September 30. The report, titled "" -- or "" -- alleged that the CIA was planning to overthrow the Kremlin elite with an Orange Revolution-style uprising in Russia.

"To the West's great pleasure, velvet revolutions have broken out over the course of the past five years throughout Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet space," journalist Arkady Mamontov said ominously as he introduced the report. "Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan. The next goal -- Moscow."

Mamontov's slickly produced report alleges that the CIA is at the epicenter of a massive conspiracy involving opposition groups like Garry Kasparov's Other Russia, pro-democracy youth organizations like Smena, NGOs like Freedom House, and the Western mass media to overthrow the Kremlin leadership.
The Kremlin's image-shaping efforts, however, go well beyond the traditional media.

A new generation of pro-Kremlin bloggers, for example, is being cultivated to spread Putin's word online -- and to rapidly disrupt the activities of Russia's opponents, both real and imagined.

When Kasparov's Other Russia held a rally in Moscow on April 14, for example, a group of pro-Kremlin bloggers from the Young Guard youth movement flooded the Internet with reports of a smaller pro-regime demonstration on the same day. In doing so, they crowded out postings about the opposition march on Russia's top web portals -- creating a virtual news blackout in one of the last refuges of free media in the county. Pavel Danilin, the pro-Putin blogger who spearheaded the effort bragged to "The Washington Post" that his team "played it beautifully."

"The authorities are developing pro-presidential websites and they aren't even all that boring," says Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Moscow-based Panorama think tank. "The basic line is a pro-Putin personality cult and counterpropaganda."
The Kremlin is also becoming adept at using the blogosphere to manufacture convenient "facts" that they can use to shape their message. The first reference to Albright's comment about Siberia, for example, was posted by a blogger called "Nataly1001" back in 2005. The comments were then picked up by the Kremlin-controlled media -- including the government's own newspaper, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" -- and disseminated as fact.
In the late 1970s, he and his colleagues at the CIA were deeply concerned about an increasingly confident and assertive Soviet Union which -- for a time -- appeared to be winning the global information war with the West.

"In the late 70s we had a problem," Ermarth said. "The Soviet Union was feeling its oats, believing that the trends...were running in its favor," he said. "The U.S. was in retreat around the world because of Vietnam and related things. The Soviets had reached a new peak in strategic power. They were making money hand over fist with oil and gas."

Ermarth said Moscow sought to "parlay this into political coin" by provoking divisions within the Western alliance, by making inroads into Africa, Latin America, and Asia, and by "sanctimonious beating up on Washington in the name of peace."
Now, he adds, the United States and its allies have to "do battle" with Russia's current rebranding trend, by "poking holes in the narratives where it deserves that. Where the narrative is false. Where the narrative is dangerously pretentious."

But, Ermarth says, in contrast to the Cold War -- when the Soviet Union was at the center of the West's foreign-policy universe -- Washington is currently devoting precious few resources to combating Moscow's information offensive.

"In order to have a coherent policy for dealing with this meta-narrative, you've got to have a comprehensive, coherent understanding [of it]," Ermarth said. "And I would say we haven't invested enough in building that understanding to know how to do this. Just standing up and saying the Russians are bullies on oil and gas, and they're just trying to pull our chain on ballistic missile defense, is not adequate."

Russia's "Quiet Cultural Revolution"

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has several good articles on the political maneuvering in Russia, Russia's Power Elite, Why the Chekist Mindset Matters and others, that tell an ongoing story that is far more interesting anything we've seen on the big screen in a long, long time. But what intrigues me is how the Putin apparatus is framing the narrative in its domestic and foreign IO campaigns:

The Soft-Power Foundations of Putin's Russia

But the real secret of the siloviki [Russian slang for members or veterans of the security services] is their massive and skillful use of "soft power." Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci noted that ruling classes secure their power over the governed not only through coercion, but also by manufacturing their consent by establishing "cultural hegemony" over the national consciousness. Over the last decade, the siloviki in Putin's Russia have provided a textbook example of the practical implementation of this seemingly abstract idea.

Over the last decade, the siloviki waged a "quiet cultural counterrevolution" with tremendous effect. They worked to systematically devalue and compromise liberal values, standards, and institutions -- values that had massive public support in the early 1990s. The main tools of this counterrevolution were the state-controlled national television networks, pro-Kremlin intellectuals, the Russian Orthodox Church, and pseudo-independent public groups and youth organizations.

At the same time, the Russian airwaves have been filled with hundreds of films, serials, documentaries, and news reports about how the chekisty (a word formed from the acronym for the original Soviet secret police that is used to describe people tied to the former KGB or other security organs) past and present are fighting against "enemies of Russia" and exposing the plots of Western intelligence services. Much of this material is of Soviet vintage, but a large and growing percentage was produced under Putin.

Mimicking the KGB, the Federal Security Service (FSB) in 2006 established its own national awards for works in the visual arts, cinema, literature, and journalism "creating with great artistry a positive image of the state-security officer." As for books, works extolling the KGB and its successor organizations clearly dominate over those that deal with the crimes of the communist era or the KGB. In recent years, some of Russia's energy revenues have been used to finance a growing number of new films in this genre as well.

The results of these efforts are clear in changing public attitudes and contribute to the popularity of Putin himself and his silovik administration. Today's youth, born after the fall of communism, realize that becoming a chekist is a prestigious and profitable career path. There were reportedly 10 applicants for every slot this fall at the FSB's main training academy.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Covert Political Operations

On covert political operations from A Short Course in the Secret War by Christopher Felix:

It is a misfortune that most of what has been written about secret operations is concerned almost exclusively with intelligence operations and their related functions. The result is a very misleading picture of the secret war--sometimes effecting even those actively engaged in it. For the central and decisive battles of the secret war are fought in the vast realm of covert political operations...

Secret intelligence is essential, indispensable; it is also, a previously pointed out, inseparable from political operations. But it is not, and should not be allowed to become an end in itself. The ultimate national aim in the secret war is not simply to know. It is to maintain or to expand national power and to contain or to reduce the enemy's power; it is the exercise of power, itself a dynamic and not a static thing.
The exercise of power, the transformation of intelligence and policy into power by means of action, takes place daily and visibly in strategic policy, economic policy, diplomacy, defense, propaganda--all the overt aspects of international relations. It also takes place daily, but invisibly, in the secret war in the form of covert political operations.

The range, both functional and geographical, of secret political operations is almost unlimited.
The first great post-Second World War engagement between East and West in the sphere of covert political operations was the Italian national elections of April 1948. With all of Eastern Europe already in the Soviet grasp, with civil war raging in Greece, the West awoke to the fact that Italy could be lost to the Soviets by political action. Hastily improvised operations, a number of which could barely be dignified by the adjective covert--certainly the vigorous speaking tours of the American Ambassador to Italy were anything but covert--narrowly saved Italy for the West that year...
...the secret war is not waged by intelligence agents, but by agents whose function is, in the broadest sense, political.

The functional range of covert political operations is so vast as to defy listing. It runs from the simple, obvious "spontaneous demonstration"--in Tokyo or Caracas, in New York or New Dehli--through the quarrels of an international labor organization, the speeches at an international conference of intellectuals, the resolutions of a congress of lawyers, the organizational maneuvers of churchmen, the patient and persistent pressures of exiles, and a staggering variety of publications, to the Viet Cong guerrilla hidden in the jungles of South Vietnam and a Cuban prisoner captured at the Bay of Pigs.
These varied activities have a common political objective: the organization, exploitation, and direction of existing human passions and purposes so that they contribute, no matter how indirectly, to the fortunes of one or the other side in conflict. It is the substance of power, wherever and in whatever form it may exist, which the political agent pursues, recognizing that all organized or social human activity has a political content and significance.

If this seems obscure it is because of general acceptance of a too narrow definition of what is "political." As used in covert political operations, "political" is not limited to the complex of activities surrounding the gaining and holding of public office, of the constitutionally designated seats of power. It refers instead to a much wider concept--to politics as the general and infinitely varied struggle for and the exercise of power in human society. Under this concept all organized or social human activity represents potential or actual power ultimately transformable into control of the state and society.

To claim that the scholar, the artist, the philosopher are apolitical is to deny the interrelation between human thought and action...By the same token, the allegation that the businessman with foreign investments is apolitical because he "doesn't mix in politics" is naive and implies two things which are patently untrue: that national wealth is not part of national power, and that the businessman will under no circumstances seek his government's protection for his business.
It is this political--in the broad sense of power--characteristic of all organized and social human activity which imposes the extraordinary variety of secret political operations. My own diverse but not unusual experience in this field has run the gamut from organizing a literary evening in New York to directing the operation of a clandestine radio transmitter; from providing speakers for five different groups in the same national election to arranging for a gift to an important tribal leader; from organizing a political committee of exiles for the infiltration and invasion of their native land to reorganizing the same group some years later to eliminate their military activities; from supervising a dozen publications in half a dozen languages to rewriting a manifesto; from persuading twelve men representing as many different nationalities to agree on a single point to working a resolution through a congress of three hundred men representing thirty-five different nations; from subsidizing summer camps for children to running an escape chain out of Soviet-occupied territory.
The heart of the secret war in our time, however, lies in the political conflict. Intelligence is essential and cannot for a moment be neglected. But we advance or we retreat, we make gains or suffer losses in proportion to our mastery of the details of the political struggle--meaning the living characteristics of men, the ever-changing human relationships within and among societies, from which flow the tides of power.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Blast from the Past: Clinton on Iraq

It's interesting how the Democrats do a 180 once they are no longer in the White House. As I said to some of my liberal friends a few years ago, I could justify the Iraq war solely with the words of Democrats.

Leaving the Left

One of the interesting phenomena I've discovered while hoboing through the blogosphere is the large number of people who have been moving away from the Left. Everybody has their own story and they are all tales of an emerging awareness and the discovery of a new way of thinking about and experiencing the world. Two and a half years ago Keith Thompson wrote a powerful essay in the San Francisco Chronicle called Leaving the Left that described his philosophical transformation. Later he wrote a book, Leaving the Left: Moments in the News that Made Me Ashamed to be a Liberal from which the following quote is taken:

There's another option. We are free at any time to leap off the left-right line altogether and begin making political choices liberated from the gravity of the ideological continuum, whose pull turns out to be surprisingly escapable.

But as with any freedom, there is a corresponding responsibility. Before leaping it is crucial to know what you value, important to honor what you understand to be true, wise to stay open to surprises and unexpected opportunities for learning. For myself, I departed the left-right line with new clarity about the brilliance of liberal democracy and the value system it entails, the quest for liberty as intrinsically human, and the dangers of demands for adherence to any point of view through silence, fear, or coercion.

And it was only in the wake of leaving that I realized that I had broken away from the conformist imperatives of my hometown for precisely the same reason.

Liberal is one of the most problematic terms around these days. The word comes from the Latin word liberalis, meaning "free, befitting a free person." It also means "independent," which is why I refuse to abandon it just because it has become synonymous in the popular mind with its antithesis: schemes for social engineering that issue from elite organizations with self-important initials...

Classical liberalism emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as a political philosophy that embraces individual rights and responsibilities, including the right to own and maintain private property against continuous government encroachment. At the heart of the original liberalism endures a commitment to tolerance, reason, and self-determination, and a belief that within each person there exists an unassailable right to be free from compulsion. George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine risked their lives to create a system of government that places freedom at the core of its concerns and that employs the force of law to secure that freedom from subjugation and tyranny. They believed in the pursuit of happiness as something very much akin to an adventure, and they understood that government decrees to guarantee happiness invariably serve to penalize achievers while keeping the poorest among us reliant on minimal subsistence...

So I'm standing by my original choice: liberalism of the original, non-left kind. Among other things, this means that the Madison [Wis.] correspondent I mentioned in my Preface, who accused me of selling out, was quite right. Indeed, I've sold all my shares in a worldview that fosters tribal identity and group privilege and bitter communal division in the name of diversity. I've liquidated my stock in a philosophy that empowers a guardian state to encourage learned helplessness and endless class warfare, in the name of equality. I have divested all holdings in the pathological school of pluralism that scorns individual initiative, free enterprise, logic, the Enlightenment, science, Judeo-Christian values, the possibility of objective knowledge, and the necessity of personal responsibility.

The classic liberalism that makes me hopeful for my country's future is one that celebrates the creative power of intrinsic inner intent as the prime factor in individual excellence and cultural innovation. In the final analysis, genuine freedom is not caprice but room to enlarge, to change course midway, to set out on unexpected roads that emerge just past the next bend. This is possible only in a nation where the continuous inability to reach a final destination is the most compelling reason to keep setting out.

"It is not enough to affirm my liberty by choosing 'something,' " wrote Thomas Merton. "I must choose something good." I choose a new kind of human society that generates a new kind of human being, committed to a universalist standard of one right, one law, one nation for all. I choose the greatest, freest, most generous nation in existence. I choose something good. America.

Today's Quote: Counterinsurgency and the War of Ideas

Insurgency is ultimately a war of ideas. An insurgency grows based on its ability to convince fighters to risk their lives against a conventionally superior opponent and survives in the face of a stronger enemy only because it is able to convince or coerce the people to provide it with what it needs to fight: weapons, ammunition, food, money and most important concealment and cover among the civilian population. Recognizing this fact, successful counterinsurgents have devoted as much effort to defeating the enemy's propaganda as they have to defeating his fighters. Winning the war of ideas has often been the decisive line of operations in successful counterinsurgency campaigns.

The United States has not done an adequate job of explaining to the American people, to its allies overseas and, most important, to the people of Iraq and of the broader Islamic world what we are fighting for in Iraq and what we hope to achieve there. Nature abhors a vacuum, and insurgents love one; they have filled the airwaves and the Internet with their versions of the truth and have found willing listeners worldwide. In the words of the defense secretary, "Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part we, our country, our government, has not."
A country that can turn multimedia political advertisements within 24 hours in a presidential campaign should certainly be able to produce black-and-white posters within that same span of time showing the names and faces of Iraqi children slaughtered by terrorist bombers and begging for information to bring their murderers to justice.

During the Cold War, which was primarily an economic battle and only secondarily a military one, the United States Information Agency did yeoman's work winning hearts and minds behind the Iron Curtain. The global war that we are now fighting against radical Islamic extremists is primarily a war of ideas.

A dedicated corps of public affairs professionals funded and equipped to speak to Muslims in their own languages could over time help win the war of ideas by providing vital support to moderate Muslims. A more focused effort in Iraq can help convince the uncommitted but hopeful people of Iraq to provide the information we need to kill and capture those who are now murdering Iraq's future. Ideas are far cheaper than bullets and can be more effective.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

More Books

Last Saturday I was out doing more used-book shopping and came home with an armload of books. If you are in the DC area head over to Gaithersburg, MD to the Book Alcove. They are having a 50% off sale and there's a lot of good stuff to buy. They are trying to reduce inventory so I suspect the sale will last for a while. I bought:

Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America by John Earl Haynes & Harvey Klehr

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa by Rick Atkinson

We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder with the Marines Who took Fallujah by Patrick O'Donnell

Operatives, Spies and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of WW2's OSS by Patrick O'Donnell

The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944 by Will Irwin

Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America's First Shadow War by Colin Beavan

Salerno: A Military Fiasco by Eric Morris

The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution by Barnet Schecter

Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill by Richard Ketchum

The Business of America: Tales from the Marketplace--American Enterprise from the Settling of New England to the Breakup of AT&T by John Steele Gordon

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rolling Up Al Qaeda in Iraq's Media Cells

This is good news. Hopefully we will be able to keep this up:

"Since the surge began, we’ve uncovered eight separate al Qaeda media offices and cells, have captured or killed 24 al Qaeda propaganda cell members and have discovered 23 terabytes of information," said Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Forces Iraq in a press briefing. Most recently, four members of al Qaeda's al Furqan media cell in Mosul were captured, "including the media emir of Mosul, the former head of Mosul’s media cell who had established the al Qaeda communications hub in Baghdad, a foreign terrorist from Saudi Arabia who is proficient in video editing and special effects, and a computer graphics specialist," the Armed Forces Press Service reported. Cells have also been broken up in Baghdad, Diyala, Tarmiyah, Samarra, and Karma.

The Mosul cell members echoed recent statements made by Osama bin Laden on the dire situation in Iraq. "(They) have indicated that al Qaeda propaganda efforts have been degraded in recent months,” Smith said. "There is almost nothing left of (al Qaeda in Iraq)."
The video editor and graphics technician are the lowest ranking and most easily replaceable members of the media cells, according to Nick Grace, the host of Global Crisis Watch and an expert on al Qaeda's media operations, in an interview with The Long War Journal. "The cell members are entry-level positions in al Qaeda's media wing, and start off in the field with al Furqan or al Fajr," said Grace. "If they show skills they may then graduate to work for As Sahab, al Qaeda's parent media organization, and work in Pakistan." Grace also noted the effort al Qaeda put into its propaganda programs and likened the city cells to local television news stations subordinate to US television networks.

The al Furqan Institute for Media Production, along with the al Fajr Media Center, is one of two al Qaeda media organizations that operate inside Iraq. A recent Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe study on insurgent media described al Furqan as "the primary media production center for ISI [Islamic State of Iraq]/Al Qaeda. It produces virtually all ISI/al Qaeda films, audio and videotaped addresses, and the ISI/al Qaeda-affiliated periodical Biographies Of Notable Martyrs. An al Qaeda-affiliated center, al Furqan distributes its products to websites through the al Fajr Media Center."
The scope of al Furqan's operations was highlighted during a raid on one of its offices in Samarra in June 2007. The cell "produced CDs, DVDs, posters, pamphlets, and web-related propaganda products and contained documents clearly identifying al Qaeda in Iraq's intent to use media as a weapon," said Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, a spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq during a briefing in July. "The building contained 65 hard drives, 18 thumb drives, over 500 CDs and 12 stand-alone computers. ... In all, this media center had the capacity of reproducing 156 CDs in an eight-hour period and had a fully functioning film studio."

US forces also found "a sampling of other propaganda documents: a letter that gives instructions on how to use the media to get out the al Qaeda message most effectively; an al Qaeda activity report highlighting car bomb, suicide, missile, mortar, sniping and IED attacks; a propaganda poster that encourages filming and distributing videos, showing al Qaeda attacks on coalition forces; and a pamphlet and a CD cover of their sniper school."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Still Marching

The long march through the institutions continues.

The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech.

“The University of Delaware’s residence life education program is a grave intrusion into students’ private beliefs,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The university has decided that it is not enough to expose its students to the values it considers important; instead, it must coerce its students into accepting those values as their own. At a public university like Delaware, this is both unconscionable and unconstitutional.”

The university’s views are forced on students through a comprehensive manipulation of the residence hall environment, from mandatory training sessions to “sustainability” door decorations. Students living in the university’s eight housing complexes are required to attend training sessions, floor meetings, and one-on-one meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs). The RAs who facilitate these meetings have received their own intensive training from the university, including a “diversity facilitation training” session at which RAs were taught, among other things, that “[a] racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.”

Via Instapundit

CRB: Winning the War of Ideas

Robert Reilly has an essay on how to wage the war of ideas and a critique of American public diplomacy over at the Claremont Review of Books:

American public diplomacy is in disarray. We are not winning—indeed, we are hardly waging—the war of ideas, and it is vitally important that we do, because in our war against the radical Islamists the final victory will take place not on the battlefield but in the minds of men.
First, in order to fight a war of ideas, one has to have an idea. This is not as simple as it may sound. A war of ideas is a struggle over the very nature of reality for which people are willing to die. Therefore, one must formulate the ideas that are so central to one's life that one is not willing to live without them. For a nation successfully to project such ideas, there must be a broad consensus within it as to what those ideas are.

Second, one cannot go into a war of ideas until one understands the ideas one is at war with. Such wars are always conducted in terms of moral legitimacy. The defense of one's ideas and the attack on those of the enemy are conducted with moral rhetoric. "Axis of evil" is a perfect example, as is "the great Satan." All moral differences are at root theological.

Third, wars of ideas, by definition, can only be fought by and with people who think. This defines the natural target audience for this war, the so-called "elites." The term "elite" is not determined by social or economic status, but by intellectual capabilities. Trying to use ideas to influence people who do not think is an exercise in futility. Such people are led and influenced by those who do think.

Fourth, along with a consistency of purpose, one must have the organizational and financial means for conducting a war of ideas over the course of generations. Ideas, when they are profound enough to form the basis of a civilization, or its negation, have a prolonged gestational period. K.P.S. Gill, India's foremost authority on counterterrorism, has said that, in Kashmir, radical Islamists taught their doctrines in madrassas for two decades before the occurrence of any terrorist acts. After this period of gestation, the war of ideas was already won in the minds of the students who then formed the cadre of Islamist terrorist organizations. The same is true in other parts of the Islamic world. The war of ideas requires institutions that are capable of countering this kind of indoctrination over similarly lengthy periods, i.e., decades.
The State Department should concentrate on the implementation of the broad range of the president's policies. Public diplomacy should concentrate on the longer-range goal of winning the war of ideas.

We need a central U.S. government institution within which policy, personnel, and budget can be deployed coherently to implement a multifaceted strategy to fight the war of ideas over an extended period of time. Without it, the U.S. will remain largely absent from the field. In this time of crisis, a new USIA-like organization should be created that can articulate and promulgate American ideals to the world and counter hostile propaganda. This new cabinet-level communications agency, independent of the State Department, the Defense Department, and the CIA, could maintain a strategic focus on aiding Muslim liberals and moderates, and not get lost in daily "spin" control. It would be staffed by people who know substantively what the "war of ideas" is about and have the regional expertise to operate across the Muslim world and in other vital regions. Its director should report to the president.

Currently, annual U.S. public diplomacy expenditures approximate McDonald's global budget for promoting its burgers. This is roughly half of what Saudi Arabia has spent yearly for the past two decades to spread Wahhabism throughout the Muslim world and here. This $1.4 billion (1/365th of the Pentagon's budget) is grotesquely inadequate and needs to be trebled for starters.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I'm going to be moving in a few weeks and have been absorbed in off-line activities and so I haven't had as much time for blogging. I'm moving back to the DC area again to study video/audio production. The goals are to improve upon my experience of producing audiobooks for the past couple of years to get a job, continue working on my business, do some kind of strategic citizen project, and maybe make a documentary film. So we'll see how that all works out. A lot of things are up in the air right now.

The day after posting about The Ghost Mountain Boys I was doing some used book shopping and found MacArthur's Jungle War: The 1944 New Guinea Campaign by Stephen Taaffe, which I read over the next few days. It is a good narrative of this forgotten campaign. If I have enough time I'll try to write something more about it.

Here are some good posts from around the blogosphere that are worth reading:

Counterpropaganda Techniques by Cannoneer No. 4.

The OSS Morale Operations Branch in Action, 1943-1945 posted by PurpleSlog.

The Ku Klux Klan Insurgency at Net Wars. The proprietor of this blog has gone off to Army officer training and so is not posting now, but there's a lot of good stuff in his archives.

I was a Card-Carrying Libertarian: Confessions of a Black Sheep Republican by Vodkapundit's Stephen Green.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Today's Quote: Tigerhawk on Modernity

I admit it, I love modernity. I've never been one to hanker for days of yore when life was simple, teeth were rotten, and lifespans were short. I remember thinking this way at least as far back as junior high school, when I read an essay by Isaac Asimov on the subject. He recounted having encountered somebody who said that he wished he lived in ancient Athens, to whom Asimov replied "Why would you want to be a slave in the Athenian silver mines?", or words to that effect. His point was obvious -- unless you are an aristocrat, there really is no better time and place than modernity.
Many Westerners, including most modern leftists (as opposed to the original Marxists), do not believe in "progress" in the sense that they believe that the human condition has changed rather than progressed. Worse, they often regard change as a bad thing, usually for reasons that strike me as romantic rather than thoughtful. This leads them to be cavalier about the value of such things as economic growth, the spread of technology, and the modernization of social institutions in the parts of the world that have not yet modernized. That leads them to campaign for social and economic policies that propose to slow down progress. Opposition to the idea of progress unites anti-globalization activists, "hair shirt" environmentalists, and ideological anti-Americans. This thinking explains, for example, why many left-wing environmental activists advocate solutions to climate change that will obviously crush economic growth. They just do not value it.

Yes, modernization is -- as a professor of mine once said -- "the universal social solvent." He meant that it blows apart traditional societies, and in that something is certainly lost. So much more is gained, though, that we should fight tooth and nail to sustain progress rather than put an end to it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Maritime Strategy

The Navy has released its new maritime strategy and Steeljaw Scribe has a very interesting post by the team leader of the development of the strategy describing how it was done.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Ghost Mountain Boys

The New Guinea campaign during World War 2 is one of the least known. So it was good to find The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea--The Forgotten War of the South Pacific by James Campbell and will definitely add it to my list:

Lying due north of Australia, New Guinea is among the world’s largest islands. In 1942, when World War II exploded onto its shores, it was an inhospitable, cursorily mapped, disease-ridden land of dense jungle, towering mountain peaks, deep valleys, and fetid swamps. Coveted by the Japanese for its strategic position, New Guinea became the site of one of the South Pacific’s most savage campaigns. Despite their lack of jungle training, the 32nd Division’s Ghost Mountain Boys were assigned the most grueling mission of the entire Pacific campaign: march 130 miles over the rugged Owen Stanley Mountains and protect the right flank of the Australian army as they fought to push the Japanese back to the village of Buna on New Guinea’s north coast.

Comprised of National Guardsmen from Michigan and Wisconsin, reserve officers, and draftees from across the country, the 32nd Division lacked more than training—they were without even the basics necessary for survival. The men were not issued the specialized clothing that later became standard issue for soldiers fighting in the South Pacific; they fought in hastily dyed combat fatigues that bled in the intense humidity and left them with festering sores. They waded through brush and vines without the aid of machetes. They did not have insect repellent. Without waterproof containers, their matches were useless and the quinine and vitamin pills they carried, as well as salt and chlorination tablets, crumbled in their pockets.
Exhausted and pushed to the brink of human endurance, the Ghost Mountain Boys fell victim to malnutrition and disease. Forty-two days after they set out, they arrived two miles south of Buna, nearly shattered by the experience.

Arrival in Buna provided no respite. The 32nd Division was ordered to launch an immediate assault on the Japanese position. After two months of furious—sometimes hand-to-hand—combat, the decimated division finally achieved victory. The ferocity of the struggle for Buna was summed up in Time magazine on December 28, 1942, three weeks before the Japanese army was defeated: “Nowhere in the world today are American soldiers engaged in fighting so desperate, so merciless, so bitter, or so bloody.”


Libertas has an interview with attorney and documentary filmmaker Brooke Goldstein about her film The Making of a Martyr. The interview is worth reading in its entirety, but I have excerpted below her response to a question about lawfare which has become an important non-violent tactic for radical Islamists. Goldstein is part of The Legal Project at the Middle East Forum established to counter Islamist lawfare. She is a good example of how private citizens can take action against radical Islamists.

Goldstein: Lawfare is defined as the pursuit of strategic goals through aggressive legal maneuvers. Lately analysts, researchers, media outlets, charitable groups and authors dedicated to publishing and exposing issues of concern regarding counter-terrorism, have found themselves on the receiving end of a series of targeted lawsuits.

These suits, whose claims range from defamation to workplace harassment, are designed to bankrupt, punish and intimidate Defendants into silence and have an overall chilling effect on the exercise of free speech within this country.

For example, Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of the book “Funding Evil,” was sued for defamation in a Plaintiff-friendly U.K libel court by Saudi billionaire Khalid Bin Mahfouz, whom Rachel cites as providing financial support to terrorists. Rachel lost on default and was ordered to pay a significant amount to Bin Mahfouz while her important book is banned from being sold in England.

Bruce Tefft, a former anti-terrorism consultant for the NYPD, was sued by an Egyptian John Doe Muslim police officer for workplace harassment after he sent out emails to a voluntary recipient list of NYPD officers about the threat of Islamic radicalization within our country. Ironically, a few weeks later the NYPD released its own report confirming Tefft’s fears. Nonetheless, Bruce continues to rack up legal costs defending himself in what looks like a frivolous suit designed to discourage the free flow of information within our justice system.

Sometimes just the threat of suit is enough to intimidate parties into silence. When Bin Mahfouz wrote a letter to Cambridge University Press threatening to sue over Robert Collins and J. Millard Burr’s “Alms for Jihad,” the publisher ceased print, destroyed books, requested that libraries do the same and released an apology letter claiming facts they had once proliferated as true, to be false. Even though both authors sent supporting documents to back up their claims against Mahfouz, and despite the fact that Burr is a former State Department employee and well respected intelligence analyst, Cambridge Press capitulated and refused to disseminate information of grave public concern. The Legal Project, at the MEF, of which I am director, was launched to counter such attacks on by arranging for pro-bono representation of citizens who are unfairly targeted with malicious and frivolous suits.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Today's Quote: Eugene O'Neill

When I was on the Squarehead square rigger, bound for Buenos Aires. Full moon in the Trades. The old hooker driving fourteen knots. I lay on the bowsprit, facing astern, with the water foaming into spume under me, the masts with every sail white in the moonlight, towering high above me. I became drunk with the beauty and singing rhythm of it, and for a moment I lost myself -- actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of Man, to Life itself! To God, if you want to put it that way. Then another time, on the American Line, when I was lookout on the crow's nest in the dawn watch. A calm sea, that time. Only a lazy ground swell and a slow drowsy roll of the ship. The passengers asleep and none of the crew in sight. No sound of man. Black smoke pouring from the funnels behind and beneath me. Dreaming, not keeping lookout, feeling alone, and above, and apart, watching the dawn creep like a painted dream over the sky and sea which slept together. Then the moment of ecstatic freedom came. The peace, the end of the quest, the last harbor, the joy of belonging to a fulfillment beyond man's lousy, pitiful, greedy fears and hopes and dreams! And several other times in my life, when I was swimming far out, or lying alone on the beach, I have had the same experience. Became the sun, the hot sand, green seaweed anchored to a rock, swaying in the tide. Like a saint's vision of beatitude. Like the veil of things as they seem drawn back by an unseen hand. For a second you see--and seeing the secret, are the secret. For a second there is meaning! Then the hand lets the veil fall and you are alone, lost in the fog again, and you stumble on toward nowhere, for no good reason!

From Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Promoting Freedom through Film"

I argued in a recent post that we need pro-liberty production companies and as chance would have it I just discovered one: the Moving Picture Institute, founded by Thor Halvorssen who is also one of the founders of the excellent Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

[The Moving Picture Institute] “focuses on movies that will make a difference in the struggle for American values. We are unlike any other foundation promoting the principles of American freedom. We exist to nurture the development of filmmakers through a major internship program to provide crucial support for filmmakers through production grants, whether it’s for a feature film, a narrative documentary, or a short film.”

MPI, he continues, “eschews the labels ‘conservative,’ ‘liberal,’ or ‘libertarian.’ That allows so many people who might have disagreements over this or that particular issue to all come under the same umbrella.”

But there’s no question about the organization’s purpose: “We view the film industry as unconcerned with exploring the idea of liberty or developing a distinctive and nuanced portrayal of deep-seated American values like freedom of speech, freedom of association, and, especially, the free enterprise system.”

Friday, October 5, 2007

"Politics is a Completion of War"

Something to think about:

It's now believed that several leaders of the Muslim establishment in America last decade conspired to infiltrate the U.S. political system, change Middle East policy and gradually Islamize America. At the same time, they hatched a plot to fund overseas terrorists.

Of course, they couldn't do this out in the open. So they set up benign-sounding nonprofits and charities to "camouflage" their traitorous activities, say U.S. prosecutors who cite wiretap transcripts and other documents uncovered in a criminal probe of the Holy Land Foundation, the largest Muslim charity in America.

During a secret meeting at a Philadelphia hotel, the charity's president and other prominent Muslim leaders were recorded allegedly plotting ways to disguise payments to Hamas terrorists as charity.

"I swear by Allah that war is deception," said Shukri Abu-Baker, now on trial in the federal terror-funding case. "We are fighting our enemy with a kind heart. . . . Deceive, camouflage, pretend that you're leaving while you're walking that way. Deceive your enemy."

Another participant at the Hamas summit was the founder of the Council on American Islamic-Relations, or CAIR, the largest Muslim civil-rights group in the country and an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror-funding case.

Adding to Abu-Baker's point, Omar Ahmad compared the deception needed to fool the infidels with the head fake in basketball. "He makes a player believe that he is doing this while he does something else," Ahmad said. "I agree with you. . . . Politics is a completion of war."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Political Activism as a Form of War

The usefulness of the generational model is primarily in showing the sequence of emergence of different forms of war. But if that is not what you are interested in then you need different models to categorize the forms of war based on what it is you are trying to do. For me I'm more interested in which forms of war are available to us right now. So the sequence of emergence over time is irrelevant. Today we can wage the forms of war identified in the generational model as 2G, 3G, and 4G, but not 1G. With the exception of 1GW the emergence of the succeeding generations did not make the previous generation obsolete, rather they gave war-fighters more options for waging war in different circumstances and for different purposes. So for someone looking at the various options available for accomplishing a particular mission or policy it doesn't matter which came first.

Once 4GW appears, an interesting thing happens: the main contest is not on the battlefield but what takes place in the realm of politics, society and culture. Because of this, political activism becomes more important than military action in that arena. As this phenomena continues to evolve, what would, in the past, have been wars fought with armies will be conflicts fought through non-violent political activism, without a battlefield component at all. Would this be a new generation of war? I don't know, it might not make sense to categorize it as war at all. But it would certainly be an option available to governments and civil society actors and so has to be included in thinking about war in the contemporary world. Within this context, political activism as war doesn't make 2G, 3G, 4G obsolete, rather it expands the potential means for individuals, civil society groups, and governments to accomplish goals, by exploiting the opportunities created by contemporary political, social, economic, and technological innovations.

This is one of the reasons that I have become more interested in political activism. After all once we recognize that politics and civil society have become the arena of conflict then the proper area of study moves from military history to the history of political movements to glean insights into how to organize and take action to counter a 4G, 5G, social netwar campaign or to initiate a campaign of our own. Unfortunately there is not the same kind of literature analyzing the strategies, tactics and organization of political movements that is the equivalent of the study of wars and battles. I have also noticed that many people interested in military affairs seem to be very resistant to the idea of considering political activism within the context of thinking about forms of war.

Curtis at Dreaming 5GW asks whether George Soros' political operations are a kind of 5GW or just normal politics. I think we have to consider the possibility that it may be both. If we had a radical Islamist group that was doing exactly what Soros is doing, even if it was not connected to terrorist organizations and so was doing nothing illegal, then I think it would be more clear that this is a form of waging war against a society via politics. What we are lacking is that category to describe activity that is like war in some respects but not quite war and is like politics in some respects but is more than just normal politics. Without that category we have a hard time comprehending certain types of activities and understanding which of our institutions should be mobilized to deal with it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

We Need Pro-Liberty Production Companies

Why are we surrendering the single most effective propaganda medium to the left?

A group of Hollywood executives have teamed with a veteran Washington Democratic hand to create a political production company with an eye toward playing a major role in the 2008 election.
The goal of the company, which was created last year but whose existence has not previously been reported, is to use the creative minds of Hollywood to create content — Web and television — designed to move a political or policy message.

The dominance of the left's ideology is the direct result of persistent advocacy (it certainly is not because their ideas actually work, because they don't). For whatever reason, many on the left feel a deep and powerful need to take action to disseminate and implement their ideas. In comparison, conservatives, libertarians and classical liberals in general don't seem to feel the same need to take action to disseminate our ideas. Pro-liberty, pro-Americans are are much too passive. We've done a good job of pioneering think tanks, but that is not enough. If we want to defeat the left's ideology, then we have to find the same passion for our ideas that they have for theirs and we have to be as creative and persistent in our advocacy as they are.

Hollywood has declared war on America. In the coming fall season we will suffer through no less than six strident very high profile anti-American films designed with the precision of a smart bomb to undercut the American people’s will to fight this war. This is the only way the terrorists know they can win. This is the only way Hollywood knows America can lose. And so they have joined forces.
Knowing what films are coming in the next weeks and that there are well-positioned conservatives in the film industry with the power to fight back who haven’t is truly maddening. I keep waiting for a brave man or woman to stand tall and announce a film that will portray our troops and mission in Iraq as worthy. I keep waiting for a true counter-culture hero to rise from the Hollywood Hills and proclaim their forthcoming hundred million dollar balls-to-the-walls action film about America kicking al-Queda butt.

I keep waiting…
I keep waiting for one of the tens-of-thousands of conservative announce they’re ready to drop $50 million into a pro-war/pro-American film should someone only bring them a great script and director.

We bitch about Hollywood liberals but conservatives are just as guilty; maybe even more. As twisted and immoral as most liberal beliefs are at least they fight for their beliefs. Conservatives on the other hand, refuse. I’ve been reluctant to say this up to now because I was positive that at some time a principled, grateful, patriotic Hollywood insider would finally grow the guts to say “enough.”
And to those of you not in the film industry but with the money to make a difference I promise you there are smart talented frustrated patriots out here eager to make pro-American/pro-freedom/pro-war films. People with proven track records. People who have made successful films you’ve enjoyed. 

Fighting to change the culture in Hollywood by hoping the people in power can be shamed or brought to see the light is an exercise in futility. Those people will never change, which means their product will never change. Which means the most effective propaganda tool ever devised will remain firmly in leftist hands until it’s taken from them. That requires insiders with guts and outsiders with a vision.

The time for the Fox News of Hollywood is now. We’re at war. Where are you people?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lloyd Cole

As part of an archival effort to preserve the unique culture of the 80s, I offer Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and "Perfect Skin". If anyone has a video of "Speedboat" let me know.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Robert Kaplan Podcast

Here is a podcast with Robert Kaplan discussing Kaplan's new book, Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts. The last few minutes of the podcast are an interview with Bill Ardolino who is currently embedded in Fallujah.

MORE: This is a podcast of a Kaplan talk at the Carnegie Council. The occasion of the talk is the recent publication of his book, but the talk itself is on larger nat'l security/int'l relations issues. Very good.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Been doing some book shopping lately which is one of my favorite things to do. Amazon is convenient, which is good, but I really love just being in a bookstore, especially a used bookstore, and spending an hour or two just browsing. It's a very peaceful experience. Here are some recent buys:

Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground by Robert Kaplan.
I very much enjoyed Imperial Grunts and have been waiting for this book to come out. I like that Kaplan goes where most reporters don't: with SF in Algeria, an attache in Mongolia, or with a Coastie in Yemen.

The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media and Technology Success of Our Time by David Vise.
I've had a growing interest in business history especially the stories of individual businesses and entrepreneurs. I would like to find some histories of entrepreneurship in different periods of American history.

With that in mind, I was happy to find this book at my favorite used bookstore.
The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century by Bernard Bailyn.

American Connections: The Founding Fathers. Networked. by James Burke.
I've enjoyed James Burke's Connections TV show and essays. This book applies his technique to the founding generation. I think it is important to have essays that explore history and ideas in creative ways outside the academic framework. Burke has been successful at doing this.

Democratic Capitalism and Its Discontents by Brian Anderson.

As I read things I often find myself thinking "I'd like to find a book on X." And I'm always excited when I find a book on those topics. So I was very happy Saturday when I found a book on the history of the Bill of Rights and the other on the Stamp Act crisis. I had been wanting something more specific than the more general accounts that I had been reading.

The Birth of the Bill of Rights by Robert Allen Rutland.

The Stamp Act Crisis by Edmund and Helen Morgan.

Over the past couple of years I've become more interested in the history of American political movements and very curious about how the transition from an agricultural age country to an industrial age country changed our forms of social organization, and our concepts of how government should be organized and its role in society. I believe that we live in a time that is experiencing an equivalent transition from an industrial age society to an information-service-entrepreneurial-creative age society and that this change will spur new concepts of gov't organization and its role in society. I've become very interested in the origins of the progressive/liberal and conservative political movements that are products of the industrial age: how they emerged, the narratives they created of the past leading up to and justifying their creation and their visions of what they were trying to achieve. These movements today are old and tired. I want to understand them for insight into creating political movements that will inevitably emerge from our own unique time. To that end I pulled from the shelf the following two books on my recent expedition:

The Progressive Mind, 1890-1917 by David Noble

The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The War of the Swarm

Over the past few weeks I've been reading Arquilla & Ronfeldt's Networks and Netwars with particular focus on the chapter on the Zapatista movement. There are a lot of lessons to be learned about waging a strategic citizen campaign from the role of transnational NGOs in that movement.

The Zapatista movement was one of the pioneers of "social netwar." The techniques developed by NGOs to wage a "war of the swarm" in Chiapas can be applied to a Muslim anti-irhabi movement, pro-democracy movements, movements in the West to counter the influence of radical Islam and the anti-West, anti-American left, movements to help developing countries build the institutions necessary to "shrink the gap," etc. Strategic citizens using the methods of social netwar can marshal resources with greater speed, efficiency, adaptability, and resilience than any government IO activity. The Zapatista movement demonstrates that national and transnational civil society organizations can have a strategic impact.

The insurrection did not begin as a social netwar. It began as a rather traditional, Maoist insurgency. But that changed within a matter of a few days as, first the EZLN's military strategy for waging a "war of the flea" ran into trouble. and second, an alarmed mass of Mexican and transnational NGO activists mobilized and descended on Chiapas and Mexico City in "swarm networks"...
Combat operations were thus dying out, and when the public, the media, and human-rights NGOs, both domestic and transnational, got involved, the EZLN was ready to shift gears to a very different sort of conflict in which the principle maneuvers would take place off the battlefield.
Demonstrations, marches, and peace caravans were organized, not only in Mexico but even in front of Mexican consulates in the United States. The NGOs made good use of computerized conferencing, email, fax and telephone systems, as well as face-to-face meetings, to communicate and coordinate with each other. They focused on improving their ability to work together...and begin to struggle ceaselessly through fax-writing campaigns, public assemblies, press conferences and interviews, and other measures to make Mexican officials aware of their presence and put them on notice to attend to selected issues...In addition, the activists worked to ensure that the insurrection became, and remained, an international media event--swollen by the "CNN effect"--so that the EZLN and its views were portrayed favorably. Indeed, all sides waged public-relations battles to legitimize, delegitimize, and otherwise affect perceptions of each other.

Meanwhile, Marcos and other EZLN leaders kept urging NGO representatives to come to Mexico. Likewise, the NGOs already there began calling for other NGOs to join the mobilization. A kind of "bandwagon effect" took hold. A dynamic swarm grew that aimed to put the Mexican government and army on the defensive. NGO coalitions arose that were characterized by "flexible, conjunctural..., and horizontal relations." held together by shared goals and demands.
Thus the Zapatista networking conformed to what we would expect from a netwar. The activists' networking assumed informal, often ad hoc, shapes. Participation shifted constantly, depending partly on the issues--although some NGOs did maintain a steady involvement and sought, or were accorded, leading roles. While NGOs generally seemed interested in the collective growth of the networks, to create what would later be termed a "network of struggles," each still aimed to preserve its autonomy and independence and had its own particular interests and strategies in mind. Clearly, the NGOs were--and are still--learning how to use this new approach to strategy, which requires that they develop and sustain a shared identity as a network and stress information operations.
This movement had no precise definition, no clear boundaries. To some extent, it had centers of activity for everything from the discussion of issues to the organization of protest demonstrations...It had organizational centers where issues got raised before being broadcast...And it drew on a core set of NGOs. Yet it had no formal organization, or headquarters, or leadership, or decisionmaking body. The movement's membership (assuming it can be called that) was generally ad hoc and in flux; it could shift from issue to issue and from situation to situation, partly depending on which NGOs had representatives physically visiting the scene at the time, which NGOs were mobilizable from afar and how (including electronically), and what issues were involved. Evidently, some NGOs took a constant interest in the Zapatista movement; others showed solidarity only episodically, especially if it was not high on their agenda of concerns. In short, the Zapatista movement writ large was a sprawling, swirling, amorphous collectivity--and in a sense, its indefinition was part of its strength.

As "information operations" came to the fore, the insurgents further decentralized organizationally and deemphasized combat operations in favor of gaining tighter links with the NGOs. Meanwhile the latter utilized, and advocated others to utilize, nonviolent strategies for using varied new and old media to pressure the Mexican government to rein in its military response and accede to negotiations.

The Zapatista article in Networks and Netwars is a condensed version of Ronfeldt and Arquilla's monograph The Zapatista "Social Netwar" in Mexico which can be read in PDF form online.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cycling Generations

I came across an interesting blog recently, Netwars, that has a lot of good posts on 4GW including this one presenting some thoughts on the generation model as cyclical:

I posit these transformations are cyclical depending on technology and organizational capability.
In the Stone/Bronze age

1st generation – Spearmen
2nd generation –Archers following the Bow revolution
3rd generation – Bronze weapons and specialized armies with logistics
4th Generation – The Chariot revolution and conquests by the Steppe nomads

Iron Age in Europe

1st Generation – Greek hoplites
2nd Generation – Macedonian phalanx and heavy cavalry using hammer and anvil tactics
3rd Generation – Roman legions with flexible formations and long-distance maneuver
4th Generation – Germanic war bands and Steppe nomads

The 4th Generation Warfare of the Iron Age destroyed the Roman Empire. The Gunpowder Revolution brought back 1st generation military tactics.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Last October Tigerhawk posted a comment by a Saudi blogger that is very encouraging. A young Saudi man who dreams of a future that has nothing to do with radical Islam.

Looking forward to the future, I wonder: do we dare to dream? I, for one, do. I dare. And I don't have only one dream; I have many dreams actually: I want to live to see the day when this country becomes a real democracy with a fully elected parliament; when freedom of expression is guaranteed to all, and no one is afraid to speak his mind no more; when women have their full rights and stand on equal foot with men. This was to name a few. Call me a dreamer. Maybe I am. I know one thing for sure, however: change is coming. This country is changing, not as quickly as I wish maybe, but it is changing nevertheless. Probably I'm just a young lad who can't wait for this to happen, but who can blame me? If it wasn't for the young to push change then who would?

My friend and I went to Java Cafe on King Abdul Aziz Rd., and on the other side of the road, we could see the building of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. He was amazed by how big and stylish this coffeehouse was. "Revolution is coming to Saudi Arabia," my friend said. I was startled by the word revolution. The increase and popularity of coffee shops means that people want to talk, he explained, and this is how the French Revolution was started, one cup of coffee at a time. It was getting late, so I dropped my friend at the hotel. Meanwhile, my head was turning between the ideas of revolution and my mentioned above dreams.

The other day I was re-reading that post and clicked on over to his blog and discovered that he is now traveling in the US as part of a State Department program. Unfortunately his experience at our embassy in Saudi Arabia was not pleasant. It is good that State is identifying people to be part of this kind of visiting program, but since they invited him to participate they should ensure that he should not have to deal with bureaucratic stupidity and some idiot FSO who needs lessons in customer service. Hopefully his experience in the US will be better.

It is the first time for me to visit the United States as well as being my first trip to a non-Arab country. The two-week trip is a part of a long-running exchange program called the International Visitor Leadership Program. It is sponsored by the State Department and a number of prestigious NGO’s...

Last year, there was this American professor who was visiting Saudi Arabia to learn more about the country and its people. The professor has been reading my blog for a while and he wanted to meet me to talk about blogging and youth culture in the Kingdom. We met in a hotel lobby in Riyadh and talked for a few hours. Present at that meeting was an official from the US Embassy who was coordinating the professor’s trip.

In the middle of an answer to a question I mentioned that I’ve never been to the States or Europe. The American official was a bit surprised that my English was very good despite the fact that I’ve never been to the US or the UK. Later, she said they have this exchange program at the embassy and asked me if I would be interested in such thing. I said “yes,” although I thought she was just being nice, and shortly I forgot about the whole thing.
Few months later she contacted me saying that I was nominated for the program and they will need some information about me. Even at that point, I did not take this thing seriously. I was saying: there will be a lot of people nominated who are much better than me and they will certainly be chosen over me.

It wasn’t until the beginning of this summer when the embassy contacted me saying I was selected for the program so they should start arranging for my participation in the program. They have taken care of almost everything: I just had to sign the papers and show up for the visa interview.

However, visiting the US Embassy in Riyadh for the interview was not a very pleasant experience. One day in August, at 6:40 AM, I was standing in a quickly growing line outside the embassy building. Around 7:20, they started allowing people to enter.

I was somehow lucky because when I showed the security officer my papers he took me ahead of others. I went through the highly-guarded gates, took a number and waited for my turn. The process was relatively slow and the atmosphere inside the embassy was cold and dry.

Before going in, I thought the interview would go something like this: you come into a room and sit on a chair facing two or three people who would ask you some questions, chat with you a little bit and then you leave. Needless to say, that was not the case.

After waiting for about two-and-a-half hours, it was finally my turn for the interview. I went to the the interview window (yes, not a room, just a glass window) not knowing what to expect, and there was this blond lady who asked first me to put my fingers on a device to take my fingerprints.

She started questioning me in a rather accusing tone about my intention of the visit and who nominated me for the program. She asked me why I was nominated for which I did not have a good answer and it was a question she better ask to those who nominated me.

The way of questioning made me nervous and it felt to me more of an interrogation than an interview. After a long pause and some staring at me, she said my papers were incomplete and there was a missing form that I had to provide. I told her it was her colleagues at the embassy who prepared all the paperwork for me and all I had to do was to sign them. She said my application could not be processed until I provide the missing form. She gave me my passport and said someone from there would contact me later.

Few days later someone from the embassy called and said the missing form was still in Washington; as soon as it arrived they sent it to me. I signed the form and fedex’d it with my passport. After two weeks I had my passport back with a short visit visa.

Now that I got the visa, I have to admit that I expected the process to be smoother than how it was. I mean: the program is sponsored by the State Department and they were responsible for arranging the whole thing. In general, the experience was relatively good, but that’s maybe because I was expecting it to be worse, except for the interview part which really sucked.