Friday, August 24, 2007

Nagl on the Daily Show

Here's something that I had not expected. It's a video of Lt. Col. John Nagl on the Daily Show, found at PrairiePundit. I suppose what I'm most impressed by is that Jon Stewart proved to be a better and more intelligent interlocutor than 99.9% of journalists.

Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door...

One of the guys over at Op-For just graduated from Airborne School and he has this video posted there that brought back some memories. I graduated from Airborne School in July 1992 right after completing infantry Basic/AIT at Ft. Benning. That was a great summer. I was in the best shape of my life and finally free of drill sergeants and the constraints of basic training and learning to jump out of airplanes, what could be better than that. Unfortunately those five jumps at Airborne School were my last, since the Army sent me to the 25th ID rather than an airborne unit as I had hoped when I signed up. But I suppose being stationed in Hawaii was an acceptable alternative.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

African Entrepreneurs Shrinking the Gap

Here's the trailer for what looks like a very interesting documentary on entrepreneurs in Africa: Africa Open For Business:

Ten stories, one continent, a global world.
Get ready to see Africa as you’ve never seen it before. Imagine an Africa with entrepreneurial spirit that is striving to take care of itself and finding African solutions to African problems.  That’s what you will see in this groundbreaking one-hour documentary by award-winning producer Carol Pineau.
Africa Open for Business offers a tour of the continent, profiling ten companies throughout Africa. Some operate in countries with good governance. One operates in a country with no government! What they have in common is hard work and good business sense. Taken together, they are inspiring stories of human force of will.
This is the Africa you don't see on the nightly news. They are the real stories on the ground – the successes, the struggles, the challenges, and the solutions. Together, they are building Africa one business at a time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Today's Quote: Complex Messiness

The future we face at the dawn of the twenty-first century is, like all futures left to themselves, "emergent, complex messiness." Its "messiness" lies not in disorder, but in an order that is unpredictable, spontaneous, and ever shifting, a pattern created by millions of uncoordinated, independent decisions. That pattern contains not just a few high-tech gizmos, but all the variegated aspects of life. As people create and sell products or services, adopt new fashions of speech and dress, form families and chose home towns, make medical decisions and seek spiritual insights, investigate the universe and invent new forms of art, these actions shape a future no one can see, a future that is dynamic and inherently unstable.

That instability, or our awareness of it, is heightened by the fluidity of contemporary life: by the ease with which ideas and messages, goods and people, cross borders; by technologies that seek to surpass the quickness of the human mind and overcome the constraints of the human body; by the "universal solvents" of commerce and popular culture; by the dissolution or reformation of established institutions, particularly large corporations, and the rise of new ones; by the synthesis of East and West, of ancient and modern--by the combination and recombination of seemingly every artifact of human culture. Ours is a magnificently creative era. But that creativity produces change, and that change attracts enemies, philosophical as well as self-interested.

With some exceptions, the enemies of the future aim their attacks not at creativity itself but at the dynamic processes through which it is carried. In our post-Cold War era, for instance, free markets are recognized as powerful forces for social, cultural, and technological change--liberating in the eyes of some, threatening to others. The same is true for markets in ideas: for free speech and worldwide communication; for what John Stuart Mill called "experiments in living"; for scientific research, artistic expression, and technological innovation. All of these processes are shaping an unknown, and unknowable, future. Some people look at such diverse, decentralized, choice-driven systems and rejoice, even when they don't like particular choices. Others recoil. In pursuit of stability and control, they seek to eliminate or curb these unruly, too-creative forces.

By Virginia Postrel in The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Researcher Job

This looks like an interesting gig for anyone in the DC area:

DC author seeks P/T researcher to help finish a narrative nonfiction book about the U.S. military in Iraq.

This job will entail about 20 hours of work per week, although hours will likely increase in the later months of 2007, when the publisher's deadline gets closer. This could be perfect for a graduate student or possibly a mature undergraduate in DC who is interested in writing his or her own book, and who wants to learn (at least one way) how it’s done. However, all interested applicants are encouraged to apply.

Requirements/Duties will include:
* Transcribing interviews.

* Administrative duties.

* Editing and proofreading drafts of the book.

* Original research (via internet, Lexis, etc)

* Writing summaries and reports on books and articles.

* Possibly writing some first drafts of sections of the book.

The ideal candidate will be an organized person who is an experienced researcher and a talented writer. I will try to make this an enjoyable, fulfilling job for you, but I need someone who understands that a lot of the behind-the-scenes effort on a project like this is decidedly unglamorous, even dull (transcribing interviews, fact-checking, organizing files, etc). 

Flexible hours, competitive hourly pay, and/or a combination of pay and college credit if you are a student and your university will allow it. This could be a great experience for the right person. 

Previous experience or interest in the military or foreign policy might be beneficial but is not absolutely necessary. A great attitude and absolute trustworthiness, however, are required. 

Local (DC area) applicants only, please.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some Most Excellent Podcasts

The Pritzker Military Library has a great collection of podcasts of talks given by various authors on military affairs. These are the ones I have listened to so far, but there a lot more. They are fairly long and very good:

Max Boot talking about his book War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today.

John Nagl on Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife.

Thomas Hammes on The Sling and the Stone.

Philip Bobbitt on The Shield of Achilles.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Here are a few links to some interesting sites:

Geology by Lightplane: Aerial photographs with geological explanations from Wisconsin to Colorado. Very cool.

The US Submarine War in the Pacific. This site is a great source with info on the many sub war patrols.

Sometimes (maybe most of the time) you need to think about something other than politics and military affairs, so you might as well think about beer. To that end I offer: Craft Beer Radio. Podcasts on high quality brewing.

The website of Stephen Hicks, a philosophy professor and author of the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, is fun to explore.

John Adams: Thoughts on Government

It's a fantastic day here in southern PA: sunny and clear, hot but not oppresssive (the AC is not on), and the dogs are sprawled out and snoring. I was out this morning painting the fence with waterproofing stain, and now that my work is done, I'm having a few beers and watching Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship. I enjoy excellence and watching the best play their best against the best in a championship competition. And I figured this would be a good time to browse through the archive of articles, websites, and blog-posts that I have saved over the past few months thinking that I would get back to them at some point. There will probably be some more posts of some of these today. This is a letter from John Adams about government.

Nothing is more certain from the history of nations, and the nature of man, than that some forms of government are better fitted for being well administered than others.
We ought to consider, what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all Divines and moral Philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government, which communicates ease, comfort, security, or in one word happiness to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.
A man must be indifferent to the sneers of modern Englishmen to mention in their company the names of Sidney, Harrington, Locke, Milton, Nedham, Neville, Burnet, and Hoadley. No small fortitude is necessary to confess that one has read them. The wretched condition of this country, however, for ten or fifteen years past, has frequently reminded me of their principles and reasonings. They will convince any candid mind, that there is no good government but what is Republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; because the very definition of a Republic, is "an Empire of Laws, and not of men." That, as a Republic is the best of governments, so that particular arrangement of the powers of society, or in other words that form of government, which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of the laws, is the best of Republics.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Celebrating Entrepreneurship

Thomas McKraw, author of Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, has a good essay on Joseph Schumpeter and entrepreneurship:

In his classic book of 1911, The Theory of Economic Development, Schumpeter broke with traditional thinking about business, enthroning the entrepreneur as the source of all economic progress. The book made him famous in academic circles at age 28, although his ideas didn't fully catch on until recently, when the vital importance of entrepreneurship became obvious to everybody.

One of the hallmarks of Schumpeter's 1911 book is that he ventured into territory where no economist had gone before--namely, the psychology of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs, he insisted, are not propelled solely by a wish to grow rich or by any "motivation of the hedonist kind." Instead, they feel "the will to conquer: the impulse to fight, to prove oneself superior to others, to succeed for the sake, not of the fruits of success, but of success itself…There is the joy of creating, of getting things done, or simply of exercising one's energy and ingenuity."

Celebrating entrepreneurship was a radical idea in 1911, a time of turbulent economic change that nobody seemed to understand. In Europe, socialism was rapidly on the rise. In the United States, business success was often viewed warily, with muckraking journalists accusing robber barons of taking over the economy. Schumpeter's insistence that entrepreneurial capitalism was the only system that could create a better life for the masses went directly against the prevailing tide.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Conversation

This sounds like an interesting conversation:

I spent most of the night talking to an Australian ex-special forces ex-intelligence guy now working as a strategic planning contractor. We discussed rugby, using tribes (and tribal intelligence) to defeat the insurgency, and (after a few more $3 Johnnie Walker Red doubles) the meaning of life. "Power and influence is ultimately rubbish," he opined. "Love a woman and raise a kid well -- that's how you lead a good life."

Some Thoughts on Political Warfare

So much of the war we are fighting is about influencing people's attitudes, beliefs, ideologies and interpretations of events. In the West we have long experience with waging campaigns of influence within our culture, but as Michael Waller and Alex Alexiev argue, we are not taking advantage of our own experience in political competition in the war of ideas against radical Islam.

Thus far in the War for the Free World, the United States has been unilaterally disarmed in one of the most effective forms of warfare against ideologically driven foes: Political warfare.  While we wage it against each other incessantly - Republicans against Democrats, liberals against conservatives, etc. - we have largely failed to use political warfare against our enemies, or even to organize ourselves to do so.
The good news is that Americans are among the world's experts at political warfare. The bad news is that we mainly use it against each other: after all, the strategies and tactics of any hard-fought election campaign are precisely the stuff of applied political warfare. The talent, creativity, ingenuity and, yes, ruthlessness of top-flight political campaign strategists of both parties should be mustered for the purpose of fighting our enemies and helping our friends - rather than fighting each other.

This is right on. We have more than two centuries of experience with waging political warfare, from the Stamp Act Crisis to Live Earth. Applying or not applying this experience at political warfare in the current war of ideas could be the deciding factor in whether we win or lose. Unfortunately, Waller and Alexiev make the mistake of proposing government-centered solutions to this problem. The lesson to be learned here is that in political warfare it is citizens who take the initiative to organize and compete, in both candidate and issue campaigns, and it is there we must look for insight into how to wage the war of ideas: The war of ideas will be successfully fought with organizations and tactics that have more in common with political activism than with the government public diplomacy and psychological warfare operations.

This association with political activism will rub some people the wrong way. A government-directed information campaign is expected to be waged in a non-partisan manner by professional government employees who put aside their own personal beliefs to execute the policies of elected officials. We have all heard the appeals for bi-partisanship and that politics should end at the waters edge. But a war of ideas is inherently partisan. Indeed it requires people who are passionately motivated by their ideas, whose passion drives them to commit time, energy, and money; to organize and wage campaigns over the course of years. This is one of the reasons that private, non-government organizations are better vehicles than government in waging the war of ideas. There is absolutely no way to wage a war of ideas without taking a strong stand about ideas, attitudes and beliefs, and right now, for a variety of reasons, government can't take those kind strong stands. We get either the cliches inherited from the past or politically correct rhetoric whose primary purpose is not to offend anyone.

I have never been someone who was inclined to do political activism. And I'm not really interested in activism in favor of one party or the other or for a specific candidate, rather my main focus is more general: countering anti-Americanism, articulating a defense of modernity and the underlying ideas and attitudes that are necessary for the establishment and preservation of free societies, shrinking the gap, etc. While I take great pleasure in thinking about these ideas, I very much want to do something; to act on these ideas and do the kinds of things I've been arguing should be done. Ultimately there comes a time to put up or shut up. If my ideas are valid, then the burden is on me to demonstrate their validity. Two years ago I quit my job to try to start a business, that effort has not yet been successful, so I am planning now to go back to school to study web and multimedia design [NOTE 3/08: Actually I went on to study audio/video production, but the goal remains the same] to learn some skills I hope will help with the business, get me a job, and that can be used to experiment with some kind of "strategic citizen" activity. So we will see...

Quote of the Day

The Bush Administration has a can't-do attitude when it comes to fighting ideological warfare. It seems to want to, but it won't. It's manifest at every level of government - from the White House to the lowliest contractor in the field. Policymakers seem to default to the feckless public diplomacy shop at the State Department. The Pentagon won't let its information operations people say anything much about Islam, and its public affairs officers keep illegally invoking a Cold War law that applies only to the State Department, as if to ensure that we don't fight the propaganda war we need to be waging.

A few key people like General David Petraeus get it, as do some folks at the Pentagon who are truly trying to get things done. And maybe one member of the US Senate. And that's really about it.

Michael Waller at

Thursday, August 2, 2007


I've been trying to spend less time on the internet and more time reading books. It's easy for hours to pass browsing from blog to blog while the "to read" pile gets higher and higher. I'm now reading Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals. It has become clear to me, as someone with a developing interest in IO, public diplomacy, and persuasion/influence operations in general, that Munzenberg is a "must know." I have come across references to him many times around the blogosphere over the past few years and finally got around to buying a book about him last week. I wish I had read about him sooner, it is very interesting reading. Here are some excerpts from the book about Munzenberg and his operation:

...Munzenberg's true role in the world was a closely guarded secret, though in keeping with his particular talent, it was concealed in conspicuousness. His talent was for propaganda, albeit of a special kind. For Willi Munzenberg was the first grand master of two quite new kinds of secret service work, essential to this century, and to the Soviets: the covertly controlled propaganda front, and the secretly manipulated fellow traveler. His goal was to create for the right-thinking non-communist West the dominating political prejudice of the era: the belief that any opinion that happened to serve the foreign policy of the Soviet Union was derived from the most essential elements of human decency. He wanted to instill the feeling, like a truth of nature, that seriously to criticize or challenge Soviet policy was the unfailing mark of a bad, bigoted, and probably stupid person, while support was equally infallible proof of a forward-looking mind committed to all that was best for humanity and marked by an uplifting refinement of sensibility.

Willi's first move in any situation was to capture--to co-opt--liberal opinion for communist ends: his second, was to deny that any such sleight of hand had taken place. To create his networks of fronts and fellow travelers Munzenberg used every resource of propaganda, from highbrow cultural to funny hats and balloons. But his two prime tools were co-option and denial: Co-option of liberal democratic opinion; denial of Communist motives. He organized in all media: newspapers, film, radio, books, magazines, the theater. Every kind of "opinion maker" was involved: writers, artists, actors, commentators, priests, ministers, professors, "business leaders," scientists, psychologists, anyone at all whose opinion the public was likely to respect.
His heydey lasted for a little less than fifteen years, from the 1921 Volga Famine in Russia and the Sacco-Vanzetti case in America to the Spanish Civil War. During that time, he was amazingly successful at co-opting and mobilizing the intelligentsia of the West on behalf of a moralistic set of political attitudes responsive to Soviet needs. In the process, he organized and defined the "enlightened" moral agenda of his era. In a sense, Munzenberg's apparatus was as instrumental as any other single factor in giving direction to the political attitudes we now call The Thirties. Hundreds of groups and committees and publications operated under his auspices, or those of his agents. The writers, artists, journalists, scientists, educators, clerics, columnists, film-makers, and publishers, either under his influence or regularly manipulated by his "Munzenberg men," present a startling list of notables from the era, from Ernest Hemingway, to John Dos Passos to Lillian Hellman to George Grosz to Edward Piscator to Andre Malraux to Bertold Brecht to Dorothy Parker...
But Munzenberg's information network controlled newspapers and radio stations, ran film companies, created book clubs, ran magazines, sponsored publicity tours, dispatched journalists, and commissioned books. It planted articles and created organizations to give direction to the "innocent." It was a media combine. Yet it differed in a number of ways from the BBC, Time, Inc., or even from an explicit instrument of political propaganda like Radio Liberty. For example, many people working for it did not publicly acknowledge the connection. Many operated under aliases. Many led double lives, sometimes totally changing their identities, concealing their true mission from their friends, even their spouses, and certainly from employers, who often included unsuspecting editors, publishers, and producers whose ideas were very remote from the real agenda. The "Munzenberg men" were, in short, secret agents, people who lived and worked, however publicly, in the secret world: the realm of intelligence gathering, covert action, undercover penetration, clandestine influence, quiet sabotage, discreet blackmail...And back when the revolution was still young, it was Munzenberg's task to create for much of this vast unseen enterprise a persuasive public face.