Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bruce Bawer on Cultural Surrender

We cannot win the war of ideas if we don't believe that we have something worth defending. We can also lose the competition of ideas even if we do believe we have something worth defending, but we don't have the will, the motivation to defend it. Bruce Bawer is reconnoitering the European scene for us and it doesn't look pretty:

Enough. We need to recognize that the cultural jihadists hate our freedoms because those freedoms defy sharia, which they’re determined to impose on us. So far, they have been far less successful at rolling back freedom of speech and other liberties in the U.S. than in Europe, thanks in no small part to the First Amendment. Yet America is proving increasingly susceptible to their pressures.

The key question for Westerners is: Do we love our freedoms as much as they hate them? Many free people, alas, have become so accustomed to freedom, and to the comfortable position of not having to stand up for it, that they’re incapable of defending it when it’s imperiled—or even, in many cases, of recognizing that it is imperiled.

As for Muslims living in the West, surveys suggest that many of them, though not actively involved in jihad, are prepared to look on passively—and some, approvingly—while their coreligionists drag the Western world into the House of Submission.

But we certainly can’t expect them to take a stand for liberty if we don’t stand up for it ourselves.

"The Trouble with Strategic Communication(s)"

"The difficulty, of course, is that there is no military doctrine for strategic communication, leaving both its
definition and the process associated with it open to interpretation"

Strategists use a model of “ends, ways and means” to describe all aspects of a national or military strategy. Strategy
is about how (the way) leaders will use the capabilities (means) available to achieve objectives (ends).7 Understanding
and engaging key audiences is meant to change perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and, ultimately behaviors to help
achieve military (and in turn national) objectives. Thus, parsing the QDR definition it is apparent that strategic
communication is a “way” to achieve an information effect on the cognitive dimension of the information environment
(the required “end”).8 Strategic communication employs multiple “means” and these means should be restricted only
by the requirement to achieve the desired information effect on the target audience.

Messages are certainly sent by verbal and visual communications means, but they are also sent by actions. (Note that
the QDR definition specifically includes “actions”). In fact, senior officials point out that strategic communication is
“80% actions and 20% words.”9 Specifically, how military operations are conducted affects the information environment
by impacting perceptions, attitudes and beliefs. Recent examples include use of U.S. Navy hospital ships in regional
engagement and Pakistani earthquake relief efforts10 in permissive environments. But hostile environments like the
Iraq and Afghanistan theaters also provide opportunities to positively shape the information environment. This
clarification and expanded understanding of the definition is critical if the military hopes to effectively educate leaders
on how to fully exploit strategic communication to support military operations. Key to success is an organizational
unit culture that values, understands, and thus considers strategic communication means as important capabilities to
be integrated within established planning processes.
Strategic communication is the more broadly overarching concept targeting key audiences and focusing on the
cognitive dimension of the information environment. IO as an integrating function, on the other hand, more
specifically targets an adversary’s decision making capability which may be in the cognitive, informational and/or
physical dimensions of the information environment.

Considering the targets and effects described above, it should be clear that both strategic communication and
IO can be employed at all levels of warfare (tactical, operational, theater strategic and national strategic). Tactical
commanders routinely employ strategic communication in Iraq today based on their interactions with key audiences
in their area of responsibility to a potential strategic end. On the other end of the scale, IO could certainly be
employed strategically as part of a shaping Phase 0 operation or a deterrent Phase 1 operation against a potential
adversary’s decision-making capability.
Remembering that strategic communication is a way to achieve cognitive information effects using any means
available takes the mystery out of the concept. Strategic communication simply employs capabilities (limited only to
the imagination) to support the achievement of a military objective. Just as a commander integrates air, land and sea
capabilities into military planning and execution, he can and should integrate strategic communication capabilities.
The planning process is not new. The focus on and understanding of this new concept and its capabilities, however,
may be.
Strategic Communication is simply a way to affect perceptions, attitudes and beliefs of key audiences in support
of objectives. Certainly communications means are very important in ultimately achieving those desired information
effects. But how military operations are conducted is also a key component of strategic communication, since actions
send very loud and clear messages. Effective strategic communication requires an organizational culture attuned
to the information environment and a recognition that strategic communication, as a way to achieve information
effects, consists of many capabilities (means) that are an integral part of the commander’s arsenal. Staff expertise may be available to support these efforts. Still, the trained staff section is less important than a unit culture where the
commander both recognizes what strategic communication is (and isn’t) and emphasizes strategic communication as
important to successful military operations.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gedmin Talk at Heritage Foundation

I haven't had a chance to listen to this yet, but here is a link to the video and audio of a recent talk by RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin at the Heritage Foundation:

Jeffrey Gedmin, President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc., will discuss RFE/RL’s strategy in the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of the 21st Century.  In this fight, RFE/RL believes that America and its democratic allies face two major adversaries: radical Islam and authoritarianism.  Against the backdrop of the War on Terrorism and dictatorial regimes hostile to democratic values and institutions, RFE/RL broadcasts free, uncensored news in 28 languages to 21 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Russia.  RFE/RL believes that free speech, a free press and the free flow of information and ideas are not just American values, but rather, the essential components of a healthy civil society and the key components in implementing this strategy.

For more than half a century, RFE/RL has been bringing news to people who need it.  Today, RFE/RL does more than broadcast radio signals into closed societies – it also uses the Internet, TV, blogs and social media to deliver objective news and information.  Funded by the U.S. Congress but journalistically independent of the U.S. government, RFE/RL airs news, discussion and analysis its audiences would have if they had a free and independent media.

On Political War

Made a quick stop at a used bookstore yesterday and was very happy to find a copy of On Political War by Paul Smith:

Political war is the use of political means to compel an opponent to do one's will, political being understood to describe purposeful intercourse between peoples and governments affecting national survival and relative advantage. Political war may be combined with violence, economic pressure, subversion, and diplomacy, but its chief aspect is the use of words, images, and ideas, commonly known, according to context, as propaganda and psychological warfare.

This book presents an overview of the elements making up political war. It includes discussion of war aims; the possible actors in the drama, and the ethics which inform them; the scope available to them in space and time; the resources they must command; and the outcomes they expect or fear. It seeks to make clear how the elements of political war relate to one another and how, taken together, they fit within the larger context of wars which may or may not include physical violence.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Inside a Guerrilla Media Network

I just started reading this very interesting report released in March by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
The Al-Qaeda Media Nexus: The Virtual Network Behind the Global Message.

This report explains how the online jihadist media network
works. It traces the links between armed groups, media
production and distribution entities, and internet forums to
reveal the hidden structures that disseminate Al-Qaeda’s
claims and ideas. It also provides policymakers, analysts, and
interested readers with a conceptual vocabulary to describe this
guerrilla media network in order to clarify our discussion of how
best to counteract its influence.

The EU vs. the Internet Jihad

The EU expands the authority to prosecute people using the internet for propaganda, recruitment, and training for terrorism:

The proposal intends to up-date the Framework Decision by introducing three new offences: public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment and training for terrorism. It aims to equip our legal systems across the EU with the adequate tools to bring to justice the criminals who spread violent propaganda providing terrorism tactics and instructions on how to manufacture and use bombs or explosives to provoke others to commit terrorist acts. The new legislation will make it easier for law enforcement authorities to get cooperation from internet service providers, to prevent crimes and identify criminals while, at the same time, ensuring that fundamental rights remain well protected.

The amendment of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism is intended to harmonise national provisions on public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism, so that these forms of behaviour are punishable, also when committed through the Internet, throughout the EU, and ensure that existing provisions on penalties, liability of legal persons, jurisdiction and prosecution applicable to terrorist offences, apply also to such forms of behaviour.

Individuals disseminating terrorist propaganda and bomb-making expertise through the Internet can therefore be prosecuted and sentenced to prison insofar as such dissemination amounts to public provocation to commit terrorist offences, recruiting for terrorism or training for terrorism and is committed intentionally.

In these cases, courts or administrative authorities will be able to request internet service providers to remove this information according to national rules implementing the Directive on electronic commerce.

Via Mashable

Monday, April 14, 2008

Some Old Posts

I started this blog in January 2007 and did so without any great ambition. I just wanted a place to post a collage of quotes from books, articles and blogs that caught my eye as well as some of my own commentary on themes that dominate my thinking e.g. entrepreneurship, strategic citizen, war of ideas, classical liberalism, the rise of liberal modernity, etc. This morning I was browsing through posts from the first few months of 2007, when I don't think I had any readers, and wanted to highlight a few of them:

Principles of Socratic Questioning

On Patriotism

The Entrepreneurial Revolution

Where is the Republican Vision?

The Emergence of the Modern Mind


Rogers' Journals

I've had the Journals of Robert Rogers of the Rangers on my wish list for a while now and just noticed that the price has dropped down to $4.41 from $12.99. So if this is the kind of thing you are interested in, now would be a good time to pick this up. Robert Rogers of course led the famed Rogers' Rangers during the French and Indian War and is the author of 28 Rule of Ranging

CIA Covert Operations in Tibet

Here's a good article about the CIA's covert ops in Tibet during the late 50s and 60s:

A widespread popular revolt finally broke out in February 1956, after the Chinese bombed ancient monasteries at Chatreng and Litang, killing thousands of monks and civilians massed there for protection. Given the growing military might of Tibet’s occupiers, Gompo Tashi and the meagerly equipped Chushi Gandrug knew they were going to need outside support. Consequently, the Dalai Lama’s elder brother, Gyalo Thondup, who had already been approached by the CIA, contacted the Americans. The Americans, he found, were quite intrigued with the prospect of supporting the Tibetans as part of a global anti-Communist campaign. If nothing else, their resistance would be one more way to create a ‘running sore for the reds,’ as one CIA man put it, even though at the top levels of the U.S. administration there was no pretense of commitment to Tibetan independence. Gompo Tashi’s guerrillas were excited at the prospect of American support. They knew little about the United States, but judging from the Communist propaganda they received, this faraway country was China’s greatest enemy.

Then one pitch-black night in the spring of 1957 six men from Gompo Tashi’s group found themselves spirited away by the CIA, whereupon they encountered with amazement their first airplane — for which the Tibetans had to invent a new word, namdu, or’sky boat’ — and saw their first white man. After an unimaginable flight in the unimaginable machine, six very bewildered Tibetans landed in Saipan for training, though most had no idea where on earth Saipan might be. Over the next five months the Tibetans were trained in modern weapons and guerrilla tactics. They were also trained in espionage and codes, and in the operation of the hand-cranked radio transmitter/receiver.
By fall of 1957, Tibetans who had never seen a sky boat were jumping out of one in the cold light of a full moon over Tibet. One of the first jumpers, Athar Norbu, remembered: ‘We could see the Tsangpo River below us gleaming in the dark. There were no clouds. It was a clear night. Happiness surged through me…[as] we went rattling out of the plane.’ In Lhasa, Athar Norbu and a fellow guerrilla made contact with Gompo Tashi. This ultrasecret project was code-named ‘ST Circus.’ The CIA was now in the fight.

In the summer of 1958, Gompo Tashi established new headquarters at Triguthang in southern Tibet, where thousands of men had gathered in a pan-Tibetan resistance force. In an effort to be more inclusive, they renamed their movement Tensung Dhanglang Magar (Voluntary Force for the Defense of Buddhism). Two CIA-trained Tibetans watched it all, radioing back to the United States. In July the CIA made its first arms drop into Tibet — mostly of untraceable old Lee-Enfield rifles...
Thrilled by the success of the two radio operators in central Tibet, the CIA built a top-secret facility at Camp Hale, Colo., former home of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. The Tibetans loved Camp Hale’s 10,000-foot Rocky Mountain peaks, alpine air and dense forests — reminiscent of home — and called the camp Dhumra, or ‘the Garden.’ Life at Camp Hale was Spartan, the training rigid and thorough. When the Tibetans got on the plane for their return flight homeward, each team carried the same things — its personal weapons, wireless sets and a cyanide capsule strapped onto each man’s left wrist.

The Rise of Global Civil Society

This looks like an interesting book. I have added it to my Amazon wish list. (The bold is mine):

The Rise of Global Civil Society: Building Communities and Nations from the Bottom Up

Yet just below the surface, more hopeful trends are brewing. A new global awareness of the people at “the bottom of the pyramid” is summoning forth an unprecedented response to human need and suffering. It involves a shift from vertical to horizontal power that official aid agencies are only beginning to comprehend. Whereas twenty-five years ago, government aid accounted for 70 percent of all American outflows, today 85 percent of all outflows of resources come from private individuals, businesses, religious congregations, universities, and immigrant communities. If aid policy in the twentieth century relied on top-down bureaucracy dominated by policy specialists and elites, the twenty-first century is shaping up as an era in which citizens, social entrepreneurs, and volunteers link up to solve problems.

U.S. military and economic power are basic components of America’s presence in the world; but in an environment of rampant anti-Americanism, it is compassion that is America’s most consequential export. Civil society, once the distinctive characteristic of American democracy, is now advancing across the globe, carrying with it new forms of philanthropy, citizenship, and volunteerism. Tens of thousands of voluntary associations are prying open closed societies from within, solving problems in new ways, and forming the seedbed for a long-term cultivation of democratic norms.

The sentences I bolded above are an excellent description of what I have been championing as the "strategic citizen" and "citizen self-mobilization".

Comic Book Psyop

For some reason I find myself intrigued by the usefulness of the comic book in persuasion operations. Not quite sure why since I don't read them and was never a big comic book reader when I was a kid. But I like that people are creatively using the tools that are available:

In a novel effort to combat the Al-Qaeda narrative, innovative officials in the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state in Germany have turned to comic strips in a bid to counter the radicalisation of young Muslims.
Following the success of a similar campaign against right-wing extremism in 2004, in which schoolboy hero Andi stood-up against xenophobia and racism, a new strip has been produced in which Andi helps his Muslim girlfriend rescue her brother from the influence of a radical friend and an Islamist “hate preacher”.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lebanese Wine

I would not have been inclined to think of Lebanon as a wine-producing country. But why shouldn't it be? Winemaking should be done wherever it can be done:

Although not one of the better-known wine-producing regions, Lebanon has managed to cultivate some impressive varietals throughout its strife-ridden history.  

Actually, Lebanon is one of the oldest sites of wine production in the world. Vines were grown in Baalbeck, an ancient Greek city in the Bekaa Valley, since time immemorial. Modern winemaking, however, dates from 1857, when Jesuits founded a vast underground winery, introducing good-quality grapes and storing the best of their production.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

"I would rather see our world communications efforts being run by people like James Carville and Karl Rove"

For a while now I have believed that the best model for citizen self-mobilization and strategic communications is political activism rather than advertising/marketing. (I'm really tired of hearing about how we need to "re-brand" America.) At the conference on public diplomacy at the Heritage Foundation columnist Tony Blankley spoke about this:

I would rather see our world communications efforts being run by people like James Carville and Karl Rove and whoever is the brains behind Obama's current campaign, than the current method by which we try to communicate...I'm struck by the fact that our law today, our political culture today, political correctness generally, don't even permit us to describe a possible system that might succeed in protecting us by communicating effectively not only around the world which is part of what public diplomacy is about, but back home. We had methods like this during World War 2 as you know Roosevelt and his people ran very effective film-making units that in fact did persuade and rally americans to the cause...but we've got to be honest enough with ourselves to recognize the kind of danger that we're facing and figure out how we marshal the kind of resources that we have rather than to feel so constrained by current mentalities that all we can do in the best of intentions is shift one little category of our bureaucracy from point A to point B on the chart that's not going to solve the problem if we can't even talk about the problem...

I was wondering where is it that we are designing our world communications strategy? Where is the war room for America in the war we've had inflicted upon us by radical Islam? I don't think there is an effective war room the way there is an effective war room in a well-run presidential campaign and there needs to be and it needs to be able to have the resources to be able to act. I agree completely that you need both a strategic capacity and a decentralized action and that's what a good presidential campaign's about. You've got a strategic plan but you've got plenty of assets out there moving to the sound of the debate you don't have to get approval back at HQ if you are running a good presidential campaign, if you are running a bad presidential campaign you do need to get approval. So the combination of a strategic concept and strategic resources driving a communications effort with radical decentralization of the operation at the tactical level is the kind of communications we need to be doing around the world and in the United States.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I've been reading Tom Stoppard's play Travesties and came across this line that I found amusing:

I have often observed that Stoical principles are more easily borne by those of Epicurean habits.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Podcast: Promoting Entrepreneurship in Iraq

Here's an interesting podcast from BusinessWeek with a business consultant who spent time in Iraq on a contract with the State Dept. to encourage entrepreneurship:

"Small-business development expert Phil Borden discusses his book, "Shaku Maku: On the Ground in Occupied Baghdad," which recounts his time advising Iraqi business owners in the Red Zone."