I enjoy discussing 4GW…

I enjoy discussing 4GW because there are just so many problems with the “theory”. This is probably why I read Arms and Influence’s Mao or Less with a grin on my face:

OK, I’ve officially had it with the “netwar” crowd. An interesting observation–successful guerrillas and terrorists operate in loosely-networked organizations, instead of hierarchical chains of command–has turned into a distorted view of revolutionary warfare. “Netwar” is an overstatement, a description of a trend that is not entirely new, nor is it exactly the strategy of many revolutionary groups described as “net warriors.” If the United States is going to get smarter about counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, it shouldn’t posit a brand new kind of warfare that may not exist.

Continue reading “I enjoy discussing 4GW…

Blogroll Rundown

A belated announcement from me: Noah Shachtman made the move from, well his nameless old blog, to his new and friendlier home, Danger Zone hosted by Wired magazine. Some people came with him and another rejoined him to make Danger Zone essential reading. (Oh, and don’t forget to wish Noah a happy birthday.)

Because of the change of Noah’s online domicile, here’s a rundown of MountainRunner’s blogroll:

  • Abu Aardvark :: Marc Lynch opens the door to Arab media, opinion and politics that reacts to and shapes US public diplomacy in the Middle East.
  • Armchair Generalist :: Jason’s blog is required reading on CRBN and most everything else under the security umbrella. I especially enjoy his trenchant analysis of Condi Rice.
  • Arms and influence :: thought provoking commentary on theory and strategic decisions. I recommend listening to his Podcast.
  • Bad Guys :: Hosted by US News & World Report, David Kaplan is another Noah…
  • Beacon :: Paul looks at, reframes, and contextualizes concepts of soft power in ways that’ll make you realize Joe Nye was onto something.
  • Blog Them Out of the Stone Age :: historical insights
  • ComingAnarchy.com :: hard to pin this collective down, but great commentary and analysis on a broad range of issues.
  • Counterterrorism Blog :: the name says it. Read it.
  • Danger Room :: Noah’s new digs
  • Daniel W. Drezner :: good read, see his Foreign Affairs article in the latest issue (March/April 2007) which I have but isn’t on the website yet.
  • David Phinney :: David’s all over PMCs…
  • Draconian Observations :: Henrik posts are written with Scandanavian precision, I just wish he had the time to write more frequently because when he does it’s good stuff.
  • Eccentric Star: A Public Diplomacy Weblog :: Ann’s tagline says it all: “Public diplomacy perspectives on the news”.
  • Haft of the Spear :: Michael is the key intelligence blogger (that I know of 🙂 and definitely worth reading.
  • Hidden Unities :: Eddie (also of FDNF) is hella deep sometimes
  • Intel Dump :: Phil’s superb analysis from an insider’s perspective is required reading.
  • IraqSlogger.com :: RYP’s site is the first stop for any news on Iraq
  • Josh Kucera :: a journalist’s perspective. His upcoming trip should be interesting.
  • John Brown’s Public Diplomacy and Press Review :: don’t let MountainRunner’s frequent appearance on John’s list fool you, this list is a tremendous news portal.
  • Kathryn Cramer :: an incredible open source investigator
  • Maps of War :: Check out the maps and you’ll know why.
  • Opinio Juris :: in short, required reading. The lawyers delve into critical national security and diplomacy issues.
  • Opposed Systems Design :: valuable analysis of current events
  • Public Diplomacy Watch :: brief but encompassing commentary on public diplomacy with a focus on tourism (non-governmental exchange).
  • Simulated Laughter :: another journalist perspective.
  • SWJ Blog :: the posts on the Small Wars Journal Blog should be required reading for anybody interested in the modern world
  • tdaxp :: Dan writes a smart and mentally challenging blog.
  • The Belgravia Dispatch :: Greg’s analysis and commentary should be required reading
  • The Duck of Minerva :: a collective of academics bring, well, an academic angle to their discussion (not that I do the same)
  • The Green Ribbon :: Tom brings commentary from the other side of the pond. Mostly focused on UK politics, occasionally he has a good post on the Colonials
  • The War Room :: Bridging reality and computer games with strong analysis
  • Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog :: The king of powerpoint. Perhaps I could insert a powerpoint transition sound effect to be more descriptive
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) :: One of the very few places to get a steady stream of UAV/UCAV etc updates (besides Defense Industry Daily which isn’t a blog)
  • WhirledView :: Excellent analysis and commentary by public diplomacy and international affairs experts.
  • ZenPundit :: Mark brings the deep intelligentsia to the discussion on war.

Now that I got this rundown out of the way, future additions will be accompanied by a post. Deletions will quietly fade away…

Update: six already added (left off is more like it): Bad Guys, David Phinney, John Brown, Josh Kucera, and Simulated Laughter.

More on Contractor deaths

In response to AE’s comment on contractor KIAs in Iraq, I doubt (and agree there shouldn’t be) any joint memorial to our fallen servicemen and servicewomen and private contractors. Consider Blackwater USA, however. In their effort to emulate or reconstruct the US Armed Forces from which many of their number come, they have their own memorial. I’m not aware of any other firm that has such a feature (but not many have such expansive grounds to fit one either).

Hmmm, good idea

From Michael Tanji commenting on an article about the DIA trying to bridge worlds:

General, please, it’s simple: you have computers, wikis and blogs – use them. Everyone else in the information business is working this way (some are getting ready to go beyond it). If you can’t grasp it, if your office chiefs can’t grasp it, I guarantee the kids you hired since ’02 do (as well as the mid-career folks who now wear yellow badges). It’ll work. It works millions of times every day. Make that your pilot and save yourself the grief, time and expense.

Hmm… a wiki… that’s a fine idea

Restating KIA numbers in Iraq: adding the “coalition”, er, contractor deaths

For those paying attention, the 1,000 killed in Iraq was a milestone that would have been reached sooner if contractor deaths were included. At the time, the 1k number was a traumatic figure and the number of contractors killed was still quite small, while high profile.

Now the death toll for the “Coalition of the Billing”, or contractors, has broken 800. Before, 100 or 200, or even nearly 400 contractor KIA was hardly, if at all, mentioned. Now, there seems to be some awareness of the additional deaths.

See David Phinney for the current story and updates on what will likely be news in the coming days.

As a side note: FOIA requests on contractor deaths last year were denied, granting private contractors greater privacy than soldiers and their families.

US Covert Action in Britain Today

Tom Griffin of The Green Ribbon has an interesting series titled US Covert Action in Britain Today. He asks if the US is shaping British politics (“public diplomacy”) through covert action and largely answers the question through lenses provided by the Roy Godson’s Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence. Tom finds it “difficult to believe there isn’t an active US Government covert action programme in Britain today.”

Well, it may be true. It’s also true, if we want to turn this around, that Britain played heavily in American politics prior to and after our entry into World War II. But that was then and this is now.

(BTW: Tom’s not done with his mini-series as of this post, having at least “Strategic Aims” to complete.)

I haven’t read Godson’s book or read any other reviews of it, but from Tom’s description, it sounds like he stays in the worlds of black and gray ops (info ops or otherwise). I’m curious if the author considered or know of a comparison between the effectiveness of a white program like the International Visitors Program, documented by a friend as having positively influenced (from the US perspective) Thatcher and Blair long before they ascended to power, to the dark programs alleged / described by Godson.

Using ICT in the Gap

ZenPundit’s post on the $100 laptop (aka One Laptop Per Child initiative) ends with the excellent suggestion of minding the Gap within the US instead. It would probably get better traction than Microsoft’s interesting cell phone alternative (and its inherent focus on communication for market and other info) now that schools are trying to limit cell use.

So what type of investment would make an impact in the Gap? Personally, I think if given only $50,000, a real impact could be had with minimal risk, especially in one northern Nigerian state, with the right plan of course.

Smart Power Equalizer (part I): finding the mix

This post is the first of a multi-part series about the design and application of “smart power.”

Counterinsurgency, much like international relations, is about the right amount of power in just the right places. However, in the macro scheme of international relations, there is room for fudging, and fine grain controls aren’t as necessary. Counterinsurgency requires greater finesse to be successful.

Bridging the ideas of hard power (generally kinetic use of force) with soft power (non-coercive persuasion), we arrive at the somewhat new and fashionable term Smart Power (side note: see the Smart Power Blog for one of the few open discussions on the topic under the banner “smart power”). To counterinsurgency, this isn’t new.

Up until a few years ago, conventional wisdom still held that winning wars against non-state actors could be calibrated by looking at the elements of national power. State opponents didn’t necessarily need all of the pressures brought to bear as, since the 19th Century, victory could be achieved by capturing the capital city. Non-state actors, however, didn’t often have such a convenient defined geo-political heart and so we looked at the broader spectrum of our elements of power that could be brought to bear. Originally this was DIME (diplomacy, information, military, and economics), somewhat recently it was expanded to the awkward acronym MIDLIFE (military, information, diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence, finance, and economics).

Continue reading “Smart Power Equalizer (part I): finding the mix

ConflictWiki (Updated)

One reason I’ve posted some “academic-like” posts on this site, in addition to files, is the hope of using MountainRunner as something of a repository of knowledge. In spite of my writing skills, I’m still hoping to accomplish this and have decided to create a wiki after looking at entries like counterinsurgency, Blackwater, public diplomacy, SWET, Muhammad Khalil al-Hakaymah, and even John Nagl on Wikipedia. These just aren’t adequate for the needs of the SO/LIC, PMC, public diplomacy, smart power, and terrorism communities. As these groups are intricately linked together and require greater or at least different details on these topics.

As of this post, there’s nothing on the just-installed ConflictWiki (http://www.conflictwiki.org/), be the first to post something useful and we can build a shared community resource.

By the way, information on al-Hakaymah, see West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

Book Review: Insurgents, Terrorists, And Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat

Insurgents, Terrorists, And Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat is a very useful contribution to the growing body of literature of modern conflict. While the subtitle of the book suggests a tempo-centric view of the Now, the book’s purpose is really to demonstrate the value of anthropological analysis of the irregular warriors we are facing today. Unlike “modern” states who might employ irregular tactics, the authors look at the societal and cultural interactions specific in warrior societies, or “martial races” (a term indifferent to ethnicity), and their resulting organizing principles. This is done to satisfy Sun Tzu’s admonition to “Know the enemy” which we do not. The absence of this knowledge, in simple terms, means we not only don’t know or understand why or how the enemy fights but we don’t even know how defeat or subordination, perhaps a better word, is defined by the enemy or conforms to their belief system. Afterall, both victory and defeat must be acknowledged by all sides.

Continue reading “Book Review: Insurgents, Terrorists, And Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat

Paying for war

The Defense Contract Audit Agency reported to Waxman’s Oversight Committee this week that nearly 18% of the $57 billion audited so far was wasted. This figure, nearly $10 billion now, is likely to increase before it’s all over.

The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.

”There is no accountability,” said David M. Walker, who heads the auditing arm of Congress. ”Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable.”

Imagine how many more soldiers could have been hired? Well, at 2001 figures, 14,285,000 soldiers. That’s simply silly because between 2001 and 2006, the cost to recruit 10,000 soldiers went up $500,000, so as of last year this money could only have brought in 8,333,000.

What about taking just the current waste and applying it to soldiers’ pay, improving (or funding) the VA?

Or how about just providing our guys with essential equipment?

The Army and Marine Corps are $5 billion short of what they require in fiscal year 2008 to acquire a fleet of armored vehicles designed to provide better protection against roadside bombs — the scourge of U.S. forces in Iraq — than the current fleet of humvees.

The two services have spelled out this “unfunded requirement” to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked all of the service chiefs to inform Congress of where more money is required.

The Army and Marine Corps — which are shouldering the lion’s share of the work in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffering the largest proportion of casualties from roadside bombs — indicated in separate responses to Hunter that their No. 1 unfunded procurement need is for substantial sums to acquire thousands of Mine Resistant Ambush Protection Vehicles.

Specifically, the Army says it needs $2.25 billion and the Marine Corps says it needs $2.8 billion. Put together, the two sums would pay for a fleet of approximately 5,000 vehicles optimized to protect passengers from the devastating effects of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

What do you think would be different if the work not done or done exceptionally poorly years ago (it’s almost pathetic to “years ago”) was properly and efficiently completed?

Testing a new look

As I procrastinate, I’m testing a new look for the blog. In addition to the change in colors, the front page has gone to a 3-column format, some back pages will be moved to 3-column, and some elements on the pages will be shifted around. Let me know if you like it or hate it.

Book Review: Warriors and Politicians: US Civil-Military Relations Under Stress

Warriors and Politicians: US Civil-Military Relations Under Stress is an outstanding book providing a real and practical look at American civil-military relations. Charles Stevenson comes to this book with the experience of two decades on the staff of four US Senators and as a professor fo the National War College. Unlike other authors on the subject, he puts significant ink in the beginning on the fact the “US Constitution was framed by men distrustful of standing armies and any concentrated power.” The product of this mistrust is evident in the established relationships, by Constutition and by practice, between the three institutions (Executive, Legislative, and military). There is an ongoing struggle where the military seeks autonomy and resources and offers professionalism and loyal subordination (per the Constitution) while the two political branches struggle, as the Framers intended, to make policies. The US military is “cross-pressured by its two masters and…often feels compelled to turn to one for relief from the other.” In the current national security crisis, this book is important reading to really understand the role of the military, the impact of Rumsfeld and the Generals Revolt, Congerssional debates and resolutions, and more.

Continue reading “Book Review: Warriors and Politicians: US Civil-Military Relations Under Stress

Update on Halliburton/KBR/Blackwater relationship

From David Phinney:

ROUGH DRAFT: From the time four men were killed in streets of Fallujah on March 31, 2004 until yesterday, the U.S. Army couldn’t determine if, in fact, Halliburton/KBR had broken its multi-billion-dollar contract agreement by allowing a private security company to guard a subcontractor’s convoy

Then suddenly, one day before a Congressional hearing on the events surrounding the killing and burning of four private security contractors — the Army figured it all out.

Halliburton/KBR had violated the sweeping contract to provide support services to the Army in Iraq, we learned at the hearing.

According to the LogCAP contract — now clocking about $16 billion in receipts — Halliburton/KBR agreed to always use military support for its security unless otherwise approved by the combatant commander. Halliburton had no approval.
Continue reading “Update on Halliburton/KBR/Blackwater relationship

The Army just confirmed what everybody knew

An Army undersecretary testified September 2006 that Blackwater did not provide protective services to Halliburton or KBR. Well, everyone pretty much knew the name Blackwater and their role after four of their guys were massacred in Fallujah in 2004 in an event that possibly changed the personality of the conflict (see Pelton’s Licensed to Kill for an excellent forensic analysis of what happened; Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco sheds additional light on the impact of the response).

Well, now the Army finally figured out that yes indeed Blackwater was subcontracted to provide security.

Continue reading “The Army just confirmed what everybody knew


Draconian Observations was paying attention SecDef Gates talking tothe Senate Armed Services Committee today. From Gates:

“The president has decided to stand up a new unified combatant command, Africa Command, to oversee security, cooperation, building partnership capability, defense support to nonmilitary missions, and, if directed, military operations on the African continent,” Gates said. This command will enable us to have a more effective and integrated approach than the current arrangement of dividing Africa between Central Command and European Command, an outdated arrangement left over from the Cold War.”

While you’re reading the Scandinavian’s other comments, check out Armchair Generalist’s players card on the combatant commands. He’ll have to add a slot soon for AFRICOM.

I’ve gotta run.