MountainRunner is off to the mountains

streamcrossingI’ll be offline for a few days as the family (pregnant wife, 22 month old son, two dogs, and me) head off to the mountains for a little camping. Some may call it brave. Some may call it foolish. Either way it should be interesting, and after all, it was the wife’s idea. It’s the first camping trip for the boy. I expect he’ll enjoy it since one of his first sentences was “go trail now?” and he knows the difference between his Crocks and his “trail” shoes (Merrells that have most aggressive tread I could find in his size).

The picture is the last good camping picture. The real MountainRunner is crossing the stream carrying the dog food while my other dog, a 3-legged climber with a turbo for climbing hills (not so much going down them), watches with perhaps less eagerness for the mild crossing.

For the record, this trip has been on the calendar for a month.

Question to my readers

I’ve noticed that sometimes the size of the browser window knocks the right column down to the bottom of the window instead of in the right column. In other words, some of you may see this


instead of this


This happens more on Internet Explorer than on other browsers (if you’re interested, 60% of MountainRunner’s readers use some version of IE, 30% use FireFox, and the remaining 10% includes Safari, Opera, Conqueror, Camino (?), and others). The problem must be with the resize code and is triggered only by a precise pixel width, but I’m not sure how to fix it. I’ve tried modifying the CSS, but what works in one browser doesn’t work in another, etc.

If you have any ideas, I’m all ears (or eyes). Give me your suggestions by commenting on this post or through email. Thanks and enjoy your weekend. I’ll be offline until Monday.   

COIN Manual came in the mail today, and a post on FM 3-24 by Nagl came yesterday

Is it wrong to be excited that the US Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual came in the mail today? It probably is, but I am.

Obviously it’s now shipping. See previous post on FM 3-24 (and thanks to Andrew Sullivan for linking to that post, it really spiked the viewers).

At the Small Wars Journal blog yesterday, they posted John Nagl’s foreword. Why re-write the manual?  

Although there are many reasons why the Army was unprepared for the insurgency in Iraq, among the most important was the lack of current counterinsurgency doctrine when the war began….It is not unfair to say that in 2003 most Army officers knew more about the U.S. Civil War than they did about counterinsurgency.

Consider the “whole of society” involvement of the new manual Nagl describes in detail on the SWJ post, substantially abbreviated below.

To take lead on perhaps the most important driver of intellectual change for the Army and Marine Corps—a complete rewrite of the interim Counterinsurgency Field Manual—Petraeus turned to his West Point classmate Conrad Crane…He took advantage of an Information Operations conference at Fort Leavenworth in December 2005 to pull together the core writing team and outline both the manual as a whole and the principles, imperatives, and paradoxes of counterinsurgency that would frame it….[at a mid-February 2006 conference], which brought together journalists, human rights advocates, academics, and practitioners of counterinsurgency, thoroughly revised the manual and dramatically improved it. Some military officers questioned the utility of the representatives from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and the media, but they proved to be the most insightful of commentators. James Fallows, of the Atlantic Monthly, commented at the end of the conference that he had never seen such an open transfer of ideas in any institution, and stated that the nation would be better for more such exchanges.

And while we’re on the topic of counterinsurgency readings, see the recent post by the Combined Arms Research Library (CARL) with their 2006 School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) monographs.

Here is a comprehensive list of COIN, irregular warfare unconventional warfare, low intensity conflict, small wars, peacekeeping operations, and urban operations monographs from the SAMS program going back from 2005 to 1985.

Bullets on Military Contractors

First, in the Washington Post today, the Army divides LOGCAP among 3 firms.

Second, keeping in mind the WaPo article, watch the 2006 USG Counterinsurgency Conference Day 1, Panel 1 discussion on COIN fundamentals and Best Practices. Go to about the 54th minute for H.R. McMaster’s comments on contractors in Iraq. Then fast forward to 1:07 when he is asked on this point by T.X. Hammes (of the superb Sling and the Stone), followed by a comment by David Kilcullen and I believe David Petraeus.

Third, and really unrelated to the first to, according to Robert Young Pelton, his book Licensed to Kill was banned in China.

Kilcullen on the Walls in Iraq

Noah Shachtman interviews the best thing to happen to the US war effort, Dave Kilcullen, at Danger Room. Dave is the Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor in Iraq and is the man bringing the servers hosting the Small Wars Journal’s blog to their knees with his rightly popular posts, most recently this update and reality check on the surge.

“The point of the walls was to structure the environment, to hold the city and keep it safe,” he tells DANGER ROOM. “It’s like [keeping] guard inside a concrete building, instead of in the middle of a field… You don’t need vast maneuver forces to do it… It’s the principle of economy of force.”

Now that the eleven sets of walls across Baghdad have been built — “controlling access, preventing attacks on the community, and preventing attacks from being launched on someone else,” Kilcullen says — “we’re now in a position to move against the [insurgent] havens.”

“Murders and sectarian killings have dropped 63%” in Baghdad’s Adhamiya neighborhood, since the wall has been put in place, he claims.  Residents are “thrilled.”

Initially, the barrier there — and in other locations around Iraq’s capitol — drew protests and international outcry.  Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki even called for a halt in construction, saying, “I oppose the building of the wall and its construction will stop. There are other methods to protect neighborhoods.”  But Kilcullen asserts that most of the local protests were “information operations” conducted by insurgent groups, meant to undermine U.S. plans to improve Baghdad’s security.   

“Every district in Baghdad [already had] its own defense,” the counterinsurgency adviser says.  The walls were built after consultations with local leaders, “figur[ing] out together how to make the community safe, what part of the defenses needed repair.”

Readers will note I was critical of Adhamiya wall, not because they were inherently wrong, but because of our failure to anticipate the impact of their perception and proactively get in front of enemy propaganda. Which is why Adhamiya, the third wall to be built, gained worldwide attention as Dave notes above. All of our actions must be considered in the context of information. We must appeal directly to “the people of the media, speakers and writers. [We] must tell the truth and cast [our] arrows at falsehood, for media is half of the battle.”* It seems we’re doing better at local, tactical IO.

*May 2, 2007, proclamation signed by the Iraqi Army of Iraq (IAI), Mujahidin Army, and Ansar al-Sunnah. See the RFE/RL report on Sunni insurgent media.

The Sunni Insurgency and their Media: The War of Images and Ideas

I read through the RFE/RL report posted on yesterday and it’s the best I’ve seen in the open domain. Daniel Kimmage and Kathleen Ridolfo looks at the Arabic media products in its native form, comparing producers, their messages and audiences, cross-referencing online products with print products, looking at trends, and more.

Saving the analysis for the chapter I’m finishing on the topic, I’ve selected some of the more interesting passages from the report, but if you’re in any interested in this, download the report and at least skim it. The report does not discuss US/Coalition responses except to note insurgents mimic the official tone and content for legitimacy.

Kimmage and Ridolfo see a decentralized psychological warfare operation that is seeing success with sympathizers and financial contributors.

The report shows that media outlets and products created by Sunni insurgents, who
are responsible for the majority of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and their supporters
are undermining the authority of the Iraqi government, demonizing coalition forces,
fomenting sectarian strife, glorifying terrorism, and perpetrating falsehoods that obscure the accounts of responsible journalists. Insurgent media seek to create an alternate reality to win hearts and minds, and they are having a considerable degree of success…

The impressive array of products Sunni-Iraqi insurgents and their supporters create suggests the existence of a veritable multimedia empire. But this impression is misleading. The insurgent-media network has no identifiable brick-and-mortar presence, no headquarters, and no bureaucracy. It relies instead on a decentralized, collaborative production model that utilizes the skills of a community of like-minded individuals….

This report brings Iraqi insurgent media from the margins to center stage so that outsiders without a command of Arabic can glimpse the “other half” of what is happening in Iraq as it is presented by the other side.

However, being decentralized and do-it-yourself (DIY) creates its own challenges.

But insurgent media also display vulnerabilities. The lack of central coordination impedes coherence and message control. There is a widening rift between homegrown nationalist groups and the global jihadists who have gathered under the banner of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Moreover, insurgent media have not yet faced a serious challenge to their message on the Internet…

As the propagandists / information warriors / public diplomats (loosening the definition) learn, they recognize and warn of the threats posed by the lesser qualified among them. The report breakouts producers, the insurgents themselves, and disseminators when they may be different. The Media Centers act like a PRNewsWire or other news clearing house for insurgent media. The study by Al-Boraq below should be noteworthy for its very existence, regardless of quality.

Thanks to the decentralized, “do-it-yourself” nature of the insurgent media enterprise, virtually anyone can, in theory, create a pro-insurgent media product. In practice, this is discouraged. The Al-Boraq Media Center published a study in October 2006 titled Media Exuberance, warning that the ease of Internet-based media production is a threat to the credibility and authority of jihadist—and, by analogy, insurgent—media.

The purpose of the media varies and one of the opportunities the report’s authors note is the increasing fissure between insurgent media groups.

The written word everywhere remains the preferred medium of record and authority. For insurgents, who are eager to present themselves not as ragtag bands of guerillas, but as the tip of the spear of a far larger and more significant movement, the creation of a body of written materials is a crucial indicator of the insurgency’s durability and seriousness.

While insurgent groups represent a variety of ideological platforms, hard-line Islamist rhetoric has come to predominate…the actual commitment of individual insurgent groups to global jihadist ideology is questionable…

…Iraqi insurgent groups such as the IAI and the Mujahidin Army hold a fair amount of animosity for ISI/Al-Qaeda, which they blame for hijacking and defaming the “honorable resistance”.

Groups seek to distinguish themselves from others, as is natural with entities competing for scarce resources.

In form, insurgent operational statements strive to convey credibility by mimicking
press releases issued by official organizations elsewhere. They bear the official logo of the issuing group even when they appear on Internet forums…

What the press releases represent is the image of themselves that insurgent groups would like to present—who, why, how, and how often they attack, and what results they claim to achieve…

Against this backdrop, it is noteworthy that an insurgency that emerged to combat a foreign occupying force now claims to direct the majority of its attacks against fellow Iraqis.

Despite differences between insurgents, there are certain themes that pervade the spectrum of their media.  

This explicitly religious framing of the conflict in Iraq renders insurgent rhetoric virtually indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the global jihadist movement. Foreign jihadists have flocked to Iraq, but it should be recalled that Iraq has never had a robust domestic Islamist, let alone jihadist, movement. Moreover, there is no evidence that jihadist ideas hold any great appeal for Iraq’s Sunni population, which provides the bulk of the insurgency’s rank-and-file fighters. Nevertheless, jihadist rhetoric is the rule, not the exception, in most of the statements issued by Sunni insurgent groups, whatever their declared ideological beliefs may be.

It is perhaps no accident, then, that the most media-savvy and politically vocal insurgent group is also the most openly jihadist. ISI/Al-Qaeda is the latest iteration of an organization founded by Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and commonly known in the West as Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia or Al-Qaeda in Iraq…

…the core media products made available globally through the Internet by Iraqi
insurgent groups, whatever their ideological orientation or stance on Al-Qaeda, are, it should be stressed, also effective propaganda for global jihadists and their sympathizers. This is especially true in light of Muslim views on Al-Qaeda attacks against civilians, which evoke strong disapproval [PIPA report, pdf]. Arab respondents to a recent poll overwhelmingly supported attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, however. Thus, insurgent media products showcasing attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq reinforce an aspect of the jihadist message that is viewed positively in the Arab world.

Insurgents treat local Iraqi audience different than their global audience.

Materials obtained by RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq correspondents in Baghdad and Al-Mosul illustrate an important difference between the statements made available on the Internet and the printed leaflets distributed within Iraq. The former are intended for an international audience and focus on the attacks carried out by insurgent groups and broader ideological issues.

There are no newspapers or radios specifically affiliated with insurgent groups. There are four television stations described in the report: Al-Zawra, Al-Rafidayn, Al-Jazeera, and Al-Firdaws (Caliphate Voice Channel, or CVC).

The impact of insurgent media operations is global, feeding money and sympathy, and less often recruits.

The reach of Iraqi insurgent media is global and seeks to promulgate a message that the resistance is conquering occupation forces in Iraq…

…the most popular websites carrying insurgent and pro-insurgent materials are equal,
and in some cases superior, in reach to many mainstream Arab media sites

While home-grown groups do not have a policy of recruiting foreign fighters, they may receive financial support from abroad—from the Iraqi diaspora or from sympathizers in other Arab countries—and their media efforts would only benefit such activities.

…mainstream Arab media access the materials and use them in their print and broadcast reports.

The media operations target two general groups of “consumers”, sympathizers and opinion makers.

…factors point to a relatively well-defined profile for the average consumer of insurgent media products: A native speaker of Arabic with a strong interest in politics and access to a high-speed Internet connection. This consumer most likely resides in a Persian Gulf country, where high-speed Internet access is most widespread in the Arab world, and is probably a member of at least the middle class…. the largest number of visitors to most sites [come] from Saudi Arabia (although Egypt and the Palestinian territories are often high on the list as well)…

Within the community of “typical consumers,” two groups stand out. The first are sympathizers who seek out insurgent materials on the Internet in order to obtain more details than they can find in mainstream Arab media. From the insurgent perspective, of course, sympathizers are important as a potential source of financial support. Recruitment appears to be of lesser importance to insurgent groups, some of which have stated that they neither need nor want foreigners to join the fight…

Just as important as potential financial backers are opinion makers, the second community within the “typical users” targeted by insurgent groups. These are the media professionals who create the content of mainstream Arabic language media. It is, of course, their job to follow and report on the media activities of insurgent groups. For the insurgent groups, making materials available to media professionals ensures that the insurgent message reaches a larger audience through the “amplification effect” of mainstream media.

Differences in the messages are becoming more apparent, as well as similarities with notable IO in recent history.

[A film by] Ansar Al-Sunnah juxtaposes incendiary comments by Hazim al-A’raji, an aide to Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, with footage of the gruesomely mutilated corpses of Sunnis…the film’s unmistakable message to Sunnis is that they face the gravest peril and must take up arms. The combination of hate speech and glorification of violence calls to mind disturbing parallels with the media campaign that preceded the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

…the rift between nationalist and jihadist groups within the insurgency appears to be widening, with insurgent media reflecting the split. Against a backdrop of basic differences in ideology, with nationalist groups limiting their goals to Iraq and jihadist groups spearheaded by Al-Qaeda seeing Iraq as part of a global struggle, open conflict has become more common.

There’s more in the 76 page report, but you get the idea. Insurgent media operations has its challenges. There are opportunities to learn from their marketing strategies, to insert ourselves into the process and hive off potential sympathizers, the curious, and the neutrals, turning them against the insurgents. While proclaiming they deliver the truth, they often lie and yet these groups have “brand” loyalty, trust, and growing numbers of followers.

Perhaps soon the US will fully commit to combating enemy information operations, until that time, tactical solutions will not inoculate against hate, build our reputation and gain trust quick enough.

The War of Images and Ideas: a reality in modern conflict

Danger Room is on a cyber-roll with information warfare. Noah posts today on a report by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that “reveals weaknesses In Sunni-Insurgent media war“, a war we have yet to participate in. In the war of images and ideas, the United States (and some might say Karen Hughes) seems to think we’re fine sticking with print, the digital domain be damned (and there are others who think digital is the way to go).

I haven’t gone through the report yet (tonight), but it’s key findings are spot on and resonate with anecdotal evidence:

  • Sunni insurgents in Iraq and their supporters worldwide are exploiting the Internet to
    pursue a massive and far-reaching media campaign. Insurgent media are forming
    perceptions of the war in Iraq among the best-educated and most influential
    segment of the Arab population.
  • The Iraqi insurgent media network is a boon to global jihadist media, which can
    use materials produced by the insurgency to reinforce their message.
  • Mainstream Arab media amplify the insurgents’ efforts, transmitting their message
    to an audience of millions.
  • The insurgent propaganda network does not have a headquarters, bureaucracy,
    or brick-and-mortar infrastructure. It is decentralized, fast-moving, and
    technologically adaptive.
  • The rising tide of Sunni-Shi’ite hate speech in Iraqi insurgent media points to the
    danger of even greater sectarian bloodshed. A wealth of evidence shows that hate
    speech paved the way for genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
  • The popularity of online Iraqi Sunni insurgent media reflects a genuine demand for
    their message in the Arab world. An alternative, no matter how lavishly funded
    and cleverly produced, will not eliminate this demand.
  • There is little to counter this torrent of daily press releases, weekly and monthly
    magazines, books, video clips, full-length films, and even television channels.
  • We should not concede the battle without a fight. The insurgent media network
    has key vulnerabilities that can be targeted. These include:
    • A lack of central coordination and a resulting lack of message control;
    • A widening rift between homegrown nationalist groups and Al-Qaeda affiliated
      global jihadists.

See Dave Kilcullen’s latest post at the Small Wars Journal and consider each of his five facts in the context of information and psychological warfare empowered by the above. Then, see another recent post of Dave’s, especially number 5, “Develop a capacity for strategic information warfare”:

Contrast this with our approach: We typically design physical operations first, then craft supporting information operations to explain our actions. This is the reverse of al-Qaida’s approach. For all our professionalism, compared to the enemy’s, our public information is an afterthought. In military terms, for al-Qaida the “main effort” is information; for us, information is a “supporting effort.” As noted, there are 1.68 million people in the U.S. military, and what they do speaks louder than what our public information professionals (who number in the hundreds) say. Thus, to combat extremist propaganda, we need a capacity for strategic information warfare—an integrating function that draws together all components of what we say and what we do to send strategic messages that support our overall policy.

Now, pick a story you recently heard in the news. For discussion, let’s say you picked the Taleban’s attempted use of a 6 year old boy to be a suicide bomber. Fortunately, the lad didn’t know why he was told to push the button so he asked a police officer to remove the vest.

Karen Hughes, in one of her few recent attempts at public diplomacy, asked Where’s the outrage last year. Yes, where is the outrage of highlighting the un-Islamic tactic? Where’s the outrage in emphasizing the nihilist approach of the terrorist and insurgent against anybody who remotely opposes them, US or not? This requires participation in the information front and we’re not there.

Or maybe you picked the New York Times story this morning about insurgents wiring a whole neighborhood as a booby trap. Think the residents were keen on seeing their homes destroyed? Do we do anything to help place blame? Do find new homes of the IDPs (internally displaced persons)? Does anybody in Iraq (or elsewhere since support and recruiting is global) know if we are?

We have the advantage of the truth and yet we don’t use it. The reasons why not are numerous and all are invalid. More on that later.

There is more here than the number of “public information professionals”, this about finally realizing and operationalizing that kinetics is not the name of the game. We know the requirements, we can read about them, and yet we’re repeatedly in the same position. We know what information can do (Rwanda, as cited in the report).  

The “surge” won’t be successful without effective psychological warfare. At some point, we’ll have to stand up and play the game. Too bad trust will continue to erode, recruits will continue to be available, money will continue to flow, protection will continued to be offered to the bad guys, the people necessary to rebuild Iraq will continue to leave, and so many good men and women will continue die while we continue to sideline ourselves. It’s time we got into the real fight. “Ne cras, Ne cras”. No, it’s not like yesterday.

Who visits

Be sure to visit This is the quiet website of the U.S. Government Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative. There’s not a lot there besides the standard COIN quote at the top of each page.

The ICI’s mission is on the home page:

The Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative (ICI) seeks to inform and help shape relevant USG policy and programs by incorporating the theory and history of counters to organized movements that use subversion or violence rather than established political processes to undermine or overthrow governments, with the goal of focusing appropriate elements of diplomacy, defense, and development on the alleviation of such threats.

The website has been on my sites to visit for months now (see the left margin of MountainRunner’s home page).

Having blogged on the site when it was created November 2006, it’s interesting to note that MountainRunner is one of the top referring sites. I don’t think I’m deserving of an award for sending 20 people their way since it was created in November, but it’s perhaps more telling that I am a top referrer while only sending 20 people their way since November. Maybe with this post, that number will double I’ll pass, but I’ll still be behind and holding spots #10 and #11 with 61 and 55 respectively.

The number one spot, by the way, has 1,147 visits. But I don’t no why and didn’t spend much time there. Go to the hosted report and go to the #1 referrer yourself.

Enemy propaganda in cyberspace? Don’t tell Karen Hughes

Two timely posts from Noah. First is yesterday’s post on insurgent/terrorist blogs:  

Islamists use the Web to spread propaganda, communicate anonymously, share training guides, get organized — even sell t-shirts.  So it’s not exactly a shock that Muslim extremists are blogging, too.

It’s nice to see on of the blogs use a Radio Free Europe broadcast to let his readers know when Islam went to the Czech Republic. It’s not nice to see a comment on a blog that says

I know the society from which these US soldiers come. If they’re raping the women, best believe that some US soldiers are raping Iraqi males, too, even little boys. The societies need to know these things to advise their men to never let anyone take them into custody alive. Male or female, they’re likely to be raped by male soldiers.

You probably already know that Karen Hughes has essentially abrogated her responsibility to counter malicious propaganda in cyberspace. If you don’t then look at her Cold War-era public diplomacy strategy, keep in mind she has “four or five” bloggers working for her and her “identifying misinformation” website is only funded for a single individual (at least the last time I spoke with TL who is the man behind it). And no knock to TL, but “identifying misinformation” isn’t the same as countering it or even getting ahead of the ball.

Now perhaps USC’s Center for Public Diplomacy wants to counter this hate speech from within their virtual world, the after all just received over a half-million dollar grant to do so. Apparently the Center for Public Diplomacy sees this as part of their mission since they’ve been working on their Virtual Worlds project for some time. More on that in a follow up post.

And Noah’s other timely post? Also in a follow up.

Public Diplomacy’s Reality Check

One of the most severe problems with “public diplomacy” is the failure by even its proponents to agree on a definition. Sadly, this past week we saw more of the same.

Last week I wrote on the release of a new public diplomacy strategy that reflects nearly two years of leadership by Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. Released without fanfare, it was gently slipped into the wild with nary a comment by the Administration, Karen Hughes, any supporter of either. Her strategy focuses on television and radio viewers and listeners, at strategy at odds with the counter-terrorist and intelligence community’s emphasis on Internet chat rooms and websites where some of the recruiting, proselytizing, and hate happens and grows. The strategy not only prioritizes the wrong medium, but virtually ignores the grass-roots nature of many of terrorist cells that take seed and grow outside of the strategy’s narrow geographic focus. While Hughes’ strategy would have you believe otherwise, a lot happens outside the Middle East.

Interestingly, at the University of Southern California’s “Center” on Public Diplomacy the focus is on an entirely different target audience.

In order to explore some of the possibilities for public diplomacy in virtual worlds, project researchers immerse themselves in Linden Labs’ Second Life, a virtual world that imitates the real world in which we all live. Through the Center’s various Second Life initiatives, the Virtual Worlds Project is working to encourage residents to engage in these intercultural dialogues and exchanges in ways conducive to fostering a better understanding between people.

On the heels of the release of the strategy was another announcement, the Center on Public Diplomacy received $550,000 to support this mission. The Center apparently thinks the target audience has ample bandwidth and computer power to enter the virtual worlds. Who does the Center think they’re talking to?

There seems to be three positions on public diplomacy these days, and I’ll let you decide which one seems to be right.

First, you have Karen Hughes suggesting technology is low priority and “traditional” media like TV and radio is the way to go. Her audiences are key decision makers, women and children, and then “mass audiences.” She completely ignores competitors, instead focusing on the tired old, and useless, tactic of getting people to understand us.

Second, you have the Center on Public Diplomacy focusing on virtual worlds, by definition self-selective. (Heck, I know decision makers and casual readers who don’t even use RSS…) Possibly, the Center is really looking forward to try out new strategies to be deployed in the real world on a parallel Planet Earth like the DoD, but somehow I doubt it. Don’t forget the infrastructure necessary to access this realm. This is lacking in the “Gap” but not in Europe. 

Or third, the Defense, Intelligence, and Counterterrorism communities monitoring and penetrating chat rooms and websites, and connecting with local communities at the grass roots level around the world, including Europe and Africa (and the United States). By the way, it’s this community that’s getting the face time in Congress, that’s now writing books on public diplomacy, and establishing the definition as the “soft power” folks stand by fiddling.

While none are perfect, which of the three do you think might reach out the right audience to create awareness and impress upon the listeners a different tactic and strategy is best? Which one is better suited for reality?

Another way to Add MountainRunner to your Google Page

Many of you don’t use RSS readers like Newsgator, instead preferring to read MountainRunner through the email delivery option (nightly delivery of the day’s posts) or one the feed aggregators like PageFlakes, NetVibes, etc.

Feedburner makes it easy for you to read MountainRunner using virtually any reading platform or technique you have. But there’s another option in town now.

MountainRunner is now available as a native iGoogle gadget. This gadget is created specifically for the Google personalized home page and allows me to give you a little more information, with a customized layout, than before.  

Check it out. Or, continue to use the the “old” version for your Google page, it’s not going anywhere. Choice is good.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. This is my first gadget after years of not programming. There will be enhancements down the road which will appear seamlessly on your desktop.

(By the way, the refresh rate on the gadget is one hour, meaning there may be a lag from the time a post appears on MountainRunner and when it appears on gadget, but I bet you’ll be okay with that.)

American Intelligence Community Horror Story #4786

For a change of pace, instead of hammering on State, we’ll hammer on the bureaucracy. Go to Afghanistanica and read American Intelligence Community Horror Story #4786:

Not enough experts, hmm? Nobody can speak the languages? The government needs people with area knowledge? Well, of course they do. And there is of course a shortage of available people with the required skill set. So why are so many experts being turned down for employment? You can find this debate discussed ad nauseum elsewhere. Instead I will share a little story about an acquaintance who was turned away by the bureaucracy of the United States government.

When It Comes to The Battle of Ideas, The U.S. Has No General

hughes A smart title for an intelligent article by Stew Magnuson in the July 2007 issue of National Defense. Adding to MountainRunner’s ongoing series of “What the Hell is Karen Hughes Doing?”, yet another defense source criticizing American public diplomacy over the last several years. It seems the really serious commentary now comes from the defense sector. I don’t know if that’s because the “softer” side has given up or because America’s at the mall when the Marines are at war.

Either way, Ms. Hughes needs to start being effective now and stop wasting our time and money. In a very real sense, Ms. Hughes’ failure to lead puts the lives of our soldiers at risk by not countering insurgent propaganda in Iraq, the Middle East, or elsewhere recruits and money flows from. Overall, this is a national security issue as the enemy becomes stronger and more empowered by our failure to participate effectively, if at all, in modern information warfare.

Read Magnuson’s article or read an extract below:

“Our adversaries are way ahead of us in the use of the Internet and the use of the media,” said Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin, undersecretary of defense of intelligence

“The question is on a day to day basis, who is responsible for information operations for the United States government?” Boykin asked. “And the answer is ‘nobody’… There is no one in charge on a day to day basis.”

Thomas O’Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict [SO/LIC], is among those who are lamenting the nation’s lack of unity in countering the ideas of radical Islam. The enemy is adept at using information technology tools, he said at the conference. He criticized the U.S. and international media, but also laid some blame on the Defense Department.

“We have got to do a better job of telling our story,” he said. “I think we make efforts. I don’t know if they’re efforts that are very well coordinated both on an international and a domestic level.”

Credibility is the key. If the message is perceived as coming from the United States, then it wall fall on deaf ears.

The State Department is spending $700 million per year on the U.S. Middle East Television Network, better known as Al Hurra, which has been sharply criticized for failing to gain market share. Radio Sawa, part of the same effort, has gained an audience, but it is not clear whether either of them has been able to positively shape attitudes in the Muslim world toward U.S. policies, Rand said. Both stations are seen as proxies for the United States.

The ultimate goal, [Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University] said, is the deconstruction of the al-Qaida brand. That’s “not to be confused with a public relations campaign to improve the image of the United States,” he added.

If the United States is to help “reverse the flow of ideas,” who is responsible?

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, at the hearing asked the Pentagon’s Doran if anyone was in charge of countering extremist ideology.

Karen Hughes, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, was his answer.

Hughes was a close political advisor to President Bush, tasked with reinvigorating the State Department’s public diplomacy sector, which had its post-Cold War budgets eviscerated by Congress.

But within the State Department, Rand analysts said, there is little consensus on what public diplomacy means. Is it changing opinions, garnering support for policies or marginalizing extremists? The sector gets short shrift there. And at the Pentagon, the public diplomacy office didn’t open its doors until more than five years after 9/11.

“This strategic uncertainty ensures suboptimal policy performance,” said the Rand study.

Ask military public affairs officers about “public diplomacy” and they always responded that was a job for State. Now, intolerant of State’s continued failure to step up, the Pentagon has formed it’s own public diplomacy office.

The new office — serving the undersecretary of defense for policy — is tasked with “ensuring strategic communication and information are integral to policy making … developing and coordinating key themes within the Defense Department to promote policies,” and working with other U.S. government partners, particularly the Department of State … to design and facilitate whenever possible strategic communication policies and plans to effectively advance U.S. national security,” the new deputy assistant secretary of defense, Michael Doran told the committee.

This new office shouldn’t exist. State should be managing, if not owning, this role, but it’s not. Now, to be fair, it’s not entirely the fault of incompetent leadership, but a failure to position the Department properly in the modern world, which is arguably a failure of leadership as well.

The Pentagon understands linkage between action and words, which is the heart of the “new” counterinsurgency strategy (in quotes because counterinsurgency strategies for the last one hundred years, and before including Sun Tzu, all teach the same thing we’re relearning now). Al-Qaeda understands this as well, from warning to Zarqawi to change tactics to exercising caution in bringing on affiliates.

Meanwhile, the State Department as a whole and the public diplomacy department in particular, continues to shrivel in size, stature, and spirit as the military expands its role to fill the vacuum. “Suboptimal” is an understatement.

(H/T Haft of the Spear)

Greg Bear on Jon Stewart

Greg Bear, a member of SIGMA, was on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night to pitch his new book Quantico about “near-future threats”. The conversation quickly went to his advisory role to the government. He effectively explained what he and SIGMA does, how the science-fiction (not science fantasy) community helps the FBI and DHS think throw threats and threat mitigation strategies. Bear complimented new DHS Science & Technology Chief Jay Cohen who gave the contractors at the recent Department of Homeland Security S&T conference a unique request: “show me products I didn’t know I need.” Watch the interview here or below.

What Greg didn’t talk about was our conversations on blogging, robots, and politics. Maybe if the interview was longer…

SIGMA follow-up

Long over-due post following up on SIGMA, the science fiction writers group started by Arlan Andrews to consult to the government previously blogged about here.

I had the opportunity to chat with Arlan Andrews about SIGMA. Here’s what he had to say. 

MountainRunner: What’s the story behind the missing SIGMA website? Some bloggers have questioned why it doesn’t exist.

Arlan Andrews: The main reason SIGMA has no website is that I haven’t gotten around to it, though I am the owner of eight or ten different domains, and have owned probably thirty over the past ten years (and sold a few at a profit!).

Fact is, I never saw the need for such a site, as, so far, e-mail and personal contact have sufficed for the very few needs we ever had, and there was never any intention to publicize SIGMA outside of possible government users.  When the opportunities arose in D.C., some of us even discussed whether we wanted any PR and then decided, what the hell, let it happen.  What’s the worst that can happen?

MR: Ok, so no website, what about a blog?

AA: I may start a website for potential agencies to peruse, but no way am I going to have a SIGMA blog anytime soon; what I’ve read in the b-sphere about DHS and SIGMA reveals so much ignorance and conspiracy orientation that there is little room to discuss anything.  Besides, most of us have private lives and limited time.

As one government official told me, “It’s amazing that the institutions that should disparage SIGMA (Congress, the dinosaur media) generally approve of the concept, but the so-called free-thinkers in the blogosphere are trashing it.  Makes you wonder.”

MR: At the DHS Science & Technology conference recently, SIGMA members in attendance included Greg Bear, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Sage Walker, Eric Kontani, and of course yourself. Are there other SIGMA members?

AA: Other SIGMA members include Doug Beason, David Brin, Greg Benford and Stan Schmidt, editor of ANALOG, all of whom didn’t attend the DHS meetings for various reasons.

MR: Are you limiting SIGMA membership in anyway?

AA: After the D.C. event, and even before, we had decided to bring in other SF writers, and those invitations went out from me yesterday, potentially doubling the size of the group.  The idea is not to exclude anyone — almost every SF writer has great ideas — but to keep this group at a manageable size and see how it works if it doubles.  Some of the writers’ whose names were mentioned in your blog may have been invited, or may not have been.  Those people will handle their responses as they see fit.  SIGMA is strictly voluntary in all respects; anyone can decline any potential tasking for any reason, no questions asked.

MR: What are you accomplishing with SIGMA?

AA: Well we had the chance actually to get some [science fiction-based] ideas into the minds of the government decision-makers and funders, and we did so.  We will continue to do so.  We will help protect you and your families as well as our own.

MR: What do you think about the disparaging comments on SIGMA’s assistance to the Government?

AA: I feel no need to defend the desire to protect the lives and welfares of our citizens.  I might remind the wingnuts out there on both sides (and I know some of each, and have already argued with them  on the phone and in person) that some of the DHS component organizations include the Coast Guard (anything wrong with helping them in Search and Rescue?), Customs (anything wrong with suggesting ways to prevent drugs, weapons, biotoxins from coming in?), FEMA (none of us is happy with FEMA — but wouldn’t everyone love the opportunity to help straighten them out?), TSA (want to minimize those annoying inspections?  So did we!), and commercial aircraft defense (want to prevent the airplane you’re riding in from being shot down during takeoff and landing?  So do we.)

Update: Greg Baer was on John Stewart June 21, 2007. H/T Kathryn.

Reading: mixing virtual with physical

trailrunner46 One of my favorite magazine, TrailRunner, now has a digital edition. Unlike The Atlantic or Foreign Affairs that simply offers their content online, this is a real tree-less version of the pulp version with flipping pages and everything using RealRead.

It’s an interesting idea. It may simplify content management system (CMS) requirements, implementation and management costs while at the same time providing a “natural” (traditional or to the techies, Luddite) experience.

Interesting. Although I’ll keep my hard copy, I spend too much time in front of the computer as it is, it could be a valuable resource for making content accessible to developing or poor regions around the world (the former referring of course to non-US locales while the latter may refer to US domestic locales). Make this technology available through projects like the Iraqi Virtual Science Library, usable with $100 Laptops, and you’ve made content more accessible.

Understanding mission requirements, or What is the State Doing?

The strategic requirements of the Baghdad mission can’t be underestimated, and yet Ambassador Ryan Crocker is placed in the position of needing to remind his boss to get on the ball. Glenn Kessler writes in today’s Washington Post about a blunt memo Amb. Crocker sent Secretary of State Condoleezz Rice two weeks ago.

Ryan C. Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, bluntly told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a cable dated May 31 that the embassy in Baghdad…lacks enough well-qualified staff members and that its security rules are too restrictive for Foreign Service officers to do their jobs.

“Simply put, we cannot do the nation’s most important work if we do not have the Department’s best people,” Crocker said in the memo.

“In essence, the issue is whether we are a Department and a Service at war,” Crocker wrote. “If we are, we need to organize and prioritize in a way that reflects this, something we have not done thus far.”

It seems Rice’s “Transformational Diplomacy” hasn’t transformed State enough to get the job done. In fact, her time at the helm of State is, well, lacking. WhirledView had this Republican view on Rice’s leadership that came out during the passport hearings today:

Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio), however, did point out that while Colin Powell and Richard Armitage had done a good job of managing the State Department during W’s first term, that he had warned Secretary Condoleezza Rice and the new Deputy Secretary John Negroponte that “someone had better pay attention to management at State because morale is horrible and people are leaving in droves.”

From DC to the Emerald City, recommendations from a management review Crocker requested two months ago have yet to be fully implemented. From Crocker’s words and the recent history of State, resistance isn’t based on disagreement with the recommendations, but a clear lack of initiative, leadership, and management from the top of the Department, the 7th Floor. (more of the same in the public diplomacy office)

…Crocker said the State Department’s human resources office “has made heroic efforts to staff the embassy, but to a large extent HR has been working alone.” Referring to the floor where Rice and her top aides work, Crocker said there should be “a clear message from the Seventh floor . . . that staffing Iraq is an imperative.”

Crocker also called for ensuring that responsibility for recruiting and assigning personnel for the embassy rests with the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which covers the Middle East and North Africa. All other bureau assignments “should be held until there are sufficient bidders with requisite qualifications for Iraq positions,” Crocker wrote.

Crocker, in the interview, said the human resources department does not have the capacity to make sure the best people are placed in Baghdad. “They can’t do this,” he said, whereas the Near East bureau, which oversees Baghdad, has the skills to “identify the right people with the right skill sets.” State Department officials acknowledge that hiring has been haphazard, but a team has been set up in the Near East bureau to work with the personnel department…

If military standards “are good enough for them, they should be good enough for us,” Crocker said. “We are all in the same fight.”

As Amb. Crocker points out, this is a truly combined arms fight. State is required, as is the rest of the government, to be fully behind the mission but it is clear the Secretary of State hasn’t stepped up. I’m getting tired of asking these questions, but I’ll do it again: Where is State? What are they doing? Ambassador Crocker and I would both like to know. (DoD stopped asking and simply started doing State’s work years ago.) 

It seems State is in Europe even when it’s in the Middle East. In the Wall Street Journal (sub req’d), Neil King, Jr., wrote how SecState Rice frames the world through her lens of European Cold War history, and an apparent incomplete one at that. Subjected to her fatalist view that lessens the importance of action, she sees little need to work on the basics to guide actors in the right direction. In her Cold War-based analogies of state systems maneuvering in a ring, using proxies to feel each other out, she’s out of touch with the real requirements of modern politics in the Middle East and anywhere the “Long War” is being fought.  

“The reason that I cite some of these other times, like Europe, is that it is so clear in everybody’s mind that the United States and its allies came out victorious at the end of the Cold War,” she said in Kuwait. “But if you…look at the events that ultimately lead to that, you would have thought that this was failing every single day between 1945-1946 and probably 1987 or 1988.”

Secretary of State Rice clearly forgets the whole chunks of Cold War history. The importance of information, education, aid, capacity building, and commitment by the American public and the entire Government, are seemingly lost on the SecState, all of which were required in massive doses to win, especially in the earlier years of the Cold War. Clearly Rice has forgotten the massive information campaigns, overt and covert, to support this victory.

She tends to portray events, particularly the clash between what she calls “moderation” and “extremism” in the Middle East, as driven by huge, almost inevitable forces that make diplomacy impractical, or even irrelevant. Critics say such a view has made Washington’s top diplomat less flexible in policy making — and less adept in old-style negotiation and hand-holding, whose results also can be hard to quantify in the short term.

This view is seen evident in her prioritization of support for Crocker, the latitude Undersecretary Karen Hughes is allowed, and the overall approach to addressing current and future engagements.

If and when qualified people do start coming over, as Phil Carter points out “precisely how inadequate” the US diplomatic presence in Iraq is with this question and answer in today’s State Department briefing:

Question: How may Arabic speakers with 3/3 levels of proficiency are currently serving at Embassy Baghdad?

Answer: We currently have ten Foreign Service Officers (including the Ambassador) at Embassy Baghdad at or above the 3 reading / 3 speaking level in Arabic. An additional five personnel at Embassy Baghdad have tested at or above the 3 level in speaking. A 3/3 indicates a general professional fluency level.

Phil responds:

15 Foreign Service Officers out of 1,000 Americans (not all FSOs) who can speak Arabic??? Four years after the invasion? In that time, we could’ve paid all-expenses TDY trips for half the diplomatic corps to spend a sabbatical in Qatar or Jordan or somewhere nearby to pick up the language, and then put them to work in Iraq. If there’s one bright shining example of our inability as a nation to learn and adapt for this war, this is it. Sir Lawrence and Gertrude are likely spinning in their graves.

The natural follow up question at the State Department brief is, of course, how many Arab linguists State wants to have.

Question: Does the State Department have a specific goal for the number of Arabic speakers it would like to have?

Answer: We have calculated that we need to retain at least 2.5 Arabic speaking employees for every 1 Arabic Language Designated Position (LDP). Using this calculation, the State Department needs to employ approximately 547 Foreign Service Officers with Arabic language skills in order to fill the existing 219 LDPs.

These numbers are based on the facts that not all Arabic speaking employees will always be serving in an Arabic LDP, many of the LDPs need to be filled every year, and others must be filled every other year.

Once we achieve our goal, Arabic speaking employees would expect to spend 40% of their time in Arabic LDPs.

One of the ways the State Department is addressing this deficit is through a new initiative which immediately considers any employee, no matter their current assignment, for Arabic language training beginning this September.

I’m speechless…in any language.

Liberal Wikians

The Wikipedia entry for the book Unrestricted Warfare is being “considered for deletion”. Here is the discussion by the WikiPolice:

This book appears to be somewhat controversial yet there is no sourcing given for the claims that are made in it. I see from Amazon that a translation was published by a publisher I have never heard of. I frankly question the notability of this book.–Samiharris 15:35, 19 May 2007 (UTC)

and this

This book is strange, as is this article on it. As pointed out in the PROD, there doesn’t seem to be any record of the publisher “Pan American Publishing Company” of Panama City. There is a “Pan American Publishing Company” of Los Angeles that publishes bilingual Spanish/English texts for grade schools. There doesn’t seem to be much on this from anywhere other than the book itself (btw would the Chinese authorize the publication of this? Is it a copyright violation?), and a couple of things from the “intelligence” community. In short this has propaganda, spooks, and unreliable written all over it.

I think it’s fair to say that while it does seem to be based on an authenic document, the translation and emotive cover of the book has the smell of a black propaganda effort, or at the very least, irresponsible sensationalism. This would not be inconsistent with the proto-neocon organisation Team B’s mistranslations of Russian documents in the late 1970s, and related CIA misinformation which indirectly convinced the then head of CIA William Casey into believing the agency’s own lies, lies suggesting that Russians were the masterminds behind seemingly unrelated global terrorist activities.”

I’ll suggest that any source on this seems unreliable, and that nothing should be put on Wikipedia until a RELIABLE SOURCE can be found.

PurpleSlog has been working with the sad and sorry WikiPolice to keep the article. Questioning the source of an entry isn’t new, especially if it is outside the thought realm of the WikiPolice (“I frankly question the notability of this book.”), as Kathryn Cramer documented earlier this year (scroll down to “Examples of things that didn’t fly”).

The fight PurpleSlog is in is a key reason the ConflictWiki exists: lunatic sysops and a source policy that is both too restrictive and too broad. (Note: the ConflictWiki will be undergoing an overhaul to make it easier to use.)

For real info on Unrestricted Warfare, see the website for Unrestricted Warfare Symposium earlier this year. To download, see the ConflictWiki.

UPDATE: see the “Articles for Deletion” discussion on Wikipedia if you want a good laugh. Especially humorous is this recommendation for delete:

delete – It’s not clear whether this meets the Threashold criteria from Wikipedia:Notability (books)It’s from an unknown publisher, published apparently in translation without the supposed authors consent, and claims to have been translated by the CIA. Checking notability critera beyond the threashold:


A book is generally notable if it verifiably meets through reliable sources, one or more of the following criteria:

1. The book has been the subject [1] of multiple, non-trivial[2] published works whose sources are independent of the book itself,…. such as newspaper articles, other books, television documentaries and reviews…. (I don’t see any evidence of this.)

2. The book has won a major literary award. (no evidence of this)

3. The book has been made or adapted with attribution into a motion picture … (no evidence of this)

4. The book is the subject of instruction at multiple grade schools, high schools, universities or post-graduate programs in any particular country. (There was ONE (not multiple) symposium at John Hopkins – but you needed a “SECRET” security clearance to attend.)

5. The book’s author is so historically significant…” (Don’t think so)
Most importantly – there is nothing reliable about any of the sources on this book, nothing verifiable. Smallbones 15:18, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Major motion picture? Correction, the symposium was two days, only the second required a clearance, but so what?

You’ll see others have joined in and noted references that “Smallbones”, a probably not-so-ironic name didn’t see.

If you want to contribute to the debate at Wikipedia, go here, or of course add your comments below.