Talking about talking in Iraq, Nineveh specifically

On the blogger roundtable last week, I’ll be brief and generally punt to Grim at Blackfive to talk about the Blogger Roundtable Call last Friday with Colonel Stephen (“ste-FAHN” to you and me) Twitty. COL Twitty is commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav, stationed in Ninewah province, the largest in Iraq. The full transcript is here for your reading pleasure, but a searchable version is here (I’ve asked the PAO to make the bloggers archive version searchable as well).

Continue reading “Talking about talking in Iraq, Nineveh specifically

Agent-Based Modeling of Irregular Warfare (ABMIW)

At Danger Room, Sharon Weinberger posted this morning about sims in predicting cause and effect, notably in insurgencies.

Can modeling tools help predict (or forecast) the future? Well, that’s not quite what the Pentagon wants to do, but it’s similar. The goal of “Agent-Based Modeling of Irregular Warfare (ABMIW)” is to use computer models to forecast the consequences of specific actions on, for example, insurgency:

If you’re interested in previous versions of an “Artificial-Life Laboratory for Exploring Self-Organized Emergent Behavior in Land Combat” that doesn’t include sociological variables, you might enjoy EINSTein, the Enhanced ISAAC Neural Simulation Tooklit (ISAAC standing for “Irreducible Semi-Autonomous Adaptive Combat”), available here. (Note: this is a “very” old program.)  I’m sure some of you might enjoy playing with this software, if you haven’t already. It’s fascinating to watch the little guys swarm. 

Multiagent-Based Models (MBMs) incorporate complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory to simulate and understand. EINSTein looks at two living forces colliding, Blue v Red. Unlike EINSTein, newer versions of MBMs incorporating many sociological dimensions (tribe, sect, gang, etc) aren’t freely available for obvious reasons.

Useful for programming robots, no?

While talking about Public Diplomacy in Cyberspace… news on Second Life (updated)

Following up on my previous post on electronic media is this article by Frank Rose, writing in Wired, How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life:

For months, Michael Donnelly had been hearing all about the fantastic opportunities in Second Life.

As worldwide head of interactive marketing at Coca-Cola, Donnelly was fascinated by its commercial potential, the way its users could wander through a computer-generated 3-D environment that mimics the mundane world of the flesh. So one day last fall, he downloaded the Second Life software, created an avatar, and set off in search of other brands like his own. American Apparel, Reebok, Scion — the big ones were easy to find, yet something felt wrong: “There was nobody else around.” He teleported over to the Aloft Hotel, a virtual prototype for a real-world chain being developed by the owners of the W. It was deserted, almost creepy. “I felt like I was in The Shining.”

Second Life partisans claim meteoric growth, with the number of “residents,” or avatars created, surpassing 7 million in June. There’s no question that more and more people are trying Second Life, but that figure turns out to be wildly misleading. For starters, many people make more than one avatar. According to Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, the number of avatars created by distinct individuals was closer to 4 million. Of those, only about 1 million had logged on in the previous 30 days (the standard measure of Internet traffic), and barely a third of that total had bothered to drop by in the previous week. Most of those who did were from Europe or Asia, leaving a little more than 100,000 Americans per week to be targeted by US marketers.

Then there’s the question of what people do when they get there. Once you put in several hours flailing around learning how to function in Second Life, there isn’t much to do. That may explain why more than 85 percent of the avatars created have been abandoned. Linden’s in-world traffic tally, which factors in both the number of visitors and time spent, shows that the big draws for those who do return are free money and kinky sex. On a random day in June, the most popular location was Money Island (where Linden dollars, the official currency, are given away gratis), with a score of 136,000. Sexy Beach, one of several regions that offer virtual sex shops, dancing, and no-strings hookups, came in at 133,000. The Sears store on IBM’s Innovation Island had a traffic score of 281; Coke’s Virtual Thirst pavilion, a mere 27. And even when corporate destinations actually draw people, the PR can be less than ideal. Last winter, CNET’s in-world correspondent was conducting a live interview with Anshe Chung, an avatar said to have earned more than $1 million on virtual real estate deals, when Chung was assaulted by flying penises in a griefer attack.


Joseph Jaffe, the marketing consultant who advised Coke on its in-world presence, dismisses the notion that such efforts might not be worthwhile. “The learning is now,” Jaffe says. “You are a pioneer, and with that comes first-mover advantage” — that chestnut from the Web 1.0 boom. And the paltry numbers? “This is not about reach anymore. This is about connecting. It’s about establishing meaningful, impactful conversations. So when people ask, ‘Why Second Life?’ I ask ‘Why not?'”

Yes, why not? Are you going to see lots of people? No…

…the popular islands are never crowded, because each processor on Linden Lab’s servers can handle a maximum of only 70 avatars at a time; more than that and the service slows to a crawl, some avatars disappear, or the island simply vanishes. “It’s really the software’s fault,” says Andrew Meadows, Linden Lab’s senior developer. “Way back when, we used to say, ‘This is not going to scale.'”

Why go?

“Companies say, ‘It’s an experiment’ — but what are they learning?” Tobaccowala asks. “Basically, they’re learning how to create an avatar and walk around in Second Life.” Which is fine if that’s what you want to do. Just don’t expect to sell a lot of Coke.

Seems like a good place to have a presence. In a cost-benefit analysis, seems like it isn’t the best investment for the money if you’re attempting to counter enemy propaganda through engaging foreign and domestic publics directly. But that’s just me…

Ok, Michael’s got some updates. First, was his post a couple of months ago about SL being a terrorist training tool. But all ICT(information and communication technologies) can be dual purpose, so I’m not concerned there. Better to use technology to empower the good than to fear its use by the bad. We may as well return to the communications systems of the Seventeenth Century to prevent the spread of ideology, food, etc. But here’s the good stuff MT shares: Virtual Terrorists, Hunted in reality, jihadists are turning to artificial online worlds such as Second Life to train and recruit members.

In SL people create their own characters, known as avatars, and live an alternative life, buying goods, real estate and living in a community of more than eight million people from across the world. They go about their lives, attending concerts and seminars, building businesses and socialising.

On the darker side, there are also weapons armouries in SL where people can get access to guns, including automatic weapons and AK47s. Searches of the SL website show there are three jihadi terrorists registered and two elite jihadist terrorist groups.

Once these groups take up residence in SL, it is easy to start spreading propaganda, recruiting and instructing like minds on how to start terrorist cells and carry out jihad.

One radical group, called Second Life Liberation Army, has been responsible for some computer-coded atomic bombings of virtual world stores in the past six months….

Earlier this year Britain’s Fraud Advisory Panel warned that SL players could launder money across national borders without restriction and with little risk of being detected. The FAP says criminal or terrorist gangs can also use the game to avoid surveillance while committing crimes including credit card fraud, identity theft, money laundering and tax evasion.

Perception management by the insurgency

This is a video of an EOD robot taking one for the team filmed and posted by an Iraqi Sunni insurgents & supporters. More interesting is the back and forth comments on YouTube about its place in the larger media campaign.

silence34342000 (video poster): can you imagine how many resistance videos are released daily each showing at least 4 marines dying(not considering flying rockets on american bases and operations which didnt get videod)? do you know how many Jihadi groups are in Iraq?
you dont know the size of resistance and its abilities.
plz ark get me one video showing the Mujahidin killing innocent ppl

arkgunslinger: Here’s a few
v=PpOHYdMQOkE “There has been a surge in sectarian violence in Iraq”
v=rdJTOIi0vaQ “Ever more Iraqi civilians murdered”
v=3hnkGxT3gAg “Chlorine truck bombs in Iraq”
v=MPAoQ8jQJPs “Many Killed in Iraq Car Bombing”
v=pFmdaWWKGMI “Typical Car bombing aftermath”

silence34342000: i watched them all and i have one comment
show me ONE Mujahid just one in any of these videos.
see Jihad videos theyre marked by a Jihadi group sign or accompained by comment of a Jihadi leader or Mujahidin themselves appearing in the video.
in the videos you brought it isnt clear who did those bombings and all of them just showing smoke and burnt things without a proof that this was done by Mujahidin

silence34342000: see how Jihad media is clear and simple it shows everything starting from planning an operation and ending with excuting it your media brings the burnt things and tells you the evil Mujahidin did it without any proof and without one Mujahid appearing in the video

The poster, an insurgent supporter at the very least, recognizes the need for IO and the value of a clear and simple media product. Taunting the (presumably) American to “Show me one mujahid…in any of these videos” killing innocent people, he shifts responsibility of demonstrating the contradiction of the insurgents message and tactics to the American.

By the way, what’s State doing to counter these messages? Under the “leadership” of Karen Hughes, State has “four of five” bloggers that search through cyberspace and attempt to correct information with official US position statements. Underwhelming to say the least.

Importance of images and perceptions

On framing US domestic images, Why the Military Hates the Left

On the importance of Iraqi domestic perceptions, see the second half of Sean Smith’s film at the Guardian.

Also, see Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack’s article in today’s New York Times.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Another surprise was how well the coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working. Wherever we found a fully staffed team, we also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it to revive the local economy and build new political structures. Although much more needs to be done to create jobs, a new emphasis on microloans and small-scale projects was having some success where the previous aid programs often built white elephants.

Good news and bad news in a single sentence: “Wherever we found a fully staffed team…”

Monday Mash-Up for July 30, 2007

If you want another example of America’s failure to understand the importance of building a bigger and badder Internet infrastructure (hell the report I referenced misses the fundamental requirement!), compare the US e-Government initiative and the UK’s. It isn’t pretty.

“Universal internet access is vital if we are not only to avoid social divisions over the new economy but to create a knowledge economy of the future which is for everyone. Because it’s likely that the internet will be as ubiquitous and as normal as electricity is today. For business. Or for individuals.” – former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2000

There are advantages to technology, although this example doesn’t include a resolution, in “the F-16 Does What?” segment Noah Schachtman clipped from Michael Yon’s post from .

Bourbon and Lawndarts and SWJ (don’t skip the comments on SWJ’s post) both have good posts on passing up H.R. McMaster, author of the superb Dereliction of Duty and COIN expert, for a promotion.

Foreign Policy cites the latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey showing Muslim support for suicide terrorism is waning. Think the attack on Iraqi soccer fans will be included in a public diplomacy campaign? What about an information operation?

Jason at ArmchairGeneralist also looks at American readiness today, another installment in his ongoing series titled “They’re Breaking My Army.”

Phil Carter posts on the growing girth of Americans and asks about its impact on recruiting in the future.

Paul Kretkowski at the Beacon posted his comments on the DNI Open Source Conference.

Steve Aftergood of FAS noted the Army has revisited its manual on Civil Affairs.

Lastly, adding to my earlier post IEDs as a Weapons of Strategic Influence, Noah writes on JIEDDO’s “strategic flaw” using an insider study (Word doc).

However, what the paper concludes, ultimately, is that the American effort against improvised bombs has been an “unsatisfactory performance [with] an incomplete strategy.”  What’s more, the JIEDDO-led struggle against the hand-made explosives has a “strategic flaw” that may keep the U.S. from ever gaining the upper hand on the bombers, Adamson notes: The lack of authority to knock bureaucratic heads.  He recommends instead establishing a separate, Executive Branch agency with a “laser-like concentration on the hostile use of IEDs.”   

Ideally, every element of the U.S. government would be teaming up to fight IEDs, Adamson writes.  Spies would be uncovering rings of bombers; FBI investigators would be helping examine forensic evidence; diplomats would be applying political pressure to catch bombers; other countries could even be chipping in, offering their own experience with improvised explosives. 

In practice, however, such coordination has been uneven, at best. The  “IA [interagency] process lacks a comprehensive strategy for defeating the global IED threat.”  Outside of the military, few agencies have viewed bomb-beating “as essential to their collective or unilateral missions.”  So they have given the problem short shrift.  For example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms decided that, “due to resource constraints, [it] could not support greater involvement with DOD’s [the Department of Defense’s] IED effort,” Adamson notes.  Same goes for the nation’s spies.  “Internal reform and mission overload in the IC [intelligence community] cripple[d] its capacity for additional effort.”

Update on the America’s Crusader Castle in Baghdad

What’s the latest on the American crusader castle nearing completion in Baghdad you ask? Well, it’s Congressional testimony on the slave-like conditions of the construction workers.  

So, let me get this straight. We build a large fortress in the middle of a foreign capital we occupy, and call it an embassy. We do everything we can to ostracize the locals with this secret construction, including making sure the site very visibly has 24/7 electricity while the rest of the country doesn’t (let alone Baghdad). (Let’s not ignore Bremer’s decision that Baghdad should no longer enjoy a preference for electricity.) We import labor from elsewhere in the world, because we don’t trust the locals whom we supposedly are working to build up to be partners, from countries with strategic stability issues. The workers, who are deceived on where they will work, are mistreated and paid poor wages. And then, the construction is so shoddy, the security force can’t move in.

What a brilliant demonstration of not just short-sightedness, but also of the utter failure of our leadership to comprehend the image we construct around the world.

To work just one point, would it have really have cost so much to pay the foreign workers a good wage (relative to their home country)? This would have not only increased moral, possibly increasing work quality, but also possibly bought off their families at home who benefit from American “largess”.

Perhaps largess isn’t the right word since the embassy, the largest in the world by far, is too small.

The best quote I’ve read (sorry, but I forgot who wrote it) on the US Embassy: it’s like Fort Apache in the middle of Indian country, except this time the Indians have mortars. For more on security of the embassy, read Jason’s post.

DOD Blogger Outreach update

Briefly: It took 23 minutes for Noah to connect Jason and myself with the PAO in charge of the “exclusive” Blogger Roundtable. We’re in and already information is flowing. This morning, the PAO sent details on the Center for Combating Terrorism report referenced in today’s NYT article by William Glaberson.

In hindsight, it seems Silverstein and Grim were both talking beyond each other. Perhaps over generalized, but tell me how many of the “Left” actually care to listen to DOD information? How many of the “Right” actually hear the concerns of the Left? From my experience, this is typical of American polarization. It is also contrary to my experience while attending a Welsh university just a few years ago where I enjoyed long conversations with friends from the (far) Left to the Right at the same time about American foreign policy and global security. Try that in the US and you’ll quickly devolve from a factual discussion to an emotional screamfest.

Resurrecting history: facing the unknown, destructive and negative threat

In what would become known as the “Long Telegram” sent 9pm, February 22, 1946, to the Secretary of State, George Kennan ended with “practical deductions” that are worth reading in today’s environment. 

(1) Our first step must be to apprehend, and recognize for what it is, the nature of the movement with which we are dealing. We must study it with same courage, detachment, objectivity, and same determination not to be emotionally provoked or unseated by it, with which doctor studies unruly and unreasonable individual.

(2) We must see that our public is educated to realities of Russian situation. I cannot over-emphasize importance of this. Press cannot do this alone. It must be done mainly by Government, which is necessarily more experienced and better informed on practical problems involved. In this we need not be deterred by [ugliness?] of picture. I am convinced that there would be far less hysterical anti-Sovietism in our country today if realities of this situation were better understood by our people. There is nothing as dangerous or as terrifying as the unknown….

(3) Much depends on health and vigor of our own society. World communism is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue. This is point at which domestic and foreign policies meets Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués. If we cannot abandon fatalism and indifference in face of deficiencies of our own society, Moscow will profit–Moscow cannot help profiting by them in its foreign policies.

(4) We must formulate and put forward for other nations a much more positive and constructive picture of sort of world we would like to see than we have put forward in past. It is not enough to urge people to develop political processes similar to our own…

(5) Finally we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society. After Al, the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.

For those who frame the modern conflict in Cold War images, it might be useful to remember the real designs and purposes of early Cold War policies. For those who think public diplomacy is simply a beauty contest to hopefully “win hearts”, should go back to the aggressive “five-dollar, five syllable” foundation of public diplomacy as a psychological struggle for minds and wills against an enemy who understood perception management.

Tour update: Rasmussen and Cofidis are out

Damn. Damn. Damn. I noted earlier that Rasmussen missed four tests over the last two years and was on thin ice. Today, after today’s grueling 218.5km ride with two beyond category climbs, two cat 1 climbs, and a cat 3 climb, Rabobank kicked Rasmussen off the team. His Tour is done. The reason: he lied about his whereabouts when he was supposed to be tested. As the BBC reports:

The Danish Cycling Union said last week Rasmussen had been warned for missing two random controls earlier this year and banned him from September’s world championships and the 2008 Olympic Games.

It later emerged he had already been warned twice by the International Cycling Union (UCI) for missing two separate random tests in the past 18 months.

Rabobank manager Theo de Rooy said he was aware of the missed tests and revealed he fined Rasmussen 10,000 Euros (£6,720)….

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said: “The important thing is not that he has been sacked by his team but that he will not be at the start of the stage tomorrow.

“We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated, but his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable.

“I at the very least do not feel that I have been dishonoured.

“One cannot mock the Tour de France impunitively like those riders,” he added, referring to Rasmussen, Moreni and Vinokourov.

It is unclear if Team Rabobank will start tomorrow.

And, the rider who tested positive after Stage 11 was Cristian Moreni of Team Cofidis. The team of Brit Bradley Wiggins, who had been doing well, withdrew from the race   

“One mindless individual has put everybody at risk and it is a shame.”

London’s mayor Ken Livingstone, who watched Wiggins in the prologue, said: “This is deeply disappointing for Bradley Wiggins, who has had a fantastic Tour de France.

Perhaps this new tactic of withdrawing the whole team and not just ejecting a rider will put more pressure on teammates not to waste everyone’s time. Sponsors will definitely put a lot more pressure on riders to be clean.


Tour de France

This morning’s Vs coverage began with a rant by Al Trautwig on moral scandals in sports this month alone and in general. From the historic homerun record about to fall to a known steroid user to the sick dog-killing quarterback. He referenced the known use of enhanced performances in Ironman and recent allegations of their use in golf.

Missing from Al’s monologue and the following discussion by the rest of the Vs commentators was any reference to the allegations and suspicion against race leader Rasmussen, who was jeered when signing in for today’s stage. Rasmussen, who missed four tests in the past two years, was dropped from his national team last week. The Tour organizers have said if they would have known this, Rasmussen’s team, Rabobank, to withdraw him before the race start.

Alexandre Vinokourov may be innocent, but two tests on two days showed a positive and unlike Lance Armstrong, there is no undercurrent to take him down or friction between the ASO/L’Equippe and the rider. This is terrible news, but unfortunately the use of illegal enhancements is endemic by the peloton and must be addressed, even if it can never be completely cleaned up.

What happened? His dad’s blood is one allegation, which Vino smartly countered:

“I heard that I made a transfusion with my father’s blood,” Vinokourov said. “That’s absurd, I can tell you that with his blood, I would have tested positive for vodka.”

I haven’t heard anyone mention the terrific impact the withdrawal has had on Andreas Klöden.

At this time, we’re waiting to hear the identity of presumably another rider who tested positive on Stage 11.

On a positive note, if you’re online now, listen to live Eurosport coverage here. Listen to the the audio of their TV coverage while watching a GPS-feed map of lead, chase, and peloton. It’s sweet, plus the commentary is constant, deeper, and overall superior to some other options you may have.

On the Blogger Outreach (updated)

There’s been a backlash against Ken Silverstein’s post on the Pentagon’s Blogger Outreach program. It may be that the one paragraph I pulled and questioned may not be entirely accurate. That said, the rest of the post still stands questioning to the role and purpose of Public Affairs. For a discussion on PA, see the comments on my original post.

See Silverstein’s update today. The intent of the blogger roundtable seems to be perception management by the Administration to. Charlie Quidnunc at wizbang, responding to Silverstein’s asking “how they would feel if a group of handpicked, administration-friendly liberal bloggers had done the same thing during the Clinton years,” said

Isn’t that what happens every day to the journalists covering Iraq? (Note the snicker quotes for Mike Drummond.) Don’t they just parrot all the Democratic talking points spreading anti-administration gospel? We’re just fighting back against their spin.

Not the best choice of words by Quidnunc, but perhaps befitting of the reality. 

MountainRunner isn’t playing politics here but simply highlighting the overt political manipulations by the Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus (see Catharsis’s comments on OCPA on my earlier post). I agree with the need to get the word out of successes. Like a tree falling in the forest, if no one knows you’re winning, you’re not winning.

That said, the Blogger Roundtable seems to be a function of perception management more than PA, not having sat in on one and based on Silversteins arguments, which are more persuasive than Grim’s. Now granted the Roundtable can’t include every blog out there, but Quidnunc and others seem to parrot the undesirability of a contrarian view an themselves implicitly parrot the “you’re with us or against us” mantra.  

So let me modify Silverstein’s question to his readers: is it the Pentagon’s responsibility or duty to influence US domestic public opinion?

The US military is sworn to uphold the Constitution and is beholden to two masters: the President as well as the Congress. Since World War II, the uniformed military has realized its place in between these two and manipulated the relationship extensively. However, the creators and managers of the Roundtable are civilian appointees, not uniformed personnel. Does this change your answer?

IEDs as “Weapons of Strategic Influence”

Armchair Generalist and Plontius discussed IED’s as Weapons of Strategic Influence last month. Some thoughts as Plontius apparently didn’t understand the real, and intended, ability of IEDs to influence public perceptions, and thus opinions, through both direct and indirect actions.

First, Plotinius looked at the mission of the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). JIEDDO sees IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) for what they are: tools of influence. IED’s cannot kill enough personnel or destroy enough material to reduce or eliminate American operational capabilities. But through persistence, they can, and have, cause a change in tactics, and posture, to achieve or supplement other informational victories.

IEDs, by forcing a change in tactics and openness alter the effectiveness of American military and civilian personnel. IEDs influence public perception of security not only in Iraq, but around the world, most notably in the United States. As a personal example, the mere suggestion that I might go to Iraq, Wife of MountainRunner immediately responded with a scenario of MountainRunner being killed by an IED. The inability of US forces to protect their own is amplified by insurgent media as well as domestic media, especially as casualties mount.

Continue reading “IEDs as “Weapons of Strategic Influence”

“We in the United States are in deep technological trouble.”

No kidding?! A first-time computer user gets a 40gb connection, Korea enjoys 45mb service (South Korea of course, DPRK does have its own national intranet, but the speed… ?), and meanwhile PeoplePC still advertises dial-up in the US where “high-speed” is considered 3mb-8mb.

But wait, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology doesn’t think America’s backbone is a source of trouble. The three problems are: visas, the lack of grand visions, and the third are pervasive sensor networks (“tiny, self-powered motes that spread through the environment, collecting data on pollution, or climate, or population movements and relay it back to users). Oh, and fourth is a more reliable Internet.

Actually increasing speed requires infrastructure investment, something the Administration clearly thinks is best left up to the private sector (update here).

Thinking robots

My mind is on robots right now (it is actually directly on target of the core mission of this blog… more to be revealed later)… follow me there and watch this clip. The beginning is ok, but my favorite is the last third when they start the “Pacific Islander” dancing.