Upcoming NDU Seminar: The Battle of Ideas: Messages, Mediums and Methods

If you’re not going to Italy, or even if you are, go to DC at the end of September. I may be at this seminar pending other scheduling issues.

In cooperation with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Forces Transformation and Resources (OUSD-P), The Center for Technology and National Security Policy is delighted to announce our upcoming seminar on Transforming National Security: The Battle of Ideas: Messages, Mediums and Methods. The seminar will be held September 25-26, 2007 in Eisenhower Hall, Room 101, National Defense University, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, DC.

New technologies and practices are transforming every facet of this new battlespace. Transforming National Security: The Battle of Ideas: Messages, Mediums and Methods will examine the impact that this new kind of war is having on the overall war on terror. The reaction to the formal Executive Branch report to the Congress on the military and political progress as a result of the “surge” will certainly help to focus our discussions. Confirmed presenters include Marc Lynch, author of Voices of the New Arab Public, John Robb, author of Brave New War, TX Hammes, author of The Sling and the Stone, Todd Helmus and Christopher Paul, coauthors of Enlisting Madison Avenue, and Kyle Teamey, coauthor of the US Counterinsurgency Field Manual.

The conference is free and members of the public are encouraged to attend. To register, please send an email to CTNSP-NCO@ndu.edu, making sure to give your name, affiliation, and what dates/hours you’ll be attending. Registration will close on Friday, September 21, 2007. Everything at this conference is not for attribution. There is no charge to attend this seminar.

Directions to Ft McNair can be found here.

Quoting History, first in an occasional series

When Ambassador Allen took over the [United States Information Agency] in 1957 he told his staff: “We can work our hearts out for years building up goodwill for the United States in a given country when suddenly one little policy action is taken which does more to destroy our position than the USIA can rebuild in a very long time.”

From John W. Henderson’s The United States Information Agency (1969, p84).

There are worse places for a conference on “The Battle for Hearts and Minds”…like DC

The Diego Cazzin Center for the Study of Intelligence and Security of the University of Rome, Italy, is sponsoring an international conference titled “The Battle for Hearts and Minds: Soft Power in the Struggle against Global Jihadism” in Rome 28th-30th of November 2007. The location is the Matteo Ricci conference center of the Pontifical Gregorian University (Piazza della Pilotta, 4 ,Rome, Italy). The current description of the conference is a it sparse and they are still developing their website (which I’ll post when they send me the link).

Conference speakers will include experts on the subject of terrorism, radical Islamism and strategic intelligence, from Europe,the United States, Russia, the Middle East and the Vatican. There is no entrance fee.

Of course you’ll want to go. If you do, let me know how it was. I’m told by the organizers presentations will be in English and Italian.

To register, contact Mr. Francesco D’Arrigo. A website is forthcoming.

Colombia, Israel and rogue mercenaries

Briefly, a story worth noting from International Relations and Security Network:

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos has acknowledged that Bogota had quietly hired a group of former Israeli military officers to advise local defense officials on their counter-insurgency tactics against leftist Fuerza Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, the Colombian daily Semana newspaper reported on 10 August….

Outside assistance with Colombian ‘counterinsurgency’ efforts in the form of Israeli ‘expertise’ has created dangerous rogue mercenaries and prolonged a bloody conflict….

Continue reading “Colombia, Israel and rogue mercenaries

Unmanned vehicle (UxV) news

In no particular order…

From a Spanish University press release: EU project builds artificial brain for robots (courtesy Kurzweil)

Scientists in Spain have achieved a giant leap for robotkind by building the first artificial cerebellum to help them interact with humans. The cerebellum is the portion of the brain that controls motor functions.

The project will now implant the man-made cerebellum into a robot so as to make its movements and interaction with humans more natural. The overall goal is to incorporate the cerebellum into a robot designed by the German Aerospace Centre in two year’s time. The researchers hope that their work will also result in clues on how to treat cognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s

David Axe reported a few months ago the Marines wanted a drone with lethal and non-lethal capabilities to surprise capabilities to “take the fight to anti-Iraqi forces in areas where they currently perceive sanctuary.”

The concept is to take an existing “Tier II” medium-size drone in the vein of the 10-foot-wingspan Boeing/InSitu Scan Eagle, and fit it with two 40-millimeter grenade launchers, two green-laser dazzlers and a focused sound device similar to the Long-Range Acoustic Device manufactured by American Technology Corporation. This suite would give Marine operators “escalation of force options,” according to the briefing.

In other words, the drone would be able to first warn off suspected insurgents by beaming a verbal message in Arabic. If the suspects don’t disperse, the drone can dial up the intensity of its sound broadcast, causing pain and disorientation. If that doesn’t work, there are the laser dazzlers, which can cause temporary blindness from up to a mile away. If, after all of this, the suspects are still behaving threateningly, the drone can fire its grenade launchers.

Continue reading “Unmanned vehicle (UxV) news

China leads a peacekeeping op

The UN announced the first-ever Chinese led peacekeeping operation.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Major-General Zhao Jingmin as the new Force Commander for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), the first time that the world body has had a Chinese national head one of its missions.

This syncs with Chinese public statements to use peacekeeping as a way of increasing its profile with governments and people directly (like with a hospital). The public diplomacy angle has been stated repeatedly, perhaps most clearly when they voiced their intent to up their contribution to the Lebanese PKO to increase their profile in the Middles East (as well as in Europe).

As China builds its expeditionary capability and while building prestige and influence, how exactly is the US improving its image by forcing democracy at the barrel of a gun?

Mash-Up for Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Al-Jazeera has a cartoon depicting what may unfortunately be an Arab view of American democracy through our diplomacy of deeds to date. (Courtesy Memri)

The Chinese have published a new English-Chinese Dictionary of Military Terms.

This dictionary contains 23,000 English terms and 20,000 Chinese terms, including army organization, operational command, training, ordnance material, minor tactics, service support, space technology, computer, electron, autocontrol, biology, nuclear energy etc.

IED-porn on YouTube is the old rage. Now it’s being used to share simulations of VBIED attacks, presumably for training. (h/t Internet Haganah)

Swedish Meatballs posts their own version of RAND’s “Enlisting Madison Avenue” report.

Bob Pape applies his book’s thesis that most suicide attacks are from groups fighting against a military occupation of their country to today’s Iraq. His prediction:

If foreign occupations do indeed provide the strategic fuel for insurgencies, Pape said, Americans should expect to see a spate of Shiite suicide attacks. He said he could not predict when the insurgency would take that disturbing turn but said it would be soon: “We’re heading toward the cocktail of conditions that favor suicide terrorism from the Shia.”

Jihad_fields_logoAnd, finally, from Danger Room comes the observation that terrorists keep blogs too (the guy heading DOD’s Office to Support Public Diplomacy knows that, but don’t tell Karen Hughes, you’ll ruin her day).

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.

Dancho Danchev reviews a handful of terrorist blogs — and warns that “these are just the tip of the iceberg, but yet another clear indication of the digitalization of jihad.”

One particularly active site Dancho highlights is Jihad Fields are Calling: Allah Send Us To Bring People Out From the Slavery of The People to The Slavery of Allah.  And it’s got all the features you’d expect from a top-flight — if crude — propaganda operation.  Here’s a diary from a woman who claims she was drugged and raped in Abu Ghraib.    There’s a silly, downloadable, anti-Bush wallpaper for your PC.  Over here is another one, celebrating “the most feared weapon in Iraq” — the improvised bomb.  In another place are theological justifications for “waging a war against atheism.”   You get the idea.

The point is, these guys are using all the tools they can to spread their message, and wage the information war.  Is the U.S. really prepared to do the same?

Tony Corn’s Revolutionary Thought: a Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs

Tony Corn has another provocative article in Policy Review, this one titled The Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs. Tony, you may remember, also wrote the “conservative, chewy, [and] cantankerous” article, also published on Policy Review, World War IV as Fourth-Generation Warfare (see MR post on it here).

His latest article looks primarily at the apparent rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a new NATO and EU bundled into one in the shadow of heliocentric-like view of perpetual and natural global US dominance. While some question the viability of the SCO and its ability to weather competing interests of Russia and China, we’re already seeing some rhetorical unity come from the partnership with the recent warning from Russia, China, and Iran (a non-voting member of sorts) on US involvement in Central Asia. Highlighting the potential of SCO to become at least an imperfect bloc should be worrisome at least in the near term if not mid and long term.  

Continue reading “Tony Corn’s Revolutionary Thought: a Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs

New Blogger on American Civil-Military Relations

New on the blogging scene is Don @ the CivMilBlog that’s “Dedicated entirely to civil-military relations, serving as a gateway to the community for policymakers and serious researchers.”

Pundits and casual observers disregard the complex relationship between the military, the executive branch, the legislative branch, the public, and the media. The military is not an exclusive agent of the President, but, especially since WWII, an active and increasingly independent actor that is increasingly aware of its own power. To be sure, this does not mean the military is planning Dunlap’s Coup, but it does mean muscular posturing by the US takes many forms and has many more influences than many realize.

His most recent post, American Political Development and American Civil-Military Relations, looks to put American civil-military relations into context. In this post, he scratches at the apparent paradox of American embedding of “an autarchic, fundamentally illiberal institution (the military) inside a larger liberal democratic institution (the United States).” Remember that this uniquely American civil-military relationship was intended by our insurgent Founders. Wary of a standing military, their concern over the potential abuse a standing military could affect on our own population as well as the potential of politicization of that military for personal gain, they wrote into the Constitution a division of responsibilities for Congress and President. Over the years, additional powers were assumed by each side. It looks like Don will explore these over time.

If you’re interested in an updated civ-mil reading list, in addition to Don’s post & blog, I suggest the following:

Talking about The White Rabbit

I’ve neglected posting on one of four foci of this blog: the privatization of force. To catch up a bit, let me throw The White Rabbit, aka Blackwater Blogger, at you.

I’ve followed The White Rabbit since it appeared a couple of months ago, but I have neglected to post on it for, well, no good reason at all. (In fact, I started to write this post over the weekend, but opted to continue to reading Singer’s Children at War instead.) It’s a well written, if wordy, blog seeking to clarify sensationalist stories about contractors. Most of the time it does a descent enough job while mocking the industry’s attackers, especially Scahill. For the fact-conscious, the blog does go too far at times with oversimplified arguments and data that mirrors its attackers. To be sure, there are the profit-seeking criminal contractors like Custer Battles who bend the rules, but there are others who are operating within or near the fuzzy rule set incompletely managed by the client who bears the ultimate responsibility of the actions of its agents.

When problems arise, whether its the Christmas Eve shooting, Aegis contractors hunting Iraqis, or vigilante justice by contractors, how the principal (the US) handles the situation is more important as it sets the precedent and perceptions of limits for the contractors, the local population, and the global media.

Continue reading “Talking about The White Rabbit