Bringing the real world home and knowing their real world

Abu Muqawama linked to the Roger Cohen Op-Ed’s today, Bring the Real World Home. AM quoted the following in his post:

Counterinsurgency has been called armed social science. To win, you must understand the world you’re in.

Money quote. Yes, it is social science (sorry anthros). You’re "swimming in the sea of the people" as you struggle for the minds and wills, blah blah. Ultimately, you must know the definition and terms of "victory" with the societies you’re engaged with, which informs how you engage, how your actions and words are interpreted, etc. Victory hasn’t become different than it was, it has always been different in non-European countries that didn’t contribute to Jus in Bello. Look at the colonial experiences.

Somebody, Prove my theory

Today is Veteran’s Day here in the United States and a good time to wonder something out loud. Actually, I’ve been saying this in meatspace for a while, but I don’t think I’ve put it on the blog yet.

As you think about our country’s veterans, ask yourself how many veterans you actually know. It’s very likely that you, as a reader of this blog, know (or are) a veteran: you are reading what some call a milblog after all.

Here’s my theory: more Americans know a mercenary, but don’t know it, than know a vet, adjusting for sheer numbers. In other words, contractors our "outside" in the public more than current or former serving members of America’s military.

I’d like to see a study that looks at how many people know a veteran and compare that to how many people know a contractor (i.e. merc). Like it or now, private security companies has brought back the citizen-soldier. The All-Volunteer Force, on the other hand, has created an increasingly insular sub-group distanced from the larger population on several levels.

The voluntarily association of contractors makes it easier for its members to slip in and out of military duty and into the role of your neighbor, your co-worker, that IT recruiting manager you worked with, the cop who’s a brother of a friend, or that dad you met at a BBQ.

No longer do you need need to live near a military base or work in the defense industry to meet someone sanctioned by the state to carry a weapon into a conflict zone. In other words, while the public is increasingly separated from serving military personnel, it is increasingly in contact with contractors but does not know it.

What to think about this? First, Congress and the media doesn’t care about the people who don’t officially wear a flag on their shoulder. Second, this indicates a depersonalization of war, an argument Kohn and Gelpi make. Third, the already scarce personal links between the public and its soldiers will continue to diminish as conflict is outsourced to machines.

With fewer Americans who know somebody presently serving or even directly impacted by the conflicts after 9/11, there is a redevelopment of a distinct and professional warrior class in the United States proficient in the conduct war that harkens back to professional mercenary soldiers of before. The modern All Volunteer Force (AVF) is far removed from the modern political and social spheres of power in the United States, leading to suggestions that non-veteran civilians may be more "interventionist" and simultaneously placing more constraints on the use of military force while at the same time the American citizen-soldier is increasingly an endangered species as soldiers and their families turn inward and focus on their own support networks. National Guard recruiting trends reinforce this point as they are increasingly drawn from the ranks of former military and not from the general public. It is likely robots will support and increase pressure on this trend, just as private security companies do.

Just something to think about on this Veteran’s Day.

(Major G, first round’s on me tonight, second round too if you’re reading this…)

The Blog Readability Test

This Blog is at a High School Reading Level.Clearly I keep the reading level down so you can understand what I’m saying. I also type slowly because I know you can’t read fast…

DipNote, like Opinio Juris who introduced me to the link, is at the Post Grad reading level.

Test your blog or your favorite (or most annoying) blog.

Most of my shortlist blog roll is at the high school level, which is why we get along, except for Small Wars Journal’s blog. They are at the Genius level.

History Channel show on MilBloggers…tonight

Band of Bloggers on History Channel tonight, 8p (which for some of you is in a few minutes):

Explore the impact of blogging as a new medium for immediate and raw information. In the midst of modern day combat examine the unfiltered and raw evolution of military blogs and bloggers. Listen as soldiers who during their recent Iraq deployments reflect on the important connection they had with their blogging and how the band of military bloggers has revolutionized the way we understand combat. Experience firsthand, unfiltered accounts of the pain, the hardship, and even the simple beauty found in Iraq; stories that often go unseen in the media’s coverage of the war.

(H/T Cannoneer No. 4 at SWJ)

MountainRunner around the web

Periodically I like to recognize who’s linking to MountainRunner… this is one of those times. Here are the links for the last ten days as I procrastinate revising an article:

  • First, the U.S. State Department’s blog, DipNote, put MountainRunner on their short blog roll. Let me be honest about this: I think it’s way cool to be on that blogroll.

And now for the other links:

An observation on linking to MountainRunner: when posting on robots, links from China goes up and the readership in Iran, India, Pakistan, China, and elsewhere in SE Asia shoot up as well.

Mash-up for Thursday, November 8, 2007

Returning to the lazy "I can’t make the time to comment on these individually" post, here’s the mash-up for today:

Dan at TDAXP has an interesting survey for bloggers. Please fill it out and help marginalize my response.

Christian at Defense Tech posts on RAND’s call for Web 2.0 approach for building COIN awareness and accessing and leveraging knowledge with the "integrated counterinsurgency operating network", of ICON. This deserves a post by itself, but I’m pressed for time, so I leave it to others to get into this.

The study, aptly titled “Byting Back: Regaining Information Superiority Against 21st Century Insurgents,” takes a novel, “web 2.0” approach to the problem of gaining information to fight an insurgency. RAND rightly states that the information requirements for conventional war – the basis upon which most of the Pentagon’s intelligence apparatus is based – are very different from those of a counterinsurgency.

“If winning war requires understanding the terrain, winning counterinsurgency requires understanding the human terrain: the population, from its top-level political structure to the individual citizen. A thorough and current understanding of individuals and their community can help rally support of the government by allowing the government to meet the needs of the local population. Because insurgents do not identify themselves as such on sight, knowledge at the individual level is often what it takes to make such necessary distinctions.”

The study suggests utilizing local “wikis” compiled by the population, security services and government officials; leveraging cell phone networks to push information and to potentially track insurgents; incorporating the use of video and voice recorders on individual weapons to compile information and lessons learned and the institution of a detailed government census of the population.

David Axe at War is Boring quotes Wired’s Clive Thompson on the makings of a suicide bomber… in Halo 3. Clive backed his way into the psychology of a suicide bomber inadvertently but ultimately his reasoning is the same as many asymmetric "warriors":

Because after all, the really elite Halo players don’t want to die. If they die too often, they won’t win the round, and if they don’t win the round, they won’t advance up the Xbox Live rankings. And for the elite players, it’s all about bragging rights.

I, however, have a completely different psychology. I know I’m the underdog; I know I’m probably going to get killed anyway. I am never going to advance up the Halo 3 rankings, because in the political economy of Halo, I’m poor.

Via MEMRI, hopefully this Egyptian won’t follow the lead of American broadcast efforts in the region:

Millionaire Egyptian Copt Najib Suwairis has announced his intention to set up two new satellite television channels aimed at dealing with the rise of religious conservatism in Egypt, both religious and social.

As Slate, MountainRunner friend Phil Carter lists the incentive programs the Army is using to hit their numbers. See also Phil’s post on his blog where he cites Gordon Lubold’s CSM article:

Barely one quarter of American youths aged 17-24 are eligible for military service because of medical conditions, drug/alcohol use, low aptitude scores, or criminal records. 11% of eligible youth are in college, leaving just 15% of the 17 to 24-year-old cohort (men and women) for the services to recruit from.

And for something completely different, via Andrew Sullivan, Ron Jeremy impersonating Britney Spears:

Iraq OKs Raids on Blackwater

From Noah at Danger Room:

This sounds like a recipe for something very ugly.  The Times is reporting that "the Iraqi interior minister said Wednesday that he would authorize raids by his security forces on Western security firms to ensure that they were complying with tightened licensing requirements on guns and other weaponry, setting up the possibility of violent confrontations between the Iraqis and heavily armed Western guards."

“Every company will be subject to such examination, and any company that does not follow the law will lose its license,” the minister, Jawad al-Bolani, said of the planned raids. “They are called security companies. They are not called violate-the-law companies…”

Within Baghdad’s relatively safe and heavily guarded Green Zone, there have been early indications of a battle over who controls Iraqi streets. Private security guards say that Iraqi police officers have already descended on Western compounds and stopped vehicles driven by Westerners to check for weapons violations in recent weeks.

Any extension of those measures into the rest of the country, known as the Red Zone, could quickly turn into armed confrontation. Westerners are wary of Interior Ministry checkpoints, some of which have been fake, as well as of ministry units, which are sometimes militia-controlled and have been implicated in sectarian killings. Western convoys routinely have to choose between the risk of stopping and the risk of accelerating past what appear to be official Iraqi forces.

And because Western convoys run by private security companies are often protecting senior American civilian and military officials, the Iraqi government’s struggle with the companies has in some cases become a sort of proxy tug-of-war with the United States.

This is something we should be very concerned about. As we have architected it, private security forces like Blackwater are direct extensions of American military and civilian presence in Iraq. As we have architected the security and reconstruction efforts, any attack on them is an attack on American interests regardless of whether we view it as such or not. We should expect confrontations between Iraqi elements, government or otherwise, and private security forces as contractors become proxy targets for the U.S. to groups who wouldn’t otherwise overtly target the U.S. military.

Not good. Phase out contractors or bring under our wings, don’t let them hang outside because things will get ugly fast as both contractor and opportunist escalates to defend or attack.

State wants $1.5 billion to protect Baghdad embassy, reconstruction teams

State’s wants a piece of the budgetary pie. Richard Lardner of AP, writes

The State Department’s request for $1.5 billion to protect U.S. diplomats and a growing number of reconstruction teams on the ground is a pricey reminder that the war-torn country remains a dangerous place.

…Over $500 million of the proposed 2008 spending would go to three private security firms [Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and DynCorp]…

The Baghdad security money also will pay for armored vehicles, bulletproof vests, ammunition, X-ray machines, bomb-sniffing dogs, barriers to prevent attacks by suicide bombers, and overhead shields to deflect mortar attacks, according to an Oct. 22 budget document sent to Congress.

And, now time to be impressed with a Congressman, er, -woman:

Rep. Nita Lowey said lawmakers won’t let U.S. diplomats go unprotected. But before the fiscal year 2008 request can be approved, the State Department must prove "it is capable of overseeing the actions of private security contractors and preventing the misuse of American taxpayers’ money in Iraq," she said.

Yes, as the Iraq Study Group noted, obfuscating funding for the war has permitted wasteful spending (and a waste of time, as well as increased risks to and deaths of our warfighters and civilian personnel, not to mention Iraqi civilians).

That darn new media

New Media should be obligated to link to alternative political views? Steve Boriss at Future of News write about such a proposal:

U of Chicago law professor and former DC bigwig Cass Sunstein has penned yet another book telling us that the people cannot be trusted with this information. His first book on the subject, (2001), is now laughable to the extent one can laugh at those who would be tyrants. Believe it or not, he suggested that the government should consider forcing web site operators to include links or pop-up windows to advertise sites with alternative political views. Apparently feeling he had not done enough in his assault on the free speech clause of the First Amendment, he now has a sequel, 2.0, that batters freedom of association. He insists that something must be done to prevent people from giving too much attention and weight to views they already hold, rather than to opposing views.

I suppose Sunstein would argue Hamilton and Franklin and Jefferson should have been forced to include inserts or references to opposing views as well.

And what does Opinio Juris think about this? Or Mr. TDAXP?

In Iraq, Blackwater Is Old News

From CBS, In Iraq, Blackwater Is Old News, Elizabeth Palmer: Blackwater Shooting Just A Drop In The Ocean Of Iraqi Civilian Deaths:

The shooting last month involving Blackwater security contractors remains big news in the United States. Not here though. Soon after the story broke, it faded from the front pages.

The truth is that no one in Baghdad was very surprised to learn that on Sept. 16 innocent civilians had been killed in a hail of American gunfire. They were more likely to be thinking, “Oh, not again.” Of course some were angered, but over the past three years too many like incidents like this one have dulled people’s outrage.

Besides, they have more pressing worries: how to run a household on two hours of electricity a day; what school will keep their children safe from ethnic bullying; which route home is best for avoiding kidnap. They aren’t outraged about these things either. With weary determination, they just find ways to carry on.

Yes, and the bleeds it leads mentality of most U.S. media, formal or informal, doesn’t get it. "OH MY GOD! MERCENARIES?!" rules, leading to face time for the likes of Jeremy Scahill and Senator Hillary Clinton that take nuggets of reality and runs in the direction that sells more books, newspapers, or buys more votes.

"Oh, not again" must be understood for what it is: a seemingly daily occurrence that interferes with daily life, shaping perceptions against the U.S. and our mission locally and globally. When I put on the discussions and screening of Nick Bicanic’s Shadow Company last year, there was a short segment that (too) few of the audience latched onto: when the Blackwater Mambo driver (firm was undisclosed in the movie and, in reality, isn’t pertinent) laughed off a complaining Iraqi who said the contractor shot his radiator. What message is conveyed by the contractors response, ignoring if the act was justified or proper?

Yes, "over the past three years too many like incidents like this one have dulled people’s outrage". How do you suppose that affects our ability to be effective in the struggle in the minds and wills of men?

See also:

COIN Quotes… here’s my contribution

Read Abu Muqawama’s posts Counterinsurgency Reading List and COIN Book Club if you are a) interested in COIN, b) interested in public diplomacy or strategic communications, or c) interested at all in how wars will be fought in the near to long term.

Here are two contributions to Abu Muqawama’s nuggets of wisdom from the readings that should be read by those interested in (a), (b), or (c) above. The first is from page 14 of David Galula’s 1965 CounterInsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (Praeger):

Propaganda — A One Sided-Weapon

The asymmetrical situation has important effects on propaganda. The insurgent, having no responsibility, is free to use every trick; if necessary, he can lie, cheat, exaggerate. He is not obliged to prove; he is judged by what he promises, not by what he does. Consequently, propaganda is a powerful weapon for him. With no positive policy but with good propaganda, the insurgent may still win.

The counterinsurgent is tied to his responsibilities and to his past, and for him, facts speak louder than words. He is judged on what he does, not on what he says. if he lies, cheats, exaggerates, and does not prove, he may achieve some temporary successes, but at the price of being discredited for good. And he cannot cheat much unless his political structures are monolithic, for the legitimate opposition in his own camp would soon disclose his every psychological maneuver. For him, propaganda can be no more than a secondary weapon, valuable only if intended to inform and not to fool. A counterinsurgent can seldom cover bad or nonexistent policy with propaganda.

Galula shouldn’t just be required reading in war colleges, but also in programs on public diplomacy and strategic communications. Public diplomacy and strategic communications must both be national security priorities as it is in these realms that potential kinetic conflict could be prevented. For that, see Sun Tzu.

The second is my own:

The fungibility of force decreases as information asymmetry increases.

In other words, the pen can be mightier than the sword in a world were perceptions matter more than fact.

The Fraying of State

The freak out by some FSOs at State is impressive and less than an indictment of the corps than most make it out to be. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to fill only 48 posts, but releasing the announcement Friday night like a bit of bad news is no way to treat trusted and valued employees and patriots and a good way to rile the entire Department. But this bad form is not entirely surprising given her leadership over the last several years at Foggy Bottom, or in the years before as National Security Advisor. Her Cold War thinking is out of touch with the requirements of the post-Cold War world.

I understand and in some way agree with the FSO’s complaints. To them, neither the personnel system nor the bureaucracy as a whole really incentivizes going into a war zone. To really get attention, you should be a standout elsewhere, as Patricia highlights with the award to the Deputy Chief of Mission in Rome. It makes sense not to single out the outstanding State personnel working on PRT’s and outside the walls, you wouldn’t want to discriminate, would you Ms. Rice?

I’ll answer that for you, Ms. Rice. If you don’t put your Department on a war footing, funnel (and otherwise lobby for more) resources to support and develop critical areas, you can pretend business as usual and things are going swimmingly. Except now you’ve realized the seas are choppy and too few people brought their gear to take a dip.

Rice’s Transformational Diplomacy did not result in the great restructuring promised, arguably because of her limited world view. Reducing U.S. activities in Europe because guns aren’t going off there doesn’t prevent the bombs that are or the bomb plans being hatched.

Has Rice been in standing firm for more money to rightsize her Department to conform to modern requirements? That would have been the real transformation.

No, instead she releases a memo Friday night for assignment to a country where the embassy (the old one, not the brand new one that’s still not online) is apparently not in a safe, as Rice admitted in her testimony to the House Oversight committee two weeks ago when she argued the International Zone isn’t safe. I know soldiers and Marines were smirking at that, as well as Rice’s own people.

In truth, it doesn’t matter if Rice is right or not about the safety of the IZ (although on the new embassy, I like this cite this quote: it’s like Fort Apache in the middle of Indian country, except this time the Indians have mortars.), the rebellion in State today is more an indictment of her leadership at State.

In short, Rice has not prepared her department for the mission she’s suddenly demanded. We’re now four years into Iraq, six years into Afghanistan, and her Department still hasn’t mobilized her Department for war to the extent that even a few months ago Crocker had to go public with staffing problems. State / DynCorp have messed up policing. State permitted (some, like me, might say encouraged) their security escorts to take an overly aggressive posture because of screwed up priorities. And State hasn’t intervened when American reconstruction contractors screw the Iraqi Government. I could go on but I’m bored with the list already. Apparently, Rice figured most of State didn’t have to deal with the little people. Perhaps that was Karen Hughes’ job, who, um, reports to Rice. (Great "job well done" speech by Rice, by the way. Not what I’d want from my tenure.)

No, Rice frames the "GWOT" (I prefer my superior acronym) in convenient post-detente Cold War terms, but she doesn’t grasp the need to conduct public diplomacy today that was so deep and integral to the pre-1960’s Cold War. Instead shielding herself, her people, and her processes (I won’t get started on Karen Hughes, except to ask will leaving position vacant make us better off or worse of than today?) Rice sits back. Rice has let DOD take the bulk of the mission and upsize to fill the holes left by her missing leadership. Rice, who ran away rather than announce the policy and take questions herself, is apparently now looking to whip State into shape as her department gets all sort of attention.

Yes, this whole thing speaks more to her leadership than to the panic of some FSOs who are just realizing they are part of a war. As for Rice, she’s terrified of being over there. Here’s a question: How often has Rice been to Iraq? How often was Rumsfeld and Gates? Those are numbers I want to see.

Update, what others are saying:

Into the Wild Blue goes the Greener Air Force

While some are debating the utility of an independent Air Force today, they’re going green and striving for a zero carbon footprint. From Danger Room:

North America’s largest solar energy plant just went online.  Not at some hippie commune or some high-minded company, looking to get into Al Gore’s good graces.  But at Nellis Air Force Base, just outside of Las Vegas.  The 140-acre, 15-megawatt plant is expected to save the base and the surrounding community about a million bucks a year.  And it’s just the “first step in a new initiative to host private alternative energy producers on its bases across the country,” according to Inside the Air Force.

Continue reading “Into the Wild Blue goes the Greener Air Force

Gansler Commission Cites Systemic Problems in Army Contracting

From the U.S. Army:

Not enough people, too little training, and an antiquated system. Those are the key findings in a report released today on Army contracting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Ya think? Was something unclear? Did previous issues not rise to a magic level? Is it really true that without real monitoring and performance incentives contractors won’t save us money? What happened to altruism in capitalism?

Discussing RAND’s Enlisting Madison Avenue @ USC

Enlisting Madison Avenue flyer v2On Wednesday, November 14, 2007, 11a-1p, USC’s Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars is proud to host RAND Social Scientist Christopher Paul to discuss the book co-authored with Todd Helmus and Russell Glenn: Enlisting Madison Avenue.

The event is free and open to the public and yours truly will be the moderator / master of ceremony (yes, just ceremony, the university is too cheap to have more than one). Click the flyer (PDF) on the right for details. Email me or, better, email APDS for directions and more information.

When an international force is only international and not a force

Kings of War highlights a central problem to all international missions in talking about Europe’s endeavor in Afghanistan:

Our European partners are simply not pulling their weight in AFG. The NATO Secretary General has repeatedly asked the European allies to provide more resources and, crucially, to remove national caveats that prevent their forces from entering the fight. Indeed, just four days ago, the ISAF Commander, Gen. Dan McNeil, complained that some NATO member states have not even provided the troops they had promised to deploy in Afghanistan. Moreover, he was damning on the issue of caveats: “When countries say their forces can only operate in certain ways and in a certain geographic space that certainly impinges on my ability to mass forces.” In short, many of our European allies – especially the big cats: France, Germany, and Spain – have yet to step up to the plate and prove themselves.

Yes, they do need to step. But consider this: what happens when rules on the use of force fail to prevent and thus permit a war crime? DUTCHBAT in Srebrenica, or pick a country patrolling an African PKO in say SL, DRC or Rwanda… I understand politics of deployment and even the fear of a German soldier potentially coming face to face with a child solder (and thus Op Artemis is barely more than a war game), but come on. Stop playing politics with the lives of vulnerable people, and by vulnerable I mean populations that are increasingly susceptible to extremist ideology.

The Culture Wars continue

John Nagl responds to anthropologist Dr. David Price’s "assault on social scientists assisting national efforts to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan."

This time he impugns the work of anthropologists who helped write Field Manual 3-24, the Counterinsurgency Field Manual that was published by the Army and Marine Corps in December 2006 and republished by the University of Chicago Press in July 2007. Price’s essay is extensive, but the argument and the tone of the whole can be extrapolated from this paragraph on the first page:

Most academics know that bad things can happen when marginally skilled writers must produce ambitious amounts of writing in short time periods; sometimes the only resulting calamities are grammatical abominations, but in other instances the pressures to perform lead to shoddy academic practices. Neither of these outcomes is especially surprising among desperate people with limited skills– but Petraeus and others leading the charge apparently did not worry about such trivialities: they had to crank out a new strategy to calm growing domestic anger at military failures in Iraq.

…Price also decries the incomplete bibliography of the manual; again, he neglects consideration of the cultural practices of the society which he is examining. Bibliographies are not a common feature of Field Manuals; indeed, the Counterinsurgency Manual is the first of which I am aware that includes recommendations of civilian texts for further reading. The works cited in the bibliography are not all or even most of those consulted during the writing of the text, but those that soldiers are encouraged to read to further their understanding of counterinsurgency. This is a book for practitioners.

I’m still short on time so my only comment is this: get a grip. Price’s attack is ironic considering his authorship on the Federal government’s attack on anthropologists in the 1950’s. The view from the Ivory Tower must be nice.

See also: