Miranda’s Departure Assessment of Embassy Baghdad

Received this  commentary on Ambassador Ryan Crocker and State’s effort in Iraq yesterday (Friday) morning.  Highlights are mine.  Comments from the different communities affected are requested.  Update: see Life after Jerusalem’s comments on Miranda and his memo, Whirled View’s Pot Calls Kettle Black, and Jerry’ Loftus’s comments here.


To:             Ambassador Crocker
From           Manuel Miranda, Office of Legislative Statecraft
CC:             ALCON
Date:           February 5, 2008
Re:             Departure Assessment of Embassy Baghdad


As I prepare to sign out after a year with the State Department, I feel it my last duty to offer you my assessment of what I observed.  Please accept this assessment in that spirit.  The presence of so many Section 3161 temporary direct hires in various areas of expertise in the Embassy is a unique opportunity for the evaluation and oversight of the Foreign Service and the State Department’s bureaucracy and competence, whether it is a Service at War or Peace.  

Continue reading “Miranda’s Departure Assessment of Embassy Baghdad

Another example of why we need to get our info house in order

Kip at AM says what I’ve been saying: what the hell are we doing?  While the presentation of the child videos is better than the sterile mil-speak that announced the Zarqawi blooper reel, the separation of public affairs from information operations from strategic communications from public diplomacy certainly affected how the videos were released, the audiences, and ultimately the impact. 

Over a month to release those videos?  That’s better than other video and audio material that took longer or were never released at all that would have put a bright and disturbing light on the roaches.  

At some point you’d think we’d learn and move away from the zero-defect mentality.  The enemy has weaponized information and has maintained — by design — their version of public affairs approval very close to the point of collection that provides tremendous agility in turning around and distributing a media product.  We, the home of Madison Avenue and exploiter of global comm networks for internal comms, have so burdened our approval process that it takes over a month to release the kids video. 

Why the length of time?  Barring some other delay for synchronicity with another operation (which I doubt considering the sloppy and still sterile delivery here), three reasons: a) Information effects isn’t a priority; b) Information can’t be contained, in other words, fear of blowback; and c) A failure to grasp the value of information throughout the chain of command. 

Not only that, but because of a confused and flat wrong interpretation of a sixty year old law that intended to create a voice to speak to the world while working with domestic news agencies, the DoD has little to no creativity in disseminating this important information.  If IO was involved, it was a targeted whisper and not part of a collaborative effort with foreign speakers to shout this from the roof tops. 

Perhaps next time we should enlist UNICEF to help us with the next juicy opportunity to expose al-Qaeda for what they really are. 

Database of Researchers on International Private Security

Interested in collaborating with researchers working on the issue of private security? From James Cockayne of the International Peace Academy:

IPA Releases Database of Researchers on International Private Security

International Peace Academy has been working with governments, international organizations and civil society to improve regulation of the international private military and security industry for over two years. Following more than 6 months of consultations, IPA has produced a database of more than 150 researchers working in this field. It contains details of researchers from around the world writing in many languages, their prior publications, areas of research focus, current work, and contact details.

The database will facilitate the effective regulation of international private security by improving coordination of research, commentary and civil society input into existing and new regulatory processes. Listing in the database is open to all independent researchers from academia and civil society organizations, anywhere in the world, writing in any language.

To download the database, please go to http://www.ipacademy.org/our-work/coping-with-crisis/grips/

Pentagon Wants Sim Iraq to Test Propaganda

Screenshot_5_bigLast year at a workshop at a military institution I was promoting and exploring this idea.  My question was whether you could take Second Life, or even some other virtual world, to bring together role players around the world to test information effects, or propaganda.  If we do role playing in real life to prepare soldiers for COIN situations, then why not through an online collaborative environment? 

Noah posts that OSD is now doing the same but instead of role playing they’re looking at AI:

The Office of the Secretary of Defense is trying to figure out how to beat jihadists in the propaganda war.  One tool they figure could help: a computer model of "Human, Social, and Cultural Behavior" in Middle Eastern locales.  OSD isn’t the first arm of the Pentagon looking to build its version of Sim Iraq.  But this is the first one I’ve heard of that focuses in on the touchy subject of strategic communications.

The OSD’s new "Human, Social, and Cultural Behavior Modeling" program is looking for ways to combine  "game-based, agent-based, [or] systems dynamics" sims (and maybe even "cellular automata") into a virtual country close enough to real that it can "validate and verify interactions against real world scenarios."

By running these Sim Iraqis around, OSD hopes to get a better understand of:

how people communicate; what avenues of communication are traditionally trusted; who in that culture holds power and influence; how do tribal and trade associations interact; and where/how can societal behaviors contribute to options for stability and reduction in conflict potential.

These models are also supposed to "provide greater insight into how strategic, operational, and tactical operations may be impacted by individual and group socio-cultural dynamics."  Specifically, OSD would like the pixelated place to help with:

identify[ing] how media and information propagation affect beliefs and behavior within individuals, groups, societies, states, and regions. Additionally, proposals shall address the development of dynamic and semantic media and rumor propagation models/social network models.

And that’s just for starters.  When the program is over, OSD hopes, it will have "generate[d] a universal
meta-language that is meaningful to the user communities and is relevant to the socio-cultural ‘space’ supported by the underlying models."

I also pitched the idea of using the same environment for armed robots to test their rules of engagement.  However this idea veered into SIM land away from role playing (and toward World of Warcraft and away from Second Life).  (…and, yes, I did insert Cylons into a presentation…)

See also USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies

Propaganda by UNICEF

A model propaganda film?  Or a hidden pleasure for those who never liked the little blue communists?

The story behind the video:

Designed as a UNICEF advertisement, and with the approval of the family of the Smurfs’ late creator Peyo, the 25-second episode was shown on the national evening news after the 9pm timeslot to avoid children seeing it. The scene starts with happy peaceful Smurfs and butterflies, who are then bombed by warplanes, ending with a lone Baby Smurf surrounded by dead Smurfs. The final frame bears the message: "Don’t let war affect the lives of children."


ConflictWiki: it’s not dead, just in a coma… it’s time to revive it

conflictwikiA while back I created the ConflictWiki as an open source and independent wiki hosting cross-cultural (institutionally speaking) content. The target communities included, but isn’t restricted to, those studying "hybrid wars," counterterrorism, intelligence, private military companies, private intelligence companies, peacekeeping and peacemaking, reconstruction and stabilization, and public diplomacy.

ConflictWiki.org was to be the clearing house for information and it was off to a good start with a large number of entries created (many by the blogger Bourbon and Lawndarts). 

I was never happy with the wiki interface as I wanted to structure the content to make it easy to read by both human and machine for easy extraction into other systems.  I have been looking at migrating off the wiki platform with its arcane (to me) formatting language to the MovableType platform. 

Short list of advantages of MovableType:

  • easy blog style / HTML editing
  • entries can have comments like blogs (using "pages" of MT 4.x, these are similar to but not blog entries)
  • hierarchical filing
  • easy cross linking

Short list of advantages of the MediaWiki platform:

  • changes to entries easily tracked and discussed
  • can comment on entries
  • not hiearchical

What are your thoughts?  Nothing has yet filled the gap ConflictWiki was intended to fill.  It’s time to breathe new life into it but what direction do we — it’s a collaborate effort — take it?  Stay with Wiki?  Go to MovableType?  Another platform? 

Briefing: Militarization of Aid

An upcoming event you may be interested in: 

The Militarization of Aid

Date: Monday, February 11, 2008
Time: 1 -3 pm
Location: Dirksen 419

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is organizing a briefing to discuss NGOs’ perspectives on The Militarization of Aid with Hill staff on Monday, Feb. 11 @ 1 pm in Dirksen 419

Topics include foreign aid effectiveness, the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, AFRICOM, Combined Joined Task Force – Horn of Africa and the InterAction-DoD Guidelines on Civil-Military Relations.  Speakers include:

  • Jim Bishop, InterAction, VP for Humanitarian Policy and Practice
  • Emily Burrows, Catholic Relief Services, Strategic Issues Advisor
  • Brian Grzelkowski, Mercy Corps, Sr. Policy Advisor
  • Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America, Director of Aid Effectiveness Team
  • John Patten, International Medical Corps, Sr. Program Development Officer
  • Anne C. Richard, International Rescue Committee, VP for Government Relations and Advocacy 

Please RSVP to lyoshikawa@interaction.org

I am neither involved with this event nor will I be there. 

See also:

They are throwing the slow pitch… (UPDATED w/ AQ and kidnapping children)

…but we have little to nothing in the way of strategic batters.  From Abu Muqawama:

Abu Muqawama was reading the Economist’s review of Marc Sageman’s new book [Leaderless Jihad] yesterday when he came across this passage (which also refers to Daniel Byman’s new book):

Both authors believe that in the war of ideas Americans should focus on jihadist brutality rather than trying to burnish their own image.

Abu Muqawama then glanced down at the front page of Saturday’s Times of London:

Baghdad’s fragile peace was shattered yesterday when explosives strapped to two women with Down’s syndrome were detonated by remote control in crowded pet markets, killing at least 91 people in the worst attacks that the capital had experienced for almost a year.

Iraqi and American officials blamed al-Qaeda, and accused the terrorist organisation of plumbing new depths of depravity. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, said that al-Qaeda’s use of mentally-handicapped women as bombers showed that it had “no political programme here that is acceptable to a civilised society and that this is the most brutal and the most bankrupt of movements”.

Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador, said: “There is nothing they won’t do if they think it will work in creating carnage and the political fallout that comes from that.”

It’s too bad the U.S. and its allies have only a primitive IO campaign, because stories like this should be a goldmine.


UPDATE: AM’s timely message is followed by news and video of al-Qaeda’s use of kidnapped children.  Of the many reasons children are used in war and crimes, popular support for the cause isn’t one of them.  Releasing this information through Public Affairs channels isn’t adequate.  DoD Information Operations isn’t adequate either.  

Missing, of course, is a mechanism for us to intelligently and effectively and aggressively (as required here) counter enemy ideology and propaganda.  If only we had the capacity to do so.  A global full court press to highlight the badness of AQ and its cause is required for a new containment and new rollback.  History doesn’t repeat in its entirety, but it does repeat enough that lessons can be learned from the past.

MNF-I video of AQ training of kids "for kidnapping, assassination, and terrorism against Iraqis."

MNF-I video of Iraq and U.S. forces rescuing kidnapped children in Dec 2007:

H/T OpFor and DoD

Who are the UN Peacekeepers?

Additional commentary will follow later.  Raw facts to consider now:

As of Dec… Total  U.N. Peacekeepers

Top 7 Contributing Countries

Top 7’s % of Total
2001 47,108 Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Jordan, Ghana, Kenya 52.8%
2002 39,652 Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, India, Ghana, Kenya, Uruguay 52.0%
2003 45,815 Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, India, Ghana, Nepal, Uruguay 51.7%
2004 64,720 Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan 51.3%
2005 69,838 Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Jordan, Nepal, Ethiopia, Ghana 55.7%
2006 80,368 Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Ghana, Nepal, Uruguay 50.9%
2007 84,309 Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Jordan, Ghana, Nigeria 51.2%

The "total peacekeepers" above includes military, military observers, and police. 

And what about the Security Council, the ones send in (and pay for) the peacekeepers?

As of Dec… Security Council % of Overall China’s share of the Security Council’s Total France’s share of the Security Council’s Total
2001 5.2% 5.3% 19.9%
2002 5.2% 6.0% 16.8%
2003 4.5% 17.2% 15.2%
2004 4.6% 34.8% 20.4%
2005 3.7% 40.9% 22.5%
2006 5.8% 38.5% 43.0%
2007 5.6% 38.5% 41.0%

On China, see this post from 2005, this post from 2006, and/or this post from 2007

I have posted on this before, but for now, I’m "just saying"….

Talk: The Militarization of Diplomacy

From Life After Jerusalem:

John Naland, the president of AFSA, the State Department’s employee association, will be giving a talk on "The Militarization of Diplomacy."
February 7, 2008
Time: 5-6:30 p.m.

Description: The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law presents "The Militarization of Diplomacy" with John Naland, President of the American Foreign Service Association. Naland will speak about the challenges of staffing posts in combat zones and other aspects of representing the Foreign Service during a period of significant change.

Naland became President of the American Foreign Service Association on July 15, 2007. This is his second term as AFSA President, having also served from 2001 to 2003.

A career Foreign Service Officer, Naland joined the Department of State in 1986. His most recent foreign assignment was as Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros, Mexico (2003-2006). He also served in Colombia, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.

The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law works to engage the best minds in academia, government and the private sector in developing practical solutions to the pressing problems of an increasingly globalized world.

For more information on the Strauss Center, please visit www.RobertStraussCenter.org.

Location: Sid Richardson Hall 3.108, University of Texas at Austin
Sponsor: Robert S. Strauss Center
Admission: Free

For more information, you can visit their website.

News from an ally

Courtesy MEMRI:

Saudi Businesswoman Lands in Riyadh Jail – For Having Coffee with Male Colleague at Starbucks

An Electricity Outage in the Office

"A Saudi mother of three, who works as a business partner and financial consultant for a reputable company in Jeddah, didn’t expect a trip to the capital to open the company’s new branch office to get her thrown behind bars by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

"Yara, a petite 40-year-old woman, was in tears yesterday after she narrated to Arab News her encounter with a commission member that ended in high drama.

"Yara, who has been married for 27 years, said she spent several hours in the women’s section of Riyadh’s Malaz Prison, was strip-searched, ordered to sign a confession that she was in a state of khulwa (a state of seclusion with an unrelated man) and for hours prevented from contacting her husband in Jeddah.

"Her crime? Having a cup of coffee with a colleague in a Starbucks.

"Yara said she arrived in the capital yesterday morning from Jeddah to check on the company’s new office.

"’The minute I came into the office my colleagues told me that we have an issue with the electricity company and that we do not have power but that it would be back on in half an hour,’ she said."

In Trouble with the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice

"As they were waiting, they decided to go to the ground floor of the building to have a cup of coffee in the family section of Starbucks. Family sections are the only places where men and women can sit together in establishments in Saudi Arabia. Officially, these sections are for families only, but in practical terms these sections – usually in international chains like Starbucks – become the only places where unrelated men and women can be comfortable that they won’t be harassed by commission members.

"But yesterday Yara and her colleague found themselves in trouble with the commission. One moment they were sitting together discussing brand equity and sovereign wealth funds; the next moment she found herself in commission custody.

"Shortly after they took their coffee and Yara opened her laptop, a member of the commission approached the two and demanded the man step outside.

"Then (the commission member) came to me and said: ‘You need to come with us. This man is not a relative,’ she said."

"I Am the Government" – You Must Come With Us

"When she told the commission member that she wanted to contact her husband by phone, he refused.

"’I am the government,’ Yara quoted him as saying. He then ordered her to come with him.

No word on whether she drove there on her own.  Read the rest at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). 

Think Tank 1.8 in progress at ZenPundit

Mark the Zen Pundit is "moderating" (leading?) an online symposium on the Boyd book by Frans Osinga, Science, Strategy and War:The Strategic Theory of John Boyd.  It’s going on at Chicago Boyz. The first post, a critical review by Wilf Owen, is up.  Osinga will be giving an author’s rebuttal at the conclusion.

  • The introduction to the symposium is here.
  • The first round, started by Wilf Owen, is here.

The participant list from Mark:

William F. “Wilf” Owen – A military writer and Editor of The Asian Military Review.  A military theorist with a special interest in tactical doctrine.  Wilf Owen served for twelve years in the British Army and is a member of the Small Wars Council.

Shane Deichman – Former Science Adviser to JFCOM. Particle physicist. Managing Director of Operations for IATGR.  Managing Director of EnterraSolutions, LLC. ORCAS (Oak Ridge). Blogger, Wizards of Oz, Dreaming 5GW.

Adam Elkus – free-lance writer for Defense & The National Interest, The Huffington Post, Athena Intelligence, Foreign Policy in Focus. Blogger, Rethinking Security, Dreaming 5GW.

Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz

Dan of tdaxp” – Dan of tdaxp is currently working on his third advanced degree, a doctorate in psychology.  Computer programmer/web designer.  Lecturer.  Blogger at tdaxp, Dreaming 5GW.

Historyguy99" – Historian.  Veteran of the Vietnam War. Blogger, HG’s World.

Mark Safranski – Teacher, Educational consultant. Adviser, Conversationbase, LLC. Contributor, HNN. Member, Small Wars Council. Blogger, Zenpundit, Chicago Boyz.

And an author’s rebuttal/response at the conclusion of the reviews, from Dr. Frans Osinga – Colonel, Royal Netherlands Air Force. Fighter Pilot. Associate Professor of War Studies at the Netherlands Defense Academy. Formerly, of Nato’s Supreme Allied Command Transformation. Research Fellow, Clingendael Institute of International Relations. Author of Science, Strategy and War:The Strategic Theory of John Boyd

Super Tuesday Voting

First, it was a pain in the arse to vote today (location was terrible due to morning traffic, it’ll be worse for the after-work voters; drove by another polling place as I drove the most direct route to my own), but it’s a bigger pain to a) defend the right to vote and b) not to be able to vote at all.  Took my son to vote and now we’ve got matching "I Voted" stickers.  Don’t ignore or take for granted your privilege regardless of how the political system actually counts your vote. 

Second, heard an NPR story about Democrats Abroad.  What an excellent opportunity for public diplomacy, but… it’s not "Republicans Abroad" or "Democracy Abroad"…

123 Meme (pre-emptive edition)

Saw the 123 Meme at Zen, Shane, and now Dan… not tagged by any of the aforementioned, I thought it would be interesting exercise considering what was next to me (which gives a clue about the mag article I’m currently writing).

The rules:

  1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people.

image The book: Sarah Percy’s Mercenaries: The History of a Norm in International Relations.

Using the subsidy system, Britain supplemented 65,000 of her own troops with 30,000 Germans.  Most came from Hessen-Kassel but a mix of troops came from other German principalities, and they were collectively, if incorrectly, referred to as Hessians.  George III, because he was Elector of Hanover, was also able to borrow Hanoverian troops, who replaced British garrisons in Minorca and Gibraltar and so freed up more soldiers for service in America. 

The American Revolution was not only a meeting of two differently composed armies; it was a clash of different beliefs about war.

That’s the fifth sentence plus the three that follows.  For the rest, read Sarah’s very interesting book that looks at the use and marginalization of mercenaries in ways you won’t find elsewhere. 

My tag: Steve at COMOPS, Jason the Armchair Generalist, the nameless and faceless at Kent’s Imperative, Mike at HoTS, and David at Kings of War.  And to twist the rules again, one more because it will be fun to read: the Swedish Meatball.

Understanding the failure: what’s really wrong and why new agencies or doctrine won’t be enough to fix it

There is a serious problem with America’s communication abilities.  It isn’t just a problem of capacity, but constraints created by misunderstanding. 

Sixty years ago, the elements of America’s national power – diplomacy, information, military, and economics, or DIME – were retooled to meet an emerging threat with the National Security Act of 1947 and the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. Like today, U.S. was engaged in a war of ideas and perceptions both globally and domestically, however the importance and impact of Smith-Mundt is ignored despite its influence, often negative, on every aspect of America’s informational arsenal. It is time to retool for the future fight.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s recent suggestion to recreate the United States Information Agency for the modern conflict really stirred things up. Setting the tone was Sharon Weinberger of Danger Room with a post that didn’t hide her disdain for the idea. Following her lead was Mike Nizza of the New York Times blog The Lede with a post that closed with “[d]efenders of Mr. Rumsfeld’s proposal have yet to emerge in the blogosphere.”

Then there was William Arkin’s post on WaPo lamenting that “Pentagon feels it is its responsibility to fill in a vacuum” of the war of ideas but doing so in ways that are “hopelessly confused.” But, as Arkin pleads it, it is not the job of the military to “wage the nation’s information wars.” True, but who else will do it, Mr. Arkin?

What is the real issue here? Steve Corman suggests we should be talking about a missing approach and not a missing tool.  He recalls that USIA relied on a field driven approach that understand the local audiences and shaped communication and discourse accordingly.  The independence of the agency was one thing — not a small thing — but how did its job was the key.

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, speaking this past weekend at CSIS, said the key problem preventing effective America participation in the war of ideas today is one of capacity.  It is certainly a problem, but it is not the only problem and it may not shape our abilities as much as the Smith-Mundt Act.

Continue reading “Understanding the failure: what’s really wrong and why new agencies or doctrine won’t be enough to fix it