On the “money/fantasy machine”

Last night it occurred to me that I actually did know what John Robb was talking about when he lumped me in with the “counter-terrorism money/fantasy” in Washington, and it isn’t the creature Dan and Curtis think it is.

Talking with the “conference crowd”, or reading their work, on terrorism, there are certain themes that remain constant despite evidence to the contrary, that conform to popular thinking in Washington. This ideologically insular world is the “money/fantasy” machine, repeating nearly the same mantra over and over, that contributes to the stalled, to put it mildly, strategy in the [insert your favorite name for conflict/war/condition here].

Robb and I are alike in that we’re both creating new awareness (attacking is too strong but might be a better word) of the realities of today’s environment. I’m not in the conference crowd he’s referring to, but an outsider that only occasionally gets inside the ring, and less often than I would imagine Robb does.

To change the thinking, sometimes you need to subvert from within. Robb’s book is an attack on the popular wisdom and ultimately seeks to change the conference crowd by adjusting the preconceptions of the crowd’s clients, the thought leaders of the crowd, or both. Debunking existing “myths” most effectively requires understanding the existing conceptions. And that’s different from modifying insurgent/terrorist behavior how?

UCLA Forum: Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Between Truth and Reality

On Monday, May 21, 2007, at 10:30a – Noon, UCLA School of Public Policy will be hosting three distinguished panelists for to talk terrorism:

If I wasn’t going to be on a plane to DC I’d be there. From the announcement:

UCLA Campus
Anderson School of Management, Room A201
Los Angeles, CA 90095

This is event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are welcome, but not required. To RSVP, please e-mail rsvp@spa.ucla.edu. Parking permits are available for $8 at the information kiosk located in parking lot 4 off Sunset Blvd at Westwood.

Chinese Tuesday

As is the trend here, it’s Tuesday and time for news on China.

  • VOA reports on how Chinese are gaining African respect because of their “simple” living:

    …in contrast with Western expatriates, says Brautigam, the Chinese always live at or below “local standards” – even when it’s quite within their means to live lavishly….
    …”The Italian project had a container of food brought in from Italy every two weeks! And the (Italian) experts were living in very comfortable houses that were built (specially) for the project.”…
    …”The United States.had eight experts and they had built ranch-style houses in a little subdivision, with street lights and sidewalks, and everything the way it would be in Texas or someplace like that!”…
    In Nigeria…the Chinese are perceived as being “better able to transfer technology to Nigerian employees than Western expatriates.” …China is popular amongst businesspeople in Africa because of a simple reason: Money. “Africans associate the Chinese with profits,”…

  • China confirms terrorist camps in Pakistan 19 Apr 07:

    China has for the first time publicly acknowledged the existence of terrorist camps within the territory of its “all-weather” ally.
    It said that some East Turkistan separatists, who have been fighting for decades to make oil-rich northwest China’s Xinjiang province an independent state, received training at the terrorist camps in Pakistan.

  • China to Send Military Unit to Darfur 8 May 07. Posting on the article, T P M Barnett asks a question (“What is our military really doing to encourage this? What is our government doing?”) that emphasizes the structural failure in American diplomacy. On the action itself, the Chinese should be expected to do the minimum necessary for appearances while pressuring Bashir behind the scenes to make a show of acceptance.

Los Angeles Anti-Terror hub as model

Briefly, GovExec.com has a very good article by Shane Harris on LA’s Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC).

amid a warren of stout office buildings in the industrial L.A. suburb of Norwalk, is a sand-colored 525,000-square-foot edifice. JRIC is on the seventh floor, next to the corporate headquarters of Bally Total Fitness. This is homeland security’s next frontier.

Continue reading “Los Angeles Anti-Terror hub as model

Monday Mash-up

  • Listened to General David H. Petraeus on NPR this morning. Good interview as part of the overdue public affairs campaign that the Administration itself is probably wise to stay out of. (includes good awareness building of the complexity of the operation, that includes attributes of COIN, CT, and counter-gang/crime operations)
  • Dance Dance Revolution for Middle School fitness? (free sub req’d) Pathetic. Where’s the range of motion? Stability exercises? Upper body fitness? Endurance? Get them outside… argh.
  • Opinio Juris finds SCOTUS’s ruling in Hamdan v Rumsfeld case to be flawed:

    The Court’s holding and reasoning in Hamdan are unclear on one crucial issue: whether the United States is legally engaged in an armed conflict with the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Why is this issue so important? Well, the entire legal strategy of the Bush administration depends on it, both internationally and domestically, as vastly different rules of international and constitutional law apply in war and outside of it…

    …the Court (1) cites an authority in support of a proposition to which it is actually contrary; (2) quotes that authority selectively; and (3) ‘borrows’ both the citation and the quotation from the Jinks, Goodman and Slaughter amicus brief. The story doesn’t end here, however, as the Justices did not only filch citations from the brief but also relied on it substantively. Yet, as I’ll show in my next post, they did so while failing to distinguish between the several alternative arguments presented in that brief. Instead of opting for one of them, they made an unintelligible mish-mash of all of them, leading to contradictions within the Opinion of the Court itself.

  • The United States continues to be self-evident in the eyes of the government. We’re not talking about who we are and what we stand for, but the promotion of the US as a tourist destination. How else do you explain “the U.S. Department of Commerce has budgeted $3.9 million this year for marketing the country to international tourists. Malaysia will spend $117.9 million; Tunisia, $43 million; and Turkey, $80 million”? New York and Las Vegas spend “spend tens of millions” to attract tourists. DoC must think they don’t need to… wrong. I suppose it’s part of a larger strategy as the US continues to make it difficult and uncomfortable for people to get into this country.
  • PIPA released a public opinion poll that, among other things, reiterates that the United States is still well regarded and admired for its science and technology. For more discussion on the survey, see Marc Lynch’s post, but you at least go to the PIPA page to see the charts yourself.

    There is strong support for enhancing the role of Islam in all of the countries polled, through such measures as the imposition of sharia (Islamic law). This does not mean that they want to isolate their societies from outside influences: Most view globalization positively and favor democracy and freedom of religion

  • Eddie shared an excerpt of John McCain on Fox rejecting Tenet’s position on torture. This reminded me of an exchange on this blog last year on Powell letter’s to McCain on morality (more here).

ConflictWiki (Updated)

One reason I’ve posted some “academic-like” posts on this site, in addition to files, is the hope of using MountainRunner as something of a repository of knowledge. In spite of my writing skills, I’m still hoping to accomplish this and have decided to create a wiki after looking at entries like counterinsurgency, Blackwater, public diplomacy, SWET, Muhammad Khalil al-Hakaymah, and even John Nagl on Wikipedia. These just aren’t adequate for the needs of the SO/LIC, PMC, public diplomacy, smart power, and terrorism communities. As these groups are intricately linked together and require greater or at least different details on these topics.

As of this post, there’s nothing on the just-installed ConflictWiki (http://www.conflictwiki.org/), be the first to post something useful and we can build a shared community resource.

By the way, information on al-Hakaymah, see West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

TV: DHS and Contractors

Armchair Generalists commentary on Michael Chertoff recent statement reminded me of a recently rebroadcast episode of Numb3rs. In this episode, a DHS chief is running scripted large counterterrorism drills in Los Angeles but a drill is infiltrated and the drill’s “cast” are gassed (non-lethal) to prove a point. The chief is adamant about continuing, saying similar things as Chertoff. Ultimately, the guys pulling off the attacks (there are other incidents) are former US SF tiger teams with a vendetta against the chief. Why? Because the chief was a contractor in Iraq in charge of base security, which was also penetrated and SF lives were lost as a result.

Nice commentary on both DHS “posturing” and contractors in one episode.

Encryption and the Terrorists

Interesting stuff over at the Counterterrorism Blog:

On January 1, 2007, the pro-terrorist group, “Global Islamic Media Front” (GIMF) announced the “imminent release” of what they called “the first Islamic computer program for secure exchange on the Internet.” Some Western websites that track online terrorist activity reported on the GIMF announcement, but it has otherwise not received any serious media attention. iDefense/VeriSign has since found a copy of this program, “Mujahedine Secrets,” on a pro-terrorist Arabic language forum and has begun analyzing its capabilities and assessing what its impact will be….

The “Mujahedine Secrets” encryption program offers terrorists and their sympathizers several key features, some of which are common features of PGP programs that are currently available elsewhere as well as other features that appear to be new. Technical analysis is ongoing and will be assessed in future iDefense reporting. Most importantly, this program is an executable application that does not need to be installed onto a PC and can be used with a USB drive. According to iDefense Middle East analyst Andretta Summerville, “the program’s ‘portability’ as an application (not requiring installation) will become an increasingly desirable feature, especially considering the high use of Internet cafés worldwide by pro-terrorist Islamic extremists.” The use of the ‘Mujahedine Secrets’ on a portable USB drive will offer additional anonymity to those who use the program, which may make it increasingly difficult or even impossible for investigators to track down the source of activity further than the Internet café itself.

Due to the strong “marketing” campaign of the program by the Global Islamic Media Front in Arabic-language forums, specifically on hacker and pro-terrorist forums, “Mujahedine Secrets” is likely to reach a broad audience of pro-terrorist supporters online and Arabic-speaking hackers….

ABC News: Iraqi Sunni support of insurgency up to 75% from 14% 3yrs ago

Briefly, from ABC News the other day comes this story about a confidential Pentagon assessment.

…Officials won’t say how the assessment was made but found that support for the insurgency has never been higher, with approximately 75 percent of the country’s Sunni Muslims in agreement.

When the Pentagon started surveying Iraqi public opinion in 2003, Sunni support for the insurgents stood at approximately 14 percent…

“Where is the government?” one man asked. “Where is the promise of security? Where is the prime minister?”

More on Civil v Military… an Update on the Supporting Revised Tribunals

Briefly, in today’s New York Times, Military Lawyers Caught in Middle on Tribunals:

On Wednesday evening, the night before a crucial Senate vote on the Bush administration plan for the interrogations and trials of terrorism suspects, the Pentagon general counsel, William J. Haynes II, summoned the senior uniformed lawyers from each military service to a meeting…

Mr. Haynes sought to enlist the lawyers on the administration’s side by asking whether any would object to signing a letter lending their support to aspects of the White House proposal over which they had voiced little concern.

The lawyers agreed, but only after hours of negotiating over specific words, so that they would not appear to be wholly endorsing the plan.

What followed was a scuffle that left at least some of the military lawyers embittered and stoked old tensions at the Pentagon between civilian leaders and uniformed military officers, who under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have often found themselves privately at odds…

The top uniformed Marine lawyer, Brig. Gen. James C. Walker, said in his testimony that no civilized country ought to deny defendants the right to see evidence against them and that the United States “should not be the first.’’ The lawyers stand by those objections, military officials said…

A participant in the meeting said Admiral MacDonald told his colleagues that he could not sign a letter saying he supported the Common Article 3 definition in the White House legislation because he advocated a broader definition that relied more on international law, rather than a narrow interpretation of American constitutional law.

In the end, the military lawyers all agreed to language in the letter saying they “do not object“ to the provisions in the administration bill.

But the letter included a sentence that the clarification would be “helpful to our fighting men and women at war on behalf of their country.”

White House officials said that sentence demonstrated the military lawyers’ support.

General Dunlap said in his mind that signing the letter meant just to convey that trying to clarify ambiguous language was helpful and that it did not mean that he and his colleagues fully endorsed the administration view.

Powell reminds us of the importance of morality

In the ‘fight of good vs evil’, morality must play a significant part. Our civilization, which is supposedly under threat, is based on a moral code that forms the basis of our imperialist tendencies: to propagate this moral code. This code is fundamentally based within our concept of democracy and is largely shared by the other Western democracies.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (also retired full General and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS)… a somewhat impressive resume that might only be surpassed by President Eisenhower) wrote a letter to Senator John McCain yesterday spelling out what is essentially the core of the US military’s opposition to the Administration’s interogation plans (available here at WaPo and here at NYT).


Continue reading “Powell reminds us of the importance of morality

“Where’s My Blue Helmet?” Wherever it is, the people (and their bosses) wearing it are likely getting paid by SC

From Slate is this article: Where’s My Blue Helmet? How to become a UN Peacekeeper. (Thanks to David Isenberg for sending this out.)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the possibility of a cease-fire with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Monday. Rice proposed using international peacekeepers throughout the country and to guard its borders with Israel and Syria. Siniora said he would consider a deployment of peacekeepers, but only if they came from the United Nations. Who are the U.N. peacekeepers, and where do they come from?They’re soldiers, police officers, and military observers from the United Nations’ member countries. Nations are expected to volunteer the members of their armed forces when askedin general, the developing world does most of the volunteering . As of last month, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India each had almost 10,000 troops in blue helmets, while American soldiers accounted for just 12.The contributing countries continue to pay their soldiers, but they get reimbursed by the United Nations at a standard rate of $1,028 per month, plus a few hundred dollars extra for specialists. Troops typically stay for at least six months at a time, with the exact details of the deployment schedule left up to the country that sent them.

Continue reading ““Where’s My Blue Helmet?” Wherever it is, the people (and their bosses) wearing it are likely getting paid by SC

Update: Iraq FOIA

Question: is the media using the FOIA enough? Possibly, but possibly not.

City News Service
November 23, 2005 Wednesday

The Los Angeles Times filed a lawsuit today seeking U.S. government records related to the presence of private security firms in Iraq. The Times asked in April for a database of reports contractors in Iraq submit when they are involved in a violent incident.

Continue reading “Update: Iraq FOIA

Not a Civil War? Civil Terrorising?

According to Gen Pace and SecDef Rumsfeld, the internal conflict in Iraq is not representative of a civil war:

Q:  Isn’t there a civil war already going on in Iraq?  And the United States presence, isn’t that exacerbating that civil war?

PACE:  There is in fact some factional fighting between Sunnis and Shia and Kurds, but that is not what you describe it to be.  What you do have is individuals in all three of those communities who want to terrorize the Iraqi people…

RUMSFELD:  I would only add one thing.  Clearly the General is correct,
there is not a civil war as such.  There is tension.  There always have

Controlling the vocabulary is very important in any debate. The end of major military operations, as the benchmark carrier landing became known (instead of "Mission Accomplished"), and the refusal to term Rwanda a genocide or the contemporary issue in Iraq as a civil war is pure propaganda in the academic sense.

58 percent question his integrity

From the WashingtonPost: Bush’s Popularity Reaches New Low.

58 percent in poll question his integrity.

Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent disapprove of his performance in office — the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls.

Examining the Bush Administration’s record in military security policy reveals a key marker of democracy is derisively dismissed. Outsourcing of key military, and hence political, missions in the “Global War on Terror” to private military forces is corrosive to effective and practical political leadership, ownership, and management that are not lost on the military elites.

While the popularity rating is more interesting to the media, it is the sub-headline of "58% question his integrity" that is more important. It has already been said that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have done more damage to our military than any enemy could possibly do. Between Wolfowitz overruling military commanders on force sizing for Iraq (Pentagon Contradicts General on Iraq Occupation Force’s Size) and delays in providing equipment (body armor, up-armored vehicles) and stop-loss orders, the ability to replenish our forces is diminishing. This hits on three sides: recruiting the grunts, the officer corp morale, and the breadth of the population with direct relations with members of the military. More later…

The LRAD and the cruise ship

There is an interesting piece of information not in either CNN or BBC as of this writing on the pirate attack on a cruise liner, the Seabourn Spirit, off the coast of Somalia. From the TimesOnline:

The liner used a sonic blaster to foil the pirates. Developed by American forces to deter small boats from attacking warships, the non-lethal weapon sends out high-powered air vibrations that blow assailants off their feet. The equipment, about the size of a satellite dish, is rigged to the side of the ship.

Sonic "weapons" have reportedly been used by Israeli military in Gaza and Lebanon. This "poor man’s system" (not cheap when considering the cost of operating a jet but cheap in the terms of R&D) uses jet aircraft to create a sonic boom, intentionally creating shock waves that locals (Palestinians) say is similar to "an earthquake or huge bomb. They describe the effect as being hit by a wall of air that is painful on the ears, sometimes causing nosebleeds and ‘leaving you shaking inside.’"

The device used by the cruise ship was a "proper" sonice weapon, designed and developed for a specific purpose.

The weapons technology the cruise ship apparently had, according to the TimesOnline, is an LRAD (Long Range Accoustic Device).
This 45-pound, dish-shaped  non-lethal weapon is response to the 2000
USS Cole attack as a deterrent to small boat attacks. Apparently, these
devices have been used on US ships since the summer of 2003.

the Army and Marines have added this auditory barrage dispenser to
their arms ensembles. Troops in Fallujah, a center of insurgency west
of Baghdad, and other areas of central Iraq in particular often deal
with crowds in which lethal foes intermingle with non-hostile civilians.

the growing stable of non-lethal weapons is a Star Trek phaser gun made
real: the Active Denial System will repel enemies with a painful energy

I am curious if the TimesOnline got it right since other sources, including the WashingtonPost, CNN, and BBC did not report on this (as of this writing / posting). CNN reported the cruise ship outran the pirates. The BBC reports ‘the crew simply took evasive action without returning fire’. According to Daily
International Vessel Casualties & Pirates Daily Report
, "gunmen sailing in 3 boats later abandoned chase as they could not venture into high seas".

Or, are they being fanciful. I would tend to believe they got it
right if their description of the cruise ship is correct. It was odd to
read in BBC / CNN the ratio of crew to passengers by better than 1:1 on
the US-owned ship. The ship, owned by a Miami-based subsidiary of
Carnival Cruise Lines, must be an "ultra-luxery" boat with such a high complement of sailors / staff to passengers. Hence, their ability and desire to have such a device.

Modern weapons for modern, indiscriminate war. It will be
interesting to see if news starts to report the use of the LRAD or if
it disappears. This defensive measure is conceptually similar to
equiping airlines with counter-measures against SAM (surface-to-air
missile) attacks.

[UPDATE: CNN reported 7 Nov 05 — one day after I wrote this article — that a ‘sonic weapon’ was used. They did no indicate their source.]

:: SEE UPDATE 9 November 2005 ::

Evacuee vs Refugee

The choice of "evacuee" over "refugee" is interesting in its portrayal of short-term displacement from some emergency situation. Also, as one humorist noted, "refugee" implies a place of refuge.
The ability of this Administration to spin the media is outstanding and further demonstrates how GW truly deserves the title Teflon President.

Just as "insurgents" are not rebels, "terrorists" are not militia, the
ability to manipulate the nouns distorts the reality to the public, and
apparently to the Administration themselves as they drink their own

The poor (literally, unfortunately) people of New Orleans are
refugees from a natural disaster, just as the people of Sri Lanka were
after the Tsunami.

It is good the press is finally starting to question the
Administration on their handling, on this the fourth anniversary of
9/11. Are we really any safer? Does the color-coded
fantasy warning system really portend anything? Does the Administration
really allow the most effective people within the intelligence and
military ranks do their job to protect us? Are the priorities of the
Administration properly aligned with the realities of our contemporary
threat environment, which, incidently Mssrs Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and
Chertoff, include natural attacks with WMDs? The answer is clearly no
on all counts (we should not need foreign troops on our soil to help us recover) and hopefully the Fourth Estate stands up and recalls their responsibility.

From David Ignatius in the Washington Post (or Lebanon’s Daily Star to show "outsiders" are reading this too):

The Bush administration, meanwhile, remains in its hunkered-down
defensive crouch, with White House spokesman Scott McClellan treating
any demand for accountability as a partisan "blame game." It’s
outrageous to read that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
has been telling members of Congress that media reports are overstating
the problems for storm survivors — this from a man who was denying on
National Public Radio last Thursday that there was any crisis at the
New Orleans convention center at the very hour reporters were finding
dead bodies and abandoned, starving people there. If the administration
maintains that tone, it will self-destruct.

Tell me again, where does the buck stop? This President is so disconnected from reality ("Brownie, you’re doing one heck of a job") it is beyond frightening. Four years after 9/11 and it is very hard to believe people think were are safer. At the very least, perhaps people are starting to come around, as Newt Gingrich wrote and as a poll by Foreign Affairs indicates.

Now reconsider this in the context of Iraq and counter-insurgency.