It’s not new, we’re just ignorant: our modern Maginot Line does little against political warfare

A reminder to the reader: at present, and for the past two years, I am posting at The blog you’re reading – – has largely been dormant since then, save the occasional cross-post here, like this one, to direct you to the substack page. This blog will be maintained indefinitely as it remains a resource for many and contains material cited in books and reports over nearly two decades.

The following originally appeared at yesterday. If you have a comment, do so there instead of here. If you share, please share that link rather than this link. Thank you.

In the early 1980s, a Soviet defector gave lectures and interviews on “ideological subversion,” which, he noted, could also be called “active measures” or “psychological warfare.” I would add it could also be referred to as political warfare. In public engagements, Yuri Bezmenov described the four stages of this ideological subversion that intended to change how target audiences perceived reality. For an overview, see the interview below; for a deeper dive, see this one-hour lecture he gave in 1983. 

Continue reading “It’s not new, we’re just ignorant: our modern Maginot Line does little against political warfare

Who said it, when, and why? Part II (of II)

(This was originally posted at yesterday on 28 November 2022. Subscribe there to keep up to date with my writing via email, the substack app, or the substack website. Cross-posting here is a low priority for me, but eventually, all I post on substack should make its way here.)

Happy Monday. I hope you enjoyed last week’s quiz. More important, however, is that you learned something from the answers provided in the post on Friday, “Who said it, when, and why? Part I.” The time spent sharing these quotes, and their context, seems justified when I receive feedback on the posts. One from a retired Foreign Service Officer included this observation: “Every organizational, conceptual, and doctrinal U.S. deficit in the information space was anticipated in the first postwar decade, it seems, and every time the insights were ignored.” Today is not like yesterday in many respects, but the most important difference is not the technology, despite the conventional wisdom, but the breadth and depth of discussions around the issues. The lack of commitment, leadership, depth of analysis, and consistency shown by both the legislative and executive branches is stunning compared to the depth, frequency, attention, and profile of the executive discussions, planning, and legislative actions in 1945-1952, for example. 

Continue reading “Who said it, when, and why? Part II (of II)

Into the gray zone

A note on my testimony before Congress on July 28, 2022

The below originally appeared at on 26 August 2022 and is lightly edited to fix remedial grammar.

“Gray zone” is a popular label for various adversarial activities, specifically those activities “in the space between peace and war.” The term has been around for many years and is often considered to be—and is often used as—a replacement for the term political warfare. The problem with political warfare, of course, is the word warfare and the resulting reaction by some that “we don’t do ‘warfare’ and thus political warfare isn’t our job.” Political warfare was, however, more palatable than psychological warfare, which, for example, was in the draft report from a special joint Senate and House Smith-Mundt Committee’s delegation that toured 22 European countries in 1947 but disappeared from the final copy made public: “The United States Information Service is truly the voice of America and the means of clarifying opinion of the world concerning us. Its objective is fivefold… (5) be a ready instrument of psychological warfare when required.” 

Terms matter, and not just because they inherently have different meanings to different audiences at different times. Terms may also assign responsibilities just as they may be used to punt responsibilities to someone else. Public diplomacy, for example, has always been confusing because it was purposefully applied to the activities of an agency and not to specific methods or outcomes, which continues to cause confusion long after that agency disappeared. Hybrid warfare may be discussed in a similar way as it seems to be military-focused and intended to lay claim to an enhanced role for the military.

Continue reading “Into the gray zone

The first Fulbright countries: Burma, China, Greece, and the Philippines

Did you know that the first four countries to have educational exchanges under the Fulbright Act of 1946 where Burma (now Myanmar), China, Greece, and the Philippines? While the bilateral agreement with China was signed before Burma’s, the first action under the Fulbright Act was with Burma.  Continue reading “The first Fulbright countries: Burma, China, Greece, and the Philippines

Learning about food prices and your waist in 4min20s

Not much to add to the comments of Alex Evans at Global Dashboard on this trans-cultural message on the rise of food prices with ties to health and self-sufficiency.

I loved this public service announcement from the Japanese Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – easily the most succinct and accessible summary I’ve seen of why food prices have risen.  Also interesting to see how strongly the Japanese government is leading on messages of greater national self-sufficiency as the way forward.

Certainly a model of communicating complex ideas. I like the dancing cows…

Miscellanea (updated)

First the important stuff

Colonels H.R. McMaster Jr. and Sean B. MacFarland, pending Senate confirmation, will become Brigadiers.  For the story, see Stars & Stripes for the story (h/t SWJ)

The NYT headline says it all: NATO Hires a Coke Executive to Retool Its Brand

Mr. Stopford declined to comment because he had not yet taken up his new position. But his top priority is likely to be helping the organization explain how it has an impact on daily life, and why trans-Atlantic security should not be taken for granted.

According to a new poll (pdf), military officers want to see an investment in non-kinetic engagement.  Not a surprise if you have talked to any of them.  See Patrick Fitzgerald’s post for more. 

 New Chinese jamming equipment for Zimbabwe?

The blog Opinio Juris has relaunched.  OJ is about international law and international relations and I urge you to add it to your reading list. 

Speaking of relaunches, Intermap, as in International Media Argument Project, has returned.  Written by two “meatspace” friends, Craig Hayden and Shawn Powers, it explores political communication, rhetoric, and public diplomacy. 

And lastly, CTLab also relaunched.

Two unimportant items after the fold. 

Continue reading “Miscellanea (updated)

Attempting Unrestricted Warfare

Briefly, MEMRI notes the “mujahideen’s growing interest in the state of the U.S. economy.” 

As was argued in a 2007 MEMRI analysis, [1] many of the jihadists and their supporters have come to view their struggle against the U.S. and the West as an economic war. More specifically, they have come to the conclusion that it is financial, rather than military, losses that will prompt the U.S. to change its policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. Consequently, they emphasize the importance of targeting U.S. interests around the world, and of directing their military jihad primarily at targets that affect the U.S. economy.

See also:

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

Somalia: what was happening last year about this time?

With all that is the happening in the Horn right now, I thought I’d revisit some of my posts from last year this time on Somalia and the Horn. It won’t fully answer the question Why Somalia? but it will shed some light. I apologize for the year old info in advance, I don’t have the time right now to update these posts but it is still useful background.

Back in November 2005, the TFG (Transitional Federal Government) of Somalia signed an interesting $55m contract (the post notes $50m but later info showed it was slightly higher). Why? Ostensibly as a response to the attack on the cruise ship, Seabourn Spirit, a few weeks before. This whole thing was fishy, between the attackers needing a mother ship to mount the blue water attack to what was a civilian cruise ship doing with military grade hardware that is illegal under international maritime law. More came out on this, which I wrote about in an obscenely long post that questions various potential backers of TopCat (SOCOM? OGA? idiots?), looks at Congressional oversight and US arms trade laws (the value of the contract was a red flag requiring Congressional authorization, a lower value and State, i.e. Executive Branch, could authorize itself), provides some background on PMCs, and some other points.

Continue reading “Somalia: what was happening last year about this time?

Commercial Product: Nigeria Election Watch

Briefly, the importance of Nigeria to American and worldwide businesses is quietly and quickly escalating. An offering by Control Risks Group is an example of the requirements of present and future globalization:

Nigeria Election Watch

Nigeria’s general elections on 14 and 21 April 2007 promise to be a watershed in the country’s history. However, concerns about stability are growing as voting approaches, in the wake of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s efforts to extend his tenure, and with rising insecurity in the Niger delta region.

To help businesses to understand the possible risks associated with the electoral cycle, Control Risks has introduced a comprehensive package of timely and relevant analysis, comprising a detailed background and scenarios report and regular Nigeria Election Watch updates.

The report outlines the political background to the elections, giving an overview of the current situations, key players and drivers of change. Our unique Nigeria Election Watch service provides a dynamic guide to the elections, highlighting key dates and developments. It features:

  • Conference calls
  • Update reports
  • Forecasting
  • Emerging election issues
  • Election timeline updates
  • Direct access to the team

Nigeria and Islam, two brief facts

Did you know that Nigeria has a rich and long history of Islam extending 1,200 years. Slightly more than half of the country is Muslim, the other half is Christian, making it the largest Islamo-Christian country in the world. There are more Muslims in Nigeria than Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and all of the Gulf countries combined.

More investment in Nigeria

Briefly, the People’s Daily in China is reporting that

India has agreed to invest six billion U.S. dollars in power plants and other projects in Nigeria, Indian Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria Anil Trigunayat said at the weekend.

The money continues to flow in and the ‘partnerships’ continue to expand.

…the Indian diplomat said as the most populous countries in Africa and Asia respectively, both Nigeria and India had a lot to learn and gain from each other.

Is the motivating factor altruism or business opportunity?

"We are also interested in investing in the development of infrastructure, but any such projects would have to be identified first by the Nigerian government," he said

Or energy?

Trigunayat expressed India’s desire to collaborate with Nigeria for the benefit of both countries, saying that India was also interested in engaging in joint venture projects with Nigeria in the oil and gas sector.

Nigeria: Retail’s “Sale of the Century”

Briefly, Foreign Direct Investment reports…

The early success of the Nu Metro Media Store in Lagos, which opened in Junethis year, selling books, music CDs and DVDs, was the first proof of the massive
pent up demand for world-class retail that exists in Nigeria. Until then, the
largely-untapped buying power of Nigeria’s 130-million strong consumer market
had gone untested. In the face of a maddening number of challenges of setting up
business in the country, it is this virgin market that is one the greatest draw
cards. Before Nu Metro, there was nothing in the retail space that could be
described as modern let alone world-class. For Nu Metro’s owners, Johnnic
Communications, the push into Nigeria – which includes taking a stake in local
newspaper Business Day – has not been without frustration.

Link to article…

Nigeria Economy: Privatisations make headway

EIU Newswire reported on 2 December 2005:

In August the BPE also unveiled a shortlist of six potential bidders for a 51% stake in Nigerian Telecommunications (Nitel) and its mobile unit, M- Tel. The potential buyers are South Africa’s MTN and Telkom, Chinese equipment maker, Huawei Technologies, Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, Celtel International and Newtel. They were picked out of 22 companies that expressed interest in Nitel. Nigeria’s communications minister said in September that one of the bidders will be chosen by the end of the year. Analysts expect the stake to fetch substantially less than the US$1.3bn offered by the preferred bidder in the 2001 sale, which collapsed after the buyer failed to pay the purchase price.

Link to original…

The Role of Transparency and Accountability for Economic Development in Resource-rich Countries,

Address by the Deputy Managing Director of the IMF

Transparency and accountability are critical for the efficient functioning of a modern economy and for fostering social well-being. In most societies, many powers are delegated to public authorities. Some assurance must then be provided to the delegators—that is, society at large—that this transfer of power is not only effective, but also not abused. Transparency ensures that information is available that can be used to measure the authorities’ performance and to guard against any possible misuse of powers. In that sense, transparency serves to achieve accountability, which means that authorities can be held responsible for their actions. Without transparency and accountability, trust will be lacking between a government and those whom it governs. The result would be social instability and an environment that is less than conducive to economic growth.

Link to article…