Guest Book Review: Drugs and Contemporary Warfare

By Chris Albon

drugsandcontemporarywarfare In his latest book, Drugs and Contemporary Warfare, Paul Rexton Kan attempts to understand the relationship between drugs and armed conflict. Kan is not the first to connect the two topics, such as Gretchen Peters’ book on poppies in Afghanistan. However, Kan’s book is exceptional for developing an overarching theory on drugs and armed conflict in modern history. Kan knows what he is talking about. An associate professor at the U.S. Army War College, Kan’s previous monograph explores the implications of drug intoxicated irregular soldiers on the battlefield (available for download free).

Drugs and Contemporary Warfare is organized into six chapters: Hazy Shades of War, Drugging the Battlefield, High at War, Narcotics and Nation-Building, Sober Lessons for the Future, and Shaky Paths Forward. Kan’s first chapter summarizes the history of the drug trade’s influence on warfare, with emphasis on conflicts after the Cold War. With insightful anecdotes, Kan both introduces readers to the topic and lays the groundwork for concepts presented later.

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Interesting readings on Swarm Warfare

Postcard from Mumbai: Modern Urban Siege by John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus

According to many television news reports, the Mumbai terrorist attacks were a “siege.” But there were no catapults, cannons, or breaching ladders. Instead, a dozen men with guns paralyzed one of the world’s largest cities, killing 173 with barely concealed glee. Sadly, Mumbai heralds a new chapter in the bloody story of war in cities—the siege of the city from within. The polis is fast becoming a war zone where criminals, terrorists, and heavily armed paramilitary forces battle—and all can be targeted. All the while, gardens of steel spring up, constricting popular movement and giving way to an evolving architecture of fear. The “feral city” and the military colony battle each other for dominance in the urban siege.

Defending against the urban siege requires bridging the gap between police and military, building a layered defense, and fighting to preserve the right to the city. Despite the terrifying nature of the threat, the ultimate advantage lies with the vibrant modern city and the police, soldiers, and civilians tasked to defend it. The key to success lies in the construction of resilient physical and moral infrastructure.

The Coming Swarm by John Arquilla

With three Afghan government ministries in Kabul hit by simultaneous suicide attacks this week, by a total of just eight terrorists, it seems that a new “Mumbai model” of swarming, smaller-scale terrorist violence is emerging. …

For the defense of American cities against terrorist swarms, the key would be to use local police officers as the first line of defense instead of relying on the military. The first step would be to create lots of small counterterrorism posts throughout urban areas instead of keeping police officers in large, centralized precinct houses. This is consistent with existing notions of community-based policing, and could even include an element of outreach to residents similar to that undertaken in the Sunni areas of Iraq — even if it were to mean taking the paradoxical turn of negotiating with gangs about security.

Readings on Future Threats

National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025

"Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World" is the fourth unclassified report prepared by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in recent years that takes a long-term view of the future. It offers a fresh look at how key global trends might develop over the next 15 years to influence world events. Our report is not meant to be an exercise in prediction or crystal ball-gazing. Mindful that there are many possible "futures," we offer a range of possibilities and potential discontinuities, as a way of opening our minds to developments we might otherwise miss.

Some of our preliminary assessments are highlighted below:

  • The whole international system—as constructed following WWII—will be revolutionized. Not only will new players—Brazil, Russia, India and China— have a seat at the international high table, they will bring new stakes and rules of the game.
  • The unprecedented transfer of wealth roughly from West to East now under way will continue for the foreseeable future.
  • Unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion more people, will put pressure on resources—particularly energy, food, and water—raising the specter of scarcities emerging as demand outstrips supply.
  • The potential for conflict will increase owing partly to political turbulence in parts of the greater Middle East.

Related: BBC’s Key Points, Enterprise Resilience Management’s key points, Jonathan Landay’s comments at Nukes and Spooks, and Tom Barnett’s disappointment.

See also: 55 Trends Now Shaping the Future of Terrorism (March 2008) and 55 Trends Now Shaping the Future (April 2008)

Cold War II?

The Russian invasion and dismantling of Georgian infrastructure and military has led some to call for a new Cold War against Russia. As Putin-Medvedev debilitated Georgia, they knew there would be no substantial and credible responses from NATO, the EU, and the United States. They were right. The failure to anticipate Russian moves and the consequences of such actions has created an unnecessary quandary to which the Secretaries of State and Defense are sending mixed messages. The Secretary of State speaks in soft diplomatic language inappropriate for the situation while the Secretary of Defense speaks in blunt language that is far less equivocal.

What to do? Mark Sasfranski points out over at Pajamas Media that knee-jerk reactions to our own failure to think and plan strategically is not the answer.

Let us have no illusions. Putin and Medvedev are running an autocratic, nationalist, and sometimes cruel Russia that would like to become an arbiter of global energy markets, particularly in natural gas, and seeks to reassert Russian hegemony over weak neighbors. Russia, however, is not the totalitarian Soviet Union, either internally or as a military threat. We are not seeing the mighty Red Army that once threatened to storm the Fulda Gap; that the competent movement of a few armored brigades into tiny Georgia is cause for Western amazement shows how far Russia has fallen as a great power, not how high it is rising.

Calls for a new Cold War with Russia because we have been embarrassed by the inept performance of a client state are wrongheaded, at times venal but certainly detrimental to American national security. We have potential national interests and a few vital ones that span all the states of the former Soviet Union, including Russia. Not to mention a real shooting war with al-Qaeda and other forces of Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need, at the highest levels of government, to sit down and take the long view of what America’s strategic policy toward Russia should be, in a process free of the input of registered foreign agents and special interest K Street lobbyists.

On some issues the United States will need to lead in opposing Russia and on others we will seek her cooperation. But to declare Russia our enemy, out of misplaced Cold War nostalgia or on behalf of allies who will continue to do business as usual with Moscow while we bear all of the costs, is to play the fool.

With the additional saber rattling by Russia in response to the agreement with Poland to deploy interceptors, Russia is playing a dangerous game and unless we do plan strategically with our allies, the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are rightly concerned.

Read all of Mark’s editorial here.

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

What is the core of this gap discussion?

Dan of tdaxp continues his over-generalization in pursuit of scientific purity of independently verifiable variables. Called out on his overly broad statement about Bhutto’s death, Dan responds by claiming I reject the whole core-gap framework. This is another example of his painting by the widest brushstrokes possible, which despite his frequently smart analysis, is too often done when he analyzes conflict.

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Child Soldiers

A documentary version of P.W. Singer’s book Children at War will be on The History Channel on Dec. 29 at 7:00pm. Find it directly or, as Singer suggests, set your Tivo to search for “Child Warriors.” From Peter:

I have not actually seen this version (I consulted and interviewed for it, but have no final approval), so am just as interested as you to see how it turned out. I must say it has been fascinating to watch its evolution over the last year, from the perspective of an author as well as just media consumer. It started out a 2 hour version, with film crews going everywhere from Colombia to Nepal, gathering some amazing footage and interviews of child soldiers. But when they got back, the network decided that what they had gathered was too “depressing” (imagine that, a documentary about child soldiers didn’t turn out to be a pick me up) and so it was redone to a shorter version, following one former child soldier in particular, with a bit more of a “feel good ending.” In either case, it is great to see the stories get out there and hopefully, help bring some more needed attention to the issue.

Continue reading “Child Soldiers

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).

Waterboarding is Torture… Period

While the new AG won’t admit waterboarding is torture, a man I respect and have talked with in the past disagrees. Read Malcolm Nance over at Small Wars Journal’s Blog:

If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives. The Small Wars Council had a spirited discussion about this earlier in the year, especially when former Marine Generals Krulak and Hoar rejected all arguments for torture.

“No one is actually at war except the Armed Forces, their US civilian contractors, and the CIA”

General Barry R. McCaffrey’s testimony before the the House Armed Services Committee is an excellent summary of the problems were facing today and the real hit America’s national security is taking. It speaks for itself and it should be read.

From a summary he released as his testimony is not yet available from the Committee (h/t Kat):

…the purpose of my testimony is not to talk about the ongoing tactical operations in CENTCOM — but instead the disastrous state of America’s ground combat forces. Congress has been missing-in-action during the past several years while undebated and misguided strategies were implemented by former Secretary Rumsfeld and his team of arrogant and inexperienced civilian associates in the Pentagon. The JCS failed to protect the Armed Forces from bad judgment and illegal orders. They have gotten us in a terrible strategic position of vulnerability. The Army is starting to crack under the strain of lack of resources, lack of political support and leadership from both the Administration and this Congress, and isolation from the American people who have now walked away from the war.

No one is actually at war except the Armed Forces, their US civilian contractors, and the CIA. There is only rhetoric and posturing from the rest of our government and the national legislature. Where is the shared sacrifice of 300 million Americans in the wealthiest nation in history? Where is the tax supplement to pay for a $12 billion a month war? Where are the political leaders calling publicly for America’s parents and teachers to send their sons and daughters to fight “the long war on terror?” Where is the political energy to increase the size of our Marine Corps and US Army? Where is the willingness of Congress to implement a modern “lend-lease program” to give our Afghan and Iraqi allies the tools of war they need to protect their own people? Where is the mobilization of America’s massive industrial capacity to fix the disastrous state of our ground combat military equipment?

Recent and related post (among many on MountainRunner): If the surge is working, why are we still losing?

Continue reading ““No one is actually at war except the Armed Forces, their US civilian contractors, and the CIA”

If the surge is working, why are we still losing?

Question: if the surge is working, why are we still losing? That’s the oft asked question that starts from the wrong premise: that we’re losing. Seth at Security Dilemmas gets the point of the surge: 

The surge is intended not to pacify the country, but rather to provide sufficient security to create breathing room in which the government can pass needed laws and stabilize the political situation.

But while the surge may be working, the political process is not. All of the people cited above for their optimism on the military aspect of the surge also voiced their pessimism about the political side. Admiral Mullen stated that “there does not appear to be much political progress” in resolving the critical issues that might ease sectarian violence.

Continue reading “If the surge is working, why are we still losing?

Upcoming movie screening: No End in Sight

If you are in Los Angeles Tuesday, July 24, 2007, you might want to checkout “No End in Sight”, a movie direct by Charles Ferguson, a political scientist and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Based on over 200 hours of footage, this critically acclaimed film provides a candid retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad during the Spring of 2003), former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, and General Jay Garner (in charge of the occupation of Iraq through May 2003), as well as Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, and prominent analysts.

A panel discussion evaluating the arguments set forth by the film will follow the screening.

RSVP for this event here.

7p at the Landmark Theater in West Los Angeles

10850 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Remembering the Fourth of July

For Americans everywhere, the Fourth of July should be more than a time to think about barbeque and apple pie. Much like Memorial Day, many (most?) Americans forget the reality behind the holiday, neglecting the sacrifices made in the name and spirit of the United States of America, good or bad.

The birth of America wasn’t easy and it wasn’t a task taken lightly. Often forgotten are the countless and often nameless Revolutionaries that fought as both uniformed and insurgent forces against an unjust rule.

At first, they just wanted the wrongs righted, believing the King didn’t know what his advisors were doing. Soon they realized the truth.

The Founding Fathers solicited support from foreign countries to aid in our fight. Some countries stepped up offering direct or indirect support. They engaged private resources not only to support the land war, but to attack enemy commerce on the sea and take the fight to the very homeland of our enemy to strike not only at their ability to prosecute the war, but to attack their very will to fight.

The Founding Fathers engaged in traditional as well as public diplomacy to gain and keep support for the cause both home and abroad. Remember the land on which they fought in wasn’t entirely theirs. Amongst them were enemy sympathizers, whose eventual eviction from one major city would be remembered for decades, not centuries, as Evacuation Day.

Victory or Death: Flag of the Bedford Minutemen The Founding Fathers who assembled to proclaim Independence for the United States of America knew they were risking life and property. The soldiers themselves, both regular and irregular, knew the same. As did the families and all the supporters of the causes. It was a struggle of life and death. There was to be victory or there would be death (“Vince aut Morte”).

The ideals of the new nation were inspirational not only to the new Americans, but to other countries, including our most important ally in the fight who would see her own revolution shortly after ours. This inspiration came from a pairing of diplomacy, deeds, and ideals that focused on the unjust actions of the former master.

Enumerated in our Constitution are some of the fundamental grievances against “tyranny”.

Amendment I:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III: No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The Founding Fathers knew a heavy toll would be exacted with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, as well as a result of their actions before and after July 4, 1776.

A good friend, and the author of Warriors and Politicians, put it well when we wrote “the tree of liberty needs to be nourished, not just with blood but with commitment and respect and fulfillment in later years.”

What are you doing to remember and honor the past?

Short bios on the signers of the Declaration of Independence can be found here.