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.

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