Suspended Animation

Welcome to Defense and the National Interest!  After a ten-year run of analysis, commentary, and discussion, DNI is no longer generating new content.  The site is now maintained and preserved for your reading pleasure by the Project On Government Oversight.  If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to POGO’s web manager.

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On War #323: Milestone

William S. Lind
23 November 2009

One of the ongoing themes of this column has been gangs and the role they play in a Fourth Generation world. Here in the United States they already serve as an alternative primary loyalty (alternative to the state) for many urban young men. Gangs will likely be a major player in 4GW because gang members are expected to fight. Those who won’t do not remain gang members.

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DNI to close — update

23 November 2009

Many thanks to everyone who wrote in.  My wife and I are deeply touched.

We’ll try to find someone to at least take over the site as it is and keep the links intact.  Several people have contacted me with ideas.  In the meantime, I’ll leave everything up unless we start having more security problems.

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DNI to close

Probably on Monday, November 23, depending on how my travels work out. Please go ahead and download any thing you’d like to keep — I’d particularly recommend Boyd’s briefings and the 4GW manuals.

I have great faith in the growing number of bloggers and commentators who cover many of the same subjects we did — check out a few of them in the “Blogs” and “Other Sites” sections on the right.

DNI started in March 1999 with a grant from Danielle Brian and the folks at the Project on Government Oversight. Its original purpose was to house the growing collection of Chuck Spinney’s commentaries on the foibles of our defense program (when you read these, keep in mind this was during the Clinton era.  We were not associated with any political party).  If you’re interested in strengthening our position in 4GW, I’d suggest a generous donation to POGO.  You could also run for office.

I’d like to thank Danielle, Chuck, Marcus Corbin (our original project officer at POGO and the person who commissioned A Swift, Elusive Sword), Ginger Richards (who designed and operated all the various versions of the site), Bill Lind and all of our other contributors, and all who have taken the time to compose comments.

Chet Richards,
Singapore (for another couple of days)

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On War #322: What Is “Political Correctness?”

William S. Lind
18 November 2009

In response to the killing of 13 American soldiers at Ft. Hood by an Islamic U. S. Army major, a number of senior officials have expressed their fear, not of Islam, but of a possible threat to “diversity.” “Diversity” is one of the many false gods of “Political Correctness.” But what exactly is Political Correctness?

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What should we do with terrorists?

Security guru Bruce Schneier has the right idea:

We should treat terrorists like common criminals and give them all the benefits of true and open justice — not merely because it demonstrates our indomitability, but because it makes us all safer. Once a society starts circumventing its own laws, the risks to its future stability are much greater than terrorism.

Point I tried to make — repeatedly — in If We Can Keep It.

Hat tip to James Fallows’s blog for the reference (and his commentary is also well worth the read).

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Sun Tzu’s Art of War

A Modern Application For When Things Don’t Go Our Way

James Gimian
Barry Boyce

Presented by the Georgetown University, Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS).

November 18, 2009
Reed Alumni House
3601 O Street NW
(Brick House with White Pillars)
Washington, DC

Open to the public.

4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Chaos, conflict, and the escalation of complex challenges seem to define our experience today, whether we’re an army commander, policy maker, business leader, or just trying to manage our world. Nowhere is this experience more evident than in the security community. Because the ordinary approaches often don’t work when things are complex, and because the stakes are so high nowadays, we need other skills and tools to rely on when things don’t go our way.

For 2500 years Sun Tzu’s Art of War has provided leaders with skillful strategies for working with complex challenging situations, conflict, and war. A model of nonlinear, synthetic thinking, this ancient text offers key lessons that are strikingly modern: the central importance of knowledge, seeing the whole system, and how networks can be managed to achieve objectives.

James Gimian and Barry Boyce have consulted and taught on how to apply the strategies in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in a wide variety of settings over the past 25 years. They are authors of The Rules of Victory: How to Transform Chaos and Conflict-Strategies from the Art of War (2008), and produced a critically acclaimed and best-selling translation of The Art of War: The Denma Translation, currently used in the Naval and Air Force War Colleges. Gimian and Boyce are also longtime publishing and writing professionals, currently serving as publisher (Gimian) and senior editor (Boyce) of the Shambhala Sun, North America’s leading Buddhist-inspired magazine.

Join us for an exploration of strategies from Sun Tzu’s Art of War for engaging complex problems in our increasingly challenging world.

If you’re going, please RSVP

[Comment — The Rules of Victory is a superb book.  Not easy reading, but I’d put it on a par with The Japanese Art of War (by Thomas Cleary — and one of Boyd’s favorites) in importance for reaching a deeper understanding of Boyd’s strategic concepts.]

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On War # 321: 4GW Comes to Ft. Hood

William S. Lind
10 November 2009

Last week’s shootings at Ft. Hood, in which thirteen U. S. Soldiers were killed and 30 people wounded, appear to be a classic example of Fourth Generation war. The shooter, U. S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was a practicing Muslim. He sometimes wore traditional Islamic dress and carried a Koran. He reportedly cried “Allahu Akbar” before he opened fire. Though American-born and a U.S. citizen (and army officer), Major Hasan appears to have transferred his primary loyalty away from the state to something else, Islam. For his new primary loyalty, he was willing to kill. That is what defines Fourth Generation war.

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On War #320: Beware Charybdis!

William S. Lind
2 November 2009

My recent trip to the Baltic included a week with the Royal Swedish Navy and the Swedish Marines, the First Amphibious Regiment. The hospitality of both surpassed anything I could have expected, including a chance to conn one of the superb Class 90 patrol craft through the skerries. At 40 knots the boat rode like a Pullman car but also turned like a Fokker DR-1. Any navy interested in controlling green or brown water would be wise to take a look at the Class 90.

As my hosts stressed to me, the Swedish armed forces have a strong Third Generation heritage. Historically they had close ties with the German military. While Swedish armies often fought in Germany, Sweden never went to war against Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm II was an honorary admiral in the Royal Swedish Navy.

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What we’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is not counter-insurgency but some form of occupation.  The governments of those countries can do COIN, and we can also do COIN but only in our country and its territories — where we are the government, in other words.

The history of occupations since the end of WW II is not replete with success.  Even the mighty Soviet Union was not able to continue to occupy Eastern Europe (let alone Afghanistan), the French failed in Algeria and Vietnam, and we failed in Vietnam.

If you count Iraq as a success, show me where our goals included installing a corrupt Shi’ite theocracy that has become a close ally of Iran, ethnically cleansing Baghdad, and eliminating women’s rights (which were among the most advanced in the Arab world under Saddam’s regime, for all its brutality) in much of the country.  We have also virtually eradicated the Christian community in Iraq, and the Sunnis are getting restless again in al-Anbar.  Some success, despite some 4,000 US fatalities and roughly $1 trillion (and counting) down the drain.

The history of real COIN, however, is different.  Legitimate governments can often quell insurgencies in their midsts usually by one of two methods:

  • Co-opt the rebels and make other political changes to defuse the insurrection
  • Wipe out the rebels along with much of the population that hides and supports them

India faces a virulent insurgency known as “Naxalites.”  The NYT today carries an update:

Here in the state of Chattisgarh, Maoists dominate thousands of square miles of territory and have pushed into neighboring states of Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, part of a so-called Red Corridor stretching across central and eastern India.

Violence erupts almost daily. In the past five years, Maoists have detonated more than 1,000 improvised explosive devices in Chattisgarh. Within the past two weeks, Maoists have burned two schools in Jharkhand, hijacked and later released a passenger train in West Bengal while also carrying out a raid against a West Bengal police station.

After trying option 1, political reform / co-option, which has no appeal for the Maoist Naxalites, the Indians now appear ready for option 2:

“It may take one year, two years, three years or four,” predicted Vishwa Ranjan, chief of the state police in Chattisgarh, adding that casualties would be inevitable. “There is no zero casualty doctrine,” he said.

This will not be pretty, but if pressed to completion, history suggests that it will be successful.  This is real COIN, and those who support our make-believe version in Iraq and Afghanistan might pay heed.

[Speaking of Afghanistan, Victor Sebestyen had a piece in Thursday’s NYT that vividly illustrates the folly of letting chimera such as “not appearing weak” lock orientations into a tar-baby strategy:

The Soviets saw withdrawal as potentially fatal to their prestige in the cold war, so they became mired deeper and deeper in their failed occupation. For years, the Soviets heavily bombarded towns and villages, killing thousands of civilians and making themselves even more loathed by Afghans. Whatever tactics the Soviets adopted the result was the same: renewed aggression from their opponents. The mujahideen, for example, laid down thousands of anti-tank mines to attack Russian troop convoys, much as the Taliban are now using homemade bombs to strike at American soldiers on patrol, as well as Afghan civilians.

“About 99 percent of the battles and skirmishes that we fought in Afghanistan were won by our side,” Marshal Akhromeyev told his superiors in November 1986. ]

Comments are welcome; please observe our comment policy.

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