Dec 30, 2007

Seasoned Greetings

We the meatballs and effwits of Swedish Meatballs Confidential would like to extend joyous season's greetings to you and your next of kin. Thanks for a decent year, friends and fiends.

What causes opponents to come of their own accord is the prospect of gain. What discourages opponents from coming is the prospect of harm.
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Dec 27, 2007

The Intelligence Community, 1950–1955

On Dec 21, the Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State, released a retrospective intelligence volume in the Foreign Relations of the United States series, documenting the development and consolidation of the intelligence community.

The Intelligence Community, 1950–1955 [867-page pdf]:

This volume is organized along chronological lines in one large chapter covering 1950–1955, and a second chapter that includes the key National Security Council Intelligence Directives of the period. The volume documents the institutional growth of the intelligence community during the first half of the 1950s. When Lt. General Walter Bedell Smith took over as Director of Central Intelligence in October 1950, he inherited an agency that was widely believed to have been unable to establish itself as the central institution of the U.S. intelligence community. Utilizing his great prestige, and a national security directive from President Truman, Smith established the multiple directorate structure within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that has continued to this day, brought the clandestine service into the CIA, and worked to effect greater inter-agency coordination through a strengthened process to produce National Intelligence Estimates. The exponential growth of the national security establishment and of the intelligence community was due to the impact of two factors: NSC 68 (a clarion call for more active containment of the Soviet Union) and the Korean War. The Central Intelligence Agency was called upon to expand the clandestine service, and the intelligence community was required to provide better and more definitive intelligence on the Soviet bloc and China. When Allen Dulles took over as Director of Central Intelligence in February 1953, these pressures continued. By 1955, the general consensus of two commissions appointed by President Eisenhower to review the intelligence effort was that the clandestine service had grown too rapidly and was plagued by poor management. In general, the commission implied that the clandestine service’s growth had come at the expense of the agency’s intelligence analysts.

This volume presented the editors with documentary challenges. The documents used to compile this volume were unique by Foreign Relations standards. Rather than documenting the formulation of foreign policy decisions or important diplomatic negotiations, this volume is a record of high-level policy plans, discussions, administrative decisions, and managerial actions that transformed the intelligence community from its somewhat shaky establishment into a community that collected intelligence worldwide; provided extensive analysis of that intelligence for policy makers; and carried out covert operations, as approved by the United States Government, on a global scale. The intelligence community under President Eisenhower in 1955 was a much more significant player and a more robust bureaucracy than it was under President Truman in the late 1940s. This volume documents that growth and development.

For those who fear that their machine may choke on a document of this size, State also provides a page which permits downloads of the volume in sections.

Dec 25, 2007

Ho Ho Ho IO - Maritime Meatballs

Awareness of IO in the shape of deception-/influence-ops (and other PSYOP-ishness) might reasonably be perceived as a rather pertinent knowledge-set for that discerning consumer of news still wary of those special narratives that intermittently pop up and come to ubiquitously permeate the exhaust fumes of every lo-hairlined tele-prompted head intensely willing to console one come dinner time with sponsored clarity on why the world will always turn for yet another day of credit fueled eudaimonia.

Providing an example of a recent IO and how it's resultant narrative was successfully deployed against a targeted public, and leveraged against its leadership, would perhaps not be considered completely out of order given the esoteric contextualizing going on at this site of dubious repute. For some of our regulars, what follows will be but foggy old news. Verily, it is for these bored and lonely degenerates we provide a meager feed of complimentary skankwork.

In varying contrast to the generic authoritarian state, Western democracies are not seldom at somewhat of an initial loss when attempting to adequately control the mass media to shape the perceptions of their citizens when delicate need so demands. In such lieu, the creation of ‘false realities’ has proven to be one of several workable alternatives to the more direct avenues of influence readily available to those most fortunate despots of Myanmar et al.

By manipulating/tailoring events to be appetizing to a rather divinable media, political/soft control of targeted nations becomes, albeit only at fortunate times, a not altogether unachievable goal. To such ends, well-heeled powers will on occasion aim to create indicators – enemy subs or bomb attacks or whatever – though most often dazzling or salacious events to be sure, that are odds-on seized upon by the regularized and unflappable diligentsia of Dorito media for Cheezy-dimensional interpretation and dissemination to the publics targeted for perception shaping - be they of foreign or domestic persuasion.

After World War II, a real hot war in Western Europe appeared increasingly unlikely. Power struggles in democratic countries found new forms at the lower end of the conflict spectrum. In defense of the Western system, the US began to operate submarines to simulate real enemy intrusions into the waters of allies and friends as an instrument to test their readiness and capability - but also to manipulate the mindset of local military forces, governments and populations, as was the case in Sweden.

Following the stranding of a Soviet Whiskey-class submarine in 1981 in a Swedish archipelago, a series of massive submarine intrusions took place within Swedish waters and were widely attributed to Soviet intrusions. Soon the kingdom of Sweden was on high alert for Spetznaz frogmen everywhere (Robert Boyd got it wrong here, save perhaps for his 'probably'). However, the evidence for these Soviet intrusions appears to have been manipulated or simply invented. Classified documents and interviews point to covert Western, rather than Soviet, activity.

Archival material and interviews with retired military officers point to US and to some extent UK PSYOPs. Former US Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger stated on Swedish TV that US/Western submarines operated regularly and frequently in Swedish waters after Swedish-US navy-to-navy consultations. However, the Swedish government or public was never informed. They believed the submarines were from the Soviet Union. These operations allowed the U.S. to shape the mindset of their targeted audience in order to control a state perceived to be wavering on its kinetic commitments.

As the United States and Britain ran a 'secret war' in Swedish waters, the number of Swedes perceiving the Soviet Union as a direct threat increased from 5-10 per cent in 1980 to 45 per cent in 1983. This Anglo-American 'secret war' aimed at exerting political influence over Sweden was a risky enterprise but perhaps one of the most successful covert operations of the entire Cold War.

Viciously hacked & jacked book review of Ola Tunander's The Secret War Against Sweden: US and British Submarine Deception in the 1980's

Dec 24, 2007

Do Europeans Speak With One Another in Time of War? Results of a Media Analysis on the 2003 Iraq War

The Reconstructing Democracy in Europe project [a five-year research project with 19 partner institutions and approximately 70 participating researchers across Europe] has published a study comparing the framing in various print media in Europe of the key issues in the period leading up to the war in Iraq.

Do Europeans Speak With One Another in Time of War? Results of a Media Analysis on the 2003 Iraq War [28-page pdf]:

Some might depict this approach as ‘media centric’ – and they are correct. This study deliberately chose mass media discourse - and not discourses of political elites, for instance - as one but not the only possible forum where a public sphere can develop. The main argument for concentrating on mass media is that in modern democratic states opinion-forming with respect to issues of common concern, in which politicians, civil society and media can engage as active speakers, and interested citizens as – at least - passive observers, can no longer function without recourse to the mass media (cf. Habermas 2001: 119). Thus, mass media have a most significant and essential function in mediating these debates and consequently the term ‘European public sphere’ as used in this study means first and foremost a European public media sphere. Another possible, twofold objection to this approach has to do with the particular logic of news reporting in mass media. One argument is that mass media tends to focus on news issues with a national dimension. Granted that news with a national framing tend to be more salient than news with a European one, the question arises how one can measure European communication in mass media that leaves a smaller chance for issues with a European dimension to make the news? As I consider this question not only a theoretical but also an empirical one, I thus want to leave the answer to empirics. In this respect, the findings presented in chapter three (p. 12ff) may come as striking. Contrary to the theoretical supposition, the findings of this media analysis do not point to a dominant national but transnational framing of the run-up of the 2003 Iraq War. As will be shown in more detail later, four out of the five most frequently used and visible frames in national newspaper discourses are used similarly in a transnational dimension whereas only one frame seems to be a characteristic of a national, in this case the British, discourse. So, addressing the issue of a possible data bias from the empirical perspective of this small study, a predominantly national framing cannot be confirmed. A second problem that might arise of the particular logic of mass media is the argument that news reporting in mass media is biased towards crises, problems or ‘negative’ news in general. This assumption may be correct but in my view, it might not pose a particular problem for the research design of this study. The issue of war and intervention was deliberately chosen: Because of its generally contested character, public debates on this issue might exactly lead to the types of debates this study is particularly looking for. Therefore, the argument that news reportage might show a bias towards ‘negative’ events may be correct but not necessarily problematic for this particular study – even the contrary might be the case. To put it simplistically, one could maybe even argue that the stronger public discourse focuses on crises and conflicts, the more ‘beneficial’ effects this might have for the purpose of this study as it raises the likelihood that debates of a more general kind come up that also contain discussions on shared and diverging view points and problem definitions, interpretations of reference, with regard to the issue of war and peace.


In order to test the difference hypothesis, two American newspapers were included along with the European newspapers. The evaluation demonstrated that the assumption of diverging interpretations in transnational comparison could only partially be confirmed. In other words: in the case of three frames, namely ‘Iraq poses a threat’, ‘United Nations matter’ and ‘US foreign policy is problematic’, it was impossible to provide evidence of a typically European discourse. These interpretations appear with similar frequency in German, British and American media debates, although with small differences. For instance, there seemed to be a more intensive discourse on the subject ‘Iraq poses a threat’ in the American and British press than in German newspapers, while the critical discourse on ‘Iraq poses a threat’ was in turn stronger in the British and German papers. ‘United Nations matter’ was the frame that appeared most frequently. Only in relation to the frame ‘US foreign policy is problematic’ did the paper’s political affiliation play a significant role: in all of the countries, criticism of the United States was reflected more intensely in liberal newspapers. For all the above mentioned three frames, the difference hypothesis could not be proved. However, the interesting finding was that it could be verified for the ‘International Law matters’ frame. Seemingly, this frame reflects a specifically European aspect of the debate on the use of military force in Iraq. Although this interpretation type was indeed found in American newspapers, the frequency with which the legal dimension of the debate was highlighted varies quite considerably between American and European newspapers. In the American press, particularly the conservative Washington Post, this viewpoint plays a very insignificant role.


It is notable that the frequency with which statements are assigned to [the International Law matters] frame does not exceed the 10 per cent threshold in either of the American newspapers. In the European newspapers, the frequency is somewhat higher in the liberal papers Guardian and Sueddeutsche Zeitung. From the perspective of ‘International Law matters’, passionate positions were taken in German and British newspapers with respect to the use of military force in Iraq. The following quotes are examples:

SZ: The end of international law? Simma: At any rate, this is a fateful hour. But you also have to see that the concern of the world public for international law has never been so pronounced as it is today! (SZ 01.02.2003)

For this reason alone it is impossible to comprehend the position of a number of politicians who interpret the serious consequences referred to in Resolution 1441 as an immediate starting gun for war. (FAZ 06.02.2003)

No, Mr. Blair, there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for an invasion of Iraq. The attempt by the US and UK governments to finesse us into support for a war that is illegal and immoral leaves us with no confidence in our leaders. (Times 12.02.2002)

Britain and the United States are on the verge of launching a ‘19th-century gunboat war’ in the Gulf which will be illegal and immoral, the former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle warned the House of Commons yesterday.’ (Guardian 19.03.2003)

In the New York Times and the Washington Post, by contrast, there are far fewer references to the legal dimension of the Iraq debate. Barely six per cent of all coded references in the New York Times relate to ‘International Law matters’, while the equivalent figure for the Washington Post is only just above four per cent. It was particularly noteworthy that not one single reference was found in the Washington Post reflecting the opinion that the use of military force was not compatible with or was difficult to reconcile with international law. The overwhelming opinion emerging from German and British newspapers, on the other hand, was that there was no legal basis for the use of military force in Iraq.

Dec 22, 2007

The Portrait from Iraq - How the Press Has Covered Events on the Ground

A new Project for Excellence in Journalism [Pew Research Center] report examines the content of Iraq war coverage from January 1 through October 31, 2007 -- a time which featured the start of the high-priority "the Surge is working" perception management campaign.

The Portrait from Iraq - How the Press Has Covered Events on the Ground [24-page pdf]:

In what Defense Department statistics show to be the deadliest year so far for U.S. forces in Iraq, journalists have responded to the challenge of covering the continuing violence by keeping many of the accounts of these attacks brief and limiting the interpretation they contain.

And as the year went on, the narrative from Iraq in some ways brightened. The drumbeat of reports about daily attacks declined in late summer and fall, and with that came a decline in the amount of coverage from Iraq overall.

This shift in coverage beginning in June, in turn, coincided with a rising sense among the American public that military efforts in Iraq were going “very” or “fairly well.”


The study identified five major narrative threads that related to the conditions in the country or the impact of U.S. policy there: the effectiveness of U.S. policy in action (including the surge); troop morale; the stability of the Iraqi government; the stability of Iraq as a nation; the Iraqi people’s views of the U.S. presence. For each of these, the study also determined whether these stories offered mixed assessments, optimistic or pessimistic.

The thread that generated the most coverage (14% of the all the stories studied) assessed the effectiveness of U.S. policy, and these stories tended to be neither distinctly positive nor negative in their evaluation. Four in ten were mixed or balanced, a third were pessimistic and a quarter were optimistic. This was the only one of the themes where mixed assessments outweighed dour.

Many of the stories assessing U.S. policy were also longer, more detailed accounts. Indeed, they represented 23% of the overall newshole studied, a much larger percentage than the number of stories they accounted for. This was the only one of the threads where the accounting by newshole differed noticeably from measuring it by story.

Often these assessments could be quite layered and come from multiple sources. A Los Angeles Times story from August 22, for example, noted that “With the district locked down, life has started to return to the streets.” Yet a few sentences later, the piece added,“But U.S. soldiers say they fear progress could quickly be reversed if their numbers are reduced.” And a few paragraphs following, an Iraqi seemed far less sanguine. “He invited journalists into his bullet-pocked home on condition that his name not be published …‘The Americans are trying, but sometimes they are not here,’ he said. ‘It is hopeless.’”

The next biggest group (8% of stories studied or 84 stories in all) assessed the stability of the country generally, and most of them were pessimistic. Nearly nine out of ten of them (86%) conveyed a dour message about the country’s direction. “I’d never go back … It is a city of ghosts. The only people left there are terrorists,” a 26-year-old refugee told the New York Times in an August 24 account. Just five of these 84 stories suggested any movement toward stability, and seven of them offered a mixed assessment.


And 4% of the stories studied (43 in all) related to the stability of the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. These tended to be negative as well. About three-quarters of these accounts (32 stories) described an unstable, incapable government while just six of these 43 stories suggested growing stability and five offered a mixed assessment.

The last two threads, U.S. troop morale and the Iraqi view of the U.S. presence, each accounted for about 1% of all stories studied. (14 stories on each.) Coverage for both tended to be pessimistic, but the numbers here are too small to reveal much.


Changing Public Opinion

To what extent has public opinion risen or fallen with changes in the news? At least since June, there seems to be a connection between events on the ground, press coverage and public opinion.

According to survey data from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, there has been a steady increase since June in positive views about how the U.S. military effort is going. In June, only a third (34%) of the public believed the U.S. military effort was going “very” or “fairly well.” But since July, there has been a steady up-tick in that number, reaching roughly half the public (48%) in November.

This change in public opinion coincides closely with the decrease in press coverage of daily violence. As reported above, stories about daily incidents of violence dropped off in July, and remained low through October.

The public opinion also mirrors the nuances in the situation reflected in the reporting. First, the public appears to have taken note of the decline in daily casualties. The percentage of those saying the U.S is making progress in reducing the number of civilian casualties more than doubled from June to November (21% versus 43% in November). The public also sees more progress in defeating the insurgents, rising from 32% in June to 43% in November.

And just as the Project’s content research finds other messages of instability and chaos increasing as daily violence decreased, the public, too, has maintained bleak views about other areas of the war. There has been no real increase in those who sense progress in establishing democracy there (39% in June and September and 43% in November). And, when asked the broadest question about whether the U.S. effort in Iraq will ultimately succeed, the public has remained split with roughly half saying it will succeed and half expecting failure.

Dec 21, 2007

Plus ça Change

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. ... Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

--Hannah Arendt, The Origins Of Totalitarianism

Dec 19, 2007

Finding Weakness in Jihadist Propaganda

From a new School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College monograph, Finding Weakness in Jihadist Propaganda [63-page pdf] by Maj. Timothy R. King (USA):

In a practical sense, propaganda is a message derived from the combined functions of the Information, Social and Political systems (PMESII model) [Commander’s Handbook for an Effects-Based Approach to Joint Operations, Joint Warfighting Center, Suffolk Virginia 2006]. Propaganda begins with an idea that “needs propagation” – in other words, an ideology for a movement being led for a social or political purpose. These ideologies are usually derived from the Social or Political systems and are communicated through the Information system. The information system communicates individual messages that describe and sell the ideology – those messages are propaganda. By using the PMESII model, we can follow the path of the ideological messages and see how they affect the conflict. In figure 1, propaganda is illustrated as a combat multiplier for the notional cause. Powerful emotions brought on by social conditions look to politics for justice and relief. Political powers use information to propagate the cause using a variety of themes. The information becomes propaganda – biased, inspirational information – that is physically conveyed by the existing infrastructure such as print, television, computer and word of mouth. The internet allows easy propagation of the message to a global audience. A portion of the global community is influenced enough to provide economic and political support to the cause. Some are inspired to join the movement. Money, recruits and ideology allow the political leaders to continue military operations globally. Domestically, in regions of conflict, propaganda messages simplify the combatant societies’ notional understanding of the conflict, confirm traditional beliefs, reinforce prejudices and sustain hatred for America and its coalition partners. Collectively the messages persuade the populous to support the movement. Propaganda, as a means of persuading, does not utilize all known facts and is therefore, inherently biased. Propagandists typically sacrifice ethical behavior citing that the “ends justify the means”. Categories of propaganda are various as are the techniques used in conveyance.


According to Cunningham [Cunningham, Stanley B. The Idea of Propaganda: A Reconstruction, (Westport Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2002)], propaganda is effective not only because it simplifies the information (making is indiscernible to the intellectually lazy) but also because we are absolutely inundated with the messages. There are so many propaganda messages, many appearing as information, the victim of propaganda has little time apply to finding the real truth. Additionally, much propaganda appeals to the prejudices and pre-established attitudes of the recipient. In other words, propaganda tells the recipient what he wants to hear. Preconceived notions and culturally installed biases reinforce propaganda. Propaganda reinforces what we already believe and forms a “safety net” for our norms. It allows us to legitimize our beliefs and it verifies our values are correct. Propaganda allows the individual to think collectively, with safety in numbers. Cunningham suggests that the victims of propaganda have complicity in propaganda. The propagandee is not an innocent victim; he develops an appetite for the emotionally charged messages and, with acceptance, becomes a willing participant in their own oppression. Wartime propaganda feeds on emotions like hate, fear and patriotism – messages that support the individual’s emotions can bolster the passion of the people. Propaganda of all sorts has become so prolific that it becomes difficult to discern where it is and where it is coming from.


Co-opting parts of the Jihadist ideology may offer a chance to separate some of the loyal supporters of the Jihad. In Islam: The Straight Path [Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path, Third Edition, (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)],Esposito describes the teachings of Muhammad Iqbal. Iqbal, a lawyer in the early 20th Century, rediscovered the principles and values that could be employed in a modern Islamic society. The beliefs of brotherhood and equality of all Muslims was a principle known in Western democracies. He discovered Islamic versions of democracy and parliamentary government. He concluded that democracy was in fact an Islamic idea and the institutions could easily be adapted to Islamic government. This is a perfect theme to use when countering Jihadist propaganda. Not only does this message contribute to modernization of the Islamic world but also provides religious support for this Western idea. Most importantly, it has the potential [to] create ideology thus completing the destruction of the Jihadists’ ideology. “Islamic Democracy” fills the void [as] Jihadist ideology is damaged or destroyed in the war of ideas.


Based on attacks like the bombing of the Baghdad Book Market, and the doctrine expressed in Management of Savagery [The Management of Savagery, translated by Dr Will McCants, (Harvard University: John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, 23 May, 2006)], it appears the Jihadists need their people to be illiterate and ignorant to Western education. ... Advancements in global communications, internet and satellite television make isolation nearly impossible – especially since most Muslim nations already have the infrastructure in place. Our information operations should exploit this vulnerability by insuring all “Western” information is easily accessible to Middle Eastern computers. Western news, Universities, and databases should be available in Arabic and easily located by Arabic search engines. Computers with links to the modern world should be more and more accessible. Inexpensive computers with wireless connectivity throughout the Middle East will allow Muslims access to an alternative message – that of progress through education and modernization.

Dec 18, 2007

'Shadows of the Images': The Allegory of Iraq

The current issue of Strategic Insights [Center for Contemporary Conflict, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School] includes a piece titled 'Shadows of the Images': The Allegory of Iraq, by John Tirman [6-page pdf].

An excerpt:

The Bush Administration’s perceptions of the Iraq War bring to mind Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in The Republic. Nothing illustrates this more than the shadows and echoes brought before Congress in September by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Their shadow play, whether intentional or not, fails to convey a picture of Iraq that can move us toward stability and (relative) peace.

What was missing from the performance, and indeed from nearly all reflections about Iraq, are two key variables: the scale and effect of the violence that continues to ravage the country, and the role of the neighbors in promoting or stemming violence and instability.

The Iraq Study Group’s report of late 2006 had recommended regional discussions to move toward a solution to the mounting, multipolar violence in Iraq. At the time, the Bush Administration seemed to completely dismiss the ISG’s views, opting instead for the troop surge and benchmarks strategy that, by most independent estimates, has had mixed results at best. Diplomacy remains low on the list of priorities, and the few contacts with neighboring states have been unproductive, indifferent, or hostile. Petraeus and Crocker’s appearances on Capitol Hill brace the Administration’s tendencies to favor military action over diplomacy -- a fraying, old script.

On the role of the neighbors, for example, notable attention is given to Iran, but few others. The activities of Iran in the war, moreover, have the look of a felony indictment rather than an overall assessment. That is, Petraeus and others in the Multi-National Force command have made allegations about weapons coming in from Iran to be used by militias against U.S. troops. “It is increasingly apparent,” Petraeus told Congress, “to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Qods Force, seeks to turn the Iraqi Special Groups into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.” In the same appearance, Ambassador Crocker, U.S. envoy to Iraq since March 2007, echoed Petraeus’ comment and offered little in the way of other regional actors offering concrete ideas or steps to stabilize Iraq.

Among the maps Petraeus displayed at the hearings was one, “Major Threats to Iraq,” purportedly showing the sources of violence in Iraq. Nearly all identified sources had to do with Iran or their supposed proxies. And all violent actors coming from outside Iraq originate in Syria or Iran. But as Ahmed Hashim, among others, has described in his Insurgency and Counter-insurgency in Iraq, that among those violently fighting the U.S. military and the Iraqi state, “the foreign element is miniscule.” To the extent there is a foreign element, he describes a first wave to be Palestinians from refugee camps, and a second, larger wave of “mostly Islamic militants recruited throughout Europe and the Middle East and then sent to Iraq through the same elaborate human pipeline the mujahideen used to send volunteers to the Balkans, Chechnya, and Afghanistan.” Hashim has noted that a high percentage of foreign fighters caught in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries apart from Syria, a calculation reflected broadly in other empirical accounts. Nor have the repeated attempts to link Iran to supply of weapons to insurgents to kill American soldiers, particularly roadside bombs or IEDs, been convincing.

None of this is reflected in Petraeus’ or Crocker’s assertions, or those of their superiors in the U.S. Government. What we do see in Administration depictions of the war is a broad and persistent misperception of a chaotic battle environment and chaotic policy processes. “The fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources,” Petraeus argued in his testimony. “Foreign and home-grown terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists, and criminals all push the ethno-sectarian competition toward violence. Malign actions by Syria and, especially, by Iran fuel that violence.”

The violence is significantly blamed on outsiders—Iran, Syria, and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia (another dimly glimpsed force)—rather than on ungrateful, bumptious Iraqis themselves, who are merely engaging in competition for power and resources, or on the coalition forces, a topic discussed below. But these broad depictions of foreign influence make it seem as though the principal activity of the neighbors is to attack Americans and supply the intramural “competition,” which by nearly every independent reckoning would reject as, to put it kindly, an incomplete picture.

Dec 14, 2007

Integrating 21st Century Development and Security Assistance

A new CSIS report deals with today's expanded DOD "non-traditional" security assistance programs, including CT capacity building, post-conflict operations, stabilization and reconstruction, and humanitarian assistance missions.

From Integrating 21st Century Development and Security Assistance [61-page pdf]:

The Task Force welcomes DOD’s commitment to building the capacities of vulnerable developing countries to secure their borders and territories and to mitigate the underlying sources of support for terrorism. A review of regional CT programs in Africa suggests that unity of effort remains elusive at the strategic, organizational, and resource levels. There is a lack of coherent strategic vision and authoritative plans to guide identification of critical U.S. government CT capabilities, to rationalize resources across agency boundaries, and to integrate activities in target countries. At the organizational level, there is a persistent structural misalignment between regionally-based Combatant Commands and State Department country-based approaches, complicating the use of either instrument as an interagency platform. Finally, at the resource level, a failure to invest in the civilian CT capabilities required to improve governance and the rule of law, promote economic and social development, and advance public education, results in an overreliance on military instruments in the Global War on Terror

To promote a more integrated U.S. approach to counterterrorism, the Task Force endorses stronger State/DOD joint strategic planning and coordination at the regional level and recommends that DOD, State and USAID present relevant congressional committees with a joint CT security assistance budget, part of the more comprehensive effort requiring increased Executive Branch budget rationalization and transparency. To overcome organizational obstacles to unity of effort, the Task Force calls for more robust cross-staffing at Combatant Commands, the State Department, and USAID; the creation of interagency CT task forces in U.S. embassies; and additional funding and professional incentives for cross-agency counterterrorism training and exercises. To redress funding gaps, the Task Force recommends interagency formulation of country-specific assistance strategies, the establishment of flexible CT accounts for use by U.S. ambassadors, and increased funding for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives.

The issue of 1206 [Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006 established a new program that gives the Department of Defense the authority to spend up to $200 million (now $300 million) of its own appropriations to train and equip foreign militaries to undertake counterterrorism or stability operations] funding authority was the most contentious facing the Task Force.

Some members questioned DOD’s competence in conducting non-military security training (as proposed by the administration) and worried about the potential militarization of U.S. foreign assistance. They argued that Section 1206 authority should be repealed and more emphasis placed on reforming the FAA to provide more flexible tools to the State Department for such training purposes. Other members disagreed, arguing that Section 1206 represents exactly the kind of innovative and agile mechanisms required to conduct the global war on terrorism. They also noted the historical inability of other agencies to operate in non-permissive environments. These members generally supported the Bush administration’s request to make 1206 authorities permanent and global, to allow DOD training of non-military counterterrorism elements under the provision, and to create a higher resource ceiling for the program.

The Task Force ultimately concluded that Section 1206 does provide a valuable, flexible instrument to meet unanticipated contingencies and opportunities in the struggle against terrorism. The use of such funds, however, has wider foreign policy implications. Accordingly, 1206 authority should be restricted to time-sensitive, emerging threats, require robust State Department concurrence and joint formulation of projects, and be subject to close Congressional oversight. To maximize the effectiveness of the 1206 authority, which currently requires annual reauthorization, Congress should extend 1206 authority over 3-5 years to foster program stability (rather than making it permanent and global) and allow DOD to carry over unspent funds across fiscal years. It should also permit DOD to use such monies in combat zones or other insecure environments to work with non-military internal security forces that typically fall under the Ministry of the Interior (such as constabulary, border police, counterterrorism forces, and coast guards), subject to explicit agreement from the Secretary of State and intense legislative oversight. Over time, Section 1206 authority should be phased out, replaced by a substantial, flexible cross-government contingency fund (notionally within Foreign Military Financing (FMF)) to support current 1206 activities.


The Commanders’ Emergency Response Program (CERP) permits U.S. military commanders to use appropriated O&M funds to meet urgent humanitarian and reconstruction needs of local populations in areas where U.S. military forces are operating. CERP currently applies only to Iraq and Afghanistan, with temporary authorities granted to DOD in successive supplemental appropriations covering those wars. The Pentagon regards CERP as a critical force protection and engagement tool, fostering a permissive environment for U.S. forces in SSTR and counter-insurgency operations. Overall CERP has been a reasonably successful instrument at the disposal of U.S. commanders to deliver goods and services rapidly and elicit local cooperation. The Building Global Partnership legislation submitted to Congress would permit commanders to use CERP funds for urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction assistance to local populations anywhere that U.S. forces are operating.

CERP was created to provide U.S. commanders in Iraq with an instrument to help bring stability to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion, by providing tangible benefits to the Iraqi people. The initial funding for the program came from the hundreds of millions of dollars in cash discovered by the 3rd Infantry Division and other U.S. forces in the vaults of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist Party. U.S. commanders had been frustrated by their inability, in the vacuum that resulted following the collapse of Iraqi public institutions, to meet massive emergency needs, from removing trash to restoring basic sanitation and public health, distributing rations, and repairing schools. On May 7, 2003, the Coalition Commander issued an order to establish a “Brigade Commander’s Discretionary Recovery Program to Directly Benefit the Iraqi People.” In June 2003, Ambassador Paul Bremer, the newly arrived Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), gave the program its current name and delegated authority over its use to the Coalition Commander. The establishing memo declared: “This Program will enable commanders to respond to urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction requirements within their areas of responsibility, by carrying out programs that will immediately assist the Iraqi people and support the reconstruction of Iraq."

Under initial guidance, permissible uses of CERP funds included the building, repair, reconstitution, and reestablishment of the social and material infrastructure in Iraq. This included, but was not limited to, the following: water and sanitation infrastructure, food production and distribution, healthcare, education, electricity, telecommunications, transportation, economic and financial management, the rule of law, effective governance, irrigation systems, civic improvement, and repairs to cultural facilities. Prohibited expenditures* fell into several categories: expenses of direct or indirect benefit of CJTF-7 (including coalition) forces; entertainment of the local Iraqi population; weapons buy-back or rewards program; purchase of firearms, ammunition, or removal of UXO; duplication of services available through municipal governments; support to individuals or private businesses (with some exceptions, e.g., repair of damage caused by the coalition); and salaries, pensions or emergency payments to civil service. Each division commander was provided with $500,000 and each brigade commander $200,000 in CERP funds and instructed to coordinate all projects with regional CPA offices, governorate support teams, and Civil Affairs teams, and to submit weekly expense reports.

* In September 2005, this list of prohibited activities was extended to include “providing goods, services, or funds to national armies, national guard forces, border security forces, civil defense forces, infrastructure protection forces, highway patrol units, police, special police, or intelligence or other security forces”; “training, equipping, or operating costs of Iraqi or Afghan security forces”; and “conducting psychological operations, information operations, or other U.S. coalition, or Iraqi/Afghanistan Security Force operations.”


Among the uniformed military services, support for the HA [Humanitarian Assistance] mission is strongest within the Marine Corps, light infantry of the Army and National Guard, and the indirect action portion of the Special Operations Forces, which focuses on civil affairs and psychological operations. Among the geographic Combatant Commands, the humanitarian assistance mission has found a receptive audience both in CENTCOM, which is deeply involved in stability and counter-insurgency operations, as well as in the so-called “economy of force” commands, including PACOM, SOUTHCOM, and now AFRICOM, a large share of whose mandate includes responding to humanitarian crises.

Dec 13, 2007

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): Issues for Congress

From a new Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): Issues for Congress [27-page pdf]:

One of the key challenges to managing the use of open source is the absence of widely accepted measurements or metrics. Intelligence Community managers seek quantifable measures for day-to-day administration. Counts are made of the occasions in which open source analyses have been included in the President’s Daily Brief, one of the Intelligence Community’s most important products. Other products are published by the Open Source Center based solely on open source information and disseminated to intelligence analysts and outside experts. Use of the website is also monitored.

Inasmuch as open source information is used by all-source analysts in connection with information from classified sources, it is difficult to measure how much open source information contributes to a specific intelligence product. It is anticipated that open source information will increasingly be relied upon given its greater availability, the nature of issues that today’s analysts must cover, and the heavier emphasis placed on it by senior intelligence leaders. The ultimate metric for the Intelligence Community is, however, the quality of analysis. Today’s analysts work with the awareness that products reflecting ignorance of information contained in open sources will discredit the entire intelligence effort. This will be especially the case when intelligence products are made public and are scrutinized by knowledgeable outside experts.

(h/t Secrecy News)

Dec 11, 2007

Journo-Lobbyist Glassman to Replace Karen Hughes

Mr. "Dow 36,000" -- James K. Glassman -- is going to be nominated to become the new Public Diplomacy czar, according to a news report.

President Bush intends to name former Washington Post columnist James K. Glassman to lead the State Department's struggling efforts to improve the United States' image abroad, replacing longtime Bush confidante Karen Hughes.

Glassman, now chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, will be named the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, administration officials said. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement has not yet been made.


Hughes boosted the number of Arabic speakers representing the United States in Arabic media, set up three public relations centers overseas to monitor and respond to the news, and nearly doubled the public diplomacy budget, to almost $900 million annually. Despite her efforts, polls have shown no improvement in the world's view of the United States.

Since Glassman will have nowhere near the access to the president that his predecessor enjoyed (no one really could), the idea seems to be to demonstrate that the administration is serious enough about America's image not to leave the position unfilled.

This nominee will certainly have a handle on the perception-shaping powers of the mass media.

Glassman is the archetype of a Journo-Lobbyist:

James Glassman and TCS [Tech Central Station, founded by Glassman] have given birth to something quite new in Washington: journo-lobbying. It's an innovation driven primarily by the influence industry. Lobbying firms that once specialized in gaining person-to-person access to key decision-makers have branched out. The new game is to dominate the entire intellectual environment in which officials make policy decisions, which means funding everything from think tanks to issue ads to phony grassroots pressure groups. But the institution that most affects the intellectual atmosphere in Washington, the media, has also proven the hardest for K Street to influence--until now.


Most think tanks are organized under the 501(c)(3) section of the tax code and must disclose many details of how they are financed, being--at least in theory--expected to justify their non-profit status with work in the public interest. Even think tanks of an acknowledged ideological bent seek to insulate the work of their scholars and fellows from the specific policy priorities of the businesses or foundations that provide their funding. Likewise, traditional newspapers and magazines, whether for-profit or not, keep a wall between their editorial and business sides; even at magazines of opinion, the political views of writers are presumed to be offered in good faith, uninfluenced by advertisers.

Unlike traditional think tanks, Tech Central Station is organized as a limited liability corporation--that is, a for-profit business. As an LLC, there is little Tech Central Station must publicly disclose about itself save for the names and addresses of its owners, and there is no presumption, legal or otherwise, that it exists to serve the public interest. Likewise, rather than advertisers per se, TCS has what it calls "sponsors," which are thanked prominently in a section one click away from the front page of the site. (AT&T, ExxonMobil, and Microsoft were early supporters; General Motors, Intel, McDonalds, NASDAQ, National Semiconductor, and Qualcomm, as well as the drug industry trade association, PhRMA, joined during the past year.) Each firm pays a sponsorship fee--although neither Glassman nor any of the sponsors would disclose how much--and gets banner advertisements on the site. When I contacted a few of the sponsors, each described their relationship to TCS in a slightly different way. An Intel spokeswoman said that TCS was "a consultant" to the computer-chip maker. AT&T's representative said her firm was "a funder." A Microsoft representative explained that the company "is constantly looking for ways to educate on some of the critical and important issues in the technology sector."


[T]ime and time again, TCS's coverage of particular issues has had the appearance of a well-aimed P.R. blitz. After ExxonMobil became a sponsor, for instance, the site published a flurry of content attacking both the Kyoto accord to limit greenhouse gasses and the science of global warming--which happen to be among Exxon-Mobil's chief policy concerns in Washington.

Glassman left TCS in 2006.

Maybe Glassman can scare up the help of some of his corporate buddies in his new gig.

And, if all else fails, maybe he can use his financial expertise to help unload some of the toxic CDO sludge on foreigners.

Dec 9, 2007

Videotape Destruction Deke

The leak to the New York Times about the destruction of videotapes documenting "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the CIA was likely made to distract attention from the ramifications of the Iran NIE.

The story -- alleging crimes such as obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence -- is juicy enough to keep the media and the public occupied until the next beguilement is required.

That the questioning of major Al Qaeda figures would be videotaped -- especially by the lawyer encumbered Agency -- should surprise no one -- except of course, the 9/11 Commission. Big city police interrogations are routinely videotaped.

The destruction of the tapes is exactly the type of cudgel that someone who is unhappy with recent CIA initiatives might be tempted to bring to bear. That someone is quite likely a GOP member of Congress.

And the sideshow is primed to play even further into the agenda of the maximalist threat proponents.

One of the two detainees whose taped interrogation is in question -- Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [the one they are currently saying little about] -- claimed under CIA duress that Al Qaeda has a nuclear bomb. Yes, you read that right. He later recanted and told the story on March 14, 2007 at his Combatant Status Review Hearing at Guantanamo [36-page pdf]. His allegation had to have been scrutinized as much as possible and discredited by the IC, or the transcript of the CSRT [which was redacted for security purposes] would not have included that bit of information.

But, what more perfect substitution for the Iran nuclear threat -- which some mountebanks are continuing to sell -- than a nuke in the hands of Osama bin Laden?

While we are still on the subject of the Iran NIE, setting aside the showmanship of the White House in light of when they were informed about the intelligence, an interesting Strategic PSYOP angle can be discerned.

Our public assertion that Iran has shuttered their nuclear weapons program now serves as a morale-builder for their Persian Gulf neighbors, who have been nervous about the big kid on the block. Yesterday, Iranian FM Mottaki bowed out of his previously confirmed appearance at the International Institute for Strategic Studies-sponsored Manama Security Forum.

Also, the price of oil may have had a ceiling placed upon it for the time being.

Dec 7, 2007

Anti-Iran IO Loses a Paramount Theme

Some readers may have raised their eyebrows at our assertion on Monday that the "new" NIE on Iran's nuclear weapons program -- ... has been [minor tweaks aside] in the can for nearly a year now.

This statement is significantly at variance with the administration's narrative that the NIE was only completed last week, and moreover, that the paradigm-shifting information about the state of Iran's nuclear weapons program was acquired in late Summer via "intercepts."

Never forget one of the key teachings from The Book of Meatballs, "Any time you hear of a U.S. official speaking publicly about 'intercepts' -- even on background -- some sort of bullshittery is afoot."

One reason we were able to make our claim about the well-seasoned NIE is that we had pointed readers in November 2006 to the important part of a typically logorrheic piece by Seymour Hersh in our post titled: CIA Finds No Evidence Of Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program.

Corroboration was furnished in the February 12, 2007 edition of The American Conservative magazine. Ex-CIA officer Philip Giraldi wrote:

An as yet unreleased U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran concludes that the evidence for a weapons program is largely circumstantial and inconclusive, while the Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte reported that Iran is five to ten years away from having a weapon even if it accelerates the process and no one interferes with its development. Negroponte was predictably fired for his unwillingness to alter the intelligence, and the NIE is unlikely to see the light of day unless it is rewritten to conclude that Iran is an immediate threat.

[To make matters worse, at the time that Negroponte was told to hit the bricks, administration officials were telling anyone who would listen that the ex-DNI was bored with his job, only went into the office for a few hours a day, and spent the rest of the work week beside the pool at a health club.]

Unless Giraldi and Seymour Hersh are both blessed with uncanny powers of precognition (in which case they would be well advised to become professional lottery players), the White House put its credibility (don't laugh) on the line in the furtherance of the anti-Iran Info Op.

At some point they decided that the pressure op against Iran was more important than devising a policy around the facts as they knew them to be.

Don't believe them when they say that the president was not kept fully briefed about critical developments regarding Iran's nuclear weapons program.

As most of you folks here know, it doesn't work that way.

And now, some characters -- the most capable of whom whose training, experience and temperament qualify them to be "War on Christmas" theorists -- are calling for a review of the intelligence behind the NIE's key judgments about Iran's nuclear program.


PS Though somewhat distant from being in perfect interpretive congruence with our NIE pontifications, ZenPundit's Mark Zafranski has generously put together a thoughtful NIE roundup while Haft of the Spear's and Threat Watch's hyper-sage Michael Tanji has written a nigh poetic and not-to-be-missed reflection on the NIE circus.

Counterinsurgency for U.S. Government Policy Makers: A Work in Progress

The first iteration of the interagency COIN manual is now available.

Counterinsurgency for U.S. Government Policy Makers: A Work in Progress [42-page pdf]:

Information is the foundation for all other activities. The collection, formulation, and dissemination of information are crucial in shaping perceptions of the conflict by all stakeholders. Substantive security, political and economic measures are critical; however, to be effective in the strategic sense, they must be integrated into a broader information strategy.

• Every action in COIN sends a message; the purpose of the information campaign is to characterize the message to the target population in the area of the insurgency and often to international observers as well. Messages and themes should be aimed at enhancing the legitimacy of the affected government. Messages are delivered through media operations, including public affairs and public diplomacy as well as military information operations, with the intent to counter insurgents’ ideology, undermine their motivation and popular support, and deny them sanctuary, both physical and virtual.

• An information strategy must address ideological, social, cultural, political, and religious motivations that influence or engender a sense of common interest and identity among the target population. It should be based upon efforts to understand the environment through census data, public opinion polling, and the collection of cultural and “human terrain” information in denied areas. A comprehensive information strategy involves understanding the effects of operations on the population, adversaries, and the environment.

• The information campaign must be conducted at global, regional, and local levels in order to influence every level of support to the insurgency.

• An information campaign creates a narrative that enhances the legitimacy of the affected government. It must resonate with the population and be based upon verifiable facts and measurable progress rather than promises. Deeds speak for themselves, and in COIN, actions must validate rhetoric.

• Information includes intelligence, which allows units to distinguish between insurgent and civilian. With this knowledge, security forces may penetrate insurgent cells, and apprehend the members, leading to further intelligence gains.

Dec 6, 2007

Strategic Crisis Management: Trends and Concepts

The Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology], has released a new paper on 21st Century challenges for security policymakers. Strategic Crisis Management: Trends and Concepts. [3-page pdf]

This paper describes how the expansion of the international threat spectrum has also lead to changes in the requirements for strategic crisis management. The author details how horizontally and vertically networked efforts of all relevant actors and institutions are required within the framework of a holistic crisis management approaches. The paper details how in conceiving such "homeland security" systems, two approaches have emerged, an institutional one and a process oriented one. The author states that in the case of Switzerland both aspects can be detected, although key questions about crisis response and leadership structures remain open.


In shaping crisis management effectively, it is necessary to take into account trans­formations in the social and political environment. Special attention should be given to tendencies to mediatize and politicize crises. These two phenomena have reciprocal effects. Crisis manage­ment is an inherently political task. Dur­ing a crisis, political actors are expected by citizens, organizations, and the media to supply explanations for events and to swiftly reestablish the normal state of affairs. If crisis management fails in a crisis situation characterized by danger, insecu­rity, and time pressure, this can undermine trust in the crisis management abilities of the political institutions as well as their legitimacy.

On the other hand, the media already play an important role in identifying and defin­ing a situation as a crisis by moving a giv­en critical situation into the focus of public attention through their communication of information and the mode of reporting. Since the media may have a strong influ­ence on a critical situation and its pub­lic perception, crisis communication has become an important element of crisis management for decision-makers. The flood of images that follows every crisis outbreak must be managed proactively. This requires a professional handling of the media on the part of those bearing politi­cal responsibility.

Dec 5, 2007

Dawn of the Cognetic Age: Fighting Ideological War by Putting Thought in Motion with Impact

The new issue (Winter 2007) of Air & Space Power Journal features the now obligatory piece on IO, Dawn of the Cognetic Age: Fighting Ideological War by Putting Thought in Motion with Impact by Lt Col Bruce K. Johnson, USAF [Air Force Reserve chief of strategic communication plans, Pentagon].

This article introduces the term cognetic, coined by the author from the root words cognitive (relating to thought process) and kinetic (relating to, caused by, or producing motion). Currently, the term lacks a single, accepted meaning. I intend to use it in a unique way in order to define the essence of today’s fast-moving, unrestrained, nonstop global media (the Internet and transnational television) and their effect on public opinion and behavior. To be cognetic is to put thought in motion with impact. Thought takes the form of messages created by specific arrangements of images, sounds, and words. Motion signifies the global media’s unrestrained and rapid movement of messages to a target audience. Impact represents the effect on public opinion and behavior caused by perceptions generated by the message. Violent public reactions in the Muslim world to the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and to Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about Islam epitomize the term cognetic—putting thought in motion with a global impact. Unlike bombs and bullets—the effective conventional weapons of the Industrial Age—imagery, sounds, and words serve as the effective ideological weapons of the Cognetic Age.


Adopting shared terminologies, concepts, and principles is critical to developing a new capability for ideological warfare if the military services and various government agencies wish to avoid the misperceptions and negative baggage associated with old terminology and thinking. Many terms and concepts held over from the Industrial Age prevent us from thinking and communicating clearly about new threats we face in the Cognetic Age. For example, propaganda does not fit today’s decentralized information-communication environment because we associate it with the centralized control and management of information and communications that reflected the concentration of power during the Industrial Age. With the advent of the Internet and globalization, this concentration of power no longer exists in the hands of the few; indeed, many people now have access to it. This shift in power is the defining feature of the Cognetic Age. Moreover, considerable negative baggage has attached itself to propaganda, a word continually used to describe almost any activity having to do with influencing perceptions, whether for good or ill. This intellectual burden stifles our ability to fight ideological war by tying our minds and tongues to the dogmas of the past. By providing perceptually neutral terms and concepts, cognetics eliminates the knee-jerk reaction to propaganda, thus freeing our minds and enabling us to think differently as well as communicate more clearly about the ideological battle we face.

Cognetics is a new concept of ideological warfare, based on principles of maneuver warfare. Referred to as “blitzkrieg of the mind,” it occurs in a virtual place created by global media. Time and space, which constrain physical maneuver, are almost nonexistent here. The term cognetic effect expresses how the emotive content of messages delivered by global media influences public opinion and behavior. A force multiplier, cognetic effect empowers nonstate actors to influence public opinion and behavior on a global scale. By means of cognetics, the United States can win ideological warfare by advancing truth, dispelling rumors, correcting misinformation, and combating enemy psychological operations and perception influence. For militant Islam, the cognetic effect offers disproportionate power to drive people to action. Seen most vividly, the cognetic effect of the Jyllands-Posten’s Muhammad cartoons struck the Muslim world like a meteor, setting off shock waves of anger and sparking violent demonstrations from London to Lahore.


The nature of warfare in the Cognetic Age is ideological—something inherently antithetical to conventional war because “an idea cannot be destroyed with a bullet or a bomb; it must be replaced by a better idea.”


Someone possessing the quality of Fingerspitzengefuhl, literally “fingertip feeling,” has such a high level of competence that he or she can make decisions without hesitation, based on intuitive competence at all levels—from private to general. In addition to proficiency with weapons at the individual level, “intuitive competence” also applies at command level, where it refers in general to the “feel” that great commanders have for the progress of the battle and in particular to their seemingly uncanny abilities to detect and exploit openings while they still present opportunities. It comes from years of practice at ever-increasing levels of complexity.


In terms of Fingerspitzengefuhl, al-Qaeda made the most of leveraging the Madrid train-bombing terror attacks immediately before the Spanish election by successfully focusing the weight of Spanish voter perception against the pro-American ruling party of José Maria Anzar to elect the antiwar Socialist José Zapatero. Shortly after the election, Spain pulled its troops out of Iraq. As for the British, large-scale opposition to the war jumped to new heights following the attacks of 2005. The online newspaper Telegraph reported one year after the London bombings that 80 percent of those polled believed that England should split from the United States and pursue its own course in the war on terror. Both examples highlight militant Islam’s use of cognetics to pursue its strategic goals by attacking populations directly and amplifying the psychological effect of vulnerability through the media in an already negatively charged atmosphere to undermine US foreign policy.


We must adopt cognetic thinking to create a shared, systematic way of conceptualizing, communicating, and carrying out ideological warfare against militant Islam. The top US strategy documents all recognize that winning the war against this foe requires winning the battle of ideas. Cognetics provides the terminology, concepts, principles, and system needed to harmonize diverse government entities into a coherent and cohesive whole, thus enabling the government to mount a well-coordinated and effective ideological assault on militant Islam.

Counterinsurgency in the 21st Century: The Foundation and Implications of the New U.S. Doctrine

The new issue of Strategic Insights [Center for Contemporary Conflict, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School] includes a student thesis titled Counterinsurgency in the 21st Century: The Foundation and Implications of the New U.S. Doctrine
by Raymond M. Mattox (Maj., USA) and Peter S. Rodgers (Capt., USA). [141-page pdf]

In December 2006, the U.S. Army published its new counterinsurgency (COIN) Field Manual (FM 3-24). FM 3-24 is the much-anticipated capstone doctrinal COIN guide for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Its intent is “to fill a doctrinal gap,” for fighting COIN by delivering “a manual that provides principles and guidelines for counterinsurgency operations.” The importance of developing a coherent, interdisciplinary approach that helps to fill the “doctrinal” and capability gaps facing the U.S. military in the asymmetrical warfare spectrum, including COIN, cannot be overstated. In light of this, how well do the new guidelines in FM 3-24 for conducting a COIN campaign align with historical and social science lessons on counterinsurgency? FM 3-24 outlines U.S. COIN doctrine in the form of strategies called Logical Lines of Operation (LLOs). With this in mind, are there cases in the Middle East where FM 3- 24’s LLOs have been applied and produced their intended effects? If they were not used and the state power’s desired “endstate” was achieved, what strategies were used to achieve the COIN campaign objectives? This thesis assesses the extent to which the field manual aligns with insights and practices from historical COIN campaigns in the Middle East as well as the new doctrine’s ability to supply the United States with a COIN strategy that incorporates insights and conclusions from academia. Our findings indicate that FM 3-24 is a necessary step in developing an effective and coherent U.S. approach to COIN. However, it fails to incorporate some more contemporary social movement theory explanations into its strategies. For example, it fails to recognize the relative importance political inclusion in counterinsurgency strategies versus other variables, such as security, as a primary means of success in counterinsurgency campaigns.


A large body of contemporary scholarship asserts that insurgencies and other violent social events, such as revolutions and riots, are extreme examples of what Sidney Tarrow calls “contentious collective action” and that they should be studied and explained in the context of social movement theory. Likewise, Charles Tilly describes “social movements as a series of contentious performances, displays and campaigns by which ordinary people [make] collective claims on others.” While there is considerable debate among scholars as to the most significant causes of “contentious collective action” occurring outside of the accepted state institutions and with the purpose of overthrowing those institutions, it is widely accepted by many scholars that the sufficient and necessary causal factors of insurgencies must be conceptualized within SMT as part of a contentious political relationship between an authority and a group resisting authority.

We will discuss SMT and its incorporation into FM 3-24 in more detail later, but as an initial explanation for the purposes of this thesis, social movements are defined as collective, contentious and sustained actions taken by people to challenge another group of people based on a claim. Therefore, in the most basic sense, social movement theories seek to explain how, when and why people act collectively in support of or against another group of people. Therefore, SMT provides crucial explanatory power for understanding insurgencies and implications for developing effective COIN doctrine.

Dec 4, 2007

Winning The Right War

The Brookings Institute has been kind enough to retrieve a new article on the "War on Terror" by one of their Senior Fellows from behind the paid firewall of The International Institute For Strategic Studies.

Never ones to fail to take advantage of an exploit, we hereby present an excerpt (and more valuably -- a link).

From Winning the Right War by Philip H. Gordon (30-page pdf):

Bush ... argues that, even though the terrorists hate freedom, it is the lack of freedom in their own countries that drives them to support terror­ism. The picture painted is thus one of some fixed set of ‘evildoers’, driven to terrorism by the absence of democracy in their homelands, who attack America and its allies because they hate the freedoms symbolised by those countries. As a basis for understanding – and therefore dealing with – the terrorist threat, this is a partial and exceedingly misleading explanation.

The idea that terrorists attack because they hate freedom is particularly mis­guided. The explanation is convenient, because it suggests that there is nothing we can do about it (since they hate ‘who we are’ rather than ‘what we do’), and it is harmful because it suggests that the only way to defeat such terrorists is to kill or capture them all, since we’re obviously not prepared to sacrifice our freedom to appease them. But there is little evidence to suggest that hatred of freedom is in fact a primary cause of terrorism, and much to suggest that it is not.

At the most superficial level, if freedom were the main target for terror­ists, they would be just as likely to attack Switzerland, Canada, Costa Rica or Sweden as the United States, which is clearly not the case. Indeed, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt have been much more frequent targets of attacks than the United States, and it is surely not because the terrorists hate the individual liber­ties and elected governments in those countries.

Extensive polling in the Muslim world also challenges the notion of a sig­nificant link between terrorism and a hatred for freedom. While many Islamist ideologues do often express revulsion with the personal liberties and sexual freedom enjoyed in Western countries, it turns out that even most of the Muslims who support terrorism and trust Osama bin Laden favour elected government, personal liberty, educational opportunity and economic choice. Some Muslim extremists may not like American-style democracy, but that is not why they become terrorists, and not why others support them.


Even to the degree that stable democracy is part of the longer-term solu­tion to the terrorist problem, there remains the problem of how to promote it. Democracy seems to be the long-term trend among states based on historic national communities in Europe, North America and Latin America, but it is much harder to install where no strong ‘nation’ exists, which is sadly the case for most of the Muslim world. Only Iran, Turkey, Egypt and possibly Indonesia really meet the nationhood criterion, and even these countries are plagued by serious ethnic and religious divisions. Certainly Iraq – with artificial borders, diverse ethnic and religious groups, and unevenly dispersed natural resources – is not promising terrain for the establishment of democracy, notwithstanding the claims of some of the most prominent supporters of the war. In the long run, it is possible to imagine that economic development, social modernisation, a patient process of institution building, and more equitable distribution of resources among different ethnic, religious and social groups might create the conditions necessary for democracy to develop. But a counteterrorism strategy based on such uncertainties – the uncertain link between an absence of democ­racy and terrorism as well as the uncertainty that democracy can be implanted where the right conditions are not in place – will have very limited prospects for success.


The perception of foreign occupation of Muslim lands also seems to contrib­ute to terrorists’ decisions to carry out attacks. In fact, as scholar Robert Pape has demonstrated, suicide bombers are far more often motivated by a desire to fight against foreign military occupation and for self-determination rather than by a desire to promote democracy at home. Looking at Tamil, Palestinian, Chechen, and al-Qaeda suicide bombers, Pape found that what they most had in common was a perception that their communities were being humiliated by more power­ful outsiders, and that they could reverse that humiliation by inflicting pain on those countries and obliging them to withdraw.

None of this means that the United States should simply change its poli­cies to make potential terrorists happy. But to deny any link between political context and an individual’s decision to become a terrorist, or to wilfully mis­place blame on a vague hatred for freedom or lack of democracy, is to start the ‘war on terror’ with a huge disadvantage. It is hard to fight an enemy without being honest about its real nature.


There is nothing easy about confronting the murderous threat posed by Islamist extremists who use violence to achieve political goals. The Bush administra­tion’s ‘war on terror’ is failing, however, not only because the job is inherently difficult but because the president launched the wrong war. He misconstrued the nature of the threat, placed too much faith in the use of military force, paid too little attention to the importance of moral authority and ideological combat, conflated a diverse array of threats into a single monolith, failed to appreciate the importance of winning and maintaining friends and allies, and failed to supply the necessary resources for the kind of war he chose to fight.

In my book Winning the Right War, I argue that an alternative course of action is both possible and necessary. In such a new approach, the United States and its allies would approach the ‘war on terror’ as a long-term ideological struggle – in some ways like the fight against Communism during the Cold War – that we will win only when we have discredited the extremist ideas of our enemies.


In fighting the right war along these lines, we would demonstrate confidence that, in the long run, the hateful, repressive ideology we are fighting will collapse, like communism before it. Ultimately, violent Islamism is not likely to win enduring support. Terrorism is not a strategy with which Muslims will forever want to be associated, and it will create a backlash within Muslim societies. With time and experience, and if the United States and its allies make the right choices, Muslims will themselves turn against the extremists in their midst. They will seek to put their civilisation on a path that will restore its greatest era, when the Islamic world was a multicultural zone of tolerance and of intellectual, artistic and scientific achievement. The agents of this change might come from above – leaders fearful of losing their grip on power if they fail to change – or from below – citizens fed up both with secular autocracy and the fundamentalist alternative – but they will come as the inevita­ble if destructive effects of modernisation run their course. Islamist extremism, in other words, will end up on the same ash-heap of history as Communism did, so long as we do not play into the extremists’ hands and artificially prolong its life.

Dec 3, 2007

NIE -- Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities

The "new" NIE on Iran's nuclear weapons program [9-page pdf] -- which has been [minor tweaks aside] in the can for nearly a year now -- was released this afternoon.

It is clear why the Cheney Cabal didn't want this estimate to see the light of day.

Key Judgments:

A. We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program¹; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt, and Tehran’s announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work.

• We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)

We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.

• We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.

• Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.

B. We continue to assess with low confidence that Iran probably has imported at least some weapons-usable fissile material, but still judge with moderate-to-high confidence it has not obtained enough for a nuclear weapon. We cannot rule out that Iran has acquired from abroad—or will acquire in the future—a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material for a weapon. Barring such acquisitions, if Iran wants to have nuclear weapons it would need to produce sufficient amounts of fissile material indigenously—which we judge with high confidence it has not yet done.

C. We assess centrifuge enrichment is how Iran probably could first produce enough fissile material for a weapon, if it decides to do so. Iran resumed its declared centrifuge enrichment activities in January 2006, despite the continued halt in the nuclear weapons program. Iran made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz, but we judge with moderate confidence it still faces significant technical problems operating them.

• We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely.

• We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame. (INR judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this capability before 2013 because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.) All agencies recognize the possibility that this capability may not be attained until after 2015.

D. Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so. For example, Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is continuing. We also assess with high confidence that since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development projects with commercial and conventional military applications—some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.

E. We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt it to restart the program.

• Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.

• We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran’s key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran’s considerable effort from at least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons. In our judgment, only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons—and such a decision is inherently reversible.

F. We assess with moderate confidence that Iran probably would use covert facilities— rather than its declared nuclear sites—for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon. A growing amount of intelligence indicates Iran was engaged in covert uranium conversion and uranium enrichment activity, but we judge that these efforts probably were halted in response to the fall 2003 halt, and that these efforts probably had not been restarted through at least mid-2007.

G. We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.

H. We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.

1 For the purposes of this Estimate, by “nuclear weapons program” we mean Iran’s nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work; we do not mean Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.

Dec 1, 2007

Irregular Warfare: One Nature, Many Characters

The new issue of Strategic Studies Quarterly includes a fine article by Dr. Colin S. Gray, Irregular Warfare: One Nature, Many Characters (23-page pdf).

Insurgency, or irregular war, and warfare are global phenomena, and they always have been. I am providing an Anglo-American perspective because that is what I am and know best. This can appear to bias an analysis because it cannot avoid implying that COIN and counterterrorism (CT), and especially some pathologies in trying to deal with them, are unique to us. They are not.

When Ralph Peters urges a bloody, attritional approach on one of his more colorful days, he is talking the language of Roman generalship under Vespasian and his son Titus in their brutal suppression of the Jewish Revolt in Palestine in AD 66–77. Irregular warfare is an old, old story, and so are the methods applied to wage it, on both sides. Today’s motives for irregular warfare—supposedly so modern, even postmodern—lead some commentators to speculate about “new wars” as contrasted with “old wars.” If you are strongly of that persuasion, the best I can do is to suggest that you ponder long and hard on Thucydides and his famous and overquoted triptych of “fear, honor, and interest” as comprising the primary motives for political behavior, including war. Irregular warfare, of necessity in common with its Thucydidean motives, is about political power: who gets it, and as a rather secondary matter, what to do with it. That may seem a banal point, but really it is not. COIN is about the control of people and territory, not the remaking of civilizations, or even cultures. Crusaders make bad policy makers; they tend to be disinterested in strategy.

Also, speaking as a strategist, I have a professional dislike for impossible missions. Even if I do the wrong thing, I like to think that I can succeed. We strategists are pragmatic people, and we don’t like accepting long, adverse odds in pursuit of benefits of highly dubious worth.


[B]ecause politicians, officials, and at least some strategists—not usually the more academic ones—are professional problem solvers, they are always in the market for answers. The revolution in military affairs (RMA) project has suffered from providing very expensive answers to an unknown question, at least to a question that was hugely underexamined. But now, with COIN and the irregular challenge, the defense community again has a challenge it believes it can get its teeth into. The problem is that some challenges are much more taxing than others. To excel at COIN, for Americans, is infinitely more difficult than to excel at regular conventional warfare. However, the American is an optimistic public culture, and its military cultures have a host of all but genetically programmed “can-do” agents, so COIN is the flavor of the decade. I might add the ancient reminder that “to the person who doesn’t have to do it, nothing is impossible.”


In Britain, we tend to use quarter measures when half measures are called for. In the United States, the error lies in the opposite direction. In the troubling words of that distinguished American political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard, writing in the Weinberger-Powell era of the mid-1980s: “The United States is a big country, and we should fight wars in a big way. One of our great advantages is our mass; we should not hesitate to use it. . . . Bigness, not brains, is our advantage, and we should exploit it. If we have to intervene, we should intervene with overwhelming force."

This just goes to show that a chair at Harvard carries no guarantee of wisdom, or does it? Huntington reflected the ethos of the mid-1980s, but also—the reason I quote him—he does suggest a reason why the United States has had a hard time with COIN. When policy demands effectiveness in COIN, the government––the military in particular, naturally–– blows dust off its ancient manuals if it can find them; unearths “classic writings” by Charles E. Callwell, the US Marine Corps, David Galula, Robert Taber, Mao Tse-tung, Robert Trinquier, Frank Kitson, and T. E. Lawrence; and rediscovers what previous generations knew, even if they didn’t always practice it well. Of course, the contexts have changed, and every work of theory, founded on the experience of the life and times of its author, is stuffed full of inappropriate as well as much good advice. No matter, when COIN—or whatever is the challenge of the hour -- is king, whatever is to hand is rushed to the front to serve. Every piece of fashionable jargon, every execrable acronym, every dodgy idea is hijacked for the bandwagon. The bandwagon now is COIN. To cite but a few of the lightweight notions that are pretending to be heavy metal: so-called fourth-generation warfare, network-centric warfare, effects-based operations, culture, and a totally integrated approach. The defense community has made the remarkable discovery that what in Britain we call grand strategy -- in the United States, national security strategy -- is a good idea. It always was.