Leah Farrell and John Robb interacting with the subjects of their writing, while fascinating, is only one element of a complex process of strategic diffusion of ideas. Many jihadist theorists, for example, make implicit and explicit reference to the theory of fourth-generation warfare.

Additionally, the writers of the Chinese military tract Unrestricted Warfare regularly lecture on their work in the United States. UW‘s influence has been over-exaggerated somewhat in China, but it has been immensely popular in the West, especially due to its encapsulation of campaigning principles that some believe have become “orthodoxy” in modern military doctrine about “the war amongst the people.”


Vigilante Violence Spreads in Mexico

(via Susanne Ure) Unfortunately very predictable:

“As kidnappings, muggings and car jackings spiral out of control, and the authorities appear increasingly impotent, shadowy groups have been advocating justice by the sword. In other recent cases, alleged kidnappers and car thieves have been abducted and murdered and had their corpses dumped in public places along with threatening notes. There are also rising cases of mobs lynching alleged thieves and leaving them beaten, naked and tied up.”

The Illusion of Safety

Kings of War 's Faceless Bureaucrat eloquently states what the United Nations should already know: good intentions does not dissuade terrorists:

"[The UN] is not an independent and neutral actor, performing a series of good deeds around the world. Rather, it is an important (albeit imperfect) component of a system that is “Governing the Periphery with Aid, Peace, and Justice”. And it is in this sense that is open to attack: those who are resisting the governance believe it to be legitimate to attack those who are party to it. "

Whether or not things like "such as respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights, access to food for all" are Western or universal values is another discussion entirely, but many terrorist groups make hostility to many parts of globalized modernity a basic element of their ideology. To use the language of Thomas P.M. Barnett, one might argue that UN and NGOs perform the function of a SysAdmin, albeit a heavily demilitarized one.

Even outside the specific context of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, Qat-chewing child soldiers and their masters do not think too highly of blue helmets either. The UN will have to spend more on security, certainly more than the 1% figure that the Bureaucrat cites in his post.

Echoes of the Past

The first book on counterinsurgency that I read was David Galula's Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, acknowledged as the primary inspiration behind the celebrated Army/Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual. There have been many criticisms of the "neoclassical" counterinsurgency school, and I think that Frank Hoffman's Parameters article on the subject was most persuasive in delineating some of the theory's limitations.

I have returned to the "classical" era by reading Roger Trinquier's Modern Warfare. Trinquier, like Galula, was a French officer of the late imperial era who cut his small wars teeth in Algeria and Vietnam. I have not gotten far in Trinquier's book, but much of his rhetoric could have been written by defense writers today. Depending on where you sit in the COIN debate that could be either a good or bad thing.

This paragraph, for example, sounds eerily prescient:

"Thanks to a specially adapted organization and to appropriate methods of warfare, they have been successful in imposing themselves upon entire populations and in using them, despite their own desires in the matter, against us. Our enemies are submitting us to a kind of hateful extortion, to which we shall have to accede in the end if we cannot destroy the warfare system that confronts us. We would be gravely remiss in our duty if we should permit ourselves to be thus deluded and to abandon the struggle before final victory. We would be sacrificing defenseless populations to unscrupulous enemies."

Stop Trying to Bribe the Tribes

Joshua Foust has a great new op-ed about the prevalence of a media meme that does not in any way reflect the sociological structure and norms of Afghanistan. There are many great parts:

“Despite three horrible, bloody wars that killed tens of thousands of British citizens (not just soldiers, but their families as well), [pundits] claim the [19th century] British policy ‘worked adequately.’ … Then again, we already tried that. It didn’t work, in part because in Afghanistan the word “tribe” is so ambiguous as to have almost no meaning. …It’s been decades since anthropologists really thought of ‘tribe’ as a useful descriptor for Afghan communities—’tribe’ is a flexible concept, with identical names applying to different levels of genealogy. It also implies a hierarchy where none exists—if you know someone is from a ‘tribe’ that is ‘higher’ than his neighbor’s ‘clan,’ will that give you any tools for leveraging influence or power? I assure you, it will not.”

The persistence of this meme is depressingly familiar. Many harmful ideas about the Arab world from Raphael Patai’s outdated and almost completely fraudulent text The Arab Mind migrated into public discourse after 9/11. But even crediting many writers about the “Arab street” and “Muslim World” with having read a book is too great a compliment.

More Strykers for Army


“Two heavy brigade combat teams will vanish by 2013 to make way for two new Stryker brigades, bringing the U.S. Army’s number of active Stryker Brigade Combat Teams to eight and taking another bite out of its armor formations. …The move to convert two heavy brigades to Stryker units signals the Army’s shift toward a lighter, more quickly deployable formation that is infantry-focused and proven to be highly mobile in diverse environments. And it further reduces the Army’s number of heavy brigades. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had announced in April that the Army would hold the total number of brigade combat teams at 45 rather than the planned 48, and the Army nixed a plan to grow three heavy brigades.”

One of the more interesting things about this move is that the most recent Military Review has an excerpt from an internal Army survey attacking the rapidly deployable BCT and advocating a focus on soldier survivability over speed. One of the better recent books about military transformation, The Army After Next , covered the travails of the “modular force” in great detail.