In or at: that is the question

I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America? ~ Ben Franklin

Since returning to the work force on a semi-fulltime basis, I have been somewhat remiss in monitoring on those sites I’ve added to my blogroll over time…this morning, in response to an item on the Small Wars Journal Blog on 4GW/5GW, I wanted to link to the work that Peter had done his The Strategist blog on a Cohorts of War model that was considerably more robust than William Lind’s flawed 4GW construct. I knew that Peter had stopped contributing to The Strategist when he departed for Vanuatu a couple of month s ago but I was surprised to find that I couldn’t get into it at all this morning (hopefully a minor glitch relating more to the server firewall at this end and not to any issues with Peter’s old blog).

Anyway, since the intention was there to revisit members of the blog roll, I continued to do so…Neptunus Lex has an interesting item on the symbolism of flags, It’s Been A Long Time, in which he describes the history of the First Jack, the first flag under which the US Navy fought in the War of Independence and one which was reinstated post-911.  He recounts Benjamin Franklin’s word on the reason behind the snake on the flag, Don’t Tread On Me, was an apt banner under which to go to war…and he concludes with the thought that “…It’s been a long time, but we are still at war. Outside my house the Jack is still flying...”

Lex’s statement “…we are still at war…” is interesting. I don’t think there is any doubt that most Americans see their nation as at war and when you’re at war, you behave a certain way. I still remember the day of 911, of waking for breakfast in the Mess at Waiouru to learn of a terrorist attack in America and not thinking too much of it until I turned on the TV just in time to see the first tower come down. The school I was working at had an instructor who’d just completed the staff course at Ft Leavenworth…he spoke of how this was another Pearl Harbor Day, where the America that was so concerned about casualties in peace support/OOTW like Bosnia and Somali and of being perceived as playing by international rules, would shift to a war-fighting stance and leave no stone unturned in its hunt for those responsible and those who supported or abetted them. Thus, then, an America at war will bear the  ‘blood and treasure’ cost of that war and stay the course to see it through to a conclusion.

What then of those nations that might only be in a war…this is a question that came up when I was lecturing at Massey University a couple of weeks ago and led into an interesting discussion…the bottom line was that a nation in war can opt out at any stage when it convinces itself that its national objectives have been met, are no longer being achieved or even when it simply can’t remember why it got involved in the first place. On the other hand, a nation at war has a greater commitment to seeing matters through to a conclusion, regardless of cost – or certainly where the cost is a lesser concern than resolution of the issue.

But in 21st Century informal war, even resolution of the issue becomes blurred – once upon a time, a war was ‘resolved’ when the opponent was defeated and the victors occupied their territory – how now (brown cow?) do we define victory when our opponents don’t actually occupy any ground worth seizing and the nation’s capital is already occupied by our (apparent) friends and allies. The phrase that always comes to my mind when I think of this is from that great military theorist, Princess Leia Organa “When you broke in here, did you have a plane for getting out?” Defining the conditions for victory can be tricky: Phase One of WW2 was all about restoring Polish sovereignty but, despite occupying Berlin in 1945 we didn’t actually achieve this until 1989 – and then without occupying Moscow…In Iraq (version 2 anyway), it was a relatively simple task to define, although somewhat bloodier and more expensive to achieve, but then Iraq had been a centrally-governed society before March 20 2003.

Afghanistan is a whole different ball game and we now see the coalition start to wobble as some nations simply pack their bags and leave, although doing it to the tune of The Animals’ We’ve Got To get Out Of This Place instead of Het Wilhelmus was probably a bit tacky….while others discover that amazingly, they are now actually closer to achieving their in-theatre endstates that they had realised and thus can commence transition to a steady state Afghan-led structure…and recently we have seen the resurgence of statistics ‘proving’ how well that transition programme is going, especially the training of the Afghan National Police and Army but numbers aren’t everything. In fact, in this arena, they may be meaningless, certainly without some form of qualitative measures to accompany them…some interesting viewpoints on endstates here:


Tomgram: Body Count Nation

The other enemy

What does the Military Endstate in Bamiyan look like?

One of the things that those who might only be in war should remember, and one which may drive those at war, is that by opting to intervene or interfere in someone else’s country, they accept a certain responsibility for their actions. As those in war nations slowly slip away, they should remember that the people of those countries have no such option to just walk away and that the last helicopter off the Embassy roof always leaves someone behind…

In other news

John Birmingham seeks new ideas to develop the America-less post-Wave environment…the way things are developing in the latest thread on this topic, the rest of the world will write itself off in petty score-settling and an almost vacant America will reassert itself by default…

The Lite version of the UK’s Joint CombatOperations Virtual Environment (JCOVE) simulation based on Bohemia’s uber-successful Virtual Battlefield System 2 is availbale for download (and has been for some time but I only just found it) through the JCOVE Lite forum – yes, you do have to register and then you do have to post a welcome post to a thread before the download link activates but it is well worth it…VBS2 is the de facto standard simulation across the Anglospheric nations, well, the land forces anyway and is a superior tool for SOP and TTP development, AO familiarisation and mission rehearsal and well worth a look from anyone in the training or capability development arena….

A ‘poor western to arab death ratio!’

Curzon @ Coming Anarchy recounts his adventures flying on local airlines around the Gulf…sounds like feigning sleep is the best option…and while on the topic of Curzon, I have yet to finish reading his biography. The reason that it is taking so long is not that it is hard work and difficult to read – if anything, exactly the opposite: although some of the content is quite dry, it is so well written that I find myself savouring it like a fine dessert…comparing it to more contemporary writing, I think that we have lost a lot in the fifty years since this book was published…

Also on Coming Anarchy, Younghusband reviews David Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla. He summarises:

For close readers of COIN and CT theory, I do not think this book will offer any new insight. Kilcullen’s contribution though is an excellent overview of the “social work with guns” theory of COIN, as well as a succinct presentation of the realist arguments for non-intervention and conservation of military power…The last few pages, where he presents his policy ideas, is really where practitioners can sink their teeth in. Lots of debating points there. For example:

    • develop a new lexicon to better describe the threat (rather than UW, COIN, irregular warfare etc)
    • discuss a new grand strategy (have an ARCADIA conference on terrorism)
    • balance capability (Why is DOD 210 times bigger than USAID and State?)
    • identify new “strategic services” (ie. a new OSS)
    • develop a capacity for strategic information warfare.

As readers will now from the work published here, these insights are nothing new although it is refreshing to see them in a mainstream publication. It’s unfortunate that the conceptual COIN effort in the US especially (most others are simply followers) is still largely fragmented and lies predominately in the domain of the information militia. The focus on the Iraqi insurgency in 2005-6 has caused the term COIN to be used interchangeably across the contemporary environment and that has caused many to apply inappropriate concepts, policies and doctrine to the issues they face. Our findings in 2007 were initially that the Marines had a better grip on the issue in developing the Countering the Irregular Threat (CIT) concept; and then that the UK encapsulated it even better with Countering Irregular Activity (CIA) which covers the broad spectrum of irregular (potentially destabilising) activities from all sources and causes, natural and man-made. The flip side of both CIT and CIA is the need for a comprehensive approach harnessing the appropriate and relevant instruments of national power including those on NGOs and commercial/corporate interests which usually fall outside the accepted definitions of NGO. These are all themes that we have been exploring in the series The New War.

Bears in the Air

QRA Scramble to Intercept Russian Blackjack_Aircraft MOD_45151233

Well…Blackjacks actually…in a timely reminder that there are more bad things out there than just some nutjob hiding in a cave inciting the masses with poor quality video…the Russian Bear is alive and well and still has aspirations of Empire, certainly under its current keeper…perhaps we ought not be so quick in cancelling programmes like F-22 and planning total reliance on a committee-designed one-size fits all hybrid like the F-35…wasn’t the last time we tried – and failed – at a ‘joint’ aircraft the infamous F-111 project that skewered the TSR.2, set back the Aussie strike programme by over a decade and saw a less-than-stellar combat debut in Vietnam…thank the maker for the F-4 Phantom that carried the resulting load for the better part of a decade.

And on the topic of potential threats, STRATFOR carries an item on Chinese speed wobbles as the US ramps up a comprehensive (or unified, if you went to that school) approach to a potential threat…like Japan, China has built an economy on a foundation of sand and hope and its starting to get wobbly…all the more reason to keep the F-22 fires stoked and warm up that A-10 production line (and do a naval variant this time round!)…on yes, and you might need some decent SPGs to replace the M109s that grandpappy used in Vietnam…and don’t be counting on your data links staying up all the time so have a think about leaving the seats in any new airfames you invest in for combat… Neptunus Lex also carries some comment on this article…

The top ten manly movies

John Birmingham has been busy…The Geek discusses what are the top ten manly movies…JB votes for these with my comments in red:

1. True Grit. (Yes, you must fill your hands with this sonofabitch). Absolutely!

2. Saving Pvt. Ryan. (Because war is hell good lookin’ on blu-ray wide screen). Nah!! Too much gratuitous violence in the beginning that adds nothing to the story and the meandering journey across France is just boring. Blackhawk Down delivers all the same messages better and is based on a true story.

3. Master and Commander. (Tips out Gladiator because nobody wears skirts). Agree re Master and Commander not Gladiator which I slot in below.

4. Casino Royale (the remake, and the manliest Bond flick EVAARRR!). Yep!

5. Treasure of the Sierra Madre. (Or any Bogart flick, except the ones with a love interest). Ummm…no…Bogey never quite did it for me…from this era I’d opt for The 39 Steps.

6. The Magnificent Seven. (Well duh. It is magnificent, you know). Yep!

7. The Dirty Dozen. (Or Kelly’s Heroes, if you prefer your war movies with a psychedelic twist). Or both…

8. Cool Hand Luke. (Because I say no man can eat fifty eggs). Hmmmm…whatever…ditch in favour of 633 Squadron, the best flying movie every made.

9. Raging Bull. (Or any movie about boxers or wrestlers. They’re all good.) Replace with Kelly’s Heroes.

10. 300. (Because this is Sparta). How come these guys get to wear skirts, JB? Replace with Gladiator.

Cheeseburger Gothic also hosts a nice piece of fan fiction from The Wave section of the Birmoverse.

Get it off!

Dean @ Travels with Shiloh has developed a new counter to female suicide bombers…I wonder if the cure might not be worse than the problem…?

In more serious news, he summarises a recent workshop at Princeton on Afghanistan – in terms of being out of AFG in 2011, I hope that someone is working on the chopper pad on top of the Embassy…I think we all must have slept through the lesson on COIN re the long haul – or maybe that lesson took place during the five year summer holidays in Iraq?

Where it all began

Peter has released a prologue to The Doomsday Machine…great to see a local lad doing so well at this authoring thingie…

I also like his comments re President Obama’s snub at Israel…but disagree on the credibility of commenting on a book one has not read…I used to be prone to making similar judgements especially on movies so missed Gladiator on the big screen and gave the first series of Dr Who a miss as well…that learned me!!

Who am I?

Portable Learner discusses ways and means of promoting oneself on LinkedIn, something that I have been wresting with recently as well. The options available are quite prescriptive and I don’t think that will change regardless of what’s on the list. Lists, I think, are an industrial age tools that we have yet to evolve away from and, like so much industrial age legacy material, they hold us back. I agree with Shanta that ‘internet’ is probably more descriptive of how one might think than its clinical definition might imply.

I also agree totally with her points re e-learning which is sliding back into industrial age slime instead of being the shining beckon of knowledge it once appeared to be. In order to “…design effective learn ing environments in a networked world…” we must sever the ties with industrial tools and focus on the information and it s nurturing and growth…This is one reason that I think that the US Navy may have ever so slightly lost it in merging its 2 (intel) and 6 (comms) branches into the Information Dominance Corps (IDC) – yes, for real!! I see a very real risk that the information under this structure will be overshadowed by the fears and rules of the technicians and we will lose that timely dissemination that we so desperately need…it maybe that the victims of this merger will see their op critical information become a commodity that is delivered IDC…In…Due…Course – a phrase straight from the repertoire of petty bureaucrats and mindless chair polishers…


A alternate slant on history

Peter @ The Strategist has begun a series of short stories and has published the first two on his blog:

The Doomsday Device

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

I found both stories to be insightful and just the right length to provoke thought i.e. much longer and the reader would develop a serious nagging urge for more, more, more, give me more!! Along with a number of others, I hope that self-publishing via his blog is only the first step and that Peter will take heart from his first two stories to develop more for more formal publication as an anthology….publishing online is nice but it’s not quite the same as a title on the physical book shelf.

Peter has indicated that he would be interested in other short stories on his current themes so out goes the old gauntlet for anyone who thinks that they might be able to string a few words together – no more than 2000 – and spin up a yarn relating to…

What-if Germany won World War One? The circumstance, effects and extent of that ‘victory’ are entirely up to the budding author…I’m personally in favour of anything that involves that great European sport of slicing and dicing up France…

What would happen if civilisation as we know it collapsed? Again the circumstance, effects and extent of that collapse are left to the author to determine…although Aucklanders, please note, being forced to use public transport instead of driving everywhere does not constitute the end of civilisation we anyone knows it…

The one caution I would give is that developing an alternate history is a little more than shaking up the actual timeline and rearranging the characters – that becomes trite and mundane very quickly and you can see examples in the various discussions on building the Birmoverse – from the point of deviation from actual history, the author really has to sit down and consider how that new timeline will develop, identify key milestones and then flesh out the story to link those milestones. It is not outside the bounds of possibility that an alternate timeline might actually rejoin the actual timeline at some point as a story plays out in conjunction with great events.

As with the numerous discussions on developing the Birmoverse in the last few months, considering alternate and future histories can help us understand and place ourselves better in our own timeline but considering events and issues from a new perspective. I enjoyed Peter’s first two stories in their own right and am seriously considering having a crack at some myself. Of course, the last time I wrote any fiction (other than military doctrine!!) was when I had a short short story published in the Sunday Times when I was seven…

Round Up

Just a quick round up of what’s happening around the blogspace – have loads of domestic duties this week so focusing on those while the sun shines…

Europe Descends

Neptunus Lex continues to chronicle the decline of Europe as a major power, if it every was in the first place – certainly some of its member nations may have been – once – but EU Europe definitely seems to be less than the sum of its parts…Britain, Eire, Netherlands, Greece, Russia

Keep 558 alive

At Paper Modelers, there is a request to support XH558, the last flying Avro Vulcan bomber. 558 took to the skies once more in 2008 but exists only on donations and some minor corporate support…have a look at the Vulcan Trust site and at least sign the supporters card – give a little if you can….

Is this not both beautiful and super cool?

Birmoverse – The Movie

Following the creation of a Facebook page calling to Hollywood to option John Birmingham’s Axis of Time trilogy, Cheeseburger Gothic called for ideas on who should play who in the movies…still room for your 2 cents…

Mr Birmingham is also off to Puckapunyal again next week for another get together with Force Development Group on what future conflict environments might be like…interesting to be a fly on the wall for that chat…

RIP Charley Wilson

Coming Anarchy carries a brief obituary for the orchestrator of the mujahedeen victory against the Russians in the 80s.

Natural Selection in Action

Some would-be bombers in Adelaide have gone to a better place…

Be older and happier

Discover Magazine reports on a survey that finds we get happier as we get older – something to look forward to…

Kilcullen on Metrics

Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy is carrying a series of new material from David Kilcullen:

Kilcullen (I): Here’s what not to measure in a COIN campaign

Obviously more to follow on the nuggets in these articles…


More thefts from Army Museum Stop dodgy crims at Crimestoppers.

And we should respect your traditions in our countries why?

Valentine’s police see red as Saudis crack down on Valentine’s Day…

Curzon on Government

Lord Curzon of Kedleston as Viceroy of India (wikipedia)

A couple of weeks ago, Coming Anarchy posted this item Curzon’s Dunbar. I had no idea who Curzon was apart from being the nom de plume of one of the Coming Anarchy authors (you can find out more on Wikipedia). We went to my parents’ in Oamaru for Christmas, and Mum had boxed up some books for me to take back as part of her project to declutter the house (project completion date sometime around 2030). As we were flying, I only grabbed a small selection for my check-in bag and one of those was Curzon – End of an Epoch (Leonard Mosley, Readers Union, 1961)

…His attitude towards the common people was that of a benevolent patrician. He did not even believe that Englishmen, let alone Scotsmen, Welsh, Indians and other lesser breeds, had earned the right to equality with those who had spent their lives and their brains in learning to rule them. To the masses he was fitting himself to control and direct he determined to bring food sufficient for their needs, the opportunity of health and decent lives, and every freedom thery desired except the freedom to rule themselves. To Balfour’s dictum that ‘people only too often prefer self-government to good government’ he had on one reply: ‘More fools they! They should not be encouraged to encompass their own doom’…

Curzon also voted against a move in the House of Commons to give Members of Parliament a small salary “…it will bring into the House shallow and ambitious careerists bent on making a business of the duties and obligations of Government…” One wonders if this is what eventually led to Pournelle’s Iron Rule of Bureaucracy:

…in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions…

Hands up anyone who HASN’T seen any the cancerous application of this rule across national and local government…

But anyway, Curzon’s thoughts on global governance seemed quite topical as we slap a few more billions worth of Band-Aids on Haiti, knowing full well that once the current disaster is cleaned up, it will revert back to type in less than a year; as the number of failing and at-risk states continues to rise; as more and more experiments in self-government flounder in unimaginable debt and growing populations dependencies; as we focus more on the ‘now’ than the future…

One of the topics for discussion in the recent Cheeseburger Gothic discussions on the next iteration of the Axis of Time Birmoverse was how a forewarned timeline might manage post-WW2 colonies, in particular those sitting on resource deposits. I wonder if the Anglosphere (US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, possibly South Africa and Rhodesia) might not have adopted a more ‘involved’ strategy where colonies become ‘territories’ under control? Of course, this is just blatant Imperialism but, when you sit down over a good coffee and think about it, how many of those former colonies are better off under their own rule? I’d suggest that success stories like India, Singapore and Malaysia are very much the exceptions and the Haitis, Zimbabwes, and Myanmars are very much the rule.

Are we getting to the point where aid now comes not so much with conditions but with escalating forms of compulsion and accountability? I asked the same question on To the Stars… but regarding global warming – at what point do protests and sanctions become compulsion for the greater good…? Maybe not so much the global nanny-state but certainly stepping towards benevolent dictatorship…or just do haves unite in self-interest and let the have-nots, specifically the won’t-help-themselves to their own devices. Sooner of later we need to start making some tough calls as no nation can afford to repeatedly bail out those who can not succeed…in other words, let’s start getting real. How real it is to expect that we will be able to do much about small island nations that are slowly disappearing beneath rising waves (regardless of cause)? Build a Waterworld-like wall around them – noting that the original sank anyway…?

Perhaps Curzon was right after all and it is time to start learning from a century of mistakes; however well-intentioned, mistakes nonetheless…is it now time to start developing rulers once more…?

Acts of Desperation

The WordPress Blog Stats page has a web part that displays what search terms have brought visitors to your blog. I couldn’t help but notice this one yesterday:  “leadership lessons from chicken run movie“. This can only be an act of true desperation, I thought…the whole idea of gleaning lessons on leadership or much else from movies, especially these over-rated voice-starred animations, is a bit dodgy from the start…even dodgier is the fact that some people think that cartoons like this help develop a sense of reality amongst their children…

Mr Birmingham gets angry

It’s not often I’d pull on my angry pants and launch a giant boot into the arse of the ABC. I’d be a bit like going an old lady who’d wandered into a cage wrestling death match at an ultimate fighting tournament by accident. But sometimes even old ladies need to feel the pain. And Aunty? I’M BRINGIN’ THE PAIN!

Over at The Geek JB goes ABC for trying to enslave book reviewing bloggers for free – he lists all the reasons why young bloggers should receive some form of incentive to review books online, and none, understandably in support of ABC. Like Havock in the comments, I also have some minor issues with the age discrimination issue raised although I think this may be a not so subtle attempt by ABC to tap a more naive (in their perception) segment of the blogspace…

If you haven’t tried it, book reviewing is bloody hard work: for me to review a book properly, keep notes and come up with a review more substantial than ‘it’s crap – burn it’, I’m looking at 3-5 days work – and I am a pretty fast reader. While I believe that the power of the Information Militia rests mainly in the unpaid intellectual horsepower that constitutes most of the current blogspace and forumville, I think that it is only right that commercial organisations that wish to tap this resource for their own gain, front up with at least a little of the crinkly stuff. JB also makes a very good point that even if the ‘pay’ is half a pittance, it then constitutes works and opens up a range of other benefits in terms of tax losses and claimable costs…perhaps…ABC, it probably doesn’t pay to aggravate the Information Militia lest they a. turn their attention to you and/or b. transform into that other form of militia – you know the one  with guns, pitchforks and torches…

And in the Birmoverse

Battles still rage on Cheeseburger Gothic over the why and how of an Uptimer President in 1952…feel free to climb into the fight…

And now the weather…

While the forecast today is for scattered showers with outbreaks of sun, a storm of another sort approaches…yep, the Twins are back for the weekend so hatch battening begin…

Resuming normal services

I, even if no one else has, have enjoyed my three days dedicated to the Birmoverse…however now it’s back to this time line, which does have as many cool toys but nor has it been liberally sprinkled with anthrax and radioactive dust…

Lay the old divisions to rest…

I got some more homework from my visit to the Air Power Development Centre last week…a copy of the latest RAF Air Power Review (Autumn 2009)…I see that each issue back to 2000 is available online so will have to add them to the library when I next visit broadband land. I’ve just read the first paper on the Future of British Air and Space Power by the current Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Dalton and am looking forward to working through the remaining six items…I do like the way Sir Stephen thinks (I’m sure that he is very relieved to hear this!) but his views are still very air-centric and I believe that this is a lesson that has yet to be learned…just as we need to cast off any perception that there is such a thing as a solely military option to a problem and embrace this  Comprehensive  Approach  concept, we also MUST forget about any one service (or branch of service if you want to take it down a level) that has primacy over the others – there is just military power as a blend of capabilities from air, land, maritime, SF, etc operating under a broader Whole of Government/Comprehensive Approach construct. It’s easy to talk the talk and adopt the doctrine but less easy to shake off the blankie of the Fulda Gap and decades of interservice sparring and competition. This message is further borne out in this article from the UK (courtesy of The Strategist) as Defence chiefs square up for a bit of biffo over who needs the best toys

The thing that the Brits (especially) need to realise is that playing in the big kids world costs real money e.g. as per the example yesterday about the evacuation chain for a British casualty from Afghanistan. They bleated, cried and sniped at the US all through the Iraq War – til they bailed rather ignominiously – and realised that perhaps instead of dumping on the Yanks, they should have been following them around, notebooks at the ready, hanging off every word and taking copious notes…because…the Americans have it together…like it or not…warts and all…they have it together. and in comparing their treatment by the US to that of Portugal, they only insult the Portugese…I’m not specifically Brit-bashing as these lessons apply to some degree to all of us…the world has changed, certainly since 911, probably way earlier but we just didn’t really notice…

Clean your room!

Neptunus Lex discusses obstacles to true democracy in Iraq – I think that it is high time that ALL of the Coalition of the Willing stand up and accept responsibility for the mess they created in Iraq. As I commented there, it was a decade before Germany and Japan were allowed to take off their democratic training wheels after World War 2 and that was without the internal divisions that tear at Iraq AND, in both cases, where THEY started ‘it’. ‘We’ started ‘it’ in Iraq and thus have a responsibility to see the clean-up through. Ironically Iraq under Saddam was less a threat to the world that Iraq as it is now post-intervention. Even more frustrating is that the US wrote the book(s) on COIN in FM 3-24 and then JP 3-24 but does not seem to have spent much time reading them:

Counterinsurgents Should Prepare for a Long-Term Commitment. Insurgencies    are    protracted    by    nature,    and    history demonstrates  that  they  often  last  for  years  or  even  decades. Thus, COIN normally demands considerable expenditures of time  and  resources,  especially  if  they  must  be  conducted simultaneously  with  conventional  operations  in  a  protracted war combining traditional and IW.

For some reason the WeRead app on Facebook keeps resetting my status on Accidental Guerrilla from ‘Read It’ to “Reading It’. In trying again to fix it once and for all (yes, I do tear my hair over minutiae, don’t I?), I noticed a review by ‘Sharif’, in particular, these words:

…Fits well into the perspective of Sir Edmund Hillary: “slowly and painfully we are seeing worldwide acceptance of the fact that the wealthier and more technologically advanced countries have a responsibility to help the underdeveloped ones, not only through a sense of charity, bu also because only in this way can we ever hope to see any permanent peace and security for ourselves.” Detail oriented, thorough and succinct. A must read to gain perspective of the challenges ahead…

Ultimately it’s all about stability. Countering Irregular Activities is a bit of a mouthful and Countering Destabilising Activities strays into double negativity – what they are is fact and in essence are stability operations conducted under the broad umbrella of the Comprehensive Approach. If you truly want stability, then go clean up your mess. If you truly want stability, follow the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Haiti with a stability programme to address the real problems there – you could probably start by kicking out, or at least reining in, the cargo cult do-gooder NGOs. Even encourage Bill Clinton to run for President (of Haiti!!).

On NOT profiling

An interesting comment last night on the failing of profiling as a technique and discussing methods of identifying people at risk and potential threat – there is some food for thought on the Aggression Management website and I would be most interested to hear supporting and dissenting comments…

Flying fingers (all both of them!)

I have decided that it is well past time that I taught myself to touch type as even though fingers can rely fly now, then just don’t go fast enough and when I’m on a roll I tend to lose ideas because I can’t get them down fast enough. I’m dead keen on exploring open source software at the moment and so I am starting off with TypeFaster. Today is Day One and so far I can type words only using ‘f’ and ‘j’ at 28.6 words per minute…I’m also becoming quite partial to PDF XChange Viewer as a faster more powerful alternative to Adobe’s Reader: the free version allows commenting and comment export on PDF files without (so far as I can see) any watermarking or other promotional material to ‘encourage’ an upgrade to the Pro version.

It’s Only Paper

On Paper Modelers today there is a note that noted Hollywood special effects artist, Hilber Graf, has just died aged 54. He worked on The Abyss, and was also an author, screenwriter, paranormal investigator, Halloween haunted house creator and noted plastic/resin model builder. Some years ago he published an article on Paper Modelling “It’s Only Paper” that is a good intro to anyone considering having  a crack at this art form – and having seen some of the Paper Replika free-to-download models in Playing with Knives the other day, who wouldn’t want to try it in the privacy of their own home…?

What’s up with all this Birmoverse stuff?

Good question.

First up, is that John Birmingham has asked via Cheeseburger Gothic for thoughts on what a post-WW2 world might look like in the Axis of Time (AoT) universe, with especial interest in Great Britain. It is rare for an author to do this and I think that it provides JB an opportunity to add a real richness to his books in adopting this approach.

If you hadn’t figured it out already, I like his alt-history after buying World War 2.1 Weapons Of Choice while stuck in Changi Airport in 2005 on my way home from CLAW 1 – it was an act of desperation as it was the only book on the shelves that even remotely appealed. Over two years, I managed to seek and devour 2.2 and 2.3 and then was pleasantly surprised to find Without Warning in the Taupo  Whitcoulls mid-last year. I was less impressed to find on completing it that, it was Part One of another series – there was not a single clue on the cover to indicate this which really hacked me off. Normally I won’t buy a book in a series unless I know that the whole series is published AND available – a lesson learned from War Against the Chtorr and Janissaries.

In thinking about the questions posed and subsequent dialogue on Cheeseburger, I am finding that I am able to view our current environment through a slightly off-centre perspective. By considering those things that we might want to do in the AoT universe that we didn’t get right in the real world, it is possible to divine perhaps some relevance back this way. As an example, I proposed that, in dissolving the Empire, that Great Britain establish India as a strategically-influential region power from the beginning instead of letting it muddle its way there over the decades as has actually happened. My thought at the time, was that,by doing this, we might be able to head off much of the instability in the Pakistan/Afghan area for the AoT universe. Thinking about it later, this also ties in with my belief that we have the wrong force composition in Afghanistan and they what it really needs is for the regional powers, namely India and Iran (might as well accept it and stop the name-calling), to pick up the burden of maintaining regional stability. Some thoughts on greater Indian involvement here

It’s an example of one writer harnessing the horsepower of the Information Militia.

It’s fun thinking about what-if, whether at the geo-strategic or micro-tech cool toys level; even more fun when there is a possibility that some of those ideas might actually be taken up into the storyline for the next book or form the basis for perhaps some fan fiction in the AoT universe. Nothing wrong with a bit of fun…

In other news…

Airmen from the 105th Airlift Wing's Logistic Squadron load cargo aboard a C-17 bound for Haiti early Saturday morning. (Photo: Tech Sgt. Michael O'Halloran, 105th Airlift Wing)

It’s also been a bit slow in the real world this week. Yes, lots of angsting over Haiti in just about every blog site on the planet with some interesting points being raised:

  • Humanitarian issues aside, at what point do we decide that it is simply just not worth it to keep saving these failed ‘nations’ from themselves? Here’s a couple of interesting threads from the Coming Anarchy side of the house:  The Latest Battlefield of the Monroe Doctrine and A Bit Of Realism Please? Our constant reinforcement of Third World cargo cults comes at a price and, sooner or later, it is going to become untenable unless we start to address the root issues. Step 1 would be to rein all these meddling NGOs that address the symptoms but actually only foster more suffereing in the long run…
    • Have a plan and impose control.
    • Blindly sending in supplies, aid, etc is a waste of time if the resources don’t exist ont he other end to do anything with them. Ditto for all the well-meaning dogooders who just want to arrive in Port-au-Prince to ‘help’.
    • If you are a ‘once-were’ nation, like the UK and France, then get with the programme and be thankful that someone is getting out there and filling the vacuum (and fixing the messes) left when you dumped your colonies. If you don’t like the new rules, then YOU rock up with the necessary capabilities and force structures to do the business. Here’s a subjective but interesting item on what a real power can bring to the party Do Americans Care About British Soldiers?
  • It’s funny how the US gets caned for even thinking about interfering in these rock show wannabe countries but then gets caned when something like this happens for allowing the country in question to decline to such a state in the first place. Same thing happened in Myanmar – why won’t the US make the government open up to accept aid? You really have to wonder sometimes why the US doesn’t just pack it all up and go home…?

The current operation in Haiti is a classic example of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, stability operations and countering irregular activities – the earthquake could not be predicted and it is unrealistic to expect Haiti to construct quake-proofed buildings, so many of the current problems are unavoidable. However it will be interesting to see what follow-on activities are conducted to maintain stability in Haiti and address the core problems within the country.

Travels with Shiloh is running a series on the implications of MAJGEN Flynn’s paper on what’s wrong with intel – of course the shorter option to write might have been ‘what’s right with the intel world’ – while I don’t agree with all the points made, I think it is important that someone is raising them to get the discussion going…

The Information Militia

I’m coming to the conclusion that Michael Yon is a well-meaning but meddling journo who probably does need to slow down and consider his place in the universe. I like his website and think it is some great material – please check it out – as photojourno, he is very good and sends some very strong and often poignant messages. His Facebook page on the other hand is an example of the down side of the Information Militia – he is a guy who has, just this week, publicly bypassed the US military chain of command by inciting his fans to pressure CENTCOM and the Pentagon to release a Haitian-born officer in the US Army, current posted to Afghanistan, for duties in Haiti. Yes, sure, members of this officer’s family have died so there IS a compassionate case to be made and his cultural and language skills would definitely be employable BUT…BUT…do you not think that perhaps the DoD has its own processes to this to occur and that there might also be broader implications in releasing him from his current theatre? Michael Yon also posted an item critical of Starbucks and its relationships with the US military which was subsequently proven to be both incorrect and old news as covered in this story from 2004 – as HoaxSlayer points out, even when a retraction is released, it never gets the same degree of airtime as the original accusation.

Building the Birmoverse Deux

VJ-101 VTOL fighter in transitional flight (NB: transition with a small 't', thank you)

Some spillover from yesterday’s thread…

  • While SSTs and ballistic transports will make getting around that planet that much faster especially time spent in the worrisome skies over Europe and the UK, the airship will also make a come back. This will largely be in response to the increasing dangers of the sea lanes and will also reduce the need for massive harbours and maritime points of entry as airships will be able to deliver relatively large and bulky loads direct to the target location. Customs and Immigration will, of course, be tearing their hair…
  • What will happen with the Irish problem? With the Sovs posturing over half of Europe, like, more than the half they had the first time round, it is unlikely the Brits will have much tolerance for any bolshie Paddys. In any case, Ireland is too isolated for any meaningful insurgency to be conducted and it is likely that Eire would become part of Fortress Britain whether it really liked it or not. One impact this might have is that the Brits will no longer have the catalysts to develop their mastery of comprehensive approach Countering Irregular Activity and COIN. Then again, they have always played pretty fast and loose with the rules when playing the great game and managed to deal with most of Adolf’s spies and saboteurs in short order without much help from anyone. Perhaps, in revealing ahead of time, those like Philby and Co, the Brit public service will be purged and thus be similarly successful against Uncle Joe’s spies and saboteurs – which really makes the Irish question a non-issue.
  • I would like to see France used as a nuclear testing zone by everyone and for this to be encouraged.
  • In terms of nitty-gritty, technotoys I would like to see in service: after the TSR.2, the Rotodyne tops the list…let’s use them as feeders out to the floating airship terminals…
  • The quest for effective VTOL aircraft will continue with some urgency and aircraft like the VJ-101, P.1152, P. 1154 and XFV-12A will come into service as close range protection for naval platforms, including civilian vessels to fend off pirates and privateers (QE2 will have a hangar deck for two); and also because the much warmer Cold War (Cold War++) will again call into question the security of large concrete airbases.
  • At least one permanent space station will be developed in the 60s both to control the high ground and as an eventual stepping stone to the Moon and further. As I commented yesterday, all the biochemicals being sprayed with gay abandon around the planet in 1945 mean that we might want to be thinking of an Earth 2 – and we know now that wormholes are doable…
  • Also I do like the concept of Project Horizon that was raised yesterday in a comment by savO – not just because it aligns with my statements re a moonbase but because it has a high cool factor and introduces the potential for combat on the Moon.
  • Referring back to yesterday’s pic of the Vulcan in the Sound – I think that pic is actually in Milford Sound – I’m wondering if JB could slip in some sort of Vulcan low-level strike, basically what I’m after is 633 Squadron with Vulcans…
  • I’m also wondering if 21C technologies might not be focussed on alternate and clean (though why bother with all the NBC being used?) power sources so that the Middle East never gets the strangehold at the pumps that it enjoys now.
  • Israel, instead of stirring up the Arabs, and having decided to work and play nicely with them, conducts a very aggressive covert campaign against the Sovs to encourage the expatriation of Soviet Jews to Israel – alive. This becomes one of the major wild cards in the AoT post-war deck.
  • Is there a Marshall Plan? Yes, but focussed on the Middle East and North Africa as the new bastions against Soviet aggression. The Fertile Crescent become fertile again. Central Africa remains a shithole and pretty well plays out the same history as it has here.
  • With economies kickstarted by the Marshall Plan, a combination of Arab money and Israeli know-how widens the Suez Canal into a two lane facility. In 1956, Sov proxies from Greece and Turkey (yes, I know they hate each other but if we can have wormholes, we can have Greeks and Turks who get on) get a snotting when they try to seize the Canal to protect it as an ‘international asset’.
  • The Falklands War never gets a look in. By 1955, The Falklands Island have become the unsinkable fleet that holds Argentine and Chilean ambitions towards Antarctica in check – the Brits however do take the time to return all abandoned scrap metal to Argentina, just in case…
  • I don’t think McCarthyism will occur – what happened to Hoover pretty well sets the scene for what will happen to anyone else who gets out of control and surely amongst the Uptimer 21C lessons must be one relating to the folly of over-simplistic profiling; communist leaning ≠ Sov supporter or agent just like Islamic ≠ rabid nutjob terrorist…what there may be though because the Uptimer histories will have shown its effect, is the introduction of terror as a weapon a la what we see today.  Who might those terrorists be? Well, the both sides of the civil rights movement leaps out for a start; perhaps also some sort of movement kicking back against the Uptimers; the list so far is quite short as most of those who might feel that they were disadvantages in some way by the AoT version of WW2 are conveniently dead – I’m really leaning towards domestic than ‘transnational’ or external terrorists…
  • Maybe it is such as attack that thrusts Kohlhammer into the Presidency – he doesn’t need to be elected so long as he sits in the chain of succession as per Coppel’s 34 East or By Dawn’s Early Light (both stories where the chain of succession extends lower than the Vice-President)- maybe terrorists gatecrash a White House dinner party (we all know how easy that is now!) and Kohlhammer finds himself at the top of the food chain.
  • We’ve solved most of the worlds ills except for the Sovbloc – likely to be solved with a bright flash or flashes on the horizon – and South America – i think that South America may be where the global plot gets its tail twisted – there is little significant history on the continent so less in the way of 21C lessons to be applied in the AoT post-war era therefore we really have to take South America as it comes…
  • Will we move towards a standing force in support of the (toothless in our time) UN and will this perhaps be a relatively short leap towards a world government, certainly a good guy alliance government?
  • I think that we will see, in short order, a number of new inventions as smart people from the 1940s start to apply their new knowledge. RULE #1 – no wormhole experiments on Earth!! These new inventions will introduce some new life into the Uptimer story as well as more uncertainty as the timeline starts to deviate from what’s left of ‘our’ timeline as as technological edges start to smooth out.
  • I’d like to see the rather conventional Sovbloc versus US/UK plotline resolved and tossed out in short order and bring in a new story that takes us out of that comfort zone – what, I’m not sure. Maybe the Israel/Arab bloc might leap ahead in the application of Uptimer tech to new problems, make a breakthrough and become (again) a super-power…? Push the Uptimers into a situation where they really have to think rather than just succumb to the temptation to rehash Hackett’s The Third World War. What-if…the Judeo-Islamic Federation begins to dictate its values as the norm for global ethos and culture, just as we in the west tend to do to the Third World…?