The Accidental Guerrilla

The nice people in G7 loaned me a copy of David Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla to read on the promise that I would give them a book review in return – fair trade, I think, and one which provides me an opportunity to assess the actual time required to review and read a book for future jobs. I missed David Kilcullen’s briefs when he visited in October, having been required to save the free world at the CLAW in the UK that week. While I enjoyed that professionally and personally, I would much rather have had the afternoon listening to him talk…

First impressions of Accidental Guerrilla are that the author has not been well served by his editor…the sections where he talks about his own experiences flow very well; where he launches into more academic discourse, he becomes verbose and complex – if in doubt, use short sentences and don’t be shy to bullet lists – some parts so far (have just finished Chapter 1) are like playing literary Where’s Wally? when trying to filter out key points and themes. I’ve noticed the same in the other book I am struggling with at the moment, Brain Taafe’s The Gatekeepers of Galatas, a great story that deserves to be told – but told better than Taafe does…I track a number of writing blogs and I think it was John Birmingham who couldn’t emphasise enough not only the importance of a top editor but also the need for writers to retract their egos and take aboard the value an editor provides to a successful product…

I have no problem with the concept of the accidental guerrilla but do debate that it is anything new – almost by definition most guerrillas are accidental, born when the outside world, usually brutally, intrudes into their lives….the little people = the little war…Nor is the concept of global terrorist/guerrilla networks that new either…as far back as the American Revolution, global communications have been adequate to support international networks and the Great Game of international espionage and intelligence has been played across the known globe since that time. I agree with Rupert Smith that there are those who might be best described as the ‘franchisers of terrorism’ who target the disaffected and essentially sell their brand of terrorism, with commensurate training, networks and support. These are the people who need to be tracked and targeted a la Michael Scheiern’s ‘individual-based tracking’ concept – manage them and you open up a range of alternate approaches to mitigate potentially accidental guerrillas.

One of the problems I have with The Accidental Guerrilla to date is that it describes Al-Qaeda as an aberration, an exception, to the rules of guerrillas and terrorism, but keeps drawing upon AQ-based examples to support arguments in the book. While it is true that Islamic terrorism has a firm base in the tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan that includes strong family links as well and that this extends back over a number of generations, I think it is a big leap to state this as standard practice for these type of organisations. This weakens the Infection, Contagion, Intervention, Rejection cycle that Kilcullen proposes, again relying on an AQ example. I agree with the takfiri model and think this would be a better one to promote over specific groups  like Al-Qaeda – more so since his definition of takfir lends itself to causes beyond those based upon an interpretation of Islam…takfir holds that those whose beliefs differ from the takfiri’s are infidels who must be killed. Takfir might apply to ANY hate-based xenophobic cause around the planet and if The Accidental Guerrilla achieves nothing else beyond bringing this phrase into more common usage, it will have achieved something.

In all fairness, I am only at the end of Chapter 1 and should suppress of any feelings of ‘old brass for new‘ and ‘publish or perish‘ til I get into the meat of it…onwards into Chapter Two…

Taking a break

Today anyway and only from the generations of war thing – not because I have lost interest at all but because I am doing the accounts this week and it’s not much fun and any distractions are welcomed but dangerous.

John Birmingham has two blogs at the Brisbane Times and The Geek is by far the most fun. His recent item on Dr Who is worthy of posting in it’s entirety:

Who’s the master of cool sci-fi (not a question)
November 13, 2009

Have you ever noticed that when a bunch of geeks gather around the campfire to nut out once and for all the important question of what was the coolest science fiction TV series ever, that the actual coolest science fiction TV series ever almost never gets a look in. Why is there no lovin’ for Dr. Who?

Stargate SG1 is always pushing to the front of the line blowing everybody out of the way, goosing Star Trek, snorting in derision at the original BSG and Space 1999 (with good reason, admittedly). But where does it get off calling itself the longest-running sci-fi series on TV. That would be the Doctor you’re gazzumping there Jack. He first appeared on our screens back in 1963… and he’s still here. Not just in syndication and repeats either.

Sure the effects were crap in the early days. Okay, they were crap right up until cheap CGI and more generous production budgets meant the most recent series didn’t have to build their aliens out of old garbage bins and lengths of rubber hose. But go back and look at some of those original Star Trek episodes and hang your head in shame American sci-fi TV producers. I mean, tribbles, come on, really?

So great is the show’s longevity of course that eleven actors have cycled through the lead role, and God knows how many supporting cast have been there with the Doc, twisting their ankles, getting captured, occasionally getting killed, and generally raising the question of why he bothers with traveling companions anyway since they just get in the way or cause cliffhangers every 22 minutes. But putting that aside, which other serious, sci-fi or mainstream, can claim to have survived a change in lead actor so regularly, or even once.

Much as I liked Ben Browder’s character on Farscape for instance, he was really just Jack O’Neill lite in the later SG1 series.

And where most TV shows get weaker as they get older, Dr. Who has arguably grown stronger with the years. Partly this is a function of great writers and producers coming to the latest series of in a spirit of paying homage to a much loved show from their childhood, partly it’s to do with increased production values, and partly the Doc has hung around for so long he couldn’t help but benefit from the improved aesthetics of the medium as it matured. Bottom line however, it has improved while other series, particularly some big-budget American shows (yes Lost, I’m looking at you, and your mate Heroes) have all but sputtered out creatively after a couple of good early years.

So let the word go forth from this time and this place that I have settled this debate once and for all. Dr. Who is the coolest TV sci-fi series ever made.

While Stingray is my first memory of ANY TV series, it is also my first memory of a science-fiction show, followed closely by Forbidden Planet: both had me squinting at the screen through my fingers from an early age…three perhaps…? But it was Dr Who that sits still at the top of the heap: I was terrified by the Abominable Snowmen, Cybermen and Daleks (the Big 3 – all the rest, including the over-rated Master are Tier Two scaries) but refused to miss my weekly doses of terror. I still recall almost crapping myself when I was 7 or 8: running around the shadowy passages of Dad’s squash club, I turned a corner and ran smack into an oversized badminton shuttle. Obviously it must have been some sort of promo item but it was as tall as me and it definitely looked like a Dalek. I was adios amigo and refused to go back there for weeks.

I lost interest during the latter part of the Tom Baker years – possibly because the Beeb was starting to chew through the Doctors and some of them were pretty silly; or equally possibly because teenage boys develop other interests. I had a brief resurgence of interest when the US-made movie came out in the 90s (had Eric Roberts in it?) and then that was it until 2005. The new series had come out but I’d dissed it believing that it would just be a shoddy rip-off of the 60s and 70s classics. On my return from CLAW 1 in Salisbury, we were spending the weekend with friends in Rotorua; Dr Who just happened to be on during dinner (Bad Wolf, I think the episode was) and I became interested very quickly.

Although I have lapped up Season 2-4, I have still to see most of Season 1 (too cheap to pay full price and waiting for the box set price to drop). JB is correct: Dr Who IS the most enduring science fiction show around; yes, there are those that are older but NONE that have been develped and evolved so consistently over four decades and into a fifth. Thunderbirds is as enduring but is a year younger and has not evolved from the original series – still a bit hit with young kids today though.

While I was a big fan of all the other Gerry Anderson series, nowadays there have more of a cult fascination appeal (apart from Thunderbirds) than serious interest. UFO was the centre of my known universe when I was 10 and 11 but now it seems vaguely pretentious and overdone -still very cools toys though – and, yes, I too was going to build my own Moonbase (on the Moon, of course) and use my secret organisation defend the world from the Aliens. Still might but if so I really do need to pull my finger out…

If I was to have my Top Five science fiction series they would be:

  • Thunderbirds. Everything EXCEPT Jonathan Frakes’ miserable 2004 movie.
  • Bablylon 5. Up until the end of Series 4 – after the two big storylines were dealt to, Series 5 seemed a bit anticlimatic.
  • Dr Who. Everything from the very first episode to the Series 5 teaser episodes.
  • New Captain Scarlet. Please, please do more with this: the animation is great, and it builds upon the gritty dark side of the original series.
  • Firefly. The whole series + Serenity. A great concept that just didn’t quite get the support it needed although Serenity did really tie-off the original storyline so they would have needed a new one for further series.

I enjoy Star Trek in chunks but actually prefer the books, especially William Shatner’s first trilogy. Voyager and TNG were great once they figured out that violence was OK; Deep Space Nine was like Star Trek does Mallrats and just boring; but I do have a bit of a soft spot for Enterprise possibly because they can not use the transporter or time travel to get themselves out of narly situations. I do have the Star Trek Borg and Animated Series sets though and and do rate them quite highly.

I’m also a big BSG (both series) fan but in terms of a top five, the original is a bit campy now, and the rethink version is just a little too complex and intertwined to be enduring for me.

Farscape, Andromeda, Stargate? Whatever…just light relief.

Jacks

A ‘jack’ is someone who makes sure that they are OK over anyone else. I believe the linkage originally comes from the 1959 Peter Sellers movie “I’m All Right, Jack“. This is one example of a jack:

Kirk the Jack 003

This is big dog Kirk. There are two bean bags because there are two dogs. Our other big dog, Lulu, likes to rest on a bean bag because she has a sore hip (hopefully not the dreaded displasia!!). Kirk knows this. Does he care? No, he’s alright. Kirk is a jack big dog.

Here’s another example of a jack: LIND ON 4GW AND THE FORT HOOD KILLINGS. I mean, it’s nice that William Lind shares with us on his visits to this planet but this time he really just needs to get a grip! The reason that I posted a link to John Birmingham’s commentary on the Ft Hood shootings, and probably the reason that JB’s commentary quoted in full the earlier commentary by Stephen Murphy, (sorry if that’s a bit cumbersome), is that the Murphy commentary is as insightful a one that you will find on this tragedy – AND that it cuts directly to the chase on the core issue.

MAJ Nidal Malik Hasan was simply an individual struggling within himself. An individual no different really than any of those other individuals who faced similar struggles and ultimately directed their frustrations on those around them. I don’t know if there is a single nation on this Earth that has not had at least one such incident. Even here in quiet little New Zealand, we have had at least five in the past twenty years : Aramoana, Masterton, Pukekohe, Raurimu and Dunedin. It is something that happens, regardless of the best or the worst mental health, intelligence and law enforcement systems. Any system so efficient as to keep such people at risk off our streets would be so draconian as to sacrifice the freedoms our societies hold dear.

The reason that Mr Lind is a jack is that he is making sure that HE is alright by capitalising on the Ft Hood tragedy so further justify and validate his own 4th (would $th be more accurate perhaps?) Generation Warfare, aka 4GW, model. Mr Lind would have us believe that what happened in Ft Hood was a result of 4GW and the harbinger of waves of similar attacks across the US, and that the only way to prevent such attacks is for America to shed its ‘Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free…’ heritage in favour of becoming a WASP state living by the moral minority’s own sharia law…

Not so, Mr Lind, not so, at all…if there is one thing we HAVE learned since 911, it is that our adversaries, individually and collectively,  in this war are very bit as intelligent, as skilled and as capable as we are: a gaping hole in the New York City skyline, hundreds of casualties in Madrid and Bali,  and 4000 flag-draped coffins out of Iraq are proof of that. Only in the UK have these forces been stymied to date – the one nation with decades of experience successfully facing a dedicated, vicious and evolving internal adversary. If MAJ Hasan’s attack in (not on) Ft Hood was what Mr Lind paints it as:

  • Would his tradecraft been so loose as to already be on the FBI’s and the military risk radar?
  • Would he really be overtly trying to contact known Al-Qaeda supporters?
  • Might he not have made better use of his access to Ft Hood to employ more lethal forces than a couple of pistols?
  • Would there not have been at least one simultaneous event somewhere else in the US, even one frustrated by circumstance or law enforcement?

Think about these things before blindly calling for the restriction or even expulsion of those with different belief structures. Remember what ‘Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free…” once meant. Do not under-estimate an enemy who is smarter than this. Be a leader, not a follower.

Because if we follow jacks like Mr Lind and his cronies, we become no better than those who preach a litany of hate from the safety of their religious status….

A sobering thought

I’ve deliberately held off on any comment on the shootings in Fort Hood last week. Every man and his dog has been all over the event from every possible angle. Of all the commentary to date, one of the best is John Birmingham’s Blunty column in the Brisbane Times, largely quoting a commentary from US writer and historian, Stephen Murphy. Please read the comments under the article as well.

  • This was one individual who snapped, not an organised planned attack.
  • We should focus on why he snapped and NOT his culture or religion.
  • America and its friends and allies must resist the temptation to discriminate against other Muslims or people of Arabic descent because of this incident. One of our greatest strengths in the war on terror are those rights and freedoms that we fight so hard to protect but which also provide the opportunities for individuals to act as MAJ Hassan did.
  • It is not about having greater or lesser access to firearms.
  • It could have happened anywhere – not just in the US or the US military.

I think that perhaps were should be less amazed that this tragedy occurred and more mazed that it has not occurred more often: regardless of issues regarding the Islamic jihad, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have fought in COMBAT operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Only ONE has taken issues to this extent: if nothing else, surely that is a good indication that the checks and balances ARE already in place AND that they are working well…As far back as 2005, the USMC had already identified the destabilising behavioural effects of minor traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) and introduced a robust screening programme to identify and treat at-risk individuals. The US Army has introduced similar programmes. Although GEN Casey has pledged more resources for mental health programmes, I do believe that the US DOD does need to credit itself for the steps that it has implemented already.

MTBI is a hot topic for me as I have had to deal with ACC and CRM (ACC managers contracted to NZ Police) to ensure that family members suffering from MTBI and TBI get a fair shake of the stick. So often victim of TBI do not get a fair shake because the effects of these injuries can be difficult to diagnose and may present themselves in a broad range of symptoms and effects. If nothing else, the one thing I did learn from a number of years battling with both organisations (those who think ACC is bad, wait til you try the privatised version like CRM!! Be careful what you wish for when you clamour for ACC privatisation!) is that screening and identification early definitely contributes to a faster recovery, mitigation and treatment of the injuries, reduction of long-term issues, and reintegration into society. At least the US DOD has learned this lesson and has no doubt saved many lives already  – it’s unfortunate that we fixate on the one who slipped through the system…

View from a roof

…we have guests in the Chalet at the moment, indirectly the cause of my drenching on Thursday morning; being the top host that I am, I had gone to set the fire prior to their arrival so it would be cosy inside. I couldn’t get the damn thing to burn not even after half a pack of Lucifers and bringing some guaranteed dry wood over from the Lodge – the air would have turned blue if the room hadn’t been full of smoke  already. We’d only had the chimney swept a couple of months ago so I was not impressed and with the crap weather there was no way I was going up to check out the flue in any detail.

With the return of decent weather (finally) over the weekend, I made myself the ACC poster boy yesterday  and hopped up to see what the story was and discovered some enterprising sparrow had managed to cram 8 inches thick of pine needles down the flue – and it was crammed: I had to chip it all out with a screwdriver…

View from a roof 009This is not a journey I intend making too frequently so I made the most of taking a few pics from this vantage point…it’s always difficult to get good shots of the Lodge due to the bush and this isn’t one of the better ones…not until Lotto Day when we can go fully down the Alternate energy path and tell the Lines Company to get their crappy lines and poles off our property!!

View from a roof 001

Once that happens it will be a major improvement all the way round. The TV aerial on the far side needs to go as well – it has been years since it has done anything but rattle in the wind – the only reason that it is still there is that it is a long way up (and down) on that side of the Lodge…the spa area on the far right is about to get a major ‘tough love’ pruning effort as it is just a little too encroached by scenic beauty at the moment. The two windows are the spare room on the right and the bunkroom on the left. In the next round of renovations, the bunkroom will become the study/library, and the current study/library will become another bedroom on the sunny side. The mega-renovations planned for some time will lift the roof from a point around the top right corner of the spare room window to enable the installation of en suites and walk-in areas – the extra head room will also allow a proper rear staircase with a mid-level landing…

Fish for Dinner again…

Dinner last night was a bit of a mixed bag….fish again because Carmen had the same ‘let’s have fish‘ flash as I on Friday and had picked up some snapper on her way back from Te Kuiti…I found a recipe in the Healthy Food Guide book and semi-modified that to suit. I say ‘semi’ because I didn’t actually adjust it as much as I should have; in fact, apart from halving the quantity of fish and pan-baking instead of oven baking it, I kept all the quantities of spices etc the same. As the twins would say ‘uh-oh’…I served it up with a good serving of tabouli but, man oh man, it was hot!! Too hot for the taste of the fish to really come through. I have some issues with the recipe and wonder if the HFG team actually made it before they published it as the picture in the book just looked like normal baked fish (clean and white) when the marinade is actually very dark. I wondering perhaps if they have skipped out a key ingredient like some form of cream to take the marinade from a paste to something that will actually be enough to cover the fillets AND be poured over the fillets – even using twice the quantities there was barely enough to paste over each fillet…

In Other News

I was checking the blogstats with morning and noticed an incoming link from an unfamiliar site – thinking perhaps I had made a break-through in the blogspace I clicked on it. While it was beyond me to find any connection between it and The World…, M|O|N|G|K|O|L was a fascinating  and diverse read; Memoirs of Saigon brought back many memories of my brief time in Vietnam a decade ago, in particular the bubbling friendliness and hospitality of the people of south Vietnam – I don’t think the writers  of the Lonely Planet on Vietnam had ever visited the place, or certainly gone any further than the bars of downtown Saigon. My deepest regret is that I did not purchase the painting I saw in a  gallery in Saigon: using just four colours, the brown of the rivers, the orange of the dust, the bright green of the foliage and the blue of the sky, it encapsulated my first image of Vietnam as we made our approach into Tan Son Nhut. I was saddened by Cambodia: A Country For Sale – at the time I was in Vietnam, it was still relatively untouched by the depredations of the big corporates and multinationals. One of the reasons that I am not sure I want to return is that in ten years all this may have changed and I don’t want my memories tainted by sights of such a beautiful nation going the same way as so many others…Coming Anarchy this morning has a graphic image of that way….

The Strategist has also picked up on the ‘Always Blow on the Pie‘ story – if you haven’t had a look already, please do…Peter’s latest post regards ‘modern slavery‘: I am less than sympathetic…these people choose to have these lifestyles and it reads to me that greed (in the form of £200k bonuses) is the primary motivator. If you can’t stand the heat…but before jumping out of the pan and emigrating to New Zealand…(to be continued)…

Cheeseburger Gothic has the next of JB’s insights into the perils and pitfalls of being a writer: anyone with aspirations of writing even casually should track both these posts and the ones on a similar theme by Steven Pressfield. Having collected a lot of DIY writing material of varying standards and usefulness over the years, I can recommend both as key resources for budding or even experienced writers…

B-4

I have been fairly consistent in my stated aim of doing some minor work on the B-4 each night. It has turning out to be a rewarding and fun build: although relatively simple in construction, each sub-assembly looks delightfully complex. I’m working on the assumption that it should be able to be assembled almost fully before painting so except for some minor fiddly bits I will put on last – to save me refixing them last after snapping them off with careless handling – I am building it pretty much out of the box…progress so far:

B-4 203mm build 001

Tapdancing

How unusual to have tap dancing on Closeup two days running:

  • The first story covered the successful attempt by a Wellington stock broker to break the Guinness world tap dancing record with 17 and a bit taps per second.
  • In the second item, the General Manager of the Accident Compensation Corporation showed off his own tap dancing skills when facing off with the very well-prepared leader of the Bikers Rights Organisation of New Zealand (BRONZ) over ACC’s attempt to grossly hike the ACC levies for bike riders…

What really gets me about all this ACC reforms is that no one is targeting the overpaid underproducing and apparently unaccountable fat cat senior staff who let it all turn to custard in the first place. The Strategist has an item this morning that applies equally to ACC as it does GM…In this battle, BRONZ needs all the support it can get: there’s a Facebook Group set up for this so please have a think about becoming a supporter – non-Kiwis too as deep down we known you all really want to be Kiwis, especially those from West Island!!

On Cheeseburger Gothic today, there is a discarded version of the opening for After America, the next in the Wave series – it is a good read, and also draws out another point about militia which applies to the Information Militia as well: often no one is quite too sure who, if anyone they are accountable too…

Top marks to the NZ Police Sergeant on Breakfast this morning – Always Blow on the Pie – just goes to show that your 15 minutes of fame can come anytime and from anywhere, even a casual stop at 3am five years ago…great to see a happy non-contentious Police story…Safer Comunities Together – get the T-Shirt here….

We woke this morning to a great bright ball in a broad expanse of blue sky…the rain is gone, long live the sun…But I still got drenched yesterday morning, mulching all the blackberry around the Chalet so that it was kid-safe for the guests staying this weekend and in the interests of aesthetics, tidieness etc as well. Also managed to slash my finger clearing away all the rubbish left where a previous tenant had burned rubbish – amazing what people think will burn, hence the slash from a broken bottle – stupid woman!!!!

Feral was making a big show of scratching up her kitty litter bin the other day so Carmen put her outside. Feral was clearly not impressed by this and gapped it again til about eleven that night…she probably has some justification in this as it followed right on from the previous day when Carmen let the dogs without doing the mandatory ground floor cat scan first. So there’s poor old 1.9kg  Feral perched up on top of Nimitz (the larger couch), silhouetted against the window, hoping that 96kg of Rottweilers won’t notice her…followed by a blur of tortoiseshell as she bolted for the stairs.

Have been shotgunning my CV around the place while working up Plan B…one insight after a couple of days is that if you want to work for the Government – or some parts of it – you have to really want to work for them – some of the recruitment systems really challenge your level of commitment. I wonder how many quality candidates just give all the hurdles and miss and seek employment elsewhere, leaving us with the ‘dregs’; it would be interesting to review those government departments with a history of screw-ups against the intuitiveness of their recruiting interfaces…

Coming Anarchy has an item on the coming next war – not that any of the current batch are likely to end any time soon…