USA versus Iraq on the soccer field

With Iraq's recent victory in the Asian Cup Final over Saudi Arabia, Iraq joins Italy (World champion), Brazil (South American champion), USA (North American champion), and South Africa (host country) as the teams currently qualified for the Confederations Cup in June 2009. The remaining three spots will go to an Oceanic team (probably Australia), an African team, and a European team. The Confederations Cup is a warm-up tournament that will make sure South Africa is ready to host the World Cup the following year.

The Confederations Cup is run like so: two groups of four in a round-robin style, followed by semi-finals and then the final. Assuming Australia qualifies for the Confederations Cup, it is likely that Iraq will play either a former (Italy) or current occupying power (USA, Australia). Iraq and the USA have a 50-50 chance of playing each other in the group stage, and if either team were to advance (likely for the USA, unlikely for Iraq) the chances naturally go up. It is further possible that England, Poland, or the Czech Republic could qualify through the European spot by winning Euro2008, further occupying countries that could meet Iraq. If the European spot is taken by a member of the Coalition of the Willing, then it is a mathematical certainty that Iraq will play a current or former Coalition member.

Violence at the game will be unlikely - I don't foresee large numbers of Iraqi hooligans traveling to South Africa to attack Americans when they can do it at home (a new iteration of the flypaper theory!). Furthermore, the presence of South Korean troops on Iraqi soil didn't seem to be raised as an issue during Iraq's semifinal against South Korea. However, given the "special relationship" between Iraq and the USA, if any American troops are still in Iraq in June of 2009, I'd advise them to stay indoors.

The US team is much better than Iraq's team, especially if many of Iraq's players use the opportunity of their success to get contracts playing abroad and leave Iraq permanently (adding to the diaspora), or are assassinated. However, in the event of a Iraq vs. USA, Iraq vs. Australia, or Iraq vs. England, Iraq will be singularly motivated. This far out, I will refrain from offering a prediction on the match itself.

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Dialogue with Iran

US, Iran will cooperate on Iraq security

Jeff Jacoby - Why are we rewarding Iran?

Bill Richardson made a comment during the Youtube debates to the effect of "talking to people doesn't mean you're losing." Well it does mean you're losing if you see the world only in terms of power - if you don't have the power to enforce your will by force and have to talk instead, it means you lose power.

This is a conflict of two (or more) worldviews - Jacoby's hard-power-centric view of the world as run by America, doling out rewards and spanking countries when they come home after midnight, against the view of America as one of many leaders of the world, leading by example, and keeping open channels of communication with everyone we can. People that think like that don't realize that power relationships have qualitatively changed due to continuous Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMA) and individual superempowerement. In my view, talking is now more necessary than it has been in the past. Related to TDAXP's conception of generational warfare's relationship to the OODA loop, if countering the opponent's actions is too difficult because of the number of decentralized potential actors, its best to "go deep" and challenge the observations and orientation of the potential enemy. Treat the disease (underlying orientation) rather than the symptoms (the individual attacks), and hopefully before any symptoms manifest.

To me, it seems that if you are "professional" who makes this kind of stuff your career, you'd have to be an idiot to not understand this. But I think that is the nature of people operating in different worldviews/paradigms/whatever you call it. I and others like me are starting from X and proceeding logically (at least I hope so), and Jeff Jacoby, Bill Kristol, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Norman Podhoretz, and others like them are starting from Y and proceeding logically (giving them the benefit of the doubt), and we end up talking past each other. Unfortunately I have not read Thomas Kuhn.

Iraq wins Asian Cup

A united Iraqi soccer team wins the Asian Cup.

Especially interesting is that the Iraqi victory was celebrated by waving the Iraqi flag in Kurdistan. The Iraqi team had Kurds, Shia Arabs and Sunni Arabs. And the Yugoslav national team had a successful World Cup in 1990, making it to the quarterfinals... and broke up anyway. Here's a fascinating video on that era - haven't finished watching it myself. Most of it is in Serbo-Croat but it's subtitled in French with occasional English. But really the atmosphere is what you pick up on - Croats chanting "We love Croatia, let's go massacre some Serbs" and Serbs singing songs about massacring Croats. Yet 3 or 4 years earlier, these fans were all cheering for the same team.

And a hilarious (black humor) quote passed on from a friend of mine:
Ellen: Holy crap, Iraq won the Asian cup!
Andy: I know! You know why? Because we didn't try to help them with it.

Update: New Yorker in DC also has a post on the victory.

Republicans hate their candidates, part 2

At Salon, confirmation that current Republican poll numbers for 2008 are largely meaningless.

Why the Republicans don't like their candidates.

(Republicans can't stand their own candidates)

Climate change intelligence, continued

Kent's Imperative has a new post up, continuing the discussion on climate intelligence. This specific discussion started with Michael Tanji's post, leading to my response. Then Kent's Imperative (KI) jumped in, I responded, raised the issue again recently, and KI responded most recently. I think that with KI's latest post, we find common ground.

Essentially, KI argues that, with limited resources, priority goes to intelligence supporting the warfighter. It's hard to disagree with that. KI also mentions Google's 20% rule, where Google employees theoretically get 20% of their paid time to focus on their own projects. In the intelligence business, this could translate to the strategic intelligence that customers don't know they need/want yet, and therefore won't ask for. The problem with that, I suppose, is that you have no guarantee that anybody will read your '20% time' reports - then again, you can only lead a horse to water, you can't force it to drink.

I'm going to make at least one more climate intelligence post relatively soon, once I get around to reading this paper on the correlation between climate change and conflict frequency in China.


David Beckham made his LA Galaxy debut yesterday, in a friendly match with Chelsea FC from England (of whom I'm a fan).

The highlights from the game focused exclusively on Beckham - driving to the game, sitting on the bench, his friends and family watching, etc. This irks a long-time fan of the beautiful game like myself. So, in honor of Beckham's arrival in America, here's a four-minute highlight reel of the player who many consider the best player in MLS.... Dwayne De Rosario.

Shrink the Gap yourself (an RFI)

Recently I wrote a few posts on economic development and the trade vs. aid debate on Africa, generalizable to the developing world.

Dan, at TDAXP, has put forth the suggestion that the Department of Homeland Security be a uniformed branch of the government. The casual logic works like this:
we should shrink the gap; America currently doesn't have the political will to shrink the gap; capabilities create intentions; create the capability to shrink the gap and the political will to shrink the gap will follow:
We need to give our policy makers a Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex so that more problems in the Gap looks like jobs for the Sysadmin.
For those unfamiliar with Thomas Barnett's work, "shrinking the gap" means helping third world countries (the gap) modernize and integrate into the global economy. The Sysadmin is the name he gives to the force that would handle the "everything else" of war - nation building, infrastructure building, investment, counterinsurgency and policing, etc. In effect, the Sysadmin is like aid for the national security functions of developing nations's governments.

Is Thomas Barnett to international security what Bono is to economic development? In his quest to find a mission for America abroad, is he forgetting the role of locals (especially in an open-source security environment common in developing states)? If we create a uniformed service branch of DHS designed to help the developing world "outsource security" to use, does that mean it has all the problems of traditional economic aid, including dependency, blowback, corruption, weaponization, and non-scalability? And have other people (book reviews, blogs, other responses) already asked these questions?

While I've seen his brief and occasionally read his blog, I admit I haven't read either of his books (and I already have a reading list for the summer!). I request input from any who have.

Africa links

Following up on my mobile banking and African development posts from earlier this week, here are some more links on development in Africa:

Geekcorps. As CurrentConductor pointed out, I probably should have mentioned them in the original post.

Africabeat - How to invest in Africa. Some excellent comments.

AfricanLoft - The 2nd Edition of Africa Enterprising Blog Carnival Opens. Links to a lot of different blogs on "Trade Vs Aid", "Entrepreneurship", "Business and Investment", etc.

beninmwangi - Zambian Head of State Joins Africa's Trade -vs- Aid Debate. Key quotations: is investment and not aid that will bring about sustainable growth and development in our economies. This is not to say that aid is not important, as it does help bring about the requisite conditions for growth.
My government applauds China’s opening up of her markets to 28 African countries...
...leaders of African countries need to do more in the area of infrastructure development.
Human Security Review - Bono's Africa, A Case Study. Chris Albon, a PhD student at UC-Davis, has a humorous take on a recent UNICEF ad campaign.


Thanks to New Yorker in DC, I stumbled across It's a fun tool and a great way to procrastinate. I created my own Pageflakes and made it public - still a work in progress and I'll be updating it periodically. There's a link to it on the side of this page.

Mobile phone banking and poverty, part 2

Part 1 available here.

In the Washington Post, Uzodinma Iweala argues that all the attention on "saving" Africa from starvation, poverty, disease, warfare, etc., is based on Westerners' need to feel good about themselves rather than any good they will actually be doing - a new version of the "white man's burden." The way I see it, there are several problems with Western aid:

1) It fosters dependence - elites in African and other third-world countries become accountable to the sources of Western aid, rather than their own citizens/subjects;
2) It is non-scalable - if $100 feeds 100 people, $200 will feed 200 people, as opposed to a scalable system in which $100 would feed 100 people, but $200 would feed 5000 people;
3) It can be used as a weapon - both the threat of its withdrawal and selecting who receives aid can, while portrayed as benevolent aid to Western audiences, be used for less benevolent purposes;
4) It is vulnerable to corruption - some aid will inevitably be siphoned off the top;
5) Blowback - Giving aid to dictators, while sometimes in the best humanitarian interest, can have negative blowback if a Western regime is seen as supporting an undeserving government.

Instead of dumping millions of dollars on the African continent in programs with marginal impact, shouldn't we concentrate our dollars on helping locals build platforms and infrastructure? It is similar to the old saying, "Give someone a fish, they'll eat for a day, teach someone to fish, they'll eat for a lifetime." Traditional aid doesn't seem to be building up any capabilities in African states because we are just handing them fish. Contrast that to USAID's facilitation of a local company building a successful mobile banking network in the Philippines that helps both the business and the customers who pay a marginal fee to get previously unaccessible services.

While it is true that people aren't able to use economic infrastructure if they are busy dying of dysentery from unsafe drinking water, it seems to me that

a) Africans can get their own drinking water (the point of Iweala's op-ed and of James Shikwati in the interview linked above), and

b) the Live Aid people and Bono aren't stopping to ask what their money and effort is accomplishing, and whether or not they might accomplish more in other ways.

If I had fifty million bucks in aid for Africa, I'd invest it in building mobile banking platforms. It would:

1) NOT foster dependence, as it would instead help achieve economic empowerment for customers;
2) be non-scalable, as after the initial investment and annual upkeep, the growth potential is really limited only to the number of people who can afford mobile phones (which in Africa is exploding);
3) be difficult to weaponize, as it would be open-access (I suppose it'd be theoretically possible to restrict access to certain classes via a minimum deposit, but that would be bad business and I'd be in this to make money!);
4) be difficult to corrupt, as its a piece of infrastructure, rather than a heap of cash;
5) Would only get blowback from LiveAid people who chastise me for making money off of Africa.

In conclusion, I'll contrast the two ways of helping Africa. The LiveAid/Bono view sees William Kamkwamba and sees a tragedy (the guy had to drop out of school). The Iweala/Shikwati view sees a massive business opportunity, money to be made, with the betterment of local society developing as a natural consequence.

My thoughts on this are embryonic, feedback is encouraged.

The University of Al Qaeda

When I checked Facebook this afternoon, I found an absolutely hilarious post written by my friend and fellow SSP student, Ge Yu. Ge is the first Chinese student in SSP - the first out of 1.3 billion!

Without further ado, here is Ge's essay (reproduced with author's consent).

Imagine the Alternative II - Modern Terrorist Training

Now, we know Al Qaeda is very keen on utilizing modern technologies, such as the Internet and Google Earth for training, recruitment and propaganda.

I haven't been to an Afghan Training Camp, but what if life in the camps is just like life in our modern universities.

For example, when you apply for the University of Al Qaeda, do you need to write a Personal Statement and a Resume? :

"Dear Recruitment Sheik: I am solemnly writing to you to apply for the MS Suicide Bombing Program at the UAQ. Being a Suicide Bomber has long been my aspiration. My old sheik used to say, 'ask not what your mosque can do for you, but what you can do for your mosque.' Ever since my father brought those dynamite home from work when I was 5, I have known that this is a career that I would tie my life to. I have many years of experience in terrorism-related activities. Below is a copy of my resume. Thank you for your consideration and may Allah be with you.

1995-1996: Administrative Intern in the Fundamentalist Mosque of Baghdad; 1996-2000: BA on History of Islamic Suffering, the Mohamed School of (Anti)Humanity and Arts, University of Tehran; 2000-2003: Club Manager, the Travel Agency of Bali, Western Tourist Division; 2003-2005: Traffic Supervisor, London Transport Authority; 2005-2007: Research Assistant, Institute of Radiology, National Health Services, UK"

Once they get in, do they have to worry about financial aid and housing? Here may be a conversation between a trainee and a personal adviser:

T: "You see, sir, ever since the US dismantled the Republican Guards, my father has lost his pension. My mother worked as a train driver in Spain but she has just been put on the terrorist watch list and all her assets have been frozen. If there is any grant left in the Bin Laden Foundation Scholarship, I think I should get it."

PA: "I sympathize with your situation, young man. However, as you must know, the Bin Laden Scholarship is highly competitive and all granting decisions are made by a Committee of Jihad Veterans selected by Mr. Bin Laden himself all the way from his personal cave in Afghanistan. Yet, I think I may be able to offer a Federal Funded Work-Study position in our Improvised Explosive Factory. But, remember, this offer is conditional on maintaining a satisfactory academic performance. After all, you are here to be a bomber, not a bomb-maker."

T: "That is great, chemistry used to be my favorite subject in high school. Now, how about housing? Real Estate inside of the Green Zone is too expensive, but if I live outside, I am not sure I can cope with the commute. I can never remember which bus is marked for carrying roadside bombs..."

Once the course started, do they have happy hours and social events?

Student A: "you can't believe how busy I am this week. Apart from a 15 page paper on the Proper Use of Rocket Propelled Grenades, I have to proofread the research proposal by Professor Afshin on Western Infidelism and the Bush Doctrine. And, Friday, I have to fly to Uzbekistan for a conference on the 21st Century Muslin Nationalism in Central Asia. I am just going there for the free food actually... they serve some of the most exquisite Kebabs among all Al Qaeda cells in the East hemisphere."

Student B: "well, are you free over the weekend? I am going to the African Fundamentalist Student Union. They are having a film night, showing Black Hawk Down, followed by a special demonstration of female close quarter combat... I mean, boy, the Somali and Ethiopian chicks are HOT."

Now, do they have exams, office hours and end-of-term evaluations?

Here is an exam question - " Who said this: 'The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.' Critically evaluate the above statement in the light of what you learned about the US Intelligence Community, extra points will be given to student who can still remember the name of the former US Defense Secretary who messed up the plan to invade Iraq."

During a feedback session: "Your performance in my Introduction to Homemade Fertilizer Truck Bombs was very disappointing, Abdulah. You used the wrong amount of ammonium nitrate and the wrong kind of detonators. However, I, out of sympathy, gave you a C, because you at least know that a bomb needs a detonator, which pulled you from the bottom of the class. Nonetheless, you have let me down, you have let yourself down, but you did manage to blow the school up..."

And here we are, a freshly graduated suicide bomber received his certificate from a Training Camp that uses our style of education. The only problem with the Suicide Bomber Program is that they never seem to be able to build a robust alumni network...

The End - a Yuism Production, Second in the "Imagine the Alternative" Series. All rights reserved and no republication without the author's consent.

Ge Yu

Military Medicine conference

For my job, I am helping put on a (FREE) two-day course on military medicine. It's next week, Monday and Tuesday, at National Defense University in Washington DC. All those who are interested feel free to sign up. I created a blog for it so I could post the agenda, etc., online. For the agenda, click here, for the official invite, click here. I also created a post on the SWJ forums.

Any questions, leave a comment or email me.

Weather control

Following up on some of my previous posts on weather intelligence (Wx) and climate intelligence, Catholicgauze (now a professional geographer!) brings to attention that China employs 32,000 people whose job it is to change the weather. He brings up the point:
An interesting question for the future is concerns the "right" of countries to make it rain. The moisture that is being prematurely forced into rain could have become rain for South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, etc. A whole slew of problems from water access to denying rain for political purposes to others are just some potential things which may lie in the future.
The technology to seed rainclouds works thusly - silver-iodide pellets are shot in the air, around which moisture coalesces to help clouds form earlier than they otherwise would, creating rain. China is also working on "busting" clouds, to create clear skies for the Olympics, as well as other science-fictiony stuff.

This brings up the idea of Wx and climate intelligence again. While Kent's Imperative would condescendingly insinuate that, due to my young age, I'm brainwashed [a mindset imprinted by the media-generated cognitive biases (the results of decades of politically correct environmentalism targeted at the younger generation in the schools)], and/or desire to change the definition of intelligence to create new jobs because I can't compete for existing ones [the desire to find new accounts not yet dominated by the gray beards and talking heads of the community], I still stubbornly think climate intel is important. The issue of weather control highlights three facets of weather/climate intelligence.

1) Those practicing weather control obviously need good intelligence on droughts, floods, etc., so that they know where to encourage rainfall and where to discourage it.
2) If someone upwind of you is seeding clouds to "steal your rain," what do you do about it? Like Catholicgauze implied, Korea, Japan, etc. should have intelligence on how China is controlling their weather due to the impact it will have on their own weather patterns. The inverse would also apply - if Laos and Vietnam are both flooded and Laos busts clouds so they dump their rain over Vietnam instead of Laos, that could create additional death and destruction in Vietnam.
3) Countries (or non-state actors) could use weather control systems to practice economic warfare. Without climate intelligence to tell you whether current weather patterns are normal or not, a victim country might never know whether they had bad luck with the weather, or were being actively sabotaged.

One final possibility is some form of weather trading system, like carbon credits. i.e., if Japan's economy doesn't depend on agriculture to the extent that China's does, then Japan could sell some "rights" to China to seed clouds that would otherwise rain over Japan. Then weather intelligence would be necessary to maintain adherence to the trading protocols.

Mobile banking and poverty, part 1

Update: Part 2 available here.

A friend sent me this article on mobile phone banking about a week ago - it reminded me of a post I intended to do months ago but never got around to. So mobile phone banking was already in my head when I saw Uzodinma Iweala's article, "Stop Trying to 'Save' Africa," in today's Washington Post.

First, since the idea of mobile phone banking probably needs some introduction, I'll go over the story of how I stumbled across the idea.

Last year I did an internship in a government agency (Not CIA or DoD or anything, one of the "boring" ones) in their Iraq section. One of the guys told me "if you have an idea, out with it - when we're dealing with Iraq, any idea is a good idea."

One problem in Iraq that astounded me was that about a quarter of the Iraqi Army was on leave at any given time. The reason behind this was that Iraq had no national financial infrastructure, so Iraqi soldiers had to travel in person back home to deliver their paychecks - bags of cash - to their families. However, Iraq does have a mobile phone infrastructure, which by its nature is difficult to take down by insurgents - it has no obvious systempunkts, because calls can be re-routed fairly easily. So why not use the mobile phone infrastructure for basic financial transactions, such as paying the Iraqi Army? I had the idea in the back of my head after hearing it somewhere, possibly from Ethan Zuckerman's blog.

This is the idea in a nutshell:
1) Iraq has little/no national banking infrastructure
2) Lack of banking infrastructure impedes performance of economy, security forces, etc.
3) Building a brick and mortar banking infrastructure is very difficult in an insecure environment
4) Solution – build a virtual banking system using existing infrastructure (mobile phone infrastructure, SMS technology)

The concept is not new - I did some research and found two fascinating success stories - the Philippines and South Africa. In the Philippines, USAID helped Globe Telecom set up G-Cash, which uses SMS text messages to send virtual cash between phones, redeemable at ATMs and participating businesses. G-Cash competes with Smart mobile, which has their own mobile banking program. In South Africa, the WIZZIT bank links a debit card to a cell phone account, also using SMS text messages to send and receive money. And more banks or cellphone companies are springing up all the time offering similar services, most recently, Kenya's M-Pesa service. This idea has promise.

After a bunch of meetings with people from Commerce, State, Treasury, the Pentagon, etc., my internship ended, and as far as I can tell the idea went nowhere in the US government. There were a lot of little small problems with the idea (like making sure the program would be legal under Iraqi law, setting up monitoring systems to watch for money laundering, Iraqi trust in the system after Saddam abused the banking system, physical security for transfer points between virtual and physical cash, etc.). Given that I was but a lowly intern, in hindsight the idea of using a mobile-phone-based money transfer system for the Iraqi Army's payroll never had much of a chance of success. However, one American company, Security Financial Services, Inc., run by Iraqi emigres, was thinking of setting up the system - it would piggy-back on their AMAN debit card (background) . They installed 3000 debit-card readers at various points of sale, and their debit card went live back in 2006 or early 2007. From their website, it looks like they are linking their debit card to mobile phones, just like WIZZIT bank. Here is their website, and here's the website of their AMAN card.

Check out Ethan Zuckerman's blog for more on mobile phone banking, especially in Africa.

In part 2 of this post, I will link mobile phone banking to Iweala's article in the Post.

Beware Canadian Aggression

Canada announced plans Monday to increase its Arctic military presence in an effort to assert sovereignty over the Northwest Passage — a potentially oil-rich region the United States claims is international territory.
Canadians are always dreaming up a lotta ways to ruin our lives. The metric system, for the love of God! Celsius! Neil Young!
...and now stealing oil! Perhaps the propaganda machine will start up again.
Like maple syrup, Canada's evil oozes over the United States.

By the way, one of my now-favorite quotations from Canadian Bacon:

Secretary of State: We were thinking, what could be a bigger threat than aliens invading from space?
General Panzer: Ooh boy! Scare the shit out of everyone. Even me, sir!
U.S. President: Jesus, is this the best you could come up with? What about, ya know, international terrorism?
General Panzer: Well, sir, we're not going to re-open missile factories just to fight some creeps running around in exploding rental cars, are we, sir?

USA beats Brazil

The US U-20 team continues its fantastic play. After opening the tournement with a tie against South Korea and then beating Poland 6-1, they played against Brazil yesterday, who needed at least a tie to be sure of advancing to the next round. Here are the highlights.

A Review of John Robb's Brave New War

"A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty." - James Madison.

"Please treat [Brave New War] as a buffet table and not a five-course meal. Take what you want of my vision of the future and discard the rest with alacrity." - John Robb, preface to Brave New War.

Brave New War is the book that has evolved out of John Robb's blog, Global Guerrillas.First, I'll go over a brief rundown of what I think Global Guerrillas are. Then, it being July 4th, I'll relate it to American democracy, specifically Madisonian conceptions of democracy. Then I'll look at where Global Guerrillas theory can go from here.

1. Brief overview of Global Guerrilla theory, as I understand it

Global Guerrillas describes a new tactical system in which miniature "armies" based around non-state entities are able to use modern technology to attack states, major corporations, and other symbols of the modern world.

Essentially, Global Guerrillas have taken advantage of the same technology that enabled programs like Assault Breaker, Follow On Forces Attack, and Network Centric Warfare and reapplied it to their own social organization. This technology means that it is easy to break things (states, societies, etc.) and difficult to put them back together. The way I see it, Global Guerrillas combine Effects Based Operations with Mao's old idea of insurgency into a kind of insurgency 2.0 (similar to Web 2.0 in that it is more collaborative than hierarchical). The ease with which new Global Guerrilla organizations arise (low barriers to entry in the Bazaar of Violence) leads to a dynamic called open source warfare.

Robb doesn't go into the motivations of Global Guerrilla armies - nor should he. He's been criticized for not delving into the motivations of these new actors. But, as Soob and Shloky get at, as Global Guerrillas are an organizational framework and a theory about war, not an attempt to explain the motivations of individuals. The motivations of Hitler are not crucial to understanding the development of blitzkrieg.

The predicted rise of Global Guerrillas has strategic implications for the United States. While Global Guerrillas are tactical organizations, the communications environment that helps create them means that tactical operations have strategic consequences (the concept of Strategic Compression). On top of that idea, radically new tactics have always required new strategies - if a new tactic renders the forces you've bought obsolete, you need to buy entirely new forces. Future American strategy is the last couple chapters of Robb's book. Robb compares caricatures of two possible futures - that of a knee-jerk police state and a future with dynamic decentralized resilience. I'll give away the ending - a knee-jerk police state is unable to deal with Global Guerrillas.

2. Global Guerrilla theory and its relationship to Madisonian democracy1

In the time since America has been a Great Power, we have rarely been satisfied with our organizations tasked with national security. In times of crisis we've tried to give our national security organizations more power, and in times of relative calm we've tried to rein them back in. There's a long list of distinguished books that argue for or against various reorganizations – for me, the historiography begins with Ideas and Weapons, by I. B. Holley, about the U.S. security establishment's failure to organize effectively to incorporate airplanes.

There's a progression of centralization of power that starts with the National Security Act of 1947 and continues with the reorganization in 1958, Goldwater Nichols in 1986, the creation of a DHS and DNI, and the proposed “Goldwater-Nichols II.” There has been pushback. Recently, Andrew Bacevich proposed the elimination of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. From different perspectives, others (the Church Committee, Cato, other libertarians who are generally seen as crackpots) have argued against centralization of power based on the danger such power can pose to democracy. However those who push back have been swimming against the tide.

That, as much as the terrorism/insurgency context, is the context in which I put John Robb's Brave New War.

Robb argues that in this new era of globalization, the large centralized bureaucracies with anticipatory functions (the same ones that pose dangers to our liberty) will be unable to react to unforeseeable events that disrupt the infrastructure we depend on, whether those events are attacks like 9/11 or natural disasters like Katrina. Instead, he advocates for dynamic decentralized resilience, placing the responsibility for security on small-scale resilient communities connected through open-source networks and platforms, and, crucially, depriving these large-scale organizations of reasons to exist. This model, on the extreme "coordination" end of the spectrum between coordination and centralization, empowers a Madison conception of democracy.

In both Madisonian democracy and in Robb's resilient communities, power is distributed not between the branches of federal government, but is largely devolved to local governments and shared with state and federal agencies. The weakness of this type of organization historically is that it would take forever to get anything done, and in wartime, as Madison himself found out during the War of 1812, centralization can be necessary. For the first time since this country's founding, if John Robb is right, advocates of Madisonian democracy will have an answer to Hamiltonians who have argued that centralizing power in an executive provides for greater security (from outside threats) for the people.

This is not the context in which Robb conceived of his book – I am clearly hijacking Robb's ideas for my own purposes. However I think it fits. The devolution of strategic power2 that Robb believes was necessarily preceded by the devolution of economic power may lead to the devolution of legal power as well, by stripping authority away from an ineffective and clumsy federal government.

3. The ultimate impact of this book

I hope/think that this book will spawn qualitative and quantitative research. Narratively, Global Guerrillas theory makes sense, but to be accepted as a Theory with a capital T, quantitative research needs to confirm GG's various hypotheses. Contrary to Tdaxp, there are crucial elements of Robb's theory that are falsifiable. Here are a few off the top of my head:
  • You could look at the start-up costs of creating new insurgent groups (similar to evaluating start-up costs for various companies) to test the “open source” hypothesis.
  • You could look at funding sources to see if Global Guerrilla armies really are entirely self-sufficient, or whether successful ones are merely proxies for other states.
  • You could look at whether levels of state failure rise perceptibly after attacks on so-called "systempunkts" (one possible example of a systempunkt is the Samarra mosque bombing in 2006).
  • You could evaluate various non-state centered conflicts to determine the number of different groups fighting - an increasing number would confirm Robb's hypothesis on open source warfare.
Robb's most controversial hypothesis – that Global Guerrillas want to hollow out the state, rather than destroy it completely or take it over - faces an uphill battle to acceptance. It's been ridiculed by numerous DoD employees in various off-the-record conversations I've had, Tdaxp thinks its crap, and ultimately its not really falsifiable except through long-term observation. I have yet to decide whether or not I buy into it. It makes sense if you believe that the current internationally legitimate version of the state is ultimately a Western creation that has been superimposed on areas for which it is ill-suited (an argument of Mohammed Ayoob, who I'm glad I was forced to read for class). Now that economic, strategic and possibly legal superempowerment is on the horizon, it would make sense for individuals dissatisfied with the status quo (not just the status quo's power relationships, but its architecture as well) to try to reinvent that architecture. The relationship between Global Guerrilla groups and the state system will be one of the most interesting trends to follow in the future.

Ultimately Brave New War is a easily accessible and coherent narrative of the future that Robb sees for conflict. It is a large cluster of hypotheses that hopefully will prove fertile ground for research. It leaves you wanting more, and hopefully we will soon get it. Robb has mentioned he's in the early stages of a second book “on superempowered individuals and their ability to change things for the better.” I'm looking forward to it.

For other reviews of Brave New War, see Robb's website, Global Guerrillas, or Soob's rundown. Robb also has a second, less formal blog you can read.


1. This section draws upon a hopefully-soon-to-be-published paper in Defense Horizons - I'll post a link to it when it is published. If people want more information, leave a comment or drop me an email.

2. Robb writes on page 8 that "this threshhold will finally reach its culmination – with the ability of one man to declare war on the world and win.”

Copa America, and the U-20s

The United States was invited to participate in the South American championship, the Copa America.

The American team is basically a B team - only three players would conceivably start on a full-strength American squad: Taylor Twellman, Eddie Johnson and Benny Feilhaber.

Despite a weak squad, the US played well against one of the best teams in the world, Argentina, before falling apart in the last stages of the game and losing 4-1. On Monday, the USA played well against a good Paraguay team, but couldn't finish its chances and lost 3-1. It was frustrating that, despite bringing two of its best strikers (Twellman and Johnson) and creating a dozen chances or more, it could only manage one goal - although that one goal would have been enough had it not been for mickey-mouse defending from Jimmy Conrad and Feilhaber.

The United States is still mathematically able to qualify for the second round as the second-best third-place team in its group (Americans should be rooting for Mexico to beat Chile by as large a margin as possible), but I expect that they'll be heading home after (hopefully) beating a poor Columbian team.

Here are the highlights from USA vs. Paraguay.

In contrast, the US U-20 team is doing well at the U-20 World Cup. Here are the highlights from their latest match against Poland

I have been tagged

I was tagged by Soob:
Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.
I'm always curious as to how these things develop, so I traced it back a bit.

Politics & Soccer - was tagged by:
Soob - was tagged by (etc. etc.):
Progressive Historians
Dr. History
Another History Blog
Millard Fillmore's Bathtub
A Blog Around the Clock
Musings of a Distractible Mind
scan man
Failure is the key to success
Lord Matt
Virus Head
Grateful Bear
Chip's Quips
The Kat House

At this point I got tired of clicking. See random fact number 8.


1. I chose my European History major because it meant I would be able to drop 3rd year German, in which all we did for the 5 weeks I remained in the class was read Communist texts from East Germany (this was 2004!).

2. I have 46 gigabytes of music on my computer, in addition to a few hundred CDs - jazz, rock, hip-hop, techno, reggae, bluegrass, blues, gaelic, gregorian chant and pre-gregorian chant, romantic, baroque (organ stuff), electronica, "ethnic" or "world music" (checking these categories makes me realize how inadequate these categories are), funk, folk, latin, R&B, and many that iTunes labels "other."

3. I only got in to Brown University because I was recruited for fencing (tip to parents - if you want your kids to go to good schools, start them fencing).

4. I live on top of a doctor's office.

5. Seven out of twelve pieces of furniture in my apartment come from Ikea. The rest were here when I moved in.

6. I get daily emails from I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?.

7. I'm a rather picky eater, but I love bul goki, Anna's Tacqueria in Porter Square, and East Side Pockets on Thayer Street. I have yet to find a favorite restaurant in DC.

8. When I was in high school I considered going to Berklee and trying to become a professional musician, but decided I didn't have the discipline. I probably made the right choice.

I shall tag the following eight people: Current Conductor, Angry Guy Who Doesn't Know Much, Nanette (maybe it will force her to update her blog), this guy on summer vacation, Blue Blooded Journo, Catholicgauze, K and sithigh.

Saved by the Patriot Act?

Here's a link to the recent al-Marri decision (pdf), by Judge Diana Gribbon Motz.

For work a couple weeks ago, I read through the recent court decision on Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. I meant to post about it back then (the decision came down June 11th) but I never got around to it. Better late than never. This is a long post.

The decision is important regarding habeus corpus rights, as well as interpretations of the Military Commissions Act (MCA).

The government had three basic arguments:
1) that the federal courts had no jurisdiction over al-Marri and that al-Marri fell under the MCA;
2) That the Authorization for the Use of Military Force allowed Bush to detain suspects indefinitely; and
3) That the President has, under Article 2 of the Constitution, the power to detain anyone he likes, so long as he relates it to national security.


The Government's first argument was that the federal courts had no business deciding this case, as al-Marri's case should go through the special "courts" set up by the MCA. Here's the basic dispute over the MCA:
The Government asserts that the MCA divests federal courts of all subject matter jurisdiction over al-Marri’s petition. Al-Marri maintains that the MCA, by its plain terms, does not apply to him and that if we were to hold it does, the MCA would be unconstitutional. (13)
There are two kinds of habeus rights in the U.S. - constitutional and statutory. Statutory rights are rights that the Congress extends out of the good of its heart to non-residents, non-citizens, or people outside the country. Since al-Marri was legally living in the U.S., he has constitutional habeus rights, not statutory - meaning that the arguments Bush was applying to al-Marri could just as easily apply to any United States citizen. Judge Motz then determined that the MCA was intended to apply to detainees with statutory habeus rights, not constitutional (i.e., the MCA can never be applied to a United States citizen).

The court decided it had jurisdiction for two reasons. First of all, prior to al-Marri's suit, no effort had been made to give al-Marri a Combat Status Review Tribunal, and had made no effort to process al-Marri under the MCA. The second reasons was because the MCA was intended to apply only to those detainees who had statutory habeus rights, and al-Marri, being a legal resident of the U.S., has constitutional habeus rights just like any U.S. citizen. Therefore the federal courts had jurisdiction.


The next part of the Government's argument was that the President was granted under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), the President was given the authority to declare al-Marri as an enemy combatant, and use the military to indefinitely detain him. "Alternatively, the Government contends that even if the AUMF does not authorize the President to order al-Marri’s military detention, the President has “inherent constitutional power” to do so." (29) It's important to note that this "inherent constitutional power" argument applies to "persons seized and detained within the United States who have constitutional rights under the Due Process Clause" (30 n4), which would include any American citizen sitting in her living room.

Judge Motz sums up the arguments over habeus on page 35:
The Government principally contends that its evidence establishes this and therefore the AUMF grants the President statutory authority to detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant. Alternatively, the Government asserts that the President has inherent constitutional authority to order al-Marri’s indefinite military detention. Al-Marri maintains that the proffered evidence does not establish that he fits within the “legal category” of enemy combatant and so the AUMF does not authorize the President to order the military to seize and detain him, and that the President has no inherent constitutional authority to order this detention.
Ironically, al-Marri is saved from indefinite military detention by that law civil libertarians hate - the USA PATRIOT Act. Basically, al-Marri's classification under the Patriot Act shows that he falls under some kind of law (the Patriot Act allows detention up to six months, but not indefinitely), which is better than being subject to no laws, as the Government was arguing:
The explicit authorization for limited detention and criminal process in civilian courts in the Patriot Act provides still another reason why we cannot assume that Congress silently empowered the President in the AUMF to order the indefinite military detention without any criminal process of civilian “terrorist aliens” as “enemy combatants.” (61-62)
So, the courts shot down Bush's argument that the AUMF allows him to use the military domestically to detain people.


Bush's final argument is that Article 2 of the Constitution gives him the authority to subject anyone - including United States citizens - involved in hostilities against the United States to military detention. This argument, again ironically, is shot down by the Patriot Act.

The "Youngstown test" basically states that the President has the most power when Congress is behind him. In this case, because Congress stated how they wanted people like al-Marri to be treated in the Patriot Act, the President was acting against the wishes of Congress, therefore his power is at its weakest.

What's surprising is that the Patriot Act was written by the Administration. Congress voted in favor of it largely without reading it - the President could (and did, even at the reauthorization) slip anything he want into the bill. Thus the Court is pointing out that the Administration has been inconsistent in how it has tried to treat various classes of detainees, and basically has no coherent legal theory of what it is trying to do.


The remainder of the decision is Judge Motz trying to underscore how radical the Government's arguments were. She reminds us that the rights Bush fights to deprive American citizens of are the same rights we fought our War of Independence to restore:
In the Declaration of Independence our forefathers lodged the complaint that the King of Great Britain had “affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power” and objected that the King had “depriv[ed] us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.” (72)
She ends the decision by warning that, given Bush's disrespect for the law, our constitutional form of government could end (76-77).
For the President does not acknowledge that the extraordinary power he seeks would result in the suspension of even one law and he does not contend that this power should be limited to dire emergencies that threaten the nation. Rather, he maintains that the authority to order the military to seize and detain certain civilians is an inherent power of the Presidency, which he and his successors may exercise as they please. To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians, even if the President calls them “enemy combatants,” would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution -- and the country. For a court to uphold a claim to such extraordinary power would do more than render lifeless the Suspension Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the rights to criminal process in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments; it would effectively undermine all of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. It is that power -- were a court to recognize it -- that could lead all our laws “to go unexecuted, and the government itself to go to pieces.” We refuse to recognize a claim to power that would so alter the constitutional foundations of our Republic.

Who reads my blog?

I added "Clustrmaps" to my blog back on May 9th, because I'm a sucker for any free stuff that has even marginal usefulness. In the almost two months since I added Clustrmaps, I've had 1009 hits from 866 different addresses, including a few international visitors. So I'd like to take the time to say hello to my international visitors.

Salaam to you in Tehran, Iran, Qatar (or someplace near Qatar in the Persian Gulf - the map is too small to see clearly), and Jiddah.
Konnichi wa to you in Japan.
Magandang tanghali po to you in the Philippines.
Ahn nyeong to you in South Korea.
Pree-vyet to you in St. Petersburg (or maybe in Estonia, but I will assume St. Petersburg because I don't know how to say hello in Estonian).
Merhaba to you in Ankara, Turkey.
G'day to you in Australia.

I am still waiting for my first visitor from South America or Africa.