Tuesday, August 26, 2008
A massive cyber attachk remains what I consider one of the ultimate Black Swans (to the extent that you can't predict a Black Swan except in hindsight). Not only is the military highly dependent on cyber-systems, but so are vast swaths of civilian and commercial infrastructure. According to GEN Renuart, U.S. government and industry officials "have some work do in the cyber area." That is a vast understatement.
I'll be quick to resort to science fiction, but what first comes to mind is the Battlestar Galactica scenario - take out the network that ties everything together, everything falls apart quickly. It would also cause a vast crisis of public confidence.
Additionally, GEN Renuart gives the Arctic its due as a site of potential future security interests. Remember, itinerant blogger Hawkeye Havoc wrote about the Russian moves in this area over a year ago, glad to see NORTHCOM is finally getting up to speed.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I recently had the chance to see the movie "Persepolis", a wonderful black and white animated film based on the grahpic novel by Marjane Satrapi. It is the story of one Irani family, from the Revolution to the Iraq War, told through the eyes of a young girl (Satrapi). The animation is stellar and the story is beautifully told. It is these Iranians - secular, moderate - that we sometimes forget about, especially with the semi-constant drumbeat towards war we hear today. I think there are more of them than the rantings of Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs would have you believe.
It's a shame this movie wasn't considered for Best Animated picture. But hey, no dancing, cooking rat - what would we expect?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The House of Representatives passed a bill today proposing to subject OPEC to U.S. anti-trust laws. The bill passed by 324-84, enough to override a threatened Presidential veto. While lately, as a center-left leaning Rockefeller Republican, I'm inclined to support anything the White House opposes. This, however, is stupid.
At best, this is a cheap political stunt. At worst, it's pissing in the wind and threatens to provoke a anti-US backlash from OPEC nations. The article quotes a Democratic Lawmaker saying " Americans "are at the mercy" of OPEC for how much they pay for gasoline, which this week hit a record average of $3.79 a gallon." Americans are at the mercy of their own consumption habits, and developing lifestyles that encourage consumption.
Could this be the first volley in the oil crisis of the early 21st century?
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The Surface Warfare community is quite pleased with itself this week, and to some extent rightly so. From a tactical perspective, it was quite impressive to successfully shoot down the degraded satellite. It is also a strong validation of our BMD capabilities.
I'm not some rabid, anti-BMD guy, but this event bothers me on two levels. First, honesty is the best policy. Who do we think we're fooling with the "save the world from hydrazine" story? This was about sending a message. If we're so sure this is a good idea, a good capability, why not say so?
Secondly, it underscores the vulnerability of our satellite infrastructure. China shot down a satellite in 2007, and such capabilities probably aren't far outside of Russian capabilities either. We should be wary of being too provocative in this field given our dependence on satellites for GPS, communications and other military capabilities.
Bravo Zulu to the crew of USS LAKE ERIE for putting the round on target. I just remain wary that just because we can, it doesn't mean we necessarily should.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
(Above, USS BAINBRIDGE, CG-N 25, one of the first nuclear-powered warships. Below, an artist's rendering of CG-X)
The FY 2008 Defense Authorization requires the U.S. Navy to build its next generation of Surface Combatants (specifically CG(X)) with a nuclear propulsion plant. While the Navy has some wiggle room to opt for conventional propulsion, I believe there is some wisdom in pursuing this nuclear strategy.
While I am not nuclear trained - didn't have a high-enough GPA to qualify to be a "nuke," I believe that in the "peak oil" scenario a nuclear powered Navy may be the only way to maintain any viable national defense. A conventionally powered fleet will be too vulnerable to oil supply disruption, and it will not be sustainable as there is simply no fuel for the oilers (and the oilers would become even more important targets than the carriers are now).
So...start building those reactors. Not to reduce hydrocarbon emissions, but to protect America when there are no more hydrocarbons to emit. The CG(X) would be a good start...other nuclear powered ships should follow.
Monday, January 7, 2008
I'm all for the establishment of AFRICOM as a new US Combatant Commander. It's probably long overdue. While the command faces some challenges - namely a skeptical Africa, and integrating an interagency community into a largely non-military, non-kinetic fight (where, by the way there is still no Goldwater-Nichols type mandate for interagency participation), I hope for the best out of AFRICOM.
But seriously, what's up with their seal? Is it just me, or does it look like a vagina? Couldn't the people who design these things have come up with something less...pussy?
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Two recent articles have me thinking about this on a more personal (American) level.
The first is from the New York Times Magazine, "The Future is Drying Up." http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/magazine/21water-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin It provides an excellent review of water scarcity in the American West, and questions how long growth rates in that area can persist.
The second is the broader coverage of the current drought in Georgia. There is a fair amount of coverage at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/drought.html
The broader concern is, just how fragile is the system? What sort of ripple effect could we see throughout the southeast if Georgia runs out of water? Would we seem a stream of refugees fleeing, as in Katrina? How long could a major metropolitan area like Atlanta survive on bottled water and delivery trucks?
The developing world lives with scarce water supplies daily. A first world nation could be in for a very rude awakening in 2008. And faced with such a potentially persisent crisis, what would be the ripple effect on to America's standing in the world?
Friday, November 16, 2007
I was recently privileged to spend two weeks in and around Cairo, and I started to daydream a bit. Someday, could Iraq look like Egypt? A stable country, with a solid middle class, a tourist industry?
It's not the perfect analogy to strive for - an authoritarian government, pollution, overpopulation. But it makes you wonder why some of the other functioning Arab nations aren't doing more to support the government of Iraq. When you look at UAE, Qatar, or Bahrain - they aren't such bad places.
It almost brings back to mind the origins of the European Union...start small, with something like the European Coal and Steel Communityh, and expand slowly from there. It seems like Arabs from functioning societies such as Egypt, Bahrain, UAE and Qatar could do more to stabilize Iraq than we ever might.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Blackwater, for example has received an estimated $300 billion in contracts since the outset of the Iraq war. Is it inconceivable that a George Soros or other geo-political extraterratorial actor could lead such a charge?
Friday, October 5, 2007
Kaplan's article is interesting in that he is trying to think forward, past our current focus on Counterinsurgency and Stability operations. How will the U.S. shape a national security strategy that is within our power to execute? I believe that a powerful mental adjustment may be underway within the American mind -- the world is a big place, and is too large for us to be engaged decisively everywhere. We will increasingly withdraw from Eurasia and focus on key relationships around the world, such as Japan, the U.K., and India, to name but a few. The future of U.S. military forces will turn to Navy to allow us to access Eurasia and ensure communications with our allies. Our Aerospace forces will be used in a similar role. The future of our ground forces will be smaller, more mobile, and will be geared to lower our profile and achieve more tailored and discrete missions to shape the Eurasian environment to our liking.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The IED struggle has become a test of national agility for a lumbering military-industrial complex fashioned during the Cold War to confront an even more lumbering Soviet system. "If we ever want to kneecap al-Qaeda, just get them to adopt our procurement system. It will bring them to their knees within a week," a former Pentagon official said.
"The Empires of the Future are the Empires of the Mind" is more than a cool header for our blog. It means something to me, in that I believe that world of the future will quite literally be shaped by those most at home with communicating and using the infosphere to their advantage. Individual Americans (including, i might add, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in the field) are increasingly at home in this environment. Unfortunately at operational, strategic, and political military levels of war, our government is increasingly out of its league. Enormous time and effort is spent formatting, controlling, labeling, copying, and filing information. Much, much less is spent on actually creating and sharing it. Increasingly, our industrial-age information sharing structures are breaking down, and it is playing severe havoc with our ability to create themes and to shape the environment. It's a theme to which I will return in future posts. If our government cannot adapt to the future international environment, how free peoples create their own information-age modes of organization to attend to their security needs? Western polities unleashed as 4th generation warfare actors will be formidable indeed.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
With the IED, you have a very specific tactical action with far reaching operational and strategic effects. While the tactical impact, although tragic, is small - one of a thousand cuts - the operational-strategic cost is higher, in terms of a perception of loss of control, in terms of a small, lo-tech (improvised) weapon stymieing one of the most technologically advanced fighting forces in the history of warfare.
As the article points out, we are making progress in the C-IED fight. But it's not over, and the adaptive nature of the enemy means this fight will go on for a long time. In future operations - counterinsurgency, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance - we could see a quick return to the IED as the weapon of choice to check a larger, more capable armed force.
But I wonder, what other technologies could prove similarly disruptive in future wars? The most obvious would seem to be computers and networks. Think of how your day-to-day life is dependent on computers...imagine how much more so the modern military is. What sort of outside the box threats could we see in the next war?
Saturday, September 29, 2007
That's why this article by George Packer caught my attention.
Now, the right may be tempted to use this to justify an open-ended commitment and the left excoriate it for prolonging failed policy, but Packer is no administration hack. In fact, his book "Assassin's Gate" is a pretty devastating condemnation of the post-war planning (or lack thereof). I would assert - for both sides - that the truth hurts, and there are no easy solutions.
So the question I raise is - how do we raise the level of national discourse to a less partisan, more pragmatic level? How do we address the hard questions the war - and eventual disengagement - would raise? Planning for the Iraq war and its aftermath was characterized by over-optimistic assumptions and wishful thinking. How do we avoid the same mistakes in disengaging?
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I chose this quote from 2001 as I ponder if the post-Iraq military is developing a sense of self-awareness a la Hal 9000 or Skynet. I say this not out of fear of a doomsday scenario or military coup, but if the military is growing to take responsibility for things it should not.
What are the consequences of a global war without mobilizing the people or the rest of government to support it? A popular quote among Soldier and Marines right now goes something like this: “America is not at war. The American military is at war. America is at the mall.” You only have to go to the mall on any given day to see that this is true.
Yet I wonder Politicians say we should go to war with all elements of national power – Diplomatic, Informational, Economic and Military. But now, almost five years into Iraq – the military is asking “when is everyone else (that is to say, all elements of national power) going to show up to this fight?” In the absence of making this decisive ideological struggle a truly national endeavor, the military is taking responsibility for diplomatic, informational and economic operations in Iraq.
Can or should the military effectively conduct these operations? Why would the military be given responsibility, for example, the economic line of operation in Iraq?
Despite the experience from multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, is the military engaged in some strategic overreach of its own? And does the military enable the continued absence of other government agencies with its can-do spirit?
The adjacent side of this growing self-awareness is a sense of not only the sacrifice but also a share of the blame, that while it’s trendy to bash the administration now, you’ve already seen it to some extent with respect to second-guessing and criticism of Franks, Casey, Sanchez, and others (i.e. the reluctance to renominate General Pace and Admiral Giambastiani to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman positions).
And so, here we are, five years into a long, global war, but only half-heartedly. How long can we keep fighting this way? And are we ready for the consequences to the civil-military relationship if we do so?