The United States “is not good at counter insurgency and never has been”, according to George Friedman, Chief Executive Officer of Strategic Forecasting. He also calls for an end to the limitedly successful Surge in order to redeploy troops to Kuwait or the uninhabited south west of Iraq, so that they might “flank” any expansive Iranian moves toward Saudi Arabia (for example). First and foremost, the lessons of 2003 to 2006 in Iraq show Iraqi and foreign resistance/insurgency is inversely proportional to the size of the U.S. or U.K. footprint. Dr. Friedman’s analysis calls for a reversal of successful policies in favor of those that demonstratively failed only months earlier. Dr. Freidman is so wrong as to deserve a full rebuttal.
HUMINT: The idea that the U.S. is not good at counter insurgency is flawed. The U.S. largely abandoned counter insurgency and guerilla tactics in the aftermath of WWII, in favor of a Cold War induced stalemate, intentionally encouraged by the infamous policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). But there’s far more to the history of American insurgency and counter insurgency than WWII and the MAD stalemate that followed it.
It would be disingenuous to suggest recent history [the last fifty years or so] encompasses all trends, or even the most important long term trends. Long term trends better represent the engine and its fuel that maintains economic growth and sustains American’s national morale.
While any long term outlook naturally calms average Americans familiar with their nation’s history, the genuinely calming effects of understating long term trends does not work on individuals with SDHSM syndrome. SDHSM is an acronym for the political disease known as Self Defeating, Hyper-Spastic, Masochism (SDHSM, also pronounced sdism)]. This rebuttal is not necessarily accusing Dr. Friedman of having SDHSM but his recent commentary shows symptoms of the disease.
Indeed, recent history and spectacular attacks can thoroughly distract policy makers and their advisors who suffer from SDHSM. The disease can be a debilitating to a nation at war, but rarely fatal. SDHSM is a contagious disease that spreads more rapidly among the true believers of the religious cult I refer to as Non-Confrontationalism.
Pfizer and Merck should seriously consider teaming up to find a cure for SDHSM syndrome. In the mean time, those with a natural immunity to SDHSM; historians, logicians, analysts, current and former members of the United States military, have a particularly important mission. Their job is to keep the nation on track. So consistent is the SDHSM phenomenon in fact, some contingent of politicians always insists on reversing their nation’s course at every nervous precipice. It’s like a socio-political twitch.
Washington DC, arguably the most powerful city in the world today, is particularly susceptible to distraction, political reversals, non-confrontationalists and sufferers of SDHSM. To its credit, or discredit depending on your point of view, Washington DC is a city of lawmakers who appear to hop erratically from one distraction to the next, rarely solving crisis with any observable coherent democratic consciousness. Instead, crisis mounts into an untenable situation and finally a group of technicians is called in to Get-er-done! It’s not pretty but it proven effective time and time again…
Therefore it’s wrong to suggest the United States has never been good at Counter Insurgency. Throughout its history the U.S. performed admirably as insurgents and counter insurgents. From the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Texas Revolution, Americans have shown their allies and enemies alike, great competence on and off the battlefield. The only argument to refute such gallantry comes from the perspective that all violent conflict represents failure and must be eliminated. It is an argument that stems from of moral relativism that makes distinguishing between gun wielding cops and gun wielding criminals impossible.
Nature is clear on this point. We are what we have to be, or we go extinct. The notion that the U.S. has not been good at counter insurgency is wholly separated from its direct and indirect need to be good at counter insurgency, at home and abroad. Free societies are always accessible to every disgruntled malcontent and are therefore ripe for insurrection. As an open society the United States must be on guard against foreign and domestic insurgent threats.
Throughout their history, Americans have performed admirably as insurgents and counter-insurgents; as revolutionaries and guerillas; as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. There is more fight left in Americans than Dr. Freidman might imagine. Looking at the trends, good or bad at counter insurgency is an issue of supply and demand. It’s not a choice. Insurrections will continue to occur and their occurrence will demand Americans be good at counter insurgency.
Consider this tactical forecast: Americans will continue to improve in the art war while they recall their legitimate legacy on the subject. Expect violent clashes around the world to continue without a break. Anticipate decisive American victories to come.
HUMINT: History matters. ARTICLE: For many decades before the American Revolution, the instruments of diplomacy that the rulers of civilized nations had relied on in dealing with the native occupants of the lands they claimed, were gifts of flags; printed certificates called commissions or paroles; clothing such as cloaks, blankets or military dress uniforms; engraved silver pipes and silver-headed canes; silver gorgets (small decorative breastplates); and medals. By far the most important were the medals, termed "peace medals" because the giving and the receiving of the token signified an understanding that the parties would maintain peaceable relationships with one another and with their neighbors, in the interest of fee and profitable--to the foreigners, at least — commerce. Indians also were led to believe that a medal was a guarantee of the giver's military support against their rivals and enemies. [snip] Lewis and Clark carried a total of at least eighty-nine peace medals in five different sizes:
3 large Jefferson medals about 105 mm in diameter
13 Jefferson medals about 75 mm in diameter
16 Jefferson medals about 55 mm in diameter
55 "season" medals, 45 mm in diameter
2 (or 4) "medals of the fifth size," of uncertain dimension
All but one were more or less formally presented to Indians they met along the way, mainly to individuals who were apparently tribal leaders. When in doubt, the captains arbitrarily "made" chiefs, a practice that backfired when misjudgment resulted in intratribal jealousy, and once when they gave a medal to the Teton Sioux chief, Torto-hongar (the "Partisan") before they realized he was "a great scoundrel." A Cheyenne chief so honored by Clark on August 21, 1806, returned his medal with the explanation that "he was afraid of the midal or any thing that white people gave to them." Clark successfully prevailed, however, informing the reluctant Cheyenne that "this was the medecene which is Great father directed me to deliver to all the great Chiefs who listened to his word and followed his councils." Hidatsas were known to have given their medals to their enemies in the expectation that the bad medicine would fall upon them instead.
The first medals were given to Oto and Missouri leaders on August 3, 1804; the last, "a medal of the small kind," went to "a Chief of great note" among the Nez Perce (Ni-mee-poo) on May 11, 1806. Otherwise, the captains' record-keeping was generally haphazard and incomplete, and they gave no comprehensive report to the Secretary of War enumerating the chiefs they had made. Ironically, Lewis left a peace medal around the neck of the Piegan Indian whom Reuben Field killed in self defense beside the Two Medicine River in northwest Montana on July 17, 1806, so that the victim's tribesmen would know who was responsible. [snip] In 1829, while Clark was Indian Agent for Upper Louisiana, he and Lewis Cass, Governor of the Territory of Michigan, together recommended a policy for the distribution of medals and flags, to reaffirm traditional practice and avoid misuse by new government agents.
Obviously, Clark had learned some lessons from his experience of twenty-five years before.
HUMINT: Political Tattoo
HUMINT: Original Neocon
VDH: Try explaining to a college student that Tet was an American military victory. You’ll provoke not a counterargument — let alone an assent — but a blank stare: Who or what was Tet? Doing interviews about the recent hit movie 300, I encountered similar bewilderment from listeners and hosts. Not only did most of them not know who the 300 were or what Thermopylae was; they seemed clueless about the Persian Wars altogether.
What, then, can we do to restore the study of war to its proper place in the life of the American mind? The challenge isn’t just to reform the graduate schools or the professoriate, though that would help. On a deeper level, we need to reexamine the larger forces that have devalued the very idea of military history — of war itself. We must abandon the naive faith that with enough money, education, or good intentions we can change the nature of mankind so that conflict, as if by fiat, becomes a thing of the past. In the end, the study of war reminds us that we will never be gods. We will always just be men, it tells us. Some men will always prefer war to peace; and other men, we who have learned from the past, have a moral obligation to stop them.
HUMINT: War is a form of cultural communication. It is the most destructive of all possible mergers between two sides. When each side agrees to kill the other and die for their respective causes, both assert their identity with violence. The United States of America was born as a liberation movement. I happen to believe our nation’s birth was preordained as the natural trajectory of mankind. The proof exists in our DNA. Human beings are social, highly communicative and prone to disrupt pockets of dysfunction. The American experiment is the latest and most successful incarnation of what mankind intends to do with its future.
Woe to the man who abandons humanity so that he may hide and prosper among his people’s dysfunction. One day, his brother’s wrath will strike him down. These days, his brother wears an American flag on his shoulder --- but that peculiar red, white and blue symbol of liberty is as humanistic as it is nationalistic. Freedom is the ultimate cause, and no where on earth is mankind more free than inside these United States.
HUMINT: Tech Tyranny
What keeps you busy? With all of our so called “technological” advances, you don’t really have more time for yourself, do you? Admit it! None of us do. Most of the blessings of Western Civilization don’t feel like blessings. When your boss calls you on your cell phone on a Saturday for a status report, you flinch at your caller ID. When the “self checkout kiosk” at your local Home Depot can’t seem to read the bar code on your new ceiling fan, you sigh at the clerk. “A little help over here!” you say, with a tone of superior annoyance. These things can feel so oppressive…
Believe it or not, most of the gadgets you use every day have raised your expectations of quality, efficiency, and workload. When one or more gadgets fail to deliver its utopian promise, a watershed of disappointment naturally follows. Likewise, when we dehumanize each other as robots, our guilt or innocence comes from how close we associated with gadgets.
Does our techno-drudgery deserve a protest? We are not robots! We are not the cell phone we choose to buy. We are not the Satellite Radio we listen to or the Global Positioning System that guides us. Whether saving us time, providing pinpoint directions or superior audio performance, these tools help us be who we already are. They can’t help us if we don’t like who we are. If you don’t like yourself, these gadgets are bound to make your life worse, not better. Maybe we could change our outlook if we thought of all of these gadgets as tools.
Tools are a physical manifestation of liberty. They always have been (from the Stone Age) and always will be (to the Information Age and beyond). Adopting a new tool liberates us from its predecessor’s annoying limitations. Interestingly, old limitations are quickly forgotten and enhancements taken for granted once we discard an old tool and adopt a new one. The process begins anew when new limitations are quickly discovered with the new tool. Think about what you’re actually buying when you invest in an upgraded mechanism. While it may be shiny, flashy and fabulous, the inventors of new tools are really selling you more of your life. They are inventing and you are buying time saving techniques as well as experiential quality enhancements.
Regardless of how it feels; the cell phone for example, is just one of many mechanisms in an ecosystem of devices that facilitate human communication. Certainly, communication devices will continue evolving in our free market. One day however, when we consumers are unable to detect product limitations, evolution will cease. That’s how products dominate or die in a free market. They simply stop changing when they achieve equilibrium in their environment.
How did we get here? Did we consciously choose this ecosystem of gadgets? Actually, free will combined with democratic ideals of freedom of expression got us here. The society Americans built and continue to build on was done so with a collective conscious. Western Civilization’s pursuit of liberty started with philosophical intangibles and migrated into tangible art, academia and industry. Sophacles asserted more than 2000 years ago, “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: ‘thou shalt not ration justice’ ”. Sophacles is in intellectual harmony with Aeschylus who said, “Death is softer by far than tyranny.” Technology isn’t tyranny. On the contrary, technology is the fruit of rejecting tyranny.
Without Western Civilization: your time would probably be consumed by less savory chores. If it wasn’t for the trajectory of Western Civilization your slaves would probably be keeping you busy these days. Without Western Civilization: If you would’ve become an ambitious slave driver, you would have undoubtedly spent your days beating and abusing your slaves. Not because you’re a sadist. You would need to beat them as a pragmatist – to work them harder. While violently abusing another human being sounds repulsive, there is no other way to get men and women to unquestioningly abide by your will. Technology on the other hand, is more compliant.
Without Western Civilization: and without luck, you would probably be a slave today. If you were born or sold into slavery with any ambition of self determination you could expect to spend your time being beaten and abused. Without technology, mankind’s reliance for large public and private works would invariably fall on the back of human slaves. It did in the past. Without an inherited sense of liberty and justice born of empathy and mutual respect, there could be no market for advanced technology. Without basic human freedom, society cannot support a free market. Before Western Civilization emerged, barbaric and imperial society had achieved an untenable equilibrium. In other words, mankind was stuck and was unable to evolve beyond tribalism and iterative attempts at imperial conquest.
These days, all of mankind has an unprecedented opportunity to transcend ancient forms of oppression. Ancient philosophers articulated the necessity to do so. Whether you feel it or not, we in the West are enjoying the evolved blessings of their intellectual power. No, it isn’t perfect. No, it isn’t utopia. No one is making that claim. This essay is not a call for technology over tyranny. If only it were that simple. Technology affords humanity the ability to transcend oppressive systems around the world, not necessarily the will to do so.
The next time you are in public, put down your gadgets for a minute and look around at the faces of your fellow citizens. Men, women, employees and customers --- they’re all free. If you can understand how important that is, that’s where you’ll find the will to help all mankind transcend tyranny.
HUMINT: In the Long War we are all in; a new religion is emerging. I call it Non-Confrontationalism. The disciples of Non-Confrontationalism preach abstinence. Not premarital or extramarital “sexual” abstinence, but “conflictual” abstinence. The best thing to do, so they say, is nothing. They seek segregation, appeasement and flawed compromises to solve fundamental disagreements – because they believe the West cannot afford a decisive victory in the Long War.
Non-confrontationalists pervade politics and war. It’s always been that way, but never before did they have so many converts. As their movement grows stronger, the United States is made weaker. Ironically, non-confrontationalists are some of the brightest people serving in politics today. No matter how beautiful their argument, do not mistake their political poetry for genius. Their success delays inevitable conflicts, only differing costs, without acknowledging accruing interest. The times, they are changing… Globalization is erasing Western intelligentsia’s ability to worship peace in the face of existential threats.
Nevertheless, true believers are plentiful among the cult of Non-Confrontationalism. A true non-confrontationist wonders why anyone would bother living any other way. If you’ve never wanted a ring side seat at a prize fight, you’re probably a non-confrontationalist. If a serious debate strikes you as the problem, you’re probably a non-confrontationist. Confrontation can be bloody, so why bother? Isn’t it best to avoid the mess? To be sure, winning without confrontation is a hidden art. The best non-confrontationalists win without having played the game. In short, non-confrontationalists are insatiably ambitious. What separates them from normalcy is that any opposition to their vision makes them nauseous. They cannot deal with divergent opinion – therefore, they cannot live happily in a free society.
Instead of passing judgment on this peculiar breed of political animal, it makes more sense to describe and categorize them, as Darwin did with the species he studied on the Galapagos Islands. First and foremost, a non-confrontationalist is a master at the art of bluffing. Bluffing is in their DNA. Decisive victory is not something they fabricate themselves. They harvest it. Victory, when they taste it, is handed to them by their opponent who would rather abandon victory than nurture it. To win, non-confrontationalists require opponents obey familiar rules. Without an opponent’s predictable obedience to familiar rules, non-confrontationalist bluffs invariably fail.
BLUFF: verb – the act of entering the mind of an opponent, in person or by proxy, to germinate doubt and or false confidence.
A non-confrontationalist can’t simply bluff all the way to a throne, can they? Sure, they can, if all of their opponents obey familiar rules. What about less successful non-confrontationalists? Liars, conmen and gamblers blend enough truth to their bluff to give it believability. That the crux of it… Truth management is what separates non-confrontationalists from a liars, conmen and gamblers. For example, a non-confrontationalist King can sustain a bluff so well and for so long that the bluff becomes a national lifestyle. The cultish façade of monarchy, if properly maintained, will become a fragile national identity. Ceremony and tradition are required to reinforce a non-confrontationalist King’s bluff. A conman on the other hand, bluffs just long enough to get what they want.
In democratic politics, a bluff cannot be maintained for as long as it could under a monarchy, theocracy or dictatorship. Cultish façades are constantly tested for sincerity and efficacy in a democracy. Democratic opponents obey the rule of law which is familiar to non-confrontationalists, so they can achieve incredible successes in American politics. Those successes are however limited by the fact that they are not authorized [by their own familiar rules] to murder their most persistent dissidents. That’s why democracy is demonstratively more stable than any other form of government.
Without the rule of law, if a non-confrontationalist becomes a dictator, domestic peace is probable – but only after all opposition is purged. Unfortunately for dictators and their subjects, a bluff ends at national borders.
In the Long War, politicians cannot measure stability in terms of a nation’s façade. In the Long War, stability must be considered in terms of the size of a nation’s bluff. The bigger the bluff, the larger the catastrophe will be when it fails. In a democracy, non-confrontation artists conceal or exaggerate their true intentions by making bogus agreements. Non-confrontationalists build the façade that precipitates their own national catastrophe. Rarely, on the other hand, could the scale of a bluff threaten the existence of a democracy. In a dictatorship, oligarchy or theocracy non-confrontationists bluff by making bogus threats and bogus agreements. Their entire system is a bluff.
For the sake of national security, ignore non-confrontationalist calls for abstinence. Be conflictually promiscuous. Go out and find the biggest bluff you can, confront it... tear it down! That’s the only way Western Civilization will win the Long War we are all in.
HUMINT: This course has no official curriculum. It has no Professor or TA. A list of references may help you pass; however, the value of each reference is largely dependant on your own interpretation of it. While there are no prerequisites for this course, consider taking [World History 101] and [Economics 101] concurrent with Freedom 101. Course materials consist of this essay, your personal experience, your community and your government.
You cannot cheat. If you steal the freedom of others to enhance your overall standing, you will be prosecuted with extreme prejudice. If you survive your punishment, you will be obligated to take this course again. If you die before you receive punishment, your cheating progeny will be punished. Also, if you die before you receive punishment, your memory will be humiliated in front of your progeny. If you are cheating now, STOP! Stopping now may or may not improve your chances of avoiding punishment; nevertheless, your progeny will be spared your fate.
FREEDOM 101 BASICS
Freedom is not easy to live with. Freedom is not easy to exercise. Having freedom to disagree with established doctrine or dogma does not imply said doctrine or dogma is wrong. Living with freedom obligates individuals to defend their unique doctrines and dogmas. Freedom is an authorization to be you in a world that is not you. No one is obligated to be like you or believe what you believe. If anyone obligates you to believe in a doctrine or dogma against your will, they are cheating. Once a cheater is identified, no one is more responsible for punishing cheaters than those being cheated. Once a cheater is identified, no one is more responsible for helping those being cheated than prior graduates of Freedom 101. So how do you know if you’ve passed or failed Freedom 101? Your personal freedom can be measured by the words and deeds of those that supervise and guide you. Once you learn how to measure freedom, check the amount you have. If you learn you have no freedom, you will fail Freedom 101. Do not retake Freedom 101 without making changes in your life.
There are NO; national, ethnic, race, religious, tribal, familial, military, historical or economic preferences. Either you are free or your not – either you’ve passed Freedom 101 or you’ve failed. If you failed, we’ll see you next time. If you’re caught cheating, prepare for the worst. Good luck with the rest of your lives. Class dismissed.
HUMINT: Democratic Deterrence
HUMINT: What kept the Cold War from spinning dangerously out of control was a bilateral foreign policy developed around Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) of civilian population centers. MAD worked because it developed out of a mutual experience. The Soviets, Americans and almost everyone else caught in between experienced the devastation wrought by WWII. Deterrence from war meant ensuring both sides were evenly balanced in the art and supplies of conventional and non-conventional warfare. The Cold War had a relatively clear set of rules that sprung from the shared experience of WWII.
When they talk about terrorism today, politicians and an international coalition of journalists seem to have forgotten about the architecture of MAD. The ever looming threat MAD represented cowed citizenries of many free and democratic nations to support foreign and domestic policies that were anything but democratic. The end of the Cold War necessitated a reorg among global power brokers. It meant populations around the world would begin expressing themselves democratically with an expectation of representation.
The transition from systems oppressive to democracy toward healthy democratic states is always turbulent. The fact remains however that once a populace arrives at democracy, stability is an ever present symptom thereafter. Pursuing democracy as a post Cold War deterrence strategy is sound in theory but the expectations of success should be measured in decades not news cycles. Unfortunately, no one in American is asking where their own Jeffersonian democracy came from… It has taken generations of war and intellectual evolution to raise successful democracies from the ashes of their past.
Meanwhile, there are many Americans who harbor unrealistic expectations. Why not, Food used to be slow, now it’s fast; why not democracy? By all indications, the fantasy they hold demands success occur at the pace of daily news cycles. Frustrated voters who fit this category are demanding the United States end its direct involvement in democratization efforts in the Middle East. To their credit, the list of alternative priorities sounds smart. I know many brilliant minds that are convinced American democratization efforts have already failed and we should therefore re-task our limited resources.
It makes no difference to many Americans that American foreign policy has not failed by any historical measure. Yet the U.S. Government is indeed failing. Where American Government is failing is in the realm of expectation and perception. If the United States government fails to meet American citizen’s expectations then it has failed. No amount of evidence can change that fact. In contemporary American citizen’s expectations of their government are set not by the government, but by the customer service industry. The “customer is always right” attitude has leaked like a toxin into American conceptions of democratic governance.
As disturbing as it sounds, democracy (American democracy) has the means to correct itself (eventually). For now, the post Cold War problems remain. Should the U.S. continue its efforts to democratize the Middle East, or not? If foreign policy fantasy trumps reality in the mind of the American Voter, what choice do policy-makers and policy-doers have? Not much!
Whether or not we would like to see a return to MAD policy, American efforts to democratize Iraq are establishing new balances between Middle Eastern states. Chief among new MAD players will be Saudi Arabia with its mutual doppelganger Iran. It sounds epic, doesn’t it? Iran and Saudi Arabia - polar foes pitted against each other struggling to fill the void left in Iraq, after the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein.
It may be that citizen fantasy begets policy fantasy. Without shared experience of WWII will MAD work? How realistic does this sound? Saudi Arabia and Iran are expected to stand toe to toe, prepared to destroy each other, but never quite pulling the trigger. It sounds like a dangerous gamble to me. While it may be necessary in the short term, the only pragmatic approach is to continue emphasizing peace through democratization.