Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."

21.2.10

Review: SENATOR'S SON


Nearly 25 years ago, as a freshman college student balancing a science major with the obligatory credits in the Humanities, my English 101 professor introduced me to the concept of “verisimilitude”: the likeness or resemblance of a creative writing effort to reality. While this was a difficult feat for me in my writing assignments, it is something that Luke Larson has effortlessly achieved in his first novel, Senator’s Son.

Luke was a journalism major at a rival PAC-10 school, courtesy of an NROTC scholarship to the University of Arizona, and as a junior officer in the U.S. Marine Corps served two tours in Iraq (both in al Anbar province – first in 2005 during the election of the Iraqi Transitional Government that was to draft a permanent constitution, and again in 2007 during the Iraqi national referendum and the start of General Petraeus’s “Surge”).

Senator’s Son wastes no time hurling the reader into the breech. Written in a tempo prestissimo style, this rapid-fire novel gives you a no-holds-barred perspective of modern counterinsurgency from multiple perspectives: the families at home with a dissociated populace; the wounded warriors battling the demons of recovery, opiate pain-killer addictions and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; the careerist bureaucrats that infiltrate every large organization; and most importantly the junior officers and non-commissioned officers who must make up for “higher’s” planning inadequacies and strategic myopia. Larson’s use of a 2047 scenario in the southwest Pacific, with a lone Senator holding the deciding vote on whether or not to commit U.S. military power abroad, helps to reinforce the strategic consequences our actions today can have on future generations.

Set in 2007 Ar Ramadi, a city of nearly a half-million that serves as the provincial capital of al Anbar province just west of Baghdad, Senator’s Son is the story of the platoons of GOLF Company. GOLF is a Marine company (part of a Marine battalion tied to an Army brigade) responsible for sweeping missions in south Ramadi in the days prior to the 2007 Iraqi national referendum (and a few months prior to “The Surge”). Their early ventures from the “Snake Pit” (a heavily fortified Marine firm base) poignantly demonstrate the complexities of contemporary warfare.

The force protection concerns are palpable – one can almost smell the raw sewage flowing through the ruined streets of a dying city, and feel the peering eyes of snipers tracking you in their sights. Every piece of litter is a potential Improvised Explosive Device, and every sound a threat. And like Mayor Giuliani’s “Broken Windows” theory in late 1990s New York City, the reluctant shift from a hardened, up-armored patrol mindset to one of cooperative engagement with a foreign culture underscores the essence of counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine now codified in FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5: Counterinsurgency.

Like real life, there are few “happy endings” in this book. Each platoon commander in GOLF has his own strengths and fallibilities: from steadfast Bama’s bravery and bigotries to the maverick Greg’s ingenuity and independence. And each must face his own demons in the prose that Larson deftly weaves.

At a minimum, Senator’s Son is a brilliant primer on leadership: how to learn which rules are worth breaking, the importance of adaptability when there are no black-or-white situations but only gray, and the primacy of relationships.

But it is also a tribute to those who answer a call to serve – whether they serve in their own communities as volunteers, or have the privilege of wearing the Eagle-Globe-and-Anchor of a Marine (like my grandfather, a mortarman with CHARLIE-1-6 in Guadalcanal and Tarawa, and my grandmother, a clerk-typist at Hunters Point-San Francisco who met my grandfather after his malaria washed him out of the Fleet Marine Force). Senator’s Son is a testament to the resilience of those who carry the burden of personal sacrifice with such humility that we can take our own freedom for granted.

This book is a “must read” for anyone who cares about the greater world beyond our neighborhood – and the role that power (be it the “hard” power of weaponry and kinetic energy, or the “soft” power of relationships) can play in shaping the world for better or for worse.


(cross-posted at Antilibrary and Zenpundit)


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17.9.09

Happy Soviet Invasion Day, Poland....


In a statement this morning, President Obama officially killed the Poland-based portion of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, and its accompanying phased-array radar in the Czech Republic. This system has been a point of contention ever since former President Bush inked the deal with the European nations who would benefit from the system's protection against Iranian missiles.

Though this system (called "European Capability") is being replaced by a "phased approach" that capitalizes on sea- and other land-based interceptors, you have to wonder about the timing of this announcement.....

Sept. 17, 1939 (70 years ago today) marked the Soviet invasion of Poland. Happy Anniversary, Poland....



(h/t Nathan Hodge at WIRED's Danger Room)


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6.6.09

D-Day + 65 Years


The beginning of the end of World War II started 65 years ago. As President Obama said earlier today at OMAHA Beach on the Normandy shore, "At an hour of maximum danger, amid the bleakest of circumstances, men who thought themselves ordinary found it within themselves to do the extraordinary ..."

D-Day was the consequence of not only extraordinary acts by ordinary men, but also by the brilliant subterfuge of its planners. Some have called Fortitude South "the greatest deception of all time", allowing the Allied forces to secure a foothold on the Continent despite their numerical inferiority.

While Google chose to solely honor Tetris on their site today (an anniversary I have also acknowledged on this blog), it is far more important to respect the profound sacrifice of so many Allied forces who gave their "last full measure of devotion" in defeating the Axis.

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19.3.09

Civil War: Western Theater


We spent our St. Patrick's Day driving from Hammond, Louisiana (north shore of Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans) to Nashville. Along the way we stopped at two historic sites: the Vicksburg National Military Park on the east bank of the Mississippi River, and Shiloh National Military Park in southwestern Tennessee.

Vicksburg is significant because it was the culmination of then-Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's campaign in the Western Theater. On July 4th, 1863 (the day after the Battle of Gettysburg a thousand miles to the northeast ended), CSA Lt. Gen. Pemberton surrendered to Grant's Army of the Tennessee -- thereby freeing the Mississippi River for Union commerce and splitting the Confederacy in half. It's important to note that, though the Union had an impenetrable naval blockade of the CSA during the war, the CSA's command of the Mississippi prevented many Union goods from reaching their European markets -- a riverine blockade.

Vicksburg also features the raised timbers of the USS CAIRO, one of seven City-class ironclads that was sunk by what would today be called an IED: an electrically-switched, command-activated floating mine. The port bow in the above photo shows the damage to her hull; she sunk in less than 12 minutes.


Finally, shortly before sunset, we reached Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee. This battle marked the beginning of Grant's ascendancy in the Union Army, where his Army of Western Tennessee became simply known as the Army of the Tennessee. Pinned against the Tennessee River and Owl Creek Swamp, Confederate General Johnston sought to push Grant's forces into the swamps. But fierce fighting in the "Hornet's Nest" (the far side of Duncan's Field in the photo above, across the Sunken Road at the far edge of the field -- we're looking from the Confederate lines near Ruggle's Batteries) slowed the Confederate advance to allow Grant to reform his lines.

After Johnston fell in the first day's fighting, his second-in-command, Maj. Gen. Beauregard, halted the advance at dark -- content to finish Grant off the following April morning (note that this was in 1862, full year before the seige at Vicksburg). However, Union General Buell's Army of the Ohio linked up to reinforce Grant's position -- and allowed the Union to stage a counterattack at dawn, forcing a haphazard retreat by the CSA forces back into Mississippi.

So many end results are the consequence of narrowly-decided actions at the razor's edge. Had Johnston not fallen, had Beauregard kept his advance, had Stonewall Jackson not fallen to friendly fire at Chancellorsville a year later, had Longstreet heeded Hood's advice at Gettysburg to flank Meade's lines at Gettysburg -- had any of these events occurred, and we could still be a nation divided.

Addenda: With this trip, Renee has tied me with 49 states visited. So I need to see North Dakota before she gets to Maine.... Shelby is at 46, Jarrett at 44, and Sophie (after our move to CO at the end of this month) will be at 15. Our "electoral maps" (h/t to tdaxp) follow:




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23.1.09

Threats in the Age of Obama


Blogfriend Michael Tanji's edited work Threats in the Age of Obama has been sent to the printer earlier this week. In addition to Tanji (a former intelligence officer with two decades in various tactical and strategic level assignments), the contributors are a "Who's Who" of international security bloggers:

Zenpundit, Mountainrunner, Ubiwar, Selil, WarAndHealth, TDAXP, PersonalDemocracy, devost.net, Rethinking Security, CTOvision, Mapping Strategy, MissileThreat, Politics & Soccer, Whirled View, ThreatsWatch, Armchair Generalist and Shloky. Oh, and some hack named Shane.


UPDATE: The book is now available on Amazon.

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14.8.08

Reorienting "Effects" Focus

General Jim Mattis, USMC, Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, is continuing to demonstrate his leadership at the command who once claimed its Area of Responsibility was "the future". His latest salvo is at one of the "sacred cows" of the defense transformation movement: Effects Based Operations.

"EBO" in the modern sense was derived from the work done by CHECKMATE on the Air Staff (the targeteers who selected critical "nodes" for precision strikes nearly 20 years ago) and by then-Lt Col Dave Deptula, USAF (principal attack planner for the Operation DESERT STORM coalition air campaign in 1991). The evolution of various technologies (GPS, precision-guided munitions, integrated command architectures, over-the-horizon communications) ushered in many new warfighting concepts like EBO.

Despite much fanfare from USJFCOM J9 over the past decade, where EBO became the cornerstone of the "Rapid Decision Operations" overarching concept (and a constant source of chagrin for LtGen(ret) Paul Van Riper), earlier today General Mattis closed the door on EBO in favor of "time honored principles and terminology that our forces have tested in the crucible of battle and are well grounded in the theory and nature of war." His official guidance can be downloaded here.

This is an appropriate (albeit belated) adjustment by CDR USJFCOM to distinguish between "potentially good ideas" and "doctrine". Not just for EBO (an idea that suffered from vagueness and service parochialism since its inception) but also for "Operational Net Assessment" (ONA) and "System of Systems Analysis" (SoSA).

EBO never got over the "persistence" question (e.g., how long would "effects" endure), just as ONA never solved the "adaptability" question (i.e., how would enemy adaptations be accounted for in the model). Gen Mattis's assertion of JPs 3-0 and 5-0 is the proper thing for a Combatant Commander to do -- doctrine, not concept, drives operations. And just as doctrine itself is a reflection of shared values that have stood the test of time and culture, he correctly identifies USJFCOM's role in "help[ing] joint doctrine evolve as our views on effects and related concepts evolve."

However, one concern I do have is that this correction may stymie some of the forward-thinking elements of USJFCOM. J9 has suffered pretty severe budget cuts since my departure two years ago; this could indicate even more to come -- and a command orientation away from "Futures" to "Training" (J7) and "Systems Integration" (J8).

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14.7.08

Fête de la Fédération

In 1790, the French celebrated the "Fête de la Fédération": the celebration of the new (albeit shortlived) constitutional monarchy that was considered at the time to be the happy ending of the French Revolution.

Though the September Massacres, the Reign of Terror and war with their neighbors were yet to come, the date of July 14th ("quatorze juillet") remains celebrated as the turn of the tide for the forces supporting a free republic in France. Happy Bastille Day!


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24.6.08

On Information

A Twitter "tweet" from @Selil earlier this evening roused a long-dormant post idea. Since Twitter is a "micro-blog", its constraint of just 140 characters limits its utility to low-bandwidth, big-idea (or mundane-activity) broadcasting. Prof. Liles's "big-idea" (in response to @mtanji of Haft of the Spear and CTLab fame) was:
"C4isr as the battle space. More than the Arquilla network centric warfare concept. Beyond hacking. Sun Tzu and Clausewitz"
I certainly agree with Prof. Liles that there is more to the information domain than John Arquilla and net-centric warfare (which always struck me as an attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophesy -- despite the fact that network superiority has no deterrent value). Where I differ is in the proposition that C4ISR is a "battle space".

C4ISR, or (as ADM Giambastiani liked to refer to it during his tour as my boss at U.S. Joint Forces Command, "C2 + C2ISR"), is simply a tool. The technology only provides a medium by which information can be shared, the same way that Roman signal towers allowed information to be conveyed rapidly across great distances millennia ago.

Part of the Tanji-Liles dialog emphasized the lack of any truly "revolutionary" capabilities in recent decades. I'm inclined to agree -- from a purely technological perspective. Our modern technology -- though impressive -- has not ushered in a unique "Information Age". In fact, today's technologies have not created wholly new capabilities; they have simply enriched capabilities that have existed for centuries. Rather than living in "The Information Age", I believe we are actually living in the fifth "information age":
1st: Verbal exchange of information (oral communication)
2nd: Physical representation of information (Sumerian writing)
3rd: Portability of information (papyrus)
4th: Mass-production of information (Gutenberg's movable type press)
5th: Information freed from physical form (telegraph, telephone, Internet)
The most significant effect of proliferating information technology and communications capabilities has been to neuter the initiative and empowerment of subordinates -- stunting the audacity that makes (or breaks) battles. Rigid hierarchies coupled with pervasive communications grids -- with "Net-Centricity" -- are demonstrably less effective than ones with "weak" links (q.v. Linked by Albert-László Barabási).

Consider the "Operational Level of War" -- the level between "Tactics" and "Strategy". Many organizations of the U.S. Department of Defense invest inordinate numbers of labor hours in developing an idea that peaked in Napoleon's time (when it was called "Grand Tactics").

Napoleon's logic was simple: he commanded an army so vast that its interior lines could exceed the distance of daily information propagation. (Information in the late 18th/early 19th century could propagate at approximately 100 miles per day.) But when technology increased the bandwidth of information transfer (as well as the speed, thanks to decoupling it from physical form and allowing velocity=c), the intermediate layer that once served as a proxy for the Imperial edict (i.e., empowerment of the on-scene commander to act on behalf of the Emperor) has remain entrenched.

Modern C4ISR tools have served to perpetuate this folly, giving today's commanders a beguiling sense of "Situational Awareness". MIL STD 2525, the military standard for unit symbology merged with theater-scale maps, can give a commander a "realtime snapshot" of the entire physical battlespace. But as the scale increases (since warfare is not scale invariant), the trade off between "relevance" and "intelligibility" becomes akin to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle: as one becomes more precise, the other becomes dangerously less so.

The temptation to treat warfare like a game of chess (with its ordinal moves and perfect battlefield intelligence) is fallacious. ARHerring, a co-contributor at Dreaming5GW, recently opined about the nature of chess on multiple boards -- a closer approximation to the adaptive and complex nature of war. Clausewitz's description of "Genius" in battle is the antithesis of a reductionist thinker who seeks the unique solution to a given problem. Complex adaptive environments can have multiple solutions -- but an even larger number of incorrect options.

Therefore, a better description of an effective military leader is not simply "charisma", but "network fitness": per Barabási, the ability to "attract" links in order to influence their perceptions. This applies not only to COIN, but also to Information Warfare (h/t mtanji) and the renascent field of Public Diplomacy championed by Mountainrunner.

Update: Michael Tanji and Tyler Boudreau (h/t John Robb) sound off.

[Crossposted at Dreaming5GW]

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18.6.08

Waterloo

Today (June 18th) is the 193rd anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo - the final defeat of Emperor Napoleon and the eclipse of France's dominance on the Continent by nascent Prussia.

Though the Emperor had been deposed the previous year (after the disastrous march on Moscow in 1812 decimated the Grande Armée) and exiled to l'Isle d'Elbe in the Tyrrhenian Sea, he escaped from captivity and returned to Paris in March 1815. With the remnants of his army rallying around him, Napoleon marched on the British and Prussian forces in Belgium before additional allies could rally and organize a defense.

John Keegan, in The Face of Battle, describes the conditions with impeccable and compelling details - down to the weather the night before, the conditions of the crops on the road near Soignies, and the mood of the troops. While Napoleon commanded total loyalty from his forces, the forces on the field near Braine-l'Alleud were not the same seasoned veterans with whom he conquered the Continent in previous years.

Today, the site of the battle is marked by a tall (40') pyramid, atop which stands a lion in repose. On my very first visit to Europe, 1992 into Brussels, my first "tourist activity" was to take the train south from Brussels to Braine-l'Alleud and a cab to the Butte de Lyon. Since it was early (redeye from CONUS), the omelet fromage I had at a bistro near the train station in Braine-l'Alleud remains one of the most delicious meals I have ever had in my life.

After the battle, the Duke of Wellington is reported to have said, "There is nothing as melancholy as a battle lost -- except, perhaps, a battle won." The second defeat of Napoleon saw the deposed Emperor exiled not to the comfortable confines of l'Isle d'Elbe, near his family's roots in Corsica, but rather to the remote island of St. Helena in the south Atlantic. He died six years later, and is today interred in L'Hôtel des Invalides in Paris (in seven concentric sarcophagi).

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13.6.08

Generations of War: New Post

After a nearly-four month hiatus, I have posted a new piece over at my co-'blog, Dreaming5GW. Check it out.

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6.6.08

Belleau Wood Teufelhunden

Today, June 6th 2008, marks the 90th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps' historic attack on the German Army near Château-Thierry on the Paris-Metz Road just east of Paris. It was in these forests, known as Belleau Wood but renamed after the battle by the French as Bois de la Brigade de Marine (Woods of the Marine Brigade), that Marines came to be known as Teufelhunden: Devil Dogs.

My grandfather (seen here with grandma, also a Marine!) served years later in the 6th Marine Regiment, one of two regiments that comprised the 4th Marine Brigade at Belleau Wood. All Marines in the 5th and 6th Regiments may wear the fourragère, a braided-rope award worn on the left shoulder that has been used to honor distinguished units since Napoleon.

Semper Fidelis!

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14.5.08

Review: tdaxp's Revolutionary Strategies

Überblogger and 'blogfriend Dan Abbott (of tdaxp) has published his first book: Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It. It's on sale now on Amazon.

Dan, a doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a co-contributing colleague of mine at Dreaming 5GW, is a dutiful student of the late Col. John Boyd's ideas regarding conflict, decision making and leadership. He introduced this book on his 'blog earlier this month.

Dan has done a remarkable job applying contemporary theories of warfare and network science to the early Christian / late Roman era. The most notable strength in Revolutionary Strategies is his inventive correlation of the defensive strategies employed by Caiaphas (the chief antagonist of Jesus’s ministries) to those of Diocletian (the late-3rd century Roman emperor who ordered the most severe persecution of the Christian faithful). Accompanying this analysis is a very cogent application of the theories of Boyd (Penetrate - Isolate - Subvert - Reorient - Reharmonize, or PISRR), with modern examples like Vichy France that match the dynamics in the early Christian church.

Both Caiaphas and Diocletian sought to preserve the status quo. For Caiaphas, appeasing Rome was his primary objective: a rogue rabbi who preached of other-worldly gifts would have reflected poorly upon him and his hierarchy. Diocletian clearly understood the management complexities of so vast an empire, and seemed to adeptly address many of the most-pressing ills that plagued the Empire (poor civic participation, an army spread thin on the borders with little to no interior defenses) despite his rampant cronyism (particularly in the establishment of the Tetrarchy). But for the first 18 years of his reign Diocletian was unconcerned about the "Christian threat" – and if it not for Galerius would likely have never ordered the Great Persecution.

Most significantly, Dan’s book opens several new fronts on the debate over the nature of insurgency – and counterinsurgency. For instance, is the ex post facto presumption of “co-option” by the splinter Jewish sect that has become the Christian church practical? Or, rather, was the Christian faith “culturally appropriated” by the Roman empire upon Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the early 4th century? While Dan asserts the former through the hypernetworking of the Apostle Paul, I believe this is a topic worthy of broader study. For instance, was Paul (née Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee) savvy enough to realize that his peers in Jewish leadership were attracting the ire of Rome? Did Paul’s ministries throughout the Mediterranean seek to increase the rift between Jerusalem and the splinter sect of Christian faithful? And were the Gospels written in a manner to give Rome (and particularly Pilate) a “pass” in the crucifixion of Jesus? (Note that three of the four Gospels were published immediately prior to the First Jewish-Roman War and the subsequent destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.)

Dan also provides another benchmark in the evolving theory of the “generations of war”, to wit his development of a taxonomy to differentiate between the various generational constructs. Though I disagree with his assertions that the “0th” (zeroth) generation connotes a form of “total war” and that 3rd generation warfare connotes “better minds”, Dan brings value by identifying possible relationships across the xGW generations and inviting further dialogue.

This is perhaps the greatest utility of Revolutionary Strategies: proffering novel ideas in order to provoke debate. Just as the spiritual values of the Romans were initially at odds with the splinter Jewish sect we now call Christians, the different cognitive approaches of Islam and Christianity – one society favoring creativity and innovation, the other cherishing rote memorization – will have similar consequences for our own unfolding century.

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9.3.08

Battle of the Ironclads

In early March 1862, the fledgling navy of the Confederate States of America attempted to break the U.S. Navy's blockade in the Hampton Roads of Virginia, at the confluence of the James, York, Elizabeth and Nansemond Rivers. The Commonwealth of Virginia had seceded from the Union less than a year prior (on April 17, 1861), though parts of the Commonwealth remained in Union control (e.g., the western counties -- soon to become the state of West Virginia -- and Fortress Monroe, at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula).

The U.S. Navy retained command of the seas, and imposed a naval blockade on the CSA to restrict their trade -- and their ability to generate revenues to sustain their secession. While northern states were the most populous (shown by Lincoln's victory in the 1860 presidential election -- despite winning zero electors from Southern states or from New Jersey) and most heavily industrialized (with 80% of total U.S. manufacturing capacity and 67% of U.S. rail lines), nearly 50% of America's GDP in the mid-19th century came from cotton. In fact, southern output of cotton was more than 80% of the entire world's production.

When the Commonwealth of Virginia seceded, the U.S. Navy vacated the oldest shipyard in the nation (Gosport Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA, on the Elizabeth River) and scuttled the steam frigate "USS MERRIMACK" in place. The Confederacy raised her and rebuilt her as an ironclad ram, rechristening her as "CSS VIRGINIA".

On the morning of March 8th, 1862, the VIRGINIA steamed into the Hampton Roads with the intention of breaking the Union blockade. Ramming USS CUMBERLAND below the waterline and then forcing the surrender of USS CONGRESS, VIRGINIA returned to port after darkness for repairs. The next morning, she returned to finish off the Union fleet -- but encountered a new arrival to the scene: USS MONITOR, the first true "ironclad" commissioned by the U.S. Navy.

Though the ensuing battle ended in a standoff, the event proved decisive for the Union -- which preserved the blockade's stranglehold on CSA trade.

Our home in Virginia was just a few miles south of the waters where the Battle of the Hampton Roads took place. As proof that to the victor goes the spoils, even south of the Mason-Dixon Line, U.S. Interstate 664 (the western edge of the Hampton Roads' "beltway") crosses the battle site via the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (changing VIRGINIA back to its original U.S. Navy name -- albeit without the "k").

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5.2.08

Osinga Roundtable: Boyd's Evolution

In an October 1939 radio broadcast, Winston Churchill described the Soviet Union as “… a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The same can be said of the late Colonel John Boyd, whose prowess as a fighter pilot and whose lectures on the relationship between energy and maneuverability revolutionized the U.S. Air Force – but who published no books. Rather, his legacy was left in a stack of acetate vu-graphs (thankfully digitized by Chet Richards) and reams of personal papers. For his studious review of the latter, distilling the mind of Boyd into book form, Col/Dr Frans P.B. Osinga deserves our gratitude. He has played Clausewitz to Boyd’s Napoleon.

In Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, Osinga presents us with a fascinating “deep dive” into the evolution of a brilliant thinker – a thinker who devoted his life to applied learning and teaching. Though it is unfortunate that Boyd did not see fit to publish his theories in book form (unsurprising given his professional environment far from the Ivory Towers of academe), it is evident from his 1,500+ presentations that he rigorously developed and willingly shared his ideas. Boyd’s stamina (both mental and physical) to lecture for more than a dozen hours at a time is testament to his devotion and his determination to succeed.

Osinga nicely complements the work of Boyd biographers (most notably Coram, Hammond and Richards) by dedicating the preponderance of his 300+ pages to how Boyd’s thinking evolved – describing his intellectual influences from the expected (Sun Tzu, Clausewitz) to the unexpected (Popper, Kuhn, Polanyi). Particular attention is given to the influence of classical physicists (Newton) as well as quantum theorists and mathematicians (Heisenberg, Gödel).

Boyd embodied the now-popular notion of the “Medici Effect”, a horizontal thinker who integrated perspectives across multiple, seemingly-divergent disciplines into a cohesive whole. His insights have proven applicable to a wide array of topics, and foretold of the emerging science of complexity theory (though I dislike Osinga’s use of the composite term “chaoplexity”, which undermines the distinction between “chaotic” – i.e., non-linear and seemingly random – and “complex” – i.e., a large number of interrelated properties or parameters). Given the swagger of the fighter pilot who bested the “best” in air-to-air combat in forty seconds or less, there is no doubt that Boyd – were he alive today – would be a prolific ‘blogger, and a Chicago Boyz contributor whose inputs would outweigh all of our Roundtable writings combined.

While many associate Boyd solely with the “OODA Loop”, he has given us far more than just a lexicon – just as Tom Barnett’s work is far more than simply “Core - Gap” and “Leviathan - SysAdmin”. Regardless of one’s willingness to accept his ideas, the sheer effort Boyd invested in his research – and Osinga’s effort in compiling the salient points for us – is an invaluable tool in anyone’s intellectual toolbox.

The motto of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration is Litera Scripta Manet: “The written word endures.” It is ironic that intellectuals tend to revere the commentator more so than the subject on whom they write: Herodotus over Leonidas, Thucydides over Pericles, Clausewitz over Napoleon. If history is consistent, then in a hundred years the name Osinga may be equally associated with the name of Boyd.


Update: Crossposted at Chicago Boyz.

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22.12.07

Bloggers for Nuclear Policy

Überblogger ZenPundit has vectored me to a "group blog request" by Cheryl at WhirledView on nuclear weapons policy. This topic was an early passion of mine, while an undergrad physics major at Berkeley in the closing days of the Cold War, so I am happy to participate.

However, I disagree with Cheryl's premise that current U.S. policy is "stuck in the Cold War"; the National Nuclear Security Administration's just-released "Complex Transformation" plan seems like the right plan for continuing to convert our nuclear stockpile to one that is relevant and sustainable for the 21st century.

Three topics I'll cover in this post:
  • Great Power War
  • Stockpile Management
  • Future Challenges
Living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (a city founded solely because of the Manhattan Project in World War II), there are daily reminders of the role this city played in bringing a terrible war to an end. The old guard posts still stand on the Oak Ridge Turnpike and Scarboro Road, and the three facilities with cryptic alphanumeric names (X-10, K-25, Y-12) still adorn signs and maps.

One thing that becomes clear, touring the various historic sites around Oak Ridge, is the magnitude of effort needed to manufacture nuclear weapons. This is not something where a couple centrifuges can be turned on in a basement and voilà! you have material to build a bomb. The undertaking is complicated, laborious and time-consuming -- and this is a good thing. The skill sets needed to preserve and maintain a credible stockpile are scarce -- and this is not so good of a thing (I'll cover this in "stockpile management" below).

This creates a taxonomy of "Nuclear Powers":
  1. Those that have it
  2. Those that want to have it
  3. Those that don't want it
  4. Those who can never make it
Obviously, those in the first category want to preserve their "exclusivity" -- because after all, the logic of nuclear warfare is that you can never logically use them. This led to policies like the Baruch Plan after World War II (which the Soviets rejected because, in their opinion, it would have preserved the U.S. nuclear monopoly) and today's proper emphasis on nuclear non-proliferation (a great success to date, in my opinion).

Since "great power war" has faded in likelihood, some nations have active nuclear research programs -- ostensibly so they can join the "great power club" and garner increased international standing. This demonstrates the continued effectiveness of deterrence within the nation-state system (where even the most despotic rulers are still governed by some semblance of rational self-interest).

The fourth category ("those who can never make it"), therefore, is the most worthy of attention. A transnational terror organization lacks the resources to develop their own program, so they would have to resort to theft in order to obtain a weapon. (Note that I am deliberately focusing on nuclear weapons, not the other varieties of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" like chemical or biological.) Therefore, in order to minimize the likelihood of an al-Qa'eda-like organization obtaining a nuclear weapon, we should focus our attention on stockpile management.

Since the end of the Cold War, many old weapon systems have been dismantled in order to diminish the U.S. arsenal -- both to abide by international treaty obligations, and to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. This requires a labor force with the same skill sets necessary to manufacture weapons: not just physicists and engineers, but master machinists, pipe fitters and other skill trades. This is an area where international cooperation should continue to increase -- especially between Russia (which has the largest cache of weapons in the world) and the United States.

Therefore, the three "core values" of a relevant nuclear policy for the 21st century are:
  1. Maintain a credible deterrent (because it's the dominant "control mechanism" in international politics)
  2. Preserve the industrial base (both for demobilization of existing stock as well as for continued research and development)
  3. Continue emphasizing non-proliferation
We can never put the nuclear djinni "back in the bottle". So long as we live in a world ruled by conflicting interests, total disarmament will never be a practical solution.

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16.12.07

The Great White Fleet

America became a global power in the latter days of the 19th century by defeating Spain in the Spanish-American War, taking possession of Puerto Rico, the Phillipines and Guam. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt (credited with preparing the Navy for the war, before resigning his appointment to serve as a Colonel in the U.S. Army) understood the importance of naval power to a nation's economic and military strength.

A decade later, as Roosevelt's presidency was drawing to a close, he dispatched four squadrons of four battleships each (and their escorts) from the Hampton Roads, Virginia on a 43,000-mile, 14-month journey that would circumnavigate the globe. This fleet, "The Great White Fleet", began its journey exactly 100 years ago -- and would demonstrate to the world America's global reach and blue-water navy capability.

Tensions with Japan were rising due to Japan's incredibly lopsided victory over Russia's Baltic Fleet in the Battle of Tsushima two years prior -- and their growing sphere of influence in the western Pacific. This led many (including Harpers magazine) to believe that the outgoing president was launching a war against Japan.

However, Roosevelt's intentions were to build goodwill and cooperation -- akin to the modern U.S. Navy's recently-published "Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower".



(The above photo, taken from the roof of the Hotel Chamberlin at Fortress Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, shows the fleet passing into the Atlantic at the start of their journey, December 16th, 1907.)

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13.12.07

National Guard Birthday

The oldest organized military establishment in the Americas, the National Guard of the United States, was founded December 13th, 1636. (Yes, 1636 -- less than a generation after the founding of the Plymouth Colony, and only 29 years after the first permanent British presence in the New World began at Jamestown, Virginia). From Wikipedia:

"On December 13, 1636, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had ordered that the Colony's scattered militia companies be organized into North, South and East Regiments--with a goal of increasing the militias’ accountability to the colonial government, efficacy, and responsiveness in conflicts with indigenous Pequot Indians. Under this act, white males between the ages of 16 and 60 were obligated to possess arms and to play a part in the defense of their communities by serving in nightly guard details and participating in weekly drills. After the United States came into existence, state militias would develop out of this tradition."

According to Title X of the U.S. Code, Section 311, the militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and ... under 45 years of age who are ... citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard. This militia is organized into two parts: the National Guard, and the "unregulated militia".

Happy Birthday, National Guard!

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7.12.07

A Date Which Lives in Infamy

Flags across the United States are at half-mast today in recognition of "a date which shall live in infamy". At 7:52 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, the first wave of Japanese bombers reached the western shore of O'ahu (near today's Lualualei Naval Weapons Station), crested the Waianae Ridge at Kolekole Pass (which connects Lualualei to Schofield Barracks), attacking military airfields as well as the fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor to the south. More than two thousand sailors, Marines and soldiers were killed -- along with 68 civilians -- compared to just 65 Japanese airmen killed.

The photo above has been a staple of my briefings on defense transformation for years. When I show the photo cropped to show only the lower-right quadrant, nearly everyone correctly observes "Battleship Row" at Pearl Harbor. Showing the full photo (from a scale model in wartime Japan) demonstrates the challenge we in a open society face when battling adversaries who don't share our values -- nor our freedoms.

John Robb has aptly noted our vulnerability to "open source warfare" -- a challenge that is exacerbated by the openness of our society. But the solution is not to trade our freedoms for the "warm blanket of security". Rather, we should remember that it is those freedoms -- the freedom to live, to love, to pursue happiness and prosperity -- that make us strong.

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11.11.07

Veterans/Remembrance Day

The armistice that ended "The Great War" (World War I) was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month: November 11th, 1918. Europeans commemorate this day as "Armistice Day", Americans as "Veterans Day", and citizens of the Commonwealth as "Remembrance Day".

Poppies grow in profusion in Flanders (northern Belgium), where many many casualties of the war were buried. The poem "In Flanders Fields" was written by a Canadian physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, in the trenches on the battle front a day after he witnessed the death of his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. The poem:


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row
,
That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below
.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



As we honor the service of those who ensure our security, let us also remember those who gave their "last full measure of devotion" -- in Flanders Fields, and elsewhere.

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8.11.07

Fall of the Wall

While the date "9/11" will reverberate in our memories forever, the date "11/9" is equally significant. It was on November 9th, 1989, that the East German government (acceding to citizen demands after several weeks of unrest) allowed free transit between socialist East Berlin and democratic West Berlin.

This decision made the Berlin Wall moot, with souvenir-seekers chipping away pieces of the wall until heavy equipment could remove it. It also led to the formal reunification of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (East Germany) and the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (West Germany) less than a year later.

Most significantly, this decision brought the Cold War to an end -- ending more than four decades of tension and anxiety between the world's two dominant nuclear superpowers.

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30.10.07

The King of Bombs

Approximately four years after launching the first satellite into orbit, the Soviet Union conducted the largest nuclear detonation in history. "Tsar Bomba" (nicknamed "Big Ivan" by its designers) had an estimated yield of 50 Megatons -- nearly triple the yield of CASTLE BRAVO (the U.S.'s 1954 dry-fuel [Teller-Ulam design] thermonuclear device tested at Bikini Atoll). The test over Novaya Zemlya just before noon (Moscow time) on Oct. 30th, 1961, nearly knocked out of the sky the modified Tu-95 BEAR bomber that carried it. Its blast plume measured more than 40 miles (65km) high.

A two-minute video from Discovery Channel:






An eight-minute video on YouTube:






What's ironic is that a last-minute switch (replacing the Uranium tamper with one made of lead) was done to reduce its yield and subsequent fallout. If this change had not been made, the yield could have exceeded 100 Megatons.

Increased awareness of military facility locations, coupled with improved accuracy of missile delivery systems, made massive weapons like Tsar Bomba thankfully irrelevant.

More info:

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25.10.07

St. Crispin's Day


Crispin and his twin brother Crispinian, the patron saints of cobblers and leatherworkers, lived in 3rd cent. A.D. Gaul, a two days' ride northeast of Paris in the town of Soissons. William Shakespeare took note of their Feast on the liturgical calendar in his account of the Battle of Agincourt (October 25th, 1415, during The Hundred Years War). To quote "King Harry" (Henry V, Act IV Scene iii):


This day is called the Feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a-tiptoe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall see this day and live t'old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian":
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."

Harry, who ascended to the throne just two-and-a-half years earlier, vowed at his coronation to revive the war against France and his claim to the French throne. His lengthy siege at Harfleur, however, left little time and forces for any further campaigns in France -- and the French nobles had put aside their quarrels to unite against the foreign invaders.

Rather than take the sea route to Calais, 100 miles away, Harry opted to march over land -- across the Seine and the Somme, in the face of the steadily-massing French armies. After crossing the Somme, just 30 miles from Calais and safety, a massive French force (estimated between 30,000 and 100,000 strong) blocked their path.

The ensuing battle, recounted in impeccable detail by John Keegan in The Face of Battle, was a resounding victory for the badly-outnumbered English and Welsh. Their effective use of terrain (choosing a narrow defile over freshly-plowed fields between two densely wooded forests), the substantial number of longbows with the strength to pierce armor, the deployment of numerous palings (wooden stakes driven into the ground pointed toward the enemy line) protecting the archers, and the lack of "unity of command" in the French forces all proved decisive for Harry and his "band of brothers".

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. (Henry V, IV, iii)


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22.10.07

Terror vs. the Marines: Beirut

At 6:22am local time in Beirut (4:22am GMT) on Sunday, October 23rd, 1983, a yellow Mercedes-Benz delivery truck (taking the place of a hijacked water delivery truck) approached the U.S. Marine Corps compound near the Beirut International Airport. Marines from the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (1/8) were deployed there as part of an international peacekeeping force (Multinational Force in Lebanon) to oversee the withdrawal of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon the previous year.

The flatbed truck turned onto the access road toward the Marine compound, circled a parking lot, and accelerated toward the sentry post. Since “suicide bombing” was a relatively new development in the post-kamikaze age (perfected by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka in the previous few years), force protection measures pale in comparison to today: there were no “Jersey barriers” obstructing direct access into the compound, the only barricades were sewer pipes behind a raised gate, nearby perimeter fencing was simple barbed wire, and “Rules of Engagement” for the sentries were so restrictive that they could not load and raise their weapons until the truck had already crashed into the lobby of the four-story cinderblock barracks building.

Nearly 12,000 pounds of explosives were detonated by the driver, lifting the building from its 15’ circumference footings and causing it to collapse into rubble. 241 U.S. servicemen died that morning, including 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel, and 3 Army soldiers – the deadliest single-day toll for the Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.

Almost simultaneously with the attack on the Marine Barracks, an identical attack was made against the barracks of the French 3rd Company of the 6th Parachute Infantry Regiment, killing 58.

In 2003 a U.S. District Court judge declared that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for these attacks, since Hezbollah was entirely dependent on Iran in 1983. Just last month (September 2007), the same District Judge ordered that Iran pay $2.65 Billion to the families of the killed servicemen.

Today, 1/8 continues to proudly serve our nation as part of 2nd Marine Division under II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF). They are currently under the able leadership of LtCol Mike Saleh, USMC, deployed to Al Anbar Province in western Iraq as “Task Force 1/8”.

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21.10.07

Trafalgar Day

One of history's most significant naval battles took place on this day, October 21st, in the year 1805. After years of chasing Admiral Villenueve and Napoleon's "combined fleet" through the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson and his fleet of 32 ships (including 25 ships of the line) attacked a numerically superior foe off the Costa de la Luz in southwestern Spain. The battle, named for the nearby Cape of Trafalgar, established the Royal Navy as the dominant naval power in the world for more than a century to come. It also ensured the legacy of Admiral Lord Viscount Horatio Nelson as one of the most capable and inspiring commanders in history. His death on the day of his greatest triumph only served to heighten this legacy.

Though the Battle of the Nile (Nelson's resounding victory in 1798, fought almost entirely at night) is a more impressive tactical victory, Trafalgar merits special consideration because of the decisive strategic effect it had on Napoleon's campaigns in Europe -- and the world. While Napoleon and his foreign minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand harbored secret plans for a "North American Empire", their eviction from Haiti (thanks to the extraordinary leadership of Toussaint L'Overture, the most important historical figure you've never heard of) and eventual sale of the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. forced Napoleon's attention east: to Moscow, and ultimately to defeat. Nelson's victory at Trafalgar dashed any hopes Napoleon had of ever attacking Great Britain.

Here's to The Immortal Memory of Nelson!

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19.10.07

Yorktown Day

About 15 miles to the east of the original Jamestown colony in Virginia (the first permanent British establishment in the "New World") sits the port of Yorktown -- and its deep water access to the York River, Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. This is ironic because, in the space of about 30 minutes, one can drive the Colonial Parkway through the National Park Service's Colonial National Historical Park across nearly 200 years of British rule in America.

The Siege of Yorktown (Autumn 1781) was the perfect storm of:
  • strategic miscues (General Charles Cornwallis was sent to Yorktown to secure a deep-water port, but he wanted to "split" the colonies in the middle to shatter their cohesion)
  • operational brilliance (particularly Washington's deceptive maneuver from Dobbs Ferry, New York to the Virginia Peninsula, freezing Clinton's forces in New York to defend against Washington's already-departed army)
  • French naval success (Admiral de Grasse's stalemate against Admiral Graves in the Battle of the Capes allowed Compte de Barras to create a naval blockade in the Hampton Roads)
  • and lucky weather (storms prevented the pinned-down Cornwallis from evacuating across the York River to Gloucester Point)
After three weeks of intense bombardment by Washington and Lafayette, with reinforcements from New York still many days away, Cornwallis realized his tenuous position. On October 19th, 1781, he formally surrendered to General George Washington.

The result was the capture of nearly 2/3s of all British forces in America, and a loss of interest by the U.K. government in the then-six year old war. Prime Minister Lord North began the proceedings that would result in the Treaty of Paris -- and would become the first head of government ever ousted by a vote of "no confidence" in March 1782.

The Yorktown Battlefield is one of the best preserved in the National Park Service, with the interior lines and redoubts available for close-up investigation as well as an outstanding audio-guided driving tour. Anyone who visits Colonial Williamsburg or Tidewater Virginia should plan to spend an afternoon at Yorktown.

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12.10.07

Terror Salvo: USS COLE

In August 2000, the USS COLE (DDG-67) guided missile destroyer departed Naval Station - Norfolk in southeastern Virginia for a five-month deployment to the Arabian Gulf. After transit through the Suez Canal, it moored on a floating refueling platform in Yemen's Aden Harbor (near the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula).

Approximately two hours after arriving in the harbor, a small inflatable craft laden with more than 500-lb. (200kg) of C-4 military-grade plastic explosives made its way to the "dolphin" where COLE was refueling. Watchstanders mistook the boat for one of the many harbor craft routinely seen in the area. At 11:18am local time (08:18 GMT) on Thursday, October 12th, 2000, the two suicide bombers on the inflatable craft detonated their shaped charge alongside the port hull near COLE's galley, tearing a 10m-wide hole at the waterline. 39 sailors were wounded, while 17 gave the "last full measure of devotion" in service to our nation.

The seventeen sailors who lost their lives in this attack:
  • Hull Maintenance Technician Third Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter
  • Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer First Class Richard Costelow
  • Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis
  • Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy Lee Gauna
  • Signalman Seaman Apprentice Cheron Louis Gunn
  • Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels
  • Engineman Second Class Mark Ian Nieto
  • Electronics Warfare Technician Third Class Ronald Scott Owens
  • Seaman Apprentice Lakiba Nicole Palmer
  • Engine Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett
  • Fireman Apprentice Patrick Howard Roy
  • Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class Kevin Shawn Rux
  • Mess Management Specialist Third Class Ronchester Managan Santiago
  • Operations Specialist Second Class Timothy Lamont Saunders
  • Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis, Jr.
  • Ensign Andrew Triplett
  • Seaman Apprentice Craig Bryan Wibberley
A memorial page with poems and photos is here. Only through the quick action and extraordinarily competent damage control by her crew did USS COLE remain afloat -- and is still in commission today.

This attack was ultimately traced to al-Qa'ida, in their escalating war against the United States and the forces of freedom and egalitarianism -- a war that was sown in the mountains of Afghanistan during the insurgency against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and began in earnest in America with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

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3.9.07

Duty and Service

The blogosphere has been replete with dialogue on "service" and "duty" -- and the perception of grass-roots activism within the State. Noteworthy bloggers who have recently addressed this topic, in addition to my post last week, include Dave D. at Small Wars Journal, General of the Hordes Subudei Ba'adur, Purpleslog at D5GW, as well as both Chirol and Younghusband at ComingAnarchy. Even TIME magazine has made "The Case for National Service" a cover story topic.

Interestingly, there has been a good deal of honest (and sometimes contentious) replies to these posts. Some admit their personal lack of service, while others see the resurgent public interest in community service as a lack of confidence in "central governments". Could it be the looming anniversary of 9/11 (and last week's KATRINA anniversary)? Or the impending U.S. presidential election and a definitive change of administration?

I'm curious what visitors to Oz think. Care to comment?

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9.8.07

An xGW Primer (Abridged)

Since my good friends Zenpundit, tdaxp and General of the Hordes Subadei Ba'adur have offered primers on the "generational" model of different approaches to warfighting, I respectfully offer this abbreviated primer:

"Zeroth" Generation Warfare:


First Generation Warfare:


Second Generation Warfare:


Third Generation Warfare:


Fourth Generation Warfare:

Fifth Generation Warfare:


Too bad Mel Gibson (the architect of warfighting archetypes) wasn't in the ultimate 5GW movie:

Class dismissed...

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