Archive for May, 2011

If you are interested in where someone in the business thinks that publishing will go, then listen to Seth Godin’s interview at radioLitopia.

His comments about apps, the costs of publishing in the current era, the role of publishers, and what publishers should be doing as the industry changes are relevant to our interests.

I anyone wonders what publishing has to do with the Naval Institute…well…

You may have seen the following quote making the rounds across Facebook:

‎”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The quote is in response to the popular reactions — euphoria in many circles — across the World to the killing of Bin Laden. As it turns out, this quote is not completely real. This memetic event displays the paradigm through which many people base their understanding of conflict, why it exists and how to prevent it.

Security Analyst Adam Elkus penned a brilliant response to the quote,

But neither love or hate are policies, strategies, or tactics. They’re only emotions and ideal categories. They are not instrumental devices that we use to get what we want. So let’s stop pretending that they are causal forces, that somehow rejoicing in the end of a mass murderer is going to conjure up more hate which in turn leads to more conflict.

Read his post, there is not much I can add to his words. Except for on the fact that emotions are not “policies, strategies, or tactics” is why taking up arms can exist as a profession, and why there is a difference between a mob and professionals-at-arms. As Adam mentions, conflict does not exist out of a primordial hate. Nor does it end because of a sudden emotional realization that there is some ‘better way’. There is a spectrum to conflict, the same hatred that can be felt for a mortal enemy is the same hate felt for the Shipmate who cut you off on 264 going into NOB. Both forms of hatred are dismissed through the same cognitive process as well — though the means through that process differ significantly. At one extreme only the acknowledgment of the emotion is necessary for it to quickly dissipate. On the other, is the application of violence by professionals. This is to say that despite the irrationality of emotion, there is a rational and deliberative process that ends conflict. That objectivity defines modern conflict resolution (note: There was VERY little that I interpreted happening to me objectively while I was downrange. Afterwards, in getting home, my objectivity returned to me).

By looking at conflict objectively we have come to better understand the causes of conflict and have attempted to address our understanding of the causes through organizational constructs (NATO, UN, IMF, WTO — deliberative bodies) as well as methodical approaches (COIN, CT — tactics). But, in assuming the causes of conflict only as a function of emotion we remove any hope of conflict prevention. It is ironic that the sentiment expressed in the fake quote are actually an affirmation that violence and conflict are unavoidable and that humans are incapable of being disciplined enough to rise above their emotions.

I just started the midnight shift at prototype, working from 1930-0730. As it was our first day working shifts, we had an orientation brief where it was announced we killed Bin Laden. After welcoming us our crew chief asked if we had any questions; there was a long pause, and then finally someone asked if we really killed him.

I came home to check Facebook and saw photos and videos uploaded from midshipmen as they celebrated. One of them made it to RealClearPolitics and thought I’d share it with you. Wish I could have been there for this!

Update from Admin:



Wave Theory

May 2011


The last 14-hrs have been a good one for our side in the long war against Islamic extremism. For over a decade, legion of professionals in and out of uniform have been trying to gather enough information on Osama bin Laden to give our leadership an opportunity to bring him to justice. Especially since 9/11, finding this man has been a career field of its own; success is sweet. This is their moment.

In the first wave after the word came out we have seen euphoria, pride, and thanks to all of those who executed an almost flawless mission. Every individual in this chain of professionals can take pride they truly were part of an important event in this war – and reminded the world again the capabilities of our nation’s military when opportunity meets preparation. No other nation could have done this.

Everyone, I hope, is taking time in their own way to bask in this first wave. From the MIDN at Annapolis, to NYC, to the people on my street who were lighting off fireworks at 1am – it was good to be able to celebrate. Enjoy the wave while you can – for most it will peak this afternoon – after that, we need to ponder the second wave.

The second wave is sober reflection.

As the adrenaline wears off, the coffee kicks in, and the mind starts to sort things out – certain facts should come to the front of the sober mind.

  • Check the Operational Diagram. This is not an end state. This is not a “mission accomplished.” This war is not over. Osama’s death is a decisive point – in a way an inflection point. In both a practical and symbolic manner, his death is a victory for us – but only in the proper context. Osama started a franchise operation. When Ray Kroc passed – McDonalds did not go away. There is much more work to be done – this is no time to rest, as the enemy will not rest.
  • Review your Sun Tsu. Though we can define it in any way we wish – often times you are in a war that is defined by your enemy. He wages war for his own reasons, so you need to recognize that so you know the war you are in. This war did not start with 9/11, and it doesn’t end now. This is not a global war against terror – terror is only a tactic. This is a war of culture, religion, world view, and grievance. This is a war with an enemy working within a decentralized, distributed network of command and control – regenerating, morphing, and regrouping with remarkable effectiveness. Their end state is nothing less than the destruction of your culture and way of life. Some may hope that Osama’s death will roll up terror, but hope isn’t a plan and that isn’t how this war will end. Hopefully we snagged enough paper and electronic records at the compound along with his body that we can roll up a lot of Osama’s organization, but that is like picking crabgrass out of your yard by hand – effective in a fashion, but not a cure. The weeds will come back.
  • From FMJ to Tinfoil. Osama body is now in the possession of Hagfish – yet we need to watch how his legend morphs. Most of his followers live in cultures that are soaked in conspiracy theories. Nothing is as it seems, and behind every clear act there is really a back story of intrigue and deceit. With no body to examine – conspiracies will flourish. Take the JFK assassination industry here and add a couple of decimal points, then you might get close.
  • Face and Payback. Things may tamp down a bit as lower level commanders hit the mattresses to preserve themselves until they know the extent of what we got from the compound. Others may want to get revenge for their commander directly or if they have access, they may pull the trigger on sleeper cells. Hard to know, but we should expect that with the killing of their figurehead – the enemy has an extra motivation to get revenge for losing face. Hope that they are too busy saving themselves to plan external operations in the near future – but be prepared for the fact that they can run operations as well as they did in 9/11 and they are a very patient lot.

There we are. A good day. A great day for our Navy SEALs and their supporting commands in Southwest Asia. It is good to remind others about our reach – this is a good Ref. A.

We also need to give a nod to the Commander in Chief. I am sure he was counseled about Desert One. Some probably advised him to go the route of bombing and cruise missile strikes. He didn’t do that though. Some group in his/our national security team briefed him on what was needed – up close and personal with terminal effect. He approved that action – high risk, high reward. Right call – right outcome.

There is another practical take-away as you get through the second wave – another lesson identified for the professional. Technology has its limits, as do precision/smart weapons. Since Publius Horatius, Spurius Lartius, and Titus Herminius Aquilinus stood at the head of the Pons Sublicius – it has always been a man at arms closing the enemy face to face that makes the difference – everything else is supporting arms. This century it was true with Saddam, his sons, and now Osama.

War is not new. It never has been. It never will be. Tools may change – but the essentials remain.

Celebrate, but prepare.


Bin Laden Dead

May 2011


Osama bin Laden is dead. This is not something the President of the United States talks about lightly, and reports suggest that his body is in U.S. hands following a firefight involving U.S. special operations forces in Abbottobad, Pakistan.

We used to hang on every word bin Laden uttered and every indication that he was still alive. It long ago became of passing importance. That is the single most important thing about him and is a measure of how history has changed since 2001. Certainly the events that bin Laden put in motion continue to resonate — from the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq to expensive and intrusive efforts at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. and allied response that began on Sept. 11 goes on, but bin Laden himself had become essentially an onlooker and commentator.

That was the result of a real success by U.S. and allied intelligence. Their ability to attack and destroy bin Laden’s immediate network isolated him from new recruits, training and planning. Bin Laden and his immediate associates lost the ability, in three years or so after 9/11, to mount operations outside the Islamic world, and, to a great extent, operations inside the Islamic world might have been carried out in his name but not with his participation.

As STRATFOR once put it, Osama bin Laden once made history. He then made videos. He was eventually reduced to audio tapes — a testimony to the one part of the war that worked for the United States. But both the ideological and physical struggle against grassroots jihadists and transnational extremism continues.

God Bless America, all of those who have served and serve and their families.

Your unadulterated comments are welcome below.

Recently, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, spoke to Naval Academy midshipmen.

As any good ambassador would do, Mr. Haqqani began by highlighting the long and close relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. He noted that Air Force pilot Gary Powers took off from a secret U.S. base in Pakistan on his ill-fated U-2 mission. However, he stressed that American policy-makers, who think and act globally, must understand that Pakistan has always, and will always, think and act regionally. Specifically, Pakistan’s main foreign policy concern is to protect against India. He emphasized the complexity of U.S.-Pakistan relations. I agree with his argument that you cannot possibly understand U.S.- Pakistan relations by listening to twenty second sound bites. As he mentioned, the relationship is never entirely good, nor is it ever entirely bad.

With regards to Afghanistan, the Ambassador believes that both countries share blame for playing the “religion card” during the Soviet invasion. Both sides also share blame for not supporting a stable Afghanistan in the 1990s. By not re-integrating the CIA- and ISI- backed religious fanatics, we planted the seed for the Taliban movement to take root. According to Mr. Haqqani, the U.S. should have invested half a billion dollars per year to stabilize Afghanistan after 1989. Doing so would have cost significantly less than the $444 billion we spend in the country per year (according the Congressional Research Service’s 2011 “Costs of GWOT” report).

Mr. Haqqani explained that the U.S. will not feel the direct impact of a hasty ISAF withdrawal in Afghanistan. Pakistan will feel that impact. Pakistan does not want an endless war or a precipitous pullout of U.S. forces. Both options jeopardize Pakistan’s security. The Ambassador believes that it is in the interest of both countries to defeat the Afghan insurgents.

I was most surprised when he said that the CIA and the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan have a better working relationship now than at any time since 1989. Proving this point, the Taliban have bombed four ISI offices in recent years. The Taliban would not waste time bombing ISI offices unless the ISI posed a threat to the Taliban. Even so, I still think the U.S. should be wary of an organization that funded the Taliban before 9/11.

The Ambassador listed three goals for Pakistan to reach in the next decade: to keep moving towards democracy, to maintain stable relations with India and Afghanistan, and to continue economic growth by building oil pipelines to the Indian Ocean. Pakistan also strives for self-sufficiency; Pakistan does not want to survive on foreign aid. Considering Afghanistan and Pakistan have the largest number of uneducated children in the world, Pakistan will not achieve this self-sufficiency “one school at a time.”

Ambassador Haqqani inherently has a biased point of view. Even so, after listening to him talk, I felt reassured that the U.S. has a friend in Pakistan.

Posted by jjames in History, Navy | 6 Comments

In the movie “The Departed” (or as Maggie would say, “Tha Dapaaaahhhted”), Jack Nicholson’s character of Frank Costello asks the question, “…when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?”

That is the sort of question I am asking today. The title of this post references President Gerald Ford’s Executive Order 11905, signed in February of 1976, which contains Item (g) in Section 5:

(g) Prohibition of Assassination. No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.

Ford’s successor, President Jimmy Carter, and Carter’s successor, President Ronald Reagan, both signed similar measures reinforcing the prohibition on political assassination. Ford’s signing of the EO was certainly a “sign of the times” in the post-Vietnam American political landscape, which saw a distaste for the covert, and a distrust of US intelligence activities.

However, when Ford signed his order thirty-five years ago, and Carter (Sect 2-305 of EO 12036) his, 33 years ago, and even when Reagan reasserted those orders (EO 12333) almost thirty years ago, the existence of satellite-guided weapons of such precise lethality as we have today were inconceivable to all but those with the keenest technical imagination.

And there are other changes in the world around us. Then-Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) proposed in January 2001, nine months before the 9/11 attacks, House Resolution 19, known as the Terrorist Elimination Act, which said, in part, “America must continue to investigate effective ways to combat the menace posed by those who would murder American citizens simply to make a political point”.

The attacks in recent weeks on the compound of Libya’s Muammar Ghadaffi have highlighted again the idea that precision weapons may be employed in a role that looks very much like political assassination. (It is not the first time for strikes on the compound of Libya’s ‘strongman’, either, with the El Dorado Canyon strikes of April 1986.)

While the NATO strikes of this past week against Ghaddafi’s compound may or may not have been conducted using US air assets, it is a certainty that US intelligence assets were involved in pre-strike and post-strike assessment. While Defense Secretary Gates maintains that the strikes were not aimed at Ghaffadi himself but at his command and control centers (of which the compound is one), I believe there is also little doubt that the location of the Libyan leader was carefully noted and may have been a determinant in the timing of the strike.

One of the realities which NATO is having to deal with post-strike is that even the most precise strike munitions will kill a great number of people who happen to be at the target. It is being reported that Ghaddafi’s son and some grandchildren were killed in the strike, which may or may not be as true as the reports of Ghaddafi’s “daughter” being killed in 1986. However, it is an opportunity for the Libyan leader to make political hay in the Middle East and in the world press as a victim of NATO persecution.

So the question I pose in the title is precisely the one I want to ask here. Is it time to repeal the Ford-era Executive Order, and those of Carter and Reagan reinforcing that order? We seem to have outlawed killing a leader like Ghaddafi with a sniper’s bullet, or other means of extreme prejudice, but have seen military policy evolve to where the same mission is attempted with a precision-guided munition that produces dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ancillary casualties without the certainty of killing the intended target.

Many foreign policy thinkers at the time of Ford’s signing EO 11905 in to law, and a fair number since, believed Section 5(g) of the law to be either one that would be effectively ignored, or one that would unnecessarily hamstring US leadership in the foreign policy arena by removing an option that was potentially highly useful for any number of reasons. I would submit it has been both of those, and it may be time to consider repeal of Section 5(g).

Because, to paraphrase Frankie Costello, “when you are trying to kill a dictator with missiles or a bullet, what’s the difference?”.

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