Thursday, October 26, 2006

Connectivity Lowers Price of Battlefield Info

Concerns about WMD proliferation are just one bit of a larger effect of globalization: Barnettian connectivity and market based efficiency in offer and delivery of off-the-shelf technology will have some interesting ramifications in the coming decades. Indeed, the Israeli-Hezbollah summer war was probably an example of this, more than merely an example Iranian state backing. The price of non-WMD weapons systems and related technologies is likely to fall -- and their accessibility to rise. Just how much we're potentially talking about is illustrated by a very interesting new Defense Tech column, written by Nicholas Weaver:
In the past, military technology might have consistently outpaced civilian gear. Not any more. Civilian electronics, manufacturing, and development cycles have radically shortened and improved. The computer which runs the F-22 is an absolute design marvel for its time, for example: 700 MIPS (Millions of Instructions per Second), approximately 300 Megabytes of memory, and some 20 billion DSP [digital signal processing] style operations. Yet its time was the late 80s and early 90s, when much of the hardware was finalized. Today, a Playstation 3 meets or exceeds this performance, for $600 instead of perhaps $30,000,000. (Of course, the F22's avionics are considerably more robust and presumably more reliable.)

Weaver's concrete example is the development of a networked multipath radar, based on cheap single components, with an extremely resilient structure as a result. Moreover, this radar can have some even more far-reaching characteristics:
If multipath radar is deployed by adversaries or potential adversaries, it could greatly affect US operations. Stealth aircraft based on scattering the signal are simply not stealthy to multipath radar. Worse, the transmitters are no longer co-located with the receivers and electronics. Thus anti-SAM and anti-radar tactics will need to be restructured, as simply blowing up the transmitters destroys valueless targets and an adversary could simply build more $500 transmitters than the US has anti-radiation missiles.

Finally, the same DSP processing and antenna infrastructure which forms a multipath radar also enables the defender to track radio sources, by detecting unique sources and using timing to triangulate their locations. Simple traffic analysis, knowing where your opponents are, can be invaluable for military strategists. Radio silence protocols would need to be strictly enforced and enhanced, which could also affect proposed "system of systems" technologies. A new technology can change the world. Multipath radar might change how the US military needs to operate, both in the air and on the ground. And the building blocks are in catalogs, now.
But perhaps one should make distinction between the price of weapon sysems and the price of weapons related systems. Here, on could speculate that the price of the former might not fall drastically (except in the case of some simple missile designs, but that sees to have been the case already), while the latter - because of the more typical dual-use origin of the components - might see a much bigger shift. One globalization driven consequence in this area would be a drastically lowered price on information, meaning that the C4ISR 'revolution' might not yield more than a slight advantage -- simply because the price of networked information collection and sharing will be so low that resilience grows to a point where it cannot be taken out. Which strategic implications would have to be drawn from such a change? More aggressive tactics?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Blix's Proliferation Straight Talk Express

Former UN head weapons inspector Hans Blix has gotten some attention for a handful of candid expressions - quoted second hand in a Danish newspaper today. Blix visited the Danish BBC HardTalk equivalent Clement Kontra yesterday: anyone interested in hearing Blix's up-to-date evaluations can see, hear and judge for themselves here (interview's in English, IE recommended).

Monday, October 23, 2006

Two Realms of War, Afghan Troubles Ahead

The Long War is marked by its accelleration of the politicization of the use of force: the fronts are simultaneously on the ground and at home. Operations happen within two realms: effects are created almost at the same time in the immediate/practical and in the symbolical/communicative realms.

Michael Yon in The Weekly Standard (hat tip to Defense Tech) and MountainRunner each have some interesting pieces on the mediation of the second realm through the first: public diplomacy and press relations are obviously central to the tentative management of or at least concerted effort in effects based use of force.

Meanwhile, Yon's basic argument for facilitating life for embedded reporters is also straightforward in the sense that embeds are better reporters than journalists who are not at the scene. Yon likes his track record in reporting -- and his prediction for the NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2007 is extremely disturbing:
During the beginning of the war, when some of us called an insurgency an insurgency, our patriotism was questioned. Is there any question now? Are there just a few "dead-enders" that we are still "mopping up"? When I called a civil war a civil war a full year ahead of the media, out came the dogs. When I predicted success in Mosul even while the guns were hot, many mainstream journalists thought I was hallucinating. But these were all things I learned from being embedded for months with our troops. There was tremendous progress in Iraq in 2005, and I reported it, all while warning about the growing civil war that could undermine everything. I reported extensively on a unit that was getting it right--the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment (Deuce Four) of the 25th Infantry Division--and as I traveled to Mosul, Baqubah, and other places, I was mostly alone as a writer.

Early this spring, when I reported from Afghan farms about this year's bumper opium crop, people thought I was using that opium. Now it is common knowledge that the opium trade is fueling a Taliban comeback. Mark this on your calendar: Spring of 2007 will be a bloodbath in Afghanistan for NATO forces. Our British, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, and other allies will be slaughtered in Afghanistan if they dare step off base in the southern provinces, and nobody is screaming at the tops of their media-lungs about the impending disaster. I would not be surprised to see a NATO base overrun in Afghanistan in 2007 with all the soldiers killed or captured. And when it happens, how many will claim they had no idea it was so bad and blame the media for failing to raise the alarm? Here it is: WARNING! Troops in Afghanistan are facing slaughter in 2007!
Here's to hoping Yon will be proven wrong.

French National Champions: Timing's Advantage

Even while the Economist was dozing on the brink of boredom -- before the change in Editor-in-Chief this spring -- one could always count on the magazine to deliver a healthy dose of sometimes funny and pertinent French-bashing. This week's leader implicitly continues the tradition with its positive evaluation of the legacy of the London Big Bang and a logically concomitant critique of the opposite example:
Britain's most lucrative industry owes its dynamism to many things, including globalisation, innovation and the good fortune to be based in an old imperial trading city that sits handily between Asia and the Americas. But there was nothing pre-ordained about London's success as a financial centre: it happened largely thanks to an inspired piece of state intervention 20 years ago that opened the doors to foreign talent and foreign capital.

On October 27th 1986, pressed by Margaret Thatcher's government, the City blew apart the closed shop of the London Stock Exchange in a reform known as Big Bang (see article). Out went minimum commissions and other restrictions, and in came a stampede of foreign firms. The government stood by and watched as they swallowed the old British firms that had previously dominated the City. (...)

This is the lesson of Big Bang: to protect an industry, sacrifice your national champions. That brave decision 20 years ago brought wealth, jobs and cosmopolitan buzz to a once-sleepy City, and banished the overcooked cabbage for ever.

As the example of the London Big Bang shows: the pro-globalisation and pro-competition arguments are easily presented. The French government, of course, has adopted the opposite strategy -- of (creating, supporting and protecting) national champions. Part of this is a long list of sensitive industries which the government intends to protect -- one that in an expansive conception of security famously included the yoghurt giant Danone.

Why do the French not seem to want to take these lessons to heart? The rational argument, apart from the usual and somewhat tiresome grandeur theme, may be that they figure they can earn a buck more by opening up their markets later than the rest of the European market. One element often missing from the connection between economic theoretical ideas and reality is time: time for changes in behavior to take place and for the invisible hand to be played out. An advantage of forging national champions in the context of a deepening European economic integration would then be that a protected home market would give the newly assembled giants a pause to breathe in peace, gather strength (or at leasdt size) through national mergers -- and then leave the fortress and charge the neighbors (like EdF in Italy).

The general gains brought about by increased competition in the shape of leaner, fitter companies would of course not have been reaped until then, and so the process of adaptation might be even tougher. But who says that the home market will ever be opened up? The EU energy liberalisation directive has been in place for more than seven years -- but the the energy troll EdF still seems like an overweight teenager in a couch, high on cheap sugar and hysteric for mum to come by with a fresh round of crisps.

Fittingly, the
Economist runs a 'Survey of France' in next week's edition. The theme of the champions nationaux will surely feature prominently.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tic Tacs #2

* Forging A World Of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security In The 21st Century. Final Report of the Princeton Project on National Security. Co-Directors: G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter (pdf-file!)
Very impressive people behind this: sound conclusions, not all original but a very interesting continuation of the debate about what an American -- and by extension: Western -- security strategy should look like, with some concrete ideas for initiatives to take, and relevant questions about ranking challenges. Not least is it interesting for not being partisan -- cf. this post on the Democrat's problems with developing a coherent idea about a Democrat national security or foreign policy doctrine.

* No truces will be offered to us in the Long War (blogpost)
Another fine post by Tom Barnett countering the idea à la mode about extremism vanishing if the West stops meddling.

* Marine Gen. James L. Jones Interview with Associated Press Reporter Pauline Jelinik (interview transcript)
Openminded interview about the challenges of the Long War. Jones now heads the NATO force in Afghanistan -- and seems really smart. I'll probably post a bit about it later.

* "African fever" prevailing across the world (op/ed)
Opinion piece from China's People's Daily online, which sort of mirrors this April post about the fallout from China's African policy. That post was probably a little hard on the Chinese in the sense that at least they do go into Africa to spread some capitalism -- even if the basic point still holds: that Western engagement with the Chinese is necessary in order to convince them to further the good governance agenda, not work against it.

* "Classic Washington Pushoff" - Fmr. Counterrorism Advisor Rand Beers on Rice's Reported Dismissal of Pre-9/11 CIA Warnings (interview transcript)
Interview with Rand Beers who resigned shortly before the Iraq invasion from the NSC where he had been since Clinton: a look behind the scenes with comments on other top policy people's perspectives.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The New African Command: Air Force Components Emerging?

As the Pentagon moves further towards officially announding the creation of an African Command -- as proposed early on by Tom Barnett; and suggested close by this Time Magazine piece back in late August -- small signs of the concomitant reorganization of assets can be found ... or am I just looking too hard? Take this item from Stars and Stripes today:

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Nearly a year after deactivating the historic 3rd Air Force, the Air Force is bringing it back. But what the headquarters command will do, where it will go and why it is coming back, officials will not say. Brig. Gen. Michael Snodgrass, director of Plans, Programs and Requirements at U.S. Air Forces in Europe headquarters, confirmed the command would return but told Stars and Stripes he could not give any details because they were still being negotiated by the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department. Nations involved in the reorganization also must be notified. (...)

The 3rd Air Force officially was deactivated during a ceremony in England last November. The Air Force shuttered the headquarters as part of a plan to merge commands and create a new one at Ramstein. About 100 staff members from the 16th Air Force based at Aviano Air Base in Italy and the 3rd Air Force in England moved to Germany to create a new, 650-member “warfighting” headquarters with the job of planning combat and humanitarian operations.

The new African Command might just be where the 3rd Air Force is going. EUCOM's strategic importance has dropped a lot since the end of the Cold War. Reducing numbered European USAF Air Forces to two therefore made sense in an efficiency oriented perspective. But then most of EUCOM's operations are NATOesque 'out of area' -- more precisely: out of Europe, into Africa -- operations. This focuses a large chunk of Air Force activities on one specialized kind, namely long range contingency operations in various shapes. 3rd Air Force has been doing this since the mid 1990's at least ( never ceases to amaze).

Back in December last year, I wrote about the impossibility of a Civilian Transportation Command for civilian contingencies, Stabilization and Reconstruction, disaster response, etc. This means the military, and especially, the USAF will have to literally carry the major weight in the growing area of joint, inter-agency and multinational operations -- and especially, overlapping civilian and military operations, whether proactively pre-conflict or reactively post-conflict. 3rd Air Force could be brought back as a component in the African Command, leaving Rammstein as the EUCOM AF HQ component.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Next UNSG: Ghani Out, Ban In; India Wins Most

Ban emerges as the next UNSG it is clear from last night's straw poll at the UN in New York. Ghani pulled four 'encourage' and no less than 11 'discourage' votes (including three vetos), making him the sole candidate without a 'no opinion' vote. Ghani's candidature, it appears, suffered from entering the race at a late date, little time before the US called for the process to be sped up. The campaign nevertheless had quite impressive press coverage in the run up to the rushed straw poll. This includes a piece by Op-Ed contributor Bret Stephens in today's WSJ (hopefully I'll get the full version later today: email with a copy is welcome!), with this intro:
Few people are better qualified to run the United Nations than Ashraf Ghani. So it goes without saying that the former Afghan finance minister and current chancellor of Kabul University stands almost no chance of getting the job. Instead, Kofi Annan's successor as secretary-general is likely to be South Korea's colorless foreign minister Ban Ki-Moon, who has the backing of the Bush administration and continues to run well ahead of other candidates in several Security Council straw polls. An Asian peer of Mr. Ban recently quipped that he'll be "more secretary than general"; his one recommendation is that he's probably ...
Other coverage included a live appearance last night on BBC World's unforgiving but high standard interview show "Hard Talk", and this agenda presenting interview with the AP. The interview demonstrates Ghani's insight into the challenges lying ahead for the UN, especially the necessity of focusing on the reform process in order to safeguard and ameliorate the organization's operational effectiveness and general standing. Today's quote is from the WSJ whose Op-Ed page asked the candidates "to two questions. First, we asked them to discuss an avoidable mistake the United Nations had made within the last five years. Second, we asked them what major reform they would undertake as secretary general. Five candidates gave us their answers." This is Ghani's answer:
IN his March report on reform, Secretary General Kofi Annan said that the United Nations ''lacks the capacity, controls, flexibility, robustness and indeed transparency to handle multibillion-dollar global operations.'' Describing the organizational culture as ''damaged,'' he acknowledges that a recent audit points ''to both mismanagement and possible fraud'' in peacekeeping operations. He concludes that reform efforts have addressed the ''symptoms and not the causes of our underlying weaknesses.''

These internal problems have undermined the moral authority and effectiveness of the United Nations, which ought to be the trusted global forum for reaching consensus and taking action on vital challenges. This loss is most directly felt in the poorest countries of the world. Yet distrust among member nations has slowed the momentum of reform.

The United Nations should foster global stability by investing in effective states and legitimate institutions. But doing so requires us to renew an organization designed for a different era. Through consultation with member states, I will seek an agreement on the key tasks that the United Nations must perform. I will lead a process of reform that will allow the United Nations to set the gold standard for transparency and accountability, and which will inspire talented women and men from around the world to work at the United Nations. Only by establishing trust in the organization can we make the United Nations the instrument of global choice for addressing the problems of our time.
The P5 have decided to choose a candidate who will leave the reform process to underlings. Perhaps this is an expression of a hope that a weak or at least loose management UNSG makes for an easier outside imprint on UN reform. If so, that would be a perverted logic: without strong internal leadership, UN reform risks being voted and analysed, but not implemented whole-heartedly. Furthermore, even if Ban still has the chance to transform his bland aura in practice, the choice of a bureaucrat for UNSG may seem a safe bet to some governments. But they may come to dearly regret this if Ban shows himself unable to be more than the "world's top diplomate", namely someone who can redefine the given crisis agenda through intellect and charisma.

It will be interesting to follow the after-math stories to the selection of Ban -- especially which P5 members vetoed who and for which reasons, including Mr. Ghani.

The major winner, however, seems to be India. India's support for the Tharoor candidature looks like a smart ploy. By backing him in spite of breaking the 'no large country UNSG rule', the Indian government created a defeat for India, which adds to the argument that India should get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Democrats: More Good Stuff From Bai

Matt Bai's promised book on the Democratic Party has been under way for a long time now. But at least he's still getting those long essay-chapter's printed in the NYT Magazine once in a while. This article, "The Inside Agitator", is about Howard Dean and his "50 State" strategy, and raises some interesting points about the Democrat's ideas for winning back the lost ground, and why they got to where they are now:
Dean has been credited with inciting an Internet-driven rebellion against his own party, but, in fact, he was more the accidental vehicle of a movement that was already emerging. The rise of, blogs and “meet-ups” was powered to some extent by the young, tech-savvy activists on both coasts who were so closely associated in the public mind with Dean’s campaign. But the fast-growing Internet community was also a phenomenon of liberal enclaves in more conservative states, where disenchanted Democrats, mostly baby boomers, had long felt outnumbered and abandoned. Meet-ups for Dean drew overflow crowds in Austin, Tex., and Birmingham, Ala.; what the Web did was to connect disparate groups of Democratic voters who didn’t live in targeted states and who had watched helplessly as Republicans overran their communities. These Democrats opposed the war in Iraq, but they were also against a party that seemed to care more about big donors and swing states than it did about them. Attracted to Dean’s fiery defiance of the Washington establishment, these voters adopted him as their cause before he had ever heard of a blog.
Once Bai's book is out I'll be sure to read it: the inside stuff on US political parties' different practical strategies and tactics is fascinating. This not only for its immediate domestic ramifications, but also because this is the forefront of politics as a practical business -- and as such relevant for all political analysts, anywhere.