Category Archives: 1

Publisher of “The Handbook of 5GW” in Forbes Magazine!

Two years ago I published The Handbook of 5GW, an edited volume of pieces that looked at the fifth gradient of warfare. My publisher in that process was Fred Zimmerman, of Nimble Books. Fred’s new venture, Nimble Combinatorial Publishing, is definitely making waves — including being in the latest edition of Forbes!

The first impulse of most people like me, who have spent much of their careers writing for love and money, is to loudly answer NO WAY. I firmly believe that it is impossible to replace the creativity of the human mind and the skill of writing learned over years with an algorithm.

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Review of “Atlantic,” by Simon Winchester

I wish my dad was still alive. I wish I could recommend Simon Winchester’s Atlantic to him. He would enjoy it.

Simon Winchester is best known for The Professor and the Madman, a history of the oxford English Dictionary. His best books, however, are The Man Who Loved China (a human story that is also the history of a far-away land) and Krakatoa (about the human consequences of a natural disaster). So it is fittest that Simon Winchester’s latest work, and one of his best, are the interlocking stories about one of the greatest natural features on Earth, the Atlantic Ocean.

Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories is a thematic biography of the ocean, from youth to death. From before the Phoenecians to his imprisonment during the Falklands War to the far future, Simon Winchester paints a vivid and romantic feature of the ocean that is too often overlooked and ignored.

It is impossible to give a brief synposis of the stories of the Atlantic, but a portion of a paragraph from the epilog gives a flavor:

Parliamentary democracy. A homeland for world Jewry. Long-distance radio communication. The Vinland Map. The supression of slavery. The realization of continental drift and plate tectonics. The Atlantic Charter. The British Empire. The knarr, the curragh, the galleon, the ironclad, and the battleship. The discovery of longitude. Codfish. Erskine Childers. Winslow Homer. The convoy system. St. Helena. Puerto Madryn. Debussy. Monet. Rachel Carson. … The Atlantic telegraph cable. The Writght brothers. Alcock and Brown. Lindbergh…

The story of the Atlantic is the story of Western Civilization. A fantastic overview of western history. Highly recommended.

You can call her Vladimir Putin from the way she’s dropping Russians

Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova is way less effective at spectacular pseudo-terrorist attacks against Russian civilians than Vladimir Putin, but she looks way hotter while doing it.

Vladimir Putin began a sub-state war of terror against the people of the Russian Federation on September 4, 1999. Props to Dzhennet, and all the rest who fight back.

The reference is 1 minute, 30 seconds in:

The Greencine Five, Part XI: Legong: Dance of the Virgins, My Life as a Dog, Sword of the Beast, Gaza Strip, Pickpocket


No movie is this good by accident. It is on purpose. Legong is not only an exotic and gorgeous film, it was one of the last silent films ever released. It was also one of the last which used two-color mixing (as opposed to the three-color approach which is the standard to this day). The story is a sweet tragedy about a love triangles between two girls (dancers at a local temple) and a young man (a drummer). The film is the sort of “south seas” picture that enchanted George Bailey and so many others. The film was made on location in Bali (now an island in Indonesia), with an entirely Balinese cast.


My Life as a Dog is a sad but sweet story about a young boy suffering the death of his mother. The film has certainly similarities to Goodnight Mister Tom and A Home of Our Own. The film is slow moving, but paints a convincing picture of rural Sweden in the early years of the Cold War.


Sword of the Beast is a story about Japan on the verge of the Meiji Restoration, but really about Japan on the verge of defeat in World War II. Samurai give their life for honor and reform, but everything is turned around by corrupt counselors, leaving only death and shame. The momentum for a better Japan is clearly there, but not much is to be done. The vendetta — that is, the war effort — is an excuse for everything. Slow on its surface, but fascinating in its context.

The centerpiece of Gaza Strip is something that never happened. The film very, very strongly implies that it is documenting the effects of a nerve gas attack on the residents of Gaza. Individuals appearing to be victims of the attack, as well as a woman implied to be part of Medicine sans Frontier, are interviewed. Looking online, the only references to this attack are other people questioning if it ever happened.


No movie is this bad by accident. It is on purpose. The director didn’t like characterization, because he thought it was phony, so he didn’t do it. He didn’t like acting, because he thought it was phony, so he had non-actors just repeat the actions a couple times. He seems not to like his main character, as the guy is a cringing, self-important, coward of a parasite. I wasted 86 minutes of my life I will never get back. Pickpocket is an awful film.

“Blue” News

The color blue is associated both with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which is the democratically elected governing party of Taiwan, and the People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary force in the party-dictatorship of mainland China.

Strange Blue Men
Strange Blue Men

The Olymics thus was a very “blue” event, as it featured KMT support of Beijing ’08 as well as the People’s Armed Police distrupting anti-Communist protests in the West.

Now, Michael Totten lets us know that the KMT will be inviting the People’s Armed Police to opan an office in Taiwan.

The possibility of great power war in the Pacific is evaporating before our eyes.

China Requests Japanese Military Insistance: Backwardness on both sides nixes the deal

I was really excited when I read this on Coming Anarchy: the People’s Republic of China requested the Japanese Self-Defense Forces deliver aid to survivors of the Sichuan Earthquake. This would be the first military deployment by Japan in China since 1945: » Blog Archive » I hope to see Japanese military planes over China
No, I am not some militarist condoning a preemptive attack on China. I am supporting China’s request for Japanese soldiers to deliver earthquake relief aid in Sichuan. The Japanese government is still deliberating as this would be the first deployment of Japanese military forces to the Chinese mainland since the second world war.

Jun Okumura thinks it is a nice idea, but worries about being taken in by a Chinese bully. Tobias Harris also supports the plan and points out how it perplexes both the political Right and Left in Japan. My favourite quote is from the Social Democratic Party of Japan who are against the plan claiming that “the JSDF are not a disaster relief organization (saigai kyuujo dantai).”

Unfortunately, elements in both sides would rather waste time than move forward. As noted in the CA article, some in Japan don’t want to JSDF deployed in that way. But what sounds a lot like concern over the same ultra-nationalist bloggers who threaten the safety of students in America led China to backtrack.

Too bad. I wonder how many kidneys / arms / legs / lives could have been saved if not for the dithering.

The one good thing out of this is that the second request for something is typically less shocking than the first.

I hope we don’t have to wait for another 70K dead to get there.

Completing the COIN Cycle on the “Global Insurgency”

I’ve written on the importance of completing the COIN cycle in Iraq — of experience a counterinsurgency from initial response to final victory – as an important way to set the right lessons in the minds and institutions of the U.S. military. However, Iraq is not the only COIN (counter-insurgency) we are fighting. And some have even argued we are also fighting a “global insurgency” spread across the world.

If we are, we are winning:

The Simon Fraser study notes that the decline in terrorism appears to be caused by many factors, among them successful counterterrorism operations in dozens of countries and infighting among terror groups. But the most significant, in the study’s view, is the “extraordinary drop in support for Islamist terror organizations in the Muslim world over the past five years.” These are largely self-inflicted wounds. The more people are exposed to the jihadists’ tactics and world view, the less they support them. An ABC/BBC poll in Afghanistan in 2007 showed support for the jihadist militants in the country to be 1 percent. In Pakistan’s North-West Frontier province, where Al Qaeda has bases, support for Osama bin Laden plummeted from 70 percent in August 2007 to 4 percent in January 2008. That dramatic drop was probably a reaction to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but it points to a general trend in Pakistan over the past five years. With every new terrorist attack, public support for jihad falls. “This pattern is repeated in country after country in the Muslim world,” writes Mack. “Its strategic implications are critically important because historical evidence suggests that terrorist campaigns that lose public support will sooner or later be abandoned or defeated.”

The University of Maryland’s Center for International Development and Conflict Management (I wish academic centers would come up with shorter names!) has released another revealing study, documenting a 54 percent decline in the number of organizations using violence across the Middle East and North Africa between 1985 and 2004. The real rise, it points out, is in the number of groups employing nonviolent means of protest, which increased threefold during the same period.

Why have you not heard about studies like this or the one from Simon Fraser, which was done by highly regarded scholars, released at the United Nations and widely discussed in many countries around the world—from Canada to Australia? Because it does not fit into the narrative of fear that we have all accepted far too easily.

The Bush Administration has been a great complement to the Clinton Administration. While Clinton oversaw a build-out of our financial capacity, helping with everything from NAFTA to the WTO, Bush continued this work and oversaw a built-out of our COIN capacity. The great job that Bush has done is the natural follow-up to the great job that Clinton did.

Of course, there are specific points of criticism. It took Bush perhaps a year to recognize that his initial “Phase IV” plan in Iraq was not working, and to adjust course. Likewise, he did not “shoot the moon” through an alliance with Iran or a multilateral war against North Korea. These are fair criticisms, and it is valuable they are made.

Still, the Clinton and Bush administrations were creative and valuable in a way not seen since Roosevelt and Truman. Those wise old men were present at the creation of the “Post-War” (in the sense of Cold War) world. Now we stand at the beginning of the globalized world with its own post-war insurgencies. And with the capacities built up by Clinton and Bush, we are ready for the challenges ahead.