Category Archives: Chet Richards

Review of "If We Can Keep It" by Chet Richards

I owe a lot to Chet Richards. His publisher provided me with a free copy of his new book, If We Can Keep It. More substantively, Chet’s done the hard work of keeping the legacy of John Boyd alive, leading to a wonderful annual conference, at least one major book (Science, Strategy, and War, currently the subject of an intellectual roundtable), and of course his own titles, such as Certain to Win and A Swift, Elusive Sword.

The new book by Chester Richards, Ph.D.

If We Can Keep It is not a Boyd book. It quotes from Boyd on occasion, but for the most part If We Can Keep It focuses on popularizing William Lind. The connection between If We Can Keep It and Boyd’s thought is not clear to me. For many readers, this is a non-issue. Conversely, for those interested in the evolution of Chet’s thinking, Keep It may prove to be a pivotal work in bridging the two very different discourses of the Hegelian conservative Lind and the cognitive theorist Boyd.

Dr. Richards book contains three general trends: a criticism of counterinsurgency, a general pessimism toward our bargaining position, and a general rejection of economic thought, among other themes.

I. The Rejection of Counterinsurgency.

If We Can Keep It begins with a strawman attack:

By the middle of 2007, “counterinsurgency” theory had become all the rage and a panacea for all our global ills

No reference is provided for this claim, but one should not be expected. The books’ treatment of counterinsurgency is rhetorical, not substantive. Similarly, If We Can Keep It claims that the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review condese “neer-peer status to an aging and reportedly ailing figure [bin Laden],” with no reference to support such a claim.

Some passages are puzzling, and I am not sure if they are written satirically. Consider, for example, this on pages 59 and 60:

Conversley, it is difficult to imagine how a government that retains the loyalty of the majority of its citizens could be overthrown by insurgency. It would be impossible in a democracy: If enough people want to replace the government, they just vote them out. In that sense, every election si an insurgency and obviously, the United States has no business interfering in other democracies

So much is wrong in those three sentences that no summary is possible (rather, a fair treatment would go on much longer than the exceprt), but among others

a) insurgencies only occur among majorities
b) insurgencies only succeed among majorities
c) democracies provide acceptably options for insurgens
d) democratic processes are sacrosanct of competing needs of, say, national defense


II. A Rejection of Bargaining

The difference between a tsunami and an areal blitz is that the blitzers are engaging in negotiations, while the tsunami is not. The Blitzers have some form of goal, or theme for vitality and growth, and are requesting either your assistance in getting it or else your benign neglect while they get it themselves. The tsunami is a physical force that will whatsoever. The distinction is important because the existence of another who can engage in bargaining is importance. It is the difference between war and natural disasters.

A third category, crime, also exists. Crimes are purposeful violence that lack political objectives. For instance, a bank robber is certainly interested in negotiation the future holder of specific financial instruments, but generall is unconcerned over the existence of the FDIC, predatory lending laws, or the harmonization of a modern financial system and Biblical principles.

Because in most of the world the same organization (the government) that deals with war also deals with crime, that organization generally classifies an action as one or the other as is politically expedience. Because crime is mindless violence while war is mindful violence, governments often deride their enemies as “criminals” in order to deprive them of legitimacy.

If We Can Keep It rejects the importance of bargaining throughout. On page v, it reads that “the physical damgae that terrorism does is small compared to other threats to our national well-being.” Indeed. Similarly, the Kaiser at his worst was nothing compared to the Spanish flu. The Kaiser could bargain, however. The spanish flu could not. However, on page 31 rejects describing our struggle with al Qaeda as “war” for rhetorical reasons, while instead classifying as “but one” criminal organization.

The lack of precision here would be puzzling, because on ix Richards writes that “Lumping [certain organizations] together as ‘terrorists’ is a form of mental laziness, and failure to think clearly about their various purposes will not serve us well.” The reason it is not puzzling, however, is that rhetoric prevails over substance in most of the book. Likewise, on page 10 the AIDS epidemic is describe as “accelerating,” when the text means growing, and the negative effects of population growth and urbanization are mentioned on pages 22-23 with no discussion of their positive implications.

III. The Rejection of Economic Thought

If We Can Keep It’s diverges from economics in two general ways: the first by not addressing the factors of production, and the second by not addressing the distinction between relative and absolute gains.

The factors of production are the economists’ division of all resources in two three broad types: land, capital, and labor. Different individuals, companies, and governments have different mixes of these. One is not necessarily more valuable than the other, but if you relatively lack one, you will use the others to substitute in some way. For instance, the Netherlands’ reclamation programs demonstrate how capital and labor can be spent to increase land. Likewise, the Chinese “human waves” of the Korean War achieved with labor the same attritionsal effect that a modern military would achieve with some sort of capital — say, artillery shells.

However, consider the following two excerpts. First, on page 40, Chet argues that the US is investing too much on the war effort (“This is the mission that has everyone’s attention and has been the primary justification for ramping spending up to levels not seen since the Korean War — even exceeding Vietnam”):

Spending too much?

Yet on page 101, he accuses the country of not investing enough (“Our ancestors were willing to make this sacrifice. Here are the statistics from three other wars that threatened the existence of the republic:”):

Spending too little?

So are we spending too much, as on page 40, or not enough, as on page 101?

An answer is that America is relatively capital-richer (and thus relatively labor-poorer) than in the past, and therefore our production mix with respect to war has shifted from labor to capital. A discussion on the appropriate ratios would be interesting and useful, but as is the discussions on page 40 or 101 are not convincing.

Similarly, on page 20 questions globalization:

Those who questioned this wisdom were denounced as troglodyte protectionists. Recently, however, even a few establishment economists have asked whether globalization has produce the benefits that were promised. No one can claim that trade with Chin ahas failed to improve the living standards of hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens. But as Lawrence Summers, former U.S. Treasury secretary and long tiem supporter of globalization recently concluded, the middle classes of the United States and other Western countries have not shared to anything like the same degree.

Note the rhetorical trick. The undeniable gains of globalization to the developed world are rejected, because they do not fulfill some sort of “promise.” The reference to Larry Summers goes to this New York Times article, in which Dr. Summers supports the mainstream economic consensus that globalization increase the general welfare of a society, while the allocation of the spoils is ultimately a policy question.


Other issues are addressed in If We Can Keep It as well, from an excellent discussion of loyalty militias to an interesting discussion of fourth-generation war. However, the basic theme of rhetoric over substance remains.

If We Can Keep It primarily serves to bridge an author with experience in substantive, Boydian writings into a very different discourse — the anti-counterinsurgency, anti-bargaining, and anti-economics perspective of William Lind. To the extent that If We Can Keep It creates a hybrid discourse that allows Richard to later add substantive, then it will have served it purpose. Chet Richards is a first-rate writer and popularizing, and I cannot wait to see which direction this discourse will go.

Elsewhere on the Web
If We Can Keep It is available from
A powerpoint presentation on some of the books’ themes is also available.

Chet Richards and Tom Barnett On Video

Recently I had the pleasure of viewing video briefs by Dr. Chet Richards (author of Neither Shall the Sword) and Dr. Tom Barnett (author of Blueprint for Action). I watched the Richards brief for myself, while the Barnett presentation was shown to both undergraduate and doctoral level students at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.


recently linked to Chet Richards’ new brief, 4GW and Grand Strategy. Tom praised Chet’s work, writing

I read the book this week during take-offs and landings (yes, 14 in all will do it, as the whole thing is 94 pages stem to stern), and it’s a great read. Chet writes with a cleanliness next to Godliness. I will offer a review of sorts soon, maybe this weekend.

For now, check out the slides. Chet’s briefs (remember I saw one in Bergen, Norway last year) are awfully good. Too bad no audio. Chet’s got this Cracker Barrel voice from the 1930s that’s interesting to listen to.

In the discussion for that post, Ole Stromgren noted that short and long video excerpts of Richards presentations are available online. Both are highly recommended.

A while ago, Tom Barnett blew me away with detailed, public answers to questions I asked him for my Creativity, Talent, and Expertise class. With that as a guide, I showed a 15 minute excerpt of his CSPAN American Perspectives presentation to the National Defense University. Reaction from the students, who were master’s and doctoral students in educational psychology, was very positive.

Next, the entirety of the presentation was shown to students of a class I am TAing. Because of the breadth and depth of the material I did not mandate attendance for the entire presentation, but several students did stay from the beginning to end. I am happy to say the criticisms were insightful, and spanned the spectrum of political opinion. Reactions ranged from a student who felt that Barnett did not take resource limitations into account to one who felt that Barnett did not go far enough in calling for a downsized navy. Students who are so engaged, intelligent, and even critical are one of the reasons I love teaching.

OODA-PISRR, Part IV: System Perturbations

“You’re such an inspiration for the ways
That I’ll never ever choose to be

He did this
Took all you had and
Left you this way

It’s not like you killed someone”
Judith, by A Perfect Circle, from the Album, Mer de Noms

“It’s the meteor that will separate dinosaurs form mammals in defense. It will tell us what we need to know about war within the context of everything else. The impact on our community will unfold over years, but eventually this will change everything.
– Thomas PM Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map, pg 260


The is a bi-stable system. It alternates between two attractors, high-intensity operations and low-intensity operations. High-intensity operations occur at the very end of the (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) loop and the very beginning of the (Penetrate-Isolate-Subvert-Subdue-Reorient-Reharmonize) loop. As intensity falls, the PISRR Cognition Loop turns to the stability of low-intensity operations. Then, the OODA loop ratchets up intensity to complete the circle.

This cognitive circle:


can also be viewed as a cognitive wave:


Part of victory is going through the the cycle faster — increasing the wave’s frequency. But that alone is not enough. Creating a high-frequency waveform allows the adversary to know what we are doing, and guard against it.

Explaining one of his suggestions, the thinker wrote:

Why? Such activity will make us appear ambiguous (unpredictable) thereby generate confusion and disorder among our adversaries—since our adversaries will be unable to generate mental images or pictures that agree with the menacing as well as faster transient rhythm or patterns they are competing against.

In other words, victory requires that we break the stable OODA-PISRR cycle. Not just make the OODA-PISRR cycle go faster, not just increasing the frequency of our waveform, but breaking the waveform.

If one thinks of social cognition as a system, we know one of five things will happen if we break (“perturb“) the system. The system may:

  • Return to its original state
  • Settle in another stable state, perhaps after some period of unpredictable behavior
  • Bifurcate, that is, begin to oscillate among tow states, but not settle in either of them. It may bifurcate repeatedly, generating a collection of states among which it oscillates.
  • Wander among various states, but not settle in or even return to any of them
  • Become unstable, that is, lock up, disintegrate, or in any other way cease to function as a system

(from Page 45 of Richards’ . The passage draws on Beckerman’s The Non-Linear Dynamics of War, which has also been featured on ZenPundit).

Ff the OODA-PISRR social cognitive system is perturbed for a while…


There is not an equal chance that each of the five possible outcomes will happen. At least as far as social cognition goes, we know that the system will return to its original state.

Unlike non-linear systems that can display emergence, social cognition is closer to a pendulum. The waveform of an pendulum looks very similar to the OODA-PISRR waveform, and has two attractors:


A swing of a pendulum is “attracted” by both the maximum height and the minimum. (See Wikipedia for the mathematics).

Just as the pendulum-based intertial guidance systems maintain a form of repeated perturbations, human-based social cognition loops will also tend to the waveform. Over and over we see this. The cyclical patterns of football games allow knowledgeable observers to routinely predict, in detail, several plays out. In many countries, political cycles are also well documented. Even historical long-cycles have been observed.

The Social Cognitive Wave, the OODA-PISRR loop, can be perturbed for a while. Wise strategists will use this fact to their advantages. But in any system with two players (whether on the systemic, alliance, state, organizational, or individual levels), the attractors will win out over time. Wise strategists will use this fact as well.

The world is a system of systems. Some systems, such as the national defense system, have changed forever as a result of 9/11 and the Iraq War. Yet others, such social cognition loop between the United States and everything else, were just perturbed for a time.

Then the system is restored:


An event can be an inspiration for us – it can reorient us. It can even be an ideal which makes us want to change “everything.” It can throw us into unpredictability. But the old cognitive patterns will come back.

It’s not like we killed them. Or can.

OODA-PISRR, a tdaxp series in four parts
Part I: The Social Cognition Loop
Part II: The PISRR Cognition Loop
Part III: Formless Fast Transients
Part IV: System Perturbations

Review Center for Chet Richards’ "Neither Shall the Sword"

My review of Chet Richards’ Neither Shall the Sword in three words? Buy this book.


I expect a number of posts to come out of Neither Shall the Sword, and this page will serve as an guide to them. While I won’t give away the surprise ending on page 82, the most radical proposal in the book is for what Mark Safranski has called “free companies,” or in Dr. Richard’s words

An obvious solution for a grand strategy of rollback, and I believe the correct one, is to private the Sword/Leviathan function and put direct government resources into the more complex Sys Admin mission of construction, once Sword/Leviathan has done its job

Once again: buy this book.

Chet Richards on Formlessness and Orientation

Chet Richards on Formlessness and Orientation

Describing , Tom Barnett wrote:

Chet, whom I write about in BFA, is an intense fellow who lives and breathes national security like few people you’ll meet. He’s also more systematic in his thinking on the subject of military strategy than anyone I’ve ever heard speak, and I’ve heard a lot.

Dr. Richards recent accomplishment involve applying the logic of to business and military strategy. His business-oriented website, Belisarius, was recently featured in a tdaxp article on 5GW, while Chet’s military-oriented site Defense and the National Interest has long been on the tdaxp blogroll.

A noted author, Chet’s books include Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd Applied to Business and Neither Shall the Sword: Conflict in the Years Ahead.


As Dr. Richards has been kind enough to help tdaxp before, I asked his help when questions on Boydian logic on Liberal Education. So I asked him. Part of his answer surprised me.

On Implicit Guidance & Control in the

In a real-time operation, the “Implicit guidance and control” link from Orientation to Action should control, most of the time (95-99%). Important to recognize, though that this is not a reflex, not a direct Observation – Action link. It goes through Orientation, which is where previous experience and intuitive analyses/synthesis come into play.

The key to the Decision box is the subtitle, “Hypothesis.” The Decision block is the learning phase, where you try things out and learn from the result. It is part of how the loop shapes future Orientation. What you learn becomes a part of your (previous) experiences as well as affecting the types of analyses and syntheses you are able to perform. It is still operating even in the middle of a fight, although at a reduced level, since you will learn somethings about your opponent in the contest. However, it is most active in training, where you can try new things and learn without getting killed. All the hours of training that the martial artists go through is to program their Orientations so that the vast majority of the time, effective actions flow smoothly and rapidly from Orientation. A formal decision mechanism would be too slow. In fact, one thing you would like to do is force your opponent to make explicit decisions, i.e., force him out of what he can handle intuitively. Operating inside his/her OODA loops is one way to do just that.

On Formlessness.

“Larry, one of my commentators, noted that it’s no so much formlessness, as the absence of an especially-notable form. I thought that was interesting.”
– Dan tdaxp

It is most interesting. One can look at formlessness in several
ways, including:

1) The form is there, but it’s hidden or disguised. I’m pretty sure this is not what Sun Tzu had in mind, since a competent opponent using his intelligence (Chapter 13) would discover it. Not to say that camouflage or dummies, etc. aren’t extremely useful, but they aren’t what “formlessness” is about. So in that sense, I disagree with Larry. It’s not so much whether the form is notable, but whether it’s there at all. [compare against this and that — tdaxp]

2) One can take different forms, depending on the situation. This is most effective when you have more than a small set of forms (“stances”) to choose from. In the extreme, you have infinitely many, like water or a gas. I think this is a much more powerful interpretation. Also, water, although soft and formless, can destroy entire cities under the right conditions.

3) Related to 2), you may not have a “form” per se, but you have a culture / climate that allows you to find and exploit opportunities. So you don’t worry about your “form,” but about the organizational climate. Continuing with the water example: It can also penetrate the smallest crevice and so over time bring down the strongest wall. Watts goes into some detail on this point. Infiltration tactics in maneuver warfare is a good example.

4) And then there is the time element. Perhaps you have a form, even a transitory one as in 3), but you can change it more rapidly than the opponent can figure it out. This change could be organic, as in reconnaissance pull. So as far as the opponent is concerned you are formless. In particular, there is no “form” that his intelligence can discover, as Sun Tzu warns, and if he does discover one, it won’t be the right one by the time he can do something about it.

5) Related to 4) you have a form, but it is cheng. Your ch’i in that case could be the “formless” component. Or maybe it’s the other way around … The rapidity with which you can switch between these now becomes important.

On Fast Formlessness

” …if someone is inside your loop, they are not easy to see. In more ways than not, a true 4GW warrior is hidden. “
– Larry

Everybody who has studied this stuff has made a similar observation. If, for example, you employ an attrition-based doctrine, and you come up against someone employing maneuver warfare (which, incidentally, can include guerrilla warfare), you won’t understand what hit you. You may well think you’re winning up until the time the enemy breaks down the door to your palace.

Larry’s comment is especially pertinent to 4GW, since there you may well not even realize you’re at war.

5GW: Soundless + Formless + Polished + Leading

Riding the Tiger: What You Really Do with OODA Loops,” by Chester Richards, Belisarius, October 2002,

Chrome,” by VNV Nation, Matter + Form, 12 April 2005, [buy the cd].

I won’t say that between Sun Tzu, Musashi, and tdaxp, you shall learn everything you need to about 5GW.


But add VNV Nation’s Matter + Form, and you probably will.



In this article I will show how important elements of the 5th Generation of Modern Warfare were described by Sun Tzu and Miyamoto Musashi. I will tie these into my own previous writings on this blog. Additionally, just as Myke Cole reflected 5GW theory off cartoons, I shall shine it through music to emphasize the key points.

I’ve been reading a lot of educational psychology for my studies at UNL, such as Elkind’s All Grown Up and No Place to Go and Weisberg’s Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius. I wanted to reading something meatier, so I turned to DNI‘s Suggested Reading List and found Dr. Chet Richard’s Riding the Tiger.

The article goes on to describe how to use the loop in business, but to me the first part was most interesting, because it seemed to focus on 5GW. , or , is the next generation of modern war.

In my first post on 5GW, I wrote:

If traditional war centered on an enemy’s physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength. A 5th Generation War might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side being completely ignorant that there ever was a war. It’s like the old question of what was the perfect robbery: we will never know, because in a perfect robbery the bank would not know that it was robbed.

and in my second 5GW post:

In 5GW, secrecy is vital for success. While this has always been true on some levels, secrecy has never been vital on the grand-strategic level before 5GW. In 5GW the enemy’s knowledge of your existence all but ends your plans.

So I was delighted, while reading Richard’s Riding the Tiger, to see similar themes in Sun Tzu:

Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness;
Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness;
Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.

Soundless. Formless. Remember those.

And Sun Tzu’s Japanese doppelganger, Miyamoto Musashi (as summarized by Richards)

Yet, he specifically intended for his words to apply to more than just swordplay, and even there, he insisted that victory would go to the master of strategy, not to the strongest swordsman, nor to the fastest, nor even to the fighter with the most polished technique.

The focus, however, is never on defending, but on regaining and using the initiative so that you can lead your opponents where you want them to be.

Polished. Leading. Remember those.

These themes are echoed in VNV Nation‘s new track, Chrome


I’m saying nothing for the good of myself
but I’m still talking and you’re not listening


resort to shadows till your body expires


for each and all a chrome disguise…
embody promise in a sheen so pure


prompts for action force reaction

I’ve also discussed these elements in detail on tdaxp


But of course if parts of the world know they are being attacked, they will try to fight back.

So to win the SecretWarrior must walk without rhythm to avoid the worm of hurtful information.


In contrast to “hearts and minds,” 5GW focuses on the enemy’s “fingertips and gut.” “Fingertip feeling,” what the Germans called fingerspitzengefuhl, is the ability to know without thinking. This is what Americans call “gut feeling.” To a certain extent, it means a commander trusting his intuition. It is critical in 5GW because fingertip feelings, or “hunches,” will be the only way for the enemy to sense the fighter.


To put it in OODA decision cycle terms, the guard Observes a loosely dressed woman, orients this with knowledge of previously so-dressed women, acts by watching more, observes information in the context of believing he is watching a loose woman, etc. Thus the SecretWarrior gets inside the head of the Yakuza boss’s guards. The 5GWarrior rearranges the mind of her enemy, changing his fingertip-feelings into something better for her.

Just as the 5GWarrior must struggle with her physical appearance to be only a girl, the SecretWarrior must also struggle with her beliefs to appear to be only a girl.


SecretWar, or 5th Generation War, relies on leveraging power while minimizing visibility. A successful 5GW operation would be able to subdue or subvert a government without being noticed. Therefore it is appropriate that Stratfor, started by the author of America’s Secret War, outlines a way for SecretWarriors to subvert corporate America: shareholder activism.

A polished 5GW army will soundlessly and formlessly his enemy to where he wants him to be: and that will be the end of the 5GW. The loser will never know he lost. A repeated 5GW victim may sense his illness, but with 5GW attacking his Observation capacity, the victim’s response will probable make his situation worse.

in desperation dreams any soul can set you free
and I still hear you scream
in every breath, in every single motion
burning innocence the fire to set you free

your actions turn conquest to dust
in portents of fate you foolishly place trust

And that is the 5th Generation of Modern Warfare.

Embracing Defeat, Part IV: Embracing Victory

We need to win.

Here’s how


In , Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett gives a forward-looking plan for winning the Global War on Terrorism, shrinking the Gap, peacefully integrating China, and ending war as we know it. Dr. Barnett’s goals are achievable, and the vocabulary, methodology, and vision he brings them are correct.

The engine for our victory, the reverse domino theory, teaches that as one nation globalizes, it will pull other nations up with it. We are seeing this with China, which is building trade relationships with Central Asia, South America, Russia, and even Sudan. The first globalization domino, Japan, knocked down South Korea and Taiwan, which knocks down China, which will knock down…

Dr. Barnett also presents an A-Z Rule-Set for Processing Politically Bankrupt States. As 9/11 proved, globalization needs a bodyguard. The United States and the international community must provide this security. Or two, really: the Leviathan blitzkrieg-force and the SysAdmin peacebuilding-force.

We don’t want to fight this struggle fairly. We wish to play to our strengths, fighting as we want. The abilities and characteristics of the American Nation should be completely exploited to help in our victory. The globalization wars are crusades, and our greatest abilities will be the shining armor of our knights.

We Americans have two core competencies:

  • We are rich
  • We want quick fixes

We are rich: we have a large, growing, dynamic economy that is the envy of the world. We are tremendously resilient: even the worst attack in our history (9/11) and losing a major city () has not prevented a low unemployment rate and strong economic growth. We also have a history of trying big things if they can deliver the goods quickly, which has made us early adopters of technological and business wonders.

In this series I talked about the importance of “embracing defeat.” This just means realizing that things that go against our core competencies are core incompetencies. There are some things we cannot do. Our core incompetencies are the flip-side of our core competencies

  • We have little will or endurance
  • We are impatient

Our core incompetencies are paying prices in non-monetary ways (solutions which require patience of moral will), and solutions which are small and slow (like fighting a series of Iraqs). We cannot rely on our incompetencies. If we try we will fail. America is too cowardly and treacherous to pay a price of blood and will.

We Americans have two strategic goals

  • Keep the Reverse Domino Theory working
  • Process Politically Bankrupt States

The main-point of globalization is the Reverse Domino Theory. It is an engine that will give us the entire world for what Barnett calls “the China price.” The Reverse Domino Theory plays to our core-competency of wealth. Just do nothing and everyone gets rich.

The other-points of globalization is processing politically bankrupt states. Here we stop massacres, genocides, wicked invasions, and mass rapes. This process plays to our core-competency of wanting quick, big results. Just do something and we stop the killing.

First, we need to protect the Reverse Domino Theory. This is more important than anything else. If globalization cannot grow on its own then nothing we can do can save it. Likewise, if the world globalizes on its own not even terrorists and incompetent ideologues will be able to stop it.

The China price is an acknowledgement that China’s central role in the Reverse Domino Theory means that a successful completion of the Reverse Domino Effect will have to be tailored with China in mind. The China Price is the recognition that the loss of China to the world economy is the single greatest catastrophe imaginable, short of nuclear war of an attack from space. We need to encourage the reality of peacefully connecting China. The China Price must be paid to prevent China from disconnecting or warring.

Because our core competency is money, not will or blood, the China Price will have to be paid in cash. Because our competency is something quick, while the connectedness of China will only grow slowly, the China Price must buy us something to discourage China from warring or disconnecting itself over generations.

We need an automatic system which makes it not just easy, but profitable, for politicians and leaders to make the choices that prevent war with China. Not just a one-off like abandoning Taiwan, because even then China would realize she has lost Burma, Vietnam, Turkestan, Mongolia, and Siberia. We need something that gives us the backbone we couldn’t afford in will or blood. We need a China price that puts profits on the line.

We need a military-industrial-Leviathan complex.

Boeing: The Good Guys

A military-industrial complex is the only way to make Chinese war aims not just dubious, but delusional. A military-industrial complex is the only way to give the doves in Beijing the upper-hand, year after year after year. Because a military-industrial complex provides jobs for constituents, golden parachutes for generals, and jobs for the wives of Senators, the military-industrial complex gives us the patience and will to do the hard work of preventing China from fighting a war we do not want. Mere trade with a party dictatorship cannot do this, just as mere nuclear weapons cannot do this. The money from a military-industrial complex can.

A secondary concern is rolling back rogue regimes. Barnett’s A-Z Rule-Set cannot do this effectively, and Barnett’s SysAdmin wouldn’t be politically possible. America is not able to pay the price in blood, or will, to send uniformed soldiers in. And because America really, really wants to do something, every new outrage hurts America’s will even more. Clinton was write to criticize GHW Bush for not acting unilaterally in Bosnia, just as Clinton was wrong to not act unilaterally in Rwanda. Able to see things go to Hell and unwilling to do anything, Americans are taught to feel bad about themselves while they let others die.

It’s easy to begin processing politically bankrupt states. The public outcry is intense, and the left/right isolationist coalition almost always loses the initial debate. But everything after the Leviathan’s bomb-’em-back-to-the-stoneage task is hard politically. Not only does someone have to go on and kill the worst actors, America has to be ready, willing, and able to quickly send someone in. It would be disastrous to further tie America’s hand, by handcuffing her to corrupt international institutions. A million died in Rwanda because the Hutu genocidaires knew there would be no soldiers from the west to stop them.

Something that gives us the backbone we couldn’t afford in will or blood. We need a “Rwanda price” that puts profits on the line.

We need a military-industrial-SysAdmin complex.

Blackwater: The Good Guys

To misquote Mark Safranski, the Military-Industrial-Leviathan complex is a visionary grand-strategic level good that builds something new. But without a Military-Industrial-SysAdmin complex, Barnett’s vision has had nothing to compete with John Robb’s realization that “you can take a great idea, with few resources, and conquer the world” applies to transnational crime and unconventional war, too. By using functionally similar private military contractors, what Safranski calls “,” we can coopt this dynamic. Using open-source free-companies to directly engage our enemies, while knowing that these terrorists will be squeezed between contentional, vertically-organized crime on one hand and their fratricidal tendencies, we can minimize the chances of a -style insurgency.

As Dr. Chet Richards appears to be arguing in the land-war portion of America’s counter-insurgency ability should heavily use private military companies. Instead of politicians fretting over American lives lost in stopping a genocide, politicians will know that intervention means campaign contributions. Processing politically bankrupt states becomes not just easy, but profitable.

By protecting our military-industrial-Leviathan complex which prevents big-war with China, and building a military-industrial-SysAdmin complex which processes politically bankrupt states, we can shrink the Gap, end true poverty, end wars as know them, and make globalization truly global.

Let’s do it.

This has been Embracing Defeat, part of a series of reviews for Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett’s Blueprint for Action. The posts in Embracing Defeat are:

I. Barnett’s Two Strategies
II. Blood and Will
III. The Born Gimp
IV. Embracing Victory