Tag Archives: COIN

Impressions “The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency,” by Annie Jacobsen

This is not the book I thought it was.

Annie Jacobsen is an amazing writer, and is great in this book. I loved her history of Area 51, which focused primarily on the Atomic Energy Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency, and Air Force research projects that took place in Nevada. I assumed a major focus would be the creation of the Arpanet, the immediate predecessor to the internet, and Arpanet Terminals, like what Steve Wozniak used before co-founding Apple.

Nope!

Instead, Pentagon’s Brain is about DARPA’s major generation of research projects, focusing on hard sciences (nuclear war), then social sciences (brainwashing), then hard science (in Vietnam), then social sciences (also Vietnam), then hard sciences (“network centric warfare”), then social sciences (“counter-insurgency”). Throughout the book “ARPA” (Advanced Research Project Agency) and DAPRA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) refer to the same organization. ARPA/DARPA’s was done within the context of changing Secretaries of Defense, slower changing professional, social, contractor circles in and around DARPA, all-in the context of pre-need research for the military.

The beginning section is very similar to Jacobsen’s Area 51, as both the need for “pre-need military research” (like ARPA) and “Advanced Research and Development” (like Area 51) had its origins in the early Cold War and the emergence of nuclear weapons. In Area 51, Jacobsen uses the Roswell crash as a framing device for the levels of misinformation, secrecy, and confusion that surrounded the test site. Pentagon’s Brain almost has a similar framing device — the traumatic brain injury of Allen Macey Douglas, Jr.. Allen’s injuries prevented him from forming new memories of any technology described in this book. They also are the introduction of brain science into ARPA’s research, including research on brainwashing and “Manchurian candidates.”

The back-and-forth between hard and social sciences at times become humorous, as no one appears to remember that previous cycles even existed. One memorandum cited by Jacobsen, from early the Iraq Occupation, contains word-for-word similarities with another, from the Vietnam era. Both emphasized the need to introduce social sciences into the war effort for the first time.

I found it interesting how in some ways the 1991 Gulf War (and then 2003-Iraq Occupation) was a continuation of the Vietnam War. Drone warfare, C4ISR (as part of the McNamara Line), laser guided bombs, and more debuted in Vietnam with ARPA funding. In the case of laser guided bombs a bridge which the Vietnamese ad successful defended for years was destroyed in the waning days of the war. One wonders if the war against North Vietnam could have been won as easily as the war against Saddam Hussein.

The concluding section of Pentagon’s brain discusses Network Centric Warfare, which (at the time) was a focus of this blog. My 2005 posts on “Network-Centric Policing” and Network-Centric Politics* are attempted applications of the concept to other domains. In those early posts I contrasted Network Centric Warfare with “4GW,” Counter-insurgency, and related concepts (see posts from May 8, June 26, and June 30 especially make this point). Annie Jacobsen seems to agree, as her sharpest commentary is to a Pentagon apparatchik who tried to blur these lines as the Iraqi insurgency proved immune to Network-Centric operations.

Much of The Pentagon’s Brain is terrifying. The details of “Civil Defense” are nightmarish, and far worse than described in bleak films of a nuclear war, such as [Threads](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threads_(1984_film). Likewise, the expectations for what a germ war would look like (including the widespread use of a RNA human retrovirus, and a follow-on triggering agent) were unexpectedly relevant during the Wuhan virus outbreak. It is in this context that Jacobsen describes the widespread infection of humans of SV-40 during the Polio vaccination. As Jacobsen outlined the stages of a viral attack, I recognized that the widespread mockery without investigation of Dr. Judy Mikovitz was misplaced, if not skepticism of her specific claims.

Pentagon’s brain is very well written. BBN, SAIC, the Jason group, and many others in ARPA’s orbit are described. But I really wish more was shared about the origins of the internet! ARPA research is central part of our economy, and the story of the ARPAnet and the Internet is barely described in this book. There’s plenty of cool stuff about robots and cyborgs in the book, though.

I read The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency in the Audible edition.

The Genetics of Human Social Behavior, and Its Implications for the Peace

This is very cool. DRD47R is associated not just with high functioning ADD, novelty seeking, and distance from the Yellow River of China (for mongoloid populations), but also Friendship, Politics, and Food.

From James Fowler’s “Friendships Moderate an Association Between the DRD4 Gene and Political Ideology” (pdf):

Studies of identical and fraternal twins suggest that political ideology has a heritable component (Alford, Funk, and Hibbing 2005; Hatemi et al. 2007), but no specific gene associated with political ideology has so far been identified. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we investigate the moderating influence of friendships on the contribution of the 7R allele of the DRD4 gene to liberal political ideology. The number of self-nominated friendships in adolescence moderates the influence of the gene on political ideology; the more friends nominated, the stronger the liberal ideological identification of the respondent in early adulthood. This is the first study to elaborate a specific gene-environment interaction that contributes to ideological self-identification.

And “Dopamine receptor genetic polymorphisms and body composition in undernourished pastoralists: An exploration of nutrition indices among nomadic and recently settled Ariaal men of northern Kenya” (hat-tip to gnxp and Scientific Blogging):

While those with the DRD4/7R allele were better nourished in the nomadic population, they were less well-nourished in the settled population. Although the effects of different versions of dopamine genes have already been studied in industrialized countries, very little research has been carried out in non-industrial, subsistence environments like the areas where the Ariaal live, despite the fact that such environments may be more similar to the environments where much of human genetic evolution took place.

The first time I encountered research like this, my first reaction was “This can be used to help secure the peace.” Our knowledge is still early and piecemeal to turn this genetic research into real-world battlespace advantages, but I don’t think we are too far away. Imagine, for instance, if an occupying force could quickly screen the population using genetic knowledge, prevently detaining those most likely to cause trouble, thus protecting the general civilian population and potential terrorists from harm?

(While certainly those who oppose military solutions would object to this, an occupying power could easily argue that they are required to do such screenings once they are feasible, under the doctrine of responsibility to protect.)

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.

New Book on Jesus, Diocletian, 4GW, and COIN

D.M. was kind enough to join the hype-cycle for my new book, which will soon be followed on by a published version of the “John Boyd Roundtable,” edited by Mark Safranski of ZenPundit fame.

Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity

I wrote Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It to help explain the persecution experienced by the early Christians in light of strategic theory. I believe that Romans, who martyred so many Christians, were not foolish or stupid. I think they knew what they were doing: they understood that if the Christianity triumphed, the world they knew and loved would be turned upside down.

The Romans acted according to the same basic rules that guided the Nazi fight against la Résistance in France… and the American fight against al Qaeda in Iraq.

I hope my book will be useful to those who want to begin learning about modern strategy, and for people who wish to know a little more about the rise of Christianity. From Joseph Caiaphas to the Prophet Muhammed, I describe the early enemies of Christianity as wise fighters who used strategies that now have buzzwords for names (COIN, xGW, and so on), but whose use goes back to the dawn of time.

Obama and Urban COIN

This TV ad condemning Barack Obama for opposing some gang-related death sentences has been making the rounds. Here it is (with a hat-tip to PA Pundits):

This is a fair ad. Counter-Insurgency (COIN) against gangs has unfortunately not been a major issue, and “gang terrorism” is as good a shorthand for what’s going on as any. Obviously, there’s no “exit strategy” for America’s big cities, and the long-term answer will be jobs, but a variety of factors make too many urban youths unemployable in the short- and medium- turn. Eliminating rogue elements and gang “dead enders” should be a priority for the government, as gangs are quiet adapt at flexing power and extracting rents from the prisons supposedly meant to discipline them.

Barack Obama’s weak on urban COIN, weak on gang terrorism.

Don’t vote for him.

David Petreaus, Commander-in-Chief (Central Command)

This is incredibly good news — only promoting General Petreaus to CINCEUCOM (where he would have overseen NATO operations in Afghanistan) would be comparable:

The Associated Press: Gen. Petraeus named as next commander of Mideast command
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press has learned that Gen. David Petraeus, the four-star general who has been leading troops in Iraq, has been tapped to become the next commander of U.S. Central Command.

If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Navy Adm. William Fallon, who stepped down in March.

Taking Petraeus’ position as the senior commander in Iraq would be Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who had until recently been serving as Petraeus’ deputy.

Completing the Counter-Insurgency cycle in Iraq is incredibly important — and Petreaus is just the man to do it.

The COIN Cycle

Courtesy John Robb, this interesting piece:

An Outsider’s Perspective (SWJ Blog)
Ucko wraps up by noting that “it is too early to say with any real certainty whether or not counterinsurgency will become a central priority for the U.S. military.” He finds the evidence “emerging from its initial encounter with counterinsurgency in 2003 presents a mixed picture: on the one hand, a group within the DoD has driven an impressive learning process, featuring rapid integration of counterinsurgency in our doctrine, education and training. On the other hand, the U.S. military has remained structured for conventional war and, more important yet, emerging opportunities to change force structure or budgetary priorities have not been seized.”

Dr. Ucko’s bottom line is that, despite a long war and omens of a generational struggle, “the future of counterinsurgency within the U.S. military thus seems to hang in the balance, dependent on whether the message and cause of the COIN community is accepted and thereby gains momentum or whether it is rejected and pushed off the table.”

One of the reasons to stay in Iraq is completing the COIN cycle. It is important that the US military gains not only the experience in taking a Counter-Insurgency (COIN) campaign from beginning to end, but also that the lessons learned be reflected in promotions. The article correctly points out that the Army will not have fully transformed into a COIN force until top-line spending priorities change. That is to say, the Army won’t be truly ready for SysAdmin work until it hosts a Military-Industrial-COIN-Complex.

To get that to happen, we need to complete the COIN cycle. We need to stay in Iraq.

Not only does winning in Iraq help us in all the typical ways (building up our correlation of forces, dissuading neutrals from being hostile to us, etc), it also gives us the COIN infrastructure we need for future conflicts.

We need to complete the COIN cycle. We need victory in Iraq.