Tag Archives: ncw

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.

In Net-Centric Politics, The Net-Centric Politicians Ru[i]n the Party

Internet and the Democrats,” by Jon Schaff, South Dakota Politics, 20 July 2005, http://southdakotapolitics.blogs.com/south_dakota_politics/2005/week29/index.html#a0005664380.

Schaff of SDP notes that the infusion of high-tech politics into the Democrat Party is hurting America’s Opposition, by turning the technophile “netroots” against the factions of the party who can actually win

 

There is no such thing as a free lunch. You get activism and money out of the online world, but you also get a louder voice for the far left of the Party. Note this bit referring to Marcos Moulitsas Zuniga, aka Daily Kos:

 

[Kos] sweepingly dismissed the Democratic Leadership Council, Joe Lieberman, and The New Republic magazine as “tools of the GOP.” In 2004, Kerry’s campaign cut its link to Moulitsas’s Web site after he wrote that he felt “nothing” when four American contractors were killed in Falluja, because “they are there to wage war for profit.”

 

And also:

 

After years of uncertainty, he had discovered his niche. Kos quickly found an audience by expressing the unmediated anger of the Democratic base toward Bush, and even more so toward Democrats who cooperated with him, especially over the war in Iraq.

 

Kos’s “niche” is fueling anger and resentment towards all who do not share his extremist views.

But to the point at hand, I think it is interesting that the very part of the Democratic Party that is gaining power is rejecting the only part of the Party that has won an election in the last 40 years (remember Carter ran as a moderate Southerner).

 

Failure of Net-Centric Policing (Super-Empowered Locals or Super-Empowered Courts)

Man grabs girl’s arm – now he’s a sex offender,” World Net Daily, 2 July 2005, http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45104 (from Flit(tm)).

Netwar v. Net-Centric War, on America’s streets:

A man who grabbed a 14-year-old girl’s arm to chastise her after she walked in front of his car, causing him to swerve to avoid hitting her, must register as a “sex offender,” the Appellate Court of Illinois has ruled.

Fitzroy Barnaby, a 28-year-old Evanston, Illinois, man was prosecuted for attempted kidnapping and child abduction charges following a November 2002 incident in which he nearly hit the teen with his vehicle.

The girl testified Barnaby yelled, “Come here, little girl,” when he jumped out of his car and grabbed her arm. She broke away and called authorities. Barnaby says he was merely trying to lecture her for her carelessness.

The trial jury accepted Barnaby’s version of the story, but found him guilty of unlawful restraint of a minor – a sex offense under Illinois law. As a convicted sex offender, Barnaby is required to be listed on the state’s sex offender registry and must keep authorities informed of his place of residency. He also isn’t allowed to live near schools or parks. The Illinois Sex Offender Information website, operated by the Illinois State Police, lists those in the registry, along with their photographs and home addresses.

Trial Judge Patrick Morse ordered registration reluctantly, acknowledging it was “more likely than not” Barnaby only intended to chastise the girl. “I don’t really see the purpose of registration in this case. I really don’t,” Morse said. “But I feel that I am constrained by the statute.”

There are two main approaches to security in the world: “netstruggle” and “network-centric struggle.” Both rely on networks, both are built on the works of the late Colonel John Boyd, and both are summed up by Sun Microsystems’ tagline “The Network is the Computer.”

In netwar, in netpolitics, in netfaith, super-empowered individuals use social, economic, physical, and technological networks to come together and act as a group. Especially when these are combined into a tight human-internet, these nets are very powerful. In Iraq, Islamist terrorists use netwar to deny freedom to their fellows and kill Soldiers. In America, Christian Republicans use netpolitics to elect friendly politicians and steer the judicial branch of government. Netstruggle is summed up by America’s motto, E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, One.

In network-centric war, politics, and faith, super-empowered leaders use technological networks to order subordinates around efficiently. Especially when the technological network is fast, secure, and everywhere, network-centric strivers can be very powerful. In Iraq, the American military removed Saddam from power in three weeks. Network-centric struggle is summed up by one word: faster.

But if a problem cannot be solved quickly, network-centric solutions are foolish. NCW was great for destroying Iraq in three weeks, but is unable to restore it in three years.

Network-centric solutions win wars, but not peaces.

When we give distant courts the ability to put someone’s name on a magic list, we are doing network-centric policing. We are super-empowering judges and juries to disempower individuals.

You want to end pedophile attacks on your children? Move society to netpolicing — give every man a gun, and make it clear that “honor killings” will not be prosecuted. Super-empower individuals.

You are ok with Barnaby’s fate? Stick to network-centric policing.

Update 27 October 2005: Courtesty Mark at Zen Pundit, Jeff at Caerdroia seems to agree:

The practical result of this is that, at least in the US, the State can fail utterly at some task without leading to dissolution — even at the task of defense against enemies, foreign or domestic. Let us say, for example, that the police make a total mess of fighting against a domestic 4GW threat. While it’s possible the government could turn to death squads, it is unlikely (again, at least in the US). What is far more likely is that the armed citizens would organize themselves into a group and go solve the problem. There is a name for this: a Committee of Vigilance. Perhaps better known as vigilantes. While not the best solution — such groups tend to get out of hand — it is certainly better than giving up to death or at least chaos.

It goes without saying that such a strategy works best in a culture with strong horizontal controls

NCO v. 4GW

The Pentagon’s Debate Over What Iraq Means,” by Thomas P.M. Barnett, The Command Post, http://www.command-post.org/oped/2_archives/018611.html, 24 January 2005.

With no comment other than “I need to learn more about this,” I present Dr. Barnett’s latest article:

The current fight between NCO and 4GW, over who “lost” the war in Iraq, is basically a repeat of the Rumsfeld-Shinseki argument. The 4GWers accuse NCOers of blindly stumbling from a 3GW victory over Saddam into a 4GW stalemate with the insurgency. But again, this accusation tends to conflate two very different situations: one the war, the other the subsequently botched peace. But the 4GW crowd’s answer can’t be simply, “Let’s get ready for counter-insurgencies because NCO is powerless to deal with them.”

In short, our choice isn’t between Network-Centric Operations or Fourth Generation Warfare, it’s how we focus each effectively on the logically-defined tasks of effective regime change, a list that covers both war and peace. A Pentagon debate that pits these two visions of war against one another is self-defeating and a waste of time. We must take advantage of the force-structure savings allowed by NCO (e.g., the smaller footprint) to build up our 4GW capabilities and marry those with the larger force requirements entailed in successful SysAdmin work.