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Friday, June 27, 2014

Institute of Land Warfare Publication

The good folks at the Institute of Land Warfare recently published an adaptation of my monograph, Special Operations Forces in Unlit Spaces: Understanding the World's Dark Spots in the Context of SOF Operational Planning, as part of their Land Warfare Paper series. Working with them was a pleasure, and I appreciate their attention to editing detail. Here is a link to the publication: http://www.ausa.org/publications/ilw/DigitalPublications/Documents/lwp101/index.html

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gone but not Forgotten

I've been away for a spell, but I have not forgotten about this forum. I'll be returning to it very soon. There is definitely a lot to talk about in the world, particularly regarding many out-of-context misinterpretations of recent foreign policy approaches the United States has taken. The unfortunate bi-product of multiple 24-hour news outlets is that the level of analysis pertaining to current events fails to account for the current context in comparison to similar situations in context. Therefore, we will attempt to dig a little deeper than one or two news cycles with some recent events and look at their significance in the context of geopolitical norms and international theories.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Juxtaposing Drone Ethics with Nazi War Trials: A Review of Eichmann in Jerusalem

My previous essay regarding Hannah Arendt's book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, is now published through the good folks at e-International Relations. Here is the link the revised essay. The original is still posted in the archives, but I appreciate the efforts they did to clean it up. The version on e-IR is a little tighter and it juxtaposes today's argument related to the ethics of drone prosecution of terrorists with trials of Nazi war criminals. Check it out:

http://www.e-ir.info/2013/11/14/review-eichmann-in-jerusalem/

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pakistan's New Generation of Terrorists - Council on Foreign Relations

To understand the history of Afghanistan, one must account for Afghanistan's neighbor - Pakistan. Similarly, to understand the nature of the Taliban and other threat groups that have arisen, one must understand the interplay between Afghanistan and Pakistan to include their surrounding border states, such as India. The Council on Foreign Relations has a nice backgrounder on these threat groups.

Pakistan's New Generation of Terrorists - Council on Foreign Relations

Friday, November 8, 2013

1914 and the First World War

In the coming year there will be many books published about the first World War. In many ways I think people think they have forgotten that war; however, in many ways I think people don't realize how much they have not forgotten that war since it shaped so many aspects of international relations today. One new book I'm anxious to get ahold of is Margaret MacMillan's The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. The title reminds me of Barbara Tuchman's Pulitzer Prize-Winner, The Guns of August.

The Brookings Institute, which has been doing a really neat essay series, will feature an interactive essay in December by Margaret MacMillan. Here is an interesting discussion with her regarding the early 1900s and how that period shaped today's international politics.

View more details on Brookings.edu
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Revisiting Defense Strategies: The Applicability of Melvin Laird’s Strategy for Peace

Here it is. Check out the Small Wars Journal posting of my essay from 2011. It's a revised version of the original, Melvin Laird's Strategy for Peace: a 2011 Analysis. Students at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth have found the essay useful for some of the coursework. I hope this version will add to their academic understanding of an interesting period in our defense history. Thanks, as always to the the folks at Small Wars and thanks for keeping a great journal defense affairs. Enjoy.

Revisiting Defense Strategies: The Applicability of Melvin Laird’s Strategy for Peace

Monday, October 14, 2013

Today's Hot Topics, Yesterday's Conversations


Discussions of the world's events today sometimes seems so dire and trapped in a woeful present. Reading headlines and hearing the talking heads and even colleagues discuss current events, one might think today's trials are entirely new and wonder if this world will survive. Well, a quick glance at a series of headlines in history gives me reason to rethink that our world is progressing forward rather than backward. The New York Times has a fascinating interactive of headlines from the International Herald Tribune. Take a trip back to the late 1800s or the mid 1920s or the tumultuous 1950s and see that many of the same trials we worry about today were being worried about then: civil unrest, defense spending, rising powers, existential threats, the collapse of a moral society, etc. The front pages themselves are interesting, but the stories behind the fold reveal the conversations that took place in times we forget.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/10/14/business/media/turning-the-page.html?smid=pl-share

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Education in America - Championing Competition or Cause for Concern


Recent reports are again sounding the alarm for the decline of American education. The LA Times highlights that American adults have low (and declining) reading proficiency. The New York Post warns that US Adults are dumber than the average human! But are they, really? How conclusive are the OECD survey results and what do their trends really mean? Surveys are terribly complicated measures of many factors. The interesting thing about them is that they are hard to draw definitive conclusions. But people attempt to because the numbers in and of themselves can appear illuminating. However, correlation does not necessarily explain causation, nor does it explain relative geopolitical outcomes, i.e. global power parity. They do offer some policy insights to be competitive. Hence, the U.S. has had a history of reforming its education system to be competitive. In terms of higher education, the United States remains the dominant world leader in research institutions by a wide margin, nearly three times the rate compared to the next dominant group – Europe. Thus, I tend to be more skeptical and less cynical about the latest round of figures from a table in a survey depicting the worrisome status of American education. Those sounding bells have been ringing since at least the turn of the 20th century.

Here are a few alternatives to further understand the complex nature of education in America and education globally. In context the surveys themselves warn against creating specific policies to address perceived deficiencies, instead offering general observations for broader strategic education initiatives. In terms of meaning, their underlying importance is hard to determine. They may offer insight into the degree of competitiveness a country takes and in what manner, such as congressional initiatives to boost STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) competitiveness. For more understanding of the nature of global education consider the following:

PISA analysis

http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/programmeforinternationalstudentassessmentpisa/pisa2006results.htm

See also 2009 results from the same OECD program.

Lessons from PISA

http://www.oecd.org/fr/edu/scolaire/programmeinternationalpourlesuividesacquisdeselevespisa/strongperformersandsuccessfulreformersineducationlessonsfrompisafortheunitedstates.htm

Interpreting survey results - apples to apples comparison?

http://educationnext.org/are-u-s-students-ready-to-compete/

Interesting comparison of the American hegemony of higher education

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2013-14/world-ranking

Global education trends

http://129.194.160.51/webdav/site/developpement/shared/developpement/cours/E759/Altbach,%20Reisberg,%20Rumbley%20Tracking%20an%20Academic%20Revolution,%20UNESCO%202009.pdf

A bit of history. These education data statistics and their confusing meaning are nothing new. The contrast between turn of the century education reform and present day reform are startlingly similar, to include the analysis of particulars that distort general statistical averages, such as socio-economic factors related to reading. Compare the following introduction chapter to the Education Next.org paper and PISA survey analysis.

http://archive.org/details/monographsonedu01butlgoog

See also how education reform has been a point of domestic policy for a long time (1st chapter)

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&ved=0CEkQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbooks.google.com%2Fbooks%2Fabout%2FThe_Politics_of_School_Reform_1870_1940.html%3Fid%3DkiPIf6mUoi4C&ei=KNZVUq3gMsnW2gWmuYCwBw&usg=AFQjCNF4zQnB79OTxGp0TLmrGrcGSSvG7A&sig2=rdOch95yV1IwOQHob772bg&bvm=bv.53760139,d.b2I

Congressional STEM initiative

http://www.jec.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=6aaa7e1f-9586-47be-82e7-326f47658320

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Afghanistan’s answer to Hillary Clinton? Fawzia Koofi launches bid to be president

In spite of the many doubful challenges Afghanistan faces, this is one hopeful example of what might be possible. The standard critique of her bid is that the culture could never accept it, or at least they could not accept it now. I think we have seen in recent years that that paradigm is not entirely true in our own country. Moreover, the so-called cultural-religious hurdle she figuratively has to jump over in an ideologically based country like Afghanistan, is, I think largely mythical. There have been enough examples of other women in other countries who have led staunchly religious societies. We should not be so quick to think this could not happen in a place like Afghanistan. Rather, we should wonder if this is exactly what might motivate a paradigmatic wave of change. I would not be surprised if her support is more profound than expected. Here is the link to the NBC article:

Afghanistan’s answer to Hillary Clinton? Fawzia Koofi launches bid to be president

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Special Operations Forces in Unlit Spaces Monograph


SOF in Unlit Spaces: Understanding the World’s Dark Spots inthe Context of SOF Operational Planning is finally available through the Combined Arms Research Library at Fort Leavenworth. This is my monograph that explores several things. First it takes a look at unlit spaces. I’ve talked about them before here, but this new research expounds upon the various definitions I placed on kinds of unlit spaces. I make some adjustments to commonly understood definitions such as failed states, fragile states, and ungoverned spaces. Since the term 'unlit space' is too general, it really has little meaning particularly when one is planning military operations. Furthermore, the various kinds of unlit spaces have vague meaning when one considers the context of that area’s condition.

Second, I take a look at how Special Operations Forces (SOF) should consider operational level planning for activities in those places. While it might seem trite to simply say “it depends,” planning truly does depend on the conditions that make those spaces “unlit.” Moreover, the hyper-attention being placed on unlit areas such as fragile states, ungoverned spaces, etc. overlooks the dynamics of those places and misses threat potentials elsewhere. In other words, all unlit spaces are not necessarily an existential threat; therefore, deploying SOF to unlit spaces merely because they are unlit makes little strategic sense.

Afghanistan and Somalia during two time periods, 1990s and 2000s, are the case studies I use to explore the nature of an unlit space. They reveal how SOF operational planners need to deeply understand the context of an area before considering the value of SOF activities in those places. This is especially true when one considers that SOF operate in a human domain. The human domain is full of nuanced peculiarities that do not fit neatly into typological molds. Therefore, certain kinds of SOF missions depend more heavily on knowing the context of a situation than do others.  

I hope to publish this in a journal or magazine somewhere, so I’m open to recommendations. Here is the link to the monograph: