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Archive for February 2010

Memo for the President of the United States

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Let’s pretend you are the Secretary of Defense. Now let’s pretend that POTUS (you know who) asks you to write a short memo on what the U.S. can do to better to protect national security. Let’s also pretend that your previous idea for a memo was rejected in the initial draft phase (It had these 3 recommendations: more enlisted soldier training, aligning the Dept of State regional bureaus with the Dept of Defense Unified Combatant Command System, and creating a hybrid warfare doctrine for military operations). But that didn’t work.

Now if you’ve gotten this far you might be stumped. Or at least I was. But I had to pen something because the POTUS was demanding this memo right away. And POTUS said my grade depended on it. Or at least 25%. So, to please POTUS (My professor) I turned in this memo…

Memorandum for the President of the United States

Subject: Increasing Personnel Readiness for Hybrid Warfare

Conflicts in the 21st century are characterized by a hybrid blend of tactics, conventional and irregular, administered by decentralized networks of enemy combatants. To meet this challenge the DoD must evolve by creating a more versatile military force. Additionally diplomatic and development aid efforts must be better orientated towards addressing hybrid warfare threats. The problem with military personnel is that they are inadequately trained to operate in the ambiguous environments that characterize hybrid warfare. While civilian agencies responsible for providing diplomacy and reconstruction assistance during hybrid contingency operations are improperly orientated to the military’s mission which inhibits their ability to effectively deploy in tandem with the DoD.

This memo proposes two solutions to the aforementioned problems. (1) Train military forces in hybrid warfare by focusing on the cross-specialization of job duties and education of service personnel. (2) Orientate diplomacy and aid capabilities to help the DoD augment the country’s hybrid warfare capabilities. These two programs place an emphasis on cross-training between Agencies and Departments of the Federal government. The programs also aim to develop military and diplomatic personnel with an interdisciplinary understanding of hybrid warfare.

Recommendation 1: Institute training focused on hybrid warfare. To prepare forces for hybrid threats necessitates training for multi-modal operations and building greater cognitive awareness in troops so they can navigate complex situations involving civilian populations and enemy combatants. This type of force will have to be built upon a solid professional foundation based in the officer corps but crossing over to the enlisted members and lower-ranks. Certain decision-making functions will have to be flattened which mandates more cross-specialization training for small unit leaders so they can take decisive actions in real time. The proposed training program will include advanced interdisciplinary training between military occupational specialties; better mid-career development for non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers, including fellowships with national defense universities; and more opportunities to attend the Foreign Service Institute. Training should incorporate education on new uses for information technology in the battlefield.

As a consequence of this reform expect to see pushback from senior military leadership who prefer to focus on conventional operations and specialized skill-sets in their combat personnel. The likely cost of this endeavor should be less than $10 billion annually, based on instituting training for new recruits and conducting remedial training for existing personnel. To mitigate these specific cost concerns funds can be pulled from conventional training programs.

Recommendation 2: Orientate foreign aid capabilities to address hybrid threats. Since the hybrid warfare environment will require agile and comprehensive countering measures, it will be necessary to have civilian agencies adept at providing support in tandem with the military. This will require synchronization between the DoD and civilian agencies. Civilian agencies should be prepared to serve on the front-lines or amidst combat situations. The proposed program recommends creating diplomatic and civilian aid capabilities which can link with the military’s mission during early phases of potential hybrid conflict. This program does not recommend creating a new division to house interagency efforts.

The program will create an operational design which subtly directs the sources of power to either defeat an enemy or gain the support of non-combatants. The program’s focus will be on establishing (a) a contingency gendarmerie force which can provide law and order during stability operations, (b) a cadre of legal specialists which can rapidly deploy with military forces to ensure the functioning of a judicial system, and (c) a strategic communications capability which can process and publicly address developments in the event of hybrid war. These program goals will be met by conducting interagency training. Most notably, a yearly interagency hybrid warfare training exercise will require different departments in the federal government to train in unison against the most dangerous threat scenarios of hybrid war.

This program’s costs will likely run under $10 billion annually with most of the costs used to hire and train additional civilian aid personnel, plus the additional costs of running an interagency exercise. Resourcing this program can be a joint effort with funds coming from the DoD and other federal departments. The likely consequences of this program will include pushback from personnel in the law enforcement, foreign aid and diplomacy communities who will be reluctant to collaborate increasingly with the military. Many civilian agencies will likely resent the proposal to imbed with military units.


Fear mongering for the day

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China is selling off U.S. Treasury bonds, perhaps spurring inflation. (Perhaps not.)

Diminishing supplies of rare earth elements could thwart innovation in high tech industry.

Tuna is dangerously close to being “threatened with extinction.”

Iran’s military is strange, powerful. (also, Life Magazine has jumped the shark)

Written by gringolost

February 18, 2010 at 9:19 am

Why people join terrorist groups

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Last week NYTimes Magazine ran the story The Jihadist Next Door which chronicled the radicalization and self-recruitment of Omar Hammami, a member of the terrorist group al Shabaab in Somalia.

Hammami, who grew up in Alabama a product of a middle-class family in a two-religion household, began his radicalization while in high school. According to the story, during his sophomore year in 2000 Hammami defended Osama bin Laden after a classmate suggested bin Laden be shot dead for his involvement with the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

“What if I said that about Billy Graham?” said Hammami to his classmate, a Christian.

“Billy Graham is a peaceable preacher,” said the classmate “Osama bin Laden is a terrorist.”

In reply, Hammami said “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

From here, the article takes the story of Hammami and reveals some insight into how individuals go from unlikely beginnings to become international terrorists.

In my opinion (*not a psychologist), Hammami had some behavioral traits that are fairly common amongst Islamic radicals who resort to terrorism. Specifically, recognition and popularity amongst Islamic peers seemed to drive Hammami’s participation in violent jihad. Reportedly, Hammami’s feelings towards the conflict in Somalia and the suppression of the Islamic armed group al Shabab hardened his resolve to fight. Paraphrasing from the article:

By 2006, Hammami had become convinced that “jihad had become an obligation.”  And further, he wanted to help his “captive brothers and sisters” while helping himself “obtain the highest rank available” as a Muslim. In August 2006 Hammami wrote “where is the desire to do something amazing? Where is the urge to get up and change yourself — not to mention the world and other issues further off?”

Eventually, Hammami would travel to Somalia and join up with al Shabaab, which brings me to my next point: along with notoriety, I feel individuals become radicalized because they embrace conflict and have a proclivity towards merciless adventurism. In essence, they are jihad adrenaline junkies. I think this trait is shared amongst other jihadists, like the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Thus along with the ascetic of traditional Islamic life, these radicals also enjoy the popularity and adventure that violent jihad can give them.

Written by gringolost

February 3, 2010 at 7:11 pm