Category Archives: Education

Pax Americana vs. The Information Society

Below, in a 2012 interview, former Secretary of State George Schultz explains that the roots of the modern world order, the “economic and security commons”, as he puts it, lay in the power systems set up after World War II to prevent a repeat of this catastrophic conflict.

Due to developments in communications technology, he asserts, governments no longer possess a monopoly over the best, most accurate information — economic, political, or otherwise. This disruptive change in the distribution of power, in concert with the negative effects of monolithic economic policies in Europe, weakened the established order. An assessment of the current political climate in the West (5 years since this interview) might claim it is both animated by and a reaction to this weakening.

Resistance to globalism, a product of the success of Schultz’s world order, is, interestingly, a factor in the growth of extremist groups in the Muslim world. Curiously, these regressive groups readily embrace the new information society, capitalizing on social media and advanced communication technology to recruit adherents.

Related, and of interest, are the negative effects of filter bubbles — “fake news” and news designed to appeal to existing biases. Social media outlets (Facebook, Google, YouTube, sites with the familiar “Suggested for you” links) now source news information to a vast number of citizens, resulting in increasing inside group/outside group identification and the acceptance of misinformation as truth, factors that significantly degrade the ability of these citizens to make informed, pluralistic political choices. The precipitous break-up of our society into poorly informed, self-interested, reactionary, mistrustful factions, compounded by pre-existing factors like gerrymandering that increase political polarization, might be avoided if electronic media companies were required by law to include diverse viewpoints in their algorithms and police misinformation.

Another prediction from the past:

Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview.

— Marcus

Pax Americana

Though many of the parallels drawn and claims made by the author here are quite debatable (modern counterinsurgency has nothing to do with what the author describes in this book review, e.g.), nonetheless, the subject, that we should examine, debate and understand the history of American interventionism, is worthy of our time and consideration:

How the US Began Its Empire

For decades, anti-imperial thought has been largely absent from public discourse. So has the word “imperialism.” The chief substitute for it has been “internationalism.” The rhetorical shift from imperialism to internationalism suggests a sanitizing process at work during the twentieth century, as the United States moved away from a formal empire based on the occupation of foreign territory to an informal empire based on proxy governments backed by occasional US invasions.

 

— Marcus

Aggregate behavioral science pt. 2

What are the best ways to encourage others to behave better? Psychologist Daniel Pink explored this subject in his 2014 National Geographic series:

Meet Daniel Pink

With over 20 years experience as a journalist and writer covering all aspects of Behavioral Science Daniel Pink now gets to find out what really works. Drawing on academic theories, experiments and the secrets of retail and advertising, Daniel turns urban explorer in National Geographic’s stand out new series ‘Crowd Control.’

 

When we wish to change the behavior of others (as many of us do who have engaged in the long war with militant extremism), it’s also helpful to understand the cognitive biases that shape human thinking, as well the psychological roots of conflict.

— Marcus

A bulldog’s account of war

Over 100 years ago, British Army junior officer and aspiring journalist Winston Churchill penned an account of an expeditionary campaign in Central Asia, which he called The Story of The Malakand Field Force: An Episode of Frontier War. Churchill’s observations remain relevant, especially those concerning the habits of the Pashtun tribes of the Malakand hinterlands:

“Except at the times of sowing and of harvest, a continual state of feud and strife prevails throughout the land. Tribe wars with tribe. The people of one valley fight with those of the next. To the quarrels of communities are added the combats of individuals. Khan assails khan, each supported by his retainers. Every tribesman has a blood feud with his neighbor. Every man’s hand is against the other, and all against the stranger.”

A few lines from the preface about the price of intellectual integrity also bear repeating:

“Indeed, I fear that assailing none, I may have offended all. Neutrality may degenerate into an ignominious isolation. An honest and unprejudiced attempt to discern the truth is my sole defence, as the good opinion of the reader has been throughout my chief aspiration, and can be in the end my only support.”

Servicemembers charged with duty in the Middle East and abroad may benefit from a reading of Churchill’s selected works.

Related:

Malakand District – Wikipedia

The Swat River flows through the district down towards Charsadda District where it falls into the Kabul River. Malakand District is bounded in the north by Lower Dir District, in the east by Swat District, in the south east and south west by Mardan and Charsadda districts respectively and in the west by Mohmand and Bajaur agencies.

Siege of Malakand – Wikipedia

The Siege of Malakand was the 26 July – 2 August 1897 siege of the British garrison in the Malakand region of colonial British India’s North West Frontier Province.

Tribes, institutions, markets, networks

These categories help us understand the aggregate behavior of individuals as they come together to form different types of human societies. What’s worth noting, especially, are David’s insights with respect to the universality of tribal identity: tribalism is the first and final form of social organization.  A sense of belonging is a core need, and is, in part, at least, what radical extremists exploit when recruiting new members. From SWJ (my bold):

Recent research has shown that isolated and marginalised groups and individuals are more likely to be lured by the messages of vengeance (perceived social and political justice) and a utopian life of the Caliphate (perceived sense of belonging and purpose).

Small Wars Journal

Journal Articles are typically longer works with more more analysis than the news and short commentary in the SWJ Blog. We accept contributed content from serious voices across the small wars community, then publish it here as quickly as we can, per our Editorial Policy, to help fuel timely, thoughtful, and unvarnished discussion of the diverse and complex issues inherent in small wars.

— Marcus

Aggregate behavioral science

 …in modern societies in Europe and North America, the tribal paradigm is constantly reiterated in large ways and small—not only in expressions of nationalism and “national character,” but also in the often-clannish organization and behavior of civic clubs, social circles, sports fans, urban gangs, and even “cyber-tribes,” to note a few examples.  All such expressions reflect the tribal paradigm, for they are more about traditional desires for identity, honor, pride, respect, and solidarity than about modern desires for power and profit.

From In Search Of How Societies Work, Tribes — The First and Forever Form, by David Ronfeldt, page 57, before chapter titled, Modern Manifestations of the Tribal Form. (My bold text.)

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— M.

Conflict and cooperation

SWJ suggests that a systematic, analytical, game-theory-based approach to battlefield interrogations may be effective:

Small Wars Journal

Journal Articles are typically longer works with more more analysis than the news and short commentary in the SWJ Blog. We accept contributed content from serious voices across the small wars community, then publish it here as quickly as we can, per our Editorial Policy, to help fuel timely, thoughtful, and unvarnished discussion of the diverse and complex issues inherent in small wars.

“These weren’t model soldiers, but they were guys who could get jobs done.”

‘Filthy Thirteen’ veterans recount their antics during WWII

WASHINGTON – Jake McNiece’s story would have made a great movie script. His crew of troublemaking soldiers, the Filthy Thirteen, took on a suicide mission at the height of World War II, pulled it off and lived to tell about it. It’s almost a shame they made “The Dirty Dozen” instead.

 

Treat them with kindness and humanity

A few more thoughts from the first commander in chief:

4th. Whatever Prisoners you take, must be treated with Kindness and Humanity. Their private Stock of Money and Apparel to be given them, after being strictly searched, and when they arrive at any Port, they are to be delivered up to the Agent, if any there; if not, to the Committee of Safety of such Port.

From:

George Washington to Charles Dyar, January 20, 1776 (also to William Burke and John Ayres)

George Washington to Charles Dyar, January 20, 1776 (also to William Burke and John Ayres) IMAGES Head Quarters Cambridge, January 20, 1776. Sir: You being appointed Captain and Commander of the armed schooner Harrison in the Service of the United Colonies are to pay all Attention and Obedience to the following Instructions.

Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner] … I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause … for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.

From:

George Washington to Benedict Arnold, September 14, 1775, two same date

George Washington to Benedict Arnold, September 14, 1775, two same date IMAGES Camp at Cambridge, September 14, 1775. Sir: You are intrusted with a Command of the utmost Consequence sequence to the Interest and Liberties of America.