Counterterrorism "expert" David Kilcullen discusses the rise of ISIS with historian Robert Manne. Kilcullen was a senior adviser to General David Petraeus in 2007 and 2008, when he helped to design and monitor the Iraq War troop "surge".
Yemen has fallen. In a striking series of events which has largely flown under the radar except in occasional cable-tv news blurbs -- the nominally pro-Western government of Yemen has been overthrown by Iranian-backed militants. American and British forces have hastily "evacuated" -- an evacuation which may, perhaps, be interpreted as a retreat. Militants have seized abandoned American weapon stockpiles, and a massive defeat for the United States and her allies has gone virtually unnoticed. [more inside]
In the week before Paris grabbed the world's attention, Boko Haram (previously) staged an attack on the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga which reportedly forced 20,000 people to flee and left hundreds or even thousands dead. A Baga survivor who hid for three days said that, after breaking cover and escaping, "for five kilometres, I kept stepping on dead bodies". [more inside]
How the typewriter is/isn't better/worse for your writing. A little bit about ye olde handwriting in there as well.
Syria Options Go From Bad To Worse
As reports have surfaced of possible use of sarin gas in the Syrian civil war, calls by long-time proponents of U.S. intervention on behalf of the anti-Assad rebels have grown to a fever pitch. These same voices, both at home and abroad, have evoked the administration’s previously stated “red line” on use of chemical weapons. But even assuming that reports of WMD usage in Syria turn out to be true, the Obama Administration’s position may be far more nuanced than previously thought.[more inside]
Frequently dismissed as trivial or unimportant because untrue, rumors are a potent in the information war that characterizes contemporary conflicts, and they participate in significant ways in the struggle for the consent of the governed. As narrative forms, rumors are suitable to a wide range of political expression, from citizens, insurgents, and governments alike. The authors make a compelling argument for understanding rumors in these contexts as "narrative IEDs," low-cost, low-tech weapons that can successfully counter elaborate and expansive government initiatives of outreach campaigns or strategic communication efforts.Narrative Landmines - The Explosive Effects of Rumors in Syria and Insurgencies Around the World [more inside]
1. Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Pity. A signature strike leveled the florist’s. The Disposition Matrix. Anti-Drone Camouflage: What to Wear in Total Surveillance. Drone City. Books Not Bombs.
'You actually have to really build a collaborative relationship with the people on the ground if you want to have any hope of understanding what’s going on.'
"Let’s Map Who Owes The Local Warlord Money": Meet An Urban Planner For Cities That Don't Yet Exist (via Small Wars Journal). [more inside]
Gary Brecher (the "War Nerd") examines the track records of the IRA vs. Al Qaeda "It’s hard for an American to get your head around any of this, but the point, and it’s very 'counter-intuitive' as they say, is that Al Qaeda did everything wrong, spending all their assets and going for maximum kill, and the IRA, the poster-boy for long, slow, crock-pot guerrilla warfare, did it exactly right." (via) [more inside]
Professors' global model forecasts civil unrest against governments - With protests spreading in the Middle East (now Yemen - not on the list) I thought this article and blog on a forecast model predicting "which countries will likely experience an escalation in domestic political violence [within the next five years]" was rather interesting. [more inside]
Know Thine Enemy. "In a video Op-Ed by documentary filmmakers Molly Bingham and Steve Connors, Iraqis explain the roots of the insurgency." [more inside]
Iraq's Horror Movie Posters. According to Sky News, insurgent forces are taking up Worth1000 style criticism to hold up a mirror to citizens of the US and their Military-Entertainment complex.
IraqFilter: Who is the US fighting in Iraq? A February 2006 report from the International Crisis Group which provides a detailed look at the evolution of the insurgency, and describes its four main groups: Tandhim al-Qa’ida fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (recently decapitated), Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna, al-Jaysh al-Islami fil-’Iraq, and al-Jabha al-Islamiya lil-Muqawama al-’Iraqiya. In Iraq, the U.S. fights an enemy it hardly knows. Its descriptions have relied on gross approximations and crude categories (Saddamists, Islamo-fascists and the like) that bear only passing resemblance to reality. This report, based on close analysis of the insurgents’ own discourse [particularly their websites], reveals relatively few groups, less divided between nationalists and foreign jihadis than assumed, whose strategy and tactics have evolved (in response to U.S. actions and to maximise acceptance by Sunni Arabs), and whose confidence in defeating the occupation is rising.
“You are not to use electronic communication or even land lines when communicating.” Remember the Millennium Challenge '02 wargames (previously discussed here)? To refresh your memory, Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper (ret.), playing the part of the enemy, sank half the American fleet using a host of unconventional tactics including using motorcycle messengers to avoid radio interception. The embarrassed Pentagon game masters restarted the game & forced Van Riper to use more conventional tactics that guaranteed a win by the Good Guys. Well it looks like the Iraqi insurgents have picked up a play from Van Riper's book. Flyers are being distributed throughout Iraq urging fighters to stop using cellphones, landline phones & the Internet for communications because the US Army is intercepting them & tracking down the rebel cells. Score one for open source warfare. [via]
What is the "Oil Spot Strategy", and is the U.S. following it in Iraq? Scholars, pundits [reg. required] and politicians have been calling for a strategy in Iraq based on the one the British used during the Malayan Emergency for awhile now. There have been indications that the U.S. has been listening. It sounds like a good idea, the only problem being that it is estimated to take about ten years to work [2nd section].
Is Nepal the Next Cambodia? Many experts fear the worst. Despite its tourist-friendly, pacific image, Nepal is teetering on the brink of collapse as a little-noticed but brutal Maoist insurgency tries to take down an equally vicious government. The story was reported by Matthew McAllester and photographed by Moises Saman, both of whom know something about surviving terror and violence. An Amnesty International report condemns the violence of both sides. This Royal Nepalese Army page describes its mission; take a look at His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev.
Iraqi Insurgents are running a different kind of guerrilla war. And at least one Iraqi sniper is apparently playing havoc with coalition troops.
Why the war has become a clusterf**k On my way back from lunch I was listening to Fresh Air and an interview with Christopher Dickey. The things he was saying about the motives of work-a-day Iraqis came as a big surprise to me. In particular: It sounds like they'll keep fighting us long after Saddam and his army are gone. [more inside]
Iraq: In all but name, the war's on How do you tell a war has begun? This is not the 17th or 18th century. There are no highfalutin' declarations. Troops don't line up in eyesight of each other. There are no drum rolls and bugle calls, no calls of "Chaaa...rge!". When did the Vietnam War begin? When, for that matter, World War I? When mobilizations were ordered setting in motion irreversible chains of events or at the time of the formal declarations of war?
Civil War: Political Violence and Robust Settlements -- an article from the Santa Fe Institute Bulletin about game theoretical approaches combined with on the ground field studies to analyze war and conflict. The article centers around work (Forging Democracy From Below: Insurgent Transitions in South Africa and El Salvador | Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador) done by Elisabeth Jean Wood, an NYU professor of political science with a background in physics. "The reason to study violence and suffering," says Wood, "is to understand its origins, processes, andâ?"ideallyâ?"to contribute to its cessation."
So what's the difference between the latest suicide bombing and the incursion in Jenin? Both targeted off-duty combatants (13 of the 17 killed on the bus were armed soldiers, the majority killed in Jenin were armed combatants) and both had "collateral damage" of civilians. If one argues that Jenin was a military operation that pursued combatants and unfortunately civilians were caught in between, couldn't one argue the same about this bus bombing? Disclaimer: I oppose both as immoral.