“Creating a Smart Nation,” pp. 107-130
July 22, 2007
Ralph Peters is one of a handful of individuals whose every work I must read. See some others I recommend at the end of this review. Ralph stands alone as a warrior-philosopher who actually walks the trail, reads the sign, and offers up ground truth.
This book is deep look at the nuances and the dangers of what he calls the wars of blood and faith. The introduction is superb, and frames the book by highlighting these core matters:
* Washington has forgotten how to think.
* The age of ideology is over. Ethnic identity will rule.
* Globalization has contradictory effects. Internet spreads hatred and dangerous knowledge (e.g. how to make an improvised explosive device).
* The post-colonial era has begun.
* Women's freedom is the defining issue of our time.
* There is no way to wage a bloodless war.
* The media can now determine the war's outcome. I don't agree with the author on everything, this is one such case. If the government does not lie, the cause is just, and the endeavor is effectively managed, We the People can be steadfast.
A couple of expansions. I recently posted a list of the top ten timeless books at the request of a Stanford '09, and i7 includes Philip Allott's The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State. Deeper in the book the author has an item on Blood Borders, and it tallies perfectly with Allott's erudite view that the Treaty of Westphalia was a huge mistake–instead of creating artificial states (5000 distinct ethnic groups crammed into 189+ artificial political entities) we should have gone instead with Peoples and especially Indigenous Peoples whose lands and resources could not be stolen, only negotiated for peacefully. Had the USA not squandered a half trillion dollars and so many lives and so much good will, a global truth and reconciliation commission, combined with a free cell phone to every woman among the five billion poor (see next paragraph) could conceivably have achieved a peaceful reinvigoration of the planet with liberty and justice for peoples rather than power and wealth for a handful.
The author's views on the importance of women stem from decades of observation and are supported by Michael O'Hanlon's book, A Half Penny on the Federal Dollar: The Future of Development Aid, in which he documents that the single best return on investment for any dollar is in the education of women. They tend to be secular, appreciate sanitation and nutrition and moderation in all things. The men are more sober, responsible, and productive when their women are educated. THIS, not unilateral militarism, virtual colonialism, and predatory immoral capitalism, should be the heart of our foreign policy.
The book is organized into sections I was not expecting but that both make sense, and add to the whole. Part I is 17 short pieces addressing the Twenty-First Century Military. Here the author focuses on the strategic, lambastes Rumsfeld for not listening, and generally overlooks the fact that all our generals and admirals failed to be loyal to the Constitution and instead accepted illegal orders based on lies.
In Part II, Iraq and Its Neighbors, we have 24 pieces. The best piece by far in terms of provocative strategic value is “Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look.” Curiously he does not address Syria or Lebanon, but I expect he will since the Syrians just evacuated Lebanon and Syria and Iran appear to be planning for a pincer movement on Baghdad after they cut the ground supply line from Kuwait.
A handful of pieces, 5 in all, are grouped in Part III, The Home Front. The best two for me were “Our Strategic Intelligence Problem” in which he points out that more money and more technology are NOT going to make us smarter, it is humans with history, culture, language, and eyes on the target that will tease out the nuances no satellite can handle. He also points out how easily our satellites are deceived. I share his anguish in the piece on “Lynching the Marines.” I called and emailed the Colonel at HQMC in charge of the defense, and offered a heat stress defense that I had just learned about from a NASA engineer helping firefighters. If the body gets too hot, the brain starts to fry, and irrational behavior is the norm. The Colonel declined to acknowledge. That told me all I needed to know about how the Marines were all too eager to hang their own.
Part V was the most unfamiliar to me, covering Israel and Hezbollah. In 17 pieces, the author, an avowed supporter of Israel, pulls no punches, tarring and feathering the Israelis for being corrupt (selling off their military supplies on the black market (to whom, one wonders, since the only people in the market are terrorists?) confident the US will resupply them) and militarily and politically incompetent. To which I would add economically stupid and morally challenged–Stealing 50% of the water Israel uses to do farming that is under 5% of the GDP is both nuts and short-sighted. See the brief by Chuck Spinney at OSS.Net.
Part V, The World Beyond, is a philosophical tour of the horizon, from water wars and plagues (see my lists for books on each of the ten threats, twelve policies, and eight challengers), to precision knifing of Russia, France, and Europe. Darfur, one of over 15 genocides being ignored right now (Darfur because Sudan pretends to be helping on terrorism and the US does not have the will or the means to be effective there) is touched on.
The book ends marvelously with a piece on “The Return of the Tribes,” a piece that emphasizes the role of religion and the exclusivity of cults and specific localized tribes. They don't want to be integrated nor do they want new members.
Robert Young Pelton's The World's Most Dangerous Places: 5th Edition (Robert Young Pelton the World's Most Dangerous Places)
Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude
Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict With a New Introduction by the Author
Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy
Best available overview, narrow focus,
The author's primary focus is on what some would call “public diplomacy” or “public affairs” information, that is, the message that goes out from the United Nations force (civil, military, police) to all concerned–the world at large, the participating governments, the Member governments not participating, all other NGOs and organizational participants, the host government, and the indigenous belligerents and bystanders (many of them refugees).
The author's two core points are that information operations must be in the UN mandate or it will be unlikely to be addressed as a coherent unified program by the leaders on the ground; and that the information program *must* be unified–there cannot be separate SGSR, force commander, and police commander messages and programs.
Although the author makes passing reference to intelligence and the value of information collected overtly by elements of the total force, both this work and the book specifically avoid any discussion of intelligence in the form of decision support, as the Brahimi Report has stated so forcefully is needed by the UN at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.
The author makes very good points with respect to the need for continuity of operations (too many personnel on short tours make it impossible to succeed), for substantial numbers of language-qualified interpreters and translators, and for an educational program to teach all concerned within the force, the message, and their role in getting the message out.
The author touches very lightly on the fact that no amount of message is going to save a completely screwed up mission with the wrong mandate, insufficient forces, insufficient aid, and lousy tactical leadership.
In my view, in the age of information, the concepts of peacekeeping intelligence and information peacekeeping, two different concepts, are going to comprise the heart of stabilization operations world-wide. Emerging technologies including application oriented intelligence networks, semantic web and synthetic information architecture, super-sized federated data systems, and fully funded commercial information support operations, will dramatically alter what we do, when we do it, and how we do it, as we all seek to avoid war and foster prosperity within the lesser developed regions of the world.
The author is, in my view, one of the intellectual pioneers whose voice must be heard, and it is my hope that we will see more from her on this topic in the very near future.
Seminal work, focused on message out, not information in,
This book is a first class piece of work, a seminal work with ideas not readily available elsewhere. Building on her earlier monograph about the UN experience in Haiti with respect to public information–a monograph that is included in this book as a chapter–the author has gone on to look at several other UN operations.
The author's conclusions are consistent with but expand upon her findings from the Haiti mission.
1) Information Operations must be in the mandate and must be a major focus of effort from day one. Although the author has a limited focus, on information as public affairs or public diplomacy, her points are all relevant to the larger appreciation of Information Operations as inclusive of decision-support and tactical-operational Peacekeeping Intelligence, as well as the larger concept of Information Peacekeeping.
2) Secretary General's Special Representative (SGSR), the military force commander, and the police force commander must agree on unified public information operations and an integrated staff with a single coherent message.
3) Standing staffs and normal tour lengths are essential to success. The somewhat common practice of Member states rotating people in and out in 30-90 day cycles is simply not professional and ultimately undermines the mission.
4) Considerable numbers of language-qualified translators and interpreters are required.
5) In illiterate societies (such as Haiti), radio and music rule. Strong radio programs can be extremely helpful, but only if hundreds of thousands of portable radios, and the batteries to power them, are given out. When confronting violence on the street, or seeking to break up gathering mobs, music has extraordinary power to diffuse anger.
While the author is most diplomatic in addressing the facts, it is clear from this book that the Department of Public Information (DPI) at the UN has still not matured, and is still a major obstacle to the implementation of the Brahimi Report recommendations on creating strategic, operational, and tactical decision support or intelligence capabilities for all UN operations. In my personal view, the next head of the DPI needs to be given one simple order: “turn DPI into a global grid for information collection and information sharing, or find a new job.” DPI today is 77 one-way streets, and generally immature one-way streets with potholes. DPI has no understanding of peacekeeping intelligence, information peacekeeping, information metrics, or information as a substitute for money and guns. In the context of what the Brahimi Report seeks to accomplish–all of it good and urgently needed–DPI appears to be a huge cancer within the UN, one that must be operated on before the larger UN information environment can become effective.
The author adds to the literature in articulating six principles for outward communications of message in a peacekeeping operation; in brief, 1) public perceptions are a strategic factor; 2) international and local public opinion impact on the political influence that impacts on tactical effectiveness; 3) external information campaign must be a strategic focus from day one; 4) education campaigns, e.g. on the rule of law, are vital aspects of peacekeeping campaigns; 5) culturally-sensitive messaging is a must; and 6) transparency of policy and objectives is a pre-condition for message success.
The notes and references in this book are quite professional. One wonders if the Brazilians and the Americans are reading the DPKO Mid and Post Mission Assessment Reports from Haiti in 1996, or simply making the same mistakes anew.
Peacekeeping Intelligence: Emerging Concepts for the Future
Information Operations: All Information, All Languages, All the Time
The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political–Citizen's Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide, Disease, Toxic Bombs, & Corruption
THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest
Chapter 13: “Information Peacekeeping & the Future of Intelligence: The United Nations, Smart Mobs, and the Seven Tribes” pp. 201-225