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An On V Update to Old Ideas: More ASU Talk, Modeling Emotion, and Iran Edition

As usual, here is how our ideas have fared--good or ill--over the last few months:

Update to Last Week’s “Why We Hate ASU’s” Post

Just last Thursday, as part of our Band of Brothers series, Eric C bemoaned the Army Service Uniform, describing it as, “objectively not a good uniform”.

Then, on Monday, the US Army opened up a survey to get feedback on the ASU. So if you want to sound off, head here.

Modeling Emotion in Warfare

Some readers criticized our post, “Getting Rid of the Chicago School of Counter-Insurgency”, saying that models of human behavior utterly fail when it comes to emotions. As a result, our military tends to treat every person in an insurgency as a rational actor simply pursuing self-optimizing goals. (“Self-optimizing” being the economics term for it, not mine.)

This Economist article says, “Hogwash!” New models for insurgent behavior can factor in different variables from location to religion to Twitter. My favorite section describes the SCARE program, which found that, “Kin and co-religionists are the most reliable allies in wars where different guerrilla groups may not always see eye to eye about objectives, beyond the immediate one of driving out foreign troops.” Yep, self-optimizing with a huge dollop of emotional bias.

Update to “One Nation Under Contract”

According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, the Pentagon spent “204 billion” with a B on “service contracts” in 2010. That same year, the Pentagon spent 367 billion dollars on contracts, meaning the Pentagon pays more for services than it does for goods, weapons or equipment. Very likely, our military could not fight a contemporary war without these contractors.

(H/T to "Battleland")

Update to Leaks about the Osama bin Laden Raid

Here at On Violence, we don’t “chase the news”--for example, we won’t be discussing last week’s violence in north Africa for a while--because we loathe “premature opinionation”.
For example, last week, a Navy SEAL came out with his account, No Easy Day, of the Osama bin Laden raid. Its details clashed with several prior accounts. “The Atlantic Wire” has a round-up describing many details that have changed since the operation was first revealed. It also shows just how much leaking was going on, from the President to the SEALs themselves. Speaking of which...

By refusing to condemn or even mention the release of No Easy Day on their website, the “Special Operations OSPEC Fund” has shown it is a patently partisan organization. Go to their website now and you will find countless articles on President Obama’s failings, and none calling out their fellow Special Operators.

Just shameful.

The Most Effective Al Qaeda Franchise Strikes Again

Last January, I wrote about how, far and away, most terrorists are at best enticed and at worst entrapped by the FBI. In all, America doesn’t have a terrorism problem, and it might not have a single foreign terrorist on its soil. For an amazing, heartbreaking and eye-opening account into how “Al Qaeda FBI Branch” works, check out this hour of radio by This American Life partnered with documentary filmmaker Sam Black.

Update to “Which Country Do You Prefer?”

As Iran’s nuclear situation dominates the news, accusations of Iran’s intolerable Shia theocratic extremism always seem to pop up. I say, “Good.” We should always take the time to consider the human rights policies of our allies and enemies.

Let’s start with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni monarchy that tramples all over human rights to enforce a Wahhabi interpretation of Islam on its people, including subordination of women to men, as this Daily Beast article “Women Rise Up in Saudi Arabia” reminds us. Remember, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.
The New Yorker article, “Modern Mecca”, about one reporter’s pilgrimage to Mecca, details yet another form of Wahhabi extremism: destruction of history. Hardliner religious conservatives in Saudi Arabia believe that worshipping (or venerating) holy buildings is a form of blasphemy, so they’ve been systematically destroying and replacing historic buildings in Saudi Arabia and, more specifically, Mecca. One analyst compares this destruction to the destruction of Buddhist monuments in Afghanistan by the Taliban. (Ironically, Shiite Iranians embrace these buildings.)

The Obama Doctrine

Unfortunately for American history, every President it seems will now have a “doctrine” with their last name plopped in front of it. I’m as guilty as other pundits. Last January, in my “Solutions to Intelligence versus Evidence”, I proposed an “Obama Doctrine” that would create a new “International Criminal Court for Terrorists, Pirates and Trans-National Criminals”. In this article from Foreign Policy’s “War Issue”, David Rohde argues that Obama already has a doctrine based around lethal killings via drone strikes. This doctrine inhibits our counter-terrorism strategy, and helps extremists recruit.

Sadly, I agree.
Update to "My Solution to the Iran Problem"

Stephen Walt argues that,

“...instead of spending all our time trying to scare the bejeezus out of countries like Iran (which merely reinforces their interest in getting some sort of deterrent), we ought to be reminding them over and over that we have a lot to offer and are open to better relations...If nothing else, adopting a less confrontational posture is bound to complicate their own calculations.”

Good words to leave off with.

three comments

You guys have got to listen to Amb Crocker’s remarks about the inadvisability of attacking Iran.


The whole video is brilliant, mostly about Afghanistan, and the Iran remarks come in the last 5-8 minutes.

Thanks Carl, I definitely will check it out.