Updates about hot issues discussed on the FM website

Some articles about themes discussed on the FM website.

  1. Demographics, shaping our world
  2. India
  3.  Japan
  4. American’s greatest enemy
  5. America’s rotten boroughs — States with 2 Senators, but few people

(1)  About Demographics

Excerpt from “Falling fertility“, The Economist, 29 October 2009 — “Astonishing falls in the fertility rate are bringing with them big benefits”

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Advice about our long war – “It’s the tribes, stupid”

Today’s post examines advice to us from historian Steven Pressfield:

“The real enemy in Afghanistan isn’t Islamism or jihadism. It’s tribalism. … Can we Westerners impose ‘citizen values’ on a tribal society?”  (from his website)

Some people say our real enemy in Afghanistan is their religion.  Pressfield says our enemy is their form of society.  Both sides agree that they cannot be left alone, since they are “the enemy”.  This debate goes to the heart of our Long War, as both sides usually ignore the question of why we fight — and exactly how these people threaten us. 

This post examines Pressman’s work, as an educated and articulate advocate in this important debate.  Pressfield is the best-selling author of Gates of Fire, The Virtues of War, and The Afghan Campaign.


  1. Pressfield’s essay about our tribal enemies
  2. Another perspective, the big picture about our war with tribes
  3. Today’s featured viewing selection:  Pressfield’s videos about our tribal enemies
  4. Reviews and rebuttals on other sites, plus background info
  5. A brief profile of Pressfield
  6. Reviews of his books
  7. Afterword and for more information

(1)  Pressfield’s essay about our tribal enemies

It’s the Tribes, Stupid“, Steven Pressfield, posted at Defense and the National Interest, October 2006 — Excerpt:

Forget the Koran. Forget the ayatollahs and the imams. If we want to understand the enemy we’re fighting in Iraq, the magic word is “tribe.”

Islam is not our opponent in Baghdad or Fallouja. We delude ourselves if we believe the foe is a religion. The enemy is tribalism articulated in terms of religion.

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The simple, fool-proof plan for victory in Afghanistan

The plan for victory in Afghanistan is simple and sure:

  1. stabilizing the country by garrisoning the main routes, major cities, airbases and logistics sites;
  2. relieving the Afghan government forces of garrison duties and pushing them into the countryside to battle the resistance;
  3. providing logistic, air, artillery and intelligence support to the Afghan forces;
  4. providing minimum interface between our occupation forces and the local populace;
  5. accepting minimal casualties to our forces; and,
  6. strengthening the Afghan forces, so once the resistance was defeated, our forces can be withdrawn.

 How can this plan fail?   But it did.  This is from “The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan“, Mohammad Yahya Nawroz (General, Army of Afghanistan, retired) and Lester W. Grau (Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, retired), Military Review, September-October 1995 — with the US substituted for Russia.  Hat tip on this article to Moon Over Alabama.

This is a fascinating article on many levels.  Perhaps most strikingly it illustrates how the discussion of COIN mostly serves to disguise the reality of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — their continuity with previous insurgencies against foreign occupiers since WWII.  Our in Vietnam, Russia in Afghanistan, and all the others (almost all unsuccessful).

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The Defense and that National Interest website gets some ink

It’s nice to see the New York Times quote a real expert when discussing modern warfare, instead of the posers they usually interview.  It’s well-deserved attention to DNI.

From the “Morning Skim: Torture Foiled Nothing“, Eric Etheridge, posted at The Opinionator (a blog of the New York Times), 23 April 2009 — Excerpt:

Defense and the National Interest: Chet Richards says that in the event of another terror attack on the United States …

“we need to stay as close to normal as possible — no shutdown of the airlines, no F-15s boring holes in the sky, no draconian security measures at shopping malls and office buildings.

This is going to take some preparation; otherwise military leaders and local officials will err on the side of caution. . . .

So one question to ask every candidate for every office in the land is: If there is an incident, a really bad incident, are you prepared to live in your home, go to work, go shopping, travel, go to church, and so on, with no more security than the incumbent has right now? Be sure and record their responses.

If the other side is prepared to die for their cause, while we’re afraid even to go on with our lives, then as Martin van Creveld has often pointed out, they’re going to win.

Are Americans easily panicked cowards? I think not, but many experts disagree.

This question was raised during a few rounds of cyber tennis between two experts on 4th generation warfare, Chet Richards and John Robb — posting at their websites Defense and the National Interest and Global Guerrillas.  This being an open game in which any number can play, this post discusses one aspect of their debate.  First, a recap of the opening rounds.  These highlight only part of the debate; these posts are worth reading in full.

Biographical note:

Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired) is author of Neither shall the Sword (conflict in the years ahead), A Swift Elusive Sword (What if Sun Tzu and John Boyd did a national defense review), and If We Can Keep It (A national security Manifesto for the next Administration).

John Robb (Major, USAF, retired) is the author of Brave New World.

(1)  Chet’s “What to do about Somalia“, 20 April 2009 — Excerpt:

And it would also help if we quit acting scared to death of a few criminals with a religious veneer ensconced in a poverty-ridden “country” some 8,000 miles away. Terrorists are going to strike us again — there’s no way to prevent it — but in the meantime, just to put the threat into perspective, we lose more than 3,000 people to traffic accidents and 1,500 to homicides every month.

(2)  Robb’s “The Next Attack“, 21 April 2009 — Excerpt:

There’s been a long enough pause since 9/11 to generate a great deal of psychological shock from a significant new attack. … The attack, if it does come, will likely be suicide bombers (inexpensive wetware that is employed as terminal guidance systems for explosives) that detonate their packages in crowded commercial areas or Mumbai/Kabul style rampages/hostage take overs.

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What should we do about Somalia?

Introduction:  Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired) originally posted at Defense and the National Interest.  Everything he writes is worth reading; this is one of his best.

Beats hell out of me.  First, it’s not clear that there really is a Somalia — the CIA World Factbook identifies the Republic of Somaliland and a self-declared autonomous state of Puntland as making strides towards legitimate, representative government.  New states, in other words.

Second, the only reasons most Americans care at all about Somalia, other than those with relatives in the area, are 1) pirates, and 2) terrorists.  Pirates are the current news filler nowadays, so lets look at terrorists.

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What Tom Barnett should have told Congress about America’s 21st century Navy

Thomas Barnett is one of our foremost geopolitical visionaries, so his presentations are always worth attention.  His latest is insightful and elegantly expressed, as always.  However, I have a few suggestions — minor changes to make  it better suit the current situation and needs of America.  (I have a draft post in the pipeline describing the implication of the revised Barnett speech for our naval forces.)

Statement submitted By Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett, Senior Managing Director, Enterra Solutions LLC to the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee, United States Congress, 26 March 2009 (Hat tip to the always-interesting Zenpundit).

I fully agree with the opening of Barnett’s presentation:

I appear before the subcommittee today to provide my professional analysis of the current global security environment and future conflict trends, concentrating on how accurately–in my opinion–America’s naval services address both in their strategic vision and force-structure planning. As has been the case throughout my 2 decades of working for, and with, the Department of Navy, current procurement plans portend a “train wreck” between desired fleet size and likely future budget levels dedicated to shipbuilding.

I am neither surprised nor dismayed by this current mismatch, for it reflects the inherent tension between the Department’s continuing desire to maintain some suitable portion of its legacy force and its more recent impulse toward adapting itself to the far more prosaic tasks of integrating globalization’s “frontier areas” — as I like to call them — as part of our nation’s decades-long effort to play bodyguard to the global economy’s advance, as well as defeat its enemies in the “long war against violent extremism” following 9/11. Right now, this tension is mirrored throughout the Defense Department as a whole: between what Secretary Gates has defined as the “next-war-itis” crowd (primarily Air Force and Navy) and those left with the ever-growing burdens of the long war — namely, the Army and Marines.

Let’s skip ahead to the money paragraph:

As someone who helped write the Department of Navy’s white paper, …From the Sea, in the early 1990s and has spent the last decade arguing that America’s grand strategy should center on fostering globalization’s advance, I greatly welcome the Department’s 2007 Maritime Strategic Concept that stated:

“United States seapower will be globally postured to secure our homeland and citizens from direct attack and to advance our interests around the world. As our security and prosperity are inextricably linked with those of others, U.S. maritime forces will be deployed to protect and sustain the peaceful global system comprised of interdependent networks of trade, finance, information, law, people and governance.’

I suggest a few tweaks to the remaining text.  Better yet, let’s throw it out and substitute the following text.

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