Tag Archives: chet richards

Globalization and free trade: wonders of a past era, now enemies of America?

Summary:  Something is wrong with America, rendering our society incapable of connecting effectively to reality.  Who can tell what has caused this social illness, a form of cultural Alzheimer’s?  The symptoms appear in many aspects of our national public policy, an inability to effectively take collective action in critical areas such as energy, geopolitics, and management of our economy.  This is chapter 2; the first chapter (6 December 2007) discussed our housing bubble.


  1. Introduction
  2. A brief look at free trade
  3. Problem recognition is always the first step
  4. About those wages for highly trained professionals
  5. Ricardo probably would consider our trade policies insane
  6. Mockery of obsolete orthodoxy, an effective tool to encourage thought
  7. Other reports about free trade and globalization
  8. Afterword and where to go for more information

(1)  Introduction

Globalization — the free flow of capital, jobs, and trade — was a pillar of the post-WWII geopolitical regime.  Economists and the foreign policy establishment assure us that this globalization is an unqualified good thing — a “win-win” for all parties.  That is, of course, absurd.  Globalization in its current form has clearly become problematic for America.  It has weakened us in important ways during the past 3 decades.  Unless we start to think more clearly about trade, the ill effects will grow both during this downturn and in the following recovery.

Our inability to adjust to this change is another example of America’s broken thinking.  The late USAF Colonel John Boyd described the connection of individuals or groups to reality as a process:  Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.  For a description of the OODA loop see this or Wikipedia.   All four phases of this process seem to work poorly in modern America, but we seem to have special difficulty with orientation.  To learn more about Orientation see this article by Chet Richards.

(2)  A brief look at free trade

Is free trade beneficial to the US?  David Ricardo stated that both sides benefited if the key factors of production were not mobile (On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, chapter 7).  That was true in 1817, but not so today.  Three of the key factors are mobile: knowledge, capital, and labor (both as migration and outsourcing).

The expansion of our exposure to third world competition was tolerable so long as limited to traditional “tradable goods.”  Now both sophisticated manufacturing can be done almost anywhere, exposing a large fraction of our workforce to global wage competition. Worse, globalization is expanding to services.  Another tranche of high paying jobs — this time white collar, professional jobs — are going overseas.

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How can America adapt to a new world? A conference about national security lights the way.

As the post-WWII era ends, America’s public policy must adapt to a changed world, with new domestic and international challenges.  Where will we find the necessary new ideas? 

Can our current institutions innovate on this scale?   Our “think tanks” have evolved to serve their patrons with exquisite sensitivity, unfortunately with the loss of much creativity and awareness.  The government has  talent in its ranks, but locked into a bureaucracy like something from “Dilbert” (on its good days, like something from a Kafka story on its bad days).

A solution

  1. Meetings of small groups of people
  2. who have a wide range of training and occupations,
  3. organized around a specific analytical method or perspective,
  4. with a broad but clearly defined subject or focus.

 This encourages both clear communication and the clashing of views, both prerequisites for intellectual progress.  Conferences with two or three of these factors are common; all four are rare.  Here is one example, well-worth considering:

The Boyd 2008 Conference/Colloquium
4GW, Resiliency, and the Decline of the State.  How Boyd’s ideas can help.

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Georgia = Grenada, an antidote to Cold War II

Summary:  Bob Killebrew at the SWC displays the aggressive aspect of American strategy, joining the chorus calling for us to restart the cold war.  Fortunately we have Chet Richards to provide a useful perspective on the events in Georgia.  The contrast tells much about America.

What will the 2033 version of Wikipedia say about the Georgia – Russia fighting?  Chet Richards (Colonel, US Air Force, retired) suggests (via email) that we look at a similar event that occurred 25 years ago.  (Others have also compared the current fighting to Grenada, but I found none with this focus).  From today’s Wikipedia:

The Invasion of Grenada, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, was an invasion of the island nation of Grenada by the United States of America and several other nations in response to an internal power struggle which ended with the deposition and execution of Grenadan Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. On October 25, 1983, the United States, Barbados, Jamaica and members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States landed ships on Grenada, defeated Grenadian and Cuban resistance and overthrew the military government of Hudson Austin.

The invasion was highly criticised by the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and the United Nations General Assembly, which condemned it as “a flagrant violation of international law”.[4] Conversely, it was reported to have enjoyed broad public support in the United States[5] as well as in segments of the population in Grenada. October 25 is a national holiday in Grenada, called Thanksgiving Day, to commemorate this event. Approximately 100 people lost their lives.

The Soviet Union pushed into our sphere of influence; we responded by invading Grenada and changing its government.  That’s what great powers do.  This simple insight, a commonplace of history, provides an antidote to the hysterical over-reaction of so many American geopolitical experts.  Like this essay, calling for us to restart the cold war.  Reading it illustrates why so many people in other lands consider the US a loose cannon on the world stage — too quick to escalate military tensions.

Russia-Georgia: Early Take“, Robert Killebrew (Colonel, US Army, retired), posted at the Small Wars Council, 15 August 2008 — Excerpt:

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Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW

Summary:  This essay sketches out what might be our most reliable defense against fourth generation warfare (4GW) — a militia.  Militia have deep roots in western history, and many of these advantages can work for America today.  Militia also are problematic for several reasons.  These issues must be considered when designing their recruitment, training, and organization.  This is a slightly revised version of an essay published in September 2005.


  1. Why militia?
  2. Strategic Implications
  3. The right tool for the right war
  4. History of the Militia
  5. An American militia for the 21st Century
  6. Role of an American Militia
  7. Who controls the Militia?What can Militia do for America?
  8. What can Militia do for America?
  9. Politics of Militia
  10. Militia as a Dangerous Innovation
  11. Militia as nucleus for vigilantes
  12. Private Military Companies (aka mercenaries, in a new form for the age of 4GW)
  13. Decline of the State
  14. Conclusions
  15. For more information

As a follow-up see Lawrence Korb of CAP and CDI advocates a militia, 4 June 2008.

(1)  Why militia?

The home court advantage is powerful in 4GW.  Since Mao brought 4GW to maturity, local forces waging 4GW often defeat better organized, trained and equipped foreign forces.  Another way to say this:  in 4GW defense is the strongest mode of warfare, as it has often been in the past.  COIN expert David Killcullen implicitly recognised this in the first article of his famous and widely cited “Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency“, Military Review, May – June 2006.

Know the people, the topography, economy, history, religion and culture.  Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader and ancient grievance.  Your task is to become the world expert on your district.

The superiority of defense is not a new aspect of war, as seen in these quotes from Clausewitz’s On War.

As we shall show, defense is a stronger form of fighting than attack. … I am convinced that the superiority of the defensive (if rightly understood) is very great, far greater than appears at first sight.  {Book 1, Chapter 1}

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How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?

Today we look at “Lies, damned lies and counterinsurgency” by Robert W. Chamberlain (Captain, US Army) in Armed Forces Journal (May 2008) — “Not all insurgencies have been protracted affairs.”

Captain Chamberlain’s article in Armed Forces Journal is another cut at replacing the “do insurgencies usually win or lose” debate with something more useful.  He sorts insurgencies by placing them in a larger context:  colonial wars and superporwer proxy wars are “big fires.”  Local insurgents fighting local governments are “little fires.”

This is evidence that a consensus is developing that the insurgent’s opponents are the key factor.  In general, a government so weak that it relies on foreign military forces is likely to lose (I doubt anything more precise can be said, given the number of other relevant factors).  Not only does this bring some order to debate about the odds, but it is a more operationally useful formula for us — often the “foreign military forces”.

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Experts’ views about the recent fighting in Basra

(#9 in a series)   The recent events in Basra provide a test, allowing comparison of a war blogger’s analysis vs. that of experts.  The previous post showed Bill Roggio’s view of the Basra fighting (as a sample of war-bloggers’ reporting).  This post looks at both mainstream reporting and expert analysis.  In the next few days or weeks, when the dust settles, we will see whose analysis was most accurate. 

Note that expert analysis tends to be more tentative, with emphasis on the limits of the available data, and the complex, fluid nature of the situation.  War blogger reports tend (a broad generalization, not always correct) to display both certainty and simplicity (sometimes approaching cartoon-like).

ANALYSIS-Iraqi crackdown backfires, strengthens Sadrists“, Reuters  (31 March 2008) – Excerpt:

Gareth Stansfield, a professor of Middle East politics at the University of Exeter in England, said Maliki had staked his political credibility on the show of force in Basra and lost.  “Maliki’s credibility is shot at this point. He really thought his security forces could really do this. But he’s failed,” he said.

reports of a truce, some reflections“, Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark  (31 March 2008) – Excerpt:

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Different voices discussing the events in Basra

Google shows dozens or hundreds of websites with folks discussing the recent events in Basra.  On one level that is good, helping us collectively absorb and digest what is happening in this war.  On another it might hurt us more than it helps, as much of the discussion is by folks with little knowledge of Iraq — its players and dynamics.  This is characteristic of modern America, from the upper echelons down to the grass roots.

The fragmentary accounts we have of the pre-war decision-making suggest that the discussions were closely held among senior decision-makers, with little input from the professional staff of DoD, State, and the intelligence community — the people who have actual knowledge of and experience in the Middle East.  Looking back in history, where we can see more clearly, the Pentagon Papers show the same dynamic at work in the Vietnam War.  As the time for major decisions grew near, the decision-makers excluded their supporting staff — relying on their personal body of experience and knowledge.  Unfortunately, that was inadequate for the task — as we learned to our great sorrow.

With these lessons learned, perhaps we can do better in the future.  For example, the Internet gives acess to several good sources of information about the fighting in Basra.  Here are a few that I find valuable, in no particular order.  Please tell us in the comments about sites you find of use!

I.  Who are the Iraq Security Forces“, W. Patrick Lang (Colonel, US Army, retired), posted at Sic Semper Tyrannis (26 March 2008)

So, there is fighting in Basra among the Shia?  What a surprise!  A showdown there between forces of the Mahdi Army and the rest has been “in the cards” for some time.  The MSM talks as though the “Iraqi Security Forces” are something other than representatives of militia anti Sadrist forces among the Shia.  That is not the case.  The security forces really represent the power of some of the Shia parties/militias being used in this case against the Sadrists.  There is an ongoing struggle among the major Shia factions in Iraq.  One of these is the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr.  Others include the Dawa allies of Prime Ministers Maliki, the al-Hakim faction (SIIC), the Badr Force (generally allied with Hakim) and Fadila in the Basra area.

Need a score card?  Well…  the “security forces” are full of Badr Force militia men.  These people belong to an organization that was raised originally by Iran to fight against IRAQ.  They have been recruited into the “security forces” in large numbers.  They intend to break the Mahdi Army if they can and the US seems to approve of that idea.

Reinforcements have been sent from Karbala to Basra.  Karbala is virtually ruled by the Badr Force. 

The US has been treasuring the idea that the apparatus of the Iraqi state is other than a congeries of militia factions and parties.  Once again the untruth of that is exposed.

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