Sunday, April 29, 2007

The World is Argumentative

If there were a national security version of MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch, I’d like to nominate these two:

Thomas Friedman


Pankaj Ghemawat

[Note: Ghemawat wrote an article for the Mar/Apr 07 Foreign Policy called “Why the World Isn’t Flat." And you all should know about Tom Friedman’s book by now.]

Friedman begins:

“Pankaj Ghemawat says the world is not flat (“Why the World Isn’t Flat,” March/April 2007). No kidding. In arguing that globalization and economic integration are still far from a reality, Ghemawat fails to take into account the bigger picture of what is actually taking place in the business world. His narrow focus on the “10 percent” of internationalization across certain industries obscures my basic argument about the future of globalization. Obviously, the world is not yet flat. But my larger point is that the “flattening” technologies and processes of globalization now under way are the most important developments not just in economics but also in government, politics, war, finance, journalism, innovation, and society in general. Flattening technologies are empowering individuals, in previously unheard of ways, to reach farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before. Big institutions, from newspapers and television networks to software firms and Texas power companies, are being fundamentally transformed or challenged by these superempowered individuals. Two tiny environmental groups just held up the biggest leveraged buyout in history—the deal for TXU, the Texas electrical utility—until it was reshaped to their liking. Tell them the world is not flat.” (Foreign Policy May /June 2007 Letters Section)

Ghemawat responds:

“Thomas Friedman seems not to have read beyond the title of my article. If he had, he would have realized that the 10 percent presumption isn’t based on a narrow focus on “certain industries.” My measure of the internationalization of investment, for example, aggregate across all industries. But such a relation probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference, since Friedman has very little use for data. The 450-plus pages of his World is Flat do not contain a single table, chart, or footnote. Instead, we get a jumble of stories held together with hyperbole.” (Foreign Policy May /June 2007 Letters Section)


World Views in Multiplicity

One of the things that keep us up at night is figuring out how to organize and develop a means to talk about national security as change.

We figured the first step is what some people call brainstorming. We call it Google.

Then some people would make a list. We call it cutting and pasting.

21 Solutions to Save the World – Foreign Policy

State of the World – Tom Barnett, Esquire

10 Emerging Technologies of 2007 – MIT Technology Review

Annual EIU Report on E-Readiness - EIU Highlights via BBC

Lessons of the Last Bubble – strategy+business

Friday, April 27, 2007

How Graphic of You

I was forwarded this cartoon from David Axe’s website. He’s a journalist who’s also written a book or two.

He recently visited East Timor to cover the situation there. What a disappointment.

And I mean the cartoon.

The cartoon is all about David Axe talking about David Axe on David Axe’s blog.

Does the world care about East Timor? Cartoon David lies and says yes. It could have been more redeeming if he went on to say that he was there to talk to the people and write stories to shed light on the situation. But no, that is not the case.

He just wants to take pretty pictures of pretty helicopters.

Is this the new condition of ‘war correspondents’? That the real story is about the heroic journalist breaking away from an American desk to ‘experience war’?

Don’t get me wrong. I think there is great value in providing this level of media transparency in conflicts.

But here are my two cents to all authors, writers and reporters who call themselves war correspondents. The story is not about you. You are not a warfighter.

I want to hear about what that man in the first panel has to say. I want to hear what that Aussie on the ground has to say.

I can Google for pictures of hardware myself.

Sadly, this is yet another case of journalists trying to market themselves instead of focusing on their jobs.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Business and Transformation

Change is a funny word in business. It’s good, it’s edgy, it’s hip. It makes me want to buy suit shirts in colors other than white or light blue. OK, not really. I guess I’m not that transformational.

The folks at McKinsey published an article in February 2007 about a CEO’s responsibility to change in his or her company. Does this apply to the defense and aerospace industries?

The article suggests the following four rules for CEOs:

  1. Making the transformation meaningful. People will go to extraordinary lengths for causes they believe in, and a powerful transformation story will create and reinforce their commitment. The ultimate impact of the story depends on the CEO’s willingness to make the transformation personal, to engage others openly, and to spotlight successes as they emerge.
  2. Role-modeling desired mind-sets and behavior. Successful CEOs typically embark on their own personal transformation journey. Their actions encourage employees to support and practice the new types of behavior.
  3. Building a strong and committed top team. To harness the transformative power of the top team, CEOs must make tough decisions about who has the ability and motivation to make the journey.
  4. Relentlessly pursuing impact. There is no substitute for CEOs rolling up their sleeves and getting personally involved when significant financial and symbolic value is at stake.

These rules are as much relevant to my business as any other. Excellent article (registration is free).


This Day in History - April 26th

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. This day's events inspired Picasso's piece called, well, Guernica.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Shocks Are Trendy

Many on board the transformation bandwagon were ideologically concerned after the death of Art Cebrowski. Who would carry the torch of transformation as culture? Who would remind the national security community that transformation is about how to think?

The latest effort by the Office of Force Transformation is called “Shocks and Trends.” Similar to the systems perturbations model, “shocks and trends” would widen the scope of examining change. This would include anticipating and responding to the effects whether or not direct military support is required.

Will “shocks and trends” be another engine to crank out case studies that prove net-centricity is good? Can OFT extend its transformational ideology to talk about tradition non-military subjects? I am interested to see what issue they tackle first.


From Russia With Love

Are conditions in Russia as promising as they seem?

-Oil/Gas/Natural Resources are in ample supply

-Energies markets actually putting rubles in pockets

-With rubles in pockets, time to go to Starbucks

-Say what you will about Putin, but at least Russia is stable!

-Who knew Russia had all that land?

Thanks to the scholars at Wharton for pulling together these articles.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Role of Navies Questioned, Sort Of

George Friedman, founder and chairman of geopolitical analysis engine Stratfor, recently wrote an article entitled “The Limitations and Necessity of Naval Power.” In it, he explains a bit of the obvious that current operations are soaking up resources towards land based operations. So what is the current and future role of a nation’s navy?

He uses an example of a naval blockade against Iran (as a response to the recently held British sailors). If the U.S. implemented a naval blockade, the U.S. would have asked for more trouble:

“1. Iran could mount strategic counters to a blockade, either by increasing anti-U.S. operations by its Shiite allies in Iraq or by inciting Shiite communities in the Arabian Peninsula to unrest. The United States didn't have appetite for the risk.

2. Blockades always involve the interdiction of vessels operated by third countries -- countries that might not appreciate being interdicted. The potential repercussions of interdicting merchant vessels belonging to powers that did not accept the blockade was a price the United States would not pay at this time.”

He goes on to explain the arguments for reducing a naval force structure saying that the tactical response of navies remains a reality mainly in the littorals. But eventually he goes on to say that navies are strategic and therefore are needed to keep the sea lanes open.

Is this a flaw in naval strategic thinking? Is it good enough to suggest continued naval force structure enhancements because of threats down the road? What Friedman fails to do is answer the funding question. Geopoliticians very rarely talk money, but conceptualizing world order steadfastly remains a fantasy without addressing the budget question.

He concludes:

“Whatever happens in Iraq -- or Iran -- the centrality of naval power is unchanging. But the threat to naval power evolves. The fact that there is no threat to U.S. control of the sea-lanes at this moment does not mean one will not emerge. Whether with simple threats like mines or the most sophisticated anti-ship system, the ability to keep the U.S. Navy from an area or to close off strategic chokepoints for shipping remains the major threat to the United States -- which is, first and foremost, a maritime power.

One of the dangers of wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan is that they soak up resources and intellectual bandwidth. It is said that generals always fight the last war. Another way of stating that is to say they believe the war they are fighting now will go on forever in some form. That belief leads to neglect of capabilities that appear superfluous for the current conflict. That is the true hollowing-out that extended warfare creates. It is an intellectual hollowing-out.”


Monday, April 23, 2007

Upcoming Events

A few events around town. -Bill

The 9/11 Legislation and Private Sector

Sponsored by CSIS

April 24, 2007


Location: Capitol Hilton

Who’s Afraid of North Korean Regime Collapse?

Sponsored by AEI

April 24, 2007


Location: AEI

U.S.-Japan Partnership in Transforming the East Asian Security Environment

Sponsored by the Heritage Foundation

May 1, 2007


Location: Heritage Foundation

Emerging Markets and the Global Financial System

Sponsored by SAIS

May 2, 2007


Location: SAIS

Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2006

Sponsored by AEI

May 14, 2007


Location: AEI

What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

I was at a wedding this past weekend and had some pretty interesting observations. First, a swing band should never attempt to play modern pop music. Ever.

But more importantly, I made note of how contemporary culture has had some net-centric elements before we even coined the phrase. On the plane ride back to Washington, I made the following lists of most net-centric and least net-centric songs. This is just my first round of thoughts. I’d appreciate any ideas.


Most Net-Centric Songs

Don’t Fear the Reaper, Blue Oyster Cult

Dude (Looks Like a Lady), Aerosmith

I Can See for Miles, The Who

King of the Road, Roger Miller

Knowing Me, Knowing You, ABBA

Private Eyes, Hall & Oates

RADAR Love, Golden Earring

Ray of Light, Madonna

Suddenly I See, K.T. Tunstall

Walk This Way, Aerosmith/Run-D.M.C version, of course

We Are All Made of Stars, Moby

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?, R.E.M

Whenever, Wherever, Shakira

Wind of Change, Scorpions

With a Little Help from My Friends, Joe Cocker

Least Net-Centric Songs

Another Brick in the Wall, Pink Floyd

Another One Bites the Dust, Queen

Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac

Hung Up, Madonna

I Heard it Through the Grapevine, CCR

I Ran (So Far Away), A Flock of Seagulls

I Take My Chances, Mary Chapin Carpenter

I Wanna Be Sedated, The Ramones

Is There Anybody Out There?, Pink Floyd

Land of Confusion, Genesis

Message in a Bottle, The Police

Should I Stay or Should I Go, The Clash


Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel

Take This Job and Shove It, David Allan Coe

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More Net-Centricity, Please!

One of transformation’s founding fathers, retired Vice Admiral Art Cebrowski, used to end many of his PowerPoint presentations with a cartoon. It showed a soldier finding cover under a barrage a bullets talking on a cellphone. The cartoon bubbled said something to the effect of “With all due respect Sir, I need a little less net-centricity and more bullets!”

Clever take on the cellphone. Evidently you can get a signal anywhere in a net-centric world. Thank you, critical nodes.

Cmdr. Greg Glaros USN (ret.), who used to work in Cebrowski’s Office of Force Transformation, contends that land vehicles need to be more net-centric to get information about those bullets before they are overhead. Although Glaros says the technology is out there, he fails to name names or provide a solution to fix the acquisition noose that stifles quick fielding.

It is an operational desire to prevent the cartoon situation above. But can we talk price here? The tech is out there. We’ve got the platforms to put them on. Will Glaros’ next article talk about cost-overruns on netted systems? Being more net-centric may mean more lives saved and shorter engagements, but how much more will it cost?

To read the article, please click here.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Heck No, We Won’t Go?

Interesting piece in this month’s Atlantic Monthly. Andrew Bacevich, professor at Boston University and retired Army colonel, talks about an increasingly vocal element of the armed services. A small group of service members are lobbying Congress to withdraw from Iraq.

He writes, “It heralds the appearance of something new to the American political landscape: a soldiers’ lobby. In formulating their appeal, men and women in America’s fighting forces claim a new prerogative: to engage in collective political action for the explicit purpose of influencing national-security policy.”


“The creation of the all-volunteer force had a second consequence. Military service, once viewed (at least nominally) as a civic obligation, has become a matter of choice. As a result, the burden of “defending our freedom” no longer falls evenly across society. Those choosing to serve do not represent a cross section of America, and most are presumably well aware of that fact.

To assuage uneasy consciences, the many who do not serve proclaim their high regard for the few who do. This has vaulted America’s fighting men and women to the top of the nation’s moral hierarchy. The character and charisma long ago associated with the pioneer or the small farmer—or carried in the 1960s by Dr. King and the civil-rights movement—has now come to rest upon the soldier.”

He concludes:

“[E]mpowering groups of soldiers to join in the debate over contentious issues is short-sighted and dangerous. Implicit in the appeal is the suggestion that national-security policies somehow require the consent of those in uniform. Lately, media outlets have reinforced this notion, reporting as newsworthy the results of polls that asked soldiers whether administration plans meet with their approval.”

I am not so concerned about the folks who agree or disagree with the current operations in Iraq. What I want to see are the effects on voting once these brave men and women rotate enough times. This also has to have an effect on their family's vote. I’ll be watching out for any blue and red shifts in the next several elections. Any guess on how many Iraq war vets will run for office?

The full (subscription) article can be found here:


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How We Got the Idea

It all started at your typical Washington, DC national security conference. Representatives from government, industry, think tanks and the press assembled to hear experts speak on current events and strategy. And at the end of the day, right before the fancy dinners, three professionals found themselves in a most awkward moment.

A senior OSD official, a defense industry executive and a local think tank resident scholar walked into the elevator. They all knew of each other. The scholar began to decompress. "If I have to listen to one more panel session talk around the issues, I think I'm going scream."

They walked out on the same parking deck floor (of course) and began to talk. The scholar complained of the lack of historical evidence to support most theories and implications. The senior OSD official wanted information that he could work with and not just data gleaned off of today's newspapers. The industry official thought his job was the most difficult. How does an executive grow his business, please shareholders and provide the warfighter the most effective, least expensive capabilities with which to win?

So here we have a forum by which the three of us have decided to talk, share information, and hopefully receive a little bit of insight. We have decided to keep our cyberspace identities as generic as possible. It's not about us, it's about the ideas.

Ace: He's our former fighter pilot turned civilian government leader. His educational background is in the mathematics and engineering. He uses any excuse to reference the Navy, though his knowledge of the Army and Air Force is unmatched. Don't ask about the Marines. He's afraid of them.

Mike: He's our senior industry executive. For a retired Air Force colonel, he knows how the defense industry works. He holds an MBA from one of those expensive schools, though we don't hold it against him.

Bill: He thinks he knows more than anyone else even though he's never been in uniform and can't get enough of JAG reruns. He holds two master's degrees in history and a PhD. He writes articles and essays like they're going out of style. And speaking of style, his ties never match his suits.

We looking forward to sharing our thoughts with you on this dynamic means of communication. And we look forward to your ideas as well. Because in the end, aren't we all net-centric?