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Forecast for Iraq and Afghanistan: taking the pulse of the war on terror


In a season clouded by political spin, I felt it time to take the pulse of the war on terror and offer a forecast for Iraq and Afghanistan. My great sadness is that my government is in the process of making it worse not better:

Afghanistan is tanking, out of the spotlight, as I write, and key US troops are being withdrawn to Iraq, where they will be far too little and too late. The US ambassador there is viceroy, Karzai a front figure, regardless of election results. The only thing keeping Karzai alive is US security. When they go, he goes.

The civil war in Iraq is already well underway. The major parties are biding their time until we depart, which I expect to occur in 12 to 18 months. Words to the contrary are from those who do not understand the situation on the ground or wish to keep perfuming the pig for other reasons. US intel and military increasingly feel that they have been, in my term, "re-Vietnamized" in that they are being consigned into a politically driven mission with high level tactical input and no exit strategy. An impermeable Neocon layer within DoD has distorted US military and foreign policy, influencing orders down and blocking actionable information up. (Expect major purges there.)

Barring an intervention that I cannot yet see, I expect jihadists and fundamentalists to continue to gain sway through their marriage of convenience with the Baathists and mercenaries running around the Sunni heartland. The "King of the Green Zone," Allawi, will either be killed or join the Sunnis in the death struggle of a unified secular Iraq against the Shias. (Those with good memories know that Allawi was a Baathist before he fell from favor and went into exile.) Neither Turkey nor Iran will sit idly by watching the further isolation of US forces -- dispense with any fiction of a meaningful coalition -- diplomatically and on the ground. Ever the survivors, the Kurds may cut a deal with the Turks before they move on Kirkuk.

In meantime, Sunni insurgents will hammer away at the thin supporting infrastructure of cooks, drivers, barbers, and translators, not to mention the security forces -- who, by the way, primarily take up this line of work because the economy has collapsed and there are no jobs to speak of. We may not wait 12 to 18 months to depart, but what we leave behind will make Taliban Afghanistan look like children's day care.

We either abrogated our responsibility to protect civilian populations upon close of immediate hostilities, or we failed to properly anticipate postwar needs. Neither is a palatable verdict upon us. The failure to plan the postwar period was a civilian lapse, not a military one, and it allowed Iraq to descend into chaos, collapse of civil order and humanitarian services, looting of national infrastructure, and wholesale sequestering of weapons and resources for future combat operations.

Iraq has eviscerated our ability to sustain Afghanistan as it undermined Arab moderates. Atop that, we have done it in a manner that has made us a rogue state in the eyes of far too many. As Tucker and Hendrickson note:

There is no simple and direct route to the recovery of U.S. legitimacy. The years when the United States appeared as the hope of the world now seem long distant. Washington is hobbled by a reputation for the reckless use of force, and it is going to take a long time to live that down. World public opinion now sees the United States increasingly as an outlier-invoking international law when convenient, and ignoring it when not; using international institutions when they work to its advantage, and disdaining them when they pose obstacles to U.S. designs. The United States has gone down a road in which the use of force has become a chronic feature of U.S. foreign policy, and the country's security has been weakened rather than bolstered as a consequence. It is true, of course, that the American public does not like the idea of deferring to others, but it may come to see the advantages of doing so once it appreciates that enterprises undertaken on a unilateral basis must be paid for on a unilateral basis.

We are now in the process of attempting to return our pottery while asking the international community for a political refund. It will not be an easy task as our bit of crockery is, like Humpty Dumpty, going to be difficult to put together again.

The Sources of American Legitimacy
By Robert W. Tucker and David C. Hendrickson
Foreign Affairs, November/December 2004

The Unspoken Power: Civil-Military Relations and the Prospects for Reform
Steven A. Cook
Analysis Paper 7, September 2004
The Brookings Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World

IRAQ: Quelling the Insurgency
Council on Foreign Relations
Updated: September 23, 2004
Note: I would recommend all of the topic points at column right column as it offer the casual reader an excellent one-stop grounding removed from shrill, deception-laden partisanship.

Fallujah: Inside the Iraqi Resistance
Asia Times
PART 1: Losing it
(Jul 15, '04)
PART 2: The fighting poets
(Jul 16, '04)
PART 3: The Fallujah model
(Jul 19, '04)
PART 4: All power to the sheikh
(Jul 20, '04)
PART 5: The tongue of the mujahideen
(Jul 21, '04)
PART 6: Mean and clean streets
(Jul 22, '04)
PART 7: Radicals in the ashes of democracy
(Jul 23, '04)

Gordon Housworth

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Nyang'oma to Chicago: expectations of largesse span eight thousand miles, two cultures and two governments


The dry rankings of Transparency International's 2004 Corruption Perceptions Index do not do justice to the palatial scale of individual graft by the Big Man, tolerated so long as the "haves" -- the tribe, clans and families of the big man -- shared the wealth in progressively smaller measure until the "have nots" lived in squalor under the eye of the police and security forces.

No "poll of polls, reflecting the perceptions of business people and country analysts, both resident and non-resident" can have operational meaning until one understands the sway of the likes of Kenya's Daniel arap Moi and Zaire's (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Mobutu Sese Seko and their patronage systems that were seen as a duty of the governor and a right due to the governed. Those that did not fulfill their duties were soon replaced by someone who would.

I was always amused that Mobutu, born Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, would rename himself Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Wa Za Banga. If one is speaking of his perennial assaults on the Congolese treasury, the name would surely fit as the translation is "The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake", or Mobutu Sese Seko for short.

The difficulty in rooting out this behavior was delightfully illustrated by the expectations of Kenya's Nyang'oma district on their Big Man once he gains office, none other than Barack Obama, a Democratic senatorial candidate in Illinois whose campaign has "pledged to improve education, fight for more jobs and make health care more universally available." The people of Nyang'oma would like all of those as well in addition to having their "dirt roads paved and their houses equipped with electricity and running water."

"We know he's got his constituency there in America, the people who elect him," said Said Obama, 38, the uncle. "But we're another constituency. He won't want to see us suffering."

"He is Kenyan," Ms. Onyango [Barack Obama's stepgrandmother] insisted, prompting the other relatives to nod. She showed photographs of a young Mr. Obama climbing aboard a matatu, the crowded minibuses that local people use to get around. Another photograph in her stash featured Mr. Obama hugging Ms. Onyango, and she held up one that had the baby-faced politician beaming beside his other Kenyan relatives.

It is not a free-loading attitude that people here are expressing when they speak of largess coming their way after Mr. Obama takes office. It is a feeling of extended family: those who make it help those left behind. Mr. Obama may have never lived in Nyang'oma, or elsewhere in Kenya for that matter, but he is one of them in the popular imagination and surely, relatives say, he will want to share his great success with his kin.

If Obama makes good on his intent to visit Kenya a third time after the Nov election, he "can expect thousands of people to turn out to greet him" with as I like to say, "one hand up and one hand out."

At the Nyang'oma-Kogello Secondary School, near the Obama family home, students are fairly well versed on Mr. Obama's Senate race and full of pride that a man they consider a local appears on the verge of victory... "We hope that when he wins, we all win," said Lawrence Were, 17, a student at the nearby high school. "It's not all that easy for an African to go so far. We consider him our man."

The school's definition of victory is "refurbished classrooms and a new science lab at the school," a library with textbooks and, of course, more electricity and running water.

"People say there will be great development once he wins. They say the road will be fixed and that there will be an airport so he can land right here direct from the U.S."

Just like Daniel arap Moi did for his town, Eldoret, even as he was plundering Kenya with the Goldenberg export compensation scheme and other excesses which cost Kenya the equivalent of a third of its annual GDP.

One wonders if Barack Obama, raised so very far from Kenya, knew what expectations he innocently set when he came to explore his ancestry.

Illinois Democrat Wins Kenyan Hearts, in a Landslide
New York Times
October 25, 2004

Transparency International
Corruption Perceptions Index 2004
20 October 2004

Gordon Housworth

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India Inc. becomes another outsourcing gold rush: unwary firms get red ink


India Inc. is Twice as Fast as Japan Inc. should be a must-read on two levels, growing US uncompetitiveness coupled with a declining educational system, and loss of intellectual property (IP) assets at both the data and algorithmic level. Unfortunately only the former -- uncompetitiveness -- is central to the article. The latter -- threats to IP -- again go unmentioned.

Keller's central message that "India’s rise in IT and other areas means U.S.-based companies must radically change their view of competition and what becomes strategic domestic employment" is true enough as is his admonition that the mental timeline, the safety belt if you will, of many US managers familiar with the Japan Inc. progression in electronics and automotive must be halved when considering India's progression in IT. Keller properly notes that Indian labor costs are significantly lower than Japan when it began its climb, but that Indian quality often rivals or exceeds current US quality. His detailing of Indian skills sets a clear, high bar for US industry that demands active response.

The section that commands my attention is the relocation of "core product development" to India:

The fastest change is occurring with the major software vendors that have moved much of their core product development to India. For example, nearly all of SAP’s BW product development and much of NetWeaver resides in India. Oracle and PeopleSoft have accelerated deployment of Research and Development (R&D) and support resources in India; Oracle has more than 6,400 people now employed in India and plans to have nearly 10,000 by the end of 2005.

Some companies, such as Kana, have taken an extreme view and have sent all R&D to India. Venture capitalists require that any startup have a plan and capability to deploy R&D in India. While technology-oriented companies have embraced offshoring, most end-user organizations continue to be cautious about how much and how fast they can offshore IT operations. In the next few years, however, their internal IT cost models will prove too high and force them to change.

I refer readers to Intellectual property theft: the unspoken unknown of offshoring and Hemorrhaging intellectual property to Asia. Relatively speaking, India has not exhibited wide or state sponsored IP collection, being content at present to compete in terms of lower cost, thus:

the larger risk is the placing of critical IP resources in an offshore environment where they are vastly more susceptible to exploitation by one or more collectors -- often many collectors from the same entity each intent on gaining specific bits of corporate information. The risk is effectively present in varying degrees for US offshoring in India, China, Korea, Russia, Belarus, or European nearshoring to the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states, Morocco and Tunisia.

At the VC level, investors are driving their stable of firms to create product and to produce revenue without sufficient consideration to risk. Risk assessment is very low on their horizon. Private conversations reveal that VCs preach the mantra to their portfolio companies, for example: "Outsource hardware development and manufacturing to China or become uncompetitive." Most VC conferences conducted today direct firms to go low cost without an understanding of the risks to the underlying assets. Some VCs have already taken the next step of forming development groups in Asia precisely to serve their entire stable of firms.

Keller concludes in part:

The availability of inexpensive and reliable network and computing technology implies that any job or task that does not require the physical presence of a person can be sent offshore. India followed by others, including China, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, are creating a sophisticated pool of highly specialized and educated workers who have shown the ability and willingness to deliver high-quality, low-cost work.

The reader will note the significant overlap between the two country lists. Lowest cost is rarely lowest risk. It is our experience that firms effectively loose control of IP when it is outsourced as little as two levels. We have observed IP theft by nations both in-country and in adjacent countries where they have either penetrated or bought stakes in local firms. Paradoxically, countries without strong police powers also permit the entry of secondary collectors that use the more permissive environment to collect what they could not feasibly or financially obtain in a stronger security environment.

Firms are overdue in considering IP diversion by multiple collectors in their cost and risk planning for offshoring and nearshoring. India "inc" should not become red ink.

India Inc. is Twice as Fast as Japan Inc.
Erik Keller
AMR Research
October 20, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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As the truth changes so must the deception if the lie is to remain believable


Part 3

An especially interesting statistic in deception is that the number of deceptions rise at the moment of attack approaches. If one becomes sensitive to a pattern of deception, it becomes much easier to field a countering move. Some political readers might say "but we know the date of the election," presuming it to be the 'attack.' I submit that the answer is far more subtle than that. Knowing that an election is forthcoming (known event in time) allows one to be especially attentive to the growing number of deceptions and ruses that will arise. Further, a presidential election is merely the culmination of a campaign comprised of many dispersed 'skirmishes' each of which has its own unique constituency and psychological context and is thus sensitive to varying deception. A stupendously effective (leave aside whether you think it accurate or fair) disinformation effort was the Swift Boat affair that put the Democratic candidate off-message and on the defensive. I believe that I heard Rove remark, if memory serves, that, 'My job is not to be fair. My job is to re-elect the President.' An appropriate response, I might add. Fairness has little to do with war. Successfully countering the deception at hand is.

Knowing that the rules of motivating an electorate have fundamentally changed and that Denial and deception (D&D) has entered the mainstream is the first step, The second it to understand what D&D seeks to do:

  • Disrupt one's ability to "observe, orient, and decide" (Boyd's OODA Loop)
  • induce inaccurate impressions about capabilities or intentions, causing the target to apply intel assets inappropriately, and fail to employ all assets to best advantage

Countering deception is hard because "those being deceived do not systematically consider alternative explanations for the evidence they observe, and incorrectly weigh the evidence they do have." "People often dismiss important evidence, prematurely prune alternative hypotheses, and jump to conclusions. These make people and organizations easy to deceive." Since deception is relatively rare, it is not surprising that people are poor at countering deception:

  • Poor anomaly detection (missing contextual cues, or prematurely dismissing as irrelevant or inconsistent with other intel)
  • Misattribution (attributing deception event to collection gaps or processing errors)
  • Failure to link deception tactics to deception hypotheses (noticing anomalies fails to recognize them as indicators of deception)
  • Inadequate support for deception hypotheses (failing to link an assessment of an adversary's deception tactics and goals to the adversary's strategic goals; i.e., failing to test denial or deception course of actions (COAs) against the available evidence)

Start with Heuer's Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, one of the great masterpieces of understanding the analytic thought processes of intelligence, of overcoming cognitive biases, and of stepping away from preconceived mind-sets and mental models. Heuer presents a protocol called Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) that I have used for both signal and sprignal (deception) analysis:

  • Identify the possible hypotheses to be considered
  • List the significant observed evidence and assumptions for and against each hypothesis
  • Prepare a matrix with hypotheses across the top and evidence down the side
  • Refine the matrix
  • Draw tentative conclusions about the relative likelihood of each hypothesis
  • Analyze sensitivity of the conclusion to a few critical items of evidence
  • Report conclusions
  • Identify milestones for future observation that may indicate events are taking a different course than expected

In what I see as a parallel of Whaley applied to Wohlstetter, Stech and Elsasser have sought to extend Heuer's ACH so as to account for cognitive factors that make people poor at detecting deception.

Their concern was that ACH can "lead one to be more susceptible to deception." In particular, Heuer's 'Draw tentative conclusions' step recommends weighing hypotheses in light of evidence, a process that already promotes reasoning errors rising from "everyday irrationality." The problem with 'weighing hypotheses in light of evidence' is that in conventional analysis, it neglects the individual base rates of both evidence and hypothesis, and in counter-deception conditions, it fails to flag an evidentiary false positive rate. In order to adapt ACH for counter-deception, Stech et al has modified ACH so that "hypothesis generation includes appropriate denial and deception COAs, and the ACH is used to elicit or estimate both" 'weighing hypotheses in light of evidence' and weighing evidence as signal, noise, or sprignal.

Suffice it to say that any major political party will have to master these techniques in countering deception, but learning is not easy. I am reminded that David Kahn's 1992 analysis of Pearl Harbor's intel failures (where we did not merge diplomatic and military data and depended on Magic decryptions to the exclusion of warnings contained in non-Sigint intel) "has taught the United States to gather more information and evaluate it better." Subsequent responses to new adversaries have not borne that out.

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis
Richards J. Heuer, Jr.
CSI, CIA 1999

Midway Revisited: Detecting Deception by Analysis of Competing Hypothesis
Frank Stech and Christopher Elsasser
Mitre, June 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Deception at its best: the opponent is quite certain, very decisive, and wrong


Part 2

The ultimate goal of stratagem is to make the enemy quite certain, very decisive, and wrong. -- Barton Waley

Rove's most effective efforts strike me as similar to Allied deception efforts in WW II that earned them such success: "controlled the key channels of information, had superior intelligence and received feedback on their deception operations, centralized controlled over their deception planning, effectively practiced proven deception tactics, ensured deception operations were subordinate to strategic objectives, maintained stringent secrecy, and provided enough time to execute deception plans shrewdly." Democrats have much to learn.

Careful analysis of patterns within sprignals had the potential to accelerate timely warning of surprise attack. Whaley's later analysis extended to 68 cases of surprise attack in 20th century warfare, in Stratagem: Deception and Surprise in War. Harris noted:

"Whaley found a high positive correlation between the intensity of deception (counting types of channels utilized for intensity) and the likelihood of surprise attack, and a positive correlation between the intensity of deception and the intensity of surprise, using, for example, casualty ratios in war as a proxy for intensity of surprise."

Returning to Wack:

After concluding the nonaggression pact with Hitler in 1939, Stalin was so convinced the Germans would not attack as early as 1941 -- and certainly not without an ultimatum -- that he ignored 84 warnings to the contrary. According to Barton Whaley, the warnings about Operation Barbarossa included communications from Richard Sorge, a Soviet spy in the German embassy in Tokyo, and Winston Churchill; the withdrawal of German merchant shipping from Soviet ports; and evacuation of German dependents from Moscow.

Deception, be it military, diplomatic, or political, has four components:

  • Security
  • Plausibility
  • Adaptability (however elaborate, deception must adapt to the changing situation)
  • Integration (deception effort integrated at all levels and with all means)

Using these components, Every deception effort is comprised of only two basic parts: hiding the real and revealing the false. Hiding the real is called dissimulation. It is the covert part, that which is concealed from the enemy. Revealing the false is called simulation. It is the overt part, that which is falsely revealed to the enemy as truth. Dissimulation and simulation are always present together in any act of deception.

The US Army has extracted ten maxims from game theory, history, and deception writings that make a good basis for planning a deception:

  1. Reinforce his beliefs (Magruder's Principle)-It is generally easier to induce a target to maintain an existing belief than to entice him to change his beliefs.
  2. Target his mind--There are limitations to human information processing that are deceptively exploitable.
  3. Use multiple forms of surprise-- Surprise can be achieved in the following categories: size, activity, location, unit, time, equipment-(SALUTE) intent, and style.
  4. Feed all the enemy's sources (Jones' Dilemma)-- Deception becomes more difficult as the number of sources available to confirm the real increases.
  5. Create Noise only for a purpose--Too much erroneous information can obscure the deception effort.
  6. Use deception selectively--It may be wise to withhold the employment of deception capabilities until the stakes are high.
  7. Deception is continuous--Deception activities should be sequenced to portray the deception for as long as possible.
  8. Feedback is a must--An intelligence collection scheme should be employed to determined if the deception is being adopted, rejected, or countered.
  9. Focus on the enemy's action (The Monkey's Paw)- Deception efforts may produce unwanted actions from the enemy and friendly units.
  10. Don't make it easy for him--If the target's intelligence collection system has to work for the indicators, the greater the chance he'll believe them.

I have yet to make a systematic analysis of such politically manipulative actions in the current presidential election campaign, but they all seem to be present.

Part 4

Stratagem: Deception and surprise in war
Barton Whaley
MIT Center for International Studies

Barton Whaley
MIT Press, 1974

Gordon Housworth

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The value of counter-deception and early sprignal detection in political elections


Part 1

Deception planning and deception countermeasures, sprignals included, deserves a deeper dive to highlight its omission from analyzing commercial business endeavors and parsing political spin control. It is exceedingly sad to see it relegated to diplomatic and military spheres when it can shed advance notice that saves investors' money and clarifies voters' opinions that would other wise fall prey to spoofing and disinformation.

After Shouters and charlatans was posted to a major political blog, Daily KOS, I received questions about sprignals and news analysis, and positive comments on the critical analysis of this log, the latter of which were posted back to KOS. I got the impression from their post-backs that these readers were expecting to find bias here but did not, might have assumed the worst but found the logic and sourcing sound, with some noting that they had bookmarked us. I take that as success and proceed.

In 2002, I highlighted the use of sprignals and deception in Enron & Arthur Anderson: to comply is not enough; those who generated sprignals, those who were taken in by them, and those that were powerless to halt them:

Enron Corp. mimicked this model of strategic surprise in which deliberate "signals" designed to lull or defeat warning systems were issued in ever increasing volume. These signals took a variety of forms such as "designer investment" vehicles, obscured financials, and corporate pronouncements. Enron’s auditor, Arthur Andersen, alternatively abetted the creation of these signals or validated them as genuine.

It was startling that despite their "professed independence and variations in technique," prominent sell-side analysts overwhelmingly reached the same, wrong, conclusions about Enron in 2001 up to the eve of its bankruptcy. The skeptics were independent and boutique sell-side analysts, short-sellers, and consumer/NPO groups intent on looking through Enron’s seeming achievements for fundamental financial red flags. The latter were drowned out in what is the only sprignal business application that I can find.

I see even less structural application of counter-deception to the increasingly politicized, media-message driven political sphere. I submit that counter-deception will be become mandatory for major political parties if their adherents are not to be unduly influenced or siphoned off, for whatever one thinks of Karl Rove, aspiring Democrat and Republican political managers are tracking and preparing to implement his "remarkable strategic skills, [his] understanding of the media's unstated self-limitations and a willingness to fight" with greater ruthlessness than most.

Required history:

Roberta Wohlstetter pioneered intelligence warning systems by applying Claude Shannon's telecommunication concept of signals and noise and his design of information systems to send and receive signals amid noise. Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor concluded that the problem was "too much noise" rather than a lack of data, i.e., it was analysis that failed: "We failed to anticipate Pearl Harbor not for want of the relevant materials, but because of a plethora of irrelevant ones."

Contributing causes were invalid assumptions, faulty appraisal and dissemination of intelligence, and inadequate security measures. Behind these was a lack of war-mindedness at this Pacific base halfway around the world from areas where momentous events were happening. Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, the Pacific Fleet commander, admits to it: "We did not know that in the Atlantic a state of undeclared war existed (Admiral Kimmel's Story, p. 2, New York 1955). The War and Navy departments also shared in responsibility for the disaster, not only by withholding intelligence but by assigning low priorities to critical equipment for ships and units in the Hawaiian area.

Pierre Wack drives home this need of awareness of one's greater surroundings in his discourse on scenarios, what he calls the "gentle art of reperceiving."

In times of rapid change, [companies] effectiveness and speed in identifying and transforming information of strategic significance into strategic initiatives differ just as much [as their skill in turning research into product]. Today, however, such a capacity is critical. Unless companies are careful, novel information outside the span of managerial expectations may not penetrate the core of decision makers' minds, where possible futures are rehearsed and judgment exercised.

As Roberta Wohlstetter points out, "To discriminate significant sounds against this background of noise, one has to be listening for something or for one of several things. One needs not only an ear but a variety of hypotheses that guide observation". Indeed, the Japanese commander of the Pearl Harbor attack, Mitsuo Fuchida, surprised at having achieved surprise, asked, "Had these Americans never heard of Port Arthur?" (the event preceding the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 -- and famous in Japan -- when the Japanese navy destroyed the Russian Pacific fleet at anchor in Port Arthur in a surprise attack).

Barton Whaley used the model in his analysis of Soviet attempts to predict an impending German attack, Operation BARBAROSSA. Whaley's first analysis cited 12 cases of strategic surprise to which William Harris believed that "the Russian warning intelligence challenge in 1941 was to differentiate genuine "signals" of impending invasion from "spurious signals" from deception planners (defensive military preparations and deployments, non-hostile intent, etc.) within the context of other information "noise."" As a "minimum of 8 or 9 of these 12 warning challenges involves deliberate "signals" designed to lull or defeat warning systems," Harris suggested that Whaley "utilize a tripartite model: signals, spurious signals (sprignals), and noise."*

Part 3

*Private email, 17 March, 2001, from William R. Harris noting his derivation of sprignal building upon the work of Roberta Wohlstetter and Barton Whaley.

Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision
Roberta Wohlstetter
Stanford Univ Press, 1962

Gordon Housworth

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Shouters and charlatans: viewing mainstream news solely to understand our clients' state of misinformation


"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

"A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives." -- James Madison

My patient high school civics teachers will be pleased to know that much of their good work stuck. Yes, they also told me of laments of Alexander Hamilton ("the newspapers have teemed with the most inflammatory railings") and Thomas Jefferson ("The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper"), but that only served to sharpen an eye for mischief among the pages.

Returning readers are aware that my job is critical analysis with pointed conclusions that I like to describe as 'Stay or run for the airport.' They will also know that I am believer in the Berlin Wisdom Model, the systems analysis of Russ Ackoff, the sprignal (spurious signal) concept of William Harris*, and the tools and mindset of what is often called Counter-Deception Decision Support.

Watching what now passes for news on cable TV, broadcast TV, internet, and press commands that the reader have an especially acute sensitivity to the presence of sprignals (intentional deceptions) among signals (legitimate data, secret or public) and noise (other random unrelated material). So much of this material -- calling it 'news' offers it too much grace -- is so omissive, or comissive in its attempt to distort and shift opinion that, without knowing it, the reader is under siege. In short, it now takes work to find accurate information.

The descent of mainstream news (cable and broadcast) has been so great that after years of largely ignoring it, I have had to return to it in order to understand our clients' state of misinformation, i.e., the degree of misinformation dictates the amount of added detail that we will have to include in our analyses in order to refute the bad before we can present the good.

This mangling of the news is handmaiden to the manipulation of public opinion in Imperial Rome became Italy; de Tocqueville's America becomes what? and especially "Congregation for Propagating the Faith" to agitprop to oppo research; four centuries of manipulating public opinion, foreign and domestic.

One of the few things that give me hope in this environment is Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" -- a program that was first brought to my attention by my son and niece who both noted that it was all the rage among 20-somethings and the CPO (cell phone only) generation. "Half of 18- to 29-year-olds say they regularly or sometimes learn things from late-night comedy shows" while "Only 17 percent of the program's audience is over 50."

Stewart earned my undying respect when he passed from comedy and parody to scathing commentary during his Trojan Horse interview on CNN Crossfire (transcript here). I share with my younger generation Stewart's comment that, "We feel a frustration with the way politics are handled and the way politics are handled within the media." I am thrilled to see that "Daily Show fans are more knowledgeable about current events than those of other comedy shows, rivaling newspaper readers and network news viewers."

In an environment where I now find even the interviews of Tim Russert to fail to press the point, where Fox is beyond the pale, where CNN has lost its way, where broadcast anchors admit to self-censorship in an effort to avoid commercial attack, where the only TV news that I seek out is PBS (Lehrer, Moyers, Frontline et al), I will continue to rely on primary source materials -- the stuff from which the high street press is crafted, and a broad spectrum of offshore sources to form my opinions.

And the Daily Show.

Part 2

*Private email, 17 March, 2001, from William R. Harris noting his derivation of sprignal building upon the work of Roberta Wohlstetter and Barton Whaley.

The Campaign of a Comedian
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post
October 23, 2004

Jon Stewart's America
Aired October 15, 2004 - 16:30 ET

Anchors Aweigh: The Refs Are Worked
by Eric Alterman
The Nation
November 1, 2004 issue

Gordon Housworth

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US beginning to mimic Israel: win every battle, lose every war


tends to focus too much attention on fighting and battles at the expense of looking at bigger picture -- the causes, consequences and political goals of conflict.

inability to understand the complexity of the forces at work [in terrorism] also points to overarching policy failures. We have been too slow to realize the broad religious, cultural, political, economic and demographic dimensions at play in the Middle East.

failed to see the need for serious stability operations and nation building; they did not see the risk of insurgency; and they assumed that we were so right that our allies and the world would soon be forced to follow our lead.

Israel or the US? The subject is the US, but I submit that it applies similarly to both states. While it has long been my habit to say that Israel wins every battle but loses every war

My current view of root cause for our not being able to win the peace has four components:

  • Lack of administration and congressional political will (but those politicians tack to the whims of we the citizens) to stick it for a sufficiently long term
  • Short-termism of American thinking, i.e., the unwillingness to endure the dull process of nation building, e.g., constructing a national polity and rebuilding infrastructure far from activities that win votes or build industry at home
  • Lack of planning and analysis to predict the manpower levels and skills needed to enforce a peace long enough to graft on political stability
  • Change in conflict style that has shifted from nation state to diffuse asymmetrical and/or terrorist entities on a far larger scale than in the past

I believe that claims of US success in nation building as evidenced in Japan and Germany had more to do with the cultures and industrial bases at hand than innate US skill. It should also be noted that we fielded WW II era manpower levels that were able to enforce the peace (which was not as simple as most assume as there were some German guerrillas). As soon as we departed from industrializing, culturally cohesive states not engaged in ethic strife or civil war, we failed, to wit, the Philippines, Angola, Lebanon, Liberia and Somalia.

For a summary of the state on the ground, I refer readers to Redirecting our intel processes in Iraq. I fear that it is less that the "enemy is becoming more sophisticated," than it is that we are less able to predict and interdict a superb asymmetrical opponent. I support the opinion of IISS that the Iraqi invasion has "enhanced jihadist recruitment and intensified al-Qaeda's motivation" while US forces offer terrorists "perhaps its most attractive 'iconic' target outside US territory."

"Al-Qaeda middlemen can still provide planning and logistical advice, materiel and financing to smaller affiliated groups. The leadership still appears able to roughly influence the wider network's strategic direction." IISS goes on to state that up to 1,000 new jihadis may have recently infiltrated Iraq -- and with some 18,000 having been trained, more could be in the offing.

I do not support the opinion of a "U.S. defense official" that the 'infiltrating insurgents and guerrilla groups' are primarily awash in Saudi money flowing through Syria. On the contrary, insurgents and jihadists receive aid from a "diffuse network of supporters, funneled through charities, tribal relations, and businesses" as well as al Qaeda accounts. I very much agree with Vince Cannistraro, former CIA counterterrorism chief, that "The overall resistance in Iraq is popular and is getting more popular in the Arab world."

I also challenge the funds needed to support hostilities as these folks are frightfully frugal while the cost of weapons and ammunition is nil as we failed to identify, sequester or destroy literally hundreds of dumps that have since been looted and their contents relocated. The vast number of jihadists (non-Iraqi) are volunteers, easy to sustain. The overhead of loader to shooter is very low and the operational cost to sustain the lot is a fraction of US forces. There are two Baathist camps that also engage in criminal activities to fund their terrorist ends.

We have created an environment in which Abu Musab Zarqawi could rise to the mythic stature of bin Laden by virtue of his ability to attack US assets, achieve victories, and then manipulate public opinion in both the West and Arab press.

Israel drove the PLO from Lebanon and was rewarded with an awakened Hamas and Hezbollah. The US has allowed "Jihad has become central in Iraq, and Zarqawi is now central to that."

Analysis: Military expert wants better U.S. policy
UPI, Oct. 22, 2004

Iraq Called 'Springboard' for Insurgency Figure
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post
October 21, 2004

Insurgents Infiltrating Iraq Have Cash
The Associated Press
October 21, 2004

Defence think-tank says Iraq is increasing global nuclear threat
Mirrored here
Financial Times
October 20, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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To bribe or not to bribe: a refreshingly, if infrequent, realistic operational question


"How can you work in diamonds in Africa, Russia or some other weak-governance places in the world without paying an occasional (or frequent) bribe?"

The latest Diamond Best Practice Principles from De Beers' Diamond Trading Company (DTC) have repeatedly brought this question to the fore among industries in and beyond the diamond market. And not without reason. When OECD member states, accounting for "more than 90 percent of foreign direct investment worldwide," signed a convention "outlawing bribery by multinational companies of officials abroad, it was regarded as a milestone in the global fight against corruption." Given that France, among the most arch of violators, was one of the signatories, my response was of course laughter.

France's oil firm, Elf Aquitaine, was nothing less than a secret arm of French policy, using cash to cement its acquisition of oil and gas assets and advance French foreign policy in Central Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, Central Asia, and China. The French security services supplemented what money could not achieve. No prosecutions occurred from the 1997 signing (in any country), at least not until Elf's slush funds began repatriating into the French political establishment.

Only the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has put perps behind bars and US business at a disadvantage. What was said of the African diamond and mineral industries applies to all industries and in areas beyond "troubled regions":

Bribing was considered part of normal business conduct. Until recently the bribery of foreign public officials was accepted as a normal cost of doing business by many developed western countries. Companies claimed that they must pay bribes in order to be favorably considered for the awarding of contracts. By allowing the tax deductibility of such bribes as an expense in earning income, several governments were perceived as condoning this practice and, actually, they did. Many still do today. Often governments themselves are engaged in bribing other governments or private sector players.

Mindful that the road from mine to mistress can be damaged by "reputational issues," the diamond industry has increasingly displayed intolerance by issuing zero-tolerance rules even as company managers "recognize that the very strict rules may inadvertently and unwittingly create a problem for lower or mid-level level field (out-in-Africa) employees: they are expected to do their job and senior management prefers not to know how things are done. These employees are always at the ‘mercy’ of top management – and are in a no-win position."

No less accomplished than the French, Hezbollah and al Qaeda have maintained an active presence in West Africa since at least 1998. Both active in the diamond trade (Hezbollah in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and al Qaeda in Liberia and Sierra Leone). Al Qaeda paid a premium over the going rate for uncut stones, not to profit but to "move funds out of traceable financial structures into commodities" prior to 11 September. "The available evidence points to al Qaeda purchasing some $30 million to $50 million worth of RUF [Revolutionary United Front] diamonds during the eight months prior to 9/11."

If you are a diamond extractor, especially one operating in "problematic countries," who are you going to treat in order to maximize income? If you are among the nomenklatura of the kleptocracies that pass for government in too many states, with whom will you prefer to show preference? To these parties, it is immaterial that:

Bribery erodes public confidence in political institutions and leads to contempt for the rule of law... distorts the allocation of resources, inflates spending on public procurement and undermines competition in the market place [has] a devastating effect on investment, growth and development [and] impacts the poor by denying them access to vital basic services.

World Bank officials said that "attempts to improve the transparency of oil production had struggled to gain traction, increasing the probability that corruption would siphon off the benefits of extractive industries in poor countries." Little wonder that actions such as the World Bank's establishing transparent accounts in Chad and Cameroon (for the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline) into which "revenues would be paid and used for the whole population" are marked by their infrequency.

Bribery And Corruption Still Seen As Rampant In Developing Nations
World Bank DevNews
Oct 21, 2004

To Bribe Or Not To Bribe – Is That The Question?
Chaim Even-Zohar
August 22, 2004
Tacy Ltd. Consultants

"Fighting Terrorism In Africa"
Statement By Douglas Farah
House Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on Africa
April 1, 2004

Big oil's dirty secrets
May 8th 2003,NEW YORK
The Economist

Gordon Housworth

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Manufacturing efficiency gives rise to a new arms race: convergence of legitimate pharma-chemical, illicit drug, and CW/BW agent


Coining the term "glide slope to the desktop" after reflecting on the progression of copying from carbon paper to mimeograph to centralized toner copiers using proprietary consumables to laser printers to color inkjet and now color laser desktop printers, it is now one of our truisms that every technology has its glide slope (where the angle of descent indicates the cost threshold of acquisition over time) where its capacity will ultimately get to anyone's desktop, anywhere and for any purpose.

Two of the glide slops that we track in an effort to anticipate potential threats are chemical and biological agent production. We have long taken for granted that the market-entry restraints on chemical (including organophosphate or nerve agent) and bio-agent production, as well as their detection thresholds, have plummeted to the point that batch sizes for "low-casualty" attacks (few thousand casualties) relatively easy to produce in that:

  • There's no prerequisite for nation-state sponsorship
  • A straightforward "mid-tech" approach using a small, educable group of committed individuals is sufficient
  • Competent dual-use industrial base provides all equipment either used, surplus, stolen, and acquired from bankruptcies or closures (no need to buy new)
  • Organophosphates are reasonably easy to produce from the pesticide and flame retardant manufacturing base
  • Certain binary nerve agents are easier to produce as their binaries are individually less toxic
  • Terrorists will dispense with the usual barriers to entry of military weaponization and environmental disposal
  • Unique alloy components can be dispensed with in favor of common stainless steel if the lifespan of the production line is short

The upshot is that a "small-scale" facility can target an enclosed space equal to an office building or subway station. We now see developments in manufacturing technology and synthesis science that will drive production convergence of all sectors while its steepens (shortens) the glide slope to the desktop:

  • Legitimate chemical, agrochemical, and pharmacological
  • State-sponsored and non-state-sponsored CW/BW chem-bio agent
  • Illicit "recreational pharmaceutical" drugs

What will be tremendous boon to the legitimate sector (easy transfer from prototype into production, high throughput, effortless scale-up, and greatly improved safety) will make very hard work for proliferation inspectors.

In the shorter term:

  1. Continuously operating, computer controlled microreactors producing significant quantities of product, toxic and otherwise, in very small "footprints"
  2. New catalytic processes and automated process control permitting just-in-time production with fewer contaminating emissions -- an economic and societal boon to the commercial manufacturer but a shield to the illicit producer as it reduces detectable byproducts
  3. Automated computer controls making production processes safer and more efficient, requiring fewer personnel with reduced skill and experience
  4. Increasingly versatile, multipurpose -- effectively dual-use -- production facilities making fine chemicals badly complicate the determination of intent, especially if a small line is nested in a larger facility
  5. Chemical production facilities and skills are dispersing out of high cost manufacturing areas as pharmaceutical intermediates spread to low cost countries and production of commodity chemicals is shifted close to sources of raw materials

In the longer term:

  1. Automated synthesis methods combined with high-throughput screening protocols may likely yield new toxic agents not specifically proscribed, or even known if kept secret, by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

Impact examples:

  • Microreactors have already safely produced hydrogen cyanide (HCN), methyl isocyanate (MIC) -- which killed so many at Bhopal, and phosgene -- a vesicant blister agent. 10-fold or 100-fold parallelized arrays can achieve multi-kg or ton range output
  • New catalysts allow production of toxic chemicals "from intermediates that are not monitored under current CWC inspection regimes." Following Bhopal, DuPont created a just-in-time production process for MIC without using traditional precursors. New catalytics for the production of phosgene and thionyl chloride (a CW precursor) are cleaner and more productive than their predecessors -- while using different precursors

We're on the eve of integrating microdevices into compact microplants that create "pocket" chemical plants that fit in a briefcase and cannot be monitored or detected.

Manufacturing efficiency gives rise to another arms race while illicit drug production morphs.

Trends in processing and manufacturing that will affect implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention
George W. Parshall
Pure Appl. Chem., Vol. 74, No. 12, pp. 2259-2263, 2002

Microreactors. Prospects already achieved and possible misuse
Holger Löwe, Volker Hessel, and Andreas Mueller
Pure Appl. Chem., Vol. 74, No. 12, pp. 2271-2276, 2002

Gordon Housworth

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