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Testing and strategic encirclement versus force on force, bluffing and risk-taking


Understanding China's regional and global diplomatic initiative, "peaceful rise" or heping jueqi, demands a mindset very different from a Western view that values the centrality of the application of force. David Lai believes that the strength of current US thinking is also the root of its weakness -- a disproportionate lack of sophisticated skill on strategy and stratagem. Lai believes that the game of go resembles the Chinese way of war and diplomacy, playing out Sun Tzu’s strategic vision, and can serve as a window into Chinese strategic thinking.

Originally called weiqi (pronounced wei ch’i); literally, encircling territory, go starts with the game board completely open as two players compete for space (territory), with the one acquiring more the winner. The game board was conceived as the earth (when the earth was presumed flat and square), square representing stability, its four corners representing the seasons and the cyclical nature of time, round stone pieces of equal power representing Sun Tzu’s metaphor of stones as rolling boulders creating shi, the shape of the "stone engagements on the board is like the flow of water."

Players secure territory by encircling more space on the board, which leads to "invasion, engagement, confrontation, and war fighting" in multiple campaigns across multiple battlefronts. Go becomes more complicated as the players add more stones, unlike chess which reduces its number of players as the game progresses:

This Chinese way of war and diplomacy is in striking difference to the Western way of war from ancient Greece to the United States today. In the Western tradition, there is a heavy emphasis on the use of force; the art of war is largely limited to the battlefields; and the way to fight is force on force. As one observer puts it, "the Greeks developed what has been called the Western way of war - a collision of soldiers on an open plain in a magnificent display of courage, skill, physical prowess, honor, and fair play, and a concomitant repugnance for decoy, ambush, sneak attacks, and the involvement of noncombatants."

The Annual Report On The Military Power Of The People’s Republic Of China July 2003 notes that shi, the existing "strategic configuration of power" or "the alignment of forces," has no Western equivalent in its ability to "preserve national independence and enable China to build "momentum" in its effort to increase national power." Sun Tzu described shi has having:

  • Zheng, the normal manner of doing things, the regular order of battle, known to the enemy.
  • Qi, the extraordinary, variable manner of doing things, unknown and unexpected by the enemy
  • Creation of an "overwhelming force with irresistible unleashing power"
  • Development of a favorable situation with great potential to achieve political objectives
  • Taking and maintaining the initiative, making the enemy confirm

Lai uses a go game of two accomplished players to demonstrate Chinese thinking and contrasts that with US thinking in American football, poker, chess, and boxing, all of which share a more immediate cause and effect and a force application mindset. For example:


  • Power-based competition via a hierarchy of rank of pieces of different weight
  • Balance of military power in conflict situation
  • Outcome can be predicted by counting pieces and their strength on the board


  • Risk-taking and bluffing to exert control over dealt cards which players have no control
  • Typical foreign policy approaches are short-term threats and ultimatums

American football

  • Hard force on force
  • clear division between offense and defense

Whereas in go

  • Pieces have same tangible power, but have an intangible power based on the "near-infinite combinations and alternative ways of engagement"
  • Stones work "collectively and always in concert with one another to fight battles"
  • Outcome is difficult to predict with a casual look at individual pieces
  • Long-term strategies that test rather than bluff are favored
  • Players set up negotiations but do not utilize risky ultimatums
  • There is no clear-cut frontline as defense or offense is relative

This slim monograph is worth a read as our Western concepts limit us in dealing with the patient global diplomacy of China's Peaceful Rise.

Part one

"Learning From the Stones: A Go Approach to Mastering China's Strategic Concept, Shi"
David Lai
U.S. Army War College, May 2004

'Peaceful rising' seeks to allay 'China threat'
By Bruce Klingner
Asia Times
Mar 12, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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'Peaceful Rise' overcoming 'China Threat'


China's regional and global diplomatic initiative, "peaceful rise" or heping jueqi, literally "emerging precipitously in a peaceful way," is a masterful endeavor to extricate itself from the collar of "China threat" imposed by the US. Heping jueqi shows a level of nuance, patience, and simultaneous flooding of regional and global diplomatic channels with a level of personal diplomacy at which the US can only marvel, if indeed, it has recognized.

Heping jueqi is marked by:

  • Diplomatic drive for regional acceptance of PRC's expanding sphere of influence
  • Enshrining China as Asia's predominant economic force
  • Leveraging economic cooperation into political influence over Southeast Asia
  • Offsetting and eventually diminishing US influence
  • Regional and international acceptance of China as the Asian superpower with hegemony over the region

Ruan Zongzee, deputy director of the Beijing-based China Institute for International Studies, defined China's key foreign-policy question as "whether she can make the world accept her, but before this is whether she can make the regional nations accept her". Assuring Asian nations of China's peaceful intentions represents the key goal of the peaceful-rising policy. The policy advocates "rising" as the goal, "peace" as the condition, and it emphasizes the importance of "being on friendly terms with your neighbor":

The heping jueqi policy is also intended to rebut the China-threat theory, which seeks to "vilify China's image and stop her rise". Beijing strives to gain additional support by contrasting its intentions with those of the United States. Ruan comments that the Iraq war "demonstrates the US will rely on its economic and military might, pursue unilateralism, realize the 'seek to gain the initiative' military strategy, strive its hardest to achieve hegemony". The contradiction between the US "unipolar" policy and China's "multipolar" policy will reinforce Asian nations' perceptions of the benefits of allying themselves with Beijing over Washington.

Yoichi Funabashi, foreign-affairs columnist for the Asahi Shimbun, encapsulated the situation that Beijing faces: "In international politics, how a country rises often has more drastic consequences for the world than the rise itself." He highlighted that the "speed, velocity, ideology and, most significantly, the impact it has on the international balance of power" can result in neighboring countries reacting with suspicion, caution, or even fear.

Funabashi reported that a researcher from a Chinese government-affiliated think-tank explained heping jueqi by commenting, "China aims to grow and advance without upsetting existing orders. We are trying to rise in a way that benefits our neighbors." In this manner, the academic continued, China is continuing to follow the late leader Deng Xiaoping's advice to successor Jiang Zemin to "never act haughtily".

An example of this approach that echoes the Chinese proverb, Stones from other hills may serve to polish the jade of this one, dates from the 60s:

"During the 1960s, China made much effort to solicit African support for its quest to become a member of the United Nations (UN) (African countries formed a large voting block at the UN General Assembly). One of the Chinese efforts was to build sports stadiums in many African countries. This seemingly unconnected act went a long way to help China get the African votes at the UN (China won the fight and became a UN member in 1971)."

I very much doubt that the US could muster such a protracted, low key, low intrusion diplomacy to accomplish its ends and will be ill disposed to respond as China expands this form of diplomacy.

I struggle with a means to explain this approach to Western readers who expect a much more closely linked 'force and response,' to explain the goals of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) formed in 2001, and to put into context China's broad diplomatic initiatives in the Stans, Asia, Africa, and South America, but I feel that I am getting closer. It involves a look at the game of go.

Part two

'Peaceful rising' seeks to allay 'China threat'
By Bruce Klingner
Asia Times
March 12, 2004

"Learning From the Stones: A Go Approach to Mastering China's Strategic Concept, Shi"
David Lai
U.S. Army War College, May 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Butler mimics Senate: US and UK weakened


My first thought on the UK Butler report on Iraqi WMD is how similar its findings were to the earlier Senate report. BBC properly summarized Butler's five principal findings as:

  • Claim that Iraq could use WMD within 45 minutes was "unsubstantiated"
  • No individuals were to blame for failures but rather a "collective" failure
  • Intel had been pushed to the "outer limits but not beyond"
  • No deliberate distortion of intel by politicians and the prime minister "acted in good faith"
  • Limits of intelligence not "made sufficiently clear" in September 2002 dossier

Butler's comments on the scrubbing of the unclass September dossier, also shorn of all "warnings and caveats," mimic Senate criticism of the US 2002 NIE, but having lived in the UK, I wonder if Butler went a bit further in telegraphing his incredulity as "outer limits" struck me as rather stark by UK standards.

The report reproves MI6 for not sufficiently validating its sources and relying on "third hand" reports. The question I have is "third hand" from whom. I wonder if the US is one of those sources based on my understanding of intel sharing between US/UK intel groups. Clearly the US has the preponderance of satellite-borne resources for photo and ELINT collection while in other areas, such as Afghanistan, the UK had better HUMINT and diplomatic penetration. Overall US resources dwarf that of the UK so, at some level, one must wonder where the UK must draw the line in protecting sources and annoying a principal asset provider.

Listening to acting DCI John McLaughlin this morning, he again pointed out that the Senate's 'group think' on Iraqi WMD was widespread, including the UK, France, Germany, and Russia. (I have been on that point for some time and felt that the administration was late in picking it up as a shield). He went further, citing Sherman Kent, that a policy analyst (as opposed to an intel analyst) evaluates some twelve criteria in making their assessment -- the implication being that US policy analysts were listening to foreign services and diplomats that were more forward leaning that the CIA. Point taken, but I must ask to that defense: Why are we no better than the pack? And if we are not, how do we make amends for future estimates? How is such a cry of 'Wolf' to be overlooked in future, genuine situations?

McLaughlin echoed then DCI George Tenet's comments in the 9/11 Commission hearings that it was the CIA that was offering many of the points that were included in the 9/11 and Senate intel committees' reports. OK, but why could the agency not create a valid AAR (After Action Report) and absorb those lessons as part of normal operation. The US military does a creditable job of this in its AARs. (For those in organizational learning, I do hasten to note that military AARs are single-loop learning, e.g., asking what could we do better, as opposed to double-loop learning, e.g., asking if we are asking the right questions and then asking about better or worse, but it far exceeds what almost every US corporation does.)

Even if and when we find chemical weapons in Iraq, I agree that US/UK credibility will be weakened in the short to medium term that will extend beyond elections in either nation. Alex Standish, editor of the UK journal Jane's Intelligence Digest, remains a fierce critic of the US/UK approach to the Mideast and, it should be noted, early on felt that Iraqi and al Qaeda goals were "diametrically opposed" and that the US and UK were seeking to assign "good Muslim" and "bad Muslim" labels instead of trying to see the regional states as actors with overlapping and contradictory needs.

In the wake of the Butler report, Standish now speaks of a "dereliction of duty" and that charges against Iraq were "politically driven," a feeling echoed by Lord Charles Powell, once Margaret Thatcher's private secretary for foreign affairs, who said of the dossier that it "sounds as if the publication of the dossier was politically driven and was not initiated by the intelligence community." It makes one wonder how the US NIE was shaped.

I think that is fair to generalize comments of the Senate and Butler reports that US/UK intel shortfalls will make it hard to marshal public support in either country for action on future assessments such as the DPRK (North Korea), Pakistan, Iran, and Syria. Of four cases for war, only human rights abuses remains, and we regularly treat with nations that act equally nasty to their citizens.

Adding to my earlier note, "Failing to connect dots versus having no dots at all," I do feel that there is some burden for administrations on both sides of the pond as unlike ourselves who were reading the unclass, scrubbed, ambiguity-stripped 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and the Dossier, each administration was reading the classified versions and still leaped far past its intel services in positing calumny to Iraq. As those administrations had access to far more resources that we, I will be interested in seeing how they came to their conclusions. That leap is a subject to be addressed in the second phase of the Senate intelligence committee but it will not complete until after the election.

Blair echoed Bush in telling parliament earlier this morning that, "I cannot honestly say I believe getting rid of Saddam was a mistake at all. Iraq, the region, the wider world is a better and safer place without Saddam."

I respectively submit that any thoughtful reading of counterintelligence and counter-terrorist practices, the reality of conflict on the ground in the Middle East/SW Asian region, the rise in jihadist volunteerism across the Muslim world, and the utter write-down of US motives by virtual all Arabs, if not most Muslims, puts the lie to that claim.

Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction
Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors
Chairman: The Rt Hon The Lord Butler of Brockwell KG GCB CVO
14 July, 2004

'Serious flaws' in Iraq intelligence
Published: 2004/07/14 13:20:04 GMT

Can we trust the intelligence services?
By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent
Published: 2003/04/24 16:16:53 GMT

Gordon Housworth

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Failing to connect dots versus having no dots at all: 11 September versus Iraqi WMD intel


Stand by.  The UK version of the Senate Intelligence Committee report, called the Butler inquiry, after Lord Butler of Brockwell, formerly Britain's top civil servant, will be made public tomorrow (although Blair has received a copy today and will reply in ‘Question Time’ in parliament tomorrow).  “The Butler inquiry is to report on the "structures, processes and systems" used in gathering pre-war intelligence and the quality of that information in light of the failure to discover Iraq's banned weapons since the fall of Saddam Hussein.”


I have watched the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence with the same fascination as the 9/11 Commission, monitoring each for overt partisanship.  It gives one hope in this fiercely divided Congress that Senators Pat Roberts (R) and Jay Rockefeller (D) mimic the professionalism of Thomas Kean (R) and Lee Hamilton (D). It was Rockefeller that offered my tagline: "Leading up to September 11, our government didn’t connect the dots. In Iraq, we are even more culpable because the dots themselves never existed."

This first report is the "reform" phase of a two-part investigation. This first report is the "reform" phase of a two-part investigation. The second phase will deal with how that intel was shaped and used by the administration and if its statements were justified. Phase two should be fun.

Roberts and Rockefeller released eight major conclusions (the report has 117 in total) of the CIA and the greater intel community, all of which track well to the funding recommendations of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on the President's fiscal year 2005 budget request "covering all major intelligence programs within the National Foreign Intelligence Program":

  1. Key national intelligence estimate (NIE October 2002) judgments on Iraq’s WMD programs "were either overstated or were not supported by the raw intelligence reporting."
  2. Inaccurate/inadequate explanation of the "uncertainties behind the judgments" in the October 2002 NIE to congressional and administration policy-makers
  3.  "Collective group-think" that "led analysts and collectors and managers to presume that Iraq had active and growing WMD programs" and to "interpret ambiguous evidence, such as the procurement of dual-use technology, as conclusive evidence of the existence of WMD programs."
  4. Hobbling of critical analyses in the NIE by a "layering effect" that the Committee called the "intelligence assumption train" where assessments were based on previous assessments stripped of their original uncertainty estimates.
  5. Managers failed "to adequately encourage analysts to challenge their assumptions, to fully consider alternative arguments, to accurately characterize intelligence reporting and to counsel analysts who had lost their objectivity."
  6.  HUMINT (human intelligence) collection efforts against Iraqi WMD target were found deficient in virtually all respects.
  7. CIA "abused its unique position in the intelligence community to the detriment of this nation’s prewar analysis in regards to Iraq’s WMD programs" by blocking data sharing and dissemination with other agencies.
  8.  "Mischaracterization or exaggeration of intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities" was not the result of political pressure.

The Committee also focused on the quality of the NIE ("thrown together… based upon fragmentary intelligence, ancient intelligence) and the difference between classified and unclassified NIE versions. Those versions varied fundamentally in that the classified version contained "all kinds of doubts and caveats" whereas the unclass white paper had all vagueness removed, with the language moved toward, "They’ve got them, they’re ready to use them, and watch out."

It is a damning indictment indeed. There was no intel that actually justified operational Iraqi WMD and Iraqi active support to al Qaeda. All his rebuilding accomplishments aside, it is no wonder that Tenet resigned.

Select Committee on Intelligence, US Senate
Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq

Transcript: Senate Intelligence Committee Report Released
FDCH E-Media
Friday, July 9, 2004; 12:07 PM

Report Says CIA Distorted Iraq Data
Senate Panel Cites Exaggerations in Paper Made Public in 2002
By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 12, 2004; Page A01

Day Before Review of Iraq Intelligence, Blair Stands Firm
New York Times
July 13, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Awareness in worms: shutdown in the face of antiviral analysis


This is one of those wonders of why it didn't happen sooner: marrying malware to environmental awareness of its surroundings so that it can take evasive action.

Leave aside that the worm, called Atak, seems to have a modest payload that may attack other worms as (a) that may merely be a proof of function effort or (b) it may be one of a growing family of malware that seek to persevere by destroying their competitors. The important thing is that Atak goes beyond the multiple levels of passive armoring to thwart detection and removal:

"It is standard for worms to have layers of encryption--or armoring--to keep out snoopers, but this goes way beyond that. It tries actively to detect if it is being analyzed by antivirus research tools. If it thinks it is being analyzed, it stops running and shuts down."

Now that worms have moved from passive defense to active evasion, one can look beyond this easily enough to envision worms that go on the attack, and very likely selective attack based upon its environment and the analyzer.

Worm sleeps to avoid detection
By Munir Kotadia
July 13, 2004, 6:53 AM PT

Gordon Housworth

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'Ask' without 'task': legal circumvention of Posse Comitatus and Privacy Act of 1974


If the reader has reached past the title to this point, he or she has likely arrived with a predisposition of good or evil, with some fulminating as to how such an event come to pass. I am not so certain, but I have leanings as implementation depends upon user discretion rather than force of law.

The three keys to preventing DoD from violating Posse Comitatus, statute law and its internal policies are:

  • Voluntary "participation by state and local law enforcement" such that any party -- local, state, or federal -- can ask for information or support, the Pentagon included
  • No DoD agency will task any other organ with specific collection requirements (Posse Comitatus prohibition on assumption of domestic law enforcement powers)
  • Data storage on local PCs rather than centralized on DoD computers (Privacy Act of 1974 prohibition on capturing data on US citizens without their knowledge)

This inspired exploitation takes form in the web-based Joint Regional Information Exchange System (JRIES), originally created in 2002 by DIA, the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC), and the New York Police Department, transferred to DHS in February 2004, and then renamed (even as the DoD project manager, Tom Marenic, was seconded to DHS, DoD retained an executive board seat, and DoD entities remain JRIES participants).

A JRIES developer, Jonathan Duecker, noted:

"For obvious statutory and directive reasons and rules and laws and things, [DoD] couldn’t do the same type of collection in the United States we could do overseas… We started looking at various laws and perceived prohibitions that impacted the type of information the military could receive from law enforcement and determined that there was no prohibition from the Department of Defense receiving this information from state and local law enforcement."

With domestic US law enforcement reporting as a "legal way of getting information on threats in the U.S.," any JRIES participant at any level can launch an informal query, known as "requesting," to the network for aid on any topic. While "present and former Defense officials involved with the project make clear that DIA analysts are not interested in any information that is not clearly terrorism-related, [for] some local police, the lines between terrorist-related behavior and political activity remain blurry."

The current JRIES executive board director, Ed Manavian, "believes information on political protests can be considered legitimate terror intelligence," while CATIC "distributed numerous warnings on the actions of peaceful anti-war protesters." 'When asked if JRIES had ever carried information on political protests, Marenic responded, "As far as political protesters — I can’t honestly say that there’s been absolutely none."'

That said, and with the knowledge that as yet JRIES has no privacy officer nor formal data vetting process, I find the system of great value to law enforcement at any level and, as a data miner, would find JRIES useful in fuzzy searches for unspecific relationships that a voluntary contribution might be able to shed great value. I harbor a hunch, for example, that such groups as single interest terrorists will leave weak, fuzzy patterns during their run-up to violence that can be exploited. Yes, the project could go the way of 1960s domestic spying by US Army intelligence, and again speaking as an analyst, I would find it temping to accumulate JRIES data for forward and backward chaining. If such accumulation occurred, the issue would be where. It would be a violation of the 1974 Privacy Act if it occurred on federal computers.

Given that interagency cooperation is hard enough to get at any time, I would for the moment allow self-policing to insure that posted data is relevant to anti-terrorism.

Pentagon Has Access to Local Police Intelligence Through Office in Homeland Security Department
July 6, 2004 – 9:22 p.m.
By Justin Rood, CQ Staff

Gordon Housworth

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Al-Muqrin is dead, long live al-Oufi


The death of the al Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, may not be a cause for joy as his successor, Saleh Mohammad al-Oufi, appears to be a much more imposing figure.  It would appear that most of the reports of al-Oufi's appointment spring from an AFP report that was reported in various degrees as widely as Al Jazeera and the Muslim American Society (MAS)

Al-Oufi is said to be both more dangerous and more effective than al-Muqrin as he:

  • Hails from the security ranks, serving as a police officer and prison guard
  • Left the Kingdom to join terrorist networks in Afghanistan and Bosnia (where he was wounded) returning to the Kingdom in 1995
  • Administered secret al Qaeda camps in Saudi Arabia, with responsibility "for training, recruitment, and logistics"
  • Is a Hijazi from the holy city of Medina capable of recruiting "from the most economically depressed areas of Saudi Arabia"
  • Is older than Muqrin, and has spent more time in the Kingdom

With the stability of the House of Saud still unknown, threats to Saudi oil production continuing, unabated attacks on expatriate staff, and Egypt potentially overturning its western, ant-Islamist stance should Mubarek die, al-Oufi may yet play a leading role in further mischief in the Arabian Shield.

Former Police Officer in Charge of Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia
Date Posted: Monday, June 21, 2004
Muslim American Society (MAS)

Al-Qaeda replaces Saudi Arabia chief
NEW TERROR: The death of Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin after a US hostage's beheading has prompted a more dangerous man to take up local leadership of the terror organization
Tuesday, Jun 22, 2004,Page 6

Gordon Housworth

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Predict rough justice ahead from Iraqi to Iraqi


As I review the press coverage of the end of the American Raj, I was struck by one, Quiet handover, secret ceremony, which spoke to the Iraqi's desire to deal with its insurgents and the restoration of order.  This section from a Shiite who spent three years in Abu Ghraib (under Hussein) indicates rough justice ahead, far rougher than US forces meted out and of a scale that would bring howls of injustice from Arabs were it to come from US hands:

""We're in the middle of a cultural and moral revolution," says schoolteacher Munir al-Khafaji, sitting in a cafe in Baghdad's largely Shiite Karrada neighborhood. He spent three years in Abu Ghraib prison for dissident activity under Hussein. "American soldiers can't tell friends from enemies here. We can. So I'm hoping we're going to be safer. But a lot of domestic political circumstances need to be settled - real change will come after elections."

Mr. Khafaji's circle of friends, most in ankle-length dishdasha shirts, said their principal criticism of the US occupation was that the US hasn't been brutal enough with insurgents and criminals. They predicted that Allawi will get tough. "These murderers are supposed to have their throats slit and be thrown into the river,'' says Kassem Fadel Hassan, the cafe owner. "Hopefully, we'll start to see that."

That's a popular sentiment inside a country increasingly frustrated that Hussein, a deeply reviled figure here, has been removed - but replaced by a power vacuum in which more Iraqis now fear for the safety of their families.

Allawi has pledged to take a hard line against insurgents, and his aides say they'll bring in old Iraqi intelligence and military officials who they expect will be more effective at unraveling insurgent networks than the US military."

One then wonders what justice awaits Hussein himself as he passes from an American POW to Iraqi custody. Iraq Takes Legal Custody of Hussein Wednesday indicates that he will be accorded traditional US legal protections such "the right to counsel and the right to remain silent," things all quite new, and possibly tiresomely lengthy, to Iraqis.

I wonder how that deliberate process will track with the desire for retribution from so many Iraqis who suffered under his regime, not to mention the efforts of Feydayeen and insurgents to free him from the US physical custody that underpins the Iraqi "legal custody."

Quiet handover, secret ceremony
By Dan Murphy | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the June 29, 2004 edition

Iraq Takes Legal Custody of Hussein Wednesday
Prime Minister Allawi: Deposed Ruler to Be Charged on Thursday
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Fred Barbash
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 2004; 9:57 AM

Gordon Housworth

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Exceeding $100 USD a barrel in a stroke: attack Ghawar, Abqaiq, and Safaniya


In researching means of threat definition for another project, I returned to Global Guerrillas as a segway into network analysis -- which works just as well for, say, analyzing energy and petroleum networks as it does for information or social networks. What caught my eye were three threads; one, how to get to $160 a barrel of oil in a hurry, two, what to attack, and three , how to take down the supporting networks (such as power) that lead to taking down the petroleum network itself.

Two years ago I was telling some colleagues that it was reasonable to take down the House of Saud, but I was assured that all was secure.  Speaking now to other partners who have operatives in the Kingdom, it would appear that the situation is extraordinary tender, given al Qaeda's presence in the Kingdom and its penetration of the security services.

Design Flaws: Methods Of Attacking Critical Infrastructure highlights the critical path process of exploiting the designers' original assumptions in order to create major network disruptions which then degrade the network to the point that the network becomes the ally of the attacker by damaging itself, e.g., overloads, unacceptable operating costs, etc. (The point is made that T. E. Lawrence's attack on the Turkish rail system followed this approach.)

The general considerations follow our own admonitions of the impossibility of defending everything (and so defend nothing) and that all systems have assumptions (many of which are unspoken or now forgotten):

  • Economic optimization (efficiency over safety)
  • Limited resources to defend against all potential threats
  • Security focuses on historical scenario spinning and so looks backwards, usually defensively and not offensively

The more detailed assumptions offer a roll-up strategy to the attacker. (We like to say that, "The answer is unimportant. If the assumptions change, the answers will change [and there are always a spectrum of answers according to time, money, and leverage]. Instead of defining assumptions, and taking a targeted proactive analysis, clients too often ask for static checklists which are but still frames from a motion picture.")

Target: Ghawar identifies the hierarchical nodes of Saudi oil production, King ('supergiant'), Queens ('giants'), and Lords ('large'), a network that mimics other large economic networks:

  • Small number of nodes
  • Hub concentration
  • Vulnerability

Ghawar is so large that it has "zonal concentrations," producing some 2/3 of Saudi production and over 6% of global production: over 5 million barrels a day. A 'moderately' successful attack on Ghawar was said to raise the price of oil to $75 a barrel, slowing "global economic growth by 2.5%," whereas a 'successful' attack on Ghawar and Basra would hit $160 a barrel, slowing global economic growth by 4.55%.

Scenario: The Disruption of Saudi Arabia outlines what I agree is an achievable economic damage of >1 trillion USD for a million or less in expenses:

"The three main cells were given different areas of coverage: oil, electricity, and water. The cells mapped the infrastructures, established the position and response times of emergency forces, and the viability of entrance/exit routes. The subsequent network analysis done by a central planning group determined the most vulnerable sections of the infrastructures with the greatest potential for cascading system failure. The planning group followed a golden rule of global guerrilla warfare: use the network as your weapon. The final list of potential targets were sent back to the operational cells for final target selection, additional intelligence collection, operational planning, and execution."

It's worth reading the attack in full, but it starts with electricity attacks on the Ghazlan power complex (> 40% of eastern province power) followed by the al Fahdli high voltage substation. Water attacks then commence on a major seawater pipeline feeding Ghawar's water injection systems that maintain positive pressure. Finally the oil attacks focus on the #5 Pumping Station of the Petroline. Note that 'oil' is the 'last' to be attacked.

The impact starts with "reduced Saudi oil production by 1/3 over the first year of action (a loss of over 3 m barrels a day)" and goes downhill from there. Without solid counter-surveillance against an identified threat profile, proactive and not "feel good" passive, such attacks have a very reasonable chance of success. A recommended read to dispense with your complacency.

Design Flaws: Methods Of Attacking Critical Infrastructure, 17 May, 2004
Target: Ghawar, 14 May, 2004
Scenario: The Disruption of Saudi Arabia, 19 June, 2004
John Robb
Global Guerrillas

Gordon Housworth

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Disposable Africa: religious bigotry again trumps sound medical practice


Religious bigotry is free to rise at will in any country. No, I was not thinking about US administration policy blocking AIDS reduction efforts by restricting programs involving condom distribution and substituting in their place pseudo-psychological abstinence programs that do not meet the realities on the ground. This time it is the Muslim north of Nigeria in the state of Kano that halted polio vaccination of Children in August 2003 as "religious leaders there claimed that the vaccine made girls infertile."

As polio's high transmission period is soon to begin with the rainy season (when sewage backs up), World Health Organization and others, instead of expecting to soon celebrate the removal of the second major disease from the planet, the first being smallpox, are bracing for "the largest polio epidemic in recent years," apparently with all new cases genetically traced back to Nigeria:

"Immunization rates generally need to be more than 80 percent to break the person-to-person chain of virus transmission. They were briefly that high several years ago in the African countries that were polio-free until the recent outbreak. In some cases, however, the rates have now dropped to 50 percent or lower."

The level of reported paralysis vastly understates the epidemic tipping point of infection rate as most victims experience diarrhea and gastrointestinal symptoms, with only 1 in 200 becoming paralyzed. The Kano decision now requires a heretofore completely unnecessary effort to "immunize 74 million children in 22 African countries... [over an] area extending from Mauritania in the north to Congo in the south, and from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east."

As much of the immunization effort falls on volunteer efforts, resources and money that would have been spent on Africa's many other pressing problems must now be diverted back to polio. I am, in turn, inspired and appalled at the ability of any religion to incite its adherents to a course of action that can be so destructive in the medium and long term. The failure to look at the secondary effects of one's actions are not limited to secular politicians.

I submit that an examination of what the French refer to l'Afrique utile -- usable or useful Africa, and l'Afrique inutile -- useless, unprofitable or disposable Africa, can shed light on the ability of religion, among other characteristics, to so disproportionately hijack sound governance. In 2001, I wrote:

"It is a mistake to apply Western assumptions about the nature of state security in much of Africa because the concerns for state survival are subordinated to the personal security and well being of the incumbent leadership. Rulers create a "shadow state," a parallel political authority, where personal ties and controls replace failing institutions. Furthermore, the court system and legal apparatus are appropriated to serve these requirements. The state ceases to be the provider of physical or social security.

These shadow power networks, underpinned by political and economic privilege, are potent enough to frustrate interventions by the international financial and donor community designed to undermine this informal sector and strengthen the structures of the nation-state. This is the environment in which military activities and interventions of state, regional and private security forces must be considered.

Current diplomatic and security arrangements are state-centered and predicated upon states being the primary actors in international affairs. This is just not so in Africa, where regional alliances are formed between private actors or leaders who expropriate the framework of the state to their own ends and in their own private interest. In such environments, the United Nations (UN) and Western states find themselves on soft ground, having to deal with individuals both as the source of power and wealth, and as the origin of ambiguous signals in a rapidly changing environment." [client African commodity analysis report]

When religion becomes one of those ends, the wheels of good governance can come off for that state and many of its neighbors. Only Useful Africa gets linked to the global economy. Returning to my unpublished report:

"Those areas regarded as useful or believed to contain exploitable resources are provided with a modicum of protection, are linked to external protectors and their support institutions, and thereby granted a measure of administration and security. Those without such interests are left to their own devices. Only the "useful bits" are, in an economic sense, re-colonized by external players."

Polio Eradication Faces Setback in Africa

By David Brown

Washington Post

June 23, 2004


Spread of Polio in Africa Makes UN Fear a Major Epidemic
World Bank Development News
23 June, 2004

U.N. Officials Fear Major Polio Epidemic in Africa
New York Times
June 23, 2004

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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