Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Ants and terrorists

Finally. Someone with some new thoughts on terrorism. Earlier I have been lamenting over my problems of judging terrorists as rational actors. But on John Robb's Blog "Global Guerillas" he introduces the systemic concept of "Stigmergy", the way that individual actors might be guided by enviromental signs. Ants and bloggers should be guided by these mechanics as well apperantly.

This is really mindboggling stuff.

Krigens Retorik - Blot Snak?

(I'll write this in English as I haven't got all the Danish letters on my keyboard - but it should have been in Danish).

It seems my area of interest - rhetoric and war - is being picked up all around :) The 11. november Christian Kock, professor of rhetoric at the University of Copenhagen and Ole Wæver, professor of International Politics (IR) at KU will hold a meeting on the rhetoric of war. Check this link out if you are interested in going. And if you do, please send me a briefing.


Azzam the American

A lot of people would say that we live in a uni-polar world with USA as the only superpower. I say: heck, we're not. Or at least if we are, USA is King Kong with a lot of aggressive biplanes swarming around him.

The latest example of this assymetrical threat is a video that has turned up at the FOX network, showing a guy who threatens USA in the good ol' Al-Queda way. This is a brilliant example of how much power videos and the editors that decides on the timing for running them could have a say in the spectacle around King Kong.

A interesting rhetorical assignment would be to compare the video with those who have turned up earlier to analyze the stilistic similarities and differences.

I note most obviously that the video is shot from two different angles - not very sofisticated, but a break from earlier videos as far as I know (and moreover, should make it an easier task to recognise the guy, from cranial shape etc.)

Watch the movie at your friends at FOX.


Danish doctrine

By the way - my last posting just reminded me: could any of those buddies (if they check in on the blog from time to time) help me get hold of a consistent presentation of what is the Danish military doctrine? (Pssst, Valde!)

Or perhaps help me track down the Danish Governments political doctrine for use of war (recently shifted to the "fast in-fast out" doctrine...)? (Psssst, all you other guys reading danish newspapers).

The corporal who will win the war

I've just returned from a most inspiring lecture by Sir Jack Deverell, former commander of Nato's headquarter in Europe SHAPE.

He was talking about the doctrinal differences between US and UK. And he introduced a concept that I hadn't been aware of before: the three block war - the concept that the modern soldier can run into three forms of missions litteraly on the same city-street.

This again means that the Corporal becomes the most important strategic soldier. A long explanation needed here, but it will have to wait.

This suddenly puts a new light on some of my Danish officer buddies's longing for a professional army.


To study the unstudyable

A sneaking suspicion was beginning to creep up behind me. Whenever I would dig into a text on intelligence, a textbook or a journal article from "Intelligence and National Security" it would seep out between the lines that there really isn't any unified theory on intelligence.

And alas, Mike Smith , one of my lecturers on the subject recently pinpointed the suspicion with one precision blow when he ascertained that the study of intelligence is in itself the study of knowledge - and therefore it is in a way academia incarnated.

What just strikes me as odd then is that I haven't come across more people applying the thoughts of the philosophy of science on intelligence. So far the field seems to exist most of anecdotal historiography, organizational theory and some IR theory.

If I thought that the study of Intelligence would save me from the complex methodological speculations of Rhetoric I probably would be disappointed. But on the other hand, my years of dabbling in unsolvable humanistic dilemmas probably has prepared me in another way than the studies of Social Sciences would have.

And all in all: in this academic wild-west borderland all roads are still open it seems. And a single rhetorical ranger probably can't set things straight, but perhaps he can still fire from the hip as a happy madman.


What did ya learn in school today?

You know the feeling that strikes you when you stub your toe on the same doorway third time in a row?

In Robert McNamara´s book "In Retrospect" (1995) he defines 11 lessons learned from the VietNam war. Their relevance to contemporary political toe-stubbing hasn´t been overlooked by various bloggers and editors. And admittedly it is hard to read the words, written in '95, without giving the ongoing campaign in Iraq some thought.

The stateman's reflections are somewhat in thread with the Weinberger doctrine - that tries to dictate certainty and clarity in mission when applying Amercan force.

1. We misjudged then -- as we have since -- the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries ... and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.

2. We viewed the people and leaders of the target country in terms of our own experience. We saw in them a thirst for--and a determination to fight for -- freedom and democracy. We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.

3. We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people... to fight and die for their beliefs and values -- and we continue to do so today in many parts of the world.

4. Our misjudgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.

5. We failed then -- as we have since -- to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology equipment, forces and doctrine in confronting unconventional, highly motivated people's movements. We failed as well to adapt our military forces to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.

6. We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale U.S. military involvement ... before we initiated the action.

7. After the action got underway and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course, we failed to retain popular support in part because we did not explain fully what was happening and why we were doing what we did. We had not prepared the public to understand the complex events we faced and how to react constructively to the need for changes in course as the nation confronted uncharted seas and an alien environment. A nation's deepest strength lies not in military prowess but, rather, in the unity of its people. We failed to maintain it.

8. We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Where our own security is not directly at stake, our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our own image or as we choose.

9. We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action -- other than in response to direct threats to our own security -- should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.

10. We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions ... at times, we may have to live an imperfect, untidy world.

11. Underlying many of these errors lay our failure to organize the top echelons of the executive branch to deal effectively with the extraordinarily complex range of political and military issues.


Journalists and speeches

Click the headline and see PoynterOnlines guide for covering speeches. A handy ability to posess in the near future of campaigning.


Showoff: My new headquarter

Well, who hasn't dreamed of sitting in a tower, studying the black arts? Now I finally found my tower at Maughan Library, with a view over London.

Ken Bigley and the Stockholm Syndrome

The British engineer Ken Bigley is held hostage in Iraq under threat of execution. As spectators we can't help being touched by the drama - especially as it has widened from a political issue to a family matter. The developments in this horrible situation can perhaps be explained by the dynamics of rhetorical persuasion.

At the outset the kidnappers? demands were clear-cut: after the now common denunciations of the US-British occupation of Iraq, they demanded the release of a number of women prisoners from Iraqi prisons. Ken Bigley's family answered this message - and thereby took the part of the opponent in this rhetorical "dialogue" (Tony Blair and the government has taken this role to a lesser degree so you could argue that this is a trialogue). As it has been noted in English media (e.g. The Independent - but exactly which issue is unknown as it has gone astray in my humble abode) the message from the Bigley family changed drastically from their first statement to their next.

At first they blamed the government for not caring anything for Ken Bigley (thereby echoing Bigley's own - and certainly instructed - messages on grainy internet footage). But in their second message they focused much more on family values (Ken Bigley's mother is in her 80'ies and the stress of the situation takes a heavy toll on her), giving the kidnappers some credit and acknowledging that they already had won a victory by getting the world's attention. They should now spare the innocent citizen that had been their means of getting that attention.

As noted in the Independent this shift certainly bears the marks of professional hostage negotiations ? and a strong hint that the family had gotten some firm directions from government experts. By admitting a success for the kidnappers they try to buy time. And the more time goes by, the more a relationship between hostage and kidnappers develop ? the so called Stockholm Syndrome.

That this strategy has had some success can be seen in the latest development in the case. Now the kidnappers have stated that they need to define if Ken Bigley is British or Irish (his mother is Irish). Rhetorically this is a weaker position than their previous, where an "either or" could decide the entire case (much like a clear-cut criminal case - has it been done or not). Now they suddenly would have to go through two stages of deliberation before they could do anything. It will be much harder to justify his death if he was defined not to be Irish. Their opponents on the English side has had all the years under Tony Blair and New Labour to find out that a simple message - and thereby rhetorical construction - is much more powerful than the on-the-one-side-and-the-other cases that real life most often presents us with.

Hopefully this rhetorical battle spares the life of the one it's all about: helpless Ken Bigley.

Stop press: It seems that it just might:


The open society and it's enemies

Coming from a country with a well developed and functioning central registry of all citizens it is a thought-provoking experience to walk down Strand, London, enter a random shop selling mobiles and experiencing being, well, just anonymous. No call, no internet search can track me down. I am a blank page, a 404 failure message. I can't get a mobile, but I am also able to escape all scrutiny from society.

This experience must have been what Muhammad Atta (one of the mainmen behind 9/11) and his compadres must have felt when filtering into USA. And exactly the feeling that governments all over are trying to eliminate in these years, with new passports and tightened security.

I'll get my mobile, some way or another, and I will be a good citizen and get registered in society really quickly. Meanwhile Danes and others should hurry and allow them selves to experience anonymity - even if just for a little while.