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


Weinberger dead - along with his doctrine?

One of my first posts in this blog concerned itself with the Weinberger Doctrine. It can be seen as the lesson learned in the Vietnam War and underscores the limited, decisive and well-planned use of force. It was very much an influence on Colin Powell and his generation of senior officers in the US military.

1. The United States should not commit forces to combat unless the vital national interests of the United States or its allies are involved.

2. U.S. troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning. Otherwise, troops should not be committed.

3. U.S. combat troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives.

4. The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.

5. U.S. troops should not be committed to battle without a "reasonable assurance" of the support of U.S. public opinion and Congress.

6. The commitment of U.S. troops should be considered only as a last resort.

Now Weinberger is dead (in Danish even). And one can wonder if his doctrine goes with him or will be reinforced with the experience in Iraq. The increased beating the war-drum against Iran might prove that you can't learn from others' mistakes - and sometimes not even from your own.


Nurturing snakes in your bosom

John Robb and his Global Guerrillas brings an interesting and gloomy prediction.

By nurturing paramilitary groups to quell the insugency (what he very fitting calls the Latin-American solution) the US has had a short term strategic benefit. But they haven't used that advantage to pull out and leave the mess to the Iraqis themselves. Now the "window of chaos" has shut and the US is stuck in the room with Shiite para-militaries and Sunni insurgents. He foresees thus:

Here's a likely scenario for how this will play out: deeper entrenchment within US bases (to limit casualties) and pledges of neutrality (Rumsfeld) will prove hollow. Ongoing ethnic slaughter will force US intervention to curtail the militias. Inevitably, this will increase tensions with the militias and quickly spin out of control. Military and police units sent to confront the militias will melt down (again), due to conflicting loyalties. Several large battles with militias will drive up US casualties sharply. Supply lines to US bases from Kuwait will be cut. Protesters will march on US bases to demand a withdrawal. Oil production via the south will be cut (again), bringing Iraqi oil exports to a halt. Meanwhile, the government will continue its ineffectual debate within the green zone, as irrelevant to the reality on the ground in the country as ever. Unable to function in the mounting chaos and facing a collapse in public support for the war, the US military will be forced to withdraw in haste. It will be ugly.


Eschatology and intelligence

After viewing a documentary on Musab al-Zarqawi last night, I woke up this morning with a thought about Eschatology - the knowledge or doctrine about the final days of earth - and Intelligence.

It seems that Eschatology has become a new factor in world politics that intelligence analysts must take seriously. That is, it seems that with the rise of militant strains of political Islam there are forces whom seems to be spurred onwards by the thought about bringing about the final days and the rule of God.

I have already written about the Iranian president Ahmedinejad (all Danish experts I hear pronounce it "Achmedine-shot") and his alleged connections to a sect coveting the return of the 12th Imam. Furthermore it seems to be a desire for the final days that drives Zarqawi as well. The attack on the Shiite shrine in Samarra as well as the attacks on foreign troops and "collaborators" seems to denote a nihilist disregard for all others than Sunni moslems.

But how can eschatology be understood when doing an intelligence analysis?

First of all it can be understood literally: that we really have large groups of people who long for nothing more than total apocalypse, so that the new God-state can rise from the ashes. This really leaves intelligence analysis with some very grim outlooks. How do you do battle with people who longs for death? It doesn't help to kill them it seems.

Secondly it can be understood as a desire that will eventually crumble in the meeting with reality, namely privileges. When you have something that you care for or that you want to maintain, you are less likely to dream for the total destruction of everything. This was the strategy that was used around Europe to contain socialism and the workers' movements. If you bestow people privileges and power, they are less likely to topple the system that grants these privileges.

Third, the eschatologism can be seen as a rhetorical strategy. By aiming for the end of days in your official ideology you scare your enemies and gives your followers a clearly defiable goal to strive for. However, the political agenda must very different from ending it all - there is no idea in political manouvering if it is to destroy political life itself.

I know that there are studies, theological and otherwise, about eschatology and that the American far right as well as the Danish (far) right has been analysed that way. An obvious rhetorical and strategic task lies in that study.


The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll

The New York Magazine brings this story on the various conspiracy-theories surrounding 9/11 out there: The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll - A New Generation of Conspiracy Theorists are at Work on the Secret History of 9/11. Quite an interesting read - even when you don't really believe conspiracies to be more tangible than as a rhetorical strategy (as I wrote about here).

There are four basic stories listed in the article:

(A) The Official Story (a.k.a. ?The Official Conspiracy Theory?). The received Bushian line: Osama, nineteen freedom-haters with box cutters, etc. As White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, there was ?no warning.?

(B) The Incompetence Theory (also the Stupidity, Arrogance, ?Reno Wall? Theory). Accepts the Official Story, adds failure by the White House, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. to heed ample warnings. This line was advanced, with much ass-covering compensation, in The 9/11 Commission Report.

(C) LIHOP (or ?Let It Happen on Purpose?). Many variations, but primarily that elements of the U.S. government and the private sector were aware of the hijackers? plans and, recognizing that 9/11 suited their policy goals, did nothing to stop it.

(D) MIHOP (?Made It Happen on Purpose?). The U.S. government or private forces planned and executed the attacks.


Propaganda i Norge

På den tredje konference for Nordisk Retorikk skal jeg holde et indlæg om propaganda og retorisk kritik - baseret på mit speciale.

Der er en iøjnefaldende mange indlæg der handler om krig, vold og ballade - spændende...


Cartoon conspiracy

I've been at it before. Conspiracy-theories are a beautiful thing when it comes to arousing interest. But seen from a rhetorical viewpoint they are hard to deal with.

Here a guy called Dr. Walid Phares speculates that the reason why it took so long from the Danish cartoons were published to the reactions in the streets were a question of the "Jihadi elites" waiting for the right time to unleash the anger.

In one way this is somewhat reasonable. Seen from the view-point of propaganda theories this would be a perfect example of the condensation of public sentiment by a focused, organised effort from a group. On the other hand it is nigh impossible to demonstrate that it really happened this way, was orchestrated and this leaves us with a shadowy threat that can't be verified.


Third-power mediation

Interesting to see that Russia demands that Hamas recognise Israel (Politiken, Danish). Sometimes a third power can assert influence over a part in a conflict. However it seems that Russia has got some stakes in this themselves.