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



So I'm a certified academician. With my grade from my dissertation finally in (a good one fortunately), there are no more stops on the long and winding road that I set out on about 10 years ago as I signed up for high-school.

I do like to study, and I will probably sorely miss it from time to time. Especially the romatic thought of having the time to sit down and become smarter. On the other hand I am eager to start doing some good with that knowledge and those skills. And hopefully I'll find something to do where I can still satisfy that need for words and thought.


Propaganda and military victories

Over at the Counterterrorism Blog they discuss the percieved increase in Al Qaeda communications. Andrew Cochran holds that "Great Propaganda No Substitute for Real Victories" and states that

"The same people who assert that we didn't have enough boots on the ground to control Iraq from the outset (and I count myself in that crowd) have to apply the same standard of strategic success or failure to Al Qaeda in Iraq and Sunni insurgents. Where are their victories? What do they really control for any length of time? What cities fly their flag? Killing people and blowing up infrastructure are not "victories."

But that's not right. Actually it is a common perception with more military-minded people. An insurgency group can actually survive quite a long time with no victories to show. Mao did describe it thoroughly that an insurgency had to move through three phases: The strategic defensive, the stalemate and the strategic offensive. Al Qaeda have time on their side, the Americans don't. Thus they would be foolish to try to "fly flags" from any city - any conventional attack would be squashed by superior American force. Rather they will continue with pin-prick operations that will undermine the US presence. The communication effort is vital to this strategy and the increased ability to get timely comments out are quite a strategic asset that should be reconed with.


Bin Laden and the cartoons

Yesterday a tape surfaced that might contain Bin Laden's latest communique. He demands that the cartoonists behind the drawings of Mohammed should be extradited. An obvious, if a little delayed, reaction (and a possible proof of it really being bin Laden in some remote corner of the world). The speech also touches on the conflict in the Palestinian territories and the conflict in Darfur.

The fact that Hamas and the Sudanese government is distancing itself to bin Laden's statements leads one Danish paper (Politiken) to conclude that Bin Laden Speaks, but no one listens. That is a typical and oversimplified analysis of what Bin Laden is trying to do with these communiqués. There are those who listens, and he doesn't aim to become a front-line vanguard at the moment, only to retain his position as islamic militant no. 1. Therefor it is naïve to think that political systems in Sudan and Palestine is his audience for these broadcasts.


Jihadi texts database

The good professionals at RAND has compiled a database with Jihadi texts. More specifically they are translations of various extremist writings. They provide quite a play ground for students interested in textual analysis of the Jihadi movement and terrorism.


Intelligence Release: Threats to Denmark 1965-1991

The Danish Defence Intelligence Service has just released a number of threat-assessments. All in Danish.

Danish public diplomacy

The Danish right-of-centre party Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People's Party) now suggests that Denmark makes a broadcasting facility to broadcast news and "democracy education" to the Middle East. Politiken writes about it here.

This seems to be a copy-paste action of the successful public diplomacy conducted by stations such as Radio Free Europe, BBC World Service and Deutche Welle. And it is a nice thought.

But considering all the run-ins that Dansk Folkeparti has had with the state-owned national radio and television company Danmarks Radio over issues of "leftism" and misrepresentation of DF, it is not likely that DF has understood what the real force of, say BBC or VOA, was: independent, critical broadcasting, where even the British, American or Danish government would get their fair share of the criticism.

A state-controlled media broadcasting the magnificense of Denmark would just not be credible - or interesting.


Zarqawi as a symbol

Today Washington Post reports that the US military plays up the role of Jordanian terrorist Zarqawi in a propaganda-effort meant to bolster the US efforts in Iraq.

That kind of of synecdoche (naming a part instead of the whole) is very effective when thinking about war in a Clausewitzean way: you need to focus your efforts at a "schwerpunkt", a centre of gravity which with its destruction guarantees your success. But it is also very deceptive in the very non-clausewitzean reality of modern Counter Insurgency Operations (COIN).

The continued focus on "bad guys" detracts from the very real need for a long-term focus on social change. I just finished Jason Burkes fine book on Al-Qaeda and he shows the boils, especially in a little piece on a kurdish teenager that was caught before he could blow himself up in Iraq, acting on the behalf of Ansar Ul-Islam. Days before he was following the World Cup in Soccer in the papers, his favourite team being England. Those mind-boggling paradoxes are glossed over by the super-terrorist as symbol of the struggle.


Chaos theory: anyone got a ticket?

One of the allures of intelligence is the dream that you can see through all the chaos and unexplainable events that greets all of us off the front-pages and know what the right connections are.

For example: who left a half-finished bomb on a swedish commuter-train? And why? I'd like to hear that story.