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


Public Diplomacy and computer-games

The University of Southern California has held a competition on developing computer-games that will further Public Diplomacy. The winner was a game called Peace Maker about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It looks really interesting, spiffy graphics and real photos and all.

I remember playing a Danish educational game when I was a kid. You had to manage the spreading desert in the West-African Sahel area. It was kind of an adventure game, as far as I remember and it had me glued to the old IBM PS/2 for hours until I lost interest.

But apart from that I have played very few games that actually managed to combine a pressing political crisis with education and gaming-fun. However I'd really like to develop some myself... It is a channel that hold some interesting potentials.

Krise og kommunikation

Begrebet "krisekommunikation" havde sin tur i tivoli (jeg tænker det engelske ord "heyday" - hvordan skal man ellers oversætte det ord??) for nogle år siden, hvor det var hotteste emne bl.a. på K-forum.

Men det er stadigvæk et relevant emne der lister rundt i hjørnerne. Een af de mest interessante bidrag jeg har set på seriøs forskning er Finn Frandsen og Winnie Johansens Rapport om krisekommunikation Hvor godt forberedte er de? En undersøgelse af danske virksomheders og myndigheders kriseberedskab anno 2003 fra Handleren i Århus.


Read Henry Kissinger's private conversations

A bit more from the National Security Archive.

A massive wad of memos from Henry Kissinger's meetings with top-diplomats and leaders of state has just been released.

Press Here you can read the secret talks he had with people such as Mao Zedong, Sadat, Brezhnev, Nixon, Rumsfeld and Bush Sr.

Seems to have been a jolly bloke - laughs all the time in the transcripts that I've read.

Rumsfeld's Roadmap to INFOOPS

In January this year, the National Security Archive under the George Washington University got hold of a copy of the DOD's Roadmap to Information Operations.

With the typical alarmism informing many scholars, this is called a roadmap to propaganda on the ground that it states that there must be boundaries between what foreign audiences recieve and what the national audience hear - but does not specify how those boundaries must be set.

We have a double problem here: First of all that the Security Archive people are so disturbed by this lack of boundary-setting, second because the DOD really thinks that it can set such boundaries. What is leaked in Iraq to a local newspaper will be on the net in no time and then on to New York Times. This is one of the main challenges to Information Operations thinking - and underscores my point that only IO build on sound "virtue" is a real long-term capability.

Jørgen Dragsdahl og sikkerhedspolitik

En af Danmarks fremmeste forsvars- og sikkerhedsjournalister (hvis der da er noget der hedder det) er Jørgen Dragsdahl der blandt andet slår sine sikkerheds-folder i Information og P1.

På hans hjemmeside publicerer han åbenbart sideløbende noget af stoffet.

Danish Public Diplomacy and the Arabian Initiative

Last week the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark released a summary report with an analysis of the "Arabian Initiative".

This is interesting reading as it tries to gauge the impact of the Cartoon-crisis on the "Arabian Initiative", the Danish drive at spreading democracy in the Middle East.

Apart from pointing a finger at the Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and his reluctance to enter a dialogue with the Middle Eastern diplomats, it also touches on the effort for public diplomacy.

In a very short passus it recommends a strengthened effort in public diplomacy towards the region "to communicate motives and values for the Danish engagement in the Middle East and to present the Arabian Initiative as a part of the coherent Danish foreign policy for the Middle East, that just as much emphasise security and socio-economical aspects".

Well, let's see what comes of this.


Analysis: Bin Laden and Moussaoui

I haven't been so attentive to Bin Laden recently. In fact I missed one or two statements by him and failed to nerd over their content. However now I updated the Bin Laden Speech Archive.

And then on to the latest statement, its main content concerning itself with putting distance to Zacarias Moussaoui who was recently indicted for complicity in terrorism.

A number of sources have speculated that bin Laden tried to position himself with the statement. That is an analysis that resounds very much after every statement made after 2001. At the moment people speculate that there is a competition for power going between bin Laden and Zarqawi. However as the people over at the Counterterrorism Blog notesit is highly unlikely that the statement is part of "Competition" or a "Bid for Status".

But they don't really take their analysis any further. They see it merely as an attack against the US, which it obviously is.

Seen from my perspective the statement is a very important sign that bin Laden is really fighting on the more "discoursive level". Inspired by a lecture on the third Nordic conference on Rhetoric I'd like to suggest that the speech is a sign of bin Laden trying to uphold the mythic features of 9/11 by enforcing the esoteric features of it.

It is tell-tale that bin Laden chooses to break silence over a "trivial" matter like the conviction of a highly guarded inmate in mainland USA. By jeopardizing himself (what must do by communicating to the outside world) he shows that this is a matter of importance to him. I would say that this is due to the fact that a conviction of a terrorist to a prison-sentence is a threat to the narrative power of Al Qaeda. Had Moussaoui been sentenced to death, he would have been a martyr. Now he is just a proof of the "materiality" of terrorism - you can catch them, reveal them for the (frail and dumb) humans they are, and throw them in jail where they will assemble clothes-pins and eat bad fried chicken.

It is important for AQ to upkeep the mythic aura around their fighters, and this is actually bin Ladens' foremost task at the moment as I have argued earlier - his task is to build a strategic image of Al Qaeda. He himself is the most valuable asset in that effort, Moussaoui is a lesser, but seemingly important one.


War, Literature & the Arts

A journal combining humanities and war-interest: War, Literature & the Arts - An International Journal of the Humanities. All content is free, courtesy of the US Government.

The Role of Rhetorical Theory in Military Intelligence Analysis - Google Scholar

Can't write now. Am reading. I found something that looks very promising in the little corner of the world that I have specialised in. The Role of Rhetorical Theory in Military Intelligence Analysis.

Seems like an ideosyncratic combination of intelligence theory, rhetoric and a large dose of Foucault - whom the Americans are not so afraid to stuff under the rhetorical umbrella as Danish rhetoricians.

Mills, Gary H.: "The Role of Rhetorical Theory in Military Intelligence Analysis A Soldier?s Guide to Rhetorical Theory".


New strategic thoughts from the global terrorist movement

Today Washington Post has an interesting piece on Mustafa Setmariam Nasar and his writings on a doctrine/strategy for Jihadist movements. I have had issues with the label "Al Qaeda" instantly being slapped on every tract that came out of the inta-wub, but here it is very much the case. Nasar worked for the AQ office in London and arranged for interviews with Bin Laden.

Nasar writes about the atomisation of the jihadi struggle in a 1600 page tome.

By the way: the boys of Wiki have a nice overview of alleged AQ people.

The Rhetoric has left the building!

I just attended the 3rd Nordic Conference on Rhetoric - and it was fun. I must admit that it is the first time I've been at a conference where I got the chance of getting so much into "the mood". Academic life is a strange microcosm: on one hand it is just like any other professional congregation - being torn out of the routine of everyday work and into a group of likeminded is quite the ecstasy at first. And perhaps especially in a subject that has so many cult-like qualities as Rhetoric - we're all just family in our love of beauty, truth and love. On the other hand, you live off your mind and your thoughts, so after the excitement has left you (usually after getting drunk with colleagues), you regress and starts guarding your words, realising that your research is directly commensurable with your slur at the bar. The family is quite dysfunctional and academic feuds risk spilling over into fist-fights in the convention-halls. The entire exercise ends with a tired satisfaction - combining pleasure and business with only a hair-thin separation.

For my part it was a pleasurable revisitation of the best of student days, as many of my former student colleagues came along and had a good time.


UAVs, flying robots and terrorism

A new scare is terrorists with model airplanes. Small, remotely controlled planes could carry up to 50 kilos of explosive and would be undetectable on radars.

But it gets even more advanced than that. Some guy on New Zealand has built his own cruise missile.

If only a scare, then still a testament to the fact that missile-defence and other stuff will be grossly oversized when considering terrorist attacks.

Håndbog for statsministre

Peter Mose, min gamle chef fra Ledernes Hovedorganisation , har for et stykke tid siden udgivet Håndbog for Statsministre.

Den slags giver åbenbart adgang til at skænke drinks på en af landets fornemmeste institutioner, Toga Vinstue.

Pirates in Norwegian

Today Stig Jarle Hansen from the University of Bath and Atle Mesøy who is Senior Analyst at Protocol has written a piece in the Norwegian daily Dagbladet on Pirates on the horn of Africa - in Norwegian.

A sober insight into the dynamics of modern African bucaneering and the two authors calls attention to the fact that security is not always a hard issue that can be solved with building fences or labeling people "terrorist":

"When ships or cruise passengers are being attacked, Somalia's problems becomes ours as well.


Intelligence analysis and method

My fascination with intelligence analysis keeps on kicking, despite the fact that it is very hard to pin down. Is it merely academic analysis or is it something else and more?

The saintly Federation of American Scientists has published a CIA report that was otherwise withheld. This report discusses what merits different approaches to intel analysis have.

"At the heart of this controversy is the question of whether intelligence analysis should be accepted as an art (depending largely on subjective, intuitive judgment) or a science (depending largely on structured, systematic analytic methods)."

"If qualitative intelligence analysis is an art, then efforts to improve it should focus on measuring the accuracy of one's intuition, selecting those analysts with the best track record, and educating them to become experts in a given field."

"If, on the other hand, qualitative intelligence analysis is a science, then analysts should be trained to select the appropriate method for a given problem from a variety of scientific methodologies and exploit it to guide them through the analytical process."

Interesting and precise. However, note that the author is obviously from a social-scientific/quantitative school himself. The phrase "measuring the accuracy of one's intuition" is oxymoronic at best. Intuition can't be measured.

I'm still waiting for the unhindered, jungian, crazy intelligence analyst to write on "Creativity and intelligence analysis".


Protocol on Somali pirates

The blog "Eaglespeak" is keeping up on international maritime threats and adding its own salty comments.

Recently it mentioned "Strategic Insights", an exclusive briefing produced by Protocol, for whom I work at the moment.

The excellent article by Atle Mesøy and Stig Jarle on Somali pirates is quoted quite extensively here.

Mine detecting plants

The Danish company Aresa Biodetection is now filing for a permit to try out their genetically modified mine detecting plant. The little critter reacts to explosives and it's leaves turns red when growing on top of some.

I say: take it a step further and create a bomb-eating plant, then sell the franchise to a Japanese console game and sit back and enjoy.


Terrorism disembodied

I still remember how thrilled I was when I had an especially interesting lecture on the nature of Al Qaeda one and half year ago. Realising the contemporary make-up of the terrorist organisation was a relief on one hand and a multiplication of threats on the other: Al Qaeda is not an organisation as such any more, it is a franchise.

Now Al-Ahram in Cairo says it in new words. And I wonder how long it will be new bones to policy-makers and opinion alike?