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


Coercing to persuade

The ever-well-read Wired "Danger Room" blog writes a little post on how artillery has been used to pave the way for talks with local sheiks in the Diyala province of Iraq. This is an aspect of persuasion that has always interested me. At times you need to use violence (a definite no-no in all rhetorical thinking, ancient and modern) as a pretext for being able to persuade and having a constructive debate.

I'm not studied enough on Clausewitz but this aspect of warfare is either an affirmation or a qualification of his famous (and over-used) dictum: War is the continuation of politics.

In the modernist interpretation (where I think we should place C. himself), this meant that war took over when politics had exhausted it's role. In the post-modern interpretation, it means that war is just politics by other means. And this last interpretation is very much in tune with the thoughts about warfare in the fourth generation warfare, new wars, etc. As the classical concept of states warring each other for power crumbles to something much more messy and sub-statey, this mixture of warfare and persuasion will take on prominence. Not that it is a new genre. In a way you could see the proxy wars of the Cold War era as an aspect of same persuasion: "Look how much destruction we can rain down on you, when you attack me. Care to have a chat about our mutual future?"

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Sale is on in the shadow economy

New Year in Copenhagen started this Monday. Or at least, the shooting did. It is a yearly event, when the first fireworks start flooding the streets and flashes and cracks ring out through the streets, increasing to a crescendo in the days around New Years eve. The debacle is not so much due to the usual kind bought in a store, that will light up or fizz along or shoot colourful balls of light, rather what's making the noise is the illegal stuff that will make big explosions, the magnitude of handgrenades or bigger.

I was rolling along with the first-born Monday night when in a matter of minutes I heard two large bangs, the first of the year.

It kind of indicates that the market has opened for illegal fireworks. And it is quite a large one indeed. Every year several confiscations are made in Denmark and most years also have an instance of illegal fireworks factories exploding, killing the owners. It seems that the demand for explosives (probably mainly among males 12-42) is so great that there is an incentive for a risky business, building or importing chrysantemum bombs and firecrackers.

Now, just imagine an entire illegal infrastructure in place for providing explosives for one month every year. Then couple it with a demand for explosives of other kinds. Then you have a network that will support all kinds of criminal activity. And that constellation might not be too far off. At least I remember when I thought illegal firecrackers was the best, hearing on the fringes that this guy or that would be able to get you mortar shells or hand-grenades. Never tried it out, so I don't know whether the network would actually be able to fetch.

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The media economy of hostages

After a bit upwound report of a Danish journalist's near-kidnap in Afghanistan, it is worth reading John Robb's thoughts on the subject of hostage taking in the new type of warfare in hollow states. Global Guerrillas: HOSTAGE GAMES. His view is pronounced systemic and he defines the new media-reality of hostage taking as:

In short, a hostage drama that involves a foreign national can now manufacture a global systempunkt (the node/connection in any network, regardless of whether it's a physical or social network, which will cause a cascade of failure if removed/attacked/damaged). In today's environment, it really doesn't matter who is grabbed, the effects will usually be the same: a disruption of globalization.
The Danish story only shows that not only criminals and insurgents know the system of kidnapping as disruption, the medias also activate a certain narrative whenever this stuff happens.

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A quick war in the basement

Recently Estonia had a real e-election, taking the logical consequence of the web and crucible of democracy. And then they experienced a massive cyber-attack, most likely originating from Russia. Slate Magazine writes a bit on

What the attacks on Estonia have taught us about online combat.

In cyberspace all those international relation regulators and reflexes that keeps the worlds somewhat in balance, doesn't exist. So it is a rennaisance-Italy'esqe battlefield without real regulations, directions or anything. Interesting that we don't really have any real national force to protect us from the uglies that might crop up...