Small Wars Journal

Irregular Warfare, Village Stability Operations and the Venture Capital Green Beret

Mon, 05/14/2012 - 5:42am

After eleven years of non-stop general and limited war in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and elsewhere, Village Stability Operations are returning us to our Irregular Warfare roots. However, it is not the IW of the Cold War but rather the IW of Globalization. And there are three overriding truths driving this IW: investors are more powerful than nation states; stateless actors are more effective than standing armies; and, stability means employment. These truths have driven Special Forces, post 9/11, to move far beyond mastery of only the Military in Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic operations. And yet, though we are meeting with moderate success and ninety percent of the resource development is done, we fail to fully grasp how all these operations fit into a functional whole. This is due to the fact we have yet to add one critical component, the mind of the investor.

The highly skilled mind of the investor is trained to realize one thing only, Return on Investment. And in a world now driven almost solely by economics and finance we need look outwards to this community for a conceptual framework and body of practice which can be adopted and melded to our domain. Fortunately, there is already an almost direct analog for the DIME centric Green Beret, the Venture Capitalist. A skilled generalist, the VC melds unconventional, non-linear thinking with traditional finance and business models so as to realize a ROI from the empowerment of small businesses, from wealth and job creation. For the VC and Green Beret alike, ROI is not derived from doctrine or from top-down thinking and applications of decisions and resources, but from empowering the near limitless capacities of the entrepreneurial spirit resident within even the most illiterate and uneducated members of humanity.

For those who have not had the opportunity to work in both worlds, that of Special Forces and that of the Venture Capitalist, the similarities may not be obvious. Nor may it be obvious why the mind of the investor and in particular the mind of the VC is that critical missing piece of modern IW. To gain an understanding of why this is so, we must first know what Venture Capital does and how such is already an analog for the 21st Century IW Warrior.

Venture Capital

Many argue agriculture and infrastructure need be developed before a widespread business base can arise. Though a certain degree of initial development in agriculture and infrastructure is necessary, it is business alone which can afford to expand, improve and maintain infrastructure. Without the tax base and development demand derived from a thriving commercial sector, welfare and non-welfare governments alike can only provide for limited infrastructure. More importantly, it is only an expanding base of industrial and services companies which can create the necessary number of jobs.

The problem of course becomes one of creating an industrial and services base out of not much more than raw human potential, and in some of the most remote and underdeveloped parts of the world. A top-down “trickledown” approach is incapable of the task, meaning a bottom-up, local and individual driven process must be applied. This is what makes the Venture Capital industry the perfect model. This bottom-up style of economic entanglement, new industry and job creation, is exactly what VC specialize in.

The bottom-up approach is powered by the endlessly creative and entrepreneurial spirit of humanity, and provides access to a near limitless supply of ideas and future business leaders. Venture Capitalists harness this boundless capacity by applying sophisticated filters, derived from proven experience, to weed through the many in order to identify those few business plans and management teams possessing the right combinations to become investable assets.

The sole purpose of the Venture Capitalist, the relationships and access, highly trained tools and practices they employ, is establishing companies which are productive contributors to globalization. For the economy this means a tax base, for the community it means jobs, for the investor it means Return on Investment and for globalization it means stability and growth.

Historically, less than ten percent of companies reviewed receive VC investment. Fifty percent of these fail, and forty percent only break even. This leaves ten percent of companies funded to realize the critical Return on Investment for all. A comfort working with and ability to derive value for stakeholders and shareholders from these success-failure rates is the role of and what differentiates the Venture Capitalist and the Green Beret alike.

Return on Investment is derived in a Venture Capitalist’s investment portfolio, from failure, through Constructive Destruction. This is the process of supporting efficient companies and cannibalizing inefficient ones and redirecting assets to the more efficient companies within the portfolio or the portfolios of other investors. This requires a VC possess the ability to, identify and analyze the value of assets within the portfolio at any given point in time, and to rapidly devise and execute courses of action designed to realize and enhance the value of these assets.

To further understand the nature of Venture Capital and to see how the industry is an analog and model for 21st Century Irregular Warfare requires an understanding of the investment world as a whole. And though such is far beyond the scope of this paper, we can discuss the basic structure of the now global investor community and how they collectively drive the global economy.

The global investment community is a tiered structure with Angel & Seed Venture Capitalists at the base and the Stock & Securities Markets at the peak. Investments move up through the many layers of investors between the base and the peak, with each subsequent investor further refining and defining the asset and improving valuation. At the base are companies with unstable valuations which are not clearly defined and represent higher orders of potential Return on Investment but also much higher magnitudes of Risk & Uncertainty. At the top are assets with stable valuations and which are clearly defined and represent lower ROI and smaller degrees of Risk & Uncertainty.

Where all the many layers of investors above are focused on improving the valuation of existing companies, Angel & Seed investors are the only ones whose role it is to invest in new companies. It is the Angel & Seed investor who comes in when the Risks & Uncertainties are too high, when the ROI is too low and uncertain for even higher level Venture Capitalists to get involved. Without this highly specialized capability and its dedicated practitioners the global Capital Markets would be impossible.

The willingness to look for and the ability to see assets and Return on Investment where the system cannot or will not, the application of conventional and unconventional thinking and the willingness to cannibalize inefficient assets before they lose all value, is what is necessary, to create assets from almost nothing and to develop an economy. This is not made possible by executing a predetermined plan as to which assets and of which type to invest in. The power of A&S investors is their ability to filter and harness the incredibly creative and productive entrepreneurial spirit of the near endless numbers of those seeking to participate in globalization. And this domain is both unique and common to A&S investors and the Green Beret alike.

This does not mean to imply there is not some predetermination as to which companies and business models receive investment. In order to qualify management and the business plan, to model Risk and to identify the ROI potential, investors must possess a well-developed and proven base of knowledge, experience and relationships in the industry in which the potential investment is or intends to be engaged. These abilities, far more than the money, are the real advantage the A&S investor brings to their investments and which provides for entanglement with the greater economic and financial engines and thereby much higher certainty of success.

The real importance of the A&S investor is his highly trained unconventional mind, which, like the mind of the Green Beret, cannot be taught but only refined in those who already possess it. This mind demonstrates its uniqueness in two fundamental capabilities: i) a thorough and fluid understanding of the subset of globalization in which the investment exists and must compete and survive; and ii) an ability to appropriately identify and articulate a quantified (specific) financial value (price) to the asset at any given point in time.

Venture Capitalists know how to put people to work in sustainable businesses. And at its very basest level, non-welfare state job creation is the current and future endstate of Irregular Warfare. We can see the beginnings of this in the Village Stability Operations now being conducted by Special Forces in Afghanistan.

Village Stability Operations

Though globalization has greatly improved the standard of living and quality of life for billions, there remain billions who are only now, or who are only partially benefitting. And there are hundreds of millions not benefitting at all. It is in these places where we do VSO, places walled or partially walled off from globalization, where the enemies of the modern world survive, thrive and recruit.

The purpose of this article is not to define VSO, which is already the topic of a growing body of articles and academic works, rather the purpose is to identify the similarities between VSO and the Start-up world of VC. It is important to detail some of the key issues of VSO in the language of business in order to demonstrate a common framework.

Limited or Ineffective Governance (Leadership):

Absolutely essential to the success of any venture is management and leadership, particularly in early phases when everything is opaque and uncertain. It is also important to note the best managers and leaders are not always obvious and those who are most effective in early phases may not be as effective in later ones.

In the start-up world there are four traits absolutely essential for managers and leaders. The first is vision and the ability to clearly articulate and achieve active buy-in with this vision. Second is a comfort with not having all the answers, with listening and choosing the best Course of Action from amongst those put forward. Third is the ability to rapidly adjust to changes in the environment or to having made a poor COA selection, even if this means changing direction and cannibalizing assets. The fourth is a willingness to fail, to learn from failure and to employ the lessons learned from failure to enhance the next venture.

In the VSO world, where old grudges and hatreds often exist, it is also critical managers and leaders possess enlightened self-interest, the ability to see beyond and to put aside personal anger for shared reward. It is the same in the business and financial world where prolonged competition or aggressive contract negotiations often lead to angry, vengeful and conflicting interests which need be arbitrated.

One of the greatest strengths, if not the single greatest, of the Venture Capitalist is the ability to recognize talented managers and leaders. This constant search for talent often leads to career-long relationships and the same VC working with the same managers and leaders across multiple projects. Identification of local, provincial and national managers and leaders is critical to the long-term success and viability of VSO.

Divided Populace (Inefficiency):

It is the nature of systems, markets, industries, communities, to become inefficient over time, to require a new vision to energize and unify. A vision defines an industry and demonstrates a pathway whereby all constituents benefit from efficiencies. In the VC world it is rare a start-up is funded with the purpose of creating an industry, most receive funding for an innovative vision of how to organize and drive an existing market to improved market share, profits and asset valuations.

Though vision is critical, it is only half the requirement. Leadership, committed to creating consensus amongst enemies, competitors, customers, and suppliers, stakeholders and shareholders, is the other. Where the Vision demonstrates what the table will look like and what will be left on it, Leadership provides the trusted party who ensures all parties have a place at that table.

One of the most difficult tasks is to identify all the direct and indirect participants necessary to the vision’s success and to get them to come to the table. No company or community operates in a vacuum and a vision and leadership alone are not enough. It takes a community, an industry, the active involvement of many contributors and competing interests. And to succeed, requires a thorough understanding of the community, industry, what external forces interact and impact it and of the larger and far more complex web of relationships in which it resides.

Overcoming division requires an achievable and communicable vision driven by leadership out there actively engaged in commitment building. Commitment to a vision is difficult to obtain and sustain where the risks are high, where the asset and value are not obvious, and where Return on Investment is uncertain or delayed. The role of the investor is exactly this, to help define the asset, continually refine its value and assist in attaining commitment from external resources and participants. As management does what is necessary to improve asset valuation, the investor provides access to ever greater external resources which further validates the vision and leadership.

Venture Capitalists and Green Berets excel at identifying which visions are achievable and represent cohesion, at providing access to external resources and recognizing and empowering those leaders capable of realizing the required buy-in. If we are to succeed at Village Stability Operations we must overcome divisions and realize efficiency by empowering leaders as they engage stakeholders and potential stakeholders in sustainable asset development, valuation improvement and Return on Investment.

Lack of economic development (Wealth):

The modern economy is exceedingly complex and virtually indecipherable even to individuals born, raised and highly educated in Capitalism. Imagine how much more impossible it must seem to those in pre-industrialized economies. And yet, all humans are entrepreneurial by nature, even the poorest, least educated and illiterate.

The global investment community wants to invest in the entrepreneurial spirit where we now and in the future will conduct VSO. They are prevented from doing so by a lack of economic development, which does not mean assets are nonexistent. It means those few assets which do exist have not been codified or developed to the state where they are actively increasing in value. This increase in valuation is mandatory if a Return on Investment is to be realized. And without ROI the power of the global investment community cannot be brought to bear.  

It is for the very same reason these villages are unstable breeding grounds and safe havens for insurgents. Where the entrepreneurial spirit is neither understood nor supported, where new assets are not being created, individuals will look for other means to earn a living and generate personal Wealth. This represents itself as a willingness to take from others either through corruption, crime or replacement of the existing Wealth structure.

Perpetual asset creation and improvement is essential for sustainable stability and this requires an active, local entrepreneurial community supported by an active and well connected local investor community. The continual interaction between entrepreneurs and investors drives the creation of new assets, improvements in asset valuations and a broadening of the economic base. More importantly this interaction steadily improves the knowledgebase, capabilities and capacities, the sophistication, of entrepreneurs and investors.

The sole purpose of VSO is to establish the environment in which business assets are identified, valued and improved. Whether we recognize it or not, at the heart of all human endeavors is Wealth creation and every action and decision increases or reduces Wealth.  In the world of globalization, it is the Angel & Seed Investors who are responsible for establishing the conditions for new Wealth creation. If VSO is to go on and ultimately be successful the mind and Wealth creation skills and practices of these investors must become an integral skillset of the Green Beret.

With VSO, the members of a SFODA collectively organize their Wealth enabling efforts along three integrated Lines of Operation. A VC trained and enabled ODA would greatly enhance and ensure success along these same Lines of Operation:

Governance:  Conducted with the purpose to establish effective and meaningful leadership and management at the local level, which engages in dispute resolution, short and long-term planning and decision making, and which is integrated with the levels of governance above it.

Equally important to effective governance and civic leadership is active and effective local business and financial leadership. Working with, yet independent of, village elders and leaders the VC educated ODA would identify and educate and empower business and financial leaders. The ODA would concurrently work with both to educate as to how governance and business leadership work in a collaborative relationship to develop and improve the community.  

Security: Operations focused on establishing the rule of law and on creating a safe environment in which the community may conduct its business and go about its life. In most contexts today this means establishing a local security force integrated with provincial and national security forces and primarily emphasizes counterinsurgency.

The Rule of Law is costly and requires an active and consistent law enforcement presence, paid sufficiently so that its members are more likely to put themselves in harms-way and less likely to use position to extort the people they are sworn to protect. This requires a sufficient, yet not overly burdensome tax revenue base, to be derived from local commerce and investments. The VC enabled ODA would work with local investors, businesses and civic leaders and with district, provincial and Host Nation governments to establish viable investment and asset taxation models which emphasize covering the costs associated with the Rule of Law.

Development: Though currently focused mostly on infrastructure, livability and quality of life improvements, these operations are ultimately and increasingly about improving the economic viability and sustainability of the community.  

The VC enabled ODA would work with village elders to identify those within the community who should be provided with business and finance training. After filtering to identify those with aptitude and desire, the ODA would conduct business training, work to identify the business assets and capacity of the community and would begin the process of asset creation and improvement and integration with the greater business community of the Host Nation.

With some obvious difference, the Lines of Operation as conducted during VSO missions already follow the same pattern as the Venture Capitalist when making, shepherding and exiting investments:

Shape: Where due diligence, planning, preparation and relationship establishment is conducted. It is during this phase in which many of the kinetic, constructive destruction, activities are conducted in order to remove security impediments to asset creation.

Hold: Once an asset has been identified and its initial form created and invested in it is of critical importance to defend, hold, this asset while it is perfected and hardened. It is most often during this time where failure occurs, when poor relationship/alliance choices or insufficient due diligence and planning becomes obvious in application. It is absolutely essential during this phase that Trust is developed.

Build: Though the most involved, time and resource consuming of the four phases, the Build phase is actually the easiest. It is during this phase the asset is actually created through entanglement, locally, provincially and nationally. This is where all of the assets and access available to the SFODA for VSO support, and the individual Green Beret’s knowledge and experience, are brought to bear in execution of the business plan.

Expand/Transition: As is critical to any and all businesses, and as a natural extension of building the business, it is necessary to expand beyond the scope of the original plan into areas and business lines which further support the mission, goals and survivability of the company. And once the company has reached the degree of entanglement required to sustain itself, it becomes necessary to transition the business to professional, and in the case of VSO, local, provincial and national management which can better handle the day to day and future operations.   

The desired endstate of VSO and a Venture Capital investment are the same, to develop a stable asset out of next to nothing, which can sustain and improve its position in the marketplace and increase in value. The purpose is to create an entity which will continue to add value to both shareholders and stakeholders. In the case of Venture Capital this represents itself as companies, while in VSO it represents itself as local economies and the governance and Rule of Law which enables them.

Green Berets are becoming masters of modern IW through the lessons learned conducting VSO. We have demonstrated a solid understanding of governance and security but are only marginally making improvements in economic development. However, if VSO is to be successful the Regiment and each ODA must also master the VC skillset and become masters at creating Wealth and non-welfare state jobs.


The threats of today and tomorrow are not rogue nuclear nations or traditional nation states. The threats now come from failed nation states and those states which wall their people off from globalization. Because, wherever there is economic oppression or underdevelopment, wherever globalization is not being allowed to improve the standard of living of the common man, there is instability. And where there is instability the investor community, which is the driving force of the global economy, is hindered in their ability to improve standards of living.

In the world of globalization, powered by economics and finance, there already exists a highly seasoned Irregular Warfare expert. This expert is out there, in every corner of the world, focused on expanding and enhancing stability. These experts are Venture Capitalists and in particular Angel & Seed investors and they are applying unconventional minds and thinking and conventional assets to create Wealth out of nothing more than the raw entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of all seven billion of us.

The mission and purpose of the Green Beret and the Venture Capitalist is the same. Their common mission is to bring stability to the now global economic engine, to bring down the walls which prevent the free flow of ideas, people, Capital and Wealth. The purpose shared by both is the War on Oppression. And both are out there every day employing economics to Free the Oppressed.

In the short time I have been in the Regiment I have come across a number of potentially very successful Venture Capitalists, Wealth creators. They have without exception been rebels, unconventional thinkers uncomfortable with the doctrine based conformity that Special Forces is becoming. Every single one of them is an individual who thinks of nothing but the War on Oppression and how to win it. We must remember Special Forces was established by these very same nonconformists and it was this which once made us great. These voices must once more be heard.


LTC Mark Grdovic, A Leaders Handbook to Unconventional Warfare, SWCS PUB 09-1, NOV 2009

COL Gregory Wilson, Anatomy of a Successful COIN Operation: OEF-Philippines, and The Indirect Approach, Military Review, Nov-Dec 2006

Frank G. Hoffman, Hybrid Threats: Reconceptualizing the Evolving Nature of Modern Conflict, Strategic Forum No. 240, Apr 2009

Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: the Modern Denial of Human Nature, Viking, 2002

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuster, 1996

Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, Anchor Books, 1999

Rory Hanlin, One Team’s Approach to Village Stability Operations, Small Wars Journal, 2011 (

About the Author(s)

Mr. EM Burlingame has raised investment for his own entrepreneurial ventures in Silicon Valley and has lived and worked as an executive in the US, Asia and the EU as a Venture Capitalist and Investment Banker primarily focused on very early-stage technology, telecommunications and internet media companies. He recently returned from Eastern Afghanistan, where his ODA conducted Village Stability Operations, and is now serving with 1st Battalion 1st Special Forces Group. EM has continued as Founder and Managing Director of the Emerio Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs through education and to increasing the rate of investment in very early-stage companies directly in emerging markets.


Ned McDonnell III

Thu, 03/14/2013 - 9:50pm

In an essay I wrote for the basic research center where I serve the USG in Mexico, I recently applied the framework detailed in this article as a paradigm for technology transfer in Mexico (with proper attribution to E.M. Burlingame for his visionary thinking). It worked like a charm and I received many compliments for perceiving the parallels. As I was a mere messenger, those kudos flow properly to the author, not to me.

This process articulated clearly by E.M. Burlingame closely resembles the crossing of the infamous 'Valley of Death' for technology inventions between the lab and the market. As the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 eventually catalyzed a home-grown change of the commercial culture on the campuses of research universities, so will E.M. Burlingame's framework similarly catalyze a cultural change in the villages of the dispossessed.

Call it Bayh-Dole on training wheels.

By the way, Mexico would bristle at the suggestion of its ascension by the middle-class as somehow generic, ‘Western’, Americanized or anything else. This modernization is a Mexican phenomenon realized by Mexican-made decisions and choices. So will it be in other places at varying rates of change with divergent configurations, depending on local values, current levels of development to date and sufficient security to establish property rights.

¡Bravo, Mr. Burlingame!

Very truly yours,
Ned McDonnell; Peace Corps-México.


Sun, 06/24/2012 - 2:39pm

In reply to by emburlingame

emburlinggame,here would be my concern. After your Guerrilla Entrepreneurs developed an outstanding International business how do you know it was not to be anything more than a front group established by the enemy with the help of US money,technology,transportation. Guerrilla warfare is often nothing more than "war using other peoples stuff" that you stole from someone, bribed someone to get or lied to someone to obtain it. Point being you could end up establishing a good business that would be taken over by a mafia/drug/criminal like organization and used against us,despite the fact that the organization was also doing a good and legitimate business.


Sat, 06/23/2012 - 8:43am

Good point. However, you can't have an ROI at Step 7, if you haven't planned for before Step 1 and conducted yourself accordingly up through the first 6 steps. And to have a lasting ROI upon Step 7 requires small ROI's all the way up from the inception of Step 1 up through each successive Step, with each increasing in magnitude and sustainability.


Fri, 06/22/2012 - 8:41pm

Interesting discussion. Back when I learned the UW process this ROI idea would come as part of the Demobilization process (step 7) it is the end of UW not the beginning.


Wed, 06/27/2012 - 11:21pm

In reply to by Mark O'Neill

Hola Mark O'Neill. I noticed your comment and then reviewed my last
note. My language may well have been vague. I addressed the question
of power held by the elders in the current social order (in three of
the last four paragraphs on my note dated the 16th of June).

The transition of power to a rising middle class has been repeated
many times in history and is often associated with a more democratic
polity, a more transparent governance or, hopefully, both. This
phenomenon is not limited to France, Germany, the United Kingdom and
other European societies.

Japan, South Korea and Taiwan amply attest to the wider appeal.
Middle class / entrepreneurial ascendancy is taking place now in
Mexico, China, Brazil, India, Argentina, South Africa, Colombia and
Viet Nam. I suspect Russia, Indonesia, the Middle East and, perhaps,
Nigeria will be next.

These examples span time and cultures; it is part of a civilization's
maturation. And it is time for Afghanistan to grow up. The beauty of
E.M.'s scheme is that it catalyzes the start -- or, perhaps,
acceleration -- of this process in a country that needs not only to
advance but may imminently be facing a developmental funding cliff.

Mark O'Neill

Mon, 06/25/2012 - 7:44pm

In reply to by NedMcD

Quote .These elders, who already have the money, will be the seed investors. They stand to be enriched by this new order. If economic gain is their paramount priority, why would these erstwhile bullies-turned-angels oppose this idea? Unquote.

Because it is not about money.

It is about power and status and (perceptions) of the 'law' (not law in any sense of one of our western jurisdictions). Whilst money can (sometimes) buy such things, more often than not 'traditional' societies have an inbuilt form of social contempt for the merchant class. Think about what made a 'gentleman' for centuries in Europe.

I have been thinking about this idea for a while now and I think there are some fundamental problems with it. Like most of the 'good ideas' that hinge on some form of 'development' it :

a. Projects our western, largely secular and modern mindsets onto the target society. It is akin to how pet owners anthromorphise human traits onto their pets. But our pets are not the same as us and they do not 'think' or 'feel' like us. (Clarification before people respond - I am in no way associating Afghans, or any other people / society, with being anything other than human - I am merely reaching for an illustrative analogy to show how 'we' get it wrong)
b. Attempts to rationalise our projects/ideas through our own subjective experience. The fact that EM came from the background he described but still 'achieved' does NOT correlate with the ability of any Afghan to do the same. Or undertsand that he or she might. No matter that disadvantage is disadvantage, EM achieved through an combination of personal drive and, importantly, being enabled by the 'free goods' of modern US society. The situations are not analagous. Those 'free goods' do not exist in Afghan society andhistory tells us that they will not, if at all, for centuries.
c. Mistakes the desire to 'do good' with the ability to 'do good'. Paraphrasing Colin Gray , ' The impossible is not a temporary condition. It is impossible.'

BLUF: Almost all Afghans -- Hazaran, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmen, Pashtuns, whatever -- have made up their minds about the U.S. and I.S.A.F. and will be unlikely to change their opinions about the foreign presence in their land.

I have been following these comments. RandCorp's perception is a powerful one since it is clear in its truth. The CQB by the younger soldiers provides something akin to temporary police protection or at least the rudiments-through-example of community policing.

The medical assistance provides the rudiments of health care. These benefits to the village are markers only of what these villagers know they do not have now but can have in the future, if they work for it. But a future to what?

That is where the third leg of the stool -- and, with it, American intentions -- becomes the make-or-break point of our strategic objective: to keep Afghanistan from relapsing back into being a tacit or overt state sponsor of terrorism.

That objective has two years to be attained and the model of community-based stabilization projects and make-work jobs will no longer work for the reason cited in the bottom-line, up-front.

E.M.'s framework can work because the younger leadership, most of whom are likely to come from outside of the elders’ circle, will emerge and some will succeed. These successful entrepreneurs can then mentor like-minded peers on applying the discipline of creating value.

This is a pattern already seen in Silicon Valley, albeit at a far less affluent and spohisticated level in Afghanistan. But the mechanics remain the same.

The only serious counter-argument I have read in all these posts asserts that the elders will bully this rising middle class and take away its well-gotten gains in favor of ill-gotten gains. True, that is the history of Pashtomania. But need it be the future?

These elders, who already have the money, will be the seed investors. They stand to be enriched by this new order. If economic gain is their paramount priority, why would these erstwhile bullies-turned-angels oppose this idea?

Perhaps, to keep power. Even there, what sounds reasonable, based on the past, may not be so reasonable in the future. Two traits these elders likely have are shrewdness to win and adaptability to survive.

The elders know if they prey on these entrepreneurs, who must also have these traits to succeed, the new business class will simply find other and more accommodating elders in a neighbouring village to sponsor them. If that option does not present itself to these entrepreneurs, the bullying elders will be facing a high risk of a localized but violent uprising.

So it becomes a dilemma for the bullying elders facing an increasingly unsustainable status-quo (if indeed such a status-quo exists). The elders may very well end up thinking, “If I am going to have to share power or see my base shrink at the hands of another village or get dismembered on any given day, I might as well share the power if it will benefit me economically by being the bully-turned-angel.”

The other arguments impress me as quibbling over words and ideas made irrelevant by the deadline of striving to accomplish in two years what we have not managed yet to do in more than ten. Sometimes, I get the feeling that much of this debate is like haggling over the place settings for dinner on the Titanic.

G Martin

Thu, 06/21/2012 - 12:37pm

In reply to by emburlingame

<em>I would argue the reason they do rise up against us, or more often, allow others who wish to do us harm to find safe haven is that we are not doing enough to change their life </em>

That assertion should be very easy to disprove. If this was true, why don't all areas of the world that perceive we are not doing enough to change their life "rise up against us" or "allow others who wish to do us harm [a] safe haven"? It should follow that there is a difference between those who do rise up/provide safe havens and those who don't- and that that is NOT explained by their lot in life or their perception that we don't do enough to change their life.

So, continuing to follow that flawed logic, the ultimate solution seems to be that we (the US) would have to change- if not the entire world- at least those areas that percieve that we aren't doing enough to change their life. I find this line of reasoning and its conclusion to not only be shaky at best- but also to be a worldview/grand strategy espoused by neo-cons- and, last I checked, the current administration does not favor that worldview/grand strategy. So, in advocating a grand strategy that the current administration does not support- nor most likely the one vying against it- one wonders where that leaves this concept. Surely there aren't that many Americans right now willing to underwrite what this logic implies- that we must change the world economically to be like us and use the military to do it. The thinking that the military should come up with its own ends-ways-means is very dangerous- if not unconstitutional- and, IMO- something that seems to have guided some- if not all- of our questionable OEF strategy.


Fri, 06/22/2012 - 11:17pm

In reply to by G Martin

G Martin

We are actually in accord on both your points, that there is no panacea and that this would only be applied when and where applicable. This conversation has seemed to get far from the actual article, and I will take some of the credit for not rolling it back. The second article, Irregular Warfare and the Two Minds of the Venture Capital Green Beret, answers some of the concerns voiced in this now voluminous comments. The third will go further and discuss such in practice. I believe you will find the third will state almost exactly what you state in this particular comment.

As envisioned, and as stated elsewhere herein this long chain, these capacities would only be a skill identifier, like so many others a team member possesses and which knowledge is shared with others on the ODA. And these efforts would not detract from, or be the focus of, but rather would be entwined into existing conversations and operations being conducted by the ODA as part of their normal business. What is important is that this type of knowledge and thinking be resident on the team, to be applied in unique manners in order to meet the current needs of the ODA, SOTF and higher at that specific time and place.

G Martin

Fri, 06/22/2012 - 5:38pm

In reply to by emburlingame

<em>What would you have us do? Would you prefer we simply focus on killing or on teaching others to kill?</em>

What makes SF great IMO is that each team has different strengths- and guys with different strengths. Whatever mission a SOTF gives an ODA (or any other higher HQ), the chances are good that the average ODA has a mix of great strengths that, when put together, give them a capability to adapt and make things happen. As a member of an ODA I would "have" you do those tasks that you've been given specifically by your SOTF (in the case of Afghanistan) that support the SOTF's mission and those tasks your commander has implied that need to be undertaken to support the SOTF's mission and SOTF commander's intent. If your commander- through the team's mission analysis- determines that some of what you talk about would meet one of those two things I've described, then I'm all for what you talk about. But, to imply that it should always be what SF teams do- that it would be a panacea to all the threats we face around the world- THAT- is what I have a problem with.

If maybe you backed up a little bit and advocated this as an area that SF might want to look into in order to assist in SOME missions- then I would actually seriously consider your arguments. But to imply- as I think you do- that this is the answer to all of our problems writ large and/or that it is something that SF should employ at all levels when we work in failed states- then I have to part company with you. I simply do not think it is in the U.S.'s interests to always attempt to build a system favoring free trade/capital investment/more economic opportunities in every area in which the U.S. military is acting in. I do not think the root of all our problems is the lack of freedom and economic opportunity. I think that a more pragmatic approach is sometimes- if not always- necessary.

Bill C.

Fri, 06/22/2012 - 11:43am

In reply to by emburlingame


Your goal re: states and societies which are not ordered, organized and oriented along modern, western lines -- much like the goals of the United States generally re: such "outlier" states and societies -- is (from your paper above) "to establish a widespread business base and a thriving commercial sector"... "with an expanding base of industrial and services companies"..."which can create the necessary number of jobs."

Herein, you suggest that green berets -- employing a bottom-up/venture capitalist/VSO-complimentary concept -- may be the better way to achieve these objectives (rather than the incredibly wasteful, inefficient and ineffective top-down methods currently being employed).

My thought: Prior to implementing your bottom-up/green beret as VC approach (or our top-down WOG approach for that matter), will we/did we:

a. Consult with all of the population groups of the countries where such missions were to be undertaken?

b. Clearly explain to these population groups what they would need to give up (beliefs, values, ways-of-life and ways-of-governance) in order to achieve "a widespread business base, a thriving commercial sector, an expanding base of industrial and services companies which could create the necessary number of jobs")?

c. And did we formerly receive approval and permission from these various population groups to undertake such state and societal transformation missions?

Lacking such a consultation, explanation and approval process re: the various population groups of such states and societies, then I would think that our green berets -- and indeed the military, police and intelligence forces of many/most of the states attempting to impose modernization -- will remain more than fully employed simply trying to kill and capture those individuals and groups who do not wish to see their states and societies transformed as we might desire.


Thu, 06/21/2012 - 11:27pm

In reply to by Bill C.

G. Martin & Bill C.-

Let us not forget that we are here, that we invaded this country, and that we had a reason for doing so (which can be argued by either side, but which still remains). Let us also not forget that we as SF are currently in 95 countries conducting various types of missions (the vast majority of which are not in combat zones such as this and which are focused on training, knowledge transfer and relationship building). You keep arguing we shouldn't go in and do those things I suggest, that the administration would not support us. Well, again, we are right now in 95 countries. What would you have us do? Would you prefer we simply focus on killing or on teaching others to kill? That is what you are stating, if not directly, then by dancing around such. If you look at the SF mission set, we moved beyond simply the M in the D.I.M.E.F.I.L. a long, long time ago.

My arguments and position are not intended to shape policy decisions, or reshape the nature of SF. I am simply stating that as a part of our already engaged missions, we add this knowledge to our already extensive base of teaching. The focus of my argument is that we spend vast amounts of money everywhere we go and to what end? Very much to the point of several commentators, this reckless spending is itself a very destabilizing force. But it need not be. Employing the mind of the investor and having the ability to recognize entrepreneurial innovations and innovators, we could far better spend the funds we now dump into the communities in which we conduct our business.

And as stated by other commentators to this thread, we are talking about what to us are infinitesimal sums. Sums we are, again, already spending everywhere we go in the world.

Bill C.

Thu, 06/21/2012 - 3:15pm

In reply to by emburlingame


Back to the heart of my thought/question:

a. Should we understand (as many/most people in the world seem to understand) that while a country, state, city or town may have the authority, jurisdiction, etc., to do the things that you suggest (community-policing; community-improvement; community-modernization) within their own country, state, city or town; they do not necessarily have the authority, jurisdiction, etc., (if not via law then certainly in the eyes of the local population) to do those things in someone else's country, state, city or town?

b. And that, because of this understanding re: authority, jurisdiction, etc., efforts made by someone to do those things that you suggest -- in someone else's country, state, city or town -- might well be met with a very negative and potentially very violent response?

Think, for example, of what kind of reception uninvited New Yorkers arriving in Texas (or vice versa) -- to do their version of community policing, community improvement and/or community modernization -- might receive.

Thus, is this (lack of authority, jurisdiction, justification, legitimacy, etc. -- if not in the eyes of international law then certainly in the eyes of many states, societies and population groups); is this something that we should take into (more) serious consideration?


Thu, 06/21/2012 - 10:32am

In reply to by Bill C.

Are you hereby implying 9/11 was justified? I mean, by your logic, such would be the conclusion. I know it is popular thinking to believe the United States is the root cause of all problems and anger in the world, that our success is at the direct expense of everyone else on earth. And perhaps that is the very same conclusion made by those who conducted such attacks (or rather the argument made by those making a play for global power as they confinced others to do their dirty work). The world is not designed such that if we are just nice enough, respectful enough, politically correct enough, everyone will play well together. Let's take aside the politically correct thinking for a moment and ask a simple question. Can you reason with, be nice enough, care about and respect a serial killer enough to stop or prevent him from killing you? Perhaps that is not a direct analog. What about a sociopath or someone with borderline personality disorder. Or what about someone, or group of someone's who want to change the power structure in the world and who are willing to do anything to bring about their way, their power? And what if these all wrap together in the same person, become institutionalized into an education system and way of thinking?

Dayuhan speaks to this in his comments. There are those outside the US who keep their own people in penury and subjugation for their own reasons. They have no desire to allow their people to rise above the level of peasant. Why? Because of the power and resources they accumulate by such. By your reasoning we are to leave these people to such and the only reason they will ever rise up and allow or participate in violence against us is if we try or continue to try and change their way of life? Seriously? I would argue the reason they do rise up against us, or more often, allow others who wish to do us harm to find safe haven is that we are not doing enough to change their life (who cares about their way of life when they are starving and subjugated). In today's world of ubiqitus cellphones, internet and satellite, even the poorest and most remote peoples of the world see how the better half lives and when they look for reasons as to why they don't, the answer is given to them by those same elites who are keeping them 'in their place'.

When I had nothing, when I went hungry and dirty for days, I wondered why those who lived well weren't helping us. Couldn't they see how miserable our lives were? Didn't they see how little we needed to change things? Didn't they care? I was given the usual answer, the answer even the well educated in our own country seem to have taken for gospel. And that is the elites were keeping me down, the system was designed to keep me in my place. Well, in these parts of the world these people are told by their elites that it is the US and the Globalization system that is keeping them down, that is subjugating them. RUBBISH. This is based on a fundamental lack of understanding of the human capacity and only perpetuates the myth of a finite volume of global wealth.

For whatever reason I decided to find a way out, and I was fortunate enough to find a good family that taught me how and gave me the resources I needed to get started. My younger brother went the path of many of those you reference, he fought and came to hate the system. He turned to drugs, violence and theft, was on probation by the age of 11, in prison by 17 and dead by 21. I see many parallels in the people in these parts of the world. And the system is not the problem. The problem is our inaction. Our well reasoned arguments not to get involved at the level we must be involved to do for these people the same thing my adopted parents did for me.

Bill C.

Thu, 06/21/2012 - 8:59am

In reply to by emburlingame


I am thinking that the distinction -- the difference -- between (1) the inside-one's-own-country community-policing and community-improvement project examples you provide above and (2) our actions to fundamentally transform other states and societies so that they run more along western lines; this so that we, and they, might better benefit from and better provide for globalization -- is that we lack -- if not in the eyes of international law -- then certainly in the eyes of the local populations and, indeed, in the eyes of many/most people around the world -- adequate authority, jurisdiction and basis to undertake such tasks. (Herein, 9/11 et al to be possibly understood as an attempt to drive this point home.)

Would I be wrong in making such an observation?


Thu, 06/21/2012 - 12:06am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C-

Of course, as stated by another commentator in this series, these ARE disruptive and destabilizing endeavours we are about. But that ignores the question of why we had to come here in the first place, and what is it we are about upon and after exit. It implies, and I believe you or another commentator even stated, the Taliban provided stability (albeit an oppressive one for the Afghans). True. But stability for whom? For the Afghans, for the Pakistani's, for the region, for CENTCOM, the US, or for the world? Like it or not we are all one integrated whole and what affects one affects all.

The inner cities in our own country have their own stability generated by the various gangs, though a violent and oppressive stability, one which fosters and perpetuates poverty and premature lifespans. But is that real stability? Is that stability for the city as a whole, for the suburbs and the surrounding communities, for the state or the nation? Is not law enforcement called upon at times to conduct raids and large-scale crackdowns to contain, as eradication doesn't seem to be the intent, the gangs and violence which reigns in these communities? And to what end has just law enforcement been able to stem the expansion, quell the violence in our own inner cities? And what about all the government agencies and not-for-profits who focus on these communities? Not much at all (though they do play a major and very important role).

No, it is only when investors have come into these dangerous areas and employed the mind of the investor to building up the economic base, to improving asset values, that stability has been allowed. It is only when jobs have been created and the investors investments draw the defense of law enforcement such that they and citizens put themselves in danger that we see improvements in the standard of living. And these efforts meet with the very same arguments you are putting forward, these are disruptive activities which introduce an initial increase in chaos in these communities, which often price these communities out of the running of the very poorest. So do we stop investing? Do we stop using law enforcement, government incentives and investors to improve these communities? Do we just let them continue as they will, build walls around them and contain them?

Bill C.

Wed, 06/20/2012 - 9:32am

In reply to by C. Lind

C. Lind:

In reading United States national security strategy documents of the last two decades, one can get very weary indeed in trying to count how many times one sees such terms as globalization, the global economy, the global marketplace, global open markets, etc., etc., etc.

Likewise in reading EM's paper above one can likewise grow tired of trying to keep track of how many times he uses such terms as globalization, the global investment community, the global economy, global capital markets, etc.

Thus, it is my thought that what America -- and EM -- are trying to do is essentally the same thing and relates primarily to transforming states and societies such that they might better benefit from -- and better provide for -- globalization, global capital markets, the global economy, global capital markets, etc.

And as EM specifically points out in his paper, these are, after all, the (irregular) wars of globalization.

The present way of life and way of governance of Afghanistan and other such outlier states and societies? These are the things that -- in EM's terms -- "wall off" countries and their populations from the benefits of and productive use by globalization and which, therefore, are the things that we are trying to -- not retain -- but to change.

And attempting to change (1) numerous states and societies ways of life and ways of governance to accommodate/benefit from globalization and (2) attempting to do this all at generally the same time and moment in history? One should understand that to be -- not a "stabilizing" endeavor -- but, rather, a potentially very dangerous and destabilizing activity.

C. Lind

Tue, 06/19/2012 - 6:23pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.

You cling for dear life to your assertion that both EM and the US are out for state and societal transformations. I'm not saying you are necessarily wrong, although a close look at EM's article and the history of Afghanistan, or at least the region, make it awfully difficult to agree, at least as far as his pursuing societal transformation goes. At least offer support for your hypothesis, instead of just claiming that it is obvious. You may indeed be correct in terms of perception regarding US actions, regardless of the US's intent. But again, look at what EM proposes! A shift! He's suggesting that, instead of adjusting their culture as the Soviets and insurgents have, we offer it back to them! By your logic, anything any American does with connection to the military will be seen through the lense of the United State's attempted state and societal transformations, and these actions will then be essentially distrusted by local populations. Would you recommend we keep doing things the way we have been, and further entrench ourselves? Is it, perhaps, that you feel that the situation in Afghanistan is going well?

Bill C.

Mon, 06/18/2012 - 10:46pm

In reply to by RandCorp


I am thinking that it is the very obvious goal of the United States and its allies to achieve certain state and societal transformations and that, therefore, EM's initiative is most likely to be seen -- by all concerned and specifically by the local populations -- as being undertaken with this specific goal in mind.

I do not think that we -- nor the local populations -- are likely to see EM's "baby steps" approach as being undertaken independent of -- or at cross purposes to -- this American foreign policy objective.


Mon, 06/18/2012 - 5:10pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C,

You consistently argue that the efforts of EM and his fellow Green Berets

“... seem to be directed toward achieving state and societal transformation.”

EM is at pains to describe the nature and the scale of the particular economic initiative he is attempting to develop i.e. cottage-based wool textiles. People have been trading woollen textiles in this region for probably 5000 years - if EM chooses to try mining, as I suggested, he will find himself tapping gemstone from seams which graced the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen and every tomb in the Valley of the Kings. These ancient traditional industries were all swept away by the Soviet invasion.

So rather than EM’s approach forcing some cultural transformation or societal ‘trepidation of the spheres’ it is in fact offering him the opportunity to assume the role of the Arab caravanner, the Chinese silk trader or even the relatively recent Venetian Merchant. Folks who insist that offering Afghans jobs won’t stop the war fail to realise the strength of this initiative is that it is the ODA members who are being offered a job. One which predates Christianity and Islam by several thousand years and, rather than causing instability as you suggest, facilitates the return of one of the foundations of traditional Afghan society.

If the Green Berets were offering expertise in the refinement of heroin in the manner of the Taliban, the ISI and the Pak-based Costa Nostra or ALQ’s international terrorism then I would understand your argument. However the weekly profits the Afghans are hoping to acquire from their enterprise wouldn’t keep your average American dog alive.

You may well ask why are soldiers necessary for this task? Firstly the presence of the one-percenters makes the deployment of NGOs difficult and secondly, and in my opinion most importantly, if you are attempting to train illiterate people to do something somewhat alien to them – such as CQB, building and maintaining fortifications, basic health-care or how to operate sophisticated weapon systems it is helpful if they have the opportunity to teach you a thing or two about what they have mastered.


Bill C.

Mon, 06/18/2012 - 5:57pm

In reply to by blair.merlino


I believe that Afghanistan was generally considered to be stable -- not unstable -- prior to this small war.

Certainly the Taliban made a horrible mistake in allowing AQ to operate within the country's borders.

But that, I believe, is not the same thing as saying that a state and society is "unstable" and must, therefore, be re-made (in our image) from the ground up.

Thus, in looking for more-correct and more-accurate reasons why it was determined that Afghanistan should be re-made, in our image, from the ground up, one must look toward other reasons (other than instability), such as: So that Afghanistan (and other such adversely configured states and societies) might become organized, ordered and oriented so as to better benefit from -- and better provide for -- globalization/the global economy.

This end/goal (to advance globalization/the global economy) would appear to be the more likely reason why the United States et. al would undertake missions of state and societal transformation; and why the U.S. and its allies might understand, and embrace, the necessary evil inherent to such missions, to wit: a degree of instability abroad and a degree of instability here at home.


Mon, 06/18/2012 - 7:09am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C., you make an unquestionably valid point. An aside, just briefly, the incompetence I mentioned earlier was that of perceived potential, and not something I wish currently to label anyone with. Incompetence may even have been the wrong word due to connotative understanding, though I believe it technically accurate. Either way, I hope you will not judge my comment too harshly on account of that phrase.

As to your point, I genuinely do agree with you. The forces currently employed in this conflict, and particularly those from special operations communities, are indeed agents of change. As you say, change is almost by nature and necessity destabilizing. EM's article also focuses, in part, on the necessity for disruptive action and thinking in attempt to bring about change.

I don't believe, however, that our view of the situation can stop there. This small war, currently engaged in, is the result of instability. If we are destabilizing, and I believe as you do that we are, we are destabilizing instability. Though perhaps it is inappropriate and somewhat presumptuous to apply the mathematical concept of a double negative yielding a positive, it seems certainly appropriate to suggest that given an unstable environment, only the affectation of change can offer the possibility of stability. And as you say yourself, change is brought about by destabilizing action. Doesn't it seem, then, that in order to achieve even the possibility of stability in the future, we must be initially disruptive?


Mon, 06/18/2012 - 7:08am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C., you make an unquestionably valid point. An aside, just briefly, the incompetence I mentioned earlier was that of perceived potential, and not something I wish currently to label anyone with. Incompetence may even have been the wrong word due to connotative understanding, though I believe it technically accurate. Either way, I hope you will not judge my comment too harshly on account of that phrase.

As to your point, I genuinely do agree with you. The forces currently employed in this conflict, and particularly those from special operations communities, are indeed agents of change. As you say, change is almost by nature and necessity destabilizing. EM's article also focuses, in part, on the necessity for disruptive action and thinking in attempt to bring about change.

I don't believe, however, that our view of the situation can stop there. This small war, currently engaged in, is the result of instability. If we are destabilizing, and I believe as you do that we are, we are destabilizing instability. Though perhaps it is inappropriate and somewhat presumptuous to apply the mathematical concept of a double negative yielding a positive, it seems certainly appropriate to suggest that given an unstable environment, only the affectation of change can offer the possibility of stability. And as you say yourself, change is brought about by destabilizing action. Doesn't it seem, then, that in order to achieve even the possibility of stability in the future, we must be initially disruptive?

Bill C.

Sun, 06/17/2012 - 9:44pm

In reply to by blair.merlino

If I may:

As I have noted before, it would seem that our efforts are not directed toward achieving "stability."

Rather our efforts would seem to be directed toward achieving state and societal transformation. Efforts such as these -- directed toward achieving significant and fundamental state and societal change -- generally do not go unchallenged and, as such, are well known to be a consistently destabalizing -- not stabilizing -- activity.

Yet with full knowledge and understanding of these facts, we still seem determined to risk (or to guarantee) both local and regional instability -- and also instability here at home (via the political, economic and social costs of these activities) -- in our effort to bring about these desired state and societal transformations.

This information, I would offer, goes a long way in helping us understand, as you suggest, "ourselves, those we fight against, and those we fight to protect," and may also address, to some degree, your thought re: "competency" (or lack thereof).


Mon, 06/18/2012 - 7:30am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.

I must say, at least to my mind, that a great deal of what you say rings true. I take the same issue with such banal cliches as "hearts and minds," and also balk at the view of a populace as an objective to be capture. To waste our tax dollars, let alone something as precious as our children, is not simply poor strategy but simply wrong. Resourcing a cliche, as you very well put, is a foolish endeavor.

Further, I hope you'll allow me brief explanation of what I meant by "doom our efforts." I did not intend to apply that directly to stability operations, as the military is calling them, nor to any specific strategy or set of goals. I think I would not be incorrect if I referenced Sun Tzu, or any number of other military strategists, commanders, and philosophers, in saying that not knowing oneself and not knowing the enemy will almost invariably have disastrous results, regardless of one's goals.

I'm taken by several of your assertions. Primarily, the point you make about the complexity of people and, I assume, peoples. Americans, as you say, will never change the Afghan culture. If it is to change, it will have to come from them. What, however, does an attempt at a bolstered economy, have to do with changing their culture? Isn't that what EM's paper suggests? The Afghan people have a culture very much entwined with their economy, which has been taken from them. Attempting to empower them to retake it does not seem to be an attempt to change their culture at all, historically speaking. It seems more like an attempt to allow it.

As far as how many times we should employ the "Afghanistan type mission," I refer your question back to you. You assert that the military is capable of defeating any real threat. I assume that it should be so applied wherever a real threat occurs, as I take to be your meaning. Economic empowerment can be similarly applied. That is, wherever it is required.

I think that I tend to agree with you on many points, at least to a degree, and am glad to have found a venue for conversations like this! I'm curious, however, what your recommendations are for the current conflict. You've made a number of points, but I've not been able to figure out what course of action you would posit in order to bring this waste of resources, as I think you referred to it, to an end?

Bill M.

Sun, 06/17/2012 - 8:48pm

In reply to by blair.merlino


I agree we don't understand humanity (although we should, but instead we try to dumb it down to a simplistic model or cliche "hearts and minds"). The essence of this article in my view points to our simplistic interpretation of events which is if we simply provide jobs and/or protection for the population jobs then they'll embrace "our" goals like sheep (we also sadly define "population" as an objective to capture, as though it is one collective mass, and that simplistic view further hinders our efforts when we have one size fits all strategy to capture "the" objective). I rather not see my tax dollars or my kids sent out to pursue such baseless ideas, we have enough problems at home and more serious problems abroad. Deploying the military to eliminate a threat or deter a threat from attacking (even better), but for other activiities I give to charity, and we have other organizations such as USAID.

How do we know what dooms our efforts, when we can't define our endstate?Please explain what you think stability means? How enduring is it? How we achieve it? Maybe our pursuit of stability is actually delaying the realization of stability in Afghanistan?

People are complex and cannot be controlled, shaped, or stabilized with our overly simplistic and idealistic approaches. If there is really a threat to the U.S. in Afghanistan we can eliminate it with our military if we choose to do so. We are not going to reform their society, only the Afghans can do that. Assuming our strategy to defeat terrorism is creating "stability" in all these so called dark places, just how many more Afghanistan type missions do you propose? AQ is alive and well in Somalia, Yemen, and other locations, so is our current approach really feasible?


Sun, 06/17/2012 - 2:18am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.

I find it interesting you mention the needs of a people as critical to this discussion. I couldn't agree more. As Maslow's hierarchy was based on Western "people," however, and specifically exemplary people including Einstein, Jane Addams, and Eleanor Roosevelt to name a few, it sees odd that you suggest it focuses on non-western people which may be, fallaciously, perceived to be simple. Furthermore, it lists safety, to include physical security, as secondary only to the most basic physiological needs, including food, water, sleep, homeostasis, and so on.

Further, you refer to it as disproven. Indeed, the leading critic of Maslow's work, Manfred Max-Need, does not presume to disprove the validity of the needs Maslow puts forth, but simply suggests they do not occur in hierarchical organization. Rather, they occur in parallel with one another. Included in Max-Neef's theory are needs such as leisure, creation, identity, and freedom, all occuring concurrently with the need and desire for physical protection. It would seem that Maslow's most prominent critic, who addresses people in general rather than westerners, is even more adamant about the ontological truth behind these needs, and furthermore, ranks such self-actualized needs as identity and freedom as equally important as physical protection.

There is no question that humans must have physical security, but there seems, among those purporting theories on humanity as well as those engaging with humanity, to be an equally strong realization that their needs are not so specifically limited. Those who you reference, albeit not by name, who have criticized Maslow's work, have gone even further in the demonstration of the true breadth of human needs, and moreover, the fact that these needs are experienced across the spectrum of humanity, regardless of socio-economic or geo-political status or race.

It is evident that physical conflict will remain to be a part of the global condition discussed in EM's paper, however addressing only that fails completely to understand both ourselves, those we fight against, and those we fight to protect, and such incompetence on our part dooms our efforts at stability to fail.

G Martin

Thu, 06/07/2012 - 2:33pm

In reply to by Bill M.

100% agree. I'm also curious as to how the average SF soldier will pick up the capability to assist in entrepreneurial activity. I would argue that this sort of activity is something that works well when there is a system that rewards smart investment and punishes bad investment decisions and takes some special innate characteristics as well as unique education and training/experiences. This isn't something that we can just learn on the job or pick up during a week of extra training.

But- the system that we would be operating in, I would argue, would also not be conducive to this activity. The money we use isn't tied to a system that rewards and punishes like the free market. It isn't the soldiers' money. And the delay between when the activity takes place and when rewards are realized - in this environment (insurgency)- makes it very difficult to attribute sufficient causation in order to reward properly. Our own personnel and institutional system would have to drastically change- I know for a fact that leaders have been serving off and on in areas of Afghanistan that have gotten worse on almost every measurable characteristic- and still have been promoted and received rewards.

Even assuming that jobs and economic development will help win (which I agree- I think that is an invalid assumption)- to think that SF soldiers can help provide sustainable jobs and economic development is very naive in my opinion.

Bill M.

Wed, 06/06/2012 - 3:34am

In reply to by RandCorp


Contrary to its the economy stupid, its actually the conflict stupid aspect that we fail to grasp. Feel free to show some examples of where economic development worked when it was attempted in a conflict zone? It is hard enough to do it effectively after conflict ceases (Haiti, Liberia, etc.). There are parts of Afghanistan where economic development would work because there is no fighting there, but because there is no fighting we refuse to focus economic development development in these locations, and thus fail to consolidate control (really applying the oil spot strategy) and instead piss away millions attempting to create economic activity the active conflict zones instead of fighting our adversaries there.

This is the American way of war, massing industrial might force against the enemy's perceived center of gravity, but in this case instead of massing forces on the threat we're massing economic activity in hope that the combatants will opt to turn their weapons into plows or drive a truck instead of fight.

There were some comments in the posts below stating Afghans fight because they need jobs, and that some surveys tell us that Afghans want jobs, and other comments along the same lines. These comments are partially true, but they are also irrelevant. The grunts that fight/emplace IEDs for money are low hanging fruit and usually not good fighters. They are also on both sides of the fence, which is one reason the Afghan security forces perform relatively poorly after billions have been investing in developing them. If they're only doing it for pay, then they'll always be available to the highest bider (Mexican Special Forces are a case in point), so obviously we want offer more than jobs, but a vision they believe in, but we can't do that, they'll have to do it. Furthermore, pulling a few unmotivated fighters from the insurgency with jobs will not signficantly undermine the insurgency, because the true believers who we are not fighting aggressively will continue to fight regardless of our economic efforts. They also enjoy a significant safehaven in Pakistan where they are thoroughly indoctrinated into true believers.

We tend to assume that non-Western people are simple, so we apply the disproven Maslov's hierarchy of needs model, and assume if they have a home and food in their belly then they won't fight. We buy into the belief that a little economic activity will magically negate their beliefs and pacifcy their passion, and then they will they become part of the borg. We sure as hell are not communists, but in some ways we're promoting our version of the re-education camps in our attempts to transform people's beliefs. Taking it a step further, using a hypothetical, if the Soviets invaded the U.S. during the Cold War, do you assume we would have ceased fighting them in large numbers because they started providing jobs for us? If that was the case then the underlying reason we were fighting was due to jobs, but I suspect we would be fighting for something larger than jobs, and yet we have a hard time believing others would do the same?

The myth that people are all the same leads us down a dangerous path called hubris.

We need to engage in more critical thinking, strive harder to gain understanding, and have the humility to change our strategy if we identify we're going down the wrong path instead of blindly embracing faith based plans that are based on ideology instead of analysis.


Tue, 06/05/2012 - 8:33am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C,

Thirty years of upheaval in Afghanistan has shaped an environment where in the CQB and medical expertise of the ODA are ‘commodities’ which the Afghan villagers value. Unlike their political, religious and societal customs; around which even casual debate can cause great offence, these two skill-sets usually attract much rigorous and eager interaction within the village population – the younger men the former and somewhat obliquely the female population the latter.

However neither of these groups represent the decision making elders of the village and thus you have something akin to a three-legged stool missing its third leg. EM's entrepreneurial model offers the means to secure the third leg. By engaging in traditional village industry the elders can better gain the measure of the ODA’s capabilities, and somewhat tenuously, US intentions.

I am assuming there are few people who still maintain the Kipling myth that the Afghans are ‘natural warriors’ and like any normal person the elders find the fighting and medical prowess of the ODA very much exotic and even alien - obviously impressive and commendable but revealing little of the character of the strangers they have allowed into their village.

On the other hand actions which impact wool, flour, dairy, leather, gemstones, logging etc are anything but exotic and enhance the ODA’s mission - not because they will suddenly make everyone happy and rich (hopefully sometime in the future) - but provide the elders with a insight into the ODA’s judgement and whether or not the path being rolled out is something an ancient population can safely travel.

This ‘Afghan Way’ is something the Saur Coup and the Soviet invasion failed to accommodate even in a remote sense. Despite a schismatic difference in approach the flowery words of the Wahhabi ‘carpetbagger’ and the dogmatic Taliban moron were/are just as untenable.

Though Em’s awareness of the importance “The economy, stupid” is nothing new he is promoting it with a lexicon very much in the here and now and within a forum which is near the tip of the spearhead in the fight against terrorism.


Mon, 06/04/2012 - 12:11am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C - You make a very solid point in that neither the Cold War doctrine/paradigm nor the modified version of such which has passed as the doctrine/paradigm of globalization are capable of the task we are given as Green Berets on the ground. I would argue one point, in that I don't believe we ever truly moved beyond Cold War doctrine and have instead been trying to stretch such as far as we can to make it fit the new world. Which it can't. As we seem to be incapable as a military/government/body politic of commiting or moving without doctrine/paradigm, I would argue along with you (such is the point of this and the three further articles to follow), that we need finally relinquish Cold War Era/19th-20th Century thinking, thinking based on clearly defined walls and ideology.

Dayuhan - As a practicing Zen Buddhist, I try diligently to not be bound by my own or other's paradigms, biases, prejudices, and the like. Thus as to your comment, I cannot agree more. When I state 'Probablistic" I do not do so in the context of 'problems' to be solved but rather in the context of Quantum Physics where nothing is certain/absolute and all is but 'probabilities'. In the fourth and final article in this series I will talk about Economic Entanglement (an economic theory derived from Quantum Physics and other disciplines such as evolutionary psychology) and how such is now driving the modern world (and, due to its high degree of uncertainty and non-determinism, is making the world's Capital Markets, corporatists, militarists and politicos very uncomfortable).


Sun, 06/03/2012 - 9:42pm

In reply to by Bill C.

I don't think a paradigm of any sort is necessary or even useful. Often a paradigm is an obstruction: we deal with many situations that involve an enormous range of influences and reactions, and if we enter these situations with a fixed paradigm in mind, it's easy for us to try to adjust circumstances to fit the paradigm, instead of adjusting the paradigm to fit the circumstances.

I see no utility at all, for example, in assuming that one side is "deterministic" and the other "probabilistic"

Why not treat each case as unique and assess it according to conditions on the ground, without the burden of preconceived assumptions or models?

EM: A thought I hope you will consider re: your June 2, 3:57 AM comment below, to wit:

"The deterministic mind and IW doctrine of the Cold War is not capable of understanding the probablistic mind and IW doctrine of today and the future."

In that we are well past the Cold War, and have been for some time, and now seem poised to shed our current paradigm as well, then should your statement above likewise be made to be more up-to-date? Something along these lines:

"The deterministic mind and IW doctrine of globalization/the western world (powered by economics and finance) -- is not capable of understanding the probablistic mind and IW doctrine of today and the future (to wit: the post-globalization/post-American/post-western-dominated world -- powered now by, for example, identity)."

How green berets should be trained and employed to be determined in consideration of this potentially more-accurate and more-up-to-date statement/context/paradigm?


Tue, 06/05/2012 - 8:59pm

In reply to by NedMcD

Is getting this show on the road an appropriate mission for the US military? As sympathetic as I am toward the objective, the US military acts in support of US policy... is it US policy to foster revolution, even indirectly, in nominally allied countries?

On a practical level, local elites in many of the countries where we work are well aware that a rise in grassroots entrepreneurship is likely to challenge their positions. As a result of this, they often act to derail the growth of grassroots entrepreneurship. Efforts to promote such entrepreneurship is likely to mean pursuing an objective that puts us in conflict with elites with whom we are simultaneously trying to build relations.

Before attempting these things we need to know exactly what we're trying to achieve, where those goals stand in relation to overall policy, and what the impact on local power relations is likely to be.


Mon, 06/04/2012 - 12:32am

In reply to by Dayuhan


Thank you for an interesting analogy to Mindanao. In truth, I am sympathetic with your point of view. An end-state of stability may entail growing pains. I certainly do not want to advocate even more violence for Afghan villagers to reach an end-state of incipient self-sufficiency. We have compelling examples from recent history (e.g., the U.S.S.R.) where that thinking leads not to a more peaceful end-state but a climate-then-culture of fear, tyranny and violence.

Nevertheless, I would observe that the people who catalyze these revolutions – in France, the U.S., the U.K., Viet Nam, Cuba as well as (even) the U.S.S.R. and China – are not those at the bottom, without skills and without a vision for self-betterment. The leaders tend to come from better educated groups, the tradesmen and the middle class.

In E.M.’s proposal, the venture-minded Green Beret transfers skills by mentoring counterparts with the same personality traits as he does. I believe those villagers exist. If we have not heard from them, it is because they have not yet had the opportunity to realize and express these talents.

By developing the rudiments of an entrepreneurial class, this program gives the villagers the bargaining power to redress – hopefully in a pacific manner – the very imbalances you decry.

Again, this is an organic process requiring a generation or two; so let’s get the show on the (dirt) road.



Sat, 06/02/2012 - 10:35pm

In reply to by Bill M.

You're right of course, it's a bit more complicated than just the boot. That was a rant, not an analysis. Analysis would take a bit more time and space!

Bill M.

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 10:15pm

In reply to by Dayuhan


You wrote, "We come into a place where there's very little economic activity in the villages, and where there are virtually no roads, bridges, wells, health centers, etc. Our response is development mentoring and infrastructure projects. We need to ask why those conditions prevail in the first place."

Bravo, you hit the nail on the head. We show up with solutions to problems we don't even understand. I'm not sure it is as simple as the boot you described, but regardless you have provided another great question that we should add to our area study/area assessment laundry list. Many of the questions we ask now are of little value, we need to identify what we should know to enable good decisions, and trying to understand why these conditions exist (instead of assuming) is a good start.

In village C in Afghanistan, is the lack of economic activity due to the Taliban, or did it exist before the Taliban? Did it exist prior to the USSR invasion? If it did, that should be an indicator that there is something else that is systemic and a part of the culture that needs to be identified and either accepted and or potentially addressed depending our objectives.

Just a thought... built around Mindanao, which I know, and possibly without relevance to Afghanistan or anywhere else.


I honestly don't believe that the core problem in Mindanao is the rebels, and I also don't believe that the core problem is a lack of economic initiative or venture capital resources at the village level. The core problem to me is an essentially feudal local elite that completely dominates economic and political life, operates above and outside the law, and freely uses violence to suppress economic and political competition. I honestly don't think this can be solved by village-level development mentors.

We come into a place where there's very little economic activity in the villages, and where there are virtually no roads, bridges, wells, health centers, etc. Our response is development mentoring and infrastructure projects. We need to ask why those conditions prevail in the first place. We need to understand that economic activity in many places is either suppressed (if it's seen as competition with elite enterprise) or pillaged. We need to accept that this region has been systematically underfunded by the national government for decades, and that what money gets through is for the most part stolen. We need to accept that local authority and the coercive apparatus of the state operate above and outside the law and are up to their eyeballs in criminal enterprise. Building things and trying to mentor small enterprise doesn't address this problem, it puts a band-aid on it and distracts from it. Our message to local authority is that it doesn't matter if they steal the budget because the Americans will come in and build the stuff.

Real progress in Mindanao wouldn't be dead rebels, real progress would be some people with prominent names prosecuted, convicted, and jailed. The enemy isn't the rebels, the enemy is the very government we support. The people don't need infrastructure projects or development mentoring, they need... well, I'll use a blunt word that Americans are taught to fear. They need a revolution. They need the apparatus of the state to be brought within the rule of law. Take care of that, and things will blossom on their own.

The people have few choices beyond submission and rebellion. Perversely, we call those who submit to oppression friends and those who rebel enemies, even though most of us, if in their shoes. would rebel in a heartbeat. .

Not saying the rebels have a better way: they don't... but people under the boot will rebel through whatever venue is available, and even if that rebellion is suppressed, it will recur as long as the boot is there. The problem isn't the rebels, and the problem isn't the dirt that the boot presses the people into. The problem is the boot.

There's not a lot that Americans can do about this, in any lasting sense. we can alleviate symptoms, but that doesn't affect the disease. we can't go out and take up arms against the local manifestation of an allied sovereign government. We can, however, stop deceiving ourselves about what the problem really is.


Unfortunately, I have been ill recently and trying to squeeze in my Peace Corps service at the same time. That is to say: when I tapped in to the commentaries after five days, I was happily overwhelmed. E.M.’s article has provoked substantial discussion. Any new and bold idea should do that.

As a civilian development employee once working in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can only say that I am proud of my younger brothers and sisters in uniform, particularly those, like E.M., who routinely step into harm’s way. Before I make a comment, I would like to remind us that the practice of stating assumptions or hypotheses as fact is very common.

A casual read of the “Declaration of Independence” or any philosophy text proves the widespread use of this practice. These texts are, like E.M.’s thought experiment on development, personal treatises and so one’s personal beliefs needs not be hedged. All readers know implicitly that such statements express conviction, not arrogance.

Now, to the message itself, I am particularly impressed with the well thought arguments – pro and con – laid out by RandCorp, Dayuhan and Bill M., not to mention E.M. himself. In general, the questions that keep coming back to me are:

* What is our mission and strategy? To disrupt and disable Al Qaeda and terrorism. We have done that. But as I have learned all too well with bug-spray and cucarachas in México, disrupting is just the first part. Keeping terror networks disrupted is the Herculean task. That entails presenting an alternative other than paying out short-term pecuniary rewards; and most development projects below the level of infrastructure end up doing just that.

* Whose tactics are these anyways? Not those of you or me; of people with private frameworks. The U.S. government, for better or worse, defines the mission. We are to complete our mission and accomplish substantial capacity transfer and at least the rudiments of reconstructing civil society through active engagement with the local population.

* So, what is the context for E.M.’s activities in the field? We have two years to make an impact that has not occurred – at least enough – in the last ten-plus years. Furthermore, I would be hard-pressed to say what the U.S. strategy really is. “To disrupt Al Qaeda” sounds grand like “To disable polio...” The difference is that, in V.S.O., there is no Salk vaccine. If fact, we are dealing with a people, largely illiterate, who have lost what industrial base they had as well as lost or never attained the trade and other skills required to function in a society with specialization of labor. Thirty years of darkness leaves little room for hope.

* So what do Special Forces personnel do in two years with an uncertain mission coated in platitudes and tactics that thus far have had marginal impact? What would you do? What would I do, were I placed in Afghanistan with the mandate to “stabilize” villages? Hell, if I know. One thing seems obvious: transferring skills, like the early investment model proposed by E.M., that give these subsistence farmers a choice to try to build a life with at least a few of the skills transferred under this proposal. That burgeoning class of skilled workers and nascent financiers is more likely to create villages based on a stability of opportunity.

Al Qaeda found a sanctuary in Afghanistan because moderate villagers, unempowered and unemployed, permitted it to happen in their back-yards. That might not happen if people have something to lose. The battlefield here is not that village, or even the government in Kabul, but the future. What better way to arm a people to win that battle-field because they now have a future worth preserving?

Like it or not, conform to a particular worldview of or not, we must play the hand we are dealt, post-haste and pragmatically.

G Martin

Fri, 06/01/2012 - 10:05am

<em>This was in response to EM's post, June 1, 2012 - 1:23am, below</em>

How about this concept, then (in the spirit of open-mindedness and alternative theories): That growth in wealth (i.e.- development, but governance and security as well for that matter) is necessarily predicated upon emergent and mostly (or all) internal forces- and thus there is very little- if anything- that an external agent can do on the micro level to support wealth creation...?

If this theory is correct then U.S. military units would want to limit themselves to only: working <em>with</em> local security forces to improve their tactical and operational acumen, working <em>through</em> local security forces to directly attain U.S. strategic objectives, and/or working <em>by</em> them to defeat a common enemy (of course- all of these things being bounded by specific U.S. strategic objectives). In other words, U.S. military forces- SF included- would NOT get involved (except when specifically ordered to) in any kind of development or governance efforts. Our part in VSO, therefore, would be limited to ALP only.

This concept is based on the evolutionary change mechanistic theories as applied to economics espoused in Eric Beinhocker's book <em>Origin of Wealth</em>, just so you understand where my assertions are coming from.


Sun, 06/03/2012 - 10:26am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones


How will you get an organization, which is geared to spend one trillion dollars on short-range jump jets, has spent $20 billion on 15 ton 10 feet high MRAPs, drops $50 million on a single helicopter with an OGE ceiling of 2000 meters and $10 billion on yet another CVBG, to listen to a few snake-eaters scattered around the globe who have gone native?

Certainly lack of success for Big Army, Blue-water Navy and fast Air in ten years of war has not dampened the march of the push-button brigade. In fact on a basis of the money going to those who have delivered; air-power is the answer to the Global War on Terror.

There is of course an opportunity to stop the US from plunging into this abyss of financial bankruptcy and global rejection. After the GPF have taken themselves and most of their heavy toys out of the Afghanistan SOF has the opportunity to deliver victory in Afghanistan to the Executive Office. The argument that $300 billion worth of GPF failed where a few hundred millions of dollars of SOF has delivered will in the future save a lot of blood and treasure for the US and avoid a great deal of misery and hatred in the world.



Sun, 06/03/2012 - 5:17am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

The "Volckmann program" is an interesting idea and has potential. IMO, though (not that my opinion means anything), people in such programs need to spend as much time as possible away from embassies, and time spent embedded with host-country military needs to be matched by time in the field spent away from host-country military. If you really want to know what's going on out there, you have to get beyond those associations.

Bill M.

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 1:42pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

I agree with your comments that our lack of understanding led to very bad decisions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. On the other hand, I don't agree with you that we now understand the situation to the level needed to come up with an effective strategy to achieve our strategic ends, as demonstrated by EM's article, which in fact is legacy thinking from the Cold War (I have noted a lot of misrepresentations of that period by younger members on SWJ, but recall very well the same debates during the period on the efficacy of development to support our FID/COIN efforts).
I think Dave Maxwell made a comment in response to one of the recent SWJ articles, where he basically stated it appears our doctrine and level of crtical thinking as devolved into a few buzz phrases like, "clear, hold, and build"; "hearts and minds", and that includes all this shallow talk about development that the "true believers" mindlessly continue to embrace despite the numerous academic studies (and many claim to be taking a scientific approach) that call this line of effort into question. That sure as hell doesn't mean those studies are right, and that apply in every situation, but the questions they raise do deserve credible counterarguments.

Getting back to your point, I think a lot of times we assume that SOF doesn't need to evolve anymore. Like other military organizations we look at transformation through the lens of existing organzations and doctrine to "protect" what we have now. While understandable, it also limits our imagine on what is possible if you start with a white board that is blank and reconsider what special operations capabilities are needed (with no intellectual constraints), and then design a force that has those capabilities. We need more emphasis on the special warfare aspect, not that it is more important than the commando aspect, but we have a capable commando force that we need to maintain and continuously evolve. We largely pay lip service to special warfare, and many in SOF don't even consider MISO and CA SOF, which is sad, our education system is failing.
I am for gaining greater understanding, and that means interacting with people that are NOT in the U.S. Embassy. Regardless of whether we deploy little old ladies in tennis shoes or SEALs to gain the understanding, how do we incorporate it in a way that effectively informs policy, strategy, and opertional and tactical level planning? If it doesn't, then it doesn't matter, we still end up with bad decisions being made. I know it is overstated, but we do need a functional whole of government approach. Failure to develop one will negate any progress we make with the way we employ our forces. How does it all fit together in the bigger picture? Where do the GCCs fit in? State Department? etc.

EM your arrogance continues to humor me. The ideas you are promoting are much older than you apparently desire to believe. Most importantly you, nor anyone else, has any idea of how war will unfold in the future, IW or otherwise. I would love to see the "new" IW doctrine you're talking about that us old guys just can't get (lol). A lot of us older guys struggled against the IW JOC because it was nothing more than remake of the old and largely failed doctrines of COIN, FID, Stability Operations, CT and UW that were simply repackaged together under one umbrella with a new definition for an old problem. Beyond the definition and packaging little was new. We continue to embrace the same approach we always have, which is largely an industrial approach to war where we leverage mass and lots of money in an attempt to overwhelm our foes (I guess if you can't develop a strategy this will have to suffice). As for being in the information age, well we took the technologies and simply used them to further empower our industrial approach (the American way of war, which includes your old and tried approach of using development) to more effectively put still on target and micromanage our forces. More effectively putting steel on target is good if it supports a strategy, micromanaging not so helpful.

In response to your comment that those with old intelligence can't adapt our history disproves that argument. While I'm not a fan of GEN Douglas MacArthur, his history is illustrative of so many old, dumb guys who couldn't adapt to the future. Somehow he started off chasing Pancho Villo on horseback and I'm sure he struggled, but he managed to wage a campaign in the Pacific during WWII, and then effectively lead the effort to bring Japan back into the fold (from the top down), and then led a modern war in Korea before he was relieved. I think he demonstrated the ability of our Army's leader's to adapt (he led or integrated the following and much more during his long career: horse calvary, stability operations, joint operations, COIN, nuclear warfare, bi-planes to jets, struggled with extremely complex politics, more so than today when you consider the stakes, etc.).

It wasn't some young Turk that transformed the Army to fight effectively during WWII, it was GEN Marshal. He had to fire a lot of younger officers who couldn't adapt, something we fail to do today. Failure to adapt clearly seems to be more of a personality issue than an age issue. We should have learned after WWI that standing up an Army after the war starts is a recipe for disaster, but we went into WWII the same way, and it took consider vision and leadership to transform that broken Army that invaded North Africa into the professional Army that invaded France.

They were holistic leaders focused on mission accomplishment, not individuals stuck on one pet peeve. They thought deeply about what they were doing, and they didn't rely on cute phrases like "hearts and minds" to substitute for critical thinking. Our younger generation will not bring the intelligence needed to transform the force unless they practice critical thinking. In your case, I suggest that faith based thinking on development is not critical thinking, please make some arguments based on fact on why your approach will work. If you don't have facts, at least come back with something more than old cliches. I can't swallow another unfounded argument like, if they just have options they won't fight anymore.

Bill C.

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 5:20pm

In reply to by emburlingame

Just a thought -- don't know how good it is:


The intelligence which creates a problem (ex: globalization), is not generally the intelligence capable of solving that problem (to wit: the problem of globalization)?


The intelligence which created a system (to wit: the current world system that was created by the United States/the western world) is not the intelligence capable of seeing and understanding the next system that will arise from the current system (to wit: the next world system that will arise from our current more-interconnected/more-interdependent world)?

Accordingly, if it is not reasonable or intelligent to seek guidance and/or advice from the United States/the western world (the creators of the current world system and the creators of the problems associated with this system); then to who/whom do we turn?

Thus not the IW of globalization, powered by economics and finance that we should be looking toward but, rather, the IW needed to accommodate the system which follows/transcends the current globalization model, powered -- not by economics and finance this time -- but, rather, something else?


Sat, 06/02/2012 - 4:57am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones


I could not agree more. Particularly with the statement this would only be employed by a limited few within the Regiment, just as is already with most all other secondary skills and specialities we train on and employ alongside and entertwined with our primary mission. The third article in this series will discuss how such would happen and be structured in practice, in accord with your statement and quite a bit along the lines of the Volckman and other initiatives.

As to the need to employ new thinking to the new world and to this and the next wars we will fight, the following I excerpted from the fourth and final article in this series.

"Einstein stated, “The intelligence which creates a problem, is not generally the intelligence capable of solving that problem.” I would further state, “The intelligence which created a system is not the intelligence capable of seeing and understanding the next system arising from the current system.” Meaning? The deterministic mind and IW doctrine of the Cold War is not that capable of understanding the probabilistic mind and IW doctrine of today and tomorrow."

Robert C. Jones

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 4:12am

In reply to by Bill M.

Of course for much of SOF, building this kind of cultural/social/regional expertise is HOW we "prepare for war," or at least the type of Special Warfare that SOF would most logically conduct.

Like all things, it comes down to a matter of priorities. We could not and should not do this every place, and we similarly should not and could not do this with more than a relatively small portion of the force. This is simply a more proactive and more effective way at getting after what the "Afghan Hands" program attempts after the fact to do. The fact is, of course, that it is not our lack of understanding of Afghanistan now that led us to being stuck there for so long with so little to show for our efforts; it was our lack of understanding 11 years ago. A handful of SOF professionals with years of experience in the region who could have advised and shaped initial planning could have made a world of difference in how we framed this problem and shaped our solution.

For those interested in one recent perspective on this type of engagement they can read BG Eric Wendt's proposal published in Special Warfare Magazine last year.…

How this would be done, and how much would be done would vary widely by theater and would need to be based upon a solid analysis of interests, spheres of influence, geostrategy, and a number of other longrange perspectives involving regional powers and the neighbors they affect around the world. (Of course this would force us to step away from a mix of Cold War residual thinking and intel-driven VEO threat-chasing for a few minutes, but I think we can assume risk in both those areas to look at the truly important challenges growing around us).

As Chairman, General Dempsey has repeatedly recognized that this is a time where significant change of both thought and action is required to better prepare for the challenges of the future; but the services and GCCs are bringing him in large part little more than heavy doses of the same thinking that got us to where we are today. My sensing is that he is frustrated with that. He should be. So should Congress, the President, the American tax payers and those many citizens of the globe who are impacted by our actions.

US SOF is a sophisticated blend of skills and capabilities. All I suggest is that it is time to reprioritize and refocus that blend for the world that acutally exists today rathar than the exaggerated fantasy world of VEOs painted by the Intel community, or the long gone world of the Cold War favored by so many of our senior leaders of every ilk.

Bill M.

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 1:51am

In reply to by Dayuhan

No we don't, which is why we simply need to relearn how to tap into the existing expertise that already live in those countries. There are some select cases where we need to put SOF operators in country to gain a level of understanding that enables effective operational planning and execution, but depending on the mission the flavor of what tribe we send it will vary ranging from MISO, CA, SF, SEAL, etc. What the military does during peace is prepare for war (which in itself is full time job), and additionally the military conduct various operations and activities in an effort to prevent or deter conflict, which we have done fairly well over the years. We don't need SF (Green Berets) diverting valuable training time to learn development skills since we already have organizations dedicated to that ranging from USAID to Civil Affairs in the military, what SF needs is the knowledge of when and how to incorporate those personnel as required to support their missions (which for the most part they already have, and after 10 years of war so do most of our General Purpose Forces).

The military's core compentency is war fighting, no other organization in the USG can do it, and I have to assume tax payers are paying us to fight or be ready to fight as required to defend our nation and interests. They are paying us to replace USAID, which is another organization they fund. I agree with Bob, we have too many who bought into the myth that adversarial states are no longer a threat, and want to re-make the Army into a missionary organization that builds schools, secures the population, and assorted other tasks that have little to do with what we must be prepared to do. Regardless of whether the threat is a state or non-state actor, our main competency is defeating them through the threat of or application of military force. It isn't pleasant, best avoided when we can, but absolutely a no fail mission for us when the call comes. That applies equally to general purpose forces and special operations.


Fri, 06/01/2012 - 9:26pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Do we have enough SOF people to send them off to live for years in potential conflict areas where we have no current deployments, just being there and developing knowledge for possible use down the line? Not that it wouldn't be useful, I just wonder if the powers that be would consider it an effective use of resources.

Robert C. Jones

Fri, 06/01/2012 - 8:30am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Excellent question. What should SOF be doing day in and day out in such places where we are not at war, but where we recognize that do to a wide range of factors could some day find ourselves in such a situation? The go to answer for decades, when artificial stability was the reasonable goal, was "partner capacity building." Certainly there will remain a need for such engagement, but those who press hard for expanded concepts of Security Force Assistance (SFA) and Building Partner Capacity (BPC) are, IMO, viewing the emerging world by looking in their rear view mirror.

I believe that SOF operates uniquely within what we call "the human domain." But to operate within the human domain one must first understand the human domain one thinks they might someday operate within. Much as you understand the human domain of Northern Luzon by simply living and working within it for years, so too must certain elements of SOF live and work with in critical domains around the globe. Not tied to host nation security forces, not tied to the embassy, not doing anything that could be construed as "spying" or CIA-related. Just being there. Perhaps going to school, perhaps working with some company in a civilian capacity, etc. This falls under the category of important rather than urgent, but if one waits for a problem to become urgent, it will be far too late to develop that degree of understanding that was always so very important.


Fri, 06/01/2012 - 7:25am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Out of curiosity, re this:

<i>SOF need not to be tied to ideas that they can somehow "fix" such states from the bottom up, when in fact they are broken from the top down. SOF needs to break contact from such efforts and rebalance to engage persistently among the populaces within these zones of competition and conflict, and also among these troubled populaces when our interests are somehow at stake.</i>

Since you don't advocate efforts to fix places from the bottom up, what would be the substance and the purpose of your suggested engagements with the populace?