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)



Tue, 05/22/2012 - 3:58am

In reply to by Dayuhan

I cannot agree more in that what is required is a thriving and expanding entrepreneurial community and even more importantly a local investor community. And though I use the Venture Capital model as an example we really do need to look at the entry level of this multi-tiered industry, to the Angel & Seed investors who come in for small amounts in the very early stages of the business. The primary focus behind my proposal is to assist in the establishment and/or promotion of the local entrepreneur and investor communities.

The SF mission is already the DIME mission (Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic) and is increasingly encompassing the full DIMEFIL mission (Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic, Finance, Intelligence, Law Enforcement). But we we must remember that where CA, USAID, DoS and others get involved once some momentum has been established (initial assets codified and growth is being realized), SF is there first, working at the very basest level to assist the individual and community to codify those assets and to assist in realizing those same assets initial, very minimal growth.

When I was younger I studied and taught martial arts (Karate and Aikdio in particular) and found it is not enough to train someone how to defend themselves. If they do not believe they possess anything worth fighting for, they won't.

Most of this is done in conversation, during relationship building and knowledge transfer. Only a small amount of it is actually done with real money paid for by the US taxpayer dollars (not to say we do not pour ridiculous amounts of money into communities which cannot help but be disruptive when not applied solely for the purpose of a Return on Investment - and not ROI for the US personnel's career but for the individuals in the community itself).

I would be interested in your experience in PI, and any comments or recommendations you might have for our efforts there. Have to admit I have an affinity and focus on the PI as my wife and her family are from there. I can be reached on Yahoo! via my name.


Mon, 05/21/2012 - 6:17pm

In reply to by emburlingame

My point was simply that Venture Capital needs an entrepreneurial class to thrive, and that it thrives best where that entrepreneurial class is as sophisticated and as well developed as the venture capital class. In the developed world we have multiple entrepreneurs engaging with multiple venture capitalists in something approaching a free market, and that's one reason venture capital is effective.

I do not have experience in Afghanistan, and perhaps things are different there. I do have 30+ years on the ground in the Philippines, and I've often seen how badly things can go awry when outsiders with resources come to town in search of someone to help. No matter how much we talk about listening to the people, our own prejudices about what's needed inevitably seep into the picture. The resence of outside resources encourages various factions of "the people" to compete with each other for those resources, competition that can get nasty. People quickly learn to tell us what we want to hear, and much of what we hear consists of disguised efforts to get a hand into the till, not to help "the people". When some ideas get funding and others don't there's a perception of bias, and often resentment. Even when good enterprises get funded the presence of money often draws a feeding frenzy of parasites. One of the fastest ways to destroy a viable project or business in the developing world is to pump money into it. Money gets attention, and it draws the vultures.

I am not convinced that we have a great body of knowledge on how to promote ground-up economic development in distant lands.

If I had to try - and I'm glad I don't - my first idea would be to try to cultivate a local class of venture capitalists. Second, equally important, would be to try to identify the main obstacles to local entrepreneurship and see if anything can be done to remove them. Often that would mean stepping on powerful toes, but that's the nature of the beast...


Sun, 05/20/2012 - 7:41am

In reply to by Dayuhan


Having worked on both sides of the VC table (as entrepreneur and investor), I might suggest you take a look at the VC world again and in particular the Angel and Seed investors at the entry level. As well, you might want to reread the article as I do not talk about starting companies, having our own management, providing the ideas, or any of the other topics you highlighted in your response. You might also want to read through my responses to other peoples comments, herein below, wherein I discuss how this has to be about listening to the people and what they need, what they believe will be the best businesses and assist in their economic development the most.

As to the conversation with the SEAL, we don't need to fix this economy, we need to help the Afghans develop their own economy, to expand what little they have. And forgive me for this, but we do have a substantial and centuries proven body of knowledge and practice to apply. You are most certainly correct though, there is no one size fits all, or top down blueprint that is capable of the task. But that is the strength of the proposal, each ODA will be empowered to apply the right resources, information, knowledge and experience to the unique nature of the community in which they are working (ala an early stage VC investing in a business). And as these assets develop higher level resources (CA, USAID, CRC, et al) and relationships can be brought to bear to further enhance operations, markets, growth, etc.

With your last statement, I could not agree more.



Sun, 05/20/2012 - 12:13am

I think there are some misconceptions here about how venture capital actually operates. The following sums them up:

<i>The desired endstate of VSO and a Venture Capital investment are the same, to develop a stable asset out of next to nothing</i>

Venture capital investors do not typically work with "next to nothing". They work with existing companies that have developed an idea to the point that all it needs to succeed (in the assessment of the venture capitalist) is money. Typically that means working with existing organizations that have their own management, their own business plan, their own product or service.

The venture capitalist also has a single, simple criterion for evaluation potential investments: prospects for financial return on investment. Even with this simple criterion, many venture capital investments fail. We don't hear about the ones that don't succeed, but let's not forget that lots of seeds don't sprout and lots of angels crash.

It is of course completely viable to have an aid agency working on a similar model: seeking out existing local organizations with well-developed ideas and providing financial support. I remain unconvinced that Special Forces soldiers are well placed to manage such an effort, though they may be well placed to refer potential projects in communities where they work.

Venture capital investors do not start businesses. They provide resources to businesses that already exist, but which need capital to succeed.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a SEAL on the SWJ Council some time back. e pointed out that fixing an economy and creating jobs would be a better solution to insurgency than blowing things up. I completely agree, but would have to point out that we don't know how to fix an economy. "Fixing" an economy is probably the wrong idea from the start, better to think of an organic entity and think of "healing" an economy. Either way, there's no blueprint, no template, no clear recipe for success, though we do know from grim experience that outside attempts to spark economic activity can very easily create conflict and instability.

Not saying it's not worth trying, but the obstacles, difficulties, and risks inherent in tampering with other people's patterns of economic activity need to be appreciated.

I'd add that I think the extent to which conflict is driven by a desire to maintain a traditional way of life is way overrated. In most of today's conflict areas the traditional way of life is long gone, a casualty of years of conflict. More often than not the desire to prevent change is driven less by adherence to tradition then by groups that believe a change to the status quo will reduce their power, profit, or importance.

Mike Few

Sat, 05/19/2012 - 12:33pm

Hi Steve,

I don't necessarily disagree with you. The point of the book review that I cited was to help practitioners understand both sides of the COIN in order to spend money wisely in sector.


Wed, 05/23/2012 - 11:40pm

In reply to by JasonT

<i>Im working on a project in Mindanao, Philippines, at present that involves huge investment with complext stability operations required. The average Filipino will be significantly better off particularly in Mindanao from this investment. The local shop keeper who sells lunch to the new workers...</i>

Do you really think the local shopkeepers will be making money? Not likely. Once a large and profitable market is implanted, bigger players from the city, likely with Chinese surnames, will be moving in to take advantage. The local shopkeepers who were there before the project will be out of business, not making money. It also won't be the local farmers who get jobs on the project, as they won't have the requisite skills. More likely they'll be pushed off their suddenly-valuable land, moving into the city shantytowns, desperately searching for scarce arable land elsewhere, or (if they're young and male) joining the NPA.

These projects are arguably good for the nation as a whole, and the benefits arguably justify the costs. For the local communities who bear the costs, they are typically disastrous. I live in a gold-rich tribal area of northern Luzon that is absolutely committed to keeping mining projects out, through violence if necessary. That's not because they've been conned by anti-globalization propaganda, it's because they've seen, too many times, what happens to the communities when mining enterprises move in.


Sun, 05/20/2012 - 5:53am

In reply to by JasonT

For centuries all around the Pacific rim local people were persecuting the Chinese when the Chinese were some of the poorest people in the community. Ironically this played a big part in them sticking together and supporting each other so that now they dominate the economies of the entire region.

The economic balance may have dramatically altered but for some the ethnic hatred lingers.



Sun, 05/20/2012 - 3:24am

In reply to by Mike Few


I couldnt help but comment when I saw the use of Ms Chua' book. Even though I'm not sure how it relates to the paper. It is a complete misrepresentation and misunderstanding of globalisation. First most of the anti-globalisation crowd should stop using their mobile phones, the internet, drinking coffee and using most things that help to run their campaigns - if they really believed in what they are protesting about.

Im working on a project in Mindanao, Philippines, at present that involves huge investment with complext stability operations required. The average Filipino will be significantly better off particularly in Mindanao from this investment. The local shop keeper who sells lunch to the new workers, the service companies that will need to hire new staff, the workers on the project who no-longer have to take their education and skills overseas but can work on a complicated project in the Philippines, thereby raising the nations human capital. The tax and revenue streams that will flow into the Philippine economy.....This investment is in the midst of long standing insurgent activity, ethnic challenges and cultural tensions - but they existed well before this example of globalisation arrived in the Philippines.

Globalisation cannot be blamed for ethnic hatred, discrimination and the murder of a family member by a chauffer. Globalisation cannot be blamed for corruption. Her use of ethnic and religious strife does not debunk globalisation as being one of the most powerful social and economic forces that has lifted more people out from beneath repressive regimes than any socialist theory ever acheived. Perhaps there are those who have personal acceptance and tolerance issues where they cannot accept having to open their minds to new ideas and new people. They cannot accept that some through good old fashioned hard work succeed and become wealthy - but that is the politics of envy.

Globalisation is not a new phenomenan. Ever since we got in a sail boat and travelled to a foreign land, to exchange goods, language etc globalisation has been on the move.

In its true form the tools of globalisation, free trade, removal of tariffs (which the US and Europe are the worst offenders of trade barriers - some how their farmers cannot grow anything without massive government subsidies) freedom of speech, freedom the press, open and transparent government and democracy are all the anithesis of corruption. The tragedy is that those who have been in power over a transition period from state controlled, monopolistic systems have been able to exploit their position and manipulate the system (Russia for example). The Chinese Government is a classic for exploiting globalisation on the one hand and viciously repressing its people and maintaning an artificially inflated economy.

While a terrible family tragedy for Ms Chua she is way off the mark.



Sun, 05/20/2012 - 7:16am

In reply to by Mike Few

After 30+ years in the Philippines, I do not think Green Berets or any other foreigner should be trying to rearrange local economic conditions. Not that those conditions are in any way ideal, but I have great faith (after watching many attempts) in the ability of outsiders to make them worse.

Again, I think the "venture capital" analogy is overplayed. A venture capitalist is someone who has disproportionate economic clout and uses it to make more money. Not that this is a bad thing, but is it something we want Green Berets to be doing, or that we want them to be doing?

Development aid and economic aid are very complex businesses with almost infinate capacity for unintended consequences. Many approaches have been tried, most have had unsatisfactory results: is there any case, anywhere, where outside intervention has spurred lasting economic development? With all due respect to the remarkable capabilities of the Green Berets, expecting them to operate as effective venture capitalists or development agents in contseted areas is asking a lot.

Mike Few

Sun, 05/20/2012 - 6:58am

In reply to by RandCorp


I understand what EM is suggesting, and I hope that it works. However, past military efforts have not been small and have not worked.

"Since invading Afghanistan in 2001, the United States alone has invested almost $300 billion in military and reconstruction efforts there. But far less progress has been made than what was either hoped for or expected. One major reason for this could be the fact that a significant portion of the millions meant for reconstructive efforts continue to be siphoned off. The people benefiting are often those who enjoy extremely close business ties with the donor countries.",1518,704665,00.html

How is this level of micro engagement guaranteed not to go to anti-government groups or to the elite's retirement plans?


Sun, 05/20/2012 - 6:47am

In reply to by Mike Few

Most reasonable people can accept that some people will be richer than they are. The trade off is usually the natives insist on a greater weight of political power (there's more natives anyway) and there is a balance.

Killing someone because of the colour of their skin is thankfully something of the past - not the distant past but very much on the fringe and basically recognized as criminal.

The level of economic clout EM is talking about creating for his community wouldn't feed your average American family's cat and dog. So yes we might have a problem in 100 years but then again maybe not.


Mike Few

Sun, 05/20/2012 - 6:16am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Isn't that the point though? If we step out of Afghanistan for a minute, look at the Philippines and take EM's suggestion, is this type of disproportionate economic clout something that the Green Beret should be attempting to resolve as a venture capitalist?

Or, is this an internal matter too complex for a foreigner, particularly a military advisor, to engage in?


Sun, 05/20/2012 - 2:06am

In reply to by Mike Few

I don't want to break into a discourse on the matter, but that story about the killing for "revenge" etc needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt. Yes, the Chinese Filipinos do have disproportionate economic clout (I doubt very much that it's anything like 60% of the economy) but the situation is a good deal more complex than that simplistic little vignette suggests.


Sat, 05/19/2012 - 12:23pm

In reply to by Mike Few


Let's examine the definition of globalization a bit.

Perhaps one such definition would be the acceleration, expansion, and, conversely, concentration of worldwide relations.

I would argue that 'globalization' has been occurring, in fits and starts, since at least the 16th century. I would further argue that some of it's deliverables include significant advances in public health, engineering & science, education, and business ;)

Some further reading on globalization for those so inclined:

Globalization (A Short History) by Jurgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Peterson

The Globalization Reader, Edited by Frank J. Lechner and John Boli

The Global Transformations Reader, Edited by David Held and Anthony McGrew

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David S. Landes

How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer

Jihad vs McWorld by Benjamin Barber

Banker to the Poor (Microlending and the battle against world poverty) by Muhammad Yunus

The End of Poverty (Economic possibilities for our time) by Jeffrey D. Sachs

Fixing Failed States (A framework for rebuilding a fractured world) by Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart

Immanuel Wallerstein backgrounder by wikipedia

Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction, USIP

Mike Few

Sat, 05/19/2012 - 11:02am


To add to Grant's comment, I'd recommend reading this quick review of Yale Tiger Mom Amy Chua's How Exporting Free-Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.

"Ms. Chua has a personal and tragic perspective that precipitated her book on globalization and ethnic hatred. Her aunt was murdered by her own chauffeur. He broke into her home, cut her throat, and robbed the house. This was not just a simple murder. Ms. Chua’s family consists of Chinese expatriates living in the Philippines, and the motive for the brutal killing was not really robbery but rather “revenge.” The Chinese Filipino minority (1 percent of the population) controls sonic 60 percent of the economy, and the local Filipino population lives in poverty-ignored or exploited by the Chinese merchant class. The killer was simply “getting his fair share” from his Chinese employer-exploiter.

The thesis for Ms. Chua’s book is simple, Globalization and trade work for the elites, but for no one else. She uses a myriad of examples of ethnic and religious strife to prove her case, from Chinese minority market domination in Indonesia and the Philippines, to Spaniards (whites) versus Indians in Bolivia, to Jews versus Arabs in the Middle East. Her overall point is that when a country has a pattern of ethnic or tribal discrimination, coupled with usually raging corruption, it is impossible for the local population to better themselves economically and govern their own society."


Sun, 05/20/2012 - 12:00am

In reply to by Surferbeetle

Thank you. Will take a look at them.


Sat, 05/19/2012 - 11:42am

In reply to by G Martin


Good post, the spirit of SWJ (as I see it) is alive and well: a positive intellectual sandbox where all participants are able to float ideas, work through the logical consequences, and learn some things free of the constraints imposed by rank.

As to charity...perhaps some of your biases are showing? Afghanistan is a very interesting piece of geography. My reference to think about is not a perfect example, nor is it a linear/mechanical template to be applied across every dimension of the effort at hand in a cookie cutter way ;) but, sometimes great powers do help small backward places and it can pay off in unforeseen ways.

Eric Beinhocker is an interesting reference, thanks.

Slide deck link to The Origin of Wealth, by Eric Beinhocker of the McKinsey Global Institute…

You might find Witold Rybczynski's Last Harvest (From Cornfield to New Town) to be of interest.


Along these lines here are a couple of links to SWJ threads that may be of interest and perhaps even of help to you:

Winning the War in Afghanistan

Agricultural Component of the Afghanistan Surge?

G Martin

Sat, 05/19/2012 - 10:19am

Wups- meant to post this after your comment to mine below.

First, I understand the lack of time to do a more detailed paper- maybe I'd recommend just phrasing your language and tone a little so that it sounds more critical.

Yes, I am familiar with CERP and the other support we give to Afghans. If I was in charge- I would severely limit- maybe even do away with- most of the $ we are giving away there. I fundamentally disagree with spending money- even if it seems logical that it is "helping" us or GIRoA in the short-term. The complexities of economic forces and human behavior are such that many times it is counterintuitive as to what to do. To expect most Afghans and soldiers (or anyone for that matter) to know how to increase wealth is asking a lot IMO. The problem with charity- and that is what it has to be viewed as IMO- is that people become dependent on it and it has all kinds of unintended consequences. Outside of assisting micro-loan organizations or State Dept (USAID) efforts (which I am even very suspicious of), I would say that the military doesn't need to be directly involved with charity. Actually, the latest rewritten COIN manual edit has a lot to say about the dangers of inserting money and aid into unstable areas (they can and maybe mostly will contribute to more instability).

Fortunately I do not think that solving the poverty of Afghans is in the purview of the military- so I haven't spent much time trying to figure out how to do that at the macro level. At the more micro level- your level- if that is in your mission statement or upon an analysis of your area you think it should be a priority and you think it is feasible, then I would suggest inviting in NGOs, USAID, State, Civil Affairs, and anyone else you can to solve that problem- with the SF team in assistance. If for whatever reason your team has to be in the lead, I'd recommend at the least these folks being the primary advisers. For CERP and other funds- I would advise not even using them, or, if you think they are absolutely needed (or you're ordered to use them), using them to buy specific behavior from the local Afghans, understanding the issues with that and the short-term nature of it.

One thing about "their primary concern". I have countless vignettes of my own and of others showing how they were hoodwinked into supporting a local blood feud or some other agenda by supporting one group or village with what they said they needed most. Most of these "lessons learned" I've culled made me conclude that one has to be VERY suspicious of what the true ends these people want- and to view their "primary concerns" as more like means to an end they may not tell you- or that you figure out later. Additionally, wanting something at the micro level many times (most?) is not helpful at the macro level- so someone might say they want food, but then you give them food and they then go out and get pregnant, and then there are two mouths to feed (multiply this by tens of thousands for the macro effect). Because these "interventions" by outside parties (again, I call it charity) or top-down efforts have the great potential to lead to negative second and third order effects, I'd suggest that we let the Afghans figure out what they need and support them with non-monetary efforts. If they need a well, then we bring in USAID and let them provide tools and technical support, while we provide security or facilitate KLEs to make it happen. But digging the well for them or paying for it- I would strongly recommend against.

I'd also be careful about projecting your own experiences and logic onto others. Sometimes you may be right, but to assume everyone thinks like you or prioritizes getting out of poverty over all else IMO is a very flawed assumption (reference your comment to Bill).

For my assertions and underlying logic, I'll point out my strong bias as to how wealth is created in the theories of evolutionary change mechanisms as described in Eric Beinhocker's <em>Origin of Wealth</em>.


Sat, 05/19/2012 - 1:27am

In reply to by G Martin

Firstly, let me state I do genuinely appreciate your comments and I admit fully there are many things to be worked out and of course the issue is highly complex and involved, and in total, far beyond the scope of any article. However, my article was not meant to provide a solution to the greater problems of the world, but rather to help my neighbors here, to better allocate and employ financial assets put forward by the American taxpayer, to the advantage of the members of the villages we are presently living in and working with. For an idea of the types of funds available for such efforts I recommend you look at MAWS Afghanistan:

Secondly, what are your solutions to the abject poverty my neighbors here face? How would you have us use all the vast amounts of funds we are pouring into this country and will continue to do so until 2024 and perhaps beyond? What is your response to their primary concern which is jobs (and that is not coming from my ivory tower perch but from their own mouths)? I can ascertain, I pray I do so correctly, from your comments and writing that this is a subject to which you pay some attention. So give me some ideas, we are here now and can use all the ideas we can get, but they must really be focused on the very, very small grassroots, individual level.

And lastly, though you are absolutely correct in that a more scholarly work needs be done with regards to the assertions made in this article, there simply is not the time presently. Being here, conducting all three legs of VSO, putting these concepts into practice to stand the test of application, while also conducting all the other myriad missions and tasks of a Green Beret, I find I don't have the time for just such a scholarly work.

G Martin

Fri, 05/18/2012 - 5:39pm


I commend you on your article and your service and would like to offer you some constructive criticism of your ideas- as I share your interest in developing a way ahead in Afghanistan as well as other areas in which we seek to reach U.S. strategic and policy objectives.

First, I think you make an interesting case for an economic model to drive our operations, specifically, in this case, VSO. I would offer caution, however, to think that aiming to transform the less-advanced parts of the world towards one conducive to "wealth creation" will always be successful in reducing instability, always synch with U.S. political objectives, or always be seen by the U.S. population as worth whatever blood and treasure that takes. Your premise seems to be that turning every unstable area into one conducive to free and capitalist-driven trade (or more conducive to "Angel and Seed" investors) will create wealth and jobs and snuff out the insurgencies/instability in those areas. Or, were you offering a metaphorical model to SF soldiers to help think through stability ops missions- so that as a VC is to a "GB", so also a struggling company with a good idea is to an unstable village? (or both?) I would like to offer you alternatives to those assertions and point out issues with your logic.

The first issue I had was that you did not include any references to your assertions. Statements such as <em>"it is only an expanding base of industrial and services companies which can create the necessary number of jobs"</em> and <em>"without this [angel and seed] highly specialized capability and its dedicated practitioners the global Capital Markets would be impossible"</em> need to be backed up by some kind of reference as, though these concepts may be self-evident to venture capitalists, us "ignorant-as-to-wealth-generating-opportunities" mere mortals need to make sure you aren't pushing an arguable hypothesis onto us. I may be wrong here, but I haven't met too many economists, investors, or businessmen who agree on anything having to do with <em>what key conditions actually create wealth</em>. For instance, although you state that "an ability to appropriately identify and articulate a quantified (specific) financial value (price) to the asset at any given point in time" is important, Warren Buffet is famous for saying, "you can be highly successful as an investor without having the slightest ability to value an option." Since "value" is a very subjective and context-dependent term I see great issues with quantifying anything in terms that would make much sense outside of some contexts and to some people, and thus actually illusory when applied to complex entities like an unstable area.

Second, I take issue with the concept that the "enemies of the modern world survive, thrive and recruit" due to them being "walled off from globalization". Surely you can believe that, but, like most of the assertions made in the paper, it is stated as an undisputed fact. I have fundamental issues with any attempts to simplify individual human behavior, much less behavior of whole populations or villages, and subscribe it to one phenomena or one driving root cause. To think that all people are at their base altruistic and simply want a job and a better life for their children is over-simplification to the extreme. People are, I submit, irrational (and populations more so), and thus, not prone to sweeping categorizations. Although I think market forces and economic theory are useful as a part of one's approaches, I do not think we should ignore what other disciplines say about human behavior- and I submit that other disciplines have a very different take on what motivates people to pick up weapons and kill people or not.

Lastly, I think you project too much of what seems logical to you onto everyone else. Although you do state that we have to understand the environment and be with the people, you also seem to imply that you know best for everyone- and that every end-state must be wealth (and thus jobs) creation. Because others see things differently than we do and because each unstable situation is different, I submit that we shouldn't use one model or one metaphor or one approach in all situations. VSO is not simply about creating jobs or growth in value- the stated purpose of VSO is to undermine the insurgent influence with the population while ANSF develop. Creating jobs may be a part of that, but I have fundamental issues with stating that the purpose of VSO is to create jobs- and thus that SF soldiers are de facto mercs spreading the religion of free market capitalism. It is a nice idea that that will work, but it is another thing to propose that SF soldiers work and fight (and die) attempting to prove if it does or not.

Alternatively I would offer that the jury is still out as to whether VSO is working in Afghanistan for us and whether the concept is transferable to other places or not. I gather the sanctioned position within SOF- or at least within SF- is that local security efforts are not new and are always necessary when attempting COIN or combating instability. But, it should not be treated as dogma. When local security initiatives make sense as part of a greater strategy that is synched with policy objectives, then I would be all for it. But I do not think we should predetermine any end state prior to acting. If our solution in every unstable area is to create jobs and build wealth, I submit the American people will not allow us to deploy to too many unstable areas. If that is the only operational construct (or tactic, depending on your view) we in SF or SOF can offer, then I propose that we are being disingenuous and not offering a portfolio of solution paths to our political masters in order for them to reach policy objectives- especially limited ones.

I, for one, think that SF- and most of DoD for that matter- are great at the tactical level. VSO- like most things at that level- seems to work when we do it right- more than it doesn't. Where we seem to lack capability is in tying our tactical efforts to our policy objectives. We want to be free from the AQ threat emanating out of that part of the world. For many people our tactics (or, more likely- our operations and strategy)- or at least some of them- seem to be working against our stated policy objectives. Building wealth and creating jobs at the village level in Afghanistan may be a great thing, but assuming that will allow us to reach our policy objectives in my mind is a HUGE assumption. I think humans are motivated by other things than simply a job or money- to each his own, as the saying goes. And I would submit that many, if not most, Special Forces soldiers would not sign up for multiple deployments if at the base of what they did was attempting to create jobs and build wealth in unstable areas. But, like most of the assertions in the paper, my conjectures are also arguable- and I freely admit that (I would encourage you to state assertions as assertions instead of stating them as undisputed facts- and maybe reference them as well).

Good luck over there and keep writing and thinking!


Sat, 05/19/2012 - 6:23am

In reply to by Bill C.

I can't speak for anyone else, but during the years I lived in abject poverty I never once thought about retaining my way of life. I never thought about my way of life at all other than in the context that it wasn't a very good life and I didn't want to continue living that way. All I thought about was how to get out of where I lived, how to get out of poverty so I could eat and wash regularly.

Though the older generation who has possession of the assets and power are more about keeping the system as it is, I find the younger generation which is increasing as a percentage of overall population in these parts of the world, they think exactly as I did when I lived this way. And when we choose not to help them find answers, in our mad rush to defend the illusion of the Noble Savage (read Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature), all we do is create the next generation of enemies.

But those are just my thougths on it.

Bill C.

Fri, 05/18/2012 - 10:22am


My question below is not intended to question or ask whether we should "be there."

Rather, my question is intended to ask: In what role?

Herein, I am specifically asking whether the green beret should be seen by the population as an individual who is there to specifically cause the population to abandon its present political, economic and social systems, and to cause the population to adopt our more-modern/more-user-friendly political, economic and social systems in their place.

Or is the role of the green beret -- and the goals of the United States and its allies -- better served by green berets being employed in a less overt/less direct/less in your face manner?

This question being based on my premise that the enemy may fight, not so much because he is unemployed or impoverised, but because his way of life is being threatened/torn apart.



Fri, 05/18/2012 - 6:33am

In reply to by Bill C.

The question of whether or not we should be here is the topic for a much more extensive and separate conversation. As one who believes the War on Oppression is one worth fighting, wherever it is and whatever form it may take, I lean towards we should be here. To this, a quote has stuck with me and has been part of my thought processes ever since I read it as a young teen:

A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. -John Stuart Mill c.1806-1873

The question put forward by the article is not related to the validity of our being here but rather to how we might improve our efforts while we ARE here. The soldier does not pick his battlefield, only how he conducts himself upon it. As to why the Green Beret, wait for the second article in the series, though it is detailed to some extent in this article.

Now what may be the ultimate question:

Whereas it may be the role of the venture capitalist -- and indeed the role United States and its allies -- to cause outlier states and societies to abandon their obstructing political, economic and social models, and to causes these states and societies to adopt our more useful/more user-friendly such models in their place, is this a proper role and use of the green beret?

(Herein understanding that the enemy fights -- not necessarily because he is impoverished or unemployed -- but possibly because his way of life, as noted above, is clearly threatened.)


Sat, 05/19/2012 - 3:07am

In reply to by JasonT

To your point of not over complicating things, we need to keep in mind that when we are talking about investing here at the grassroots level we are talking about very small amounts that directly impact the individual village. Where in the more advanced economies we talk about industry, finance and economic systems, here we are talking about helping get more water to the fields, more crops to market, perhaps opening additional local markets for the wool generated by the local sheep, a small upgrade to the local motorcycle/machine repair shop, etc. We are talking about things which are not changing the local culture, as some so vehemently protest, but rather at the SF level we are simply helping the neighbors we are living, working and fighting beside.

The reason for the introduction of the VC mind is so that we stop rolling into these communities and focus on what we and the NGOs have been doing for decades to very little success. And that is focusing on building wells, or on teaching people skills they do not have the markets for (e.g., how to sew specific items of apparel), on telling them what and how they have to do things to be successful. We have to look at Return on Investment as the primary driving force behind where we invest American taxpayer dollars, and that is not a direct ROI for the US in terms of dollars returned but stability established (though maintenance of stability requires ongoing involvement and the engagement of many other lines of operations and interactions). The immediate and financial ROI needs to be for the local people themselves, to be used as they see fit, but which preferrably further enhances their governance and security endeavours. I would recommmend looking at MAWS Afghanistan to get an idea of all the funds we are now employing:

We are dumping immense amounts of money into a vast number of communities around the world with virtually no ROI for either the US or the locals. The American model seems to be dump enough money into to make it look like we are doing something and hopefully something will stick and work. This is not becuase there are not a lot of dedicated people trying to make a difference but because they simply lack the experience and training necessary to develop all the vast number of innovative ideas required. Employing the mind of the VC and in particular the entry level A&S investor will help us better employ US taxpayer dollars.

And yes, we are able to think about these things at all because our own needs are far more than taken care of. But for these people every mistake we make costs lives and either enables or destroys their livelihoods.


Sat, 05/19/2012 - 12:33am

In reply to by RandCorp


Good question. In that particular context Im referring to the author's motivations. I guess his freedom to choose to pursue a mission to liberate the oppressed is made possible because his other self interests have been satisfied. By self-interest I dont mean selfish. Once an individual's basic self-interests of survival have been met then that person is in a much stronger position to make a contribution to his fellow human beings. This may be his immediate family, community, village etc. If the Green Beret or VCs is in a position of being able to assist others in meeting their self-interest (a self-interest that is inherently good) then that is a good thing. But we need to be careful not to overcomplicate, over-cook and impose social-engineering that recreates our own obsession with regulations and rules that undermine freedom.

Probably an unnecessarily long answer!



Fri, 05/18/2012 - 3:22am

In reply to by JasonT

When you write,
"I suspect that is because your other self-interests are being met - you are well fed, protected, your family is safe and you are in a position to now reflect on other higher order motivators."
- are you referring to the EM's motive cluster or the villager's?

While a noble cause, Im not convinced that venture capitalists nor Green Berets are in it to remove oppression. This may well be one factor but deep down it is not the factor driving their behaviour and actions.I would argue that what VC's are good at it understanding self-interest. Self-interest is what enables people to survive, excel and evolve. VC's have a longer term view of how to ensure that self-interest is fullfilled.It is why many economists liked Charles Darwin, because his conceptual framework reflected how we behave in order to survive at all costs - often requiring adaptation and the creation of innovative ways to overcome challenges.

Maybe Green Berets are the free-market warriors who are also of mind to understand the self-interests of those at the grassroots to change the course of an unconventional fight. When a Green Beret can align his mission with the self-interest of the village then progress is made. Fullfilling that mission is in the Green Berets self-interest. Being given the freedom to think how to pursue that mission in critical. That is why VCs cannot possible operate in a closed, government owned and controlled, communist or totalitarian state. Too many rules inhibit VCs and probably Green Berets.

Most Afghan men side with the Taliban or the ANA or whatever other options are in front of him, out of pure self-interest. That maybe in order to keep his family alive. I doubt it has much to do with lifting oppression at that stage in securing his needs. Does an Afghan boy choose to plant an IED or pick up a shovel to join a CfW project out of self-interest - absolutely. It is our role, Green Berets, USAID, NGO, soldier, diplomat etc to convince these people that picking of the shovel is in their self-interest. We may have convinced some in a few places but that has not gathered the necessary momentum for those locals to convince enough other local people.

You may be able to present your mission as part of lifting oppression. I suspect that is because your other self-interests are being met - you are well fed, protected, your family is safe and you are in a position to now reflect on other higher order motivators.

There is a great documentary by John Stossal called Greed. A superb look at what drives people to make money. Almost everyone from the billionaire to the lady who makes boxes in the meat works, is doing it out of self-interest. One of the best sections is the one where an accountant becomes a teacher and starts teaching kids maths through learning how to make money - they love that - because its in their self interest. Yes, they are able to do their thing because we have the rule of law, respect for contract, the right to freely own property and a stable, democratic government. These kids would make great Green Berets because they are driven to survive. They are innovative, hungry, non-conformists and disruptive.

You say that "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." Yes that is true. BUT I would say an equally big threat is from those in our own society, who want to continually create rules and regulations that limit freedom and who do not believe in personal responsiblity, do not have faith in the individual to succeed and think every bloody problem has to be solved by the government. These very people also helped superimpose the same systems and controls in Afghanistan, creating giant bureaucracies focused on redistributing wealth rather than wealth creation.

I support liberating the oppressed but I believe we can only do this successfully when we understand what is in their self-interest to change and being able to provide the security platform from which they can make that change.

Thanks for the article.

Bill C.

Thu, 05/17/2012 - 11:28am

Consider this from the author's ending summary:

"The mission and purpose of the Green Beret and the Venture Capitalist are 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."

In the mid-19th Century cases I have outlined below (American Indians, American Southerners and Japanese Samurai) -- and again today -- these "walls" were/are generally seen as obsolete/outdated ways of life and belief. Thus, the corrective action -- then as now -- was/is thought to be: To cause these states and societies to abandon their old way of life/beliefs and cause them to adopt our way of life/beliefs in their place.

Now the question: Can this be done (cause/entice the subject populations to abandon their present way of life/certain of their beliefs -- and cause/entice them to adopt our way of life/certain of our beliefs in their place) via such approaches as those suggested by the author?

It would certainly seem worth a shot; considering the mixed results -- yesterday and today -- achieved via alternative approaches.


Thu, 05/17/2012 - 6:06am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M,

Thank you for your comments. The problems are immensely complex as must be the solutions, but I am reminded of the key log concept in the old logging days of the Pacific Northwest, find that one log that blocks the flow down the river and blow that log up. Please know the intent is of course to remove the insurgency as a threat. However, what is the incentive? Meaning, why would these villagers put their lives on the line for a hopeful future that might or might not come into being some time in the indistinct future after many layers of indistinct things occur (sic: sacrifice your sons and maybe yourself for the promise of a better land). These people may not be educated, but they are not stupid and they know our welfare dollars will dry up eventually and they will only be left with what they have now, augemented by whatever they can get out of us till the dollars stop flowing. When you are facing a violent insurgency which is within your own community the simple and moral arguments are not enough (read: because life will be better and it is the right thing to do, does not fly as incentive). As you and others have well stated, the problems and challenges are vast, the steps to a truly stable country are almost immeasurable in a classical sense. But there is one truth which I don't believe can be argued, and that is the Afghans are the only ones who can defeat the insurgency. And that is not to imply the military or central government, though both are important, but the individual villagers and village elders themselves, and more importantly the sons who now leave because there is nothing for them and come back as Taliban or Haqqani or other. If this is true, then what has to be addressed is what is the incentive for them to stand up for themselves and push out the bad actors, to sacrifice more than they already have for generations? The only answer is growth, the kind that absorbs the energies and capacities of the younger generation, which is increasing as a percentage of the population (with 44.5% under the age of 14 as per CIA Factbook).

Of course economic development efforts (and we are not talking about industry just yet, but rather cottage industries more on the line of our own frontier industries where families made things for themselves plus some extra which was sold at market), must be conducted hand in hand with governance and security development. Any one of the three without the other two is destined to fail, and no one can predate or be a precondition for the other, meaning all three must be conducted in concert and be mutually supportive.

For example please look at the Acumen Fund; to the Economic Gardening of Littleton Colorado; and to Social Development Venture Capital Of course these efforts are not being conducted in a warzone or in a region of or a country experiencing an insurgency (though Pakistan may qualify for this last), but that is why SF need adopt the mind of such. Because we are in these places and we, with our host nation counterparts, are providing the security and framing the initiial, grassroots conversation (doing the marketing and investing) which counters the conversation (marketing) of the insurgents.

I would make one last comment and that is we must stop thinking in terms of American time which is quarter based and start thinking in terms of Afghan time which is multi-generation based. When we stop thinking in terms of limited time horizons and start thinking in terms of generations of slow steady improvement, other options and views are opened up to us. At the end of the day we have to offer them something now which will be the incentive to sacrifice even more than they have in order for the Afghans to throw out the insurgents, and there has to be demonstrable and current progress towards these incentives. And this incentive can no longer be throwing money at the country because the only incentive that is is to keep the insurgency alive so that the money keeps flowing.

With Respect,

Mark O'Neill

Thu, 05/17/2012 - 3:20am

In reply to by Bill M.


Great line.

Quote pursuing economic action (nation building) in the hope that the insurgency will magically cease is illogical Unquote

The most succinct summation of the problem I have seen.



Mark O'Neill

Thu, 05/17/2012 - 3:20am

In reply to by Bill M.


Great line.

Quote pursuing economic action (nation building) in the hope that the insurgency will magically cease is illogical Unquote

The most succinct summation of the problem I have seen.



Bill M.

Thu, 05/17/2012 - 3:07am

In reply to by emburlingame


I think you're taking our counter arguments out of context. For one I praise your grass roots entrepreneur approach to help the people you are assisting help themselves. I think that will be more effective than most of our multi-million dollar nation building efforts, most of which are heavily taxed by the Taliban, and others that don’t immediately help the people they were supposed to help. I think your approach can provide near term results that will improve over time and be sustainable because it will be their economic system. I also think your idea about training Special Forces in entrepreneur skills is a sound idea, I personally think all the senior NCOs and Warrants should be trained in relevant PSYOP and Civil Affairs skills. That will better facilitate the ODA in taking a holistic approach in that environment without being dependent on others. The other advantage is empowering type A personalities who care with the knowledge needed to make a difference. In sum I agree with many of your points.

The debate is over whether the focus on the economic conditions will defeat the insurgency (allegedly that is your mission). The actions required to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan are much bigger than a few scattered grassroots efforts, and it is bigger than the endless HVI headhunting which has also proven to be ineffective. While politically incorrect, if our leaders want a military solution, then we need to conduct much more aggressive (but still surgical) counter guerrilla operations to force the Taliban to the bargaining table prepared to settle, not stall. We can pursue a political settlement without doing so, but the terms will be less favorable for us. However, pursuing economic action (nation building) in the hope that the insurgency will magically cease is illogical. At best it may contribute to pulling some young and not so young men from the village you're working in away from the Taliban, but as you know the villagers are largely pick up fighters (seasonal, or whenever it suits them), while the hardcore fighters largely hail from across the border. Assuming your approach actually works at improving the life of the villagers and I sincerely hope it does, then what? The insurgency still exists. The challenge I'm referring to is larger than your sphere of influence, so many of my questions were not specifically directed at you, but at the larger strategy. I suspect your approach would be more effectively if we could first negotiate a peace, and then start the re-building. Thoughts?

Bill C.

Wed, 05/16/2012 - 9:35am

In reply to by emburlingame

Understanding the potential benefit of and truly respecting your ideas and opinions above, I must again ask:

In the mid-19th Century, did certain of the American Indians, the American Southerners and the Japanese Samurai fight because they were empoverished or unemployed?

Or did these individuals and groups fight because some "outsiders" -- maybe with good ideas and good intentions -- threatened their time-honored way of life (as outdated and obsolete, in the eyes of these outsiders, as these ways of life may have been)?

Likewise today, should we say that those who fight us (and who may fight our grandchildren also if we do not get this right) do so primarily because they are empoverished or unemployed?

Or do they, much like the American Indians, the American Southerners and the Japanese Samurai before them, fight us because we outsiders -- maybe with exceptionally good ideas and intentions -- threaten their time-honored way of life?

Let's bring the question closer to home:

There are those today who suggest that the western world, much like those states and societies of other cultures, must dramatically alter its way of life also, so as to accommodate the requirements of globalization/ globalism/modern venture capitalism, etc.

If these individuals in the western world choose to fight back against these suggested modifications to their way of life, will they do so because they are empoverished or unemployed (empoverishment/unemployment today -- by our western standards -- is rather high). Or is it as likely or more likely that that these individuals and groups -- in the contemporary western world -- will fight back for much the same reason as the other groups I have identified above, to wit: to preclude the changes to their time-honored way of life that they do not wish nor desire?

(Herein, I am suggesting that we/you may need to look a little harder at your statement made at paragraph 2 of your initial presentation above, to wit: "... a world now driven almost solely by economics and finance ..." Other things, as in days past, may still be significantly "in play.")


Wed, 05/16/2012 - 6:15am

It is one thing to live in an ivory tower (highly advanced economy) and to postulate on what is best for a given culture, society or people. A lot of good comes from such, many ideas are developed from which to enact courses of action designed to improve standards of living. And many lessons which are learned are retained and made availble through remolding for later use by others who find themselves in similar circumstances. There is also much to be said for pure reason and the freedom to step out of having to struggle for survival and to have the time available to think things out. But such a life and thinking is limited to the view, to the panorama available through the crenelated window from which you happen to be looking out at life. Despite the fact the scope of view is limited by such, this capacity is still an important part of the whole. It is quite another thing to leave the tower and to walk out into the world outside, to experience and not simply view into life as others live it.

If my biological mother is correct, I am three quarters Native American, and between five and fourteen I spent a great amount of time with the Nez Perce, Shoshoni, Kalispel and other native tribes of Northern Washington and Idaho. As a child and young teen I lived on welfare, went days without eating, lived in a house without a floor or electricity or water, was a ward of the state and was one of those few who was blessed enough to find a family which provided the opportunity for a very different life. I was given the chance to live in the tower, to get out of poverty and to make something more of my life. And though I have gone on and been successful in the Capitalist system, I have not and cannot forget those years in poverty.

Our advanced societies provide us virtually unlimited resources to raise ourselves up should we be willling to do the work. But it isn't easy, not even in the highly advanced Western world with all our education and being surrounded by open and advancing economics. How much more difficult must it be for those who do not have the base needs of life, whose populations are rising while the land available to them to support these increases are not expanding, who have virtually zero access to the learning and information sources we use as a second thought every day. And how much more difficult must it be for those who can no longer blind their own from seeing how the rest of the world is living, to prevent those amongst their people who want this other life,how much more repressive must these leaders become?

While I lived and worked in San Francisco and abroad, enjoying a very comfortable life, I thought many things about how to improve the world. But I had the humility to know that unless I went out and talked with, lived with, fought beside and truly came to know the people I wished to help, I really couldn't do anything at all. So here I am in Afghanistan, doing VSO, working directly with the people at the base level, eating what they eat, sleeping where they sleep, fighting their enemies and trying to find ways to mold some of what we have for their children's future such that their children have at least some of the potential for the future as my own child does.

I have come to believe firmly those who speak the loudest against one solution or the other are those who most care and who are exhausted from trying to find a solution, but can't. There are so many here in AF who after eleven years of war are exhausted and frustrated to the point where they turn their anger to the old, well reasoned arguments which justify why these people just can't be helped or why our system is so flawed and inappropriate. Our system is without a doubt a quantum system of probabilities and immense complexity, and not a system of classical, deterministic physics, meaning there are no determined, packageable., easily identifiable solutions. And because of this I don't have all the answers, or many at all really. But I have lived in abject poverty and its exact opposite and I can say without any doubt no one can afford to waste assets of any kind and that assets of any degree or type must continue to expand or they wither and die and thereto the people.

What I do know is that academic arguments without well reasoned and on the ground developed alternative solutions are going to do very little but further the emotional needs of the individuals making those arguments. We have to put aside our frustrations, our ideology, degrees and our comfortable lives and once more sit down in the dirt where our ancestors came from and find ways to help those who still live in the dirt to make their own way in the ever integrating world we all share. The Early Stage Venture Capital model provides us a well established means to listen to the people's ideas and to help them develop their own assets through access to our resources, knowledge and relationships. To the credit of those who have been on the oppossite side of this article, this means really listening and not dictating, not attempting to emplace our brand of Democracy or Capitalism, but opening up our lessons learned, immense resources and relationships such that these peoples can find their own place in the modern world.

And the guys on the ground in over ninety countries around the world, who are creating the relationships, living with and standing besid the very people we so academically talk about, are the US Army Special Forces. We are already doing virtually everything I recommend in my article. The one last thing we are not trained in and are not doing, is incorporating the mind of the early stage venture capital investor, the mind which is highly skilled at ensuring assets are not destroyed but grown.

And why, not to futher capitalism, or imperialism, not to make a buck, but so that my now three year old daughter does not have to sacrifice her son or daughter fighting the grandsons and granddaughters of the elders who live here and elsewhere.

Fulcrum Strate…

Wed, 05/16/2012 - 4:49am

Great article. Lots of people arguing against this approach but I think we need to give it chance to prove itself in isolated areas so we can build empirical evidence. I would suggest that spending $120 billion on military operations, which is more than 6 times the GDP of Afghanistan and equates to $3.4 million per Talib (based on 2010 NIE) has not delivered sustainable results so new approaches should be welcomed.

In 2002 I patrolled the villages surrounding Kabul and the people wanted two things, deeper wells and jobs. We didn't deliver either. We spent all the development money on building Afghan institutions that were inappropriate for the time and stripped Afghanistan's best talent from where it was most needed to work as interpreters for people who didn't understand what they were doing.

The Taliban is not the cause of Afghanistan's problems it is a symptom. If you talk to Afghans at the village level the thing most pressing on their mind is poverty.

The USIP did a study in 2008 and found that 80% of the surveyed people in Helmand believed the Taliban were fighting for commercial rather than ideological reasons. The study also suggested that NATO intelligence thought the figure could be as high as 95%.

Right now there are only two ways to make money in Afghanistan, opium and ripping off Uncle Sam. The insurgents are doing both in spades. A US Congress report found that up to 50% of the insurgents funding came via US Defence Contracts to supply the COIN effort. Once Uncle Sam takes his dollars home the only thing left is opium which is taxed by the Taliban, so they get sustainable funding and the government doesn't.

The opium and corruption economy are the centre of mass for the instability in Afghanistan. Once Afghanistan's entrepreneurs have a viable option to invest in something more profitable they will shift their investments accordingly. The narco-entrepreneurs don't invest in opium because they want to be evil drug lords, they do it because it is the best and safest return on investment.

Mr Burlingame, don't get put off by the critics because you are on the right path. I would suggest:

- take a very market orientated approach to intervention - create more demand for licit Afghan goods and the market will sort the supply side
- doing this in the most unstable areas has its value but strategic success will come from building ink spots of success in areas that can first contain then encroach on the insurgency
- put as much pressure as possible on the people who are meant to be sorting out exporting from Afghanistan. You can buy high bulk low value British made breakfast cereal in Kabul's supermarkets but it is the devil's own job to get high value low bulk carpets and jewelry out via legal channels.

Find me via my username site, I've got some documents that might be of use.

Good luck, David James

To claim understanding based on a preconceived belief (your economic theory) is at best misleading and at its worst dangerous. Creating jobs, especially using a self sustaining methodology by encouraging entrepreunership in my opinion falls under a humane activity, and I'm glad people are helping the Afghans improve their lives.

My criticism is this doesn't defeat an insurgency. At best it may temporarily reduce the level of Taliban influence while the U.S. is there, but what happens when we depart? I suspect a larger and well armed insurgent force relative to the village militia can compel compliance rather rapidly despite the local jobs created. I really think we need to take a step back and determine what the VSO program is ultimately trying over time. There is no doubt that the ODAs are executing it with creativity and tactical excellence, and I suspect they are at least temporarily denying freedom of maneuver to the Taliban. But I still doubtful about its effect over time since we started so late. If we started this program in 2002 it would most likely be an entirely different story, but few outside SF grasped the true character of the conflict then.

As for the jobs theory, I don't dismiss it out of hand, in some cases such as the communist insurgency in the Philippines I think the insurgency could be significantly reduced with a vigorous and effective economic program that creates jobs and lessens the gap between the haves and have nots. However, this doesn't transfer so easily to the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Other issues (in addition to jobs) are drivers for the conflicts there, and I think you have yet to make a case that this will contribute to defeating the insurgency.

This is one article/study of many that call into question the hypothesis of more jobs reducing the impact the insurgency.…

""Lower unemployment may not reduce insurgent attacks; indeed lower unemployment may be associated with a higher number of assaults.""

I admit to cherry picking a provocative sentence, but since you are stating hypothesis as fact I think provocative is in order. Some observers have noted where there is more economic activity in Afghanistan, especially ISAF sponsored economic activity, the insurgents either increase activity there to disrupt it, or better yet increase their shadow activity there in order to tax it so they can sustain their fight. Just because we're providing the jobs doesn't mean we're running the show. This is why we need to avoid blindly accepting "jobs defeat insurgency," or any other over simplified hypothesis.

Steve Metz pointed out in his article, that in some cases (perhaps many) people do become insurgents because it is employment, but caveats it with it is a preferred employment because (my words) it sure as hell beats a having to do a real job for a living.…

""In a survey of former Colombian insurgents, Marcella Ribetti found that many listed employment as a reason for joining.[9] And, to make it even more attractive, the work was sporadically risky but not tedious or physically demanding (something one also sees with organized crime--witness "The Sopranos.") This suggests that insurgency (and crime) hold particular appeal in cultures which do not attribute high esteem to the type of hard work associated with menial, lower level jobs (which are the type most likely to be created during a counterinsurgency campaign).""


Sat, 05/19/2012 - 5:02am

In reply to by Mark O'Neill

Thank you for the reading. When I have time to sitdown and start drafting the academic paper, I will certainly look to some of those on your list.

Mark O'Neill

Tue, 05/15/2012 - 7:07pm


Interesting update of the Kennedy era Rostow / Hilsman view of what Shafer described as 'the developing world as a beleagured moderniser' leading to insurgency. History has demonstarted that the approach has had major issues in implmentation and accounting for or driving overall campaign success,anywhere.

I would urge you to expand your bibliography a little - to paraphrase the phrase of the moment on SWJ - to do some 'disruptive reading' and see if you then feel like editing..

If you are interested, you might look at:

Chaliand, Gerard, ed. Guerrilla Strategies, an Historical Anthology from the Long March to Afghanistan. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1982.(Esp Chaliand's first piece).

Blaufarb, Douglas S. The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present. New York: The Free Press, 1977. (Esp McGeorge Bundy's foreord, Ch.s 3 and 9)

French, David. The British Way in Counter-Insurgency, 1945-1967. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics. edited by Margaret Levi. 1st, reprint ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Leites, Nathan, and Charles Wolf Jr. Rebellion and Authority: An Analytic Essay on Insurgent Conflicts. Markham Series in Public Policy Analysis. edited by Julius Margolis and Aaron Wildavsky Chicago: Markham Publishing Company, 1970.(Mainly intro / chapter 1)

Porch, Douglas. "The Dangerous Myths and Dubious Promise of Coin." Small Wars & Insurgencies 22, no. 2 (2011): 239-57.

Shafer, D.Michael. Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989.
or "readers digest" version:
Shafer, D. Michael. "The Unlearned Lessons of Counterinsurgency." Political Science Quarterly 103, no. 1 (Spring 1988): 57-80.

Weinstein, Jeremy M. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics. edited by Margaret Levi. Paperback ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

There are literally dozens more, but these are indicative.



PS if you only read one, you must read Shafer 1988.


Tue, 05/15/2012 - 12:41pm


Thanks for this article and your recent reply. I would be interested in seeing your longer paper and can be reached via email at my nom de plume, followed by the usual gmail suffix if you get a chance.

Some thoughts on your ideas as presented:

DIME is indeed a useful tool for soldiers and i am encouraged to see papers such as yours adding to this important debate.

Extensive travel is good in that i find it helps with gaining perspective and recognizing some of the lenses and prisms that all of us global inhabitants use to get through our lives. Along those lines, how do you approach the differences in the perception of time between those of us acting as catalysts for change versus those of us evaluating the suitability of change on offer? For me, reading your article and then reading Bill C's replies to you is a way to capture and consider echoes of this ongoing global conversation. Neither position is correct in the absolute, yet both positions touch on the reflections of 'truth' as i see/have experienced them.

Some, perhaps those without a business or engineering background, see the word sustainability to be representative of a hippy-dippy weltanschauung. I counter offer that, in general, a trade or investment needs to provide a return that increases the principal if it's to be undertaken...a sustainable/profitable trade or investment if you will. Throwing large quantities of money at a trade or investment does not necessarily make it sustainable/profitable.

All traders need to recognize when to exit a short-term trade. GWOT if myopically viewed through a prism of disruptive deliverables has been, in my view, a semi-profitable short-term trade. GWOT, however, has failed to extensively deploy/employ public/government tools other than the military to consolidate our initial disruptive successes. As result of this failure, perhaps GWOT should be viewed as more of successful short term Keynesian stimulus/trade than as a successful long term investment in sustainable positive change.

At a tactical level, Commanders might consider conducting a rigorous cost/benefit and sustainability analysis when taking sides/empowering local actors (...and make no mistake provision of 'free' security services empowers select local actors). It's been my experience that failure to substantively and regularly engage with the too scarce DoS, USAID, USACE, and other civilian elements fielded by the USGOV (and NATO/Coalition equivalents) in concert with a broad base of local actors leads to failure writ large. Finally how are these hard-won lessons transferred to future Commanders? Apparently, at best, still via feline technology which reinvents the wheel at significant inefficiency and cost… vs.

It's a mixed bag of observations reflecting a tough fight, but at the end of the day i appreciate your service and your attempt to improve things across a number of disciplines. I suspect that comparing where you are now to where you have traveled only reinforces the observation that things can improve and that the effort to do so is an important one.

Take care,



Tue, 05/15/2012 - 12:00pm

Bill C:

...investors are more powerful than nation states is an illusion.

Prove it...............with sources and citations.........


Bill C.

Tue, 05/15/2012 - 10:45am

In reply to by emburlingame

If one had "rolled into a village" of American Indians, American Southerners or Japanese Samurai back in the early to mid- 1800's, would the problem have been "poverty and the younger generation in the village who wanted more than could be provided by the then-current economic structure and capacity?"

Of course not.

The problem, in each of these instances, would be that the way of life of these populations stood in the way of the ambitions of that era's American venture capitalists.

Same-same re: the way of life of various states and societies today; these ways of life stand in the way of the needs and ambitions of today's international venture capitalists.

Thus, the perceived necessary correction today -- in the eyes of today's venture capitalists and their supporters -- is the same as with the American Indians, the American Southerners and the Japanese Samurai of old, to wit: to modify (via force of arms if necessary) the way of life of these states and societies so that the venture capitalists might proceed as they desire.

One might note that not all of the American Indians, the American Southerners or the Japanese Samurai stood completely still when confronted with these assaults on their ways of life. Likewise today there may be such individuals.

Accordingly, we may wish to give the line of thinking I have offered above equal consideration to that which is provided by the author -- if we are going to prepare ourselves -- in this era of increased vulnerability and WMD -- to properly cover our bases.

To recap:

a. "Poverty," etc., the basis for danger and conflict in the mid-19th Century and again today? No.

b. Ambition and method of the "venture capitalist" entities the basis for such danger and conflict -- then as now? Yes.


Tue, 05/15/2012 - 7:44am

Thank you for the comments, both affrimative and other. A couple things come to mind which I believe should be stated. First, this is excerpted from a larger paper which will be reduced and provided as two articles, which collectively provide greater depth, and which I think answer some of the more negative responses. This larger paper can be provided via email to anyone interested. Second, we need to be very careful to make a distinction between globalism, and in this case venture capitalism at its base, and corporatism and the security markets at its apex. Where the second is established system based and employs herculean power and efforts to sustain and defend itself, the first is system development/improvement based and harnesses the near limitless energies at the edges to improve itself. Most of the animus directed towards globalization is really meant to be directed towards corporatism and not globalization, though we far too often mix all business, finance, geo politics, culture and other together and label it all as globalization. Third, the failures of the G20 economies realized since 2001 are not the result of a failed system, but rather of failure to enforce the control measures designed to keep our own bad business, political and financial actors from coopting the system through fraud and other means.

Lastly, I should like to make the following observation. When we roll into a village held or influenced by the Taliban, Haqqani or other non-state actor, call out the village elders and start talking to them about fighting the 'bad guys' and standing up good governance and security, all we represent is that we really don't have a grasp of what those village elders real problem is. Down underneath all the tribal differences, history, grudges, fueds and competition is one truth, the village elders real problem is poverty and the younger generation in the village who want more than can be provided by the current economic structure and capacity. In these highly underdeveloped areas of the world the younger generation is always looking for that weakness, or those external supports, which will allow them to rise up against the old lion so that they might themselves become the new lion in this zero sum economy. It is this which drives four of the village elder's sons to openly or tacitly support the bad guys, bad actors who offer the siren's song of an improved future. Governance and security are critical components, but no village elder is going to put his own and the life of his family at risk over another empty promise that if they just get governance and security going, if they sacrifice two of their sons in the fight, that things will be better in the future. We have to start this conversation about economics, by listening to their ideas as to how they would improve their own economy and by giving them awareness and training on what business, training, market access and financial resources will be brought to bear should they go ahead and work with us to stand up good governance and security. We have to demonstrate we understand the village elder's real problem and that doing what we propose will address this issue while sustaining him as the lion on the hilltop. And then we have to stand beside them, fight their fight with them and build the trust necessary such that they will continue the work after we leave, more importantly, after the American dollars dry up, and this doesn't just mean the gun fight, but the economic and financial fight as well.

If we do not do this, then the village elders will smile and give us what we need to send up in our daylies as glowing reports of success, for as long as the money flows. But at night or at the end of the deployment when we leave, or in private as we sleep in the Qalat right next door, they will continue to support or at least placate the bad actors, to get out of us as much as they can before we roll back out of here to our comfortable lives. And in the end we will spend vastly more financial and other resources dealing with the instability in the greater community fed by the instability allowed to thrive in the underdeveloped communities of the world.


Mon, 05/14/2012 - 1:10pm

This is a very strange article even when written by an American.

From the author's summary: 'The threats now come from failed nation states and those states which wall their people off from globalization'.

There is an argument that in significant public policy areas it is the USA first and foremost, plus many of it's friends who are failing or failed nation states. There is the US banking collapse which rippled around the world and the incredible demand for by Americans for recreational drugs, which is regularly reported here as threatening fragile states - notably of course your neighbour Mexico.

Globalisation is the current keyword for the economic order, not that long ago it was multinational corporations and then of course the IMF's stabilization reforms.

I am not an economist (although SWC has members who know far more), but the vast bulk of international capital movements today are primarily between the developed world, followed by the profits on exploitation of natural resources.

Again from the summary referring to the summary: 'Green Beret and the Venture Capitalist...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 'engine' is far from a perfectly running engine and there are many who do not accept this 'engine', let alone the 'walls'. Not everything the USA stands for are acceptable, nor should does this ostensible American objective sit well with what the USA can do today.

Incidentally does the 'free flow of people' mean you advocate no restrictions on immigration to the USA? A position usually held by the extreme left.

Yesterday I watched a BBC TV documentary, a travel programme, which visited two adjacent nation states, one a well known 'failed state' and the other a state that is so different you'd not think it was the same people. Somalia and Somaliland respectively. There are many factors that explain the differences, including many the author mentions, the key factor on display to me were the people's aspirations not 'the world of globalization'.

Bill M.

Tue, 05/15/2012 - 12:15am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.,

I agree with you, many of his assumptions stated as fact couldn't be more wrong. We have little to fear from countries that haven't integrated, but much to fear from potential adversary nations with advanced military technology. The article contains several quotes from the political elite and the former SOCOM commander that in my view have largely been demonstrated to be false. For example,

- We are not returning to our IW roots, we have never left them, and there is an awareness now that we have over emphasized IW.

- investors are more powerful than nation states is an illusion.

- stateless actors are more effective than standing armies. More effective at what? That is a bizzare statement that most stateless actors would disagree with.

- stability means employment. So does conflict, which is one reason conflicts are difficult to conclude.

The author claims that joblessness causes instability, which completely misses the point of the enduring ethnic and political issues in the region that will not magically disappear just because people have jobs. We have been chasing after this myth for years making no progress in "stabilizing" these challenged regions.

However, I do agree with him that facilitating entreprenuership at the local level is definitely a worthwhile venture (no pun intended) and muc more effective than our billion dollar economic assistance efforts that only facilitate corruption and supress the development of sustainable business activity.

Despite my many criticisms, I think the author has made many great points about how a SFODA can facilitate progress at the local level, not by adhering to an uninformed plan from the top, but by gaining ground truth and taking actions (limited actions) to facilitate the locals making progress based on what is feasible, and in that aspect I think his parallel to venture capitalists methodology is useful. I think there are four to five powerful paragraphs in this article, so I hope he keeps writing. Disagreement is healthy in our business.

An alternative view:

The author, of course, has it entirely wrong.

Instability in the current age is not caused by populations being denied globalization and its benefits. Quite the contrary.

Instability in the current age is caused by globalization threatening -- via its requirement of fundamental state and societal change (think massive "reforms") -- to significantly alter or destroy the way of life of various states and societies; ours (to a lesser degree) included.

Proof: The terrorists do not fight to achieve, facilitate and/or bring in globalization (and what it brings with it). Rather, they fight to deny these things.

Well past time that we got our head screwed on correctly regarding this stuff.

If one has the premise entirely wrong -- as the author and many/most others seem to do -- then how can one really understand what is going on and proceed, accordingly, in the right direction?

Dave Maxwell

Mon, 05/14/2012 - 7:19am

If this article and it's assessment is correct and VSO is contributing to turning the tide then imagine how different things might be now had we listened to those in 2002 who were proposing similar local programs and actually conducting them on an ad hoc basis until ordered to stop because the focus turned to development of a central government and national security forces.

The author certainly has an interesting background and some might think he has the pedigree of a disruptive thinker!! i am gratified to see one of our SF guys from Okinawa put pen to paper on this.

Also we should sincerely thank SWJ for the ability to get this information out in a timely manner and for the continuity among these typed of articles - note the references to some key articles that all have appeared thanks to SWJ. There is probably no better forum for the exchange of ideas on small wars thinking from the tactical and operational and even the strategic sometimes!!