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Thread: The 4GW Festival of Fabius Maximus

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default The 4GW Festival of Fabius Maximus

    Council member Zenpundit at his blog by the same name - The 4GW Festival of Fabius Maximus.

    For some time now, an author whose nom de guerre is "Fabius Maximus", after the ancient Roman general of the Punic wars, has been a regular and at times, prolific, contributor to the Boydian and 4GW school oriented Defense & the National Interest. Fabius, who comments here at Zenpundit on occasion, also set off one of the most popular, if heated and controversial, threads at The Small Wars Council, catching the attention of noted COIN strategist Col. David Kilcullen. Kilcullen's theories later became a subject of frequent critique from Fabius in his DNI articles.

    While I had hoped to meet Fabius in person at Boyd 2007, he did not attend and I am not privy to his identity or professional background. Fabius' arguments must rise or fall entirely on their own merit and he has been content to engage his critics on this basis at the SWC and elsewhere. Clearly he is a member of the 4GW school and is an admirer of Col. John Boyd, William Lind, Dr. Martin van Creveld and Dr. Chet Richards but has not shrunk from advancing his own ideas or original criticisms...
    Much more at the link...

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default A pain in the Alpha

    To quote one of our distinguished members who said it best...

    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    It is what it is; why call it an article and not call it an OP-ED? You don't site resources, other than for filler quotes. It's a mixture rich in opinion and bubbling with exaggeration.

    After 4 months of reading this stuff I still don't know where you get your "fact."
    Thanks, RTK !

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    Council Member zenpundit's Avatar
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    Default Thanks Dave!

    The link is much appreciated Dave!

    "A pain in the Alpha"
    Hi Stan,

    After I posted FM, a friend who is a defense analyst and finds Fabius to be a highly aggravating internet personality, emailed me to ask, in essence, why the hell I was bothering ? There are a number of reasons.

    I don't agree with the thrust of FM's grand strategy. I think it would, if implemented, vastly accelerate the rise of regional market-security blocs, encourage wars of local hegemony and derail globalization (the latter might be viewed as a positive outcome by FM). OTOH, he is an effective goad to discussion by discomforting ppl with more mainstream views, forcing them to reexamine their premises. This is a good thing. It's easy to get too comfortable with our intellectual assumptions.

    Secondly, I think it's easy to underestimate how many Americans share less articulate or well-considered versions of the foreign policy assumptions of a Fabius Maximus or William Lind. The MSM does not give them the time of day but they are out there, certainly in the Midwest at least and that factors into public opinion.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Mark, Thanks !

    Quote Originally Posted by zenpundit View Post
    Hi Stan,

    OTOH, he is an effective goad to discussion by discomforting ppl with more mainstream views, forcing them to reexamine their premises. This is a good thing. It's easy to get too comfortable with our intellectual assumptions.

    Secondly, I think it's easy to underestimate how many Americans share less articulate or well-considered versions of the foreign policy assumptions of a Fabius Maximus or William Lind. The MSM does not give them the time of day but they are out there, certainly in the Midwest at least and that factors into public opinion.
    I know of only one other person (MarcT) who could so eloquintly define the otherwise simple military term, Pain in the Alpha With that, I grudgingly acknowledge that FM did indeed steer some of us into rethinking (albeit for only a few minutes) !

    We wondered where he'd gone

    Regards, Stan

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    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    To quote one of our distinguished members who said it best...



    Thanks, RTK !
    After however long it's been since I typed that, I still haven't figured it out. It's my own mental rubix cube. And I haven't figured out how to pull the stickers off yet.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Default as always, nice to see your comments!

    Thanks for posting the link to this. Since Labor Day I’ve adopted the Lind publishing schedule: weekly short articles. So I have not been reading much at SWC.

    The folks at SWC have been my most vociferous critics on the web, and hence those that helped me the most. However, someone reading the above posts might get the wrong idea about my articles.

    I’ve written 28 articles about Iraq since Sept 2003. I have given many specific forecasts and observations. They stand up quite well, in my opinion. Many forecasts which received a hot reception (esp at SWC) are now consensus wisdom. That should not surprise people of the SWC! I’m standing on the accumulated work of experts like van Creveld, Lind, Richards, and Vandergriff. (The view from up here is terrific. I wish more of you would join me.)

    Just for fun, here are 2 old and 3 recent specifics. As for the last, only time will tell – but it looks accurate so far. Probably none of these are original (that’s too high a goal). This ignores the wrong ones, such as guessing that Bush would sacrifice the Iraq project to save the Republican Party’s majority in Congress.

    Oct 31, 2003: We fight insurgents who learn rapidly (the Darwinian ratchet) and have gained the initiative from us. The Coalition has lost a connection between its strategy and tactics.

    Nov 22, 2003: The current project to rapidly recruit locals for Iraq security forces is certain to fail, as we’re unable to screen out insurgents. Also, this is too fast for adequate training.

    Nov 12, 2006: Iraq is undergoing massive ethnic cleansing, perhaps the only thing that can bring peace.

    Dec 19, 2006: The Iraq national government is a shell, lacking most of the key attributes of a functioning government. This was vehemently disputed at SWC.

    March 17, 2007: Iraq continues to fragment, and the pieces are developing viable governments (ditto, as above). This is probably the only path to peace for Iraq.

    Also – I too like RTK’s comment “You don't site resources, other than for filler quotes.” This is what comes to mind when I think of SWC, unfairly slighting the many brilliant & well-informed posts. One can dislike my choice of sources, object to my use of sources, and disagree with my conclusions. But RTK’s quote isn’t even interestingly wrong, just bizarrely so. I cite sources frequently in my articles, perhaps obsessively so – and in SWC threads more than most.

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabius Maximus View Post
    March 17, 2007: Iraq continues to fragment, and the pieces are developing viable governments (ditto, as above). This is probably the only path to peace for Iraq.
    FM,

    I would welcome expansion on how you have derived this view. As a counterview to its assertion, I would offer the following points as obstacles to its occurrence:

    1) The difficulties that such a development would generate for Iraq's neighbours, and their likely 'vote' on such developments occuring. Specifically:

    a) Turkey (and to a lesser extent, Iran) finding the development of a fully autonomous Kurdish state unacceptable.
    b) Arab Sunni States finding the development of an autonomous Shia state problematic.
    c) Concern throughout the region of increasing Iranian influence in any nascent 'Shiastan' in Iraq; and
    d) Israel finding it all problematic.

    2) Agreement on the division of resources (oil revenues) being highly problematic.

    3) Agreement within the Sunni over what a Sunni 'Bantustan" would look like and who would control it.

    4) The issue of Kirkuk.

    5) The current trajectory of US Foreign Policy in the region is against such a development.

    6) Recent opinion polls show that most Iraqis, (except the approx. 20% Kurd minority), still identify in some way with the concept of a national, unitary "Iraq".

    Regards,

    Mark

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    Default Iraq est omnis divisa in partes tres

    Mark, I fully agree with the point of your post. The road to peace for Iraq -- thru partition or another path -- will not be easy. Hence I said "fragmenting" and "developing." Nobody can tell how it will end.

    My two articles on this topic (March 13 & Sept 27) analyze the same potholes as those you list:
    http://www.defense-and-society.org/fcs/fabius_insurgency_ended.htm
    http://www.defense-and-society.org/fabius/long_war_IV.htm

    There are complex dynamics at work, beyond the scope of a post (hence the articles). Here is a summary of some relevant themes I (and others) have written about for the past year:

    1. The mutual slaughter to date, and potential for much more -- perhaps spreading through the region -- provides powerful incentives for everyone involved to pull things together.

    2. The development of local ruling elites provides a mechanism for this to happen. Ethnic cleansing makes it possible.

    3. Peace is a relative state, esp in Iraq. There could be long-term border wars amongst the new Iraq mini-states, and between them and their neighbors. This is the most common scenario, historically.

    4. The oil revenue is both a cause of tension and a solution. Money can be divided. Wars over ideology and religion are more difficult to settle.

    5. The US is more of a passenger in Iraq than a driver.

    6. Public opinion polls express people’s dreams and aspirations. For example, polls in American show broad support for both lower taxes and more public services of improved quality. These yearnings are a factor, but seldom a decisive one.

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    Default Aut Disce Aut Discede

    I seldom advocate fragging people these days but then none of us are in the bush here, well, the vast majority of us aren't anyway

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    Default Thanks goesh!

    That is a sincere post, illustrating an important aspect of today’s America.

    The American ideal has always been one of open debate. The clashing of opposing viewpoints so that a stronger synthesis emerges, as a medieval smith hammers crude iron into a fine sword. Like the fierce arguments in President Washington’s cabinet. Or the Lincoln-Douglas debates. From this comes a unified spirit so that America can best face the many dangers that surround us. (This did not work for slavery, and the cost of this failure was high) (It is also a formula for a great web site)

    I believe we have too little of that today, esp on the web. The large web communities, such as Little Green Footballs and The Daily Kos, mostly hurl insults at one another. Great issues are debated on two or more tracks, seldom intersecting.

    Why is this? Have we become spiritually timid, afraid to debate? Or coarse intellectually, unable to respond to challenges of our basic assumptions?

    Just a thought…

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    Default In Naminae Patris

    You don't mind if I call you Boscoe, do you? We are not spiritually timid, we are afraid to die because we have no guarentee of a good afterlife promised, the bane of Liberality if you will . The American ideal has always been one of material acquistion, not open debate, and as such, it is simply pragmatic to polarize the small fry and big fish. Since you have been confined to a couple of threads in this forum, it appears you have no choice but to debate with me for the most part. You can take the large fish end of the dichotomy if you want.

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    Default I don't know Latin, so no nifty quote here

    Quote Originally Posted by goesh View Post
    The American ideal has always been one of material acquistion, not open debate, and as such, it is simply pragmatic to polarize the small fry and big fish.
    Some people say I am pessimistic, but your comment is one of the most depressing sentiments I have heard about America in a while. Cheer up, man – we’re not that bad.

    You have only raised one issue, seemingly trivial, but one you must feel deserving of attention. It is not accurate to say I “have no choice but to debate with you” and I’ve “been confined to a couple of threads on this forum.” From a quick glance at the stats -- I’ve started 8 threads in the past 12 months, with an average volume of almost 3,500 views – far above the SWC average. Three have over 5,000 views, probably putting them in the top 50 most-viewed threads during that period (just guessing, looking at the menu). I seldom post on others’ threads unless, like the worthy Zenpundit’s here, it mentions me.

    On a broader note, you obviously disagree with my views about the Iraq War and perhaps related issues. My views are shared by retired generals, former high officials of the US government, eminent academics, and tens of millions of Americans. That does not make me right. On the other hand, you are not debating the Flat Earth Society.

    You’re obviously well-educated, as such typical of the posters I’ve seen at SWC. Yet you dismiss these views with a wave of your hand, as if you were Merlin. What do you expect those who disagree with you to do, applaud or genuflect?

    Your comments illustrate the point I made below. How do your comments differ from those of liberals on blogs like Matthew Yglesias’, who dismiss conservative views by calling them racist, sexist, or homophobic? I believe that these strategic issues, and the widely-held opinions about them which I share, deserve more respect.

    You may call me “Boscoe”. That’s strange and rude, but if it makes you happy…

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi FM, why don't you talk about economic warfare?

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    Default economic warfare

    It's a hot topic by email among some working with military theory, and I've exchanged many dozen notes on the subject. I think this is the very edge of new thinking about war/conflict. But it seems to have a small audience.

    As I said on my blog: "In an age of {nukes &} 4GW, conventional war between major powers is unlikely — perhaps obsolete. But political stresses remain a fact of life and must be expressed. Perhaps money has replaced bullets as the new form of combat. WWII was as much a war between competing economies as between armies. Modern financial systems allow us to eliminate bombs as the intermediate step, for pure economic warfare."

    From A brief note on the US Dollar. Is this like August 1914?

    The first and perhaps most important work in this area was Unrestricted Warfare (1999), written by two PLA Air Force Colonels. They say, in effect, the first war of the new era was the attack by speculators on the SE Asian currencies. This wrecked their economies; people were eating bark. If these hedge funds and other traders were based in, for example, Singapore they would have been politely invited to stop. Now. If they declined, the next measures taken would have been less pleasant.

    But they were based in New York and London, attacking behind the shield of western military power. Notice has been taken.

    Tom Clancey's Debt of Honor describes commercial aircraft being flown into buildings as weapons. Fact. Will the earlier events in that book -- an geopolitical attack on US stocks and the US dollar, also become fact?

    If you find this of interest, start a thread. I might have a few things to say on it.
    Last edited by Fabius Maximus; 11-10-2007 at 01:05 AM. Reason: ommited fact, date of the book

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi FM, yes I am interested about this. Having dealt with one or two drug dealers in my time and the huge cash amounts they generate some type of a financial/economic attack is not as far fetched as people may think...now to start the thread.

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    Default Ja Tebba Lublu, Boscoe!

    I thought you were restricted to only a thread or two? Wasn't that announced somewhere in the forum? Since I see no organized consent and agreement on what you postulate, most of the serious minded professionals in membership here either find you amusing but most are likely ignoring you. The phrase "former high officials of the US government" gives you away. Are you a Cockney from UK, Boscoe? That's my hunch.

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    Default impressive post, goesh

    100% wrong in all respects. I'm not restricted (now posting on the Econ Warfare thread; would not care if I was), I have a large email traffic with a wide range of professionals in the geopol-mil-intel fields, and am I not from the UK.

    Do you read my posts? You ignore all the facts provided that contradict your assertions. If not (which appears to be the case), why bother replying?

    You are, I suspect, capable of a higher level of debate. If not worth your effort, why bother with these low comments?

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    Jeeez, Boscoe - I don't cite and make much reference either so it takes one bull####ter to tag another. You've got the arrogance but nothing to back it up - even I get emails from the Mossad and Kremlin and a few former high officials in the US government, so what? The Roscoe and Boscoe comedy hour - how does that sound to you? I once got an email from someone so high up on the Pentagon, I had to get my step ladder to read it. (you're supposed to laugh now, Boscoe)

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    Default Last note

    Quote Originally Posted by goesh View Post
    even I get emails from the Mossad and Kremlin and a few former high officials in the US government
    Not a surprise. As I said below, you appear to be a well-educated person. Too bad you don't have anything to say here other than childish insults, as I'll bet you would be interesting to debate.

    The thread started well, but came to nothing -- which is always sad. I got a good blognote out of it, and hope the folks reading it also got something of interest.

    The SWC thread on economic warfare started by Slapout9 is going well, with some fascinating posts. Your might find it worth a look.

    Signing off.

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    Default Keep pushing the points, not the banter

    Fabius please ignore goesh and continue pushing your points for consideration. If you're making some people uncomfortable, so much the better. We obviously don't have the correct answers, or we wouldn't be in the mess we're in executing the long war. I'm not sure why original ideas need to have sources to begin with. Must we restrict our thinking and discussion to historical ideas? I'm not saying your right (really no one in this council knows if you're right or wrong), but you do present some interesting ideas. If we can shoot holes in them so much the better, that is how progress is eventually made.

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