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Thread: Applied Smart Power by a SEAL

  1. #21
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Sleep, Eat, and Lift

    This is what happens when you take a SEAL outta water. They start getting all Dr. Phil and touchy-feely on us. Y'all need to be out hunting pirates.

    Welcome aboard Rob. I've never met a SEAL that I didn't like or that I wouldn't give a hard time as the opportunity presented itself .

    I'll check out your website and provide some thoughts on "Smart Power." Off the top of my head, I like it. Right now, I'm on a "More FID and Greg Mortensen, Less occupation and GPF" kick. We'll see where that leads.

    And, most importantly, good luck down-range.

    v/r

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 10-15-2009 at 12:46 AM.

  2. #22
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    Default Hmm ....

    from DB
    You can be sure, though, that I'll be extremely wary about flavoring my Applied Smart Power for conflict reduction with references to a published Marxist! As Paul and John sang, "If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, ain't nobody gonna listen to you anyhow."
    and I thought it was because others were deaf - too much St. Paul and not enough of Paul et al. Still you have to admit that Lenin, Mao and Giap were winners in their major armed conflicts.

    and MikeF: I will await your incorporation of "Smart Power" into the General Theory of Few Kinetics. Truly that will be a synthesis of thesis and antithesis (in Marxist terms, of course). Seriously, you've been doing that in your writings long before this. Keep writing.

    Regards

    Mike

  3. #23
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Few's General Theory

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    and MikeF: I will await your incorporation of "Smart Power" into the General Theory of Few Kinetics. Truly that will be a synthesis of thesis and antithesis (in Marxist terms, of course). Seriously, you've been doing that in your writings long before this. Keep writing.

    Regards

    Mike
    Mike, glad you picked up on that. I'm actually working things backwards- most write the dissertation then the book. I'm doing the prose first using my experience to challenge Nash Arbitration as I haven't finished the mathematics yet.

    It's just like in a divorce. Nash shows the lawyers and judges (arbitrators), how to divide utility (property). Still, the ex-couple is left to deal with the emotions (hate, anger, jealousy, etc...) as the union dissolves. Same rules apply on the state to state level and small wars. Arbitrating conflict resolution or the General Theory of Few's Kinetics. I'll get there.

    Mike

  4. #24
    Council Member J. Robert DuBois's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    This is what happens when you take a SEAL outta water. They start getting all Dr. Phil and touchy-feely on us. Y'all need to be out hunting pirates.
    Mike,

    Thanks for the welcome. You're right about the water thing. I feel a mounting sense of anxiety as I deploy farther and farther...and farther...from the beautiful, blue sea!

  5. #25
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Smart Power?

    Not trying to start a fight here, but I'd be a lot happier with a prescise definition equating to general description of activities to judge what is actually being talked about.

    ...because I am still a bit confused. I do applaud the attempt to recognise that doing stupid things is .... well stupid. These would be being offensive to people undeserving of it, or just behaving badly or even killing people that do not need killing.

    Do you really need to explicitly recognise this? Training? Education? Maybe we do, but it has to be prefaced with "You have been stupid because...."

    I emphasize that because conflict is often based in large part on misunderstanding and ignorance, and that because innocents are harmed in such flare-ups of "unnecessary violence", there is a direct burden of peacemaking on those of us who can recognize both the vicious cycle and effective injection points at a much lower and more practical level than traditional statecraft.
    I dispute that as a useful assertion. It's one possible view, and it is highly context specific. Conflict in not often based in large part on misunderstanding and ignorance. Sometimes it is.
    Smart power or even soft power cannot function unless "hard power" is the predominant element in play.

    Being fair (not kind. Kind = weak) to the population, rewarding and/or inciting good behaviour, and even offering limited social benefits is mind-numbing common sense - and that is good. All for it, but how does this qualify as "Smart Power?" Why not call "Military Local Government," or even "Local Government."
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  6. #26
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    Default

    I'm down with the genuine sentiments on the population, but I do have a problem with the slogans.

    All these conflict zones have a history of sloganeering from their dictators: Arbeit Macht Frei, etc... but nobody quite knows what the slogans mean.

    In my profession (civilian planning), I wrote a feature article for Planning Magazine in 2003 that led with: "Smart Growth is so last year...". Got a lot of editorial questioning ahead of then, but, the mixed messages and bewilderment of Smart Growth had solved within a year. We've already done the Smart XXX thing to no ultimate value.

    In December 2007, I brought a copy of "Implementation," by Wildavsky and Pressman, a basic text in planning/public administration that tells the sad story of the Great Society effort to reconstruct Watts after the riots. All the money, all the political will, but no results. The implementation phase failed giving rise to a great teachable moment of what can and can't be done, and how to channel and structure good intentions into viable public solutions.

    There were only a handful of Senior Planner/City Managers, and two out of three of us brought the same book. One even taught from the book in courses on public administration.

    So we listen to a lot of diplomatic/political slogans on soft power, demo/gov capabilities, etc..., and know that it is about the nuts and bolts of economic, societal, political, and essential services expansions. Slogans and concepts are not implementable.

    Last week, we had a Planning Conference in DC, during which the UN Under Secretary of the UN's Habitat Group introduced their new book and initiatives on informal settlements (old phrase: slums) from Africa through Asia. Looked like the map of Africom/Centcom. 50% Urban; 50% of those in informal settlements; 50% under 30 years of age. Serious poverty, lack of services, social instability.

    The problem is: How do we systematize implementable solutions to these high-needs areas either before or after they fall to conflict. The root is always poverty, lack of education/services/resources/participation. Less slogans, more implementable solutions, please.

    Welcome aboard.

    Steve

  7. #27
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    Where I confused the matter is in emphasizing that international aspect, compared to my actual focus on the inter-personal. I'm borrowing from Nye, Nossel and Clinton because their macro expression structurally reflects my micro view.
    Good starte with Joe Nye; I worked with/for him in Rwanda. I recommend his book, the main thesis I would describe as "we often achieve our greatest effects because of what we are and what we are seen as versus what we do."

    Tom

  8. #28
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Good starte with Joe Nye; I worked with/for him in Rwanda. I recommend his book, the main thesis I would describe as "we often achieve our greatest effects because of what we are and what we are seen as versus what we do."

    Tom
    Tom,

    Serious question.

    Is that meant only for the strategic level? On the ground, I lived by Facta non Verba- deeds not words.

    Mike

  9. #29
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Tom,

    Serious question.

    Is that meant only for the strategic level? On the ground, I lived by Facta non Verba- deeds not words.

    Mike
    No Mike not at all...

    Joe Nye's book concentrates on the effects of things that are non-coercive, as in music, books, etc. Note that he classes economics as hard, not soft power

    But the same applies at the boots level when coercive measures are in play

    Best
    Tom

  10. #30
    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Default

    The problem is: How do we systematize implementable solutions to these high-needs areas either before or after they fall to conflict. The root is always poverty, lack of education/services/resources/participation. Less slogans, more implementable solutions, please.
    Steve, how to tell you that you are just right.
    Actually I am with the UNMIS, may be the biggest failure of the UN since ever in terms of implementation. Here we are just all becoming crazy as no one is implementing anything!
    Coming from the NGO were implementing is all, the absence of action due to the fear to take any responsability is just making me mad.

    The worst in that story is the more the UN keep that position, the less they are legitimate. My colleages here are 80% african and even them are feeling being screw by the system. Not saying that african are lazy, far from that, but we are in africa and having 80% african expat staff would show some efforts of africa taking care of african problems.

    The bottom line problem is not poverty but rather the lack of will and the absence of accountability of that administration. The worst is that it spoils good people by training them to take no actions, no responsability.
    But I have been told you cannot push people to feel concern and it is not your job to push for implementation.

    Well, if resident coordinators and New York are not feeling concern and not willing to implement... Who else?

  11. #31
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Look at a map of th US...

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    Looked like the map of Africom/Centcom. 50% Urban; 50% of those in informal settlements; 50% under 30 years of age. Serious poverty, lack of services, social instability.

    The problem is: How do we systematize implementable solutions to these high-needs areas either before or after they fall to conflict. The root is always poverty, lack of education/services/resources/participation. Less slogans, more implementable solutions, please.
    All that would be helpful here...

  12. #32
    Council Member J. Robert DuBois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Tom,

    Serious question.

    Is that meant only for the strategic level? On the ground, I lived by Facta non Verba- deeds not words.

    Mike
    Thanks, Mike et al. (Who is this "Al" guy?)

    I've been off the net for a couple of days, waiting fruitlessly in Kuwait for my milair to OEF. While aircraft get downed for maintenance and our pressure cooker of backed-up travelers grows, it's been difficult for us to get away from the terminal to get online.

    I mentioned recently in this thread that A) I won't claim to have the education or certificates to discuss international relations proper, although my reference to "smart power" could certainly lead some to that conclusion; and B) that I also don't claim to be stirring up some sort of popular, coordinated uprising among our target population via a variation (that's alliteration) on smart power.

    Rather, what I've hoped to express in this introduction to my "Applied" Smart Power is that it's very much a person-to-person matter rather than nation-to-nation; it can in fact lead to serendipitous improvements at a local level, which can spread into larger population/government influence; and that I'm probably going to have to incorporate anecdotal examples from my work in a little over 30 nations instead of diploma-based justification.

    Briefly, to get back to Mike's quoted submission, it seems that we're in a theoretical debate about whether it's good to be nice to non-combatants in a conflict zone (it is) or whether words are more important than deeds under the same conditions (they aren't). In fact, what Joe Nye teaches and Tom endorsed is that the "attractive" aspect of soft power is not about hollow rhetoric at all, and absolutely is about practical action and its value in role modeling. I couldn't agree more that deeds, not words, are what counts. It's unfortunate that our dialogue or my expression would indicate otherwise.

    So, how about an anecdote as promised? While I was at one of the three bases in Iraq from March 2008 to March 2009, I had the good fortune to become friends with an Arabic interpreter who is originally from Egypt. We'll call him "Kami".

    Kami and I worked together on this particular base for several months, and enjoyed having respectful discussions about Islam, to which he is devoted adherent. In fact, he's so "Muslim" that with his big shaggy beard, serene countenance, and "devotee dot" (the darkened spot on the forehead from a lifetime of pressing that skin against the floor in prayer), you might easily mistake him for a brother of Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden's partner in hate.

    This background material is key to my teaching about applied smart power. By this point you have a picture of my "Islamist" friend in your mind. This picture is inseparably connected to your individual biases, pro or con, about what an Islamist who looks like al Zawahiri is all about. That assumption probably doesn't match what Kami, the three-dimensional human being, is actually all about, as will be evident from the following Paul Harveyesque "rest of the story":

    While Kami and I were talking one day, I mentioned one of the initiatives that our host command had undertaken. A young boy in the local community had been diagnosed with an abdominal tumor, and this tumor had grown out of control and threatened to kill him. Our forces arranged to bring the boy and his father inside the base for follow-on transport to a surgical hospital and complete recovery, all courtesy Uncle Sam.

    Kami stared at me with his eyes welling up. "Ah," he said. "God bless America!"

    ! ! !

    I won't comment much more on the story, so each reader can interpret its implications for himself. The one thing I will say, though, is that I can think of a huge number of potentially good outcomes when a respected, devout Muslim scholar takes this new attitude to a madrassa filled with impressionable young men, or back to Egypt where he may share tea with a cousin in the original Muslim Brotherhood.

  13. #33
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Few's theory continued

    Quote Originally Posted by J. Robert DuBois View Post
    Who is this "Al" guy?
    Rob,

    Al is that bastard that you meet in grad school. You just learn to include him in any context to sound smart. He's like the art dealer in NYC (academics version of a pimp).

    As for your story on Kami- wise words...

    As to my question to Tom, I had to think about it for a while. As far as small wars go, Tom (and Stan, his better half, senior NCO), are just genious having spent a lifetime in Africa. I've had to put his book on the backburner (as with Slap's recommendation for a movie), but one should listen when they speak. Now, Tom has moved up to the operational/strategic level and is trying to school us on his findings in the same way David Kilcullen did with The Accidental Guerilla. Pay attention to his words....

    I've been trying to sort through the game that I played in Zag, you played with Kami, and Tom played in Rwanda....Here is the game.

    A crazy game of Texas Hold 'Em Poker with ten players. As usual, you can't see the opponents cards nor effect the dealer; however, in this game, everyone is allowed to hide their pot so you never know if you're the playing from a short stack, in the middle, or the leader.

    Mathematically, this game sucks, and I'm not sure how to solve it, but I guess it holds true to what we're dealing with in A'stan/Pakistan.

    Stay cool and keep your head down. My advice to you is to listen to the boys on this board as you execute. I'll read up on Smart power this week.

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 10-18-2009 at 04:04 AM.

  14. #34
    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Right now, I'm on a "More FID and Greg Mortensen, Less occupation and GPF" kick. We'll see where that leads.
    Mortenson has new book coming out at the end of next month: Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We should see if we can get an advance review copy for SWJ blog from the publisher.

  15. #35
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default I volunteer someone else!

    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    Mortenson has new book coming out at the end of next month: Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We should see if we can get an advance review copy for SWJ blog from the publisher.
    Bourbon,

    Best person to review this would be Melissa Payson, who has worked on the ground in both places, maybe not in schools and has the perspective needed.

    davidbfpo

  16. #36
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    ....in this game, everyone is allowed to hide their pot so you never know if you're the playing from a short stack, in the middle, or the leader.

    Mathematically, this game sucks, and I'm not sure how to solve it, but I guess it holds true to what we're dealing with in A'stan/Pakistan.

    Mike
    Mike,
    I have this freaky feeling you were in Sub-Sahara with us

    Now that I think about Tom's choices for a genocidal pick-up basketball team (US and French players), I actually wished you were with us

    Thanks for your wit and wisdom as always, and the kind words!

    Regards, Stan
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

  17. #37
    Council Member M Payson's Avatar
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    Default North Waziristan...

    I've yet to read Three Cups of Tea, been too busy working in Afghanistan and Pakistan to get to it. I will, I will...

    I seem to remember hearing that Greg was held captive in North Waziristan. Sounds about right... Canadian Beverly Giesbrecht is still held there, kidnapped last November, though interpreter and driver were released. David Rohde has just started publishing a five-part series in the New York Times on his ordeal.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/wo...pagewanted=all

  18. #38
    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Bourbon,

    Best person to review this would be Melissa Payson, who has worked on the ground in both places, maybe not in schools and has the perspective needed.

    davidbfpo
    Sounds good, maybe when the book comes out SWJ blog could have a symposium on it on and get several different perspectives in there. Mike has been preaching the Mortenson evangel for some time now, Mortenson’s first book Three Cups of Tea became a best seller largely from word of mouth praise – much of it from guys just like Mike.

  19. #39
    Registered User Intel Geek's Avatar
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    Default Increasing U.S. Soft Power in the Muslim World

    Sorry to join the discussion so late.

    Does anyone know about the Amerika Haus institutions in Germany? I was wondering if they can be used as a model for the Middle East. Setting up an institution to learn about American democracy may seem a little forced to the intended audience, so I was thinking about setting up institutions where locals can learn about things such as American advancements in science and technology*. I'd like to you some of your thoughts.

    *In Soft Power by Joseph Nye, he point out that 70% of Muslims polled say they admire U.S. advancement in science and technology.

  20. #40
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by J. Robert DuBois View Post
    I've sat in the sand and the mud of a dozen nations, sharing meals from a communal pot, and enjoyed the five-star accommodations of a dozen more.
    I've taken a somewhat different approach... 30 years with the sand and mud (ok, more dust and mud) of a single less developed and conflict-ridden country. Some differences in perspective perhaps. Regarding this one...

    "We must use what has been called smart power – the full range of tools at our disposal - diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural - picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy."
    ... it sounds wonderful, as non-specific motherhood statements generally do. The devil, as always, is in the details. In any given case, our determination of "the right tool, or combination of tools" is likely to be driven primarily by the prejudices and interests of the individuals and institutions making the determination. All too often these determinations are reached with grossly insufficient understanding of the complex interplay of factions, interests, competitions, and infinite detail that prevails in the environments we seek to influence. Above all we suffer from an apparently overpowering urge to see what we want to see and believe those who tell us what we want to hear. As a result, Americans are often stupidest when we seek to be smart.

    Wilf's "me shoot-um heap big many bad guy" approach may sound a bit neanderthal, but it has at least the virtue of knowing what it seeks to accomplish, and how.

    It's very easy to sling words like "smart power" around... actually using power intelligently, in the sort of environment where we need to do that, is a whole lot more difficult.

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