Small Wars Journal

Plutocratic Insurgency

Thu, 09/06/2012 - 3:51am

Preface: I’ve been developing the concept of what would be termed a plutocratic insurgency since 2011. The concept ties into earlier work done by John Robb (Onward to a Hollow State, 2008),Nils Gilman (Deviant Globalization, 2010), and others. This new concept will be highly controversial— it involves global elites and lacks the traditional trappings of an insurgency (i.e. an armed struggle). It is a counterpart to the criminal insurgency concept initially developed by John Sullivan. However, instead of being based on illicit economies and bottom up in nature, it is derived from sovereign free economies and top down in nature. The following elegantly crafted blog entry is one of the first public discussions about plutocratic insurgency. You will be reading more about this concept in this venue and others in the future.

Plutocratic Insurgency


Nils Gilman

I recently engaged in a private exchange with leading 4GW thinker Robert Bunker on the question of how to periodize what he calls "plutocratic insurgency." Here are a few notes I took in the course of that exchange. The point of departure for this sort of an inquiry is to ask what the JohnGaltification of society would actually look like in practice—what would it seriously mean for the wealthy to opt out of participation in the collective institutions that make up society?


Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/14/2016 - 10:37am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Gen. Odierno calling for 50,000 troops to fight ISIS ?

The Mega cities concept works well for a variety of other agendas, doesn't it, even if sincerely held by some?

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/14/2016 - 10:35am

I'm sorry about my comment that was removed on another thread. I went too far, I suppose.

There is something very strange about the whole MegaCities conversation and I can't quite put my finger on what it is. I can believe that futurists within many Armies have looked at increased urbanization and so worry about how they might have to deal with it, but there is still something very strange about the conversation. It shows up in so many think tank forums that I wonder if it is a proxy for multinational entities worried that the US will no longer so eagerly protect commercial logistic lines that now increasingly benefit others.

Very strange, indeed.

Richard Fontaine of CNAS has an odd little plea of an article in the American Exceptionalism series:


Why are there only two alternatives? The exact same thing we've done since WWII or Trump style tariffs?

What if the devil is in the detail and simply negotiating better contracts that might benefit the American people a little more but might ask multinationals lobbying Washington to pay American workers a little more or something like that?

Why are we not thinking creatively about a new form of trade and globalization? Think tanks are paid to think, aren't they? Well....

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/14/2016 - 10:27am

Consortium News has an interesting article about global activism and Syria:

"The Lure of a Syrian ‘No-Fly Zone"

(without the link, not working).

It reminds me of Chase Madar's writing on the militarization of human rights activists.

I was wondering if global activism and the fascination with activists within American society is the populist analogue to a Plutocratic Insurgency? If we are activists, then we are one type of citizen and perhaps we don't pay as much attention to daily duties of republican governance. Being an activist is a fine thing, but it's not the same as showing up one month a week to discuss local school funding or potholes on a main street or the many boring everyday duties of an ordinary citizen.

In a way, it fits into the worry that the military has about the glorification of Seal Team Six and the loss of a kind of older ethos of the quiet professional.

We all want attention (me too, I'm not excusing myself from this very ordinary human attitude).

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 04/13/2016 - 9:21am

Hey, I posted this link under the Macho Man! article here at good old SWJ.

Do you think it belongs here?

"What do all these people do anyway? And what are their relationships to private companies, foreign nations, think tanks, politicians, etc?

Isn't there a profession whose job it is to look into these things? Something that rhymes with shmournalism?

<blockquote>Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition (ASD(A))
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs (APSA)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs (GSA)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (HA)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (ISA)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs (LA)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness (L&MR)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chief Information Officer (DoD CIO)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear & Chemical & Biological Defense Programs (NCB)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs (OEP&P)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (PA)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (M&RA)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness (ASD(R))
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering ASD(R&E)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities</blockquote>"

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 04/06/2016 - 10:09am

Tax avoidance has been a policy concern for the Obama administration for some time, hasn't it? Interesting, in light of the Panama Papers scandal.

<blockquote>President Barack Obama will propose that U.S.-based companies pay a minimum 19 percent tax on their future foreign earnings, capturing profits that are now often beyond the government’s reach.
Obama will also seek a 14 percent mandatory tax on about $2 trillion in stockpiled offshore profits, said two people familiar with his budget proposals, declining to be named because the document won’t be made public until Feb. 2. Companies would pay that tax regardless of whether they bring the money back to the U.S., the two said, creating a revenue stream the president would use to pay for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects.</blockquote>…

<blockquote>Google Inc. cut its taxes by $3.1 billion in the last three years using a technique that moves most of its foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda.
Google’s income shifting -- involving strategies known to lawyers as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich” -- helped reduce its overseas tax rate to 2.4 percent, the lowest of the top five U.S. technology companies by market capitalization, according to regulatory filings in six countries.
“It’s remarkable that Google’s effective rate is that low,” said Martin A. Sullivan, a tax economist who formerly worked for the U.S. Treasury Department. “We know this company operates throughout the world mostly in high-tax countries where the average corporate rate is well over 20 percent.”</blockquote>…

How anyone in DC can lecture the global South on elite behavior is beyond me, the US is being torn apart by some of our finest global citizens.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 10:03am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

For some reason Daniel Drezner irritates me, mostly because I remember how he was during the run up to the Iraq War, how Instapundit constantly linked him, and how I stupidly believed the DC consensus. But at least I learned and changed. Daniel Drezner gets it wrong all the time but it doesn't matter. Reality must not intrude into the Washington Post pundit pages. The DC bubble with its various think tanks and little inside jokes. A perfect bubble assuming that it represents the world, and that goes for the non-interventionists as well, who are constantly outmaneuvered because they too become bubble people.

(What is going on at those George Schools, like George Mason and Georgetown? I know Dr. Drezner is Tufts but I always feel bad for, like, Adam Elkus when I look at his Twitter feed. No wonder he is so confused all the time. He reads the wrong people, poor young man).

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 9:55am

I'm glad to see corruption exposed via the Panama Papers but Washington's attempts (or factions within) to spin some of it as propaganda may not work because most people fit it into a larger picture of behavior:

<blockquote>Citigroup is hardly alone in shifting profits to places like the Cayman Islands as a way to lower a tax bill. According to the report, 82 of the top 100 largest publicly traded companies as measured by revenue have set up such shelters — 2,687 of them, to be exact. All told, they are holding nearly $1.2 trillion offshore.</blockquote>…

This is what happens when you constantly lie to the American people, they are going to take a jaundiced view at how the Washington Consensus will push through some of the Panama Paper revelations into a DC friendly narrative.

But people know, they know this behavior is pervasive. It defines our age.

No one tell Daniel "They System Worked" Drezner, the Washington Post purveyor of elite opinion.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 12:56pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Yeah, okay Strobe. Strong work on "South Asia", by the way:

<blockquote>A Message from Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution
Washington, DC—The New York Times on Sunday, September 7, published an article suggesting that a number of American think tanks receiving donations from foreign governments are functioning as lobbyists and should be required to register as foreign agents. The article has major omissions, distortions, and errors. By disregarding important facts and taking information out of context, the reporters drew inaccurate conclusions that misrepresent the work of Brookings and ignore the institutional safeguards we have in place to ensure complete independence for our scholars’ research and policy recommendations.</blockquote>…

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 12:53pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I will wear a monocle, cravat and/or tiara, and look for a bad taste McLean Mansion.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'll set up a picket line at said mansion and protest my one percent self. QED.

Oh, wait a minute. I didn't cash out on my fancy education and didn't rake in the bucks because I chose academia, and then working with veterans.

Man, can't I do anything right?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 12:51pm

According to Brookings, I am the one percent. I better start protesting myself:

<blockquote>So, if they're not in Silicon Valley making awesome stuff, where are the 1 percent working? Top answer: doctor’s offices. No industry has more top earners than physicians’ offices, with 7.2 percent. Hospitals are home to 7 percent. Legal services and securities and financial investments industries account for another 7 and 6 percent, respectively. Real estate, dentistry, and banking provide a large number, too:</blockquote>…

If I worked at Brookings, I'd want to focus on this aspect of the one percent too, given the funding streams for many Washington think tanks.

Hilarious. Don't you worry your pretty little heads about DC and Silicon Valley, Americans. We have found the real culprits!

(It's not that it isn't true, it's just that it is one part of the whole story. That's classic DC misdirection for you. Oh, and don't worry, corporate hospital systems now make doctors as miserable as everyone else).

On a more serious note, if you widen the pool of health care workers, you have to work a little harder to bring those who score lower on tests up to standard, or those who train at less rigorous programs. That's been my personal working experience in terms of teaching residents, fellows and students from a wide variety of backgrounds, some top notch, others less so in terms of training and education.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 9:43am

Creature of habit. I wish I'd stop. Hate to give up all that I've learned, though.

(I recently found a bunch of notes I thought I'd gotten rid of on AfPak and Unconventional Warfare across the border. At one time, I'd gone through 2001 transcripts and looked for comments on Musharraf made by everyone I could think of. Quite interesting. Big tough Frank Gafney bought it all too, actually, pretty much everyone I have read in any venue says roughly the same thing. Even Alec Station types. Soft "South Asian" bigotry, especially by so-called Progressives (Modi's India is the left version like the right version of Putin's Russia, a way to dumb down complicated realities so that all problems are boiled down to the leader in charge, really missed something, I think.)

Anyway, it's all too corrupt to be interesting. National Security Professionals as a collective are part of such a corrupt system that it's filled with money players, the less than bright, the ideologically fanatic, and the rest. Such a shame, really. A deeply corrupt system.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 9:05am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Lead in the water in Flint but it is important to be a global city....Global cities is just another way to push a kind of globalization that benefits large corporations and entities while cities have less resources for basic governance.

And what is the perfect way to present all of this? A security threat or "challenge".

Who lurks and reads around here anyway? You should be delighted. I do your work for you, your red teaming, you can hone your arguments better. And all without a stipend or contract or grant.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 9:00am

Plutocratic Insurgency:

<em>It is a counterpart to the criminal insurgency concept initially developed by John Sullivan. However, instead of being based on illicit economies and bottom up in nature, it is derived from sovereign free economies and top down in nature. </em>

Or are we simply developing ad-hoc a new form of governance? Should this ad hoc form of governance be viewed as part of plutocratic insurgency?

Listening to an YouTube (CSPAN Q&A) talk by Winslow Wheeler and he said something about the checks and balances being eroded, especially in military affairs with the loss of real Congressional oversight over the Pentagon.

From The National Interest:

<blockquote>Making cities resilient against both man-made crises and natural disasters is the key to the twenty-first century.</blockquote>

Raymond Odierno, Michael O' Hanlon

Part of this from Brookings and JP Morgan Chase:

<blockquote>The Global Cities Initiative is a five-year project that aims to help leaders in U.S. metropolitan areas reorient their economies toward greater engagement in world markets.</blockquote>

A company sees developing markets as their next big growth area. So the company funds intellectual activities toward presenting the importance of "global cities". And the intellectual activities range far and wide and make a variety of claims, if we don't have global cities then we are less secure, etc. And it's not as if participants are not sincere but the end effect is to create the idea that cities must invest in a way useful to the funder.

I see.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 10:47am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

How can you in DC hurt so many innocent people for such ugly clothes, ugly houses, surprisingly unappealing, well, the gossipy part of the internet isn't very nice about a lot of things, even I won't go there.

PS: So, to review: I don't want to spend trillions on defense so that I can buy a blouse at Zara. Please never say anything about a forward military and cheap goods again.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 10:38am

Yeah yeah, I have some more formal military related comments for other threads. I watch a lot of CSPAN, mostly because I kind of want to see how the Beltway types talk, dress, carry themselves. It's a fascinating world mostly because it is so dull and so little real thinking goes on. It's quite extraordinary really.

And they all have LinkedIn, even the retired Generals. What do you suppose foreign intelligence agencies do with that mapping?

Extraordinary group think. The levels of timidity. Extraordinary.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 10:33am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Cook County likes the complexity because lots of things can hide under complexity. And people feel grateful when they appeal some high tax bill and it is lower so they convince themselves that the system might be okay, or, the urgency goes away for reform.

Never met a group of people less capable of self-governance in the States than Illinoisians.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 10:31am

Now, here's something you can blame so-called ordinary people for:

<blockquote>The Trump Tower is a landmark in Chicago’s skyline. The penthouse sold for $17 million in 2014. But a WGN investigation found that when it comes to taxes, the building is basically split into thirds, with condos on top, a hotel in the middle, and commercial space at the bottom. It is that bottom third we wanted to look at. It is assessed at a little more than $3 million, about the same amount that you could use to buy a two-bedroom condo on the 38th floor overlooking the Chicago River.
“In Cook County especially, no other county or government assesses with the complexity that is Cook County,” said Laurence Msall, president of The Civic Federation, a tax and policy group. “Because there are so many parcels, there is more than a million parcels in Cook County, it is very difficult to do apples to apples comparisons, even among the commercial properties.</blockquote>…

Trump supporters will just say, that's the environment and he got the best deal he could for his company.

And the sick little thing is that Illinoisans sort of really like the everyday corruption that exists because everyone gets a cut in some way, well, not everyone, but those that want to play the system.

If you don't want others to have power over you, you will have to give up these little fiddles and Illinoisans and Chicagoan don't want to give up their personal little deals even if the means the whole ship goes down.

The academics say that because Chicago is the big city that all these small town--ers and immigrants move to, that it sort of developed a get rich or voting bloc mentality. Big money, big corruption.

The smaller states with less money have corruption, but on a smaller scale. And Chicagoans just laugh, many do nothing about the little corruptions around them. The upper middle class supposedly educated smarties really believe the developers too, they buy the future tax revenue nonsense.

So, this won't get Trump but he will disappoint, I'm betting.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 10:22am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Actually, I don't mind bad taste and bougie and I pretty much hated old money when I was in Boston too.

Basically, they are all stupid, our overlords, or we wouldn't be in the shape we are in.

No, you can't cut funding for schools and public education in other ways and then complain about how stupid people are.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 10:18am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Please tell me those McLean Beltway Bandit houses have a Washington Post style section kitchen? Please, please, please, it would make me so happy....Oh, the look of the crowd on CSPAN when CSPAN covers a talk at a think tank.

Please, please, please, have a Washington Post style page kitchen!

<blockquote>There is talk of a Georgetown elite, but ever since Pamela Harriman’s death in 1997, that crowd has been as defunct as the Romanov dynasty. Georgetown has elegant but cramped townhouses with creaky floorboards, inadequate wiring and an aura of ever-so-slightly shabby gentility. Who needs that when you can buy a brand-new 12,000 square foot McMansion with <strong>cast stone lions guarding the front gate, a two-and-a-half story tall great room and a home cinema with built-in FSB ports</strong>?
If that sounds more like the jumped-up suburb of a Sunbelt city like Houston or Atlanta than the traditional, old-money atmosphere of Beacon Hill or the Philadelphia Mainline, it is because that is precisely what the neighborhoods of the new establishment have become.</blockquote>

Caste stone lions. You have made me so happy. You are like Angel Deverell at Paradise House (Angel, Barbara Taylor novel. But Angel at least produced something of value). No wonder some of you feel so at home with Saudis. You have the same excellent taste in decor.

(The answer is, I'm not trying to impress, so my bad taste doesn't matter....but if I had that money, I wouldn't build those monstrosities, that's for sure).

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 10:11am

Oh Thanks, War on the Rocks! This is the number I was looking for and it is close to the number I remember from the Barry Posen lecture:



WAR ON THE ROCKS (links don't work).

That links to a NYT article:

<blockquote>First and foremost, don’t conflate trade with trade agreements. They’re not at all synonymous. <strong>Over the last 50 years, our trade volume as a share of gross domestic product has climbed steadily, tripling to 30 percent from 10 percent</strong>, regardless of whether we were signing F.T.A.s.</blockquote>

The Era of Free Trade Might Be Over. That’s a Good Thing.

Links don't work.

A lot of Americans are going to think, wait a minute, we provided what quality of life to our countrymen and women in the past when the trade volume was 10 percent?

(But the Google crowd cracks me up with their "internet of things" and everyone will be a coder. Sigh. Think it through. How is it I can do this and people inside the world of policy can't seem to do the same thing? Is it so hard to break from fashion to voice skepticism when skepticism is warranted?

I know the answer. If you don't play the game, you don't get a call back and are marginalized. I know, it's a tough balancing act).

On the other hand, re: Internet of Things, I would love to have my dental floss hooked up to wifi. Then maybe I can connect the voices from my fillings into the internet. I'm just saying....)

Why don't Richie Rich just get a slightly cheaper jet and pay for some of worker bees dental or something? Why are they so stupid?

I think it's because they are hopelessly bougie and play keeping up with the Smiths/Jones. That guy has a jet, I have to have a jet, that guy gives money to X charity, I have to give money to X charity. Phenomenal wealth tied to the kind of personality Ernest Hemingway made fun of years ago....

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 8:41am

I quote from my own comment below (Narcissist! I shoulda cashed in and wrote intellectual product for the Deep State. What a jerk I am!):

<blockquote>It's like developers that get local government to give them tax breaks to develop a piece of property under the guise of some future tax revenues from anticipated business. In the meantime, schools have to be paid for, roads fixed, etc. The revenues that might eventually come in don't quite make up for the current lost tax revenues or loss to the ordinary taxpayer.
Why do you think consumer spending is so flat? It's not just worries about the economy, the future, not getting a raise for a decade, it's changing habits about buying. Twenty years of cheap junk hasn't satisfied spiritually, emotionally or materially.
There is a lecture by Barry Posen (MIT) where he mentions, sort of offhand, how much US GDP is generated internally within the US. The number surprised me. I need to find that lecture.</blockquote>

So, I'm the sort of consumer people are trying to get at, but I'm not interested, even if there is spare change around.

I'm all capsule wardrobe, Tiny House Nation, Real Simple, you know?

So, the "we need a big military to support our lifestyle" just don't work anymore.

Google data mining forgets that humans are fickle emotional creatures that need all sorts of things to make life worthwhile.

Just wait until the fashion for Amazon peaks or the trends I describe above get into the heads of Millenials who are conscious of debt and limited environmental resources. Well, I stole it from them actually, where do you think capsule wardrobes and Tiny House Nation come from?

I don't want the world you made, Washingtonian mercantilists.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 8:31am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Also from the SPA site:

"This contract contains options, which if exercised, will bring the contract value to a maximum dollar value of $75,719,314 over five years." How much is that?

Holy cannolis!

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 8:29am

Sorry, the links just never work. I don't know why. From that War on the Rocks article:

The authors "are Analysts with Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc". in Alexandria, Virginia.

Is that this company (sorry, links just don't work. Will try later):

<blockquote>SPA is a privately-held company, so we are not distracted by stockholder demands, mergers and acquisitions. Our locations are close to the customers, allowing us to quickly respond to time-sensitive analytic requests. More than 400 SPA employees blend professional skills and experience with personal initiative to provide clients with creative, relevant, and high-quality work.</blockquote>

What does that mean?

<blockquote>C871-1RC - Strategic Planning for Technology Programs/Activities
C871-2RC - Concept Development and Requirements Analysis
C871-3RC - System Design, Engineering and Integration
C871-4RC - Test and Evaluation
C871-5RC - Integrated Logistics Support
C871-6RC - Acquisition and Life Cycle Management
C874-1RC - Integrated Consulting Services
C874-4RC - Training Services: Instructor Led Training, Web Based Training and Education
Courses, Course Development and Test Administration</blockquote>

The government contracts these things? Why?

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 8:21am

From War on the Rocks (you have to verify your comments there and I don't want to give Google any more data, LinkedIn is for morons, linking to the article ruins the comment here, etc.)

<blockquote>To begin with, a successful dialogue should reconnect Americans with the substantive reasons we have a military — including but not limited to our nuclear forces — shaped and operated the way ours is. It’s one thing to tell Americans that a strong military keeps them safe and prosperous; it’s another thing entirely to explain why this is so. It should be explained that exportation of American products abroad is feasible only because the U.S. military ensures the free movement of all nations’ goods and services around the globe (including digital communications via undersea cables and satellites) and that without the active defense of this consensual trading system American businesses — both small and large — would suffer degraded or lost access to many of their major overseas markets. <strong>The American people need to understand that there are actors in the world today, both state and non-state, that actively seek to reestablish “sphere of influence” mercantilism, and that the economic well-being of American workers rests heavily on resisting this trend.<strong></blockquote>



The American people understand plenty and that sort of lecturing borders on disrespectful.

It's not quite so clear cut as the authors make out. Many of the gains from the last 20 years never made it into ordinary American pockets. Our overlords forgot this part.

Future generations have so much debt built up that the math doesn't quite work quite as the "we need nukes to save the American way of life" authors might suggest.

It's like developers that get local government to give them tax breaks to develop a piece of property under the guise of some future tax revenues from anticipated business. In the meantime, schools have to be paid for, roads fixed, etc. The revenues that might eventually come in don't quite make up for the current lost tax revenues or loss to the ordinary taxpayer.

Why do you think consumer spending is so flat? It's not just worries about the economy, the future, not getting a raise for a decade, it's changing habits about buying. Twenty years of cheap junk hasn't satisfied spiritually, emotionally or materially.

There is a lecture by Barry Posen (MIT) where he mentions, sort of offhand, how much US GDP is generated internally within the US. The number surprised me. I need to find that lecture.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 8:07am

Bainbridge? Where'd I get Bainbridge? I must have mashed together Bain Capital and Bridgewater Associates. Well....


Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 11:49pm

Bainbridge Associates. McCain. War on the Rocks. Oh, now I see....

From 2007:

<blockquote>Similarly, Dalio, the Bridgewater chief who trades currencies, debt, and stocks around the world, likes the way McCain arrives at his positions. It's different from relying on academic knowledge or creative brilliance, says Dalio. "It is the ability to intelligently analyze and make decisions from a practical perspective....A successful President must have a lot of practical intelligence."</blockquote>…

So, it went like this in 2008:

Google = candidate Obama
Bainbridge Associates = candidate McCain
Goldman Sachs = candidate Clinton

No wonder there is so much auditioning for a future Clinton administration at War on the Rocks. My guess: none of this goes away whatever happens with Trump and Kasich and Sanders and Clinton, none of the fault lines. More like a tilting upwards over time "sine curve", I am guessing, flare ups dying down until slowly something new evolves.

Hey, is that a macro trend? I can guess as well as the next guy or gal.

What a racket, This Town.

Wasn't there a comment by Bruce Fleming that was deleted at War on the Rocks or did I imagine it?

Don't they every feel embarrassed, the think tank or "defense" crowd? It's all so blatant. I suppose it works. I predict great things some day, moving up the greasy pole....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:27pm

If you are looking for an answer, for heaven's sake, the issue is that it works when you are kept on a leash and used appropriately, such as the removal of the Taliban while working with the Northern Alliance, or Desert Storm if we hadn't stayed on, or the mix of money and modest training given the Ukranian Army plus Russian sanctions which seems to have worked at keeping being overrun and is reasonable. If we'd get out of our own way, the American Military is fine, it's the careerism and fantasy stuff. You know this.

We are fine. The amount of money you get is enormous. The focus should be on internal reform and reigning in retired trouble makers in DC, not trying to scare up great new theory of war.

Study your own history these past 15 years, soberly and seriously. Take notes, collect information, interview people, review records, just careful work.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:19pm

Doc M, or Nassim Nicholas Taleb (via Zenpundit's twitter acct):

He sounds like me on the Big H:

<blockquote>What we are seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking "clerks" and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think... and 5) who to vote for.
With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30y of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, microeconomic papers wrong 40% of the time, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons.
Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats wanting to run our lives aren't even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. I have shown that most of what Cass-Sunstein-Richard Thaler types call "rational" or "irrational" comes from misunderstanding of probability theory.</blockquote>

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:06pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Rangers lead the way, she says wryly....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:02pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Aspen Ideas festival has this on their site, again, links won't work so without links:

Globalization poses many challenges for our systems of governance. It creates new economic strains, which spur demand for protection from foreign competition, and for <strong>policies to cushion the living standards of affected groups.</strong> Deepening economic integration raises new questions about the forms of international cooperation. Are existing institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization up to the job?

Robert D. Hormats, Austan Goolsbee, <strong>David H. McCormick</strong>, Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr.

With audio and video at the site, the audio I listened to sounded as if, well, let's just say a group think bubble is a group think bubble.

It's wrong for affected groups to expect a cushion, but okay for a hedge fund to expect government monies.

So it goes....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 11:58am


War on the Rocks has this from a post about American Exceptionalism and West Point:

<blockquote>David McCormick is President of Bridgewater Associates, a global macro investment firm. Previously, he served in senior positions in the Treasury Department, the White House, and the Commerce Department in the administration of George W. Bush. He is a graduate of West Point and a veteran of the First Gulf War. The views reflected in this speech are his alone.</blockquote>

West Point and American Exceptionalism, David McCormick

Is this the same Bridgewater Associates, or is it a different company?

Without links, once again, because links won't work:

<blockquote>Here we go again!
As tens of thousands of Connecticut families struggle to pay their local property taxes due to the state’s inadequate funding of public education, Governor Dannel Malloy is giving scarce public funds to some of the wealthiest companies in the country.
As the Hartford Courant reports today in their article entitled, “State Proposes $52 Million In Subsidies To Giant Hedge Fund,”</blockquote> - Wait What? blog post,

Is it the same hedge fund?

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 11:18am

A global phenomenon:

<blockquote>Their electoral surge caught many by surprise, because it reveals the degree of sympathy with their fundamentally disturbing message that globalization is not welcomed. It contrasts the dominant discourse of globalization, which is an uplifting and democratizing one: Not only does it help eliminate poverty in underdeveloped regions, but it helps bring about world peace. This is because, the discourse goes, countries integrated in the global economy will move closer to liberal democracy, and democratic countries don't wage war against each other – or so the story goes.</blockquote>…

From Real Clear World

Okay, I'll lay off for a bit. Sorry to kind of mess things up with political things but it's interesting to use the same tools we normally do when looking at other societies and apply them to our own. DC consensus doesn't do that enough, I think.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 10:48am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

"Trump's America" has something in common with what happened to northern US cities as manufacturing and good jobs left:

<blockquote>On the losing side of automation, globalization and the "rural brain drain" our community was powerless to stop furniture factories from closing down or Wal-Mart from coming in. And after decades of decline folks were too beaten down and disorganized to fight back when pharmaceutical companies flooded the area with OxyContin. As a result, Wilkes had the third highest overdose rate in America in 2007 and busted 50 meth labs in 2013. [Overdose rates dropped 69 percent by 2011 after North Carolina responded to the crisis.]</blockquote>…

For those that see only racism (and it's there, alright, along with the nonsense being peddled by partisan propaganda on radio, cable, etc.) and ask why support for one candidate of change and not another (Trump vs Sanders)?

Outreach. Dedicated, long term outreach. Over years. Same as with urban areas that don't vote for Vermont Senators.

How many in DC that have gone abroad to NGO's know these areas and their people? I only do second hand because of the work I do now. My whole background is one of a kind of privilege and I was part of a world more likely to end up as part of the DC consensus than this.

You develop a mild chronic illness, the world looks a little different. You start to understand fears that your previous perfect Desi princess self never understood.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 10:39am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Leonardo Di Caprio seems to have done better than the Humain Terrain Teams at the New York Times:

<blockquote>On a visit to India in his role as a climate activist, Hollywood superstar Leonardo DiCaprio held discussions here on how the world should work together to combat catastrophic climate change and also went to a Haryana village to see the impact of <strong>unseasonal weather on farmers.<strong></blockquote>…

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 10:35am

Blogger Miss P once said that corruption and trying to figure out how to take care of megapopulations were going to the be the great challenges of this century. I sometimes agree, and sometimes don't with the good Miss P but corruption is the great eater of souls and we are seeing its effects globally:

<blockquote>The United States is led by two corrupt establishments, one Democratic and one Republican, both deeply dependent on special-interest money, both sharing a similar perspective on world affairs, and both disdainful toward the American people who are treated as objects to be manipulated, not citizens to be respected.
But these two corrupt establishments are intertwined when it comes to important issues of trade, economics and foreign policy. Both are true believers in neo-liberal “free trade”; both coddle Wall Street (albeit seeking slightly different levels of regulation); and both favor interventionist foreign policies (only varying modestly in how the wars are sold to the public).</blockquote>

Maybe we can send a Human Terrain System around the US to figure out what's going on....

Someone I know used the word "frustration" to describe the American mood, as in, "people are frustrated, Madhu, that's why things are the way they are."

I like that word. I like it because frustration can be justified or unjustified, but it is felt strongly and reactions to frustration can be good and bad.

There is more than racism or the desire for an authoritarian leader going on. The frustration is real and in many instances justified. The frustration is long standing, has deep roots and can't be pinned on just one factor. Globalization in its myriad facets--as opposed to pure trade--pushes on fault lines.

My "people" are "revolting" in India, too, so to speak, but that was portrayed as caste rioting by Jats. Apparently, caste is something that the West believes in too.

It might have been the 19th century to read some of the Western commentary. The NYT was particularly bad. Caste is bad in India. So is class. So is urbanization, droughts, poverty, governance, the rest of it.

A certain stipend was cut to farmers and it is hard to make money off of the land that has traditionally been theirs. Poor Jats exist too. Caste prejudice is terrible in India. But it is a country with states that have populations of entire European countries. The local is hard, there, I mean, understanding local dynamics.

It's hard here in the US too.

The world is a complicated place but complicated thinking requires humility. The DC consensus lacks that. The people weep. And it's not an act.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 10:17am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I shouldn't do this but: Plutocrats at Play:

(That famous letter! "I look so cool, so fantastic, and he cannot have me" or however it goes. Ouch. I shouldn't make fun. Privacy does matter.)

Hey, wait a minute, see, privacy matters! Who wants embarrassing stuff to come out, right? Even the plebes....

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 10:09am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

It's as if they are just stupid, despite (because of) their wealth....

<blockquote>Billionaires, tech CEOs and top members of the Republican establishment flew to a private island resort off the coast of Georgia this weekend for the American Enterprise Institute's annual World Forum, according to sources familiar with the secretive gathering.
The main topic at the closed-to-the-press confab? How to stop Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google co-founder Larry Page, Napster creator and Facebook investor Sean Parker, and Tesla Motors and SpaceX honcho Elon Musk all attended. So did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), political guru Karl Rove, House Speaker Paul Ryan, GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ben Sasse (Neb.), who recently made news by saying he "cannot support Donald Trump." </blockquote>…

What an odd psychology. All they need to do is share just a little bit of their wealth with others and a lot of this would die down. I'm not talking a lot even, some new schools or roads built, tuition paid, new land grants funded by said Richie Rich's. Not even that much. That's the puzzling thing. What a strange group of people. For this they can drop everything, but not to win a war or feed or clothe their own people (which doesn't mean you can't help others in other nations).

How strange.

PS: I know, too much of the use of the word strange but I can't think of anything else to say. I'm just floored. Becoming a coder will not solve everything, Mr. Eric Schmidt.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 9:58am

Those interested in the topic of an plutocratic insurgency and its counteractions in the US have probably already seen this (I ran into the link via Glenn Greenwald's twitter feed):

<blockquote>Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade. In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy. Not even his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, the issue that first won him political fame. He did it again during the debate on 3 March: asked about his political excommunication by Mitt Romney, he chose to pivot and talk about … trade.
It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.</blockquote>

Thomas Frank in the Guardian.

The are getting so many comments and the most interesting to survey are the non-Americans. It's interesting how widespread the disappointment in globalization there is in the West, the ordinary working and middle class West and how this seems to have blind-sided the Washington and Brussels Consensus.…

The other comments about nativism and bigotry make sense too but as many (non-American) commenters point out, bad times draw out a lot of ugly things.

*On a side not related to Plutocratic Insurgencies, Google news sure doesn't like to highlight anything by Bernie Sanders. It's quite blatant. The young that are his supporters are probably developing a sense of the company that may prove quite hardened in the future. The military picked a great time to rebrand itself with that brand.

OTOH, ease of using apps and the powerful marketing of a brand that is ubiquitous may prove too tough for such worries to do much to the company. We shall see.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/08/2016 - 10:18am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Every lab I've ever worked in is obsessed with cross training technicians. That works for some parts of the lab but for more technically challenging work, it just means that you have mediocre work all the time instead of going through a time where you have lost an employee and need to back that up. You could cross train one employee for the dedicated technical staff, but, no, everyone must rotate on every bench. That's what the management culture says.

Sorry, there isn't a person in America that hasn't had a run in with some management geek that ruins it for everyone, including the more talented managers and MBA's.

What does the free market or socialism even mean anymore in 21st century America. We need new words for a new reality.

But the types of people promoted these days got to where they are by parroting the old stuff. So, Plutocratic Insurgency!

Interestingly , Glenn Greenwald seems to show more empathy to the Trump facet of the counterinsurgency/backlash than Nils Gilman from lazy casual Twitter reading so that probably all wrong....

Hey, I coulda written policy papers too!

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/08/2016 - 10:12am

The British media really doesn't like President Obama, does it, assuming you can write about a collective "media":

<blockquote>Google and the Obama White House, sitting in a tree? The search giant's relationship with the president stretches back to 2007 and is cozy as can be</blockquote>…

Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the Cult of the MBA! Running a country is just like running a company!

<strong>The cult of the MBA likes to believe that you can run organizations that do things that you don't understand.</strong> - Joel Spolsky

Hard to believe there are various cultural backlashes going on....

Learning how to manage people, budgets, logistics is fine. It's the cult part with the lazy adoption of buzzwords that's problematic but I suppose that has to do with the people who go about trying to learn. What I mean is, some people genuinely want to learn and others are doing, what is that wonderful phrase from the military? Ticket punching?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 10:12am


Does anyone else find it disgusting that the coat holders for the Plutocrats blame the economic losers for their pain and frustration which is lashing out in various ways, including, frighteningly, supporting someone like Trump? He's not wrong about everything though, and, anger can only be assuaged when it is acknowledged and something real is done for the person that has been abused by globalization.

I see people that are affected by both BlackLivesMatter and the Trump caucus, meaning, poorer whites and blacks, on a daily basis. It's disgusting for educated privileged people to make fun of either group. You have resources and education they don't have. And if you'd ever bother to leave the DC consensus, you'd see how people live and how they struggle.


So, he's struggling to get a can of Coke out of a vending machine but he can't see very well and he's in a wheel chair. White haired, overweight, struggling. "Hey, I can get that for you," but even though he's paid nothing has come out of the machine. "You have to get a refund in the cafeteria," I say apologetically. He doesn't look well. As I walk away, I see a sticker on the bottom of the wheel chair, a Trump sticker, hidden almost.

Who will love the unloved?

At any time and without any warning, you can become one too. Don't kid yourselves, intellectual masters of the universe. Don't kid yourselves.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 9:31am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Xenia Wickett of the "Americas Desk" or something like that at Chatham House has a truly hilarious article linked at Real Clear Politics about how British expertise (she is British American) was helpful in Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.

I bet every brave British citizen the British sent to Helmand curses the Chatham House "expertise" on that region, an expertise based on the various domestic British lobbies of the British right and left, from businessmen to aid givers to various ethnic bloc voting (Pakistani lobby), now extending itself to the Indian voting bloc with hilarious "indian diaspora" something or others that David Cameron appointed. Priti Patel, is it? Ridiculous.

What happens to the British Indians? They are so milquetoast. You could have helped your fellow country men out but you seem to step aside for other ethnic lobbies. Less radical or simply toeing the line?

Keep this in mind, young students lurking, as you think about NATO propaganda in the US. How do you keep the US in?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 9:24am

The Plutocrats are the security achilles heel, all by themselves:

<blockquote>Innovation Endeavors is an early-stage venture capital firm partnering with startups that apply cutting edge technology to transform large industries. The firm runs a dedicated global team that builds industry networks to create value for its portfolio companies. Innovation Endeavors has offices in Silicon Valley and Tel-Aviv, and is solely backed by Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google.</blockquote>

How long before all the innovation gets to the Russians and Chinese? You know, a kind of intellectual Operation Evil Airlift with the "Musharraf-cation" of everything, meaning, personal connections that people don't understand and are at the forefront when crisis happens?

Does American counterintelligence just throw up its hands, or what?

Yeah, Dr. Kilcullen, Abbottabad as a model has no application anywhere else. I think he missed something in his analysis, it's about what the location did the the general public in terms of its understanding of the security state that is the interesting point of analysis.

Don't worry, everyone else is blind to this, including the progressive left that looks at AfPak solely through drones, Islamaphobia and unhappiness with the BJP or Afghan corruption. There are no other narratives than those of American left or right....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 9:13am

The hype machine and the Washington Consensus:

<blockquote>How can you tell the difference between a real report about online vulnerabilities and someone who is trying to scare you about the security of the internet because they have an agenda, such as landing lucrative, secret contracts from the government?
Here’s a simple test: Count the number of times they use the adjective “cyber.” Nobody uses the word “cyber” anymore, except people trying to scare you and trying to make the internet seem scary or foreign. (Think, for instance, of the term “cyberbullying,” which is somehow much more crazy and new and in need of legislation than “online bullying.”)</blockquote>

<strong>Check the Hype — There’s No Such Thing As ‘Cyber’</strong>

I like to research but I don't like to write, lurking young people (no, I know they lurk). Help me out, will you? I do a lot of the grunt work for you, so get going....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 9:17am

Without the link, then:

The American Plutocracy, Google and the Washington Consensus:

<blockquote>The asymmetry, though, is everywhere — and it is especially strong in Silicon Valley, which has left people like Barlow behind. Its utopian visions long ago lost their countercultural, <strong>communitarian</strong> impulses. Today’s ambitions include Randian projects like secession, seasteading or private “innovation zones” where government regulations wouldn’t apply. Even when developers and venture capitalists vow that their new apps will “change the world,” they are generally talking about making life easier for the millennial set. Uber is not exactly the “new home of Mind.”
The disappointments accrue from there — tech companies’ slavish devotion to advertising, massive inequality and the labor inequities in the “sharing economy”; the displacement of San Francisco’s working class; the emergence of Google as a major lobbyist as calculating as any <strong> defense contractor (which Google now is, thanks to its robotics investments).</strong></blockquote>

<strong>Meet the man whose utopian vision for the Internet conquered, and then warped, Silicon Valley</strong> (Washington Post, links won't work)

Aside from the trolling for contracts, why are certain members of the military prone to marketing and hype? From COIN to Cyber to Gray zones? What is this psychologic predilection?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 8:58am

This piece by Michael Lind in The National Interest is one of the best things I've read in ages. It's a bit inside baseball in terms of American conservatism but it is remarkably empathetic to the frustration of different groups in the US and the relationship of that frustration to structural features in American politics. Trump isn't all about racism or nativism, it's a complicated response to changing economic interests:

<blockquote>The possibility that Donald Trump will win the Republican party’s presidential nomination has inspired leading neoconservatives like Eliot A. Cohen, Robert Kagan and Max Boot to insist that they will never support him. But the neoconservatives of a generation ago like Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz are themselves partly to blame for the rise of Trump-style national populism in the United States. By spurning their natural constituency—the mostly-white working class—the neoconservative leadership deprived a substantial portion of the American electorate of its own sympathetic, moderating and technocratic intelligentsia.</blockquote>…

To those that might object to the political nature of these comments for a site dedicated to Small Wars, well, we in the vaunted "West" do this to other nations all the time, try and understand their instability through their political process as SOF and the US military talks or the State Dept. about "shaping" (i.e. political meddling) a foreign policy environment.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/04/2016 - 10:10am

That National Interest article on Robert Work was hilarious but I guess This Town is buzzing about something else today:

From Twitter (how much money is it making again? That's what Eric Schmidt, Silicon Valley, Robert Work and This Town will do, I'm guessing. Oh, why don't I just start up my own This Town defense blog filled with amusement, bitchiness and bile? Hedda Hopper looks at the This Town!):

<blockquote>Ryan Evans ‏@EvansRyan202 14h14 hours ago
.@WarOnTheRocks cited today on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, by BBC, WaPo, NYT, Telegraph, HuffPo, Fortune, Reuters, and more. Thanks to you all!</blockquote>

Indeed. Why be a conduit for smaller fry when bigger fry is ready to do business? Well, NATO and the Atlantic lobby aren't really small fry.

Aw, the news business. No wonder Trump is doing well. Who informs anyone about anything? It's all just Politico gossip.

The Borg absorption is complete. Well, enjoy the victory lap and remember, those that give favors can take them away abruptly and without warning. Have a plan B.

It doesn't show but I actually kind of admire him in a weird way.

And I will never admit this again and if you bring it up I will deny it, but I sort of admire Dr. Exum too. Well, in the sense that he is the real deal, all those gifts from the gods, the health to have been in the Rangers was it? and to be as intellectually gifted. But why waste it on careerism and This Town? I will never understand those whom the gods bless with good health and all the rest. Why waste it?

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/04/2016 - 10:16am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

The sad thing is that patients were treated based on those unvalidated tests. First, Do No Harm.

There is a reason medicine is cautious and slow. That can be bad, it's true, but look what happens when you rush tests onto the market without validating them.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/04/2016 - 9:53am

Once again, because technology is awesome:

<blockquote>Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive officer of Google, will head a new Pentagon advisory board aimed at bringing Silicon Valley innovation and best practices to the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday.</blockquote>

<em>- Former Google CEO Schmidt to head new Pentagon innovation board</em> (Reuters). Links won't embed again, so can't link.

Nothing worrisome about this public private partnership. Lots of contractor big data money here. Big Data = F-35, just a fancy way to transfer money.

Ashton Carter and Robert Work and Centaur Armies. What happened in AfPak while your centaur drones were patrolling the skies? Who was hiding out where? How many nukes did the fungible aid given for drone access buy?

All those MBA Silicon Valley worshiping Defense Entrepreneur military guys and gals ought to read up on the story of Theranos, which is what Eric Schmidt will do to you. Heck, everyone at West Point being fed cyber pablum ought to read up on Theranos:

<blockquote>First, it's easier to pile on when the media narrative turns. Kudos to media outlets (1A) and scientists (2, 3A, B, C) who questioned back when the uniform media narrative around Theranos was cloyingly fawning and credulous.
Several scientists were already publicly dubious about Theranos' disproportionate and baffling secrecy, lack of peer-reviewed publications and utterly non-scientific but heavily political Board of Directors.
In an eerily prescient article published in JAMA (journal) on Feb 17, 2015 (2), one of the most important among such high-profile scientific critics, John Ioannidis wrote, </em>'Information about Theranos, a privately held biotechnology company that has developed novel approaches for laboratory diagnostic testing, has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, San Francisco Business Times, Fortune, Forbes, Medscape, and Silicon Valley Business Journal—<strong>but not in the peer-reviewed biomedical literature.</strong></em></blockquote>

- <em>What should we learn from the problems Theranos is facing?</em> Quora

The President is a technoutopian, isn't he? He was on the cover of Popular Science recently and he seems to think everyone in the future will be a coder for Silicon Valley. They really got to him, didn't they? Between McCain and the President and Washington Post, Silicon Valley now trumps (ha ha) Wall Street.

I can't believe you all fall for this. Like I said, about the time of the crash, during my year in Palo Alto, I'd look up from my medical books and ask how a certain company was going to make money. No one ever had a real answer.

That's Silicon Valley for you. You are going to get Theranos-ed up the wazoo.