Small Wars Journal

Irregular Warfare and the Two Minds of the Venture Capital Green Beret

Wed, 06/20/2012 - 11:11am

I did not surrender idealism when our only child was born, but rather I came to see the world and its strengths, flaws and dangers specifically in terms of her future. Before the birth of my daughter I entertained all kinds of ideas as to how the world is and how it should be and all the various reasons why. And much like Don Quixote, I tilted at many a windmill. But when our child was born I was able to stop looking at the world through the biases of my own beliefs and ambitions and to begin to see the world she would live in.

When I finally stepped back from my own path to look at the world as it related to her future, I did so with the eyes of a seasoned investor entrepreneur and former soldier. I looked with a mind trained to recognize potential for Return on Investment, to model Risk and Uncertainty and to design courses of action which realize returns in hostile environments. And it quickly became apparent to me the greatest threat to the future of our now three year old daughter was not competing ideologies or politics, a clash of religions or civilizations, nor was it a nuclear armed rogue state or stateless terrorism.

The real threat is the ever expanding pool of disaffected youth, peoples and communities available to the siren call of the enemies of freedom, the very freedom we who are blessed with seem to so carelessly take for granted. The more specific concern which came to mind was the ever increasing pool of those willing to support the modern Totalitarianism known as Fundamentalism, and this even while the standard of living for most of Earth’s seven billion inhabitants is improving. That led to a couple other questions which had to be asked and answered. The first is, why are so many of the world’s people willing to kill and die for so little? And the second is, what, if anything, can we do about it?

In pursuit of an answer to these questions, it became clear to me we could be blinded by and argue from cultural, religious, moral or political ideology until the world came down around us, or we could face the uncomfortable truth. And truth is, with some few exceptions which are only concerned with chaos or power, so many are willing to die because the past, present and future does not possess the same potentials for their children as it does for ours. This led to one further question. Why is it that our children do not possess the same potential for the future? Though I can already hear the arguments, the answer is simple. These peoples have yet to be iolded into the world of globalization, which does not mean American, European or even Chinese Capitalism, or the Corporatism which is now dominant and which seems to have reduced Capitalism to a bad word.

Globalization is nothing more than the now nearly global community that is becoming ever more integrated, becoming a single whole of myriad cultures and peoples and integrated economic engines. With the inexorable rise in population densities, and whether we are comfortable with it or not, the pace at which the world is becoming smaller, globalization is occurring, with boundaries between peoples becoming increasingly thinner and less obvious, is accelerating. And unless we wish to wall communities off from globalization, to set them up as amusement parks to showcase the Noble Savage, to deal with their own problems until such time as they become ours, this trend towards integration will continue unabated, as will the volume of those willing to fight the system, to bring modernity down.

And in the world of globalization, so many are disaffected due to the fact they have little incentive to support or defend a system they believe they have almost no part in, a system which has become so complex and fast paced it is almost unknowable. As the population continues to increase, as technology and communications continue to advance, as business and finance continue to evolve beyond classical models to quantum models, more and more become dissatisfied, and not just in those parts of the world where SOF operates, but even in the advanced and modern countries of the world.  

Globalization is an exceedingly complex system, one that embraces both the Mind of the System and the Mind of the Disruptor and in so doing empowers the Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist to ensure the economy continues to evolve, expand and improve. The now nearly global economic system is about improving asset valuations and creating new wealth through the application of creative destruction, by cannibalizing old ways of doing things with new ways which are more efficient. Complexity, application of both minds and the intentional destruction of traditional ways of doing things have led many of those born and raised in Capitalist systems and with Western educations to fear globalization. Imagine how much greater is the fear for those who live in the underdeveloped parts of the world where there is little or no Capitalism or Western education, where leaders have walled their people off from the knowledge necessary to benefit from the modern world. It is no wonder so many are willing to listen and to support those calling for a poorer, simpler, though totalitarian, way of life.

Much of the blame rests firmly on the shoulders of the Western (Modern) world. Exhausted from WWII, the modern world abandoned its colonies, and in a single minded effort to win the Cold War we created a welfare state of the undeveloped parts of the world. Then, when we had won this war, we simply walked away again, leaving the local peoples to fend for themselves in a world they were not prepared for and in most cases could not understand. Meaning, we did virtually nothing to transfer business knowledge and develop local economic infrastructures or to impart the entrepreneurial and investor skills required of participating members of modernity, of globalization. For an example more relevant to the conflict my ODA is now a part of, we didn’t back Charlie Wilson, et al when the costs would have been almost infinitely less than this now eleven year war.

Understanding this led me to look to identify a possible solution, to identify those who were pursuing solutions and to see where there might be room for addition or refinement of these efforts. Having been a corporate executive, technology entrepreneur and investor, having previously served ten years in the Army, and having spent time with many a former Green Beret in the mountains of Idaho and Washington as a child and teenager, the answer seemed clear. We needed to enhance and further enable the entrepreneurial spirit at the tactical level, right in those villages where the enemy was and is recruiting. And the force to do it, the force that was already in those villages, tasked with knowledge transfer, and more importantly, with relationship building, was SF.

Of course this would be no light undertaking and would require the introduction of yet more training for certain members of the Regiment, a Regiment already stretched thin, already tasked with a large number of secondary specialties. As with any new business line I knew that if this capability was to be added it would have to firstly enhance existing efforts and utilize existing resources, and secondly would have to alleviate and directly address real-world, in-the-fight needs. And in pursuit of an understanding of how this might be added to the SF Curriculum and tasking and how it would be applied and realized on the ground to the support of the greater mission, some additional themes had to be further developed.

First, thriving economies do not come into existence as the result of centralized and top down conventional thinking and processes, or through large-scale wealth transfer, or in environments of pooled assets and wealth. The Mind of the System, of government, of Corporatism, strives to sustain the status quo and therefore works to control resources and growth, to pool assets and wealth, and to stifle the innovative capacities which are critical to creation and distribution of wealth across a population.

Second, an economy can only be created and sustained through the boundless energies and limitless creativity of the people living at the expansive, chaotic edges of a system, employing the Mind of the Disruptor to establish new assets and wealth. This means, though government and corporations are essential to absorbing and enabling the innovation and productivity at the edges, they are not the driving force of a healthy economy.

Third, governance and security arise only from a people willing to sacrifice themselves for demonstrable, short, medium and long-term improvements in their standard of living. This requires an existing and improving economic base the community and its leaders are committed to improving through ongoing governance and security improvements. And what this means is that improvements in one cannot wait for improvements in the other, as all three, governance, security and economics, must be developed concurrently.

Fourth, the organization trained to employ the Mind of the System and the Mind of the Disruptor to promote stability and development in the most dangerous parts of the world is SF. Yet, though the members of the Regiment are skilled at governance and security, and many of the economic development resources have been put in place, Green Berets are lacking in the business and investing knowledge and experience essential to set the conditions for internally driven, sustainable local economic development.

When combined, these thoughts led to the realization SF could add Entrepreneur and Venture Capital training to its already extensive capacities with minimal investment and disruption.  And should such occur, the Green Beret’s mission of freeing the oppressed of the world would be greatly enhanced. So, at the age of forty one, and after a seventeen year break in service, I returned to the Army to serve as a Green Beret with the purpose to better understand how these capabilities could and should be added. And after completing the Special Forces Qualification Course, I drafted and put forward a proposal for the Economic Development Program which was provided to the Commandant of the Warrant Officer Institute and the Command Warrant for Special Forces.

Mind of the System vs Mind of the Disruptor

Before we discuss how VC and Entrepreneur training would be added to the Regiment’s capabilities and practices, how the Economic Development Program would be structured, phased in and operated (which will be the topic for the third article), we must first fully understand the Mind of the System and the Mind of the Disruptor. This is due to the fact fostering capacity and stability in those underdeveloped parts of the world where SF operates requires a comfort employing both minds seamlessly. And the reason for this is the interplay between the two minds shapes every aspect of our existence and in particular the world of economics, finance and globalization.

The nature of a healthy and expanding System is that it is always composed of, challenged by and made possible through two intertwined yet quite distinct and conflicting minds. These are the Mind of the System and the Mind of the Disruptor, and though these two are at constant war, one without the other cannot long survive. This is because only the active conflict and mutually supportive nature of these two minds allows for asset creation, management and the constructive destruction, the cannibalization of investments, necessary to the sustainment and improvement of institutions, ecosystems and civilizations.

Neither of these minds can be taught but only refined, and their differences,  sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious, are always quite substantial, which is why the two are almost never resident within the same individual or organization. It is this, that the two minds exist together only within an extremely limited number of individuals and institutions, which makes it so difficult to intuitively grasp the role and purpose of each. However, if we are to understand the benefit and limitations of each and to know how they collectively create the world we live in we can begin by understanding the major differences.

The first, the Mind of the System, is an inwardly focused, defensive Mind seeking sustainability and growth by addressing Risk at the lowest energy expenditure possible. This results in:

  1. Large, centrally driven or totalitarian systems emphasizing increases in size and scope or absolute control in order to realize efficiencies across multiple domains;
  2.  Well defined roles and responsibilities based on highly specialized and individualized skills and functionality;
  3. Pooling of increasing amounts of assets, wealth and decision making within the control of a limited few; and
  4. Rigidity, vulnerability and dissipation derived from over specialization and from the burdensome complexity and costs inherent to maintaining a large or totalitarian system.

The second, the Mind of the Disruptor, is an outwardly focused, offensive Mind which exploits inefficiencies to create new assets and wealth and to rapidly reach higher, sustainable systemic energy states. This results in:

  1. New assets which expand to replace existing systems or which are folded into an existing system for improved efficiencies and management;
  2. Flexible skills and abilities which lead to new roles – responsibilities based on entirely new specializations and functionality, allowing for the evolution of capabilities;
  3. Expansion in the greater base of assets, wealth and skilled decision makers and a broader pool of beneficiaries and asset holders; and,
  4. Fluidity, strength and accumulation derived from the ability to quickly adjust to complexities and from the cannibalization and reinvestment of inefficient assets.

An economic and financial analog for the Mind of the System is the Stock Market and the surrounding Investment Banking and Brokerage industries (Corporatism & Government - Regular) and their focus on publicly traded financial instruments (known entities with extensive operating histories and relationships). For the Mind of the Disruptor we can look to the Private Equity Market and in particular its Venture Capital and Seed & Angel investors (Start-up Companies & Special Forces - Irregular) which focus on new companies and financial instruments (unknown entities with limited operating histories and relationships).

Where the first is responsible for defense of and improvements in valuation of existing assets, the second is responsible for establishing and improving the valuation of new assets. The System works with known entities in well developed ecosystems, employing standards and best practices, while seeking marginal returns on large investments. The Disruptor works with unknown entities not yet part of an existing or emerging ecosystem, employing assets, resources and relationships in innovative new ways while seeking large returns on small investments.

A direct analog for the Special Forces Regiment would be the:

Mind of the System (Investment Bank) – Group & Battalion – employing doctrinal operations, resources, models and metrics to ensure sustainment and moderate expansion and return on investment in the overall Area of Responsibility;

Mind of the Disruptor (Venture Capital Fund) – Company & ODA – employing dynamic, situation and resource availability dependent operations, models and metrics to establish and expand stability and to realize substantial return on investment (sic, mission success) at lower input volumes and costs and with greatly accelerated rates of return in the Area of Operations.

The greatest strength of the Regiment and what once made ODAs unique in the world of military units and Special Operations Forces, was the fact the Green Beret historically encompassed both these minds. However, in the post Cold War Era, the era of the 18 Series Branch, the balance between the two has swung steadily towards the System. This trend has not abated. And the inevitable result of this progression, if allowed to continue, will ultimately be a rigid and static organization incapable of meeting its mandate of freeing the oppressed peoples of the world.

This is because, though still requiring Diplomatic, Information and Military power, the War on Oppression is now almost solely about establishing conditions for local, micro economies to develop and expand, about integrating with the globalized world. And that is not something the Mind of the System is designed for. The System is not capable of the task because it is the nature of Systems to sustain themselves as they are, and a System which is appropriate for one is often times inappropriate for another. Meaning the only Mind capable of the task is that of the Disruptor, tempered with and enabled by the Mind of the System. This means that if we are to empower the next, increasingly globalized generation with the same potentials we must rebalance the collective SF mind.

Good news is the rebalancing of the SF Mind will not require a rewrite of who the Green Beret is or what he does and how he does it. Nor will it take much time or be a generational change. It does mean where we now mostly pay lip service to the importance of unconventional thinkers, we will have to early identify and promote those who possess and develop both the Mind of the System and the Mind of the Disruptor. And where we now spend freely (money, energy and blood)  with little or no thought to Return on Investment (second and third order effects) we must begin to think like Venture Capitalists and emphasize empowering the individual and realizing ROI at the very entry level and in the dangerous parts of the world.

The Two Minded Green Beret

Of course there are the inevitable arguments which arise against such an idea as adding VC and Entrepreneur training to the Regiment, mostly related to how this is not the role for the Green Beret on the ODA. Many argue the role of SF is purely military in nature and should not and does not include any of the other six elements of national power. While a more direct argument is this is the role of all the various and myriad agencies and organizations whose mandates are infrastructure, governance and economic development. What is the point of a development focused Green Beret if there already exist organizations, resources and bodies of practice which address what is being recommended in this series of articles?

Though there are many arguments which could be brought to bear, and examples of how these beliefs are no longer valid in the Post Cold War – Post 9/11 world, I will focus my response in this article to three counterarguments.

  • Firstly, the primary role of the Green Beret is relationship building at the very early stage, entry level, which requires the application of both Minds, as applied to realizing a shared vision of the future and commitment to such;
  • Secondly, NGO’s, Agencies and other organizations are themselves but direct extensions of the existing, greater System and as such are not capable of establishing disruptive new systems; And,
  • Thirdly, in the under or undeveloped parts of the world, the role of the Green Beret is to set the conditions such that disruptive new systems arise or existing systems may evolve and begin the process whereby higher level assets can get involved and bring their many resources to bear.

Though many of the people we work with are uneducated, they are not unintelligent, and many are highly intelligent. When we ask them to stand up and fight, to train with us, sacrifice their lives for us, they are not fooled by empty or false promises. The former colonial powers are notorious in the former colonies for not keeping their promises, of using the local fighters to fight their wars and then leaving them with nothing but instability and a force highly trained to do nothing but fight. Of course they will work with us, we roll in with wads of funds and their governments get subsidized by the US. But do we form real, lasting and trusted relationships this way, the kind that we could put our own lives in their hands? Without demonstrating how they can personally, financially and economically benefit from working with us what kind of relationship do we establish and is it the kind that supports the interests of the modern world, or the kind that will costs us vastly more in the future?

What happens to this highly trained fighting force once we leave, not having trained them also in how to support and why to support local business and to develop and foster entrepreneurship? What happens when they themselves, no longer subsidized by the US, have nowhere else to turn to earn a living, but to extorting the very same people they defended along with us? Without some training in business and how to use the Mind of the Disruptor constructively, we cannot hope they will simply lay down their arms and know what else to do to feed their family. We are too often blinded by the options we have available in our own developed countries which provide vastly more opportunities to our men and women who once trained to and fought on our behalf.

Only when the individual understands the economic advantages and personal freedoms my child has, came from and are extended by the same sacrifices our own people made and are making. When they understand it was and is our defense and support of the entrepreneur and investor and not the central government, which makes our country so successful. This is when we develop real entanglement of purpose, interest, only then will the local people begin the process, many times by putting themselves and their families in real danger, of creating stability and the conditions for sustainable systems to arise. All of which is critical before system based assets can get involved.

If we lead with NGO’s, CA, USAID, State Department and other System based assets, before enough knowledge transfer and development has occurred all we generally create is another welfare state, or worse, prop up ineffective or abuse regimes. Welfare states tend to only perpetuate conflicts as there is no incentive on the part of the state, to win. If they win, the checks dry up, the current elite are no longer supported by US dollars. Before the immense resources of the System can be brought to bear we have to provide an alternative reason to win, develop the conditions and transfer the knowledge such that actual, non-welfare state, economies exist, even if only in nascent form. An expanding economy, and the benefit in growth of such spread amongst a large enough slice of the population, is the only real incentive to aggressively pursue the end of a conflict (sic, sacrifice two of your four sons). And that requires the judicious application of both Minds.

Just as in our advanced economies, it is not government agencies or NGO’s or the Mind of the System which create, drive, evolve or sustain the economy, though they certainly play an important role. It is the collection of individuals, each with Mind of the Disruptor derived innovative business ideas and the energy to make them a reality, that is the real driving force of economic development. There can be no doubt the thinking, resources, knowledge, relationships and protection of the System is required for success, but this does not come into account until a certain degree of due diligence and development has occurred.

The intelligence and power of these System assets and the individuals who represent them, is not in understanding what needs to come into existence or be supported, but rather in knowing which resources are available and how to apply them once the right entities and individuals to support have been identified. And at this entry level, it is the Green Beret in the community, at the very base level, who is conducting that due diligence and identifying how supporting such local entities and individuals will meet tactical and strategic needs. And it is the SF Operator, building relationships with local individuals and Host Nation counterparts, who is setting the conditions for the larger, more resourced entities to get involved and take things to higher levels of development and stability.

I am sure my thinking is wrong, that it is all far more complex than I am capable of understanding.  I am certain there are those out there, far more intelligent than I, who have the mixed basket of right answers. But since the birth of my child, since becoming a father, I cannot stop thinking as a father. As a father I don’t care about all those ethereal and higher ideals and beliefs, about ideology or politics. All I care about is the future for my child. And when I look in the eyes of the fathers here, I see the very same desire for a better future for their children, and telling them to fight with and for me is not enough to build a real, sustainable and trusted relationship on. I have to be willing and able to use the Mind of the Disruptor when applying Mind of the System assets and resources, to establish or improve the local economy which in-turn improves the standard of living for the local father who is standing next to me as the bullets and RPGs fly around us.

This is the second of four articles. They are excerpted from two papers which can be provided upon request and which are the kernel for my upcoming thesis. The next article will talk about how the Economic Development Program would function and be added to the SF curriculum and practice. 

About the Author(s)

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



As a life-long civilian, outside the tight culture of the active duty military and even tighter one of the Special Forces, I would like to make three points in my note.

1. I appreciate the Army decision-making model, as a civilian who has worked with the State Department in Iraq and USAID in Afghanistan.

2. The breadth of this essay’s ‘renaissance vision’ makes a succinct response impossible.

3. Mr Burlingame’s conviction ought not to be confused with arrogance.

Decision-making for the really dangerous real world. What outsiders often find surprising is the amount of open debate within the Army (and, by that, I mean all of the uniformed services). The chain-of-command applies far more to the implementation rather than the conception. Yours is a great model for decision-making in highly uncertain, not to mention dangerous, atmospheres.

Missive Impossible. Over the last few days, I have written several drafts of this note; all end up being long and rambling because I try to answer specific points from the text. In desperation, I clipped thoughts verbatim from the article to narrow my view to the basics and ended up with two full pages. The bind is that I cannot give its sweeping vision the justice it deserves.

Don´t convict conviction. In writing you all, I really have to confess to strong disagreement with assumptions underlying the appended comments. E.M. Burlingame´s conviction reflects the world of finance from which we both came. The fact is, that world, if an innovator displays a hint of tentativeness, both he and the idea are gone.

Defense of the vision underlying this proposal. We most assurèdly face the uncomfortable truth right now that the ‘whole-of-government’mission in Afghanistan is not turning out the way we had hoped. Such a truth is understandably difficult to accept in the face of your comrades lost, our toil devoted and everyone’s treasure invested. Hopefully, facing this truth can set us free from narrow or desperate thinking.

That possibility does not make things easy. As E.M. discusses in his essay, however, part of modernizing (i.e., joining the world of globalization) entails ‘creative destruction’, not only of industries but of traditions along the way. This process has occurred over time and across time-zones in places as diverse as Europe, Africa and the Pacific Rim. Nonetheless, time takes time.

The transition from tribalism to globalism in Afghanistan will entail an eventual ascendancy to power of the middle and upper middle classes against static power structures. With two years left in Afghanistan, we are very fortunate to have a practitioner, with a strong sense of the ground truth there, elaborating a new counter-insurgency model. After all, almost all of the counterinsurgency literature out there is written by those who lost one or formulated their ‘cutting edge’ ideas on K-Street or in Cambridge.

When one cuts through the essential details of this proposal, what we have here is something that addresses why most counter-insurgencies fail: modernization takes too long. I am reminded of Viet-Nam. Within twenty-five years of the fall of the South Vietnamese, that society was beginning to resemble far more what we Americans had so wanted to see during our intervention. In a sense, we won through losing.

What! How is that? Our presence planted the seeds for inner growth toward capitalism, modernity and democracy. The best of the example we set remained with the people to be ingested over time and without the off-setting distraction of the presence of ‘occupiers’. That is exactly what this program can do: set an example of freedom and hasten the process of modernization through empowering a nascent middle class inside the villages to change the culture from the bottom up.

When enough villagers, born with that rare capacity of dual-minded decision-making, have the confidence to apply it, they may well begin to create a vanguard of change. How? By bringing up children as a new generation of entrepreneurs and by mentoring others of their age. The diffusion of skills over time will present a more compelling model for counterinsurgency than what we see today. Call the process one of ‘cultural evolution’.

All this will take time, several decades in view of the country’s low education rates, for the newer middle class culture to emerge. That is what we should expect, not because Afghans are inert or stupid but because this modernization will have to come to terms with various deeply ingrained indigenous traditions to make a lasting change. That is why I like to say that the battlefield in situations like this one remains the future.

This proposal, then, enables select Afghans – an entrepreneurial segment – to bring modernization gradually, through a growing and uniquely Afghan version of a venture capital community at the country’s current center of gravity: the villages. The departing example set by the U.S. remains our choice. Nevertheless, the future of Afghanistan belongs to our host-country counterparts. This program widens their choice for an alternate, better, destiny.

Thank you for your patience.

G Martin

Sun, 06/24/2012 - 7:57pm

COL Maxwell-

It might just be his delivery- which, like most in their first few works- may need some refining. His answer to my reply on his first article- re-posted here:

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

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

- seems not to advocate the wholesale strategic logic of what he says in this article and the body of the first.

Although I think you could make the argument- using his own words- that this is NOT what he has been saying- I think if he is only arguing as he does in that post- that this would only be "applied when and where applicable"- that might be something to look into.

I'd only advise EM to work on delivery- even if one believes in all of the other stuff- it is quite possible that all the other stuff is not necessary- indeed, it probably detracts- from the potentially valuable conclusion. So, maybe if we re-worded the thesis a little thus:

- Overall thesis: There are instances wherein an understanding of different theories of how wealth is created on the micro level may be useful to any small unit conducting FID, especially an SFODA- to include knowledge of the macro systems needed to support and sustain that wealth creation. One of these theories- the A&SVC model theory- can be used in certain situations to the ultimate goal of stability in unstable areas.

- First, here are some alternate theories (alternate to the development model) on how stability is achieved (briefly describe their strengths and weaknesses).

- Second, here are a few of the more popular theories on how wealth is created: M, N, & O. One other such theory is the "angel and seed venture capitalist" model of wealth creation. The A&SVC model theory is made up of these 3 characteristics. In certain scenarios (A, B, & C- historical references), this model was arguably necessary in creating wealth and eventually contributing greatly to stability. The characteristics common to all of these examples are z, y, & w.

- Of course, like any theory about human behavior and economic activity writ large- especially those attempting to guide activity in the future- one must take into account both alternative theories for why A, B, & C turned out the way they did (and here are a, b, & c alternate theories) as well as historical examples wherein angel and seed venture capitalist models did not work- such as D, E, & F. Here are a few suppositions on why a, b, & c are improbable in explaining those situations as well as some suppositions about why D, E, & F are unique in history (or, characteristics of D, E, & F that make them bad examples to undertake A&SVC activities).

- And so, in conclusion- when the characteristics in a certain situation are z, y, & w- it may be valuable for an SFODA or other small unit supporting or engaged in FID- when it supports its next higher HQs- to support HN efforts using the Angel and Seed Venture Capitalist (A&SVC) model of economic development.

- Next paper: Why it would be important for small units and/or SFODAs to learn about A&SVC models (3 reasons SFODAs are more likely to face situations wherein A&SVC models would be successful and/or essential for mission accomplishment).

- Last paper: How to incorporate A&SVC model theories into Army and- in particular- SF training.

Not sure, EM, if you have run this by a faculty adviser or not yet- but that is the type of feedback I found invaluable when writing a thesis or other work for publishing. If you do not state alternatives to your thesis- and address your own idea's weaknesses, then the paper is not considered as strong and you leave people open to bringing those points up. Instead- go ahead and confront them head-on, and that way you might better guide post-publishing debate about your idea rather than gaps in your logic and analysis. State your assumptions up-front, that way you aren't arguing about them later- everyone knows your assumptions and if they don't believe them- then arguing about your conclusions with them is a waste of time- even though arguing about your assumptions is probably very valuable if they are weak or not well-thought through.

Lastly- I'd suggest you might want to narrow down your topic to only the 2nd or 3rd topics that I stated above. The reason for that is they are arguably monstrously long topics in and of themselves. You could have a few small sections noting a little of the other topics and maybe suggestions for that type of research in the future- but, instead of engaging in some of the theoretical stuff- which really needs a lot of research and analysis to be robust- go directly into the way to incorporate it into SF and either let others do the gap research you i.d.- or you can come back to that in a later work.

Good luck---


Mon, 09/10/2012 - 11:46pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon


Thank you for the read and response. A couple thoughts:

"It all sounds good because you are associating one system that works in one environment (first world economies) with another environment (third world governments) expecting the same result. Dangerous stuff."

I am in concurrence with this and believe it is a major roadblock to our development efforts and focus. Most of our aid and development partners and agencies, though hard working and dedicated, find progress difficult because they unwittingly are attempting to leapfrog what exists in the theater to what exists at home. This is why Venture Capital, which is a small subset of the developed economies, is the model and in particular the Angel and Seed investors, which are an even smaller subset.

"I would only site one example. You state that states with centralized economies are bad for economic growth yet China has growth levels most of the rest of the world finds very enviable."

Having worked in China as a technology, media and infrastructure investor, from Harbin in the North to Cuxi in the South, I can say the China Miracle is not the result of centralized planning as many outside China would believe. The China Miracle is the direct result of the central government committing to providing the environment in which entrepreneurs and investors can exist and thrive. This is no different than our own federal and state governments.

"Economics loves to assume that each person is a rational actor who is looking to maximize his or her return reducing people into calculators."

Can't disagree in the least. Modern economics is based on classical physics style Risk and Uncertainty modelling, which is incapable of modelling the increasingly quantum economic and financial world we live in. I recommend Professor Akerlof, etal, and their work on quantum mechanics based economic modelling.

"The last metaphoric model was the "if we build it they will come" model."

Again, completely agree. This model does not work. That is not to say development shouldn't happen or be initiated prior to other efforts. Development efforts are important on many levels. And the end result we are after strategically is only realizable through the combined effort of all contributors. However, in the end, only the local people can build it themselves, that is if it is to be sustainable at all. This requires knowledge transfer at the very base level. And those who specialize in this ground level knowledge transfer are the VC, hence the analog.


Sat, 06/23/2012 - 10:11pm


The beginnings of the article sounded a lot like a rehash of "The Pentagon's New Map" which I personally find mostly accurate. I believe that you also accurately assess at least part of the problem in these disaffected area's outside the globalized world as being economic. But then you try to adopt a metaphor, a business model, as the answer. It all sounds good because you are associating one system that works in one environment (first world economies) with another environment (third world governments) expecting the same result. Dangerous stuff.

I would only site one example. You state that states with centralized economies are bad for economic growth yet China has growth levels most of the rest of the world finds very enviable. Meanwhile, the Capitalist systems across the globe are collapsing under the weight of their own borrowing (the fundamental principal of capitalism). We have exported a business model into a governmental system and found (or should be finding if we were not so hard headed) that it simply does not work. A government is designed to provide for its people; a business is designed to provide for its investors. The US Army and its sister services are the only "centrally managed socialist" organization in the government; it is also the most efficient in getting its job done (when that job is doable).

I would also caution you that economics and sociology and psychology do not necessarily mix. Just look at any stock market crash or run on a bank and you will see that people act in very irrational ways when threatened. Economics loves to assume that each person is a rational actor who is looking to maximize his or her return reducing people into calculators. People do not really work that way particularly in an environment where there are extremely limited options.

You are talking about social engineering and I think we have determined that social engineering is not as easy as it looks. The last metaphoric model was the "if we build it they will come" model. Sounded good then. There were even political scientists and prominent authors who swore it would work. Yet, Afghanistan still seems to function much as it did before we arrived despite all we have tried to build there.

I believe you are accurate that SOF need to incorporate an understanding of economics and how to improve them as part of their doctrine. I am just not sure I like your vision of it.

Bill C.

Sat, 06/23/2012 - 4:25pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Addendum to my comment immediately above:

Or would our formal telling the village leadership -- and the village population as a whole -- that our efforts would require that we "open up" their village to foreign ideas and beliefs, foreign enterprises, foreign practices, foreign markets and foreign populations; would the providing of this information tend to do us more harm than good?

Bill C.

Sat, 06/23/2012 - 12:01pm


Often very smart, knowledgeable and well-informed populations are given the opportunity -- and the incentive -- to (1) abandon their present way of life and to (2) adopt the way of life of foreigners. Consider here my examples of the American Indians, the American Southerners and the Japanese Samurai.

Yet, while clearly understanding the benefits (and the costs) of the foreigner's way of life, these very smart, knowledgeable and well-informed populations often choose to formerly reject it.

Normally it is after this formal rejection of the foreigner's way of life that the foreigner's own soldiers (and/or his locally-trained troops) arrive to impose the foreigner's way of life on these populations.

Now the question: Why do these populations go to war with the foreigners -- and with those individuals within their own country who wish to help the foreigners impose their (the foreigner's) way of life?

Could it be because these very smart, knowledgeable and well-informed populations believe that their children would best benefit from -- not the foreigner's way of life -- but, indeed, from their own time-honored beliefs, values, institutions and practices?

Herein, and noting the examples provided in my first paragraph above, I am suggesting that the more these populations learn about and become familar with our way of life -- and come to understand how it might clash with/destroy their own -- then the more likely it may be that these populations may turn harder against us.

Thus, the villagers coming to see the venture capitalist green beret -- not as a friend who is there in the village in a non-threatening capacity (to wit: to help with security, health care, etc.) -- but now as an enemy who is actually there in the village to "transform" them along foreign lines (to wit: as a threat).

To help reduce the chance that the venture capitalist green beret might come to be seen -- in these circumstances -- less as a friend and more as an enemy, should we carefully explain to the village elders and to the village population as a whole what our overall goals and objectives for the village and for the country are (for example: "to establish a widespread business base and a thriving commercial sector ... with an expanding base of industrial and services companies ... which can create the necessary number of jobs") and receive formal approval and permission from the village leadership to proceed accordingly?

Dave Maxwell

Thu, 06/21/2012 - 8:06pm

It pains me to have to write this about a fellow SF brother.

I have been thinking about this article since I read it yesterday and trying to determine how I feel about it and how to comment on it. I am happy that this young SF Soldier is willing to put his ideas out there and contribute to the debate but this article has been gnawing at me I think because of the tone and delivery.

I wonder if the SF Soldier would use T.E. Lawrence's quote to describe himself:

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible."

I know I will be accused of having the system of the mind by the young SF Soldier and I do not mean to discourage him at all but this biblical verse came into my mind when reading this.

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I no longer used childish ways."

I really do believe in encouraging these young men and want them to be creative thinkers AND doers. I like his idea of the "yin yang" of the mind of the system and mind of the disrupter and agree with the idea that we have to achieve the right balance between the two. I think I know many who possess that and even a few who are above the ODA level. But SF chest thumping along with a "we-they" mindset is unbecoming and does not enhance the reputation of the Regiment. I think the young SF Soldier has a lot to contribute but I think the arrogance (my perception at least) needs to be held in check and if so he could have a lot more positive influence. Again, I do not want to discourage him (or anyone who wants to contribute) because his ideas are worthy of discussion but he needs to work on his delivery. SF is a great capability; however, it is just one of our nation's many great capabilities. But there is no sliver bullet or holy grail. None of our great capabilities can do it alone.

To our young SF Soldier I say continue to write and put out your thought provoking ideas and contribute to the debate. I know you are as passionate about SF as me and anyone in the SF Regiment. But please leave the chest thumping out of your writings. If you want a little advice please take a look at this article before you write your next piece.…