Small Wars Journal

Economic and Religious Influencers in the Era of Population-centric Warfare

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 5:12am

Economic and Religious Influencers in the Era of Population-centric Warfare

Eric M. Burlingame

Emerio Foundation


The United States Special Operations Command is currently reorganizing itself as it shifts from conducting kinetic warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq to conducting population-centric warfare globally. Central to this shift is the establishment of the Global SOF Network, which is intended to provide better integration and thereby a greater footprint for SOF operations globally through improved resource sharing. However, success in these efforts is dependent upon the fielding of what will always be a limited number of SOF Operators, Operators skilled at recognizing core-framework Influencers and how such compete in the four “markets” or “environments” of the Integral Approach, as relates to the relationship development and maintenance that is the purpose of SOF engagements.


US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is currently shifting its focus from conducting kinetic warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to conducting population-centric, human domain, warfare in virtually every corner of the world, the infrastructure of which will be the Global SOF Network now being established. However, success of SOCOM’s Global SOF Network initiative will be almost solely dependent on the quantity, and more importantly the quality, of personal relationships established and sustained by a new breed of SOF Operator, an Operator knowledgeable of and adept at engaging the root Influencers of individuals, groups and communities. And though many would have us believe the core-framework Influencers on human thought and beliefs are religion, politics, government or some combination of all these, these Influencers are in fact only minor subsets of the whole – integral – individual. The true core-framework Influencer common to all aspects of human thinking and belief systems is the Economic Influencer, which is itself composed of nothing more complicated than the psychological need to work and provide a living for one’s family. This means ultimately, success at the human domain warfare of the Global SOF Network initiative will require SOF operators conduct engagements which effectively address the Economic Influencer through support for strong secular governments, bodies politic, and security organizations and practices emphasizing and supportive of economic expansion.


Unlike the world of 1987 when United States Special Operations Command was established, a world where the vast majority of humanity lived within a short distance of the community and culture they were born into, today’s world provides for virtually global mobility and access to almost the sum total of human knowledge. This fundamental and ongoing shift in human civilization requires SOCOM and its subordinate commands must utilize entirely new tools with which to model human behavior and to impact societal and individual Influencers. And where it was once enough to recognize a single Influencer, such as an ideological commonality, within an individual or community in order to gain value from a specific engagement, it is now necessary to utilize a whole-of-person, whole-of-community or rather an integrated-whole approach. To this, “[i]n the past two decades, a radically new theoretical framework for organizing the world and activities in it has started to achieve prominence and widespread recognition. Known as the Integral Approach, it has been used in everything from business to medicine, psychology to law, politics to sustainability, art to education.” (Wilbur, ix)

The Integral Approach separates everything into five elements which are quadrants, levels, lines, states and types. This paper does not go into a detailed analysis or description of the Integral Approach, rather it focuses on the element of the four quadrants, as they relate to Influencers and the Global SOF Network. In the Integral Approach, the upper right quadrant represents the Exterior-Individual and “Behavior”, while the upper left represents the Interior-Individual and “Intention”. The lower right quadrant contains the Exterior-Collective, the “Social”, and finally the lower left contains the Interior-Collective, the “Cultural.” The value of the Integral Approach and its four quadrants is that all thoughts, beliefs and actions, can be mapped to a single quadrant while being contextually and relativistically reflected in the other three simultaneously. More importantly, what this model demonstrates is that no action or thought is singular or isolated in nature, each is intentionally enacted by an individual externally according to an internal behavioral trait which is itself shaped by the internal influences of culture, and all of which externally fits within and in turn composes society.

Wilbur states, “[a]pplications of the Integral Model have recently exploded in business, because the applications are so immediate and obvious. The quadrants give the 4 “environments” or “markets” in which a product must survive...” (Wilber, 29) This concept of four integrated “markets” in which individual Influencers such as religion, politics, government and security must compete with all other Influencers provides the SOF Operator and SOCOM with the ability to develop highly targeted and effective tools with which to address personal engagement and metrics with which to measure such engagements for effectiveness. And there can be little doubt that with obviously limited resources being set against rising fundamentalism and radical political ideology, efficiency of engagement is increasing in criticality. To this, the Integral Approach provides a framework within which to more appropriately identify and value individual Influencers and to determine the specific impact of a given SOF Operator as they engage with counterparts, individuals and communities. More importantly, what the Integral Approach demonstrates is that religion, politics, governance and security, are only individual Influencers and not the actual “environment” or “market” in which these Influencers must compete, as is most widely believed. This concept of markets if very important as an understanding of how Influencers compete with one another within and across markets-environments, Influencers the Global SOF Network can impact such as governance, security and economics, provides SOCOM with the ability to far better target its limited resources.

The issue then becomes one of clearly defining what an Influencer is in order to recognize it within a given quadrant and across quadrants and to understand how to most effectively impact through SOF Operator engagement. Most definitions identify an Influencer as a power affecting a person, thing or a course of events, one which operates without any direct or apparent effort on the part of the individual, group or organization. Religious and political beliefs and ideologies are just such and are certainly powerful Influencers, but when seen from the perspective of the Integral Approach, these are but component pieces of the whole and not the most influential of Influencers in any single or across any or all quadrants. In fact, “…the great religions entered history, not so much as religions in the narrow meaning of that word, but rather as civilizations. Each staked out for its adherents a way of life – a life-world that encompassed not only things that we now consider distinctively religious, but also regions of life that the modern world divides into economics, politics, ethics, law, art, philosophy, and education.” (Smith, 151) That being said, there is one Influencer, which Smith denotes above, present and competitive in all four quadrants, a core-framework Influencer, which not only effectively competes but is also that which supports all other Influencers. And that core-framework Influencer is Economics.  


Durkheim in his seminal work on primal rights and the roots of the religious individual and society, states, “[h]owever little importance the religious ceremonies may have, they put the group into action; the groups assemble to celebrate them. So their first effect is to bring individuals together, to multiply the relations between them and to snake them more intimate with one another. By this very fact, the contents of their consciousness is changed. On ordinary days, it is utilitarian and individual avocations which take the greater part of the attention. Everyone attends to his own personal business; for most men, this primarily consists in satisfying the exigencies of material life, and the principal incentive to economic activity has always been a private interest.” (Durkheim, 347-348) The importance of Durkheim’s work to the Global SOF Network is in identifying the Influencers of religion and politics are themselves but extensions of the individual and group’s pursuit of societal interest, and not of the Economic Influencer that consumes most of human thought, time and endeavor. Smith states this in even simpler terms, “[w]ork is the staple of human life. The point is not simply that all but a few people must work to survive. Ultimately, the drive to work is psychological rather than economic. Forced to be idle, most people become irritable: forced to retire, they decline.” (Smith, 37) To this could be added, when not provided the opportunity to support ones family through economic expansion, when not gainfully employed, individuals turn to other Influencers such as religion and politics, due to what Marx stated concerning religion, namely that it is, “the opiate of the masses.”

The great irony of the first part of the 21st century, is that the economically advanced and secular Western world is at war with radical elements from the economically repressed and religious Islamic world. The irony arises from the fact Muhammad believed strongly in economic growth and that the Koran speaks directly to economics as a critical component of a “just” and “whole” society, “[j]ust as the health of an organism requires that nourishment be fed to its every segment, so too society’s health requires that material goods be widely and appropriately distributed. These are the basic principles of Islamic economics, and nowhere do Islam’s democratic impulses speak with greater force and clarity. The Koran, supplemented by the hadith, propounded measures that broke the barriers of economic caste and enormously reduced the injustices of special interest groups.” (Smith, 249-250) The great economic stagnation and imbalance which exists in many parts of the world, where SOF must engage and where fundamentalist and radical ideology find support, where not dependent on outright tyranny or lack of a strong nuclear government, is due to an incorrect and dangerous belief the Influencers of religion and politics are or should be the core Influencers on the individual and human civilization and the willingness on the part of some to constrain daily life to these Influencers alone.

Confucius however, discussed this very issue twenty five centuries ago, “No state…can constrain all its citizens all the time, nor any large fraction of them a large part of the time. It must rely on an acceptance of its will, an appreciable confidence in what it is doing. Noting that the three essentials of government were economic sufficiency, military sufficiency, and the confidence of its people…popular trust is by far the most important, for “if the people have no confidence in their government, it cannot stand.”” (Smith, 178) Confucius makes no mention of the religious or political Influencers. And for a demonstration of the importance of this absence and of the Economic Influencer itself to stability and security of a people and a region, “…we must look not to China’s twentieth-century politics but to the East Asian economic miracle of the last forty years. Taken together, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, all shaped by the Confucian ethic, constitute the dynamic center of economic growth in the later twentieth century…” (Smith, 192) To this should be added China’s economic expansion which has taken place since Smith wrote this statement in 1991. This observation is not intended to overlook the many conflicts within Southeast Asia, such as in Southern Thailand, or Mindanao Philippines. However, these nations, which are not Confucian based, have large disparities between the wealthy and the poor and in the areas where the conflict is greatest, almost completely stagnate economies which has made the local people less inclined to resist the encroachment of radically supported Islamic elements.

That being said, success of SOCOM’s Global SOF Network requires a movement away from the traditional over emphasis on religious and political Influencers, to include the religio-political derived Western concept of Democracy, from models which provide these Influencers with far greater import than is warranted and towards models and bodies of practice that accentuate the core-framework Influencer of pure Economics.  To this, and drawing upon the Integral Approach or Model, the Global SOF Network would realize improved success rates by emphasizing strong secular governance or “social systems” capable of impacting, “…exterior systems…such as ecosystems, geopolitical systems, modes of techno-economic production…and all of the visible, exterior, concrete aspects of collectives or systems.” (Wilbur, 223-224) This is not to say the Global SOF Network can forgo the traditional Influencers of security and governance which SOF has historically emphasized in its engagements, however movement away from the belief that the Influencers of religion and politics as prime Influencers towards the acceptance of the primacy of the Economic Influencer will greatly empower SOCOM and the Global SOF Network.


The scientific, cultural, economic and societal strength of the West was derived directly as the result of an intentional effort on the part of the architects of the modern world, such as the founding fathers of the United States and philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Locke and Hobbes, who believed in the power of secular governance and free markets, in freedom and the responsibility of individual choice. These modernists understood that, “[t]he religiously orthodox impulse views God as the ultimate judge of good and evil, regards sacred texts as divinely revealed and hence inerrant and timeless, and sees the deity as playing an active role in people's everyday lives. In contrast, the modernist' impulse views individuals as having to make moral decisions in the context of the times, sees religious texts and teachings as human creations that should be considered in cultural context along with other moral precepts, and regards individuals as largely determining their own fates.” (Davis and Robinson, 4) These thinkers exist even today, and even in the Islamic world. The power and import of secular and modernist thinking and of the primacy of the Economic Influencer is being recognized and supported even by those who helped created the modern Islamic state in Iran, such as Abdolkarim Sorush, a former Khomeini supporter, “Islam must develop its fiqh, so as to accommodate the modern industrial world, and evolve a philosophy of civil rights and an economic theory capable of holding its own in the twenty-first century.” (Armstrong, 184-185)

The difficulty in developing any philosophy today, in the era of political correctness in the West and Fundamentalism in the Islamic world, is that society is by its very nature composed of categories, “I vs You”, “Us vs Them”, “[s]ociety is possible only if the individuals and things that compose it are distributed into different groups, that is, classes, and if these groups themselves are classified in relation to each other. Society presupposes, therefore, a self-conscious organization that is none other than a classification.” (Durkheim, 339) Durkheim goes on to describe the core problem faced by SOF Operators engaged in the support of those whose philosophy is towards secular governance and security, “[t]his organization of society is naturally communicated to the space it occupies. To prevent collision, a fixed portion of space must be allocated to every particular group. In other words, the total space must be divided, differentiated, oriented, and these divisions and orientations must be known to every mind.” (Durkheim, 339) The result of this categorization and partitioning – staking out and a defending of a logical, philosophic, moral or physical space – inherent to society and the subsequent division along categorical lines, such as specific religious or political Influencers, leaves the SOF Operator with a dilemma composed of two parts. The first part is years, decades, generations and even centuries of conflict between parties defending these very spaces staked out by their unique societal categorization have led to completely divergent ways in which Influencers are conceptualized and expressed. The second part is the requirement to know and possess the capacity to translate the Influencers common between individuals, groups, and communities in order that these societal subsets may go on and work collectively where before they were isolated from and often at open conflict with one another.

The sum result of this is that the SOF Operator must find a means by which to gain common interest amongst and between individuals and groups, and directly in the space they currently occupy, in which they have clearly defined the “me-mine,” “we-ours,” “…[T]he cooperation of several people in pursuit of a common goal is possible only if they agree on the relation between this goal and the means to attain it, namely if a similar causal relation is granted by all the participants to the enterprise.” (Durkheim, 339) Religion and politics, as either ideology or Influencer, have never provided enough similar causal relation for a large enough subsection of societal categories to stand up as a unified people for any period of time, which unification represents itself as a strong body politic and as strong local and national government. In fact, the religious and political Influencers have been used most as a means by which to perpetuate difference, defend narrow societal categorization, and thereby as justification for prolonged conflict, abuses and scientific and economic stagnation. At the root of the issue of narrowly defined societal categories, are the finite resources contained within the “space” controlled by such societal subset as a given population, and as only “finite” resources exist, the barriers must be defended in order to protect such resources.  And though freedom of religion, and support of free markets have proven collectively, in the form of secular governments, and over protracted periods of time, to be concepts capable of bringing clearly defined, staunchly defended and conflicting societal categories together into a unified, stable people, the problems created by “finite” resources continues.

This means that central to the efforts of the Global SOF Network must be an understanding and ability to communicate the fact the core-framework Influencer of Economics, when coupled with another core-framework Influencer, Freedom, is not a zero-sum game, resources are unlimited and as such not owned by only a few, representative of ownership which must then be fought over. This is true even in the Muslim world as Smith states, “[t]he model that animates Muslim economics is the body’s circulation system. Health requires that blood flow freely and vigorously; sluggishness can bring illness, blood clots and occasion death. It is not different with the body politic, in which wealth takes the place of blood as the life-giving substance. as long as this analogy is honored and laws are in place to insure that wealth is in vigorous circulation, Islam does not object to the profit motive, economic competition, or entrepreneurial ventures – the more imaginative the latter, the better.” (Smith, 249-250)

As is well understood by SOCOM and many in the Special Operations community, historically the Economic Influencer has found its greatest ability to improve the standard of living, and thereby generate security and stability, when enmeshed in greater communities and societies represented by strong secular governments emphasizing and supporting individual freedom and private property. As an example, Armstrong discusses the Golden Era of Islam and how such was made possible by the strong secular government established under the Abbasids. “But however un-Islamic it was, the new caliphate was a political and economic success in these early days. The caliph’s role was to provide his subjects with security, and under Harun al-Rashid, when the caliphate was at its peak, the empire enjoyed an unprecedented peace…Harun al-Rashid was a patron of the arts and scholarship, and inspired a great cultural renaissance. Literary criticism, philosophy, poetry, medicine, mathematics and astronomy flourished not only in Baghdad but in Kufah, Basrah, Jundayvebar and Harran. Dhimmis participated in the florescence by translating the philosophical and medical texts of classical Hellenism from Greek and Syriac into Arabic.” (Armstrong, 55-56) An emphasis on the establishment and support of secular, not always read democratic, governments, governments which are strong supporters of the Influencer of Economics, the root of all Influencers, need be the overriding principle of the Global SOF Network, providing for the similar causal relation necessary to widespread and popular, local support for secular government.

However, emphasizing the Economic is difficult for the very reason Durkheim puts forward, “…economic activity is the preponderating one, and iris generally of a very mediocre intensity.” (Durkheim, 214-215) Which is quite unlike the religious or political Influencers which stir up the passions and drive individuals and communities to emotions, emotions easily manipulated and controlled by those who would use the disenfranchised to obtain their own political and economic objectives. That being the case, success of the SOF Operator as they engage in fostering and supporting strong secular governments through the application of traditional SOF operations enhanced by Economic knowledge transfer and relationship development will require a thorough understanding of the positive and constructive side of the emotion laden Influencers. Smith provides insight for the SOF Operator in the era of the Global SOF Network in his conversation regarding the importance of primal rites, found in such practices as religion, government and legal function, “[r]ather than being attempts to produce extraordinary effects…, primal rites work mainly to maintain the regular and normal; they are rituals of cooperation. As such they have both economic and psychological sides. While articulating economic facts and needs, they also sustain confidence in the processes of nature, spirituality conceived and determined, and renew hope for the future.” (Smith, 375)


Success of the Global SOF Network as currently proposed will be heavily dependent on application of highly efficient SOF Operator engagement models and metrics which demonstrate efficiencies as real Return on Investment. These models can be developed through the application of the Integral Approach which identifies the four independent yet interrelated “markets” or “environments” in which all individual Influencers must collectively compete. These markets, the Exterior-Individual representing “Behavior,” the Interior-Individual or “Intention,” the Exterior-Collective, “Social,” and the Interior-Collective which is the “Cultural” are not to be confused with Influencers, such as religion or politics, security or governance, rather they are environments in which these Influencers must compete. There is however a single unifying, a core-framework Influencer dominate in all four markets or quadrants and upon which all other Influencers depend, and that is the Economic Influencer. Greater awareness of the power of the Economic Influencer, a shift away from belief in religion and politics as prime Influencers, and support of the Economic Influencer by SOF Operators as part of the Global SOF Network will greatly enhance engagement efforts and provide for real, measurable and sustainable returns. This will require SOF Operators concentrate engagement efforts on support of secular government, government emphasizing the security and sound governance supportive of freedom and property rights, both of which are essential to economic expansion and all of which is directly measurable through improvements in local standards of living. All of this will require the next generation SOF Operator possess a far broader base of knowledge than traditional SOF education and experience provides, for as Ricard and Thuan state, “[n]o one can ignore the close relationship between science, power and economics.” (Ricard and Thuan, 16)


Armstrong, Karen (2001). Islam: A Short History. New York: Random House.

Unlike the far greater number of religions which articulate a clear distinction between the everyday external world and the spiritual inner world Islam is a religion which believes the manner by which one lives their life shoud be a direct reflection of Islam and Allah's will on Earth. The author discusses Islam as a historical religion and highlights the influence of Islam on the politics and development of the Islamic world and how the many different peoples, cultures and politics of the region in turn influenced Islam. The author discusses in depth how Islam has been reflected in the political and social justice systems of the region extending from Muhammad to modern day.

Davis, N. and Robinson, R. (April 2006). The Egalitarian Face of Islamic Orthodoxy: Support for Islamic Law and Economic Justice in Seven Muslim-majority Nations. American Sociological Review, V71, N2, pp. 167-190. American Sociological Association. Journal

The authors present the two religious-economic belief systems dominate in seven modern Islamic states. The first system is derived from religious orthodoxy, is communitarian in nature, and puts forward that the State and individuals are subject to timeless laws and God's will. Adherents to this system believe the State is responsible for providing for the poor through economic intervention. The second system is composed of modernists which are individualistic in nature. In this system economic individualism is promoted whereby the individual is responsible for their own economic well-being. When these two systems are then set against the requirement to provide for the poor as measured by shari'a law, the authors conclude the balance is towards the first system and communitarianism.

Durkheim, Emile (2001). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Print

Durkheim's work centers on the Aborigines of Australia and their primative belif system and how such is an analog for all belief systems, for the social need within humans to collect around a shared belief system. It is argued in the book that religion provides for the moral code around which human social interactions may occur and upon which these interactions depend. Durkheim's work has been highly influential for more than a century and has greatly impacted the fields of Evolutionary Psychology, Sociology and modern economics.

Jaffee, M.S. (December 2001). One God, one revelation, one people: On the symbolic structure of elective monotheism. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, V69, N4, pp. 753-775. Oxford University Press. Journal

This article focuses on the symbolic foundations of monotheism as relates to three of the world's largest monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Particular emphasis is placed on how the following of selective prophets, by nature, establishes an environment prone to rivalry and conflict between these belief systems. The author posits the conflict between these belief systems is not the result of failed ethics but of the use of symbol systems used to express the respective models for monotheistic practice.

Smith, Huston (1991). The World's Religions. New York: Harper One. Print

Smith provides a broad view of the world's leading religions and several native traditions which provide insight into current and the earliest belief systems of Earth. Where other works focus on the structural and ideological differences between faith systems, Smith emphasizes the internal nature of these systems, the commonalities and nuanced differences. Similar to the work done by Joseph Campbell which emphasized the shared Myths of belief systems, Smith discusses the shared and divergent core concepts of humanity as played out by each major religious system.  

Ricard, M.and Thuận, T. (2004). The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet. New York: Three Rivers Press. Print

Ricard, a biochemist educated Tibetan monk, and Trinh, a Buddhist raised astrophysicist discuss the essential answers sought by Buddhist practice and scientific discovery. The conversation identifies a great number of commonalities between concepts of Quantum Physics and those of Buddhism. This commonality is further strengthened by demonstrating how ancient and modern Buddhist thought is assisting scientific discovery while scientific discovery is assisting Buddhist practice. The confluence of these two major contemplative and experiential belief systems, science and Buddhism, is leading to a growth in the number of Buddhist practitioners in the West.

Wilber, Ken (2006). Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston: Integeral Books. Print

Integral Spirituality attempts to provide a modern basis for spirituality, one that takes into account the many advances in science and the sweeping changes to human civilization. Wilber demonstrates the interface between the Enlightenment of the East which emphasizes higher states of consciousnes and the Enlightenment of the West which focuses on psychodynamic psychology. The author argues each are contributing to a new spirituality which moves beyond modernity and post-modernity.

Wood, Linda, August 2008). Contact, Encounter, and Exchange at Esalen: A Window onto Late Twentieth-century American Spirituality. Pacific Historical Review, V77, N3. Pp. 453-487. University of California Press. Journal

This article discusses the contributions of the Esalen Insitute of California, which was a hotbed of cross-fertilization related to spirituality, science and religion. The Esalen Institute drew upon the heavy East-West interface in San Francisco, providing leaders and participants from around the world the forum to share their scientific and religious beliefs. The author discusses the impact of the Esalen Institute upon modern religious and spiritual practice and development of new  and shared symbols, memes and themes.

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.


Ned McDonnell III

Mon, 08/26/2013 - 6:53pm

In reply to by RantCorp


Apologies for a response too long delayed. First I was on vacay and did not see it until recently. I have also been busy getting discouraged in my effort to find gainful employment.

All that personal stuff said, I have to concede much of your argument since it is evident to me that you are far better and more deeply informed on the AfPak madness than I. Now or ever. That personal admission made, permit me to make a few clarifications or points paragraph by paragraph.

First, the idea of a homo-erotic Pashtunistan encouraged to flagellate itself into convenient extinction was largely facetious. You are right: no country gives up 'sovereign' territory willingly. On the other hand, has has Pakistan (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) ever existed as a country pre-1948?

Pakistanis may have a combative jealousy of territory but it is hard for me to see the place as anything aside from a post-colonial fiction of convenience to hasten the Birtish exit. That territoriality may be more localized and tribal than national.

Second, if taking out the nuclear weapons is not an option -- and you are persuasive in arguing that it is not -- what do we do if or when Pakistan collapses in the face of the Pakistani Taliban or some other extremist force? This partly goes back to my hard-to-erase feeling that Pakistan is not a sustainable entity.

Third, your insight into the big-bad armies losing to unsophisticated, if well-disciplined and coordinated, guerillas is a cause for melancholy for any of us who believe that somehow we can make people “see the way”. This may hearken back to the despair I felt about Viet Nam in the 1970s. Why could the U.S. not accept that all of its power would never dictate others' destinies?

Fourth, on your comments to mine earlier micro-quibs, I do not doubt the numbers you are reciting about the poppies. I am wondering why I have never seen or heard a mention of the Happy Time, etc. That oversight by officials briefing many people like me seems almost negligent.

Fifth, on the possibility that we may be violent meddlers, yours is a sobering thought. Again, I think we go slightly mad when we can not force or manipulate the outcome we want. Nevertheless, your wisdom has finally explained why so many Afghans I encountered of any ethnicity seemed uniformly to detest the Pakistanis most of all (even more than the Soviets..."We can get rid of them like we can get rid of you....").

Thanks, RantCorp, for taking a lot of time NOT in "just blowing smoke" but in giving me your excellent insights. God knows, I hope I can take those perceptions with me and remember them.

Ned McDonnell.


Wed, 07/31/2013 - 4:44pm

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III


I would respectfully suggest that Pakistan would be as likely to give up the Tribal Area of Pakistan as the US would give back the land annexed at the point of a gun from Mexico in 1846. I appreciate you were speaking somewhat in jest but I have found that many Westerners don’t believe Pakistanis to be particularly patriotic when it comes to their international borders; for a host of reasons including those you mentioned imposed by the Raj. Perhaps this misunderstanding occurs because in character their patriotism manifests itself completely differently to how a westernized citizen defines/displays patriotism. In my experience Pakistanis are insanely protective of every square inch of the country that was designated after partition in 1948. I would go far as to suggest that for many folks it can be just as murderous today as it was in the first few weeks of Partition when an estimated 2 million people were slaughtered.

The same sentiment would apply to your hypothetical seizure of Pak nukes. IMO the Paks would react in a similar manner to the US if Venezuelan Special Forces attempted to seize Minuteman 3 silos. It is hard to imagine a more inflammatory declaration of war. Under the old Cold War ‘protocol’ in the event of a rapid Warsaw Pact advance there was a ‘Use It or Lose It’ fiat-accompli as Soviet Spetnatz would attempt to seize command and control of tactical nukes (In much the same manner as heli-borne troops killed OBL ). It was/is considered a preemptive nuclear strike as the assault team are forcing the host nation to use them or lose them. The host nation being forced to launch or have the weapons detonated in-situ by the attacking force.

Regardless of the detail IMO many Asian nations would consider that to be a preemptive nuclear strike by he US. The repercussions from such an event are beyond my imagination.

What I find so disturbing is all the suffering, staggering expense and potential danger has come about because the West is unable to counter a sandal-wearing UW force whose primary weapons are fertilizer bombs, cell-phones and clapped out small arms. Our huge standing armies, designed to counter a surprise Warsaw Pact attack, have proved to be totally unfit for current purpose.

I understand that many influential folks believe intercepting a Chinese Armada attempting a surprise attack across 10,000 km of Pacific Ocean is an existential threat but surely Counter UW (which is currently killing our people and our allies) should be getting considerably more funding and attention than it currently attracts.

You suggested,

“Taliban gained acclaim, though not particularly well liked in its Islamic purism, were its restoring order forcefully, stamping out heroin production.”

Once again I would dispute the Islamic 'purity' of their ideology. I would describe their creed as extreme right wing neo-con - dogmatized by a 95% illiteracy rate in their own language and 99% inability to espouse a single written line of Koranic Arabic with any degree of insight.

You suggested,

"P.S. My few micro-quibbles were the impressions I have had that the reasons why the Taliban gained acclaim, though not particularly well liked in its Islamic purism, were its restoring order forcefully, stamping out heroin production and by putting to death a warlord for fussing with a boy. The money the Taliban makes from the heroin is something like 5% of the value of the annual harvest. I have always guessed that that $100 million comes from road-tolls, which the Taliban enforces neutrally and honestly. I also suspect the Taliban permits that harvest because its presence chips away at the legitimacy of the current governance with each passing truck-load."

The DEA could give you a ballpark figure as to the tonnage of brown sugar produced during the Taliban’s reign but they can give you a very accurate figure for the acreage under poppies via their satellite imagery. What they will tell is the acreage has never decreased. What the Talibs did was stockpile a year’s harvest and send the world’s addict population into cold turkey. The Af/Pak growers nostalgically refer to this subsequent price spike as the ‘Happy Time’.

It may surprise many that to the Iranians, Pakistanis, Indians and Chinese our failure to marry sophisticated tactical prowess to a coherent strategy indicates to them we are nothing better than violent meddlers . You and I might find that outrageous in terms of the number of innocent Afghans we have seen bombed, shot, raped, addicted or rendered homeless. Unfortunately owing to their Persian ethnicity or more correctly their West Asian origins the Afghans are condemned to remain mere political ‘noise ‘ in the ears of the Punjabi strategists - both Indian and Pakistani.

If the Pak’s existential security concerns via-a-vis their westerly neighbor/s are not satisfied it will not only be the ANSF and the ISAF that get no peace but every school, mosque, bridge, marketplace, canal, power plant etc will be attacked. They will continue their UW campaign to reduce their neighbor to a ungovernable wasteland until their political needs are addressed.

IMO our misguided and somewhat bogus endeavor in Iraq has had the destabilizing effect of bolstering the geopolitical influence of the Persian heartland and bolstered the possibility of a Shia Bomb. If we continue to misguidedly negotiate in terms of ideology, revolution, India and nation-building and not the political needs of Pakistan, the people that matter will continue ignore us and dismiss our efforts as those of the violent barbarians who have little understanding of the real purpose of War.

Just blowing smoke


Ned McDonnell III

Mon, 07/15/2013 - 10:22pm

In reply to by RantCorp

Dear Rant Corp. (clever alias),

Whoever you really are, thank you. This response ought to be an article in its own right as a partner-piece to E.M.'s article. I have a couple of quibbles rightfully relegated to a P.S. So, like the gallant Sir Robin in Monty Python who so gallantly gallops away, Sir Nedley so boldly doth proclaim, “¡Me, too! Me too!”

What you state, RC, hints at my biggest concern about Pakistan and Afghanistan: neither one is a country. One is a no-man's land circumscribed by the borders of three erstwhile empires while the other is a rump of India stripped away to placate a Muslim nationalist a life-time ago. And to top it off, there is a non-border between the two non-countries! One cannot make this scheiße up...The Duran line was initially intended, I suspect, to weaken the Pashtuns and to create a dependency by N.W. India on British hegemony as a source of order.

Rant-man, you hit on one reason that the West may have stayed with this entreprise for so long. If the Taliban were to return to power in Afghanistan and support the Taliban in Pakistan (more to keep them and the I.S.I. out of their own beards), that might be enough to topple the Pakistani figmentocracy, thus giving the Taliban, Hiqqanis, et al. 155 or so nuclear warheads.

If a pogrom against the Punjabis to seize control were not enough pre-emptively to draw India into a conflict, the next stop, overthrowing Kashmir, almost certainly would. Then things would get really hairy, not to mention what the Chinese might do. (I think that whatever China would do would be aimed at containing the conflict peaceably but that such an effort would likely fail and be perilously open to spin-outs from miscalculations.)

Honestly, the best solution my wretched little mind can come up with is to take-out the Pakistani nukes, the sooner the better; that is the serious part. Now for the fun: dissolve Afghanistan and either create a new nation of the North and West or allow the 'stans' to annex ethnically compatible territories.

Next, take the Pakistani part of the Pashtun happy humping grounds out of Pakistan; fuse it with the Afghan part; build a fence around the whole thing; and let them beat the daylights out of each other for the next five hundred years (with gates in the fence occasionally opened to allow women and children to escape). Hopefully the homosexual head-bashing would non-procreate itself out of existence in a century.

That scenario is obviously facetious but it does reflect the stubborn problems you describe so neatly. So, back on planet earth, we try to start local and build from there; to do that, we need some type of road-map intellectually to allocate resources toward the effort. E.M. deserves credit for trying, notwithstanding the valid criticisms articulated, to formulate such a road-map. Yet, I am surprised by all the hullaballoo about Iranian progress toward developing nuclear weapons with so little about Pakistan's already having enough of them to make everything uneasy.

And, yes, the idea of strategic depth has always struck me as an imploded Lebensraum. Thank you, again, Mr. R.C.

Ned McDonnell.

P.S. My few micro-quibbles were the impressions I have had that the reasons why the Taliban gained acclaim, though not particularly well liked in its Islamic purism, were its restoring order forcefully, stamping out heroin production and by putting to death a warlord for fussing with a boy. The money the Taliban makes from the heroin is something like 5% of the value of the annual harvest. I have always guessed that that $100 million comes from road-tolls, which the Taliban enforces neutrally and honestly. I also suspect the Taliban permits that harvest because its presence chips away at the legitimacy of the current governance with each passing truck-load.


Mon, 07/15/2013 - 5:54pm

An Integrated Approach to shaping an effective strategy to pop-centric warfare will only work if political and military leadership are willing to act upon direct advice as witnessed and experienced by operatives on the ground and not what they prefer to believe the ‘environment ‘ or ‘market’ should be.

Whether it is Influenced Quadrants, Clausewitz’s Trinity, Indirect Approach, Design, Jominic RMAs etc. it will amount to zip if we don’t call a spade a spade. If it takes some Harvard jargon to infuse some integrity into senior leadership decision-making we can all become ‘Harvard-mouthed hipsters’ for the greater good. Having said that I’m not 100% convinced the Economic Influencer will always be the dominant influence but EM probably isn’t suggesting as such. Certainly the Arab Spring is very much Economic Influenced – likewise Palestine and the Cuban revolution. The Chinese and Russian revolution perhaps but IMO in Vietnam and Algeria the main Influencer was political.

However no tool-kit will work if we continue to ignore well-informed advice from experienced personnel that we train and deploy at considerable cost. The forebears of SOCOM were spawned out of the British LRDG in Nth Africa and the Mi6/OSS fighting in occupied Europe and Asia. In 1945 the OSS team attached to Ho Chi Minh and Giap’s command HQ foretold exactly how the VN War was going to end. Ike (as Supreme Commander) took their advice but after FDR died Truman ignored it and backed the French. Come the Ike Presidency and the French defeat, Ridgeway’s exhaustive 1953 study restated what the OSS told Ike in 1945 but Kennedy knew better and despite the best efforts of the Ridgeway, Commandant Shoup and others the disaster swept millions away.

The point I’m trying to make is if some modern marketing tool can solve the lack of integrity in leadership decision- making the usual ‘pissing up the wall’ contest which features at the initial get-go ( much like what is currently breaking out on this thread) we may be able to neutralize the BS before it becomes a shit-storm.

Whilst the historical context can help determine a sound approach I believe there are more than enough mistakes since 9/11 that a new tool such as Integrated Approach or something similar can open a window for change. With all the problems of the last 12 years we don’t need VN to illustrate how to do Counter Unconventional War badly.

As EM suggests there are four quadrants that encapsulate our approach to UW – religion, politics, security and economics – there may be ten who knows - but those four should be enough to make intelligent decisions. IMO if we fail to understand one of these quadrants our efforts will probably fail – perhaps not total failure but the task will be extremely costly and far from satisfactory. If we fail to understand a second quadrant then the strategic foundation on which we stand will collapse. In Afghanistan IMO we have not understood a single one of to the primary causal elements and hence the current state of our efforts in countering UW. It is only the feeble resources of our opponents which have kept us staggering around the ring battered, bloodied and bankrupt.


Again and again we are told how the Taliban are determined in introduce Sharia Law. I have always found this a mind-bogglingly stupid observation. Certainly prior to 9/11 unless you were involved with the anti-Soviet effort you could be forgiven for not realizing that a large proportion of the male Pathan population are homosexual – especially the all-male largely unmarried madrassas raised Taliban - but not now. If you had read British Raj material you would have realized that this societal trait is historical and in fact as Alexander’s Greeks discovered predates Islam by nearly a thousand years.

To a merciful lesser degree the more damnable ‘bacha baz’ features in Pathan society especially in the Kandahar/Baluch regions.

Under Sharia Law for both of these transgressions the offender is put to death. For the former you are simply beheaded and the latter you are drawn and quartered and then cadaver is beheaded. We are talking hundreds of thousands of men being executed under Sharia Law.

Any suggestion that the Taliban are remotely interested in the very demanding dictates of Sharia Law indicates to me a total lack of understanding of the motivational mind-set of the enemy.
Needless to say they are perfectly aware of this conflict and the self-loathing manifests itself in misogamy and book-burning.

Equally damning is the Taliban’s main source of disposable income

Four million households in the Af/Pak region grow heroin. If an opium grower finds himself before a Sharia Court he will have a very quick trial indeed. Upon sentence he will be returned to the bright red fields of his violation, the nearest tree will be sought and he will be hung by the neck with some cheap thin nylon rope and left to rot to deter those who so blatantly transgress the teachings of the Prophet.


We are told that the Taliban is an Islamic revolutionary and/or resistance insurgency. In a similar manner to the mujahideen's resistance against the Soviet Union and the Saurists. In 1978 the communists declared atheism as Afghanistan’s State religion and attempted to collectivize all rural property. In response to the resulting uprising the Red Army turned most of the countryside into a free-fire zone. ISAF RoEs are anything but free-fire and from the outset has been attempting to create an Islamic Republic practicing a traditional market economy supported by a faith-based judicial system and school curriculum which among many other things hopes to enable 95% of the population to read and understand the Koran for the first time.

What part of a revolutionary or resistance agenda seeks to blow up markets, mosques, bridges, schools, dams etc utilized by innocent civilians? Far from a Revolutionary or Resistance movement the Taliban are an anarchist UW force employed by an aggressive neighbor who is determined to destroy the religious, political, security and economic infrastructure with indiscriminate bombings and murder.


We continually hear how the political tension between India and Pakistan is the reason why the Pak leadership is attempting to dominate its western neighbor so as to deny the Indian Army a ‘second front’. The line of thought is if nuclear war breaks out with Pakistan an Indian Army’s alliance with an Afghan Army will deny the ‘strategic depth’ Pakistan will need to survive a nuclear Armageddon. Bizarrely this theory calls for the Pak Army to abandon their radioactive homeland and retreat into the Iranian and Afghan deserts!

Since the Bronze Age (3000 to 1200 BC when most Western Europeans were running around in bearskin and eating each other) the inhabitants of the cities of the Indus Valley Civilization and the northern plains of the sub-continent have been hacked, beaten, burned raped and pillaged by the ethnic Persian warriors who swept down from the foothills of the Hindu Kush. Their descendants are the Pathans we know today. The race we today call Pathans are dramatically different to the lowlanders in skin-color, appearance, stature, temperament and language and it is hard to imagine two races who could be more different and to nobody’s surprise they do not enjoy each others company one bit.

The Indians aren’t the last people who want to see a Pathan Army emerging from the west- the Pakistan Punjabi occupy that position but the Indians come in a very close second-last on the list of folks on this planet who wish to see a Pathan Army forming up on the western horizon.

‘Hordes’ of rampaging ghazis are the stuff of nightmares for the plains people of the sub-continent. A Pathan Army barreling around Pakistan in jingle trucks with nuclear artillery shells rattling around in the back represents 50 centuries of nightmare all compressed into the ultimate existential catastrophe.


News Flash – There isn’t any!

The Russian and Pakistan Army have destroyed the Afghan economy and it will be last and the most difficult quadrant to turn around. Not including the soon to dry up foreign Aid the sole ‘productive’ industry is the drug industry and its chief beneficiaries are our enemies. As a consequence, to use a four-legged stool analogy, the other three legs supporting our strategy must be rock solid to support the weaker economic leg otherwise Afghanistan will continue to look much as it appears today.

So what?

All The ‘stan’ nations of central Asia, the Gulf states, South America, the Asian 'Tigers', the Arab States and the wealthier sub-Sahara states ie. Nigeria, Angola etc have been watching the West’s efforts in creating an Islamic state in Afghanistan with considerable trepidation.

What they see is if your neighbor decides to attack you with UW no amount of good intention, GPF superiority, money or blood can save you.

Unfortunately if the situation continues to deteriorate their gaze will shift a few hundred kms to the east for a possible solution.There on the Pak/Indy border it appears to be very simple. If you want security from the aggression of a neighbor you must go nuclear.

In my mind’s eye in 20 to 30 years’ time when there are possibly a hundred different countries with nukes – many of them as unstable as Pakistan is today what my grandchildren will be asking is where were the soldiers whose job it was to counter UW when there was just one nuclear rogue and it could have really made a difference.



Sun, 07/14/2013 - 7:42pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Certainly an American presence might be seen as imposing unwanted change, and that perception might have consequences. It's also possible, and probably more likely, that an American presence might be seen as obstructing desired change: historically, insurgency is more likely to be about a populace demanding change and a government clinging to the status quo than the other way around. It would be very unwise to box ourselves into a paradigm where we assume that resistance to change is necessarily a dominant driver of conflict.

Overall I'd say that any proposed effort to go about revising economic and social structures in another country is something the US should approach with a great deal of skepticism, and that skepticism should be doubled if it's assumed that this restructuring would be accomplished by military force. It is not a problem that is fundamentally suited to solution by an army.

Bill C.

Sun, 07/14/2013 - 1:46pm

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

"The larger end to all of this debate, which we all see in common, is how to improve the prospects of success -- not to mention the margin of safety -- for those younger brothers and sisters in uniform, whether in the Special Forces or Regular Army."

Then let us look at what "success" and the factors surrounding "soldier safety" look like:

If "success" is thought to be building and maintaining good relations with indigenous personnel, then I'm not about to:

a. Mess around with the political, economic or/or social structures of my host. And I am certainly not going to

b. Screw around with the uniquely interwoven attitudes, values and beliefs upon which these political, economic and social structures are based.

Doing "a" and "b" above would seem to be the quickest and most efficient way of (1) eliminating my chances of building and maintaining good relations with the locals, (2) dooming my chances of being able to field a population and force for whatever purposes the United States might need and (3) getting my soldiers killed.

If, however, "success" is to be definded as transforming these outlier states and societies along modern western lines; this, so that these populations, their lands and their other resources might be put to more productive use, well that is very different objective.

Herein, it is must be understood that -- if state and societal transformation is the primary objective -- then I will, indeed, need to (1) mess around with the political, economic and social structure of these nations and (2) screw around with the uniquely intertwined values, attitudes and beliefs upon which these such structures are based. This, so as to "open up" these states and societies -- and to reconfigure them -- such that they might be more readily accessed, and more efficiently utilized, by global commercial enterprises.

History tell us, however, (see the examples at my comment above) that should this latter version of "success" be pursued (unwanted state and societal transformation), then building and maintaining good relations with others -- and securing the wellbeing of our soldiers, our commercial enterprises and our nation itself -- these are going to be much more difficult to achieve.

Ned McDonnell III

Sat, 07/13/2013 - 5:45pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Excellent questions for which I have no ready answer. I certainly would not like to align with the confluence of interests that led to the near physical and certain cultural genocide of the indigenous population. It is ugly. The South is an analogy harder to agree with since I grew up in the North, though I picked my college, in part, because of the values exemplified by General Lee: honor, gentility, integrity (and picked it because I had yet to mature into them -- still working on it). And I am grateful that I saw these values in many of the young field soldiers, not only from the South (though most often) but also from the Mid-west and Plains states (i.e., the back-bone of the Union in the great Civil War).

What you say, as always, makes a great deal of sense to me. Sometimes, I feel like we talk past each other, however. My take on these articles by E.M. Burlingame -- he is a friend, colleague and past business partner -- is that'economics', as manifested by community stabilization, can be a bridge between two cultures and not, as you point out with legitimate concern, an avenue of approach for one to subjugate the other.

The larger end to all of this debate, which we all see in common, is how to improve the prospects of success -- not to mention the margin of safety -- for those younger brothers and sisters in uniform, whether in the Special Forces or regular army. They, after all, assume the risks of the policies we argue in the abstract.

I look at these things like this:

Example 1: Regardless of the method used, were the American settlers, American business interests and American soldiers able to build and maintain enduring relationships with the American Indians by engaging in actions which were ultimately designed to:

a. Undermine/eliminate the way of life of these indigenious populations and to

b. Put the lands of the American Indians to more-American settler/American business interest specific use?

Or, by these actions, did we create enduring enemies, conflict and war?

Example 2: Regardless of the method used, were the American Northerners, Northern business interests and Northern soldiers able to build and maintain enduring relationships with American Southerners by, essentially,

a. Outlawing the way of life of the American Southerners and, thereby,

b. Attempting to free up Southern assets for more Northern-specific wants, needs and desires?

Or, by these actions, did the North create enemies and, indeed, conflict and war?

There are many more examples like this. But I believe these will suffice.

What must be learned, I believe, is this:

Much as in the 19th Century, likewise today, we -- and our SOF personnel -- should not expect to be able to build and maintain good relationships with other populations by engaging in activities (economic or other) which are ultimately designed to eliminate the way of life and the way of governance of the indigenous people.

Using these methods we should, rather, and as in the case of the American Indians and American Southerners above, expect to garner for one's country, one's business interests and one's population enemies, conflict and war.

As we look around ourselves today, is that not what we see?

C.E. Callwell understood these dynamics well when he noted that:

a. Small wars were caused by "the pioneers of civilization." And that

b. "The trader heralds, almost as a matter of course, the coming of the soldier."

Ned McDonnell III

Sat, 07/13/2013 - 5:04pm

In reply to by emburlingame

Well stated, E.M. To me money and economics reach across quadrants and cultures. Very few societies -- except isolated and, therefore, closed cultures in some slightly mapped river basin -- have ever lasted long without it for reasons of facilitating barter. Monetizing barter is, in itself, the first step toward wealth creation and so that seed -- the possibility of life being better -- is planted. What others have written here is important, too, in that different cultures value wealth creation differently. That reality, however, does not remove the presence and utility of money and trading (i.e., economics) among societies. That is to say, it is the bridge over which two cultures can cross to crash, clash or cross-pollinate each other.

Ned McDonnell III

Sun, 07/14/2013 - 12:42am

In reply to by G Martin


You were clear about your statement being a hypothetical and not a direct accusation. I stood by E.M. because it is hard to put opinions out there and I am very loyal to friends. Actually, I see you two as quite alike: both visionaries. You have persuaded me on a number of points along the way.

While I pride myself on trying to be open-minded, I am also not "in the game" (employment-wise) and so I need not worry about how things look to others if I concede a point. But being open minded is hard to do, for me at least, because I can lose a sense of vision if I am too bizzy agreeing with everybody. Alternatively, I have a tendency to slide back to the same underlying thought, as if it were almost hard-wired into me.

What I hope is most important, and enduring, is that when visionaries collide, each can appreciate the mind of the other. Who knows? Something even better may emerge from the fracas. That is where you all in the military merit a hat's-off from civilians like me. By focussing on the success of the common mission, rather than trying to win the day personally, that pleasant surprise is far more apt to occur.

Thanks for your considered and considerate response, Grant.

G Martin

Sat, 07/13/2013 - 7:04pm

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

I thought I responded in kind, Ned. EM implied- or at least seemed to imply to me- that all Investment Bankers (or good ones?) should know and support the model he talks about. That is rubbish and seems to go along with his themes of attempting to impress with his resume and when his ideas are challenged- attacking other people's resumes indirectly. No model that I'm aware of has been proven to be the be-all, end-all, but- if it is really good then one shouldn't feel the need to denigrate another person's resume if one is trying to convince as opposed to sticking to the concept itself.

And refusing to address other concerns by stating that they have already been covered is disengenuous at best. Those concerns have not been covered adaquately- in fact in other responses to those points he has deflected by referencing something in the future or simply stating that his paper is sufficient. If he doesn't want feedback- positive or negative- then don't respond to the posts. I see his views little changed- if at all- from his first article. Reminds me of the "Smartest Guys in the Room", "Long-Term Capital Management" and their like. Some people already have the world figured out and don't need to be bothered with alternative ideas. In my experience- when one runs into those kind of "True Believers"- its best to run... and run fast.

As far as the conflict of interest points- I hope I'm wrong- but my point was that if there is the possibility of a perception of a conflict of interest (which I think there is one), one should address it up-front in a spirit of transparency (Being up-front of one's biases would help as well- although possibly hard to do if one is convinced one is right on everything).


Ned McDonnell III

Sat, 07/13/2013 - 5:54pm

In reply to by G Martin

Your note to me was fine and in good fun. These comments, however, appear to me to be rather harsh. Up-front: I am a friend, colleague and past (perhaps future) business partner of E.M. Burlingame. In my mind, he has integrity and intelligence as well as the willingness to risk catching sheiße for putting his own best thinking out there. Nevertheless, trying to draw one's past experience to fertilize the new and create possibilities for others -- as well as for himself -- does not necessarily create a conflict of interest. Your concern is legitimate, however, and that is why I believe no former military member, in service for more then ten years or above the rank of Major ought to be permitted to work in the defense industry -- especially in consulting, weapons manufacturing or logistical support -- in any manner.

G Martin

Sat, 07/13/2013 - 2:49pm

In reply to by emburlingame

Interesting response. Why did you feel the need to note that you presented a paper at Auburn "two days after SFAS"? Other than trying to impress- I'm not sure why that was germane. I'm at

I respectively disagree with you that the world has dramatically changed over the course of the past twelve years of war. From my vantage point- and many others- we're still wrestling with the same problems and the natures of things (people, war, etc.) haven't changed at all. The names and technologies may have changed- but little else. I take even greater objection to the idea that SOCOM and its affiliates and subordinates are fully developing, understanding, or appreciating any of these so-called changes. Instead I see the same bureaucratic and systemic tendencies that have trapped us into wrong-headed directions in the past.

Normally I have come to expect articles to reference assertions. You state "research the Integral Approach" and the "concept of Markets or quadrants" - in a very condescending manner ("...something as a current or former IB you should be quiet familiar with..."). As a former broker with an investment banker (I stated that tongue-in-cheek to poke fun at both people who use SOF experience as well as "investment banking" experience in an attempt to try to establish authority- in my experience one's argument should stand on its own without resorting to title-dropping- which I've noticed you seem to do an awful lot), I can assure you very few of my colleagues- if any- were interested in theoretical models as much as they were the basic mechanics of selling people something.

Today, however, I work at the Special Warfare Center and School and have witnessed the institution's struggle to get people to be competent in the basics of building relationships. Frankly, I get the feeling based on your writings and reactions that you suffer- as most of us do in some way or another- from a lack of those same basic competencies. Did you happen to remember a negotiations and cross-cultural communications class in the Q? ;)

As to the "remainder" being answered in the previous articles- obviously with others asking them again they must feel they haven't been answered in an adequate manner. So, do you discount the intertwining of politics and economics- or do you see things in more of a "black-and-white", "this or that" way? Do you not see the conflicts of interest and issues that would be raised if soldiers were pushing certain economic policies and agendas? Do you understand the authorities that the TSOCs would have to grant for this work - and the feasibility (or lack thereof) of that happening? Are you open at all to other possibilities besides "economics" being the driver you say it is?

Lastly- I'll close with a criticism that I hope you take as constructive. In an era of consultants and contractors pushing their own agendas- I can't help but be cynical and wonder about your motivation. Your Foundation's website appears to imply that the Foundation is relatively new. Your Foundation advocates many of the same assertions your papers do. You are on an SF ODA- but your bio focuses more on your investment and Foundation interests. Your papers pretty much call for SF to do things that would naturally fall into your Foundation's purview. Are you starting to see the possible conflicts of interest here? By not addressing them I think you open yourself up to criticism. Being on an SF ODA is difficult enough. If you are focused on starting up a business as well- one has to question your commitment to your team and the Regiment- especially if you seem to be advocating something that you would naturally be in a position to profit from (SF experience and venture capitalist...).

I hope this is not the case- but I would encourage you to address it if it is not, because by not doing so IMO some may imply you are attempting to ignore it in the hopes it isn't noticed. Today we have lots of tab revocations that involve fraud, the mixing of SF and business interests, and abuse of professional positions. I would encourage you to be more humble in your approach (that rapport thing), less dismissive of other ideas (negotiations capability?), and more up-front about possible conflicts of interest (for example- if SOCOM tomorrow decides to adopt your- in essence Campaign Plan- and puts "the spreading of free market capitalism" as its main effort in the "Global SOF network", what, if anything, would you or your Foundation gain from that?).

- Grant Martin


Sat, 07/13/2013 - 7:34am

In reply to by G Martin

G Martin,

Should you like a copy of the paper I presented at Auburn two days after SFAS, related to the Emerio Project and the work ongoing provide a communications channel. There has been much less progress than desired on the Emerio Project for the reason you state, day job is quite demanding, however efforts are proceeding despite my minimal time available. Our web presence should be down presently as the system has been hacked twice this year, an issue we are presently working to address. However there should be considerably more available, re: Emerio Foundation in the coming months, as I have brought in someone to handle marketing and outreach.

Beyond that, your first comment is most certainly a real issue to be addressed, and that is the perception of the American people regarding an ongoing war they do not as a larger percentage of the population wish to be a part of or in many cases to admit is even occurring. And there is also many similarities between the SOF mission and work pre-9/11 and that post Iraq and Afghanistan. However the world has changed dramatically over the course of the past twelve years of war. Changes which are only now being fully developed, understood and appreciated by SOCOM and its many affiliates and subordinates.

A more careful read would denote Economics is an Influencer amongst many Influencers. Research the Integral Approach and the concept of Markets or quadrants in which Influencers must compete, something as a current or former Investment Banker you should be quite familiar with. Economics is however the core-framework Influencer which effectively competes in all four Markets of the Integral Model for the reasons denoted in the article and comments, which as the article states does not remove any of the other Influencers but rather put them in their respective place. As to the remainder, most of this has been asked and answered, some upon more than one occasion, in the content of and many comments to the previous articles.

G Martin

Fri, 07/12/2013 - 2:57pm

Been meaning to ask this for some time: EM: what has the Emerio Foundation done or who have you worked with? The bio reads as if the Foundation is doing things- but I cannot find anything on the Internet save for the unfinished website. I understand you are probably busy (I couldn't imagine being on an ODA AND running a foundation...), but your bio seems to imply more than what is available on open sources.

As to the article:

I think there are perhaps many who would take issue within SOCOM reference the idea that SOCOM has been focused on kinetic warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and "elsewhere". I personally think that calling what SOF is "shifting" to (sounds a lot like what SF was doing pre-9-11...) "warfare" of any type is not only confusing, but also will probably make us less palatable to many- many within our own country.

As to a "new breed of SOF Operator", even assuming we could recruit and train and educate Army guys to do more than they do now, I have to question the validity of someone- anyone- being able to "engage root influencers" of groups and communities. At best I'd argue SF guys can build and maintain relationships- and those relationships have to be based mostly on person-to-person experiences- shared experiences- mainly built around tough training and shared suffering and good times. Guys that try to come in and reinvent militaries in my experience have been unable to build good relationships. Guys who give and take- they build relationships. I couldn't imagine pushing an economic agenda and how that would hamper relationships. Economic policies are intertwined with politics and once someone steps over that line you can bet many relationships will be impossible to build or maintain.

Lastly, I'm curious as to the reference for the idea that: "the true core-framework Influencer common to all aspects of human thinking and belief systems is the Economic Influencer, which is itself composed of nothing more complicated than the psychological need to work and provide a living for one’s family." This appears to be both bold and the main concept underlying your theory- thus requiring major referencing.

There would appear to me to be some holes in this concept (#1- it isn't stated as a theory, but as a fact) upon a passing glance. If one doesn't have a family- is one not as influenced as others by this "influencer"? What of other theories that could offer alternative explanations for what influences individuals? Are we to discount these... because...? Many people work, for instance, but that is not why they live- they live for some hobby- maybe hoping one day to turn that into a living. Others work for retirement- a time when they don't have to work anymore. Discounting the role of religion and even family - as an end unto itself- seems to me to be a mistake.

Ned McDonnell III

Sun, 07/14/2013 - 12:56am

In reply to by G Martin

Thanks, good man, got me laughing. Funny, if I did the opposite of what I think are great bets, I would be a rich man....

G Martin

Sat, 07/13/2013 - 7:13pm

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

Mostly in fun! When finance folks start predicting the future (which the term "understands" implies to me)- that's when one should run. Reminds me of when government people show up and say, "I'm from DC and I'm here to help..." ;)

Ned McDonnell III

Sat, 07/13/2013 - 4:53pm

In reply to by G Martin

Grant, ¡touché! I trust you are not calling me out on my background. I see your remark as primarily good fun. Additionally, I do agree with you on the government intrusion in private lives. The second bank bail-out is a classic example and one that I can understand enough to realize why it was so bad.

Yet, perhaps, I should clarify that I understood my trade (commercial banking to the insurance and non-bank finance industries) and its markets quite well as a global industry credit manager for the world’s largest commercial / investment bank (at the time). While I perceived some fundamental weaknesses of the credit derivatives market plus other derivatives markets tied in with institutional finance, and I felt very uneasy about structural changes (e.g., repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act as well as accounting practices permitted for derivatives and asset-backed financings), I was unable to connect enough dots to get a sense of the magnitude of the collapse that eventually came.

Many people felt the same unease as I. Truth is, I was able only to say this is not passing my smell test with one glass of sour milk among the twenty in front of me, not knowing which glass it was and failing to smell the cyanide also in it. The Glass-Steagall Act was the kind of intervention of government that makes sense in that such laws create basic structural ground rules within which the free market competes toward its own enrichment and to the benefit, not at the expense, of the wider society.

G Martin

Fri, 07/12/2013 - 1:52pm

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

Is it valid to assume that the American people will support the spreading of free market capitalism as a U.S. foreign policy- much less military objective? As we (or "if we") become relatively less market-based, will a message of free markets seem contradictory?

The Mutualists and many on "the Left" would argue, in my understanding, that capitalism (and the venture capitalist) is what is wrong with America and the West and that one can still have free markets without the "evils" of capitalism.

In other words, is this concept contingent upon the American people supporting it- and isn't that missing now and will continue to be missing as we move closer to socialist-type programs managed or at least heavily influenced by the government and/or as capitalism is undermined by government and/or populist efforts?

Btw- I was an investment banker (sort of like SOF, huh- seems everyone today used to be some type of banker...) and if there's one thing I learned doing that- it is to run away when you hear a banker say "I understand the markets"... ;)

Ned McDonnell III

Thu, 07/11/2013 - 10:28pm

In reply to by Bill C.


I was a banker until 2003 and understood the markets, if not the depth of corruption, quite well. Unfortunately, in 2008, I was in Iraq and focussed only on the U.S. part of the crisis. I remember well the 1997 'Asian flu' currency crisis; I recall saying to fellow bankers that if I were Malaysian, I would be saying the whole crisis and 'resolution' was gigantic fraud and latter-day colonialism. Needles to say, with respect to 2008, that coloanialism came home. So, your scenario sounds like the best 'best-case' I could imagine. But I will not go there as to why.

The hypothetical you present is a worthwhile thought experiment. The one fundamental reservation I have with it is that 'Westernization' is not uniform. There is a wide divergence between Anglo-American social values (to the extent that the latter are not completely compromised) and those of continental Europe, with Australia and New Zealand striking a sweet mid-spot. That is merely a detail, not a de-rail. It is hard for me to conceive of the West being poor in the pocket-book.

So, I would like to recast this experiment as the 'Asianizing' of the U.S. values to lift us out of a poverty of spirit. I could see the economic bridge working in this manner. The special forces 'wog' (to turn the West upside-down) warrior might approach the U.S. and say, "Hey, is it really worth it to have so many ballistics, bread-lines and billionaires and yet only the 27th richest middle class with a quarter of the money of those damn Aussies? Or half of those damn Austrians?"

With my attention caught, I would work with that purveyor of goodwill to get the country back on the rails economically. Then that smooth operator might look me in the eye and say, "That is great, that fairness is being restored where, like Japan, the chief executive only makes twenty or thirty times the money of the guy in the trenches doing the sweat-work." (Of course, that detail assumes that we would actually restore the industrial base to sustain wealth creation, rather than wealth fixation.)

So, while we were busy giving America back to the Americans, the special operator pulls his stealth move and says, "Good on ya, bud, for this progress, if not perfection..." After my self-inflicted snit-fit, the fellow would say, "Come on, Ned, how much difference will that money make -- you all have a gaping hole at the center of your national soul, bud!" Now I would be seriously miffed.

With the quintessential Asiatic tranquility, this special operator would say, "Look at the drug use, the rates of violent crime, the divorce rates, the drop-out rates, the scandalous schools for the poor, the diffuse anxiety, the suicides -- especially among those fine enough to protect you. You cannot spend your way out of hopelessness and godlessness; decadence is a distraction, not a vocation." Well as Chuck Colson (whom I truly grew to admire) would have said, that special operator would have me following him for two very good reasons.

Frankly, in real life, I would welcome that scenario, Bill. It will not happen. In the hypothetical world, what was the hook? Economics. It is one force in life -- grubby or great -- that everybody understands; true, people value the money and healthcare, etc. differently but they understand that life is better with it than without it, at least at a minimum. Beyond that basic level, then there is, I sincerely hope, less a clash or crash of civilizations but a duet toward deism.

Bill C.

Thu, 07/11/2013 - 7:07pm

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

Let's do the shoe on the other foot thing.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia has reversed the assumption.

He has stated that European values are only European values but it is Asian values which are actually universal.

Thus, following the recent financial crisis which is caused by the West, Asians determine that the "root cause" of the crisis was lack of Asian values.

Herein, they determine that they must correct this deficiency by causing non-Asians to:

a. Abandon their "outlier" values, attitudes and beliefs and

b. Adopt the universal values, attitudes and beliefs of Asians (which, in this example, advocate for a less democratic and more religious role for governance).

As part of this mission -- to Asianize non-Asian populations (specifically those of the West) -- Asian military personnel (to include Asian special operations forces) and, indeed, all Asian instruments of power (aka: whole of government) are sent out "globally."

A bright and highly committed young individual within the Asian special operations community suggests that the finding of common ground -- such as the universal desire of populations of all civilizations to better their prospects via economic activity -- that this might be the way to build the bridges needed to get this Asianization of non-Asians done.

Will this approach work?

Will Asian whole of government assets generally, and Asian special operations forces specifically, using the common ground of economics, commerce, international trade and investment, be able to build and maintain relationships with non-Asians (and especially westerners) and overcome their (the non-Asians) affinity for democratic and secular governance?

Thus, and via this method (working through the common venue of economics, commerce, trade, international investment, etc.) will the Asian special operating forces et. al be able to "convert" the non-Asian states and societies and, thereby, prevent another crisis such as that which began in 2008?

Ned McDonnell III

Thu, 07/11/2013 - 3:51pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Your point on Westernization is a good one. Nonetheless, better prospects need not conflict with tradition. As I had stated way down yonder, "That is where this article becomes important in its interdisciplinary approach to seeking out universals on which to build solutions that work for those receiving them."

The thought on secularization is challenging because the West's version of religious wars largely occurred four centuries ago and religious affiliation was largely a political question, especially as nationalism emerged in Germany and England. Killing over hidden imams may seem as silly to us as hacking people over transubstantiation might seem to Muslims.

I view the appeal to securlarization, though I do not see this as a pre-requisite spelled out by E.M. Burlingame, as largely a desire to empower the moderates in troubled lands, where nationalism is a farce -- like the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Brokering national solutions appear to fail.

Could that be due to the identifcation of Shari´a with temporal law? What place does a nation have if we are one people under the God whose laws apply uniformly to all? Thus the religious fissures on parade in Aleppo, Damascus and creeping to Jordan make the conflict that much more existential and bloody.

Much as moderates assumed power through the Enlightenment -- hastened by the rise of the bourgeoisie -- to end the sacred slaughters of Europe, so too will the rise of a newer and younger-faced middle class do the same for Islam. In fact, what Malcolm X learned on his hajj may do much increase the happiness of the West. Civilizations and cultures need not always clash; they can reciprocate wisdom.

Bill C.

Thu, 07/11/2013 - 12:51pm

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

Perhaps the more-proper question is: When has a society opted not to Westernize? This, given EM's emphasis on, for example, the requirement of secularization?

(To answer, might we say that Iran fits here?)

Thus not: "When has a majority of people rejected the opportunity to enhance their quality of health-care, the prospects for their children and social mobility for themselves through peaceful means?"

But rather: When has a majority of people rejected such things as secularism and/or other unique aspects of Western civilization?

Thus, and attempting to come full circle:

Is it likely that an operator will be able to win friends for the United States and influence people by demanding that indigenous populations abandon their own unique combination of values -- and the relative emphasis that they put on particular values -- and adopt, in their place, the unique values and emphasis of the West (for example re: secularism)?

Or is it more likely that, should an operator make such demands on local populations, he will find that he has made enemies for himself -- and for the United States -- and that, accordingly (and should he find himself and his men still alive after making such unwise and irrational demands), he will not be able to influence these indigenous populations in any positive, important and/or necessary way?


Thu, 07/11/2013 - 9:46pm

In reply to by Citizen Soldier

I didn't mean to "discredit the entire article", I meant to question the rather prominent premises of an "era of population-centric warfare" and "conducting population-centric warfare globally".

I have no doubt that the issues discussed have relevance to population-centric warfare under some circumstances. I have no doubt that they are worthy of discussion. I am wary of any effort to universalize them.

The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan form the dominant experience of a generation in US military and policy circles. Certainly the lessons of those conflicts need to be pursued: it is entirely possible that the US may choose to engage under similar circumstances in the future. Any assumption that this is the population-centric model will dominate future conflict remains extremely limiting and extremely dangerous. Just for example: given the current "pivot to the Pacific", a substantial portion of the US military is likely to be deployed an an environment where state-on-state conflict is the dominant concern, where nationalism is a key driver of conflict, and where national economies are in many cases as developed as ours. Operators who enter such an environment holding the premise that their role is to "concentrate engagement efforts on support of secular government, government emphasizing the security and sound governance supportive of freedom and property rights, both of which are essential to economic expansion and all of which is directly measurable through improvements in local standards of living" will find themselves at a significant disadvantage, to say the least.

I would not say that the Integral Approach cannot be a useful thing, not at all. Like any theoretical framework, though, it must be approached and used with caution. No theoretical framework can substitute is better than the information and assumptions fed into it. No theoretical framework can substitute for immediate knowledge of the theater in which it will be employed. No theoretical framework can compensate for a lack of clear, consistent, and achievable purpose. The great danger of theoretical frameworks is that when we embrace them too tightly, we tend to adjust our perception of reality to fit the framework, rather than adjusting the framework to fit the actual circumstances. That way lies catastrophe.

Ned McDonnell III

Thu, 07/11/2013 - 10:28am

In reply to by Citizen Soldier

Citizen Soldier,
Thank you for a balanced and honest answer. I do not believe that any of us can be completely honest or free from partiality. Nevertheless, what ennobles a man is the effort, like yours, to be as honest as he can be. I am not sure that I can delete the one comment meant to support E.M. Burlingame (where I resorted to an ad-hominem remark), but you inspire me to try. Thank you again,

Citizen Soldier

Thu, 07/11/2013 - 6:54am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Selecting a single line of reason and discourse to which to apply to any and all published articles, regardless the content or intent thereof, is also not intellectual honesty. Nor is isolating a single line or point to the complete ignoring of any and all other points or even the purpose and intent of the overall article in order to make a statement based on personal ideological or political leaning. Regardless the correctness or value of the comment, doing so only makes it appear the commentator does not understand the material and is instead looking for a line or phrase which they believe they can attack and discredit in order that the commentator may appear to take the moral or intellectual high ground. And if this fails to work, then the commentator attacks either the author or those supporters who may have been foolish enough to fall into the commentators trap. Meanwhile discourse is discouraged, intellectually honest thinkers and commentators are driven away to seek open conversation elsewhere and the value of the forum diminishes greatly.

Though the content of this particular article was not related to population-centric warfare, the commentator has decided to completely discredit the entire article on the premise the US military has not and is not dedicating a substantial portion of its operations to population-centric warfare. This despite the fact all one needs do is enter this string into Google or Bing to come up with a substantial list of academic and other articles, papers, press, etc. related to the US Military and population-centric warfare.

Again, this author was not discussing population-centric warfare but rather the Integral Model and that people are motivated more by economics than they are by religion and ideology. In my own opinion, there seems to be some interesting thoughts in these concepts. However I don't believe the conversation related the Integral Model and the four markets in which Influencers must compete was well detailed. Nor do I believe that if the supposition that the real core-framework Influencer is Economics is valid that such awareness was well articulated with respect to the Integral Approach or to the SOF mission. Those are just my opinions and perhaps a more thorough read and some time to step back and really think about the author's article and intent would clear these up. Or maybe not.

Regardless of how I finally perceive the work, I hope I possess the intellectual honesty to step back from my emotionally driven initial response to really give the author and the commenters on both sides the benefit of thought and reason.


Thu, 07/11/2013 - 12:28am

In reply to by Ned McDonnell III

Are we headed into "the era after nationalism"? Seems to me that nationalism is alive, well, and kicking, and can potentially kick us in the teeth if we try to pretend it isn't there.

What concerns me in these conversations is not anti-intellectualism, but pseudo-intellectualism; arguments that adopt the jargon and the trappings of intellectualism but without intellectual rigor. Intellectual rigor demands, for example, that if we are going to assume an "era of population-centric warfare" or an "era after nationalism" we have to support those assumptions with evidence and reasoning. If we don't, any edifice built on those assumptions, no matter how erudite the edifice might be, rests ultimately upon sand.

Personally, I think any line of reasoning that points toward the commitment of US resources to an effort to secure anybody's future through "the humane use of power" needs to be very carefully scrutinized, from the foundations on up. It is not for me to determine what uses of power are or are not humane, but I believe that the effective use of power relies first and foremost on setting clear, practical and achievable goals every time we choose to use power. Without those we fail, no matter how humane and intellectual we may be, because success is achieving your objective and you can't do that if you don't know what your objective is, or if your objective is unrealistic. This is why, in my admittedly somewhat repetitive opinion, any proposed use of power or method of using power must be accompanied by discussion of what the use of power is meant to achieve. This is particularly essential when the word "global" appears in the discussion.

Ned McDonnell III

Wed, 07/10/2013 - 9:09pm

Some interesting comments here. One question: ¿When has a society opted not to modernize? Some minorities or isolated tribes may fight it, yes. But...¿When has a majority of people rejected the opportunity to enhance their quality of health-care, the prospects for their children and social mobility for themselves through peaceful means?

To clarify my earlier comment: like it or not, we are headed into the era after nationalism. The humane use of power will become more important. People can secure themselves when they have to but they usually need help -- through commerce and other peaceful interactions -- to secure their futures.

Great article. To E.M.: be calm, anti-intellectualism and petulance are the currency of the defeated.

Ned McDonnell III

Thu, 07/11/2013 - 10:20am

Apologies for double-post.

Not sure I have ever done this but I shared this article on FB with the following comment:

Extremely interesting article.

Bottom line...if you want to bring out material change in this world you have to change beliefs (be they political, social or religious) effectively. The troubling thing is that if people consulted some credible gold standard before changing their beliefs, there would be a check on charismatics veering humanity towards the ash heap and all would be well...but that is not how it works.

The charismatic dons the cloak of credibility and people get too lazy to compare and contrast His/Her message with said gold standard. Acts 17:11 depicts a populace who tests everything a charismatic says (the apostle Paul in this case) before adopting it.

Unfortunately, modernity has thrown out all the ancient gold standards and substituted science. The dirty little secret about science is that it can be changed by the highest bidder. Thus, the charismatic can give us our cake and convince us to eat it too!

Bill C.

Wed, 07/10/2013 - 10:35am


In the last sentence of your abstract above, you emphasize that the purpose of SOF engagement is relationship development and relationship maintenance.

In the last sentence of your introduction, you tell us that "success" is to be achieved by SOF operators engaging in efforts which support strong central governments, bodies politic (a group of persons politically organized under a single government authority) and security organizations and practices emphasizing and supportive of economic expansion.

These would not seem to jive.

If my primary goal as an operator is to develop and maintain good relationships with indigenous personnel (for whatever purposes the United States might require the help of these indigenous personnel today and in the future), then would I not attempt to "blend in" and to, possibly, adopt the dress, customs, courtesies and practices of my host?

If my primary goal is to develop and maintain relationships, then I do not think that I would attempt to do this by shoving down these indigenous peoples' throats:

a. Things which were totally alien to them,

b. Things that they greatly feared and had fought against for generations,

c. Things that they did not understand and/or did not desire,

d. And things which they soon come to understand are designed to end their present way of life.

(These "things," of course, being the above-mentioned strong central governments, bodies politic, and organizations and practices emphasizing and supportive of economic expansion.)

Herein, I think that we must choose between which of these two highly incompatible goals we wish to achieve:

a. Develop and then maintain good relationships with the indigenous populations (requires that we adapt to them) or

b. Transform their states and socieites along modern western lines (requires that they adapt to us).

If I expect to have to engage in population-centric warfare, to win hearts and minds, and to go into battle with these indigenous personnel by my side -- then would I not be best served by choosing "a" immediately above?


Wed, 07/10/2013 - 5:24am

In reply to by emburlingame

"Relationship building" and "winning hearts and minds" may at times be components of warfare, but I can't see how they are warfare in themselves.

Has it been determined that the US military must or should be deployed globally to build relationships and win hearts and minds? Again, whose hearts and minds do we propose to win, and to what specific end?

Not just trying to be contentious here; it is my belief that the first requirement for success in any military venture (and in most non-military ventures) is a clear, discrete, and achievable goal. If we really are proposing global population-centric warfare, we need to know with whom we contend and exactly what we hope to achieve.

It seems dangerous to me to assume that "pop-centric" is the future of warfare or the US military. Things have a way of changing


Tue, 07/09/2013 - 7:41am

In reply to by Dayuhan

What form of warfare is "relationship building" or "winning hearts and minds?" And how long has such been a body of practice for the US military and in particular Special Operations?

The first sentence of this article is more than a bit confusing. Has the US Government or any part of it actually committed the nation "to conducting population-centric warfare globally"? Against whom, and to what end? When did this happen, and who made the decision?


Tue, 07/09/2013 - 6:07pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Again you seem to be looking to the distant past and not to the piece itself in order to make an ideological argument not really related to the content at all, but rather to continue what seems to be your overriding theme amongst all your many comments on SWJ. As well, the paper does not in any form or fashion purport Confucianism as 'the' ideal religious or other model, rather that in modern times those cultures which have or have had a strong economic and mercantile history are realizing greater success in terms of higher standards of living and stability. And as to the 'clash' with the rest of the world over the last few centuries, that conflict has more to do with our at times blatant attempts to interfere with the ideological basis upon which others exits, rather than from attempts to connect economically. Again however, this is not the subject of the article.

The subject of the article is that Economics is the sole core-framework Influencer on people's daily lives. The time to think on such things as ideology and political leaning is something only afforded to those who can afford to do so. Which means even at the basest level Economics has to be addressed first and foremost, even if that means base subsistence. Of course if we leave a people with nothing more than base subsistence, then when that individual does have some moments to contemplate higher ideals, well they may very well be inclined to look at the disparity between the West and their lot and to dedicate some hatred to such. Which of course is then in turn most often voiced in the language of ideology as that is the only language available as the economic knowledge is lacking (something we see in our own advanced country between the haves and have-nots).

Bill C.

Tue, 07/09/2013 - 2:13pm

In reply to by emburlingame


I believe that the current thinking is that the modern economic advances, unprecedented improvement in the standards of living and prolonged (????) stability successes in Confucian influenced states is related -- not to Confucian influences -- but, instead, to good government policies. (See the section entitled "Influence in Modern Times.")…

The point that I was trying to make (in using the Confucian view of merchants and traders as a "necessary evil" and the lowest status group within Chinese society at one time) is to drive home for you the fact that different states and societies may view these things (merchants, traders, commerce, etc.) much differently than we do.

This being the reason, in fact, why the West has clashed with the Rest for the last few centuries and still today.

This long history of conflict (between we "economic/market fanatics" and others) suggesting that if we do, indeed, want to "find a means by which to gain a common interest amongst and between individuals and groups," then must look elsewhere, and not to economics, trade, etc., for a viable connection.


Tue, 07/09/2013 - 7:46am

In reply to by Bill C.

Are you simply obviating the actual statement which related to the modern economic advances, unprecedented improvements in the standards of living and prolonged stability successes of the Confucian influenced states in order to make an ideological statement? Or was the statement concerning Confucianism that unclear in the piece?


Given that you have referenced China and Confucius, would I be correct in suggesting that in certain periods of China's history:

a. Merchants and traders were considered in much the same light as prostitutes, to wit: as a "necessary evil" and that, accordingly,

b. Merchants and traders occupied the lowest rung of the Chinese status ladder; with scholars/governors, farmers/peasants and artisans/craftsmen being consider of higher status and worth?

Herein, it being recognized that the values and ethics of the merchant/trader class (who were considered greedy, selfish and morally deficient) was decidedly different from the values and ethics held by other status groups?

This problem of differing values, attitudes and beliefs of market-oriented states and societies -- versus the values, attitudes and belief of states and societies ordered, oriented, organized and configured along other than market-oriented lines -- this being at the heart of the problem re:

a. Transforming outlier states and societies so as to

b. Better meet the needs of their populations and the needs of the expanding global economy?

Ned McDonnell III

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 9:43pm

Once again, Mr Burlingame fêtes us with a polymathic view of Special Operations Forces and the special operators charged with the uneasy and hazardous task of carrying out often ill-defined orders and mandates. That people have diverging opinions in the face of the uncertainty and risk attendant to these missions makes one wonder how the Special Forces function at all.

Yet you do and you do so well, most often, in the absence of clear leadership and, in more recent years, any guidance at all. Confining the mission to achievable security outcomes seems too narrow, especially since the rate of recidivism of failed societies negotiating a modus vivendi and then descending again into bloody conflict is high, something like 50%, within a decade.

That these states were deemed out of ‘conflict zone’ status at one time only to slide back into the dire mire implies that, at least, they were secure according to someone’s criterion at some time. Perhaps they were and that security was simply not enough to sustain a peaceful polity going forward. So, what more is needed beyond mere security, if we are to avoid having to re-enter a conflict zone or just heat up the popcorn and watch the next slaughter?

That question begs debate and eventual consensus. That is where this article comes into importance. People will argue particulars. But, let's drop the denial: 25,000 élite troops – the best our country can produce – have little immediate influence on the above-cited (and other omitted) factors across the planet. The world is changing.

Yet many people are annoyed about apparent U.S. reticence in Syria. No one wants a war and, perhaps, Syria is not in our ‘national’ interest (¿though Libya was?). So, the Special Forces may end up having a hard job to do – navigating their way through this maze of competing interests and outdated frameworks. The opportunity for creative solutions is likely lost in Syria right now.

What the Special Forces may need to do is to start thinking beyond terms of social contracts, national interests or inbred value systems. Looking at what is next in terms of sequence and human evolution is hard, really hard, since it is likely to be both unapparent and non-linear. That makes the status quo itself a risk proposition.

Worse, thinking out of the box is not particularly useful (except after a six-pack, perhaps). What we need to do is to collaborate with the space inside the box by not fixating on the corrugated cardboard of the box. After all, that space is undifferentiated from the rest of space or, at least, that portion of space open to our perceptions. So the thinking sphere is a microcosm and not the whole shebang.

Then we fashion that collaboration within the constraints of the card-board (25,000 operators, national insolvency, etc.). Hopefully, the product of that inner thought, leavened by external debate, produces a humane use of power, as Lincoln Bloomfield said forty years ago. That is where this article becomes important in its interdisciplinary approach to seeking out universals on which to build solutions that work for those receiving them.


Tue, 07/09/2013 - 6:38pm

In reply to by Bill C.

My friend Zack Baddorf, a photo journalist who has spent considerable time with the Afghans and others over the years learning their cultures and minds, posted this on his Facebook account today. "The State that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools." (Courtesy of John F) Though this is not a direct answer to your comment, I believe it is more than applicable to what equates to your running comment amongst all the articles, namely that special operations soldiers should stick to killing and stay out of the thinking and contributing business.

Quote from Thucydides via William Francis Butler

EM: Am I reading Admiral McRaven correctly here:

Admiral McRaven:

"We understand … to minimize the rise of violent extremism, you have to create the conditions on the ground where people have good jobs, where there is the rule of law, where there is stability [and] where there is good governance,” he said. “We think, from a military standpoint, we can certainly help with the security that will be required to help begin to build some of that stability." (Down toward the bottom of the article.)

Admiral McRaven seems to suggest that:

a. Regarding the mission to modify the political, economic and social structures of other countries --

b. So as to make these such structures, and these countries, become more global-market-friendly --

c.. That the role of the military in these projects will be limited to helping with security.

Herein, should we understand that the other tasks related to achieving economic expansion (see "a" and "b" above), these tasks will be accomplished by other members of "our" and "their" whole-of-government state and societal transformation teams (to wit: by civilians)?

(The military's [SOF's] role being limited to helping the host nations deal with those individuals and/or groups who would actively resist such dramatic and unwanted changes to their way of life and way of governance. Herein, one might suggest, our forces will be more than fully employed.)

If my view of Admiral McRaven's comments is correct, then for what reason would our operators have need for additional knowledge, skills, training, education and/or ability re: how to achieve economic expansion in less-market-oriented states and societies?

They would not, it would seem, and except re: "helping with security," be doing that kind of work.