Books Worth Reading
  • Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    Winning the Peace: An American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction (CSIS Significant Issues, No. 26) (Csis Significant Issues Series)
    by Robert C. Orr
  • Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World
    by Ashraf Ghani, Clare Lockhart
  • The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Vintage)
    by Rupert Smith
  • Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
    by John Robb
  • Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
    by Paul Collier
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    by Francis Fukuyama
  • When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    Princeton University Press
  • Building States to Build Peace
    Building States to Build Peace
    Lynne Rienner Publishers
  • Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    United Nations University Press

Entries in Videos (9)


Paul Collier on Stabilization

He makes the point I've been making for a long, long time.  Specifically, nothing you do really matters unless you have security, or something approximating it. 



Second, you need economic growth.  Both of these come before politics.  It sounds nice to say there are multiple "lines of operation" that must be carried out simultaneously, but that's not true.  You can have security without economic growth or democracy, but you can't have either of those two without security.


For those not familiar with him, Collier is a heavyweight in the development community.  His two books The Bottom Billion and Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places are considered required for development and stabilization practioners. 


Obama's Speech to the U.N. on U.S. Global Development Policy (Or, "It's the economy, stupid")

Here's President Obama's speech on America's new "Global Development Policy," given at last week's summit on the UN Millenium Development Goals:



Some quotes [emphasis mine]:


"I suspect that some in wealthier countries may ask-with our economies struggling, so many people out of work, and so many families barely getting by, why a summit on development? The answer is simple. In our global economy, progress in even the poorest countries can advance the prosperity and security of people far beyond their borders, including my fellow Americans."


"My national security strategy recognizes development as not only a moral imperative, but a strategic and economic imperative."


"For too long, we've measured our efforts by the dollars we spent and the food and medicines we delivered. But aid alone is not development. Development is helping nations to actually develop-moving from poverty to prosperity. And we need more than just aid to unleash that change. We need to harness all the tools at our disposal-from our diplomacy to our trade and investment policies."


"To unleash transformational change, we're putting a new emphasis on the most powerful force the world has ever known for eradicating poverty and creating opportunity. It's the force that turned South Korea from a recipient of aid to a donor of aid. It's the force that has raised living standards from Brazil to India. And it's the force that has allowed emerging African countries like Ethiopia, Malawi and Mozambique to defy the odds and make real progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, even as some of their neighbors-like Cote d'Ivoire-have lagged behind.  The force I'm speaking of is broad-based economic growth. Now, every nation will pursue its own path to prosperity. But decades of experience tell us that there are certain ingredients upon which sustainable growth and lasting development depends."


Full text here.  If you don't understand the title of the post, see here.



Animal Farm

Once upon a time the CIA helped fund and edit the script for the brilliant film Animal Farm, which was released during the height of the Cold War and helped turn generations of school children against communist dictatorships.  This was helped along by the fact the movie was generally shown in schools as part of the curriculum, after which a class discussion on its allegorical nature was held.  The CIA is out of the film business now (I think), but the movie is a useful example of how art can help influence the public, one way or the other.


For those who haven't seen Animal Farm (the classic 1954 version), you can watch the entire thing on YouTube by clicking here.


More on Cyber ShockWave

Last week I wrote about the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Cyber ShockWave project that imagined a situation in which a foreign country or criminal syndicate attacked critical U.S. infrastructure through the internet.  The event, which was filmed on CNN, is now available on YouTube . . .



For a synopsis of what went down, you can read this Washington Post article.  Long story short: the U.S. is not capable of preventing such an attack and senior government leaders haven’t thought through how to adequately respond to one.


On a similar note, James Fallows in the March issue of The Atlantic pens an article on the Chinese cyber threat.  Fallows is one of the best writers around when it comes to issues of national security and his articles in the run up to the Iraq war and its aftermath constitute some of the sharpest and most prescient commentary available on the subject.  He even wrote the introduction to John Robb’s groundbreaking book Brave New War.  Robb is the seminal thinker whose concept of systempunkt foresees the use of cyber war as strategy in which attacks against infrastructure and financial systems create cascading effects that potentially lead to the destabilization of society.  I did a post on it here.  It’s likely the designers of the exercise drew on Robb’s work in developing the Cyber ShockWave scenario. 


Fallows argues the Chinese military recognizes that at its current stage of development it can’t go toe to toe with the U.S. military and that the Chinese government is more concerned about creating jobs and keeping its economy growing than it is in preparing for or getting involved in a conventional fight with the United States.  What the Chinese are preparing for, however, are ways to fight asymmetrically via the internet, and in addition to attacking infrastructure and collapsing financial networks, Fallows envisions a doomsday scenario in which hackers can erase all the knowledge and information stored on U.S. based servers and databases.  If this occurs, it’s difficult to imagine how we recover.  Fallows doesn’t provide any answers.  But John Robb does.   


Weaponize Ridicule

This clip about bumbling jihadis in the new movie The Four Lions is hilarious . . .



It comes via J. Michael Waller whose Political Warfare blog has a great series of posts on how comedy can be used to help defeat radical extremist movements.  Osama Bin Laden has previously stated that he isn't afraid of dying but that he's afraid of being humiliated.  According to Waller, one way to make his worst fears come true is by making fun of him and those wishing to mirror his actions.  


"Ridicule," says Waller, "strips the terrorist of his power.  If we stop being afraid, we turn the icons of fear into objects of contempt."


While mockery won't solve the problem of terrorism, which is essentially blowback resulting from specific U.S. government actions abroad and can only be solved through a smarter foreign policy and less meddling in the affairs of other nations, it can be used to draw support away from extremist organizations seeking support from the masses. 


Satire has a long and established history of being used to subvert the beliefs of those who it is directed against.  If we hope to influence the minds and wills (hearts don't mean anything . . . so what if someone likes you if they're not willing to do anything to support you) of the populations who provide the sources of support for violent extremists, we'd be much better off churning out more films like The Four Lions. 



She Wants Revenge

Having more or less lived abroad since the summer of 2002, including significant time periods spent living in four different countries, I’ve had to make do with feeling at home wherever “home” happens to be.  This song by the Talking Heads, who I started listening to as a kid way back in the eighties, has always rang true for me, particularly this video version which I love . . .



Recently though, I’ve found a band called She Wants Revenge whose genre-bending sound and dark, animalistic lyrics have made them my new favorite . . . 



The tracks These Things and Out of Control are also really cool.




Great Moments in Interagency Cooperation

Via the guys at Coming Anarchy, who scored it from Bruce Schneier at his Schneier on Security blog:

Watch it until the end.



The Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private philanthropic organization in the world.  It has an endowment of over $35 billion and to maintain its non-profit status has to drop about $1.5 billion a year on programming. 

Gates just released his 2010 Annual Letter in which he discusses some of the more important activities the foundation takes part in and his thoughts on the role the foundation plays in development . . .

Melinda and I see our foundation’s key role as investing in innovations that would not otherwise be funded. This draws not only on our backgrounds in technology but also on the foundation’s size and ability to take a long-term view and take large risks on new approaches. Warren Buffett put it well in 2006 when he told us, “Don’t just go for safe projects. You can bat a thousand in this game if you want to by doing nothing important. Or you’ll bat something less than that if you take on the really tough problems.” We are backing innovations in education, food, and health as well as some related areas like savings for the poor.

He also has a blog called The Gates Notes.

What got me started on  Gates tonight  was watching this cool interview of him on my favorite television news program, The Daily Show (the only other one worth watching is 60 Minutes).  He mentioned that about 18 months ago he quit his day job at Microsoft in order to dedicate all his time to the foundation's work.


The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill Gates
Daily Show
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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is not perfect or without its share of criticism. Those problems are outweighed by the sheer scale of its philanthropy and its unique focus on supporting niche projects which don't receive government support or for which there are no pre-existing markets to drive innovation (like energy). 

I suspect by the time he's done, Gates will go down in history as the greatest philanthropist the world has ever seen. 

And at least he's nothing like this guy . . .




The Challenges of Nation-Building

From MIT World, a lecture by Jose Ramos-Horta, the former President of East Timor, on the Challenges of Nation-Building:  



You can also download it from iTunes.