Guns seized in Colombia. (Inaldo Perez/AFP/Getty Images)
Tom Hill and Jeni Mitchell, doctoral students in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, join Bellum to discuss their research field, the so-called “crime-conflict nexus.” Their biosketches and may be found at the bottom of this article.
1. Could you please provide a layman’s explanation of the “crime-conflict nexus”?
There is no one crime-conflict nexus, but several. We conceive of the crime-conflict nexus as existing in three main forms: a conceptual nexus; a logistical nexus; and a governance subversion nexus:
Night in Zabul, Afghanistan. (Defenselink)
What better way to end our brief hiatus than with Q&A with Craig Mullaney, a decorated Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan and as an advisor to the Obama campaign. Author of The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education, he was also a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of West Point. We’ve emboldened a few of the highlights.
1. You recently told Andrew Exum: “A well-rounded education including self-directed outside reading and broad exposure through travel may not give you the specific answers about the culture, terrain, or enemy of tomorrow’s battlefields, but it will at least give you the questions to ask so that you can adapt faster and smarter than your adversary.” What are the right questions to be asking about Afghanistan today?
At the end of the day, is this how it works? (Clay Bennett)
Maciej Ceglowski runs the terrific new site WrongTomorrow.com, which tracks the predictions made by pundits to see how well they measure up to reality (or, rather, to the future). Given the role forecasting plays in defense analysis and intelligence, we asked him to offer some extended thoughts on what drives his project.
1. Why are you so skeptical of expert prognostication?
Market Crash: What's next for the unemployed?
The past half year has seen a steady file of twenty-somethings streaming out of the Lincoln Tunnel and down I-95 to leave New York and the finance industry behind. Many of these bankers, hired predominantly during the post-2002 boom and now faced with the grim prospects of market correction, hold valuable technical degrees and have substantial professional experience. They are well-accustomed to an environment where near-thankless and endless work is the rule and not the exception, and they thrive in high-pressure, deadline-oriented scenarios. Furthermore and perhaps less well known, many of Wall Street’s newly-separated analysts and associates are athletic, suited to bureaucratic organizations and, importantly, patriotic. The present moment is replete with economic duress in New York that has thousands gazing toward the Beltway yearning for the stability of a public sector job. For now, many of New York’s Type-A fallen will settle into agency positions and of these, some will readily acclimate to a lifestyle that is the polar opposite of Wall Street. Others will find the tamer pace of the civil service to be frustrating and they will seek challenges in a new field.
This jihadist graphic depicts an Islamic flag stabbed into the heart of Italy. Hundreds like it litter the Internet. (CTC-West Point)
Today we are pleased to host Thomas Hegghammer, contributor to Jihadica. The Norwegian-born scholar is a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment. He joins us to share his thoughts on the study of radical Islam and its relation to Saudi Arabia and Afpak.
1. SITE Intelligence Group, Jihad Watch — where does Jihadica fit into the mix?
First, Jihadica is a very small, pro bono operation, while SITE is a professional and fee-based service. Second, Jihadica is not a translation service and we do not aim for comprehensive monitoring in the way SITE does. Instead, we offer informed commentary on selected items and topics. Finally, we aim for more politically neutral coverage than sites such as Jihad Watch, which have a very explicit anti-Islamist agenda.
Hotel Maritim Varadero Beach Resort -- Cuba.
The Obama administration has just announced a significant shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba. Click here to read the full memo, in which the President directs the Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce to lift restrictions on family visits and remittances, expand humanitarian assistance, and authorize U.S. companies to establish telecom linkages between the mainland and Cuba. We featured commentary from COL Alex Crowther of the Army War College back in February, calling for an end to the embargo. Hopefully this is a first step towards that goal.
The entire Cuba issue is a mix of Florida politics and Cold War reflexes in a segment of aging Cuban emigres and their allies. When it comes to the embargo, the issue is less about the trade of goods and more about American tourists, as is suggested by the economies of nearby islands like the Bahamas and Jamaica. In a time when Mexican resorts suffer lost business because of the drug wars, Cuba could conceivably provide clean, cheap, and safe beachside entertainment.
French commandos rescuing hostages last week.
Obviously everyone is happy to have rescued the captain and killed the bad guys. Our friends at SWJ have a complete news round-up here and Victor Davis Hanson provides colorful commentary here. But for our purposes, we note that it was only a matter of time before the discussion shifted to the “rights” of the pirates. Our human rights activists, international lawyers and post-imperialists seem to have a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea of war — or, indeed of state action — other than criminal proceedings with maximal procedural and individual rights for the accused. They have lived very sheltered lives and simply do not grok the world that is.
Andrew Klavan, best-selling author of many novels picked up by Hollywood, joins us today to discuss the role of Hollywood in the war effort. For more about him, read his articles here and here, see this appearance on Uncommon Knowledge, or visit his blog, Klavan on the Culture.
1. We all can fall victim to idealizing the past, remembering the good and forgetting the bad. Was Hollywood really better back during WW2?
The life of an art form has its peaks and troughs just like anything else, and there seems to me no question that movies went through a genuine golden age during the 30’s and 40’s. But that’s only part of the issue. Filmmakers-and particularly studio heads-in the old days had a sense of responsibility toward the rest of us. The current crop are slavish conformists to the left-wing intellectual elite. They are protected from the consequences of their mindless bad boy radicalism by money and by sympathetic media. But the thing is: to my mind, even if you make a great film, if it endangers American troops in the field fighting to defend you, well, congratulations, you won the Oscar, but as a human being, you’re trash.
Duelfer delivering the surprising news to the Senate in 2004.
“I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds,” nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer is reported to have said after an atomic test in 1945. Over 60 years later, our world has yet to shatter–but not for lack of opportunity. As elder statesmen push for a global nuclear-weapons-free-zone and their successors struggle to prevent both Iran from acquiring those same weapons and North Korea from test-firing missiles that can deliver them, how is the American layman to make sense of the nuclear threat? Is prolilferation inevitable or can it actually be stopped? For some answers, we turned to Charles Duelfer, the MIT-trained arms control expert who formerly headed the Iraq Survey Group. He is the author of the recently released memoir, Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq. (See Appendix for the full transcript of our interview.)
Missing the forest...
Today’s The Wall Street Journal editorializes against some of Robert Gates’ “strategic choices” when it comes to the defense budget. In particular, the article laments his cuts to the size of the Navy, the F-22 fighter program, and missile defense. Such criticism is misdirected at one level and sophomoric at another.
SECDEF does not decide what percentage of GDP or of the federal budget will be allocated to the Defense Department. The budgetary ceiling is set by the President, with input from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Treasury Department, and Congress. Our nation’s legislators, naturally, insist on a ceiling to fund other priorities, either spending or tax cuts. Gates has decision-making authority over what to fund under that ceiling and has sensibly decided to prioritize present dangers (and what our armed forces have actually been used for over the past 20 years) over hypothetical threats.