Monday, May 23, 2011

Rapture & Disclosure

I dined at a Mexican restaurant last Saturday night. The platter that arrived at my table was accompanied by an ice-cold Negra Modelo. I ate and drank way too much… way too late in the evening.

I woke up around 4am in a cold sweat. It was one of those situations in life where one doesn’t know whether it’s better to throw it up, shit it out or walk it off. I chose to step out on the deck and take in a little fresh air.

The view from my deck overlooks our valley… twinkling lights of the city just beginning to wake up for a sleepy Sunday. Only the brightest of stars still showed in the night sky as daylight approached. Calm… quiet… beautiful.

As the early morning breeze cooled and dried the perspiration on my brow, and as my fevered head cleared, my thoughts drifted to… “hey… it’s Sunday morning and the world didn’t end.”  Thank you world… for small favors. It appears as though we survived another prophecy of doom in spite of ourselves. Guess we were lucky that the volcano blew in Iceland, relieving the Earth pressures that otherwise would surly have resulted in devastating earthquakes each hour… following each time zone… until we were all done in. Whew… dodged another bullet!

As our Islamic brothers say… God is great!

Sunday night I watched an interesting (mock) documentary on the NatGeo channel cheerfully entitled “When Aliens Attack.” Here is a blurb from the NatGeo website…

"What if an extra-terrestrial force attacked Earth? What might that look like and how will the people of Earth respond? Consulting a cast of world-renowned scientists, survival experts and defense experts, this two-hour special, Alien Invasion explores this frightening scenario. Experts reveal what could motivate alien invaders to attack Earth, and speculate on how the attack might play out -- the strategy alien invaders might use and the most effective ways for humans to respond. Well turn to science and history to figure out what works. Well show how humanity can survive this ultimate test".

As Alice explained in reference to Wonderland… Curiouser & Curiouser.

So now the National Geographic channel is prepping the American television watching public on an alien invasion scenario… This was as novel to me as President Reagan’s alien speech to the United Nations back in 1987.

So within 24 hours my (and perhaps your) consciousness is presented with the prospect of the end of the world and alien invasion. The explicit message from “when aliens attack” was… whether we are faced with an alien threat, or natural disaster… we need to be prepared. And that the preparations for either an alien attack or natural disasters, such as are occurring around the planet as we speak, are virtually the same.

Interestingly, the experts quoted on the documentary emphasized that high technology may not be of value, rather soft or old technology… flashlights… drinking water… food supplies… personal preparedness. They concluded that in the end… the perseverance of the human spirit would be the deciding factor in our survival.

So is all the current media surrounding continued natural disasters and the end of the world and alien threat… & for that matter, television’s renewed interest in Sci Fi entertainment, (ie: The Event)… the beginning of what some have predicted… the careful planning and preparations for what has come to be known as...


Or maybe it was just a matter of too much Mexican food… Curiouser & Curiouser…

5/24 Sync alert…

While viewing last night’s episode of “The Event” (see reference above), I was pleased to see that one of our local volcanic peaks… Mount Shasta… made a cameo appearance. Within the plot of the TV series, Shasta was erupting due to alien manipulation. Earthquakes and other generic natural disasters were occurring all over the planet. This plot line could not tie in better with “current events” described above…

… and curiouser!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Scotland holds the key to Arthurian mystery

It is a mystery that has baffled generations of historians, but the secrets of King Arthur’s round table could finally be laid bare thanks to modern technology.

A circular earthen mound near Stirling Castle has been linked variously to the legendary king, to British aristocrats and to Roman invaders, but its origins remain shrouded in history.

Now, for the first time, a team of archaelogists from Glasgow University is preparing to use hi-tech scanners to survey the ground beneath it, providing a clear insight into the mound’s beginnings. The structure, often referred to as the King’s Knot, has long fascinated national historians. Despite the mysteries it may contain, however, it has remained undisturbed for fear of damaging it. The new project, scheduled to run next week, will provide a full geophysical survey of the entire area.

Stirling Local History Society (SLHS) and Stirling Field and Archaeological Society have secured funding from Historic Scotland and Stirling City Heritage Trust for the operation. Dr Richard Jones, senior lecturer in archaeology at Glasgow University, said his team had little idea of what they might uncover.

“This is a fabulous opportunity to discover more about a site that has fascinated people down the centuries, and it’s all the more exciting because we really don’t know what – if anything – it will reveal. The survey equipment we use will sense beneath the ground, showing us any lost stuctures and features up to a metre below the ground, irrespective of how old they are.”

John Harrison, chairman of the local history society, said the distinctive “cup and saucer” shape of the mound had changed over the years. There are several competing theories on its dates of origin,” he added.

“People have told stories about the King’s Knot for hundreds of years and it has become linked with all sorts of ideas. But its origins remain mysterious.

“The area was used as a garden in the 16th and 17th centuries. But when was the present ‘cup and saucer’ mound formed?

“Perhaps it was as late as the 1620s. But about 1375 the poet John Barbour says that ‘the round table’ was somewhere to the south of Stirling Castle and tradition continued to place ‘the tabilll round’ hereabouts. It is a mystery the documents cannot solve. But geophysics may give us new insights.”

Archaeologist Stephen Digney, who is co-ordinating the project, said the area around Stirling Castle contains “some of the finest medieval landscapes in Europe”.
He said: “This investigation will be the start of a serious effort to explore, explain and interpret them. Is the Knot an ancient feature that Scotland’s monarchs reused, or was it a unique garden design?”

Richard Strachan of Historic Scotland said the operation “is important to help us discover more about Scotland’s past”. He said: “The King’s Knot is not only a fascinating site, but also a very sensitive one, which means that geophysical survey techniques are ideal as they help reveal any archaeology below the surface, without causing it any damage.”

The survey begins on Monday, and is due to be completed by the end of next week.

(written by Chris Watt)

See also... Mithraic Mysteries altar stones uncovered in Scotland

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cloud Computing and the Singularity

Computing in the Cloud

Simply stated, cloud computing is Internet-based computing… whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices such as tablets and smartphones on demand… like the electricity grid. Cloud computing is an evolutionary paradigm shift following the shift from mainframe to client–server in the early 1980s. Computing “in the cloud” is essentially a new storage, consumption, and delivery model for IT services based on the world wide web, and it typically involves over-the-Internet provision of dynamically scalable resources.

The most prevalent and pervasive cloud services currently in use are social networking sites (ie: the 500 million people using Facebook), micro-blogging and blogging services such as Twitter and Blogger, video-sharing sites like YouTube, picture-sharing sites such as Flickr, document and applications sites like Google Docs and social-bookmarking sites like Delicious.

Forward thinking technophiles expect that by 2020 most people will access software applications online and share and access information through the use of remote server networks, rather than depending primarily on tools and information housed on their personal computers. They believe that “cloud computing” will become more dominant than the desktop in the next decade. In other words, most users will perform most computing and communicating activities through connections to servers operated by outside firms.

Consequently, cloud computing takes the form of web-based tools or applications that users can access and use through a web browser as if it were a program installed locally on their own computer. As storage and access of data migrates off of personal hard drives and into the cloud, conventional understanding of ownership of data becomes more than a little fuzzy. Access and control of the cloud becomes a critical concern.

Who owns the cloud?

Putting all or most of our faith in remotely accessible tools and data puts a lot of trust in the humans and devices controlling the clouds and exercising gatekeeping functions over access to that data. This line of reasoning raises concerns that cloud dominance by a small number of large firms may constrict the internet's openness and its capacity to inspire innovation. This presents serious security problems and further exposes previously private information to governments, corporations, thieves, opportunists, and human and/or machine error. Are we giving up autonomy and control in exchange for streamlined simplicity?

As this ubiquitous cloud of data becomes in essence a globally structured atmosphere of information from which humanity extracts and stores it’s knowledge base, might not a globally structured sentience be far off?

Enter our old friend… Singularity

If the Singularity represents the point in time when computers… globally connected and facilitated by the cloud… becomes smarter than humans, then that is the point when computers can understand themselves better than humans can. It will be the day AI, or more precisly… PI (planetary intelligence), is born as a sentient system. As “the cloud” continues to be accessed and augmented by humanity, the comprehensive composition of our global superintelligence is one of intelligence amplification... humanity as an intragel part of superintelligence. A partnership of Earth… Gaia, technology and humanity.

A central expectation of the singularity concept is that it’s appearance is difficult to predict and it’s threshold may be achieved quite suddenly. In this regard, cloud computing might be the most likley infrastructure of singularity. As more data and applications are “uploaded” to the cloud, intelligence amplification become exponential. It is easy to imagine cloud computing as being vastly greater than the sum-total of it’s parts.

Although a common fear among it’s proponents is that singularity will mark the end of the human era… cloud computing doesn’t have a menacing feel to it. Oddly enough, cloud computing has an organic quality to it, much like chaos theory and fractal geometry. It is as likley as any other scenario that cloud computing will explode beyond the control of afore-mentioned large firms and corporations… becoming it’s own evolutionary agent.

Who owns the cloud?... Earth, of course!

This is somehow an encouraging thought. It brings to mind the sixth principal of tek-gnostics eight-fold path, that… the circumstances are necessarily perfect and all is chaos under Heaven… and the situation is excellent!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Guest Commentary - A NATIONAL STRATEGIC NARRATIVE - By Mr. Y - Part 3

Credible Influence in a Strategic Ecosystem
Viewed in the context of a strategic ecosystem, the global trends and conditions cited earlier are seen to be borderless. The application of credible influence to further our national interests, then, should be less about sovereign borders and geographic regions than the means and scope of its conveyance. By addressing the trends themselves, we will attract others in our environment also affected. These converging interests will create opportunities for both competition and interdependence, opportunities to positively shape these trends to mutual advantage. Whether this involves out-competing the grey and black market, funding research to develop alternate and sustainable sources of energy, adapting farming for low-water-level environments, anticipating and limiting the effects of pandemics, generating viable economies to relieve urbanization and migration, marginalizing extremism and demonstrating the futility of anti-modernism, or better managing the global information grid – international divisions among people will be less the focus than flexible and imaginative cooperation. Isolation – whether within national borders, physical boundaries, ideologies, or cyberspace – will prove to be a great disadvantage for any competitor in the evolution of the system.

The advent of the internet and world wide web, that ushered in the information age and greatly accelerated globalization, brought with it profound second and third order effects the implications of which have yet to be fully recognized or understood. These effects include the near-instantaneous and anonymous exchange of ideas and ideologies; the sharing and manipulation of previously protected and sophisticated technologies; vast and transparent social networking that has homogenized cultures, castes, and classes; the creation of complex virtual worlds; and, a universal dependence on the global grid from every sector of society that has become almost existential. The worldwide web has also facilitated the spread of hateful and manipulative propaganda and extremism; the theft of intellectual property and sensitive information; predatory behavior and the exploitation of innocence; and the dangerous and destructive prospect of cyber warfare waged from the shadows of non-attribution and deception. Whether this revolution in communication and access to information is viewed as the democratization of ideas, or as the technological catalyst of an apocalypse, nothing has so significantly impacted our lives in the last one hundred years. Our perceptions of self, society, religion, and life itself have been challenged. But cyberspace is yet another dimension within the strategic ecosystem, offering opportunity through complex interdependence. Here, too, we must invest the resources and develop the capabilities necessary to sustain our prosperity and security without sacrificing our values.

Opportunities beyond Threat and Risk
As was stated earlier, while this Strategic Narrative advocates a focus on the opportunities inherent in a complex global system, it does not pretend that greed, corruption, ancient hatreds and new born apprehensions won’t manifest into very real risks that could threaten our national interests and test our values. Americans must recognize this as an inevitable part of the strategic environment and continue to maintain the means to minimize, deter, or defeat these diverging or conflicting interests that threaten our security. This calls for a robust, technologically superior, and agile military – equally capable of responding to low-end, irregular conflicts and to major conventional contingency operations (questionable premise - the editors). But it also requires a strong and unshakable economy, a more diverse and deployable Inter Agency, and perhaps most importantly a well-informed and supportive citizenry. As has also been cited, security means far more than defense, and strength denotes more than power. We must remain committed to a whole of nation application of the tools of competition and deterrence: development, diplomacy, and defense. Our ability to look beyond risk and threat – to accept them as realities within a strategic ecology – and to focus on opportunities and converging interests will determine our success in pursuing our national interests in a sustainable manner while maintaining our national values. This requires the projection of credible influence and strength, as well as confidence in our capabilities as a nation. As we look ahead, we will need to determine what those capabilities should include.

As Americans, our ability to remain relevant as a world leader, to evolve as a nation, depends as it always has on our determination to pursue our national interests within the constraints of our core values. We must embrace and respect diversity and encourage the exchange of ideas, welcoming as our own those who share our values and seek an opportunity to contribute to our nation. Innovation, imagination, and hard work must be applied through a national unity of effort that recognizes our place in the global system. We must accept that to be great requires competition and to remain great requires adaptability, that competition need not demand a single winner, and that through converging interests we should seek interdependencies that can help sustain our interests in the global strategic ecosystem. To achieve this we will need the tools of development, diplomacy and defense – employed with agility through an integrated whole of nation approach. This will require the prioritization of our investments in intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth; investment in the nation’s sustainable security – on our own soil and wherever Americans and their interests take them, including space and cyberspace; and investment in sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need for our continued wellbeing, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace. Only by developing internal strength through smart growth at home and smart power abroad, applied with strategic agility, can we muster the credible influence needed to remain a world leader.

A National Prosperity and Security Act
Having emerged from the Second World War with the strongest economy, most powerful military, and arguably the most stable model of democracy, President Truman sought to better align America’s security apparatus to face the challenges of the post-war era. He did this through the National Security Act of 1947 (NSA 47). Three years later, with the rise of Chinese communism and the first Russian test of a nuclear device, he ordered his National Security Council to consider the means with which America could confront the global spread of communism. In 1950, President Truman signed into law National Security Council finding 68 (NSC 68). Often called the “blueprint” for America’s Cold War strategy of containment, NSC 68 leveraged not only the National Security structures provided by NSA 47, but recommended funding and authorization for a Department of Defense-led strategy of containment, with other agencies and departments of the Federal government working in supporting roles. NSA 47 and NSC 68 provided the architecture, authorities and necessary resources required for a specific time in our nation’s progress.

Today, we find ourselves in a very different strategic environment than that of the last half of the Twentieth Century. The challenges and opportunities facing us are far more complex, multi-nodal, and interconnected than we could have imagined in 1950. Rather than narrowly focus on near term risk and solutions for today’s strategic environment, we must recognize the need to take a longer view, a generational view, for the sustainability of our nation’s security and prosperity. Innovation, flexibility, and resilience are critical characteristics to be cultivated if we are to maintain our competitive edge and leadership role in this century. To accomplish this, we must take a hard look at our interagency structures, authorities, and funding proportionalities. We must seek more flexibility in public / private partnerships and more fungibility across departments. We must provide the means for the functional application of development, diplomacy, and defense rather than continuing to organizationally constrain these tools. We need to pursue our priorities of education, security, and access to natural resources by adopting sustainability as an organizing concept for a national strategy. This will require fundamental changes in policy, law, and organization.

What this calls for is a National Prosperity and Security Act, the modern day equivalent of the National Security Act of 1947. This National Prosperity and Security Act would: integrate policy across agencies and departments of the Federal government and provide for more effective public/private partnerships; increase the capacity of appropriate government departments and agencies; align Federal policies, taxation, research and development expenditures and regulations to coincide with the goals of sustainability; and, converge domestic and foreign policies toward a common purpose. Above all, this Act would provide for policy changes that foster and support the innovation and entrepreneurialism of America that are essential to sustain our qualitative growth as a people and a nation. We need a National Prosperity and Security Act and a clear plan for its application that can serve us as well in this strategic environment, as NSA 47 and NSC 68 served a generation before us.

A Beacon of Hope, a Pathway of Promise
This Narrative advocates for America to pursue her enduring interests of prosperity and security through a strategy of sustainability that is built upon the solid foundation of our national values. As Americans we needn’t seek the world’s friendship or to proselytize the virtues of our society. Neither do we seek to bully, intimidate, cajole, or persuade others to accept our unique values or to share our national objectives. Rather, we will let others draw their own conclusions based upon our actions. Our domestic and foreign policies will reflect unity of effort, coherency and constancy of purpose. We will pursue our national interests and allow others to pursue theirs, never betraying our values. We will seek converging interests and welcome interdependence. We will encourage fair competition and will not shy away from deterring bad behavior. We will accept our place in a complex and dynamic strategic ecosystem and use credible influence and strength to shape uncertainty into opportunities. We will be a pathway of promise and a beacon of hope, in an ever changing world.

~ END ~

And now more on the enigmatic Mr. Y…

In 1947 George Kennan published The Sources of Soviet Conduct in Foreign Affairs under the pseudonym X, so as not to reveal his identity as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. The X article gave the United States an intellectual framework within which to understand the rise and eventual fall of the Soviet Union and a strategy to hasten that objective.

Mr. Y is a pseudonym for CAPT Wayne Porter, USN and Col Mark "Puck" Mykleby, USMC… who are actively serving military officers. (The views expressed herein are their own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.)

Stated briefly, Porter & Mykleby’s strategic narrative of the United States in the 21st century is that we want to become the strongest competitor and most influential player in a deeply inter-connected global system, which requires that we invest less in defense and more in sustainable prosperity and the tools of effective global engagement.

We think that we are an exceptional nation, but a core part of that exceptionalism is a commitment to universal values – to the equality of all human beings not just within the borders of the United States, but around the world. We should thus embrace the rise of other nations when that rise is powered by expanded prosperity, opportunity, and dignity for their peoples.

The Y article is the first step down that new path.

It is written by two military men who are non-partisan by profession and conviction. Their insights and ideas should spark a national conversation. All we need now is for politicians, pundits, journalists, businesspeople, civic leaders, and engaged citizens across the country to understand that we are entering a new era where cooperation and mutual respect become the political priority, not military might.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guest Commentary - A NATIONAL STRATEGIC NARRATIVE - By Mr. Y - Part 2

Fair Competition and Deterrence
Competition is a powerful, and often misunderstood, concept. Fair competition – of ideas and enterprises, among individuals, organizations, and nations – is what has driven Americans to achieve greatness across the spectrum of human endeavor. And yet with globalization, we seem to have developed a strange apprehension about the efficacy of our ability to apply the innovation and hard work necessary to successfully compete in a complex security and economic environment. Further, we have misunderstood interdependence as a weakness rather than recognizing it as a strength. The key to sustaining our competitive edge, at home or on the world stage, is credibility – and credibility is a difficult capital to foster. It cannot be won through intimidation and threat, it cannot be sustained through protectionism or exclusion. Credibility requires engagement, strength, and reliability – imaginatively applied through the national tools of development, diplomacy, and defense.

In many ways, deterrence is closely linked to competition. Like competition, deterrence in the truest sense is built upon strength and credibility and cannot be achieved solely through intimidation and threat. For deterrence to be effective, it must leverage converging interests and interdependencies, while differentiating and addressing diverging and conflicting interests that represent potential threats. Like competition, deterrence requires a whole of nation effort, credible influence supported by actions that are consistent with our national interests and values. When fair competition and positive influence through engagement – largely dependent on the tools of development and diplomacy – fail to dissuade the threat of destructive behavior, we will approach deterrence through a broad, interdisciplinary effort that combines development and diplomacy with defense.

A Strategic Ecology
Rather than focusing all our attention on specific threats, risks, nations, or organizations, as we have in the past, let us evaluate the trends that will shape tomorrow’s strategic ecology, and seek opportunities to credibly influence these to our advantage. Among the trends that are already shaping a “new normal” in our strategic environment are the decline of rural economies, joblessness, the dramatic increase in urbanization, an increasing demand for energy, migration of populations and shifting demographics, the rise of grey and black markets, the phenomenon of extremism and anti-modernism, the effects of global climate change, the spread of pandemics and lack of access to adequate health services, and an increasing dependency on cyber networks. At first glance, these trends are cause for concern. But for Americans with vision, guided by values, they represent opportunities to reestablish and leverage credible influence, converging interests, and interdependencies that can transform despair into hope. This focus on improving our strategic ecosystem, and favorably competing for our national interests, underscores the investment priorities cited earlier, and the imaginative application of diplomacy, development, and defense in our foreign policy.

Many of the trends affecting our environment are conditions-based. That is, they have developed within a complex system as the result of conditions left unchecked for many years. These global trends, whether manifesting themselves in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Eurasia, or within our own hemisphere impact the lives of Americans in ways that are often obscure as they propagate over vast areas with cascading and sometimes catastrophic effect.

Illiteracy, for example, is common in countries with high birth rates. High birth rates and illiteracy contribute to large labor pools and joblessness, particularly in rural areas in which changing weather conditions have resulted in desertification and soil erosion. This has led to the disruption of family and tribal support structures and the movement of large numbers of young, unskilled people into urban areas that lack infrastructure. This rapid urbanization has taxed countries with weak governance that lack rule of law, permitting the further growth of exploitive, grey and black market activities. Criminal networks prey upon and contribute to the disenfranchisement of a sizeable portion of the population in many underdeveloped nations. This concentration of disenfranchised youth, with little-to-no licit support infrastructure has provided a recruiting pool for extremists seeking political support and soldiers for local or foreign causes, often facilitated through the internet.

The wars and instability perpetrated by these extremists and their armies of the disenfranchised have resulted in the displacement of many thousands more, and the further weakening of governance. This displacement has, in many cases, produced massive migrations of disparate families, tribes, and cultures seeking a more sustainable existence. This migration has further exacerbated the exploitation of the weak by criminal and ideological profiteers and has facilitated the spread of diseases across natural barriers previously considered secure. The effect has been to create a kind of subculture of despair and hopelessness that is self-perpetuating. At some point, these underlying conditions must be addressed by offering choices and options that will nudge global trends in a positive direction. America’s national interests and values are not sustainable otherwise.

We cannot isolate our own prosperity and security from the global system. Even in a land as rich as ours, we too, have seen the gradual breakdown of rural communities and the rapid expansion of our cities. We have experienced migration, crime, and domestic terrorism. We struggle with joblessness and despite a low rate of illiteracy, we are losing our traditional role of innovation dominance in leading edge technologies and the sciences. We are, in the truest sense, part of an interdependent strategic ecosystem, and our interests converge with those of people in virtually every corner of the world. We must remain cognizant of this, and reconcile our domestic and foreign policies as being complementary and largely congruent.

As we pursue the growth of our own prosperity and security, the welfare of our citizens must be seen as part of a highly dynamic, and interconnected system that includes sovereign nations, world markets, natural and man-generated challenges and solutions – a system that demands adaptability and innovation. In this strategic environment, it is competition that will determine how we evolve, and Americans must have the tools and confidence required to successfully compete.

This begins at home with quality health care and education, with a vital economy and low rates of unemployment, with thriving urban centers and carefully planned rural communities, with low crime, and a sense of common purpose underwritten by personal responsibility. We often hear the term “smart power” applied to the tools of development and diplomacy abroad empowering people all over the world to improve their own lives and to help establish the stability needed to sustain security and prosperity on a global scale. But we can not export “smart power” until we practice “smart growth” at home. We must seize the opportunity to be a model of stability, a model of the values we cherish for the rest of the world to emulate. And we must ensure that our domestic policies are aligned with our foreign policies. Our own “smart growth” can serve as the exportable model of “smart power.” Because, truthfully, it is in our interest to see the rest of the world prosper and the world market thrive, just as it is in our interest to see our neighbors prosper and our own urban centers and rural communities come back to life.

Closing the “Say-do” Gap - the Negative Aspects of “Binning”
An important step toward re-establishing credible influence and applying it effectively is to close the “say-do” gap. This begins by avoiding the very western tendency to label or “bin” individuals, groups, organizations, and ideas. In complex systems, adaptation and variation demonstrate that “binning” is not only difficult, it often leads to unintended consequences. For example, labeling, or binning, Islamist radicals as “terrorists,” or worse, as “jihadis,” has resulted in two very different, and unfortunate unintended misperceptions: that all Muslims are thought of as “terrorists;” and, that those who pervert Islam into a hateful, anti-modernist ideology to justify unspeakable acts of violence are truly motivated by a religious struggle (the definition of “jihad,” and the obligation of all Muslims), rather than being seen as apostates waging war against society and innocents. This has resulted in the alienation of vast elements of the global Muslim community and has only frustrated efforts to accurately depict and marginalize extremism. Binning and labeling are legacies of a strategy intent on viewing the world as a closed system.

Another significant unintended consequence of binning, is that it creates divisions within our own government and between our own domestic and foreign policies. As has been noted, we cannot isolate our own prosperity and security from the global system. We exist within a strategic ecology, and our interests converge with those of people in virtually every corner of the world. We must remain cognizant of this, and reconcile our domestic and foreign policies as being complementary and largely congruent. Yet we have binned government departments, agencies, laws, authorities, and programs into lanes that lack the strategic flexibility and dynamism to effectively adapt to the global environment. This, in turn, further erodes our credibility, diminishes our influence, inhibits our competitive edge, and exacerbates the say-do gap.

The tools to be employed in pursuit of our national interests – development, diplomacy, and defense – cannot be effective if they are restricted to one government department or another. In fact, if these tools are not employed within the context of a coherent national strategy, vice being narrowly applied in isolation to individual countries or regions, they will fail to achieve a sustainable result. By recognizing the advantages of interdependence and converging interests, domestically and internationally, we gain the strategic flexibility to sustain our national interests without compromising our values. The tools of development do not exist within the domain of one government department alone, or even one sector of society, anymore than do the tools of diplomacy or defense.

Another form of binning that impedes strategic flexibility, interdependence, and converging interests in the global system, is a geo-centric approach to foreign policy. Perhaps since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, westerners have tended to view the world as consisting of sovereign nation-states clearly distinguishable by their political borders and physical boundaries. In the latter half of the Twentieth Century a new awareness of internationalism began to dominate political thought. This notion of communities of nations and regions was further broadened by globalization. But the borderless nature of the internet, and the accompanying proliferation of stateless organizations and ideologies, has brought with it a new appreciation for the interconnectivity of today’s strategic ecosystem. In this “new world order,” converging interests create interdependencies. Our former notion of competition as a zero sum game that allowed for one winner and many losers, seems as inadequate today as Newton’s Laws of Motion (written about the same time as the Westphalia Peace) did to Albert Einstein and quantum physicists in the early Twentieth Century. It is time to move beyond a narrow Westphalian vision of the world, and to recognize the opportunities in globalization.

Such an approach doesn’t advocate the relinquishment of sovereignty as it is understood within a Westphalian construct. Indeed, sovereignty without tyranny is a fundamental American value. Neither does the recognition of a more comprehensive perspective place the interests of American citizens behind, or even on par with those of any other country on earth. It is the popular convergence of interests among peoples, nations, cultures, and movements that will determine the sustainability of prosperity and security in this century. And it is credible influence, based on values and strength that will ensure America’s continuing role as a world leader. Security and prosperity are not sustainable in isolation from the rest of the global system. To close the say-do gap, we must stop behaving as if our national interests can be pursued without regard for our values.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tao Te Ching – verse 69

The master soldiers have a saying:

I dare not be the host but prefer to be the guest.

I dare not advance an inch but prefer to retreat a foot.

This is called marching without moving,

rolling up a sleeve without baring an arm,

capturing a foe without a battlefront,

arming yourself without weapons.

There is no disaster greater than attacking and finding no enemy.

Doing so will cost you your treasure.

Thus it is that when opposing forces meet,

victory will go to those who take no delight in the situation.

Ed note: posted in response to the announcement of Bin Laden's death...