I've been leafing through the new Center for a New American Security report, Crime Wars, which heavily cites John P. Sullivan and Robert Bunker's stuff. If you've in DC, come to their rollout event tonight. I can't make it, unfortunately, but it sounds like it will be quite the discussion.
Check out this new paper on red-teaming by GEN Carter Ham, COL (Ret.) Greg Fontenot, LTC David Pendall, and Mr. Larry Closter. Part of Red Team Journal's occasional paper series. We have some pretty cool new ones also in the works.
I like Thucydides, and I can recite the Melian Dialogue from heart. But I also think that as much of a classic the book is, it has become too totemic a work of literature for both classical realists and neorealists. So I have some alternate reading and viewing suggestions for realists that also illuminate aspects of strategy and international relations.
1. The Romance of Three Kingdoms
Classic Chinese epic novel about the struggle for power among a multiplicity of warlords. The level of violence, duplicity, and pure drama here dwarfs anything that Thucydides could ever imagine. And Cao Cao is the kind of character Gary Oldman would win an Oscar for if he were Chinese.
2. Dune series
Control over precious resources. Interplanetary geostrategy. Warring royal families. Religious prophecies and fanatical cults and organizations. Byzantine conspiracies of immense complexity. Dune simply has it all. You should be equally familiar with Houses Harkonnen and Atreides as you are with Pericles.
Xenophon's classic tale about a group of Greek soldiers who find themselves stranded when their Host Nation undergoes a drastic political shift is not just a tale of military exploits but also a story of strategy and diplomacy as their leader methodically leads them up back to Greece through Persian lands. An instructive read for the "expeditionary" era.
4. The Godfather, Part 2
Several realists have recommended the first movie, but I think the second is far more interesting. Why? It's a story in, part, of maturing power as Michael Corleone gradually grows into his role as top boss of the Corleone family. It covers the difficulties of a grand strategic shift, as Corleone attempts to move his operations West and become more legitimate. It's also mainly very interesting for its deep psychological insight into a leader's decisonmaking calculus and the burdens that strategy--especially in a world as anarchical as that of the mob--inflicts on a leader who must set policy.
5. Zulu Dawn
The prequel that no one ever watches to Zulu. Instead of the heroic defense of Rorke's Drift against the Zulu hordes, it shows a complacent British army being annihilated at Isandlwana. It also depicts, in sad detail, the political machinations that ensured that an ill-prepared force would be sent into Zululand without a clear strategy for victory. There is a reason why this film is obscure--it is a very, very depressing story but just as relevant as the similarly downbeat Battle of Algiers.
6. The Seven Samurai
Akira Kurosawa's classic is ultimately about the defense of a political community. Machiavelli advocated militia forces to preserve Republicanism in his home city-state and protect it from outsiders, and wrote very strongly in both The Prince and The Art of War on the kinds of political motivation it would take to develop such forces. The Samurai, who both mistrust and are mistrusted by the villagers (who have a history of antagonism with Samurai) have to not only create a popular force to defend against a superior foe but also motivate it.
One big part of contemporary urban operations is counter-sniper technology (C-Sniper) that allows troops to more quickly verify the source of a shot. Now, it looks like the same technology--albeit greatly expanded--is being utilized in counter-gang operations in the US (h/t John Robb).
"Violent drug cartels increasingly resemble an insurgency with the power to challenge the [Mexican] government's control of wide swaths of its own soil, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday." Sound a bit familiar?
Now that Secretary of State Clinton has described the Mexican drug cartels as a criminal insurgency, it is safe to say that the concept of criminal insurgency that Max Manwaring, Ivan Briscoe, Hal Brands, Steven Metz, Robert Bunker, George Grayson, Shlok Vaidya, John Robb, and John P. Sullivan and me have written about has gone mainstream. A small (but analytically wide-ranging) group of people have pointed this out over the last four years , and an even smaller group of people forecast the potential for this to occur since the early 90s.
So now the hard task remains of devising policy solutions. An excellent place to start is to read some of Hal Brands' monographs at the Army War College. RAND also has some sterling policy stuff on Mexico as well.
Most Americans of all ages do not pay too much attention to foreign policy, outside a small community of policy wonks. It is rather laughable to assume that a large mass of people would consciously describe a foreign policy event as a significant influence on their worldview. The end of a first romantic relationship is probably a great deal more important to most people than the equally messy breakup of the Soviet Union.
If foreign policy matters, it is as a pure extension of partisan domestic politics or narrow controversial issues. Relations with Latin America as a whole, for example ( if they matter to most Americans at all) are seen through the prism of illegal immigration from Mexico. Events like 9/11 or Iraq tend to confirm or challenge partisan or cultural views most Americans already have.
I think that commentators take the Cold War--which tended to buck the general trend in some ways (e.g. apathy was impossible in the face of nuclear annihilation, although partisan politics was still the same as it always was) and then imagine that most people today still see the world the same way.
People have been asking me what I think about Machete, as John P. Sullivan and I have written a lot on Mexican drug cartels and criminal insurgency. Unfortunately, I have no substantive thoughts. What I do have, however, is a bitter rant.
Robert Rodriquez, why the hell is SALMA HAYEK not in Machete? Yes, Jessica Alba and a scantily clad, gun-toting Michelle Rodriquez in a pirate eyepatch was very good. But was it really too difficult to have Salma Hayek in that movie, even for a five minute cameo--instead of Lindsay Lohan? Geez.....It's not like Mr. Rodriquez is unfamiliar with Hayek's acting.
if you want to see something actually intelligent written about Machete, check Alex of i-Con's blog post.