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31 December 2008

First Day Issue / Postalo Vleeptron / Happy New Year 2009! / the Shape of Time!

Click, it gets bigger

Ach! Why didn't I study piano, like my brother? Why didn't I study art, like you?

Talentless, undisciplined, ignorant and lazy are No Way to go through Life!

But anyway, Happy New Year from Vleeptron and our neighboring planets Hoon, Yobbo, Mollyringwald, and the recently discovered planet Bjorkgudmundsdottir. The real name of the planet is in Icelandic and has all kinds of diacriticals and Funny Letters, but if an e-mail miracle happens, it really looks like this:


This is a jazz-up of a design I zipped out last New Year, my typical snatch-and-grab 20-minute collage of web images. But another Real Artist Pal of mine liked it, so I looked at the basic elements a second time and wondered if I could recycle it and make it look less Trailer-Parky.

Time, it turns out, has a Shape, you can draw it and see it and even use cardboard and scissors and tape to make a Solid Thing out of it, and put it on your nick-nack shelf. The shape is a tip-to-tip pair of inverted ice-cream cones.

The blue plane is called the Hypersurface of the Present. We're stuck on it inescapably. It moves straight up and takes us with it.

The point where the cones meet is Now or Right Now or This Instant. We have all of us floated to it up the Past Cone, and having touched this Point, then float above it into the Future Cone.

Everything outside these Cones -- well, actually, it doesn't exist, Nothing is there, or if Something is there, we don't yet have the brains to perceive it or describe it. All perceivable existence -- including our fuzzy memories and our hazy skills at prophesy -- lies within the two cones. (The angle is a nice perfect simple 45 degrees.)

Last year I was trying to find images to say Happy New Year, but I hate inevitable obligatory cliches; I went looking for a way to say

Past --> Now --> Future

that wasn't one of those cliches. Well, this is Not A Cliche, that is all I can claim for it.

Except for the Light Cone itself, every image is filched. The perforation dingbats are the work of the art student Adina Weinand at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, where I think she majors in Print Paper Book [production and design?]. The dingbats (there are three more motif blocks) were an assignment to illustrate: Balance, Texture or Pattern, Rhythm, Tension.

My Artist Pal (& equally ancient army buddy) was wholly innocent of Mail Art, but I kept sending him my crappy stamps, and Donald Evans images (he was already a big Saul Steinberg fan), and now the poor man is bigtime Contaminated with Mail Art, he is just grinding out them faux stamps like there was no tomorrow.

Wishing you a wonderful year ahead in the Future Cone, and for all of us everywhere Peace.


P.S. did you recognize the crazy Ape Stamp as Beardsley's illustration of Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue"? I'd really like to see all his illustrations for Poe.

"Barack the Magic Negro" -- right-wingers sing it as a funny joke, as Americans shrink and recoil from the Republican Party

Yeah yeah click image

Okay, what is going on here?

Following the huge election victory of Barack Obama and a parallel wave of Democratic House and Senate victories, the US Republican Party -- Bush's party -- is in very sick shape. They have no power or influence, they have no money, this is the season when most Americans view the Republican Party as an aberrant, loopy, foot-shooting bunch of marginalized whacko fringe losers.

As smoothly as Obama went from little-known junior US senator from Illinois to defeat Hillary Clinton and become US President-elect, the Republicans ran Campaign 2008 in a toxic, fœtid swamp of mistakes, invocations of Holy Republican All-White Jesus, loopy choices like Sarah Palin, a lousy, wholly out-of-touch presidential candidate, and an incompetent, desperate staff.

Well, somebody's got to lead the Republican National Committee in its moment of pain and powerlessness, and one fellow who has stepped up to seek the job is Mike Huckabee's clever and effective campaign manager, Chip Saltsman.

Saltsman is beginning his campaign for GOP chairman by diving into the first pile of hot steaming controversial dung he could find, all by himself, with no one to blame for his Mother Of All Fool Public Stunts.

Let's face it: In the 20th Century, Republicans have become the Party Of and For White People. African-Americans think of the modern Republican Party (Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president) as a party uncomfortable with and hostile to the concerns of African-Americans. Hispanics also voted overwhelmingly Democrat in November.

Numerically, if the Republicans stay All White, and cannot effectively reach out to blacks and Hispanics and lure big chunks of them into the Republican Party, the Republican Party will proudly, conservatively shrink, wither away, and die, the Republican Party will become a Fringe Party with no further influence on American politics.

So Chip Saltsman begins his bid to run the Republican National Committee for the next four years with this stunt. This guy has the political instincts of Sarah Palin, and sees the Big Picture about as clearly as Stevie Wonder.

He joins a long string of national-level Republicans who keep screwing the pooch by opening their big mouths, when they don't have to, about black and racial issues -- and offending the crap out of more and more white voters who just don't want to be anywhere near this current crop of Republicans.

When you have to scamper around the cable screaming "I'm not a racist! Some of my best friends are Negroes! I was just making a joke!" -- well, it's time to vanish and stop embarrassing all the Republicans who have hopes of ever becoming popular and powerful again.


Agence France-Presse (AFP)
newswire France
Tuesday 30 December 2008

'Magic Negro' song
struggling Republicans

NEW YORK (AFP) — A senior Republican's distribution of a song titled "Barack the Magic Negro" has triggered a nasty battle for the soul of the struggling party.

Furious debates filled political blogs Tuesday, deepening Republican splits as the party tries to chart a course out of the political wilderness.

Chip Saltsman, campaigning to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, says he sent CDs of the song about president-elect Barack Obama, the first African American to win the White House, as a joke.

Opponents say that the joke proves the Republican party is badly out of touch.

The song "is a racist, hateful, sophomoric act," one blogger posted on the site. "I can't wait until all you ethnic puritan-maniacs are retired, voted out, or six feet under."

Even some prominent Republicans are expressing disquiet.

An online commentator for the National Review magazine, a pillar of US conservatism, attacked Saltsman, saying: "The use of the term 'Negro' in the song rubs me the wrong way."

Newt Gingrich, a former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, told the New York Times that the song was "inappropriate" and said the flap should disqualify Saltsman from consideration as party head.

The song spoofs veteran black activist Al Sharpton supposedly complaining that Obama is not a proper African American. It has been viewed more than 279,000 times on YouTube.

Set to the theme tune of children's film "Puff the Magic Dragon," the song opens with: "Barack the Magic Negro lives in DC."

The song goes:

"The LA Times, they called him that
'cause he's not authentic like me.
Yeah, the guy from the LA paper
said he makes guilty whites feel good.
They'll vote for him, and not for me
'cause he's not from the hood."

Republicans are struggling to recover from their crushing defeat by the Democrats in the November presidential and congressional races -- in part because of low support from ethnic minorities.

The wording of the song, particularly the now rare use of the word "negro," touched on the ultra-sensitive topic of race, an area where Republicans have often been painted as being behind the times.

Adding to the embarrassment, it has emerged that another candidate for the Republican National Committee chairmanship, Katon Dawson, recently resigned from a country club that allows only white members.

Saltsman was quoted by The Hill newspaper as saying he meant to be "light-hearted."

The satirist who wrote the song, Paul Shanklin, accused critics of being "extremely politically correct," McClatchy Newspapers reported Tuesday.

Politico quoted another senior Republican on Tuesday as saying that the whole thing was overblown.

"When I found out what this was about I had to ask, 'boy, what's the big deal here?' because there wasn't any," Mark Ellis, Republican chairman in Maine, said.

Right wing radio king Rush Limbaugh points out that the theme of the song -- that whites see Obama as an unthreatening black and therefore electable -- refers to a column by a black journalist in the liberal-leaning LA Times.

The March 2007 article by David Ehrenstein was titled "Obama the 'Magic Negro.'"

"It's the left that's the racists. It's the left that looks at people's skin color and doesn't see it for what it should be or what it is. They notice it. They're the ones that are racists out there," Limbaugh fumes in the transcript of a radio show prominently posted on his website.

Matt Lewis, a blogger on, said Tuesday that racist or not, Saltsman had sinned politically.

"Republicans who care about public relations also might want to think twice about electing someone who is either (1) out of touch with general societal mores, (2) lacks the ability to self-censor or self-edit, (3) simply doesn't care what people think."

- 30 -


Here are the lyrics to "Barack the Magic Negro," a song (to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon") written and sung on Rush Limbaugh's conservative radio show by political satirist Paul Shanklin, impersonating the voice of the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times, they called him that
‘Cause he’s not authentic like me.

Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper
Said he makes guilty whites feel good
They’ll vote for him, and not for me
‘Cause he’s not from the hood.

See, real black men, like Snoop Dog,
Or me, or Farrakhan
Have talked the talk, and walked the walk.
Not come in late and won!


Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times, they called him that
‘Cause he’s black, but not authentically.
Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C.
The L.A. Times, they called him that
‘Cause he’s black, but not authentically.

Some say Barack’s “articulate”
And bright and new and “clean.”
The media sure loves this guy,
A white interloper’s dream!

But, when you vote for president,
Watch out, and don’t be fooled!
Don’t vote the Magic Negro in –
‘Cause — ’cause I won’t have nothing after all these years of sacrifice

And I won’t get justice. This is about justice. This isn’t about me, it’s about justice.

It’s about buffet. I don’t have no buffet and there won’t be any church contributions,

And there’ll be no cash in the collection plate.

There ain’t gonna be no cash money, no walkin’ around money, no phoning money.

Now, Barack going to come in here and –


The Los Angeles Times
dead tree AM daily broadsheet
Los Angeles, California USA
Monday 19 March 2007

Obama the 'Magic Negro'

......The Illinois senator lends himself white America's idealized,
......less-than-real black man.

by David Ehrenstein

L.A.-based DAVID EHRENSTEIN writes about Hollywood and politics.

AS EVERY CARBON-BASED life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.

But it's clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the "Magic Negro."

The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia .

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

As might be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic — embodied by such noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle. And that's not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is "Magic."

Poitier really poured on the "magic" in "Lilies of the Field" (for which he won a best actor Oscar) and "To Sir, With Love" (which, along with "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," made him a No. 1 box-office attraction). In these films, Poitier triumphs through yeoman service to his white benefactors. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is particularly striking in this regard, as it posits miscegenation without evoking sex. (Talk about magic!)

The same can't quite be said of Freeman in "Driving Miss Daisy," "Seven" and the seemingly endless series of films in which he plays ersatz paterfamilias to a white woman bedeviled by a serial killer. But at least he survives, unlike Crothers in "The Shining," in which psychic premonitions inspire him to rescue a white family he barely knows and get killed for his trouble. This heart-tug trope is parodied in Gus Van Sant's "Elephant." The film's sole black student at a Columbine-like high school arrives in the midst of a slaughter, helps a girl escape and is immediately gunned down. See what helping the white man gets you?

And what does the white man get out of the bargain? That's a question asked by John Guare in "Six Degrees of Separation," his brilliant retelling of the true saga of David Hampton — a young, personable gay con man who in the 1980s passed himself off as the son of none other than the real Sidney Poitier. Though he started small, using the ruse to get into Studio 54, Hampton discovered that countless gullible, well-heeled New Yorkers, vulnerable to the Magic Negro myth, were only too eager to believe in his baroque fantasy. (One of the few who wasn't fooled was Andy Warhol, who was astonished his underlings believed Hampton's whoppers. Clearly Warhol had no need for the accouterment of interracial "goodwill.")

But the same can't be said of most white Americans, whose desire for a noble, healing Negro hasn't faded. That's where Obama comes in: as Poitier's "real" fake son.

The senator's famously stem-winding stump speeches have been drawing huge crowds to hear him talk of uniting rather than dividing. A praiseworthy goal. Consequently, even the mild criticisms thrown his way have been waved away, "magically." He used to smoke, but now he doesn't; he racked up a bunch of delinquent parking tickets, but he paid them all back with an apology. And hey, is looking good in a bathing suit a bad thing?

The only mud that momentarily stuck was criticism (white and black alike) concerning Obama's alleged "inauthenticty," as compared to such sterling examples of "genuine" blackness as Al Sharpton and Snoop Dogg. Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial "credentials" being challenged — often several times a day — I know how pesky this sort of thing can be.

Obama's fame right now has little to do with his political record or what he's written in his two (count 'em) books, or even what he's actually said in those stem-winders. It's the way he's said it that counts the most. It's his manner, which, as presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden ham-fistedly reminded us, is "articulate." His tone is always genial, his voice warm and unthreatening, and he hasn't called his opponents names (despite being baited by the media).

Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him.

- 30 -


Puff (The Magic Dragon)

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Oh!

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff's gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name. Oh!

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. Oh!

27 December 2008

"Waltz with Bashir" -- a strange film uses anime to tell Israeli soldiers' memories of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres

The New York Times
Friday 26 December 2008

Inside a Veteran's Nightmare

Movie Review
Waltz with Bashir
Ari Folman and David Polonsky / Sony Pictures Classics

by A. O. Scott

“Waltz With Bashir” is a memoir, a history lesson, a combat picture, a piece of investigative journalism and an altogether amazing film.

Directed by Ari Folman, an Israeli filmmaker whose struggle to make sense of his experience as a soldier in the Lebanon war of 1982 shapes its story, “Waltz” is by no means the world’s only animated documentary, a phrase that sounds at first like a cinematic oxymoron. Movies like Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” and Brett Morgen’s “Chicago 10” have used animation to make reality seem more vivid and more strange, producing odd and fascinating experiments.

But Mr. Folman has gone further, creating something that is not only unique but also exemplary, a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power.

That it is also a cartoon is not incidental to this achievement. Art Spiegelman, in “Maus,” turned an unlikely medium — the talking-animal comic book — into a profound and original vehicle for contemplation of the Holocaust. Similarly Mr. Folman, crucially assisted by his art director, David Polonsky, and director of animation, Yoni Goodman, has adapted techniques often (if unfairly) dismissed as trivial into an intense and revealing meditation on a historical catastrophe and its aftermath. “Waltz With Bashir” will certainly enrich and complicate your understanding of its specific subject — the Lebanon War and, in particular, the massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Phalangist fighters at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps — but it may also change the way you think about how movies can confront history.

Why did Mr. Folman, who has worked on more conventional documentaries in the past, decide to use animation in this one? The answer to the question is another question: How else could he have recorded dreams, hallucinations and distorted memories, his own and those of other veterans? The core of “Waltz With Bashir” is a series of conversations between the director, depicted with graying hair and a thoughtful demeanor, and other middle-aged Israeli men who were in Lebanon in the summer of 1982, when the Israeli Defense Forces pushed up through the southern part of the country toward Beirut. Most of them were in the western part of that city from the 16th to the 18th of September, when Christian militiamen slaughtered as many as 3,000 civilians, ostensibly to avenge the death of Bashir Gemayel, Lebanon’s newly elected president, who had been assassinated a few days before.

More than 20 years later Mr. Folman confronts his interlocutors amid the trappings of their relatively calm daily lives. (All the interview subjects speak in their own voices except for two, whose dialogue has been dubbed.) One lives in the Netherlands, where he owns a chain of falafel restaurants. Another appears in a martial arts studio. Others reminisce in their apartments or in bars, and as each tells his story, the scene dissolves and we see a younger version of the same man — usually leaner, perhaps cleaner-shaven or not as bald but still recognizable — in the nightmarish landscape of war. The freedom afforded by animation — a realm where the prosaic standards of verisimilitude and the inconvenient laws of physics can be flouted at will — allows Mr. Folman to blend grimly literal images with surreal flights of fantasy, humor and horror.

At one point a soldier, passed out on the deck of a transport boat, dreams of a giant naked woman who climbs out of the water and cradles him in her arms. At other times rough, cynical pop songs (with lyrics like “Good Morning Lebanon” and “Today I Bombed Beirut”) play out over montages of chaos and destruction. Mr. Folman is haunted by a weird recollection of naked soldiers walking onto the beach in Beirut as the city’s bombed-out skyline is illuminated by flares.

These are highly personal images, culled from admittedly unreliable memories, but it is precisely their subjectivity that makes them so vivid and authentic. “Waltz With Bashir” is not, and could not be, the definitive account of the Lebanon war or the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Instead it’s a collage and an inquiry. “Can’t a film be therapeutic?” one of Mr. Folman’s friends asks him early in the movie, and in a way everything that follows is an attempt to answer that question and interrogate its premise. It depends on what is meant by therapy, and on who is undergoing it.

The complicity of the Israeli command in the atrocities at Sabra and Shatila was established by an Israeli government report by the Kahan Commission in 1983, which found the military indirectly responsible for the actions of the Phalangists.

What no commission of inquiry can precisely define is the responsibility of the ordinary soldiers who were nearby, witnessing the slaughter and allowing it to continue. And this ethical question becomes more and more urgent as Mr. Folman’s patient probing brings him closer to the awful facts his mind had suppressed for so long.

Since it was shown in Cannes last year, “Waltz With Bashir” has attracted a lot of attention and a measure of controversy, some of it surrounding the very last moments of the film, in which the animation stops and the audience is confronted with graphic, horrifying images of real dead bodies. This ending shows just how far Mr. Folman is prepared to go, not in the service of shock for its own sake, but rather in his pursuit of clarity and truth.

The Israelis who were witnesses and (mostly inadvertent) accomplices to the killing, and who came home from the war to lives of relative normalcy and tranquillity, have the time and the means to reflect, to explore, to engage in therapy. The victims are beyond any of that, and the blunt literalness of this film’s denouement is a reminder of that unbridgeable gap between the living and the dead. It is also Mr. Folman’s way of acknowledging that imagination has its limits, and that even the most ambitious and serious work of art will come up short against the brutal facts of life.

“Waltz With Bashir” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has graphic violence, sex and brief nudity.

Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Ari Folman; animation by Bridgit Folman; art director and illustrator, David Polonsky; director of animation, Yoni Goodman; edited by Nili Feller; music by Max Richter; produced by Mr. Folman, Yael Nahlieli, Ms. Folman, Serge Lalou, Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul; released by Sony Pictures Classics. In Hebrew, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes.

- 30 -

24 December 2008

Key Attributes of TKDL / The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library

What we got here is a page from the

a collaborative effort begun by the government of India. The Indian government was concerned that the integrity of this traditional knowledge was under attack by commercial interests, and wished to use the copyright law to protect this information and defend it from corruption.

The knowledge and wisdom of the past has legal rights!

Specifically, this describes a section from the AYURVEDA , a collection of scientific knowledge from India circa 1500 AD. I don't even know if the original was in Sanskrit or more modern languages. Note that they're storing this in English.

More than that, You Tell Me what is going on here. Be the first to Leave A Comment. Make Vleeptron Wise. Can we have a meaningful, mutually comprehensible dialogue with the intellectual elite of India from 500 years ago? What are they trying to tell us? Are we smart enough to get it? What are the implications of this ancient knowledge for us? Is Big Pharma already translating and distributing this stuff in syringes, suppositories and pill bottles worldwide?

Leave A Comment. It would be nice to hear from someone in Mumbai, as a reflection that the smartest resources in this great city were back on-line and ready for some hot, steamy delicious Vleeptron Pizza. Bangalore also very much welcome, Bangaloreans are very Go-Ahead guys, Pakistanis, also the Ramanujan Institute. Is anybody on this line from Tamil Nadu? Sri Lanka? The Maldives? Gujurat? Make Vleeptron wise. We're in Northampton Massachusetts USA, we got two pretty good Indian restaurants, that's it, that's what we know.


Key Attributes of TKDL



Title of Traditional Knowledge Resource

Knowledge Known Since

500 Years
A01A-1/1207, A01A-1/1592, A01A-1/1686, A01A-1/2080, A01A-1/2113, A01A-1/558, A01A-1/921, A01A-3/30, A01A-3/33, A01D-20/11, A01D-20/42, A01D-22/05, A01D-22/10
IPC Code :
A61K 36/185,A61K 36/48,A61K 36/899,A61K 36/899,A61K 36/87,A61K 36/23,A61K 36/85,A61K 9/08,A61K 9/14, A61K 31/70,A61P 1/04, A61P 29/00, A61P 25/00, A61P 25/02,A61P 43/00, A61P 3/12,A61P 25/00, A61P 21/00,A61P 25/00, A61P 25/26

1. Laghumadh¦kapu¾p¢diph¢´°aª is a therapeutic single / compound formulation consisting of useful parts of following ingredient(s) : Madhuca longifolia (Koen.) Macbr. Syn.: M. indica J.F. Gmel. (Mahua,Mowra, Illipe,Butter tree), Gmelina arborea Roxb. (gumhar), Pterocarpus santalinus Linn. f. (red sandal wood), Coriandrum sativum Linn. (Chinese parsley, Chinese-parsley, coriander), Vetiveria zizanioides (Linn.) Nash (vetivergrass, Cuscus, Vetiver ), Vitis vinifera Linn. (wine grape )

2. Therapeutic composition / formulation is mentioned below :

Madhuca longifolia (Koen.) Macbr. Syn.: M. indica J.F. Gmel. (Mahua,Mowra, Illipe,Butter tree)

Gmelina arborea Roxb. (gumhar)

Pterocarpus santalinus Linn. f. (red sandal wood)
Stem bark

Coriandrum sativum Linn. (Chinese parsley, Chinese-parsley, coriander)

Vetiveria zizanioides (Linn.) Nash (vetivergrass, Cuscus, Vetiver )

Vitis vinifera Linn. (wine grape )

3. Therapeutic composition mentioned above is prepared as PH¡³¯A :(HOT INFUSION)
Ph¢´°a is a preparation in which powdered plant material is soaked in boiling water for some time, and then filtered to obtain Ph¢´°a (hot infusion).

4. A composition as described above is formulated as Hot infusion .

5. The dose of above mentioned therapeutic composition is 100 ml .

6. It is given with adjuvant of Saccharum officinarum Linn. , Granular sugar .

7. Mode of administration : Oral administration .

8. It is Pittadosa alleviating .

9. It is useful in the treatment of Polydipsia / Excessive thirst , Burning sensation , Syncope/Fainting , Giddiness/Vertigo
¹¢r¬gadhar¢c¢rya¹¢r¬gadhara Sa¼hit¢ - Translated by Smt. Shailaja Srivastava : Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, Edn. 2nd, 1998. [Time of origin 13th century ]

21 December 2008

Christmas on Vleeptron / the Coventry Carol / the Slaughter of the Innocents

Click image for larger.

I'm not a Christian, but what kind of dolt would I have to be to be deaf to the message of Christmas: Rejoicing at the birth of a baby, to poor, tired travellers, in a barn surrounded by animals, heralding Peace on Earth and Goodwill to every Child, Man and Woman.

Vleeptron has already griped about the barriers, difficulties and obstacles the government of Israel, through its military arm the IDF, puts in the path of Pilgrims trying to come to Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Suffering along with the Pilgrims are the merchants and hospitality providers -- the innkeepers -- of this small town a stone's throw from Jerusalem. The small-town commerce of Bethlehem has been strangled and asphyxiated by its tortuous imprisonment within The Thing -- the Separation Barrier. There is room at the inn at Christmas -- but just a trickle of the world's Pilgrims.

I dream of a world without soldiers -- Vleeptron's last war, the Second Garlic War, ended 162,404 years ago -- but while they are still a central part of everyone's Life on Earth, there are tasks appropriate for soldiers, even rescue and safeguarding tasks to leave soldiers and veterans with earned pride.

Stopping Pilgrims with M4 assault weapons, examining their visas and passports, enforcing arcane and arbitrary orders by force and fear to seal Bethlehem from the world at its yearly moment of Hope and Peace -- these are humiliating tasks that shame, dishonor and embitter young soldiers. Politicians bereft of vision and decency smear feces on the uniforms of their young soldiers, not for security and defense, but for votes.

I have been lucky this Christmas; in an endless ocean of crappy and commercial music, the song which has chosen to play in my mind repeatedly is a beautiful and haunting song, the oldest Christmas song in English, known as The Coventry Carol.

Around 1350 AD, there arose a practice of trade and craft guilds to write and put on crude little dramas on the steps of the church or cathedral to accompany important holy days, each drama illustrating a Bible story associated with the festival. Boatmakers would naturally act out the story of Noah or Jonah, in their own words, appearing in clothes and speaking in words that would make these stories accessible and familiar to their neighbors. The tailors would perform the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.

These were called Mystery Plays, and they are the rude, amateur -- and inspired -- beginnings of everything that evolved into English theater. (Before they were banned after the Church of England replaced the Roman Catholic Church and its rituals, the young William Shakespeare saw these church-step festival plays in his hometown of Stratford-on-Avon.)

The most famous collections of these plays which we still have are the York Mystery Plays and the Wakefield Cycle, but the wonderful guildsmen's Bible plays spread through the land, a reflection of similar customs in Western Europe. The most famous of all the Mystery plays, "Everyman," appears to have its origin in an earlier Dutch play, "Elckerlijc."

Music regularly was composed to go with the plays.

The Gospel (Old English for "good news") of Matthew tells the story of Jesus' birth, and the ghastly Slaughter of the Innocents which Matthew says accompanied it. King Herod heard of the pilgrimage of the Wise Men from the East -- astrologers and soothsayers from Persia -- seeking the newborn King of the Jews. Fearing such a child would grow up to supplant him and his lineage on the throne of the Jews, Herod sent soldiers to slay every child who had been born in Bethlehem during the previous two years.

In Coventry, the Shearmen and Tailors acted Matthew's nativity story, and sang a beautiful, mournful song bemoaning the dreadful Slaughter of the Innocents. The Coventry Carol is the oldest Christmas carol still sung in English.

Loreena McKennitt sings This Version, lyrics nearly identical to those written down (by Robert Croo) in 1534, and the tune that was first written down in 1591. The tune contains an old chord resolution called the Picardy Third, or Tierce de Picardie.

The Coventry Carol

Lully, lullay,* Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young to slay.

That** woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and say,***
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

* Sometimes rendered "Lully, lulla".

** Sometimes "Then".

*** Sometimes "sigh" [1], "day" or "may", but oldest known versions use "say".

Here is Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and King Herod's Massacre of the Innocents.

It is important to realize that such atrocities are not lost horrors of the ancient world, but they still happen. For reasons unfathomable to me, children, even infants, are still murdered under the orders of military and political leaders. In Africa -- and doubtless other places -- children are abducted and forced to become murderous child soldiers, and sex victims of older soldiers.

For 500 years this Carol has expressed the horror decent people feel toward the murder and victimization of children. We have always known we were supposed to protect them, to keep them from all harm. If Christmas has no other meaning, it reminds us of our obligations to children.

* * *

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.

And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

19 December 2008

It's not about Islam. It's about coffee shop gossip, and dad, and neighborhood buddies / it's not about bullets, bombs, helicopters / it's about ideas

The War on Terror has stolen the last 7 years of your life, whether you wanted it to or not.

Do you have 25 minutes to learn something about the War on Terror that's not kindergarten superficial short-attention-span shrieking, a la Cable News Network or Fox News Channel?

I think this is a fascinating article. We're all screaming and running around like chickens with our heads chopped off. The sky is falling. There could be a terrorist under your bed.

But this guy, and a few of his colleagues, seem to have thought slowly and carefully about the Noisiest Thing on Earth, and reached some very surprising conclusions. I'm grateful for the opportunity to read about these thoughts and analyses.

You live on the Planet, you wander through its airports and fly around on its airplanes, you watch TV, you read and chat with people.

Close the door, put on a nice long instrumental piece of music conducive to careful reading, give the guy, and these ideas, a little of your time.

Then let me know your thoughts.


The New Yorker
(weekly magazine USA)
18 December 2006

A Reporter at Large:
Knowing the Enemy

....Can social scientists
....redefine the “war on terror”?

by George Packer

In 1993, a young captain in the Australian Army named David Kilcullen was living among villagers in West Java, as part of an immersion program in the Indonesian language. One day, he visited a local military museum that contained a display about Indonesia’s war, during the nineteen-fifties and sixties, against a separatist Muslim insurgency movement called Darul Islam. “I had never heard of this conflict,” Kilcullen told me recently. “It’s hardly known in the West. The Indonesian government won, hands down. And I was fascinated by how it managed to pull off such a successful counterinsurgency campaign.”

Kilcullen, the son of two left-leaning academics, had studied counterinsurgency as a cadet at Duntroon, the Australian West Point, and he decided to pursue a doctorate in political anthropology at the University of New South Wales. He chose as his dissertation subject the Darul Islam conflict, conducting research over tea with former guerrillas while continuing to serve in the Australian Army. The rebel movement, he said, was bigger than the Malayan Emergency—the twelve-year Communist revolt against British rule, which was finally put down in 1960, and which has become a major point of reference in the military doctrine of counterinsurgency. During the years that Kilcullen worked on his dissertation, two events in Indonesia deeply affected his thinking. The first was the rise—in the same region that had given birth to Darul Islam, and among some of the same families—of a more extreme Islamist movement called Jemaah Islamiya, which became a Southeast Asian affiliate of Al Qaeda. The second was East Timor’s successful struggle for independence from Indonesia. Kilcullen witnessed the former as he was carrying out his field work; he participated in the latter as an infantry-company commander in a United Nations intervention force. The experiences shaped the conclusions about counter-insurgency in his dissertation, which he finished in 2001, just as a new war was about to begin.

“I saw extremely similar behavior and extremely similar problems in an Islamic insurgency in West Java and a Christian-separatist insurgency in East Timor,” he said. “After 9/11, when a lot of people were saying, ‘The problem is Islam,’ I was thinking, It’s something deeper than that. It’s about human social networks and the way that they operate.” In West Java, elements of the failed Darul Islam insurgency—a local separatist movement with mystical leanings—had resumed fighting as Jemaah Islamiya, whose outlook was Salafist and global. Kilcullen said, “What that told me about Jemaah Islamiya is that it’s not about theology.” He went on, “There are elements in human psychological and social makeup that drive what’s happening. The Islamic bit is secondary. This is human behavior in an Islamic setting. This is not ‘Islamic behavior.’ ” Paraphrasing the American political scientist Roger D. Petersen, he said, “People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.” He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates.

Indonesia’s failure to replicate in East Timor its victory in West Java later influenced Kilcullen’s views about what the Bush Administration calls the “global war on terror.” In both instances, the Indonesian military used the same harsh techniques, including forced population movements, coercion of locals into security forces, stringent curfews, and even lethal pressure on civilians to take the government side. The reason that the effort in East Timor failed, Kilcullen concluded, was globalization. In the late nineties, a Timorese international propaganda campaign and ubiquitous media coverage prompted international intervention, thus ending the use of tactics that, in the obscure jungles of West Java in the fifties, outsiders had known nothing about. “The globalized information environment makes counterinsurgency even more difficult now,” Kilcullen said.

Just before the 2004 American elections, Kilcullen was doing intelligence work for the Australian government, sifting through Osama bin Laden’s public statements, including transcripts of a video that offered a list of grievances against America: Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, global warming. The last item brought Kilcullen up short. “I thought, Hang on! What kind of jihadist are you?” he recalled. The odd inclusion of environmentalist rhetoric, he said, made clear that “this wasn’t a list of genuine grievances. This was an Al Qaeda information strategy.” Ron Suskind, in his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” claims that analysts at the C.I.A. watched a similar video, released in 2004, and concluded that “bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reëlection.” Bin Laden shrewdly created an implicit association between Al Qaeda and the Democratic Party, for he had come to feel that Bush’s strategy in the war on terror was sustaining his own global importance. Indeed, in the years after September 11th Al Qaeda’s core leadership had become a propaganda hub. “If bin Laden didn’t have access to global media, satellite communications, and the Internet, he’d just be a cranky guy in a cave,” Kilcullen said.

In 2004, Kilcullen’s writings and lectures brought him to the attention of an official working for Paul Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Wolfowitz asked him to help write the section on “irregular warfare” in the Pentagon’s “Quadrennial Defense Review,” a statement of department policy and priorities, which was published earlier this year. Under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, who resigned in November, the Pentagon had embraced a narrow “shock-and-awe” approach to war-fighting, emphasizing technology, long-range firepower, and spectacular displays of force. The new document declared that activities such as “long-duration unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and military support for stabilization and reconstruction efforts” needed to become a more important component of the war on terror. Kilcullen was partly responsible for the inclusion of the phrase “the long war,” which has become the preferred term among many military officers to describe the current conflict. In the end, the Rumsfeld Pentagon was unwilling to make the cuts in expensive weapons systems that would have allowed it to create new combat units and other resources necessary for a proper counterinsurgency strategy.

In July, 2005, Kilcullen, as a result of his work on the Pentagon document, received an invitation to attend a conference on defense policy, in Vermont. There he met Henry Crumpton, a highly regarded official who had supervised the C.I.A.’s covert activities in Afghanistan during the 2001 military campaign that overthrew the Taliban. The two men spent much of the conference talking privately, and learned, among other things, that they saw the war on terror in the same way. Soon afterward, Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, hired Crumpton as the department’s coördinator for counterterrorism, and Crumpton, in turn, offered Kilcullen a job. For the past year, Kilcullen has occupied an office on the State Department’s second floor, as Crumpton’s chief strategist. In some senses, Kilcullen has arrived too late: this year, the insurgency in Iraq has been transformed into a calamitous civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, and his ideas about counterinsurgency are unlikely to reverse the country’s disintegration. Yet radical Islamist movements now extend across the globe, from Somalia to Afghanistan and Indonesia, and Kilcullen—an Australian anthropologist and lieutenant colonel, who is “on loan” to the U.S. government—offers a new way to understand and fight a war that seems to grow less intelligible the longer it goes on.

Kilcullen is thirty-nine years old, and has a wide pink face, a fondness for desert boots, and an Australian’s good-natured bluntness. He has a talent for making everything sound like common sense by turning disturbing explanations into brisk, cheerful questions: “America is very, very good at big, short conventional wars? It’s not very good at small, long wars? But it’s even worse at big, long wars? And that’s what we’ve got.” Kilcullen’s heroes are soldier-intellectuals, both real (T. E. Lawrence) and fictional (Robert Jordan, the flinty, self-reliant schoolteacher turned guerrilla who is the protagonist of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”). On his bookshelves, alongside monographs by social scientists such as Max Gluckman and E. E. Evans-Pritchard, is a knife that he took from a militiaman he had just ambushed in East Timor. “If I were a Muslim, I’d probably be a jihadist,” Kilcullen said as we sat in his office. “The thing that drives these guys—a sense of adventure, wanting to be part of the moment, wanting to be in the big movement of history that’s happening now—that’s the same thing that drives me, you know?”

More than three years into the Iraq war and five into the conflict in Afghanistan, many members of the American military—especially those with combat experience—have begun to accept the need to learn the kind of counterinsurgency tactics that it tried to leave behind in Vietnam. On December 15th, the Army and the Marine Corps will release an ambitious new counterinsurgency field manual—the first in more than two decades—that will shape military doctrine for many years. The introduction to the field manual says, “Effective insurgents rapidly adapt to changing circumstances. They cleverly use the tools of the global information revolution to magnify the effects of their actions. . . . However, by focusing on efforts to secure the safety and support of the local populace, and through a concerted effort to truly function as learning organizations, the Army and Marine Corps can defeat their insurgent enemies.”

One night earlier this year, Kilcullen sat down with a bottle of single-malt Scotch and wrote out a series of tips for company commanders about to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an energetic writer who avoids military and social-science jargon, and he addressed himself intimately to young captains who have had to become familiar with exotica such as “The Battle of Algiers,” the 1966 film documenting the insurgency against French colonists. “What does all the theory mean, at the company level?” he asked. “How do the principles translate into action—at night, with the G.P.S. down, the media criticizing you, the locals complaining in a language you don’t understand, and an unseen enemy killing your people by ones and twos? How does counterinsurgency actually happen? There are no universal answers, and insurgents are among the most adaptive opponents you will ever face. Countering them will demand every ounce of your intellect.” The first tip is “Know Your Turf”: “Know the people, the topography, economy, history, religion and culture. Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance. Your task is to become the world expert on your district.” “Twenty-eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency”—the title riffs on a T. E. Lawrence insurgency manual from the First World War—was disseminated via e-mail to junior officers in the field, and was avidly read.

Last year, in an influential article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency.” The change in terminology has large implications. A terrorist is “a kook in a room,” Kilcullen told me, and beyond persuasion; an insurgent has a mass base whose support can be won or lost through politics. The notion of a “war on terror” has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine, which was first laid out by the British general Sir Gerald Templar during the Malayan Emergency, armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required. A war on terror suggests an undifferentiated enemy. Kilcullen speaks of the need to “disaggregate” insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai-Malay border so that they aren’t mapped onto the ambitions of the global jihad. Kilcullen writes, “Just as the Containment strategy was central to the Cold War, likewise a Disaggregation strategy would provide a unifying strategic conception for the war—something that has been lacking to date.” As an example of disaggregation, Kilcullen cited the Indonesian province of Aceh, where, after the 2004 tsunami, a radical Islamist organization tried to set up an office and convert a local separatist movement to its ideological agenda. Resentment toward the outsiders, combined with the swift humanitarian action of American and Australian warships, helped to prevent the Acehnese rebellion from becoming part of the global jihad. As for America, this success had more to do with luck than with strategy. Crumpton, Kilcullen’s boss, told me that American foreign policy traditionally operates on two levels, the global and the national; today, however, the battlefields are also regional and local, where the U.S. government has less knowledge and where it is not institutionally organized to act. In half a dozen critical regions, Crumpton has organized meetings among American diplomats, intelligence officials, and combat commanders, so that information about cross-border terrorist threats is shared. “It’s really important that we define the enemy in narrow terms,” Crumpton said. “The thing we should not do is let our fears grow and then inflate the threat. The threat is big enough without us having to exaggerate it.”

By speaking of Saddam Hussein, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Taliban, the Iranian government, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda in terms of one big war, Administration officials and ideologues have made Osama bin Laden’s job much easier. “You don’t play to the enemy’s global information strategy of making it all one fight,” Kilcullen said. He pointedly avoided describing this as the Administration’s approach. “You say, ‘Actually, there are sixty different groups in sixty different countries who all have different objectives. Let’s not talk about bin Laden’s objectives—let’s talk about your objectives. How do we solve that problem?’ ” In other words, the global ambitions of the enemy don’t automatically demand a monolithic response.

The more Kilcullen travels to the various theatres of war, the less he thinks that the lessons of Malaya and Vietnam are useful guides in the current conflict. “Classical counterinsurgency is designed to defeat insurgency in one country,” he writes in his Strategic Studies article. “We need a new paradigm, capable of addressing globalised insurgency.” After a recent trip to Afghanistan, where Taliban forces have begun to mount large operations in the Pashto-speaking south of the country, he told me, “This ain’t your granddaddy’s counterinsurgency.” Many American units there, he said, are executing the new field manual’s tactics brilliantly. For example, before conducting operations in a given area, soldiers sit down over bread and tea with tribal leaders and find out what they need—Korans, cold-weather gear, a hydroelectric dynamo. In exchange for promises of local support, the Americans gather the supplies and then, within hours of the end of fighting, produce them, to show what can be gained from coöperating.

But the Taliban seem to be waging a different war, driven entirely by information operations. “They’re essentially armed propaganda organizations,” Kilcullen said. “They switch between guerrilla activity and terrorist activity as they need to, in order to maintain the political momentum, and it’s all about an information operation that generates the perception of an unstoppable, growing insurgency.” After travelling through southern Afghanistan, Kilcullen e-mailed me:

One good example of Taliban information strategy is their use of “night letters.” They have been pushing local farmers in several provinces (Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar) to grow poppy instead of regular crops, and using night-time threats and intimidation to punish those who don’t and convince others to convert to poppy. This is not because they need more opium—God knows they already have enough—but because they’re trying to detach the local people from the legal economy and the legally approved governance system of the provinces and districts, to weaken the hold of central and provincial government. Get the people doing something illegal, and they’re less likely to feel able to support the government, and more willing to do other illegal things (e.g. join the insurgency)—this is a classic old Bolshevik tactic from the early cold war, by the way. They are specifically trying to send the message: “The government can neither help you nor hurt us. We can hurt you, or protect you—the choice is yours.” They also use object lessons, making an example of people who don’t cooperate—for example, dozens of provincial-level officials have been assassinated this year, again as an “armed propaganda” tool—not because they want one official less but because they want to send the message “We can reach out and touch you if you cross us.” Classic armed information operation.

Kilcullen doesn’t believe that an entirely “soft” counterinsurgency approach can work against such tactics. In his view, winning hearts and minds is not a matter of making local people like you—as some American initiates to counterinsurgency whom I met in Iraq seemed to believe—but of getting them to accept that supporting your side is in their interest, which requires an element of coercion. Kilcullen met senior European officers with the NATO force in Afghanistan who seemed to be applying “a development model to counterinsurgency,” hoping that gratitude for good work would bring the Afghans over to their side. He told me, “In a counterinsurgency, the gratitude effect will last until the sun goes down and the insurgents show up and say, ‘You’re on our side, aren’t you? Otherwise, we’re going to kill you.’ If one side is willing to apply lethal force to bring the population to its side and the other side isn’t, ultimately you’re going to find yourself losing.” Kilcullen was describing a willingness to show local people that supporting the enemy risks harm and hardship, not a campaign like the Phoenix program in Vietnam, in which noncombatants were assassinated; besides being unethical, such a tactic would inevitably backfire in the age of globalized information. Nevertheless, because he talks about war with an analyst’s rationalism and a practitioner’s matter-of-factness, Kilcullen can appear deceptively detached from its consequences.

An information strategy seems to be driving the agenda of every radical Islamist movement. Kilcullen noted that when insurgents ambush an American convoy in Iraq, “they’re not doing that because they want to reduce the number of Humvees we have in Iraq by one. They’re doing it because they want spectacular media footage of a burning Humvee.” Last year, a letter surfaced that is believed to have been sent from Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy, to the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, nine months before Zarqawi’s death; the letter urged Zarqawi to make his videotaped beheadings and mass slaughter of Shiite civilians less gruesome. Kilcullen interpreted the letter as “basically saying to Zarqawi, ‘Justify your attacks on the basis of how they support our information strategy.’ ” As soon as the recent fighting in Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israeli troops ended, Hezbollah marked, with its party flags, houses that had been damaged. Kilcullen said, “That’s not a reconstruction operation—it’s an information operation. It’s influence. They’re going out there to send a couple of messages. To the Lebanese people they’re saying, ‘We’re going to take care of you.’ To all the aid agencies it’s like a dog pissing on trees: they’re saying, ‘We own this house—don’t you touch it.’ ” He went on, “When the aid agencies arrive a few days later, they have to negotiate with Hezbollah because there’s a Hezbollah flag on the house. Hezbollah says, ‘Yeah, you can sell a contract to us to fix up that house.’ It’s an information operation. They’re trying to generate influence.”

The result is an intimidated or motivated population, and a spike in fund-raising and recruiting. “When you go on YouTube and look at one of these attacks in Iraq, all you see is the video,” Kilcullen said. “If you go to some jihadist Web sites, you see the same video and then a button next to it that says, ‘Click here and donate.’ ” The Afghan or Iraqi or Lebanese insurgent, unlike his Vietnamese or Salvadoran predecessor, can plug into a global media network that will instantly amplify his message. After Kilcullen returned from Afghanistan last month, he stayed up late one Saturday night (“because I have no social life”) and calculated how many sources of information existed for a Vietnamese villager in 1966 and for an Afghan villager in 2006. He concluded that the former had ten, almost half under government control, such as Saigon radio and local officials; the latter has twenty-five (counting the Internet as only one), of which just five are controlled by the government. Most of the rest—including e-mail, satellite phone, and text messaging—are independent but more easily exploited by insurgents than by the Afghan government. And it is on the level of influencing perceptions that these wars will be won or lost. “The international information environment is critical to the success of America’s mission,” Kilcullen said.

In the information war, America and its allies are barely competing. America’s information operations, far from being the primary strategy, simply support military actions, and often badly: a Pentagon spokesman announces a battle victory, but no one in the area of the battlefield hears him (or would believe him anyway). Just as the Indonesians failed in East Timor, in spite of using locally successful tactics, Kilcullen said, “We’ve done a similar thing in Iraq—we’ve arguably done O.K. on the ground in some places, but we’re totally losing the domestic information battle. In Afghanistan, it still could go either way.”

However careful Kilcullen is not to criticize Administration policy, his argument amounts to a thoroughgoing critique. As a foreigner who is not a career official in the U.S. government, he has more distance and freedom to discuss the war on jihadism frankly, and in ways that his American counterparts rarely can. “It’s now fundamentally an information fight,” he said. “The enemy gets that, and we don’t yet get that, and I think that’s why we’re losing.”

In late September, Kilcullen was one of the featured speakers at a conference in Washington, organized by the State and Defense Departments, on bringing the civilian branches of the government into the global counterinsurgency effort. In the hallway outside the meeting room, he made a point of introducing me to another speaker, an anthropologist and Pentagon consultant named Montgomery McFate. For five years, McFate later told me, she has been making it her “evangelical mission” to get the Department of Defense to understand the importance of “cultural knowledge.” McFate is forty years old, with hair cut stylishly short and an air of humorous cool. When I asked why a social scientist would want to help the war effort, she replied, only half joking, “Because I’m engaged in a massive act of rebellion against my hippie parents.”

McFate grew up in the sixties on a communal houseboat in Marin County, California. Her parents were friends with Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and one of her schoolmates was the daughter of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick and Paul Kantner. Like Kilcullen, she was drawn to the study of human conflict and also its reality: at Yale, where she received a doctorate, her dissertation was based on several years she spent living among supporters of the Irish Republican Army and then among British counterinsurgents. In Northern Ireland, McFate discovered something very like what Kilcullen found in West Java: insurgency runs in families and social networks, held together by persistent cultural narratives—in this case, the eight-hundred-year-old saga of “perfidious Albion.” She went on to marry a U.S. Army officer. “When I was little in California, we never believed there was such a thing as the Cold War,” McFate said. “That was a bunch of lies that the government fed us to keep us paranoid. Of course, there was a thing called the Cold War, and we nearly lost. And there was no guarantee that we were going to win. And this thing that’s happening now is, without taking that too far, similar.” After September 11th, McFate said, she became “passionate about one issue: the government’s need to actually understand its adversaries,” in the same way that the United States came to understand—and thereby undermine—the Soviet Union. If, as Kilcullen and Crumpton maintain, the battlefield in the global counterinsurgency is intimately local, then the American government needs what McFate calls a “granular” knowledge of the social terrains on which it is competing.

In 2004, when McFate had a fellowship at the Office of Naval Research, she got a call from a science adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He had been contacted by battalion commanders with the 4th Infantry Division in a violent sector of the Sunni Triangle, in Iraq. “We’re having a really hard time out here—we have no idea how this society works,” the commanders said. “Could you help us?” The science adviser replied that he was a mathematical physicist, and turned for help to one of the few anthropologists he could find in the Defense Department.

For decades, the Pentagon and the humanistic social sciences have had little to do with each other. In 1964, the Pentagon set up a program called, with the self-conscious idealism of the period, Project Camelot. Anthropologists were hired and sent abroad to conduct a multiyear study of the factors that promote stability or war in certain societies, beginning with Chile. When news of the program leaked, the uproar in Chile and America forced Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to cancel it. “The Department of Defense has invested hardly any money in conducting ethnographic research in areas where conflict was occurring since 1965,” McFate told me. After Project Camelot and Vietnam, where social scientists often did contract work for the U.S. military, professional associations discouraged such involvement. (“Academic anthropologists hate me for working with D.O.D.,” McFate said.) Kilcullen, who calls counterinsurgency “armed social science,” told me, “This is fundamentally about the broken relationship between the government and the discipline of anthropology. What broke that relationship is Vietnam. And people still haven’t recovered from that.” As a result, a complex human understanding of societies at war has been lost. “But it didn’t have to be lost,” McFate said. During the Second World War, anthropologists such as Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Geoffrey Gorer, and Ruth Benedict provided the Allied war effort with essential insights into Asian societies. Gorer and Benedict suggested, for example, that the terms of Japan’s surrender be separated from the question of the emperor’s abdication, because the emperor was thought to embody the country’s soul; doing so allowed the Japanese to accept unconditional surrender. McFate sees herself as reaching back to this tradition of military-academic coöperation.

By 2004, the military desperately needed coöperation. McFate saw Americans in Iraq make one strategic mistake after another because they didn’t understand the nature of Iraqi society. In an article in Joint Force Quarterly, she wrote, “Once the Sunni Ba’thists lost their prestigious jobs, were humiliated in the conflict, and got frozen out through de-Ba’thification, the tribal network became the backbone of the insurgency. The tribal insurgency is a direct result of our misunderstanding the Iraqi culture.” In the course of eighteen months of interviews with returning soldiers, she was told by one Marine Corps officer, “My marines were almost wholly uninterested in interacting with the local population. Our primary mission was the security of Camp Falluja. We relieved soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, and their assessment was that every local was participating or complicit with the enemy. This view was quickly adopted by my unit and framed all of our actions (and reactions).” Another marine told McFate that his unit had lost the battle to influence public opinion because it used the wrong approach to communication: “We were focussed on broadcast media and metrics. But this had no impact because Iraqis spread information through rumor. We should have been visiting their coffee shops.”

The result of efforts like McFate’s is a new project with the quintessential Pentagon name Cultural Operations Research Human Terrain. It began in the form of a “ruggedized” laptop computer, loaded with data from social-science research conducted in Iraq—such as, McFate said, “an analysis of the eighty-eight tribes and subtribes in a particular province.” Now the project is recruiting social scientists around the country to join five-person “human terrain” teams that would go to Iraq and Afghanistan with combat brigades and serve as cultural advisers on six-to-nine-month tours. Pilot teams are planning to leave next spring.

Steve Fondacaro, a retired Army colonel who for a year commanded the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force in Iraq, is in charge of the Human Terrain project. Fondacaro sees the war in the same terms as Kilcullen. “The new element of power that has emerged in the last thirty to forty years and has subsumed the rest is information,” he said. “A revolution happened without us knowing or paying attention. Perception truly now is reality, and our enemies know it. We have to fight on the information battlefield.” I asked him what the government should have done, say, in the case of revelations of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison. “You’re talking to a radical here,” Fondacaro said. “Immediately be the first one to tell the story. Don’t let anyone else do it. That carries so much strategic weight.” He added, “Iraqis are not shocked by torture. It would have impressed them if we had exposed it, punished it, rectified it.” But senior military leadership, he said, remains closed to this kind of thinking. He is turning for help to academics—to “social scientists who want to educate me,” he said. So far, though, Fondacaro has hired just one anthropologist. When I spoke to her by telephone, she admitted that the assignment comes with huge ethical risks. “I do not want to get anybody killed,” she said. Some of her colleagues are curious, she said; others are critical. “I end up getting shunned at cocktail parties,” she said. “I see there could be misuse. But I just can’t stand to sit back and watch these mistakes happen over and over as people get killed, and do nothing.”

At the counterinsurgency conference in Washington, the tone among the uniformed officers, civilian officials, and various experts was urgent, almost desperate. James Kunder, a former marine and the acting deputy of the U.S. Agency for International Development, pointed out that in Iraq and Afghanistan “the civilian agencies have received 1.4 per cent of the total money,” whereas classical counterinsurgency doctrine says that eighty per cent of the effort should be nonmilitary. During Vietnam, his agency had fifteen thousand employees; it now has two thousand. After the end of the Cold War, foreign-service and aid budgets were sharply cut. “Size matters,” Kunder said, noting that throughout the civilian agencies there are shortages of money and personnel. To staff the embassy in Baghdad, the State Department has had to steal officers from other embassies, and the government can’t even fill the provincial reconstruction teams it has tried to set up in Iraq and Afghanistan. While correcting these shortages could not have prevented the deepening disaster in Iraq, they betray the government’s priorities.

In early 2004, as Iraq was beginning to unravel, Senator Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat, introduced legislation for a nation-building office, under the aegis of the State Department. The office would be able to tap into contingency funds and would allow cabinet-department officials, along with congressional staff people and civilian experts, to carry out overseas operations to help stabilize and rebuild failed states and societies shattered by war—to do it deliberately and well rather than in the ad-hoc fashion that has characterized interventions from Somalia and Kosovo to Iraq. Lugar envisioned both an active-duty contingent and a reserve corps.

The bill’s biggest supporter was the military, which frequently finds itself forced to do tasks overseas for which civilians are better prepared, such as training police or rebuilding sewers. But Colin Powell, then the Secretary of State, and other Administration officials refused to give it strong backing. Then, in the summer of 2004, the Administration reversed course by announcing the creation, in the State Department, of the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization; the office was given the imprimatur of National Security Presidential Directive 44. At the September conference in Washington, Kilcullen held up the office as a model for how to bring civilians into counterinsurgency: “True enough, the words ‘insurgency,’ ‘insurgent,’ and ‘counterinsurgency’ do not appear in N.S.P.D. 44, but it clearly envisages the need to deploy integrated whole-of-government capabilities in hostile environments.”

But the new office was virtually orphaned at birth. Congress provided only seven million of the hundred million dollars requested by the Administration, which never made the office a top Presidential priority. The State Department has contributed fifteen officials who can manage overseas operations, but other agencies have offered nothing. The office thus has no ability to coördinate operations, such as mobilizing police trainers, even as Iraq and Afghanistan deteriorate and new emergencies loom in places like Darfur and Pakistan. It has become insiders’ favorite example of bureaucratic inertia in the face of glaring need.

Frederick Barton, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, considers failures like these to be a prime cause of American setbacks in fighting global jihadism. “Hard power is not the way we’re going to make an impression,” he told me, and he cited Pakistan, where a huge population, rising militancy, nuclear weapons, and the remnants of Al Qaeda’s leadership create a combustible mix. According to Barton’s figures, since 2002 America has spent more than $6,000,000,000 on buttressing the Pakistani military, and probably a similar amount on intelligence (the number is kept secret). Yet it has spent less than $1,000,000,000 on aid for education and economic development, in a country where Islamist madrassas and joblessness contribute to the radicalization of young people. On a recent visit to Nigeria, Barton heard that American propaganda efforts are being outclassed by those of the Iranians and the Saudis. “What would Pepsi-Cola or Disney do?” he asked. “We’re not thinking creatively, expansively. We are sclerotic, bureaucratic, lumbering—you can see the U.S. coming from miles away.”

If, as Kilcullen says, the global counterinsurgency is primarily an information war, one place where American strategy should be executed is the State Department office of Karen Hughes, the Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Hughes is a longtime Bush adviser from Texas. One of her first missions, in September, 2005, took her to the Middle East, where her efforts to speak with Muslim women as fellow-“moms” and religious believers received poor reviews. Last year, she sent out a memo to American embassies urging diplomats to make themselves widely available to the local press, but she also warned them against saying anything that might seem to deviate from Administration policy. The choice of a high-level political operative to run the government’s global-outreach effort suggests that the Bush Administration sees public diplomacy the way it sees campaigning, with the same emphasis on top-down message discipline. “It has this fixation with strategic communications—whatever that is,” an expert in public diplomacy with close ties to the State Department told me. “It’s just hokum. When you do strategic communications, it fails, because nothing gets out.” She cited a news report that the Voice of America wanted to produce on American-funded AIDS programs in Africa. The V.O.A. was told by a government official that the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coördinator would have to give its approval before anything could be broadcast. (The decision was later overruled.) “We’re spending billions of dollars on AIDS,” the expert said—an effort that could generate considerable gratitude in African countries with substantial Muslim populations, such as Somalia and Nigeria. “But no one in Africa has a clue.”

After the Cold War, the government closed down the United States Information Service and, with it, a number of libraries and cultural centers around the world. Since September 11th, there has been an attempt to revive such public diplomacy, but, with American embassies now barricaded or built far from city centers, only the most dedicated local people will use their resources. To circumvent this problem, the State Department has established what it calls American Corners—rooms or shelves in foreign libraries dedicated to American books and culture. “It’s a good idea, but they’re small and marginal,” the expert said. She recently visited the American Corner in the main library in Kano, Nigeria, a center of Islamic learning. “I had to laugh,” she said. “A few Africans asleep at the switch, a couple of computers that weren’t working, a video series on George Washington that no one was using.” She mentioned one encouraging new example of public diplomacy, funded partly by Henry Crumpton’s office: Voice of America news broadcasts will begin airing next February in the language of Somalia, a country of increasing worry to counterterrorism officials. In general, though, there is little organized American effort to rebut the jihadist conspiracy theories that circulate daily among the Muslims living in populous countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

According to the expert, an American diplomat with years of experience identified another obstacle to American outreach. “Let’s face it,” he told her. “All public diplomacy is on hold till George Bush is out of office.”

I once asked David Kilcullen if he thought that America was fundamentally able to deal with the global jihad. Is a society in which few people spend much time overseas or learn a second language, which is impatient with chronic problems, whose vision of war is of huge air and armor battles ended by the signing of articles of surrender, and which tends to assume that everyone is basically alike cut out for this new “long war”?

Kilcullen reminded me that there was a precedent for American success in a sustained struggle with a formidable enemy. “If this is the Cold War—if that analogy holds—then right now we’re in, like, 1953. This is a long way to go here. It didn’t all happen overnight—but it happened.” The Cold War, he emphasized, was many wars, constructed in many different models, fought in many different ways: a nuclear standoff between the superpowers, insurgencies in developing countries, a struggle of ideas in Europe. “Our current battle is a new Cold War,” Kilcullen said, “but it’s not monolithic. You’ve got to define the enemy as narrowly as you can get away with.”

President Bush has used the Cold War as an inspirational analogy almost from the beginning of the war on terror. Last month, in Riga, Latvia, he reminded an audience of the early years of the Cold War, “when freedom’s victory was not so obvious or assured.” Six decades later, he went on, “freedom in Europe has brought peace to Europe, and freedom has brought the power to bring peace to the broader Middle East.” Bush’s die-hard supporters compare him to Harry S. Truman, who was reviled in his last years in office but has been vindicated by history as a plainspoken visionary.

An Administration official pointed out that the President’s speeches on the war are like the last paragraph of every Churchill speech from the Second World War: a soaring peroration about freedom, civilization, and darkness. But in Churchill’s case, the official went on, nineteen pages of analysis, contextualization, and persuasion preceded that final paragraph. A Bush speech gives only the uplift—which suggests that there is no strategy beyond it. Bush’s notion of a titanic struggle between good and evil, between freedom and those who hate freedom, recalls the rigid anti-Communism of Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Barry Goldwater. Montgomery McFate noted that the current avatars of right-wing Cold Warriors, the neoconservatives, have dismissed all Iraqi insurgents as “dead enders” and “bad people.” Terms like “totalitarianism” and “Islamofascism,” she said, which stir the American historical memory, mislead policymakers into greatly increasing the number of our enemies and coming up with wrongheaded strategies against them. “That’s not what the insurgents call themselves,” she said. “If you can’t call something by its name—if you can’t say, ‘This is what this phenomenon is, it has structure, meaning, agency’—how can you ever fight it?” In other words, even if we think that a jihadi in Yemen has ideas similar to those of an Islamist in Java, we have to approach them in discrete ways, both to prevent them from becoming a unified movement and because their particular political yearnings are different.

Kilcullen is attempting to revive a strain of Cold War thought that saw the confrontation with Communism not primarily as a blunt military struggle but as a subtle propaganda war that required deep knowledge of diverse enemies and civilian populations. By this standard, America’s performance against radical Islamists thus far is dismal. Bruce Hoffman, of Georgetown University, a former RAND Corporation analyst who began to use the term “global counterinsurgency” around the same time as Kilcullen, pointed to two Cold War projects: RAND’s study of the motivation and morale of the Vietcong in the mid-sixties, based on extensive interviews with prisoners and former insurgents, which led some analysts to conclude that the war was unwinnable; and a survey by Radio Free Europe of two hundred thousand émigrés from the East Bloc in the eighties, which used the findings to shape broadcasts. “We haven’t done anything like that in this struggle,” Hoffman said, and he cited the thousands of detainees in Iraq. “Instead of turning the prisons into insurgent universities, you could have a systematic process that would be based on scientific surveys designed to elicit certain information on how people joined, who their leaders were, how leadership was exercised, how group cohesion was maintained.” In other words, America would get to know its enemy. Hoffman added, “Even though we say it’s going to be the long war, we still have this enormous sense of impatience. Are we committed to doing the fundamental spadework that’s necessary?”

Kilcullen’s thinking is informed by some of the key texts of Cold War social science, such as Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer,” which analyzed the conversion of frustrated individuals into members of fanatical mass movements, and Philip Selznick’s “The Organizational Weapon: A Study of Bolshevik Strategy and Tactics,” which described how Communists subverted existing social groups and institutions like trade unions. To these older theoretical guides he adds two recent studies of radical Islam: “Globalized Islam,” by the French scholar Olivier Roy, and “Understanding Terror Networks,” by Marc Sageman, an American forensic psychiatrist and former covert operator with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. After September 11th, Sageman traced the paths of a hundred and seventy-two alienated young Muslims who joined the jihad, and found that the common ground lay not in personal pathology, poverty, or religious belief but in social bonds. Roy sees the rise of “neo-fundamentalism” among Western Muslims as a new identity movement shaped by its response to globalization. In the margin of a section of Roy’s book called “Is Jihad Closer to Marx Than to the Koran?” Kilcullen noted, “If Islamism is the new leftism, then the strategies and techniques used to counter Marxist subversion during the Cold War may have direct or indirect relevance to combating Al Qaeda-sponsored subversion.”

Drawing on these studies, Kilcullen has plotted out a “ladder of extremism” that shows the progress of a jihadist. At the bottom is the vast population of mainstream Muslims, who are potential allies against radical Islamism as well as potential targets of subversion, and whose grievances can be addressed by political reform. The next tier up is a smaller number of “alienated Muslims,” who have given up on reform. Some of these join radical groups, like the young Muslims in North London who spend afternoons at the local community center watching jihadist videos. They require “ideological conversion”—that is, counter-subversion, which Kilcullen compares to helping young men leave gangs. (In a lecture that Kilcullen teaches on counterterrorism at Johns Hopkins, his students watch “Fight Club,” the 1999 satire about anti-capitalist terrorists, to see a radical ideology without an Islamic face.) A smaller number of these individuals, already steeped in the atmosphere of radical mosques and extremist discussions, end up joining local and regional insurgent cells, usually as the result of a “biographical trigger—they will lose a friend in Iraq, or see something that shocks them on television.” With these insurgents, the full range of counterinsurgency tools has to be used, including violence and persuasion. The very small number of fighters who are recruited to the top tier of Al Qaeda and its affiliated terrorist groups are beyond persuasion or conversion. “They’re so committed you’ve got to destroy them,” Kilcullen said. “But you’ve got to do it in such a way that you don’t create new terrorists.”

When I asked him to outline a counter-propaganda strategy, he described three basic methods. “We’ve got to create resistance to their message,” he said. “We’ve got to co-opt or assist people who have a counter-message. And we might need to consider creating or supporting the creation of rival organizations.” Bruce Hoffman told me that jihadists have posted five thousand Web sites that react quickly and imaginatively to events. In 2004, he said, a jihadist rap video called “Dirty Kuffar” became widely popular with young Muslims in Britain: “It’s like Ali G wearing a balaclava and having a pistol in one hand and a Koran in the other.” Hoffman believes that America must help foreign governments and civil-society groups flood the Internet with persuasively youthful Web sites presenting anti-jihadist messages—but not necessarily pro-American ones, and without leaving American fingerprints.

Kilcullen argues that Western governments should establish competing “trusted networks” in Muslim countries: friendly mosques, professional associations, and labor unions. (A favorite Kilcullen example from the Cold War is left-wing anti-Communist trade unions, which gave the working class in Western Europe an outlet for its grievances without driving it into the arms of the Soviet Union.) The U.S. should also support traditional authority figures—community leaders, father figures, moderate imams—in countries where the destabilizing transition to modernity has inspired Islamist violence. “You’ve got to be quiet about it,” he cautioned. “You don’t go in there like a missionary.” The key is providing a social context for individuals to choose ways other than jihad.

Kilcullen’s proposals will not be easy to implement at a moment when the government’s resources and attention are being severely drained by the chaos in Iraq. And, if some of his ideas seem sketchy, it’s because he and his colleagues have only just begun to think along these lines. The U.S. government, encumbered by habit and inertia, has not adapted as quickly to the changing terrain as the light-footed, mercurial jihadists. America’s many failures in the war on terror have led a number of thinkers to conclude that the problem is institutional. Thomas Barnett, a military analyst, proposes dividing the Department of Defense into two sections: one to fight big wars and one for insurgencies and nation-building. Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, goes even further. He thinks that the entire national-security bureaucracy, which was essentially set in place at the start of the Cold War, is incapable of dealing with the new threats and should be overhauled, so that the government can work faster to prevent conflicts or to intervene early. “Especially in light of this Administration, but also other recent ones, do we really want to concentrate power so incredibly in the White House?” he asked. “And, if we do, why do we still have the departments, except as an appendage of bureaucracy that becomes an impediment?” In Wilkerson’s vision, new legislation would create a “unified command,” with leadership drawn from across the civilian agencies, which “could supplant the existing bureaucracy.”

Since September 11th, the government’s traditional approach to national security has proved inadequate in one area after another. The intelligence agencies habitually rely on satellites and spies, when most of the information that matters now, as Kilcullen pointed out, is “open source”—available to anyone with an Internet connection. Traditional diplomacy, with its emphasis on treaties and geopolitical debates, is less relevant than the ability to understand and influence foreign populations—not in their councils of state but in their villages and slums. And future enemies are unlikely to confront the world’s overwhelming military power with conventional warfare; technology-assisted insurgency is proving far more effective. At the highest levels of Western governments, the failure of traditional approaches to counter the jihadist threat has had a paralyzing effect. “I sense we’ve lost the ability to think strategically,” Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge, the former chief of the British armed forces, has said of his government. He could have been describing the White House and the Pentagon.

Kilcullen’s strategic mind, by contrast, seems remarkably febrile. I could call him at the office or at home at any hour of the night and he’d be jotting down ideas in one of his little black notebooks, ready to think out loud. Kilcullen, Crumpton, and their colleagues are desperately trying to develop a lasting new strategy that, in Kilcullen’s words, would be neither Republican nor Democratic. Bruce Hoffman said, “We’re talking about a profound shift in mind-set and attitude”—not to mention a drastic change in budgetary and bureaucratic priorities. “And that may not be achievable until there’s a change in Administration.” Kilcullen is now in charge of writing a new counterinsurgency manual for the civilian government, and early this month he briefed Condoleezza Rice on his findings in Afghanistan. But his ideas have yet to penetrate the fortress that is the Bush White House. Hoffman said, “Isn’t it ironic that an Australian is spearheading this shift, together with a former covert operator? It shows that it’s almost too revolutionary for the places where it should be discussed—the Pentagon, the National Security Council.” At a moment when the Bush Administration has run out of ideas and lost control, it could turn away from its “war on terror” and follow a different path—one that is right under its nose.

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