Saturday, April 14, 2007

RAND Unveils "Cognitive COIN"

Sailors on the Nimitz before she sailed a week or so ago to relieve the Eisenhower in the Persian Gulf and join the Stennis carrier group.

The team at RAND have come up with a document of hope, for those, like myself, waiting for something like this for a long time from those close to the government channels.

They have given the "war of ideas" a spiffy new name, "Cognitive COIN".

But, they have gone further. They've actually outlined organizational steps. The bad news is that this comes late in the game, without an appreciation about whether prior mis-steps are reversible or not. Also, it doesn't convey urgency in strong tones and topics like "training" rather than "crash training" make it frustrating, although such phrases are invariably bureaucratic-attractive.

I highly recommend reading at least the summary. Money quote:

The four cognitive abilities that are most important to COIN operations are anticipation, opportunism, decision speed, and learning in action, applied through rapid-adaptive decision making. In 21st-century COIN, tight control and bureaucracy must yield to the power of networked intelligence, with each operative authorized to act, react, and adapt. With these notions as a backdrop, this paper offers concrete ideas for gaining the cognitive advantage in anticipating and countering the new global insurgency.

Romney Outlines His Tax-Free Vision of Defense

In a Texas speech this week, Romney outlines his "four point" strategy for 21st Century defense.


After the appropriate mentions of Jihad and how terrible they are, he goes on for four points:

  1. Spend (tax-free?) more to "strengthen" the military
    1. Add to the cost of the standing army, by adding 100,000 troops. (It's not clear if that is in addition to those already in the works under Bush).
    2. Use 4% of GDP as the arbitrary minimum for defense spending.
    3. Appoint defense industry experts (foxes?) and independents to cut out the pork in military procurement.
  2. Spend oodles of public money on research to become Energy Independent (but, "license" "our" technology finds to the rest of the world...hummm.)
  3. Transform our civilian efforts, a la Goldwater-Nichols.
  4. "Strengthen" old alliances and forge new partnerships (an "alliance for hope and prosperity")

I'd like to know just how much of #1 is, like Newt, preparing to fight the last war (i.e. Iraq). Are we preparing for more nation building contingencies?

If GDP grows exponentially and spending on threats is a constant proportion (4%), is the assessment here that threats in relation to the U.S.'s capacity to handle them are growing exponentially, too? When I hear such things, I'm for zero-based budgeting.

I worry that all these transformation efforts put too much authority in the hands of a few people. I wish we could find just as many ways to incent co-operation, without having to build bigger organizational pyramids.

"Free trade and investment" are ... controversial ways to build new alliances for prosperity, if Romney hadn't noticed ...