Center for Strategic Communication

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

Top Billing! Adam Elkus – Blowback, Drones, and Narratives: Then and Now 

If it’s really just export controls that are the gateway to the “caricature” future that Zenko fears, then the US arguably could drone terrorists away without considering any of his previous precedent-based arguments as long as it keeps a tight grip on exports. Why not just drone the terrorists with a light conscience, if states can’t or won’t make killer robots anyway and the only way they could get them is if we allow it? Indeed, as later detailed, Zenko argues that even advanced industrialized states are having problems with the make and deployment of drones. If drones are so inefficient, difficult to make, and future use of them is so tentative that the only guaranteed pathway to drone dystopia is Uncle Sam giving the world drones, then the drone problem must be vastly different than we have imagined it. 

The XX Committee – Nobody knows Anything 

….Second, most of these smart young people really don’t know anything. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they had great SATs and went to top schools and have mastered the art of sounding smart, attaining admirable fluency in that unnatural dialect known as Beltway-speak, but as for any deep knowledge about any particular subject relating to how the world really works, that’s about as rare in this crowd as unicorns and Bigfoot. There should be no surprise that Chekists are winning handily these days. [….]

There is no substitute for actually knowing something about a country and a region and how its people think and what they say; this cannot be learned entirely in books – though you will have to read a lot of books to build a foundation of understanding – and it cannot be done entirely in English. If you want to understand Putin’s Russia, you will need to seriously look at the history and culture of that place, and Ukraine too, and learn their languages to boot. If this is too hard for you, then don’t try. If you want to predict what Russians and Ukrainians will likely do next with any degree of accuracy, learn about Russians and Ukrainians. For Putin and his system, you will need to learn about Chekists too, since their worldview is unique and powerful to the initiated.

War on the Rocks (Sean Kay) NATO Revived? Not so Fast 


The crises in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 are Exhibits A and B of a dramatic failure of the decision to extend NATO engagement into these countries.  Of course, Putin is responsible for his own actions. But this 2008 decision by NATO played directly into Putin’s own rationalization of the invasion of Georgia – which was followed by Ukraine’s withdrawal of its NATO application and the consolidation of pro-Moscow forces there.  Meanwhile, efforts at the time to get hard Russian sanctions on Iran were lost – which would have offered an opportunity to freeze Iran’s centrifuge numbers at 2008 levels instead of the current efforts to deal with far more advanced Iranian capabilities.  One might ask exactly how American national interests were served in this process.

WPR (Steve Metz) –Strategic Horizons: U.S. Military Is Not Ready for the Age of Megacities 

 Many security analysts and futurists agree that in the coming decades the prevalent form of conflict will not take place in remote rural areas like in Afghanistan but in the massive, highly connected megacities that are already experiencing most of the world’s population and economic growth. In his recent book “Out of the Mountains,” David Kilcullen, one of the most astute thinkers on the changing nature of security, argues that all aspects of human life in the future will be “crowded, urban, networked and coastal.” Megacities will be the locus of economic energy and cultural creativity in the future, but they will also be the source of much of the world’s insecurity.

Small Wars Journal (Octavian Manea) – Responding to Crimea by Bolstering NATO’s Military Presence in Central and Eastern Europe 

SWJ: How should we explain Putin’s escalation in Ukraine?

A. Wess Mitchell: There is a longstanding if somewhat repressed desire among the Russian political elite to repatriate lost limbs of the former Soviet empire. This impulse runs very deep in post-Cold War Russian strategic thinking. The conditions that developed in Ukraine over the last few months provided a political pretext for acting on that geopolitical impulse. The democratic backlash to President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision not to move his country closer to Europe at the EaP Summit and his ensuing ejection from Kyiv threatened the possibility of a more Westward oriented Ukraine on the doorstep of Russia. In both strategic and ideological terms, these developments were seen as being unacceptable for the interests of the Russian state and elite. Recent U.S. diplomatic behavior also suggested to the Russians a permissive strategic environment in which Putin could act without incurring high costs. This created an opening for a kind of “rebate revisionism.” Putin seized it. 

Nuclear Diner – War with No Hope

….Like many American kids in the decades after World War II, my friends and I fought the Nazis in a forested lot near my house. We took turns killing and being killed. War movies taught us about the French resistance, holding off the Nazis until the Americans arrived; the British, surviving through the bombing raids; soldiers engineering a break from a Nazi prisoner of war camp. Good guys and bad guys.

That mental frame made it hard to understand what World War II had been in Estonia and, from what I have read, in Ukraine. I kept asking questions, not getting it until one day I realized: the good guys didn’t come to the rescue on the Eastern Front. There were individuals who performed acts of heroism or who managed to keep the lives around them reasonably humane. But many, perhaps most, died.

Imagine that you own a small farm or a business in town or are the town’s police chief. A war is raging. The neighboring country has been demanding military bases in your country, and then their army occupies your town. They kill some people, put some people on trial, deport others without trial, and conscript some of the young men. The soldiers demand food and take up residence in houses they like. Women are raped. Some people learn to deal with the occupation and do well. The police chief has little choice but to cooperate; the alternative is death or deportation, leaving someone much more ruthless in charge. Your farm is torn up; your business is co-opted to provide the occupation.

A year passes. Now the other side advances and takes your town. The fighting kills more people. Cousin Endel retreats along with the army that conscripted him. Old Aunt Mari has a heart attack while she is gathering the chicken eggs.

Now other people are put on trial, raped, deported, conscripted. The police chief again cooperates, a different group of people ingratiate themselves with these occupiers. Your farm, if it still is in your possession, is torn up, your business co-opted. Endel’s brother Mart may now have to fight his older brother, neither for a cause that he chose.

Scholar’s Stage – Smallpox on the Steppes 

The Becker-Posner Blog –The Embargo of Cuba: Time to Go- Becker and End the Cuban Embargo—Posner 

Information DisseminationWatching the Russians… Off Florida’s Coast

PARAMETERS –  (Robert Bunker)  Defeating Violent Nonstate Actors  and (Frank Hoffman)   What the QDR Ought to Say about Landpower 

Diane Ravitch-Michael Powell on the “Gilded Crusade” for Charters –The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

The American Conservative   Twilight of the Right 

Al Jazeera America – The responsibility of adjunct intellectuals 

Cato Unbound – Human Nature vs. Libertarian Ideals 

ScienceDaily- Smart People Are More Likely to Trust Others


That’s it!