I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him


Analyzing data from 60 earlier studies, Solomon Hsiang from the University of California, Berkeley, found that warmer temperatures and extremes in rainfall can substantially increase the risk of many types of conflict. For every standard deviation of change, levels of interpersonal violence, such as domestic violence or rape, rise by some 4 percent, while the frequency of intergroup conflict, from riots to civil wars, rise by 14 percent. Global temperatures are expected to rise by at least two standard deviations by 2050, with even bigger increases in the tropics.

{ The Scientist | Continue reading }

My story being done, she gave me for my pains a world of sighs


Two notions of reconciliation exist.

The weak or thin conception is akin to “resignation.” It is sought by groups that have waged war against one another but have come to the realization neither can win. Reconciliation in this sense results from an enforced lowering of expectations.

In the stronger sense, reconciliation means a virtual cancellation of enmity or estrangement via a morally grounded forgiveness, achievable only when conflicting groups acknowledge collective responsibility for past injustice, and shed their deep prejudices by a profound and painful transformation in their identities. It is because this process is not possible without a somewhat brutal confrontation with oneself and a painful recognition of one’s own moral degradation that reconciliation is difficult to achieve.

{ ResetDoc | Continue reading }

‘Art is gay.’ –Schiller

Cops are looking for a man who smashed a woman over the head with a ketchup bottle while shouting anti-gay slurs at a Greenwich Village diner, cops said.

The attack took place in the Waverly Restaurant on Sixth Avenue at about 4:40 a.m. Monday, sources said.

The victim suffered head lacerations.

{ NY Post }

Against boredom even gods struggle in vain


Implicit in the rationalist literature on bargaining over the last half-century is the political utility of violence. Given our anarchical international system populated with egoistic actors, violence is thought to promote concessions by lending credibility to their threats. In dyadic competitions between a defender and challenger, violence enhances the credibility of his threat via two broad mechanisms familiar to theorists of international relations. First, violence imposes costs on the challenger, credibly signaling resolve to fight for his given preferences. Second, violence imposes costs on the defender, credibly signaling pain to him for noncompliance (Schelling 1960, 1966). All else equal, this forceful demonstration of commitment and punishment capacity is believed to increase the odds of coercing the defender’s preferences to overlap with those of the challenger in the interest of peace, thereby opening up a proverbial bargaining space. Such logic is applied in a wide range of contexts to explain the strategic calculus of states, and increasingly, non-state actors.

From the vantage of bargaining theory, then, empirical research on terrorism poses a puzzle. For non-state challengers, terrorism does in fact signal a credible threat in comparison to less extreme tactical alternatives. In recent years, however, a spate of empirical studies across disciplines and methodologies has nonetheless found that neither escalating to terrorism nor with terrorism encourages government concessions. In fact, perpetrating terrorist acts reportedly lowers the likelihood of government compliance, particularly as the civilian casualties rise. The apparent tendency for this extreme form of violence to impede concessions challenges the external validity of bargaining theory, as traditionally understood. In Kuhnian terms, the negative coercive value from escalating represents a newly emergent anomaly to the reigning paradigm, inviting reassessment of it (Kuhn 1962).

That is the purpose of this study.

{ International Studies Quarterly | PDF }

related { Making China’s nuclear war plan | PDF }

It’s all bullshit except the pain


Kathryn Graham and her colleagues trained 148 observers and sent them out to 118 bars in early-hours Toronto where they recorded 1,057 instances of aggression from 1,334 visits. Where the majority of psychology research on aggression is based on laboratory simulations, Graham’s team collected real-life observational data to find out who gets aggressive and why.

The researchers followed the Theory of Coercive Actions, according to which aggressive acts have one or more motives: compliance (getting someone to do something, or stop doing something); grievance; social identity (to prove one’s status and power); and thrill-seeking.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority (77.5 per cent) of aggressive acts were instigated by men. Men more than women were driven to aggression by identity and thrill-seeking motives; by contrast female aggression was more often motivated by compliance and grievance. This often had a defensive intent, as a reaction against unwanted sexual advances. […]

The researchers found that greater intoxication led to more serious aggression in women, but not men - perhaps because the latter were emboldened enough already.

{ BPS | Continue reading }

Burn so bright I’m gonna make you blind


{ Weapon system patented by Aleksandr Georgievich Semenov. Soldiers inside an armoured tank, under battle conditions, can dispose of their biological waste products in an unwasteful way: encasing those materials, together with explosives, in artillery shells that they then fire at the enemy. | full story }

‘Eventually I’m going to crawl inside your mouth and replace your internal organs.’ –Ben Gold


There are well over 100 small, irregular, asymmetric, and revolutionary wars ongoing around the world today. In these conflicts, there is much to be learned by anyone who has the responsibility of dealing with, analyzing, or reporting on national security threats generated by state and nonstate political actors who do not rely on highly structured organizations, large numbers of military forces, or costly weaponry—for example, transnational criminal organization (TCO)/gang/insurgent phenomena or politicized gangs. In any event, and in any phase of a criminal or revolutionary process, violent nonstate actors have played substantial roles in helping their own organizations and/or political patrons coerce radical political change and achieve putative power.

In these terms, TCO/gang/insurgent phenomena can be as important as traditional hegemonic nation-states in determining political patterns and outcomes in national and global affairs. Additionally, these cases demonstrate how the weakening of national stability, security, and sovereignty can indirectly contribute to personal and collective insecurity and to achieving radical political change. […]

Jamaican posses (gangs) are the byproducts of high levels of poverty and unemployment and lack of upward social mobility. Among other things, the posses represent the consequences of U.S. deportation of Jamaican criminals back to the island and, importantly, of regressive politics in Jamaican democracy. […]

It is estimated that there are at least 85 different posses operating on the island with anywhere between 2,500 to 20,000 members. Each posse operates within a clearly defined territory or neighborhood. The basic structure of a Jamaican posse is fluid but cohesive. Like most other gangs in the Americas, it has an all-powerful don or area leader at the apex of the organization, an upper echelon, a middle echelon, and the “workers” at the bottom of the social pyramid. The upper echelon coordinates the posse’s overall drug, arms, and human trafficking efforts. The middle group manages daily operational activities. The lowest echelon performs street-level sales, purchases, protection, and acts of violence as assigned. When posses need additional workers, they prefer to use other Jamaicans. However, as posses have expanded their markets, they have been known to recruit outsiders, such as African Americans, Trinidadians, Guyanese, and even Chinese immigrants, as mules and street-level dealers. They are kept ignorant of gang structure and members’ identities. If low-level workers are arrested, the posse is not compromised and the revenue continues to come in. […]

Jamaican posses are credited with being self-reliant and self-contained. They have their own aircraft, watercraft, and crews for pickup and delivery, and their own personnel to run legitimate businesses and conduct money-laundering tasks. In that connection, posses have expanded their operations into the entire Caribbean Basin, the United States, Canada, and Europe. The general reputation of Jamaican posses is one of high efficiency and absolute ruthlessness in pursuit of their territorial and commercial interests. Examples of swift and brutal violence include, but are not limited to, fire-bombing, throat-slashing, and dismemberment of victims and their families. Accordingly, Jamaican posses are credited with the highest level of violence in the English-speaking Caribbean and 60 percent of the crime in the region. […]

Today, it is estimated that any given gang-cartel combination earns more money annually from its illicit activities than any Caribbean country generates in legitimate revenues. Thus, individual mini-state governments in the region are simply overmatched by the gang phenomenon. The gangs and their various allies have more money, better arms, and more effective organizations than the states. […]

The great city of São Paulo, Brazil—the proverbial locomotive that pulls the train of the world’s eighth largest economy—was paralyzed by a great surprise in mid-May 2006. […] More than 293 attacks on individuals and groups of individuals were reported, hundreds of people were killed and wounded, and millions of dollars in damage was done to private and public property. Buses were torched, banks were robbed, personal residences were looted and vandalized, municipal buildings and police stations were attacked, and rebellions broke out in 82 prisons within São Paulo’s penal system. Transportation, businesses, factories, offices, banks, schools, and shopping centers were shut down. In all, the city was a frightening place during those days in May.

During that time, the PCC [one of the largest and most powerful gangs in the world] demonstrated its ability to coordinate simultaneous prison riots; destabilize a major city; manipulate judicial, political, and security systems; and shut down the formal Brazilian economy. The PCC also demonstrated its complete lack of principles through its willingness to indiscriminately kill innocent people, destroy public and private property, and suspend the quality-of-life benefits of a major economy for millions of people.

{ PRISM | Continue reading }

‘Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.’ –Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi


The Institute for Economics and Peace’s annual Global Peace Index (GPI) reported an increase in world peace after two consecutive years of decline. The change was driven by slight reductions worldwide in terrorist acts, military expenditure as a percentage of GDP, military sophistication, and aggregate number of heavy weapons per capita. […]

The PPI concluded that North America and Western Europe are the most positively peaceful regions, and that full democracies have the highest average levels of peace both on the PPI and the GPI. This finding contributes to the ongoing debate about the efficacy of hybrid regimes versus democracies, suggesting that liberal democracies in fact produce more peaceful societies. […]

Sub-Saharan Africa was reported as the least positively peaceful region, followed by the Middle East and North Africa. […]

The most peaceful countries, Iceland, Denmark, and New Zealand, shared the characteristics of harmonious society, very little internal and external conflict, and especially, low military spending. With its high military spending and involvement in external conflicts, the U.S. slipped seven places last year to the 88th most peaceful country.

{ Diplomatic Courier | Continue reading }

Dies iræ!


There is still controversy over whether war is a science or an art. Efforts to define war as entirely a science have failed. Scientific methods are essential in explaining what occurs in war, and business models aid in managing military organization, planning forces, and designing weapons. Quantifying has its place, but these methods are less suitable as one approaches the operational and strategic levels. A knowledge and understanding of war must be based on science, but its actual conduct is largely an art. Scientific and technological advances will not change that reality. The character of war may alter substantially, yet its nature in the Clausewitzian sense will remain. Seeking to make war simple, predictable, and thus controllable will collapse under the larger weight of such intangibles as the human factor and the psychological elements, which will always ensure there is a fog of war. […]

Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) warned that so-called mathematical factors can never find a firm basis in military calculations. In his view, war most closely resembles a game of cards. […]

The most dramatic changes in military theory that led to a more refined view of warfare occurred in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The major cultural trends in Germany were romanticism, nationalism, and idealism. German romanticism challenged the fundamentals of the French-dominated Enlightenment’s worldview. It was opposed to the French cultural and political imperialism. It led to the awakening of German national sentiment. German thinkers of the “counter-Enlightenment” believed that concepts of knowledge and reality are fundamentally false, or at least exaggerated. For them, the world was not simple but highly complex, composed of innumerable and unique elements and events, and always in a state of flux. […]

Clausewitz believed only in broad generalities, none of which consistently held true in the fog and friction of actual combat. […]

The principal psychological features of any war are hatred, hostility, violence, uncertainty (or fog of war), friction, fear, danger, irrationality, chance, and luck. For Clausewitz, a war was a trinity composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity—a blind natural force. […] He pointed out that the only situation a commander can know fully is his own. […]

Clausewitzian views on the true nature of war remain valid today. The human element is the single most critical aspect of warfare. Human nature has changed little despite vast changes in military technologies. Warfare is too complex and unpredictable an activity to be taken over by machines or explained and managed by pseudoscientific theories. Only the human brain is fully capable of reacting in a timely and proper fashion to the sudden and unanticipated changes in the situation and countering the enemy’s actions and reactions. The enemy has his own will. He can react unpredictably or irrationally.

{ Milan Vego/National Defense University Press | Continue reading }

A crucial component of martial arts and meditation is learning to let go of the ego-self and enter into mushin


Every sect of Buddhism maintains that it is a religion of compassion and nonviolence. Throughout its history, however, Buddhism has occasionally been embroiled in warfare and military campaigns. Zen Buddhism in particular has managed to find its way into various military arts. From its incorporation into the Shaolin Monastery and the impact on the Japanese samurai to its absorption into the curriculum of several martial arts, Zen and fighting have come to be seen as closely related. This is due to certain characteristics of its doctrine as well as its practice. In fact, fighting is not entirely absent from Zen texts and literature. There are stories and kōans which depict amputations, encounters between samurai, or some kind of confrontation. Fighting, in the sense of an inner struggle is also present. […]

The objective of this examination is to draw parallels between Zen meditation and martial arts training and explore the reasons why Zen’s core philosophical doctrine and meditative practice can be integrated seamlessly into the martial arts.

{ SSRN | Continue reading }

Half a league onward! They charge! All is lost now! Do we yield?


Cinderella Castle is the worldwide-recognized icon of the Disney empire. Physical representations of it stand at the center of two Disney Parks: Walt Disney World in Florida, and Tokyo Disneyland. Assuming it were an actual fortress, how would you take it?

A ground must be chosen in which you can quickly secure a foothold into the Magic Kingdom. This position must be easily accessible for the invasion force, provide cover and concealment for the troops and give strategic advantage once taken while depriving the enemy of the same. For this mission, I choose the area outside the tracks, between Tomorrowland and Main Street USA. Consideration must be taken to ensure we are not spotted by the monorail.

{ Jonathan Kirk Davis, Sergeant of Marines/Quora | Continue reading }

related { Macaroni Combat films }

The continuation of policy by other means


From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet. […]

It appears to be the first time the United States has repeatedly used cyberweapons to cripple another country’s infrastructure, achieving, with computer code, what until then could be accomplished only by bombing a country or sending in agents to plant explosives. The code itself is 50 times as big as the typical computer worm, Carey Nachenberg, a vice president of Symantec, one of the many groups that have dissected the code, said at a symposium at Stanford University in April. Those forensic investigations into the inner workings of the code, while picking apart how it worked, came to no conclusions about who was responsible.

A similar process is now under way to figure out the origins of another cyberweapon called Flame that was recently discovered to have attacked the computers of Iranian officials, sweeping up information from those machines. But the computer code appears to be at least five years old, and American officials say that it was not part of Olympic Games. They have declined to say whether the United States was responsible for the Flame attack.

Soon the two countries had developed a complex worm that the Americans called “the bug.” But the bug needed to be tested. So, under enormous secrecy, the United States began building replicas of Iran’s P-1 centrifuges. […] Those first small-scale tests were surprisingly successful: the bug invaded the computers, lurking for days or weeks, before sending instructions to speed them up or slow them down so suddenly that their delicate parts, spinning at supersonic speeds, self-destructed. After several false starts, it worked. One day, toward the end of Mr. Bush’s term, the rubble of a centrifuge was spread out on the conference table in the Situation Room, proof of the potential power of a cyberweapon. The worm was declared ready to test against the real target: Iran’s underground enrichment plant. […]

The first attacks were small, and when the centrifuges began spinning out of control in 2008, the Iranians were mystified about the cause, according to intercepts that the United States later picked up. “The thinking was that the Iranians would blame bad parts, or bad engineering, or just incompetence,” one of the architects of the early attack said.

The Iranians were confused partly because no two attacks were exactly alike. Moreover, the code would lurk inside the plant for weeks, recording normal operations; when it attacked, it sent signals to the Natanz control room indicating that everything downstairs was operating normally. “This may have been the most brilliant part of the code,” one American official said.

But by the time Mr. Bush left office, no wholesale destruction had been accomplished. Meeting with Mr. Obama in the White House days before his inauguration, Mr. Bush urged him to preserve two classified programs, Olympic Games and the drone program in Pakistan. Mr. Obama took Mr. Bush’s advice. […]

An error in the code, they said, had led it to spread to an engineer’s computer when it was hooked up to the centrifuges. […] It began replicating itself all around the world. Suddenly, the code was exposed. […] Within a week, another version of the bug brought down just under 1,000 centrifuges. Olympic Games was still on. […]

American cyberattacks are not limited to Iran.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

photo { Donovan Wylie }