Thursday, January 31, 2013

Around Aberdeen: The Hideous Glass Cube at Night

The Hideous Glass Cube is slightly less hideous, but still pretty hideous, when it's lit up at night.



See? Still pretty hideous.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Careers in Risk

We Aberdeen Strategists tend to see ourselves as the bastard step-siblings of the Department of War Studies (WSD) at King's College London KCL. We're also constantly discussing where we hope to work once we finish the program later this year. As such, I took great interest in this recent podcast from the KCL WSD, entitled Careers in Risk and featuring analysts from AKE Group and G4s. The WSD is going to be featuring some additional podcast with other prospective employers for KCL WSD graduates in the coming weeks.

Careers in risk management - this being my own background - are of particular interest to the majority of the Strategists, because such positions tend to boast comfortable compensation, and the world certainly isn't getting any less dangerous so there's (theoretically) a degree of job security. At the same time, most of my peers lack the requisite backgrounds for an easy transition from postrgraduate study into risk management careers, such as foreign area expertise, language skills, or risk management credentials. As such, it's going to be interesting to see where folks wind up after we've finished. I've already mentioned some of my preparatory efforts for the eventual job search, and I'll probably try to help the other Strategists as they look for work during dissertation season this Summer. I think I may have a few cards up my sleeve for myself, but the thing about looking for work is that it's more like that ridiculous Texas Hold 'Em nonsense than respectable Five Card Stud: your success doesn't just depend on your own cards, but also on the cards on the table. Hopefully, I've built up enough credentials and contacts in the last few years that I'll be able to coast into something. And, with a little bit of tenacity and some of my experience working as a hiring manager, I may just be able to help some of my peers to find gainful employment as well.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Songs That Remind You 5

While I was getting my hair cut at the barber shop, I heard this tune by Olly Murs featuring Flo Rida - Olly Murs having been mentioned previously in The Songs That Remind You 3.



As much as I hate to admit knowing this, this song is strangely reminiscent of "Crazy" by Britney Spears, from before she went crazy herself. Olly Murs also sounds a lot like Adam Levine of Maroon 5, and this song reminds me of an older Maroon 5 song, but it's tough to place - maybe "Not Coming Home"? Until now, I've neglected another song that will remind me of my time in Scotland, but I figured that I may as well include it. Truth be told, I didn't actually hear this one for the first time when I was over here, but as I was getting my apartment packed up a few months ago, I discovered a punk rock version of "Scotland the Brave" by the Dropkick Murphys, entitled "Cadence to Arms".



It's tough not to feel like you're ready to roll out and conquer when that tune fades out.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Night of the Crazy Flags

As many of you may have gathered, I was bored during the Long Break. I missed the other Strategists. So, when the Strategists arrived back, I was quite thrilled when a number of them ended up in one room at one time. And, of course, that room was the SOC.

Following up on the Night of the Crazy Maps, we had the Night of the Crazy Flags. CN Sister, pictured, showed up with a bunch of flags that she'd brought with her after her visit home to the States. In the process of putting them up, CN Warden (whose girlfriend thinks we should change his code name, and who hasn't been pictured previously here at Operation Highlander) decided to don the Union Flag as a cape - quite stylish, as if he's our own personal Action Man or some friendly British version of Superman. At any rate, using a veritable arsenal of push pins, we mounted the flags upon these hallowed SOC walls over the course of the evening.

At present, we have: a pirate flag on the little window in the SOC's door, a Scottish Lion Rampant, Italy, Wyoming (pictured previously), Spain, Catalan, Denmark (which CN Sister has subsequently used as a blanket), the Scottish Saltire, Peru, North Korea, the Falkland Islands, the United Kingdom, the Bundesrepublik of Deutschland (Germany), and Ireland. Of those flags, I think that the Falklands and North Korea belong to CN Ness, Wyoming belongs to me, the Lion Rampant belongs to CN GBU-16, and the rest belong to CN Sister. As you can see, CN GBU-16 even showed up in her running gear to get into the act (and, as usual, looked gorgeous in the process).

Along with the maps (and my recent addition of a loop of paracord to the ceiling above my desk for hanging bundles of bananas from), the flags really make this otherwise clinical room feel a bit more like home away from home. It makes it a lot more comfortable to spend, say, twelve hours in the SOC working on a journal article, or researching deterrence, or discussing the finer points of arms control theory. And we owe it all to the Night of the Crazy Flags.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Island Paradise: Neolithic Orkney

I could go on for pages upon pages about the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When I went on my last day there, I took tons of pictures of the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, which are comparable to Stonehenge in age and structure. These sites aren't henges, but they're standing stones that were arranged with some specific meaning by the neolithic inhabitants of Orkney. Nearby is the neolithic village of Skara Brae, which was discovered in 1850 when a storm hit the Bay of Skaill. One of the reasons why I find Orkney so fascinating is that it's quite literally teeming with sites like this, whether they be neolithic, or Viking sites like Maeshowe. All of these are visible within a fairly tightly zoomed area on the satellite map.


View Larger Map

The only thing even remotely comparable in the States that I know of would be the Manitou Cliff Dwellings outside Colorado Springs. I know there are also a couple of Viking settlements in the States, but even some of the Meso-American settlements in Central and South America wouldn't be as old as most of this stuff. Even when the place is completely waterlogged, it's still a really amazing feeling to walk around the Ring of Brodgar and think that people designed and constructed those structures hundreds or even thousand of years before the birth of Christ.

I first experienced Neolithic Orkney with Captain John and his family. I was absolutely awestruck, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to revisit this stunning historical site on the final day of my second expedition to Orkney.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Yes Campaign Comedy (and More on Scottish Nationalism)

As I mentioned earlier, CN Homeboy is an ardent Scottish Nationalist, Scottish National Party voter, and all around good guy. Knowing that I love the Proclaimers and Orkney, he posted the attached picture on my Facebook wall: the Proclaimers, Craig and Charlie Reid, with a bunch of Orcadian Scottish Nationalists, obviously in Orkney, holding up "Yes" signs in the color scheme of the Orkney flag. His caption:
"Great band, picture, place, and cause."
Not to be outdone, I replied:
"That's pretty impressive that they got all of the "Yes" voters in the entire county together into one place. Must have taken three or four ferries and a couple of airplanes to accomplish that."
A lively debate between the two of us, joined by CN Ness, subsequently took place. All were good sports and respectful of one another's differing views, which is always encouraging.

In the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to update a few of the stories from my previous post on the subject.

  • The ferries are still in occasional disarray over the Serco/Northlink contract. I haven't heard any news about it in a few weeks, but I get the impression that the Orcadians are still pretty upset with how the whole thing has been handled.
  • I had the opportunity in December to speak for a few minutes with one of the First Aberdeen bus drivers, and it sounds as if the proposed strike wasn't a Scotland thing, but a local Aberdeen thing instead. Without revealing any more detail, I just want to acknowledge that this particular incident didn't seem to have anything to do with the SNP or the Scottish Government (and as I noted then, I wasn't sure whether it was an Aberdeen issue or something bigger).
  • Apparently the ScotRail strike didn't happen. The bus driver I spoke to seemed to side with the proposed strike action, because the passenger in question apparently cried on demand when caught trying to ride the train without paying the required fare. I'm still skeptical of the whole thing (plus I never did make it down to Edinburgh - maybe this week?); but, again, in the interest of full disclosure, the strike didn't take place.

    While I remain skeptical of the proposed Scottish secession referendum, I also remain prepared to be convinced that the SNP actually have a plan or a reasonable justification for secession. I have still seen nary a trace of either.
  • Monday, January 21, 2013

    Keep Calm and Carry On: The Second Semester

    With Strategic Theory and Strategic Intelligence completed, the second semester begins in a few days. I'm enrolled in Global Security Issues, taught by the Director, and Strategic Nuclear Doctrine, taught by an instructor whom I've not yet met (which means that there's been no nickname assigned). We've already received the course guide (what we'd call a syllabus in the States) for Global Security Issues by E-mail, and I'm informed that some of the Director's lectures are already online. I haven't looked at either yet, because there's plenty of time to worry about that in the next few weeks.

    As I've mentioned previously, the books I read prior to arriving in Aberdeen weren't relevant to the courses required for the first semester. (Fortunately, a couple of them were useful for exams.) The upside of that is that I've already read most of the books that are supposed to be assigned for Global Security Issues and Strategic Nuclear Doctrine, so there will be some serious review, but I'm not starting from scratch.

    I may find myself rereading The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy by Lawrence Freedman. In reviewing for exams, I also discovered that Colin Gray's Modern Strategy has a couple of chapters on nuclear strategy (as does Another Bloody Century, for that matter), so I may try to have a look at those in the next week to get myself into a "nuclear" mindset.

    I also hear rumors that one of the topics we'll cover will in Global Security Issues will be the Gulf. As I've mentioned previously, I have some pre-existing experience and interest in the Gulf, so I'm going to try to lay claim to the student presentation on Gulf security. I continue to believe that making Gulf security issues one of my specialties is a safe bet for staying employed, so this is a good opportunity to continue that trend.

    The new semester starts on the 28th of January, which gives me another week to screw around before it's time to hit things hard once more. I hate that I'm already a third of the way done. A couple of nights ago, I thought to myself:

    "Spending a year in Aberdeen is what I think spending a year wrapped in joy would feel like."
    I'm not even halfway done with being here, and I already miss it. Fortunately, the time I've already spent here has been exactly what I'd been hoping for since mid-2010, and that's a wonderful thing.

    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    Exam Debriefing

    Alright, now that I've had a few days off, I'd like to take a few moments to review the course of the last week.

    I spent some of my off time in late December and a lot of time in January, particularly last week, studying for exams. I had hoped to get more reading done during the course of the semester, but in the end I only finished two textbooks: Modern Military Strategy by Elinor Sloan for Strategic Theory, and Intelligence Power in Peace and War by Michael Herman for Strategic Intelligence. The exam for Strategic Theory was scheduled for Monday, 14th January, and the exam for Strategic Intelligence was scheduled for Wednesday, 16th January. Let's start with Strategic Theory.

    * * *

    As I've mentioned previously, I read a number of the books on the recommended reading list before I arrived in Aberdeen. Strategic Theory focused on the following topics:

  • Strategic Thinkers
  • The Military Instrument
  • The Strategic Environment
  • Democratic Peace Theory
  • Limited War
  • Alliances
  • Arms Control
  • Deterrence
  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Counterinsurgency
  • Military Intervention
  • Economic Sanctions

    The exam would consist of ten questions, of which I would have to answer three in three hours. As the questions are worded differently each year, I had to insulate myself against both exam topics and exam wording. I decided to prepare five topics. My strongest topics going in were unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency, so those were obvious choices. From there, I decided to fall back on some of the reading I did over the Summer, and add arms control and deterrence to the list. Finally, owing in part to my undergraduate background in ancient history, I prepared alliances with the idea that I might be able to draw on my limited knowledge of the Peloponnesian War. Alliances was my outlier, with my ultimate intention being to write on counterinsurgency, then on unconventional warfare, and then to choose between arms control and deterrence based upon which question was worded better on the exam sheet.

    Working alternately alone and with a few of my fellow Strategists, I reviewed the Director's slide decks on the topics in question, and a bit of Sloan. I also reread Colin Gray's chapter on space warfare from Another Bloody Century; Gray's chapter on small wars (unconventional warfare/counterinsurgency) from Modern Strategy; and the entire six part, three hour 1981 Reith Lecture series "The Two-Edged Sword by Professor Laurence Martin. I wrote these into a note sheet, and then recopied and rewrote it three or four times.

    The exam consisted of the following questions:

    1. Examine the argument that it is misguided to have democratic peace theory as the theoretical cornerstone for Western international security policy.
    2. What must always be done to sustain the efficacy of any deterrence-based strategic doctrine?
    3. Why is the concept of limited war beyond precise definition, and how does this impact on the conduct of such war?
    4. Undertake a strategic audit of the value of alliance membership for states seeking to enhance national security.
    5. What is arms control supposed to deliver to national security and how well has it done it?
    6. Define military intervention, and consider the challenges facing states when implementing such action in faraway places.
    7. To what extent is post-Cold War unconventional war really so unique when contrasted with the guerrilla war and terrorism of the Cold War period?
    8. Assess how well counter-insurgency theory and practice have moved with the times.
    9. 'There is no such thing as 'smart' and also effective economic sanctions.' Discuss.
    10. Debate the argument that Realist dominance of strategic theory delivers more harm than good to international security.

    As I mentioned previously, I wrote on question 8 (counterinsurgency), then on question 7 (unconventional warfare), and finally on question 5 (arms control). In my first essay, I argued that theory and practice have remained relatively unchanged since the days of the Roman Empire, and used examples from Roman Britain, Algeria, Dhofar, Afghanistan, and Iraq to support my argument. I made a similar argument about guerrilla warfare, noting that Mao and Guevara are still read as sources, though I provided the caveat that with the collapse of Soviet and Chinese support for revolutions, some older factors had reasserted themselves. I'm less comfortable with having actually answered question five, but the point that I tried to get across (illustrating liberally from that lecture series by Sir Laurence Martin) was that arms control has a role to play, but that it is not a panacea. I had at least one and as many as four citations per page, and was comfortable overall with my performance. I'm hoping for a 19.

    It started snowing on Monday morning, and it snowed more during the exam - a lot more.

    * * *

    Strategic Intelligence was a bit of a different story. I've found intelligence fascinating for a long time, but I didn't have the academic background going into the course that I had for Strategic Theory. The topics addressed in Strategic Intelligence were:

  • Introduction to Strategic Intelligence
  • The Intelligence Cycle
  • Intelligence Agencies of the World
  • Great Thinkers of Intelligence
  • Types of Intelligence
  • World War One
  • World War Two
  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • The Six Day War
  • The Farewell Case
  • Intelligence and the Iraq War

    As you can see, most of these were case studies. By contrast, the sample exam consisted of the following questions: 1. Does the intelligence cycle contribute much to our understanding of what secret intelligence is about?
    2. Is intelligence the 'missing dimension' of politics and strategy? If so, what does this actually mean?
    3. Assess the thoughts of, at least, two great thinkers and what they say about intelligence.
    4. Is intelligence collection by technological means more effective than by human means?
    5. Critically assess the contention that intelligence can help win wars.
    6. Can commanders in the field achieve 'dominant battlefield awareness'?
    7. What lay behind the establishment of intelligence agencies in twentieth century?
    8. Is economic intelligence more important since the end of the Cold War or not?
    9. To what extent is the introduction of new laws important for intelligence communities?
    10. What did secret intelligence contribute to the politics of the Cold War?

    As you can see, the sample exam focused primarily on theory, which we covered early on before shifting into case studies. That left me a bit more nervous about the exam than I'd been with Strategic Theory, and without much time between exams to study for it. I'd finished reading Herman in late December, and part of my study strategy was to type up the chapter summaries so that I could review them. There was a lot of theory in Herman, and a lot of practical application of that theory, which helped to bridge the gap.

    The exam questions were as follows:

    1. Assess the usefulness of the intelligence cycle as a means of evaluating the role of secret intelligence.
    2. "Knowledge and foreknowledge of the world (Loch Johnson, 1996)." Is this a fair definition of intelligence?
    3. By comparing the writings of TWO great thinkers, discuss the justification for using intelligence.
    4. Analyse the salient issues and problems of collecting intelligence by both human sources and from technology.
    5. What are the difficulties involved in achieving 'dominant battlefield awareness'?
    6. To what extent can intelligence contribute to winning wars? Discuss using appropriate examples.
    7. Was the creation of intelligence agencies in the twentieth century a necessity, and if so, why?
    8. How important is economic intelligence?
    9. Can intelligence legitimately justify pre-emptive wars? Discuss using appropriate examples
    10. Evaluate the contention that in times of war, laws are as necessary as secret intelligence.
    11. To what extent was the Cold War period a 'golden age' of espionage?

    Since question 4 was a retread of the question I'd answered in my term paper, I wrote on that first. Second, I wrote on question 7, arguing that intelligence agencies were not a necessity, per se, but could have theoretically been left under the purview of the military (foreign intelligence) and law enforcement (security intelligence) from whence they arose in the first place, and to which they still have close ties. I was inspired in part by this article, which states in its opening paragraph:

    Intelligence reform is once again in the air, and this time the bogeyman is the "militarization" of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). As Mark Safranski notes, there is something deeply bizarre about the idea that an organization created from the bones of a paramilitary covert action force (the Office of Strategic Services) and frequently involved in joint military ventures with special operations forces (like the Vietnam-era Phoenix Project) should be blamed for engaging in large-scale collaborative military ventures. The frequency with which observers call for the Agency to reject militarization and pursue the supposedly more pure activities of intelligence collection and analysis suggest a lack of historical knowledge of the CIA's paramilitary past.
    As Herman's second chapter summary states:

    Modern intelligence developed through "foreign armies" components of the military staffs which were formed from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Another origin was the growth of "special policing" in roughly the same period. Later came the twentieth-century expansion of intelligence collection and the development of specialized agencies for it. Anglo-Saxon countries then developed means of assessing foreign countries as a whole, and of intelligence community management.

    This evolution of intelligence has been part of much wider trends in the use of information, in government and outside it. As in all other arrangements for handling information, intelligence communities have some blurred edges. But they are reasonably coherent institutions for producing information and forecasts on foreign targets and internal security matters, linked to decision-taking but with some separation from it.
    I chose to conclude with question 5, and argued that "dominant battlespace awareness" is a myth. I cited "Effects-Based Operations" (EBO), a U.S. Air Force targeting system that was expanded to apply the intelligence and sensory capabilities of the "Revolution in Military Affairs"/post-Cold War military transformation; EBO has largely fallen from grace, and I cited General James Mattis' August 2008 memorandum on EBO.

    I'm confident that I did well; the question is whether I did better than my peers. I'm shooting for honor grad, and I don't want to lose my edge over one exam. Ultimately, though, I can only give it my best effort and be satisfied with that. I was joking about this with CN Vlad last night, and he said that he hopes that I graduate second in my class - I have some pretty great classmates.

    * * *

    The exams themselves were a lot more regimented than what I remember as an undergrad, or as a proctor as recently as Spring of 2012. Students were not allowed to retain their mobile phones, and all bags had to be left at the front of the room. Each desk was individually numbered, and a range of desks were assigned for each instructor's students, as the exam rooms were shared among several different classes. It was a lot more stringent than I'm accustomed to.

    The other thing that's a lot different is the amount of administration the exams have to go through. Each exam is reviewed and graded by the instructor who administered it - the Director and E, respectively. Then, a second reader reviews them - the Director is the secondary reader for E's class, and another instructor in the School of Politics and International Relations reads our exams from the Director's class. Once they've been reviewed twice, they're then packaged up and - get this - sent down to the Department of War Studies at King's College London. (KCL is sort of the Harvard/Oxford/Cambridge of the various flavors of conflict studies, while Aberdeen is closer to a distinguished state university.) Grades aren't official until the guy at KCL has finished with them, which should be in mid- to late-February. This is a quality assurance measure that, to the best of my knowledge, is completely absent from American universities.

    It's a fascinating difference, and aside from the extreme pain in my wrist after writing for three hours (Aberdeen) as opposed to an hour and a half or two hours (undergraduate), I feel like I'm better for the experience. Knowledge of the process should also help me to study more effectively during the second round of exams in a few months time.
  • Thursday, January 17, 2013

    Post-Exam Collapse

    Alright, exams are over. I think I did well on both of them, though I'm a bit more confident on the first exam. I think there was room for improvement on both, but that's the nature of an exam under those circumstances. I'll try to put up a post in the next couple of weeks that discusses the exam experience, because it's much different than what I was used to as an undergraduate. After the second exam was done, a bunch of us went out drinking. I ended up playing big brother by the end of the night, but it was great to get a few drinks down the hatch and relax after being spun up for the last few weeks.

    Classes fire back up in about a week and a half. Joanne, whom I mentioned a while back, was bugging me a few weeks ago to go somewhere, and I told her I would once exams were over, but I think I may not. I have some projects I can work on here in Aberdeen - the biggest one being my dissertation. I'd like to get it written early, to allow me more time to look for work over the Summer. Joanne thinks I'm basically crazy, but I actually enjoyed studying for and taking the exams, and writing a long research paper is actually my idea of a good time. Maybe I'll moderate that with some travel, but I'm actually too beat to worry about it at the moment.

    I may post over the next few days, I may not. I kind of feel like spending the next few days in a Tom version of a chronic vegetative state. At the moment, I think I'm going to pack up - I spent half the day in the SOC - and go for a kebab.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    Strategic Intelligence Exam Day

    Last exam of the semester in less than an hour. Time for some motivational music.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Around Aberdeen: Outside the Hideous Glass Cube

    A couple of years ago, the University of Aberdeen demolished the Queen Mother Library in order to build their new and improved library. The weekend I arrived, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was in Aberdeen to dedicate the library, which is named after Sir Duncan Rice, the former Principal of the University of Aberdeen. Unfortunately, I was asleep after something like twenty-six hours of air travel at the time, so I didn't get to see the Queen.

    As some of you may remember from my departure pictures, I've provided my own name to the Sir Duncan Rice Library: I call it the "Hideous Glass Cube", because it's a giant cube of glass, and it's truly hideous. CN Sister calls it the Borg Cube, which seems reasonable enough.

    I've studied in the Hideous Glass Cube a couple of times, but I prefer to study in the SOC. The Hideous Glass Cube's hours tend to be less accommodating than the SOC's as well - at one point, I got in there at about 7:40 PM, attempted to start reading, and then they announced over the 1MC that the library would be closing at 8:00 PM. What kind of self-respecting university library closes at 8:00 PM? I think it was a Friday, too. Come on, 10:00 PM, at least.

    Anyway, as you can see from the picture on my earlier post, the Hideous Glass Cube sort of dominates the Aberdeen skyline, as long as you're up high enough that it's not blocked by buildings (most of the buildings in town are only three stories, but that's further complicated by hills and depressions). That eyesore is visible from all around the city, and particularly from the sea and air. I saw the Hideous Glass Cube when I was leaving for Orkney, and I saw it again when I was flying back from Orkney. I have to say, the campus library on my campus back in the States was gorgeous, but the Hideous Glass Cube is... Well... Hideous.

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Strategic Theory Exam Day

    Monday was an interesting day.

    I went to bed before 11:30 on Sunday night with the intention of getting up at 6:45 Monday morning. Instead, I woke up at 3:45 and gave up on sleep at 4:50. I got ready early, and went to the SOC to study. Fellow Strategists and I have been studying individually and collaboratively for the last few days, and my main effort was to write and rewrite and rewrite a note sheet to help me memorize items for the Strategic Theory exam. I think I either wrote or typed it about five times. Another item we reviewed in great detail was Sir Laurence Martin's 1981 BBC Reith Lecture, "The TWo-Edged Sword", on nuclear policy. Monday morning involved rewriting the sheet for the last time, and spent the rest of the day studying and socializing.

    At around 8:30, it started snowing, and immediately turned to slush, which is going to freeze into an absolute mess come Tuesday morning.

    I got all of my stuff prepared for the exam, and at 1:15 a handful of Strategists gathered to join me in a ritual I established as an undergrad: watching the helicopter attack scene from Apocalypse Now.


    So, we went to the examination room, got situated, and began at 2:00. The format of the examination was ten questions, of which the student picks three and has three hours upon which to answer them. I chose the following:

    8. Assess how well counter-insurgency theory and practice have moved with the times.

    7. To what extent is post-Cold War unconventional war really so unique when contrasted with the guerrilla war and terrorism of the Cold War period?

    5. What is arms control supposed to deliver to national security and how well has it done it?
    I wrote until about 4:51, at which point I finished that third essay, and encountered extreme discomfort in my wrist while closing up my examination booklet. The exam finished a few minutes later, and the Strategists scattered to the wind, only to (mostly) congeal at the Machar for a drink with the Director. Oh, yeah... And it resumed snowing throughout the exam. It's a real mess out there.

    Some of us intended to head back to the SOC and study for the Strategic Intelligence exam, which goes down in less than forty-eight hours time; instead, we watched a few YouTube videos, and then scattered once more. I got myself back to my digs with some Chinese food. I'm exhausted, and the whole excruciatingly envigorating ordeal isn't over yet. Tomorrow's another day of study, and then a half day of study, and then the exam... So, I'm going to try to relax myself, get some shut-eye, and hit it hard tomorrow.

    More to come.

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    Strategic Theory Exam Notes

    Unconventional Warfare/Counterinsurgency:
    - role of unconventional forces/insurgents in warfare; role of special operations forces in conventional order of battle
    - 1st Gen 1648-1860, 2nd Gen 1860-1918, 3rd Gen 1918-2003
    - 4th Gen: non-state actors, informal combatants in small cells, use of any available means, exploit all state vulnerabilities to undermine enemy, focus on culture/religion, "larger" goals than guerrilla warfare
    - Mao: armed propaganda, protracted war, climactic offensive; political over military, organization, self-reliance
    - Guevara: "Foco" (vanguard revolutionary cadre) to focus popular discontent; military and party as one, focus on direct action, no fixed base, military has priority
    - Kilcullen, Galula, Petraeus, Clausewitz, Trinquier, McCuen, Thompson
    - McCuen: hearts and minds, civil over military
    - Thompson (1963): clear political objectives, rule of law, whole of government approach, undermine insurgent support, secure base areas
    - Galula: population over territory, engage the friendly minority to secure the neutrality of the majority, protect the population to give them the freedom to cooperate, clear then hold/secure then build infrastructure then repeat in adjacent region
    - Kilcullen: COIN force may be the "revolutionary", conflict ethnography, 80% non-kinetic, engage the women, armed social work

    Alliances:
    - Delian/Peloponnesian Leagues, NATo/Warsaw Pact, Triple Entente/Triple Alliance, Axis and Allies; Melian Dialogue
    - collective security vs. collective defense (CD = alliances)
    - collective security: each state shares responsibility for internal/member security against the other members; interest of all members involved
    - collective defense: against an outside aggressor; Thucydides: "Mutual fear is the most solid basis on which to organize an alliance."
    - offensive or defensive; wartime or peacetime; bilateral or multilateral; guarantee pact or mutal assistance agreement; institutionalize or not

    Deterrence:
    - broad/narrow, central/extended, general/immediate, punishment/denial
    - communications, capability, credibility
    - undermiens enemy's values/interests; defense balances/exceeds enemy strengths; deterrence based on enemy's perception, not on deterrer's actions
    - first strike vs. second strike vs. BMD
    - new US triad: 1) all strike capabilities, including conventional; 2) passive and active defense, including BMD; 3) "robust infrastructure" to undergird strike and defense
    - deterrence ("Hey, don't do that!") vs. compellance ("Hey, stop doing that!")
    - based on lack of defensive measures against massive nuclear bombardment
    - mutual destruction uncomfortable as a status quo, but efforts to escape this situation undermine deterrence
    - "Killing people is good, killing weapons is bad." - John Newhouse

    Arms Control:
    - Kellogg-Briand Pact, SALT, START, Hague, Geneva, PTBT/CBT/NPT, Iraq 1991-2003; interwar experience influence on SALT/START negotiations
    - dual use vs. disarmament; trust/verification difficult, CBMs
    - arms races result from political disputes, not vice versa
    - structural = numbers, operational = regional prohibitions + CBMs
    - common interest in moderation necessary FOR arms control, but that common interest undermines the NEED for arms control; arms control arises from deterrence
    - Soviet perspective (continuation of revolutionary struggle) vs. Western (detente/reduction of the risk of nuclear war); Soviet efforts to use arms control to manipulate regional NATO partnerships (Central Europe, Scandinavia)
    - National Technical Means vs. on-site inspections (trust/verification)
    - handling safety vs. test bans; what if SALT happened in the 1950's? more advanced/accurate doesn't necessarily mean worse
    - "The rigidity you legislate today may deny you the evasive maneuver you want to take tomorrow." - Laurence Martin

    Reith Lecture 1981 #6:
    - security community: Western Europe, Canada/US vs. Finland/USSR
    - countervailing power vs. harmonious purpose as basis for peace
    - detente as both a source and consequence of security
    - concensus on "outputs" of security, vice "inputs", to produce common will
    - cheap and dangerous nuclear solutions in lieu of expensive and appropriate conventional ones
    - security compared to electricity

    IR Theory:
    Realism: self-interested states compete for power and security; states, which behave similarly regardless of government type; military power and state diplomacy
    Liberalism: peace strengthened by democracy, economic links, and international organization; states, international institutions, commerical interests; international institutions and global commerce
    Idealism: ideas, values, culture shape, international politics; promoters of new ideas, transnational networks, NGOs; ideas and values

    The Dissertation: The Director's Input

    Just before Christmas, I went to meet with the Director. As I've noted previously, I arrived with five potential dissertation topics, and added one a few weeks ago. In no particular order, these are:

  • The Dhofar Rebellion
  • Private Military Companies
  • Roman Lessons for Modern Counterinsurgency
  • The Hague and Geneva Conventions and Modern Warfare
  • The Peninsular Shield Force
  • Education as a National Security Issue

    I took these to the Director, and we talked through a few of them. He recommended that, for now, I focus my interest on three: Dhofar or the PSF, and PMCs as the outlier. I've been collecting a LOT of articles and a few other resources on the GCC/PSF, a handful of articles on PMCs (plus the books I listed in that original post), and a few that are relevant to what I'd write about the Dhofar Rebellion. More on those in a moment.

    The items that were knocked off the list don't particularly bug me. As I mentioned in the post about education, it's a huge topic. The paper on Roman counterinsurgency will be written regardless, so that really doesn't change much; and it also would have been most helpful if I intended to continue further into academia, which I don't. The Hague/Geneva topic would have been most relevant if I were taking the Use of Force in International Law course during the second semester; instead, I've switched into the Strategic Nuclear Doctrine course.

    As for the three topics that are still on the list, each one has its own particular set of high points. Each one could also have an impact on my career.

    In the case of Private Military/Security Companies (PMCs/PSCs), I have some personal background in this topic, and I have some good sources to work with. This could also be helpful for my career, either in the public sector or the private. The growth of PSCs since 2001, and their potential utility in future "austere" conflicts is fertile ground for a dissertation.

    With respect to the GCC/PSF, I already have credentials and experience relating to the Persian Gulf Region, and doing my dissertation on the PSF would further cement thoughs - essentially, I could start claiming subject matter expert status on the Gulf and its specific security issues. Regardless of the Obama Administration's goal of a "pivot" to East Asia, the Middle East will continue to be one of the biggest centers of gravity for international security for the foreseeable future. Writing on the GCC/PSF would be potentially helpful if I were to try to find work in the government, in a think tank (particularly the ECSSR in Abu Dhabi), or even with certain defense contracting positions.

    My favorite topic remains the Dhofar Rebellion. The Director seemed optimistic about this one, too, and we went through a potential outline of how I could structure the paper. If I had a couple of weeks with which to just sit down and write, I could probably pound it out right now. It would give me an opportunity (or rather, a justification) to see a bunch of spots in Oman where I plan to go anyway. On the one hand, counterinsurgency is set to lose its vogue status in the next few years. On the other hand, it will become vogue again the next time America finds itself pulled into a war, particularly in the Middle East - unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before it happens because international affairs revolve around reality, rather than hope. The other benefit of the Dhofar Rebellion is that it serves as a model of how to conduct both counterinsurgency and conventional, unconventional, regular, and irregular warfare operations on a budget. It's also a textbook case of the successful use of special operations forces to support strategic goals, support for host nation forces, and what the Army is currently calling "regional alignment". I was pleased that the Director didn't knock this one off the list, and I'm leaning heavily toward using this as my dissertation topic.

    More to come.
  • Friday, January 11, 2013

    Giddy Limit Calendar

    When I was in Orkney, just after I'd strolled through St. Magnus Cathedral, I went to the Orcadian Bookshop on Albert Street - where I just happened to run into five of my six hosts.


    View Larger Map


    Aside from just looking for Orkney-related stuff, I had a specific target in mind. The Orcadian newspaper runs a comic strip about Orkney by local illustrator Alex Leonard, titled The Giddy Limit. I discovered it - you can view the whole run of the comic on the website - while I was in the Middle East. My favorite comic is #38 from all the way back in 2006. Each year, Alex Leonard does a calendar with the characters from the strip. The 2012 calendar featured Orcadianized (?) a bunch of famous movies. This year's calendar features the crew in a series of Orcadianized (?) versions of advertisements for popular brands, like Guiness ("Gurness is food fur ye"), Nike ("Jist dae hid"), and even IRN-BRU ("HOM-BRU gets ye through"). So, I've put it up on the bulletin board in my room.


    It's a great daily reminder of Orkney, and really, what more could you want out of life?

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Island Paradise: Italian Chapel

    In my last Island Paradise post, I mentioned that the Churchill Barriers were built using labor provided by a bunch of Italian prisoners of war from the North Africa campaign. (I imagine it must have been quite the shock to go from the deserts of North Africa to the austere conditions in Orkney.) The thing about Italians in the 1940's was that they were pretty devout Roman Catholics, and Catholicism wasn't exactly a big thing in Orkney. So, the Italians requested permission to turn a Quonset hut - the British term being a Nissen hut - into a chapel.

    The POWs took a Quonset hut on the north end of Lamb Holm, within sight of the first Churchill Barrier, and converted it into a chapel. The chapel stands to this day, and it's one of the sites where Captain John took me on my first day in Orkney back in 2004. One of GBU-16's great uncles was one of the POWs in Orkney at the time, so when I announced that I was heading up there for a visit, she insisted that I go see the Italian Chapel - as if I'd miss it! So, on my last day in Orkney, as I was touring from southeast to northwest, I stopped in to the Italian Chapel and snapped a few pictures.

    You can read more about the Italian Chapel and its history at Visit Orkney, Orkney Communities, and Wikipedia. I've heard every now and again that there are concerns about its deterioration over time, but it seems to be holding up pretty well. The Italian Chapel features the stations of the cross, a beautiful altar, and ornate decoration that - if memory serves - is actually painted onto plaster. To look at the building from the side, you'd have a hard time telling what's inside, but the front (and possibly the back?) exterior have been converted to complete the appearance of a chapel. I don't believe any services are held there anymore - case in point, it was mid-day on Sunday morning when I visited.

    With my visit to the Italian Chapel complete, it was time to head northwest to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    January Blogging

    January's probably going to be a little bit light on posts here at the Operation Highlander blog. There are a few reasons for this.

    First, a couple of my big features are going to be stalled for content: Island Paradise is nearly tapped out until my next expedition, and Around Aberdeen also needs some work in the next couple of months to come up with some new pictures and new stuff to write about. I have a few ideas for the latter, but they'll take some coordination and some effort to get them ready.

    January's also going to be a busy month, with study for exams, exams themselves, social events with the returning Strategists, and possibly a bit of travel at the end of the month before the new semester begins.

    I'm going to keep the posts coming as I'm able, and I'll try to post about some more day-to-day stuff once my life stops being pure exam study and sitting around accomplishing nothing. Things should pick back up once we hit February.

    Exam Review Update

    I wasted a lot of last week not studying, sleeping in, watching nonsense on YouTube, writing a series of posts for my other blog that may not even get published, and not much else. On Saturday night, I finally put together a formal outline that includes the sample exam questions I'm studying from, a list of books I'm focusing on, and a few others items. Here's how it looks.

    Strategic Theory:
  • Modern Strategy: read
  • Modern Military Strategy: An Introduction : review and note where appropriate
  • Strategy in the Contemporary World : probably getting ignored
  • Another Bloody Century: review chapter 8 (space warfare)
  • Director's Topical Cuttings: review all
  • PowerPoint Slide Decks: review all
  • Student Topical Memoranda: read all

    Strategic Intelligence:
  • Intelligence Power in Peace and War: type up chapter and book summaries
  • Intelligence in an Insecure World: read, note where appropriate
  • PowerPoint Slide Decks: review all
  • Secret Intelligence: A Reader: probably getting ignored
  • Intelligence in War: probably getting ignored

    I've got about a week to do all of this, so I have my work cut out for me. That said, I'm probably going overboard, and I could probably sit for the exams right now and nail them. The Director will also be doing a review session later this week, so I'll attend that. This is one of those situations where my competitive streak, my attention to detail, and my ability to test well should hopefully pay off.
  • Sunday, January 6, 2013

    Another Surprise Visitor

    A few weeks ago, I saw another deer walking through the area near my digs. Actually, I saw two of them, but one of 'em was really bookin' it. I didn't get close, but I was able to get a lousy picture with my point-and-shoot camera, so I figured I'd share it. I also attempted to get some pictures of those bunnies because Lady Jaye was so obnoxious about it, but they're only out at night, so unless I snare one of them with some parachute cord then they're just not going to turn out. Sorry, Lady Jaye, guess you'll just have to settle for another deer picture.

    Friday, January 4, 2013

    Around Aberdeen: Robert the Bruce

    One of the first statues I saw upon arriving in Aberdeen is outside Marischal College, on Broad Street in the Aberdeen City Center, where there's an impressive statue of Robert the Bruce - which, like the aforementioned statue of the Gordon Highlanders, was also erected in 2011. I guess 2011 was a good year for Aberdeen and statues. It's just a hunch, but I'm guessing that Angus Macfadyen did not serve as the artistic inspiration for the statue. The famed King of Scots is riding a horse (much thinner than the horse that Marcus Aurelius is riding on his statue in the Piazza del Campidoglio outside the Capitoline Museums in Rome!), he has a sword, and he's holding up a compact of some sort. It also bears an inscription, visible in this image...


    And on the topic of that lousy movie, the Robert the Bruce statue is located here, which is just a five minute walk from...


    ... here: the William Wallace statue that I mentioned in this post from a couple of months back. I also took a night shot from the bus a couple of months ago...


    ... but, as you can see, it wasn't top notch. I may try to get another night shot the next time I'm in the area.

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    The Dissertation: Education as a National Security Issue

    Another potential dissertation topic is the intersection of education and training, and national security. If I wrote on this topic, I'd plan to structure my dissertation along the following lines.

    High School: I'd like to examine how America educates its young people, in Kindergarten through graduation generally, but specifically examining the content and standards applied to high school education. Part of my intent would be to identify what skill sets are necessary for success in the civilian job market, and what skills are necessary for success in the enlisted ranks of the military.

    College/University: My examination of college and university education would be similar to my discussion of high school, but with focus on military commissioning programs in lieu of the enlisted ranks. There are a number of issues surrounding modern university education that impact both the civilian job market, and the quality of the officers we commission into the military. I would examine some of these prominent issues, and propose improvements to bridge that gap.

    Trade Schools and Apprenticeships: The push to send more and more students into four year degree programs has led to a decline in the number of students who follow high school with vocational training. This has led to a shortage in skilled laborers, which has a corresponding fact on both the economy and the defense sector. I intend to discuss how an increased emphasis on trade schools, apprenticeships, and other vocational training programs could enhance America's national security.

    Beyond specific institutions and programs, I'd also like to examine the following programs as they relate to education and national security.

    Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics: One of the big acronyms in discussions of education is "STEM": science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I've found that my interest in STEM - even the mathematics portion - has grown since I left school as I've identified projects on my own that have encouraged that interest. STEM education and encouraging students' interest in STEM is critical to America's continued security, so I'd like to do some research on that as well.

    Language and Culture: The other major challenge America's schools face is improving their ability to instruct students in foreign languages and cultures. For the benefit of America's economy and its defense, language and cultural expertise is critical, and America is not currently producing enough high school or college graduates with the appropriate skills to meet these needs. I'd like to explore this and make some suggestions on how to fill this gap.

    Educated Citizen Body and National Security: Finally, there's the question of whether or not America's schools produce competent voters - this being the ostensible justification for providing publicly funded education in the first place. Regardless of one's political leanings, things like voter turnout and polling suggest that most Americans neither follow politics very closely, nor do they understand how the government works, nor are they cognizant of topics outside their immediate experience like budgetary issues or foreign policy. Thus, a challenge exists: how do we adjust our system to get people engaged in the political process, and to get them to vote responsibly as well? I'd like to take a stab at it.

    As I write this blog post, I realize that any one of these items could be an essay unto itself. If I select this as a dissertation, or possibly as a longer research project at some point later, I may very well approach it as a series of research projects on each individual item.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    Island Paradise: Churchill Barriers

    According to the undisputed and infallible source of all knowledge:

    On 14 October 1939, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Royal Oak was sunk at her moorings within the natural harbour of Scapa Flow in a nighttime attack by the German U-boat U-47 under the command of G√ľnther Prien. Shortly before midnight on the 13 October the U-47 had entered Scapa Flow through Kirk Sound between Lamb Holm and the Orkney Mainland. Although the shallow eastern passages had been secured with measures including sunken block ships, booms and anti-submarine nets, Prien was able to navigate the U-47 around the obstructions at high tide. He then launched a surprise torpedo attack on the unsuspecting Royal Navy battleship while it was at anchor in Scapa Flow. The U-47 then escaped seaward using the same channel by navigating between the block ships.

    In response, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill ordered the construction of several permanent barriers to prevent any further attacks. Work began in May 1940 and was completed by September 1944. However the barriers were not officially opened until 12 May 1945, four days after the end of World War II in Europe.
    Basically, they took a bunch of Italian prisoners from the North Africa campaign, and put them to work making concrete blocks that were then dropped into the channels between various islands on the eastern end of the archipelago. One links the Orkney Mainland to Lamb Holm; the second links Lamb Holm to Glimps Holm; the third links Glimps Holm to Burray; and the final one links Burray to South Ronaldsay. Since the threat from German U-boats has declined slightly since the early 1940's, they're now used primarily as bridges. I can only imagine how restricted I would have been in my movements if Winston Churchill hadn't given the order.

    Captain John first took me to see the Churchill Barriers way back in 2004, on my first full day in Orkney. I'd never heard of them, and I was amazed. This was either right before or right after we visited one of the naval artillery batteries that defended Scapa Flow. Orkney is full of history.

    Scapa Flow has its own rich history, tied into the history of World War I and World War II. As mentioned above, it was the site of the sinking of HMS Royal Oak in 1939. It was also the site where the German imperial fleet was interned, complete with crews, after hostilities had ended in World War I. As the Treaty of Versailles was being negotiated, a failure in communication coupled with German distrust of the victors led a German admiral to order that the ships in Scapa Flow be scuttled. While the British were able to salvage a few of the ships, most were lost, and there are a number of spots where the remains are still visible. Their location next to the Churchill Barriers makes for a historical drive that you'd be hard pressed to find an equivalent to elsewhere in the world. I took these pictures on my way back from the south end of South Ronaldsay on my last day in Orkney...


    View Larger Map

    ... as I was doing a sort of condensed grand tour of the islands accessible by road. While still on tiny Lamb Holm, which is probably about as big as the University of Aberdeen campus, I revisited the Italian Chapel, and that will be the topic of my next Island Paradise post.