Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Gear: Defeating Technology Again

A few weeks ago, I made a point of "defeating technology" by putting a ton of documents and a couple of new books on my Kindle Fire. In so doing, I've hoped to mitigate some of the limitations caused by its inability to access the University network. On Sunday, I went to Starbucks to update my computer's virus software (also a victim of the University's proxy requirement), and did a little bit more work on defeating technology.

The two stragglers the last time around were Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice (1906) by C.E. Callwell (HTML/PDF) and NAVMC 2890/FMFRP 12-15 Small Wars Manual (link, link). These were slightly too big to E-mail to the E-mail address provided by Amazon for sending documents to a Kindle (such a cool feature!), so while I was at Starbucks I found links to both and downloaded them. There doesn't appear to be any way to move the PDF files from the "downloads" section within the Kindle web browser, into the "Docs" section, but the important thing is having them available in the first place. I also downloaded the most recent National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and National Military Strategy in preparation for the mid-term (I totally spaced the Quadrennial Defense Review, but I'll be back there soon enough). For SND, I downloaded the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, and read the executive summary section on Sunday night and Monday morning prior to seminar.

The other thing I figured out how to do was download video content that I'd already purchased on Amazon to my Kindle. Since tablets are optimized for wifi use, they tend to default toward streaming content from the cloud. (I'm not a big fan of cloud computing and/or content storage for security reasons, for content control reasons, and because I think it's more about DRM than improving the user experience. Then again, I'm a longtime student of ancient history, and I've read Nineteen_Eighty-Four, so I'm probably more paranoid than most about preserving independent copies of media.) Anyway, without frequent wifi capability, streaming from the cloud doesn't exactly meet my needs, so I was thrilled to mess around and discover that I could download the content I'd purchased directly to my Kindle. On Sunday, I downloaded all six episodes of Secret Girlfriend, a hilarious and tragically short-lived Comedy Central show that my buddy Caleb introduced me to back in 2010 or so. I imagine I may have some occasion to watch it while I'm sitting on a train or an airplane or something.

Adapt and overcome. Fight smart, then fight hard. It's a great piece of kit, and I'm glad the folks who designed it saw fit to program enough functionality into it to allow a guy like me to overcome an otherwise serious limitation.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Writing Sample: Emirates Security Overview

Country: United Arab Emirates
Religious Affiliations: Sunni (80%), Shiite (16%), other (4%)
Ethnic Groups: Emirati (Arab) 19%, other (81%)

Remarks: Previously the Trucial States, the United Arab Emirates is composed of seven individual federated emirates (princedoms) ranging in cultural character from liberal (Dubai) to conservative (Sharjah). Formerly administered by the United Kingdom, the Emirates maintain close ties with the West.

Compared with neighboring states, the Emirates host an abnormally large proportion of Iranian expatriates. Iran likely perceives itself to have a stake there as a result. The most prominent territorial dispute between the Emirates and Iran regards the islands of Abu Musa (Emirati territory, but Iran is allowed a military installation there) and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs (administered by Iran, but claimed by the Emirates).[E1][E2][E3]

In January 2011, an Emirati spy ring was uncovered in Oman. While the Emirates and Oman enjoy friendly relations, the Emirati government may have been attempting to gather information about Oman's friendly ties with Iran, or to seek answers about the issue of Omani succession.[E4]

As with other GCC nations, Emirati citizens are few in number and politically disengaged, making the task of fielding an effective indigenous military force difficult. Emirati troops are the only Arab forces to have conducted operations in Afghanistan.[E5] In May 2011, the New York Times reported that former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince had been hired to assemble and train a Colombian mercenary army in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.[E6] The UAE and Qatar recently requested $7.6 billion in Western missile defense support, indicating Emirati concern over Iranian WMD programs.[E7][E8][E9]

In late 2012, Emirati security forces detained a number of individuals with ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and prosecuted them on charges of plotting terrorist attacks.[E10][E11][E12][E13][E14][E15] The probe included the investigation of Kuwaitis who were suspected of financing the operation.[E16][E17][E18][E19] The Muslim Brotherhood has long had a quietly tempestuous presence in the Emirates.[E20] This development will likely strain ties between the UAE, its allies, Egypt, and an increasingly emboldened Muslim Brotherhood.

[E1] Al Arabiya: Iran brushes off UAE call for talks on Gulf islands
[E2] Wikimapia: Abu Musa
[E3] Wikimapia: Greater and Lesser Tunb Islands
[E4] BBC: Oman uncovers 'spy network' but UAE denies any links
[E5] BBC: Muslim troops help win Afghan minds
[E6] New York Times: Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder
[E7] Al Arabiya: Qatar, UAE request $7.6 billion in missile defense: U.S.
[E8] Al Jazeera: Qatar and UAE look to bolster defence systems
[E9] AFP: Qatar, UAE request $7.6 bn in missile defense: US
[E10] Al Arabiya: Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood cell detained in UAE: report
[E11] Al Jazeera: UAE busts cell 'linked to Egypt Brotherhood'
[E12] Al Arabiya: UAE breaks up ‘terrorist cell’ plotting attacks
[E13] Al Jazeera: UAE reports arrest of cell 'plotting attacks'
[E14] CNN: UAE arrests suspected terror cell
[E15] BBC: UAE arrests 'terror cell' members
[E16] Kuwait Times: Kuwaitis Bankrolled Brotherhood in UAE – PM reveals detained Islamists financed from Kuwait
[E17] Arab Times: Kuwaitis financed Brotherhood members held in UAE
[E18] Arab Times: Security identifies Kuwaitis tied to UAE Brothers cell
[E19] Arab Times: Kuwaitis named in UAE Brotherhood probe
[E20] Foreign Policy: The Brothers and the Gulf

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

GSI In-Class Essay/Midterm

This morning/afternoon was the "in-class essay"/midterm in Gobal Security Issues. Long-term readers of the blog may remember my last in-class essay from October, in which I wrote on the topic "Explain why and how the conduct of war was transformed between 1815 and 1914." This time around I wrote on the topic, "Assess the coherence and efficacy of the global strategy of the United States since 2001."

As with the previous event, we were allowed a half sheet of paper with up to one hundred words to use as a note sheet, so my last few days were spent perfecting it and laying out my essay, salient points, and appropriate sources. When we began, the Director said that we had ninety minutes, which spooked me a bit - I had expected to have two hours, and had planned accordingly. I wrote like a maniac, pausing a few times to pop my elbow joint, stretch out my wrist, or think of whatever word was failing to come to mind. I was still writing when the Director began collecting the booklets, and managed to get nearly everything on the note sheet into my exam booklet. I may turn it into a short essay and post it on here at some point in the next week or two.

With that out of the way, it's back to work on some of my other school projects. I've gotten about three quarters of my portion of the memorandum for GSI written, and still need to write the section on Saudi Arabia and the introduction to the GCC. I've gotten a bit of work done on the PowerPoint slide deck that CN Slapshot and I will present in late March. At some point in the next week or so, I also need to look at the requirements for my term paper in SND, which is due right around the same time that CN Slapshot and I will be presenting on Gulf Security, so time management is critical. Oh, yeah, and I'll be working with CN Odin to finish our paper on counterinsurgency for Small Wars Journal. And I need to do two or three loads of laundry. And I need to sort out my taxes and my finances for the month. And I need to get my head shaved and beard trimmed at the well-defended barber shop. And I need to go to the chemist for a few bits and bobs. And I need to do some serious work planning a couple of excursions.

Sheesh, even just writing that makes me feel like taking a nap. Back to work. Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen, because there's always more to come.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I'm Quiet Because I'm Busy

Regular readers of the Operation Highlander blog will have noticed that I've been a bit light on posting during the last week or two. I've reached the point of running short on pre-written material. I've mentioned previously that CN Odin and I are working on an article for Small Wars Journal. I've also been working on the memorandum for the presentation that CN Slapshot and I will give on Persian Gulf security - I posted the draft section on Bahrain a couple of days ago, and I'll post a few more in the next couple of weeks. So, I've been busy.

Our in-class essay (mid-term exam) for Global Security Issues is on Wednesday morning, so in addition to these other projects, I've begun prepping for that requirement as well. We have the option of writing on either of the following topics:

1. What has impacted more on the condition of global security in modern times: the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001?

2. Assess the coherence and efficacy of the global strategy of the United States since 2001.
Most of my peers are apparently writing on Question #1, so just to be ornery, I've decided to write on Question #2. Since I've been working on other stuff the last few days, I have a lot to review before I sit down to write the essay. Here are some of the items I'll be reviewing in part or in their entirety:

  • Wikipedia: National Security Strategy
  • Wikipedia: National Military Strategy
  • Wikipedia: Quadrennial Defense Review
  • "Gulliver" at Ink Spots: The 2010 National Security Strategy sucks, and I'm gonna tell you why
  • Spencer Ackerman: The Designed-In Failures of Pentagon Strategy
  • "Gulliver" at Ink Spots: How the dialogue about "progressive national security strategy" is destructive both to progressives and national security
  • "Gulliver" at Ink Spots: Does the 2011 National Military Strategy fail to satisfy the requirements of U.S. law?
  • CNAS Andrew "Abu Muqawama" Exum: Why the QDR Should Not Mention Cost (February 2014 Update: CNAS has since moved the link here)
  • "Gulliver" at Ink Spots: Clearing up some misconceptions about the QDR and national strategy formulation
  • CNAS Andrew "Abu Muqawama" Exum: Looking to Trim the Defense Budget? Start with the QDR. (February 2014 Update: CNAS has since moved the link here)
  • "Gulliver" at Ink Spots: Finding the hidden strategy in yet another non-strategic "strategy"
  • CNAS Andrew "Abu Muqawama" Exum: On the Defense Strategic Guidance (February 2014 Update: CNAS has since moved the link here)
  • 2008 National Defense Strategy
  • 2010 National Security Strategy
  • 2011 National Military Strategy
  • 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review
  • Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense

    I also need to review some of Sloan to refresh on some of the specifics of "shock and awe" and the continuing influence of the so-called "Revolution in Military Affairs"/Transformation.

    And that's just for GSI. At some point, probably Monday, I need to put in at least a bit of time reviewing the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, as well as the seminar question sheet for our 09:00 seminar/tutorial/recitation on American nuclear strategy, and the slide deck for our 14:00 lecture on Russian nuclear strategy. So, if I'm a bit quiet during the course of the next few days, that's why: I have a lot on my plate at the moment.
  • Friday, February 15, 2013

    Writing Samples: Bahrain Security Overview

    I've spent a good portion of the last few days working on my portion of the memorandum that CN Slapshot and I will submit for our classmates to review prior to our class presentation on Persian Gulf security issues. I thought I'd share a couple of sections, and maybe more, in the next few weeks. Here's my first section(-in-progress) on security issues in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

    * * *
    Country: Kingdom of Bahrain
    Religious Affiliations: Muslim* (70.2%), other (29.8%)
    Ethnic Groups: Bahraini (Arab) 46%, other (54%)

    Remarks: Bahrain is a tiny island nation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway. Bahrain is considered one of the most liberal states in the Gulf, and serves as a holiday destination for citizens of more socially austere Gulf nations, notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. As the saying goes, "Allah can't see across the causeway". As with the rest of the GCC states, Bahrain maintains close ties with the West, and its military bases (primarily its naval base, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet; and Isa Air Base) are used by Western forces.

    Bahrain is to Iran as Kuwait is to Iraq: a former territory that Iran still considers part of its strategic purview. Bahrain's population is allegedly majority Shiite, while Bahrain's ruling family and upper class are Sunni. There is some question as to how much this has actually contributed to the uprising in Bahrain since February of 2011, but the Iranians exploit it in their propaganda, and are believed to have acted as provocateurs among the protestors - whether this is out of religious solidarity, or simply a justification for Realist foreign policy, is open to interpretation.[B1][B2][B3][B4]

    The GCC Peninsula Shield Force was deployed for the third time in history as a result of the Bahrain uprising[B5], one possible motivation being a show of force to demonstrate bloc solidarity to an Iranian audience. The force included more than 1000 Saudi troops and 500 Emirati police to protect critical infrastructure on the island,[B6] and Kuwaiti naval forces to monitor the country's coastline.[B7] This was followed in mid-2011 with the expulsion of three accused Iranian spies.[B8]

    [B1] CNN: Bahrain's King: Foreign plot to destabilize country foiled
    [B2] BBC: Bahrain tensions a trigger for Gulf turmoil
    [B3] Times of Oman: Iran told to keep out of Saudi-Bahrain affairs
    [B4] Kuwait Times: Bahrain releases Kuwaiti prisoner
    [B5] Al Arabiya: GCC troops dispatched to Bahrain to maintain order
    [B6] Asharq al Awsat: A talk with Peninsula Shield force commander Mutlaq Bin Salem al-Azima
    [B7] Arab Times: Kuwait naval units join Bahrain mission
    [B8] AFP: Bahrain Jails Three Iran 'spies'

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    The Gear: Wherein Technology is Defeated

    I've mentioned several times that the biggest drawback of my Kindle Fire is that it can't connect to the University's network. As I mentioned a few days ago, my solution to this is to adapt and overcome. My Kindle has turned out to be a great piece of kit, and I figured it was worth some effort to get more use out of it.

    Last week, I mentioned downloading some more apps. I decided that I wanted to try to get some more data on there as well, in addition to a couple of new books. I spent about a day and a half preparing. I made a list of categories, then listed specific resources in each category that I wanted on my Kindle, and then consolidated them. Some of them required downloading, and some of them required conversion from plaintext to PDF. My final categories were Strategy, Counterinsurgency, History, Books, and Security.

    In Strategy, I assembled some classics (Clausewitz, Machiavelli, Thucydides), some contemporary stuff (Colin S. Gray), and some nuclear strategists (Albert Wohlstetter, Bernard Brodie). This covers strategy in general, as well as one of my current courses that I'll discuss in more detail soon. Wohlstetter's The Delicate Balance of Terror was required reading for the second week of said course, so I'm glad that I got it onto my Kindle with a few days to spare so that I can finish reading it.

    For Counterinsurgency, which has become a core component of my studies here in Aberdeen, I elected to include a number of military field manuals, as well as some of the classics: C.E. Callwell, T.E. Lawrence, and David Galula. The PDF files for Callwell and the Marine Corps' Small Wars Manual ended up being too big to send via E-mail, so I'm going to have to download those directly to my Kindle at some point.

    History was easy: the Orkneyinga Saga, and Caesar's The Gallic Wars. Every now and again, there's such a thing as reading for fun.

    I'd been wanting to get a couple of books for a while. I've been meaning to read The Devil's Sandbox since 2006, which is right around the time when it came out. I read Imperial Grunts in 2007, enjoyed it, and think I may be able to make use of it at some point, so I got a digital copy of it since my hard copy is back in the States. One of the great things about a digital copy is that it's its own index: you can do word searches and find particular sections or topics.

    Finally, I wanted to put some of the open source military policy documents for a variety of risk management topics on my Kindle as well. Topics range from physical security, to industrial security, to information security, to foreign disclosure, to export control. In theory, these are all meant to be reference documents; in reality, I've read through a couple of them, and want to read several of them in detail, particularly the stuff on physical security for my eventual exam to get my PSP certification.

    My original plan was to E-mail all of the files to myself, and then download them through the web from Starbucks. It wasn't the best solution, but I figured it would work out alright. As it turns out, Amazon actually assigns an E-mail address to each of your Kindle devices for the specific purpose of sending documents to yourself. I had to go in and jockey with the settings on Amazon's website (you have to add the address you'll be sending it from so that it's an "approved" address - a spam prevention feature?), but once that was sorted out it ended up being pretty easy. With this successful test under my belt, I'll probably add a few more categories - for example, a number of items about Oman for my potential dissertation, and a few Arabic language resources. I like to think of it as working smart, not hard.

    Oh, yeah, and I got Deer Hunter Reloaded, too. It's pretty good.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    More Graduate School Humor

    Here's some more graduate school humor. This one didn't really resonate with me, but I suppose it could closer to June or July.

    This one, on the other hand, was pretty funny. Here are some of my highlights.

    1.Being a grad student is twice the work of being an undergrad and only half of the fun. No, I’m just kidding — it’s none of the fun.
    I call shenanigans. My first four months as a postgraduate have been the time of my life.
    2.I hope you like reading. Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha! Excuse me while I jump out of a high window with the five weighty text books I’ve been assigned this semester strapped to my torso.
    Amen. A thousand times, amen. See here, here, and here.
    3.You have no idea where anything on your campus is except the two or three buildings you have class in.
    Yup, pretty much!
    NO 5.You’re also expected to refrain from drinking Sunday through Wednesday — including day drinking. Seriously.
    Negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full. I, for one, am learning to love plenty of different kinds of whisky.
    7.Believe it or not, you actually have high expectations for the rigor and quality of your classes. Having a half-witted, drooling simpleton for a teacher has lost a bit of its luster, even if they are an easy grader. You find yourself wondering, “What did I get from this class? Was it really worth my time?”
    This has emphatically not been my experience. My instructors have been brilliant.
    HAHA 8.You have absolutely no school spirit. You’re pretty sure your school’s colors are a light color and a dark color, but you can’t remember which ones. You also think your school’s mascot is a half-man, half-goat with black eyes that tells you to burn things, but, then again, you haven’t slept for days because you have five finals next week. Maybe you should go take a nap or something.
    I guess our mascot's a bull or something? Angus the Bull? Whatever.
    11.There’s one student that everyone in your program hates and loves to gossip about. Since graduate school usually means taking a lot of classes with the same people, this is a nice way to give everyone something to talk about. You hear things like: “God, did you see that skirt she wore yesterday? This is grad school, not a frat party!” and “If she raises her hand one more time, I’m gonna throw my desk at her. Like, the entire desk.”
    No comment.
    16.Your daily planner looks less like the responsibilities of one person and more like the projected plans of a small government or Fortune 500 company.
    In all fairness, this isn't anything new for me.
    19.You’ve done some truly inspired doodling, including that sketch of an urbane giraffe wearing a three-piece suit that you swear was a work of art but you’re pretty sure you accidentally threw out.
    I wound up getting a notebook this semester that's got gridlines instead of unlined pages. Thus far I've designed a submarine, a subterranean ballistic missile silo, and I'm working on the structure for a website and archive that I hope to get online in 2014 or thereabouts. I also hope to get my dream house designed. Should only take a couple or three lectures.
    20.You’ve developed incredible arcane, esoteric knowledge that is only useful in a professional/academic capacity. You overhear people at social gatherings talking about “last night’s game” or The Avengers, and you interject with observations about the complex nature of post-colonial economics or the sculptures of the Byzantine Empire. People look at you funny and slowly slink away, avoiding eye contact.
    Strategic deterrence, arms control, David Galula, the Clausewitzian Trinity... Yeah, I totally get this one.
    23.You’ve made a few really good friends. But, you’ve also met a lot of people that are really more acquaintances than friends. I mean, they’re cool and all, but they’re not going on your MySpace Top 8 or anything.
    In my experience, that's just life. That said, it does make you appreciate your fellow strategists.
    24.You realize that you squandered a lot of opportunities as an undergrad.
    Yup. I should have studied harder, and I'm making up for that this time around. I learned a lot from the years between finishing my bachelor's degree, and starting my master's degree. Time management and prioritization top the list, and they're helping me to accomplish great things here in Scotland.

    I wonder if there's another list for folks returning to the workforce after spending a year and a half being awesome? I'll have to look for that one when I need a break from writing a fantastic dissertation.

    Sunday, February 10, 2013


    So, the big news in Scotland lately is horseburgers!

    Well, there's more to the story than that. Meat in a number of British supermarkets was found to contain either traces of horse meat; or, in some cases, was actually not contaminated with horse meat, but was actually completely horse meat, which isn't "contaminated" at all, but rather, entirely pure! It's causing a massive uproar, as one would expect.

    Now, in all fairness, there are certain cultures - for example, semi-neighboring France - in which the consumption of horses is entirely normal. While enjoying the Wales/France rugby match last night at the home of CN Warden and CN Governor, we discussed the situation, and agreed that it's not so much an issue of consuming horse meat being disgusting; however, the idea that someone would buy what they thought was beef, and wind up with horse instead of cow, was completely unacceptable. We were all relieved, however, when we came to the conclusion that horse is probably halal. Apparently there's been a parallel case of pork found in halal products served to Muslims in Irish prisons, which led CN Warden to remark, "There are Muslims in Ireland?"

    I took that photograph on Tuesday in a Tesco Express here in Aberdeen. For the record, I think the whole thing is sort of comical, and I'm really not bothered about whether I may or may not have accidentally consumed some horse meat. Or... Horsemeat? All of the stories and apology posters and such keep combining the two words. I always figured that they ought to be separate. For example, I don't say that I've eaten chickenmeat or cowmeat, I say I've had chicken, or beef, or venison, or whatever. I guess maybe they don't have a special name for meat that comes from a horse?

    Just for the record, I'll appreciate it very much if my old buddy Sam-Wise does not correct me by stating what the name for horse meat is. I'm probably safe, though, because it's probably French, and Sam-Wise would never voluntarily speak French.

    The Books: Second Semester Textbooks

    Well, as some of you will remember, I read most of my textbooks before arriving, except for the textbooks for the first semester. While this put me further behind the eight ball than I would have liked for the first semester, it puts me at an advantage for the second.

    For Global Security Issues, I'm pleased to have read the following books already:

  • James F. Hodge and Gideon Rose: How Did This Happen? Terrorism and the New War
  • Robert Kagan: The Return of History and the End of Dreams
  • Colin Gray: Another Bloody Century

    I have an audio copy of Kagan, so I'll make an effort to listen to it again - it's pretty short. I may also reread a few specific chapters of Gray, and of Hodge/Rose - fortunately, Gus brought my copy of Gray, and CN Sister has a copy of Hodge/Rose. I may also try to grab a copy of Cables From Kabul, though I may wait on that.

    I'm also at an advantage for Strategic Nuclear Doctrine. The main textbooks are:

  • Michael Quinlan: Thinking About Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Problems and Prospects
  • Lawrence Freedman: The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy

    I read both of these prior to arriving in Aberdeen. I found Quinlan to be concise and extremely valuable. Freedman was verbose and couldn't decide whether to write chronologically, thematically, or geographically, so he went with all three. The book is basically incoherent, but I'll try to review chapters of it as appropriate. Because the course is structured geographically, and that's how Freedman's chapters are divided, I'll try to match each reading portion with the relevant region. I may also try to review some of the later chapters of World Politics and the Evolution of War (assuming CN Sister has a copy of that, too - she has a lot of books in the SOC). There are several chapters that deal with the early history of aerial bombardment, the theory of massive bombardment, and the early history of nuclear warfare that should be worth reviewing.

    In addition to the textbooks themselves, there are a number of foundational authors in the realm of nuclear theory whose writings are available online in PDF form. I put a few of these on my Kindle, and they include Albert Wohlstetter, Herman Kahn, and Bernard Brodie.

    It will be physically impossible to read all of this, so I'll try to be smart and prioritize the stuff that will be most relevant. If I can push myself hard and nail this second semester, then all I'll have left ahead of me is my dissertation during the Summer. I simultaneously love and hate that I'm making progress, because I want to successfully accomplish this program, but I hate that I'm more than one third of the way through my time here in Scotland.
  • Thursday, February 7, 2013

    Blog Housekeeping Notice: CN Bruce No More!

    Dear readers,

    Up until now, one of my dear fellow Strategists has been referred to as "CN Bruce". Both his friend and flatmate, CN Governor, and mostly his girlfriend CN Doc (whom we all love and miss, as she's presently deployed to Australia to learn how to save lives!) hate the name CN Bruce, but neither (and CN Governor especially) had any good suggestions for changing it. In all honesty, I didn't much like the nickname myself, but I lacked a superior alternative.

    Therefore, working with CN Doc, I now decree that the Strategist formerly known as "CN Bruce" shall now be known as "CN Warden", for reasons which shall be obvious to all concerned. In true Orwellian fashion, all prior references to "CN Bruce" shall hereby be amended, with this post serving as the only trace of this former moniker.

    Thank you for your attention.


    Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    The Courses: Strategic Nuclear Doctrine

    I had originally chosen to take Global Security Issues and Use of Force in International Law during the second semester. However, my Strategic Studies and International Law brethren had mixed (poor) reviews about the International Law course and its instructor from the first semester, so I made an executive decision to change my registration to Strategic Nuclear Doctrine. As with Global Security Issues, I come to this course at a bit of an advantage because I've already read the textbooks.

    The course is structured similarly to last semester's Strategic Intelligence course. We aren't on the hook to lead one of the seminars/tutorials ("recitations" in American academic dialect), but we'll be turning in a five thousand word essay, and then taking a three hour exam at the end of the semester.

  • Strategic Nuclear Doctrine
  • Legal and Moral Issues
  • American Strategic Nuclear Doctrine
  • Russian Strategic Nuclear Doctrine
  • British Strategic Nuclear Doctrine
  • French Strategic Nuclear Doctrine
  • NATO Strategic Nuclear Doctrine
  • Chinese Strategic Nuclear Doctrine
  • Indo-Pakistani Strategic Nuclear Doctrine
  • Israeli Strategic Nuclear Doctrine
  • Conclusions & Prospects
  • Revision

    On the one hand, I'm not fascinated by strategic nuclear doctrine. On the other hand, I think that this course could wind up opening up some career doors for me down the line. Nuclear theory is ridiculously complicated, and if I can use this course and its readings to make me more conversant on nuclear doctrine, it could really help me down the line. It could also bolster my credentials on the Middle East and the Gulf Region, given that a great deal of global nuclear policy revolves around Israel and Iran. I think this course is going to be sort of reading-intensive, despite having read the main textbooks previously. I'm trying to pace myself, and have already read one of the key non-textbook readings.

    Should be a real barn-burner.
  • Island Paradise: St. Magnus Cathedral Exterior

    Back in December, I posted about St. Magnus Cathedral, and shared a few pictures from my stroll around the interior. Equally impressive is the exterior. You can see it from the air here. The Orcadians began construction of St. Magnus Cathedral in 1137 under the leadership of Earl Rögnvald, and it's built from red and yellow sandstone quarried from Kirkwall and Eday, respectively.

    Outside the kirk is the kirkyard, with a lot of beautiful old epitaphs for residents of Kirkwall who have died over the years. Many of the older epitaphs have been moved inside and decorate the north and south walls of the cathedral. Both the language and the iconography one finds on the epitaphs are fascinating - true works of art.

    Outside the main entry to St. Magnus is this pillar/cross thing. As I was taking pictures and looking around the front of the cathedral, there were these kids (young adults, I guess) who were riding around Kirkwall in the back of a truck. Later, I saw the kids from the back of the truck affixing a young lad and lass to the pillar/cross thing with saran wrap and making them look all filthy and goofy and such. When asked, Gray 2 later explained that this is an Orkney tradition known as a "blackening", though I'm not sure if all blackenings on the Orkney Mainland happen at St. Magnus. Anyway, as you can see, I got a picture, plus there's a video on YouTube of another Orkney blackening so you can get an idea of what I witnessed.

    On my last night in Orkney, I went back to St. Magnus Cathedral to get some shots of it lit up at night. I've seen a lot of cathedrals over the years, and a couple of pretty impressive mosques. St. Magnus Cathedral remains my favorite of all time. It's so distinctly Orcadian: small, but beautiful, proud, and rugged. With its monuments and memorials to the fallen and to great Orcadians, its interior speaks to the rich Nordic, Scottish, and British history of the island. With its weathered exterior, it reminds visitors of many of the traits that make Orkney and its Orcadian inhabitants such a special place and people.

    After eight years, one month, and eighteen days away, one last visit to St. Magnus Cathedral was a fitting end to my triumphant return to this island paradise.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    The Gear: Kevlar Clipboard

    In case you haven't noticed I tend to prefer gear with a bit of military flair. One of my favorite pieces of kit is a good clipboard. When I worked in the Middle East, I got a regular clipboard and used packaging tape to decorate it with motivational images, as well as maps of the facility, country, and region where I was working. That clipboard basically became my brain, I took it to meetings with me - I basically took it everywhere with me - and used it to take notes, or to doodle, or to plan one thing or another, or to write letters back home.

    While I was still in the Middle East, I discovered on that you could give them money, and they would actually send you a Kevlar clipboard. For those of you who are unaware, Kevlar is the material they use to make body armor, ballistic helmets, and a variety of other materials - apparently including clipboards. Compared to a regular clipboard, a Kevlar clipboard is heavier and bulkier; you can't really tape pictures or maps or anything to it; and it's sort of itchy and splintery on the side. Basically, it's inferior to a regular clipboard in every way except for overall sturdiness, and the fact that if you have one, you can then brag about having a Kevlar clipboard.

    I carry my Kevlar clipboard in my 5.11 Rush MOAB 10, pretty much at all times. I don't use it nearly as much as I used my clipboard in the Middle East, but I've been glad to have it a few different times since I got here to Aberdeen. Depending on the weather during the Summer, I may get more chances to use it if there are some days when it's nice enough outside to do some outdoor paperwork. It also has the virtue of adding weight to an otherwise light pack - you know what they say: "More weight."

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    Helpful Links for Strategists

    A few months ago, I attempted to assist my fellow Strategists by giving a shameless plug for Google Reader, which fell entirely upon deaf ears. This post is yet another well-natured attempt to help them by bringing some online resources to their attention. The following links are veritable gold mines for research, be it for projects we've been assigned for this semester, or possibly even for dissertation research later this year.

  • Central Army Registry: Formerly the Reimer Digital Library, the CAR is an archive of a lot of different U.S. Army training and education materials.
  • Defense Technical Information Center: DTIC offers a great deal of technical manuals and other military documents of varying types.
  • Combined Arms Research Library: CARL provides a number of resources on specific subjects ranging from individual conflicts to regions of interest.
  • Command and Control Research Program: CCRP provides a number of resources focused specifically on command and control.
  • Foreign Military Studies Office: FMSO is a fantastic resource. The FMSO folks have written a stunning number of articles on conflicts and military affairs across the entire world. If you have a conflict in living memory to research, the odds are that the FMSO archives will have at least one article on it.
  • Army Electronic Publications and Forms: This site includes U.S. Army field manuals, among other publications.
  • Marine Corps Publications: This site is the U.S. Marine Corps' version of that previous U.S. Army site, with additional links to other Navy, Air Force, and DoD sites.
  • GWU National Security Archive: The GWU National Security archive has a lot of declassified documents and other resources that could be useful for research purposes.

    I'll be milking these sites for all they're worth during both this semester and at dissertation time. Hopefully my fellow Strategists will have a look and get some good use out of them, too. If not, that will be just one more advantage for me as the final scores are tallied later this year.
  • Sunday, February 3, 2013

    The Courses: Global Security Issues

    The Director taught Strategic Theory in the first semester, and this semester he's teaching Global Security Issues. In the first semester, we learned the theoretical framework of strategy. This semester, we're applying the theory to regional security issues. These are the topics we'll be discussing this semester.

  • Thoughts about Post-Cold War Security
  • United States Global Strategy and Perspectives
  • Russian Security Policies and Objectives
  • European Security Challenges
  • Anglo-American "Special Relationship"
  • Political Islam
  • Security in the Levant
  • Gulf Security
  • Japan and International Security
  • China’s Role in Asia-Pacific security Arrangements
  • Tensions in the Sub-Continent
  • Salient Security Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Water as a Security Issue
  • Global Security Review and Discussion

    As with last semester, the Director's format for evaluation is a PowerPoint presentation and memorandum on one of the topics, an in-class essay (mid-term exam). I was able to forcibly snag the presentation on Gulf Security - a topic for which I'm uniquely qualified among my classmates - and will presenting with CN Slapshot. That'll be interesting, because CN Slapshot and I disagree on pretty much everything. I'm going to suggest to CN Slapshot that he take Iraq and Iran (which will give him plenty to talk about), and I take the GCC states (most of which I've visited), and we conclude in the middle.

    As I mentioned earlier, I was playing catch-up as far as the books that I should have completed prior to taking Strategic Theory. That leaves me at a bit of an advantage this semester, because it means that I've read the portion of the recommended reading list that was focused on contemporary global security issues. I'll still have plenty of work and reading to do, but this is a topic where I'm already pretty strong, so I expect to do quite well in this course.

    We also have some new folks in this course, a few Politics and International Relations (PIR) postgraduates, and one guy in Rural Development. We Strategists certainly have a well-established group dynamic, so it will be interesting to see how the dynamic shifts (or doesn't) with the addition of some new folks in the discussions. That said, I think a few of them may have been horrified a few days ago when they witnessed a lively discussion between me and the Director on one side, and CN Chatti on the other, about the relative legal merits of the Iranian nuclear program.

    Should be an interesting sequence.
  • Saturday, February 2, 2013

    The Gear: Another Kindle Fire Update

    As I've mentioned previously, my Kindle Fire doesn't offer the proxy server support necessary for use on the University's networks. Since tablets are by their very nature optimized for use on wireless networks, that's left me pretty limited as far as what I can accomplish with it. This is partly made up for by the availability of the SOC, and it can connect to retail networks like the one at Starbucks - plus it's always useful for reading books.

    I wanted to add some offline utility to my Kindle, so I went looking in Amazon's app store - unfortunately, because the Kindle Fire is so proprietary, it requires some risky tweaking to access Google's Play Store. I was looking mainly for business productivity software, but also sought out a few games. Here's what I came up with.

  • Kingsoft Office: Office software. I figure I'll be able to use this to write documents and view spreadsheets or slide decks.
  • Inkpad Notepad: I figure I can use this for notes. I do a lot of my editing in Windows Notepad anyway, so I'm hoping that it will save in the same file format.
  • xWriter Free: This is the same idea as Kingsoft Office and Inkpad Notepad.
  • MapQuest: I'm not sure how much use this will be offline, but I expect that it'll be particularly useful when I travel and have the option of looking up map data in a coffee shop or something.
  • MyTopo Maps: This is the same idea as MapQuest, but I think these are exclusively topographical maps.
  • World Factbook: The CIA World Factbook is a fantastic resource, so I'm stoked that there's an app for it. The one big issue is version control - the World Factbook changes at least annually, so you tend to get slightly dated information. Based on the app's description of Libya, I'm guessing that it was probably published in 2010 or 2011 - particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, quite a bit has changed since then!
  • Basic 9 Line UXO/IED Report: I may get some use out of this at some point, but I obviously haven't yet.
  • Arabic Dictionary: Let's just say that I'm underwhelmed by the scope of the dictionary's vocabulary.
  • Advanced Tactics: A strategy game; appears to require network connectivity.
  • Command Crisis: Another strategy game that requires network support.
  • Galaxy Empire: A space strategy game that requires network connectivity.
  • World at Arms: Another strategy game that requires network connectivity. Are you sensing a pattern yet?
  • Jetpack Joyride: This is a pretty cool game, and doesn't require network connectivity. I've already played through all of the missions, but there are additional items to buy, and beating your previous score is always a temptation.

    So, it's sort of a mixed bag, but any boost to my Kindle's utility is welcome. None of my textbooks for this term are available on Kindle, but a couple of my readings about the Dhofar Rebellion are on it, which gives me something to read. I also have Clausewitz and Machiavelli's Art of War, which are evergreen resources in this line of study - particularly Clausewitz.

    Apparently Amazon has stopped selling the first generation Kindle Fire altogether. I'm still pleased with mine overall, but as much as I want to savor the time in Aberdeen, one of the few silver linings of heading home at the end of the year will be regaining the ability to use my Kindle on my home network, without worrying about proxy support.