Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Challenges (Day 2 -- International Security Forum)

Related Posts:
Live-blogging The ISF
BBC Monitoring
Towards An Unruly World: Ideas Of Interest

After a quick trip to the Routledge booth to talk about books past and future, I trotted off to a full day of seminars on various topics tied to the parade of horribles from yesterday.

There are four time slots today with six panels in each slot. This means that you can see no more than one-sixth of what the conference has to offer. Since I am presenting in one of those time slots, that limits my participation even more. I am not a big fan of this type of conference format as it really limits your exposure to new ideas. It also explains some of the hit and miss quality of this post. Still, I managed to pick up some new stuff of interest today as well.

(Note: In case you are new to this series of blog posts, this conference is being held under the Chatham House Rule which does not limit my use of the ideas that come out of the conference but does prohibit my use of the names or affiliations of the people speaking about those ideas. The ideas mentioned below, then, are not my own. In some cases, I don't even agree with them. I am reporting them merely because I found these ideas interesting.)

When can NGOs do better with non state actors than states or international organizations? When the non-state actor wants to be seen like a state (i.e. has political ambitions, needs international attention, leadership under pressure to deliver something to the people, etc.). This condition often occurs late in the game -- when the non-state actor has tried other avenues. Likewise, because of the timing and the purpose, states typically do not want the NGO to succeed.

The legal framework is an important factor in cyberwar. The lack of an adequate legal framework actually impeded efforts to respond effectively to the series of cyber attacks in Estonia 2 years ago. There has been some good thinking on this issue but it is not widely known and has not yet been incorporated into legal systems. This results in a continuing exploitable weakness in the system despite efforts to more directly address the cyberwar threat.

Russia. The current sabre rattling over Georgia is likely just that. The next major crunch point with Russia is likely in Ukraine and will revolve around the status of the Black Sea Fleet currently stationed in Sevastopol. Russia's ability to act has not been hurt as much as some people think by the recent sharp decline in gas and oil prices or by the economic meltdown generally.

Secrecy is a force divisor in asymmetric warfare. Asymmetric warfare is anti-Clausewitz. It focuses on weaknesses in the system rather than on the center of mass. Fighting an asymmetric war, then, requires more knowledge than force ("all the force you need to deal with most terrorists is a cop with a gun"). Secrecy is an impediment to the system effectively applying its collective knowledge, ergo, secrecy reduces the efficacy of force.

The Intelligence Cycle can be thought of as an out of date operating system. Dealing with modern intelligence problems using the framework of the intel cycle is like trying to get Windows 95 to run Vista programs.

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