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28 December 2014


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Hopefully the host and a few others hereabouts. Perhaps it is time for another round of gaming?



The Western military needs an unofficial brain trust because they believe their own propaganda. This is how one gets promoted and snags a consultant job once retired.

A mirror would be a useful tool. Look at themselves. Why are they still serving in Baghdad eleven years after the Iraq Invasion? What policies would secure the peace and serve the best interests of the American people?

Secure borders and negotiated agreements to isolate the combatants is one way. Another would be to give peace a chance and get the hell out of there.


"Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies"

Yes, yes, marketing and branding. Very important! I bet the input from the BS profs and the marketeers will be particularly valuable!

Can't wait for someone to analyse the imposition of a harsh albeit consistent rule of law like ISIS' version of Sharia under a marketing and branding of view. Or see the examiners delve into ISIS' use of logos (perhaps ISIS could increase their appeal with gays by changing that sombre back for a rainbow? Everybody loves rainbows! it's a puzzlement how they can't see that!) ...

And as for the economists - if they hail from Chicago the Pentagon will probably have to resort to coercion to have them cease and desist from efforts to build a mathematical model of ISIS, or tell the Pentagon what Friedrich August von Hayek and Adam Smith would say.

Clearly, state building - the creation of a monopoly of force and the establishment of rule of law by the governing authority - regulation on rights and duties, regulation of trade through contract law - is incomprehensible without marketeers.

Actually, that is what this Blackstone fella's wrting has always suffered from - it was utterly devoid of the marketing angle, what an amateur.

Here's my analytical input for the Pentagon in five words:

ISIS. Is. Building. A. State. Period.

Here's a Yale J.D./Ph.D. student, writing at Joshua Landis, with an IMO a very decent account of ISIS statebuilding efforts:

"In Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria, Islamist insurgencies have established justice systems that are widely perceived by civilians as more neutral, efficient, and committed to rule of law than state courts, which are frequently plagued by corruption, or in cases of extreme conflict such as Syria, have ceased to function at all. ... Although IS and other insurgent courts often inflict severe punishments and even torture, civilians may still view these courts as a fairer and more legitimate alternative to regime courts as long as their rulings – however punitive and harsh they may be – are administered according to consistent and transparent procedures.

... law is an effective tool for legitimizing and maintaining political power in modern states, and if we think of insurgencies as “quasi-states,” “proto-states,” or even full-blown states – as IS purports to be – then we should expect to find that law plays as important a role in the formation of insurgent states as it did in the formation of modern bureaucracies.
The Legal Foundations of Insurgent States

Legal institutionalization has long been recognized as a critical phase in the consolidation of modern states, particularly in Europe ... in which traditional models of governance based on personal loyalty were gradually replaced by impersonal, “faceless” administrative institutions and objective legal rules. For those familiar with the history of bureaucratization in Europe, it should not be surprising that law is playing a similarly important role in the consolidation and expansion of the Islamic State.
Legitimizing Violence

An essential criteria of statehood is the ability to claim a monopoly on legitimate violence that is justified by law. Islamist insurgent groups including IS appear to be more successful in gaining local support when they legitimize their use of violence through the establishment of a legal framework based on clear rules and procedures, as opposed to wielding violence arbitrarily. ... The cases of Iraq and Algeria suggest that one of the motivations underlying IS’s creation of an elaborate court system is to maintain discipline and cohesion within its own ranks and prevent the type of arbitrary violence that has undermined popular support for other Islamist insurgencies. Insurgencies are more successful when they develop internal regulatory mechanisms to ensure that violence – however extreme and brutal it may be – is only used according to well-defined rules and procedures, and IS is a clear example of this phenomenon. The practice of embedding jurists (shari’is) alongside combatants exemplifies the type of legal disciplinary mechanism that states create to justify and legitimize their monopoly on violence.

Discipline and Socialization

In addition to legitimizing violence, states have historically used law as a tool to discipline and socialize their citizens. ... IS appears to be using judicial and law enforcement institutions in a similar manner to maintain discipline within its own ranks and to socially engineer the society that it aspires to govern. In a clear example of the disciplinary function of jihadist lawmaking, this video shows IS morality police (referred to as al-hisba) confiscating hundreds of containers of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs, and lighting them on fire. IS also uses law as a disciplinary tool to regulate the behavior of its own fighters and leaders. For example, in October, IS executed two of its own fighters after they were tried and convicted on charges of banditry, spying, and embezzlement. In the same month, IS executed two of its own judges – both Kuwaiti nationals – after they were charged with spying. These examples illustrate how IS uses law to maintain internal discipline and obedience.


Another way in which law facilitates state-building is by enabling the enforcement of contracts that are essential to regulating social and economic relations, including not only concrete agreements concerning the exchange of property or money, but also the abstract “social contracts” that provide a basis for reciprocal rights and obligations between rulers and citizens. ... The Islamic State appears to be using written contracts to organize economic and political activities in a similar manner. For example, IS drafts and signs written contracts governing the sale of smuggled oil – a lucrative black market industry that generates millions of dollars a day. The fact that IS goes through the trouble of formalizing oil sales with written contracts suggests that the group is actively trying to legitimize its activities to its followers and to the world ... "

For the full thing:

William R. Cumming

Blind leading the blind? What info do the 17 components of the IC have on IS?


CP et al

I have not been consulted. The IC has lots of analysts who understand IS, Nusra, the MB and all the rest The line generals do not want to believe in what they are told. they prefer to seek false understanding in the maze of business science and the social sciences. pl



I will start a new game in the next couple of weeks. I am hosting a large celebration for New Year and have to testify in the Sterling trial in mid-month but I will start working on it today. pl


FYI. NYT link is not functioning

ex-PFC Chuck

I realize you're most likely constrained regarding what you can say at this point, but I suspect many of us would be interested in what you can disclose your forthcoming participation in the Sterling trial. Such as, whether you'll be a witness for the prosecution or the defense, whether you're being called as an expert or because you have, or believed to have, some specific relevant knowledge of fact, and the general area of your anticipated testimony.


The Sterling trial? Wow. Colonel, you sure get around.


LOL--"Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies."

As if IS were selling cigarettes or detergents!

I think they already know the reason for IS' appeal, but acknowledging it would require overcoming massive cognitive dissonance originating in inflexible Washington group think, and fed on a daily basis by think tanks and the media.


There is only one thing, none of these experts are allowed to address, that the WOT accompanied by Islamophobia* looked like a self-fulfilling prophesy from day one. No one will be able to turn back the clock.

* http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/15/dresden-police-pegida-germany-far-right

Reminds me vaguely of Volcano Condi Rice, expressing the dominant view in an interview in the post 9/11 universe over here with Der Spiegel her own way:
"After 1989 everyone asked himself, who would be our new enemy now. Then 9/11 happened and everyone knew."

Sounded almost pleased.

Out next month?


In Europe the Greeks are getting tired of the proscribed austerity policy:

"But in countries like Greece, little has been done to address the dissatisfaction and despair of citizens worn down by years of hardship. Unemployment, perhaps the most vivid indicator of the crisis’s human toll, is still at around a quarter of the working population in Greece and in Spain, barely changed from two years ago."


Interestingly, if I copy the link to the Times' link I can open it, but if I simply click on it I end up here:


Doesn't even change if I clean today's browser cache. Maybe I should give up trying to understand these matters.



I am being called as an expert. That is all I can say. pl


I think both of these will pull up the link to the NYTimes piece.




wonder whether Laurie Mylroie (PhD) is also in this informal brin trust. That would be a real kicker. lol

William R. Cumming

CP! An insightful and very useful summary! Many thanks!


The article states this note: "But the panel raised doubts whether ISIS “has the bureaucratic sophistication necessary to govern."

That is definitely an issue as reports of the inability of ISIS to render basic government services in areas that it holds are coming out. Complaints are rampant in Mosul about ISIS not being able to ensure adquate drinking water or electricity.

William R. Cumming

A federal rules change in 1933 set off huge litigation over who was an expert. Not to be confused with scientific debates.

As of federal rule changes in 1966 now the battles over who is an expert have ended and almost anyone who has training, education, or experience that can help educate the fact finders, usually the jury in criminal cases, will be allowed to testify. Then the lawyers battle over the weight to be given the testimony and its relevance and materiality. Thus, in a jury trial the judge will issue an instruction to the jury as to how they should weigh the opinion.

Lord Curzon


Hayek et al are old hat! What we're looking at is Islam's version of Hyman Minsky's supercycle.

Bob R

How could it be that we would hire a man to run special operations in the middle east, including the chore of arming and training the FSA, who professedly knows so little about the historical, cultural and sectarian currents currently roiling the waters of the Levant? Our problems in the region will not be solved by outmarketing whatever it is that IS/ISIL/ISIS/Daesh is supposed to be selling.


Bob R

It appears from his official bio that MG Nagata is essentially a CT commando and a national level staff officer. It is to be expected that he would know nothing of Islam or IS. pl


Concur with his record- in addition, his experience appears to be in the Far East. None in the ME, as far as can be seen.


These braniacs can't figure out why not everyone in the world wants to live like someone from Ohio.



Thank you. It is always enlightening. I'll will put on my thinking cap.

ex-PFC Chuck

Yesterday or the day before I ran across an analysis of the state-building activities of ISIS. Since then my attention was diverted to other things and now I don't recall where I found it. If it was here I apologize for the redundancy.


For what it’s worth, data has brought a huge change in marketing over the last ten years. It’s not that the marketer knows anything at all about IS, but some could help knowledgeable people learn a lot about what tactics are motivating supporters and recruits online.

IS recruits primarily using social media, and a recruitment path is not terribly different, functionally speaking, from a purchase path or a political donation path. It's enormously different in numerous ways, of course, and marketing analytics would not get to the roots of that. But you'd still learn some things.

Off the top of my head you could figure out things like:

Who are the more effective IS recruiters?
What about them makes them more effective?
What are the significant actions a person takes or statements he makes that show that he is likely to be recruited?
What social networks and platforms are more effective for IS than others?
What kinds of content seem to be more effective for recruitment?
How different countries or demographics respond to events in real time.
What keywords or topics seem more effective?
What effect do particular events have on recruitment metrics?

None of this is rocket science, but the people who are good at it have a feel for it. It could be useful to have some of them on board. Also, I should mention, many firms claim to do this kind of work, but only a small number do it well.

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