tag archive: homeland security

Let’s Celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of “A National Strategic Narrative”

This has been a tough spring for national cohesion in the United States. Automatic federal spending cuts called sequestration kicked in after Congress failed to agree on how to manage the federal budget. The Senate voted down a bill that would expand background checks for gun purchasers, despite strong support around the country.  And bombings at the Boston Marathon committed by young men hovering between foreign identity and American citizenship confused any clear idea of American identity.

This makes it a good time to mark the two year anniversary of A National Strategic Narrative, published in April 2011 by aNational Strategic Narrativeuthors Captain Wayne Porter, USN and Col Mark Mykleby, USMC under the pseudonym Mr. Y.

The document grabbed the attention of politicians and pundits here in the United States, and foreign ministers in Europe and the Middle East. Perhaps most important, it garnered attention from everyday citizens for proposing a reinvigorated American identity and role in the world. Continue reading

Posted in: Books & Films, Decision making, Intercultural Communication, International Politics, National Security, Politics and Policy, Strategic Communication, Strategic Leadership Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Post-Boston: A More Effective Battle of Ideas (Part II)

Boston MarathonReprinted from The Globalist,  April 24, 2013

 Instead of getting sucked into heat-of-the-moment reactions to Boston, let’s base our responses on a more stable paradigm of contemporary global terrorism. To fight a battle of ideas successfully, one must first show what one is going up against. Amy Zalman makes the case that there are three distinct trends in terrorism — Hybrid, Multi-motivational and Narrative Terrorism.

This paradigm is evolving, but several trends are coming into view and are likely to deepen in the future:

  •    Hybrid terrorism:

In traditional categorization of terrorists, there are “lone wolves” who are unconnected to any organized group and those who are members of organizations.

Today, a hybrid type appears to be evolving: someone who works without full organizational support or direction, but who is not working in total isolation from others. Continue reading

Posted in: Crisis Management, Intercultural Communication, International Politics, News and Journalism, Political Analysis, Politics and Policy, Strategic Leadership, War and Violent Conflict Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Post-Boston: Keep Calm and Think Clearly (Part 1)

Boston Marathon

Reprinted from The Globalist, April 23, 2013

The Boston Marathon bombings provide an opportunity for the United States to consider how to combat extremist ideas more effectively than it did a decade ago. But this is not the time to let fear and uncertainty drive us into misguided and — as importantly — ineffective forms of countering violent extremism.

Warning: Prominent policy makers are already making demands to disinter the discredited concepts of the Global War on Terror. Options presented range from designating the bombers enemy combatants to calling for sweeping surveillance of majority Muslim communities.

The motivations that led Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev to set off lethal bombs at the Boston Marathon last week may not yet be clear. But the characteristics of that event already tell us a substantial amount about the direction of 21st century terrorism — and how we might combat it with increasing effectiveness. Continue reading

Posted in: Crisis Management, Decision making, Intercultural Communication, International Politics, National Security, Political Analysis, Politics and Policy, War and Violent Conflict Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Behavioral Economics Go to War

Review of Behavioural Conflict, Why Understanding People and their Motivations Will Prove Decisive in Future Conflict, by Andrew Mackey and Steve Tatham

I cannot think of any books about warfare’s future that come across as hard-hitting, full of actionable pragmatism, and deeply humane all at the same time.  But Behavioral Conflict: Why Understanding People and their Motivations will Prove Decisive in Future Conflict is all three.  The authors, both career members of the British military, Major General Andres Mackey (Ret) and Royal Navy Commander Steve Tatham (who I count as a friend, having met him in Ankara a few years ago), make their case by drawing on a combination of their own experience, case studies and close analysis of how communication actually factors in war.

Hard-hitting and pragmatic:  Mackey and Tatham are precise and lucid about what they mean by “behavior” and how to make use of it to gain advantage in conflict. They, and behavioral psychologist Lee Rowland, who adds a chapter on the science of influence, are not putting forth any of the following: A call for greater “cultural awareness,” a mushy program about how to change others’ attitudes, or a repeat of the last decade’s focus on consumer marketing as the key to public diplomacy.   They offer instead this thesis based on a simple chain of claims:

  • The world of human motivation and perception is inevitably complex.
  • It is more important to try to shape behavior than it is to change people’s attitudes.
  • Behavior shaping begins with a discrete grasp of the circumstances under which people already behave in ways that are desirable, and extends to efforts to replicate those or similar circumstances. Continue reading

Posted in: Books & Films, Decision making, Intercultural Communication, International Politics, Narrative Research, National Security, Politics and Policy, Strategic Leadership, War and Violent Conflict Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Announcement: U.S. State Department Strategic Narratives Public Meeting

At the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA, November 29

From the State Department Announcement:

The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy will hold a public meeting on the topic of strategic narratives November 29, 2011, in Santa Monica, CA, in partnership with the RAND Corporation. The meeting will take place at the RAND offices at 1776 Main Street in Santa Monica, CA, in the Forum Auditorium. It will begin at 9:00 am and end at 3:00 p.m. with doors open for registration and continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. The event will be webcast live and will emphasize open-forum question and response periods with the audience.

To attend, contact the RAND Corporation no later than November 21 by phone at (412)683-2300 ext 4906 or email to maria_falvo@rand.org and provide your full name, citizenship (U.S. citizenship is not required to attend), and institutional/organizational affiliation. Continue reading

Posted in: Conferences, Narrative Research, National Security, Politics and Policy, Public Diplomacy, War and Violent Conflict Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Hurricane Irene News Coverage Pummels Viewers with Worst-Case Scenarios


Union City, New Jersey, following Hurricane Irene's passage. Photographed by Luigi Novi under Creative Commons License

Turbocharged Reporting Underwhelmed Us

As we now know, the adrenalized coverage of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Irene as it traversed the U.S. East Coast overstated the risk of worst-case scenarios in a number of areas, like lower Manhattan and made them seem as if they were certain outcomes.  In fact, hurricane modeling is not a perfectly predictive science.  NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, is explicit about how its annual hurricane outlooks are probabilistic, which means that potential events simply have some likelihood of occurring (and, in fact, there were areas such as Vermont where the potential for damage was under-forecasted)

I know I wasn’t alone in sensing that much of the media coverage was over the top.  My relatives and friends, especially those of us in areas where the worst-case scenarios being put forth didn’t live up to the reality ended up feeling dismissive and irritated and, if we were frightened, slightly humiliated that we had been so easily spooked.  I’m sure we’ll all wonder next time whether we should follow authorities’ most stringent instructions about emergency preparation.

When events don’t arrive in the dramatically bad proportions we’ve been expecting, we as likely to tune out authorities or forget entirely that the drama at hand was destructive weather, like the Washington DC woman who reported feeling that the milder than expected storm “”was a bit of a let down.”

The Challenge Communicating Uncertainty

On the other hand, there were also areas in which the degree of potential damage was under-forecast, as in Vermont. Continue reading

Posted in: Crisis Management, Decision making, News and Journalism, Public Relations Tags: , , , , ,

Narrative in Complex Decision Making: an Interview with Mary Crannell

Mary Crannell is one of those people whose broad intelligence and enthusiasm are hard to contain, as I learned when we met recently through a shared acquaintance.  As the president of Idea Sciences, a decision-making support consultancy based in Alexandria, VA, Mary spends much of her  time thinking about what technologies and processes will help her customers—such as the IMF, NATO, QinetiQ, the US Army, the UK Army, Verizon and Herman Miller, to name a few—arrive at good decisions.  She is a frequent traveler to sites of conflict, as in a recent visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, where decision-making is an urgent, complex and ongoing task.

I was gratified when Mary agreed to share some of her thoughts on the role of narrative in decision-making generally, and in directing the American role in the world in productive directions, which is a concern many of her clients share.

Mary Crannell, President, Idea Sciences

AZ: How do you use narrative frameworks to help people make decisions?

MC: It is important to give people a way to define the vision of what they are trying to accomplish whether they are leading a state, a nation or an international organization. Is the system you are leading “on purpose?”  We start with a vision.  Continue reading

Posted in: Decision making, Information Systems, Intercultural Communication, International Politics, Middle East, Narrative Research, National Security, Public Diplomacy, Strategic Leadership, War and Violent Conflict Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Body Scanners Expand the State’s Boundaries

bodd scanner

The recent flap over the TSA security measures –both manual pat-downs and  backscatter x-ray and millimeter wave scanners—has been painted as presenting a conflict between personal privacy and national security.

We might more accurately call it a conflict over boundaries, personal and national.  Who has the right to cross what borders?  What is the proper boundary between my body and the state?

This trope, which is also present in other conflicts, like that over abortion, is particularly apt in a battle against terrorism. Boundaries, after all, are precisely what terrorists violate.  Violent actors’ capacity to terrorize originates in their readiness to transgress both physical and moral boundaries.  The more flagrant the violation, the more terrified we become. Terrorists do not obey the agreed on boundaries of sovereign states, nor those that we—the global community—have sanctioned to regulate war:  we draw boundaries between just causes for war and unreasonable ones and, crucially, between combatants and civilians.  The line between combatant and civilian in war is sacrosanct to most of us; on one side, we go toward injury, on the other, we are to be protected from it.

Perhaps it is the nature of this particular conflict that has led to a peculiar focus by the United States on bodies and boundaries, an intersection that is often shadowed by the erotic, whether for good or ill.

There is the ongoing confusion over whether others are combatants are civilians.  We do not know where to draw the line.  If you were an Afghan, or even a non-Afghan, in the orbit of Al Qaeda in 2001, did that make you a terrorist? Continue reading

Posted in: National Security, Politics and Policy, War and Violent Conflict Tags: , , , , ,