Friday, March 17, 2006

Back in Virginia

Well, I survived my latest US Gov-sponsored trip and I finally made it back to the beautiful state of VA., where my home-base is located. On my way back, I also had a chance to stop in Nellis AFB, and of course I had to go to nearby Vegas. This time around, I spent more time in Caesar's Palace. I always wonder what the ancient Romans would think of that place.

If you have ever traveled with the US military, you are probably painfully familiar with the concept of "hurry up and wait". Basically your showtime would be some ungodly hour like 0500hrs, but you end up leaving at 1300hrs, if you are lucky. I see this as an opportunity, rather than a curse and I use this time waiting in base terminals to catch up on my reading, so I always pack a few paperbacks (hardcovers are too heavy and bulky) in my gear. This time around, I packed two books: Emergence by Steven Johnson and Warrior Politics by Robert Kaplan.

I am interested in the subject of spontaneous intelligence, especially as it relates to warfare, and Emergence provides an excellent overview of this phenomenon. Johnson does not delve into the military implications of emergence, but it provides some insight into the growth of gradually intricate actions among simple parts. Intelligence is born out of connectivity. The study of emergence is essential to understanding our current nonlinear battlespaces.

Ever since I read Imperial Grunts, I decided to read every book by Robert D. Kaplan. In my opinion, Kaplan really gets it. Some may say that he is somewhat pessimistic, but I am also pessimistic by nature and I'm always thinking about the worst-case scenario. Warrior Politics is a fairly comprehensive essay/book on that argues for a practical approach to foreign policy instead of idealistic high expectations. Good government emerges only from a "sly understanding of men's passions".

That's it for now. I need to get some rest now.

I had the same thought about Kaplan after reading "Surrender And Starve". That and the fine folks at ComingAnarchy always bringing up great points from Kaplan's other works. He is also a rich source for ideas for other books... I believe I have bought about 43 or so books because Kaplan referenced them in his works.

I'll have to pick up "Emergence", thanks for the post about it.

Thanks for the comments. So far, I have only read Imperial Grunts and Warrior Politics. I am thinking that my next one will probably be The Coming Anarchy.
Its a great book too. Kaplan also has several "must-read" articles he wrote for the Atlantic that have never been part of a book he published, if you would like to read them, I'll be happy to provide you with my user name/ password for subscribers access to them in the Atlantic archive.
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