The Starfish and the Spider part 2

English: Large red starfish Gomphia gomphia fr...

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In part one of my post, the Starfish and the Spider, I wrote about how decentralized organizations, such as Occupy Wall Street and al-Qaeda, are superior to centralized organizations. I promised to write about how it is possible to defeat decentralized organizations and that is the subject of this post.

There are three parts to the strategy:

  1. Improve living conditions so that organization members are willing to change ideology; this takes time and patience.
  2. Give organization members property rights and property so that they have a stake in society. That is how the US finally defeated the Apache.
  3. Adopt a decentralized organizational structure yourself.

The authors of the book conclude that a mixed spider and starfish organization, a mixture of centralization and decentralization may be the best structure of them all. They emphasize that getting the balance correct is not easy and will probably require frequent adjustments as conditions change.

Please see The Starfish and the Spider | Geronimo

Education for women

Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets with Secre...

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The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is considered by many to be the mayor of Kabul, since his authority over the rest of the country is limited. Outside of Kabul, the education of women is disapproved by many men. Yet one reason for the US presence in the country is to support the education of women. When we depart, will the Afghan tradition of no female education prevail?

Please see In Afghanistan |  Geronimo | Kabul in Winter


Recently, I read a book in which the Afghan freedom fighters told the author how they fought individual battles against Soviet troops and eventually with US help forced them to withdraw from Afghanistan. Now as I read about the war the US is fighting against the Taliban, I recognize some of the same tactics used before are being used now against our troops and our allies. The war is dictated by the terrain, and the terrain is unchanged and unchanging from the time of Alexander the Great, through the experiences of the British, the Soviets and our own to May, 2011.

There was something hauntingly familiar about the description of our Afghan war experience and then I realized what it was. Our opponents in Afghanistan are mountain warriors who are using much less sophisticated weapons than we are. I had read Forrest Carter’s book about Geronimo, entitled Watch for Me on the Mountain,

Cover of "Watch for me on the mountain"

Cover of Watch for me on the mountain

and the war with Geronimo was the similar, hauntingly familiar experience. Geronimo led a small group of mountain warriors armed with relatively primitive weapons against the US Army fighting in the mountains of Arizona in the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s. Both the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Apache in Arizona are and were much more at home in the mountainous environment than we are.

With great difficulty, we managed to defeat Geronimo because he had few warriors and they were surrounded by a hostile, Anglo population. The reverse is true in Afghanistan. The Taliban have a nearly endless supply of recruits both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they have a large surrounding population who support, aid and hide them when necessary.

Because of the similarities and because of the differences between the wars in Arizona and Afghanistan, I believe that the war against the Taliban cannot be won. The war against Geronimo was here in the US and the supply lines were much shorter; the war in Afghanistan is many thousands of miles distant and our supply lines pass partly through a hostile Pakistan.

Therefore, I urge a negotiated settlement, and the withdrawal of our combat forces from Afghanistan. Bin Laden is dead and we have punished the Taliban and Afghanistan enough for harboring him before and for a short time after September 11, 2001. We now know he hid for years in Pakistan, and some in power in Pakistan knew it. Pakistan supports the Taliban in Afghanistan, but not in Pakistan, as a counter balance to India.