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Startups of the Future – Flaggle

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Logline: Turnkey create-a-country system. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by coolrebel

June 14, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Startups of the Future – Zapp

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Logline:  Turn your mobile device into a non-lethal weapon. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by coolrebel

June 9, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Egypt: It’s All About the Army Now

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All this talk of “[insert term for revolution here] revolution” in Egypt is a tad premature, and seems to gloss over the apparently incongruous fact that the Army were welcomed into the streets by the protesters. Cheering when the troops get called out is hardly the stuff of the barricades.

The Egyptian moment is moving very, very fast, but it is starting to become increasingly clear that Mubarak’s future is in the hands of the Egyptian military, which is much revered in highly nationalistic Egypt (and in which every young man serves).

So with that in mind, let’s extrapolate what this could mean for Cairo.

Mubarak has a major problem. The moment he asks the Army to fire on the protesters is the moment he books his ticket out of Cairo. The Army’s own credibility and continued power rests on it NOT doing that. The protesters know this and with the brutal and hated police thoroughly routed, it looks like we’ve arrived at stage two of the game. The ball is in the Army’s court.

So what will the Military do? It’s unlikely they want to sacrifice Mubarak – who’s one of their own – and has plied them with plenty of goodies over the decades. But the longer the streets burn (and there’s plenty of unemployed youth to keep them that way) the closer it gets to the tipping point, of losing the public trust and undermining its own power and position.

That point may come soon. And if it does, the Military will have to make some serious decisions. Do they try to convince El-Baradei to lead a transition government, or co-opt an old Field Marshal to restore control? And how long will that transition last and to what? Will the choices the Military makes choke off the billions they get from the US Government?

And what about the Muslim Brotherhood? The powerful decades-old Islamist movement (which helped to spawn and has close ties with close ties to Al Qaeda) in this intensely religious country has wisely stayed behind the scenes. But is it poised to strike and take advantage of the weakness and turmoil facing its enemies? And if does, how will the military respond?

The idea that Egypt’s repressive police state is going to give way to a liberal democracy by next Tuesday is wishful thinking in the extreme. What’s more likely is that we’ll see major fissures developing, and a situation that’s more akin to the current state of Pakistan where Islamists battle a powerful army and toothless civilian army for control of a struggling economy.

Another worrying similarity with Pakistan could also emerge, where the Army – through it’s semi-rogue Intelligence agency surreptitiously supports the Taliban in order to keep it at bay. Could the Egyptians do the same thing in Gaza – opening the border – and plying Hamas with weapons in order to keep the Muslim Brotherhood from striking at the nation’s heart?

Finally, there’s the issue of peace with Israel. Mubarak earns billions by keeping it intact, but will the Military be able to maintain it in the face of an emboldened Islamist threat from within? Can they afford to recall their ambassador to Tel Aviv, and re-establish cold-war ‘hostilities’ with Israel?

To call the situation fascinating is an understatement. But one thing’s for sure, Egypt’s future remains in the hands of the guys with the guns. The question is what they do with them.

Written by coolrebel

January 29, 2011 at 12:37 am

Redefining The War On Terror

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President Bush created the amorphous concept of the War On Terror partly as a semantic device for domestic consumption (them v us is a great seller in the heartland) and partly as a doctrinal approach to foreign affairs. But while neoconservatism is clearly discredited, there is one element of the broad sweep approach to Middle Eastern affairs that might be worth preserving – at least in military terms.

World War Two was massive and highly fluid conflict where troops were sent to where they were needed to achieve strategic goals. If we pursue this model a little further, we might be able to revise the dialogue that we’re currently having on how to deal with the Iraq and Afghan conflicts, both of which are in very different states of play right now.

General Petraeus is easily the most influential officer in the US military today. He has expressed his flexibility and realism since his arrival in Iraq. He knew full well that negotiating with the enemy, and using the power of the dollar was far more important in Iraq than another few US brigades on the ground. The “surge” was a neat political slogan, but it was not the decisive factor on the ground. Now – in his capacity as head of US Central Command, he represents the political cover that Obama needs to redefine the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as our relations with Iran and Pakistan.

Instead of seeing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the tensions with Iran and Pakistan as separate conflicts, we need to see them as part of the same push for stability in the region. Quick response US forces should be able to move from one hotspot to another without political consideration. This concept has numerous political advantages for Obama, as well as being sound military strategy. Republicans are just waiting for Obama to pull out troops from Iraq only to witness a massive flare up of violence. The cries of ‘surrender’ will soon follow. But that can be prevented.

Firstly, we need to redeploy active duty forces from Europe to the Middle East Theatre, so that we never have to experience a dangerous shortfall in Iraq. Secondly, we need to focus on quick-response brigades, and fast moving Special Forces units to achieve our goals. Thirdly, we need to stop deluding ourselves that the Iraqi and Afghan forces will be able to handle their own security. That will only happen once the politics of the region are completely normalized (think Vietnam in the Nineties). Fourthly, we have to utilize technology to its fullest to tackle the enemy. More Predator Drones please. Fifthly, and most importantly, we have to use the power of the dollar. Every dollar spent on the ground buying off some warlord is worth way more than paying for another round of ammo that some poor grunt is going to spray around the empty streets.

Religion and tribal loyalties are always trumped by the dollar. It’s the reason why the Sunni Awakening worked in Anbar. It’s the reason why we can win in Afghanistan. As long as we stop looking at that war as modern – rather than what it really is – medieval, we can achieve stability. The warring factions can be bought. We have the money to buy them.

By coordinating our efforts on a command-wide basis, Petraeus and President Obama can begin to bring the various problems of the region under control. From the West, it goes like this.

  • Syria. It’s role is small. We need to encourage its entry into full negotiations with Israel, and promise economic support and removal from the terror list in return for serious progress in that regard.

  • The Iraqis want us gone, and Obama is inclined to agree. But what they really want is Americans off the streets. Which is fine, because that’s where they incur casualties. Keep US bases going outside Baghdad and in key strategic areas, and just watch. If there’s trouble – we act. It’s cheaper in lives and money, it’s politically more acceptable, and it frees up troops.

  • Iran. We need to change our whole approach here. Complete post to come on this, but on the military front recognizing that we cannot win a war there is key. It’s a highly nationalistic nation of 65m. Forget it. However, we should covertly try to locate their centrifuges any way we can. Useful bargaining tool for the future.

  • Afghanistan. Boost troop levels there by 2-3 full divisions. Use Afghan forces in Kabul and garrison US forces in the South at the sharp end. They should engage the Taliban without exposing themselves by getting too deep into their terrain. Rely on Special Forces to dole out the money and spread havoc in Taliban recruitment deep in their territory. Combine that with a nationwide program to pay farmers not to plant poppies and we choke off Taliban financial supplies. This should go hand in hand with cutting off their Arms and Volunteer routes.

  • Pakistan. Let’s recognize that the Islamists are just not that strong there. The support for Al Qaeda is far softer than we fear. We need to discredit and undermine the ISS, Pakistani Intelligence Services, marrying that to support for the democratically elected President and economic support. We should continue to range freely with Special Forces in the North West Territories but admit nothing to the Pakistani authorities. We know Bin Laden is in the hills. It’s really time we captured him as a propaganda coup.

The key to this process is seeing the various parts of the theatre as fluid. When there is a chance for decisive improvement in our strategic position on one front we move troops there. When we are weak in another area we channel forces there instead. It’s how wars are run.

Oh, and one more thing. We need a goal. Forget Demorcracy. We’re looking for Stability. That only comes with Security – both military and economic. We must provide both hand in hand. We can’t rely on indigenous forces and expect to leave. I hate to say it, but McCain was right – we might be there for decades to come. And it might be money and time well spent.

Written by coolrebel

November 7, 2008 at 7:38 am