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Strategy Illuminated

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a meander in praise of, variously, Piers at Penn, Alice in Wonderland, Caitlin Fitz Gerald, and Benjamin Wittes ]

Strategic theology:

Compare Nigel Howard, in Confrontation Analysis: how to win operations other than war, writing:

the problem of defense in the modern world is the paradoxical one of finding ways for the strong to defeat the weak.


Okay — Alice, in Wonderland, asks:

And what is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?


By dint of sickness, I haven’t been able to purue my efforts to see Caitlin Fitx Gerald‘s fabulous Clausewitz for Kids make its brilliantly-deserving way into print:

That image is from Caitlin’s work, as praised by Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare blog — whom I know not because he’s become a go-to source on many things Trump / Comey

Suddenly, he was D.C. famous; the very next day, Collins and Wittes bumped into each other in the Morning Joe greenroom. “It used to be that what was going to be written on my tombstone was ‘Benjamin Wittes, former Washington Post editorial writer,’ or ‘Benjamin Wittes, who wasn’t even a lawyer,’?” he says. “Now it’s just, like, ‘Benjamin Wittes, who’s a friend of Jim Comey’s.’?”

— but way before that, because he knew Caitlin and her work:

The other day, Wells drew my attention to what could be the single most excellently eccentric national security-oriented project currently ongoing on the web: It is called Clausewitz for Kids. I am apparently not the first to discover it. Spencer Ackerman had this story about it last year. But I had missed it until the other day, and I suspect most Lawfare readers are unto this very day unaware that a woman named Caitlin Fitz Gerald is currently writing a comic book edition of Clausewitz’s On War–entitled The Children’s Illustrated Clausewitz–featuring lectures in a Prussian forest by a hare in a military uniform. To make matters all the more fun, she is blogging the process to boot.

Hey, “single most excellently eccentric national security-oriented project” is pretty damn high praise, eh?


Benjamin Wittes and his tick, tick, as seen and summarized by Rachel Maddows:

Ben Wittes now runs a well-regarded blog that`s called Lawfare, which I think is kind of a pun on warfare, Lawfare, warfare. Anyway. Lawfareblog.com.

So, Ben Wittes. On May 16th .. Ben Wittes, he did this online, on Twitter, which is a weird thing, right? Nobody knew what was wrong with him. Nobody knew exactly what this was about.

You can see the time stamp there right beneath the tick, tick, tick, tick. He sent it at 3:18 p.m. on May 16th. Hey, Ben Wittes, what`s that about?

Well, then later, boom – literally the word boom. Two hours and eight minutes after that initial tweet, we now know in retrospect what that tick, tick, ticking was about. Ben Wittes tweeted “boom” and a link to that huge story that had just been posted at “The New York Times”.

Quote: Comey memo says Trump asked him to end Flynn investigation.

That was a huge story when it broke and apparently somehow Ben Wittes knew it was coming out because he tweeted, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, two hours before it came, and then boom once it landed. That was May 16th.

And then two days after that, Ben Wittes started ticking again.

[ read the rest.. ]


Go Caitlin, go Wittes!

Go Clint Watts too, if you know what I mean!

A quick ouroboros caught on the fly

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Benjamin Wittes twice, also a pointer to Clint Watts ]

Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic at the Lawfare blog have an above-my-unpaid-grade examination of the Presidential oath of office — and what happens when, in the case of a given President, it falls into widespread disrepute: What Happens When We Don’t Believe the President’s Oath? Just the fact that this question is being raised is remarkable. For my purposes, though, it’s the mention of leaks about leaking — a serpent bites tail concept, and hence a signal of potential significance — that I want to capture in passing:

All this culminated rather comically in a recent State Department memo by acting legal advisor Richard Visek condemning leaks and advocating that department employees instead make use of State’s internal dissent channel—a memo which itself promptly leaked to the press. Similarly, when press secretary Sean Spicer demanded to examine the phones of White House staffers to check for leaking and ordered staffers not to speak to the press about the meeting, Politico quickly got hold of the story.

I’d been meaning to find a suitable leak about leaking serpent for a while now, and Wittes’ article affords me this opportunity.

Once again, the self-reflexive form is, as Doug Hofstadter showed us in Gödel, Escher, Bach, a signal of likely special interest. In this regard it resembles such other forms as chiasmus (mirroring, eg “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth”).

O happy day, here’s a chiasmus from Aeschylus, entirely apt to Wittes’ post:

It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.

Wittes has a follow-up post, Ten Questions for President Trump, today. Also of note, Clint Watts‘ tweet-streak today beginning here:

Hourani / Ignatius, Clint Watts / Buddhism, Hindutva / Dhimmitude

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — some unexpected and enlightening juxtapositions ]

Three textual DoubleQuotes:

The first, as you’ll see, consists of two brief excerpts from David IgnatiusAtlantic piece, How ISIS Spread in the Middle East, which is worth your attention as a follow up to Graeme Wood‘s What ISIS Really Wants, and mentions Soren Kierkegaard , Baywatch and the Bay of Pigs, so what’s not to like?

SPEC Hourani Ignatius

That’s the use of DoubleQuotes-style thinking — comparative, analogical — occurring quite naturally and informatively in a long-form essay.

My second example is quite different, in that it features an interesting article by Clint Watts of FRPI, using the terminology of “near” and “far” enemies first introduced by Abd Al-Salam Faraj, and note the very different use of the same terms in Buddhism.

SPEC enemies near and far

The terms “near” and “far” used to describe enemies in Buddhism represent metaphysical rather than geographical distances — the far enemy is the polar opposite of a given virtue, while the near enemy seems at first glance to be an embodiment of the virtue in question, but is in fact an inauthentic version, to be avoided. The doctrine concerned is expressed in terms of the four Brahma Viharas or highest emotions.

Finally, there has been a lot of talk in recent years about the Islamic term dhimmi, and I was intrigued to run across a very similar concept applied against Muslims in an early Indian discussion of whether India should be partitioned or not:

SPEC dhimmitude

On reflection I realized that all sorts of other groups operate along similar lines. I found this definition — note incidentally the somewhat language-game-changing remark, “A minority is defined not by being outnumbered” — in a Pearson Higher Ed textbook online:

Minority groups are subordinated in terms of power and privilege to the majority, or dominant, group. A minority is defined not by being outnumbered but by five characteristics: unequal treatment, distinguishing physical or cultural traits, involuntary membership, awareness of subordination, and in-group marriage. Subordinate groups are classified in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, and gender. The social importance of race is derived from a process of racial formation; any biological significance is relatively unimportant to society. The theoretical perspectives of functionalism, conflict theory, and labeling offer insights into the sociology of intergroup relations.

Immigration, annexation, and colonialism are processes that may create subordinate groups. Other processes such as extermination and expulsion may remove the presence of a subordinate group. Significant for racial and ethnic oppression in the United States today is the distinction between assimilation and pluralism. Assimilation demands subordinate-group conformity to the dominant group, and pluralism implies mutual respect among diverse groups.

Did you read that? Frankly I’m at a loss to know whether these two paragraphs were intended as black humor, or are simply humorlessness:

Other processes such as extermination and expulsion may remove the presence of a subordinate group.


Paris: best resources

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — where I’m finding clarity in the fog, and grateful for it ]

From my point of view, the most calm-headed and significant tweet thus far today must be Will McCants‘ offering of scholarly context:

With any luck I’ll get back to this.


IMO, these tweets offer links to the two best resources thus far for thinking about the perpetrators:


Back soon.

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