zenpundit.com » spiral

Archive for the ‘spiral’ Category

Shorts 01: Holi festivities, omertà, and so forth

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — an olla podrida or highly spiced Spanish-style stew ]

Holi Festival:

Today is Holi Festival for those who celebrate it, the day on which we color each other in dyes in honor of Prahlad, a child devotee of the Supreme Beloved:

Accordingly, I wish that all may be drenched in the colors of devotion this Holi, most joyful of festivals!



For a taste of something very different — there has been considerable discussion recently of Paul Manafort‘s seemingly obstinate refusal to plead to Mueller’s charges and save (salvage) at least some of his skin by becoming a cooperating witness rather than an overwhelmingly indicted criminal in the Russian influence affair.

What I haven’t seen suggested is that the man may be following a code: specifically omerta:

a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to authorities.

Particularly if his Mafia bosses happen to be rough and Russian.


Hope Hicks:

There’s an intense Vox piece on the sexism to be found in a plethora of press reports on Hope Hicks. The provocative title: When does Hope Hicks get to be a “wunderkind” instead of a “former model”? And the provocative fact:

None of this coverage mentioned the salient fact that Hicks’s modeling career spanned ages 10 to 16. She landed the Ralph Lauren deal at age 11. By 16 she had quit her part-time modeling job to focus on her true passion, lacrosse.

I nwon’t get into the sexism issue, but that “salient fact” does seem to put much of the “former model” language in its place.

Hick is, however, still model-style gorgeous at 29 — as seen in this photo in which she’s on her way to testify to the House Intelligence Committee:

Given Donald Trump‘s known eye for beautiful women, isn’t Hope Hicks‘ beauty too a “salient fact”?


Language lesson

Under the title McMaster Gives a Belated Russian Lesson, Foreign Policy introduces us to the words maskirovka — military arts by deception — and vranyo. The latter is best explained by the verbal spiral I commented on yesterday:

A Russian friend explained vranyo this way: ‘You know I’m lying, and I know that you know, and you know that I know that you know, but I go ahead with a straight face, and you nod seriously and take notes.’


Bluff or threat?

That’s the question Putin’s recent claims sets before us, and an item in Australian BC’s Is Vladimir Putin bluffing or should we be worried about his new ‘miracle weapons’? caught my eye — a quote from our own Nuclear Posture Review:

its [Russia’s] “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine implies it might respond with nuclear weapons in any conventional war.

You know my preoccupation with pattern? Okay, “escalate to de-escalate” has ann exact opposite in French:

Now almost as familiar in English as in French, “reculer pour mieux sauter” — which I imagine is originally an equestrian show-jumping expression — means to step backwards, the better to leap (forwards).

A Pattern Language for Strategy, check!


Trump, Guns, and Golf

The entire text of Kevin Drum‘s Mother Jones article under that title reads:

Hey, did Donald Trump ever sign that executive order allowing guns at all his golf resorts, like he promised to do? Just wondering.

Well, did he?

Downward Spiral as a pattern in conflict — do we study it?

Friday, October 21st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a thoroughly impertinent riff on that saying of von Moltke ]

Hw many places could this sentence be applied to?

But the latest attacks, which appear to have been several months in the preparation, threaten to draw the entire population into a downward spiral of deadly confrontations, violent crackdowns by the security forces and toxic relations between local communities and the authorities.

It happens to come from an article about the Rohingya, Richard Horsey‘s Reality bites for Aung San Suu Kyi amid surging violence from the Nikkei Asian Review.

But how many other places might such a sentence apply to?

I ask this because we tend to focus on certain words in a sentence like this: attacks, preparation, threat, population, deadly confrontations, violent crackdowns, security forces, local communities, the authorities. Those are the forces in play, if you will. But their play follows the rules of a certain game, and that game is also named in the sentence.

Its name is downward spiral.


vatican-spiralSpiral staircase, the Vatican, Rome


What I want to suggests that we might learn a great deal if we shifted our attention from attacks, preparation, threat, population and the rest, and thought about spiral.

Spiral is the form that the attacks, preparation, threat, population and the rest — here and in those other places — takes, and as such it’s an archetype that underlies them, not just among the Rohingya, their Buddhist compatriots and Aung San Suu Kyi, but across the globe and through time itself.

Spiral as a pattern in conflict — do we study it?


If, as I suppose, von Moltke can be translated as saying, “no operating concept survives contact,” it would seem we may need to conceptualize contact, ie the complexity of relations, rather than operations, which are far more focused on us — how we “will prevent conflict, shape security environments, and win wars” — than on conflict and wars, both of which are minimally two-party affairs.

And I’m not trying to say anything so terribly new here, just to give fresh phrasing to Paul Van Riper‘s comment:

What we tend to do is look toward the enemy. We’re only looking one way: from us to them. But the good commanders take two other views. They mentally move forward and look back to themselves. They look from the enemy back to the friendly, and they try to imagine how the enemy might attack them. The third is to get a bird’s-eye view, a top-down view, where you take the whole scene in. The amateur looks one way; the professional looks at least three different ways.


sintra-castle-spiral-credit-joe-daniel-price-740x492Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal, credit Joe Daniel Price


The sentence immediately preceding the one from the Nikkei Asia article I quoted above will hopefully illuminate hope in a pretty desperate situation:

The majority of this community and its religious leaders continue to eschew violence.


Image sources:

  • Both spiral images from the Top 10 Spiral Architecture page
  • The learning is looped

    Thursday, January 29th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — Ts learn from CTs learn from Ts learn fro.. ]

    DQ Stealing
    btw, this is a special format doublequote, yeah?


    Brachman and McCants note in the conclusion to Stealing Al-Qa’ida’s Playbook:

    Jihadi ideologues closely follow Western thought and U.S. strategic planning for insights that can be used against the United States and its allies.

    and acknowledge their own borrowing, not only in the title, but also in the earliest pages of their work:

    Although we would like to claim credit for the approach described in the introductory paragraphs, it is modeled after a similar approach used by Abu Bakr Naji, a rising star in the jihadi movement. In his 2004 work, The Management of Barbarism,* Naji urges fellow jihadis to study Western works on management, military principles, political theory, and sociology in order to borrow strategies that have worked for Western governments and to discern their weaknesses.


    And here’s Naji, in The Management of Savagery (which Will McCants translated) on borrowing from non-Muslim sources of military expertise:

    Wisdom is the goal of the believer, and even if we generally follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) and his Companions (may God be pleased with them), we only accept that our policies in any jihadi action are Sharia policies, unless the Sharia permits us to use the plans and military principles of non-Muslims in which there is no sin.

    [ .. ]

    Following the time-tested principles of military combat will shorten for us the long years in which we might suffer the corrupting influences of rigidity and random behavior. Truly, abandoning random behavior and adopting intellectual, academic methods and experimental military principles and actually implementing them and applying military science will facilitate our achievement of the goals without complication and enable us to develop and improve the execution (of our plans), by the permission of God.


    In practice, the loop is in fact a spiral, with each side learning, both on the battleield and on the mindfield, from the other.

    The Brachman / McCants paper was published in 2006. I only learned of the Arabic translation today. For those interested in OODA loop timing, that looks to be an almost decade-long time-lapse, eh?

    Or am I the slow one?

    Switch to our mobile site