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Jessica Dawson on Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

Friday, April 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — An important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree ]
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Let me repeat: Jessica Dawson‘s piece for Strategy Bridge is an important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree — a must-read.

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Prof Dawson writes:

There is a blind spot in U.S. joint doctrine that continually hinders operational planning and strategy development. This blind spot is a failure to account for critical relationships with a person’s conception of god and their community, and how these relationships impact the operational environment.

Let’s just say I was a contributing edtor at Lapido Media until its demise, writing to clue journos in to the religious significance of current events:

  • Lapido, Venerating Putin: Is Russia’s President the second Prince Vlad?
  • Lapido, ANALYSIS When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité
  • Lapido is essentially countering the same blind spot at the level of journos, and hence the public conversation.

    **

    I haven’t focused on the relationship with community, but I have written frequently on what von Clausewitz would call “morale” in contrast with men and materiel. Prof Dawson addresses this issue:

    Understanding religion and society’s role in enabling a society’s use of military force is inherently more difficult than counting the number of weapons systems an enemy has at its disposal. That said, ignoring the people aspect of Clausewitz’s trinity results in an incomplete analysis.

    Indeed, I’ve quoted von Clausewitz on the topic:

    Essentially, war is fighting, for fighting is the only effective principle in the manifold activities designated as war. Fighting, in turn, is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latter. Naturally moral strength must not be excluded, for psychological forces exert a decisive in?uence on the elements involved in war.

    and:

    One might say that the physical seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapons, the finely honed blade.

    **

    And Prof Dawson is interested in “critical nodes” and the mapping of relationships, vide her title:

    Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

    :

    This too is an area I am interested in, as evidenced by my borrowing one of my friend JM Berger‘s detailed maps in my post Quant and qualit in regards to “al wala’ wal bara’”:

    That’s from JM’s ICCT paper, Countering Islamic State Messaging Through “Linkage-Based” Analysis

    Indeed, my HipBone Games are played on graphs as boards, with conceptual moves at their nodes and connections along their edges, see my series On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve &c.

    **

    My specific focus, games aside, has been on notions of apocalypse as expectation, excitation, and exultation — in my view, the ultimate in what Tillich would call “ultimate concerns”.

    As an Associate and sometime Principal Researcher with the late Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, I have enjoyed years of friendship and collaboration with Richard Landes, Stephen O’Leary and other scholars, and contribuuted to the 2015 Boston conference, #GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

    **

    I could quote considerably more from Jessica Dawson’s piece, but having indicated some of the ways in which her and my own interests run in parallel, and why that causes me to offer her high praise, I’d like quickly to turn to two areas in which my own specialty in religious studies — new religious movements and apocalyptic — left me wishing for more, or to put it more exactly, for more recent references in her treatment of religious aspects.

    Dr Dawson writes of ISIS’ men’s attitudes to their wives disposing of their husbands’ slaves:

    This has little to do with the actual teachings of Islam

    She also characterizes their actions thus:

    They are granted authority and thus power over the people around them through the moral force of pseudo religious declarations.

    Some ISIS fighters are no doubt more influenced by mundane considerations and some by religious — but there’s little doubt that those religious considerations are anything but “pseudo religious”. Will McCants‘ book, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic Stat traces the history of ISIS’ theology from hadith locating the apocalypse in Dabiq through al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi to the loss of much of the group’s territory and the expansion of its reach via recruitment of individuals and cells in the west.. leaving little doubt of the “alternate legitimacy” of the group’s theological claims. Graeme Wood‘s Atlantic article, to which Prof Dawson refers us, is excellent but way shorter and necessarily less detailed.

    On the Christian front, similarly, eschatology has a role to play, as Prof Dawson recognizes — but instead of referencing a 2005 piece, American Rapture, about the Left Behind series, she might have brought us up to datw with one or both of two excellent religious studies articles:

  • Julie Ingersoll, Why Trump’s evangelical supporters welcome his move on Jerusalem
  • Diana Butler Bass, For many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics
  • As their parallel titles suggest, Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — which received a fair amount of press at the time that may have mentioned such a move would please his evangelical base, but didn’t explore the theology behind such support in any detail — has profound eschatpological implications.

    Julie Ingersoll’s book, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, is excellent in its focus on the “other side” of the ceontemporary evangelical right, ie Dominionism, whose founding father, RJ Rushdoony was a post-millennialist in contrast to La Haye and the Left Behind books — his followers expect the return of Christ after a thousand year reign of Christian principles, not next week, next month or in the next decade or so.

    Sadly, the Dominionist and Dispensationalist (post-millennialist and pre-millennialist) strands in the contemporary Christian right have mixed and mingled, so that it is hard to keep track of who believed in which — or what!

    **

    All the more reason to be grateful for Prof Dawson’s emphasis on the importance of religious knowledge in strategy and policy circles.

    Let doctrine (theological) meet and inform doctrine (military)!

    Weather: waterworks, fireworks, & how the mindworks

    Friday, April 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — and reality alwys strains towards a metaphor of itself, doesn’t it? ]
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    Today’s weather headline:

    This isn’t a metaphor, weather here means weather, even thought you might imagine it’s politics it’s talking about. If it was politics and we were lucky, the header might read:

    Wild storm raging across globe to unleash all modes of extreme weather through the weekend

    **

    Here are some of the details, graphically — very graphically — represented:

    Blizzard conditions and heavy snow

    Extreme fire danger

    Oh, my!

    Tornadoes and severe storms

    Torrents!

    Just suppose this was politics, after all!

    **

    Another headline today:

    That’s almost meteorological, ne?

    Or try this one, a week out, and international in scope:

    I’d be lost without my wifi..

    How the hell can Un trump Trump

    Saturday, March 10th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a face-off between two impulsives, and thoughtful planning at a tabletop exercise ]
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    How the hell can Un, with one star and no stripes, hope to trump Trump, with fifty stars and thirteen stripes backing him up?

    **

    Or:

    How the hell can Un, with maybe a dozen nukes, one of which might be a hydrogen bomb, and some untested missiles designed to reach anywhere in the continental US, hope to trump Trump, with a stockpile of 1,411 nuclear warheads deployed on 673 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers [Wikipedis] and an impressive array of generals, admirals and such, one of whom — Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs — is positively pushing his way out of the photo-frame into at least simulated warfare with North Korea:

    **

    The simulation in question was described, as far as is visible under a cloak of secrecy, in a recent NYT article titled U.S. Banks on Diplomacy With North Korea, but Moves Ahead on Military Plans:

    A classified military exercise last week examined how American troops would mobilize and strike if ordered into a potential war on the Korean Peninsula, even as diplomatic overtures between the North and the Trump administration continue.

    The war planning, known as a “tabletop exercise,” was held over several days in Hawaii. It included Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, and Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of Special Operations Command.

    Anything that occupies two generals “over several days” plus planning and debriefing is serious business — especially those two generals.

    War with North Korea — Hawaii their nuclear targets.

    **

    Oops, the NYT article also features some awkward questions commanders of the US battleforce would face:

  • How many conventional and Special Operations forces could be deployed, in phases, to target North Korean nuclear sites.
  • Whether the Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions could be charged with fighting in tunnels
  • Exhaustive plans to take down North Korea’s integrated air defenses, allowing American manned and unmanned aircraft into the reclusive country.
  • Plans for the morbid but necessary details of personnel recovery plans, such as if pilots are shot down, and the evacuation of the dead and wounded.
  • **

    And Un considers the very fact of the US President agreeing to meet with the dictator of N Korea, ie Donald Trump with himself, to be a clear and unequivocal demonstration of parity. As CNN puts it:

    with the simple fact of the meeting, Kim has already achieved his objective: he’s at the table on the world stage, being taken seriously.

    Or MSNBC, in a piece titled On North Korea, Trump gambles from a position of weakness:

    Trump has agreed to give Kim Jong-un exactly what he wants. North Korean leaders have sought this kind of meeting for decades because it would necessarily elevate the rogue state: it would show the world that North Korea’s leader is being treated as an equal by the Leader of the Free World.

    Equal? Mirror image?

    **

    Nota bene:

    China, Japan and Russia have cheered an impending meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “significant first step” towards the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

    China, Japan and Russia, India, and obviously South Korea, are all actors with significant interesta in any US – North-Korean diplomacy — giving us a seven-node tug-of-war for our planners to map — and Donald Trump to intuitively grok.

    A Washington Post revised Middle East?

    Monday, May 22nd, 2017

    { by Charles Cameron — Israel takes Saudi I kid you not ]
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    This is a straight, unphotoshopped, slightly reduced screenshot from the online WaPo as it appeared in my browser today:

    Ambitious peace-making!

    From maps to graphs and back, from life to death and eternity?

    Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — graphs and networks, life and death, quality and quantity of life, personal mortality, the (implictly immortal) trinity ].
    .

    I was struck by these items, verbal and visual, in Numberphile‘s YouTube video, The Four Color Map Theorem. The speaker introduces a simple, four color map:

    Then indicates:

    I’ve turned that map into a network:

    The question, can this map be colored using four colors, or better? is the same question as saying, can this network be colored using four colors, or better?

    There are things we can learn now about maps, by studying networks instead. .. By studying networks, we can study all the different kind of maps. Now, all maps make networks, but not all networks make valid maps.

    Given that my HipBone game boards are graphs — my games as played are conceptual graphs — I’m always on the lookout for easily digested gobbits of graph theory to see if they’re applicable to my games, or to put that another way, whether they can startle me into any new insights.

  • At least some HipBone games could be played on maps..
  • **

    One could thus view maps of the various sectarian interests in play in the Levant / Shams — theologies onto geographic areas, Alevi, Twelver, Salafi, Salafi-jihadist, Yezidi, Druze, Christian etc — as conceptual maps analogous to conceptual graphs.

    And these conceptual maps are important in terms of strategy.

    Different graphs could be obtained by articulating the linkages between different sects and ethnicities, eg Turkomen with Turks, Alevi and Ismaili with Twelver Shiism, and Shia with Sunni vs (eg) Christian.. and switching back and forth between map and grapoh might then prove suggestive, instructive..

    **

    Once started on Numberphile’s math-curious videos it can be hard to stop.. Here’s a surprise from the third such video I chased thids afternoon, the one on The Feigenbaum Constant:

    Life and Death can be mathematized!

    I think that diagram — if it can be believed — answers the vexed issue of quality and quantity, and possibly also the hard problem in consciousness.

    **

    I naturally attempted to place myself on the implicit timeline between Life and Death on that diagram. I’m reasonably far along (minor stroke, check, triple bypass, check, on dialysis, check, etc), and, shall we say, somewhat aware of my mortality.

    Someone get me a slide-rule, I’d like to calculate the precise.. unh, on second thoughts, maybe not.

    **

    The only happily viable move from here — I believe — is to infinity, so let’s go.

    My games, I’d suggest, make a contribution to graph theory. Specifically, to that branch of graph theory in which Margaret Masterman was a pioneer, is the area of conceptual graphs, which I meantioned above. Indeed, the (theo)logical icon Masterman explored with her Benedictine Abbess friend as described in Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis (part 1), Theoria to Theory Vol 1, 3rd Quarter, April 1967, pp 240-46:

    visiting it in Boolean terms:

    is none other than the graph used as an exemplar of the map-graph correlation in the Numberphile video, second illustration at the top of this post.

    **

    In the Trinitarian version of this graph, however, two kinds of “edge” or linkage are required: for the links between individual Persons (“non est”) and the links between Persons and Godhead (“est”).

    And the same is true, interestingly enough, with even more types of linkage, in Oronce Fine‘s (entirely secular?) map of the elements:

    **

    And that’s enough thinking for one day, perhaps. We shall see..


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