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Zengi can be Zangi and Zinki, among others

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — besides horror at the beheading, there’s an analytic note that needs to be heard ]
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abdullah issa 600
Abdullah Issa fighting, and wounded — soon to be savagely beheaded

The ferocity of the beheading has been blurred out in most versions of the video, though ZeroCensorship is still showing it, and YouTube has a version that stops short of the beheading but appears to record Abdullah’s final wish — to be shot, not slaughtered.

That devastating final wish goes way beyond Shakespeare‘s “to be or not to be, that is the question” — it may well be the most terrfying depiction of a choice made at death-point that I have ever heard.

**

I commented recently to a post by Ehsani2 titled The Boy Beheaded by Zinki Fighters, Abdullah Tayseer, Who Was He? on Dr. Joshus LandisSyria Comment blog, noting that the piece used the names Zanki and Zinki without commenting on the difference between them, and asking for clarification. I’d like to thank Dr Landis for a graciously email in response, and am happy to note today that my concern regarding the discrepant names used in the article is not without cause — as Kyle Orton just made clear in his own post on his Syrian Intifada blog, A Rebel Crime and Western Lessons in Syria:

One of the first complications with al-Zengi is the sheer variety of ways to transliterate the group’s name. Nooradeen can be Nooridin, Noorideen, and Noor/Nur al-Din/Deen; Zengi can be Zangi and Zinki, among others. Harakat means “movement,” though sometimes the organization is referred to as kataib (brigade) instead. Nooradeen refers to the twelfth-century Seljuk atabeg of the Zengid dynasty, whose life’s project was the reunification of the Islamic community.

No wonder I was confused.

**

My point, as so often, cuts against the grain of the conversation on Ehsani2’s post, which is largely about the horrible event itself and the group that performed it, one time support from the US included, and not the ways in which lack of languahger skills can cause confusion where clarity would be preferable — and that’s fair enough. My point, hiwever, is the linguistic one, and I think it’s important in a way that’s perhaps better suited to discussion here than on Dr Landis’ blog.

My plea is for analysts with special knowledge of places, groups or languages to bear in mind when writing, that there will be some in their interested audiences who may not share those specialities but are still worth reaching — and in particular that non-specialists, while inherently weak in local detail, may nevertheless contribute significant insights from outside linguistic or area-specialist silos, precisely by virtue of not being in the echo-chambers that such forms of specialism themselves tend to erect.

Zen has from the beginning of this blog stressed the mutual virtues of what he terms “horizontal” and “vertical” modes of knowledge — see his series:

  • Understanding Cognition: part I: Benefits of horizontal thinking
  • Understanding Cognition: part II: Benefits of vertical thinking to horizontal thinkers
  • Understanding Cognition: part III: Horizontal and vertical thinking and the origin of insight
  • I came to my own interest in that topic by being a primarily analogical and only secondarily linear thinker, by hearing Murray Gell-Mann at CalTech speak on the importance of generalist “bridge-makers” who perceive analogical links between otherwise unrelated disciplines, and by my twenty- to thirty-year effort to devised a playable form of the great analogical game loosely described in Hermann Hesse’s brillian (nobel-winning) novel, The Glass Bead Game.

    In prepping a proposal — as yet unfinished — for DARPA or IARPA last year, I formulate my basic message as a sort of motto, thus:

    Out of the box, out of the silo, out of the discipline, out of the agency, out of the explicit known into the “unknowing” — where the future takes shape…

    I could — and in the finished proposal will, God-willing — go far further on this topic, describing the ways in which complexity is far better modeled for us humans by analogical than by linear thinking, by cross-disciplinary than by silo’d thinking, by visual rather than verbal thinking, by human scale (7, plus or minus 2 datapoints) visualization than by big-data viz, and so forth. But let’s make it simple:

    Quirky thinking has a better chance at creative insight than routine thinking, individual contrarian passion than in-group agreement.

    Okay?

    **

    Thanks again to Dr Landis, and back to business..

    Indistinguishable from magic?

    Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a primer on some undercurrents in mind ]
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    I’ve been thinking about Clarke’s Third Law:

    quote-clarke-s-third-law-any-sufficiently-advanced-technology-is-indistinguishable-from-magic-arthur-c-clarke-219641

    This may hold true if you mean by it that someone in possession of sufficiently advanced tech can generally persuade less “sophisticated” folk that the use of that tech amounts to “magic”, but no student or practitioner of an authentic magical tradition will easily credit such an idea — where’s the contagion? where’s the sympathy? — where’s the true name?

    **

    Concerning the nature of magic:

    Sir JG Frazer, The Golden Bough:

    Thus far we have been considering chiefly that branch of sympathetic magic which may be called homoeopathic or imitative. Its leading principle, as we have seen, is that like produces like, or, in other words, that an effect resembles its cause. The other great branch of sympathetic magic, which I have called Contagious Magic, proceeds upon the notion that things which have once been conjoined must remain ever afterwards, even when quite dissevered from each other, in such a sympathetic relation that whatever is done to the one must similarly affect the other.

    Ursula LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea:

    He saw that in this dusty and fathomless matter of learning the true name of every place, thing, and being, the power he wanted lay like a jewel at the bottom of a dry well. For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.

    and furthermore:

    Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

    **

    A contemporary example, and an historical antecedent:

    Magic and Medicine from the Ozarks, 272: Nails:

    Nails have been used in Ozark folk healing and magic in a variety of ways. There’s a belief among Hillfolk that the object that hurt the individual was just as important to the healing process as the medicine put onto the wound. Knife blades, bullets, and nails were often treated with healing salves and plants alongside the puncture or cut itself. Rusty nails were added to tonics to prevent tetanus or to treat illnesses like tuberculosis. Water made from soaking new nails was seen as a sure treatment for anemia and iron deficiencies, and sometimes the sickness itself could be taken off the patient and nailed to a tree. Nails were driven into footprints to deal lethal blows to foes and witches alike. Coffin and gallows nails were carried by Hillfolk as an amulet to ward of certain venereal diseases.

    The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England, Vol. 2, ed. Montague:

    It is constantly Received, and Avouched, that the Anointing of the Weapon, that maketh the Wound, wil heale the Wound it selfe. In this Experiment, upon the Relation of Men of Credit, (though my selfe, as yet, am not fully inclined to beleeve it,) you shal note the Points following; First, the Ointment .. is made of Divers ingredients; whereof the Strangest and Hardest to come by, are the Mosse upon the Skull of a dead Man, Vnburied; And the Fats of a Boare, and a Beare, killed in the Act of Generation. These Two last I could easily suspect to be prescribed as a Starting Hole; That if the Experiment proved not, it mought be pretended, that the Beasts were not killed in due Time; For as for the Mosse, it is certain there is great Quantity of it in Ireland, upon Slain Bodies, laid on Heaps, Vnburied. The other Ingredients are, the Bloud-Stone in Powder, and some other Things, which seeme to have a Vertue to Stanch Bloud; As also the Mosse hath…. Secondly, the same kind of Ointment, applied to the Hurt it selfe, worketh not the Effect; but onely applied to the Weapon..

    **

    Implications for analysts:

    For anyone interested in the analogical and contagious workings of the human mind, I cannot recommend too highly the Mountain Man Traditional Healing blog, which is both fascinating and instructive. So-called (and so disparaged) “magical thinking” may not occupy much space in the thought of secular analysts, but it is central to many and varied cultural traditions, some of which have real consequences in national Security and other “realistic” realms..

    Brexit: gunpowder, treason and plot?

    Saturday, June 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — conspiracies in the lead up to Jo Cox’s death and the Brexit referendum ]
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    Amil Khan, aka Londonstani, is a London-based journalist and author of The Long Struggle: The Muslim Worlds Western Problem. If I recall correctly, he was roommate for a while with Andrew Exum, aka Abu Muqawama, and a frequent contributor to Exum’s Abu Muqawama blog.

    **

    Here are three tweets I found that answer Londonstani‘s question — two conspiracy theories and a conspirator with motive:

    and:

    and by way of motive:

    **

    See also:

  • Washington Post, Pencil or pen? An unusual conspiracy theory grips Brexit vote.
  • Veterans Today, BREXIT victory shocks NWO – were “conspiracy theories” responsible?
  • Qur’an 8.30: And Allah is the best of plotters.

    Central Standard Time

    Monday, June 13th, 2016

    [by Mark Safranski /”zen“]

    I wanted to announce the debut of a Chicago-oriented culture e-zine, Central Standard Time, to which I will be one of the regular contributors. What is CST? In the words of the publisher, the Grammy nominated producer and professor of music, Joe Tortorici:

    The intent of this site is to suggest more than a solitary blogger’s view of the world. Central Standard Time exists to be a catalyst for timely discussions and a showcase for contemporary arts. Impetus for this effort echoes the pivotal era of the Chicago Literary Renaissance.

    Rising from the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago embraced the industrial revolution and the fundamental shift of American life from a rural to urban environment. In step with this cultural evolution came a wellspring of creativity spanning the intellectual and artistic spectrum that continued through the mid-twentieth century. It fostered the Literary Realism period in both fiction and non-fiction, and the ascendency of topical columnists writing for the myriad newspapers of the day. The Jazz Age was about to transform Chicago and the world. Art Nouveau gave way to Picasso and Duchamp; the Modern Age was born.

    I stand in awe of the diversity during this period and how Chicago helped shape American literature. Henry Fuller and Theodore Dreiser wrote novels defining Midland Realism; prolific commentators and humorists George Ade and Eugene Field gave new stimulus to the daily read; Finley Dunne and his “Mr. Dooley” narrative spoke to social and political issues from a seat in his South Side Irish pub (of course); Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, and the immortal Ben Hecht influenced generations of writers; poets Carl Sandberg, Harriet Monroe, and Gwendolyn Brooks bridged the racial divide; Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” remains required reading in every American Literature course; in our time, Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, and Jack Mabley sustained the gritty narrative of urban life while Erma Bombeck made us smile.

    Within this multiplicity were common threads. Each of these intellectual giants created his own world by authoring plays, poetry, political commentary, neighborhood novels, and an enduring slang narrative. The age of compartmentalized sterility was more than a century in the future. Newspapers and periodicals served as incubators for numerous literary careers; The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily News, Chicago Post, Monroe’s Poetry, Chicago Journal, Chicago Sun, the South Side Writer’s Group, Chicago Sun Times, and Floyd Dell’s Friday Literary Review. The new millennium offers a unique method for sharing information. We would be remiss to not use this broad avenue for illumination and entertainment.

    In this spirit, Central Standard Time hopes to carry on the task of publishing compelling stories, thoughtful opinions, visual and aural beauty, laughter, and everything else that makes us human.

    Read the rest here.

    Literary graces not being my strongest suit, I will continue to focus on natsec and strategy related pieces geared to a more general and less policy wonky, .mil, .gov oriented readership that visits here. My first post at CST dealt with the terror attacks in Orlando that unfolded Saturday:

    It’s not Your Father’s War on Terror Any More

    ….While Americans quickly became politically divided on partisan lines over how to characterize Mateen’s terrorism as a problem of gun control, homophobia or Islamic radicalization, the security threat Americans now face with terrorism is different and potentially more socially disruptive that the kinds of state-sponsored terrorism of the 20th century or even that of non-state actors like al Qaida, whose September 11 attack launched the United States into fifteen years of war. The strategic targeting, the terrorist tactics, the ideological motivations and the kinds of people who become terrorists have shifted away from the model of Abu Nidal or Osama bin Laden to that of Omar Mateen or Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. It’s not your father’s war on terror any more.

    Previous iterations of terrorists have significant differences with the acts of Islamist terrorism seen in Orlando, San Bernardino or at Fort Hood in that some constraints on violence were imposed by the secretive nature and disciplined organizational structure of modern terrorist organizations and their often grandiose political aspirations. The 1970’s era terror groups such as the PLO, IRA or the Red Brigades enjoyed covert intelligence, training and funding from the Soviet bloc and radical states like Gaddafi’s Libya; while this gave these groups greater security and resources, it also gave their patrons a “veto” over any and all terror operations. Or more than a veto. Reputedly master Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal met his end at the hands of Iraqi state security when he defied his chief supporter Saddam Hussein’s “requests” once too often. In short, it was not in the interest of terrorism sponsoring states to let terrorist groups off their short leash during the Cold War, lest they spark WWIII.

    Read the rest here.

    Turner on Cultural Understanding and Influence In The Arena

    Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

    [by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

       

    Pete Turner (Right)                                                       Anthony Iannarino

    “Alcohol and hand grenades” is always the mark of a great interview.

    Some ZP readers are familiar with business strategist and sales expert S. Anthony Iannarino due to his highly regarded and widely read The Sales BlogAnthony also has a podcast, In the Arena and in this week’s episode he interviews another friend of ZP, Pete Turner of The Break it Down Show.

    Pete and Anthony discuss HUMINT, cultural understanding, John Boyd, Afghanistan, 4GW, trust building, relationships, organizational cultures and making connections through respect, analogs to the business world, institutional “tribes”, cross-cultural interactions, books and much more.

    Give it a listen here. Strongest recommendation.


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