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ISIS goes Matryoshka

Friday, March 10th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — humans bearing doll attributes and vice versa ]
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ISIS brings those Matryoshka dolls to life..

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SITE Intel‘s video on ISIS indoctrination of children — one of their people actually terms it “brainwashing” as though it’s a blessing, not a perversion — is pretty graphic, but important.

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For our younger readers, then:

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Sources:

  • SITE Intel video report, Raising Terror: How the Islamic State Indoctrinates its Youth
  • The Peoples Cube, Islamic Matryoshka

  • Teletubbies, Developmental Benefits
  • Are anomalies blindspots?

    Sunday, February 26th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — watching a Franco-British detective saga ]
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    This police helicopter view from The Tunnel (series 1 episode 3 at the 16’21” mark) —

    — raises the question for me: are anomalies blindspots, or are blindspots so anomalous as to evade even the “blindspot” category? Certainly my practice is to seek out blindspots, and anomalies may be clues..

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    What’s interesting about anomalies is that they aren’t isolated, they’re precisely anomalous in respect to some norm or other, figure against field.

    Which boils up to another instance of my repeated plaint that a single data point is nothing, that two is the first number — see, eg, It is always good to find oneself in good company.

    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 ]
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    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.

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    vatican-spiralSpiral staircase, the Vatican, Rome

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    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?

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    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.

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

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    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.

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    Image sources:

  • Both spiral images from the Top 10 Spiral Architecture page
  • Quick notes on intelligent intelligence, 2

    Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — on a quote from my fellow whacky Brit, Geoffrey Pyke ]
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    the-ingenious-mr-pyke-cover-smaller

    Whacky? From a short description of the man by his biographer, Henry Hemming:

    Geoffrey Pyke, an inventor, war reporter, escaped prisoner, campaigner, father, educator–and all-around misunderstood genius. In his day, he was described as one of the world’s great minds, to rank alongside Einstein, yet he remains virtually unknown today. Pyke was an unlikely hero of both world wars and, among many other things, is seen today as the father of the U.S. Special Forces. He changed the landscape of British pre-school education, earned a fortune on the stock market, wrote a bestseller and in 1942 convinced Winston Churchill to build an aircraft carrier out of reinforced ice. He escaped from a German WWI prison camp, devised an ingenious plan to help the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and launched a private attempt to avert the outbreak of the Second World War by sending into Nazi Germany a group of pollsters disguised as golfers.

    Whacky!

    And for good measure, here’s Jami Miscik on oddballs:

    To truly nurture creativity, you have to cherish your contrarians and give them opportunities to run free. Leaders in the analytic community must avoid trying to make everyone meet a preconceived notion of the intelligence community’s equivalent of the “man in the gray flannel suit.”

    and Reuel Marc Gerecht:

    And the service can ill-afford to lose creative personnel with a high tolerance for risk.

    It’s a sad fact that the folks who are in government, especially in the “elite” services of the CIA and the State Department, aren’t what they used to be. They are, to be blunt, less interesting. There are vastly fewer “characters” -— the unconventional, often infuriating, types who give institutions color and competence.

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    Okay, here’s Geoffrey Pyke in his own capital letters:

    EVERYTHING IS IRRELEVANT TILL CORRELATED WITH SOMETHING ELSE

    And why does that interest me?

    Well first, today it corroborates my comment just now on David Barno and Nora Bensahel and the importance of their suggestion that “The Army should also reinstate the requirement for every career officer to develop skills in two specialties.”

    And then second, because I have been saying for a while that:

    Two is the first number

    and quoting along the way Aristotle, Jung, and the tenth-century Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’..

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    For these reasons, and with a hat-tip to Bryan Alexander, I cherish the contrarian intelligence of Mr Pyke.

    Quick notes on intelligent intelligence, 1

    Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — I do believe this will be a new series ]
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    brain-ic

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    Intelligence, obviously, can mean something along the lines of bright thinking, but also that which is gathered, usually from the extremities of empire or the most hidden of an opponent’s or ally’s secret secrets — but for my purposes here it means the frst of these (the “intelligent” of my title) as applied in the mind of military, analytic or civilian leadership to the second (my title’s “intelligence” by which I mean “intel”).

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    David Barno and Nora Bensahel, Six Ways to Fix the Army’s Culture:

    The Army should also reinstate the requirement for every career officer to develop skills in two specialties, rather than to focus narrowly on one. This would produce officers with a much broader range of talents, who would be educated and then employed effectively across more than one skill to support the Army’s disparate needs. These measures would help rising Army leaders think more creatively about the wide range of challenges facing the Army and contribute more effectively at the strategic level within the Department of Defense or the wider interagency arena.

    I’d like to make this more explicit. Not only does the development of skills in two specialties mean that an officer can handle two dofferent kinds of problem set with greater assurance, it also and specfically opens the possibility of cross-fertilization between the two disciplines, in those places where they overlap not on the surface level but at the level of analogy and pattern.

    When Barno and Bensahel say the development of skills in two specialties “would help rising Army leaders think more creatively” it’s not just that they’d be better informed and brighter than they would be with only one such skill, and it’s not just that they could handle issues involving the overlap between specialties (and I actually don’t just mean military specialties like “Transportation officer (88A)” and “Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear officer (74A)” but also realms like cutural anthropology, topology, systems dynamics, art history), it’s that analogies would leap to mind showing that allow insights from one realm, discipline, silo or specialty to illuminate another. As shown in Arthur Koestler‘s image in The Act of Creation, which I never tire of posting:

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    Hey, I’ll follow up immediately with related commentary — on a quote from the eccentric, brilliant mind of a British fellow, Geoffrey Pyke, recently memorialized in Henry Hemming‘s book, The Ingenious Mr. Pyke: Inventor, Fugitive, Spy.


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