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The Art of Future War?

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — coloring outside the lines of the challenge ]
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http://www.desura.com/mods/dune-wars/images/new-soldier-and-infantry-units
Civ4 Dune mod, “Worm attack”, from Desura

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I’m all in favor of the Atlantic Council‘s Art of Future War Project:

It is a moment to seek out new voices and ideas from artists who can range much farther out into the future. Artists are adept at making sense of disorder while also having the ability to introduce a compelling chaos into the status quo. In other words, they are ideally suited to exploring the future of warfare. Writers, directors and producers and other artists bring to bear observations derived from wholly different experiences in the creative world. They can ask different kinds of questions that will challenge assumptions and conventional ways of tackling some of today’s toughest national security problems. Importantly, they can also help forge connections with some of most creative people in the public and private sectors who otherwise struggle to find avenues for their best ideas.

That’s excellent, and as a poet and game designer with a keen interest in war and peace, I hope to contribute.

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Funny, though, their first challenge looks, to my eyes, just a little bit back to the future:

The Art of Future Warfare project’s first challenge seeks journalistic written accounts akin to a front-page news story describing the outbreak of a future great-power conflict.

Why would we want to produce something “akin to a front-page news story” at a time when news stories are already more web-page than front-page, and perhaps even tweet before they’re breaking news?

In any case, the good people at Art of Future War offered some clues to those who might want to take up their challenge, and I took their encouragement seriously —

The historical creative cues included below are intended to inspire, not bound, creativity.

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Their first clue did indeed inspire me, though not to write anything akin to a front-page news story, “between 1,500 and 2,500 words long”. The clue they gave was the Washington Times lede I’ve reproduced in the ipper panel below —

SPEC DQ slomo death

while the lower panel contains the quote their clue led me to, by an associative leap of the kind artists are prone to — drawing on the vivid imagery of Peter Brook‘s play, The Mahabharata, which I had the good fortune to see in Los Angeles, a decade or three ago.
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My own leap backwards — to an ancient and indeed originally oral epic, the Mahabharata, rather than to century-old newsprint — won’t win me the challenge, since it doesn’t answer to the rules, nor will it provide useful hints as to what war will look like a decade from now.

The sage Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharata at the dictation of the god Ganesh, might have been able to predict the future of war — I certainly cannot.

What I can do, and hope to have done, is to suggest that the whole of human culture has a bearing on war and how we understand it.

James Aho‘s Religious Mythology and the Art of War should be on every strategist’s reading list, as should Frank Herbert‘s Dune (see gamer’s mod image at the top of this page), JAB van Buitenen‘s Bhagavadigita in the Mahabharata and Brigadier SK Malik‘s The Qur’anic Concept of War — and Akira Kurasawa‘s Kagemusha on the DVD shelf, too:

There, I have managed to contribute something useful after all.

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Mjolnir’s Game

Monday, July 29th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — a wargame so different from chess and go… ]
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A modern version of Hnefatafl, via Sources and Methods

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As I noted in a comment at the time, I was deadly envious of Zen‘s recent post, The VA bows Before Mjolnir, but I feel a little better now that I can make my own post about Hnefatafl, which Kristan Wheaton recently characterized as The Ancient Viking Game Every Intelligence Professional Should Play.

Prof. Wheaton’s key findings:

  • It is an asymmetric game.  As you can see from the board above, one side starts in the center and the other side surrounds it on all four sides.  One side outnumbers the other by about 2:1.  The sides even have different victory conditions (the player with the pieces in the center need to get the “King”, the large playing piece in the middle of the board, to one of the corners.  The other player is trying to capture the King).  It is not too hard to see a game such as this one incorporated into courses, classes or discussions of asymmetric warfare.
  • It is a conflict simulation.  Most historians agree that there were relatively few large scale battles involving Vikings. Instead, most of the time, combat resulted from raiding activities.  Hnefatafl seems to reflect the worst case scenario for a Viking raider:  Cut off from your boats and outnumbered 2:1. 
  • It provides a deep lesson in strategic thinking.  Lessons in both the strategy of the central position (hundred of years before Napoleon made it famous) and in the relative value of interior vs. exterior lines of communication are embedded in this game. 

I really, really like the asymmetry of this game — WTG, Norsepersons!

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The VA bows Before Mjolnir

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has approved Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor the Norse God of Thunder, for use on gravestones of US military personnel.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs got out of the deciding game,” Pitzl-Waters says. The new rules stated that as long as a soldier filled out the proper paperwork and the symbol they wanted was linked with an existing religious community, a soldier could have any emblem they wanted on their tombstone. “You can’t just put, say, a Metallica logo on your headstone, but otherwise, the VA shifted the onus off of themselves in deciding what is or isn’t an ‘appropriate’ religion.”

In theory at least, Thor’s hammer was an acceptable symbol of faith in the eyes of the VA for the first time ever. But there was a dark side to the rules change. Like blót, the ancient Norse ritual sacrifice used to worship the gods, the Department of Veterans Affairs required blood to be spilled before Thor’s hammer could be officially added to the list. A soldier needed to die.

….Details are thin: His name was Shane, and he was a sergeant in the Marine Corps. He came from an extremely private family of Odinists, and he died in August 2012. After his death, his mother campaigned for the VA to not only allow Shane to have the symbol of Mjölnir placed on his headstone but for the same right to be extended retroactively to her husband, Mark, who had been buried by the Department of Veterans Affairs under a blank headstone under stricter rules. After ten months of red tape, the VA finally relented, and where once the space had been left empty, Mjölnir was carved into both of their headstones.

It’s a weird thing, when you think about it. That somewhere within a sea of headstones at Calverton or some other national cemetery, two soldiers–father and son–lay buried beneath the emblem of their faith: a magic, flying hammer that just also happens to be a pretty cool comic book weapon millions of people around the world know pretty well. 

Read the rest here.

Hat tip Feral Jundi

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Heavy breathing on the line: Boyd and the hare

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

[dots connected by Lynn C. Rees]

Sigh

Sigh

? 1 ?

? Raises question ?

? 2 ?

What did Lucius Aemilius Paullus know and when did he know it?

? 3 ?

Ask Colonel John Boyd, USAF (1927-1997)

? 4 ?

Namedrop John Boyd

What do most respondants think?

? 5 ?

Naive OODA Loop

? 6 ?

Uncritical Insight

John Boyd is a cheerleader jumping up and down on the sidelines chanting “faster! Faster!! FASTER!!!”.

? 7 ?

Uncritical Insight (cont.)

This reduces Boyd to:

  1. Go fast.
  2. Go faster.
  3. Go ludicrous speed.
  4. Profit!!!

? 8 ?

? – Raises Question  – ?

Is this man a cheerleader?

? 9 ?

? and ?

? and ?

? 10 ?

Critique

NO

? 11 ?

Notice

No

? 12 ?

Key Asymmetry

When Boyd smiles, he’s 100 million light years away from being a cheerleader.

? 13 ?

Key Asymmetry (cont.)

If a Boyd particle barely brushed a cheerleader particle, it would annihilate it, leaving behind nothing but:

  1. a tremendous burst of energy
  2. plans for a better fighter plane than the F-35 at 1/1,000,000th the cost.

? 14 ?

Critical Insight

To understand Boyd, understand the battle of Leuctra (371 B.C.)

? 15 ?

Leuctra

? 16 ?

Message

Boyd argued victory came by creating of a fatal disconnect between enemy and reality through:

  • mental isolation
  • moral isolation
  • physical isolation

? 17 ?

Message (cont.) 

All three are critical to the originality of Boyd’s thought:

Boyd was thinking outside the box.

? 18 ?

Message (cont.) 

This box:

Cannae

? 19 ?

Message (cont.) 

More particularly, this box:

Cannae

? 20 ?

Message (cont.)

Battle of Cannae (216 BC)

Hannibal Barça put 50,000 or so Roman legionaries inside the box.

? 21 ?

Message (cont.)

Few Romans ever thought outside that box again.

? 22 ?

Problem

The physical kill box of Cannae became the mental kill box that military thinkers of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century kept their brains in.

? 23 ?

Problem (cont.)

This is your brain:

Baron Antoine Henri de Jomini

? 24 ?

Problem (cont.)

This is your brain on Cannae:

Schlieffen

? 25 ?

Worse

Schlieffen, Chief of the Great General Staff of the Second Reich from 1893-1906, was obsessed with Cannae.

He even wrote a book on it.

? 26 ?

Worse (cont.)

Schlieffen used an exhaustive checklist when planning future military operations.

? 27 ?

Worse (cont.)

  1. Does my plan destroy the enemy army like Buonoparte?

? 28 ?

Worse (cont.)

Satisfying those stringent requirements led to the Schlieffen-Moltke Plan:

Schlieffen Plan

? 29 ?

Worse (cont.)

Its results were mixed.

? 30 ?

Critique

Schlieffen’s plan failed because it only aimed at physical annihilation of Franco-British forces.

? 31 ?

Critique (cont.)

It’s moral and mental isolation (or annihilation) components were few or vestigial.

This absence dominated the Western Front for the next three years.

? 32 ?

First Cut

Boyd suggested that the German development of infiltration techniques in the later half of the war countered this.

Instead of the long bombardments château generals thought would physically annihilate the enemy trench line, barbed wire, and fortifications…

? 33 ?

First Cut (cont.)

The artillery barrage that accompanied German infiltration attack was sudden and unexpected…

…providing suppression as much through sudden mental or moral disorientation as through physical destruction.

? 34 ?

First Cut (cont.)

Instead of the physical impact of large ranks of infantrymen trudging across No Man’s Land…

Small teams of infiltrators dribbled across the lines in small groups, causing moral and mental derangement by attacking the enemy from the flank or rear in unexpected places at surprising times.

? 35-36 ?

Traditional Greek Order of Battle vs Leuctra’s Order of Battle

Leuctra

? 37 ?

Battle of Leuctra

Boyd referred back to Leuctra rather than Cannae as a guide:

Epaminondas‘ seemingly simpler act of stacking his left 50 deep and weakening his right was just as effective as Hannibal’s more technically complex but brittle double envelopment at Cannae.

? 38 ?

Battle of Leuctra (cont.)

Epaminondas created a fatal disconnect between Spartiate and reality through a balanced attack:

  • physical isolation (more husky Boeotians to beat on the Spartan right)
  • moral isolation (that’s against the rules!)
  • mental isolation (the best Boeotian troops were on the left, not, as was tradition, on the right)

? 39 ?

Key Take Away

Epamimondas won a more efficient victory than Hannibal:

He mauled the Spartans just as effectively as Hannibal mauled the Romans …

Without the enormous luck and complexity involved in pulling off a double envelopment.

? 40 ?

And that’s why the NSA records (meta)data on all Americans.

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Turkey and the unicorn

Monday, June 17th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — i don’t do much in the way of cat pics, so here’s a timely geopolitical unicorn for you ]
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What with the Whole Wired World looking a bit both “1984” and “Brave New” this week, and with Turkey clearly itching to up its rep as an authoritarian state, you might not think this would be the week a Turkish customs official would stamp a unicorn’s passport…

What can I tell you? Someone did. A Turkish customs official allowed this young British girl, Emily Harris, into Turkey by stamping her unicorn’s passport.

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If I was Recep Tayyip Erdogan — and I’m not, and unlikely yo be any time soon — I might want to give that man a medal for providing the one news item this week favorable to the Turkish tourist trade — at a time when images of tear gassings in hotels and water cannonades in parks can hardly be helping the country’s image as an attractive place to visit.

Seriously — Public Diplomacy, one child’s passport at a time.

And while you’re at it, quit gassing hotels with children in them, will you? It’s barbaric.

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