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Their own private Farnboroughs

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — one vivid memory, two breathtaking photos, one for war-watchers, one for poets ]
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There are very few days in my life where I know where I was, but on 6 September 1952, I was at the Farnborough Air Show, when John Derry‘s De Havilland 110 fell apart at Mach 1, the body of the aircraft falling safely away from the crowd, but one jet ploughing into the hillside I was perched on — literally, on my dad’s shoulders — a few dozen yards behind us.

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I was reminded of John Derry and his memorable death by this photo, captioned:

Military aircraft enthusiasts watch as a United States Air Force F-15 fighter jet travels at low altitude through the “Mach Loop” series of valleys near Dolgellau, Wales, on June 26, 2018. The Mach Loop valleys are regularly used by the military for operational low-flying training, which can take place as low as 250 feet (76 meters) from the nearest terrain. Oli Scarff / AFP / Getty

The aircraft, as shown above, is certainly striking — but no lesss striking at the tiny observers on the crest of the hillock, who no doubtt had an exhausting hike to get there, to see that remarkable aerial display. “Ooh, look!” These guys have their own private Farnboroughs — and thank God, nobody dies on this occasion.

I’m posting this here because I think the urge to see, I suppose one might call it the voyeuristic urge, is close cousin ttom the urge to game play. And game play, in military affairs, is a significant matter , from kriegspiel to the rcecently aborted exercises in S Korea.

Thoughts?

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OMG —

and I just can’t resist adding one more image from the same page where I found the one above — for its sheer drama:

https://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/img/photo/2018/06/photos-of-the-week-3/w02_984690316/main_900.jpg?1530296833

The full moon rises behind burning moorland as a large wildfire sweeps across the moors between Dovestones and Buckton Vale in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, on June 26, 2018, in Stalybridge, England. Anthony Devlin / Getty

Er, Wow!

Game on!

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — war games seeping into non-game so-called real life again ]
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^

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Russia Jammed Phones and GPS in Northern Europe During Massive Military Drills

A loss of GPS coverage in Norway and an outage in cellular and emergency cellular services in Latvia, both are part of a growing and worrying trend of reported electronic warfare, as well as cyber attacks, in and around NATO member states in Europe. The incidents both occurred during the largest Russian military exercises in years, suggesting that the Kremlin may have used these drills to more actively demonstrate its expanding hybrid warfighting techniques, all of which offer ways to harass the alliance and other countries with relatively little risk of setting off an actual conflict.

You got that?

both are part of a growing and worrying trend..

**

How about this?

USAF Is Jamming GPS In The Western U.S. For Largest Ever Red Flag Air War Exercise

The year’s first iteration of the USAF’s premier set of aerial war games, known commonly as Red Flag, is kicking off today at Nellis Air Force Base just outside of Las Vegas, but this exercise will be different than any in the past. Not only is it the largest of its kind in the exercise’s 42 year history, but the USAF is going to blackout GPS over the sprawling Nevada Test and Training Range to challenge aircrews and their weaponry under realistic fighting conditions. The tactic will spill over throughout the region, with warnings being posted stating inconsistent GPS service could be experienced by aircrews flying throughout the western United States.

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And / or this?

This is Likely Why the Navy Is Causing a Massive and Mysterious GPS Outage in the Western US

iPcture a giant, invisible, upside-down cone rising up from the desert floor near Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. It ranges over 500 miles in every direction, covers more than 500,000 square miles in total, and reaches up higher than any civilian aircraft can fly. Inside the cone, GPS-related systems fail to function.

That invisible cone will be a reality this month, at least intermittently, and the FAA is warning pilots that GPS-related systems may fail to work in the area over the next three and a half weeks

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Are both “part of a growing and worrying trend”?

Not Checkers, not Chess, no Go, Gen Perkins — it’s Calvinball time

Friday, July 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — on changing our very notions of game and challenge — or unanticipating the unanticipated ]
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Reading David Perkins, Big picture, not details, key when eyeing future from last year, and thinking:

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It’s scary to read Gen. Perkins — the head of TRADOC — disagree with him, sometimes quite sharply along the way and particularly when he talks about games — and then wind up agreeing with the second half of this, his closing sentiment:

So now that we know what game we are playing and assumedly what is required to win it, we can employ these insights to lay out a path toward building the Army our country will need in 2025 and beyond. It is our duty, and our country depends on us to get it right.

We don’t know what game we are playing, nor — love that word “assumedly” — what is required to win it. And if I’m right about this, how can our potentially mistaken insights help us “lay out a path toward building the Army our country will need in 2025 and beyond” — when “getting it right” is liable to be an emergent property, only recognizable as such in retrospect?

Let me cut to my main objection, for which Gen. Perkins’ checkers and chess games are analogies. Of the two games, Perkins said:

Checkers and chess are played on the same style board, but the games are far from similar. For a long time, the Army has designed forces based on a “checkers-based” world outlook. Today, we’re switching to a “chess-based” appreciation of the world.

I’ll come back to this game metaphor in time, but the paragraph I first halted at, for which the games paragraph I just quoted is a metaphor, is this one:

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, we lived in a “complicated” world, but one with a single defining enemy for which we could plan against. In today’s “complex” world, there is no single defined future foe with relatively known capabilities, doctrines and intent. This is not a minor point, as designing and building the future Army rests upon what kind of world we expect to see.

I’m not at all sure jointness will mean anything at all like “cross-service cooperation in all stages of the military processes, from research, through procurement and into operations’ — whether the services be Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, or also include the National Guard, whether we think in terms of Land, Sea, Air, and Space, or throw in Cyber. What if jointness is better conceived of in terms of heart, mind and soul?

Our command structure isn’t structured along those lines, so we can’t put the Chief of Staff of the Heart, the Commandant of Minds, and the Chief of Soul Operations under the Chairman and Vice-Chairman and call them the Joint Chiefs — the very absurdity of the phrasing makes the whole idea almost ridiculous.

And yet heart, mind and soul — or for that matter, the Buddhist body, mind and speech — are the fundamental building blocks of a full and sane human personhood, and their social equivalents the equivalent bases of a full and sane human society.

Maybe heart, mind and soul are more basic than land, air and sea?

Did we ever think of that?

What I’m suggesting here, in fact, is that the challenges we face may differ from previous challenges in this: that they won’t fall into the expected mold, they won’t look to us like challenges at all, we won’t categorize or react to them as such — in short, that they will be oblique to our assumptions and expectations.

One other point of disagreement, briefly:

by 2005 we confronted a well-understood problem in Afghanistan and Iraq, and began optimizing much of the Army to meet that current threat

Oh really? You could have fooled Zarqawi!

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Getting back to games, we have some very nice comparisons and metamorphoses already “in play” in the strategic literature. Perkins’ “Checkers to Chess” is one, “Ghess to Go” is another and more sophisticated example — Scott Boorman‘s The Protracted Game: A Wei-Ch’i Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy is the classic here — “Chess to Star Trek’s 3-D chess” is another one worth considering, or “Chess to Mjolnir’s Game” for that matter, “Go to Buckminster Fuller‘s World Game” yet another, while “Go to the Glass Bead Game” is clearly one which would fascinate me personally..

But I’m convinced, as I’ve said before, that the game we need to understand is the one known as Calvinball:

Calvinball — Calvin and Hobbes‘ favourite game to play. There is only one main rule in the game — that you can’t play it the same way twice.

Now that game idea is an audacious one, rivaling and perhaps even surpassing Peter Suber‘s awesome game, Nomic:

in which the rules of the game include mechanisms for the players to change those rules, usually beginning through a system of democratic voting. Nomic is a game in which changing the rules is a move.

When I meantion Calvinball, I not infrequently quote the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre:

Not one game is being played, but several, and, if the game metaphor may be stretched further, the problem about real life is that moving one’s knight to QB3 may always be replied to by a lob over the net.

Now that’s talking!

And Roland Barthes:

This public knows very well the distinction between wrestling and boxing; it knows that boxing is a Jansenist sport, based on a demonstration of excellence. One can bet on the outcome of a boxing-match: with wrestling, it would make no sense. A boxing-match is a story which is constructed before the eyes of the spectator; in wrestling, on the contrary, it is each moment which is intelligible, not the passage of time… The logical conclusion of the contest does not interest the wrestling-fan, while on the contrary a boxing-match always implies a science of the future. In other words, wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result.

Switching games?

We’re blurring game-boards in real time, according to CTC Sentinel editor-in-chief Paul Cruikshank:

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Okay, here’s another mind in the Natsec arena, that switches the playing field from “game as cricket or chess” to “game as zero-sum or non-zero sum” — President Rouhani of Iran, writing an op-ed in the Washington Post — Iran, mark you, in WaPo — who says:

The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.

Rouhani is pretty conservative in Iranian terms, though we sometimes consider him a reformer — but very “other” in his thinking, compared to ours. And if we wish to game him, our Red Team must be able to think as ably and otherly as he does.

How would TRADOC suggest we adapt to a shift in games of that sort?

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H/t The Strategy Bridge.

Next up — the anti-eagle drone

Friday, February 10th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a variant on my cherished “eagle/weasel, carp/osprey” pairs — this time a mechanical vs organic pair ]
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Air superiority on this occasion belongs to the eagle:

A golden eagle carries a flying drone away during a military training exercise at Mont-de-Marsan French Air Force base. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

What’s next?

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Humans train and launch eagles; humans train and launch drones:

What must follow, to my way of thinking, is reciprocal escalation.

After the anti-drone eagle as depicted above, we will have the anti-eagle drone, then the anti-drone eagle modified to take down anti-eagle drones in an ascending spiral of anti-anti-anti drones and eagles.

Thus also: eagles : air force :: dolphins : navy

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Sources:

  • Reuters, France watches skies for Russian wargames, domestic drone threat
  • MakerFaire:Lisbon, FPV Drone Racing at the Maker Faire!
  • Business Insider, The US Navy’s combat dolphins are serious military assets
  • Trolleys come to Terror

    Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a western koan makes it onto German TV? ]
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    What Hala Jaber calls a supermarket trolley in this tweet is not what this post is about — but it sure does connect trolley and terror!

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    Here’s the terror side of things, in a tweet from John Horgan:

    The BBC halls it an “interactive courtroom drama interactive courtroom drama centred on a fictional act of terror” and notes:

    The public was asked to judge whether a military pilot who downs a hijacked passenger jet due to be crashed into a football stadium is guilty of murder.

    Viewers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria gave their verdict online or by phone. The programme was also aired in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

    The vast majority called for the pilot, Lars Koch, to be acquitted.

    Here’s the setup:

    In the fictional plot, militants from an al-Qaeda offshoot hijack a Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 164 people on board and aim to crash it into a stadium packed with 70,000 people during a football match between Germany and England.

    “If I don’t shoot, tens of thousands will die,” German air force Major Lars Koch says as he flouts the orders of his superiors and takes aim at an engine of the plane.

    The jet crashes into a field, killing everyone on board.

    So, is the pilot guilty, or not guilty?

    **

    At the very least, he has our sympathy — but how does that play out in legal proceedings?

    What’s so fascinating here is the pilot’s dilemma, which resembles nothing so much as a zen koan.

    Except for the Trolley Problem:

    trolley_problem
    Image from Wikimedia by McGeddon under license CC-BY-SA-4.0

    **

    Substitute an Airbus for the trolley, 164 people for the lone individual on the trolley line, and 70,000 people for the cluster of five — and the pilot for the guy who can make a decision and switch the tracks.

    There you have it: terror plot and trolley problem running in parallel.

    To be honest, I think the full hour-plus movie is far more immersive, to use a term from game design, than the Trolley Problem stated verbally as a problem in logic — meaning that the viewer is in some sense projected, catapulted into the fighter-pilot’s hot seat — in his cockpit, facing a high speed, high risk emergency, and in court, on trial for murder.

    It’s my guess that more people would vote for the deaths of 164 under this scenario than for the death of one in the case of the trolley — but that’s a guess.

    **

    The German film scenario — adapted from a play by Ferdinand von Schirach — is indeed a courtroom drama, a “case” in the sense of “case law”. And it’s suggestive that koans, too, are considered “cases” in a similar vein. Here, for instance, is a classic definition of koans :

    Kung-an may be compared to the case records of the public law court. Kung, or “public”, is the single track followed by all sages and worthy men alike, the highest principle which serves as a road for the whole world. An, or “records”, are the orthodox writings which record what the sages and worthy men regard as principles [..]

    This principle accords with the spiritual source, tallies with the mysterious meaning, destroys birth-and-death, and transcends the passions. It cannot be understood by logic; it cannot be transmitted in words; it cannot be explained in writing; it cannot be measured by reason. It is like a poisoned drum that kills all who hear it, or like a great fire that consumes all who come near it. [..]

    The so-called venerable masters of Zen are the chief officials of the public law courts of the monastic community, as it were, and their collections of sayings are the case records of points that have been vigorously advocated.

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    Relevant texts:

  • John Daido Loori, Sitting with Koans
  • John Daido Loori, The True Dharma Eye

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