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We’re a legacy industry in a world of start-up competitors

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Ambassador Husain Haqqani and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Chautauqua ]
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chautauqua haqqani daveed

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From the outset, when cheers went up for Daveed’s birthplace, Ashland, Oregon, and Ambassador Haqqani’s, Karachi — and for the brilliant meeting of the minds that is Chautauqua — it was clear that we were in the presence of two gracious, witty and informed intelligences, and the seriousness of the conversation between them that followed did nothing to reduce our pleasure in the event. Daveed called it “easily the best experience I have ever had as a speaker.”

I’ll highlight some quotes from each speaker, with the occasional comment:
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Amb. Haqqani:

None of the countries except Egypt, Turkey and Iran, none of the countries of the Middle East are in borders that are historic, or that have evolved through a historic process. And that’s why you see the borders a straight lines. Straight lines are always drawn by cartographers or politicians, the real maps in history are always convoluted because of some historic factor or the other, or some river or some mountains.

You’ll see how neatly this fits with my recent post on borders, No man’s land, one man’s real estate, everyone’s dream?

And now that whole structure, the contrived structure, is coming apart.

Then most important part of it is, that this crisis of identity – who are we? are we Muslims trying to recreate the past under the principles of the caliphate .. or are we Arabs, trying to unify everybody based on one language, or are we these states that are contrived, or are we our ethnic group, or are we our tribe, or are we our sect? And this is not only in the region, it’s also overlapping into the Muslim communities in the diaspora..

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If Amb. Haqqani emphasized the multiple identities in play in the Arabic, Islamic, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and tribal worlds in his opening, Daveed’s emphasis was on the failure of the post-Westphalian concept of the nation state.

Daveed G-R:

In the economic sphere there’s this thing that is often called “legacy industries” – industries that fit for another time, but are kind of out of place today. Think of Blockbuster Video, once a massive, massive corporation.. that’s a legacy industry. So when Ambassador Haqqani talks about how it’s not just in the Middle East that we have this crisis of identity, I think the broader trend is that the Westphalian state that he spoke about, the kind of state that was encoded after the Peace of Westphalia, looks to a lot of people who are in this generation of the internet where ideas flow freely, it looks like a legacy industry.

Why do you need this as a form of political organizing? And what ISIS has shown is that a violent non-state actor, even a jihadist group that is genocidal and implements as brutal a form of Islamic law as you could possibly see, it can hold territory the size of Great Britain, and it can withstand the advance of a coalition that includes the world’s most powerful countries including the United States. And what that suggests is that alternative forms of political organization can now compete with the nation state.

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The Ambassador then turned to the lessons we should take from 1919’s US King–Crane Commission, reporting on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire — they concluded that it gave us

a great opportunity — not likely to return — to build .. a Near East State on the modern basis of full religious liberty, deliberately including various religious faiths, and especially guarding the rights of minorities

— down to our own times.

Amb. Haqqani:

What we can be sure of is that the current situation is something that will not be dealt with without understanding the texture of these societies. So for example, when the United States went into Iraq without full understanding of its sectarian and tribal composition, and assumed that, all we are doing is deposing a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and then we will hold elections and now a nice new guy will get elected, and things will be all right -– that that is certainly not the recipe. So what we can say with certainty in 2015 is .. over the last century what we have learnt is: outsiders, based on their interests, determining borders is not a good idea, and should certainly not be repeated. Assuming that others are anxious to embrace your culture in totality is also an unrealistic idea.

The sentence that follows was a stunner from the Ambassador, gently delivered — a single sentence that could just as easily have been the title for this post as the remark by Daveed with which I have in fact titled it:

Let me just say that, look, he ideological battle, in the Muslim world, will have to be fought by the likes of me.

Spot on — and we are fortunate the Ambassador and his like are among us.

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Daveed then turned to another topic I have freqently emphasized myself.

Daveed G-R:

The power of ideas – we as Americans tend not to recognize this when it falls outside of ideas that are familiar to us. So one thing that the US has been slow to acknowledge is the role of the ideology that our friend and ally Saudi Arabia has been promulgating globally, in fomenting jihadist organizations.

And one of the reasons we have been slow to recognize that. I mean one reason is obvious, which is oil. .. But another reason has been – we tend to think of ideas that are rooted in religion – as a very post-Christian country – we tend to think of them as not being rea – as ideas which express an ideology which is alien to us –as basically being a pretext, with some underlying motivation which is more familiar to us. That it must be economics, or it must be political anger. I’m not saying those are irrelevant, they’re not – but when Al-Qaida or ISIS explains themselves, taking their explanation seriously and understanding where they’re coming from – not as representatives of Islam as a whole, but as representatives of the particular ideology that they claim to stand for – we need to take that seriously. Because they certainly do.

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Amb. Haqqani:

The world is not a problem for Americans to solve, it’s a situation for them to understand.

This makes a nice DoubleQuote with Gabriel Marcel‘s more general aphorism:

Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.

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Toward the end of the discussion, Daveed touched on some ideas of recurrent interest to Zenpundit readers..

Daveed G-R:

Looking at the US Government, questions that I ask a lot are: Why are we so bad at strategy? Why are we so bad at analysis? Why do we take such a short term view and negate the long term?

He then freturned to the issue of legacy industries and nation-states:

Blockbuster is a legacy industry. And the reason why legacy industries have so much trouble competing against start-up firms, is because start-ups are smaller, it’s more easy for them to change course, to implement innovative policies, to make resolute decisions – they can out-manoeuver larger companies. And so larger companies that do well adapt themselves to this new environment where they have start-up competitors. Nation-state governments are legacy industries. Violent non-state actors are start-up compoetitors.

— and had the final, pointed word:

We’re a legacy industry ina world of start-up competitors.

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Having offered you these tastes, at this point I can only encourage you to watch the whole hour and a quarter, filled to the brim with incisive and articulately-stated insights:

Seen through the fog of war..

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — truth is always the first causality casualty ]
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SPEC dolphin robot

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The big question these days is no longer Nature or Nurture, it’s Nature and Nurture — or Tech?

As opposed to carnivores, militarily speaking

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — discussing the Iran deal, Gershom Gorenberg introduces me to some Israeli slang ]
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quote-everyone-s-a-pacifist-between-wars-it-s-like-being-a-vegetarian-between-meals-colman-mccarthy
Source: izquotes.com

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Gershom Gorenberg is a friendly acquaintance from Center for Millennial Studies days, and his book The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount is one I admire, and one that is becoming more and more relevant as the days and years pass. In an article for Prospect, What a No Vote on the Iran Deal Would Mean, he cites “veterans of [Israel’s] military and intelligence agencies” as “the most prominent dissenters from Netanyahu’s position” on the Iran agreement, detailing:

There’s Shlomo Brom, ex-head of strategic planning in the Israeli general staff, who has debunked precisely the myths about the Vienna accord that fill Schumer and Sherman’s statements. Ami Ayalon, former commander of the Israeli Navy and ex-head of the Shin Bet security service, has stated that “when it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option.” Yuval Diskin, another former Shin Bet director, this week tweeted in Hebrew that he “identifies absolutely” with Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column on why Israelis should support the accord.

He then admits bias — an unusual but welcome touch..

Yes, I’m picking my experts (though if space and patience allowed, I could list many more).

and gets to the remark that triggered my writing this post:

What Ayalon, Brom, Diskin, and colleagues who have expressed similar views have in common is that — to use Hebrew slang — they’re not “vegetarians.” They know there’s sometimes no choice but to use military force.

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There’s a ratio here that would please my fellow designer/explorer of a Glass Bead Game variant, Paul Pilkington, author of three lovely small books on the Glass Bead Game [1, 2, 3] with a fourth in the works:

carnivore : vegetarian :: militarist : pacifist

— or something along those lines.

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Ron Hale-Evans, another GBG variant designer and the founder of the Ludism site, in his Kennexions variant on the Bead Game would take just such a ratio, and apply to it the rules by which the Norse poets derived their “kennings” — cunning sleights-of-phrase by which they applied poetic epithets in place of common nouns.

As cantuse‘s post Dragonsilver: The True Nature and Purpose of Lightbringer tells us:

A kenning is a phrase that generally refers to any compound word that describes in figurative language something which could be expressed in a single-word. The principle derives from Old Norse epic traditions.

Ron suggests that “such an analogy provides four kennings possible (or at least permissible)”. In the case of the pacifist / vegetarian analogy, for instance, a carnivore would be kenned as a “vegetarian militarist”, a vegetarian as a “carnivore pacifist”, a militarist as a “pacifist carnivore”, and a pacifist as a “militarist vegetarian”.

The phrasing my seem awkward at first, but the kennings based on the analogy:

sea : whale :: road : horse

gave the Norse poets the poetic turns of phrase “whale road” for the sea, “sea horse” for the whale, “horse sea” for a road, and “road whale” for the horse, all of which make a fair amont of sense. And once you get the hang of it, you can think not just in ratios but in kennings, as the mind adapts to seing the binary oppositions (vegetarian / carnivore) as well as the paralellisms (vegetarian / pacifist) as a matter of course when encountering phrases such as “carnivore pacifist”.

Ron, if you’d care to update or correct me on Kennings / Kennexions, please feel free to do so — Paul, likewise with my use of ratios.

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Since analogy lies at the heart of both cognition and creativity, it would be interesting to see what impact the habit of thinking in Paul’s ratios or Ron’ss kennings, if taught in schools, would have on creative thinking and, frankly, mathematics. I have the suspicion that..

ratios : kennings :: algebra : geometry

— but what do I know?

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And what of the Iran nuclear deal, and all those Israeli natsec experts?

When win-win games get gamed

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — a paradox I’m currently chewing on, courtesy of Richard Landes]
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I want to take something that Richard Landes has been saying, abstract it from those conflicts to which Richard applies it, simplify it by removing one technical term that’s part of his detailed breakdown, and present it in as bare-bones a manner as I can manasge. You can see two of Richard’s own versions of the issue below.

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The basic question, as I understand it, is this:

How does a non-zero-sum move look to a zero-sum player, and vice versa?

Let’s suppose your entire background and upbringing revolves around the idea of zero-sum, you-win-I-lose games. If you see any sign of your adversary gaining an advantage in a negotiation, that’s proof positive that you’ve been bamboozled: somehow, you must have lost. Your job is to make no concessions — to be the winner in a winner-takes-all contest.

Now suppose your background and upbringing have revolved around the idea of non-zero-sum, win-win games, in which both sides of a negotiation make some concessions so that both can emerge as winners. You offer concessions in good faith, and in return you expect similar concessions.

What happens when a zero-sum game player and a non-zero-sum game player meet in play?

It’s Landes’ suggestion that any generosity on the part of a win-win player offering his winner-take-all opponent a concession will be taken as evidence of weakness,. and the opponent, far from making a corresponding compromise, will press on and demand more — making further nmoves which will offer so little that the win-win player will be at a loss to explain why such a promising start to bnegotiations fell apart so badly.

A further supposition: so-called honor-shame societies are geared for zero-sum, winner-takes-all gameplay, while societies which rely on an innocence-guilt reading of human behavior will be no less inclined toeards playing non-zero-sum, win-win games.

That’s the idea expressed in game-theoretic terms, as simply as I can put it. To my mind, these game considerations are worth thinking through in their own right, absent the specifics to which Richard Landes brings them.

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Here is Landes making the same point, in the context of Israeli relations with the Palestinians, the Arab and Muslim worlds, and European liberalism –all of the above broadly speaking:

And a text version, Cognitive Egocentrism, for those who find words fly home faster in print…

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Help me think this through.

Released, recidivist

Friday, July 31st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Jerusalem and San Francisco, religious and not ]
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Two recent cases of recidivism:

Today:

and just a short while ago:

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In making the comparison, it is worth considering that in one case there were multiple wounded victims, in the other one victim killed; that in one case there’s a very close correspondence between the earlier and later crimes, in the other not so much; that in once case the concept of sanctuary cities is involved, in the other not; that in one case there was a clear religious motive, while in the other, not; that one plays into a narrative on the right, the other on the left..

My personal interest will be to see whether the Jerusalem Pride stabber claims he acted, as did Phineas in Numbers 25, without consulting a religious authority — because he knew he was carrying out the will of G*d. Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzak Rabin, made that claim according to the late Israeli analyst, Ehud Sprinzak.


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