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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..

**

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.

**

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.

**

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.

**

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.

**

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.

**

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:

Finance v. Malthus

Friday, August 7th, 2015

[by Lynn C. Rees]

Listening to episodes of The History of England Podcast umpteen times as I code Java, TypeScript, *, &tc., I’ve heard host David Crowther (a “bloke in a shed”) make the point umpteen times that the primary job of a king of occupied Britain was to keep a firm hand on his barons. And what was the secret of successful kingly baronial management?

Evenhanded distribution of political patronage.

This Crowtherism appeals to me. A central pillar of my crackpottery is a personal rule of thumb I’ve flogged nearly umpteen times: politics is the division of power. You know you’re nigh unto umpteen when the POLITICS IS THE DIVISION OF POWER t-shirt goes on sale. We’re not there yet. Once more unto the umpteenth, dear friends, once more.

Patronage is always a significant share of any activity involved in dividing power, which is to say a significant share of all activity involving mankind. Like politics, death, or taxes, patronage is an inescapable marker of mortality. An almost as ineradicable characteristic of mortal man is a belief that patronage in its many guises can be dispensed with altogether, usually by tilting the division of power in favor of the right sort of bloke. A bloke, of course, whose primary qualification is that he agrees with us. And will (sotto voce) give we who uphold his right sortedness a greater division of power than the wrong sorted. Anyone who claims they can create a society made up of mortal men free of patronage or of its common subspecies like cronyism, redistribution, logrolling, &tc. is either a fool, a knave, or, worse, both. You don’t choose not have patronage: in making such an attempt, you merely choose another diversion for patronage.

Significant patronage is always diverted into the hands of barons. All flavors of power, however gradually, fall to those hands which most convincingly turn it into violent power. Baronial hands tend to be hands practiced (or regularly embraced by hands practiced) in the art of converting other forms of power into specifically violent power. Power is fungible: it can, with varying ease, be shifted from one form of power to another. “Purely” economic power, for example, is violent power in embryo. Inevitability will convert it into violent power, either sooner by incumbent baronial hands or, later, at the hands of barons who expropriate it from them.

The hard-faced Bretons, Normans, and frogs imported into occupied Britain after its conquest by Guillaume le Bâtard AKA “Billy the Conq” were not the sort who found walkable cities, attend symposiums, order gourmet lattes, or hang out at artistic cooperatives. They had one business: violence and its fruits. Managing these stone-faced entrepreneurs of violence and their descendants demanded the most stone-faced killer of the lot. In a Billy the Conq, Guillaume le Roux, Henri I, Henri II, Richard I, Edouard I, Edouard III, or Henry V, you find men who kept their barons tightly leashed, partly through stone-faced Murder Death Kill, partly through evenhanded division of power through bestowal of patronage. In a Jean sans Terre (“Too late to be known as John the First, He’s sure to be known as John the Worst“, as we sang incessantly as children), Henri III, Edouard II, Richard II, or Henry VI, you have men who never got the mix right, aggressively vacillating between puddy-faced killer and fickle font of uneven patronage. In a Stephen or Henri IV, you find men who managed to get by, but only just.

Some deserved sequels. Some make you wonder why they bothered making the original.

Frustrated barons usually expressed their frustration by doing what they did best: being violent. There was actually a legal process of withdrawing fealty, a sort of right bestowed by custom to rebel against the boss if you thought the boss was a jerk. But, as in any exercise of agency, the right to make a choice is only loosely connected with the right to choose its consequences. The right to rebel is not necessarily the same as the right to rebel successfully. You could be a baron as frustrated by Henri II as you’d be by his son Jean. However, as Jean only experienced fleeting moments of relief from his chronic buffoonery, you’d have a greater chance of rebelling successfully against Jean than you would against stone-cold Henri.

Many frustrated barons rebelled even against the most dread king. If they faced a strong baronial manager, they’d usually be crushed or, depending upon circumstances, bought off until they could be crushed. If they faced a weak baronial manager, there’s a chance they might not only grow their division of power, they might even get a turn at directing which troughs it’s poured into. It was very much a business decision, only with a distinct possibility of exit with extreme prejudice at the hands of the king if their enterprise failed.

Patronage was, and remains, inescapable. But its flow can be managed and its effects mitigated. Though baronial violence is the historical default for resolving disaffection over patronage, it’s not the only way to manage patronage and specifically baronial patronage profitably.

It’s certainly not the most productive.

“I work for crazy too.”, Here Clausewitz explains: Part II: Hu’s on first?

Saturday, June 6th, 2015
Tank Man

Tank Man

Let’s go back to June 5, 1989, to Peking, to this very spot. On arrival, recovering from a bad case of time lag, we notice Clausewitz’s disembodied floating head circling the scene. No one else see’s the Clausewitz head. A sensible disembodied floating head, the Clausewitz head has selectively cloaked itself in invisibility so it doesn’t draw the fire of the People’s Liberation Army, who were, understandably, jittery that day. Seeing the disembodied floating head of a long dead and much reviled Prussian military theorist is the sort of thing that would make a jumpy PLA peasant conscript fire indiscriminately into the middle of a major city. His superiors wouldn’t be amused. People’s Liberation Ammunition is supposed to be expended on unarmed civilians, not gwailo disembodied floating heads. The debriefing of this particular tank crew would be tense. Their final defense may come down to Marx, Lenin, and Mao’s favorable citations of the original bearer of this particular disembodied floating head.

Hail to the chief

Hail to the chief

Whether Tank Man would flee if he too could see the Clausewitz head is unknowable. Our only clue is Tank Man’s demonstrated courage in choosing to stand in front of a column of Type 59 tanks without the immediate assistance of his very own M-1A2 Abrams tank. If he could see the Clausewitz head, he might realize that, since he is neither a simpering Basil Liddell Hart, a sinister kitten-hating Martin Van Creveld, or some other purveyor of snake oil, he has nothing to fear from the Clausewitz head. In any event, none of the other participants in this historical vignette can see the Clausewitz head.

(more…)

Heavy breathing on the line: Crouching hero, Hidden nitwit

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

[dots connected by Lynn C. Rees]

Sigh

Sigh

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

Colonel Hamilton

Colonel Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton thought he knew. And who is Colonel Hamilton (as he so liked to be called) that he should know?

Not (then) Colonel Hamilton

Not (then) Colonel Hamilton

Recommendations on LinkedIn? Glowing:

Je considère Napoleon, Fox, et Hamilton comme les trois plus grands hommes de notre époque, et si je devais me prononcer entre les trois, je donnerais sans hesiter la première place à Hamilton. Il avait deviné l’Europe.

Reviews on RateMyFounder.com? Less glowing:

Consider, the profligacy of his life; his fornications, adulteries and his incests… lol 😉

[He is] an insolent coxcomb who rarely dined in good company, where there was good wine, without getting silly and vaporing about his administration like a young girl about her brilliants and trinkets, yet I lose all patience when I think of a bastard brat of a Scottish pedlar daring to threaten to undeceive the world in their judgment…This creature was in a delirium of ambition; he had been blown up with vanity by the tories, had fixed his eyes on the highest station in America, and he hated every man, young or old, who stood in his way or could in any manner eclipse his laurels or rival his pretensions.

lol :O

GLOWING HERO OF DESTINY:

How far Colo. Hamilton, of whom you ask my opinion as a financier, has turned his thoughts to that particular study I am unable to answer because I never entered upon a discussion on this point with him; but this I can venture to advance from a thorough knowledge of him, that there are few men to be found, of his age, who has a more general knowledge than he possesses, and none whose Soul is more firmly engaged in the cause, or who exceeds him in probity and Sterling virtue…

In every relation, which [he has] borne to me, I have found that my confidence in [his] talents, exertions and integrity, has been well placed. I the more freely render this testimony of my approbation, because I speak from opportunities of information which cannot deceive me, and which furnish satisfactory proof of [his] title to public regard.

fevered preening nitwit:

Hamilton’s character is extremely unfortunate. An opinion has grown out of it, which at present obtains almost universally, that his character is radically deficient in discretion, and therefore [we] ask, what avail the most preeminent talents—the most distinguished patriotism—without the all important quality of discretion? Hence he is considered as an unfit head…and we are in fact without a rallying point. :(

GLOWING HERO OF DESTINY:

Colonel Hamilton was indisputably pre-eminent. This was universally conceded. He rose at once to the loftiest heights of professional eminence by his profound penetration, his power of analysis, the comprehensive grasp and strength of his understanding, and the firmness, frankness, and integrity of his character.

He generally spoke with much animation and energy and with considerable gesture. His language was clear, nervous, and classical. His investigations penetrated to the foundation and reason of every doctrine and principle which he examined, and he brought to the debate a mind filled with all the learning and precedents applicable to the subject. He never omitted to meet, examine, and discover the strength or weakness, the truth or falsehood of every proposition with which he had to contend. His candor was magnanimous and rose to a level with his abilities. His temper was spirited but courteous, amiable and generous, and he frequently made pathetic and powerful appeals to the moral sense and patriotism, the fears and hopes of the assembly, in order to give them a deep sense of the difficulties of the crisis and prepare their minds…

fevered preening nitwit:

An indiscretion got him into trouble with W— for whom he served as confidential secretary; other indiscretions obliged him to leave C— in ?83. He has a little too much pretension and too little prudence.

He is only too impetuous and because he wants to control everything, he fails in his intentions. His eloquence is often out of place in public debates, where precision and clarity are preferred to a brilliant imagination. It is believed that Mr. Hamilton is the author of the pamphlet entitledThe Federalist. He has again missed his mark. This work is of no use to educated men and it is too learned and too long for the ignorant. lol 😉

It was in this Federalist that Col. Hamilton, one of the three fevered GLOWING nitwits OF DESTINY of his epoch, said what he thought Lucius Aemilius Paullus knew and when he knew it:

The experience of other Nations will afford little instruction on this head. As far, however, as it teaches anything, it teaches us not to be enamored of plurality in the Executive. We have seen that the Achæans, on an experiment of two Prætors, were induced to abolish one. The Roman history records many instances of mischiefs to the Republic from the dissensions between the Consuls, and between the Military Tribunes, who were at times substituted for the Consuls. But it gives us no specimens of any peculiar advantages derived to the State from the circumstance of the plurality of those magistrates. That the dissensions between them were not more frequent or more fatal, is a matter of astonishment, until we advert to the singular position in which the Republic was almost continually placed, and to the prudent policy pointed out by the circumstances of the State, and pursued by the Consuls, of making a division of the Government between them. The Patricians engaged in a perpetual struggle with the Plebeians for the preservation of their ancient authorities and dignities; the Consuls, who were generally chosen out of the former body, were commonly united by the personal interest they had in the defence of the privileges of their order. In addition to this motive of union, after the arms of the Republic had considerably expanded the bounds of its empire, it became an established custom with the Consuls to divide the administration between themselves by lot one; of them remaining at Rome to govern the city and its environs; the other taking the command in the more distant provinces. This expedient must, no doubt, have had great influence in preventing those collisions and rivalships which might otherwise have embroiled the peace of the Republic.

Boy

Undoubtedly inspired by Boy, the Aemili Paulli’s kept historian. And Boy did glow for Lucius Aemilius Paullus:

Next morning the two Consuls broke up their camp, and advanced to where they heard that the enemy were entrenched. On the second day they arrived within sight of them, and pitched their camp at about fifty stadia distance. But when Aemilius observed that the ground was flat and bare for some distance round, he said that they must not engage there with an enemy superior to them in cavalry; but that they must rather try to draw him off, and lead him to ground on which the battle would be more in the hands of the infantry.

He refused to let his glow so shine for Gaius Terentius Varro, Paullus’ consular colleague for 216 B.C.:

But Caius Terentius being, from inexperience, of a contrary opinion, there was a dispute and misunderstanding between the two leaders, which of all things is the most dangerous. It is the custom, when the two Consuls are present, that they should take the chief command on alternate days; and the next day happening to be the turn of Terentius, he ordered an advance with a view of approaching the enemy, in spite of the protests and active opposition of his colleague.

Hannibal set his light-armed troops and cavalry in motion to meet him, and charging the Romans while they were still marching, took them by surprise and caused a great confusion in their ranks. The Romans repulsed the first charge by putting some of their heavy-armed in front; and then sending forward their light-armed and cavalry, began to get the best of the fight all along the line: the Carthaginians having no reserves of any importance, while certain companies of the legionaries were mixed with the Roman light-armed, and helped to sustain the battle. Nightfall for the present put an end to a struggle which had not at all answered to the hopes of the Carthaginians.

GLOWING HERO OF DESTINY:

But next day Aemilius, not thinking it right to engage, and yet being unable any longer to lead off his army, encamped with two-thirds of it on the banks of the Apennines…For the other third of his army he caused a camp to be made across the river, to the east of the ford, about ten stades from his own lines, and a little more from those of the enemy; that these men, being on the other side of the river, might protect his own foraging parties, and threaten those of the enemy…Aemilius, dissatisfied with his position, and seeing that the Carthaginians would soon be obliged to shift their quarters for the sake of supplies, kept quiet in his camps, strengthening both with extra guards.

fevered preening nitwit:

After waiting a considerable time, when no one came out to attack him, Hannibal put the rest of the army into camp again, but sent out his Numidian horse to attack the enemy’s water parties from the lesser camp. These horsemen riding right up to the lines and preventing the watering, Caius Terentius became more than ever inflamed with the desire of fighting, and the soldiers were eager for a battle, and chafed at the delay. For there is nothing more intolerable to mankind than suspense; when a thing is once decided, men can but endure whatever out of their catalogue of evils it is their misfortune to undergo…When he took over the command on the following day, as soon as the sun was above the horizon, Caius Terentius got the army in motion from both the camps…

GLOWING HERO OF DESTINY:

Though he had been from the first on the right wing, and had taken part in the cavalry engagement, Lucius Aemilius still survived. Determined to act up to his own exhortatory speech, and seeing that the decision of the battle rested mainly on the legionaries, riding up to the center of the line he led the charge himself, and personally grappled with the enemy, at the same time cheering on and exhorting his soldiers to the charge…

Lucius Aemilius fell, in the thick of the fight, covered with wounds: a man who did his duty to his country at that last hour of his life, as he had throughout its previous years, if any man ever did. As long as the Romans could keep an unbroken front, to turn first in one direction and then in another to meet the assaults of the enemy, they held out; but the outer files of the circle continually falling, and the circle becoming more and more contracted, they at last were all killed on the field; and among them Marcus Atilius and Gnaeus Servilius, the Consuls of the previous year, who had shown themselves brave men and worthy of Rome in the battle.

fevered preening nitwit:

While this struggle and carnage were going on, the Numidian horse were pursuing the fugitives, most of whom they cut down or hurled from their horses; but some few escaped into Venusia, among whom was Caius Terentius, the Consul, who thus sought a flight, as disgraceful to himself, as his conduct in office had been disastrous to his country.

Contemptible, if true“, as our third Vice President once observed.

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

The possible unexpected consequences of intervention

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — wondering whether it can ever be possible to expect the unexpected, and if so, what exactly that might mean? Libya & Mali ]
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Alex Thurston at Sahel Blog: Covering Politics and Religion in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa posted Libya and Mali, Part I today. The topic is one I am not qualified to comment on, although I’m trying to learn from those (such as AT) who are — but this sentence caught my eye and got me writing:

A failure to soberly consider the possible unexpected consequences of intervention and transition has helped chaos to develop in post-Qadhafi Libya.

I wonder if that’s a koan?

**

Is it ever possible to “soberly consider the possible unexpected consequences” of anything? Consider Donald Rumsfeld‘s remark:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

Throw in the missing fourth category, supplied by somebody for Wikipedia:

Moreover, one may criticize Rumsfeld statement for omitting the most dangerous type of unknown: the “unknown known”. That is, as Mark Twain famously expressed it, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you think you know that just ain’t so”. Indeed, Rumsfeld was really discussing an “unknown known” which provided faulty justification for the war — members of the Bush administration claimed that the Iraqi government possessed weapons of mass destruction (see Rationale_for_the_Iraq_War), but it just wasn’t so.

**

Now allow for what you might call informed guess-work, what CS Peirce called abduction — I’m just now introducing my elder son to Eco & Sebeok‘s magnificent book, The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce — and “non-predictive” attempts to lay out a spread of possible outcomes by means of scenario-planning, as Tom Barnett wrote in his Year 2000 International Security Dimension Project Final Report:

By “decision scenario approach,” we mean using credible scenarios to create awareness among relevant decision-makers regarding the sort of strategic issues and choices they are likely to face if the more stressing pathways envisioned come to pass.

and:

Again, none of our material here is meant to be predictive in the sense of providing a step-by-step “cookbook” approach to Y2K and Millennial Date Change crisis management. Our fundamental goal in collecting and synthesizing this analysis is to avoid any situation where US military decision makers and/or operational commanders would find themselves in seemingly uncharted territory and declare, “I had no idea . . ..”

We (myself at times included) seem to be busily employed making non-predictive predictions.

**

Black swansNassim Nicholas Taleb may have been the one who most recently crept up behind us and clapped loudly to alert us to the unexpected, but Stéphane Mallarmé was there first in 1897 with the great graphical poem Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard, featured in the lower image of the pair at the top of this post.

My own “zen telegram” version, for those who neither know the poem nor read French:

A ROLL OF THE DICE

NEVER

not even when tossed sub specie aeternitatis from the depth of a shipwreck

WILL NEVER EVER ABOLISH

CHANCE

— now there’s a koan for our times — and always.

**

Listen to the poets…

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future, sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walk’d among the ancient trees…

**

Sources and links:

  • Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard from Wikipedia
  • le début de la typographie moderne by Étienne Mineur with page images
  • Un coup de dés, French original and English translation, by AS Kline

  • See that voice of the Bard, William Blake

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