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Archive for September 1st, 2005

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

BLOGGING AS A CREATIVE FEEDBACK LOOP

The other day Dr. Barnett posted at length on how blogging related to his productivity as a writer and conceptual thinker. It’s a good post on a number of levels.

First, it more fully illuminated the role of one Critt Jarvis as someone who was more than just a webmaster. I always suspected as much from reading Critt’s very occasional posts on his own blogs [ Critt likes to post quarterly I believe :O) ] where he’d hint at some very interesting subjects; from his bio on the old New Rule-Sets Project site; or from things I heard through email. It is now evident that Critt was a driving force in many aspects of Dr. Barnett’s own
” connectivity” in a way that put him way ahead of the curve compared to most other authors of foreign policy books.

Secondly, in terms of general interest it offers insight to a creative process most readers never see and seldom think about when holding the book as a finished product in their hand. This is something I’ve been curious about for a while because I’ve contemplated writing a book for a number of years. I’ve held off partly due to the tender age of the kids since my time is better spent with them; partly because I have not quite decided on ” the” subject, being interested in a lot of esoteric fields; and partly due to a need to learn more about the writing and publishing process. Toward that end I’ve done some research, pestered the always graciously patient Geitner Simmons for updates on his book project and picked the brain of a co-worker who is a successful writer of mysteries ( 5 books so far I think, and some kind of movie/TV deal) under a pen name. So, it was helpful to read about the creative steps Tom was going through as BFA was taking shape.

Thirdly, the post illustrates the blogosphere’s immense capacity as a synergistic feedback loop and sorting mechanism to bring intellects together who might not ever have been in contact otherwise. Along that line, Dr. Barnett was very kind to acknowledge my small contributions to his work and he also cited T.M. Lutas, Michael Lotus and Sean Meade in particular. All of us happened to get in contact only because Critt had talked Tom into setting up a blog. Obviously I’ve drawn a lot of intellectual energy from PNM discussions but I have to say there were many times that I felt a similar powerful resonance while bouncing ideas back and forth with Marc Schulman, Jeff Medcalf, Curzon, Younghusband and Chirol and especially Dan of tdaxp and Dave Schuler. These guys are intellectual peers and blogfriends who have really pushed me to think hard at times.

( Two others Collounsbury and Pundita, who mix like oil and fire, served a different role, occasionally, by sharply questioning my assumptions. in their own hard-edged, sometimes vehement, sometimes witty, highly distinctive manners. This is not the same function as the creative feedback loop but it’s also an invaluable one. Valid criticism does not hurt, it makes you a stronger thinker if you can integrate it and adapt. Invalid criticism you ignore. Wisdom is being able to discern the difference)

Prior to the advent of the internet and in particular the blogosphere, these sorts of group exchanges rarely happened outside of think tanks and universities. Corporate culture discouraged free exchange for reasons of power hierarchy and business focus that encouraged, by subtlety or coercion, extensive groupthink. Politics and law are highly adversarial, competitive, fields where the thinking style is dominated primarily by zero-sum mentalities and vertically-oriented perspectives.

The person who figures out how to productively harnesses this latent, horizontally-directed, creative feedback loop that is inherent in the blogosphere in order to drive an economic entity is going to make a significant mark.

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Thursday, September 1st, 2005

MOGADISHU ON THE MISSISSIPPI

Confusion reigns in New OrleansJohn Robb’s Blog

Urban Warzone” by Jeremiah at Organic Warfare

Anarchy in New Orleans ” by Curzon at Coming Anarchy

Troops to Quadruple New Orleans Police ForceAssociated Press

There’s a lot of blame to go around for conditions in New Orleans, operationally and systemically but a good demonstration is being made that in America, as in Iraq, desperately needed constructive and humanitarian work cannot take place in a security vacuum.

Security comes first. And that gets established in a dicey situation in terms of mass psychology by setting a shockingly harsh example with the first looters and then using the moment to swarm the area with boots. Lots of them. Whomever held police and troops back ( or failed to give clear orders, intentionally shifting the legal responsibility to the outnumbered cop or guardsman on a flooded streetcorner) from shooting looters out of stupidity or concern for ” how things would look on TV” has a lot of deaths on their head right now.

Civilization is a fragile thing. Thanks to roaming gangs with guns made possible by governmental incompetence,we now have a situation that could unravel a lot further if we give these inchoate criminal mobs time to organize themselves. The U.S. military needs to step in now even if it means pulling a few combat and military police units from Iraq temporarily. And then massive relief aid needs to follow fast ( you can donate to the Red Cross here ). The penny-ante effort detailed by the AP is not enough.

Bush has, at most, a few days left to get his hands around this one. Yes, the nation and even New Orleans will ultimately survive this crisis but the president’s administration is going to take quite a hit if they don’t get their heads in the game.

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Thursday, September 1st, 2005

FIXING THE CIA

A veteran of clandestine operations, Garrett Jones, has a spot-on set of recommendations in an essay posted at FPRI. An excerpt:

Management versus Leadership

Never in senior officers’ entire careers within the DO will they be evaluated on their leadership ability. There is no leadership training. The Agency’s position is that it evaluates and trains its senior officers in management ability, but there is a substantial difference between the two concepts: leadership requires inspiring people, while management involves stewardship of resources. The U.S. military observes this distinction: their doctrine is that one leads people and manages non-human resources. Managing, instead of leading, people is to treat people as commodities.

Case officers are often called upon to do dangerous and difficult things in dangerous and unpleasant places. The senior officer who wrote a particularly effective memo on reducing the costs associated with the use of rental cars may be a wonderful person, but he may not be the person to call the shots when officers’ lives are endangered in some far-off place among hostile people.

Leadership can be taught. The military academies do it every year with 18-year-olds. Leadership can be objectively evaluated, the easiest way being to look back and see if anyone is following you. Intelligence work in the field demands extraordinary things in difficult circumstances. Those performing this work need to be led by senior officers who know the difference between leadership and management. The Agency’s senior officers should be evaluated on their leadership abilities before they are promoted.”

The sections on ” jointness”, the DI, personnel policy and my favorite, the one entitled ” Palsied by Lawyers”are equally apt.

Perhaps it would be cheaper, more effective and bureaucratically efficient to simply keep the CIA out there as the brightly lit convenient Congrssional/Media fall guy, target of foreign intelligence services, and training ground in basic intel work and create an entirely new deep black agency on a hyperlean network model to go do the clandestine work the CIA is too hamstrung or unwilling to do. It would save years of time and billions of dollars and by virtue of
of being small it could be disbanded quickly when it inevitably was ” outed” in some future scandal.

And then reformed.

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Thursday, September 1st, 2005

THE DANGEROUS INTELLECTUALS OF EMPTY EUROPEANISM

Via Lubos Motl, we come across what may be the equivalent of Churchill’s ” Iron Curtain” speech, aimed at the European Union and the Transnational Progressive apparat by Czech President Vaclav Klaus:

“These alternative ideologies, in their unclear, unstable and yet undescribed potential synergy, are successful especially where there is no sufficient resistance to them, where they find a fertile soil for their flourishing, where they find a country (or the whole continent) where freedom (and free markets) have been heavily undermined by long lasting collectivistic dreams and experiences and where intellectuals have succeeded in getting and maintaining a very strong voice and social status. I have in mind, of course, rather Europe, than America. It is Europe, where we witness the crowding out of democracy by post democracy, where the EU dominance replaces democratic arrangements in the EU member countries, where the Hayek’s “paragovernment”, connected with organized (because organizable) interests is successful in guiding policy, and where even some of the liberals – in their justified criticism of the state – do not see the dangers of empty Europeanism and of a deep (and ever deeper) but only bureaucratic unification of the whole European continent. They applaud the growing formal opening of the continent, but do not see that the elimination of some of the borders without actual liberalization of human activities “only” shifts governments upwards, which means to the level where there is no democratic accountability and where the decisions are made by politicians appointed by politicians, not elected by citizens in free elections.”

Read the whole thing here.

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