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Archive for November, 2005

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

THE PARTISANSHIP OF A GENTLER ERA PROVIDES A LESSON FOR TODAY

” A military leader is accustomed to giving orders and getting them carried out. He has no political, legislative or business experience. He’s an American hero elected in a democratic election and treading on new fields. He’ll need help. Remember that we are Americans first and Democrats second.

Remember, any jackass can kick over a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one”

– Sam Rayburn ( D-Tx) 1953, speaking to House Democrats about the
newly inaugurated President, Dwight Eisenhower.


Can you imagine a party leader in Congress today saying such a thing about a president who was from the other political party ? I think Nancy Pelosi might prefer to see her tongue turn to sand.

Incidentally, the voters rewarded Rayburn’s constructive engagement strategy in 1956 by returning the Democratic Party to a majority in the House of Representatives and Rayburn to the Speakership, which ” Mr. Sam” held until his death in 1961.

Compare that to the electoral records of the House Republicans and Democrats when they employed ” scorched earth” political tactics against Clinton and Bush. You take care of your wingnut base by by throwing it red meat at the times when doing so causes the party no harm; you don’t let the base start dictating the feeding schedule.

The Republican base is standing on chairs and clanging tin cups on the table. The Democratic base has commandeered the kitchen and is now ransacking the refrigerator.

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Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

THE PAPER TRAIL LENGTHENS…

Marc Schulman of American Future has finished the second part to his series deconstructing the evolution of The New York Times on Iraq.

Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

CREATIVITY AS THE KEY TO ESCAPING THE TYRANNY OF SELF-REFERENTIAL PARADIGMS

Only a short post for now as work is surging today – and blogging is my way of procrastinating . Actually, this post topic relates directly to my actual job, so strictly speaking, this still counts as ” work” :o)

Several things have caught my eye that relate to one another, though not in an obvious way.

First, the esteemed Drs. Eide of The Neurolearning Blog drew my attention with this post to a set of online tests by Texas Tech University that are indicators for creativity. Take a few of them as they are short. I personally like giving people the nonverbal ones best because the results do not get hijacked by idiosyncratic linguistic habits intefering with comprehension

Secondly, Art Hutchinson the strategic thinking guru and founder of Cartegic Group has a post up on his Mapping Strategy blog on ‘The Young Arab Leaders Conference’ and Scenario Planning ( For more on the conference itself, go here. For the purpose and utility of scenario exercises, go here).

Art’s comment on the Conference ( which incidentally is a good idea in my view) was as follows:

“Given the complexity of what’s going on in the region right now (Iraq being only a part), it would be a shame if the scenarios they discuss are entirely focused on oil and gas. As a tool, scenarios are deeply embedded into the planning cultures of many oil and gas companies (Shell being the most well known.) Properly applied however, they’re at least as powerful for strategic planners in other industries (including government) to holistically think through the interlocking issues (e.g., social, political, military, demographic, religious, constitutional, etc.) that the entire region is facing over the next few years. Oil and gas will be just a part of that picture – albeit a fairly big part.”

I agree. Now I will add my two cents:

In getting the participants to engage in scenarios the facilitators are going to be bumping up against a political-cultural reinforcement of the powerful human tendency to become imprisoned in self-referential paradigms. All human cultural and organizational groups are affected by this tendency to varying degrees regardless of whether we are discussing Americans, corporate CEOs, Salafis, Lawyers, String theorists, members of organized crime, Episcopalian clergy – you name it, if a collective body is at all cohesive then over time ” groupthink” emerges.

In the Arab world, you have authoritarian governmental systems, secular and religious ideologies like pan-Arabism, Anti-colonialism or Islamism and in some places the legacy of tribal societal rule-sets all converging to stifle the critical dialogue required to actually solve problems. The closest American equivalent to this effect – and it isn’t a very good analogy except insofar as it too was reinforced by the possibility of private and state violence – was the issue of race and the color line in the Jim Crow South. Attempts at rational public discussion on a whole range of policy issues were either grotesqely distorted or stymied because they might call the precepts of segregation into question. As a consequence, the South remained the most economically undeveloped region of the United States until the 1970’s when de jure segregation was dismantled.

Because the hot button issues in the Arab World are so numerous right now – Women’s rights, Israel, free-market liberalization, democracy, Westernization – the scenario facilitators might gain the most productive results from devising depoliticized hypotheticals and concentrating on horizontal thinking solutions to systems-based problems that do not easily ” fit” the shopworn but emotionally negative frames that block so much potential progress in the Mideast. If the Conference yields answers that can be expressed in a script that does not alert vested interests to mobilize to defend their broken status quo, then the ideas generated will have some chance, however slim, of being realized on the ground.

More on horizontal thinking:

Ed DeBono ” Lateral Thinking & Parallel Thinking”

Think Horizontally and Vertically

Horizontal Learning

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Monday, November 28th, 2005

ROBB ON BOBBITT’S “VIRTUAL-STATE” EPOCHAL WAR

John Robb of Global Guerillas gives an endorsement to, and a sneak peak at, Philip Bobbitt’s yet to be released book, War Against Terror ( John has it :” Terror, Can We Win This War” and Amazon also lists it as just plain ” Terror” – so, the lack of a single working title indicates that we are getting a look fairly early into the publishing process – cool !). Here’s an excerpt from Robb’s post (Bobbitt quote is in italics):

‘…Whereas the nation-state based its legitimacy on a promise to better the material well-being of the nation, the market-state promises to maximize the opportunity of each individual citizen. The current conflict is one of several possible wars of the market-states as they seek to open up societies to trade in commerce, ideas, and immigration which excite hostility in those groups that want to use law to enforce religious or ethnic orthodoxy. States make war, not brigands; and the Al Qaeda network is a sort of virtual state, with a consistent source of finance, a recognized hierarchy of officials, foreign alliances, an army, published laws, even a rudimentary welfare system…’

This is a very useful framework by which to view the current conflict. It is also a natural compliment to Global Guerrillas — the rise of the virtual state, its new methods of warfare, and its impact on the world is a subject of my work here “

To echo the comments I left over at Global Guerillas, I much prefer Dr. Bobbitt’s shift of emphasis to ” Virtual-State” because:

a)It cuts to the heart of the conflict regarding globalization

b)”Virtual-State” as a term embraces a wide variety of non-state networks with starkly different motivations/aspirations in seeking to exercise state-like power ( Narco-State, Sharia-State, Tribal-State etc.)

c)It is an accurate structural/organizational descriptor of a networked entity.

My criticism from the other day has been pretty much rendered moot as Bobbitt is now articulating both the economic system conflict at the root of the war and the critical impact that scale free networks are having in globalization, warfare and politics.

Color me ” impressed”.

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Monday, November 28th, 2005

ON MUSIC AND WAR [ Updated]

This post is more of a cultural question I’d like answered from someone in the know.

If you watch the film Braveheart and you see the Scots assembling at Stirling under William Wallace to fight the dastardly English, there are of course, bagpipes playing. Loud, cacophonous and brash – before the Scots ( after the inspiring speech by Mel Gibson, of course) in age-old Celtic style, adorned with blue paint, scream horrific insults at the English and work themselves into a barbaric frenzy.

Or if you are a fan of The History Channel you can’t but help notice in their innumerable WWII documentaries the extent to which the Nazis resorted to music – Deutschland Uber Alles, The Horst Wessel Lied, Wagner, chanting or singing in unison, masses of drums or horns – to mobilize the spirit of Nazi and Wehrmacht formations right down to the rhythmic march of jackboots on pavement.

Traditional, American martial music is either religious – The Battle Hymn of The Republic – or John Philip Sousa - rousing, cheery and optimistic – or sonorous and lonely like Taps played at The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. However, it must be noted that since at least the invasion of Panama, psychological warfare against the enemy has involved the blasting of nonstop Rock music.

So, is there a deep cultural connection between how a nation makes music and how it makes war? Are the complex symphonies of the 18th century a reflection of the exquisitely disciplined field manuevers of Europe’s small and highly-trained professional armies before the coming of the Levee en Masse ? Does music and warfare simply adapt to the spirit of the times ?

Or do they shape their time and each other as well ?

UPDATE:

Some excellent comments – in particular this one by Curtis demands attention:

“…In fact, tones can also be used metrically or rhythmically in opposition or agreement to the meters and have a way of tying content to rhythms. How long a tone is held — the length of the note in song or of the syllable in spoken languages — can point at key ideas/themes. What is particularly interesting about this is the differentiation of languages: different languages use these musical structures differently. (Some are more tone-based, some are quantitative — i.e., hold sounds for particular lengths — etc.) So, from this perspective, different types of music might be deeply related to different languages and thus to different cultures. “

Any linguists care to comment ?

Also thanks to Younghusband for the link !

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