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Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Top Billing! Global Guerrillas –Drones and Operational Maneuverability 

….Drones are currently in the process of being outfitted with insect mobility — bees to ants to fleas.  However, that mobility is of diminished use given the limitations on decision making complexity (beyond what’s required mobility).  

That decision making limitation will be fixed in the next decade, as inexpensive computing horsepower and bio-mimicry allows us to outfit drones with more complex mammalian behaviors (think rat).   

In fact, given that this decision making capacity will become merely a function of inexpensive hardware/software, it will become a throw away feature.  You can turn it up or down depending on need without any thought the expense involved.  

This implies a pretty efficient combo of dumbed down drones operating as part of a swarm, reacting to stigmergic signalling, and more rodent like behavior when operating as individuals. 

The Glittering Eye – Alien vs. Predator 

When I read this comment:

I don’t see it that way. I don’t think it’s about race, I think it’s about his status as a member of the Ivy League elite. He doesn’t understand “typical white people” but then neither does Mitt Romney.

my immediate reaction was “Yeah. 100% of blacks in America were raised by white people in Indonesia and Hawaii.”

Carl Prine –General Discontent


 The emails began circulating yesterday, all extolling the brilliance of retired U.S. Army LTG David Melcher as a good example of the “disruptive thinker,” his Ranger-honed brain sculpted by the best of the Army and unleashed now as a titan of entrepreneurship, his eyes burning as green as sawbucks in the jungle of Wall Street’s night.

Well, can you blame them?  I know I can’t.  Their applause for Melcher’s bio arrives at a historical moment, one that finds too many current and former soldiers intoxicated with a bit of maverick humbuggery championed by Lt. Benjamin Kohlmann on Small Wars Journal  – an argument so clumsy that he, no joke, suggests that the best way to shake up the stifling complacency of the military bureaucracies is to send junior officers to business school, most especially the one at Harvard. 

….To sell the innovative fusion that apparently occurs whenever we link – again, no joke – “cryogeneticists with F/A-18 pilots,” Kohlmann rambles on about fripperies as diverse as the iPhone, its godfather with deep pockets Steve Jobs, science fiction writer Orson Scott Card, dead USAF Col. John Boyd, the Myspace of living USN Adm. James Stavridis, three-named mediocrity Joshua Cooper Ramo, then some jumbled half-thoughts about crowdsourcing, terrorists and swarming drones all designed to answer a question he doesn’t really ask:   Why do it?  Who already benefits from today’s hidebound bureaucracy? 

Granted, I don’t think that even one of Kohlmann’s examples of Harvard’s entrepreneurial spirit ever attended HBS, but perhaps their accountants and personal wealth managers did. 

SWJ (Peter J. Munson) –Disruptive Thinkers: Defining the Problem


Benjamin Kohlmann’s essay, “The Military Needs More Disruptive Thinkers,” struck a chord like no other essay published recently in the Small Wars Journal.  In brutal honesty, I have to say that the many sniping comments struck exposed flesh.  While an ardent fan of Kohlmann’s essay, I have to agree that his argument was more akin to birdshot at maximum range than a mailed fist to the throat of the problem.  Perhaps a better analogy is that his was a marking round lobbed in the general vicinity of the problematic enemy fire.  Whatever it was, it was a wildly popular read.  For all the comments on the article, the one that rang truest with me came from commener “Null Hypothesis” and asked, “What problem are we trying to solve again?”  This was absolutely the right question.

Kohlmann called for disruptive thinkers, but the real question is why?  And what are we disrupting?  We cannot waste time with harassment and interdiction fires.  We must define what targets we are servicing….

Infinity Journal (Frank Hoffman)– The Myth of the Post-Power Projection Era

CTOvision (Alex Olesker) –Fighting Cyber Crime with Transparency 

Wilson Quarterly – Pakistan’s Most Dangerous Place 


Recommended Viewing:

Games and doctrines, scriptures and interpretations

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — exploring a possible parallel between the interpretation of prophecies and the simulation of irregular operations ]

Well, not exactly, but you get the drift…

We seem to have been in the business of prophesying or predicting the future, especially with regard to warfare, for millennia. Wargaming and scenario planning are at least arguably just the latest souped-up, hi-tech versions of an age-old trade…


The other day on Zenpundit, I quoted Bernard McGinn, the dean of apocalyptic studies, contrasting Martin Luther‘s approach to interpreting Revelation with that of such earlier eschatologists as Joachim of Fiore:

Earlier interpreters, such as Joachim (but not Augustine), had also claimed to find a consonance between Revelation’s prophecies and the events of Church history, but they had begun with Scripture and used it as a key to unlock history. Paradoxically, Luther, the great champion of the biblical word, claimed that history enabled him to make sense of Revelation…

Translating that into contemporary terms – does the believer scour the news media in search of evidence of “where we are” in an already defined end times scenario based on Revelation, or search Revelation to find a way to make sense of current events and breaking news?

That may seem a tricky question, and the empirical answer may be that believers shift back and forth between scripture and news, constantly adjusting their interpretation of each to fit the other.


And yet there are some issues where the question comes more sharply into focus. If the 1948 creation of the State of Israel is a significant marker in the prophetic timeline –- as it is both for many Christian readers of apocalyptic literature and for many Muslims too -– then certain other things must happen.

Thus J. Daniel Hays and colleagues write in the Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times (Zondervan, 2009):

One of the more popular views among Christians in the United States and Canada is that the creation of the modern state of Israel is a literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. In this view, a literal understanding of the Old Testament prophecies of the end times demands a physical state of Israel in Palestine; thus the creation of this state after hundreds of years is seen not only as a fulfillment, but as a sign that the end times are drawing near.

Many writers, primarily classic dispensationalists, state that with the formation of modern Israel, the world political stage is set for the unfolding of end-time events (see DISPENSATIONALISM, CLASSICAL). Some early writers went so far as to argue that when Israel was created in 1948, an end-times “time clock” began that would be fulfilled within one generation. They derived this understanding primarily from Mark 13:30, where after speaking of the end times, Jesus stated that “this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.” Some writers believed that the end would come before 1988, or forty years (ie, one generation) after 1948.


In line with this, Hal Lindsey discusses the fig tree parable of Matthew 24.32-34 in his best-selling Late Great Planet Earth, published in 1970:

Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Lindsey then writes:

But the most important sign in Matthew has to be the restoration of the Jews to the land in the rebirth of Israel… When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under relentless persecutiomn, became a nation again on 14 May 1948 the “fig tree” put forth its first leaves.

Jesus said that this would indicate that He was “at the door,” ready to return. Then He said, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34 NASB).

What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs – chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place…

Within forty years or so of 1948 — and now it’s 2012.


Indeed, one of Lindsey’s readers quoted Lindsey’s Late Great Plan Earth in his own book, The Day of Wrath, published at the tun of the millennium in 2000:

The large Jewish presence in Palestine which has not been seen in two thousand years. Hal Lindsey says in The Late Great Planet Earth that before the establishment of the State of Israel none of the future events were clearly understood, but now that that has occurred, the countdown has begun for the occurrence of the indicator events connected to all of the types of prophecy, and on the basis of the prophecies, the entire world will focus on the middle-east, and especially Israel in the last days.

That reader was Sheikh Safar al-Hawali — a writer known to bin Laden, who had read at least one of his earlier books — and in The Day of Wrath al-Hawali, using techniques of scriptural interpretation he borrowed from Hal Lindsey, calculated that the victorious armies of the jihad would re-take Jerusalem in 2012.

Which would fit nicely with a certain hadith — al-Hawali does not mention it — which describes a victorious army sweeping from Khorasan to Jerusalem under black banners …

Happily, both authors are wise enough to note that their own scriptures declare that “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24.36) and “Verily the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah alone” (Qur’an 31.34).


And all this is what sprang to mind, when I read NDU CASL roundtable and talk in Rex Bynum Rex Brynen‘s fine PAXsims blog today.

Perhaps that’s not so surprising: the human mind is still the human mind, still driven by what al-Hawali calls the “innate yearning of mankind to unveil the future”.


Bynum Brynen’s post describes Mike Markowitz of the Center for Naval Analyses talking about some research CNA had been doing into wargaming “irregular operations” and notes:

In his presentation, Mike drew a distinction at one point between simulation “modeling” and “representation,” the former more appropriate for the physics of kinetic operations, while the latter highlights the importance of narrative (as well as the inherent “fuzziness” of diplomatic, social, and economic factors — especially in irregular warfare). A large part of Joe’s presentation also touched upon the challenge of validating simulations of insurgency with their substantial DIME (Diplomatic/ Information/Military/Economic) or PMESII (Political/Military/Economic/Social/Infrastructure/ Information) elements.

We’re getting pretty close to the qualitative modeling or mapping of thoughts here, which interests me a great deal as the designer of “thinking games” — so Bynum Brynen definitely had my attention here.

But it was his next point that seemed to me to offer a close parallel to Bernard McGinn’s contrast between Joachim’s and Luther’s methods of interpreting Revelation:

With regard to gaming COIN, then, one is faced with a challenge. Does one build dynamics into the game that reflect doctrinal assumptions about the way the world works? Or does one build a model of the world and then see how doctrine (or alternative doctrinal approaches) work, thereby encouraging original, critical thinking? In the former case, how does one avoid building a simulation that confirms existing approaches because it is, in essence, biased from the outset to do so? In the latter case, where does one derive that alternative model from?


Obviously, in both cases it’s best to find a shoe that fits the foot, rather than to shoe-horn a foot into a shoe that really doesn’t fit it.

But the same question needs to be answered in each case: which is to be the shoe, and which the foot?

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