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The DARPA arts

[ by Charles Cameron ]


Blog-friend Cameron Schaefer has a piece up at Small Wars Journal today in which he quotes Boyd (writing that his approach “incorporated science, but more closely approximated the often chaotic, creative impulses of art”) and Mahan (“art, out of materials which it finds about, creates new forms in endless variety”), and concludes:

Approaching strategy in an indirect fashion, as more of an art than science may make some uneasy, specifically those who find safe haven in the concreteness of checklists and formulas. Yet, the nature of strategy reflects the nature of the world. It is infinitely complex, it is always changing and it is filled with humans that often do irrational things. Literature (see Charles Hill) and psychology have as much of a place at the strategy table as military history… as do mathematics, physics, political science and technology. So, when asking, “what must one study to be a great strategist?” the answer seems to be, “everything else.”

Okay, so that (and Hill‘s work, which Zen reviewed recently) gives us the significance of the arts in strategic thinking which, one hopes, is practiced before going in to battle, and may indeed give one second thoughts about it…


Literature and the arts are also important after battle, though – and the US Military and DARPA have clearly been thinking about that side of things:


Sources: ComicsPlays

Poetry? meh… Sophocles? Chlanna nan con thigibh a so’s gheibh sibh feoil!


Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox in The Imperial Animal characterize modern health care as the “bureaucratization of mercy” and propose that for comparison, we set it beside:

the Greek ideal of the hospital as the place with the best food, the finest furnishings and paintings, and the most skilled musicians and comedians.

The greatest healing center in ancient Greece was the Asclepion at Epidavros / Epidaurus, which housed an amphitheater that could seat more than ten thousand people for dramatic and musical performances without amplification.

At Epidavros, patients would be healed by watching those same dramas of Sophocles to which the US Army is now turning for therapeutic relief in Guantanamo — for as Tiger and Fox (what a pair of names) go on to argue:

It is not the healthy, but the sick who most vitally needed such agreeable and re-creative stimuli; and the resources the community had were most beneficially and sanely used in helping them ease their personal disarray and feel encouraged by this display of their community’s careful concern.


It’s also interesting to note that the graphic novel Silver Shields mentioned in Axe‘s piece as a precursor to DARPA’s “Online Graphic Novel/Sequential Art Authoring Tools for Therapeutic Storytelling” project is “set during the ancient Greek invasion of Afghanistan more than two millenniums ago” as a metaphor for America’s current situation…

One Response to “The DARPA arts”

  1. J. Scott Says:

    Beautiful post, Charles! The art jumps out; the art of attempting "sense-making" and doing so in unusual, but potentially meaningful ways.

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