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Alice’s Wonderland Battlespace

[ by Charles Cameron — terrain, IDF, inverse geometry, Necker cube, apocalyptic signs ]

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wonderland-battlespace.jpg

I’ve just read one of those astounding paragraphs that leaves the mind reeling. Some of you will no doubt already be aware of the work of Israeli architect Eyal Weizman, but for me, his paper Lethal Territory is new ground:

The maneuver conducted by units of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi, as inverse geometry, the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of microtactical actions. During the battle, soldiers moved within the city across hundred-meter-long “overground-tunnels” carved through a dense and contiguous urban fabric. Although several thousand soldiers and several hundred Palestinian guerrilla fighters were maneuvering simultaneously in the city, they were so “saturated” within its fabric that very few would have been visible from an aerial perspective at any given moment. Furthermore, soldiers used none of the streets, roads, alleys, or courtyards that constitute the syntax of the city, and none of the external doors, internal stairwells, and windows that constitute the order of buildings, but rather moved horizontally through party walls, and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as “infestation”, sought to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. Rather than submit to the authority of conventional spatial boundaries and logic, movement became constitutive of space. The three-dimensional progression through walls, ceilings, and floors across the urban balk reinterpreted, short-circuited, and recomposed both architectural and urban syntax. The IDF’s strategy of “walking through walls” involved a conception of the city as not just the site, but the very medium of warfare — a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.

Where do I begin?

* * *

1. For sheer creativity, this reversal of our normal understanding of space is both audacious and brilliant.

2. In terms of the way the humans living in that space experience the tactic, it must have been – must be – extraordinary – shock and awe on the scale of the individual family and its dwelling. Weizman quotes a Palestinian woman’s response:

Imagine it – you’re sitting in your living room, which you know so well; this is the room where the family watches television together after the evening meal. .. And, suddenly, that wall disappears with a deafening roar, the room fills with dust and debris, and through the wall pours one soldier after the other, screaming orders. You have no idea if they’re after you, if they’ve come to take over your home, or if your house just lies on their route to somewhere else. The children are screaming, panicking. . Is it possible to even begin to imagine the horror experienced by a five-year-old child as four, six, eight, twelve soldiers, their faces painted black, submachine guns pointed everywhere, antennas protruding from their backpacks, making them look like giant alien bugs, blast their way through that wall?

3. It has a past, there’s nothing entirely new under the sun:

Similarly, the strategy of walking through walls, as Israeli architect Sharon Rotbard reminds us, is reinvented for every urban battle in response to local conditions. It was first described in Marshal Thomas Bugeaud’s 1849 draft of La Guerre des Rues et des Maisons, in the context of anti-insurgency tactics used in the class-based urban battles of 19th-century Paris. Instead of storming the barricades from the front, Bugeaud recommended entering the barricaded block at a different location and “mouse-holing” along “over-ground tunnels” that cut across party walls, then taking the barricade by surprise from the flank. On the other side of the barricades and a decade later, Louis-August Blanqui wrote this microtactical maneuver into his Instructions pour une prise d’armes.

* * *

4. Quite apart from the notion of “inverse geometry” there’s a thread here that concerns mapping and deserves investigation. First, there’s this quote in Weizman’s essay from Walter Benjamin:

I have long, indeed for years, played with the idea of setting out the sphere of life — bios — graphically on a map. First I envisaged an ordinary map, but now I would incline to a general staff’s map of a city center, if such a thing existed. Doubtless it does not, because of the ignorance of the theatre of future wars.

Then, in a paper on forming a “coherent mental map of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, Weizman writes

A new understanding of territory had to be developed to govern the West Bank. The Occupied Territories were no longer seen as a two-dimensional surface, but as a large three-dimensional volume, layered with strategic, religious and political strata.

Later in the same piece, we can find Weizman’s description of a “politics of verticality” along with its vivid quote from Benveniste:

New and intricate frontiers were invented, like the temporary borders later drawn up in the Oslo Interim Accord, under which the Palestinian Authority was given control over isolated territorial ‘islands’, but Israel retained control over the airspace above them and the sub-terrain beneath.

This process might be described as the ‘politics of verticality’. It began as a set of ideas, policies, projects and regulations proposed by Israeli state-technocrats, generals, archaeologists, planners and road engineers since the occupation of the West Bank, severing the territory into different, discontinuous layers.

The writer Meron Benvenisti described the process as crashing “three-dimensional space into six dimensions – three Jewish and three Arab”. Former US president Bill Clinton sincerely believed in a vertical solution to the problem of partitioning the Temple Mount. Settlement Masterplanners like Matityahu Drobless aimed to generate control from high points.

* * *

Upside down, inside out, and topsy-turvy? Apart from Alice, of course — what does this remind me of?

Why, religion, naturally.

Take the Gospel of Thomas, logion 22 (Barnstone & Meyer, p. 51):

Yeshua said to them,
When you make the two into one,
and when you make the inner like the outer
and the outer like the inner
and the upper like the lower,
and when you make male and female into a single one,
so that the male will not be male nor female be female,
when you make eyes in place of an eye,
a hand in place of a hand,
a foot in place of a foot,
an image in place of an image,
then you will enter the kingdom.

Similar sayings are found in the poetry of Kabir, the great Indian mystic-poet, and described thus by Linda Hess (The Bijak of Kabir, p.135):

A particularly intriguing category of Kabir’s poems is the type known as ulatbamsi, poems in “upside down language”. They intrigue because they are absurd, paradoxical, crazy, impenetrable, and yet they purport to be meaningful.

In Japan, they might be given the name of koan — Hess quotes (p. 145) an early Mahayana sutra describing the world as “like a desert mirage, a celestial city, a mirror-reflection, a stone made from water hardened by a whirlwind”.
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Here is one of the signs of the end times quote in Islamic sources:

After the night of three nights, the following morning the sun will rise in the west. People’s repentance will not be accepted after this incident.

* * *

And so perhaps the saying with which Eihei Dogen described Master Dogo‘s friend in his Shinji Shobogenzo best encapsulates both the state of mind that a sudden reality-reversal accomplishes in those who are not prepared for it — and paradoxically, the state of mind in which it can be accepted as part of the natural order of things:

He does not have a roof above his head, nor any ground under him.

31 Responses to “Alice’s Wonderland Battlespace”

  1. Alice’s Wonderland Battlespace | Private inforation Network Says:

    […] the original post: Alice’s Wonderland BattlespaceDid you like this? Share it:Tweet Posted in Mix, […]

  2. N.R. Jenzen-Jones Says:

    Fascinating post, and something I will follow-up. Thanks guys. 

  3. Joseph Fouche Says:

    On the advice of veterans of the Texas Revolution, the U.S. Army used similar techniques to win the battle of Monterrey:
    https://militaryheritagemagazine.com/monterrey.html
    It was the first large scale urban battle fought by U.S. military forces.

  4. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Hi Charles,
    .
    I like this post.
    .
    I’ve been building word maps for some time…I enjoy dialectic maps where two words are juxtaposed and the patterns that emerge from their respective synonyms and the degrees of separation from the words as the map expands a couple orders of magnitude; the map becomes decidedly messy…but similarities emerge.

  5. Bryan Alexander Says:

    As above, so below, eh?  Or perhaps only in a Klein bottle.
    Re: Benjamin’s mappings, the different views you brilliantly aggregate, Charles, seem to arc across the two different social lenses James Scott and Jane Jacobs articulate.  From above, the eyes of a field martial or high (ahem) modernist.  From the ground, what locals see and remember.

  6. William F. Owen Says:

    OK, You guys do realise this is complete drivel right? a.) It’s all been done before, and the IDF did it all before. There is and was nothing new here. b.) The whole article and http://www.publicspace.org/en/text-library/eng/b018-walking-through-walls-soldiers-as-architects-in-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict is complete sophistry designed to impress folks who have no knowledge of urban OPS.C.) the articles were all designed to promote Naveh and his OTRI SOD mob. No one with any military background paid any attention to them. No one in the IDF pays any attention to it. When I was last down at their Urban Warfare centre, I asked. No one had even heard of it. I have talked to two guys that fought on that Operation and they just did what they had always trained to do.

  7. Daniel Says:

    Charles, one of Naveh’s powerpoint presentations is here: http://www.slideshare.net/ubiwar/shimon-naveh-powerpoint

    You’d probably find it interesting reading.

  8. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Performativity:  It creates its own expectations, its own counter-factuals, its own opposite and analogues; and yet these are mere signs useful only insofar as there is an audience habituated to them.  The entire performance—by which, I mean the performers and the audience, never forgetting that the audience performs for the performers—the entire performance is bounded by the stage & theater & our tiny little brains.  The Globe.  We are not quite equipped to imagine, interpret, create performance outside these boundaries—although, to be sure, we sometimes fail to imagine, interpret, or create pre-emptively, or without first receiving our cues.

  9. david ronfeldt Says:

    an intriguing post.  i’m still working my way through the weizman paper, but so far i think it is fantastic, in both “wow!” and “huh?” senses.  i like three aspects in particular:  
    .
    (1) there is lots of attention to space and time perceptions and the roles they play in how people think and act — a favorite topic for me, though i’ve devoted little attention to it lately.  
    .
    (2) the paper provides lots of indications that, to paraphrase clausewitz, war is architecture by other means — in contrast to my noticing a week or so ago hereabouts that, for jihadi theorists, war is theology by other means.
    .
    (3)  the paper also gives good attention to swarming.  i’ve long been pleased and tantalized that weizman mentions arquilla’s and my rand work on swarming in a couple spots.  
    .
    p.s.: for other interesting observations about swarming as a potential police tactic, see the recent post by fred leland at:
    .
    http://fearhonorinterest.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/swarming-tactics/
    .
    – – –
    .
    btw, a shorter version of weizman’s paper is at this url:  
        http://eipcp.net/transversal/0507/weizman/en
    .

  10. William F. Owen Says:

    Swarming?? Really? http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=9795&highlight=Swarming

  11. Daniel Says:

    Mr Owen: (i) Questions aren’t arguments (modulo erotetic logics), and; (ii) The post you link to has no substantive argument at all (see point (i), much of your argument consists in questions, and vaguely formed ones at that). You state, "The article uses very poor evidence to make some not very good points". FYI, arguments consist of premises and conclusions. Statements aren’t arguments either. There is no warrant, nor any extrapolated reasoning in support of your initial statements. (iii) You state, "Anyone wants to defend the use of history or facts here, I’m all ears." No, the onus is on you to provide a systematic counter-argument for the claims you are making. I mean, you have not only failed logically to do so, but also failed from a common sense notion of what it means to have an open discussion (more particularly, you violate the conversational norm of quantity — not enough information).

    .

    Also, you do this all the time [1]. You come into a thread, drop some vague reasoning, then leave again. For a guy that appears to militarily conservative, you sure argue like a guerrilla.

    .

    Note [1]:

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    See here: http://zenpundit.com/?p=2552

    .

    and here:

    http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/5540.html

  12. Pundita Says:

    To the moderator:  Phooey! I got the paragraph-separating dots wrong again, so kindly delete the first attempt if it’s not too much trouble; if I get this second attempt wrong, I give up.

    .
    Charles Cameron — So what are the takeaway messages?  When your military can no longer fight its way out of a paper bag, take to terrorizing housewives trying to cook dinner and call it urban math?  When your Indian monks can’t translate Pali into Japanese, make up gobbledygook and call it too subtle for the ordinary mind to grasp?
    .
    I am sorry to play wet blanket but I’ve become quite the curmudgeon since I noticed that only the bad guys are allowed anymore to try and achieve victory in war, which is how the IDF has been repeatedly flummoxed by terrorists who got tactical training from the IRGC and the U.S. military has been repeatedly outwitted by Pakistani military officers who got tactical training in the U.S.
    .
    As to how nation-states are to survive when their best military tacticians are quashed by politicians trying to stay on the right side of their most powerful constituents and foreign allies — somehow I don’t think von Clausewitz had an answer for that. 
    .
    So I really wonder if "Alice in Wonderland" is the most apt metaphor for this slow suicide of civilization.  I’d say "The Emperor’s New Clothes" comes closer because it graphically illustrates what can happen when large numbers of people prefer to lie in their teeth rather than identify what’s in front of them.
    .
    David Ronfeldt — I didn’t know you’d written on swarming when I did my analysis of the England riots at my blog or I would have mentioned your work along with Arquilla’s.
    .
    I looked at the situation in purely tactical terms and noted that the civilian response to the swarm tactics of the rioters was an inadvertent swarm tactic and a very effective one.
    .
    I plan to do a follow-up post on the riots so if you can email me a link to any paper/article(s) you’ve written on swarm tactics that’s available to the public (or provide the links in this comment section), I’d be very interested to read them and glad to include them in the post. My email is Pundita1@aol.com   
  13. Charles Cameron Says:

    A quick pointer for Pundita:
    .
    John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, Swarming & The Future of Conflict. David himself may have other pointers or comments…

  14. Charles Cameron Says:

    Wm. Owen:
    .
    First, the actions happened, more or less as described.  I imagine there’s no dispute about that, since you write, " It’s all been done before, and the IDF did it all before. "  Thus James Bennet reported in the NYT:

    The army was not able to push far into the camp’s twisting alleys with armored vehicles. Rather than risk walking in the open, the soldiers used saws, explosives, and hammers to open holes in walls between houses.
    .
    Ali Hamada, 47, guiding a stranger into his house, said he heard a soldier announce he was coming in. ”I tried to open the door, but he said, ‘I don’t want to come through the door, I want to come through here,’ ” indicating the wall. Soldiers tore a hole in the wall. After entering, they painted black arrows on the walls of the darkened house to guide them along, apparently to a room next door. They made their way to that room, and stayed there, their guns ready.

    Here’s another blogger picking up on the same idea:

    I want to add that all the talk about changing how a battle’s narrative and space is perceived immediately reminded me of Orson Scott Card’s famous novel Ender’s Game in which the protagonist reinvents conventional warfare in a zero gravity environment by forcefully forgetting the concept of up and down, making quick and decisive attacks on enemies while they were still trying to "right" themselves after being spun around.

    * * *
    .
    You also say, "There is and was nothing new here" – and again, I see little room for dispute. My point # 3," there’s nothing entirely new under the sun" was followed by a quote with an 1849 reference.
    .
    But while this may all indeed have happened before – and its audacity and brilliance may therefore belong in large measure to its earlier proponents — my main point is that it is both completely unexpected and dizzyingly shocking for those whose homes become thoroughfares. 
    .
    I illustrated this in my post with point #2, and in this comment with the quote from the NYT above, but it is the degree to which the most basic assumptions about walls and doors, about hearth and home, about ground under our feet and a roof over our heads are shattered that I wanted to convey.  It would be easy enough to label it "traumatic" – but that too easily becomes a diagnostic technicality.  It is shattering, it is home-shattering.
    .
    So it is not the point of my post to say something new about the IDF – and it doesn’t necessarily surprise me if some participants in the operation haven’t  heard of an architect who wrote about it after the event, considering it from the POV of someone whose fundamental interest is in urban planning and the human occupation of space. 
    .
    To know what the theoretical underpinnings of "walking through walls" were, as understood within within the IDF, we’d need to ask BG Kochavi — or find the source where he talked about "inverse geometry".  In the meantime, we have Weizman‘s account, which I didn’t quote in detail – so here’s a precis from Slavoj Žižek, In Defense of Lost Causes, p 205:

    It was recently made public that, in order to conceptualize the Israeli Defense Force’s urban warfare against thePalestinians, the IDF military academies systematically refer to Deleuze and Guattari, especially to A Thousand Plateaux, using it as ‘operational theory’ – the catchwords used are ‘Formless Rival Entities’, ‘Fractal Manoeuvre’, Velocity vs Rhythms’, ‘The Wahhabi War Machine’, “Postmodern Anarchists’, ‘Nomadic Terrorists’. One of the key distinctions they rely on is the one between ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ space, which reflect the organizational concepts of the ‘war machine’ and the ‘state apparatus’. The IDF now often uses the term ‘to smooth out space’ when they want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. Palestinian areas are thought as ‘striated’ in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, road blocks, and so on:

    * * *
    .
    My second point was that there is a "mapping" aspect to this business, which interests me, because it has to do with motivations coupled with actions in multiple dimensions.  We aren’t very good at mapping that sort of thing, particularly when it zigzags across the Cartesian divide between materiel and morale.
    .
    And my third is about the elements of space, structure, expectation and surprise — giving the practice described a series of religious analogues.  I find it instructive that the same absence of familiar structure which causes such distress in  those who are not prepared for it, is positively welcomed by the zen hermit.
    .
    But then my own field is the study of religions — so it is chiefly in terms of the nature of morale that my “strategic” comments may be of some help.

  15. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hello again, Pundita:

     

    You ask me:

    So what are the takeaway messages?  When your military can no longer fight its way out of a paper bag, take to terrorizing housewives trying to cook dinner and call it urban math? 

    I’ll leave that part to you, Ronfeldt, Owen and Zen to work out. As Zen mentioned in an earlier context, Wm. Owen has taken to task "the 4GW school, EBO advocates, Network-centric Warfare, the COINdinistas, Martin van Creveld, John Boyd, John Robb and pretty much every military theorist since maybe von Moltke the Elder."   I’m clearly beyond my pay grade. 

     

    * * *

    So what are the takeaway messages?  … When your Indian monks can’t translate Pali into Japanese, make up gobbledygook and call it too subtle for the ordinary mind to grasp?

    I understand from a series of delightful blog posts you ran some time back that you spent some time in the Sathya Sai Baba ashram, and expect that you may have sung some of Kabir‘s "gobbledegook" songs there, since Sathya Sai himself was fond of Kabir, and said for instance [Divine Discourse, 23 Nov 99]:

    Mysterious are the ways of the Divine. It is difficult to comprehend how the Divine grace works. There are innumerable instances of God coming to the rescue of His devotees in times of need. Saint Kabir was a weaver by profession. One day he fell seriously ill and was unable to attend to his duties. The all-merciful Lord, in the form of Kabir, wove yarn and thus came to his rescue.

    [ for those who like such tales, there’s a beautiful analog in William Butler Yeats, The Ballad of Father Gilligan ]

     

    I don’t think you have to read anything more esoteric than "Mysterious are the ways of the Divine" [or its English analog, "God moves in a mysterious way"] into the tradition of paradoxical utterances that runs from St John of the Cross via Kabir to Dogen Zenji. 

    too subtle for the ordinary mind to grasp?

    Lewis Carroll — once a math teacher at my college in Oxford — obviously thought the mind of a child could enjoy such things…

     

    * * *

     

    Which brings us to the central metaphor, and back to Alice. You wrote:

    I really wonder if "Alice in Wonderland" is the most apt metaphor for this slow suicide of civilization.

    I wasn’t really posting about "this slow suicide of civilization".  In retrospect, I see this post as a meditation on awe — on "shock and awe" – both the military shock of turning houses into thoroughfares, and the underlying (metaphysical?) shock known properly as "awe".

     

    Our word "awe" has lost much of its original power, so that we now say "awesome" when some ice cream hits the spot, and "awful" when some movie turns out as trite as one might have expected.

     

    Originally, however, it meant something utterly overwhelming — it might be the majesty of the Himalayas, glimpsed for the first time.  Awe is the condition we find ourselves in when faced with an experience of the numinous, the trembling and fascinating mystery (mysterium tremendum et fascinans) of Rudolph Otto.

     

    But here we are getting into territory that I hope to address more fully in a forthcoming post or posts on the impact of ritual and ceremonial in church, military and state…

  16. Pundita Says:

    Charles — Thank you for your link to the swarming paper, which I will eagerly read.  My nervous energy from the earthquake has finally run out, so I will crash into what I hope is a dreamless sleep and then regroup before trying to fully absorb your wonderful replies to my comments.                

  17. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Charles:
    .
     "The impression made by a sacred event is of an overwhelming but undefinable significance In his book Witchcraft, Mr. Charles Williams has described it thus:

    One is aware that a phenomenon, being wholly itself, is laden with universal meaning. A hand lighting a cigarette is the explanation of everything; a foot stepping from the train is the rock of all existence…. Two light dancing steps by a girl appear to be what all the Schoolmen were trying to express …but two quiet steps by an old man seem like the very speech of hell. Or the other way round.

    "The response of the imagination to such a presence or significance is a passion of awe. This awe may vary greatly in intensity and range in tone from joyous wonder to panic dread. A sacred being may be attractive or repulsive—a swan or an octopus—beautiful or ugly—a toothless hag or a fair young child—good or evil—a Beatrice or a Belle Dame Sans Merci—historical fact or fiction—a person met on the road or an image encountered in a story or a dream—it may be noble or something unmentionable in a drawing room, it may be anything it likes on condition, but this condition is absolute, that it arouse awe. "
    .
     —Auden, in "Making, Knowing, and Judging"
    .
     This may be a rather too-commonly quoted passage, but it’s really my favorite on the subject of awe. Actually, it’s on the subject of "the sacred," but awe is tied to it.

  18. david ronfeldt Says:

    hello wilf — yes, i saw that swj council thread about arquilla’s fp article back then.  for various reasons, i decided not to join in.  while some comments offered useful cautions and caveats about swarming, most criticisms seemed ill-informed, partly because hardly anyone had actually read what john and i had written about swarming.  as i recall, not until the end of the thread did you (and others?) note that you’d finally identified the title of our main rand publication on swarming.  
    .
    while i was surprised and puzzled at how caustic and hostile the discussion often seemed, it did not shake me from my belief that john and i were on the right track about the future of conflict.  since then, interest in swarming (and its variants) has indeed deepened among our special operations folks, iranian, chinese, and israeli military theorists, some terrorist networks, and many social activist groups (not to mention three practitioners of swarming who care little about theory:  criminals, paparazzi, and lobbyists).

  19. david ronfeldt Says:

    hello pundita — at the risk of cluttering up the comments section, here’s a list of our major rand writings.  btw, all rand reports are available as free .pdf downloads at rand’s website.
    .
    as charles noted  (thx, charles), john arquilla’s and my fullest statement is Swarming and the Future of Conflict (2000), available at
    http://www.rand.org/publications/DB/DB311/.
    .
    we expanded, esp on non-military swarming, in our volume on Networks & Netwars (2001), esp. in the last chapter, available at
    http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR1382/.
    .
    if interested, our first writing to make barely passing reference to swarming was The Zapatista “Social Netwar” in Mexico (1998), available at
    http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR994
    .
    colleague sean edwards did two parallel reports on military aspects:
    .
    his first, for one of john’s and my projects, was Swarming on the Battlefield: Past, Present, and Future (2000), available at
    http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1100/index.html/.
    .
    he later did his rand phd dissertation on Swarming and the Future of Warfare (2005), available at
    http://www.rand.org/publications/RGSD/RGSD189/.
    .
    since then, john has elaborated more in his recent non-rand book Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military (2008).
    .
    off to the side, since retiring, i have occasionally discussed aspects of swarming and provided a few additional pointers in posts at my blog, e.g.,
    http://twotheories.blogspot.com/2010/03/incidentals-3rd-of-5-apropos-future-of.html
    .
    two rival notions of swarming remain deficient in our view:  one has evolved around observations about "swarm intelligence" in nature (e.g., birds, bees, ants, as in bonabeau’s early writings).  it’s interesting, but it is more about decentralized flocking without any central command and control, rather than coordinated swarming as we understand it.  another view grew around the notion of"network- centric warfare" (not to be confused with our notion of netwar).  this view took swarming in a high-tech command-and- control direction having mainly to do with uavs, leading to lots of corporate funding.  uavs are important, but we’d rather see advances at the soldiers’ operational level.  in any case, these two other schools of thought about swarming keep evolving in our direction.  
    .
    i think you are quite right to examine the london riots from a swarming perspective, and i liked your post a lot, including the following take-aways:
    .
    “In short, the swarm attack is best met with counter-swarms — often comprised of local police and civilians working together or in tandem.
    … In an era when far more deadly adversaries than the criminals who wreaked havoc in England are combining swarm tactics with sophisticated communications technologies, recognizing that well-prepared civilians can play a key role in successful counter-swarm tactics is vital to a nation’s security.”  
    (source:  http://pundita.blogspot.com/2011/08/surprise-tactic-broke-uk-crime-wave-but.html)
    .
    i’ll look forward to more from you.  
    .
    closing thought:  just about everybody views swarming as (and often only as) tactics these days.  but i continue think something much more than tactics is emerging.  

  20. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Hi David,
    .
    A quick note of thanks for the resources you provide. Your closing paragraph is prescient and spot-on. The London riots are recent example; an emergent, criminal phenomena. 

  21. zen Says:

    "… In an era when far more deadly adversaries than the criminals who wreaked havoc in England are combining swarm tactics with sophisticated communications technologies…."
    .
    Very interesting David.
    .
    Swarming behavior may be very different if it is a) self-emergent, from a spontaneously forming mob vs. b) instrumentally used as a tactic by a political community, state or non-state, toward a certain end.
    .
    The former, like the Arab Spring uprising in Tunisia or the London riots is seeming scale free and self-sustaining, potentially growing in size and accelerating in movement and levels of violence at tremendous rates akin to a flash flood. The latter, from "rent-a-riot" demonstrators like the mob of Iranian weightlifters hired by the CIA in 1953 to march for the Shah’s restoration to narco-cartel ambushes in Mexico, are "surgical" tactical attacks with discipline and focus

  22. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Compare what Gaddafi has tried to do:  at critical moments (so perceived by him), he gets on the airwaves and calls for the "rats" to be destroyed.  (a) The call is very general, just "destroy", (b) no specific place is singled out, (c) no specific time is mentioned.  (Admittedly, this is just to my very limited knowledge, captured from bits and scraps.)  His forces don’t swarm, or at least not effectively, because the call comes out as too general, left too up to them..Then compare something like voting in America.  Place is fairly determined before-hand, although absentee ballots give some leeway; time is only generally determined, lasting a day or the length of time permitted for absentee voting; but the action is specific:  "Vote for me!"  This is not swarming either, unless one wants to consider a "slow-boil" type of swarm, which seems counterproductive for a study of swarming..And then in either of the above cases, the personal commitment once hearing the call, for the theoretical swarmers, may not be very strong.

  23. onparkstreet Says:

    For Charles:
    .
    .
    Kabir says, "
    .
    "I don’t touch ink or paper
    .
    This hand never grasped a pen
    .
    The greatness of four ages
    .
    Kabir tells with his mouth alone"
    .
    .
    Tom Tom Club (Wordy Rappinghood) says,
    .
    "Words in paper, words in books
    .
    Words on TV, words for crooks
    .
    Words of comfort, words of peace
    .
    Words to make the fighting cease"
    .
    .
    And Asia Times writes,

    .
    The channel broadcasts in Pashto language from 12 pm to 3 pm in the afternoon and 6 pm to 8 pm in the evening. The programs include jihadi taranay (jihadi motivational songs….
    .
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/MH25Df05.html
    .
    And drones the size of bees,  some day
    .
    And mobiles crossing the Kush; they play
    .
    Tribal songs for jihadi alms, a call-to-arms
    .
    On 11/11 our cell phones say:
    .
    And Americans can talk endlessly about the importance of democracy, but they never thought to explain to the chiefs why they came back to Afghanistan. They arrived with suitcases full of cash to buy help – but they never told the chiefs that they were there because the way al Qaeda attacked the US on 9/11 meant that many Americans couldn’t find so much as a fingernail of their massacred relatives to bury because the bodies were ground to dust.
    .
    Not to be able to bury one’s dead or even a piece of one’s dead — knowing THAT would have meant a great deal to the chiefs and those in their tribes. But the Americans never explained, never even cried, never showed emotion. THEY NEVER ACTED HUMAN; they never interacted with the Afghans in ways that are the same for all — not only all humans but all mammalian creatures. In other words, they displayed not a whit of common sense.
    .
    What do you talk about when you first sit down with a man whose life has been circumscribed by war and who knows nothing about you and your tribe? The answer is you tell me of your battles, I’ll tell you of mine and in this way we establish a commonality of experience.
    .
    You transform the rug or patch of sand you’re sitting on into the terrain of the battle, and you use sticks and stones or teacups as place markers for the troops to show how the battle was fought. In this way, you demonstrate that the battle is truly in your heart, that it means enough to you that you can bring it alive for another.
    .
    If you don’t show what’s in your heart, then you haven’t established a basis for developing a mutual understanding, so then there is no way to move off the dime. Only when you’ve demonstrated by your stories of war that your tribe also shed much blood for independence, can you move on to explaining stuff about government. You can explain that you were losing too many of your sons in battle so you devised a type of government that would help defend your freedoms and with less bloodshed. And so on
    .  – Pundita
    .
    – Madhu

  24. Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » “Americans, who are you?” Says:

    […] left the following comment at zenpundit […]

  25. Pundita Says:

    David Ronfeldt — I apologize for the delay in responding — first the earthquake here in Washington and then Hurricane Irene have hogged my time. 

    .
    Thank you very much for providing the links to writings that you and others have done on swarming. Thank you also for your kind words about my England riots essay.
     
    .
    Again, I wish I’d known about your writings on the topic at the time I wrote up my analysis of the riots, which was when public interest in the riots was high.  The essay received favorable mention in the comment section at the Abu Muqawama blog at CNAS but with hindsight I should have been proactive and sent it to blogs that focus on homeland security issues.     

    .
    It’s not possible to overemphasize the importance of swarm/counter-swarm tactics as they pertain to civil defense.  The tactics have been discussed largely within the context of terrorist attacks, but the England riots demonstrated how easily criminal gangs can adopt the tactics, whether or not the gang leaders are aware of the technical term for them.  Yet the course of the riots also demonstrated how civilian responses to a swarm attack can be an effective counter-swarm measure.

    .
    I will definitely do another post on the topic and include the list you provided and your comments here about swarming.  
          

  26. Ski Says:

    We read Weizman’s article in SAMS. Like Wilf, my impression was "so what" as this technique has been practiced by armies for at least a century. The US Army in Aachen used this technique with tanks and sappers blowing holes in walls of homes and infantry following, house by house, block by block.

    I also agree with Pundita who raises the moral issue of using this tactic, which I echoed towards my SAMS instructor. Al-Jazeera would be over this like white on rice if US troops used this tactic – it would be broadcast over the airwaves and yet another propaganda defeat ( I despise the term Information Operations) would be inflicted on the US.

  27. CTOvision.com – Network-Centric Warfare on the Cheap Says:

    […] 20th century were collective animal intelligence and NCW. As former RAND analyst David Ronfeldt noted, both of these ideas somewhat missed the point of what kind of swarming he and John Arquilla […]

  28. Network-Centric Warfare on the Cheap – Bob Gourley Says:

    […] 20th century were collective animal intelligence and NCW. As former RAND analyst David Ronfeldt noted, both of these ideas somewhat missed the point of what kind of swarming he and John Arquilla […]

  29. Network-Centric Warfare on the Cheap Says:

    […] 20th century were collective animal intelligence and NCW. As former RAND analyst David Ronfeldt noted, both of these ideas somewhat missed the point of what kind of swarming he and John Arquilla […]

  30. Network-Centric Warfare on the Cheap - CTOlabs | CTOlabs Says:

    […] 20th century were collective animal intelligence and NCW. As former RAND analyst David Ronfeldt noted, both of these ideas somewhat missed the point of what kind of swarming he and John Arquilla […]

  31. Theory Toolbox Semantics | Philosophies Says:

    […] LT). A blogpost on the subject bearing the title ‘Alice’s Wonderland Battle Space’ (http://zenpundit.com/?p=4280, viewed on 10/04/2013) even makes an overly explicit reference to these aspects of creativity and […]


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