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The learning is looped

January 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Ts learn from CTs learn from Ts learn fro.. ]
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DQ Stealing
btw, this is a special format doublequote, yeah?

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Brachman and McCants note in the conclusion to Stealing Al-Qa’ida’s Playbook:

Jihadi ideologues closely follow Western thought and U.S. strategic planning for insights that can be used against the United States and its allies.

and acknowledge their own borrowing, not only in the title, but also in the earliest pages of their work:

Although we would like to claim credit for the approach described in the introductory paragraphs, it is modeled after a similar approach used by Abu Bakr Naji, a rising star in the jihadi movement. In his 2004 work, The Management of Barbarism,* Naji urges fellow jihadis to study Western works on management, military principles, political theory, and sociology in order to borrow strategies that have worked for Western governments and to discern their weaknesses.

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And here’s Naji, in The Management of Savagery (which Will McCants translated) on borrowing from non-Muslim sources of military expertise:

Wisdom is the goal of the believer, and even if we generally follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) and his Companions (may God be pleased with them), we only accept that our policies in any jihadi action are Sharia policies, unless the Sharia permits us to use the plans and military principles of non-Muslims in which there is no sin.

[ .. ]

Following the time-tested principles of military combat will shorten for us the long years in which we might suffer the corrupting influences of rigidity and random behavior. Truly, abandoning random behavior and adopting intellectual, academic methods and experimental military principles and actually implementing them and applying military science will facilitate our achievement of the goals without complication and enable us to develop and improve the execution (of our plans), by the permission of God.

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In practice, the loop is in fact a spiral, with each side learning, both on the battleield and on the mindfield, from the other.

The Brachman / McCants paper was published in 2006. I only learned of the Arabic translation today. For those interested in OODA loop timing, that looks to be an almost decade-long time-lapse, eh?

Or am I the slow one?

Pinker, Blake and Moebius

January 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — looks like I’ll have an “Author’s blog” up soon to accompany a book I’m working on, and it’ll be called “Seeing Double” — which is what this post is about ]
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Steven Pinker, I’m sorry to say, appears to be one of those

One can imagine a world in which oracles, soothsayers, prophets, popes, visionaries, imams, or gurus have been vouchsafed with the truth which only they possess and which the rest of us would be foolish, indeed, criminal, to question. History tells us that this is not the world we live in. Selfproclaimed truthers have repeatedly been shown to be mistaken — often comically so — by history, science, and common sense.

The characters I’m interested in here are the visionaries – and my point is that truth as fact is not the only truth there is.

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Can “history, science and common sense” really detract from the “truth” of this image by Blake?

Blake_De_antro_nympharum_Tempera_Arlington_Court_Devon

or this, by Moebius?

Moebius Floating City

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Pinker is interesting — that single para of his just gave me a chance to rant — so let me return you to his whole piece.

I have other disagreements with him, no doubt, but he’s a mind to be engaged with.

DoubleQuote: “forgoes a headscarf and sparks a backlash”

January 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — diplomacy and dispute.. ]
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One of the simplest uses of the DoubleQuotes format is to take the sting out of an accusation. Michelle Obama was recently criticized for not wearing a headscarf during the Obamas’ recent visit to Saudia Arabia:

SPEC DQ 1st ladies Saudi

Barbara Bush did the same…

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But of course, the gander can be cooked as easily as the goose, so a DoubleQuote can also be used to put the sting into the accusation — as when the complaint is made that the First Lady did indeed wear a headscarf in Indonesia — so why not in Saudi Arabia?

SPEC DQ Michelle O x 2

Maybe the fact that she was visiting a mosque in Indonesia has something to do with it?

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On the subject of diplomatic protocol, there’s a terrific quote about Queen Elizabeth II and the late Crown Prince Abdullah going the rounds. You’ve probably seen it, but I’m thinking of making it the opening anecdote of my upcoming book on coronation and monarchy — yup, I have an agent nibbling at the idea — so here it is, as I first encountered it in tweet form from Shashank Joshi:

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Sources:

  • White House photograph, Michelle Obama without scarf
  • GW Bush White House archive, Laura Bush
  • USA Today, Michelle Obama with scarf
  • Mother Jones, Badass Feminist Queen Elizabeth II
  • **

    And for extra points, Her Majesty the Badass Feminist in her Range Rover:

    queen over drive

    Sorry, no headscarf — you’ve already seen HM in hijab in my post Birmingham, a little light relief in tough times.

    Brief brief: of binding and loosing

    January 27th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — really just a note to myself, but you may read it over my shoulder ]
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    Joas Wagemakers, blogging on Jihadi-Salafi views of the Islamic State at the Washington Post, was talking about the “caliphate” today, and as usual, I went off on my own DoubleQuoting tangent:

    SPEC DQ bind and loose

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    Here’s Wagemakers’s para that triggered the above:

    In 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria set itself apart from most other radical Islamist groups by actually settling in a certain territory and establishing a state there. The group even declared a caliphate on June 29 and changed its name simply to the Islamic State (IS). Even al-Qaeda, which has long had similar ambitions to establish a caliphate encompassing all Muslims, has never achieved this. In its justification for the announcement of its caliphate, IS has made use of classical Islamic concepts: its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been vetted by a group of scholars described as “the people who loosen and bind” (ahl al-hall wa-l-aqd), was found by them to be a pious Muslim ruler who fit all the criteria for a caliph and was therefore worthy of believers’ oath of allegiance (baya).

    Do I detect an echo here, between the two phrases — or is the concept of loosing and binding so basic to human experience that it crops up all over?

    It’s a question at the intersection of two of my fields of special interest — depth psychology and cultural anthro — see for example Anthony Stevens, writing under the subtitle Archetypes versus cultural transmission:

    Essentially, the theory can be stated as a psychological law: whenever a phenomenon is found to be characteristic of all human communities, it is an expression of an archetype of the collective unconscious. It is not possible to demonstrate that such universally apparent phenomena are exclusively due to archetypal determinants or entirely due to cultural diffusion, because in all probability both are involved. However, the likelihood is that there will be a strong bias for those phenomena which are archetypally determined to diffuse more readily and more lastingly than those that are not.

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    Now go read Wagemakers.

    Theory and Practice, Ideal and Real, War and Peace

    January 26th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — hoping to introduce my many friends in the peace and light camp to my many friends in the carry a big stick camp, with a view to furthering mutual understanding ]
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    A confluence in my infostream this morning:
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    cantilever
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    Let’s start with this brilliant example of theory (the diagram of the cantilever principle, above) and practice (the human demonstration, below). In the above instance, at least, the theory works out in practice. BTW, I think this image qualifies as a DoubleQuote in the Wild.

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    There’s a problem when things just don’t work out that way, however, and Cardinal Richelieu nails it:
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    Richelieu quote
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    I’m afraid the recently past century amply bears out Richelieu’s point.

    Theory is often too simple to match practice, and attempts to fit the real world into a crippling procrustean box of its own devising.

    **

    I might not have taken an interest in these two tweets, if I hadn’t also read Ahmed Humayun‘s post, The Politics of Barbarism, on 3 Quarks Daily today, and blog-friend Omar Ali‘s comments in particular.

    Humayun’s piece is essentially a precis and analysis of Abu Bakr Naji‘s The Management of Savagery, a book, incidentally, which has as much to do with management as it does with savagery.

    But to get to the point which interests me, one Raza Husain commented that in place of recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:

    A trillion dollars on development work, schools, hospitals, roads, power plants, would have been money better spent and possibly just as helpful to the American economy if not to the arms industry in particular.

    to which Omar responded:

    A trillion dollars spent through what state apparatus? protected by what army? under which laws? (not saying it cannot be done, but those questions need answers first, otherwise how will the money actually get spent where you want it spent?)

    And that’s it, right there.

    **

    Richard Grenier paraphrased George Orwell nicely when he wrote:

    people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf

    If I was to DoubleQuote that, my pairing quote would be from John Adams:

    I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculature, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.

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    The Ideal and Real are, respectively, Theory and Practice, and we need, we are constituted to need both — and yet our discourse all too often promotes one (shorthand: peace) or the other (shorthand: war), without looking at how each can serve and illuminate the other.

    For my purposes, it is essentially peace that is the objective, and war that should (where and when needed) serve it: but it is justice, as in peace with justice, that is the necessary third term bringing peace and war (to include revolution?) into their constantly shifting alignment.

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    If one group of people chants peace, peace, while another prepares for, and makes, war — without justice rather than profit being its central motivation and the arbiter of its outcomes — there’s little chance of mutual understanding. The peaceables will think the warlikes lack “moral” sense, the warlikes will think the peaceables lack “common” sense, each side will seem senseless to the other — and the wheel will continue to turn.

    What I would like to see — to foster — is deliberation, debate, discourse between these two camps, the idealists and the realists (and I use those terms without their technical senses as terms of art), those who would seek peace and those who would protect them from violence.

    Because humanity is half-angelic, half-bestial, and the question is how the angelic can best deploy against the bestial. Or as Naji has it, against Savagery.

    **

    There are two distinct scenarions that I try to bear in mind, in one of which an archipelago of islands is seen in a seascape, while the other shows a number of lakes in a lanscape of mountains, hills and valleys.

    The only difference between them, as I envision them, is the water level.

    Raise the water level, and the lakes join to become a sea in which the isolated remaining hill and mountain tops have become islands — lower the water level, and the islands become the hills and mountain tops of a landscape, with the sea now diminished to a congeries of lakes and pools in its valleys.

    The quest, here, by analogy, is for optimal levels of protective violence to obtain and sustain a widespread and liveable landscape of peace.

    Your thoughts?

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    Image sources:

  • Cantilever, via BoingBoing
  • Richelieu, via the Economist

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