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JM Berger, Extremism — you have been alerted, informed

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

[ posted for your considerable edification by Charles Cameron — tweet-stream by JM Berger ]

Friend JM Berger‘s recent work sums to a book to be published in September. This tweet-stream brings you up to date on his process.

You have been invited.



















And that’s it.

The Said Symphony: move 19

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron – extended analytic game on Israeli-Palestinian conflict — for those who wish to catch up, our game thus far consists of an intro to the game and game board, followed by moves 1-5, 6-9, then moves 10-11 which together constitute a meditation, moves 12, 13-15, 16-17, and most recently before this, move 18 with cadenza ]

Move 19: The view from above

Move content:

Discussing strategy, the very canny LTG (USMC, Ret’d.) Paul Van Riper had this to say:

What we tend to do is look toward the enemy. We’re only looking one way: from us to them. But the good commanders take two other views. They mentally move forward and look back to themselves. They look from the enemy back to the friendly, and they try to imagine how the enemy might attack them. The third is to get a bird’s-eye view, a top-down view, where you take the whole scene in. The amateur looks one way; the professional looks at least three different ways.

A bird’s-eye view, a hawk’s eye view, a top-down view, an overview, a view from 30,000 feet, a God’s eye view, a view from above, a zoom…

If move 18 and its cadenza gave us a view of the depth of vision or insight that is necessary for a full and rich understanding of the world we live in — its qualitative or spiritual scope, if you like — this next move, with its picnic and drone-sight, addresses its breadth in space and time — materially and quantitatively speaking.

The classic expression of the sheer material scope of the universe was put together by Charles and Ray Eames in their justly celebrated film, Powers of Ten, from which the lower of these two images is drawn:

Here are some other relevant scans of the scope of things, in terms of time and space:

The Scale of the Universe 2
A Brief History of The Universe
The Known Universe
A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945

These are impressive videos to be sure, but as an aside I’ll invite you to ask yourselves how well they compare with this zoom in words, a poem by the zennist, ecologist, essayist and poet Gary Snyder, from his book, Axe Handles: Poems:

Such breadth of vision, such craft.


If this “material scope of things” too has a cadenza, it would be that all of this is shot through with some primary oppositions, dappled as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins would have it, with swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim — as indicated in the drone-sight and picnic double image at the head of this move.

This dappling, this constant flux of opposites, takes many forms — day and night lead to the more abstract light and dark, which can then be interpreted morally as good and evil, to which we respond with repulsion and attraction as the case may be, building our worldviews from love or fear…

At different scales the opposites that matter most to us may have different names and shadings, but here I’d just like to draw attention to the dappling of our world with:

competition and cooperation
Darwin‘s natural selection and Kropotkin‘s mutual aid
duel and duet (ah! — a favorite phrasing of mine)
war and peace

Provocatively, we find this dappling in scriptures, too, wherein the ripples of such verses as “The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name” (Exodus 15.3) dropped like a stone into the pond of the human mind, meet with the ripples of other verses such as “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (I John 4.16).

There are times when we take such oppositions literally, perhaps too literally, and times when we begin to see oppositions as abstract and theoretical end-points to what is in fact a yin-yang process continually unfolding…

Which brings me by a commodius vicus of recirculation to this image of the great opposition between war and peace, its dappling, its unfolding:

Links claimed:

To the Lamb, move 18: this move presents the material scope of the universe in counterpoint to its visionary scope as laid out in move 18 with its cadenza.

To Revelation, move 17 — the word revelation means unveiling, as we have seen, and our sciences and technologies, with their spectra of telescopes, microscopes, cameras and zooms, are unveiling and revealing to us much about the physicality of the world we live in — much that was accounted for in other times and places through intuition, vision and poetry.

This scientific and technical revelation of material existence, for many of us moderns, has largely eclipsed the mode of visionary revelation of move 17 — yet it cannot eradicate it. Implicit in this move, then, is the sense that we carry with us both subjective and objective, inner and outer, qualitative and quantitative understandings — though the data that “sight” and “insight” provide us with may be different in kind, and resolving them may be something of a koan to us, the deep problem in consciousness as philosophers of science have named it — and that we can discount neither one if we are to have and maintain a rich sense of our situation.


If the two previous moves have shown us the scope of the universe we co-inhabit, perhaps we should now make our own zoom in, much as James Joyce did when he had the schoolboy Stephen inscribe his name and address in his geography book as Stephen Dedalus, Class of Elements, Clongowes Wood College, Sallins, County Kildare, Ireland, Europe, The World, Universe – an address that Stephen then read both forwards and backwards, finding himself in one direction, and finding in the other that he had no means of knowing what might lie beyond the universe…

Imagine then, skipping rapidly from (unimaginable) cosmos via such things as the intriguingly named End of Greatness to galaxy or nebula…

…solar system and planet — whence we can slow down and zero gently in on the Middle (or as my friend Ralph Birnbaum would call it, the Muddle) East, Israel / Palestine, Jerusalem / Al Quds / the Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary – and to such matters of contemplative vision and tribal passion as the first, second and projected third Temples, the al-Aqsa mosque.

Our increasing focus will bring us, then, to that the rock which Jews believe marks the place where Abraham bound his son Isaac (the Akedah), and which Muslims believe to be the place of ascent of the Prophet to the celestial realms (the Mi’raj) on his Night Journey (Qur’an, Al-Isra).

Here again myth and history collide, and both visionary and material considerations merge in the heart of the what my friend the Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg has justly called “the most contested piece of real estate on earth”.

And a couple more DVDs

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron — Mahdism, pacific and militant, Sunni and Shi’ite ]


So here are a couple more DVDs for your collection…

The Awlaki “End of Time” DVD that I mentioned earlier today has an obvious apocalyptic aspect, but here are a couple of DVDs with specific reference to the MahdiHarun Yahya (aka Adnan Oktar) has a massive publication-machine behind him, and much of his effort is directed to his islamic version of creationism.  It is interesting that his (Sunni) Mahdi, in contrast to al-Awlaki’s, is a peace-bringer.


The Iranian movie, on the other hand, may well be a move on the part of Ahmadinejad in his current efforts to use popular Mahdist sentiment to win power for the presidency and diminish the authority of the scholars in Qom — with a sop thrown to Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Authority, in the form of a role for him (along with Ahmadinejad himself) in the projected soon-return of the Mahdi from occultation.
If so, the move would appear at this point to have backfired — perhaps because the movie was leaked ahead of time — with the Supreme Authority and mullahs of Qom lining up against Ahmadinejad.
By way of commentary:
Were the Mahdi to appear, he would be “rightly guided” by definition — infallible — and only those on whom he showed his favor would hold any religious sway among his followers. It is this disquieting thought which made, e.g., the religious authorities (hawza) of Najaf so upset about a Mahdist uprising a few years back… the Returning One axiomatically trumps all those previously holding positions of spiritual authority.

None Dare Call it a Rogue State

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009


Reader Isaac, points to an excellent analytical overview of Pakistan’s national nervous breakdown at Dawn.com, by Nadeem F. Paracha. It is a lengthy but stupendous post with some 200 + comments:

Little monsters

There is nothing new anymore about the suggestion that over a span of about 30 odd years, the Pakistani military and its establishmentarian allies in the intelligence agencies, the politicised clergy, conservative political parties and the media have, in the name of Islam and patriotism, given birth to a number of unrestrained demons which have now become full-fledged monsters threatening the very core of the state and society in Pakistan.

A widespread consensus across various academic and intellectual circles (both within and outside Pakistan), now states that violent entities such as the Taliban and assorted Islamist organisations involved in scores of anti-state, sectarian and related violence in the country are the pitfalls of policies and propaganda undertaken by the Pakistani state and its various intelligence agencies to supposedly safeguard Pakistan’s ‘strategic interests’ in the region and more superficially, Pakistan’s own ideological interest.

….The 1980s and the so-called anti-Soviet Afghan jihad is colored with deep nostalgic strokes by the Islamists and the military in Pakistan. Forgetting that the Afghans would have remained being nothing more than a defeated group of rag-tag militants without the millions of dollars worth of aid and weapons that the Americans provided, and Zia could not have survived even the first MRD movement in 1981 had it not been due to the unflinching support that he received from America and Saudi Arabia, Pakistani intelligence agencies and its Afghan and Arab militant allies were convinced that it was them alone who toppled the Soviet Union.

The above belief began looking more and more like a grave delusion by the time the Afghan mujahideen factions went to war against one another in the early 1990s and Pakistan was engulfed with serious sectarian and ethnic strife. But the post-1971 narrative that had now started to seep into the press and in many people’s minds, desperately attempted to drown out conflicting points of views about the Afghan war by once again blaming the usual suspects: democracy, secularism and India.

Many years and follies later, and in the midst of unprecedented violence being perpetrated in the name of Islam, Pakistanis today stand more confused and flabbergasted than ever before.

The seeds of the ideological schizophrenia that the 1956 proclamation of Pakistan being an ‘Islamic Republic’ sowed, have now grown into a chaotic and bloody tree that only bares delusions and denials as fruit.

Read the rest here.

There has been an ocean of ink spilled about the Obama administration’s Hamlet-like deliberation over a war strategy for Afghanistan and on the implications of agreeing to 30,000 rather than the 40,000 new troops for the “Afghan Surge”, as Gen. McChrystal had originally requested. The 10,000 difference in boots is not the salient strategic point, though it is the one that excites political partisans on the Right, Left and anti-war Far Left. It also distracts us from debating our fundamental strategic challenge.

The horns of our dilemma is that our long time “ally” whom we have hitched ourselves to in a grand war effort against revolutionary Islamist terrorism is not our ally at all, but a co-belligerent with our enemy. By every policy measure that matters that causes the United States – justifiably in my view – to take a tough stance against North Korea and Iran, applies in spades to Islamabad. Yet none dare call Pakistan a rogue state.

It is the elephant in our strategy room – if the elephant was a rabid and schizophrenic trained mastodon, still willing to perform simple tricks for a neverending stream of treats, even as it eyes its trainer and audience with a murderous kind of hatred. That Pakistan’s deeply corrupt elite can be “rented” to defer their ambitions, or to work at cross-purposes with Pakistan’s perceived  “interests”, is not a game-changing event. Instead, it sustains and ramps up the dysfunctional dynamic we find ourselves swimming against.

We play a bizarre game, our leaders being more concerned about Pakistan’s “stability” than Pakistan’s own generals and politicians who egg on, fund and train the very militant Islamist groups spreading death and chaos inside Pakistan and beyond its borders. Why can we not find Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar ? Because they are high value clients of the ISI which is no more likely to give them up than the KGB was to hand over Kim Philby.  

Until America’s bipartisan foreign policy elite grapple with the fact – and it is an easily verifiable, empirical, fact – that Pakistan’s government is in chronic pursuit of policies that destabilize Central Asia, menace all of Pakistan’s neighbors, generate legions of terrorists and risk nuclear war with India, no solutions will present themselves.

A strategy will only have a chance of success when it is grounded in reality.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007


Shloky has an excellent series of data points from Boyd 2007:

Osinga On Boydian Influences
Boydian Maxims
Gudmundsson On The ANG
Lind On Barnett and IR
Hammes On 5GW
Hoffman On Modern/Future COIN

A review from reader Isaac, which he helpfully posted in my comments section ( Isaac should get a blog ).

“Additional notes and such by presenter:


I found it surprising that, according to Osinga, Boyd hadn’t used a slide of the OODA loop until 1995. He may have wanted to avoid over-simplification via encapsulation. Perhaps he didn’t feel comfortable until then that his students would realize that he was talking about much more than ‘the decision cycle’, as you well point out.

Osinga also discussed the shift from the technical to the doctrinal in the 70’s and 80’s as a reaction to our defeat in Vietnam. Boyd’s quote at the DNI site saying that, “Machines don’t fight wars. People do, and they use their minds”, flows right with this and all sound hesitance at becoming technology fetishists. Technological advances in warfare are more easily countered than the intangible advances made in our minds as the former represent closed systems, regardless of their other attributes, while the latter represent enhanced, open adaptability. If we’re able to generate rapidly changing environments for our opponents, we inhibit their adaptability while showcasing/utilizing/increasing ours. This mismatch is part of the ‘certain to win’ principle. The more uncertainty experienced by our adversaries, the more we’re able to survive on our terms.

The epistemological character of Osinga’s discussion of the expanded, full OODA loop, to me, admitted of shades of phenomenology in its stress of the individual’s experiences as central to feedback. After all, warfighters use their minds, right?


I found his discussion of the ‘Orientation’ element the most salient. Our orientation is at its best when it is ‘closest to chaos’, that is, when we experience the widest range of possibilities with as much ‘flow’ (feedback and other stimuli) as possible. It is this broad range which provides for a unifying theme in groups as the sheer amount of broadly informing stimuli and feedback creates a more open system. The more/better our information/knowledge the better, and the more intuitively/implicitly we are then able to act/react with less/out thinking, the more we, well, win.

This has implications regarding ‘Command Intent’, of course, in that the better the unifying theme, the better individuals are able to act independently. You noted this as well. In a perfect version of this world, by extension, a totally dispersed force with a strong enough unifying theme and excellent orientation would be capable of truly ‘organic’ swarm activity.

I’ll not attempt to delve into Lind here. Dan’s done some good work on that and your post covers much of what I’d have to say perfectly. He was as much King and Jester to his court assembled. I enjoyed both his acumen and antics immensely.

As for the generals, I’ve little to add.

Van Riper stated that he’d stop all training immediately and get back to Mission-Type orders across the board. This jibes well with both Ossinga and Richards. I also enjoyed his example of the game of chess to show the nature of interactively complex systems as opposed to structurally complex ones. You’re spot-on in your comments. Reductionism works with the latter as their elements are ‘near-static’, linearly-related and have little ‘action’, as he put it. One can easily lose control/understanding, however, of interactively complex systems like chess. He said that after very few moves in a game of chess, the players have surpassed a million possible moves and that there are 10128 possible moves in a full game. That’s a larger number than there are atoms in the universe, he said. Reductionism won’t help you understand chess, or warfare.

This was echoed by Zinni saying that ‘process warfare’ isn’t the answer. Mastering multiple processes is still step-by-step, sometimes on a such a scale that you can drown in it. Besides, if you’re consumed by process, you can’t adapt – not very Boydian, that.

Speaking of reductionism, Zinni also said something very refreshing in the face of those that would reduce all/most/many Muslims to terrorists, ‘Islamists’, or some such epithet. He’s lived in Muslim countries for 17 years and has yet to meet a Muslim who’s even spoken of every alarmist’s favorite – the ‘Caliphate’. He continued to say that institutions in society have to be culturally acceptable as/and ‘order’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘stability’.

Gray said that we need to get back to who we, as Americans, are as a people. I took this to mean (based on his tangential stories and other things) good, just, open, smart and free – imbued with a truly pioneering spirit and a joy of discovery. He said we must educate society as a whole and that, actually, we know nothing of the world compared to what we could in truth. He also said that Foreign Policy and Domestic Policy should work to balance the equation of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. I must admit, I wasn’t prepared for such comments from a former Commandant of the USMC – and one of his magnitude at that. We were sitting in a building complex named for him. I’ll chalk that up to my own joy of discovery and hope for an anthropologist and/or philosopher in each future platoon.”

Thanks Isaac!


The return of monster tdaxp graphics!!!!

1. The OODA Loop

2. The OODA-PISRR Loop

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