zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » On Time and timeframes

On Time and timeframes

[ by Charles Cameron — 48 hours, Egyptian time, can mean many things, also DoD foresight, next 48 hrs ]

We seem to have at least four “times” here, ranking from 12 to 72 hours — or zero to 72 if you take the Army’s announcement itself as a sort of starting pistol — and they’re operating, obviously enough, under different frames. The army likes nicely rounded numbers like “48 hrs”, PERT chart thinking gives you the least time available in which to take the first step towards a desired aim, here “12 hours” — and “24 hours” is the latest target time for serious, visible progress to avert “worst case” response preparations. Or something along those lines.

And “72 hours”? That may be Egyptian elastic time, and thus roughly comparable to Lakota time

The Lakota view of time was simple. “Time was never a specific minute, but rather spaces of time,like early morning, just afternoon or just before midnight. The real meaning of time could be summed up by the phrase “nake nula waunyelo” loosely translated it means:

“I am ready for whatever, any place, any time, always prepared”.

When work needed to be done, people were prepared to work late inthe fields or stay up until 3 am to finish goods to be sold at market.When no work needed to be done, they didn’t work.

The irony is in the next comment:

Policy makers saw an opportunity to improve things by installing awestern time ethic and a respect for the clock.

I don’t know Egypt — but I have spent time “on Lakota time” and don’t wear a watch or carry a phone these days… The piece I drew those quotes from, Lessons from the Lakota: Time lessons for today’s managers, may or may not be useful advice for managers, but its overview-with-graphic of different time systems is worth a quick look. Anthropologists would be able to tell you more about individual cultures, but my point is that differing timeframes are among the major features of different worldviews, and we need to have a decent sense of them when we interface with them.

So “72 hours” may be an instance of relaxed but purposive time, okay? Which wouldn’t necessarily fit well with starched and pressed military time.


And here’s the blockbuster:

According to the Congressional Budget Office’s Analysis of DoD’s Future Years Defense Program from 2013, military foresight time runs five years ahead, while USG foresight time runs to 2030 at least:

In most years, the Department of Defense (DoD) provides a five-year plan, called the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), associated with the budget that it submits to the Congress. Because decisions made in the near term can have consequences for the defense budget well beyond that period, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) regularly examines DoD’s FYDP and projects its budgetary impact over several decades. For this analysis, CBO used the FYDP provided to the Congress in March 2012, which covers fiscal years 2013 to 2017; CBO’s projections span the years 2013 to 2030.

That’s confidence of a kind… but consider this:

I know, I know — whatever happens in Egypt “momentarily” may turn out to be no more than an eddy briefly interrupting a larger time-flow in the “mid-term” — a phenomenon I’d like to map nicely with some river graphics one of these days.


But time? What was it St Augustine said of it?

What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks me, I do not know.

6 Responses to “On Time and timeframes”

  1. Grurray Says:

    I like Dakota time.
    It actually doesn’t sound too far off from what 
    Boyd was talking about with the “cheng/chi” or “Nebenpunkt/Schwerpunkt” (I’ve been reading LCR’s compilation lately).
    Lower level decentralized, quicker, spontaneous, frenetic initiative coalesces around centralized, unified medium of intent.
    This is the strategic version of the infamous military and organizational expression “hurry up and wait”, which apparently actually had some value before the bureaucrats and philistines got hold of it. 

  2. Grurray Says:

    Sorry Lakota –  we really need an edit around here

  3. Grurray Says:

    On the other hand I usually subscribe to the Sinatra “one take” school –

    Each additional iteration takes something away from the original impact and intent of the composition (not to mention eats into cocktail hour).

    Perhaps one more allegory to add to the Lakota Management Method

  4. joey Says:

    Democracy is crushed,  an elected government is over thrown by the army,  the crowds cheers them to the rafters in Tahir square.  Those arseholes.

    I can’t appreciate the lighthearted approach to Egypt today. 

  5. zen Says:

    I agree, not much to cheer about.
    Morsi, while democratically elected, and the MB were illiberal democrats. When you get down to brass tacks, Morsi let the MB run torture centers as loosely deputized “security”, permitted or even encouraged the persecution of Copts by Islamist mobs, arrested his critics and was laying the foundations, albeit legally, sort of, for a new one party sharia state.
    The Egyptian Army, what can you say, it has been a partner in running Egypt since Nasser toppled the monarchy.
    The crowds in the street may be “liberals” – i.e. secular modernists – but they are a xenophobic, hypermisogynist lot who seem to think gang rape is a form of street protest and that going to war with Israel would be a good idea and not an epic disaster for Egypt.
    On balance, the MB out will probably spare Copts, Egyptian women, stray Shia and Egyptians who want to live a western lifestyle a lot of grief, but Egypt is unlikely to become a democracy. The Army will conclude – with some justification – that the politics of a genuine democracy only brings the fundamental rifts in Egyptian society to a head so that they will “manage” things, at least as a “deep state”, to prevent that from happening and for opportunities to graft further ( which like the PLA in China, they already do)

  6. joey Says:

    Yes, agree with all your points,  but some democratic governments in the west and Latin america also ran torture centers, if not on there own soil, then in a convenient proxy.  That is not considered to be a cause for a military coup.  Democracy is nothing if not gritting your teeth until the next election.
    Democracy in the Arab world seems to have been debased into a form of mass populism,  rather than a form of constitutional parliamentary democracy as we would recognize.

    What is frightening to me is that many in the west looking at events in Egypt cannot tell the difference between the two.

    I suppose that during the last 1200 years its been the army in control in Egypt.  This should be not to surprising. 

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