zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » Ruminating…..


[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

Busy writing a book review for Pragati Magazine that should be published on Friday. In lieu of a post, I wanted to make a few completely disconnected observations.

First, Charles Cameron in his recent post on Pattern Recognition had a link to an interesting paper, “Outline of a Psychology of War”, that I did not want readers to miss.

Secondly, there is a bitterly apoplectic piece on The Tea Party and National Security by conservative defense intellectual Dov Zakheim that should stir some debate.

In a move that meshes the paranoid control-freakishness of some senior military leaders, penny-wise and pound-foolish military budget cutting, a political desire to outsource futurism to crony capitalists like Goldman Sachs, and the zealous intolerance of the administration’s “Chicago wing” for dissenting opinions or even informed advice – creeping apparatchiks in the Obama administration have their knives out for Andrew Marshall and the Office of Net Assessment.

This is the Joint Chiefs  intellectual equivalent of the longstanding USAF desire to kill the A-10. Seldom am I in complete agreement with The Lexington Institute but on this issue they are correct.

Readers can sound off on these or any issues they wish in the comments…….


16 Responses to “Ruminating…..”

  1. Lexington Green Says:

    The Zakheim piece was a hoot.  If we ever have a GOP president he will have a strong Jacksonian wing that is going to oppose any R2P style interventions, and the traditional antiwar Left won’t be in a state of cognitive paralysis with Obama in the White House.  It will be damned hard for anything remotely Neocon to happen. GOOD.  They had two wars and botched them both.  Never again.  And the idea that the GOP party on the Potomac can somehow shed the bulk of its base to accommodate the wisdom in DC without being troubled by the rubes anymore reflects a shocking, simply shocking lack of understanding of who actually lives in this country, or what they want from their government and their military.  He seems to think it is the 18th Century, where the inner circle around the enlightened despot could plan and wage Kabinettskriege without being distracted by the illiterate mob, who simply have to cough up the soldiers and money and mind their own business.  That’s not going to happen.

  2. Diente negro Says:

    What book are you reviewing zen?

  3. zen Says:

    Diente negro,
    Going to review Neville Bolt’s The Violent Image.
    Yeah, any substantive point about tea party not seeing the larger picture  is obscured by Zakheim being totally disconnected from the larger picture in the way you describe.

  4. Grurray Says:

    Much of the world has caught up with us technologically and economically.
    We can’t spend our way to victory anymore. If we haven’t learned that lesson yet then we’re in trouble.
    Besides it’s not the tea party that put the brakes on the pivot to Asia.

    It was Obama with his pivot to Africa to support the R2P policies.
    It’s hard to take seriously the Navy all bent out of shape because they can’t scrape together some funds for a conference while at the same time we’re sparing no expense expanding operations in Djibouti and shifting thousands of troops to AFRICOM.

  5. zen Says:

    Nice catch Grurray. Not sure where the operations money for Djibouti is coming from as the DoD has more spending leeway with appropriations than any other Department but some of it is probably Navy. Scott is better qualified to comment on that than am i

  6. Lexington Green Says:

    The cancelled conference is very much like the Park Service blocking views of Mt. Rushmore: Shutdown theatre. “… for the want of a few hundred thousand dollars”  Please.  The Navy could have put on the conference if it really wanted to.  

  7. larrydunbar Says:

    “Besides it’s not the tea party that put the brakes on the pivot to Asia.
    It was Obama with his pivot to Africa to support the R2P policies.”

    Neither scenarios has stopped the “pivot”.

    The pivot was always meant to be an insurgency, or did you actually believed there was going to be this permanently tethered fleet of American warships somewhere out in the Pacific? A battle group that would never need to come back to the US shores and would be manned by a revolving corp of sailors?

    No, as you explained, America is pivoting away from technology, not towards.

    When thinking Indo-Pacific Pivot, I think a person would need to think more Manifest Destiny than Waterworld. There is not going to be a corp of sailors, but a SOF of brave pioneers taking advantage of paradise.

    Oh wait, they are already there. 

  8. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    Hi Grurray,
    It is hard to take the Navy seriously, period. Yours is but one example of the pervasive cognitive dissonance which seems to have gripped our defense establishment. I’ve said it before, so I’l resist the urge to rant: a large portion of our problems are inbreeding—the revolving door from uniform to civil service and to cushy contract jobs—there is no incentive for anyone in this system to “think” beyond orthodoxy, and few do. I cannot remember a time when the word “innovation” has been bandied about more than these days, but very little results; the shipbuilding plan is a mess and unsustainable. Many of our “new” ships are not suited for a fight (LCS being Exhibit A). I keep thinking there will be one or two brave flags who throw down the BS flag and challenge the insanity, but the price would be high. All that to say (and this may seem contradictory), the current CNO, ADM Greenert is trying to correct some of this, but I fear not fast enough—and perhaps not bold enough.
    This is a great quote shared with me just this morning, it seems apropos to this discussion:
    “Adaptive challenges can only be addressed through changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits, and loyalties. Making progress requires going beyond any authoritative expertise to mobilize discovery, shedding certain entrenched ways, tolerating losses, and generating the new capacity to thrive anew.” Heifetz, Grashow, Linsky, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership
    The rewards for loyalty for the status quo are so high, few will do what is necessary. Goes back to John Boyd’s “to be or to do…” 

  9. Madhu Says:

    That’s right, Lex. Nothing could be “righter.”.
    You all should take a meander through Zakheim’s A Vulcan’s Tale: How the Bush Administration Mismanaged the Reconstruction in Afghanistan. 
    It’s hilarious in the way it broadcasts Zakheim’s own contributions to the mess without ‘fessing up. Well, I don’t think there was any real ‘fessing up but I might be wrong because gales of laughter caused me to stop reading.
    There are many hilarious passages on Musharraf. Rumsfeld and the Neocons and the old Nixon-wallah’s got played, and good. They knew nothing. Less than nothing.
    Wait, hang on. I’m getting some complaints here. “Nothing” is on the Twitter and Tweets: “Please. Even Nothing Knew Better Than That. Tweet!”
    Seriously, read a bit of it. The laughter will do you good. Money man actually has a passage where he’s all, “we have to figure out how to shovel as much money to the mililtary and Musharraf as we can without lousy Congressionals messing it like they always do! We’ve got to block the Soviets and keep the Iranians….what? Oh, what decade is it again?”

  10. Madhu Says:

    For some reason, I am completely obsessed with:
    The early period of the US “taking over” from the British in its international “obligations”, that 50’s period.
    And the delusions of Americans of many stripes on South Asia, South Asia being a way to avoid saying India-Pakistan because that only transmits the utter stupidity and ignorance of the framing of most issues for US interests. It’s not 1948, and even then, that formulation sucked for us, meaning the US. The British, well, it sucked for them but it’s the Canadians and Australians that write better about it. I guess they are the Anglophones used to looking at the Anglo-American alliance as outsiders and so write better about the emotional spaces we all get ourselves into….
    I turn everything into some novel in my head. Some novel, though, eh? 

  11. Madhu Says:

    Third obsession: ” “. I’m using them at random lately. “Lately.” 

  12. Madhu Says:

    Oh, hahahaha, look at this comment I left at SWJ on Brookings and its lousy history of South Asian analysis:
    “But Madhu, Brookings thought the constant military aid was bad.”

    “Yes, but their non-proliferation advice and their civilian aid advice was equally bad, just in a different way. Remember, it’s the consensus, the hawks and doves combined, a sometimes Anglo-American way, a sometimes Brussels way of approaching a region, that is the issue.”

    “But none of my books at Georgetown covered this. I mean, I’ve read everything okay? I am SAMS. I am Georgetown. I am Princeton. I’ve traveled. I have languages. How can you say I missed something?”

    “Well, that is the key question, isn’t it? How a person develops not so much blind spots, as the place which “I will not go….” ”
    “But what if you are wrong?”

    “Well, I might be. That’s why you need to go beyond reading your books and REALLY READ YOUR BOOKS.” 
    I’m back! I’m my old self again. Not unhappy about the terrible types in DC and their advice, I am accepting of messiness and back to my old self. Just like that, it’s over! Ha! Well, you never know in life, do you? 

  13. Grurray Says:

    “And the delusions of Americans of many stripes”
    It is interesting how the mid-century British Asia & Africa COIN model was so popular. From my rudimentary perspective, what they did best was:
    a) forced relocation of entire populations
    b) cut off all possible cross border safe havens
    c) after starving the insurgency to an acceptable level, withdrew and folded up the empire
    Even more interesting is how we thought we could emulate it by
    a) not relocating anyone,
    b) allowing safe havens, and
    c) staying
    “did you actually believed there was going to be this permanently tethered fleet of American warships somewhere out in the Pacific?”
    to give Obama some credit the main battle plan of the Asia pivot would put our center of gravity one ocean over from where all the action is occurring which is the Indian Ocean. Although I suspect he’s looking in the wrong direction and getting pushed by the Hollywood-oscenti into getting mixed up in the ‘Blood Mineral’ feuds.
    “Adaptive challenges can only be addressed through changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits, and loyalties. Making progress requires going beyond any authoritative expertise to mobilize discovery, shedding certain entrenched ways, tolerating losses, and generating the new capacity to thrive anew.” 
    Nice quote
    Something fascinating when reading about Boyd is learning about the perpetual struggle going on between centralized long range bombardment and autonomous close combat.
    There’s a lot to think about in that link to Baechler’s study on psychology of war (so much so that I probably need to read it two or three times in order to absorb everything), but one thing that stuck out was what he says about passion:
    “Achilles and Hector find themselves locked in a fight to the
    death, yet they respect each other and could even have become friends had circumstances
    been different.”
    I was thinking about this when Charles wondered last week if the jahadis on either side in Syria were fighting under the same ideological terms.
    There are so many implications of passions and feelings to the transpolitical configurations Baechler lists, but the duel and duelists (maneuver warfare being the collective duel) are not subject to them. The abstractions and ideologies of the polities aren’t relevant to their situation which is outside what he says is the special significance of the political realm. More importantly the duelists are outside of control of the polities and potentially outside of the political trust if their motivations develop by their autonomous actions.

  14. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Madhu:
    Yes, that quote, “Achilles and Hector find themselves locked in a fight to the death, yet they respect each other and could even have become friends had circumstances been different” caught my eye too. And I too probably need to read the Baechler piece “two or three times” — or maybe five or six in my case, with time for absorption in between? — to get a handle on it. The scope really is immense.
    I also need to think about your point re “duels” (singular and collective). Once I’ve a better grasp of Baechler? You see how deeply re-educated I need to be, and how long it might take? Aiiyeee — and yet the mind continues to sprout opinions. ; ) 

  15. Grurray Says:

    He might have meant Ajax and Hector:
    Charles, you may have covered this before, but do you see a parallel between this concept and Matthew 5:44?
    Christ was obviously advocating peace and benevolence, but perhaps also, by virtue of such a politically counterintuitive action, ideological independence.

  16. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Grurray:
    I see Sun Tzu, “Know your enemy” and Christ’s “Love your enemy” as intriguing both for their similarities and for their differences — in some ways a “two peas in a pod” pair — but certainly also demonstrating what I’ve come to call “sibling pea rivalry”.  I’m very interested in the space that open up when one contemplates the two of them together, as a stereophany.

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