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Recommended Reading

[by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

Top Billing! James C. Bennett “Brexit and Beyond:  Why Americans Should Support British Exit  From the European Union, and What Could Come Next

….However, the argument for Remain from the standpoint of American interest, whether articulated by Obama or academics, depends on a foreign policy world view that is probably well past its sell-by date.  It continues to pin its hopes on the emergence of a federal United States of Europe as a strong, even co-equal partner in the world that, unlike its current scattered member-states, can afford the economic and military measures needed to help the US maintain world order.  And it continues to hope that Britain will be a strong voice within such a Federal Europe for a pro-American policy.  Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, back in the 1950s, famously described Britain as having “lost an empire, but not yet gained a role.”  Leading a uniting Europe in a pro-American direction has always been the US State Department’s idea of what that role could be.

What is wrong with those assumptions?  Just about everything.

To begin with, the idea of a united Europe that would be genuinely federal, which is to say anything other than an empire of one culture over the others, is highly unlikely if not chimerical.  To the extent Europe today works, it is an empire of Germans, with the French as their lieutenants, over the rest.  The Germans try to be polite about it, unless money is at stake, but the reality is a bit too visible for comfort these days.  The British who believe in the idea of their place in a federal Europe, tend to work as lieutenants to the Germans on economic matters, and allies of the French on security matters, except where it comes to cooperation with the US, where they have only minor allies from Eastern Europe, who do not count for much in Brussels.

Scholar’s Stage – Sunzi on ISIS

….In the piece “The Radical Sunzi” I argued rather forcefully that the key to understand the Sunzi is realizing that it was not written in a vacuum. Much of it was written as a direct response to common attitudes of the time, which depicted war as a ritualized contest of heroes, and the conquest and conduct of war were treated as religious rites. Less time separated the China of the Sunzi from the China of Aztec-style human sacrifice than separated the Greece that produced Thucydides’s rationalist vision of war from the Greece that created the honor-driven duels of the Homeric epics. It is difficult to say if the Sunzi simply reflects a change in norms that was sweeping through ancient Chinese society, or if it was actually one of the causes of it. In any case, the change itself is clear. Before the Sunzi violence was justified as a sacral act, and it was employed mostly on for the purpose of personal honor; after the Sunzi violence was justified as a central pillar of statecraft, used mostly on the grounds of cool realpolitik. [7]

That is the context for the quotation above. When the Sunzi says that the best victory is the victory achieved without recourse to warfare at all, it was attacking the idea that victory and it’s glories were the purpose of war. When it says that a country conquered intact is better than a country ravaged by conquest, he is suggesting that ravaging is not a worthy end in and of itself. The unspoken subtext of this passage is that decisions in war should all be judged on the basis of interest (or ‘profit,’ the Chinese word used here is li ?) of the ruling house. The Sunzi may well have been the earliest voice in recorded history to argue that generals must use cost-benefit analysis to decide on whether or not to embark on any new campaign. 

The idea that military force should be used rationally to accomplish national interests; that if possible it is better to achieve those same aims without war; and that every campaign should be subjected to a rigorous calculation of potential costs and benefits are so obvious to modern military planners that most of these ideas are simply assumed, not argued. They do not need to be argued because everyone already accepts them as the baseline for new discussion. When the Sunzi was originally etched into bamboo, however, this was not true. The idea that violence should be used as a rational instrument of policy was a new and radical idea. …

Queenofthinair –On the Platonic Form of Garrison Obedience and Garrison versus Combat: Are there different standards for Obedience? 

….In garrison contexts, is there more bureaucracy and micromanaging? Is the appearance of obedience more important here because of how that looks relative to civilian ‘masters’ especially in terms of career promotions and procurement issues?  Here is the idea that what really matters is the appearance of obedience and the sense of predictability and control that comes with that. As a mother, I wonder if this is like wanting to my kids to behave when we go to church, so others will think well of me and trust me in other matters.

In combat, it would seem that there  is more fluidity and changes in circumstance where the individual has to interpret how an order is to be carried out given conditions on the ground.  This seems to be what the above quote is referring to and seems to be an idea with intuitive appeal. War is not predictable or controllable in the ways that we might expect of civilian life or even a garrison context, so wouldn’t it make sense that we make allowances here for some disobedience? But then how does that jive with the conventional idea that obedience is so important under fire to keep people from harm and to achieve the mission?  At the very least, there seems an interesting tension here.

….In combat, might is not be the case that results matter? If disobedience leads to good results then it is forgiven or tolerated, if not approved? If this is the case, this raises other  questions about the grounds for the moral obligation to obedience in the military. It cannot be an absolute or even general obligation, it might be a conditional obligation?         Are we willing to say: One ought to be obedient, unless disobedience produces a greater good? Are we willing to give individual members of the military the discretion to decide this? How do you train for this?

Admiral William McRaven – A Warrior’s Career Sacrificed for Politics

The Diplomat – Is China Gearing up for Another People’s War?

Global Guerrillas –The Return of Great Power War

The Strategy Bridge – #Reviewing Shanghai 1937 and Nanjing 1937

Small Wars Journal – Time to Bring Counterinsurgency to Molenbeek

John Hagel – The Big Shift in Business Models

Cicero Magazine – How Wars Are Fought Again in Memory

LifeHacker – Exploring the Myth of the Scientific vs. Artistic Mind

That’s it.

6 Responses to “Recommended Reading”

  1. Grurray Says:

    “But my issue is that teamwork is about what you DO not about what you ARE”
    Mastery is getting to that elusive point when what you do becomes what you are. Of curse, ignoring the DOing part means you won’t ever get to that ARE part. However, to say that the ARE part has nothing to do with the mission just goes too far, and to say that it’s only about maintaining meaningless cliques is just too cynical. There’s a reason we have rituals and pomp and circumstance. They’re to remind us of the moral foundations of the rightness of our cause and the faith and goodness of the team’s missions. They’re there to shape orientation.
    The Basterds/Expendables/Dirty Dozen are tropes because they’re fictional and rare. Maybe they might show up in combat environments because widespread pell–mell violence necessitates broadening the field of potential participants. We certainly need creative thinkers with the ability to adapt, but without overarching purpose and procedures they’ll be swinging at windmills.
    The real lesson here is that the rigidity and discipline of garrisons are best suited for defense or resistance. On the other hand, the lack of restraint necessary in offensives and conquests is unsustainable over the long haul and potentially self-destructive if it goes on for too long.

  2. Grurray Says:

    Regarding Commonwealth 2.0, Canada has been very flaky lately, and the collapse in oil seems to have prompted a bit of a backlash against the liberty minded Western provinces. Canadians will be lagging behind on any Anglosphere initiative.
    The linchpin is going to be Australia, but the one stumbling block is their closeness with China. It’s their largest trading partner and with whom they just signed a relatively unpopular free trade agreement.
    Here’s where America comes in. A more robust presence in the East Indies sea lanes and Malay Barrier will go a long way towards reassuring the Aussies that it’s safe to hop aboard. Re-shoring production previously based in China back to North America will make the trade pact even less palatable.
    Singapore and Hong Kong can then be welcomed into the fold. Maybe Brunei can follow, and Lower Burma too if they don’t get all their ethnic problems ironed out.

  3. larrydunbar Says:

    “Mastery is getting to that elusive point when what you do becomes what you are.”
    I used to think that was true, but I am now not so sure. Mastery could mean getting to a point in time where you, the master, can say, “And now for something completely different.”
    But then again, maybe I am just in the feed of a routine whose orientation is similar to Monty Python’s.
    On the other hand, they were masters of the obvious.

  4. larrydunbar Says:

    Maybe “Are” is your potential (potential energy), and the “Do” is the release of that potential in the form of kinetic energy.
    Which in horseshoes and atom bombs, the distance in the potential energy is always greater or less than what you are actually able to accomplish in the amount of time you have.

    But the question might be: is this difference between who we are and what we do something we need to sweat over, considering in the factor of time?

    And that question might be team specific. So no matter who we are or what we do, it comes down to the orientation of the team in the environment observed, the advantage of the position the orientation has in the environment observed, and the relevance of the position, as to advantage, after the decisions have been made in comparison to what the environment looks like after the actions of the team member is taken into consideration.

    So it is only relativity.

    If the team member is a master, the environment may look completely different or not. If the team member is a follower of a master, maybe not so much difference. If the team member is an independent, maybe he/she isn’t a team member, which we always have to take the possibility into consideration, i.e. Snowden.

  5. Grurray Says:

    “So it is only relativity. ”
    Here’s the heart of the matter – how much is orientation a function of culture or environment? How much should it be?
    You don’t step into the same river twice from your frame of reference as the one stepping into the river, but in relation to the people on the shore and in the river valley you are in the same river. The shared beliefs, principles, codes of the people on the shore sustain you through the ever-changing flows of the river up until the levy breaks. Casting your fate to the river and floating off works well until you round the bend and reach the falls.
    The ARE always defines the DO either in terms of directing it or providing a reference for what it isn’t doing. In the face of this though, we are still always DOing something in the river, whether it’s standing in place or spinning in the flows, but we are also constantly adding to the ARE, good or bad, in the frame of reference outside ourselves in the river valley. In an infinite universe, there will always be that outside frame river valley that sees the ARE and the DO as relative, but at the same time the outside frame will be the ARE for the DOing and AREing in the nested frame river. The ARE is constantly externally emerging while the DO is internally emerging.
    So what does this tell us about how to ultimately answer the urgent matter at hand, which is should you bring your dog to the unit function? My question in response would be is the function in the valley or the river? Because that determines whether or not it even needs to be asked in the first place.

  6. larrydunbar Says:

    “Here’s the heart of the matter – how much is orientation a function of culture or environment? How much should it be?”

    I think orientation begins in a workspace and culture begins in the environment observed. So culture comes first. Maybe it could be said that culture is the source-code that orientation is created out of. So orientation is the function of the culture over the environment (Orientation = culture/environment).

    If there is a levy in the river, then there was some work involved in the building of the levy, so we might be talking about more than one orientation. If that is the case, then one needs to examine the position of the levy and those observing both the levy and the river.

    I think it is quantum physics that tells us that the person observing is only defining him/herself and not the river, levy or any other workspace that can be observed in the area.

    Likewise, the ARE are only defining themselves. However, the Are are not content just to command with the force of their potential, they do mostly like to control the Doers by limiting or increasing the velocity of the doers.

    They control the doers through velocity’s cousin acceleration, which (in Larry’s math) is a function of force, i.e. control/acceleration=mass.

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