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WarCouncil’s “Zero to Clausewitz”

November 24th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

The fine gents at WarCouncil.org have released the Cliff Notes of Strategy in their “WarCouncil.org 300 Word Strategic Education” . It is excellent:

Can we educate a strategist in an hour?  Some would argue this task is impossible, that it takes a lifetime, or at least 10,000 hours

But what if we had to?  Imagine it were possible – how would you do it?  How would you accelerate learning to strategic competency?  Note: I define competency as someone that would know, understand, and be able to apply a core set of strategic concepts to analyze and appraise modern war (see also “strategic understanding”).

One scientifically validated path would be the Pareto Principle, which holds, across many systems, that 80% of output comes from 20% of input.  How does this help us rapidly educate strategic practitioners?  We would first identify the critical 20% knowledge base that produces these outsize gains.  We would then leverage this 20% (or “minimum effective dose”) by proving a simple framework for use in any war.

Which is where the “WarCouncil.org 300 Word Strategic Education” comes in.

Following the logic above, I’ve created a document that identifies what I consider the 50 most essential strategic concepts and whittled each to six words apiece (hence, 300 words, not including the actual term itself).  I’ve also presented Clausewitzian Critical Analysis as simply as possible in the header to present this all-weather framework. Lastly, I included an abbreviated footnotes section for those with further interest (and here’s the draft and outtakes).

My claim is that using the “WarCouncil.org 300 Word Strategic Education,” you could educate a competent strategic practitioner in 60 minutes.  

This is simply a neat idea. I don’t think you will get a competent strategist in sixty minutes but you will give a student or new practitioner a fast distillation of strategy’s greatest hits – a fast shared understanding of what they need to know and comprehend.

Can someone send this to the NSC staff? They badly need it.

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Dabiq issue #5 — the back cover, the hadith, the child, the video

November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — once again a Mahdist hadith — and a video link, I’m pretty sure ]
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dabiq 5 front back pgs

Dabiq issue #5 (front & back covers above) has now been out a day or three.

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This time, there’s an “end times” hadith that doesn’t mention the title Mahdi while referring to him on the back cover:

face

This particular hadith as quoted requires the Mahdi to have both the name of the Prophet and of his father — which will make it difficult, but not impossible, for the current caliph to receive that title. Mr Orange first suggested this problem to me, and I hope in a future post to discuss it in some detail.

I also hope to continue discussing Dabiq issue #5 as time allows..

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For now, let me close by saying I am pretty sure the child in the photo above is also “Abdullah” from Khazakstan interviewed in this video:

which I found in Australia’s 9News piece, Child demonstrates frightening firearms proficiency in ISIL video.

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The Art of Future War?

November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — coloring outside the lines of the challenge ]
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http://www.desura.com/mods/dune-wars/images/new-soldier-and-infantry-units
Civ4 Dune mod, “Worm attack”, from Desura

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I’m all in favor of the Atlantic Council‘s Art of Future War Project:

It is a moment to seek out new voices and ideas from artists who can range much farther out into the future. Artists are adept at making sense of disorder while also having the ability to introduce a compelling chaos into the status quo. In other words, they are ideally suited to exploring the future of warfare. Writers, directors and producers and other artists bring to bear observations derived from wholly different experiences in the creative world. They can ask different kinds of questions that will challenge assumptions and conventional ways of tackling some of today’s toughest national security problems. Importantly, they can also help forge connections with some of most creative people in the public and private sectors who otherwise struggle to find avenues for their best ideas.

That’s excellent, and as a poet and game designer with a keen interest in war and peace, I hope to contribute.

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Funny, though, their first challenge looks, to my eyes, just a little bit back to the future:

The Art of Future Warfare project’s first challenge seeks journalistic written accounts akin to a front-page news story describing the outbreak of a future great-power conflict.

Why would we want to produce something “akin to a front-page news story” at a time when news stories are already more web-page than front-page, and perhaps even tweet before they’re breaking news?

In any case, the good people at Art of Future War offered some clues to those who might want to take up their challenge, and I took their encouragement seriously —

The historical creative cues included below are intended to inspire, not bound, creativity.

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Their first clue did indeed inspire me, though not to write anything akin to a front-page news story, “between 1,500 and 2,500 words long”. The clue they gave was the Washington Times lede I’ve reproduced in the ipper panel below —

SPEC DQ slomo death

while the lower panel contains the quote their clue led me to, by an associative leap of the kind artists are prone to — drawing on the vivid imagery of Peter Brook‘s play, The Mahabharata, which I had the good fortune to see in Los Angeles, a decade or three ago.
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My own leap backwards — to an ancient and indeed originally oral epic, the Mahabharata, rather than to century-old newsprint — won’t win me the challenge, since it doesn’t answer to the rules, nor will it provide useful hints as to what war will look like a decade from now.

The sage Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharata at the dictation of the god Ganesh, might have been able to predict the future of war — I certainly cannot.

What I can do, and hope to have done, is to suggest that the whole of human culture has a bearing on war and how we understand it.

James Aho‘s Religious Mythology and the Art of War should be on every strategist’s reading list, as should Frank Herbert‘s Dune (see gamer’s mod image at the top of this page), JAB van Buitenen‘s Bhagavadigita in the Mahabharata and Brigadier SK Malik‘s The Qur’anic Concept of War — and Akira Kurasawa‘s Kagemusha on the DVD shelf, too:

There, I have managed to contribute something useful after all.

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Sunday Surprise: advertising the Christmas spirit, 1914

November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — I’m with the British Legion, remembering the fallen, avid for peace — and not averse to chocolate ]
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Apparently there’s some controversy over a recent Sainsbury’s ad. Here’s the background on the ad:

and the ad itself:

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For good measure, here’s the “making of”:

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Given how commercial a holiday Christmas has become, I’d have to say Sainsbury’s — the British supermarket chain — is doing us all a favor, believers and otherwise, by bringing our attention back to the Prince of Peace, in spirit if not by name.

What do you think?

Do you perhaps agree with Rev. Nicholas Clews, Priest-in-Charge at St Margaret of Antioch, Thornbury, and St James the Great, Woodhall, that the ad:

misses the point about the significance of what happened on Christmas Day 1914 [which] was that a chance for peace was missed. It’s a tragedy. For a day: those soldiers realised they were human beings, and they shared that humanity. That’s a tremendous message for Christmas; but the significance of Christmas is that it’s not about a day, it’s about life.

— or with the contributor at Forbes, perhaps, who wonders if it’s even an ad at all?

There’s still an even bigger question to ask, though: What does any of this have to do with selling stuff, which is, after all, Sainsbury’s overwhelming top priority during the most important shopping season of the year?

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Dabiq issue #5 – Ibrahim challenges Nimrod

November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — tracing the same tale from Ibrahim challenging Nimrod as quoted in Dabiq back to Midrash Rabbah ]
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I ended my last post, An end times update & the Islamic State, with a DoubleQuote:

SPEC DQ sunrise west

Sources:

  • Foreign Policy, In a New Ukraine, the Sun Rises in the West
  • Discovering Islam, Rising of the Sun from the West
  • **

    But then, d’oh, a new issue of Dabiq comes out, and on p 4 there’s a reference to Qur’an 2.258:

    Have you not considered the one who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord [merely] because Allah had given him kingship? When Ibrahim said, “My Lord is the one who gives life and causes death,” he said, “I give life and cause death.” Ibrahim said, “Indeed, Allah brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.” So the disbeliever was overwhelmed [by astonishment], and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people [Al-Baqarah: 258].

    What’s that book title? The Sun Also Rises

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    That’s quite an intriguing exchange, you know, for Dabiq to be quoting — especially considering that Ibrahim is the caliphal name of al-Baghdadi, that Dabiq preaches the millah Ibrahim, and so forth.

    There’s more to the story, of course.

    The Qur’an 21.51-71 goes into more detail:

    We gave Abraham aforetime his rectitude — for We knew him — when he said to his father and his people, ‘What are these statues unto which you are cleaving?’ They said, ‘We found our fathers serving them.’ He said, ‘Then assuredly you and your fathers have been in manifest error.’ They said, ‘What, hast thou come to us with the truth, or art thou one of those that play?’ He said, ‘Nay, but your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth who originated them, and I am one of those that bear witness thereunto. And, by God, I shall assuredly outwit your idols, after you have gone away turning your backs.’ So he broke them into fragments, all but a great one they had, for haply they would return to it. They said, ‘Who has. done this with our gods? Surely he is one of the evildoers.’ They said, ‘We heard a young man making mention of them, and he was called Abraham.’ They said, ‘Bring him before the people’s eyes; haply they shall bear witness.’ They said, ‘So, art thou the man who did this unto our gods, Abraham?’ He said, ‘No; it was this great one of them that did it. Question them; if they are able to speak!’ So they returned one to another, and they said, ‘Surely it is you who are the evildoers.’ Then they were utterly put to confusion saying, ‘Very well indeed thou knowest these do not speak.’ He said, ‘What, and do you serve, apart from God, that which profits you nothing; neither hurts you? Fie upon you and that you serve apart from God! Do you not understand?’ They said, ‘Burn him, and help your gods, if you would do aught.’ We said, ‘O fire, be coolness and safety for Abraham!’ They desired to outwit him; so We made them the worse losers, and We delivered him, and Lot, unto the land that We had blessed for all beings.

    And behind that telling o the story, there’s the Midrash Rabbah, in which we read [p. 311] that Abraham mocked customers of his father’s idol-manufacturing business, with the result that his father handed him over to the King, Nimrod — himself an idolater:

    Thereupon he seized him and delivered him to Nimrod. ‘Let us worship the fire’ he [Nimrod] proposed. ‘Let us rather worship water’, which extinguishes the fire,’ replied he. ‘Then let us worship water!’ ‘Let us rather worship the clouds which bear the water.’ ‘Then let us worship the clouds!’ ‘Let us rather worship the winds which disperse the clouds’ ‘Then let us worship the wind!’ ‘Let us ratherworship human beings, who withstand the wind.’ ‘You are just bandying words,’ he exclaimed; ‘We will worship naught but the fire. Behold, I will cast you into it, and let your God whom you adore come and save you from it.’ Now Haran was standing there undecided. If Abram is victorious, [thought he], I will say that I am of Abram’s belief, while if Nimrod is victorious I will say that I am on Nimrod’s side. When Abram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved, he [Nimrod] asked him, ‘Of whose belief are you?’ ‘Of Abram’s,’ he replied. Thereupon he seized and cast him into the fire; his inwards were scorched and he died in his father’s presence. Hence it is writteN, AND hARAN DIED IN THE PRESENCE OF (‘AL PENE) HIS FATHER TERAH

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    I shall have more to say about Dabiq 5 in further posts — the whole magazine is a bit much to digest at once.

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