June 2009

What you really do with OODA loops

by Limbic on June 30, 2009

These are some selections and notes from a brilliant essay by Dr Chester W Richards about OODA loops and the general application of military know how to business. From “What you really do with OODA loops” :

The key to the military notion of time lies in how practitioners of the art of war view strategy. Great commanders down through the years have used time-based strategy to cloud their opponents’ understanding and destroy their morale so that the battle, if it must be fought at all, is relatively quick and painless. In the language of conflict, we say that they move their opponents where they want them to be. Leaders in business and industry can do the same thing and with similar results. This paper explores this notion, first by looking at what today’s most avant-garde business theorists claim for the concept of time, and then comparing that to what the most successful generals and strategists aim to achieve. Finally, we will the translate the military goals and objectives back into the commercial world and look for examples where it actually worked.

…Building one new business after another, faster than the competition, is the only way to stay ahead.

a real strategist doesn’t like words like “respond” and is dubious about “anticipate.” These are passive sorts of things…

Now it is true that fast reactions have their place – if your opponent catches you by surprise, for example. Competence in this tactic, such things as staying cool, using the other side’s momentum against them, and so on, form an essential part of any competitor’s tool kit. Problems arise when, as in the above paradigm, reaction becomes the goal of strategy. First, under such an arrangement, if we don’t see anything, we don’t do anything. So much for initiative.

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In an excellent article in Middle East Quarterly, Esther Ben-David examines “Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic“:

Western Europe has gone through two major stages in its recent immigration history. In the first stage, European leaders misjudged the effects of immigration and, in the second, they miscalculated how hard it would be to stop an immigration dynamic.

Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, European countries have changed from net sources of emigration to attractive destinations for immigration. Today Muslims, many from rural traditional areas, comprise the bulk of non-European immigrants to Europe. Even those who have settled in cities retain a village mentality and are seen as backward by the business and cultural elites in their home countries. Moroccans who settled in the Netherlands and Belgium, for example, are mostly Berbers from the Rif mountains, not the Arab cultural elite from Casablanca, Rabat, or Fez. These immigrants came to Europe in order to build railroads, work in the coal mines, clean streets, and do the jobs that Europeans did not want to do. Both “push” and “pull” factors affect immigration. Push factors are those that lead the immigrant to leave his homeland while pull factors are those which attract him to a different country. Europe and other Western liberal countries exert a strong pull on immigrants. However, stopping immigration is not easy, if at all possible, since the same European liberal laws that attract immigrants also prevent states from acting to stop them from coming or, later, to deport them.


It will be far more difficult to stop immigration than it was to initiate the immigration flow. A unified European approach, slashing the time to process requests and achieve final adjudication might help to decrease immigration. Immigration to Europe might have developed differently with tougher, more restrictive immigration policies, but as long as Europe offers opportunities for work, education, and personal safety, and as long as it offers a liberal democracy with the rights and privileges such a lifestyle entails, it will continue to attract mass immigration.

The West has always been proud of its moral standard of protecting human rights and giving refuge to persecuted individuals. Referral to human rights has catalyzed immigration. For example, the right to marry is recognized as a fundamental right that in many European countries brings conveyance of citizenship. However, in a society where arranged marriages are the norm and forced marriages are common, the right to marry can easily place the law on the side of the aggressor who coerces somebody else to marry rather than the victim. Redefining refugee status by creating so many categories that fulfil it renders that status meaningless. Not only does it encourage economic immigration, it actually hurts those who truly need refuge.

Original here: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic


South African House Classic

by Limbic on June 25, 2009

I heard this at the start of DJ Rade Banyan’s recent “Simply House” mix.

I have been going around humming this track and signing it to K (’cause she turns me on, innit!). Delighted and proud to see it is a South African production.


At the end of a recent post on Iran I wrote:

“I do not think that these demonstrators will unseat the Mullahs this time around. They will tire or be beaten into submission, but I do think this is the beginning of the end for Islamic Republic.”

It seems that Roger Cohen, writing in the New York Times, agrees with that assessment. He outlines 5 key areas where the regime has been undermined (helpful enumeration via Global Dashboard) :

  1. The supreme leader’s post — the apex of the structure conceived by the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini — has been undermined. The keystone of the arch is now loose. Khamenei, far from an arbiter with a Prophet-like authority, has looked more like a ruthless infighter. His word has been defied. At night, from rooftops, I’ve even heard people call for his death. The unthinkable has occurred.
  2. The hypocritical but effective contract that bound society has been broken. The regime never had active support from more than 20 percent of the population. But acquiescence was secured by using only highly targeted repression (leaving the majority free to go about its business), and by giving people a vote for the president every four years. That’s over. Repression will be broad and ferocious in the coming months. The acquiescent have already become the angry. You can’t turn Iran into Burma: The resistance of a society this varied and savvy will be fierce.
  3. A faction loyal to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, fiercely nationalistic and mystically religious, has made a power grab so bold that fissures in the establishment have become canyons. Members of this faction include Hassan Taeb, the leader of the Basiji militia; Saeed Jalili, the head of the National Security Council and chief nuclear negotiator; and Mojtaba Khamenei, the reclusive but influential son of the supreme leader. They have their way for now, but the cost to Iran has been immense, and the rearguard action led by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a father of the revolution, and Mir Hussein Moussavi, the opposition leader, will be intense.
  4. Iran’s international rhetoric, effective in Ahmadinejad’s first term, will be far less so now. Every time he talks of justice and ethics, his two favorite words, video will roll of Neda Agha Soltan’s murder and the regime’s truncheon-wielding goons at work. The president may prove too much of a liability to preserve.
  5. At the very peak of its post-revolution population boom, the regime has lost a whole new generation — and particularly the women of that generation — by failing to adapt. Thirty years from the revolution, the core question of this election was: Must Iran stand apart from the forces of economic and political globalization in order to preserve its Islamic theocracy? Or is it confident enough of its Islamic identity, and its now firmly established independence from America, to trash the nest-of-spies vitriol and an ultimately self-defeating isolation? The answer has been devastating.


Wireless love

by Limbic on June 23, 2009

Wireless love, originally uploaded by Limbic.

Spotted this in Belgrade at the weekend. Brilliant piece of spontaneous street art.


“What do you do if you’re fighting a counterinsurgency campaign and you run out of troops, western troops that is?

According to David Kilcullen in The Accidental Guerrilla (pp 269-71), the answer is to enlist villagers in “local security forces such as neighborhood watch organizations, concerned citizens groups, local security guard forces, auxiliary police and the like”. Use these local security units to do the vital but labour intensive work of protecting communities from insurgents, with support and backup from western troops.

Kilcullen uses the Iraq “surge” of 2007-08 to support this argument. The success of the surge was due to the large number of Iraqis (”mostly former Sunni insurgents or former members of local community or tribal militias”) who were recruited to local security units. This approach put a large number of people, who had expert local knowledge, to work patrolling their communities. There was no need for large headquarters and forward operating bases, line of communication troops and logistics support “since all these recruits live and work out on the ground”. And recruiting Iraqis to the government’s cause had a major impact on the insurgents’ ability to recruit and field fighters.

This is an idea that could be adapted to countering criminal gangs in rundown parts of western cities…” READ ON

via Global Dashboard » Conflict and security Cooperation and coherence » Applying Kilcullen’s ideas to urban regeneration.


Harrowing paintings by survivors of the nuclear bombs…

See more: Ground Zero 1945: Pictures by Atomic Bomb Survivors, Homes Shielded from Conflagration

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What really makes us happy?

by Limbic on June 22, 2009

Just posting a few random quotes form Joshua Wolfshenk’s brilliant article “What makes us happy?“:
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Le dernier cri

by Limbic on June 21, 2009

YouTube – le dernier cri Music by Jannes of QMP.


Iran’s non-counter-revolution

by Limbic on June 19, 2009

I have waited a bit before I commented on the Iran situation because as usual the media is pumping out Flat Earth News and the real situation there is actually extremely complicated.

As much as I would live to see the young liberals of Iran pull of a colour revolution, I think such an outcome may not serve genuine democracy.

It would appear that the Iran has a similar problem to Serbia in that the cities are dominated by reform seeking liberals, but the agrarian poor in the countryside support more radical and socialist/populist figures like Amajinadad (or Chavez or Milosevic).

As with Serbia, there is a generational element : the young want liberalisation and normalisation ; the old hanker for glory days past and support tyrants.http://richbyrne.blogspot.com/2009/06/iran-and-serbia-part-ii.html

This Stratfor video is informative and refreshing in its lucid heterodoxy:

The Serbia -Iran link has not been lost on some anti-US /Pro-Serb bloggers. Here is Nebojsa Malic:

Normally I wouldn’t comment on Iran; what happens there is none of my business. But the whole post-election mess there has me wondering.

You see, it looks very much like a “color revolution” scenario: the US-favored candidate contests election results, claims victory, and his supporters riot till the government caves in. But then, couldn’t the incumbent actually steal the election knowing full well that he can paint the resulting opposition protests as a CIA/NED coup attempt, whether that is actually true or not?

I freely admit that I haven’t a clue what’s actually true in the reports coming from Iran, whether Ahmadinejad or Mousavi actually won the vote, who stole what (or not). Given the track record of the mainstream Western media when it comes to the Balkans (as a rule, their reports are almost entirely false), why should I believe anything they say about Iran? Especially since the Empire is so determined to have a war with Tehran, one way or another.

The fact remains, however, that the technique of “democratic coup” pioneered by the Empire in Serbia – and applied elsewhere since – has made it effectively impossible to judge whether any election, anywhere, is actually legitimate. Even if we somehow possessed the knowledge to make an informed decision, there is still the matter of the Empire insisting that democracy is whatever it says it is. As a consequence, “democracy” has become just about meaningless. And that, regardless of what happens in Iran, is something definitely worth thinking about…


Daniel Larison writing in the American Conservative, and linked to by Malic above:

The pre-election hype was that the opposition candidate was enjoying a surge in support in the final weeks and stood a chance of forcing a run-off, if not actually beating the incumbent outright. Then, amid record-high turnout, the incumbent won handily and the opposition complained that it had been robbed. In other words, the hype in Lebanon was just hype and was shown to be such on election day, whereas it was God’s own truth in Iran. As the Leveretts argue in Politico today, Ahmadinejad’s official percentage of the vote is very close to his 2005 total against Rafsanjani. As it happens, this is true. Of course, this result was from the head-to-head run-off between two candidates, rather than the multi-candidate first round, but it is not necessarily impossible that a comparable percetange of a larger electorate backed Ahmadinejad in the first round as turnout increased. This does not rule out the use of fraud. Fraud may have been widespread as well, but what we do not know as yet is how significant the effect of this fraud was.

Given all of this, the readiness with which almost everyone in the West seems to be accepting the “coup” explanation is rather worrisome. It is similar to the lockstep consensus on the “Iraqi threat” six years ago that made war all but inevitable, and it is similar to our political class’ certainty last year that Georgia was merely an innocent victim of “Russian aggression,” which has been found again and again to be false. The “coup” in Iran is becoming one of those things that “everyone knows,”

We know this as Flat Earth News.

…and as we have seen more than a few times in the past the things that “everyone knows” are not always true. Moreover, this thing that “everyone knows” about the Iranian election is based on partial, sketchy and biased information–sound familiar? There may be elements of the “coup” story that hold up under scrutiny. It is true that the Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia are loyal to Ahmadinejad and had a significant role in all of this, but how much of that role was illegal under Iranian law remains to be seen.

Part of the “coup” argument is that America must not side against the Iranian people, and it is taken for granted that the people are on Mousavi’s side, because Mousavi’s claims of representing the majority are taken at face value and Mousavi’s side is sometimes simply identified as the side of The People. Were the situation reversed and Ahmadinejad supporters were the ones rioting, it is all but certain that no one would believe a word of their complaints. It is being called fascism when the police attack pro-Mousavi protesters, but you know that it would also be called fascism if it were Ahmadinejad’s people rioting in the streets rather than Mousavi’s, even if the positions of the two candidates were reversed exactly and their actions were identical. (Of course, if Mousavi were the incumbent, he might very well win, because no incumbent has ever lost in any Iranian presidential election–why exactly do we think that anything has changed this time?) If Ahmadinejad’s supporters were the ones in the streets, we would hear all about how they need to accept defeat and acknowledge the validity of the election, and if they refused to do so they would be charged with subverting the democratic process.

The “coup” argument is a consensus view that fits a lot of existing prejudices, allows us to reaffirm pleasant myths about the virtues of popular government (which we are supposed to believe would have yielded a good result, were it not for those meddling fraudsters), and provides an excuse for moralistic posturing in which we get to flaunt our enthusiasm for democracy mostly for our own satisfaction. I am increasingly skeptical that it describes the events of the last few days.


So now the Grand Ayatollah has spoken, and denounced the protests, we will see if this coup has any genuine back-bone.

Could see another Tienanmen Square, this time in Tehran, with protesters brutally oppressed? I think we are more likely to see the protests fizzle than explode.

Ironically, a heavy handed response to the protests might actually legitimise them and turn people against the government even though the original election was probably fair.

Here are the scenarios the WSJ has listed:

  • People power prevails.
  • Mr. Ahmadinejad survives, by taking a moderate position.
  • The forces of repression win within Iran, causing a backlash from the rest of the world.
  • The protests are simply crushed by Ali Khamenei; repression intensifies.
  • Ahmadinejad wins a recount or runoff, victorious but drastically weakened.
  • Mousavi somehow prevails, and rules with an unknown agenda and in a standoff with the rest of the Iranian elite.

I do not think we are seeing people power. I think we are seeing urban elites lending the appearance of people power.

I suspect that this situation in Iran may well be the same as Serbia in the 90’s. Not many people know that throughout the 90’s the Milosevic regime faced massive daily demonstrations by students, democrats and liberals – mostly the young.  They were brutally oppressed and did not success for over a decade, but eventually they did.

I do not think that these demonstrators will unseat the Mullahs this time around. They will tire or be beaten into submission, but I do think this is the beginning of the end for Islamic Republic.

Whatever happens, this should be an interesting weekend.

See Also: