What you really do with OODA loops

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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Bookmarks for April 2nd 2009 through June 29th 2009

These are my links for April 2nd 2009 through June 29th 2009:

The role of the media in Balkan war crimes

The International Relations and Security Network has a very interesting article about the role the media played in the Yugoslav wars of the 90s. From Balkans: Media and War Crimes / ISN:

Serbia’s Special War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office has launched a preliminary inquiry into the role of journalists in inciting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, focusing on reporting on atrocities committed in Vukovar, Croatia, and Zvornik, Bosnia.

The investigation should be complete within the next two months, after which a decision will be taken on whether there are grounds for a full-fledged investigation. The Prosecutor’s Office said the aim was not to persecute journalists, but to establish whether there were elements of criminal activity in reporting.

The probe was launched after Serbia’s war crimes court in March sentenced 13 former Serb paramilitaries for the 1991 massacre of 200 Croats at a pig farm near Croatia’s eastern town of Vukovar.

Last year, the court also sentenced three former Serb paramilitary members for their role in the 1992 killing of 25 Muslims from the eastern Bosnian town of Zvornik, which borders Serbia. According to the indictment, the three beat and tortured men for weeks, carving crosses on their foreheads, cut off their ears and testicles and forced them to eat them. In 1992, more than 900 Muslim civilians were killed in the Zvornik area.

Bruno Vekaric, spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office, told ISN Security watch that so far they had found some eight examples of instances in which the media could have provoked war crimes and that these could be used should the investigation reach the court. He said that the Prosecutor’s Office had taken the wartime archives from Serbian national television, RTS.

Vekaric said his team had “several examples” of reporting in which “lies” could be linked to strong reactions among people that led to killing someone “just because they saw on television or read in the newspaper something that has nothing to do with reality.”

One of those examples is false reporting by government-controlled media on the murder of Serb civilians in Croatia in 1991. Just days before Vukovar killings, Serbian media broadcast news that Croatian forces had murdered 41 Serb children, aged four to seven, in a primary school in Borovo Selo, near Vukovar.

The story was first reported by Reuters correspondent Vjekoslav Radovic, who claimed that he had seen the bodies of at least 40 small children in the school’s basement. The news rapidly spread among Serbian media, while RTS aired an all-night program on the issue, hosting witnesses claiming that they too had seen the bodies. An RTS journalist even questioned a Croat teenager held by Serb paramilitary forces, pressuring him to admit to the murders.

Though RTS later conceded that the information was false and all witnesses changed their statements to say that they had only seen a dozen closed body bags, which could have contained the bodies of Croats, and Reuters fired Radovic, it was too late. The information had done its damage and was absorbed by Serbs willing to join paramilitary groups in a campaign of revenge.

When Vukovar fell to the Serbs, paramilitaries seized the prisoners, taking some 200 of them to a pig farm in Ovcara, where they were beaten, tortured and killed. Their bodies were later found in mass graves.

Vekaric said that the prosecution was also analyzing statements given by some of those accused and convicted of war crimes. One witness, a Serb paramilitary volunteer, testified during the Vukovar trial that he had joined Serb paramilitary forces in Croatia after watching a news program in Serbia.

He confessed to having participated in the murder of 200 people in Ovcara after seeing stories in Serbian media about crimes committed by Croatian forces against Serb civilians. “I watched the program, and then I went out [to join paramilitary units] and gave them [Croats] what they deserved,” he testified.

This fascinating story should be read in its entirety.

The world’s best tomatoes

One of the great pleasures of early summer in Serbia is that we get these incredibly delicious tomatoes. They are absurdly delicious. One of my favourite snacks is a thick slice of tomato on a rice cake. The slightly saltier Algae flavoured rice cakes are best. It is a taste sensation!

These are the most delicious tomatoes I have ever eaten.

Europe’s irreversible and unstoppable mass Muslim immigration

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

The beginning of the end for the Iranian regime?

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.

Applying Kilcullen’s ideas to urban regeneration

“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.