Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This ain't your daddy's (global battle to save mankind against a hegemonic foe with a totalitarian ideology ....

... and mad utopian delusions about how to create a better world by destroying America and occupying Europe). Nope. It sure ain't.

Editors note: If you're a member of The 910 Group, this site is now deprecated.

V has indicated that certain CEOs and power brokers have determined that this blog no longer reflects the optimal persona of the group. Ouch! I swear I didn't know.

All I did was talk about transparency, make an effort to understand how the enemy thinks, and do my best to critically examine the internal dynamics of the group. I really was only trying to help raise standards and expectations. Good organizations do that.

B has provided a new blog where such outrages will no longer occur.

so .. where were we? ...

Wrong War

It's easy to fight the wrong war, the last war instead of the next one. People do it because they know how. They know how to raise the money, make the arguments, describe the enemy. The social infrastructure for the war is already in place. It's usually in power.

For example, obsessing about multiculturalism, particularly its manifestations in Europe, is one way to fight the wrong war in the current instance. Multiculturalism is not an alien implant in the west, but an enormous part of the West’s dialog about itself. It may be the source of a thousand vulnerabilities and it may be misguided in another thousand ways, but it’s still part of who we are. We have to win this war with all that baggage, in spite of it, probably because of it. When conservatives throw themselves into anti-jihad as if it were part of an ongoing culture war with the left or, worse, a cold war reminiscence, they're fighting the wrong war.

The culture war (CW) is not a bad thing. I'm actually a fairly passionate partisan on the conservative side, but it is what it is and it's not the counter jihad (CJ). The temptation to fold the CJ into the CW, which is mostly a financial temptation, will lead to failure. Gearing up the old anti-communist machine might be a great way to raise money, as is revving up the right wing on any of its favorite subjects, but conflating this conflict with the priorities of the conservative movement in general will hand the enemy a victory he has been working hard for, a divided society with its left wing exposed. We saw in 2004 what a disaster that can be. But other than opportunistically, and because we let it happen, the Jihad has not joined forces with the left, although they'd love for you to think that, and many of you do think that.

Seriously, the left is not the enemy and jihadists are not leftists. Duh. This war is not a replay of the communist threat faced by the last 2 or 3 generations. That was something internal to our civilization. There may be some similarities but the conclusions one would draw from those similarities are more likely to be misleading than helpful.

The wars of the 20th century were largely wars between western powers fighting over the spoils of the colonial era. That's a simplification, of course, and one can see in conflicts like the Vietnam and Korean wars both echoes of the 19th century and foreshadowing of the 21st. Nevertheless, in general terms the 20th century was about restructuring and repositioning among western powers. While the ideas that were fought over were important, all parties were coming from the same tradition and responding to the same history.

Have we not all read the same critique of false religion?
And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil. Peacefully they will die, peacefully they will expire in Thy name, and beyond the grave they will find nothing but death. But we shall keep the secret, and for their happiness we shall allure them with the reward of heaven and eternity.
The Grand Inquisitor, The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky

This time we have an external enemy who doesn't give a damn about the future of our political tradition and whose youth, critically, do not read Dostoevsky. This one is not a fight for the soul of the west. It's something else. Obviously, a good place to start fighting it would be to figure out who the enemy is, and who it is not.


Wrong Group

There are two key strategies that have to be pursued to fight this war. One is to unite the west on common ground and the other is to harness the chaotic energies of this age to work for us instead of against us.
  1. Unite the west on common ground
  2. Harness the chaotic forces of this age

I joined The 910 Group thinking it was a perfect vehicle to go after these two objectives. Now I don't think it can accomplish either one.

On the first point, the group's members can't distinguish very well between one enemy and another. You need to be able to do that. Recent alliances tend to shore up the group's conservative credentials at a severe cost, I think, to its ability to function as a network of networks for counter jihad, which is its stated objective.
Make no mistake: this is a civil war within the heart of the West, between those who would appease Islamic tyranny and those who want to eliminate it;
As I've noted above, this is a good characterization, but of the wrong war.

Uniting the west on common ground doesn't mean that left and right have to agree on much, certainly not strategy. What it does mean, and I can't think of a simpler way to say it, is that the adults need to be in charge on this one.

On the second point, the group has abandoned most of its original open source ideas. Indeed, there is now clear hierarchy, with more and less privileged classes, staff and subgroup designations, a chain of command. Among the privileges of staff, the most visible and touted perk in fact, is the ability to delete and edit other people's posts in the forum. That's not a good foundation for an open source culture and because of it, the 910 group will not be able to harness the energies of the most creative people. They'll have to make do with groupies.

The group is likely to successfully raise its profile, raise money and produce a lot of stuff, some of it perhaps useful. They'll never run out of willing participants. But there's no longer any reason to expect great things from them. If you're one of those participants, try to keep in mind that your compliance is what they have to sell. They will be able to raise funds precisely to the extent that they can pitch a story about a coherent network of people, working as one, etc. That's not to say they won't pitch the open source idea to raise money, particularly to people who don't really know what it means, but they'll never live up to it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

This is what 5GW looks like

All theories be damned. This is how it's done.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Open Society

"The Open Society is death for Closed Cabals".

Thanks to ThunderPig, again, for bringing the tdaxp blog to my attention. It's a rich resource along with a few others in that sphere.

Plus, an editor's note: The concensus usage of the term 5GW is exactly the meaning I argue against here. In order to participate in the wider discussion, I'm going to leave that question aside and allow that 5GW is a stealthier, spookier and more super-villain-genius like version of 4GW, at least for now.

Now to go on. From ZenPundit.
"Are democratic governments inherently poorly organized to fight 5GW? What structures (gov and non-gov) should a democratic nation-state develop to fight/detect 5GW?"

I think open societies are actually better poised than authoritarian or totalitarian ones to survive 5GW attacks because decision-making is decentralized, information flows are wide open and the degree of transparency is far higher ( if not actually transparent).

Nicolae Ceausescu was undone by elements within his own Stalinist security apparatus that kept him in the dark, manipulated and betrayed him. By his own orders and actions Ceaucescu's information feedback loop had come to resemble a funhouse mirror so that he did not even seem to realize that he had become the most hated figure in Romania until a fenzied mob was shouting for his blood. He died running frantically around a room screaming as Army recruits vied to be the first to blow his head off at close range. Three days earlier Ceaucsescu had the life of every Romanian in his hand - or so he thought.
What happens when access to the avenues of speech are closed, or when a small group or an individual control those avenues? We know what happens. Horizons narrow, flexibility dies and robustness wanes. The organization (or society) becomes an easy target for 4GW or 5GW attack.

What makes The 910 Group different from all the other anti-jihad organizations? That question was asked here once in one of the comments. One of the answers is this blog, where the gadfly and the rabble become part of the discussion. It's the rare and exceptional organization that takes this step right from the start.

It's this step that
keeps this group from becoming just another closed cabal, a few people exploiting your passion for liberty without scruple. The fact that I'm here, shouting from the hilltops, is the reason you should join The 910 Group.

I make it my business to explore strategy in the context of principal, looking for the modes of action that maximize both. I admit to a bias. My bias is that strategy and principal are natural allies, so that efficacy is greatest when they're in sync with each other, as is true in the case of 4GW and Jihad. The West's answer to that is somewhere in this discussion.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

There is no dog but Rufus

.. and I am his prophet.
And surely this instinct of the dog is very charming; --your dog is a true philosopher.


Why, because he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must not an animal be a lover of learning who determines what he likes and dislikes by the test of knowledge and ignorance?
Plato's Republic, Book II

Here is the pivotal moment in Plato's Republic. Actually it's a little further up in the text, where Glaucon explains that what he wants is not so much a state that is good, but one that can allow him to "lie on sofas, and dine off tables, and [..] have sauces and sweets in the modern style."


Why, because the mechanics of reaching beyond the bare necessities of life requires people to specialize, then exploit one another, and then go to war, not necessarily in that order. It's a rather obvious observation made by someone (Plato) who knew a lot more about the life of a subsistence farmer in comparison to the life of a city dweller than any of us ever will. Consider it a primitive exercise in anthropology, if it makes you uncomfortable, or look past it and pay attention instead to Plato's larger project.

I've done my bit to talk about refinement, particularly the way in which refinement of processes and ideas can lead to a precarious plateau of false stability. But this is also the way change happens in social and behavioral systems. Paradigms fail, dramatically, sometimes tragically, and almost always along the fault lines of their internal contradictions, which are relentlessly exploited. Just because Hegel said it, doesn't mean it ain't true.

But Plato said it first, and I don't think I'm claiming anything unconventional to say that Plato's larger project, in the Republic as elsewhere, was to try to understand man's connection to the divine through his capacity for creation. To make things, to change things and to understand the process by which one thing leads to another is the divine, Plato would say erotic, act.

Glaucon wants sofas and sweets, for which he requires servants and slaves, hence power over others and the ability to defend oneself, ..., and all the rest follows. One need begets another until man is engaged in an amazingly complex social arrangement from which there is no return to simplicity. Imagination begets desire begets action. Action creates instability and uncertainty, and is answered with more action until finally a new plateau is achieved. A stalemate. It's as brittle as any other but for the moment, Glaucon gets his sofas and sweets.

And this is how man creates a civilization out of nothing. Out of nothing!

So how does one thing lead to another? Disruption, instability, renewal. Social and behavioral trends, as lines drawn through time, are a fiction. History never works that way. Like markets, or living organisms, social forces are opportunistic and advance through conflict and competition.

One application of this idea is as a criticism of the OODA view of the generations of warfare (h/t Thunder Pig). You can't draw straight lines through evolutionary processes to predict the future. If you could we'd all be rich and happy (we know now that fat is not happy).

Gen 4 was not a theoretical continuation of Gens 1, 2 and 3. It was a break from them. 1, 2 and 3 expressed a continued refinement of state organized massed (man/fire)power.

Gen 4 is simply not a continuation of any kind, but a response. Specifically, it's a response that is based on an ideology in which the very idea of a state is considered to be unnatural and evil, and comes at a time in which a single state, the US, is dominant in the world. Whether that dominance is a function of excellence in Gens 1,2,3 or is due to extraneous factors doesn't even matter. All that matters is that the trendline is broken.

And what is Gen 5? Speculations about its being all about stealth, or integration, all miss the point. Gen 5 is not going to be some kind of better, faster, lighter, more awesome Gen 4. Nor is it going to be some new development on a continuum of developments that can be theoretically skewered on an x/y axis.

It may not even happen, because to happen the states that are under attack have to make the choice to defend themselves. They have to want to survive. There are strong indications that they do not, which would prove that they really were just a momentary historical stalemate, in fact a bloody one that we'd all have been better off without and that, somehow unconsciously, we know enough to let go of. At least that's the question on the table.

If it does happen, Gen 5 will be the umbrella term given to describe the whole range of things we think up to do in response to Gen 4. I started looking at that list of things in my response to Christine here, but, as I note in that comment, the whole range of Gen 5 activities won't be enumerated until the war is over, assuming our side wins.

If we don't win, Gen 5 will be an internal Islamic rebellion, where the weapon of choice will be Rufus, the one true dog.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Homework review

I'm returning to Eteraz' fictional philosopher, this time not to debunk his arguments but to feel them out for insights. We're listening for those unarticulated cultural truths that underlie the made up arguments. I think Ali has a great feel for those genuine sensibilities that are the emotional starting points from which the arguments later bubble up.

The fictional philosopher is a tragic example of what happens when you try to graft western philosophical ideas onto eastern thought patterns. So, for the moment, I'd rather look underneath at the emotional worldview that informs jihadists, but more importantly their hundreds of millions of passive supporters.

They find our justice system cold and inhumane, untouched by the qualities of judgment and compassion. They find our legal system abstract and absurd, unconscious of human nature. Our political system, in their eyes, is a whore house.

One way to see underneath the argument is to look at the fictional philosopher's expressed view of Hobbes. The state of nature for Hobbes is a state of total war, every man against every other man. It's a state of unqualified brutality. To the fictional Muslim philosopher, the state of nature is a state of immanent and compelling relationships, warm flesh and blood people taking heed of one another and, naturally, at war with the state, with Leviathan. Man should be governed, in their view, by divine grace and the tools of divine grace, not the cold abstraction we call a state. That state, for Hobbes the solution to mans problems, is here a terrible imposition on and perversion of human nature. More importantly, it's a violent intrusion into man's relationship with god. Law, as the nation-state propagates it, is something stupid and unfeeling. Order, as the nation-state imposes it, is the order of slaves.

One can understand their enthusiasm for 4gw. It's a way of war that truly flows from their deepest convictions about the world. If we call them nihilists, we've entirely missed their point. They only want to sweep away the impediments to the natural fulfillment of human life as god intended it to be, and the greatest of these impediments is the nation-state.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I'm doing a quick thanksgiving post because, besides whatever we may individually have to be thankful for, strictly in the context of what we're doing here we have a lot to be thankful for as well.

We're fortunate to be confronted with a fascinating challenge that makes demands of us on many levels. Growing up, I was often dismayed that a person like me, interested in political philosophy and political theory, would have little to do or think about in this age. Instead, all intellectual effort flowed like waste into the meat grinder of political science, a dronish activity that took root in shadow of the hollow empire of technocrat liberalism.

I have more respect for political science as a discipline today, but I'm also happy to know that ponderous burning core ponderings are still a necessary part of the discussion. In fact there's plenty to do for everyone, men of action and scribblers alike, and all of it is difficult and interesting. I'm thankful for that.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Homework Assignment

Ali Eteraz, whom I've discussed here before, has a very creative piece in which he imagines himself a Neo-Traditionalist philosopher. (h/t - Winds of Change)

I can't tell you what a neo-traditionalist philosopher is, because I've never heard of one, but I can tell you that Eteraz does a very good impression of postmodern pseudo-leftist Islamist sophistry. Readers of this blog should be able to debunk every part of it, point by fallacious point.

So that's your assignment.