Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Strategic problems and the problem with strategy

This is very good -- succinct and on-point:

Why Strategies Disappointand How to Fix Them

Indeed, it is hard to criticize the concept of strategic planning. That is, of course, until one actually reads what is ultimately produced.
Every organization would benefit if, at the beginning of their strategic planning process, all participants took these two ideas to heart:

A. strategies disappoint because they fail to be succinct, sharp, and substantive.

B. Good strategies also have an edge to them. They should make some people unhappy; when strategies prioritize resources, not everyone comes out a winner.
But, to be honest, many scholars have noted the latter problem in strategy-making. zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in 1969 that large bureaucracies do not have strategiesthey have shopping lists. So it is not as if we did not already know this.

C. [Strategies] fail because leaders are unwilling to make difficult decisionsto focus on one threat as opposed to another, prioritize resources accordingly, and then explain their decisions publiclyat risk of being wrong.

D. The real problem is not process; it is the aversion to making decisive and perhaps irrevocable choices.
Or, to quote Clausewitz:

Courage is of two kinds: courage in the face of personal danger, and courage to accept responsibility, either before the tribunal of some outside power or before the court of one's own conscience.

If we pursue the demands that war makes on those who practice it, we come to the region dominated by the powers of the intellect. War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.

If the mind is to emerge unscathed from this relentless struggle with the unforeseen, two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light that leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow the faint light wherever it may lead. The first of these qualities is described by the French term coup d'oeil; the second is determination.
With this in mind we can see that one of the real causes of strategic failure lies in the way we study and teach strategy. In the real world victory is not won by the side with the most elegant strategic concept or the most complex multi-dimensional plan. Rather, winning is more often a matter of avoiding distraction and acting decisively.

As Patton put it:

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.
Gen. George Marshall often admonished his subordinates “Don’t fight the problem, decide it.”

The words he chose are critical. He did not say “solve it.” To solve a problem presupposes “one right answer” or “one best solution”. The search for that one right answer can easily lead to delay and paralysis by analysis.

In the the real world, there sometimes are no good solutions. Only bad, awful, and less bad.

Marshall understood that strategic decisions marked the beginning, not the end of the process. Only after the critical decisions were made could the rest of the organization get on with the vital work of implementation. In almost no case can implementation happen immediately. Usually resources have to be gathered and deployed, men and women trained, etc. etc.

The British Chiefs, especially Sir Alan Brooke, never could seem to understand why the Americans had to have commitments well in advance. They accused us of being rigid and inflexible, not realizing the terrific job of procurement, shipbuilding, troop training and supply necessary to place a million and a half troops in England, with armor, tanks and troop-lift, ready to invade the Continent.
S. E. Morison, Strategy and Compromise


Waiting for our Clausewitz

Clausewitz (II)

Saturday, February 03, 2018

If nothing else, the Nunes memo shows that Sir John Keegan was a wise man

More reporters and editors should follow his example.

As readers, we should probably stop respecting reporters with "great contacts" in the intelligence world. Might be more realistic to view said reporters as arrogant dupes who are being used by the professionals.
As defence correspondent, then defence editor of The Daily Telegraph, i decided that entanglement with intelligence organisations was unwise, having concluded, by that stage of my life, through reading, conversation and a little personal observation, that anyone who mingled in the intelligence world, in the belief that he could make use of contacts thus made, would more probably be made use of, to his disadvantage. I continue to believe that to be the case

Friday, February 02, 2018

Something Trump understands that most of his GOP critics do not

To conclude on a positive note, remember that to succeed in strategy you do not have to be distinguished or even particularly competent. All that is required is performing well enough to beat an enemy. You do not have to win elegantly; you just have to win.
Colin S. Gray, Why Strategy is Difficult"

Monday, January 29, 2018

This is still good advice

There is no panacea for peace that can be written out in a formula like a doctor’s prescription. But one can set down a series of practical points—elementary principles drawn from the sum of human experience in all times. Study war and learn from its history. Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent and always assist him to save his face. Put yourself in his shoes—so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil—nothing is so self-blinding. Cure yourself of two commonly fatal delusions—the idea of victory and the idea that war cannot be limited
B H Liddell-Hart, Deterent or Defense (1960)

The Thucydides trap and the Korean conundrum

Sad but true

Friday, January 26, 2018

When justice loses to Social Justice

The Netflix series “The Keepers” has brought attention to the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik. In all the commentary on the series and the case I’ve not seen any mention of one particularly salient fact: Sister Cathy’s murder is less likely to be solved because it occurred in Maryland.

In the Free State the politicians surrendered to the SJWs and rejected useful crime solving tools.

Familial DNA testing has already led to the capture of killers who have long eluded justice. It was instrumental in identifying Lonnie Franklin, Jr. as the Grim Sleeper serial killer in Los Angeles.

Maryland has made it illegal for police to use it.


Maryland and the District of Columbia are the only United States jurisdictions that have banned the use of familial DNA searches in investigations and prosecutions.5 Maryland was the first jurisdiction to pass the ban in 2008, followed by the District of Columbia. Conversely, California, New York, Colorado, Florida, and Virginia have adopted laws to allow limited use of familial DNA investigations. Many other states allow familial searches without legislative imprimatur.

So why has Maryland outlawed the use of familial DNA when so many other jurisdictions are moving towards the use of familial DNA searching? Maryland's movement to ban familial DNA searches was led by Stephen B. Mercer, then in private practice and now the Chief of the Forensics Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Don’t confuse us with the facts

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.
Saul Bellow, To Jerusalem and Back
I’ve written before about the role respected experts played in the ritual child abuse panic of the 1980s and 1990s. (cf. “They trusted the experts") At the heart of many of these cases were “victims” who “recovered” suppressed memories with the help of therapists. These new “memories” then were recounted in court where judges and juries accepted them as conclusive evidence.

Eventually courts came to realize that recovered memories were dangerously problematic. Serious scholars destroyed what little scientific support the concept once had. Most of the convictions were overturned.

It seemed that rationality had reasserted itself.

I ran across this Weekly Standard article from 2003 which struck exactly that optimistic note:

The End of a Delusion

AT THE END of the nineteenth century, Sigmund Freud--ever anxious to present an overarching, universal explanation for mental unrest--suggested that "repressed memories" of childhood sexual abuse are a common cause of adult mental disorders.

He quickly abandoned the idea (replacing it with the concept of infantile sexuality) when he saw that it harmed rather than helped his patients. But such ideas seem to have lives of their own, and a hundred years after Freud first proposed it, the idea of repressed memories rose again in new and even gaudier clothing. Grown beyond Freud's unadorned view of domestic misconduct, it came to include beliefs that many of these sexual traumas--which the troubled patients' shocked minds had repressed--took place during Satanic rituals and experiments aboard alien spacecraft.

It is today almost impossible to understand how anyone ever believed this absurd and ridiculous notion, but it was less than a decade ago that the idea was flourishing in America. The American psychiatric and psychological establishment bears a shame that will be hard ever to wash away. Thousands of patients--thousands of sick, damaged people who had come to medical professionals for help--were destructively misdirected into trolling through their pasts in search of hidden sexual trauma. By the late 1980s, wards and clinics in university psychiatric departments, eminent hospitals, and even the National Institute of Mental Health were devoted to uncovering these repressed memories.

The craze for this psychiatric madness was never universal, and, to their credit, some theorists and practicing psychiatrists resisted the practices and ideas in what Frederick Crews aptly dubbed the "memory wars." The importance of Richard J. McNally's new book "Remembering Trauma" lies not just in the superb and definitive survey McNally makes of the history of repressed memories, but also in what the book stands for: "Remembering Trauma" is the monument built to mark the end of the memory wars. The repressed-memory diagnosis has finally been repressed.

Sadly, there are no final victories in the war between rational thought and pseudoscience. Oprah, after all, did more than anyone to promote the Recovered Memory movement and now our cultural elite want to make her president.
Or take the Netflix series “the Keepers” which was nominated for an Emmy in the Documentary category. Ostensibly about the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in Baltimore in 1969, it devotes much of its running time to horrific stories of sexual abuse suffered by students at Keough High School. The perpetrators were an organized ring which included priests, policemen, and other powerful men in the city.

“The Keepers” wants us to believe that Sister Cathy was murdered because she was going to expose the abuse. Her murder is unsolved, of course, because the perpetrators of the abuse included powerful figures who could quash the investigation.

And at the center of the revelations are witnesses who came forward after undergoing recovered memory therapy.

The Dangerously Misleading Narrative Of "The Keepers"
Or, to put it another way, the critics and pundits lavished praise on a TV series that depends solely on pseudoscience for its grand narrative and emotional punch.
They even persist in their praise when physical evidence undercuts the narrative.

Exhumed priest’s DNA doesn’t match evidence in case of ‘Sister Cathy’ slaying from 1969
Some might wonder why the MSM showed such vigor in refuting the conspiracy theories about Comet Ping Pong and Pizzagate and yet heaped praise on a TV series that was based on similar conspiracy theories and speculation.

But remember. They are “elite” and expert so shut up and listen.

Friday, January 19, 2018

"... who controls the present controls the past."

Continuing the theme of re-writing history, Steve Sailer has a couple of good posts.

Retconning History

Jim Crow South Versus Hitler
We have a big problem in America. It is not that most of our citizens don't know much about history. It's that they think they have a deep understanding of our past based on the 2-dimensional morality plays they see in movies and on TV or (more rarely) read in novels.

The IYIs in the MSM bubble know they are smarter and better informed than the yokels in Sh!thol, Wisconsin. After all, they read Philip Roth and Watch "Man in the High Castle."


The Politics Below the History

Thursday, January 18, 2018

As their Weemsy takes them

A follow-on to the previous post:

Female-Driven WWII Spy Thriller in the Works From 'Equity,' 'Queen of Katwe' Producers (Exclusive)

The real-life drama will center on Vera Atkins, the British intelligence officer who recruited for Winston Churchill and oversaw the secret agents who parachuted into France to sabotage the Nazis.

The spy recruiter is at the heart of a new female-driven World War II spy thriller, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively. Sarah Megan Thomas who created, produced and starred in the story of last year's Wall Street thriller Equity wrote the project's script and will produce the real-life drama with Lydia Dean Pilcher, who will direct. Casting is currently underway, and principal photography is set to begin in the spring.

Based on true events, the as-yet untitled pic tells the story of Atkins, known for recruiting, training and supervising the British secret agents who parachuted into France to sabotage the Nazis during World War II. She was widely believed to have inspired the James Bond character of Miss Moneypenny.

The film centers on Atkins as a crafty spy recruiter with a secret of her own, as she selects two of the first women of the Special Operations Executive, also known as Winston Churchill’s "secret army" a pacifist of Indian descent and a daring American who is challenged, but undaunted, by a disability. These civilian women form an unlikely sisterhood while entangled in dangerous missions to turn the tide of the war.
The SOE field agents were unquestionably brave. As for the rest of this PR copy, well, it’s PR copy: lies told in pursuit of profit.

It is especially galling to see Vera Atkins included in this roll call of heroes. She was no lion; she was one of the blundering donkeys who squandered their lives. Vera Atkins did not drop into Occupied France to fight Nazis; she was behind a desk in London.

She was also a manipulative liar who may have compromised or betrayed SOE operations as she pursued her own, still-murky agenda.

What we do know is that Atkins was not a British citizen when she went to work for SOE. She was born in Romania which made her an enemy alien when that country joined the Axis in November 1940. By law she should have been in an internment camp instead of working in a secret intelligence organization. We also know that she had contact with both Nazi and Soviet intelligence operatives during the war. Finally, we know that as she worked diligently to hide the true story of SOE’s failings she also worked to hide her own past and actions from historians and journalists.

So why present her as some sort of super spy?

Part of the reason is the shared interest of our Intellectual-Yet-Idiots and the popular press. Both groups want “news” that creates a sensation. For the MSM, Atkin’s story is irresistible. What editor can reject a story that can be headlined “The Real Life Miss Moneypenny Who Defeated Hitler” or “Meet the Women Who Helped Win D-Day”?

The press is highly-attuned to our prevailing sensibilities. We desperately want to believe that the virtuous, solely because they are virtuous, will triumph over evil. We work hard to ignore the key lesson of World War Two:

Moral righteousness alone does not win battles. Evil causes do not necessarily carry the seeds of their own destruction. Once engaged, even just wars have to be won-- or lost-- on the battlefield
Murray and Millet, A War to be Won
The male and female officers of SOE were undoubtedly patriotic and were heart-breakingly brave. Nevertheless, Sir John Keegan’s verdict still stands:

SOE was inefficient as an organization, unnecessarily dangerous to work for, ineffective in its pursuit of its aims, and counter-productive in the results achieved
For the IYI’s sensation comes from the transgressive and the critical. A good story is one that upends conventional narratives or which undermines any of the traditional centers of authority. Vera Atkins ceases to be a historical figure with a factual biography and instead becomes an improvised weapon to crush the Patriarchy and Destroy Sexists.

“Dear Bros: James Bond wasn’t real, but Miss Moneypenny was … and she was more badass than you can Imagine.”

Atkins is also IYI bait because she can be portrayed as a victim of anti-semitism, of xenophobia, of sexism, and of Cold War paranoia.

The perfect icon for the Salon crowd in the #MeToo era.

What no one inside the Bubble seems to notice is that their IYI-approved popular history ends up looking a lot like the stories of Parson Weems.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The real “Lions led by donkeys”

Historians have long since demolished the myth that the immense casualty rolls on the Western Front were due to the stupidity of the British generals. (cf. World War One: Getting past the myths).

If any organization deserves to be described as “lions led by donkeys” it is the British Special Operations Executive in World War Two. Tasked by Churchill with “setting Europe ablaze” after the British army was thrown off the Continent in 1940, SOE combined awe-inspiring bravery in the front ranks with arrogant blundering on the part of the top leadership.

Sir John Keegan:

SOE was inefficient as an organization, unnecessarily dangerous to work for, ineffective in its pursuit of its aims, and counter-productive in the results achieved.
The SOE networks in France and the Netherlands were penetrated by Nazi counterintelligence. London headquarters ignored every warning and continued to send agents into the waiting arms of the Gestapo.

Keegan argues that SOE was doomed to failure because liberal Britain led by a romantic Churchill could not comprehend the brutal efficiency of the Nazi security regime or the willingness of millions of Europeans to accommodate the occupiers. (Nora Inayat Khan, for instance, was captured because a French woman wanted revenge on a romantic rival.)

Despite the many courageous acts by SOE officers and their French allies, the actual results were at best mixed, perhaps negative. For all the daring acts of sabotage carried out, SOE and the Resistance rarely were more than an inconvenience to the Wehrmacht.

The best evidence for this is the fact that in June 1944 none of the sixty German divisions in France were assigned to internal security/anti-partisan duties. The German and French police forces handled this role and were effective in it.

MI6 -- Britain’s foreign intelligence service was a staunch opponent of SOE. They had good reasons to be. While the sabotage operations had little effect on the Wehrmacht’s effectiveness, they did draw intense police attention. This, in turn, limited the ability of MI6 agents to collect and transmit the intelligence that was needed by Allied armies after D-Day.

SOE leadership did excel in two things.

They were quite adept at public relations. The operations of the once secret organization were quickly immortalized in books and films. When necessary they were prepared to falsify the record in order to create successes where reality provided only failure and disaster. (The head of the French section, Maurice Buckmaster, worked as a PR agent for Ford Motors before and after his stint in Special Operations.)

Second, SOE did a bang up job burying the true history of their wartime activities. Records were destroyed; others were sealed for decades. The official history was careful to omit inconvenient facts. When all else failed, SOE and the political leaders of Britain simply lied and dissembled.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The problem of the press in five tweets

Item one:

A propagandist like Willi Muenzenberg could say exactly the same thing. And that’s a problem.

Item two:
Fire and Fury is a big story, guys, because me and my buddies want it to be a big story!

If the MSM wants to regain some credibility, maybe they should stop relating everything to a kid’s book.

D.C. Treats Midnight Release of Wolff’s Book on Trump Like ‘Harry Potter’ Event
Item three:
The Stephen Miller story is one of the most absurd things I’ve seen in the reporting of this tabloid-gossip-masquerading-as-Very-Important-Journalism.

Stephen Miller is many things; stupid is not one of them. This can be easily verified by checking out the columns he wrote as an undergraduate at Duke defending the lacrosse players during the rape hoax.

As K. C. Johnson noted:

Miller's commentary, along with that of Kristin Butler, has given the Chronicle the best op-ed coverage of all aspects of the case of any newspaper in the country. It is something for which a college newspaper should be extraordinarily proud.
Miller was a frequent warm-up speaker speaker at Trump rallies during the 2016 campaign. And who can forget the epic press conference when he owned CNN’s Jim Acosta and reduced that “reporter” to reading second-rate doggerel off of his smart phone.

Well, apparently, Comcast/NBC’s ace reporter Katy Tur can forget.

As old gloomy Arthur was want to say “Intellect is invisible to the man who has none.”

Remember the old days when the MSM maintained that they were trust-worthy because they had layers of editors and fact-checkers? Now we have establishment reporters endorsing palpably absurd stories from a writer with a checkered history of truthfulness.

What Caused Michael Wolff’s Strange And Provably False Attack On Stephen Miller?

Item four:
Here is our thoroughly modern journalism-- equal parts Truthiness and a fervent “I want to believe”.

This concerns CNN’s resident media critic, Trump scourge, amateur psychologist, and Jon Stewart fan boy.
Stelter’s concern is not that Wolff’s gossipy opus falls short of the journalistic standards Stelter purports to espouse. No, his concern is that the errors of Fire and Fury will undercut the anti-Trump message.

Gee, I wonder why?

CNN’s War On Trump Is Going Swimmingly
A long time ago I asked this question:

Is Brian Stelter clever and dishonest or is he stupid and completely lacking in self-awareness?
Turns out he’s just a grubby little careerist doing his best to please boss man Jeff Zucker.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Why the Pearl Harbor attack succeeded

Good discussion on the unavoidable conceptual limitations of intelligence analysis that made surprise highly likely on 7 December 1941.

Pearl Harbor's Overlooked Answer

Accurately assessing a potential enemy threat hinges on one’s appreciation of the enemy’s capabilities. If you don’t know what your adversary can do, it is nearly impossible to predict likely operational targets or ways to forestall attacks. In the case of the Pearl Harbor attack, the U.S. Navy had no real inkling of Japanese carrier warfare capabilities and therefore could not accurately assess likely operational targets. Not only that, but Japan’s carrier force—known as Kido Butai —was evolving so quickly on the eve of the Pacific war that almost no naval intelligence organ would have been able to track, internalize, and gauge those capabilities. An all-encompassing answer to the reasons for Japan’s surprise is elusive. But examining the extraordinarily rapid development of Japan’s carrier force in late 1941 reveals a stark picture of the U.S. Navy’s odds of being able to understand the type of foe it was going up against.

The most important facet of the Japanese attack—the thing that made it so stunning—was the sheer number of aircraft involved. The Japanese did not just assault Pearl Harbor; they simultaneously hit every major airfield across the breadth of Oahu—Ewa Mooring Mast Field, Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor, Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Wheeler Field, Hickam Field, and others—to remove American airpower as a threat to Kido Butai ’s carriers. Simultaneously hitting so many targets required massive numbers of planes—183 and 171 in the two attack waves. That was unprecedented.

In fact, Kido Butai was a truly revolutionary weapon system for its time because it embodied the conceptual leap from single-carrier to coordinated multicarrier operations. Kido Butai ’s ascendancy would last only about six months before it was permanently mauled at the Battle of Midway, but during that time there was nothing else like it. The U.S. Navy would not acquire a similar sophistication until roughly late 1943—more than two years later
As Hayek said: "Without a theory, the facts are silent." And the US Navy did not have the theory that could have lead analysts to "connect the dots" in such away as to predict a carrier strike on Pearl Harbor.

The author covers this ground here is a pretty good lecture for those youngins' who prefer to take three times as long to learn half as much.