April 30, 2005

Kagan, Again

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:58 pm

Bobby and I are discussing Robert Kagan’s opus in the comments to this post. Figured I’d move it up to the front page. At this point we’re discussing Kagan’s point in the block below, with Bobby taking the position that France deploys troops and therefore Kagan’s point is inaccurate.

Kagan: During the Cold War, Europe’s strategic role had been to defend itself. It was unrealistic to expect a return to international great-power status, unless European peoples were willing to shift significant resources from social programs to military programs.

Clearly they were not. Not only were Europeans unwilling to pay to project force beyond Europe. After the Cold War, they would not pay for sufficient force to conduct even minor military actions on the continent without American help. Nor did it seem to matter whether European publics were being asked to spend money to strengthen nato or an independent European foreign and defense policy. Their answer was the same. Rather than viewing the collapse of the Soviet Union as an opportunity to flex global muscles, Europeans took it as an opportunity to cash in on a sizable peace dividend. Average European defense budgets gradually fell below 2 percent of gdp. Despite talk of establishing Europe as a global superpower, therefore, European military capabilities steadily fell behind those of the United States throughout the 1990s.

I said in support of this that the things the French did were a pittance compared to what it takes to wield power in an external manner, and one significant example is the lack of strategic lift for their own troops.

— — —

(Italics here from the last comment from Bobby on the previous thread. There, you’re all caught up now!)

Okay, but strategic lift isn’t what I thought Kagan was getting at– his point was that continental Europe had become insular, its interests confined to improving the economic lot of its member-states

Sure, Kagan wasn’t specifying platforms or anything, but what you buy indicates how you think. If you never buy stuff that gets you from Point A to Point B, then you don’t really intend to do so. Or perhaps you intend to but will never be able to without outside help. I’d also say that they can’t really operate at anything above the Brigade-level is pretty relevant considering that country used to have a huge deployed force!

Perhaps it might help to discuss this through the French official viewpoint. The way I read it (my French is lousy but sometimes useful), they deploy for reasons just like you say–confined to improving the economic lot of itself (or trying to prevent damage to French folks or stuff).

L’emploi des armées sur le territoire national répond à trois principes exclusifs ou cumulatifs :

* une menace sur la sécurité de la population,

* une urgence absolue à laquelle seuls des moyens militaires peuvent répondre,

* lorsque les moyens civils ne peuvent répondre à l’urgence et à l’ampleur des besoins.

Ce bilan ne prend en compte que des opérations majeures et non des actions menées au quotidien (telles que la mise à disposition de lits pour les sans-abris, la dépollution d’un site..), ni des missions de l’état en mer.

(Babel version:The use of the armies on the own territory answers three exclusive or cumulative principles:

* a threat on the safety of the population,

* a top priority which only average soldiers can answer,

* when the average civil ones cannot answer the urgency and the extent of the needs.

This assessment takes into account only major operations and not of the actions carried out to the daily newspaper (such as the provision of beds for the homeless people, the depollution of a site.), nor of the missions of the state at sea.)

Here’s a reference, un Babelfished. Something like the ongoing Beryx mission is more like what we’d do–which is an unusual thing for them, but it’s naval (= MUCH easier, which is why it’s exempted from the above statement of French intention), and was done after some delicate negotiation and understanding of French interest afterward. (And a few years more after Kagan wrote his paper.)

I’m not much in agreement with Brent Scowcroft’s realist argument over the years, but did enjoy an analysis he did in a speech I saw in 2002. Maybe you’d like that.


Some Guys Get All The Luck

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:56 pm

So on the right column blogroll there you see a couple of “ship sinkers”–submarine vets of one kind or another. There’s one more to add, although his blog name is definitely skimmer material. Good post, though. Guess we’d better let him know about the MilBlogs ring.

How did I find him?

Hugh Hewitt.

I learned that the “silent service” alums now have a blog: SoundGeneralQuarters, run by a former student of David Allen White’s no less, who studied English at the Naval Academy.

Well, maybe he needs to go visit Willy Shake, too.

More on the HBR Analogies Post

Filed under: — Chap @ 8:49 pm

Photon Courier took the ball (a short post here) and ran with it, with his curiosity piqued about the Gilovich study.

There was no substantive difference between the scenarios given to the two groups (unless you believe that the mode of refugee transportation is somehow substantive)…yet those who heard the WWII-reminiscent version were more likely to conclude that aggression must be met with force, while those who heard the Vietnam-reminiscent version were more likely to recommend a hands-off policy. Again, there was nothing in the scenarios to make anyone conclude as a matter of logic that the first version was more similar to WWII and the second version was more similar to Vietnam.

I agree–this is potentially a powerful model in analyzing several things, including information flow in an information warfare environment, how the pre-Iraqi invasion’s public debate self-assembled, and other very interesting things. Here’s a little more raw data related to the article.

The term anchoring effect seems to be a term of art already. A quick Google shows lots of applications, including an alternate term hindsight bias. I can see this as a tool in describing not just strategic decisions but also tactical decisions–if you’ve fixated on the one target out there you might just miss the other one in your blind spot. Confirmation bias is similar, and both reinforce each other.

The original authors of the HBR article, Giovanni Gavetti and Jan Rivkin, have written something similar back in 2002/2003 aimed at how to teach thinking by analogy (that at the moment I’m too cheap to purchase). The article in question has a summary that I find a bit overcompressed and unhelpful except as an abstract.

Dr. Rivkin gave an interview to Computerworld magazine that is a “read the whole thing” good summary.

Why is analogical reasoning so useful in a field like IT? Analogies are most powerful in settings where there’s not enough clarity to use deductive reasoning nor so much ambiguity that you have to go for trial and error. Many pockets of IT have this middle ground that’s familiar enough to make links to more familiar settings but not clear enough to identify cause and effect. In that middle ground, analogies may be the only options we’ve got.

Give me an example. Intel for many years resisted entering the low end of the market. Then [Harvard Business School professor] Clayton Christensen introduced them to an example in the steel industry. U.S. Steel had let minimills take over the low end with cheap concrete reinforcing bars called rebars. He pointed out that this was the beginning of the troubles for the U.S. steel business. Once the minimills got a beachhead at the low end, they moved up. At Intel, this really struck a chord. Andy Grove feared if they ceded the low end of the market, the high end might follow. He even began to refer to low-end PCs as “digital rebar,” and soon thereafter Intel introduced the Celeron processor to fight it out on the low end and prevent other companies from getting a beachhead.

In this case, the analogy wasn’t about learning from someone’s success but trying to prevent a repeat of someone’s failure. It was about what they thought U.S. Steel should have done.

Tell me about some of the drawbacks to analogical thinking. The core pitfall is choosing a source based on superficial similarities to the target. When Ford was looking at redesigning its supply chain, it turned for guidance to Dell’s key principle of virtual integration. There is good reason to look at Dell. Some aspects of what it does look like what Ford does. They both take fairly standardized components and assemble them into a vast variety of models.

But other things are quite different. A large portion of Dell’s cost advantage comes from the fact that virtual integration enables it to buy inputs late. A PC that arrives from Dell has a microprocessor bought later than the microprocessor bought for another supplier. In a setting where the price of microprocessors declines dramatically over a short period, that difference translates into a large cost advantage for Dell. But prices in the auto process are not coming down so rapidly, so the power of virtual integration and less inventory is not nearly as great. The good news is that Ford didn’t fall into that trap.

Another potential problem is the anchoring effect. Can you explain? People get attached intellectually and emotionally to their analogies, and it’s very hard to shake. If you look at Sun, Scott McNealy often uses analogies drawn from the auto business. He argues that buyers should be interested in the whole package, not the components, because when they buy a car, they care about the whole car, not where the carburetor comes from. But you have to question how dispassionately he can assess that analogy. His father worked for years in the auto business, and his sons are named for auto models: Maverick, Scout, Colt and Dakota.

Also in the “interesting but tangential” department is this chat with Gilovich discussing basketball and something called the “hot hand”.

This comment may be connected to the Gilovich paper cited in the HBR article:

From: Leigh Thompson

Date: 04 May 2000

Time: 09:33 AM


I asked Tom to comment on his article and this is what he said:

“I’m delighted to learn that the first article I ever published is still “in circulation.” The story of the origin of that research is easy to tell. Bob Abelson was a visitor at Stanford during my first year of grad school, right after his “Scripts, Plans, Goals, and Understanding” book with Roger Schank had come out and interest in scripts, schemas, etc. (what Abelson referred to as “things that go bump in the mind”) was at its peak. Anything that emphasizes the role of top-down processing in the top-down/bottom-up mix highlights the possibility of the MISAPPLICATION of various mental representations in the effort to perceive the world. Although that idea was often talked about as an obvious bi-product of schematic processing, there was to my knowledge no truly compelling demonstration of it and so I sought to generate one. I was immediately drawn to the Vietnam/Munich context because this pair of “dueling metaphors” was inevitably employed by politicians whenever the prospect of US military involvement in foreign lands was discussed. The sports studies were conducted because it was the domain in which I could most readily see how to make the priming (although we didn’t call it that back then) of the different schemas based on something that was irrefutably irrelevant to the judgment at hand.

I have not read that article in quite a number of years, and I’m afraid to discover what kind of writer I was then. At any rate, I hope you enjoy it.”

This quote, if it refers to the article cited, is exactly what came to mind to me when I read about the study.

Morels Braised In Butter, Please

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:00 pm

Apparently it is morel season in Omaha. The edibles are some of the last foods we hunt, as they aren’t cultivated yet.

Garfield Ridge Decodes Victor Davis Hanson Columns

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:17 pm

Dave’s figured out the secret.

1. The War On Terror is important.

2. The Europeans lack the moral strength to fight the threat from Islamic terror.

3. Despite our imperfections, America is still the last best hope of mankind.

4. Insert a story from ancient Greece here.

Good choice of book, by the way…

April 28, 2005

Remember Wolfowitz?

Filed under: — Chap @ 5:20 pm

Look at that. Completely dropped off the radar, didn’t he?

This World Press Review article has some interesting questions about the guy’s new job, focusing on asking what the World Bank is supposed to be doing.

Should the World Bank be about poverty alleviation or wealth creation for the poor?

This is a fundamental institutional dilemma. Should the focus of World Bank initiatives be on social programs that help the poor ameliorate the burden of their suffering or should the bank emphasize strategies that permanently graduate the poor out of poverty?

Great question. And it’s more complicated than merely “do you give the man a fish or teach him how to fish.” It’s a question that requires security, rule of law, clear title, and other things foreign to some poor Nigerian guy living in a crappy neighborhood slum without water or electricity. (And that’s a country with oil.)

Should the World Bank become an instrument of the foreign and economic policy of any country?

Here I restate something that shocked my Euro friends a while back.

This question completely misses the point–unless you’re a transnational postmodernist. Countries operate in the interest of countries. Even if that interest is feeling morally improved, or avoiding long term other problems, or investing in future trade partners, countries act in their best interests. The United States does not act solely in the interest of tranzi pomo entities not accountable to anyone, as long as its officers still believe their oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Problem is, people seem to forget this sometimes, even those who work under that oath.

Should the World Bank become an instrument of the foreign and economic policy of any country?

When Wolfowitz becomes the president of the World Bank, he will be scrutinized by non-American shareholders of the bank and an army of the bank’s vociferous critics for any sign that he intends to make the institution an instrument of America’s foreign policy. A major fallout of the close scrutiny of a Wolfowitz presidency is an accelerated process to reform the governance structures of the bank to accommodate what I predict will be an increasingly assertive stance of the governments of developing nations working in concert with Western civil society organizations. The new president of the World Bank must work a fine line between reconciling the real and powerful global economic and political clout of G-7 nations and the equally powerful moral arguments of a development institution dedicated to fighting poverty and improving living standards in developing nations.

This is a much better framing of the question. Wolfowitz is not working as an agent of the United States; he’s the director of a transnational organization. His mandate, and his bosses, are not merely the United States like it would be if he were ambassador to the United Nations. That makes his efforts not exactly what I just ranted about a second ago!

Good luck to the man. I hope he’s successful in doing what Bill Whittle terms shifting the bell curve to the right–making everyone, poorest and not, a little more rich.

Link to QuillNews on Bush-Abdullah in Crawford

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:53 pm

Quill had this little article about the little hand holding thing at the Crawford ranch. Handholding ain’t surprising to me since I started traveling and got all globalized–seen it in Bahrain, seen it in Korea, seen it all over, I’m man enough to deal with it without snickering. But I do wonder why the leader of our team is being all friendly with the guy who’s got such evil people on his team.

Quill’s post has some aspects I like:

  • Lots of links to primary sources backing up his claims
  • A longer term view than would a news article reporting just what happened, using the timeline to inform the post
  • Follows Powell’s rule about “tell me what you know, tell me what you don’t, tell me what you think, tell me the difference”.
  • Talks about what the staffs do, not just what the leader guys do.

I would have liked some more context as far as what the different factions are in Saudi (while explaining who’s dealing with whom and why this Saudi), and some explanation as to the risks each guy is running by dealing with the other. I used to know a very little about it but forgot where there’s a Saudi in government for whom I should care.

This gathering of sources and clear presentation make me more inclined to listen to the claims at the conclusion of his post. (I’m not so sure of his rush to Dresden-level violence after the next attack on the US if it’s the size of the WTC, though.) More like this, please!

There’s some further stuff I don’t know but should:

  • What is left of the original agreement between the two countries about oil production (making Saudi Arabia sort of a central banker for oil, like a nation’s central bank is for money)
  • How resource shifts like the huge gas fields in Qatar and untapped potential of Iraq (no new looking for oil in 25 years–think we’ll find something?) change that “central bank role”. It ain’t going to make SA richer or more stable or more powerful, that’s for sure.
  • How resource demands like Chinese globalization (a growing resource competitor) change our role in influencing the Saudis
  • Most importantly, how the administration proposes to bring the Gift Of Sharansky to SA.

A Soldier’s Story You Didn’t Want To Hear

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:32 pm

A few years back I remember an Army incident where someone went nuts with a gun. Turns out this guy was there, and relates the story to offer support to the poor guys who got stuck serving with Hasan Ackbar.

At the ’sniper’ joke my First Sergeant, 1SG Rangel, looked back over his shoulder and grinned. I noticed someone taking a PT test just off the track I could just make him out because the 1SG had turned his head. There were two more shots, the guy stretching for the PT test dropped like a sack of cement and everybody started running.

It wasn’t a starter pistol.

Gripping reporting, and he’s only revealing it to help comrades out in a bad time.

Some Interesting Writing From Brookings

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:51 pm

A friend of mine is doing some interesting work over at the Brookings Institution. It’s a .pdf about the French vote on the EU Constitution, and it’s got some insights worth reading.

April 27, 2005

Still More Reasons To Fear A Military Retirement

Filed under: — Chap @ 5:57 pm

There is no way I can exactly gain an inner passion to sell widgets like I have to do this job. Hey, if you can, more power to you–and perhaps I’m just fooling myself. I mean, business type stuff looks interesting sometimes. But still.

Retirement means I may have to work with, or (gasp) for, people like this (via Mike). Or listen to people like this.

Hey, at least there’s cool looking posters involved…

April 26, 2005

“I Quit”: Betcha It Ain’t Permanent

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:53 pm

First Ace, then Acidman?

Like Heinlein said–writers don’t write because they want to. They write because they have to.

Something tells me he’ll be back…

Understanding Charles Johnson’s LGF

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:41 pm

If you’ve got a little time, click on this link, go to the bottom of the page, and scroll up. It’s the September 2001 archive for Little Green Footballs.

It’s why the site is what it is today. It’s useful for understanding why the man is how he is on the blog.

Hate When That Happens

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:32 pm

Pablo “Contemptible” Paredes, that weak soul who enjoyed the attention of anti-American leftists in exchange for his honor and a previous commitment, gets the next little piece of payback. Per the weak one’s website:

The Navy has concluded its investigation regarding the case of FC3 Pablo Eduardo Paredes. THE INVESTIGATING OFFICER FOR THE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR PACKAGE HAS RECOMMENDED HIS CO BE DENIED. Instead, two charges have been preferred by the US NAVY; Violation of Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Article 86, absence without leave and Article 87 Missing movement. The case will be tried in a Special Courts Martial on May 11, 2005.

Too bad he didn’t fulfill his freely given obligations. He would have helped save a lot of lives when his strike group performed all that post-tsunami relief work. But, unlike some, he fell in with the wrong crowd and stayed in thrall of the Khmer Rouge and genocide supporters. Funny how truth is in the oddest places…

(h/t Malkin, Blair.)

April 25, 2005

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:05 pm

Beck forgets Sturgeon’s Law: Ninety percent of everything is crap.

An Effective Conversation Blocker

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:26 am

Found a blog post that used MSN Spaces. The post? Okay. The site? Ick.

No way in creation am I going to sign up for a Micro$oft .NET “passport” merely to comment on a single site. I didn’t like that company’s idea three years ago–not too many people did–and I don’t like it now.

Strategy Is Not Pretty

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:20 am

This article (via the Carnival of the Capitalists) discusses differences in thinking about strategy between business and the military. That post is actually in response to an interesting Photon Courier discussion of Lord Wavell and how to think about military history.

You know where I’m going with this one even before I start, right? I always was the guy who couldn’t watch the war movie without complaining the uniforms were wrong.

Craig Henry, over at Lead Into Gold, has some observations and comparisons of strategy and how straregy is used in business versus military operations. I don’t know about his business savvy, but the military part of his discussion impels some rebuttal. I’ll limit my comments to the military part.

A military commander faces only a few strategic questions in any campaign and these often do pivot on calculations about logistics. Those strategic choices have the most profound consequences, which means that the general faces a moral pressure that a CEO cannot imagine. Moreover, battles and campaigns have a decisiveness that business operations lack. This is one of the key reasons that the commander bears such a heavy burden.

“A military commander” implies a uniformed commander of military operations. That guy doing the shooting is not necessarily the guy leading the country. The American paradigm is that the military executes the strategy built by the civilian leadership above it. Other countries do this differently, but in all cases there is a profound difference between levels of strategy and tactics: grand strategic, strategic, operational, and tactical levels are different. It’s easy to conflate them all, and attribute the thinking of one to an operator working at the level of another. (“Strategic corporals” notwithstanding–that’s a different kettle o’fish.)

That conflation, and a little “looking through a soda straw” viewpoint of a battle or campaign, can erode the decisiveness that Henry describes. A campaign may look decisive in the moment or in the location, but in the bigger picture it might indicate something completely different. The decisiveness Henry attributes to warfare is more elusive than it seems. Here’s an example that shows how Henry’s post misunderstands the comparison between strategy and business.

When Eisenhower took over the ETO in WWII, he did not have to ask who the enemy was or where the battle would be fought or what kind of war was to be waged. All of that was a given-Germany, Northwestern Europe, and a land campaign in conjunction with strategic bombing.

Contrast that with the executives at Ford’s truck division. They have to compete with multiple companies, in global markets, and across different demographic groups. The competition within those resulting submarkets varies in its mix of pricing, efficiency, distribution, advertising, quality, and new products.

The “apples to oranges” comparison Henry makes here is that Eisenhower was sent to the European theater only after a protracted negotiation and debate that resulted in an American strategic decision to fight a holding action in the Pacific (executing a variant of War Plan Orange with minimal support) and focusing the majority of the initial effort to win first in Europe. This decision was driven by Churchill’s negotiation with Roosevelt–which came from a strategic decision from yet another country that affected the one Eisenhower served. Eisenhower was limited in his scope to a single theater, a predetermined enemy, a set resource allocation precisely because the questions Henry says Ford is asking already were answered for Eisenhower by Roosevelt. Ford’s truck division has more in common with that higher level of strategy in its own competition.

Henry concludes with a Michael Howard essay summary with good points. I’d suggest adding to that Thinking in Time by Neustadt and May, which I mentioned earlier in the Analogies post. (Actually, that Harvard Business Review article on analogies is germane here!)


Filed under: — Chap @ 1:47 am

There’s a pretty powerful article in the current Harvard Business Review. (I usually don’t pick it up because I’m not a business guy and it’s not cheap, but this article was worth it.) The authors of How Strategists Really Think: Tapping the Power of Analogy (pay link; HBR wants your green, you know) has some discussions about not just strategists but also how people misuse analogy, and even show some profound psychological errors people make.

The article cites a study by Prof. Tom Gilovich which has some interesting implications in the information warfare arena.

…students of international conflict at Stanford were told of a hypothetical foreign-policy crisis. A small, democratic nation was being threatened by an aggressive, totalitarian neighbor. Each student was asked to play the role of a State Department official and recommend a course of action. The descriptions of the situation were manipulated slightly. Some of the students heard versions with cues intended to make them think of the events that proceded World Was II. The president at the time, they were told, was “from New York, the same state as Franklin Roosevelt”, refugees were fleeing in boxcars, and the briefing was held in Winston Churchill Hall. Other students heard versions that might have reminded them of Vietnam. The president was “from Texas, the same state as Lyndon Johnson”, refugees were escaping in small boats, and the briefing took place in Dean Rusk Hall.

Clearly, there is little reason that the president’s home state, the refugees’ vehicles, or the name of a briefing room should influence a recommendation on foreign policy. Yet subject in the first group were more likely to apply the lesson of World War II–that aggression must be met with force–than were participants in the second group, who veered toward a hands-off policy inspired by Vietnam. Not only were the students swayed by superficial likenesses, they were not even aware that they had been swayed.

Another interesting idea concerns what Gavetti and Rivkin call the anchoring effect:

The anchoring effect suggests that early analogies in a company, even if they have taken root casually, can have a lasting influence. This is especially true if decision makers become emotionally attached to their analogies.

The first quote shows how prior experience, or irrelevant but evocative cues, change someone’s analogic thinking. The second shows that that error is perpetuated.

Talk about a big implication towards explaining the information warfare vis-a-vis Iraq and Afghanistan. This goes a long way towards showing how public opinion is permanently shifted when a wrong press article is put out and then corrected–one reason why the infamous “Bush Thanksgiving Plastic Turkey” keeps showing up, perhaps, or even further towards explaining how our foreign policy has such a divergent debate?

The HBR article covers a little of the ground trod by Neustadt and May as well. So the HBR article’s worth a gander.

Related: This paper might be worthwhile in terms of research on analogic thinking, but I haven’t read the thing completely yet.

April 24, 2005

New Afghani Blog

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:32 pm

The Afghan Lord. Good writing, and descriptions of buzkashi and how successful Khalilzad has been.

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:27 am

Also via Dauber, a happy David Brooks reaches for another donut.

Mmm. Donut.

Annie Jacobsen, Farther Down The Rabbit Hole

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:24 am

This journalist reported a while back being on a flight that worried the bejeebers out of her, and reported it. She got bashed hard for her instincts. Turns out the story just got a little more interesting (h/t Cori Dauber)…

The four federal agents showed up exactly on time, in a rented green mini-van, carrying briefcases and wearing suits (it was 75 degrees). They came to discuss the events of Northwest flight 327, the now notorious Detroit-to-Los Angeles plane trip I took last June.

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