(A)Proportionality in Israel-Gaza

Shmuel Rosner writing in Slate:

But such is the tricky nature of modern warfare: How do we measure proportionality without reducing the concept to an impossibly pedantic tit-for-tat? (How would it work? For every rocket launched into an Israeli town, Israel would retaliate by launching a similar rocket? And even then, how could we achieve proportionality without making sure that Palestinians in Gaza have the same alarm systems and comparably effective shelters?) How do we measure “success” in a situation where no side is likely to bring real closure to a volatile situation?

Easy answer: you don’t and can’t.  The doctrine of proportionality (which has its roots in classical just war theory) was announced–as Rosner correctly points out–in the 1907 Hauge Conventions.  That defined the era of Clausewitz’s Trinitarian Theory of Warfare:  government, armies, and populations.  The first two fight the war, the third does not.  In the post-nuclear, post WWII era, of Fourth Generation Guerrilla Insurgencies, propotionality is a meaningless term because what you have is the equivalent of a swarm of bees stinging an elephant.  What would be a proportional response of an elephant to the bees?  It doesn’t make any sense.  Proportionality only works as a guiding principle within the bounds of a nation-state with a professional army built for conventional warfare.  The other side in this conflict does not have that edifice of social organization and therefore is not going to abide by those rules.  Meanwhile for the side that does (Israel in this case), the technological difference is so vast, there is no way (as Rosner himself points out in the article) for there ever to be a proportionate response.  All the elephant can do is step on some bees.  There is no proportionate elephant equivalent to a sting. Rosner is almost there–he keeps seeing how hard it would be to apply this concept but just can’t let it go.

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zomg! Greatest Youtube of All Time

You know the Global Age of the 21st century has arrived when you see this video.  There are no words to describe how genius this is.  Warning:  Some raunchy lyrics.  If I ever met the person(s) who made this, I would buy him/her a beer.

Published in: on December 30, 2008 at 10:17 pm  Comments (1)  

4th Generation Warfare in Gaza: Hamas, Israel, and Creveldian Realistic Pessimissm

I don’t have much to say on the tragedy that is transpiring over in Israel/Gaza.

Only to say that it yet again proves the veracity of Martin Van Creveld’s thesis that since the nuclear age, since the end of WWII, big powers over time always lose against irregular, smaller, guerrillas groups.  e.g. The French in Indochina & Algeria; The British is Aden, Suez; The Americans in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan; The Soviets in Afghanistan.  On and on the list goes.

The only LICs (Low-Intensity Conflicts) that are won by the big powers are when they are within their own country (The British in N.Ireland, NATO in Balkans?).  But counterinsurgencies in another country (e.g. Syria trying to police/control Lebanon) eventually wear out.  With the Israeli/Palestinian situation the question is:  is this a counterinsurgency of national liberation or an uprising within a country.  The schizoid nature of the conflict suggests a bit of both which is why it continues to both flare up repeatedly and yet can not force a withdraw from the Israelis (except to the pre-67 borders).

For those who don’t know Creveld, basically he argues that big powers (including Israel) build their armies for conventional state-state war, which is what they never fight.  They get themselves and their mammoth energy-hungry beasts of armies into rugged terrain, urban warfare (see US in Iraq), get their supply lines cut (see Taliban attacks on NATO convoys through Pakistan), and eventually are forced to withdraw.

If Israel sends in tanks to Gaza expect it turn very badly for the Israelis.  They will undoubtedly kill many more Palestinians.  Hamas can not beat the IDF in a straight-up fight which is why they won’t take them on that way.

Here is Creveld predicting/explaining a very bleak future for Israel indeed (from 2002):

Byrne: Thanks for joining us tonight on Foreign Correspondent. How has it come to this, Martin… how is it that the mighty Israeli army – one of the world’s most powerful – with its helicopter gunships, with its tanks, with it’s missiles, can be losing to this relatively small, relatively under-armed if fanatical group of Palestinians?

Van Creveld: The same thing has happened to the Israeli army as happened to all the rest that have tried over the last sixty years. Basically it’s always a question of the relationship of forces. If you are strong, and you are fighting the weak for any period of time, you are going to become weak yourself. If you behave like a coward then you are going to become cowardly – it’s only a question of time. The same happened to the British when they were here… the same happened to the French in Algeria… the same happened to the Americans in Vietnam… the same happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan… the same happened to so many people that I can’t even count them.

Byrne: : Martin you used the word ‘cowardly’ yet what we’ve seen tonight – these commando units, the anti-terrorist squads – these aren’t cowardly people.

Van Creveld: I agree with you. They are very brave people… they are idealists… they want to serve their country and they want to prove themselves. The problem is that you cannot prove yourself against someone who is much weaker than yourself. They are in a lose/lose situation. If you are strong and fighting the weak, then if you kill your opponent then you are a scoundrel… if you let him kill you, then you are an idiot. So here is a dilemma which others have suffered before us, and for which as far as I can see there is simply no escape. Now the Israeli army has not by any means been the worst of the lot. It has not done what for instance the Americans did in Vietnam… it did not use napalm, it did not kill millions of people. So everything is relative, but by definition, to return to what I said earlier, if you are strong and you are fighting the weak, then anything you do is criminal.

Update I: And just for the record, the US COIN (Counter-insurgendy Doctrine) is mostly smoke-and-mirrors.  Obama is looking to double down in Afghanistan and guaranteed that will end as badly as it will in Iraq. It generally (at best) is not really a counter-insurgency but a capitulation to the victory of smallish, more primitive groups, and simply plays one off against another (i.e. The Sunni Tribesmen versus al-Qaeda in Iraq).  In Afghanistan Petraeus is looking for a replication of the same thing with local Tribes against the Taliban.  All that does is further de-legitimize the state.  This will come at the expense of Hamid Karzai.

Update II: As Israel becomes more and more militarized societally, under the supposed existential threat (whether from homemade rockets in Gaza or the Iranian nuke-to-be, which as Creveld points out is not a real threat to Israel, they can deter and respond with total annihilation of Iran, so can the US), the constant state of low-grade fear, spiking to intense in certain moments, corrodes the political process.  This unsurprisingly comes at the moment of an upcoming Israeli election as the center/left (Kadima and Labour) parties look to fend off tough-guy talk from the right (Likud) and perhaps box incoming President Obama in on any peace process. The Israeli state is veering towards a major constitutional crisis and all-out legitimacy of itself as a state in the 21st century.

Heads I win, tails you lose. That is the game Hamas is playing.

Update III:  Right on cue, Haaretz reports Hamas wants Israeli to invade with ground forces.  Of course they do.  Suck them in, bleed them dry, swarm like insects biting and sucking the blood of an elephant.  The Israelis would be beyond stupid to fall for this gambit.

Rick Mercer in Spaceeeeee

Published in: on December 29, 2008 at 11:04 am  Comments (2)  
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a little more ruminating

In my on-going reflection on what I should do with this here blog I’ve changed the subtitle to “intelligent sounding nonsense.” That line is cribbed from here. I’m guessing its author meant it in a different way than I’m taking it, and just so it’s clear I’m not doing this to re-start some beef between us. I actually think non-sense is the direction more and more I need to go–to becomes less sensical, less practical. Sensical and practical in the common usage. I’ve been thinking for awhile now of how exactly to capture it in a pithy phrase and lo! the Universe responds. Part paradox, part social criticism, part self-mocking. I find what is generally understood in the blogoic-sphere as sensical and practical to not have much relevance for me. Plus the stuff really worth reading on the blogsophere is already out there. I don’t have much to add by way of that conversation anyhow. Or anything to add by way of practical creative originality. I suppose here and there I can just link to things of value (according to what I think is valuable that is) and I might do some of that here and there.

The old subtitle of the blog was Christianity, Integral Philosophy, and Politics. The Christianity stuff has largely (though not entirely) migrated over to my blogging at Credo @ Culture11. Politics is something I find I have less and less to say (maybe it’s less of a need to say?) and might just link here and there as I feel. Probably won’t be able to completely rid myself of some commenting but I expect that to be decreasing in amount. Plus the Skypecast Dialogues with Scott are far more interesting and fun way of discussing politics than straight blog posts.

So that leaves Integral Philosophy.

I’m not sure if what I do constitutes real philosophy. My background is in history so when I came to study philosophy it generally has been more through a history of philosophy stance.

Also I’m only working with one strand or really one camp within Integral (e.g. Wilber, Edwards, McIntosh). A camp that in some fashion or other emphasizes development, worldviews, quadrants, premodern-modern-postmodern-integral sequencing, the integral cycle, etc. That version of integral (in its various sub-formulations) does very well with things like evolutionary components, the interface between technology-economics and ideology, patterns of large scale political-organizational formation, the brain-mind problem, aligining traditional spiritual maps of consciousness with modern science and postmodern hermeneutics and so forth. There are a number of other issues on which it’s not well suited (or helpful).

More than a theory of everything it is as Mark Edwards says a theory for anything. Except it’s really not [which is ok :)]. I’ve never been a huge fan of the language around integral being the most comprehensive and so forth–at least as comprehensive is normally understood as piling on, bigger, more stuff. Most comprehensive as in Whitehead’s understanding of com-prehension now that’s another story for another day.

That being said, I have a bit of history doing commentary on various works in integral-land. I might continue every so often with one of those. But I really want more and more to investigate and experiment with this notion of a perspectival glossary. In Wilber’s book Integral Spirituality he only does a brief introduction on the concept of the integral/perspectival glossary (what he calls a Giga-Glossary) the few examples he gievs are all nouns. Would verbs or adjectives work?

Diderot & Crew in the founding of modernity in The Enlightenment had The Encyclopedia. Derrida had his Glas-sary as one of the key texts of postmodernity. So it makes sense, but how exactly to proceed?

My buddy Joe Perez used to do a series of posts called Holons of the Day (for what a holon is here). He would post a photo of something he felt of value. By affixing the holon label it had a way of subtly shifting the photo into a new lens (at least for me). What I’m thinking about doing here would be something like that except more in the realm of writing. In other words, nonsense.

The notion (via Wilber) of returning philosophy to perspectives–and the Glossary as a way of categorizing terms in light of that philosophical shift–is something like a meta-archaeology. (This version of) integral thought as Wilber says is (essentially) content-less as it deals with the quasi-universal existential structures (of development through lines, of states, 1-2-3 modes of being, the four dimensions of any arising moment, and the self system).

I’m here dealing more with the tone of thought, the tone of thinking, more than anything else. Understanding the same stuff in a different light (to switch my metaphors).

Published in: on December 26, 2008 at 8:51 pm  Comments (2)  
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snow theme (iii)

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Our hero in the fourth hour of grunt labor.  it began heavy snowing a minute after completion of this round.  (Round 2, Round 1 was two days ago).  I have to go back out and shovel again in about an hour.   Then off to work from 4pm to 2am at the church.  Ugh.  I love Baby Jesus and a White Christmas oh so much, but this is a little crazy.

Published in: on December 24, 2008 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Snow Theme (ii)

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Before and now After:

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Published in: on December 24, 2008 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Running Snow Xmas Theme (1)

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Today Dec. 24th approximately noon.

Published in: on December 24, 2008 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment