Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Whatever they are, they aren’t ‘strategists’

One of my pet peeves with cable news is the way they’ve completely devalued the word ‘strategist’ and stripped it of meaning.

PR flunkies, advertising hustlers, fast-talking pollsters, and fund-raising scammers-- they all become “strategists” when they are introduced at the start of a “news” segment.

Meaning-free titles for the cynical players on fact-deficient news shows.

And we wonder why Trump won?

Monday, May 23, 2016

We really are ruled by inept experts

Brutally honest takedown of Ben Rhodes:

As Boyish Ben Rhodes Drops Truth Bombs, Obama’s Media Mask Crumbles
Democratic presidents once received foreign policy advice from men like Gen. George Marshall, Dean Acheson, and Henry Stimson. For Obama, we get advisers like Marie Harf, Tommy Vietor, and Ben Rhodes.

Yet almost nothing about Mr. Rhodes is exactly normal. In the first place, as highlighted by the piece’s author, David Samuels, the president’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications has zero background in anything to do with national security. Instead, Mr. Rhodes is a novelist manqué, born into a well-connected family on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (his brother David is president of CBS News), who picked up an MFA in creative writing from NYU with plans to become famous for his novels. However, 9/11 caused him to ponder current affairs and he wound up a speechwriter to Barack Obama during his successful 2008 run for the presidency. Per the cliché, the rest is history.
Something to keep in mind for those in the MSM who worry that Trump lacks foreign policy experience and the right sort of advisors:

Then there’s the awkward fact that White House reporters may be every bit as inexperienced and unworldly as they’ve been described--but so is Ben Rhodes. Before becoming Mr. Obama’s factotum he had done no more in the national security arena than most of the uninformed reporters he’s criticized.
Tom Ricks also minces no words about Rhodes:

A stunning profile of Ben Rhodes, the asshole who is the president’s foreign policy guru
Ben Rhodes let the cat out of the bag, he destroyed the pretensions of the MSM and the foundations of what Power Line called “mediated democracy.”

We live in a political system that has not yet been adequately described, but one might call it a "mediated democracy." Mediated by a self-appointed, generally ignorant but highly opinionated "elite" that is not elite by any conventional measure--income, intelligence, education, social position--but that successfully dictates the terms of political discourse even though it no longer controls (exclusively, anyway) the means of production of the news.
The MSM, which sees itself as the main enforcers of this corrupt system, failed utterly with Obama and the people around him. They were gullible; they got played. And now they want this story to go away. They have work to do. Some one has to explain why Hillary is the only rational choice for POTUS and preach that Trump is outside the accepted (i.e. MSM defined) bounds of political discourse and experience.


Making sense of the Age of Obama

How we live now: The rule of the inept experts

Logic only a journalist could love

MSM to public: "Sure we're in the tank for Obama, whatcha' gonna do about it?"

Notes on the current crisis

Friday, May 06, 2016

“An audacious decision can be arrived at by one man only."

Helmuth von Moltke may have been the most important military leader of the nineteenth century. Napoleon was a brilliant shooting star but his ‘methods’ (such as they were) required a genius to make them work. Moltke, in contrast, refined and developed a system and architecture for military leadership that is still used by modern militaries today.

The Prussian system of command was not at all like the stereotype of mindless automatons in spiked helmets. It, instead, combined meticulous pre-war planning with audacious, decentralized leadership when the shooting started.
Hajo Holborn summarized Moltke’s views thusly:

No war counsel could direct an army, and the chief of staff should be the only advisor of the commander with regard to the plan of operations. Even a faulty plan, provided it was executed firmly, was preferable to a synthetic product. On the other hand, not even the best plan of operations could anticipate the vicissitudes of war, and individual tactical decisions that must be made on the spot.. In Moltke's view, a dogmatic enforcement of the plan of operations was a deadly sin and great care was taken to encourage initiative on the part of all commanders, high and low.
On several point Moltke agreed completely with Napoleon. One of the latter’s maxims was “One bad general is worth two good ones.”


If one surrounds the supreme commander with a number of independent men, the situation will worsen both as their numbers increase and the more distinguished and intelligent they are. The commander will hear the counsel of the one, then of the other. He will carry out one proper measure up to a certain point, then a better one in another direction. Then he will recognize the entirely justified objections of a third and the proposals of a fourth advisor. We will wager a hundred to one that with the very best-intentioned measures he will probably lose his campaign.
In business this is the dynamic which helps fuel fad surfing

Another point of agreement.


In war there is but one favorable moment; the great art is to seize it!

An audacious decision can be arrived at by one man only.
In the decades between Waterloo and Sedan, the telegraph had revolutionized communications. Moltke did not see this as a boon to commanders or a justification for centralized direction on the battlefield:

But the most unfortunate of all supreme commanders is the one is under the most supervision, who has to give an account of his plans and intentions every hour of every day. The supervision may be exercised through a delegate of the highest authority at his headquarters or a telegraph wire attached to his back. In such a case all independence, rapid decision, and audacious risk, without which no war can be conducted, ceases.
In the Prussian system, this independence was expected at all levels of command. Moltke is especially discerning on the temptation of micro-management and its negative consequences.

The advantage, moreover, which the commander believes to achieve through continuous personal intervention, is mostly only an apparent one. He thereby takes over functions for those whose fulfillment other persons are designated. He more or less denigrates their ability and increases his own duties to such a degree that he can no longer fulfill them completely."

Moreover, it must be pointed out that if one orders much, then the important thing that needs to be carried out unconditionally will be carried out only incidentally or not at all because it is obscured by the mass of secondary things.
So we are left with a series of paradoxes: Battlefield audacity depends on leaders with self-control which can look like passivity. Effective leadership requires independence and self-confidence but also the capacity to defer to those lower in the chain of command.

Another Prussian Paradox:

When hard work doesn’t pay