Disney takes us “Into the Woods”, but they’re not scary woods.

Summary:  As a break from the FM website’s usual fare of geopolitical realism, today film critic Locke Peterseim reviews Disney’s “Into the Woods”. It’s a polished not-scary fantasy of the kind we 21stC Americans love, quite unlike fairy tales’ dark historical roots. Post your thoughts about the movie in the comments.

Into the Woods

A Mouse Goes Into the Woods and …

By Locke Peterseim
Posted at the film blog of Open Letters Monthly, 12 January 2015
Reposted here with his generous permission.

I do struggle with my sometimes unreasonable hatred of Disney. .. But you could at least make the argument that when it comes to things like Marvel superheroes, Star Wars, the Muppets, or Toy Story, Disney is selling products that are pop-culture baubles to begin with. I have much love in my 11-year-old self’s heart for most of those things, but they are pretty much the sort of enjoyable lightweight diversions that even I have to admit Disney does a pretty amazing job of re-imagining then re-packaging.

I hope we can all agree that Stephen Sondheim musicals do not fall into that same bucket of enjoyable fluff. … I love his music and several of his musicals: his often discordant, hook-resistant, complex song-writing subversively paints a world (often populated by misguided dreamers and creators) that is dark, introspective, and morally layered — not to mention painfully, often tragically ironic.

Disney doesn’t really do deep discord. Or complex. Or subversion. And while Disney will sometimes play at a sort of “lite” darkness (Hellooo,  Miss Malificent), it rarely does honest introspection, real moral ambiguity, and certainly not ironic tragedy. No matter which way it bends and weaves through decades of changing tastes and trends, for the most part Disney does escapism. It does fairytales.

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Understanding 4GW, the first step to winning the Long War.

Summary: in the 65 years after Mao brought 4th generation war to maturity, 25 years after the article coining the term, we continue to send our troops out to fight 4GW wars in foreign lands. We continue to lose, as almost all foreign armies do. At the FM website we mark these anniversaries by articles discussing 4GW, how it works, and why we refuse to learn how to win. Today we have the first chapter of a series by GI Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired). It’s important; America’s survival during the 21st century might require mastery of 4GW.

4GW

Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid.

Backward “and” Forward: 4GW Orientation On War – part 1

Introduction

The Changing Face of War” appeared 25 years ago in both U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army professional journals providing a prescient emerging look into the intersection of war, violence, conflict, terrorism, and crime. There were follow-up articles in the Marine Corps Gazette: “The Evolution of War: The Fourth Generation” in September 1994 by Thomas X. Hammes (Lt Colonel, USMC, retired), “Fourth Generation Warfare: Another Look” in December 1994 by the original authors. There were also online features such as “On Gangs, Crime, and Terrorism” and Fourth-Generation Warfare It’s Here, And We Need New Intelligence-Gathering Techniques For Dealing With It.

Regrettably military and law enforcement professionals ignored these articles as well as others. Yet, the fourth generation warfare (4GW) forecasts were and are very prescient. For more about this see “The Evolution of Warfare; Back to the Future” by Gary Anderson (Colonel, USMC, retired), Marine Corps Gazette, September 2013.

The 4GW threat

Today the fourth generation warfare (4GW) orientation remains in the shadows summarily dismissed in many quarters to include DOD, DHS, and DOJ. The events of the last 25 years lend weight to the 4GW orientation. The 4GW orientation offers a different perspective on emerging war, violence, and conflict as an alternative to our conventional acquisition based nation-state thinking.

In short the idea of considering how one thinks about war and conflict impacts what one does in the present and future. An obligatory old dead general quote gives credence to having the right orientation and perspective on war. Carl von Clausewitz said in On War,

“The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish … the kind of war on which they are embarking.”

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Jihadists will prosper using the methods of America’s entrepreneurs.

Summary: How might the various jihadest organizations evolve during the next decade? They might follow the same path as emerging industries in capitalist economies, driven by the same forces of competition to to grow and innovate so that the best grow far larger than anyone imagined possible at their beginnings. We cannot imagine the details, but the general dynamics are easily understood. If so, the future holds many strange and perhaps terrible things. Our current policies, built on arrogance and ignorance — and above all on a refusal to learn from experience — might end badly for us.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

This is a follow-up to Business 101 tells us what to expect next from jihadists: goods news for them, bad for us. The structure of the jihadist “industry” resembles that of other early stage industries entering their periods of rapid growth and innovation. Such as the automobile industry in the 1920’s, before the massive consolidation that took it from thousands of small companies to dozens of giants (Canada went from hundreds to zero), and the cutting edge sectors of the software industry during its many revolutions.

Jihad flag

This is a heavily paraphrased excerpt from Risk and Reward — Venture Capital and the Making of America’s Great Industries by Thomas M. Doerflinger and Jack Rivkin (1987). This passage discusses the automobile industry. I have substituted the jihadist “industry” and changed some of the text. However, the reasoning remains the same. Note that the quotes and numbers are real, from the author’s description of the early auto industry.

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An industry takes off

The jihadist industry resembles the classic high-tech industries (e.g., semiconductors, biotechnology). A few thousand dollars are all that is needed to start an insurgent group, and if it scored some early success more people and funds roll in. The flip side is that the industry is incredibly volatile, with fast-growing groups sprouting up and then shriveling like so many mushrooms.

As in the case of automobiles and computers, those outside the jihadist community are slow to appreciate its tremendous potential because they did not anticipate how rapidly it would improve in effectiveness. This is actually typical of both revolutionary industries and movements.

Growth

To be sure the jihadist industry has grown more slowly than its French counterpart. It took only 5 years for France to get from the calling of the Estate-General in 1788 to Robespierre’s Reign of Terror in 1793. The jihadist industry followed a more typical trajectory, from “criminals … who are willing to be guns for hire” (per David Petraeus, 9 November 2003) into a serious threat to the region’s regimes in only 11 years. The central reason for this superior performance is that as in the early days of automobiles and computers, no single company monopolized the jihadists. From the beginning it was a competitive free-for-all. They had a second and equally important advantage: local entrepreneurs run the groups, people who had faith in their revolution. The elites of the region, even their supporters, are rational, skeptical, and often wrong — and remain safely on the periphery where they could do little damage.

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Business 101 tells us what to expect next from jihadists: goods news for them, bad for us.

Summary:  Years of assassinating jihadists have improved the breed and boosted their popularity. Business 101 tells us what to expect: new entrants arise to exploit this opportunity. Their competition will accelerate evolution of better business practices, making the winners even more dangerous foes. There is one powerful group fueling this process, people we can persuade to stop. (1st of 2 posts today about jihadists.)

Jihadi Competition

Jihadi Competition After al Qaeda Hegemony“, Clint Watts, Foreign Policy Research Institute, February 2014.

Our geopolitical experts, a mixture of experts and frauds, are agog over the competition between al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and befuddled by the proliferation of jihadist groups (it took most of them years to get over the idea that al Qaeda was like SPECTRE (or THRUSH or COBRA). Guesses and fantasies about our foes fly along the info highway.

The above graphic from the FPRI report tells the story. It’s the general form of graphic familiar to those who know business history. It has the outline of the world automobile industry in the 1920’s, a period of intense competition, rapid growth, and broad evolution — of product, manufacturing, finance and distribution — before the massive consolidation that took it from thousands of small companies to dozens of giants (Canada went from hundreds to zero). It’s the general form of cutting edge sectors of the software industry during its many revolutions.

As these groups grow beyond their local bases they increasingly compete amongst themselves for talent, ownership of brands and ideas, market share, and sources of financial support. Their beliefs are rooted in the 6th century, but their methods are those of the 21st. The best jihadists will win.

How we drive the evolution of the jihadists

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Uber gives Americans a float to hold in the rapids of the New American economy

This post has been moved to Wolf Street: Howling about Business and Finance.

See the Billionaire’s Dream: Uber’s New American Economy.  Who gets the crumbs in the ironically named “Sharing Economy”?

If you have never visited Wolf Street, it’s worth a look.

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Much of our news is people crying “wolf”. Do we still listen to real warnings?

Summary: You can always tell a slow news day when the clickbait flows. The good news is that most of the bad news is wrong.  The bad news is that the news diet served by our fear mongers has deadened us to the real dangers we face. (1st of 2 posts about this today)

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The End of Civilization

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Civilization is so over.

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Alarm bells toll for human civilization as world’s 12th largest mega-city to run out of water in just 60 days“, Natural News, 3 December 2014 — About Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson will also run dry.” Got to love the certainty of this statement, typical of doomsters. We turn to real journalists at The Guardian to understand Sao Paulo’s problems (not exactly ending-civilization-scale-problems).

The biggest problem is in the Cantareira water system, which is the largest of six reservoirs that provide water to some 6 million of the 20 million people living in the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo city. Cantareira is now down to 6% of its capacity of 1tn litres, the water utility Sabesp said on its website. Of the remaining five systems, Alto Tiete is at 11% of capacity, Rio Claro 25%, Alto Cotia 30%, Guarapiranga 40% and Rio Grande 70%.

Although declining water supplies have been a concern since last year, authorities have resisted rationing water. But Leme de Barros said officials need to consider a range of steps, among them implementing water rationing but also encouraging the use of more efficient appliances, lowering water pressure in the system and doing better at repairing leaks.

Many problems are serious when people do nothing about them. And problems in Brazil, with its underinvestment in infrastructure, tell us little about the better-managed parts of civilization. Yet people read these articles and let such nonsense shape their view of the world.

Fold the tents, Las Vegas is toast.

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The “global commons” belongs to the world. Should America control it?

Summary: Our DoD has rolled out another master plan. We’re oblivious to how aggressive these strategies look to our rivals; perhaps we’re oblivious even to the idea that our rivals have rights . That’s appropriate to a global hegemon, a role we no longer have the power to fill. The growth of rivals makes that less feasible with each new year. Our unwillingness to accept a multi-polar world makes a fearful transition to more likely.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

Hegemon Robot

We no longer scare our foes.

Contents

  1. We’re number one and tolerate no rivals
  2. What is the “global commons”?
  3. Conclusions
  4. For More Information

(1)  We’re number one and tolerate no rivals

Most Americans have no idea how belligerent our government sounds, especially our military strategy. Read this 9 November 2011 Background Briefing on Air-Sea Battle as would someone in China or Iran (its edited for intelligibility). If DoD’s flacks had written Case Yellow — the Wehrmacht’s plan for the invasion of France it would have sounded something like this (“the Maginot Line is a French anti-access challenge, which we must respond to!”). Goebbels could have learned much from them.

We’re going to talk to you today about the air-sea battle — the anti-access/area-denial challenge. State, regional, and non-state actors have been developing, proliferating, and acquiring modern military technologies that enable anti-access area denial. Things like precision fires, electronic warfare and cyberwarfare, air and missile defense systems. Plus submarines, surface combatants and aircraft all of increasing capability. Combined together they could keep you out of an area or make it very difficult for you to maneuver within an area.

Our {goal} was that U.S. military forces will maintain freedom of action in the global commons. … That demands that U.S. forces be able to turn quickly from a defensive posture to one of offensive posture — to stay in place and operate within an area of the global commons. We must be able to fight in those contested environments across all domains in order to prevail.  We cannot cede a single domain in order to prevail in an environment such as that.  We’re talking about five domains: air, maritime, land domain, space and cyberspace.

This became doctrine in 2010, recently rebranded by DoD as the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC; see an early version here).  What does it mean? You cannot understand DoD speeches and documents without proficiency in NewSpeak, but the man who coined this concept spoke in clearer language…

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