A friend whom I respect, because he’s moved mountains for a cause I believe in, wrote to point to a Boston Globe article about Ed Koch supporting George Bush for re-election, Why Koch is on Bush’s bandwagon. My friend writes:
The author of the article, Jeff Jacoby, says that Ed Koch is a one-issue guy this year:
The article concludes: [Koch] is a loyal Democrat. But as JFK once said, sometimes party loyalty asks too much.
Party Loyalty Always Asks Too Much.
Our government is run by people who depend on zealots for their power, since only zealots are willing to do what has always been required: the hard work of beating the streets for their designated egotist. To energize this “indispensable” base, the strategists adopt the extreme positions that you would expect zealots to require. Both my readers know that I believe the Internet creates ways for reasonable people to exert political power, perhaps for the first time in history.
A Lever Long Enough to Suppress the World
Archimedes famously said that if you gave him a long enough lever, he could lift the world. Using the long lever arm of mass media, a tiny core of politically powerful people controls the rest of the population’s choices, economics and future.
Systems design is the study of how to balance inputs into and outputs from a dynamic process so it optimally serves the needs of the highest possible number of users of the process. From a systems design standpoint, American politics is a disaster:
Only a sliver of the population is zealous enough to be active in politics. Compared to the general population, it even takes a kind of zealotry to get out and vote. I don’t have the figures, but do any states have more than 1,000 full time activists? I’m not talking about the political hobbyists who will canvass when asked or show up at a state convention and perform as directed, but by activists I mean those who live for or off of politics and do their party’s bidding whenever asked. My working hypothesis is that there are no more than 50,000 active political foot soldiers at any one time, less than.02% of Americans. Even if you think there are double or triple the number, the fraction is still vanishingly small.
In turn, those few activists are manipulated by a tiny political elite which is probably no more than .001% of the population (Joe Trippi says there are a thousand of them, but my math works better if I almost triple his number, to the 2,862 politicians, lobbyists, journalists and business leaders who actually drive the country).
This tiny group of power brokers drives the agenda for a nation which the rest of the world depends upon for its opportunities and constraints. This is a system that no conscientious systems architect would sign off on, but which most Americans meekly accept as how things have to be.
Conservative Koch Capitulates to Crush the Canaanites
The secret of NYC politics is the Jewish vote. Our Jewish friends are otherwise rational people who want us to act contrary to our geopolitical interests to support the Israeli right-wing politicians who are often unloved even in their own country. It’s understandable: if you had relatives in Israel, so would you. But our goal is not beating the Arabs into submission, which is impossible, our target is their hearts and minds.
Secularization is the antidote for most of the world’s woes, both at home and abroad. Intelligence is not just the title of a government activity, it’s also a requirement of any person or group threatened with deadly force. Only our mind can overcome paralyzing anxiety, especially when politicians peddle fear since it’s the easiest way to win. And our mind must rise above the ignorant groupthink that religious fervor forces on otherwise rational people.
New Yorkers understand the code words behind Ed Koch’s position. We embrace our Jewish friends, but most of the people who were actually harmed by the terrorists three years ago oppose the war on Iraq, because they know it leaves unfinished the real business of cutting off terrorists’ air supply. They know this because, unlike most Americans, they’ve been forced to study the real issues and to look past the illusion of cosmetic security.
A Unique Resumé, Understanding Terrorism
John Robb, the only other C-130 pilot I run into at tech conferences, has tackled the global guerilla issue with unique skills and background: Air Force Academy grad, Yale Masters, combat pilot supporting dark ops in Bosnia, Senior Analyst at Forrester, President of Gomez. Now he consults on counter terrorist strategies. It’s obvious that John Robb is not some knee-jerk leftie, incapable of the tough-mindedness required to confront an enemy or build a world-class organization. Since he’s not running for office, he doesn’t need to mouth the platitudes that get ineffective people elected.
Like George H. W. Bu
John describes the three components that terrorists use to win a 4GW conflict:
These are the methods our forefathers used to defeat the greatest, most arrogant empire ever seen, back in 1779 and 1812, and they are the methods now being used against the greatest, most arrogant empire ever seen.
Who’s Boyd, and What Does He know That We Don’t?
The Boyd whom John quotes in his three components of the terrorists’ playbook is Col. John Boyd. Often called America’s greatest fighter pilot, Boyd transformed the way military aircraft – in particular the F-15 and F-16 – were designed with his revolutionary “Energy-Maneuverability Theory,” fighting the Air Force’s entrenched ideas every step of the way. He then dedicated lonely years to a radical theory of conflict that at the time was mostly ignored, but now is acclaimed as the most influential thinking about conflict since Sun Tzu (from Amazon’s description of Robert Coram’s Boyd biography).
John Robb embraces Boyd’s systematic thinking:
Robb doesn’t think we’re doing very well in combating the forces that isolate us from each other, from our former allies (far more experienced than we in fighting terrorists), from our mental discipline and from our moral compass. His scorecard of our so-called war on terror follows the above list.
The Great Disconnect
Every one of us is forced to be disciplined in our profession. We understand that the devil is in the details, that what matters are the non-obvious disciplines that our customers and our investors really don’t understand. In short, we look beyond the surface in order to succeed.
But politics embraces PR, not operations. Politicians love cosmetic security. By declaring war on the enemies we can defeat impressively (the false internal dialogues Boyd cautions us against), they ignore the tough-minded, politically more difficult operations we must undertake to be secure.
Global Guerillas is a crash course in the details that matter, and a bibliography of the books that treat terrorism seriously rather than politically. If you’re willing to have the discipline of an insider, start there. But if you want to follow the herd over the cliff, just keep watching TV. Here’s John Robb’s prescription:
I don’t fault our political elite for being strong on terror, I fault them for being ineffective patsies: they’ve taken the coward’s way out by choosing to attack their political enemies rather than the enemies of the noble American experiment in freedom of individual thought and action.
For those willing to master the real issues facing us, here’s a list of John Robb’s compelling analytics: