Friday, October 07, 2005

The War is Lost

Today US forces destroyed 8 bridges in Iraq with precision-guided bombs. Why? As John Robb point out, the US military is concerned about the increasing apparent coordinated action by the Iraqi insurgency, so the US is cutting lines of communication--in this case bridges. This is an essential part of defeating a hierarchal opponent--interdict their lines of supply and command & control. Unfortunately, it will have no impact on the largely rhizomatic, networked, independent factions of the Iraqi insurgency. It will, however, disrupt the hierarchal operations of the US military, as they depend on the very bridges that they are destroying.

The internal coordination of the iraqi insurgency is an EMERGENT phenomenon--their non-hierarchal makup fundamentally precludes hierarchal, centralized direction and supply of their activity. America's tactical blindness is due to a lack of understanding of the differences in information processing between hierarchy and rhizome. Hierarchy processes information mechanically, it is machine intelligence, much like a computer; there is centralized direction of resources, and information flows in two directions via fixed channels. Rhizome, however, is emergent intelligence, much like the human brain. There is no (or little) conscious coordination between the various nodes in the insurgency, just like there are no controlling neurons in our brain, and yet the human brain and the iraqi insurgency are capable of information processing feats that are beyond the abilities of the most capable computer.

This is why the destruction of 8 bridges will have no impact on a rhizome insurgency. if you open up the human brain and kill 8 critical neurons, it will have no substantial impact on the ability of the brain to produce emergent information processing. Conversely, if you open up a computer, and destroy 8 critical transistors in your Pentium 4, the computer will be severely damaged, possible rendered non-functional. The fact that the US decided to destroy some of the very links that it depends on is evidence that they neither understand their enemy or themselves.

Sun Tzu said:

So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

America is desparate to respond, but cannot do so effectively because it does not understand the structural makeup of the major actors. It has lost.


candy said...

"If it is a question of showing that rhizomes also have their own, even more rigid, despotism and hierarchy, then fine and good: for there is no dualism, no ontological dualism between here and there, no axiological dualism between good and bad, no blend or American synthesis. There are knots of arborescence in rhizomes and rhizomatic offhoots in roots. Moreover, there are despotic formations of immanence and channelization specific to rhizomes, just as there are anarchic deformations in the transcendent system of trees, aerial roots, and subterranean stems. The important point is that the root-tree and canal-rhizome are not two opposed models: the first operates as a transcendent model and tracing, even if it engenders its own escapes; the second operates as an immanent process that overtuns the model and outlines a map, even if it constiutes its own heirarchies, even if it gives rise to a despotic channel. It is not a question of this or that place on earth, or of a given moment in history, still less of this or that category of thought. It is a question of a model that is perpetually prolonging itself, breaking off and starting up again. No, this is not a new or different dualism. The problem of writing: in order to designate something exactly, anexact expressions are utterly unavoidable... We invoke one dualism only in order to challenge another. employ a dualism of models only in order to arrive at a process that challenges all models. Each time, mental correctives are necessary to undo the dualisms we had no wish to construct but through which we pass. Arrive at the magic formula we all seek-PLURALISM=MONISM-via all the dualisms that are the enemy, an entirely necessary enemy, the furniture we are forever rearranging." (A THOUSAND PLATEAUS (20-1)

Jeff Vail said...

I agree with your criticism that Hierarchy vs. Rhizome is potentially as rigid and restrictive a dualism as those more frequently employed. That said, while I think Deleuze & Guattari (to avoid confusing our more fashion-conscious audience) are critically important thinkers, I think that they slip into the standard post-modernist trap of rejecting the very process of the model upon which all human understanding depends. While it is important to understand the limitations of conceptual models--and especially to never forget that we are working within the framework of a model, and not reality--I do not think that the post-modernist end-game of the dissolution of the conceptual model is valid. As both Hakim Bey and Robert Anton Wilson have pointed out, the map IS NOT the territory. This may seem like a tautology, but look closer: in order for a map to BE the territory, to represent everything fully and accurately, it must by definition be as large and complex as the territory itself--and obvious absurdity. Because all human perception and cognition utilizes only a portion of the available data, among other structural problems, our thinking and our philosophy MUST always be a map, and never the territory. For this reason all human thought demands the use of ontological dualism--or more simply put, of conceptual models.

The wave of philosophers such as Bey and Wilson that emerged immediately after D&G have a more complete grasp of quantum theory, and seem capable of better resolving the need for the human brain to utilize models whle at the same time keeping in mind the necessary shortcoming of that method. While I think that D&G were already "post-post-modernist" in most ways, especially through the very development of an alternative model (rhizome) which which to understand our world (and not just concede to impossibility), I don't think that they effectively synthesized this with the just-then-emerging understanding of how the human brain and quantum physics actually function.

Just my two cents on that excerpt...I certainly still find them to be seminal thinkers, and of great personal influence, but I stop short of fully embracing their writing. I guess if I had to outline the influences on my thinking, I would cite the competing yet complementary influences of Deleuze on one side and Robert Anton Wilson on the other.

Bernard said...

"America is desparate to respond, but cannot do so effectively because it does not understand the structural makeup of the major actors."

Jeff, doesnt this tend to 'overexplain' the problem? Its a guerilla war, and the US is losing because it has lost politically, like so many other guerilla wars, just as people predicted.

candy said...

Sorry to continue this if it seems like i am belaboring a point that is not important here. But a response, as quick as I can:

Although i have an RAW book, I havent really read. Just to clarify on D+G: their whole point is that the mind doesn't model. Or it only pretends to, or has traditionally been pretended to. Instead, it coexists with the world. The difference it seems btw. wilson as you have described him and d+g is the manner in which they consider the mind 'limited'.

For Wilson, the mind is transcendentally limited by virtue of its being a determinate model of indeterminate quantum reality?

But for d+g the mind is conditioned by its perceptions but that does not mean it is a priori limited in what it can know. The mind is as indeterminate as the physical world, is produced by the world, and is one with it. In that sense, the map may not BE the territory, but equally the map is not fully distinct from the territory to be mapped. IOW, The mind is still part of the territory that we must map in thinking. And we have to map both mind and territory at the same time: the mind, language, the map is itself territorial. And the territory is not prior to the system of markings, significations, and mappings produced by the mind or the territory is changed so significantly by being mapped that it cannot be said to predate the map. The problem is not only to debunk the myth of a total model, or god's eye view, and reinstate the myth of an imperfect one (indeed that is an old solution) but rather to stop thinking of the mind as a model at all.

Quantum physics here can only suggest new avenues to follow in what the mind can think, it does not of itself establish the limits on what the mind can know (Isn't the model of quantum physics itself an expression by thought, however reflexive?). Instead we do not yet know what the mind can know because the world is continually producing a new and different mind.

The problem is in fact an old one(from linguistics through the history of metaphysics) that the mind has been posed as a modeling instrument and then expounding its imperfections instead of fully considering the conditions under which the mind works (socially and bodily conditioned perceptions)and when it can do its best work. And then asking how can we bring those best conditions into existence.

Only by maintaining an absolutely open experimental method, by continuing to clear away binaries or structures that come to parade as self-evident and develop their own mistique and obscure their own critique, while using those structures to deduce new thought-ways can we determine what the mind can truly know and how it can best serve the body (new cultures, new ecological lifestyles, permaculture-ish?).

Anonymous said...

Wow, I have never seen so many words say so very little...thank god this stuff only exist in the psudo-intellectual world of "unversities" and 'the "blog-o-sphere" .2$

candy said...

Dear anonymous, way to respond with truly weak and closed minded lazy cowardice. I suppose you think that kind of proudly professed non-understanding (willful ignorance) is true intellectualism. Regardless of the quality of what I have written above, this comment definitely betrays an affinity with that crowded majority perpetually trying to root out ideas that are difficult to understand wherever such ideas may be found. Congratulations, you can at least rest assured that you are certainly not alone in forsaking truths that are difficult to grasp, instead gladly mistaking vigorous close-mindedness for secure intelligence. in fewer words, i think you are just jealous, suckah.

Jason Godesky said...

Candy--I think he may have been referring to Jeff's original post.

Which would also strike me as a rather vapid response, but one he's perfectly entitled to. Not sure why he felt the need to share it, though ... seems rather on par with my logging on and announcing every bout of flatulence I encounter, but hey, different strokes for different folks and all that, right?

Anonymous said...

Candy, you mentioned "truths" that I cannot grasp. What truths are those? How are you so sure that what you said is true? Are you so intellectually arrogant to define the any and all of the extensive utterances that flow forth from you keyboard as truths, or are you referring to only this post, or only the things that I cannot understand or reject? If they are true how will I know? Am I obligated to believe you just cause you are smart and I am dumb? Or because you accept your words as truth should I? If I say something you reject or think is "vapid" or stupid, but I claim it to be truth, is it so, or are you the surpreme arbitor of truth? How am I to know if what you said is true? I don't claim to know anout all of the things that you are passionate about. If I told you the Bible was true would you have to accept it simply because I said it over the internet? If you rejected this, would you merely be a "jealous, suckah" because you can't understand?

Jason Godesky said...

Well, an argument to back up your claim would probably go a long way. Simply stating, "This is stupid" is, well ... stupid.

Anonymous said...

No her arguement are not stupid, she claimed to be speaking truth. how can truth be stupid. I just want a piece of the truth pie. Is that so wrong?

gilemon said...

very wrong, indeed:
Analyze Information in the Nexus Dimension

Jason Godesky said...

Wow .... CNN this morning was trumpeting the referrendum as a triumph, because the Sunnis voted. They decided to put down the weapons and see if they could actually make this democracy thing work. They all turned out to vote against the referrendum.

And still lost.

The last time in U.S. history that a block voted that solidly against something and still lost, they decided that there was no longer any hope for them as part of the Union and tried to secede as the Confederate States of America.

This inversion of Maslow's hierarchy just succeeded in convincning Iraq's entire Sunni population that democracy will never succeed for them.

Good job!

Jeff Vail said...

George Friedman (of, who is impressing me less and less these days, did come out with some interesting analysis on this point. Basically, he says that the fundamental problem in Iraq is that there are multiple parties with mutually exclusive minimum demands. Any "final" solution will permanently alienate at least one of these groups, guaranteeing an insurgency from that group. So the Iraqis are addressing that problem by never creating a "final" in fact is the recent modification to the constitution to allow it to be again modified after the December 15th election. As long as there is some potential that the situation *could* change to address Sunni demands at *some point* in the future, then it's difficult to say that the war in Iraq is truly lost. Interesting plan... I'll be curious to see if they keep adding the option to change things in the future. Either way, it certainly doesn't change the problem, but merely delays the realization by any group that they have been finally and permanently sold down the river. I guess the hope is that they can drag this out long enough to defeat the insurgency militarily. Good luck there. Anyway, it doesn't change the fundamental problem that there are mutually exclusive minimum demands of multiple groups. What I think that it WILL do, echoing Jason's point above, is create a situtaion of reversion to primary loyalties and have ALL groups give up on the viability of Iraq as a state, reverting back to their local group loyalties. So while this strategy may not give the Sunnis their #1 gift on their Rammadan wish list, it will probably not be detrimental to their position, and it may spark the alienation of the Shi'a and Kurds. So while this may prevent the Sunni regions from losing all hope immediately, it may actually push the whole of Iraq towards losing all hope.

This problem is really THE fundamental problem of the state right now: How do you resolve mutually exclusive minimum demands? We're seeing this in nearly every former colony, and even in most colonizers where multiculturalism and globalization have broken down the formerly accepted fantasy of the monolithic nation (See last entry, "The New Map").

So stepping back from a principled stance on primitivism and anarchy for a moment, what does the realist do with Iraq? Does either the Nation or State that created this mess (UK, France, Russia, maybe even modern day Turkey?), or the one that is exacerbating this mess (US, UK...) have an obligation here? What is that obligation? Should the US just leave as fast is as logistically possible? Are they obligated to stay at all cost? Does our state-system obligate the entire nation to absorb these costs, even though many did, and many do object to the conflict? What is the mechanism for enforcement??? Too many questions...

M. Simon said...

Insurgencies are defeated by self government.

The fighting is only a holding action.

BTW anonymous 9:53 PM hit the nail squarely.

By the criteria of self government we see that Iraq is coming along nicely. The Iraqi Army in Iraq is now at least 50% larger than the American Army in Iraq. They have no shortage of VOLUNTEERS.

The Iraqis are leading the fight. Americans are doing logistics, blocking forces, and support.

10+ millions just voted.

Parliamentary elections in December.

M. Simon said...

The SWP in America is gravely disappointed.

I wonder when they will take to the streets.

So far every step in the war has proved that the next step as impossible.

M. Simon said...

BTW may I recommend the Belmont Club if understanding the war is of interest. wretchard is one very smart fellow.

jase said...

I like the global guerillas blog by john robb, but you also need to read

if you want to understand what is going on in iraq.

we are only going to lose if we give in to a defeatist mentality. come on, show a little backbone!

Jeff Vail said...

To be frank, I don't think the blogs of either Michael Yon or Bill Roggio demonstrate an understanding of what is going on in Iraq. Lots of understanding of a few trees, not much understanding of the larger forest. "Stark Evidence of democracy taking root", is how Yon characterized the situation. Sure--in a few locales. The problem in Iraq isn't that there aren't people there that want the US presence, or that want secular democracy, etc. The problem is with the other people who have slightly different goals.

The latest figures are that Al-Anbar province voted 97% against the constitution. And Salah ad Din province voted 82% against it (both despite low overall turnout among the opposition). But due to Saddam-era gerrymandering in Ninawa province (and ONLY 55% voting against there) the thing "passed." Well, when you make the rules, you tend to win within the context of those rules. The problem is that there is a sizeable chunk of the region that rejects not only the rules but the "ruling" party's authority to make them. The problem of Iraq is that there are mutually-exclusive but overlapping power networks (see upcoming post). We aren't addressing, let alone solving, that problem--and neither Yon nor Roggio even demonstrate an awareness of the issue. But they do take nice picures of people on the street...

Interesting also, the term "lose." Yes, we might lose if we do X. But "lose" suggests that there is a potential to "win," which is of course entirely within our power if we just 'believe in it.' That's a great way to motivate your kids weekend soccer game, but even the soccermoms know that it isn't actually the case--you don't win because you applied yourself, or tried hard, etc. A bit of pragmatic realism would do here: falling back on "we need to believe!" is one of the first indications that we have already lost.

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