Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


Road Trippin'

Earlier today we posted some cell phone pix from within the Capulin National Volcano Monument -- perhaps the best-preserved shield-style volcano in North America. Above is a photo from US-64; the groove on the right slope is the paved road leading to the rim. Of course, guard rails are sparse -- so watch that first step:

This map shows the road up to the rim, as well as the three trails in the park:

Following our volcano adventure, and a quick drive to Texline, Texas, for gas and snacks, we followed Shamburger Road to the survey marker denoting the intersection of the Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas state lines:

My improvised "short cut" back home (basically, following any road that headed "north") led us into the depths of the Comanche National Grassland. After about an hour on gravel roads and some rather spectacular scenery, we reached the east-west thoroughfare of U.S. Hwy 160.

Tuesday marks Peanut's 1st birthday, but she's proven to be quite a traveler at her young age! While the tdaxp metric of "visiting" a state (i.e., conducting an "economic transaction") was not met in Oklahoma on this particular trip, I'm still choosing to log it for all three kids -- who had to endure my driving on gravel roads no less.

(Memo to tdaxp: While you've certainly out-traveled my baby girl internationally, I think she has you beat in "electoral votes".... :-)

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Roundtable II: "Karl von"

The gang at Chicago Boyz will host a roundtable on Karl von Clausewitz's magnum opus, "On War", in January. I'm pleased to join many of my fellow 'bloggers who took part in the Boyd Roundtable earlier this year, as well as an extremely impressive lineup of other noteworthy 'bloggers in the national security realm.

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("On They Came" by Mort Kunstler, c/o The Framery)

There has been much dialogue in the 'blogosphere lately regarding information, from Andrew Exum's recent critique of JP 3-13: Information Operations at Small Wars Journal (h/t MountainRunner) to Chet Richards on "Orientation" (the central concept to Boyd's OODA loop) and "Virtual Water Coolers". Earlier posts by ZenPundit, John Robb, Shlõk, Don Vandergriff, Kotare and Coming Anarchy's brilliant series on the Principles of War are excellent contributions to the topic of "decisionmaking", which I believe is the cornerstone of command and leadership.

What makes good leaders? Is it success? Luck? Perseverance? Or is the "harmonious association of powers" that Carl von Clausewitz described in On War (Book I, Chapter III: "The Genius for War")?

Consider the image above. On the afternoon of July 3rd, 1863, Maj. Gen. George Pickett and his division of 5,500 Confederate soldiers formed the right flank of a three-division assault across the gently rising slope from Seminary Ridge toward Cemetary Ridge in the fields south of the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. His shout, "Up, Men, and to your posts! Don't forget today that you are from Old Virginia," is inscribed on a monument at Gettysburg National Military Park. By the time Pickett's men had crossed Emmitsburg Pike and neared the Copse of Trees by the "Bloody Angle", more than half of his division would fall: 3,000 casualties in a matter of minutes, including 15 regimental commanders, six colonels and two brigadier generals.

What prompted a gifted leader like General Robert E. Lee to risk such a venture? Did the loss of Stonewall Jackson to friendly fire two months earlier at Chancellorsville neuter Lee's maneuverist spirit (a spirit that was alive and well with Hood's Texans, who defied direct orders and seized Devil's Den and Big Round Top on the Union left on July 2nd)?

Or did Bobby Lee see something his subordinates didn't? Did his rational calculus consider (a) Ewell's inability to take Culp's Hill on the Union right, (b) Longstreet's misinterpretation of his orders, thinking Lee only wanted him to turn the Union left rather than assaulting it to build on Hood's success the previous day, (c) the lack of coordination across a 3-mile-wide battlefront amongst his artillery, cavalry and infantry that dashed his hopes for a three-pronged assault, and (d) the near-breakthrough in the Union center (at the Copse of Trees) by Anderson the previous day?

The point is, complex adaptive environments have no unique solutions. Martin van Crevald, in Command in War, described two options for organizations needing to act with imperfect information: either increase its information processing capability (the choice of our modern U.S. military) or redesign the organization to allow it to operate effectively with less information (the essence of Boyd's Discourse and his "Organic Design for Command and Control" and the German concept of Auftragstaktik).

Based on the advice available to him on the scene, and his perception of the unfolding battle, Lee made the best choice he could at Gettysburg for the strategic interests of the Confederacy. Similarly, General George Meade (Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac) made great use of his subordinates (particularly Reynolds and Hancock) and -- knowing the Confederate States Army had moved into Pennsylvania -- chose the best line of defense with the Pipe Creek Line in northern Maryland.

Our challenge today is managing an ever-growing bitstream of data, and balancing our own cognitive load so that we are able to make effective decisions in high-stress, high-consequence, time-constrained environments. Some tools are useful in the context of social relationships and temporal "snapshots" (e.g., Twitter) while others give spatial correlation of resources ("Common Relevant Operational Pictures"). But none are adequate for all requirements.

The basic question we need to ask ourselves is: How much control do we really need? The most effective leaders are able to inspire their subordinates to strive for a common goal, then get out of their way. While information technology is beguiling in giving managers the chimera of perfect awareness, that awareness is a mirage on an ever-changing landscape of perception. Instead of focusing on what our subordinates are doing, or who should NOT see what we know through anachronistic classification practices, we should rather be managing our OWN cognitive load in order to anticipate emergent opportunities. MountainRunner sums up the debate nicely in his review of Exum's IO piece:
Understanding the value of shaping and managing perceptions is critical today just as it was critical throughout history. The difference is today fewer people are needed to mobilize for strategic effects, arguably making the precision and result of influence activities that much more important. We can’t afford to ignore this or get it wrong, but then we don’t have to get it absolutely right on the first cut. We must move ahead and realize that everyone is a strategic corporal and everything we do has information effects, some more than others.
Hear, hear!

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Generations of War: New Post

After a nearly-four month hiatus, I have posted a new piece over at my co-'blog, Dreaming5GW. Check it out.

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Review: tdaxp's Revolutionary Strategies

Überblogger and 'blogfriend Dan Abbott (of tdaxp) has published his first book: Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It. It's on sale now on Amazon.

Dan, a doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a co-contributing colleague of mine at Dreaming 5GW, is a dutiful student of the late Col. John Boyd's ideas regarding conflict, decision making and leadership. He introduced this book on his 'blog earlier this month.

Dan has done a remarkable job applying contemporary theories of warfare and network science to the early Christian / late Roman era. The most notable strength in Revolutionary Strategies is his inventive correlation of the defensive strategies employed by Caiaphas (the chief antagonist of Jesus’s ministries) to those of Diocletian (the late-3rd century Roman emperor who ordered the most severe persecution of the Christian faithful). Accompanying this analysis is a very cogent application of the theories of Boyd (Penetrate - Isolate - Subvert - Reorient - Reharmonize, or PISRR), with modern examples like Vichy France that match the dynamics in the early Christian church.

Both Caiaphas and Diocletian sought to preserve the status quo. For Caiaphas, appeasing Rome was his primary objective: a rogue rabbi who preached of other-worldly gifts would have reflected poorly upon him and his hierarchy. Diocletian clearly understood the management complexities of so vast an empire, and seemed to adeptly address many of the most-pressing ills that plagued the Empire (poor civic participation, an army spread thin on the borders with little to no interior defenses) despite his rampant cronyism (particularly in the establishment of the Tetrarchy). But for the first 18 years of his reign Diocletian was unconcerned about the "Christian threat" – and if it not for Galerius would likely have never ordered the Great Persecution.

Most significantly, Dan’s book opens several new fronts on the debate over the nature of insurgency – and counterinsurgency. For instance, is the ex post facto presumption of “co-option” by the splinter Jewish sect that has become the Christian church practical? Or, rather, was the Christian faith “culturally appropriated” by the Roman empire upon Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the early 4th century? While Dan asserts the former through the hypernetworking of the Apostle Paul, I believe this is a topic worthy of broader study. For instance, was Paul (née Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee) savvy enough to realize that his peers in Jewish leadership were attracting the ire of Rome? Did Paul’s ministries throughout the Mediterranean seek to increase the rift between Jerusalem and the splinter sect of Christian faithful? And were the Gospels written in a manner to give Rome (and particularly Pilate) a “pass” in the crucifixion of Jesus? (Note that three of the four Gospels were published immediately prior to the First Jewish-Roman War and the subsequent destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.)

Dan also provides another benchmark in the evolving theory of the “generations of war”, to wit his development of a taxonomy to differentiate between the various generational constructs. Though I disagree with his assertions that the “0th” (zeroth) generation connotes a form of “total war” and that 3rd generation warfare connotes “better minds”, Dan brings value by identifying possible relationships across the xGW generations and inviting further dialogue.

This is perhaps the greatest utility of Revolutionary Strategies: proffering novel ideas in order to provoke debate. Just as the spiritual values of the Romans were initially at odds with the splinter Jewish sect we now call Christians, the different cognitive approaches of Islam and Christianity – one society favoring creativity and innovation, the other cherishing rote memorization – will have similar consequences for our own unfolding century.

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TDAXP's Reception

Today was Dan "tdaxp" & Fei's wedding reception in lovely Brandon, SD. I sat with some undergrad friends of Dan's from Dakota State U. Sitting with an Air Force pilot, a flight surgeon to be, a teacher and a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science made for great conversation.

The Three 'Blogsketeers (Oz, tdaxp and interact) decided to brave the -10° F. (-23° C.) wind chill for a photo op:

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Coldest Day

It's colder now than it was a sunrise -- with a Weather.com "RealFeel" of -10 degrees F., and a projected low (RealFeel) tonight of -37. Yes, that's a negative sign in front of the "37". Nice of Dan and Fei to have their wedding reception on the coldest day of the year... :-)

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Winter Wonderland

Rollin' with Sean Meade to South Dakota and Dan & Fei Abbot's wedding reception. The white sandy beaches of Tiffin, Iowa were a little chilly on the toes....

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123 Meme (c/o ZenPundit)

'Blogfriend ZenPundit (undoubtedly in a pique of reciprocity from my recent "Christmas Meme") has tagged me with his 123 Meme. The rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Within arm's reach to my left is Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras. From page 123:

... They also instill an intense sense of loyalty and influence the behavior of those remaining inside the company to be congruent with the core ideology, consistent over time, and carried out zealously.

Please don't misunderstand our point here. We're not saying that visionary companies are cults. We're saying that they are more cult-like, without actually being cults.

I tag five of my cohorts from Dreaming 5GW:

"The Skeptic", Curtis Gale Weeks
"The Enthusiast", PurpleSlog
"The Dreamer", Dan tdaxp
"The Voyager", Subadei
Adam Elkus

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Tagged: Christmas Meme

Local friend Citizen Netmom has been tagged by LissaKay to provide a "Christmas Meme" profile, so I'm following her lead. Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends."

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
Gift bags - the ultimate convenience in gift-giving!

2. Real or artificial tree?
Artificial pre-lit. (See comment on "convenience" in 1. above.)

3. When do you put up the tree?
Me? Never. My bride? Usually just after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down?
After our annual Epiphany Party in early January.

5. Do you like egg nog?
Not as much as what you can put *in* the eggnog.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
A BMX bike when I was 12 years old.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes (a small porcelain one).

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
At an office "gag gift exchange", I ended up with a plastic hand pedestal that was supposed to be a remote control holder. We kept it in the closet until the follow year's gift exchange.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Despite my comments on "convenience" above, this is one area where we go all out -- mail is the only way for us. Our family photo is planned months in advance (this year's card was from a February trip to Mexico, complete with Santa hats in the luggage), cards are ordered shortly after Halloween, and labels printed the week before Thanksgiving. We have made a habit (perhaps bordering on Obsessive-Compulsive :-) of mailing them the day before Thanksgiving -- sort of a green flag for friends and family of the start of the holiday season.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Black Friday. My lovely bride, however, starts the day *after* Christmas for the next year.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
My bride's crockpot turkey (never dry!). And my Grandmother's & Aunt Peggy's Secret Toffee.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

14. Favorite Christmas song(s)?
Sarajevo 12/24 by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We usually travel -- we have family and friends scattered throughout the country.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Yes (though it might take me a while). Don't forget Olive! (As in "Olive, the other reindeer..." :-)

17. Angel on the tree top or a star?

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
One selected gift on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas morning.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Some people let themselves get too stressed out -- so courtesy seems to be too rare this time of year, ESPECIALLY on the roads and parking lots.

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?
Classic white lights, gold trimmed ribbon, with lots of sentimental-value ornaments.

21. What do you leave for Santa?
Milk and cookies, of course. And some carrots on the lawn for his reindeer.

22. Least favorite holiday song?
Anything with "singing" animals.

23. Favorite ornament?
Our Macy's-New York City "Curious George" ornament (showing George climbing the Empire State Building in a clear glass globe) from their 75th Anniversary Parade.

24. Family tradition?
Besides what's already been described here (decorations, cards, gifts), we have an emerging tradition of performances. Both kids play in holiday piano recitals, and Renee always performs with the church choir in their Christmas performances. Also, Shelby has performed in The Nutcracker three of the past four years now -- and Jarrett has said he wants to be a "party boy / mouse soldier" in next year's Nutcracker.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services?
Yes, a couple times (once in San Diego, when my mother-in-law visited us there; and another time in Minnesota at her church).

I will be passing this "tag" on to the following blogfriends (updated to link to their replies):

Sean Meade

Can't wait to see what they post... Merry Christmas to all!

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PAC-10 Football

What a difference a couple of weeks can make.... I suspect my SEC brethren are quietly snickering as many of the pundits who proclaimed "PAC-10 dominance" a month ago are now recanting. (All due apologies to Dan of tdaxp for Stew Mandel's disrespect of Nebraska in that article -- especially since there are only 119 "Div. I-A" teams, so it's mathematically impossible to be ranked "120th".)

After back-to-back losses against non-ranked teams, Cal finds itself once again right behind USC -- but with both teams squarely in the middle of the PAC-10 standings. The Bruins of UCLA (the only team to lose to Notre Dame so far this season) and the Sun Devils of Arizona State (who have yet to face a ranked opponent) are atop the PAC-10 standings with 4-0 conference records.

Six PAC-10 teams are in the BCS "Top 40", and three PAC-10 teams are still ranked in the AP Poll "Top Ten". Other than the inclusion of Boston College, the top rankings are starting to look like a regular season of college ball (with traditional powerhouses Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU in the hunt). Maybe it won't be such a startling National Championship Game after all... (Though BC vs. USF would have been a hoot!)

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Cub Scout Campout

The Cub Scouts of Oak Ridge (Pack 226) braved the wilds of Tennessee's rustic "Frozen Head State Park" this weekend. Since our Tiger Den (1st graders) were the largest den present, they got to be the "Honor Guard" for the presentation of the colors.

With nighttime temps in the high 30s F. (single digits C.), it's a good thing we loaded these boys up with Calories during evening s'mores around the campfire!

Fearless Pack Leader Keith Jeter taught the boys knife safety, while other parents provided stories and knot-tying lessons. After a breakfast of pancakes, bacon and sausage (plus a few shots of espresso for the adults from my hand-pumped portable espresso machine), we hiked to the nearly-dry DeBald Falls.

After breaking camp and getting back into T-Mobile coverage, I was happily surprised to see fully half of the NCAA "Top Ten" football teams lose -- allowing unbeaten Cal (who narrowly defeated #11 Oregon in what SI's Stewart Mandel calls "... easily the season's most compelling game to date ...") to nip at USC's heels in the #3 spot in the nation. Hmmm.... Two PAC-10 teams in the Top 3, while five teams in the top 18 hail from west of the Continental Divide.... Wonder what that says about the SEC? :-) BTW, casual observers who check the AP Poll "Top 25" should note that #6 is not the defending champ Florida Gators, but rather the Bulls of South Florida. The Gators have dropped to #9.

(Congrats to Dan at tdaxp's 'Huskers, who have moved into the Top 25 rankings and hold the top spot in the Big-12 North.)

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Cresting "The Hill"

At 8:35pm EDT tonight, I will complete my fourth decade on this earth. Since we've heard the iconic Raquel Welch declare that "60 is the new 40", does this mean "40 is the new 20"? I guess I need to go back to campus and find a kegger or two... :-)

To kick off my "Cresting 'The Hill'" weekend, last night I decided to climb the hill -- literally -- by riding my trusty steel-frame Moab mountain bike over Blackoak Ridge on the Dept of Energy "North Boundary" Greenway. Usually I'm able to crest the 400' vertical climb (7-8% grade for about 1-1/2 miles) without much trouble; this time I had to stop three times. Feeling old and decrepit as I stored my bike, I noticed that the rear tire rim (which I had removed earlier to replace the tube) was rubbing against the still-hot brake pad. So while I take solace in the fact that my physical stamina is as good as ever, my mechanical skills have clearly atrophied...

(BTW: The photo in my profile, as well as my "hyperlocal" personalized WIRED cover for the July 2007 issue, show my Moab in much better operational condition.)

In the Blogosphere, Dan tdaxp and Tom Barnett yesterday made similar posts on the quest by some for the "compassionate" side of conflict. Dan's is the second installment of his six-part "Dreaming 5GW" series, this time delving into the deliberate and explicit thought processes needed to conduct war: war, that is, except in the 5th Generation. Paralleling Zenpundit's recent post on Superempowered Individuals (exceptionally intelligent "lone wolf" actors who dispassionately leverage and exploit society's complex systems) Dan underscores the implicit and esoteric nature of the 5th Gen. warrior's ethos.

Tom's post is a critique of James Taranto's July 26th Op-Ed in the WSJ, decrying the circular logic apparent in the Democratic Party's platform on U.S. interventionism abroad. Tom, one of the most optimistic people I've ever met who always sees opportunity for growth and betterment, aptly notes the dichotomy between his lifelong registration in the Democratic party and Bill Clinton's self-deprecating psychoses in Rwanda and elsewhere as he whines that he should have done something. Tom has truly embraced the entrepreneur mantle, which (as our mutual boss Steve DeAngelis has written) demands optimism.

I believe these posts are very positive developments in our collective understanding of conflict. Regardless of how we segregate the historical evolution of warfare, the basic tenets of "Just War" doctrine remain apt in any conflict. [Donning flame-retardant coat in expectation of a thumping critique from 4GW and 5GW theorists...]

As for birthday festivities, Household 6 presented me with a very cool "Life is Good" technical t-shirt after a morning run with Deichman the Younger (who, at 6, demonstrates far greater physical abilities than I did at 16). With the New York City Marathon barely three months away, it's time to get serious about training -- and to consume as much carrot cake as possible to ensure my glycogen stores remain fully stocked! :->

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Dream-Quest of Unknown 5GW

Dan at tdaxp has begun a six-post series on "Fifth Generation Warfare". His first post, set against the backdrop of H.P. Lovecraft's dream city Kadath, is a concise summary of the most familiar of Boyd icons: the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act loop. Like his cohorts at Dreaming 5GW, Dan has crossed into the Cold Waste to free our minds from their attritionist prison so that we can re-orient our perspective for the challenges that lay ahead. After all, how many of us judge the success (or failure) of a campaign by the "body count" reported in the media? And how devastating is such a singular fascination when warfare turns to more cerebral methods?

I encourage you to drop over to tdaxp. Make the climb to Kadath. And maybe you'll discover the silver key to unlock our well-known past, and in so doing find the Sunset City that binds our collective futures on this planet.

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