March 14th, 2014

Performance Effects — From Markets to Politics

We’re about to see a very grand experiment in the performative character of mathematical models, and Nate Silver is unsurprisingly the catalyst

For the last few months, FiveThirtyEight Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver has been largely absent from the political forecasting scene he owned in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

But that hasn’t stopped the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from sending at least 11 fundraising emails featuring Silver in the subject line over the past four months, even as Silver was building the foundation for his new website that’s launching Monday and was not writing regularly.

It’s all part of a digital fundraising game that will increase in intensity as the election draws nearer, as candidates, political parties, and other groups bombard their email lists with messages designed to draw contributions.

One of most widely used tools is fear. Many of the emails seek to convince supporters that the political situation is dire enough that it requires action, and that’s where Silver comes in.

The last time he wrote about the Senate landscape, all the way back in July 2013, Silver said Republicans “might now be close to even-money to win control of the chamber” in 2014. He also cited North Carolina as “the closest thing to the tipping-point state in the Senate battle,” and called Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s seat in Louisiana “a true toss-up.”

That’s scary stuff if you’re a Democratic supporter, especially coming from an analyst whose accuracy made him a household name in the past few years. And the repeated name-dropping has probably opened some wallets for Senate Democrats.

Mathematical models, particularly forecasting models, are about predicting the aggregate behavior of social collections. Aggregate social behavior is in part the emergent sum of individual choices about the future, given a belief state about alternatives and a desired goal/utility to maximize. 

However, downward causation also is a factor here. Consider what modelers and sociologists have written about financial markets. I quote here from Derman’s “manifesto” of modeling: 

Physics, because of its astonishing success at predicting the future behavior of material objects from their present state, has inspired most financial modeling. Physicists study the world by repeating the same experiments over and over again to discover forces and their almost magical mathematical laws. Galileo dropped balls off the leaning tower, giant teams in Geneva collide protons on protons, over and over again. If a law is proposed and its predictions contradict experiments, it’s back to the drawing board. The method works. The laws of atomic physics are accurate to more than ten decimal places.

It’s a different story with finance and economics, which are concerned with the mental world of monetary value. Financial theory has tried hard to emulate the style and elegance of physics in order to discover its own laws. But markets are made of people, who are influenced by events, by their ephemeral feelings about events and by their expectations of other people’s feelings. The truth is that there are no fundamental laws in finance. And even if there were, there is no way to run repeatable experiments to verify them.

The key element that Derman zeroes in on is the “performative” character of theory. I’ve bolded the parts where he mentions this.  

If Silver and other forecasters are perceived by the people they are modeling to be modern day oracles, then the modeled actors will change their choices based on what Silver says. And this has the potential to produce novel results that wouldn’t have existed if Silver hadn’t created something of the political science equivalent of the observer effect in physics. So we will see if Silver is as influential as this story seems as 2014 plays out. 

How does this relate to strategy? One of the principal critiques of strategic theory, from early critics to modern “critical” theorists, is that the act of studying geopolitical behavior reinforces a feedback loop of belief that violence is the appropriate way to solve problems. One of the sub-genres of this mode of criticism is what Eliot Cohen dubs “strategic nihilism” — the belief that there is no rhyme or reason to war, and that all political violence is just irrational bloodletting. Cohen argues that this is the view of war taken by Tolstoy in War and Peace, but it also describes things like Dr Strangelove as well.

Knowledge-production of research and policy analysis that prizes an instrumental view of political violence, the thinking goes, merely reinforces the dominance of views that prize force as a means of problem-solving despite the alleged (from the “nihilist” perspective) futility of force and coercion. And hence peace remains elusive. 

Personally, I think the argument from observation effects is much more plausible and credible in political markets and financial markets. They are easier to study, in large part because there is masses of data concerning things like financial trades or donor investments. And they also are more amenable to parsimonious models about belief, the future, and preference. Lastly, financial modelers and political forecasters have a degree of credibility and reach that academic thinkers and policy analysts don’t, making it easier to trace causal effects.

March 10th, 2014

Quote of Interest on Organizations and Agents

The obvious naturally intelligent agent is the human being. Some people might say that worms, insects, or bacteria are intelligent, but more people would say that dogs, whales, or monkeys are intelligent. One class of intelligent agents that may be more intelligent than humans is the class of organizations. Ant colonies are a prototypical example of organizations. Each individual ant may not be very intelligent, but an ant colony can act more intelligently than any individual ant. The colony can discover food and exploit it very effectively as well as adapt to changing circumstances. Similarly, companies can develop, manufacture, and distribute products where the sum of the skills required is much more than any individual could master. Modern computers, from low-level hardware to high-level software, are more complicated than any human can understand, yet they are manufactured daily by organizations of humans. Human society viewed as an agent is arguably the most intelligent agent known.

David J. Poole and Alan K. Mackworth, Artificial Intelligence: Foundations of Intelligent Agents, 2010, 6. 

March 9th, 2014


Ancient Romans had a game similar to rugby called Harpastum. The goal was to get the ball to the end, and since there were no rules on grappling, injuries were high. Beyond that the rules varied. Galen, the famous Roman physician, claimed that harpastum was one of the greatest exercises “better than wrestling or running because it exercises every part of the body, takes up little time, and costs nothing it wasprofitable training in strategy, and could be played with varying degrees of strenuousness.

Reblogged from Historical Nonfiction
March 8th, 2014

Signal, Noise, and Jack Bauer

Danny Butterman: Have you ever fired two guns whilst jumping through the air?

Nicholas Angel: No.

Danny Butterman: Have you ever fired one gun whilst jumping through the air?

Nicholas Angel: No.

Danny Butterman: Ever been in a high-speed pursuit?

Nicholas Angel: Yes, I have.

Danny Butterman: Have you ever fired a gun whilst in a high speed pursuit?

Nicholas Angel: No!

A while back, Daniel Drezner wrote a prescient post about the emotional exhaustion that he observed as indicative of a certain persuasion in foreign affairs analysis: 

The key things to realize about the neoconservative worldview is that: 

1)  Reputation and the image of strength are everything;

2)  Countries bandwagon to the strong states and eschew the weak states. 

3)  Even the slightest concession in the present weakens one’s reputation and strength for the future; so

4)  Any concession in a present negotiation ineluctably leads to unconditional surrender in the future. 

Where I think Drezner errors is his ascribing this tendency solely to the neoconservative worldview. This isn’t really a failing that necessarily issues from the neoconservative perspective — in large part because the much-overused “neoconservative,” like its similarly neo-‘d cousin “neoliberal,” is a clumsy moniker for a more diffuse set of beliefs, ideas, personalities, and policies than its promiscuous usage implies. Hence, as some early readers of this post reminded me, it’s hard to say what “neconservatives” Drezner’s analysis applies to. But that isn’t really the important part of why the tendency is more general. 

With a few alterations, this Drezner précis could also describe the domestic political “horse race” coverage that Nate Silver so famously battled against. A world where every incident that receives a lot of press coverage is a “Game Changer”, a world where the election is forever “up in the air” despite statistical evidence to the contrary, and a world where victory depends on the strength, cunning, and resolve of powerful men alone. 

Or, more colloquially, the world that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's villain Vladimir Makarov describes with his speech during the MW3 reveal trailer: “It doesn’t take the most powerful nations on Earth to create the next global conflict. Just the will of a single man.” 

To call this a Great Man theory of history or world affairs is to misdiagnose. Take 24's Jack Bauer, for example. Jack Bauer is integral to saving the day every season of 24. We can’t laugh entirely at this notion — recent work in international relations shows that the hero can’t be dismissed. Leaders do shape the structure of the international system, even if they are also constrained by it.  But the idea that the hero is important (and how important he is) isn’t really the key assumption (or debating question) posed by this kind of worldview.

Rather, every action movie is just a snapshot of one bad day/week/month out of many more in a year. Jack Bauer may have to be on point for those unlucky 24 hours, but what does he do the rest of the year? Likely write paperwork, practice his marksmanship at the range, and deal with a number of lesser cases that never rise to the all-consuming importance of That Day In Which He Expends Bullets and BlackBerries Like A Endless Round of Team Deathmatch.  All of that occurs offscreen and doesn’t matter - just like Jack Bauer is never shown on the toilet or doing any other sort of mundane activity. 

The biggest structural unrealism embedded in 24 is the idea that only That One Day matters. That the fate of the nation and sometimes the world hangs in the balance for 24 hours, and depends entirely on Jack, Chloe, and the team. Those 364 other days? Irrelevant. The problem with this worldview when applied to any large-scale endeavor, be it an election or international security crisis, is that in real life it will never be clear which day is the critical time. There is no clock steadily ticking down, no Kiefer Sutherland voice-over narration. There will be, however, a very many days that seem at first glance to be important but upon closer analysis can be dismissed as noise — pure and ephemeral randomness. And a lot more determines the dynamics and end result than just Jack’s marksmanship and Herculean ability to rapidly maneuver throughout the greater Los Angeles and New York City areas in defiance of the worst traffic in America. 

Worldviews that place great importance on the notion of a singularity at which the fate of the world will be decided by the clashing wills of titans have a bad habit of seeing every instance that laps up press attention and fits a comfortable Gotterdammerung/Armageddon narrative as the time to pray to Saint Jack to pick up his pistol and his BlackBerry, instinctively say “dammit Chloe,” and leap into action and stop the terrorists. 

So what happens when you (1) over-classify game changers and (2) inevitably see most of your game-changer predictions fail? You can rationalize it by one (or both) options from this menu: 

  1. Simply ignore the past (and failed game-changing predictions) completely and treat the world as a kind of Markovian process where the present is the only thing that matters. 
  2. Argue that the future is forever in contestation, and that the fragility of the international order is such that, as per Makarov (conveniently: a Russian ultranationalist!) the will of a single man is enough to upset the equilibrium of the decadent and complacent West. 

Upon closer examination, both perspectives are essentially the same. They just use a different argumentative strategy. The first one simply ignores the past, the second one uses it instrumentally as part of a narrative (see: Munich analogies) that finds great moments in history where the iron dice is cast and the fate of Mom, Apple Pie, and The Flag hangs in the balance. 

ThinkProgress blogger (and soon to be Project X'er) Zack Beauchamp tweeted a while ago that structures, regularities, and fundamentals matter — and that while domestic analysts studying politics had come to understand this, foreign policy analysts did not. The problem is that the perspective that one garners from taking into account structures, regularities, and fundamentals is one that sees a high level of noise in the world and attempts to develop highly precise tools for cutting through it to find the signal. It is a perspective that leads to "incremental" and "dull" analysis and better fits the temperament of the accountant than the romantic. 

When it comes to much of what we regard as politics and punditry, the lack of passion and romanticism that soberness necessitates is a feature, not a bug. Many are drawn to politics because they are romantics, full of passion and aesthetic verve rather than statistics books or “dull” and “incremental” scholarship about the stuff of both domestic and intentional affairs. It is no wonder, perhaps, that the kind of worldview I describe here is more than just action movie heroics taken as holy writ. It is also in many respects a kind of throwback to the sort of Victorian-era mythos and tropes that Spengler and others mined for their works. The world has become decadent and complacent, unable to notice a vigorous, vital, and evil force emerging from the darkness. It strides over the weak forces of order, defeating them with frightening ease. A titanic battle looms, one that will be the defining struggle of the age.

As art, there is nothing more sublime than this sort of aesthetic. It’s what makes John Boorman’s Excalibur the greatest of all of the cinematic representations of the Arthur mythos. And it’s what, on a more vulgar level, made 300 and Lord of the Rings so popular at the box office. It is the height of drama, tension, and narrative payoff. If everything wasn’t on the line, why watch Rocky fight in the first place? But as a guide to everyday life — well, there have been entire dissertations written on how using themes that could have been stolen from Wagner operas as a wellspring for your political philosophy and rhetoric leads to dangerous ideas about public policy. 

Andreesen-Horowitz’s Marc Andreesen, commenting on Newsweek's recent game of “Where’s Satoshi?” tweeted that “there is a growing CP Snow-style divide between people who trust math/science/tech and people who trust people/institutions.” That’s true, but it’s also lamentable — the world genuinely needs those who both are versed in the technical as well as the social and political. Both intersect, as Herbert Simon implies with his metaphor of an technological artifact’s “inner laws” and outer environment that those laws intersect with. 

But another far more serious divide looms — between those who see politics in “dull” and “incremental” terms and those who view politics as a sort of literary romance. Unlike Andreesen’s divide between the technical-trusters and the people/institution-trusters, this one is harder to bridge. There isn’t necessarily an natural or obvious intersection between the two camps. There is very little romanticism in R scripts, Bayes, or prediction models. The lyrical and passionate Nassim Nicholas Taleb of “Black Swan” fame seems to be the exception to the rule, but an exception nonetheless. 

So if you’re analyzing politics, you can regard the world as a dark and uncertain place full of noise and randomness — with your tools as imperfect and fallible tools you use to try to find the signal. It’s a viewpoint that I’ve struggled with myself, in large part because of my instinctive attraction to the romantic view. Hey, at the end of the day I bought MW3 because of the Makarov “will of a single man” voiceover in the trailer.  I’m not automatically in the first camp — if I was, why would I need to go into a PhD program if I’ve already learned that sort of analytical mindset? I haven’t, and I’m still working on it. 

You could, however, forego the attempt entirely. You can aim for the romantic view, where the answers are already known, every struggle is the beginning of that 24 hours ticking down, and the man who wins is he who can fire a gun whilst jumping through the air. It might be more fun, it might save you from being “dull” and “incremental,” but it’ll also, as Drezner argues, exhaust you. Many people have opted for this fork in the road instead.

Maybe one day can matter — though not as a metaphysical, Splengerian conflict. If one day matters, it is as the product a particular confluence of structures, fundamentals, leaders, information, and conflicts. And we acknowledge that one day can make the difference while also acknowledging that the outcome could also be the slow accretion of other days that cumulates in strategic decision. Or perhaps the thing we want to explain or predict is a combination of the two. The choice bolls down to whether or not we want to approach such an analysis from the romantic perspective — or whether we aim for something else more frustrating, incremental, inconclusive, and ultimately more rewarding. 

February 10th, 2014

New Infinity Pub

I’m in Infinity Journal talking about strategic theory, ends-based rationality, and a more pluralistic approach to strategic reasoning. You can check out my article, “Beyond Strategy as a Means to an End,” here

January 28th, 2014

Beyond “Whiz Kids” and Clausewitz Cliches

Lionel Beehner’s post asking whether war is too important to be left to the social scientists rubbed me the wrong way. The subject he tackles is very valuable, but it’s tackled in a way that makes me fairly uncomfortable in the dualism it seems to propose. 

There is a juxtaposition here of a classic set of stereotypes, which Beehner riffs on but doesn’t challenge — the rational, scientific academic/manager fond of regularity and abstraction and the muddy-boots practitioner that seems to prize a more “thick” and contextual idea of war gained through experience and the study of history. 

The ur-text of this divide is the Vietnam experience. As the legend goes, McNamara and his math whizzes thought they could reduce the war into a set of equations or game theories, and lost track of the human element of war. But hanging the blame for the war on the whiz kids seems a bit strange — it’s not as if their counterparts in the military were any less immune to the problem of lacking contextual and cultural knowledge. And it was precisely a group of academics and “whiz kids” that produced what would later be known as the Pentagon Papers, a damning internal assessment of strategic failure. Finally, those same social science academics and military planners with social scientific and technical training had also contributed significantly to World War II strategic planning and operations research. 

Finally, these sorts of “political scientists are from Venus, soldiers are from Mars” kinds of dichotomies elide rather substantial variation in the actual beliefs of those in the military and academia. Bob Gates, who Beehner quotes in his post, fusses about computer models and game theories that reduce war and make it abstract. But I would counter that many things strategic practitioners regard as sacrosanct — such as the Lykke model of strategy — are equally reductionistic.

I have never seen a game theorist or computer modeler that would conclude, a priori, that a strategic failure is due to someone not having “good strategy” or failing to “balance ends, ways, and means.” Not only are these terms so fuzzy as to be analytically useless, but they seem to make big assumptions about models of strategic reasoning and rationality/computational capacity. Ironically many qualitatively-minded strategic practitioners seem to make stronger assumptions about rationality than most quantitative social scientists and rationalize them with canned case studies that do as much violence to history as any parsimonious theory. The difference is that at least scope conditions are clear in social science, whereas practitioners often present their own parochial biases or aesthetic preferences as the “enduring logic of war.” 

Finally, vague references made to “fear, honor, and interest” or dead Prussians are often ways of disguising more controversial inferences or forces of habit. I have stopped using “fear, honor, and interest” myself because it is true in a banal sense but can justify almost every sort of inference possible. Is war more likely in today’s international system? Yes, because of the eternal fear, honor, and interest. Is war less likely? Yes, because of the eternal fear, honor, and interest. 

Contrary to Beehner’s description of Nagl vs. Peters as a monolithic academic thinker vs a hedgehog, social scientists also recognize variation and heterogeneity. Variation is the heart of social science. If things did not vary in the world, there would be no cause for theories to explain why they vary. And practitioners are just as likely to treat things of interest as monolithically as theorists do. This exchange, however, is valuable: 

Starting to answer one of Peters’ points, Nagl said, “Speaking as a social scientist –”

Peters interrupted: “You’re not a social scientist. You’re a soldier.”

Nagl, a bit puzzled, replied, “Well, I’m a social scientist and a soldier.”

“No!” Peters thundered. “You can’t be both. Which is it?”

Peters’ overwrought statement might be useful if is elaborated on more fully. He is grasping some aspects of an inconvenient truth, though not perhaps the way he might believe. 

Social science is about explanation. A social scientist tries to develop explanations for things and forces that we see in the world. What causes wars? How do institutions impact information and aggregation of preferences? What factors make it more likely for peace-building missions to succeed?

At best, all of these explanations are incomplete in some important way. They do violence to the truth for the sake of general explanation. And there are substantial uncertainties, mysteries, and paradoxes embedded in them. Legitimacy, for example, is the "dark matter" of political science — something we can’t directly observe but infer from other things we observe. Sounds cool in a sort of Ivory Tower way. But does that help an Afghan war planner trying to figure out how to bolster the horribly uneven legitimacy of Afghanistan’s government? Probably not. 

Second, post-hoc explanations about past events only give us a limited purchase on making decisions about the future. Framing the problem correctly determines what analytical tools we need to use to try to influence it, and that is something social scientific training gives us no real guarantee about doing correctly. You’ll also expect me to trot out Tetlock and his work on expert prediction — and I do because it is a reason why academics ought to be humble. Academic knowledge does not grant any special purchase on prediction, even if academic knowledge/specialization is about explanation rather than prediction. 

Emergence and probabilistic behavior also matter in in complex systems —    even a rough qualitative understanding of a system trajectory isn’t enough to exactly predict how things will go. Finally, the law of large numbers may create a smoothing effect over time — but the behavior of something of interest is anything but predictable at first go. Over time the casino eventually wins, but it’s anyone’s guess what happens with the first dice roll. You might say that the idea revealed by military history books like America’s First Battles is that unless you can cope with the consequences of momentary shock of the new, you don’t get a second dice roll

So if war is so fiendish and difficult, our intuition is so poor and qualification-prone, and we have such difficulty coming to grips with variation how does anyone win? Part of it is the context of the strategic interaction itself — I’m leery, for reasons already expressed in previous entries, for heroic strategy or great commander just-so stories. But another reason — and the main one that Whiz Kids vs. Mud and Boots dichotomies all ignore — is the role of tacit knowledge. 

Applying organized violence is a practice. It is about doing things, not explaining them post-hoc with a clever theory. The purpose of boot camp is to make the application of organized violence automatic — they shoot at you, you kill them. What separates a special operations operative from a foul-mouthed 12-year old nerd playing Black Ops 2 is that the kid handles a very simple set of cognitive, emotional, and reasoning tasks reliant on the ability to move a computer character around a map and fire weapons at simulated opponents.

Our 12-year old would not be able to acquire the multitude of skills, habits of mind, technical knowledge, and physical endurance necessary to survive the Special Forces qualifying exams without (among other things) substantial immersion into the specific training mechanisms of the special operations community. 

Similarly, the idea that being able to explain the use of organized violence for political purpose suddenly grants you the ability to manipulate organized violence for political purpose or somehow gives you insights superior to that of an practitioner is just as plausible as our 12-year old becoming a Green Beret through excessive camping. The skills simply do not transfer, even if there are some superficial similarities. 

Ultimately, nothing I’ve said can really improve on Max Weber’s distinction between politics as a vocation and science as a vocation. Social science allows you the ability to rigorously explain things in the world, and perhaps grants you a limited purchase on predicting them if you have good data, set your expectations reasonably, and are scrupulous about learning from error. War is a way of violently creating new political facts, and the social scientist that participates in it becomes a de facto political actor. 

Ultimately, to return to the Nagl-Peters exchange, one can be *both* social scientist and political actor while not necessarily being both at the same time. Being a political actor in the world often harms your ability to be reflexive about it — I see this repeatedly in the idea of “strategy for practice” in that biases of particular practical bureaucratic contexts become false intellectual truths. And having to think about the wild and wooly realm of practice often spurs theoreticians to make richer and more interesting ideas — or at the very minimum disciplines them to be more intellectually honest and humble.

Perhaps, though, the binary survives because it seems to flatter both sides. It gives practitioners a false image of themselves as worldly men of action, as opposed to Keynes’ slaves of “defunct economist[s].” Acknowledging that they do not possess a monopoly on strategic knowledge is a gateway to loss of status — in some respects jealously of the game theorists had to do with the fact that their methods (used for the new problem of nuclear deterrence) deprived the military of its traditional epistemic authority.

And it also flatters academics by drawing a clear demarcation between the world of theory and the world of practice. If academics are just abstraction-loving “whiz kids” and soldiers and government civilians are practitioners in the thick of things, this implicitly would mean that the latter have nothing to teach the former. But to return to my analogy of the 12 year old — the realism of the game he plays depends a great deal on the extraction of weapons, tactics, jargon, vehicles, gear, and historical contexts from the “real” world.

Mastering a fun game and winning a war are two strikingly different tasks, but obviously the game would not be fun if you couldn’t drive tanks or fire guns that bear resemblance to the real thing. Academics will be successful if they pay attention to the lived experience of practitioners, and use it to improve their own ideas.

The lesson? We’re all better off avoiding constructing some false binary between a pocket protector toting PhD that treats war as a science experiment and a Clausewitz-quoting man of action that seems to talk like a stereotypical Cormac McCarthy character about the chaos and unpredictability of war and its blood and toil. Both the practitioner in the arena and the academic are grown up enough to leave slogans and cliches alone. 

January 19th, 2014

Two New Books on War, Religion, and Ideology

One is on the role of religious thought in the Revolutionary War. Another is on transnational fascist volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. 

Glad to see these subjects being broached. Religion in American wars is understudied relevant to the usual suspects (geopolitics, economics, class, strategy & tactics, etc). And the rough assemblage of reactionaries that contested Europe beyond Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy is also understudied. 

Skorzeny’s life after the war and fears of a fascist resurgence (during Cold War) are also something I’d like to read about when I have time. Unfortunately this hefty book is occupying most of my time these days….along with this other large book

January 8th, 2014

COG Confusion, Part ____

Reading this piece (which draws mainly from joint doctrine) on Center of Gravity analysis, I’m really tempted to wonder (again) if COG-ing around is pointless. 

The original Clausewitzian meaning isn’t addressed by DoD doctrine. And I have yet to see many responses to Christopher Paparone’s proposal to update the COG concept with better metaphors now that we’ve moved well beyond the Newtonian world Clausewitz lived in (and did not really fit that well into). 

So we’ll (sadly) just continue to debate various ways to make joint doctrinal definitions of COG understandable and workable despite the fact they have been more or less divorced from their original context. 

January 8th, 2014

Evolving Strategies

Want to highlight a paper co-authored by RS friend David Masad on co-evolution of attacker-defender strategies in network attack. You can take a look at the Github repo here

I’ve plugged this paper often but it is very interesting. Combination of network modeling and genetic algorithms applied to evolving strategies. 

January 7th, 2014

Failed Strategies For The Dustbin?

I was scrolling through Twitter and saw The Grugq post this

Failed and disproved terrorist strategies: leaderless resistance; anything based on the “mini manual of the urban guerrilla.” 

Most of the time, domain-specific strategy is so vague that its failure often has very little to do with the strategy’s inherent characteristics. A domain-specific strategy appropriate for one kind of political objective may not be for another, and so on. But sometimes strategies do die out. 

I may believe Basil Liddell-Hart was a clown and a fraud, but he also was correct that Napoleonic strategies became irrelevant after World War I. In fact, one wonders if they became irrelevant while Napoleon was alive. And it is difficult to find modern “leaderless” strategic successes. Urban guerrilla warfare can be tactically powerful but modern strategic variants of use to sub-state actors have little to do with bloody Latin American focoist failures. 

So, friends, can we consign strategies to the dustbin? Or would doing so just be presentism?

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A blog on states, communities, and organizations in conflict by Adam Elkus.

Portrait photo: Marshal Liu "One-Eyed Dragon" Bocheng