8-17-13 Hodgepodge

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Evil as Self-Limiting, Chapter 291: Management

Jacob Shapiro (via Bruce Schneier) discusses the additional managerial overhead that terrorist organizations face. Shapiro takes the reputation of jihadist Ayman al-Zawahiri as a poor boss as his starting point. After considering what he would face in Zawahiri's shoes and looking at similar behavior on the part of other terrorist organizations, Shapiro explains why micromanagement is the only option:

Terrorist leaders also face a stubborn human resources problem: Their talent pool is inherently unstable. Terrorists are obliged to seek out recruits who are predisposed to violence -- that is to say, young men with a chip on their shoulder. Unsurprisingly, these recruits are not usually disposed to following orders or recognizing authority figures. Terrorist managers can craft meticulous long-term strategies, but those are of little use if the people tasked with carrying them out want to make a name for themselves right now.

Terrorist managers are also obliged to place a premium on bureaucratic control, because they lack other channels to discipline the ranks. When Walmart managers want to deal with an unruly employee or a supplier who is defaulting on a contract, they can turn to formal legal procedures. Terrorists have no such option. David Ervine, a deceased Irish Unionist politician and onetime bomb maker for the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), neatly described this dilemma to me in 2006. "We had some very heinous and counterproductive activities being carried out that the leadership didn't punish because they had to maintain the hearts and minds within the organization," he said....
Even criminal syndicates have a more manageable pool of potential recruits than terrorists do.

Weekend Reading

"[M]y graph shows that the part-time share of U.S. employment has remained disturbingly elevated since the U.S. recession ended four years ago." -- Richard Salsman, in "Obamacare Will Foster a Part-Time Jobs Bonanza for Our Limp Economy" at Forbes

"Marriages that fail almost always suffer from a lack of open exchange and a sad overabundance of secretive, resentful sacrifice." -- Michael Hurd, in "I'm Happy When You're Happy" at The Delaware Coast Press

"The irony is that passive-aggressives think they're being 'nice,' but they end up coming across as inconsiderate and flaky." -- Michael Hurd, in "Passive Anger Is the Worst Kind" at The Delaware Wave

My Two Cents

My favorite line from the Salsman piece was the following: "ObamaCare pushers ... didn't know insurers plan ahead." This fact -- amazing to the very people who like to pretend they know better what everyone else thinks than they themselves do -- Salsman then generalizes and uses to great effect to analyze a graph of hiring trends. It is indeed very interesting that the very threat of HillaryCare likely caused the same anemic full-time hiring that we are seeing now.

Symptom of the Present

Someone recenty caught a design flaw in a skycraper being built in Spain and billed as the "Standard for the Future": It lacks elevator shafts. Too bad nobody noticed or spoke up about this until the building was nearly complete.

This brings back memories of a lab building some past colleagues were reluctant to move into when a curious lack of sinks came to their attention.



Steve D said...

I read the piece by Shapiro and to be honest, I can't gauge his level of tongue-in-cheekness although I can’t believe he is 100% serious. The first thought his article invoked was...well at least they don't have to put up with all those stupid safety rules that we do and then I thought, what if they did and so among other rules, started banning suicide vests over a certain weight for ergonomic reasons. I’d sure hate to be the Al-Qaeda operative in charge of safety, having to explain to all those angry young men pining to find their way to paradise, that the newest studies suggest that continuous wearing of heavy suicide vests can lead to long term back problems.

In all seriousness though, as your subtitle indicates, evil is a clearly self-limiting proposition, in particular evil based on religion. That these guys are terrible thinkers and planners and screw up continuously is obvious (and helpful). We should be thankful for it. With our political and moral haplessness these days, one main saving grace is that our enemy seems to be even more incompetent than we are, giving us chance after chance to finish them.

It’s also good practice to look at the situation from your enemy’s point of view, put yourself in his place and understand that despite that story about the building in space without elevator shafts, we aren’t the only ones with problems.

Gus Van Horn said...

Hmmm. I hadn't considered the possibility that, with the Shapiro article, Poe's Law might be rearing its ugly head...

Steve D said...

My guess is that he was deliberately being ambiguous in order to invoke Poe's law while also making a serious point. If so, his is a very clever writing style, in my opinion.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "This brings back memories of a lab building some past colleagues were reluctant to move into when a curious lack of sinks came to their attention."

It reminds me of some of the classic blunders of Soviet planning, like a Moscow clinic for heart patients that was assigned a suite on the 5th floor of a building without elevators.

The most pungent such example might be one of the towns in Evenkia, I think the former administrative center, Tura. It was laid out so that the drinking water was taken in from the river below the sewage outlet. I remember reading this in a guidebook for anthropologists planning field research, and the book simply said, "Fortunately, the severity of the climate usually prevents epidemics."

Gus Van Horn said...