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Saturday, March 09, 2013

America's 1984 Game of War in the Middle East

At Informed Comment:

A look at the destabilizing policies of Washington, which serve to ensure that there is a state of constant war:  a war which we cannot win, but at least we shall not lose.
Furthermore, our opponent cannot be allowed to win (e.g., insurgents in Iraq), but neither can they be totally defeated and, thus, pacified. Otherwise, the game of war would end

How do we design such a game where no one can win and no one can lose?
How do we ensure that Stability is never really achieved?

Consider the following simple Take-Away Game.
Here are the rules of a very simple impartial combinatorial game of removing chips from a pile of chips.

(1) There are two players. We label them I and II.
(2) There is a pile of 21 chips in the center of a table.
(3) A move consists of removing one, two, or three chips from the pile. At least one chip must be removed, but no more than three may be removed.
(4) Players alternate moves with Player I starting.
(5) The player that removes the last chip wins.
(The last player to move wins. If you can’t move, you lose.) How can we analyze this game? Can one of the players force a win in this game? Which player would you rather be, the player who starts or the player who goes second? What is a good strategy? We analyze this game from the end back to the beginning. This method is sometimes called backward induction .

If there are just one, two, or three chips left, the player who moves next wins simply by taking all the chips. Suppose there are four chips left.
Then if the player who moves next leave either one, two or three chips in the pile, his opponent will be able to win.
So if Player I leaves 4 chips in the pile after his move, it is a win for Player I and a loss for the next player, Player II.

It comes out that if a Player leaves 0,4,8,16,20 chips in the pile at the end of their move, they have a winning position. The numbers 0,4,8,16,20 are called Target Positions.

Thus, if we can eliminate target positions for our opponent as well as not taking full advantage of them ourselves, we may thus assure that the simple Take-Away game has no winning positions for either player. Nor, since we have taken away the Target Positions, one of which is 0, are there any losing positions.
(for "full" advantage, see #2 below)

How do we accomplish this?

Referring to    
Mission Accomplished: Iraq As America's Biggest Blunder
we read about the Iraq chicken processing plant that cost $2.5 million:


...Elegant in conception, at least to us, it failed to account for a few simple things, like a lack of regular electricity, or logistics systems to bring the chickens to and from the plant, or working capital, or… um… grocery stores. As a result, the gleaming $2.2 million plant processed no chickens. To use a few of the catchwords of that moment, it transformed nothing, empowered no one, stabilized and economically uplifted not a single Iraqi. It just sat there empty, dark, and unused in the middle of the desert. Like the chickens, we were plucked. 
In keeping with the madness of the times, however, the simple fact that the plant failed to meet any of its real-world goals did not mean the project wasn’t a success. In fact, the factory was a hit with the U.S. media. After all, for every propaganda-driven visit to the plant, my group stocked the place with hastily purchased chickens, geared up the machinery, and put on a dog-and-pony, er, chicken-and-rooster, show...
...The harm was this: we wanted to leave Iraq (and Afghanistan) stable to advance American goals. We did so by spending our time and money on obviously pointless things, while most Iraqis lacked access to clean water, regular electricity, and medical or hospital care. Another State Department official in Iraq wrote in his weekly summary to me, “At our project ribbon-cuttings we are typically greeted now with a cursory ‘thank you,’ followed by a long list of crushing needs for essential services such as water and power.” How could we help stabilize Iraq when we acted like buffoons? As one Iraqi told me, “It is like I am standing naked in a room with a big hat on my head. Everyone comes in and helps put flowers and ribbons on my hat, but no one seems to notice that I am naked.”
This is the manner by which we ensure that there is no winning position, and ensures that Stability is not achieved; i.e., by spending much money on things which are good display, but are fated to fail. Thus, we use the display to propagandize and essentially "use up all the bandwidth" available for information to be filled with the "celebrity" projects, which will fail to furnish clothes for the naked man with a hat on.
Thus, the information from the game of war is never useful for the public at large to make decisions.
Therefore, no one wins, for Stability means there is at least one winner.

(also refer to Al Jazeera from 2011:
How The US Taxpayer Got Plucked In Iraq )

Technology and power are used to ensure that America does not lose, but it also guarantees that the opposition does not totally vanish. Just remember how the Taliban was allowed to remain viable after being decisively defeated in 2003.
We do not take full advantage of a target position or a winning situation in the simple game example above by the simple expedient of having recourse to a "technological" ruse: we manufacture more chips and add them to the pile.
While America engaged Al Qa'ida in a struggle to the death, the Taliban was left in reserve to provide an alternate Player in the game of war should America succeed in rendering Al Qa'ida out of the game. SO we can add the Taliban chips to the pile of chips in our simple game illustration. Similarly, we create ill-will by our overall policy that appears to be anti-Muslim and effectively "add more chips to the pile."

The Second String Waiting On The Bench

We are playing against more than one opponent, and currently we are focusing on destabilizing Syria, a game in which there are no target positions for us and perpetual faction for the rebels.

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