Clear thinking: two examples of sound reasoning

Continuing our acknowledgement of sound reasoning, here are two examples that we have recently found.

The first is from an article in the Weekend Oz from May 23-24, by strategic analyst and humanitarian David Kilcullen, about the consolidation and successes of ISIS in the countries that used to be known as Syria and Iraq, and what civilised nations can do to upset this process:

On the military side, there’s a clear need to set aside the light-footprint approach (at least for now) and take wholehearted action to destroy those aspects of Islamic State that make it a state-like entity and that are provoking other powers to join the conflict …

Qualitatively, it would see a shift of emphasis from attacking individual weapons systems, fighting positions or leaders, towards destroying the things that allow Islamic State to exercise its governance function.

One example may help illustrate this. Since seizing Mosul last year, Islamic State has used forced labour to construct a berm (essentially a sand wall and moat-like ditch) around the city. There are only a few openings, each guarded by a checkpoint. Anyone wishing to leave Mosul has to pass through these checkpoints and give the names of three friends or relatives, who become hostages to be executed if the person doesn’t return within five days. Thus a small number of operatives can hold hostage a city of two million.

A revised targeting approach could knock out the checkpoints, create multiple breaches in the berm to allow the population to leave, destroy the Islamic State governance complex in the centre of Mosul and target its headquarters at the northern end of Mosul airport. Ground forces would create a humanitarian corridor to allow the population to flee, while air power held off attempts at retaliation.

The goal would be to break the Islamic state’s [sic – editorial standards at Australian newspapers are appalling] ability to function as a state. This is a hypothetical, of course, but it illustrates how a shift in approach, plus increased effort, could translate into significant changes on the ground.

An accurate understanding of tactical and strategic situations, gained through excellent intelligence, combined with an understanding of the resources at hand and the imagination to see how those resources can be used to change the tactical situation in a way that changes the strategic situation. Outstanding.

The second is from an article by Anthony Daniels (who is better known for writing under the nom de plume of Theodore Dalrymple), ‘The Mind of a Mass Murderer’, about murderous Norwegian loon Anders Behring Breivik, which appeared at Quadrant Online on May 21:

What is one to make of this? It is clear that Anders Breivik’s upbringing was far from ideal, but many children have had far more disturbed upbringings than his without resort later in life to bombs and machine guns.

Daniels is a man who is sufficiently intelligent, not only to take into account what is seen, but also what is unseen – those millions of people who have experienced similar circumstances to Breivik but who have not become murderers. This ability is as crucial for accurate analysis and understanding as it is lacking in the population. If there was a list of five ways in which I would want people to improve their thinking, this ability would be among them.


About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
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