Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Against the pedant retailer of good

*Bad is better than good* not because of it's nature but because it still has a right to be good. 
Bad has parts of or more integrity, Good often arrives through the Evil Avenue but bad is always at his own expense. 
"what is wrong for one is bad for another," exhorted the degenerate. Easy. It's just for laughs. One should not be too much in the right if one wishes to have the laughers on one's own side; a grain of wrong pertains even to good taste.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is the far right in Europe a matter of concern?

The European response to the financial crisis has produced a conglomerate of far right parties across Europe that makes the Tea Party look like a benign movement. The far right has wielded great power over European society and is on the way to rise, the example of which is the far-right Front National victory in the local by-elections in the town of Brignoles in southern France. The European Parliamentary elections is set to take place in May 2014 and you don't have to be a genius to expect a big boost for the right-wing populism.

The far right parties such as the FPÖ in Austria, UKIP in the UK, Golden Dome in Greece, FN in France and also to a certain extent 'Alternative für Deutschland' can reach behind their traditional base of disenfranchised white groups into traditionally labour and conservative working and middle class. The reason is that they have become more flexible, overcome a certain cultural guilelessness, and is making use of modern media and methods. While parties in the centre lack clear ideology and appeal to the general public.

The implementation of far right programmes in any Euro zone country will bring about a collapse in the value of the currency, a huge increase in the debt burden and higher import prices. At the same time stopping immigration would destroy numerous industries and services. In order to be effective, both policies presuppose sealing off borders, which would immediately lead to a higher rate of departures, an end to exports, a rise in the cost of living and an explosion in unemployment levels. The repercussion from the economic shock will push these countries toward further national socialism and undermine democracy.

There are two things that can change the far right momentum, the first is the political centre through heroic leadership should bring daring reforms that would cut the budget deficit, stimulate the economy and over the long term cut the national debt to restore market confidence in the financial management of the state. None of this is happening and on the contrary a less responsible fiscal policy under the auspices of national socialism is implement in Europe, link. The second point is directly linked to the first, the political centre can only hash out the lethargy of the far right in a thoroughgoing debate if they do not resort to the strategies common to them. They must forswear deals with the far right, or trying to outbid it with populist gestures. This would merely legitimise the far right. They must be honest about the challenges facing Europe, and the need to embrace globalisation. Their failure to do so is one of the reasons there is so little faith in their leadership.

The ailing of Europe is the policy of accommodation, a perennial reliance solely on innate moderation. There is no virtue in moderation, virtue is in robustness of ideas. The mainstream parties in order to maintain the status quo through moderation has maintained an unsustainable welfare state, a dogmatic idea of European Union, dysfunctional immigration policy and unwillingness to bring radical changes to the declining institutions of the state. Unless they bring key changes in these areas the far right will not be stopped. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mother Language

I want to say schiffahrtselektrizit which is German for seclusion because of language and depressed as a result is Rechtsschutzve, or it should be. I find it ironic that English is a more effective language of communication with my barber who is from Iran (structurally the same mother language). lack of literacy and connections have resulted in fragmentation of Farsi to the extent  that dialects have become so distinct that even regions within the same national border has features that are unique. The Dari I speak is only a practical spoken language with a small group of population, written language too is hermetic and insular. I just did a research and found out that the total number of internet pages and the total number of commercial content (hardcopies of instruction, guide, manual …) in Persian, *a* language of 120 million people, is fewer than Estonian, *the* language of less than 2 million people. It’s reclusive and lonely if your language is Dari and Pashto; when you think about it like that you come to realise the value of mother language and its importance for nurturing confidence and purpose

Monday, October 14, 2013


A young American Scientologist walked up to me on the street, in an attempt to sell me some religion he started “god is gracious” to which I promptly responded “I have seen decapitation of children as young as 14 for pick pocketing in the name of God to teach others by example”. He said they maintain a misguided interpretation of God. Surely we don't reason the same about everything else. We don't say pedophilia is misjudged child affection on the part of an adult. hang on, the church almost says that. We don't reason a shooting rampage is an abuse of the right to bear assault rifles. Wait isn't that how its argued in your country.

Monday, September 30, 2013

I will fix you up real good

I have one day a month that I dread the most and it is the day I receive instructions from a random member of the public or acquaintance. I have done the maths and it comes to an average of 12 per annum which statistically makes it once a month. Here are a few starting points for the instructions: What does the boy want? You can’t  put your chair here. You might want to do this or that? You should not do this or that? What do you mean it is not my business?

Why is the British so ready to instruct? Don’t take it personally, it’s not about you. if you listen carefully you will hear the inside voice which actually says: I feel powerless -  I have little control over my life -  I feel clinically depressed - I am tired of frozen pizza, cheap bear and bad weather.  It is this inside voice if you listen to that explains for the most part the popularity of football and its benign hooliganism as well as the pubs and male aggression.

Complaining is the national hobby. there is a pernicious relation with mutual impact between individual discourse on collective and nationally formed identity on individual. The media daily complaints about how nobody is fixing the climate or how disgusting it is that some dude spent £36k on alcohol in a private party. The individual submersed in this discourse mimics them and go around looking for it in the neighbourhood.  

It is not a big deal and not particular to Britons, people around the world love to complain and more those destitute. There is one thing that makes this in particular and it’s the lack of humility. I blame pop culture, comfortable life, alcohol and television, in that particular order. It is not so much complaining that you should watch out for but arrogance mixed with it, which is really obtrusiveness.

This is the fallout of national socialism in a post industrial society. People want the state to fix things for them consequently the state takes control away from them which in turn frustrate them. Most issues now delegated to the state has traditionally been the domain of individual responsibility, such as looking after the neighbourhood, personal health and family welfare. One has to be careful not to over emphasize the role of the state, after all in democratic Britain there are different forces and counterbalances that will correct a misguided direction of the state.

Obtrusiveness is also the concomitant of a  great British character, eccentricity. The English admire counter cultures, desire quirky approaches, accept the strange, cheer for the underdog and defy the mainstream. It is exactly these characters that give rise to some great British qualities such as tolerance. eccentricity brings you the surrealist, odd, unpretentious and quirky comedy of Milton Jones, Phil Jupiter, Miranda, Alan Davies and the one man institution of Stephen Fry. Ironically eccentricity is self repellent, it alters the mainstream and in the process creates idiosyncrasy. Creating ulterior motives that is revenging on common sense.   This is not so funny and has brought to you rude heckling particular to the English and self-loathing. 

The good news - you need one - 29 days 23 hours and 30 minutes is filled with the joy of dealing with intelligent and pleasant Britons. You just have to brace yourself for that 30 minutes.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

BBC is sleep walking into Political Bias

 An article published on 13 of September 2013 defines the upcoming Afghan election in regard to the politics and candidates relation to Ahmad Shah Masood, the slain commander of Mujahidin group under Northern Alliance umbrella. The article concludes that any delay to the election by some is seen as catastrophic.  “Masood was a proponent of fair election” the author adds “but some would argue he was not given the opportunity to organise an election”

In this article a key political process is defined through Masood’s perspective which is appropriate for Masood Heritage Foundation but not BBC. Although Masood’s legacy overshadows Afghan politics; influence of military leaders or of political leader for that matter remains a subject of perspective, even more so when we are talking about legacies. Some might see one of other hundred figures as influential, some might only view those alive as influential. BBC should not be using this major political event to provide a platform for coverage of Masood’s legacy. The article goes further by arguing that Masood was a proponent of election. This is inaccurate, Masood did not organise an election when he was practically running what resembled the national government neither his military wing established a national government with functioning institutions that can lay down a roadmap to election. It is not helpful to talk about a major military leader in terms of what he aspired to do instead of what he actually did; it would be unjust to those who suffered in the turmoil of Mujahidin military ambitions, to which Masood was a big part. It is indecent to dismiss civilian suffering by implying that it was delusions on their part and what actually happened was high class political discourse. I agree that BBC might want to create content about Masood’s legacy but it has to be balanced and accurate. It is inaccurate and unfair to set Masood’s legacy as the standard for election and interlink the two in an article.  

A bias article reinstates the concern of a particular group consistently and throughout without a counter opinion; little attention is paid to attribution of controversial facts. Using that definition this article is bias because it puts forth consistently and throughout the arguments currently made by the successor of Northern Alliance. Given that the author of the article is a staff member of the BBC one would expect that the article is as balanced as possible given the time allotted to story preparation and the space available, and to seek reliable sources. Common sense also commands to presume that such articles are being independently fact-checked by another employee of BBC. This only points out to the widespread domination of BBC Persian editorial by a political fiction, spreading opinions and interests of a particular political and social stream.  I have based this argument primarily on the content of the mentioned article, two other evidence I offer in support of the claim is the consistency and spread of such articles across the board. The method for proofing the former is a look at chronological run of bias articles and the later by evaluating authoring for each articles.

A second article that was published only a month before under the title of ‘lessons of Arab “autumn” for Afghanistan’, also outlines the views of the political calculus of what used to be Northern Alliance that identify themselves as former Mujhidin. The article argues that the murders committed by the military rulers of Egypt should be seen as atrocities of secular, while the Muslim Brotherhood is the victim. The author draws a clear parallel line between Mujahidin and their current political structure with that of Egypt’s Muslim brotherhood. Hence, the argument that political Islam has been incapable of sound governance and has committed atrocities while in power or seeking power does not hold ground. This is while Mujahidin fictions are responsible for most of the atrocities of the 90s as well as some that took place in the 80s which eventually resulted in the rise of Taliban. This article uses false logic by creating parallels between events that have different political roots, causes and results. The author attempts to deprecate the atrocities that various fiction of what he calls Mujahidin has committed by belittling their role in the crimes. The author attempts to downplay the responsibility Mujahidin should be taking for the crimes they had committed by overplaying the resemblance between Egypt and Afghanistan creating an imaginary group secular by its nature and somehow responsible for the crimes in Afghanistan.

Another variable I use to determine institutional bias in BBC is by identifying the authors of these articles. The premise is that institutional bias can be established if such articles are throughout and doctored by different authors. Link three below is another article I consider unduly favourable to Masood, which is by another author who is again a member of BBC Persian team. 

For plurality to be implemented an entity, in this case a nation, that represents diversity should exist. It might be the case that sectarian and ethnic divisions in Afghanistan runs so deep that the creation of balanced information based on Afghanistan wide perspective is unrealistic and unappealing. As a result any broadcaster catering to a linguistic group inclines towards the prevailing politics of that lingo-ethnic group. This certainly holds true if you look at BBC Pashto which some claim is similarly bias toward a Pan-Pashton politics. Many media outlets are ideologically motivated and inclined to support groups and parties that are politically or otherwise aligned with them. BBC Persian is intended to cater to Afghanistan wide audience and pursuing partisan politics is contrary to the policy and a violation of its mission. Should BBC decide to move toward catering to ethnic groups and semi-political fictions then that should be a conscious choice, not sleeping walking into it.

Here is the URL for this article

another article published under the title of lessons of Arab “autumn” for Afghanistan is at

link number three

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Conspiracy Theory is explaining that Cameron has got Syria wrong

Since Cameron’s reaction to the alleged chemical attack in Syria the air is filled with eclectic conspiracy theories. As ridiculous some conspiracy theories sounds it is easy to see that the justification provided by the administration for an imminent military intervention is disingenuous. Government line of reasoning is leading many to sinister theories to explain alternative motives for the probable Military action.

I agree that conspiracy theories are generally manifestation of bigotry or attempted rationalisation of hidden resentments but they point out two critical ends about the political measure in question. But sound reasoning is an evolutionary process and it comes about through a series of trail and errors where less rigours theories are abandoned in favour of those that coincide with the reality. Conspiracy theories are like microbial cultures on political medium where crude theories come to existence that is useless on its own but collectively essential for the evolution of social discourse. Second, the intensity of conspiracy theories is an indication of public response to the political discourse. The greater the number of conspiracy theories the stronger indication that the public cannot understand the basis of political decision; another way to look at it is a socially generated indicator of the honesty of political motives.  

Cameron is itching to launch a strike because he believes that Assad regime has used chemical weapons against civilians. Let’s see what is wrong with this reason for staging a war against a sovereign nation.
First, it’s illegal and immoral to stage wars against a sovereign nation without the endorsement of the United Nations, even if it is intended to save innocent life. Governments should work through a legal framework and abide by due processes.
Second, the administration should warrant and corroborate behind any reasonable doubt that the chemical weapons really were used by Syrian government. It should be established what kind of chemical weapon was used and which belligerent party has used it. The Syrian war has turned into a proxy war where Iran and Russia have provided military, economic and diplomatic support to the regime while on the other hand Westerners, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Wahabi groups and Sunni Jihdists are assisting various sections of the opposition. It is feasible that the Saudis provided the ingredients that can be used to make the dirty bomb, or some sprinter Islamist group from Libyan brought it with them. Such possibilities are numerous and not dismissible and their motive would have been to provoke international intervention.
Third, after over a decade of military campaign in Afghanistan and Iraq our armed forces should know that the situation on the ground is extremely complicated and it is really difficult  to mitigate mistakes. NATO is much better positioned than fledgling Syrian government to decipher rules of engagement to minimise such mistakes. Yet thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in NATO strikes across Afghanistan, some in bizarre incidents, for example hundreds of people have died when NATO war planes targeted wedding ceremonies mistakenly for insurgent gathering. How ridiculous is that?  It may well have been some part of the Syrian military that let loose some rocket that they may or may not knew contained WMD and they may or may not know the consequences and impact of the weapon. That does not necessarily mean Assad and his circle of regime sanction the operation. An equivalent would be that some foreign nation claim to hold Cameron accountable for the death of dozens of women and children in a wedding party in Afghanistan and launch a strike against Britain. 
Fourth, Britain has no legal commitment to intervene even if the Syrian regime used chemical weapons. It might be the right thing to do but that is not why the government should take action. The government is sanctioned to act within a legal framework not some moral imperative. We cannot trust the judgement of politician to lead us into wars but the constitutional commitments.
Fifth, why would Assad government use chemical weapon at a point when its armed forces was turning the tide. Surely it would had gain more tactical advantage if it was used when the rebels had the upper hand. This is even more unlikely when the regime knew it would change the stance of international community.
Sixth, if Assad Regime indeed used chemical weapons, wouldn’t a military action provoke him further to use chemical weapons in retaliation to the attack against civilians and possibly Israel and Turkey?
Seventh, we stood by while over 100,000 civilians were killed by conventional weapons but Cameron chooses to intervene after a single and appalling attack that killed 1300, according to rebel sources. Surely death by explosives is agonising too.

For all these reasons it is unlikely to understand why Mr. Cameron would insist on a military intervention.
What is really important is not a surgical strike but the pursuit of two strategic objectives.

The first and most pressing is taking all measures to stop the bloodshed in Syria, it would further disintegrate the fabric of Syrian society and threaten our interests. Overthrowing Assad is not in the interest of peace, it might achieve Cameron Administration’s short-sighted political objective.  The end of Assad regime might exacerbate the situation by creating a power vacuum where extremist will further nurture. This we have seen in Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Assad is not the legitimate president of Syria but a brute whom has desolated the Syrian society for a decade and accumulated a personal wealth of 1.5 billion dollars in Hong Kong and Russia. The reason he is in power is because the institutional system in place unlike in Britain is incapable of appointing a legitimate leader and if Assad is dismissed another thug will come forth and take his position. This we will call the best case scenario. The worst case scenario and the most likely would be the creation of a mosaic of factions and characters, which is already taking place, which would ravage the country in their struggle for power.

The second would be to learn from this horrific incident and recognise that the truth is important. We should find out the truth about the chemical attack but this too is unlikely. The only institution currently available for the task is nation states but there is an obvious conflict of interest.  There is no method to ensure that government will not temper evidence in pursuit of their own agenda. This shouldn’t be surprising when we know that the government is willing to transgress into our private space and then lie to us. They would not blink if they were to lie to some foreign people especially when there is no constitutional safe guard to hold them accountable. What we need in this volatile world is independent institutions to investigate such crimes. This will not happen by a decree or funding to some NGO but through collaboration of international community where they show good faith and political will.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

isn't this braindrain? 
wouldn't it be in the interest of Afghanistan to divert the over £100 million funding for opportunities to reeducated these brilliant young lads in technical or professional skills that would be required in post foreign support Afghanistan. or is it the case that the British government considers the creation of an economy that would need and supported advanced skills labour inconceivable and instead opts to do a service to these talented young group, that are only few in Afghanistan, by offering them asylum. This seems very plausible and i think for once the politician got it right. they would end up in the west anyway, there is not much else for the interpreters to do in Afghanistan. this is offering them a dignified path.


Sunday, June 02, 2013

It is not a triple dip recession, this is how it is going to be

In the new world a complex system of network nodes and links are appearing that changes the nature of government. if you accept this premises then the question is how does one tackle the predatory state and in doing so seek to unwind the symbiotic relationship that exists between it and powerful interest groups. these interest groups have varied nature and purpose and range from rent seeking elite that dominate the state to subsidiaries of state benefit system. they include lawyers, public servants, artists, beneficiaries, regulators or bankers. Governments through law making, taxation or public spending have promoted these interests in return for votes, partisan patronage and allegiance. the nature of social discourse in regard to stakeholders is predominantly ideological and not constructive; often focused on singling out one of the groups while overemphasizing the relationship it has in wielding social bonds. the left sees the banks as the very source of the problem, after all they caused the calamity of credit crunch and their greed drove financial institutions to near collapse.  The right sees recipient of public service funds and those employed by the sector as the source of the problem. this is a dept crisis and the government is spending way over what it affords in order to appease the current generation at the cost of the young and the unborn.  

as you can appreciate this is not in the interests of the society and the rule of law. it is clear to an onlooker that the nature of state institution should be altered in a way to face up huge agency problems. this would require charismatic leadership that is willing to take the risk. another but most likely scenario is the tale of continued entanglement of the state with the interest groups, eventually the market loses faith in the capacity of nations and the mountain of depth piles on but the state using monetary and financial policies manage to maintain financial confidence  and prevent the collapse of the economy.  this scenario is already shaping in the UK. this era will see economic stagnation and large scale unemployment but the government won't have to default.

my solution is to revisit the role of the state and in the light of its mission study the relationship it has formed with various groups. a range of solution will surface and we can put them all to democratic test. through a system of bargaining that is the characteristic of democracy we will arrive at a few that are acceptable to all. the dept, economic stagnation, unemployment, immigration ... are not the problem they are just symptoms. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Low wage craft labourer would have to put up until economic growth

I grew up amidst a ravaging war in Kabul that was gripping the city in the 90s. Playing outside was rarely an option, even then it carried risks. Death or injury of my friends, who were too like me in their early teens, was common and each was a lesson to learn from. Just like many children of my age I adapted to the underground or the general indoor life. At the same time just like many other children of my age I carried the burden of seeking sources that provided the provision of sustenance. This is the time when many children of my age learned several handcraft skills. We had spent around ten hours a day working on a piece of embroidery, carpentry, packaging soap or weaving a carpet. The amount of money a child could make was under 50p. All the crafts were particularly harmful to health, inhaling the dust, debris or chemical is now causing problem among those children that are now in their early 30s. Most are suffering from anomaly associated with sight too. Not to mention of the psychological footprint left from mixing childhood with adult responsibility and imminent death.

I have moved a long way from the misfortunes that had befallen my childhood and now own my business in the UK. When I was in my 20s and had just transitioned from the smothering poverty of my childhood, I took an issue with the marketing trend of handcrafts and the exhibitionist place it had in the western culture. I only saw the prospect of a child confined to a dark room, not the embellishment of the hand weaved carpet or embroidery. I have recently overcome my ethical protest but maintain my objection to the profit distribution mechanism of handcraft. Millions of children will continue to produce handcrafts and labour extensive camps will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. Craft children are working long hours in horrible conditions for low pay only because the alternative ways of making a living is none existent or worst.

When you take away an iconic handcraft labour from a woman or child the obvious risk is that they lose whatever financial power they have. This is surely not the aim. The only alternative is economic growth: while it may be frustratingly slow, it finishes off “Afghan Handcraft” by producing far more attractive jobs.

While the economic logic is straightforward enough, it is not watertight. I believe that economic development is not alleviating this particular problem. Economic growth itself can increase the demand for child labour as well as reducing the supply. While luxury customers are willing to pay a dime more for handmade carpet, increasing the chances of handcraft labourer income. Research shows that this income generally adds to the profit of trader and marketer and hardly trickles to the child force. Economic growth – at least in the short-term – is not enough to reduce child labour. Complementary policies to strengthen schools and the incentive to attend them seem to be necessary.

Schools and education is also key in grappling with the psychological element to the persistence of “Afghan Handcraft”. Many labours perceive this work as the only to make a living. The repetitive nature of the craft provides the illusion of safety to the child. Effective education shall reinstate self-confidence and alternative skill in labour children.

It is difficult to discount the long-term effectiveness of economic growth in improving working conditions. Despite my deepest sympathy for children who work long hours waving carpets, unfortunately I see no quick solution for them.

There is a lot to learn from the experience of other developing countries to help us make informed assumptions. For instance after the US boycotted sweatshops in Indonesia profits did fall, and so did investment. Some small plants closed. But few, if any, jobs seem to have been lost. The minimum wage in Indonesia more than doubled between 1989 and 1996, after inflation, and this did depress employment. But there seemed to be no additional effect in the districts with lots of high street handcraft suppliers, despite the fact that wages in those regions outpaced wage increases elsewhere by almost a third.

Increasing the demand and creative marketing for handcraft will not only change the demand but the profit structure and result in increasing the wage of the labourer. Increased income for children will provide the opportunity to work fewer hours and increase chances of school attendance. It will also induce other family member to work, easing the burden on the labour child. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

is it any good if it is for free?

Productivity in economic term is measured by GDP which measures monetary income of labour force. Thus the current economic model cannot measure productivity in terms of advancing personal utility through self-reliance. As such when you pay for childcare, health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, car insurance, home insurance, boiler insurance… (you got the picture, this list has no end) while working difficult hours, then you are considered productive but if you spend time with your child, look after your health, exercise and eat healthy, learn to fix your own boiler… (you got the picture) then you are not productive.

Government imposes taxation on the money you spend and the money you earn. It is between 10 to 50% (unless you live in France), the institutions of the state are established to collect that money and would only recognise you as productive if the government gains from your efforts.
Then who says we are in a recession, maybe this is an economic transformation. If that is the case then we are just dealing with the symptoms of an ailing economic model that is flabbergasted by the new world flash bang.

You dare not utter that word of horror, self-reliance, a concept considered so pernicious the mere mention of which raises hair on the back of the neck of both right and left. The left would turn further red and take it as an offence to the fundamental principle of “human agency”. Where they see individuals thrive within their economic context. Instead of liberty the left would urge for remaking of social and economic system to enable individuals to achieve full potential. I describe the right as a drunkard which has just lost a gamble, sad but mostly empty captivated and under constant pressure from extremists. To the right self-reliance would be an egalitarian notion that is unattainable. To the right such a transformation is inconceivable while maintaining the rule of law.

I find both sides of political spectrum patronising. Both lack a project that is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time scaled). Fuelled by vulgar Keynesianism and focused on the micromanagement of an unsustainable state.

I find the continuous focus of mainstream society on the money making avenues stressful. Instead I propose to shift our focus to activities the primary aim of which is not to generate money but make us happy and enable us to live comfortably without spending money.  

Monday, March 04, 2013

Planning is difficult enough, planning for Afghanistan is a nightmare

My admiration for Western technology predates my first encounter; nevertheless the first encounter remains to be very impressive. When I was 19 I witnessed a grand banger display of western military might. The US military started bombing Taliban positions in Kabul in October 2011.  The first round of the bombing campaign targeted command and control centres, communication centres and long range surface to air batteries. one fine afternoon I was cycling in Karti Parwan area of Kabul when a Taliban command centre was hit by an incendiary bomb. The target was housed in a prominent private building which was seized by Taliban. It was one of the things about the Taliban, they were quite keen on claiming others property. The smoke was visible from any part of the city. As I was cycling by this huge house on fire, I had to wade my way through rubbles, body parts, pieces of Taliban light weaponry all scattered meters away on the main street by the power of the blast. This building was well known to everyone in Kabul for housing senior Arab and Pakistani Taliban commanders. In this phase long range bombers such as B52 and Cruise missiles were used to destroy the targets. The second tier of bombing targeted military installation, logistic and supply centres and mobile short range anti-aircraft guns. Then came the last round of bombing that targeted infantry unites. It was around 4pm that I saw for the first time an A10 Thunderbolt flying very low and slow. The aircraft slowed down and fired a round from its heavy rotary cannon while banking sharp left. The shell hit a car with half a dozen women and children on board. This was the first unfortunate incident I learned to know about. But it started to occur more often and more frequently; a week later a stray rocket from a gunship hit house of a friend of mine. One day I was chatting with my friends toward the end of Taliban days and one said; “the early days of bombing by B52s was very accurate but ever since these slow and low aircrafts has entered, the Americans are starting to miss targets”. I realised that something was going wrong. A10 Thunderbolt and Apache Gunship are exactly designed to penetrate into enemy controlled territory to seek, accurately identify and destroy enemy targets. So what was going wrong? Was this a tactical error, sort of an operational level bug occurring in the beta version and bound to be fixed once Westerners gain firm and more ground. Or was it a shortcoming that western technology was suffering?

Allied forces had superb and real-time information gathered by forward air control, high flying surveillance aircrafts and stratospheric satellites. This information dominance enabled allies to destroy enemy units with minimal collateral damage and loss of friendlies, their gain was compounded by the ignorance of Taliban. They could have never imagined that the Allies knew about their commanders and command centres. Oblivious to their predicament they had gathered in a command centre to sip on some green tea.  Not only that, but the information would be offered to a supercomputer (not the internet, I mean literally) which would make it available to other computers that are run by middle management. The middle management then distil the data into usable form while perceiving local situation. The computer would also tell the man on the top about the second and third order knock on effect. This is called Effect Based Operation in military it is shortened for EBO. EBO is offering the leadership a precise outcome of a tactical decision, therefore enabling them to guide troops on the ground. The rise of hierarchical organisation owes much to the invention of this concept. In the business world this concept is known as ‘the big picture’, the leader at the top of the organisation has an intrinsic claim on information in order to build the big picture. Resources, tools and a level of staff time are dedicated to supplying information for the leader. The leader then studies the market and competition before embarking on the most suitable course of action.

There are a few reasons that could possibly explain why the US led bombing campaign had become more inaccurate. The arrival of close air support and ground attack aircrafts to combat theatre did not contribute to inaccurate targeting. The reason was that the bombing campaign had become more extensive and from few targets a day had expanded to hundreds a day. This was bound to contain tragic loss of civilian life, contributed by the magnification of marginal error. Moreover, operations that grow in scope and scale within a short period of time tend to contain errors.  At this stage, the ‘big picture’ strategy advocates introduction of standard operating procedures (SOPs). it is feasible to eliminate operator level errors; by gathering accurate information the organisation can reduce the number of accidents and mitigate its impact. This sounds like conventional wisdom but why is it not working?

Boris Gromov was the commander of the 40th army, the core force of Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. Gromov served three tours of two years in Afghanistan. He undertook one of the most daunting duties in the history. He wanted to create institutions with apparatus that would be capable to connect with communities across Afghanistan and collect information that would enable him to curb the resistance and win over the support of the population. This was the first attempt in Afghanistan, individual only interacted with the tribe not with the state and no institution has ever had the power of collective enforcement. Gromov created branches for the government to engage with the tribes, the ministry was financed and tasked to liaise with the tribes. In November 1987 when a Mujahidin force of up to 20,000 strong laid siege to Khost, Gromov got the minister for tribes and ethnic affairs Suleiman Huskien to organise a Loya Jirga under the auspices of the president to encourage Zadran tribe to allow the supply convoy to pass through tribal controlled territory. The same concept of  tribal council was later used by the Coalition forces, the Allied forces arranged for a series of Loya Jirga to endorse what would normally be the task of constitutional tribunal and parliament, such as drafting constitution and appointing an interim president. Gromov modernised radio and television broadcasting and created sophisticated media campaigns that was tailored to address audience illiteracy and reach rural masses. These mobile multimedia propaganda units were sent out during Khost siege to villages around the road leading to Khost in order to tip loyalty in his favour.

Gromov had put together an army of thousands of bean counters and field agents to provide him the information for making calculated strike. The establishment of this sophisticated system of data management enabled Gromov to calculate the impact of his action and estimate likely movement and reaction of the enemy. He was able to make some strategic manoeuvres that would seem as unnecessary and risky by an onlooker at first glance, while his intention was to lure in the enemy into calculated situation. For Gromov to have an illustrative idea of what is happening where, he needed detailed maps. In 1985 he started a massive task to map Afghanistan and created a range of topographic, geological and agriculturl maps. It is the most detailed mapping of the country with 500 meter in 1 cm. The map has been an invaluable resource to NATO forces and was used to support USGS projects in Afghanistan.  Contours and English tags were generated in computerised terrain modelling processes which then added cartographic rendering for all branches of NATO forces. 

Big picture management strategy came about with the rise and increasing influence of institutions in our modern life.  Institution utilises the sum of knowledge to provide efficient mechanism and reduce costs. However, sustaining institution is very expensive and gathering the correct information is difficult. In order to obtain the desired information a large workforce is needed. Assembling such force and then enabling them to collect the relevant information is time consuming. Running any analysis on the information would also take weeks if not months, so by the time the data is produced, it will not be applicable to the situation. It makes it very easy to conclude that organisations would become much more efficient in gathering and analysing data only if they had superior computing power. Only if Gromov had satellite surveillance and advanced aerial imaging, only if the massive maps were available in digital format, only if his massive bank of data and ground resources were computerised; then he would have known that the resistance was not interested in negotiating. They had created a network of bunkers with the funding of CIA and expertise of Osama bin Laden and his associates. The enemy was provided by CIA supplied advanced stinger SAM (surface to air missile), multi launcher rocket batteries, self-propelled guns and artillery. The enemy was well dug in and the road approaching Khost that passed through Sotikandaw valley was mined for several miles. Most importantly the Mujahidin believed that they could not be dislodged from fortified mountain positions, and peace talk would only buy them more time. 

Fast forward twenty years and the same man, Jalaluddin Haqqani, who tormented the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan supported by USSR is giving Islamic Republic of Afghanistan supported by USA a very hard time. They are tagged “Haqqani Network” by NATO and has conducted some of the most daring attacks. This time USA is after compiling the most comprehensive military planning based on superfast processers that the soviets lacked. Fusion cell is US principle strategy to integrate and coordinate Afghan counter insurgency activities and capabilities across the US Army and joint services. The strategy has a small core “cell” that includes the Director, and has a large “in-house” staff accounts for building ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) capacity, stability operations and the integration of unconventional warfare and counterterrorism. They are also in charge of revising COIN doctrine; COIN (counter insurgency) is the tactic used by NATO to fight Taliban.   NATO has embedded hundreds of mentors in ANSF to Train Afghans in research, compilation, and analysis methods to map incident and crime trends and patterns. Billions was spent on equipment and resources to enable ANSF to conduct hourly mapping updates. The program is heavy on training ANSF in the use of computer software to prepare intelligence briefings and use the maps in PowerPoint slides as visual references.

There is nothing inherently wrong with PowerPoint or GPS mapping but they do impact the way we conduct ourselves. In a centrally planned institution our critical faculties disengage. Bigger and faster computer are introduced, complicated and burdensome processes are created to ensure the flow of information to the “big picture” and await instructions. All to contribute to an elusion of control. As Sydney Haris put it half a century ago “The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.” The trainer embedded with ANSF is primarily tasked to “transfer knowledge” through daily mentoring, workshops and seminars. If I hazard a guess on other activities of the mentor, I am pretty sure after the end of the day he or she takes a ride in an Armoured Vehicle that is leased to NATO at US$8,000 a month from a company owned by a cousin of some senior Afghan minister. The trainer then arrives in a heavily fortified compound where he has access to a good stash of cold beer and latest episode of Homeland after some threadmail in shorts. The trainer does not speak Farsi or Pashto, integrate with Afghans, understands about Afghan culture and way of life, and does not maintain a healthy curiosity about Afghan condition and aspiration. Then comes the insider attacks, ANSF members turning their guns against their mentors in anger and frustration. The principle NATO strategy, train and equip ANSF to take over the mission, is in disarray. Training programs have been suspended and the isolation gap is spiralling.
There are many dedicated and smart service men and women who have come to realise the need for change at many level. When Petraeus took over NATO command he issued a 24-point under COIN strategy. It reads as a list of pieces of advice, including: live among the people; walk, don’t ride, on patrols; take off your sunglasses when talking with locals. And drink lots of tea. But before drinking tea NATO has to revise the chain of command and the people running the show as part of institutional transformation. 
The National Health Service (NHS) provides free healthcare for all UK residents. The service is undergoing a major revamp since budget cuts. Hospitals and branches are shutting down around the country and the institution is putting to experience any idea that seem half decent. One of the key strategies of NHS for the future of healthcare is community based health care. The recent analysis of National Audit Office (NAO) of the NHS's quest to make £20bn of efficiency savings by 2015 said: "There is broad consensus that changing how health services are provided is key to a financially sustainable NHS. Such changes will include integrating care and expanding community-based care." NAO is working with Healthcare leaders and has suggested “service transformation”. Experts believe that we will see a transformation of Healthcare in the UK and developed countries in general toward community based if the service is to cope with the double burden of ageing and long-term conditions. For this brave new dawn lobby groups such as Kings Trust is pushing NHS to reduce investment on Hospitals and state of the art machinery and focus on health awareness as well as preventative and rehabilitative treatment. Central London Community Healthcare Trust is already in Swing and has no fancy building, PowerPoint presentation or cutting edge machinery. Instead it is run by community-based healthcare staff such as district nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. It works in four London boroughs – Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Barnet. Last year they responded to some quarter of a million patients, most of whom were visited in their homes and the Trust only has 3200 staff.
We live in a world where knowledge is localised and not obvious to the outsiders. Sustainable institutions are not only dealing with the problems of the present but addressing the future. Sustainable institutions focus on locally integrated service delivery and investment in the community. The intelligence gathering and central planning efforts boosted by NATO is not useless; it is just incapable of capturing tacit knowledge. NATO just like NHS has the plan and the state of the art hardware but it is weakness is community integration to harness the implicit knowledge. 

The silver lining is that NHS has been fairly successful in adapting and providing reasonable service quality. It is very tempting to conclude that institutionalised planning will allocate the resources necessary to undertake creative projects. The proponents of planning would argue that institutions are the best entities for nurturing creativity and rightly point out that most of the key and sustainable initiatives have come out of institutional investment.

We are now in the twelfth year of NATO military presence in Afghanistan. It is fairly safe to conclude that changes in planning the conduct of war and building the Afghan state had occurred and those changes are generally in the positive direction. However, This does not explain why a US operated CH-47 Chinook was brought down in a meticulously planned operation by Taliban using inaccurate and simple weapons. The Taliban lured US forces into the trap by transmitting false intelligence. The US military is hacking Taliban phones to gather information and location data. A Taliban commander, Qari Tahir, aware of the US hacking capability fed the hackers with false information that a Taliban meeting was taking place in the area. The incident happened in August 2011 in Tangi Valley of Wardak province. Afghan and US forces attacked a compound which turned out to be an ambush. This is a populated village and NATO could not issue advance warning for civilians to evacuate as that would tip of the Taliban. The scope of air strike was limited so NATO called for reinforcement. This is exactly what the Taliban planned to happen. The only way the reinforcement could respond quickly was with helicopter insertion. The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take. It is the only route, so they took position on the either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with small arms and RPG. It was brought down by multiple shots. All 38 on board Chinook were killed, 30 of the dead were elite US commandos.
There is no doubt that experience is crucial to purify the information. Therefore, long-term engagement in a well planned institution is bound to meet success. This also suggests the process of data gathering is as important as the final outcome. In order to obtain the information that closely correspond to reality the actor need to revise the data, filter the sources, close loopholes and address inconsistencies. In reality big picture planner will face a number of challenges to prevent them from refining the data. The most important of the challenges is corruption. It hinders the ability of institution to implement the process. NATO has been planning to tackle the wide spread corruption in the entire apparatus of Afghan government. This has been unsuccessful as the planner fundamentally misunderstands the nature of it.

Idiosyncratic jazz pianist Thelonious Monk said “don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by … what you don’t play can be more important than what you do.” Planners always face the dilemma of choose. Their priorities are always the subject of contention but I would like to point to the importance of information deemed trivial. The action priority hierarchy created by information classification should be implementable, this require highlighting the key while omitting the trivial. But trivial could turn into trend and go unnoticed. After the fall of Taliban government in 2001 it was generally believed that Taliban were gone for good. On May 1, 2003, Hamid Karzai told BBC's David Frost during an interview on June 8, 2003: “I don't see a resurgence of the Taliban." He continued by saying: "As far as the defeat of the Taliban is concerned, they are defeated, they are gone-as a movement, as a government, as a structure, a political structure, a religious structure-they are not there." Donald Rumsfield and George W. Bush had voiced the same opinion on a number of occasions, they were so confident that the administration felt comfortable to pick another war.

Right about this time thousands of Taliban fighters were regrouping without being noticed by recon planes or security forces. Hundreds of Taliban fighters infiltrate to Dai Chopan district of Zabul province. Setting up camps launching attacks on government buildings and military installation killing aid workers, government employees, US and Afghan forces.  Offering rewards for Dai Chopan residents who fight against the US and issuing death warrants for US soldiers, aid workers, Afghan police, and all journalists. They had realised that it is not only the overhead technology that assists the allies but people like aid workers and journalists who gather ground information that could be used by the coalition. on June 8, 2004 the 22nd Expeditionary Unit of US marines were ambushed by hundreds of Taliban fighters. Calling in AV-8 Harriers, A-10 Thunderbolts and Apache helicopters to suppress the insurgents. This wasn’t a tactical challenge that a large force of Taliban could regroup without advance detection it was a fundamental failure of the planned system. In late 2003 a group of local elders from Zabul province met with President Karzai and warned him about Taliban activities in Shajoy and Dai Chopan districts, but he paid no heed as far as the president was concerned the major trend was that Taliban were gone for good.
The best theoretical frame to use for understanding the resurgence of Taliban is the Circular cumulative causation theory of non-equilibrium systems developed by Swedish Nobel prize winning economist Gunnar Myrandal.  He studied underdeveloped societies and noted that events are multi-causal and a change in one part of the society will lead to successive changes in other institutions. These changes are circular, cyclical, perpetual and cumulative in that they persist in each round. Changes are coming about in small portion, change doesn’t occur all at once because that would lead to chaos. Taliban were never going to have a massive come back but by nature of grassroots change it would be slow and as explained by Myrandal in stages. This resurgence would have impact on the building of Afghan State. These impacts and the slow crawl of Taliban were not detected by the planners. 

Knowledge is spread locally, this seem very intuitive but you have to imagine that organisations are not set up to reach wide locally, especially when they run a foreign country where the gap of living standards create two races of local and foreigners, segregated and often hostile toward one another. The allied forces aware of their predicament earmarked billions of dollars to contract US firms to deliver projects that would interact with Afghans at district and community level, SIKA, AMDEP, ASI, ASOP, Harakat and ASMED are projects that are designed to implement small scale projects that addresses issues particular to a community. The underpinning principle is that lack of improvement in community livelihood is fuelling disillusionment, resulting in sympathy toward Taliban and communities would support the government if they see the government is capable of delivering public services to them.
I am a self-proclaimed expert in this area and was contracted together with my wife over two dozens of these small projects to be implemented across Afghanistan at a total value of US$ 1Mil. These projects only delivered limited success and the fundamental problem is that they serve the big picture strategy. The US government branch funding the program plans all the stages of the project. The community is not in charge of success or failure and does not deal with the consequences of failure while not taking the ownership of success. The system only succeeds in bringing issues that the local manager wants to bring to the attention of funder. They can conceal anything that they don’t want them to know. The selection is not limited to good news vs bad news by local manager but far worst. The manager receives financial support as an incentive for collaborating with the project. He would like to see the revenue to continue and only provides distorted information that he believes would prolong the flow of cash, rendering central planner incapable of building an accurate picture of what is happening on the ground. The system suffers the phenomena economist pretentiously call Market Failure. The exact type of Market Failure is a misplacement of incentive. Incentive in economics is very important and the market economy system is the best way of regulating incentives (with a few exceptions). The local manager has no incentive of providing the desired information until the market principle of competition, customer service and financial accountability is introduced.

I have executed over half a dozen project to make local entities financially sustainable. It often starts with collecting financial information, without any exception such information is contradictory and paradoxical and I seek to verify them. I then create a verification tool which is time consuming to implement and develop. The verification assessment often comes back negative which means the community manager deliberately provides us with the wrong information. However, the funder will insist that a workable solution should be found without demanding antagonising the local manager. The project will receive millions more to deal with the problem seeking alternative and creative problem solving while avoiding to address incentives. The money will be earmarked under the disguise of capacity building.  

The nature of knowledge is to be localised and fleeting. The local agent will use the information he possesses for his own benefit. The computerised math “modelling” that explains local forces and illuminates causation is not what is truly significant (given that it was achievable). It is entrepreneurial learning in the context of changing local conditions. The theory of entrepreneurial learning offered by Fredrick Hayed and Ludwig Mises illuminates the significance of non-permanent knowledge and localised learning by entrepreneurs that form the bedrock of western capitalism.

Success depends on having sensible people on the ground that can make sound judgements on the spot and a little bit of luck helps too.  Central planning has been a failure for managing complex system, especially when we have little data about the system.