Sunday, April 12, 2009
Google, Hezbollah and Taliban
The three words that stand out in the popular Silicon Valley lexicon are "Risk", "Disrupt" and "Change". Almost all high-tech aficionados love to talk about entrepreneurs taking "risks" to "disrupt" the existing technologies, products, markets and systems to bring about fundamental "change" in how we live, work and play. The search giant Google is often cited as epitomizing risk-taking, disruption and change.
Some serious observers and writers are now taking this discussion a step further into the realm of violent insurgent groups such as the Hezbollah and the Taliban and how they are becoming a powerful disruptive force for geopolitical change.
Author Joshua Cooper Ramo, in his book "Age of Unthinkable" talks about how Hezbollah has become a powerful disruptive force in the Middle East. In a recent commentary, Ramo says, "...in my dealings with Hezbollah over the years as a journalist, I had found myself fascinated by their capacity for innovation, even in the pursuit of shocking ends. Their obsession with finding better ways to fight under the pressure of Israeli attack was astonishing. In 2006, for instance, fewer than 500 Hezbollah ﬁghters had frustrated a 30,000-man Israeli attack."
Talking about Fouad, Hezbollah's Chief Technology Officer, Ramo writes in his book, "Fouad reminded me of friends of mine who had started Internet companies or people I knew managing gigantic hedge funds. This was the generation that had built the Web into something useful and revolutionary, that had assembled huge and unregulatable ﬁnancial firms churning out billions in proﬁts while creating trillions of dollars of risk. These people see destabilization of the existing order as not only necessary but inevitable. You don’t dare draw an equivalency between the crimes of Hezbollah and the innovations of Google, but you can see in each the workings of a powerful energy. These hot cells of innovation draw the very best minds of a generation: math geniuses to hedge funds, computer savants to tech startups and, well, “Our e-mail is ﬂooded with CVs,” Fouad told me."
Then Ramo wonders out loud if the established order in the US can take on these new insurgents. He says, "When I thought of these rebels I knew in the context of other friends of mine, such as the suits working in the National Security Council or the U.S. Army or Time Warner, I realized that there was no chance those conservative places could compete. They were locked in a vision of the world that was out of date. As a perplexed Alan Greenspan confessed to Congress about his own thinking in 2008: “I have found a ﬂaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by the fact.” The congressman questioning him asked, “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right. It was not working?” Greenspan replied, “Absolutely. Precisely. You know that’s precisely the reason I was shocked. Because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
Recently, Texas Rep. Pete Sessions encouraged House Republicans to see the Taliban as a model for "how to disrupt and change" the control of Washington by the entrenched Democrats in both the executive and legislative branches of the US government. Here's how he is quoted by Los Angeles Times:
Insurgency we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban. And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes. And these Taliban -- I'm not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban -- no, that's not what we're saying. I'm saying an example of how you go about is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their front line message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with.
I think insurgency is a mindset and an attitude that we're going to have to search for and find ways to get our message out and to be prepared to see things for what they are, rather than trying to do something about them, I think what's happened is that the line was drawn in the sand.... We either work together, or we're going to find a way to get our message out.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the world is witnessing the start of a dramatic change in the international order. As Ramo puts it:
What we face isn’t one single shift like the end of World War II or a ﬁnancial crisis, so much as an avalanche of change. We are entering, in short, a revolutionary age. On the one hand, this revolution is creating unprecedented disruption. But it is also creating new fortunes, new power and fresh hope. Revolutions, after all, don’t produce only losers. They also produce a new cast of historical champions. If we are living in the Age of the Unthinkable now — when surprise and unimagined danger confronts us on many fronts — we are not living in the age of the unexplainable.
To master this new world, it is important for us to learn from the revolutionaries. Whether we see them as the good guys or the bad guys, they do understand the new laws of power in this new world.
Congressman Pete Sessions on Emulating Taliban
Learning how to navigate 'Age of Unthinkable'