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Cultivating Global Strategic Fantasies of Choice

Learnings from Islamic Al-Qaida and the Republican Tea Party movement (Part #1)

Reality and existence
Non-existence of Al-Qaida?
Organizational correspondences between Tea Party and Al-Qaida
Absence of scientifically appropriate examination of evidence
Integrative relationship between reality and fantasy?
Challenging relationship between "fantasies" that are variously "right"
Configuring the relationship between "fantasies" that are variously "right"
Unquestionable preference for linear thinking
Fantastic world of global strategy

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Subsequent to the success of the Republican Tea Party movement in the recent US mid-term elections, Gary Younge argued the case that the "Tea Party" does not in fact exist (The Tea Party is not new, or coherent. It's merely old whine in new bottles, The Guardian, 7 November 2010). This elicited several hundred comments. This argument follows various observations regarding the questionable nature of the "existence" of Al-Qaida (Learning from "al-Qaida" as a source of terrorism, 2005).

Younge's articulation was such that it seemed possible, if not fruitful, to substitute "Al-Qaida" for "Tea Party" in quest of a more generic insight into the manner in which "non-existent" movements can now engage human and other resources to such a degree -- and with such dramatic effect on national and global policy formation. The substitution, presented here as an exercise, raises the further question as to whether global policy formation is increasingly determined by the cultivation of preferred "fantasies" -- typically accepted with the greatest seriousness, even deadly seriousness.

More "serious" however is the decline in widespread credibility of cases argued in the rational mode -- as has been assumed to be the appropriate approach to policy formulation, especially in a society inspired by the rule of law. The "rational" mode of justification and development of any policy has effectively been coopted and reframed. On the one hand "rational" arguments for action on critical issues are now readily dismissed as "unproven", or otherwise unworthy of priority consideration. But on the other hand so-called "rational" arguments are developed as "proven" support for policies that would otherwise be considered quite questionable. This problematic situation is exacerbated by widespread abuse, whether publicized or suspected (Abuse of Faith in Governance, 2009).

More innocently perhaps is the manner in which disciplines and consultancies develop "models" through which to articulate reality and to enable policies for its navigation. These are frequently framed as intellectual property, thereby constraining their use by others, irrespective of their value and the crises for which they are applicable (Future Coping Strategies: beyond the constraints of proprietary metaphors, 1992). But as cognitive vehicles deemed fit for purpose, their enthusiastic use and advocacy might be understood in terms of an adaptation of the title of the TV western Have Gun -- Will Travel (1957-1963) into Have Model, Will Strategize.

Associated with this tendency is a process that might be mnemonically termed the Wright Brothers Syndrome. As those claiming to be first to achieve flight with their airplane, that "model" was necessarily upheld as "right" -- despite other claimants, then framed as "wrong". The ability to "take off" "fly" is now associated with viability -- as implied to a lesser degree in metaphorical use of "trial balloon", or even "kite". Any "model" now developed and successfully promoted is similarly upheld as "right" by some -- as with the Tea Party model or the Al-Qaida model. The difficulty highlighted here is that, whilst each such model is "right" for its constituency, it necessarily tends to frame others as "wrong" -- and is so framed by them. The challenge has been explicitly highlighted by Edward de Bono (I Am Right, You Are Wrong, 1990). The issue is what global context can contain such diversity, especially when it engenders conflict.

The question explored here is whether the emerging context is one in which many, if not all, are now free to cultivate and promote global policies which others will perceive, and claim, to be "fantasies" -- if not dangerously "wrong". If required, the "evidence" substantiating the fantasy can be readily indicated (or supplied) -- in the form of bombings or threats in the case of "Al-Qaida". The "proof" as to the claim is however reframed as unquestionable, or is withheld -- for reasons of "security" in the case of "Al-Qaida".

How weird that global politics should be haunted by such imaginative fantasy -- echoing the dynamics exploited by indigenous witchdoctors and priesthoods down the ages. Back to bogeymen under the bed as the source of all ills.

The possible ways in which such "faith-based" policies then "work" was a preoccupation in various earlier explorations (Participative Democracy vs. Participative Drama: lessons on social transformation for international organizations from Gorbachev, 1991; Future Challenge of Faith-based Governance, 2003; Promoting a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: strategy of choice for world governance, 2002; Politicization of Evidence in the Plastic Turkey Era, 2003).

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