In Battle of Ramadi, ongoing, the high water mark of ISIS, from 11/22/2014, I wrote,
ISIS will fail. This, even more than Kobani, will be known as the “high water mark” of ISIS. Some may recall this phrase from the history of the U.S. Civil War, of Longstreet’s assault into the Union lines, at the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 3, 1863. This is of that magnitude.
The argument weakened when Ramadi fell to ISIS in May of 2015. But significance remained, in the replacement of the myth of an unstoppable ISIS by reasonable chance of valorous success. In building the myth that supports a national army, the two battles of Ramadi and the recapture in December 2015 stand with the early battles of the U.S. in the Pacific Theater in World War II.
In Child Psychology, Iraq, ISIS, Tipping Point, Holy Grail, published 11/29/2014, I developed logic to support the rapid collapse of ISIS:
Put into the fewest possible words, with an implied reference of Western culture, the combatants exhibit labile affect. This is a useful result. It implies that, when the tipping point occurs, the collapse of ISIS, as an organized entity, will be as rapid as their ascent.
In Portrait of a Spaceman; Predictions for 2016, I used this assessment to predict
- Mosul will be taken on schedule. The Obama Administration is now fully engaged with the problem of ISIS.
It appears that the actual date is likely to fall between the early aspirations of the Iraq government, and the more pessimistic estimates of military and intelligence professionals, who tended towards the view that the operation could not even be mounted in 2016. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide where my prediction falls on the scale of accuracy.
If my prediction has value, it is of the quintessential open-source, intuitive kind, discovered by Philip Tetlock in research dating back more than 20 years. Why it is possible for some individuals to compete successfully against expert knowledge hasn’t been nailed down. But it is likely that the human mind tends toward capture by the systems of thought with which it is most familiar. The various sides of the ISIL conflict, and the broader one which includes Syria as well, place emphasis on the things they feel intimately familiar with, and underweight the rest:
- The Iraqi government forces, until recently, counted paper orders of battle and uniform decorations. Characteristic of undeveloped societies, this kind of assessment is biased towards failure.
- The U.S. counts training , discipline, logistics, and alliances, without, perhaps, understanding that these characteristics can stem only from an overarching social order of a broader society. The failures of this type of analysis have been both sides of the coin.
- The ISIS adherents count “faith”, a manipulation of psychological state without understanding why or how. With no factual basis, it relies on emotional domination of the opponent. This is the justification of prediction of a rapid collapse.
- They all count bullets, because the bullet is a simple thing, an extension of personal assault to a few thousand feet.
IARPA would prefer not to rely on oracles, particularly the unexplained kind, for prediction. In the mind of each “super forecaster“, there are unexplained methods for combination and weighting of the modalities of the above list.
What are they?