Final shots on metrics

Final shots on metrics…it was at the back of my mind last night but the penny only dropped this morning when I found my MP3 player and starting to listen to Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope on the drive to work (45 minutes each way each day so where I get a lot of my ‘reading’ down – go!). In Chap 3, he is discussing what it means to be a politician and juggle promises, commitments, family and conscience – he concludes that politics is not like building a house, with a clear and rigid plan (the metrics world) but more an ongoing conversation with shifting alliances, changing priorities and fickle supporters – sound more like our world??

Last night we were watching the Politically Incorrect Parenting Show (if you don’t have this overseas, it should be on the TVNZ site somewhere for download – well worth a watch) which is bloody funny and and all the more funnier because it is so damn true – everything you really needed to know about bringing up children before the nice (metrics!!) people took over…the bottom line last night was ‘make your child’s problem, THEIR problem – not your problem‘ and this is probably just as true for COIN as it is for child-rearing. We can apply all the resources we like, feel their needs and their pain, and move amongst the people as a fish through the sea (blah, blah, blah) but it all means nothing if the people aren’t prepared, ready and/or willing to grip up their own problems. It is all too easy to start a COIN/Stability campaign and wake up one morning stuck in the middle of a cargo cult where you are expected to solve all ills, ailments, blights and other problems AND deal to the bad people.

Many years ago (decades) I got a brief on how Guatemala, Guyana or some other country beginning with G addressed their insurgency problem, using a big map, some coloured pins and relevant effects:

  • If your village was a ‘green‘ village, then you got active support from the security forces and government, access to aid programmes and life was generally pretty good.
  • If your village was an ‘orange’village, then you got a bit of sporadic aid, but more checkpoints, shakedowns, etc but you knew how to raise your status from fence-sitting bet-hedger to ‘green’.
  • If your village had a ‘red‘ village, then look out – relocations, wells filled into, overt and aggressive security force presence, the whole nine yards of COIN uncool stuff BUT there were ways of moving up the colour spectrum if you really found all this a bit onerous and sought a quieter life.

The point is that is not often if at all you ever get anywhere by being nice and empathic with everyone – in fact nanny-stating is probably a pretty good general recipe for disaster, failure, plague, fire, pestilence and other bad things. It simple just doesn’t work – sometimes you really do have to be cruel to be kind and let your child/failing nation make some decisions for itself and actually commit to a path…

Someone sent me an interesting article the other day suggesting a similar strategy for Afghanistan, based upon a protection racket where possibly the people have to choose between the lesser of evils for progress to occur. This needs to be in a more substantial form than just rolling out to vote because that on it’s own will achieve little – the insurgents will still be there and like criminals, may not be particularly worried that they have been voted (technically) out of existence – they might actually find it somewhat amusing as they plan and prepare their next attack….in the end it is all about action and willpower…

Parting shot today – interesting to note how Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt has dropped his ‘baby-killer’ chant from Vietnam War days and become a ‘puppy-killer’ . Invercargill has the highest proportion (by heaps) of euthanised dogs in NZ and this tosser’s council has just killed off six Rottweiler puppies because they MIGHT become aggressive when they grow – this after the SPCA committed to homing them. As a dog and a Rottweiler owner, I think this sucks big time – upbringing and training define how a dog behaves….so much for all those kudos you earned during Dancing With the Stars, Tim…

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