Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves | The Daily Post

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Didn’t have to look too hard to find these curvy pics from our 2005 South Island tour…the Moeraki Boulders are a popular stop about half-way down the east coast of the island…

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Even the reflection and seaweed are curvy…

…and some others in a similar vein…
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This is in a shop in Manchester Street in Christchurch from the same holiday – all gone now – we thought that something along similar lines might make a nice entrance feature for the front door of the Lodge…

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…and totally unrelated to anything Kiwi, except for the one that was wandering around Salisbury at sun-up, some street corner curves as pigeons do pigeon things first thing in the morning…we were in Salisbury for the first ABCA Coalition Lessons Analysis Workshop (CLAW) and most of use tried to get out in the morning for a run and some fresh air…I’m not sure if the blurriness of the image is down to me or the pigeons…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves | The Daily Post.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says | The Daily Post

Random signs from travels…

Trash Converters, Palmerston

Cash Convertors is a popular franchise here for trading second-hand goods – this is a clever take on its common nickname – a very cool shop in Palmerston (NOT the one that John Cleese described as the world’s most boring city!) that has (or did last time we drove through that way) an excellent section for pre-loved science-fiction toys and collectibles…

Chalet signs

The Bookabach sign for the Chalet – not sure if it actually gets any attention as most traffic cranks down the hill by where  the sign is…
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Saw this in a mall near El Segundo in LA – I still think it’s quite cool how Americans so openly support their military, regardless of the background politics…

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The Big Apple in Waitomo has finally been given a  new coat of paint and these young ladies had to check it out before making an credible effort at the ‘Big-Az’ ice creams they sell next door…

DSCF6464 A morale-raising site that I thought I’d never see again – best breakfasts in the world at Din’s Diner in Singapore…

Misc

I think this was in one of the opportunity shops I visited on my last day in Florida in 2011…

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We had dinner here one night when we were in Salisbury in 2005 for the inaugural ABCA Coalition Lessons Analysis Workshop. Some many of the buildings have their date of origin on them…’1750 and we don’t mean the time…!’

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says | The Daily Post.

Knoco stories: Explicit knowledge is only valuable if it is accurate

Knoco stories: Explicit knowledge is only valuable if it is accurate.

These issues are symptomatic of rural lifestyles – we have exactly the same here: our phone apparently loops out into the lawn before heading up the short driveway (about 25 metres), under the long driveway (about 110 metres), up to the gate, back under the long driveway, does a few more loops outside the gate before ducking back under the fence to the Telecom connection point…

 

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The ‘short’ driveway: the phone cable runs left to right across the base of the steps and then under the right side of the concrete…

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The ‘long’ driveway…the phone cable burrows under the far end of this and meanders up the left side about a metre or so off the seal, before doing a few loops where the mighty Diamante is parked and then ducking under the to the Telecom connection point where the white marker is on the right…

At the time we put in our garage in 2007, we got the Telecom guy out to track the cable’s path before we did any serious digging – just in case – and marked it with some dazzle paint. Over time the dazzle paint became distinctly less dazzly, and eventually faded away before I got a Round Tu-it vis-a-vis actually mapping its path for next time that information was needed.

So I sympathise with Nick because we’ve been in exactly the same position and launched off on the advice of ‘well-informed’ and “knowledgeable’ locals and also ended up with recreations of the Somme. Maybe it’s symptomatic of us and knowledge guys, just like a mechanic always drives the crappiest old car, or the talented joiner you know hasn’t had a handle on his loo door for coming on five years (yes, you know which son-in-law you are!!), that we struggle to apply what we know professionally when we step through the gate of home sweet home…?

So in regard to the five lessons learned functions of collect, analyse, decide, implement and verify, it sound much like Nick has skipped what is probably the most vital function, that of Analyse. More often than not in lessons work, the raw OIL is not as it seems and when subject to a lens of rigorous analysis, the issue and the actual lesson are often totally different from that which you might expect at face value from the original OIL.

It is so very tempting, especially in metrics-fixated environments, to seize the apparent low hanging fruit and find that one very quickly goes from a mess to a really mess and all of a sudden you are reacting to your solution, somewhere in which is buried the original core issue. What’s that I hear from the cheap seats? Sounds like ‘COIN”? Absolutely!!! Those five same functions apply just as much in COIN, although we’d prefer to use Irregular Warfare when in polite company, as they do in lessons learned:

Collect as much information as you can about your problem.

Analyse it, ignoring you preconceptions and gut instincts; examine it from every angle, and develop some courses of action.

Decide which course of action you are going to implement – it’s OK to opt for none and go back to do more collection and analysis.

Implement your course of action, all the time ensuring that situation hasn’t changed around you, reverting you to dead-horse-flogging mode.

Verify that your solution has addressed the original issue AND that it hasn’t created a whole bunch more.

In the story that Nick tells, he does not provide much information regarding his neighbours reliability as an information source but it is probably a safe assumption that there was no malice involved. Taking a punt, it may have been that the map provided indicated the intended path of the drains until someone remembered the village story about a German bomb landing in that corner of the field and not making the right sort of bomb post-impact noises. Discretion being the better part of valour, the drain took the longer road – just in case – but a drain’s a drain and why bother the council with any explanation of why the permitted path wasn’t followed. Whose to know? Well, for starters, the guy who is out “…an extra day and half of digger hire and labour rates, 10 dead trees, and a garden that looks like the Somme at the height of World War One…”

This would be something that we would see time and time again in the ABCA Armies Coalition Lessons Analysis Workshops (CLAWs): We just can’t, well, shouldn’t anyway, take presented information at face value be it raw OIL or a map of the drains without asking some critical questions about it…and being prepared for some answers that might be both unexpected and unpalatable…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life

My take on everyday life…just random shots I dragged out of Picasa… …heading back into Washington after Josh and I did a day visit to Quantico…

…monsoon season in Kota Bahru…the great Thailand-Singapore Bike Ride…

…tight little English streets in Salisbury during the inaugural ABCA CLAW…

…and a summer’s day in Turangi…

Bursting Bubbles

I subscribed to Fast Company ten years ago and collected 4-5 years worth of the magazine. The trouble was that it is very advertisement-heavy which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself as many of the ads were insightful and thought-provoking in their own right; the problem was that each issue was really thick and at 12 issues + specials every year, the stacks weren’t getting any smaller. As stimulating as the articles were (and I assume still are) and despite my own proclivity for accumulating paper, something had to go and so Fast Company disappeared off my radar. I suppose I could have tried to keep track of it online but, dial-up connection or not, I struggle to maintain situational awareness with the current blog roll and distribution lists…

Curzon @ Coming Anarchy asks some questions about a Fast Company finding that the gap between our social and economic beliefs is much the same as when we are teenagers just setting out in the world, and when we hit middle age, even though the beliefs themselves are diametrically opposed. I think the answer to his question is pretty simple and that is consequences. As young people, we are often oblivious to the concept of consequences and wreak merry havoc with our lives and often those of others. If you took the Fast Company survey further, it is likely that you would find that the same permissive approach extends to just about every aspect of a young person’s life, not solely social and economic… in fact, the social and economic head line is a bit of a red herring

So the real finding is actually a lot simpler – when we are young, we take more risks, and are less considerate of consequences…by the time we hit middle age, we have been burned a few times, may be a lot of times and are only too familiar with the Newtonian inevitability of consequences…

Perhaps the real story behind the Fast Company report is the issue that I commented on at Travels with Shiloh earlier this morning…

Regardless of the topic, I think that root cause behind the issues you raise is that for well over a decade now, maybe two or even more, we have stopped teaching people how to think critically and objectively. Today the ‘rule’ is to seek that information that supports the case you want to put up and to ignore or mitigate that which does not. Once upon a time, we would consider all the information and draw a conclusion based upon what was, not what we wanted it to be…and if that meant our report did not reflect the beauty of the Emperor’s new cloths then so be it. Better a sour mouthful up front than a diet of sand later on…perhaps if some senior ‘thinkers’ had been more objective, the mess in Iraq would never have occurred and the campaign in Afghanistan would have been a done deal one way or another by the end of 2004.

The superficiality of many contemporary researchers and their reports was something we saw again and again in the lessons learned world; and it was only when ABCA developed the CLAW that some light appeared at the end of the tunnel. As of the 2009 CLAW, that light was clearly brighter as many participants already had their heads around the processes and the need to disregard the symptoms on the surface and drill into the core issues.

I keep harping on about the CLAW (and the follow-on OUTLAW process) because they are the only ones I have seen in ten years in the LL game that actually work and get to the heart of an issue. The key however is that you still need people with the honesty and courage to run with oft-unpopular and unpalatable findings…perhaps if the authors of this report in New Jersey gangs had stepped back from the issues a bit more and been a bit more open-minded they would have produced something more worth reading?

Maybe I’m on a bit of a roll today (possibly the effects of a long weekend and/or a number of large G&Ts last night – ran out of beer and it’s 40km to the local) but this also ties into my hobby-horsing over at Neptunus Lex about my most-hated quote “…amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics…

I don’t think this post is really about logistics at all but I just have to add my 2 cents re that amateurs and professionals line…it is an absolute crock!! The log fraternity have spent two decades crowing from the top of their dung heap about how THEY won the Gulf War and have forgotten that, in the final outcome, they are but a supporting act to operations…

This is a theme that I have come across a number of times in my work in the last couple of weeks and I think that it is way past time that the loggies dragged themselves out of the Fulda Gap Railway Station and got into the 21st Century; stopped dictating what can and can not be done got into the game of supporting operations. My current bug bear is the falseness of ‘one fuel’ policies which might look all very nice and efficient in the hallowed halls of the G-4 (anyone’s G-4 not just that in the five-sided building) but which reduces effectiveness at the sharp end where operators are unable to introduce the niche capabilities needed for operations because they won’t run on the ‘one’ fuel…

In 2000, a MAJ Morris from the USMC wrote a staff paper on contemporary use of flying columns as part of OMFTS doctrine In it, he debunks many of the logistic myths/obstacles to operations, using Rommel and Monty as examples of a. just getting on with the job and b. keeping log staffs in their subordinate boxes…This is not to diminish the importance of logistics to successful operations just to keep it in perspective with other supporting functions like personnel, intel, plans, comms, training, and doctrine/lessons.

The Morris paper is a great read and I recommend it without reservation and more so because it was written pre-911 but still holds true through the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is delivered in three parts:

  • A general history of the use of flying columns in the 20th Century.
  • A dedicated case study on the SADF’s Operation MODULAR into Angola in 1984.
  • An exploration of how the flying column/bubble concept might be applied in a MEU or MEB.

Thinking out of the square, getting the facts and bursting conceptual bubbles…that’s what we need more off…

“Can’t handle half a year without a Whopper?”

Today’s title is drawn from a comment in a Michael Yon Facebook item over the weekend:

Fast Food Purge in Afghanistan: It’s the end of the war as some people know it. In reality, there will be lots of places still open. There is a big pizza sit-down at KAF (the pizza is okay, too), and TGI Fridays and so forth. The shutdowns are limited. Most bases actually don’t have coffee shops, Pizza Huts and so forth. Only the mega-bases have such places.

It linked to this National Post article Tim Hortons escapes U.S. fast-food purge in Afghanistan. I have fond memories of the Tim Hortons on the Kingston waterfront. It was about the halfway point on our daily trek from our hotel to Fort Frontenac during the 2006 CLAW and a logical spot to stop off for our first real coffee each day.

I’m not sure if this ‘purge’ is part of the fallout from the Tarnak Bridge debacle where Michael Yon challenged the emphasis placed on maintaining the comforts of home on the FOB at Kandahar and, by implication, other mega-FOBs in Afghanistan; or whether GEN McCrystal, who maintains an austere lifestyle in Kabul, already intended to re-introduce a greater element of austerity into the mega-FOBs.

This move is longer overdue. As McCrystal’s Command Sergeant Major states “…this is a war zone — not an amusement park…” By allowing some troops more of the comforts of home, typically those groups known endearingly as REMFs, pogues or fobbits, than other troops, typically those that go out to the sharp end, ISAF has introduced a major divisive element into its force. No matter how it is spun, it is simple human nature that such a disproportionate gap in the lifestyles of various groups of deployed soldiers will adversely affect morale and cohesion.

The article also makes a couple of other good points regarding the logistic effort needed to support these comforts, In case anyone hasn’t noticed, Afghanistan isn’t well-served by shipping lines of railways – most stuff that comes in, comes in by air “…what it comes down to is focus, and to using the resources we have in the most efficient and effective ways possible. Supplying non-essential luxuries to big bases like Bagram and Kandahar makes it harder to get essential items to combat outposts and forward operating bases, where troops who are in the fight each day need to be resupplied with ammunition, food and water…

I understand that the USAF faces similar issues with its US-based UAV operators who deploy virtually to the sharp end every day but return to the mundane issues and distractions of the real world at the end of each shift. Some operators were experiencing difficulty reconciling their work life where lives are often dependent on the UAVs to the stark contrast of domestic life each evening. It is now proposed that operators will deploy on-base for a ‘deployment’ period of some weeks in order to be able to better focus upon supporting the deployed forces.

The time for deployed troops to re-acquaint themselves with the niceties of the real world is when they go on leave out of theatre. Regardless of the length of deployment, trying to recreate these niceties in-theatre, unless at a secure leave centre, is just a recipe for disaster. That BK, Starbucks et al were ever allowed to establish themselves in the FOBs is indicative of the prevalent attitude in many sectors that Afghanistan is a war in lower case only. William Tecumseh Sherman had some thoughts on what war is…

You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing!

I am sick and tired of fighting — its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands, and fathers …

Some of you young men think that war is all glamour and glory, but let me tell you, boys, it is all Hell!

Similarly, that Greatest Generation that defeated the Axis in World War 2 came to do a job, get it done and then go home again. They knew what they were there (wherever ‘there’ may have been) to do, and that to get home again, they had to do the job. Charles Upham commented once, when asked why he hated the Germans so much, that he just wanted to go back to his farm. The Germans stood between him and going back  to his farm. As he saw it, the sooner they ran out of Germans, the sooner he could go back to his farm. It’s tough to maintain that kind of commitment when the war has too many comforts…

Peace in our time?

Curzon @ Coming Anarchy comments on the results of the Iraqi elections. I suppose like many others, I daren’t hope that Iraq might actually pull this one off and stay the course it appears to be on. It would at least be some return on the investment in blood…

“Militias” – racist scum with wacky ideas

Read more at The Strategist – I agree with Peter on these nutjobs and the suggestion that they be harnessed as an instrument of national power…the instrument would probably be a banjo…I’m not so sure that I totally agree re citizen militia as the distinction between these and run of the mill nutjob militia is possibly a little fine. There is a mega-gap between citizen militia, a concept that probably did its dash with the gentlemen of Walmington-on-Sea, and the citizen armies that dealt to the Axis…

Desperately Seeking Mayberry

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Mayberry is the utopian township in which the Andy Griffiths Show was set a long long time ago; you know, where Ron Howard was born (and where Gomer Pyle hails from as well…Gaaw-aawl-ly, Surprise, surprise, surprise!) …Neptunus Lex has a nostalgic item today entitled The Itch in which he talks about seeking the ideal home town with a

…local hardware store that has the same breadth of inventory as Walmart, at the same low prices but who knows you by your name. With a coffee shop that serves the routinely excellent quality of a Starbucks or Peets, but which lacks all of that big city franchise homogeneity. A house with a porch that runs around the front and an acre (at least) of land, and friendly neighbors who know you well enough to stop by uninvited and yet be welcome for all of that. Where all of the kids are above average….“,

…someplace where…

…it’s somehow all tied together, the airplane I’ll own and make my own, the little town I’ll fly it out of. With the airstrip by the river, the trout kissing the pool tops, the elk bugling, the bird dog slumbering by the fire, my girlfriend by my side. The kids all grown up and successful, leading happy, productive, satisfying lives. Nothing left to worry on...”

Wouldn’t we all, I hear you sigh…yes, absolutely but the most telling part of this item is the last couple of lines “…it’s cleansing, but ultimately meaningless, to try and escape. If we want to live in Mayberry, it’s useless trying to find it on a map. We have to create it…” And therein, folks, lies the lessons…like Sarah Connor always used to say before she made it big on the small screen “…we have no fate but what we make…” So whatever your ideal is out there, the first person you have to motivate to create it is yourself – as I type this, it strikes me that our adversaries in the War on Terror are currently singularly better at this than we are…

And speaking of our adversaries, Coming Anarchy has a interview with a guy called Christopher Hitchens – I’d never heard of him either but now that I have, I think he probably needs some serious adjustments to his medication. But anyway, I would like to comment just a little on one of the lines he spouts in this interview “… Islamophobia is vague and linguistically clumsy. A phobia is an irrational fear. My fear of Islamic terrorism is not irrational…” Islam terrorism just like Christianity crusadism and Rugby World Cup Year All Blacks Victory…enough said…

Part of the fallout from the Christmas Day Undies Bomber is yet another series of calls for better interoperability and information sharing between agencies…without hopping on my soapbox on this one again (not this morning anyway), maybe we need to be looking at some things that already exist and ramping some horsepower in behind them…I mean things like:

  • The Coalition Interoperability Warrior Demonstration aka CWID – it’s been running since the mid-90s previously as the Joint Interoperability Warrior Demonstration aka JWID but regardless of the clumsy names, the key word is INTEROPERABILITY – since 911, this DoD-led annual event has been focussing more and more upon information sharing and interoperability issues, not just between the services, or between major allies, but extending these links right down into the nitty-gritty of interaction with and between other government agencies and the myriad of first response agencies in the US, and by implication, for any that might be interested, in other participating nations. Every year, dozens of emerging and developing technologies are thrashed throughout the month of June in connected sites around the world. However, IMHO, one of the biggest payoff for CWID participants comes from the three major week-long planning activities that occur prior to each execution phase where operators, developers and geeks have their respective expectations and perceptions hauled over the coals towards a shared reality.
  • The ABCA Coalition Lessons Analysis Workshop aka CLAW, lead by the ABCA Program Office in the Pentagon, that every one or two years assembles an international team of lessons learned professionals and subject matter experts to review and analyse the raw Observations, Issues and Lessons (OIL – yes, it really is all about OIL!!) from the preceding 12-18 months of operations and training within the five member nations and distil these into findings and recommendations. Following an inaugural ABCA lessons conference in Ft Leavonworth in 2004, CLAWs have been conducted in 2005 (Salisbury, UK), 2006 (Kingston, Canada – what a beautiful location!!), 2007 (Hobart, Autsralia) and 2009 (Shrivenham, UK). The CLAW process is exportable and applicable to OILs from any source not just military activities…There is also a link between CWID and the CLAW: analysis to date finds that around 60% of the issues uncovered in the CLAWs are further investigated or resolved on CWID…

My point here is that, rather than angst about what’s not working, there are already some usable processes and forums and systems that can at least be talked about and looked at as potential stepping stones towards long term systemic solutions (why is it that only problems are systemic?)…Like Neptunus Lex said, “…we have to create it…

The Accidental Guerrilla

The nice people in G7 loaned me a copy of David Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla to read on the promise that I would give them a book review in return – fair trade, I think, and one which provides me an opportunity to assess the actual time required to review and read a book for future jobs. I missed David Kilcullen’s briefs when he visited in October, having been required to save the free world at the CLAW in the UK that week. While I enjoyed that professionally and personally, I would much rather have had the afternoon listening to him talk…

First impressions of Accidental Guerrilla are that the author has not been well served by his editor…the sections where he talks about his own experiences flow very well; where he launches into more academic discourse, he becomes verbose and complex – if in doubt, use short sentences and don’t be shy to bullet lists – some parts so far (have just finished Chapter 1) are like playing literary Where’s Wally? when trying to filter out key points and themes. I’ve noticed the same in the other book I am struggling with at the moment, Brain Taafe’s The Gatekeepers of Galatas, a great story that deserves to be told – but told better than Taafe does…I track a number of writing blogs and I think it was John Birmingham who couldn’t emphasise enough not only the importance of a top editor but also the need for writers to retract their egos and take aboard the value an editor provides to a successful product…

I have no problem with the concept of the accidental guerrilla but do debate that it is anything new – almost by definition most guerrillas are accidental, born when the outside world, usually brutally, intrudes into their lives….the little people = the little war…Nor is the concept of global terrorist/guerrilla networks that new either…as far back as the American Revolution, global communications have been adequate to support international networks and the Great Game of international espionage and intelligence has been played across the known globe since that time. I agree with Rupert Smith that there are those who might be best described as the ‘franchisers of terrorism’ who target the disaffected and essentially sell their brand of terrorism, with commensurate training, networks and support. These are the people who need to be tracked and targeted a la Michael Scheiern’s ‘individual-based tracking’ concept – manage them and you open up a range of alternate approaches to mitigate potentially accidental guerrillas.

One of the problems I have with The Accidental Guerrilla to date is that it describes Al-Qaeda as an aberration, an exception, to the rules of guerrillas and terrorism, but keeps drawing upon AQ-based examples to support arguments in the book. While it is true that Islamic terrorism has a firm base in the tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan that includes strong family links as well and that this extends back over a number of generations, I think it is a big leap to state this as standard practice for these type of organisations. This weakens the Infection, Contagion, Intervention, Rejection cycle that Kilcullen proposes, again relying on an AQ example. I agree with the takfiri model and think this would be a better one to promote over specific groups  like Al-Qaeda – more so since his definition of takfir lends itself to causes beyond those based upon an interpretation of Islam…takfir holds that those whose beliefs differ from the takfiri’s are infidels who must be killed. Takfir might apply to ANY hate-based xenophobic cause around the planet and if The Accidental Guerrilla achieves nothing else beyond bringing this phrase into more common usage, it will have achieved something.

In all fairness, I am only at the end of Chapter 1 and should suppress of any feelings of ‘old brass for new‘ and ‘publish or perish‘ til I get into the meat of it…onwards into Chapter Two…

The Information Militia

…it was really great to see former Chief of Army, Lou Gardiner, fronting for the recent launch of Crimestoppers NZ (0800 555 111). This initiative is the silver lining from the cloud of the December 2007 Army Museum VC theft that brought General Lou and Lord Ashcroft together and got the  idea fermenting (‘though the head of Crimestoppers NZ probably won’t have his own jet!!).

Initially I was a bit dubious about the whole idea of anonymous reporting and the opportunities to play ‘Dob Thy Neighbour‘ but I’ve been following the news reports this week and even if the Kiwi version is only half as effective as the UK one, that is still a 10% dent in the crime stats which is pretty respectable by anyone’s standards. More power to Crimestoppers and it will be interesting to visit in a few months to see  how the stats are panning out. In the meantime, I exhort everyone to pop across to Crimestoppers and plant a few words of encouragement on the Crimestoppers Blog. Consider this your personal contribution to domestic Info Ops for 2009: the more obvious public support there is, the more likely it is that ordinary people will use the site….away you go…

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This mobile signpost is in one of the display areas at the Defence Capability Centre at Shrivenham – it was in this complex, which is absolutely packed with big boys toys for ambient effect, that the CLAW was conducted this year. At first, I thought it looked kinda dumb and just a big invite for a couple of rounds of ‘Dob Thy Neighbour‘ and other forms of neighbourhood score-settling and mischief. But then I thought about it some more from an information perspective. Clearly in any COIN, Irregular Threat or Stability environment – and when you get down to it, domestic crime-fighting is as much about stability ops as is providing security in an operational theatre – there is a very real risk or kickback and retribution for ‘narks‘ and ‘informers‘ thus anonymity is not only good but essential.

This is probably easier to effect in an operational theatre where the onus of evidence might not be as rigid as in a civil courtroom even though the process of analysis and decision may be no less rigorous or difficult. I’m about 2/3 of the way through Australian General Jim Molan’s Running the War in Iraq (top read – highly recommended!!) and he goes into considerable detail on the rigour that his staff applied before approving prosecution of a target, often under very tight time imperatives (which is why it’s called Time Sensitive Targeting). Instead of having to satisfy a judge a a jury of his/her ‘peers’, the operational requirement is to satisfy a specific decision matrix based on four considerations: (from Running the War in Iraq) proportionality, humanity, discrimination and necessity. So in this environment, the painting of a picture based upon all source information, including that from anonymous sources, is more directly linked to an actionable result.

In a domestic criminal environment, there remains an equal or possibly greater burden of analysis and validation on information from anonymous sources which ultimately may have to satisfy a formal legal evidential chain. But over time, what we develop is a complex and detailed picture of a society and its environment that is constantly enhancing and evolving. The key to this, is the reliance upon informal, part-time, intermittent information sources…uh-oh, it’s THE PEOPLE again and these are whom I am starting to think of as the Information Militia…they are often not formally organised, particularly reliable, or often even that useful but every little titbit they provide adds to the picture, even (possibly not even intentionally) their place in it…a resource that supports the campaign, even while perhaps attempting to further its own myriads of ends…

And then I thought, wow, what if you took this model and applied it to Afghanistan – could this be where the support of the people might actually make a difference? It is not realisitic, although we keep on doing it, to expect ‘the people’ to just wake up one day and decide ‘Enough!’ and turn in all insurgents and their supporters. Not realistic at all, and we’ve all seen it happen one place or another, where the insurgents/criminals  (the same or another mob) come back and dish out retribution. But what if we had Crimestoppers Afghanistan? Very specifically Crimestoppers and not any play on words like Talibanbusters, etc etc…the objective is to focus on crime and by very clearly unstated inference, insurgents because they are nothing but criminals…the Information Militia provide leads, feeds, rumours and whispers – all anonymously – which paint a picture which then informs counter-criminal operations – reducing crime is always a good start to getting the people onside – and as the picture evolves, oopsy-a-daisy, a counter-criminal feed ‘accidentally’ knocks off some insurgents…and on it goes…

Over time, as occurred in Northern Ireland, some insurgents will tire of the constant harassment in the face of growing public (‘the people’ again) confidence in government forces and disdain for the insurgents. I refer to ‘insurgents’ deliberately in order to decriminalise the Taliban associations, to encourage THEM to consider one by one coming to the talking table…

The stupid German hire car…

I’ve finally got all my pictures from the UK trip sorted out and uploaded from the camera – I am amazed that so small a chip can hold the better part of 900+ pictures: a fair cry from my first big overseas excursion when I had to lug dozens of rolls of film around with me.

Anyway, this is the stupid German hire car that we had:

CLAW 09 - Stupid German Hire Car

We picked it up from Avis at Heathrow who were nice enough to hunt down a detailed UK roadmap for us (lesson: they don’t provide this automatically anymore) and then promptly dropped the ball by giving us the wrong directions out of the airport – if the guy on the security gate hadn’t set us right we’d still be doing laps of the Concorde…

Things we liked about the stupid German hire car:

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Things we hated about the stupid German hire car:

  • It was called a Passat – a stupid name with no sense of coolness at all..
  • It was  manual – not the car’s fault but we’ll blame it for this accident of birth anyway – what a pain in the bum to drive around narrow twisting Brit roads and towns.
  • Reverse was down and forward from first – if you shift too energetically into first while stationary, you could find yourself in reverse, much to the consternation of people queued behind us at the lights.
  • It would take anything to from 2 to 17 nudges on the unlock button on the ‘key’ to unlock all the doors.
  • I say ‘key’ with squiggly things around it because it wasn’t really a key at all: just a chunk of plastic and chrome that fitted into a hole in the dash. We think this is EU fallout out from the car-keying incident (it was Norris, dummies!!) on Coro St a couple of months ago (in NZ; probably a decade ago in the rest of the Coro watching world) where the over-efficient Germans are trying to avoid any such recurrences of such trauma (it’s all fun and games til someone loses a spleen).
  • To start the car, you just push the ‘key’ in while depressing the clutch at the same time but if you stall it (see comment above about stupid manual German hire cars) to can’t restart it by just pushing in the clutch and pushing the ‘key’ home again…nope, too simple – you actually have to pop it most of the way out and THEN push it all the way home again…that’s not a pain – yeah right…sorry, all you folk backed up behind us on the roundabout – it’s just the Germans getting payback for that Sea Lion thing….This sort of thing probably seemed like a good idea for when the Russians broke through at interesting places like Kursk but for a family sedan…nuh…
  • There’s no handbrake…just a button on the dash – works brill for setting the brake and makes a cool whirr-clunk sound but…to release the brake you have to push in the brake pedal while pushing the brake button; not only is there no whirr-clunk sound but you need to have three feet if you want to do a hill start. We had to limit our travels to flat places only.
  • The manual was over an inch thick – no wonder it was still sealed in the original plastic. This might have told us about the cruise control that we didn’t find until the last day…

The Peace Prize and the Olympics

Word on the street is that Obama won the prize (hardly seems worth capitalising it nowadays) because Europeans like him. They like him because he at least goes through the motions of communicating with them – while still doing what he wants anyway. I suppose they should be grateful as well that he engineered the 2016 Olympics going to Rio and not to some EU city that would be forever broke afterwards. After all the grief that Venezuela has been giving the US recently (but didn’t they get dealt to so well in John Birmingham’s Without Warning??), I’m surprised that it didn’t go to Caracas – that would certainly have put them in their place and then some. The Olympic city is fast becoming a economic kiss of death for many nations and I really have to wonder if Obama’s ‘failure’ to secure the Games for Chicago was not actually a masterstroke that Machiavelli would be proud of – it’s unlikely that Brazil will be throwing its weight around too much once it sees the bill…It would actually be quite nice if the Olympics went back to the original concept of sporting excellence instead of the municipal oneupmanship it has become…

Food Blogging

Have been thinking about the food blogging thing I mentioned yesterday and think I will do this from tonight where dinner consists of all the leftovers in the fridge mixed up in a big bowl and turned into rissoles (flash name for patties), consumed between slices of homemade sourdough bread (an accident with the mix last night but tastes great) with fresh tomatoes and sliced cheese – there would have been beetroot and lettuce except I forgot the beetroot til it was too late and parley was the closest thing in the fridge tonight to greens…

From a more organised kitchen we had a great lunch at Out Of The Fog in Owhango (it’s on GoogleEarth) on Sunday (unfortunately it is now only open on the weekends – probably a reflection on the Central Plateau job market) – very fast and friendly service: I had hardly finished the front page of the paper when my snack arrived and they do a great Chai Latte too (but not as good as my homemade ones)…the Owhango Pub has just closed up so Out Of The Fog is now it for refreshment between Raurimu and Manunui…