On not winning…


Always hating hanging around like a third wheel at open homes, so we  disappear on Sunday mornings…coffees and carrot cake at The Station Cafe today, then off to Taupo for a touch of Stress Induced Shopping Therapy (here on in referred to as SITS)…

Now that I’ve seen it, it’s a little ironic that this chapter of the Marvelverse is about not winning – not really a spoiler as I must be about the last person on the planet not to have seen Infinity War – being brought up on John Wayne and Thunderbirds, it’s always a little hard to accept that the good guys don’t always win…even in real life…

It’s actually quite tough, knowing that this battle is one that I’m probably not going to win. It’s not about being right. I’m pretty confident that I am right – just upgrading to my fourth lawyer and expecting his feedback tomorrow – that’s not arrogance or pollyannaism or bias…it’s the result of years of research, investigation and analysis work and having to present the results of that work to a fairly unforgiving audience…

It would be unpalatable to find the reverse smoking gun that proves me wrong but at least then I could suck it up and move on…but I can’t (find it, that is, not not move on…well, actually I can’t move on because I’m in the right but let’s not get wrapped around that)…the thing is that being right doesn’t always equal winning….

And it’s not really about winning or losing…that’s too black and white…I never wanted to know everything about counter-insurgency but on a dim dark Waiouru day (most Waiouru days and dim and dark) Gandalf aka Chris Parsons set me off on an unexpected journey into the world of COIN…and I still find daily parallels with that journey…


…that there is no real victory in COIN..not in the sense of VE or VJ days…successful COIN is about a return to normalcy…not the normalcy that some might seek to inflict (certainly not ANZ ‘normal’ last week where it expected me to sympathise with any loss it may incur…) but normalcy for me…little things like being able to come home  and not have to worry about whether I will have a home or not next month; to not have to spend hours and hours researching legal and banking documents; to be able to dedicate time to relationships and hobbies and stuff; even little things like perhaps getting a roomie; not having to worry about the dogs if this goes wobbly(er)…normal’s all most people want…

In fact, the dogs are my biggest worry…Louie will probably rehome easier enough to people with no cats, good fences and who need a walking carpet…Kala Littledog still has a lot of issues to work through…

Not winning will be a new experience, certainly on this scale…with less that a fortnight til the hammer drops (literally), I’m still fighting…no real choice now to ride it on in and see what happens…

It’s just so damn frustrating that ANZ simply won’t man up – can I say that if the key point of decision is a woman? – admit its error and move on into fixing it up. But then, bullies rarely acknowledge their mistakes and just try to bulldoze their way on through and hope they will get away with it…

…and that’s all you are, ANZ, a bully that screwed up and that lacks the moral fibre to front up…


Identity | The Daily Post

Find inspiration in one of the popular topics on Discover. For this week’s Discover Challenge, focus on identity. You may use it simply as a one-word prompt, or tell us what the word means to you. Or you might publish a sketch that represents who you are or how you feel today, a poem about identity in our digital age, or a personal essay about who you once were.

Source: Identity | The Daily Post

I began drafting this post around the time of one of the recent active shooter incidents in the US. It says so much that such incidents are now so frequent that I cannot remember which it was, possibly Orlando…

The aftermath of each of these incidents is marked by bitter ‘weapon’ versus ‘ideology’ outbursts and exchanges. I do not thing that either side really gets the issues: each tragedy is little more than an excuse for each camp to dust off (not dust-off which is a far more noble act) respective meme collections.

It is America’s right to have whatever laws, rights and responsibilities that it wants to inflict on itself. I have no more problem with the Second Amendment than I do with the Fifth although I would offer that the rights of the Second should be read and applied in the context of their context i.e. as the people’s contribution to a well-regulated militia…the key phrase being well-regulated.

The ‘right’ to espouse an ideology probably falls under the First Amendment…the one that protects free speech…but again that comes with responsibilities. We have probably all heard of, if not actually read or heard the actual words, Oliver Wendell Holmes “crying fire in a theatre” quote. For the record, this is what he actually said to give context to those words:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.

Those legally bent or who just like to read some exceptionable well-written English can read Justice Holmes’ full opinion in the Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute Web site.

Contrary to the good Justice’s opinion – the key work in his theatre analogy is ‘falsely’ – in the information domain, the random and rabid shotgunning of the information militia (plural) is as destructive regardless of whether it has elements of truth or fact or not.

Every time those ideological memes fly, their sole function, intended or not, is to fan the flames of ideological conflict. As much as I thought it needed work (thought #1, thought #2), what we are seeing is the phenomenon that David Kilcullen theorised in The Accidental Guerrilla: the more something is ‘fixed’, the worse it gets. This is the irony of irregular warfare.

With regard to the active shooter incidents in America, there is another factor in play that may not be present or which is certainly less present in incidents. A large element of American psyche identifies with the ‘main in the white hat’, ‘one riot, one ranger’, the rugged individual standing against all odds, etc. This ethic is quite commendable and certainly not unique to the US. What sets it about in the US though is the accompanying mindset that a gun is what you use to resolve an issue.

We’re not on any sort of moral high ground here or in Australia where the national equivalent is a punch in the head, or the desire to deliver such but that ‘message’ has to be delivered up close and personal, it cannot be delivered from across the street or even across the room; and it is far easier to neutralise. In the UK, or parts thereof, the local equivalent maybe a cloth cap or the good old ‘Liverpool kiss‘…again, attacks with limited projection or lethality from afar…

It is this overwhelming cultural drive that guns solve problems that is America’s challenge. It’s not how many guns you have or what sort they may be. It’s not what you believe or who you disagree with. It’s not how accessible guns or unsocial ideologies may be. Those may all be separate concerns  but, weapon or ideology, it’s the drive to resolve what angsts you with a gun that is the problem…

Jump to 1:02 The Lone Rider

I love those rugged individuals roles immortalised by Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Jan Michael Vincent, etc etc but I don’t build my life around them. When I have a beef with the local council or my employer or the grit truck driver or the mailman, I don’t feel I have to to take a gun to resolve the issue or make myself feel better.

It is one thing when the line between reality and fiction becomes blurred. It is quite another when those worlds begin to overlap…where the ‘final option’ becomes the only option…

Having said that, we can hum ‘Imagine‘ all we like…COIN 101 reminds us that cultural shift happens over generations but being honest about the problem is the first step towards a solution…



I would like to say that I made a special effort to get up early on a Sunday morning for this but even for me on a sunny Sunday  morning, 9AM is comfortably civilised…

I only vaguely remember the first Doctor, William Hartnell, but grew up with the Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and, to a lesser extent, Tom Baker takes on the role. I guess it would have been midway through the Tom Baker era that I grew up and gave up such childhood tales in favour of adult things like girls and beer…I remember think that the Doctors after Tom Baker’s #4 were quite silly and frivolous and the monsters pale in the face of the Daleks, Autons, Cybermen and Abominable Snowmen…

So now, fifty years on, where are we? The Doctor is now a major exploitable franchise being worked for all it is worth. I was a latecomer to the revitalised Doctor in the mid-2000s…I equated it with my memories of silliness and frivolity and that might never have changed if I hadn’t stopped over with friends on my way back from a trip to the UK and they were watching the finale of the Christopher Ecclestone series and I hooked drawn back into the world of the Doctor. I still haven’t seen any of that series bar the finale but loved the David Tennant era with companions Rose, Martha and Donna. I thought that that era ended well but have been unimpressed totally with the much more commercially-exploited Matt Smith era where the fez, fish fingers and custard, and the whole Amy Pond thing just left me cold – mercifully the BBC resisted the temptation to thrash the Pond thing any further in the 50th Anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, that screened globally this morning…

If you haven’t seen it yet, you may not wish to read past this point…you have been warned…

There were too many cutesy distractions in this 75 minute special…although the multiple Doctor thing has been done before, there was no real sense of drama of impending threat in this story and what there might have been was continually eroded away by the Morecombe and Wise style of repartee between the Tennant and Smith Doctors: if the intention was to play the 50th for laughs, then the story should have reflected this…

The Zygons were never amongst the great or scariest of Doctor Who aliens…barely Second XI, if that…what value they added to this story is tenuous at best and resolution of this part of the plot really only seemed like a loose vehicle to enable the Tennant and Smith Doctors to work off each other. Take the Zygons out of the story, and you essentially have…the same story, just shorter – I’d be keen to see a Zygon-less bootleg version of The Day of the Doctor

The time wasted on the Zygons could have been employed much more effectively to further develop the thirteen Doctor concept and the ultimate destruction of Gallifrey – an apparently pivotal event that the Smith Doctor regularly angsts about – we seem to have forgotten that the Tennant Doctor committed genocide on a universal level against the Daleks in his final series and that this has never been mentioned since. That may be because the Daleks have become like British Paints and ‘keep on keepin’ on‘ and so never did quite get genocided…

One of the things that I liked about the Tennant series was that it was all about hope, where the Smith era has been characterised by alternate frivolity and angst. It is revealed this morning that it was the (John) Hurt Doctor that pushed the button on Gallifrey as the only way to end the war between the Time Lords and the Daleks. Hurt’s depiction of the dilemma of sacrificing to few to save the many is very well done and if maintained, would have made this special an epic…unfortunate the writers succumbed to contemporary niceness and introduce an unlikely hope-based solution in which everyone (less the Daleks) gets to live happily ever after…

Although, yes, this is only a TV special and science-fiction at that, this is symptomatic of a malaise that seems to be affecting us more and more, a distancing from the realities of the world in favour of a cloud cuckooo vunderland where there are no harsh dilemmas and everything always turns out alright on the day. Sometimes  there are no real winners, just maybe lesser losers, where hard decisions have to be made…as much I may diss the Fulda Gapists that long for a return to the less complex days of conventional conflicts, one thing that those dinosaurs knew was the use of force as an instrument of, not so much national power, but of national survival…where the needs of the few are outweighed by the needs of the many.

This is not just in the sense of wielding the big nuclear stick but also in how even tactical actions are conducted where it may be necessary to risk one element in order to enable or save a larger formation, to employ area weapons to neutralise greater threats like air defence structures, or the growing spectre of accidental or deliberate release of bio-chem weapons…and sometimes civilians and other non-combatants get caught in the middle of all this and become part of ‘the few’…

…that war can be conducted in clean surgical manner is the ongoing Myth of Desert Storm that fails to take into account that there has not been a major force on force conflict since Vietnam and the October War in the early seventies…this myth ignores cold hard realities and results is military generations that are not capable of considering the hard issues and making those hardest calls where there are no winners…just lesser losers…ultimately it is NOT all about ‘the people’ but achieving national objectives…

So this morning we were presented, in the end, a happy happy joy joy ending instead of the deeper darker theme implied in the original idea…hope is nice but sometimes you have to be prepared to get down and dirty and make those tough decisions when hope is not enough…

With the (finally) demise of the Smith Doctor, the ball is now in the 13th Doctor’s court to restore some of the drama to the Doctorverse and dispel the silliness and frivolity that have been allowed to, Seeds of Doom-like run amok and dominate the ‘verse…

The Resurgency of Insurgency


© Chris Hondros/Getty Images News

The Resurgency of Insurgency

Intervening to support an insurgency – not fight it

Josh Wineera

After 10 years of fighting two major insurgencies, many western nations can feel comfortable that they have advanced their thinking and practice of counterinsurgency operations. The intellectual and policy effort brought to bear on countering the Iraqi and Afghan insurgencies has been quite staggering, perhaps even greater than the proliferation of deterrence and containment theories promoted during the Cold War.

The establishment of new think-tanks in Washington D.C. such as the Center for New American Security, aside more traditional institutions such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has helped cultivate and revitalise military counterinsurgency strategies and doctrine. The language of counterinsurgency is ubiquitous, to the point that politicians, academics, generals and soldiers can quite easily converse about “protecting the population” and “building the capacity of the host nation”. In the 21st century, counterinsurgency has been codified, systemised and established as ‘must-do training’ for land forces in particular. “Insurgents are bad” and “we must support the weak or fledging host government” is not just a catch-cry but is firmly embedded in the military psyche. But this is not good, not good at all.

In becoming proficient, maybe even obsessed with counterinsurgency training, the dangerous assumption is that military forces will only be used to counter insurgents and establish or re-establish a host government’s right to govern. What then if the government or the state elites are actually the problem? That either through corruption, disregard for the international system or most likely an oppressive and brutal approach to its citizenry – surely that type of government, with any preceding military intervention calls for a 180-degree turnaround from countering an insurgency to actively encouraging and supporting an insurgency to remove it. What then if the insurgents are the “good guys” and the government is the “bad guy”?

The resurgency of insurgency has been a feature of the Arab Spring. Libya, Egypt and Syria are classic examples of governments being re-characterised as ‘regimes’, with many in the international community willing to encourage insurgents to depose the regime. This of course is nothing new, aiding the weak to vanquish the strong. Military intervention in these cases has been primarily the use of strategic stand-off capabilities, such as attack aircraft, and Special Forces. Provision of weapons to the insurgents, such as lifting of the embargo in Syria, is a case in point of trying to equalise the conflict.

So what then of the counterinsurgency training of the general purpose military force? How hard or easy is it to change, or even balance the training to be prepared to support and fight with insurgents to depose recalcitrant governments and their state forces? If in a counterinsurgency sense, working with the fledging security forces of governments we like is hard, how about then in a pro-insurgency sense, the greater difficulties of fighting alongside a less structured and less organised mish-mash of rebels who seek to oust their political leaders? Where is the manual for that, where is the Field Manual FM 3-34 Counterinsurgency for supporting insurgencies?

For sure, there are doctrines that relate to associated operations such as guerrilla warfare and subversion. By and large however, these remain the purview of Special Forces. The thought that general purpose forces would re-orientate to irregular warfare, towards counterinsurgency in particular, was considered fanciful prior to 9/11. But look where we are today. There would hardly be a land forces training exercise that doesn’t incorporate some kind of insurgent activity – insurgents equals bad, host government equals good.

It is time to consider weighting an equal amount of military thinking and training around intervening and supporting other government forces as well as opposing them and supporting anti-government forces. The intellectual and policy effort has already recognised this. Some governments we like and will support, some governments we don’t and may have to take action to remove them. The pressing challenge for military planners and trainers therefore, is to prepare for both.

Josh Wineera lectures on joint, interagency and multinational operations and irregular warfare at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University. His research interests include international security, state-building and security sector reform.

How “We” Lost Yemen

How We Lost Yemen – By Gregory D. Johnsen | Foreign Policy.

yemen drone

Tonto used to say “We? White man..?” I haven’t seen the new version of The Lone Ranger so I’m not sure if Johnny Depp resists the temptation to weird this classic out…

The first thing that I like about this article is that it starts with “…drones, ships, and planes have all taken part in the bombardment...” and avoids the tendency of the uninformed to focus solely on the drone aspect of these attacks. Yes, for sure, we all know that ‘drone‘ isn’t the right word from a UAS geek perspective but as has been pointed out to me, the nice people at Merriam-Webster (the dictionary you use when you can’t afford real English!) still include as one of the definitions of drone “…an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control…” Unfortunately, that definition is more apt than its other two definitions of drone as either “…a stingless male bee (as of the honeybee) that has the role of mating with the queen and does not gather nectar or pollen…” when we all know that the modern use can both collect and sting; or, and I had not seen this one before, “…one that lives on the labors of others…” although one might offer than a number of commentators on the so-called Drone Wars may be doing this.

The author asks why AQ continues to grow if this campaign has been so apparently successful – wasn’t it just not so long ago that victory in the war on terror was declared? Just as all the US and UK Embassy’s slammed the doors behind them as they knuckle down for yet another AQ-inspired assault? His answer? “…Faulty assumptions and a mistaken focus paired with a resilient, adaptive enemy…” I think that he is absolutely right and to these I would add reliance on resurgent but disproven ‘shock and awe‘ doctrine – we will so dazzle them with our technology that they can not fail to be overcome…yup…hasn’t worked for the last two decades and it’s not going to now…

Among the faulty assumptions are a demonstration of a total lack of grasp of military operations, culture and human factors – that, today, there are still people in power that believe that what work in one place will, without any supporting evidence work somewhere else: Yemen is not Pakistan is not Afghanistan is not Iraq. This is the same fundamental hubris error that the US made attempting to translate FM 3-24 from its successful implementation in Iraq to the total basket case that is Afghanistan (at any time).

Another is that there is some sort of subtle but vital distinction between launching strikes from an unmanned aircraft and launching them from a manned aircraft or a naval vessel or sharing the luff with a special operations team. Apart from avoiding the potential for inconvenient bodies to be displayed during News at 6, strikes from unmanned aircraft are really, as we all know deep down inside, just another form of national power employed in support of national objectives.

But…there’s always a but…might we assume that an inherent reluctance to be seen to put blood on the line by using drones further undermines national credibility especially in the absence of a declared or properly recognised or accepted conflict? Would the kinetic cross-border campaign against proponents of terror be more credible if it was conducted with manned resources i.e. to be specific, if human resources (a term I generally hate as aren’t resources things to be exploited?) aka nationals of the nation waging the campaign were actually doing the border crossing bit and not, as in the case of unmanned aircraft strikes, sitting back in the relative safety and comfort of an undisclosed top-secret location?

Although his model was flawed and needs further development, David Kilcullen was right – the accidental guerrilla not only exists but is created by precisely this sort of heavy-handed, poorly-formulated use of force. As the author of the article points out, the current campaign in Yemen is focusing on individuals and not on countering or neutralising the actual network in which they exist: control the water and the fish are yours for the taking…continue to play a short game and you are destined to play the short game forever – sort of like Happy Gilmore Hell…The article concludes:

The United States can do a lot of good in Yemen, but it can also do a lot of harm. And right now it is playing a dangerous game, firing missiles at targets in the hopes that it can kill enough men to keep AQAP from plotting, planning, and launching an attack from Yemen. After this terrorism alert that has sent America’s entire diplomatic and intelligence operatives in nearly two dozen countries scrambling, it may be time to rethink that approach in favor of a strategy that’s more sustainable — and more sensible too.

When you consider this statement – which I totally agree with – you might see the fundamental flaw (and irony) of a campaign strategy that employs shock and awe to conduct attrition warfare. As I recall, after the bloodbaths of WW1 and its sequel, we decided that we could do this war-fighting thing a lot smarter and developed concepts of manouevrism and asymmetry. It looks like the only ones that read all those books were the bad guys…


21st Century Military Operations

Martin Dransfield also presented at Massey on his return from commanding the New Zealand PRT in Bamiyan Province in Afghanistan in 2010. That was an insightful perspective into aspects of that operation well beyond what has been reported int he media and I am sure that this one will be equally enlightening…

Martin Dransfield 21st Century Operations

Centre for Defence and Security Studies Public Lecture

Colonel Martin Dransfield’s career has spanned five decades and has included tours to Northern Ireland and to the divided city of Berlin during the 1980’s, the Sinai as part of the Multinational Force and Observers mission, Timor as the second New Zealand Battalion’s Commanding Officer in 2000, and Afghanistan as the Commander of New Zealand’s Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan during 2009 and 2010. He has just returned from a two year tour as the United Nations Chief Military Liaison Officer in Timor Leste, which culminated with the United Nations successfully closing down the mission in December 2012.

Based on these experiences he is well qualified to comment on today’s operational environment. Moreover, as New Zealand ends its missions to Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan, Colonel Dransfield’s personal observations provide a useful insight into Joint, Multinational and United Nations approaches to operations. He will share these thoughts during a forum in Massey on 15 May 2013.

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…


Raurimu 020

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…

Raurimu driveway Aug 04 - 1

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…

Opinion: Training for war is not a precise science

…and Josh wrote another op-ed piece…


Training for war is not a precise science.  By its very nature war is imprecise and unpredictable.  To make matters worse there tends to be an opponent who, in the words of American General George Patton, is trying his hardest to make you die for your country rather than him. Training therefore has to be relevant, intensive and invariably adaptive.

War since 9/11 has become increasingly characterised as being irregular in nature. Modern war has become less about the battles between states and their armies and more about defeating violent non-state groups. Terms and descriptions like peacekeeping missions or stability operations are often an attempt to re-categorise what are actually wars.

As military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz noted,  “The first, the supreme, most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish the kind of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its true nature.”

While the term war may sit uncomfortably with many citizens, the fact is when bullets and bombs start to fly your way those on the front line have more regard for their survival than concerns for what their mission has been labelled.

The recent media reports about the training and the attitude of New Zealand forces deploying to Afghanistan raises a number of important issues. The fact that a soldier has raised concerns while observing the training of a contingent is actually a good thing. That is exactly the purpose of observing and making expert judgment on training for the contemporary warfare environment.

No doubt there have been training concerns in the past and there will be more in the future. Some may have missed the point that such observations are designed to make the team better, not worse. The response so far has been to put the comments into a wider context of training for Afghanistan, and rightfully so. What will be interesting however, is to see if any follow up by the Defence Force focuses on the message or the messenger.

Training in the military is a system. Those who present themselves for deployment are at the pinnacle of that system. The full suite of training courses and on the job experience they have previously undertaken is ultimately designed for them to deploy and succeed on operations. If things manifest as problems during the final training for operations it is sometimes difficult to recognise or even isolate where in the total system it may have gone astray. 

Attitude is acknowledged as affecting performance. A positive attitude tends to increase performance while a negative attitude can reduce it. Inextricably linked to attitude is confidence. Preparing for a military deployment requires confidence in those being deployed, confidence in the leadership of those deploying, confidence in those charged with providing the training and confidence in the training system itself.

Accepting that war is imprecise, and more irregular these days, it is hardly surprising that the training and attitude for today’s military forces is under immense and constant pressure. Ideally, the force will depart for their mission confident that they are well prepared. To assume that they are ready for anything however, discounts the actuality of unpredictability. There is always a very fine line between sureness and an hubristic approach. 

Having a winning, positive attitude, and implicit trust and conviction in your comrades and the training you have received are what define the profession of arms. While it is good to hear that the training is going well, it is not always a bad thing to hear that it is not. 

Josh Wineera is a teaching fellow at Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies and is planning to teach a new 200-level paper “Irregular Warfare”in the second semester.

Indicative of the articles referred to above are these:

Training for Army fighters blasted

Officer was ‘too aggressive’

Unfortunately, today’s media has of course selected deliberately inflammatory headlines without either considering or even probably understanding the core underlying issues…

The people that really count

What’s always puzzled me is that for all the bluster about these being population-centric wars, very few American reporters feel comfortable living with the people or listening to what they have to say.

These words were part of a comment by Carl Prine in response to the link posted up by Doctrine Man this morning  U.S. military to pass oversight of embedded reporters to Afghan security forces . My care factor over the subject of the article is fairly low – I think the whole embedded media idea is in need for a fairly severe overhaul to ensure that reporting is fair and truthful and that

a. isn’t simply a clumsy extension of the campaign information operations plan, and

b. protects the hosts from Mikey Yawn ‘biting the hands that fed them‘ or Paula Broadwell ‘I have ideas above my station‘ style embarrassments…

However, on the subject of population-centricity…


…the Hector’s Dolphin population is much like the populations of in COIN theatres, places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Malaya, France, etc. Like those populations, the poor old Hector’s Dolphin can do what it likes to ensure the survival of its way of life but all that is largely meaningless without the support of the population(s) supporting the intervention/COIN campaign

In fact, when you think about it, much the same applies to the insurgent forces as well…without the support of the populations caring, caring nations like North Vietnam, Great Britain, Iran or Pakistan (yes, there will be a test later on to match up supporters with supported!), many, and most, insurgent campaigns would fade away like a five year old’s ice cream in the sun…and conversely, with the support of the COIN/intervention force domestic population, the same will occur. Perhaps, the melted ice cream could become the 21st Century version of the classic COIN inkspot, one that transforms rapidly into a sticky spot of the map that just attracts flies?

ImageSo, when we talk about population-centric warfare, we are not referring to the population of the nation, province or other area where the insurgency is physically occurring – or we shouldn’t be if we have a good handle on this COIN thing – but instead we should be referring to the populations that support their nation’s participation in any given COIN campaign. When these populations stop caring, either by simply allowing apathy to run its course, or by actively opposing support, that nation’s effective contribution to the campaign is doomed…

My Little Life: Live and Learn

My Little Life: Live and Learn.

In the link above, Mama M is angsting about apologies from two perspectives: one of considering that she had been over the top in criticising five day a week kindy, and another of educating her daughter on why an apology needs to be sincere and not just a compliance √.

Sometimes the bigger lessons of an apology are that little things that we can do may have longer and more lasting effects that we ever thought…


A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stamp on it and really mess it up but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty is was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bully’s another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home. Pass it on or better yet, if you’re a parent or a teacher, do it with your child/children.

Kinda trite but totally on the money, a mistake once made, deliberately or as an accident, be it an act of ommission or commission, can never be fully recalled and there will always be a slight edge where the wound once lay…Here’s an example of a good apology that I stumbled across the other night while considering this subject. Although we live rurally I’m no farmer (not one little bit) and so was scanning the pages of Straight Furrow for any potential useful bits of kit and equipment (aka farmer porn!)…

It’s been an awkward year for me, one of lost friends and shifting principles. I began the year as the dairy Farmers’ friend, saying they were doing all they could to clean up waterways.

I reeled off a list of on-farm clean-up actions they were taking to keep waterways clean. I quoted figures from the most recent report of the Clean Streams Accord, among them that casttle were fenced off from waterways on 84 percent of farms.

Then I found this figure was wrong.

Naively, perhaps, I did not realise that the accord relies on farmers honesty to report their own progress towards the agreement’s targets.

When the Primary Industries Ministry finally, after eight years, got round to checking for itself, its audit found a descrepancy. Only 42 percent of farms had fenced their waterways.

It was quite a shock. I beghan to think about the arguments from the Manawatu-Whanganui regional council for their prescriptive One Plan – that they’d had enough of asking farmers nicely to chnage their ways. They hadn’t listened and now it was tiem to force them to act.

After all, regulations had been needed to stop them pouring cowshed effluent into rivers some years earlier – they hadn’t voluntarily stopped that.

So, in March, just as the Land and Water Forum was meeting (unbeknownst to me), I changed my tune. I said:

“it’s seems obvious that we have too many cows in the most sensitive parts of the country – sandy, shingly, free-draining areas laced with streams, close to groundwater and big recreational rivers.

“and I think there’s no doubt that these cows are the main source of the excessive nutrients that are polluting rivers and lakes in these regions. The simple solution is to regulate a reduction in cow numbers.”

I suddenly found I had lost some of my old friends but gained a lot of new friends – all of the Green persuasion.

This was awkward. I’d railed against these people for years and here they were welcoming me as a new ally. I didn’t see it that way – still don’t. I’m not on their side. There’s much they say that I dodnot agree with.

The only side I’m on is that of you, my friend, the reader, who has the right to be as fully informed as possible about this important debate. And that’s been my intention all along. As the information – the science, expert views, farmers’ experience and other facts – has come to light I have given it to you. 

~ Over The Fence, Jon Morgan, Straight Furrow, Jan 22, 2013.

An example of a poor apology might be “Hey, Saddam, no WMD, huh? Our bad…” or “Maybe we could’ve thought this Arab Spring thing through a bit more…

  • It’s never too late to apologise but let’s be straight about it…sooner is better than later, and both a preferable to carry on as you’ve always done…how might things be different if:
  • People realised that when you have a hammer all you look for is nails and thus it took so long for common sense to break out in the prosecution of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan?
  • The jet heads weren’t in control and the A-10 production line was not scrapped in favour of more fast jets – the same fast jets that are desperately seeking work..?
  • Someone said “F-35!! Enough already!!! Let’s can it!”