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…

The Princess Leia Doctrine

(c) 2011 Graham Art Productions

Doctrine Man!’s Facebook page this morning links to a Politico article Robert Gates’s Final Act: Slow Afghan Drawdown

As his final act before leaving the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is working to build support for what he is calling a “modest” drawdown in Afghanistan, even though a war-weary Capitol Hill wants more.

Gates, who retires June 30, is hoping that his 12th and final trip to Afghanistan will help steer the Washington debate subtly away from the number of troops that will come home next month — a figure that is almost certain to disappoint the growing number of Washington critics of the war.

I’m a big fan of Doctrine Man! – and not just because he is a ‘doctrine’ guy (clearly some very very bad karma in a previous life!!) – his ‘life on the staff’ cartoons are great,and  his FB output is not only prolific, but also spurs robust debate. Some of the comments on the Gates’ article include:

 I don’t think we are going to get a choice here. Politically these wars have been milked to death, and I think regular old Americans are actually pushing this. A collective “sick and tired of war” let’s bring them home has settled in. I remain on the fence as to whether it is good or not, but I count myself in the “sick and tired of war”. You know some idiot will start spouting about win/loss war, but we all know it’s just ego. Military did their job, state department failed miserably.

With other examples of leaders making some very negative comments on their way out the door, this is one that can be seen as very consistent with the profile of the man (who, by the way, warned against Libyan intervention). Good stuff.

 However brilliant one might think Gates is, you never hear any of this drawdown talk discussed in the same context with objectives. Either we are saying objectives are unachievable and we drawdown anyway, or we are drawing down for the pure political gain the appearance gives. Either way, the American people need to hear specifically what we are trying to achieve, in clear, unambiguous terms.

Of course, that comes on the heels of being asked (by a planner) what the difference was between tasks and objectives. For the third or fourth time. If deep-seated rage is a symptom of PTSD, then DM probably needs to get checked out.

It would help me be a little more positive about staying if I knew in measurable terms (a) what the desired end-state is, (b) how much that’s likely to cost in death, injury, and treasure, (c) how long it’s likely to take, and (d) where the money is going to come from.

To those who say “this is war, we can’t tell you these things,” I say that we do these kinds of multi-variable plans all the time in the civilian economy; now go back and get us some answers.

Failing those sorts of answers, I’d rather see us stick to the drawdown plan we have — or accelerate it. I don’t want to see one more American service member or NGO person come home in a box or on a gurney than is absolutely necessary and the thing that haunts me most is the memory of those who died in my war while Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were arguing the merits of round table vs. square table in Paris.

Re tasks and objectives, whatever happen to the Princess Leia doctrine “When you broke in here, did you have a plan for getting out?”

The last comment is, of course, mine…I have been a staunch proponent of the Leia doctrine for years and wonder  if, with the fall of Saigon only two years previous to the release of Star Wars, George Lucas was actually slipping in some very insightful commentary on recent history…some ammunition for pub trivia: Saigon fell on April 30 1975, Star Wars was released on an unsuspecting world on May 25, 1977.  His 1973 American Graffitti has clear parallels today of a nation in war but possibly not at war in Vietnam, as perhaps it is today with Afghanistan…

In conducting my typically superficial research for this article (Google is our friend, as is Wikipedia) I was caught by this paragraph from the Wikipedia item on the Fall of Saigon…

Among Vietnamese refugees in the United States and in many other countries, the week of April 30 is referred to as Black April and is used as a time of commemoration of the fall of Saigon. The event is approached from different perspectives, with arguments that the date was a sign of American abandonment, or as a memorial of the war and mass exodus as a whole.

No one can argue that South Vietnam was abandoned in 1975 but it is unfair and inaccurate to label this as solely ‘American abandonment‘ . America was not the only nation involved in Vietnam, nor the only one that walked away…let’s not forget that the only nation that was there to the very end was America…everyone else had just quietly drifted away…With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the application of US air power (like anyone else was going to ante up) in 1975 would only have prolonged the pain of and for Vietnam…

Abandonment is also the word that springs to mind when discussing drawdowns in Afghanistan…the true failure in Afghanistan has not been one of tactics or capability but quite simply one of having no clear idea what it’s all about. If there is only one lesson we learn from a decade (come November this year) in a nation that NO ONE have ever managed to pacify over millennia, it surely must be the Leia Doctrine…

Before you go in, have a plan for getting out.

This is such a fundamental of life, NOT just the military…as any teenage boy in his girlfriend’s room knows where he hears her father’s footsteps outside the door…how can it be that it has been purged from our doctrine and our thinking for so long? Of conflicts since the end of WW2, the 1982 Falklands War and DESERT SHIELD/ STORM in 1991 are the only two that I can remember  where the strategic objectives were clearly stated, adhered to and achieved…

And while contemporary planning doctrine may prattle on about metrics and measureables, it rarely if ever links these to decision points and from there to exit strategies. During one of my irregular warfare engagements in this trip, we used an analogy of the campaign plan as a freeway and each off-ramp along the journey being both a decision point and a potential exit…depending upon how well a driver understands where they are going and why, they will consider off-ramps along the way and opt to drive off or stay the course…

It also just struck me that the freeway analogy also works quite well as an analogy for unilateral, alliance and coalition warfare:

When you are the only driver on the freeway, it is quite easy to select your course, speed and direction.

When you are driving with habitual partners of which you normally only have a small number and who all generally sing off the same sheet of music, it’s much the same.

When you have a coalition, all driving with different national rules and customs, most if not all free to join and depart the coalition at will, and many for whom the use of indicators is totally alien, you have potential chaos, traffic jams and pile-ups..

That’s something I will explore further in another item…today’s takeaway is to promote and encourage adoption and application of the Leia Doctrine to hopefully avoid replays of this…

Never again?