Training the Iraqi Army: The Sequel

Manawatu Standard 1 Jul 14

A sequel often fails to live up to the success of the original movie. A rehashed storyline, tired characters and predictable dialogue often make for painful viewing. Some things are simply best left as they are.

So what then to make of the recent announcement by U.S. President Barak Obama to send some 300 military advisors to help train the Iraqi Army to defeat the forces of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Certainly the light footprint, rather than deploying tens of thousands of American combat troops, represents a more pragmatic approach from a nation still battle-weary from Afghanistan and Iraq Part 1 (though some could argue this new commitment is Part 3 when considering the Gulf War of 1990-1991). During the past seven days many western media and security experts have had to resort to hourly news cycles, such is the speed of this fast-moving crisis.

While there is no stated intention for U.S. troops to engage in combat, the rapid advances by Islamic militants and the chaotic environment of this intensified and new insurgency may, in some circumstances, make that very difficult. No doubt once on the ground the advisors will be careful to keep out of the battle but as all veterans know, when you’re caught in a fire-fight everybody fights.

Within the United States, there are furious accusations and blame concerning the training and resources dedicated to raising the Iraqi Army. As reported in the New York Times, “training the Iraqi Army and other security forces was a seminal mission for United States forces before the last American troops left in 2011”. $25 billion has been spent training and equipping Iraq’s security forces, according to a report by the special inspector general on Iraq.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and Lieutenant General James Dubik, both former senior U.S. commanders who served in Iraq, defend the training of the local security forces despite the recent losses. Blame appears to be directed at Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s, with claims of purging some of the most talented commanders and using the military to target political rivals. Dubik is reported to have panned the political interference of the military, simply stating “they are crumbling”.

Questions will now be asked of the training of foreign security forces and undoubtedly the preparation of the trainers themselves. Was cultural awareness and language proficiency sufficient to teach indigenous forces? Did it matter that ones teaching style might be different to the learners learning style, especially if the skills such as firing a rifle are more akin to rote learning? Certainly ‘mechanical’ skills are taught quite quickly, and remaining competent is more about repetition than critical thinking.

But, what then of developing such things as morale, esprit de corps, and defending both the state and the individuals of the state – regardless of ethnicity? What about ingraining an understanding of the rule of law and subordination of the security force to its civilian leaders? Leaders, that scholar Marina Ottaway reasons “should not try to impose common identities on deeply divided peoples but to organise a state that can administer their territories and allow people to live together despite differences”.When conditions such as these are met, meaningful reform and increased and enduring capability of the indigenous security sector has a chance for success.

Ironically, many commentators seem to have forgotten Obama’s speech at the West Point Military Academy just five weeks ago. “I am calling on Congress to support a new counterterrorism partnership fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity and facilitate partner countries on the front lines”, said the President. His speech was either prescient or coincidental. Irrespective, from a foreign policy standpoint, the training of foreign security forces will be a long-term objective. American historians will no doubt hear echoes of President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech at West Point, “In the years ahead, some of you will serve as advisors to foreign missions or even to foreign governments”. Kennedy further impressed on his audience the need to understand the utility of military power and also the limits of military power.

The intervention of American advisors, even in concert with airstrikes requested by the government of Iraq, will not bring closure to this current crisis. For the U.S. or even the U.N. the dilemma remains familiar. Do something, which could turn out to be counter-productive, or do nothing which might seem counter intuitive. Regardless, as the intervention of advisors has already occurred the focus must be on helping arrest the threat of total civil war and establishing the necessary space for political dialogue, negotiation and ultimately reform.

If this is the outcome achieved, then perhaps this whole situation is not so much a sequel but rather an epilogue that is desperately needed by all the people of Iraq.

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Josh Wineera is a former irregular warfare lecturer with Massey University. He is a PhD candidate with the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago. His doctoral research is on training foreign security forces. 


Wear sunscreen…

 

…and other handy things to know…

Yes, winter has finally hit the Central Plateau…and with it, the usual outbreak of idiots…

Handy tip #1. Snow is wet, hard and cold. Just because it is sunny, does not mean it is warm. Dress appropriately and, yes, that does include wearing sunscreen…

Handy tip #2. Your big 4WD does not make you immune from the laws of physics, or the road.

Sub-tip 1 to #2: when you crest a hill on the ice-covered road and you see the flashers on the Highway Patrol car at a breakdown, don’t hit your brakes. Score SH47 3, 4WD idiots 0.

Sub-tip 2 to #2: Chains are not equal to 4WD, nor do they make you a world-class rally driver. If you are not used to driving on ice, get the bus. If you miss the bus, get out of bed earlier.

Sub-tip 3 to #2: The absence of signs saying ‘slow down’ does not equal a defence when you are in the ditch. Use of the defence may justifiably be taken as provocation by the guy you hit on your way into the ditch.

Handy tip #3. Your quad headlights that can blind a possum at five kilometres will not melt ice on the road. Bridges and shaded corners may be treacherously slippery all day – drive appropriately.

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DSCF8580 DSCF8579 Cautionary tales and idiots aside, heavy snow fall often sucks all the moisture out of the air and makes for beautiful days…The lower level tracks in the Park are all accessible and walkable but the higher levels of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing remain restricted to those with equipment AND experience above the snow line – those without should seriously consider signing up with one of the guided tours because a. it is safer, b. the Crossing in winter is a totally different experience to the Crossing in summer, and c. it is an experience not to be missed.DSCF8583DSCF8584DSCF8585 DSCF8586

More nuts

Aside

My latest spin on the peanut chicken rice recipe ..there was some chicken cheap at the supermarket so o grabbed two packs. As normal, nothing is as good as it seems, and each pack was only 3-4 stripped skeletons…as an experiment I made up the peanut rice mix as above and then dropped the chicken into it….
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There wasn’t enough meat on each bird to make it worth removing before cooking but I was hoping that it would loosen up as it cooked and that I would be able to scrap some off…
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That worked out nicely and in addition to contributing to the stock, each contributed a bit of meat that was easy enough to scrape off the cooked skeleton…

All frozen and placed in the freezer for a lazy cooking day…

Note: this was originally written as a comment for the thread linked at the top of the post but Google decided that it didn’t like the WordPress URL so this was the alternative to save the text until Goggle got its knickers untwisted…since it became a post in its own right it might as well stay one…

The Story of O



OK, OK, minds out of the gutter…the WordPress Daily Prompt a couple of days ago was “You just inherited $1,000,000 from an aunt you didn’t even know existed. What’s the first thing you buy (or otherwise use the money for)?

Well, even though that sounds like a whole lot of money, these days it’s probably not as life-changing as it may sound…It would really help at the moment but for the most part, I’m thinking small for my top three…

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This is my PC keyboard – the camera is a harsh mistress and (in theory) does not lie but it isn’t really as dusty as it would appear here – it has given long and trusty service and I have finally started to wear through the markings of some of the keys…N was the first to go, followed by O and then I; T and A will most likely be next…A clever cryptologist who cares about such things might be able to develop some stunning insights into my writing patterns from this wear pattern…or maybe these keys just weren’t as well-manufactured as the rest…who knows?

What this means though is that the number of unmarked keys is directly proportional to the number of typos in my work – if I am not careful. And as careful as I am – I still have that difficult transposition habit between ‘now’ and ‘not’ (just play around with that for s second and you’ll see the potential) – the occasional error still slips through and the one that has been slipping through the most is substituting O for I…so a million dollars would mean a new keyboard and the end of the subliminal recounting of the Story of ‘O’…

Second

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I would give these guys a full makeover and invest in a pallet of Purina One food for them. I won a year’s supply of this at the end of last year in the annual Purina contest; even though even Purina admit that it’s a year’s supply for a much smaller dog, this has been much appreciated while times have been a little tight, and has been, literally, a lifesaver for Kirk. At the end of last year, he was getting very sore and stiff around his hips, getting up off his mat was a real strain for him, and I was having to seriously consider that one-way trip to the vet’s.

In less than four week’s after going onto the Purina One food, all stiffness and pain had disappeared and now, almost six months later, he has only indicated pain in his hips once and that was after his older sister shoved him into a post when they were playing (older siblings…it’s so good to be one!!!). It don’t really get into 100% product endorsements but this has made a massive difference to Kirk’s quality of life and thus my own. It is not that much more expensive but in this rural area, the larger more economic bags are hard to find.

Third

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There wasn’t a door here on Friday morning…

I would get someone in to finish the bathroom. It probably would have been done already if this year had not presented its unique blend of cash flow challenges. The electrician came in on Friday to reposition the light switch that had been hanging down from the centre of the ceiling since we pulled out the partition that enclosed the second shower. That turned into removing the wall between the shower and the bathroom…progress of a sort. The ultimate plan is to replace the current windows with glass (double-glazed) down to the floor so that one can sit in the bath and gaze out at the scenic splendour outdoors…once there’s some minor relocation of the clothesline and some ugly scrubby stuff…

PS Just saw the trailer…I’d go and see this in 3D as well…

Gone with the Windfall | The Daily Post.

Room | The Daily Post

The Daily Post: Room

Like a few other English words, Room means two contradictory things. It can be the four walls that enclose us, giving us shelter and comfort but also limiting our movement. It’s also the limitless space into which we can wander and which we can fill — or try to (think about that expression, “room to grow”).

In this week’s photo challenge, share your take on the idea of room — it could be an actual room in your house, a favorite gallery in your local museum, a cubicle at work. You could also take this challenge in a more abstract direction, and show us where you feel like you have room — or lack it.

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A tidy room…

Room tidy before

…and, hmmmm…

Kirk the Jack 003

…and this guy thinks he needs more room…

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…but outside he has all this to play in…

Scale Model Expo 2014

The last Scale Model Expo in Wellington was in 2011. It’s a Biennial event i.e. once every two years, but was slipped until this year to re-align it with its traditional April time slot.Even with this extended period between shows, I still had nothing finished!! In my defence though, I would like to claim points for consistency…

I overnighted in Palmerston North and set off at zero dark thirty on the Saturday morning for Wellington. It’s only about a 90 minute drive but I was catching up with friends on the way…Even then, I still arrived in Upper Hutt (a suburb of Wellington) an easy hour before the show opened. I scored a coup here as my aimless wandering while I waited for the doors to open took me into the local Noel Leemings where they had 4 terabyte hard drives for almost half price…snapped one of them up immediately for the enhanced home theatre project!!!

This year was the first time that the show has been in Upper Hutt. In previous years it has been in either Lower Hutt or the Wellington CBD. I was impressed with the new venue. It is much larger than the old one in Upper Hutt, is right in the middle of town and has a great little cafe right beside the doors. My only minor gripe is that the Upper Hutt City Council could invest a little more in signage for parking as I was unable to find any parks for more than 120 minutes and parked a little further away in a side street. Once I got to the show, I learned that there is free parking and lots of it by the train station about two minutes walk away…still, a little walking never hurt any one…BTW, the same council could also invest a little more in rubbish bins around the CDB as it is quite a trek to find one to dump (in a legal manner) one coffee cup and sandwich wrappings…

The show was well-attended and well supported…some material was repeated from previous years (not necessarily a bad thing) but there was a lot of new build work as well…below is a random selection of images from the first day of the Show…unfortunately I was unable to stay for the second day as much as I may have wanted to. I have loaded more pictures into Photobucket for anyone who may wish to see more…

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A Kiwi take on Noah’s Ark…

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A whiffed (What-iffed) exercise in imagination…

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The Juniors section – this club has been a strong supporter of junior modellers for years…

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The Rex Crawford Collection

Rex Crawford was a long-standing and very active member of the Scale Models Wellington club. His ambition was to build one of every aircraft ever operated by the Royal Air Force – as you can see here, he came very close to it. When he passed away a couple of years ago, there was a very real risk that his collection may have been lost however a collaborative effort by the club with Rex’s family has seen this collection preserved and placed in storage in Wellington.

Personally, I would like to see this collection eventually displayed in the RNZAF Museum in Wigram. While the RNZAF may not have operated nearly as many aircraft types as the RAF, the RAF remains the air force that we most closely identify with. In addition, not only have many Kiwis over the decades operated these aircraft types while serving in the RAF but there are also now many former members of the RAF now serving in New Zealand that did fly some of the later types (and I am including the Vulcan and Victor here as ‘later types’).

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The large scale train set-up always attracts many viewers…

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Wingnut Models are Sir Peter Jackson’s very own model company and they specialise in a range of exceptionally high quality models of WW1 aircraft in 1/32 scale. The first day of this year’s show they unveiled their latest release, the Roland C.II, an aircraft type that will have bring back fond memories for many modellers of the old Airfix 1/72 Roland that dates back to some time in the 1960s…DSCF8229

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Of course, the normal purveyors of temptation were there and I felt somewhat compelled to support local businesses.

When I left Upper Hutt in 2004, it was in a state of decline. A decade later it has managed to reinvent itself: it now has a flourishing town centre and is a great little life support centre for those living and working up the top end of the Hutt Valley.

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Golden Cake in a Cup

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A couple of months back, I kicked off my 30 Cake in a Cup Challenge. The challenge I am finding is that I am not really that much of a dessert person at the moment and so have not been feeling that driven to try more cake in a cup recipes. A couple of nights ago, though, I did have an attack of the munchies quite late in the evening.

I’m not really a big chocolatey person but I do a mean butterscotch pudding when cooking the ‘normal’ way: I thought then that I would experiment with the chocolate cake on a cup by swapping out the cocoa for a tablespoon of golden syrup for a butterscotch cake in a cup dessert.

It really was that simple, and with all the ingredients mixed together, looked like this.

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I thought that I might have to teak the amount of syrup but a single tablespoon was just right. There was a bit of leakage but I have long since learned my lesson about using a ‘just in case’ plate to prevent messing the microwave tray. Some thing in the dynamic has changed a little as this variation does not stay risen as well as the chocolate version…I may add a smidgen of baking powder next time. Thinking on it, next time I may also reduce the syrup content just a little too…

My plan was to have a third picture showing the golden cylinder plated nicely with a curl of ice cream. I keep the ice cream in the freezer in the garage so that it is not as accessible in the event of a munchie attack but when I went out the scoop and a plate, I found that the freezer was so cold that the ice cream was frozen solid, like, rock solid and that was the end of that plan and I didn’t even have any cream to pour over instead…I’m note sure what happened with the freezer: the controller is at floor level so possibly it has been knocked when I have been working in the garage…

But not too worry…it is a nice variation of the chocolate cake in a cup theme…

Update 3 June 2014

I had an attack of the munchies later on Sunday night and made this again. This time I did a straight swap cocoa for syrup, and also added a dash of baking powder. One of these changes must have made the difference because it rose a lot better that my earlier attempts, enough that I will probably use a bigger cup next time…

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Chilly…

…and I don’t mean the magic spice that overcomes all food preparation shortcomings…

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I was driving back from town yesterday and could not help but notice that both Ngauruhoe and Tongariro had had some decent dumps of snow over the last two days…couldn’t tell you about Ruapehu because that is under that big mass of cloud where the fence line meets the skyline…DSCF8391

DSCF8390Compare Ngauruhoe with the shot I took of it at sunset a couple of posts ago...

The temperature dumped as soon as the sun disappeared…it was a beautifully clear and starry night…so still and so bloody cold…down to 0 at midnight and -2 at first light with a good frost…

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The sun is dealing to the frost already and it will be a ripper day til the sun goes down…I think we will get snow here as soon as we have a cloudy night…it’s been trying the last couple of days…

It’s safe to say that winter is here so if you are visiitng up this way, think about putting some warm clothes, maybe even a sleeping back in the car, with some sensible footwear, gloves and a warm hat…just on case…it’s this time of year when drivers are still in summer daze and don’t think of shady corners and the risks therein. Just like the new Road Safety ad, not matter how good a driver you may be, it might be the other guy that makes the mistake that gets YOU…take care out there…

Why Lessons Learned Programmes Don’t Work

Budgetary battles are raging across the US Department of Defence and every service and agency desperately rounds its soapboxes, sacred idols and hobby-horses into a defense circle…it’s a desperate, no holds barred struggle for the survival of the most precious as opposed perhaps to the most needed. Unsurprisingly, this results in a steady dribble of pro/con article on the various issues or perceived issues. This one struck a chord as the five stated reasons resounded from my years in the lesson learned field…you’ll need to read the artcile itself to see that author’s take on such ‘initiatives’…

Five Reasons to Boycott the Air Force’s Savings Initiative : John Q. Public.

1. Your Time is Too Important.  The lessons learned programme may be more form than function i.e. regardless of best intentions, hopes, dreams and aspirations, it does not have a clear and effective method of initiating and embedding the behavioural change that heralds the ‘lesson learned. In this is the case and sadly, so many of them and other ‘continuous improvement’ programmes are, then your time may be better spent contributing to the organisation in another way, possibly as simple as just doing your day job to the best of your ability, and fostering a local climate for change in improvement around your immediate work area.

2. Your Participation Will Harm the Air Force’s Credibility. Or whichever organisation you represent…there are few things worse for an organisations credibility than a broadly and publicly promoted programme that visibly does not work…”What? you can’t improve your own improvement programme..?

3. The Program Enables a False Impression. An improvement initiative by its very existence promotes a perception that things must improve. Unless, however, the lessons learned programme is well-designed, well-implemented and well-lead, it is almost always doomed to fail. Once again, some time more would be done to improve the organisation if local change was encouraged and fostered – it is only very rarely that a large scale programme does not result in cookie cutter ‘solutions’ that are inflicted across an organisation and while maybe fixing one problem, create ten more.

4. The Initiative Is Itself Wasteful.  Absolutely and more so if it includes an incentive programme where staff are or may be rewarded for offering suggestions under the guise of initiatives and innovations. Without a good system and excellent leadership, the great risk is that staff will fixate on the reward and dedicate more and more time to dreaming up innovations than just doing their job and resolving issues when they encounter them. Moreover, just because something is called an initiative, does not mean that it is: in fact, the more strident the initiative narrative, the less likely the programme is to be innovative and more likely it is to be just another bureaucratically-inflicted drag-producing waste of time and resources.

5. There’s no reason to associate oneself needlessly with failure. Yes, sad but true. Despite all the good intentions, if the programme is tainted – and let’s face it, most improvement initiatives are even before the ink on the initiating directive dries – then why flog a dead horse or allow it to undermine by association those things that do work.

Don’t get me wrong…I am dedicated to lessons learned concepts and practices (I hope so after all these years!)  however initiating and embedding change in even a small organisation is not a simple thing and nowhere as simple as the loudest advocates might, in their simplistic ignorance, have us believe. Like any programme seeking to change a status quo, it must first understand the environment in which it will be conducted, who the people are (outside of the Borg, there is rarely any single collective group of ‘the people’), what shapes and influences them, what their hopes, dreams and aspirations are, and it must really understand how the organisation actually works (as opposed to what has been chiselled into process and procedure files.

So, when the innovation initiative evangelists coming knockin’, just think carefully about what they are really selling…