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…

Sadness and gladness of the Last Post

anzac poppy 2016

This was an editorial in one of the national newspapers for Anzac Day 1997…I can’t find any notes I may have made identifying the paper or the author…

The Last Post always makes me cry. I can’t help it. There is something in those crisp clear notes ringing out in the sharp-edged air of ANZAC morning that takes my breath away. It sets up a curious chemical reaction in the soul, where sadness and gladness are fused together and one is lifted out of oneself and into the unending reverberations of history.

The bugler speaks to the dead – the “glorious” dead – inscribed on countless cenotaphs and roadside memorials from one end of New Zealand to another. Not that there is anything glorious about dying. In the paintings of our country’s battles, the death of young men, far from home, in agony and fear, is seldom portrayed with much accuracy. We spare ourselves the horrors of war – and rightly so. Veterans of the real thing seldom speak of what they have seen and heard lest their words conjure up again the screams, the blood, the shattered flesh, the cries of “Mother!”.

The Last Post speaks to the silence beyond death; the space in which we contemplate the meaning of the final “sacrifice”. The Last Post asks us to ask ourselves “What did these young men die for?”

When I was a little boy, I would spend my ANZAC Days drawing pictures of soldiers climbing up the rocky hillsides of the Dardanelles. And, over the vivid colours of the battle scenes, I would print in the laborious hand of the young: “For King and Country”.

I do not think that there are many today who would die for the House of Windsor. But, in the silent crowds of young New Zealanders – more every year – who join the old diggers on ANZAC morning, I sense a longing to serve, to sacrifice, to give something back to their country.

The generations of New Zealanders born after World War II have been spared what the United Nations charter calls “the scourge of war”. It is a mixed blessing. To be sure, we have never had to hold our friends in our arms and watch them die or receive a telegram informing us of the death of a loved one. But neither have we experienced the powerful sense of unity with which a nation at war is infused, not the bonds of comradeship forged when men and women from all walks of life are brought together and transformed into a  fighting force.

Most importantly, the post-war generations will never know what it feels like to play for history’s highest stakes – when the issues of ultimate significance hung in the balance.

I often ask myself: “Is political activism a substitute for war?” “What is it that we go on protest ‘marches’?” “Why do we seek out those moments of ‘confrontation’?” When we see that line of helmeted police officers, their long batons drawn; when we experience that lonely thrill of fear, that sudden rush of adrenalin, are we not, in our own way, playing soldiers?

People often ask me: “What’s wrong with today’s young people? Why aren’t they protesting like we did?” My answer is brutally simple: “Because of what we did” Our generation has reduced those “issues of ultimate significance ” – Roosevelt’s “four freedoms” (freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom from want, freedom from fear) down to just one: the freedom to buy and sell. Once a year, on ANZAC Day, we call forth the dead and invoke the myths that animate our nation. In the half-light of dawn, as the bugler draws out our tears and we “remember them”, remember the living also, and never forget that there are greater things to die for than a balance sheet.

And remembering other young soldiers in other wars…

To sugar tax or not to sugar tax…

stuff pick your drink

To sugar tax or not to sugar tax…is that the question..?

In a recent post, Masterchef judge Ray McVinnie supported the call for a tax on sugary drinks…

I couldn’t agree more with Niki Bezzant who in her Herald column this morning called for a tax on sugary drinks. Her petition is a great idea and the beginning of a social change movement to curb the processed food industry’s use of ingredients and technology that is simply bad for our biology.
The test for the harm such food does to humans is the fact that any population that abandons a traditional diet for one made up of western processed foods becomes sick and in the words of American chef, Alice Waters, dies a long slow death. She also says that there is no such thing as cheap food, you either pay now or pay later!
The processed food industry is in a similar position to the tobacco industry thirty years or so ago. No one could quite believe that smoking was harmful and industry resistance was strong. Think about attitudes to tobacco today.
As for worrying about the effect on low income people, this type of processed food is unnecessary, there is still lots of good food that people can afford, no matter your income.
But one thing that is never mentioned is cooking. Teaching people to cook is like giving a hungry person the fishing rod not the fish. It gives people power over their diet, teaches people about food and expands their food choices.
There is no point forbidding everything if you don’t give people an alternative. Once people know how to create their own food, the toxic products of the processed food industry become irrelevant because you don’t need them.
It also reinforces the important socialising effect of home cooked food because it is generally served at the shared table, the place where you learn to behave.
I am not advocating trying to turn the clock back as that is impossible and ridiculous, as are naive ideas like using other things to make food sweet.
Face it, any food that is sweet is made with sugar in some form or a chemical sweetener (stevia is perhaps an exception, but sweetness is still an addictive flavour wherever it comes from).
Well done Ms Bezzant, more please.

I think that Ray somewhat looses the plot about halfway through his post. He starts and finishes by applauding the call for a ‘sugar tax’ but wanders in between to advocating for better education in preparing food.

He compares the processed food industry today with the tobacco industry of thirty years ago but misses the connection that increasing the tax on tobacco has not been the big nudge to drive smokers to drop their habit. If anything, the biggest motivation for smokers to give up has been the banning of smoking in bars, especially in winter when the attractions of a smoke are outweighed by the unpleasantness of the weather.

Increasing the tax on tobacco has not caused a massive reduction in the numbers of smokers in New Zealand and it is unlikely that a tax on sugary drinks will drive any great improvement in national health statistics. Considering statistics on the consumption of tobacco and alcohol, it is more than likely that consumption will remain much the same.

It would be nice to think that an increase in the tax on sugary drinks might be accompanied by a reduction in the tax on fruit and vegetables. While I would personally support this, as I consume far more fresh fruit and vegetables than I do sugary drinks, I don’t think that it would create the desired effect: healthy people would get healthy, unhealthy people would continue with their unhealthy habits….just look at the smoking lobby or those who drink to excess and/or by habit…

Sugary drinks and fresh fruit and veg are chalk and cheese and cannot be managed in a tit for tat manner: those who prefer one over the other will continue to do so regardless of cost. Those less affluent will always find money for those perceived needs over the staples of life and wellness. Thus, faux comparisons like cauliflowers v Happy Meals do not help the cause for an effective information and education programme. Try buying your kids a head of cauli as a treat and see how far you get…everything has its place…

Two key truisms about taxes are that they are usually unfair to someone and people will always find a way around. It would be as effective to create a tax that targets those with an adverse BMI figure…

The body mass index (BMI) or Quetelet index is a value derived from the mass (weight) and height of an individual. The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, and is universally expressed in units of kg/m2, resulting from mass in kilograms and height in metres.

wiki bmi table

Source: Wikipedia

That way, would we not be targeting only those adversely affecting by an over-sugared diet? Of course we wouldn’t! Any tax-based attempt to change people’s habits is doomed to failure. Similarly we would require all couches to trigger a minor electrical shock every 30 minutes to ‘encourage’ their occupants to get up and do something. Do you think Dunedin would the only place in New Zealand where couch burning is a recognised sport..?

dunners couch burning

The key is not nanny state tax manipulation but, as Ray points out – kind of – information and education.Even with the best information and education programmes, though, we do need to accept that not everyone will get the message and climb aboard…we can only save those want to get aboard the lifeboat…

Don’t get me wrong…I am concerned about the average health of our people, to the extent that I have tagged this post under ‘countering irregular threats’: not only this is a greater threat to New Zealand than more commonly accepted irregular threats like terrorism or crime but the solutions (yes, plural!) also lie in similar approaches i.e. the changes necessary to create a positive effect will be drive by culture not by mandate or coercion…

Weight(less) | The Daily Post

This week, share a photo of something marked by its weight

Source: Weight(less) | The Daily Post

In 2011, I was working at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Just outside one set of the base gates, is the Air Force Armament Museum.

Just outside the Museum building, is (literally) the Mother OF All Bombs.

DSCF3842-001

The accompanying plaque really says it all…

DSCF3843

30 feet long…40.5 inches in diameter…21,600lbs…

Dear RNZAF, please note the second of the recommended delivery platforms…just open the door and tip it out…

Inside the Museum are many of its relatives, large and small, smart and not so smart…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Something wicked….

3500

A couple of days ago, a friend had what he called a rant on Facebook…

Religion is not to blame for all the world’s problems. If you believe that the eradication of religion will fix humankind then your faith is more misguided than those you believe you are better than.

Religion is not the problem. If you believe there is no God (or Gods), then people cannot be doing God’s will. Therefore their actions are their own, and they choose to commit atrocities. This would indicate that the behaviour is in their (or our?) nature and is not the fault of religion. It cannot be both fantasy and the font of all evil. People will always find excuses for their actions.

I get to mix with many religious groups of different faiths and denominations. The vast majority are communities of people who are interested in living their lives with generosity, selflessness and tolerance. They do this actively in their wider communities – actually practising being nice to people without trying to convert them. Sometimes they seem like the last bastion of selflessness in our materialistic, consumer, celebrity-focused society. Working with them is refreshing.

Religion is not the problem nor the solution. It just is. However there are some evil bastards who will use any tools at their disposal for power. They should be the targets of our wrath, not the constructs they seek to pervert for their own means.

And… rest.

Wherever you sit in the political spectrum, whatever deity or belief system you may or may not support, this is a pretty damn fine summary of the foe we face in the second decade of the 21st Century.

For almost two and a half decades, we have submitted to the myth that war can be precise and sterile, safe almost, despite all contemporary and historical evidence to the contrary.

That ‘Greatest Generation’ succeeded because they mobilised their nations to defeat evil…not 8-5, not Monday to Friday, not just those who cared or those who needed the work…defeating evil is not something that others do…

That more may have died in less publicised and less public locations takes nothing from the attacks in Paris nor does it count that Paris once committed an act of war against us…Paris now is exactly what it is…a deliberate goad to the West…some people should be careful what they wish for…something more wicked this way may come and it’ll be looking to settle some scores…

What happened in Paris last week was evil. Sponsored and spurred by a small group of ‘evil bastards’…who will not be swayed let alone defeated by Tricolour photo filters…nor even the red of spilled blood…only the cleansing blue-white fire of instant sunshine…

Does New Zealand’s legal system favour some ahead of the rest of us?

ICCWC15As I See It By Terry O’Neill.

Does New Zealand’s legal system favour some ahead of the rest of us?

2014 Junior World Cup promising rugby star Tevita Li (19) was caught drink-driving in Auckland last May. Last week the Blues-contracted player was discharged without conviction by Judge Gus Andree Wiltens as long as he paid $210, the costs to establish his blood alcohol level. Judge Wiltens took into account that Li completed The Right Track programme and alcohol counselling, and justified his decision because, “A conviction would prove to be a real impediment to what so far has been a stellar career. All indications are that you can go a long way in rugby.”

A conviction possibly would restrict Li’s international rugby travel, and if he pursued a career overseas, teams may overlook him because of that black mark against his name. After his rugby days a clean record would keep the door open for his intention to follow his father into a police career. Another Blues player, George Moala, recently found guilty of assault with intent to injure, appears for sentencing in May, and will apply for a discharge without conviction. Try telling an ordinary 19 year old club rugby player that’d be a fair deal.

Recently I commented on former Olympic triathlete Kris Gemmell. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Gemmell a 15 month ban after Drug-Free Sport NZ had appealed the NZ Sports Tribunal’s decision not to impose a sanction on him for missing a drug test in August, 2012. Last week the Tribunal cut his ban to 12 months stating his conduct would not be a violation under the new rules confirmed January 2015. Gemmell, basically vindicated, lost his International Triathlons Unions athletes’ committee role plus his position as its Global Head of Partnerships for the world triathlon series. He retired from international competition after the World Cup in 2012 but remained on the drug testing programme because he intended to involve himself in long distance racing.

Who had the self-righteous knife out at Drug-Free Sport NZ? Another graceless Tall Poppy blitz.

The Cricket World Cup kicks off next week amidst concerns for security during the tournament. If visitors seek easy access to NZ over the tournament period, visa-free entry is permitted provided an individual’s cricket interest is proved with, say, game tickets. This visa-free entry is primarily to allow ease of movement for cricket fans between NZ and Australia. Many “cricket supporters” from countries for which visas are usually required to enter NZ, have apparently used the “loophole” for easy entry. By last week 94 people had travelled here under the arrangement and others were prevented from boarding flights to NZ. Several Chinese passengers emphasised their intention to attend games and produced Cricket World Cup tickets as evidence but, ironically, those games were scheduled after their NZ departure dates.

And what a temptation to anyone “terroristically” inclined.

ENDS

Note: this version differs from that published in The North Otago Times.

Crisis in Syria and Iraq: All-in or all-out?

Manstan 231014

Josh Wineera is having a busy week…a successful engagement at the New Zealand Association for Training and Development Conference, followed by this op-ed for Fairfax. For me, a most refreshing change from the ‘usual suspect;’ domestic talking heads that are being trotted out to ‘comment’ on the developing situation in the Middle East. Read on…

To use the Texas Hold’em poker analogy, Islamic State (ISIS) is ‘all-in’ to seize the major cities on the Syrian-Turkish border as well as swathes of regional areas in western and central Iraq. The actions are clinical, calculated and surprisingly conventional. The approach is one of simple arithmetic and follows an important principle of war – mass, or more plainly ISIS has the numbers. Unlike poker however, the stakes are not casino chips but rather millions of innocent victims caught up in yet another cycle of Middle Eastern violence.

While the much-vaunted precision-guided munitions continue to be dropped by U.S.-led coalition aircraft, the unrelenting nature of ISIS ‘boots on the ground’ is the decisive factor. Attrition of its fighters is not a concern. Thousands are ready and better positioned to be ordered into the fray. To coin the phrase, ISIS is currently the side that is the fastest with the mostest and many battles throughout history have been won this way.

So, if the tactic is to seize and hold the likes of Kobani or Anbar province on the other front in Iraq, how then might this contribute to the ISIS strategy? First and foremost a narrative is likely being developed to expose the limits and ultimate failure of the ‘West’ to effectively support the likes of the Kurds and even the Government of Iraq. This is certainly being helped along with media commentators such as Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn asserting the ‘U.S. strategy is in tatters as ISIS marches on’.

Second, and more chilling, is the perception that there is no safe place in the region to escape the onslaught. While some fight, the vast majority living under threat of mortal danger are not soldiers nor capable of putting up meaningful resistance. Capitulation and being resigned to the fate that awaits them under a barbarous regime appears inevitable.

But even with air power and small contingents of international land forces can anything really be done to roll back ISIS? At one end of the spectrum there are those that still believe this is not a fight for the West. Continued intervention is not the answer they decry.

Taken further, supporters of Edward Luttwak’s ‘Give War a Chance’ proposition argue that sitting on the sidelines and waiting until all belligerents become exhausted is a better plan. Standing by while foes battle each other is one thing, however giving a free hand for systematic cruelty and genocide is quite a different argument.

On this issue, if widespread butchery and carnage is the trigger for international reaction then according to Canadian journalist Neil MacDonald intervention in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo is more warranted.”ISIS’s acolytes are just apprentices at atrocity compared to some in the Congo”.

The other end of the spectrum leads to an all-in approach by countries that have the tenacity and dedication to endure what would be another long and frustrating campaign. The 2014 all-in version should include the familiar political, economic and military assistance. The time frame for favourable conditions would need to be measured in years not months. So how will these be different, have better outcomes, than the 2003-2011 version applied in Iraq? Politically, positive change has already occurred with Haider al-Abadi confirmed as Iraq’s Prime Minister. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed al-Abadi’s formation of a new inclusive Government in Iraq.

Oversight of political reform is paramount to ensure balance and avoid marginalising the Sunni population in particular. Economically the impact of change will be less disruptive as Iraq’s southern oil fields maintain productivity and buttress the financial markets. Inter-Governmental Organisations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are not expected to have to significantly intervene.

Which leaves the lingering question of military assistance. Right now the prime means of international intervention is air strikes and combat advisors. At best these immediate efforts will help the Kurds and the Iraqi Government stem the ISIS advances. Wishful thinking might even result in a stalemate. There is no quick fix. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby has said “people need to understand we need a little strategic patience here…it is going to take a bit of time”.

While western governments continue to debate the merits and risks of deploying ground troops, a ready-made force is already being brought into action. A U.S. Government contract issued in August called for interested vendors to provide security assistance mentors and advisors. The private security community is naturally abuzz with new possibilities.

Eric Prince, founder of controversial security contractor Blackwater, has waded into the conversation. Calling the Iraqi Army inept after billions spent on training and equipping them, Prince suggests, “if the old Blackwater team were together, I have high confidence that a multi-brigade size unit of veteran American contractors or multinational force could be rapidly assembled and deployed to be the necessary ground combat team”. He goes on stating, “a competent professional force of volunteers would serve as the pointy end of the spear and would strengthen friendly but skittish indigenous forces”.

There is much irony in calling for private security companies to fill the void of trainers and mentors to the Iraqi security forces. A number still stand accused of delivering poor training last decade.

Whatever arrangements are put in place by international military forces or private security companies, the processes and methods of training Iraqi’s and even the Kurds must be transformed. Doing the same thing and expecting different results cannot be allowed to prevail. While a focus on technical skills is expected, installing a sense of duty and ingraining societal values to repulse the long-term intentions of ISIS will be essential.
What is clear is this is a poker hand that nobody except ISIS wants to play. Folding and forfeiting interest in the situation does not appear to be an option for those governments already committed. It’s time to ante up or move on. In the meantime millions across the region continue to bleed and live in fear.


Josh Wineera is a member of the New Zealand National Forum for the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific. He is also a PhD candidate with the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago. His doctoral research is on training foreign security forces.

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.

____________

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. 


Unmanned aircraft for Search and Rescue: not quite that simple, TV3…

(c) TV3 2014

(c) TV3 2014

There was an interesting item on Campbell Live last night about the use of ‘cutting edge’ unmanned aircraft for search and rescue applications (note the video in the linked article may not work for overseas readers). While it all looked very cool and exciting, it was a little misleading when it presented these small UAs as ‘…running on the spell of an oily rag…’, beyond the blindingly obvious fact that all the UA shown were electrically-powered and thus rather unimpressed by the proffered ‘oily rag’!

A reliable UA of any size is not cheap…your average Toyworld flying camera device may last for a while, but eventually you will end up with a large number of them scattered over the land- and seascapes. In addition they tend not to have the endurance necessary for any practical employment for search and rescue other than perhaps peeking into nearby spots not easily accessible by a person. You get what you pay for and if lives are relying on it, the device must be reliable and have sufficient endurance to be useful.

Unmanned aircraft systems are not really unmanned: it’s just that the flying component lacks seats in most cases. They all require at least one person to operate them and, for safe operation, generally at least two are required: one to control the aircraft, and others to observe the airspace for any other users and these may include not just other aircraft but para-surfers, kites and any of our feathered friends that may take offence at this noisy intruder into their domain. If operating at very low altitudes as shown in the video clip, the ground observers may also have to watch for vessels on the surface as well. Relying on volunteers is all very nice but UAS operators need to be trained and accredited to conduct any but the most limited flying.

The supporting infrastructure costs as well, not just in the cost of initial setup and acquisition but also in the ongoing maintenance including the regular replacement of critical components as they reach the end of their defined life. If supporting a SAR operation in a remote area, the unmanned aircraft system will probably need to include some form of vehicle, also not cheap.

All those video visors, laptops and viewing screens seen in the video clip? Again, not cheap.

It appeared that all the UA shown in the clip were flown directly from a controller similar to that used by the remote control aircraft community. While this may be practical for short (in time and distance) flights, this form of control for longer flights is inefficient and places a greater burden on the operator. All the flights shown in the clips appeared rather ad hoc and ‘zoomy’ i.e. all very cool looking but lacking the methodical search pattern essential in a for-real search and rescue operation. An effective autopilot allows the UA to maintain controlled flight and follow a methodical search pattern without constant operator input. Again, this necessary technology is not cheap; it’s not THAT expensive either but has to be reliable and also professionally integrated into the other systems that make up the UAS.

While I think that it is great that the national search and rescue community are researching the potential of unmanned aircraft for this role, and that there is a great potential for UA in this role, I also think that they would get a better return on their investment in time and money by not seeking to design their own UA or supporting the ‘I built a UAV in my garage‘ community and instead engaging directly with the existing (and growing) commercial UAS community both in New Zealand and overseas. I think that they would find that there would already be existing mature reliable designs that would meet all the requirements shown in the video item…and that reliability comes at a cost…

My child has a peanut allergy. This is what a lunchbox did to her

nutz

My child has a peanut allergy. This is what a lunchbox did to her.

I’m sorry but, while not unsympathetic, this just annoys me…yes, it is really sad but trying lump responsibility on to the rest of the world for what happened to this little girl is just wrong. It is symptomatic of the “my problems are everyone’s problems” attitude that typify our growing inability to take responsibility for our own problems.

In this instance, the little girl did not eat any nuts but her allergy was triggered by exposure to another child who had eaten something nut-based.

Sorry, Mum, but if your children has a disability is is YOUR responsibility to keep them safe and ensure that they can live as normal a life as possible. Wrapping your little girl in cotton wool or glad wrap is not going to help prepare her for life especially if she does not  eventually outgrow her nut allergy. Even if all daycares, preschools, schools and after-schools totally ban all nut products and derivatives of nut products and and apply bio protective measure that CDC would be proud of, that will still not protect her from casual contact with nuts, nut derivatives or nut byproducts…

It may be that she does need to become like The Girl in the Plastic Bubble in order to avoid contact with the elements that trigger her allergy but it is your responsibility as a parent to implement the measures necessary to protect her from exposure to those triggers. Reasonably one might expect those with whom she is in regular contact to work with you to implement and apply those measures and to reduce as much is reasonably possible the opportunities for such exposure…But is is not reasonable, especially when it appears that she is so sensitive to the allergenic triggers to expect everyone that she may encounter during a day at school to also avoid all exposure to nut-based elements that may trigger her allergy…

We need to stop simply following our emotions in sharing such links and start thinking about what we are actually doing. This is a family that may actually be in need of some serious assistance to mitigate  the effects of this little girl’s allergy but that assistance is not going to come from some knee-jerk Facebook link sharing…use your brains, folks, they are there for more reason that to keep your ears apart…