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…

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.

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…

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.

A DAMN good innings

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Truly the end of an era…and covered very well in this article from the Foreign Policy Morning Brief email…

The first female prime minister in her country’s history, Thatcher came to embody a turn toward a free-market political program that sought to unleash economic dynamism through an aggressive program of privatizations and tax reductions. Thatcherism — as her political program became known to both her supporters and detractors — would throw off the heavy hand of the state and seek a Britain with greater vitality. Her perhaps defining moment came in 1984 when she broke a major strike launched by the miners union, a victory that consolidated her political power and represented a triumph over the country’s strike-prone unions.

The woman who came to be known as the Iron Lady matched her pioneering domestic agenda with a muscular foreign policy that saw Britain come to blows with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. And just as she refused to cede British sovereignty in the South Atlantic, she remained deeply skeptical toward the European project and laid the groundwork for Britain’s taciturn relationship with the European Union and its decision not to adopt the euro. Together with Ronald Reagan, a man who would become a close friend, she emerged as a canny leader in the Cold War, recognizing early on that Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms presented an opportunity for the West.

But to her detractors, Thatcher’s free-wheeling market ideology came to embody an uncaring political philosophy, one willing to sacrifice at the altar of economic dynamism a state apparatus directed toward the common good.

Regardless, she is likely to go down in history as Britain’s greatest post-war prime minister.

scan0025

…and a couple of apt comments from Dan Drezner’s article on her influence

James011I didn’t respect all of her policies; but one thing I will say for Thatcher: she knew how to lead. No dithering, no faltering and she had a sometimes terrifying steely resolve. She was one of the last politicians you could look at and know exactly what she stood for. I can’t imagine any other politician, even during this recession who would make a statement like “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”. She spoke her mind and did what she promised to do when she was elected- I respect that and very few politicians do the same.

sasss31People can say a whole lot about Margaret Thatcher but no sensible person can deny her intelligence, wit, and influence. The fact is that she was Prime Minister for 11-years as a woman in the years of 1979-1990. She stood up to totalitarianism and was a force one did not want to reckon with. She was truly a transformative and vital leader of our time. Like her or hate her, the Iron Lady has her place cemented in the history books.

NorK posturing aside, in these times we forget sometimes – or never know for those under 35 – just what her time was like…the Cold War was in full force and there was a very real expectation that it might actually happen; wars were wars and lots of people died; terrorism was alive and active across Europe and in Great Britain; and unions ruled OK with little real concern for the rights or well-being of their members.

If she did nothing else, Margaret Thatcher created huge change by simply standing firm and she should be remembered for that. It is quite a sad thing really that she has been depicted as a doddering fool in the poor movie The Iron Lady, and that so many have seized the opportunity of her passing to leap on their own insignificant little soap boxes to belabour their own narrow opinions…

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And this from a Facebook post…

Tonight I shall go and have a drink for Margaret Thatcher’s death. I shall raise my glass to the night sky, and THANK HER, and celebrate her life. People on this seem to have a very strange view of history. So here are a few little nuggets with how and more specifically WHY a lot of industries were destroyed by her, and what’s more, destroyed with the MANDATE OF THE BRITISH PEOPLE.

The seventies were blighted by the trade unions waiting for winter and then coming out on strike at it’s heart. Holding the country to ransom for ANNUAL pay rises of up to 36% ABOVE inflation. This was the likes of Scargill and co. And they bled us dry. We were bankrupted by them. And then the Winter of Discontent happened. And they ALL came out. Miners, power workers, transport workers; even funeral directors, everything tied into the TGWU came out. My own grandparents lay on a slab for 2 months waiting to be buried. The entire country was a ruin. Rubbish not collected for months, rats everywhere. And the unions laughed, and brought down Callaghan’s Labour Government.

And Thatcher stood up at the General Election and made ONE SIMPLE PROMISE. Elect me. And THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. ELECT ME AND I WILL DESTROY THEM. She won a landslide. On that promise.And she became the last elected Prime Minister to actually hold true to her election promise. She did exactly what she said. She utterly destroyed the unions. Obliterated them. The cost was those industries. We knew that would be the price. But we would not allow them to hold us to ransom again. What she did, she did with our BLESSING. The socialists and people who backed those strikes have only themselves to blame for what happened. Baroness Thatcher didn’t destroy those industries and communities for fun or as part of a class war. She did it to stop them holding the country to ransom again. And then she held the purse strings tight and re-built the economy and the country and Britain again stood tall and thrived. And we won back the global respect we had lost while the left wing ruled.

In the Falklands we were thankful for her being in office. Those of us who went ‘south’ in ’82 did so knowing we had a leader who would not – and did not- interfere. She sent the military and allowed us to do our job. Gave us the money, the equipment and most of all THE FREEDOM to get the job done. Our lands had been invaded. We had a gun up our nose. SHE led us. Frankly Thatcher took a very broken Britain by the hand like a strict old fashioned Matron and LED THE COUNTRY BACK TO WHERE IT HAD ONCE BEEN. We were the worlds 3rd major power in ALL respects. And as for the world, it has NEVER been safer than when Thatcher was in Downing Street, Reagan was in the White House and Gorbachev was in the Kremlin as the three spoke DAILY. They laid the ground for the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Russians were TERRIFIED of her. And the world again feared Britain.

And lets not forget that she gave people the full right to buy their own council property. Her vision was that the TENANT and the tenant alone could buy that property.As soon as her party stabbed her in the back the feeding frenzy began as under her the famous Tory grandee greed was held in check. So they stabbed her, led by the Europro traitor ponce Heseltine – who didn’t have the guts to face her openly and alone – they arranged her removal. And we have been a broken patsy for Europe ever since.

So yes, tonight I will celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher, with thanks, with respect, and with sadness, because she allowed me to know what we could be, what we could achieve, what it meant to be BRITISH.

~ Credit to Steve Chiverton for this piece of writing

Margaret-Thatcher-1992-Ma-020

And in response to this insect…

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…You worry about what someone calling himself ‘citizen bomber’ says or thinks…? She will be laughing over a brandy with Churchill at how all the insects have had to wait til she passed before feeling brave enough to launch their soap box flotillas of jealousy…

…The British Government is making arrangements for all such left-wing insects to be emigrated to Albania where they will be happy. In an unintentional twist of irony, they will be transported on the aircraft carrier Iron Lady….

You do have to admit that HMS Iron Lady has a nice ring to it…

 

Opinion: Training for war is not a precise science

…and Josh wrote another op-ed piece…

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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…

Bad boys, bad boys…

…whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you…? 

Ready or not, here we come...

Ready or not, here we come…

Dear Unit 61398

How do you hack the guidance on a ‘dumb’ Mk.84 low drag bomb once it (and its friends) are spiralling down towards you?

Sincerely

The Hacked (Off)

In this era of informal conflict i.e. one in which one or more or even all of the actors are the regular formed units or formations that we remember from the good old days of the Fulda Gap, this becomes a valid question.

In the good old days (GOD for short), if someone actively and physically attacked or took some form of physical action against a nation’s physical infrastructure or commercial structures, there would be options under the DIME construct (more D, M or E than I perhaps) through which one might register one’s national concerns about such activities and encourage the perpetrators to cease and desist.

In the case of Unit 61398, despite it mundane designation (F-117 sounded mundane until 17 January 1991), we have an identified military unit conducting with guns more smoking than Saddam’s WMDs offensive actions against national and commercial infrastructure around the world but especially targeting the US. If Unit 61398 was an active service unit, regular or irregular, operating within the borders of any western, and most if not all other, nations, it could reasonably be expected to be hunted down and neutralised physically. Similarly, if was as openly offensive as Saddam’s SAMs during the decade of the no fly zones, or Iran’s Boghammers during the Tanker War, something loud and bad would probably happen to them.

But (yes,yes, I know, never start a sentence with ‘but’) in the convolutions of informality the smoking gun justifications are not as clear regardless of provocation. Just as US- and UK-based UAS operators blithely commute between domestic homes and respective UAS remote operating bases with a strong sense of security and little of risk of threat (in the UK, the IRA must be rolling in its unmarked grave after the security awareness it forced upon the UK military in its heyday of terror), members of Unit 61398 probably cycle home with a similar sense of blithe innocence…

So will it be that one day,maybe one day soon, and in true Dale Brown style, the stars at 65,000 feet will ripple as payback soars over Shanghai and releases some unhackable cease and desist notices (Lucasfilm lawyers eat your hearts out!!)…?

Note: Lucasfilms/LucasArts are the people who not only brought you the three worst science fiction movies of all time (certainly when viewed sequentially) but who also have a rep for being the Galactic Empire of the known legal cease and desist notice universe…

They’re reading my stuff there…

Colleague Josh Wineera is off on his travels again after being selector as the sole Kiwi to attend a US STAe Dept-sponsored Programme in the US. Details from Massey University

Massey University lecturer and soldier Major Josh Wineera has been invited by the United States State Department to participate in a high-profile study programme examining US national security policy and current threats facing the United States.

Major Wineera was chosen by the United States Embassy in Wellington as the sole New Zealand nomination from a very competitive national pool. He went on to be selected by the State Department in Washington from a range of worldwide candidates whose areas of expertise included foreign affairs and international relations. 

The intensive post-graduate level programme begins later this month in Amherst, Massachusetts, and brings together around 20 international participants. It includes study sessions at Harvard University as well as study tours to the University of California in San Diego and Washington D.C. 

The six-week programme will examine such issues as energy policy, economic stability, cyber-security, chemical and biological weapons, nuclear weapons and infectious diseases. The United States Government will meet all costs of the programme. 

Major Wineera says he feels humbled to be representing New Zealand, the Defence Force, and Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies. 

“This will be an excellent opportunity to deepen our understanding of the way the US formulates its national security policy,” he says. “I think this is especially relevant for us in New Zealand given the recent announcement by President Barack Obama that America will renew its focus in the Asia Pacific region.”

In addition to lecturing at Massey University, Major Wineera speaks to many Defence Force contingents preparing for overseas deployments, particularly to Afghanistan. His extensive operational experience includes missions to Bosnia, Bougainville, East Timor and more recently Iraq. He is also a member of the New Zealand forum of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.

“2012 will be a big year for me,” Major Wineera says. “I start with this incredible invitation to deepen my understanding of US national security policy and it will continue as I embark on a PhD. By total coincidence my doctorate will examine New Zealand’s approach to international security and will compare it to other nations, including the US.”

And also covered in the Manawatu Standard.

Good luck to Josh on his latest excursion – a real coup for a local lad and for Massey’s Centre for Defence Studies – expect to see a new face on the domestic commentator scene on his return to New Zealand…

Josh and I attended the Irregular Warfare Summit is Washington last year to come up to speed on contemporary thinking on the irregular environment. It was a long way to go from the quiet (but windy) Manawatu and we weren’t too sure what we were getting ourselves into. I think that many of the other participants probably felt the same but once the ice was broken, engagement at all levels was frank and honest. There weren’t any great epiphanies for either of us and the main lesson that we brought home was probably that everyone is facing the same essential problems and that no one has the monopoly of solutions for the way ahead.

Lunch was provided for the main days of the Summit. The first day was funny: there was no seating plan (probably part of the mix and mingle ice-breaking strategy) and so people just sat where they could find a seat. As the Kiwi delegation (all both of us) approached a table, we could see two guys on the other side eyeing us up with some quite animated conversation. Uh-oh, maybe we shouldn’t have taken the last of the coffee from the urn! One says “Are you THE Josh Wineera?” Josh looks at me, turns back “Well, the only one I know…” “The one who briefed at the COIN Centre a couple of years ago? Wow, we’re using some of your stuff in out school…!” Turns out these guys are contractors providing training on the COE to the US Army. Just like Steinlager: They’re drinking our beer reading my stuff there…

Josh with Colonel Dan Roper

....and with Dr Rich Kiper...

Col Roper (who had just retired as Director of the COIN Center at Fort Leavenworth, KS) and Rich (who’s on the staff at the Centre) were staying at the Marriott as well – While they weren’t in Kansas any more, these guys were great hosts to two Kiwis a long way from home and we had some significant post-dinner networking sessions…

Getting it….

Not getting it...

One of my ongoing beefs with ‘modern’ COIN is the misperception is that successful COIN is all about being nice, of waging war with casualties (although casualties amongst one’s own soldiers appear to ‘OK’), and having this great expectation that one day ‘the people’ will just rise up, out of gratitude for the niceness shown them by the security forces and cast out the insurgents…

The simple fact is that this ‘doctrine’ is all lala-land, cloud cuckoo vunderland fantasy. That’s pretty much the theme of Wilf Owen’s article in the Spring 2011 edition of the British Army Review (i’d post a link to BAr but it seems that it is a highly classified publication and not one suited to easy intuitive location via the Power of Google), titled Killing Your Way To Control. He takes particular issues with statements like

Effective counterinsurgency provides human security to the population, where they live, 24 hours a day. This, not destroying the enemy, is the central task. (from Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla)

Unlike in general war, the objective is not the defeat or destruction of the enemy, but neutralisation of a threat to stable society. (from JDP 3-40)

And guess what? He is absolutely 100% correct! Was it Douglas MacArthur, addressing the cadets at West Point, who said something like “Your duty is clear and inviolate: to win our nation’s wars”? Something about “Victory, always victory”? Even if victory might mean achieving your objectives on your terms as opposed to victory always equating to absolute, grinding under the steel-shod boot, unconditional victory…

Use of the military is, should be, the final option in execution of national policy to achieve national objectives…because it is brutal and unpleasant – and effective when employed properly. The military should be used when other instruments in the DIME construct are not effective. That is not to say that once the military deploys, the rest of DIME takes for some time out; it just means that the lead agency has changed.

And what is it about the military that both makes it an option of last resort and one so effective? Simply…the use of force…brutal force, whether blunt or surgical, but brutal none the less because force can only be brutal. Who talks about let alone attempts to develop and  apply ‘nice’ force? And this is Wilf’s point, and, for an irregular environment,  encapsulated nicely in the extract he selects from the UK’s 2005 Land Operations

Neutralising the insurgent and in particular the leadership forms part of a successful COIN strategy. Methods include killing, capturing, demoralising and deterring insurgents and promoting desertions. This is an area in which military forces can specialise and should be a focus for COIN training. The aim should be to defeat the insurgent on his own ground using as much force as is necessary, but no more.

Now we know that there are times, especially immediately following an intervention and lodgement when the only people who can realistically maintain and provide essential services like power, water, electricity, sewage and security are the military. Forget about some imaginary gendarmerie with shovels that will miraculously appear and relieve the military of such onerous and unpleasant tasks…never happen…

Nor is anyone saying that forces optimised for high-end force on force  major combat operations can successfully instantly reconfigure, collectively and individually, into an irregular warfare scenario. If there was one myth that was majorly debunked in the last decade it was the “If you train up (for MCO), you can easily step down (for COIN)”. Thus, a choice must be made between a dual force optimised one side for MCO and irregular warfare on the other: just to be real clear, two forces – NOT one size fits all; or a deliberate acceptance that one’s forces will only be capable of engaging in one form of conflict OR the other. Most nations forced towards the latter choice will probably tend towards a specialisation in irregular warfare up to a limit of national capability on the spectrum of operations.

And while the logical threads in population-centricity unravel, this does not mean that the military should isolate itself from ‘the people’. GEN Petraeus was right in Baghdad in 2006 when he brought the troops back in amongst ‘the people’ and ended the daily tactical commuting/sallying from the FOBs. The military is not some horde to be hidden away – if ‘the people’ is where the adversary(s) are, then that’s where the military should be – configured and trained for the application of force in that specific environment just as they would/should be for any other unique environment.

And on the spectrum of operations…let’s not forget that it is NOT the linear progression from peacetime to all-out warfare that is it portrayed as…a more accurate model would have peace in the middle, surrounded by a ring that includes peacetime engagement (a smidgen up from peace), peacekeeping, peacemaking, irregular warfare, HADR, limited war (e.g. the Falklands War), major war (DESERT STORM, OIF Part 1) and full-on all-out war (Red Storm Rising).

Imagine that ring being like a trembler switch (who didn’t used to watch Danger: UXB or The ProfessionalsSteady, it’s a trembler!?) from which a nation can flick from peace to any state around that ring, and from that state then flick to another and another or back to the stable centre. Accepting that there are two clear extremes, peace and all-out war, most nations would assess the planning for one, peace, carries too much risk as it would naïve to expect peace to remain constant in the most benign scenario. Similarly few nations can afford to truly step up to the full range of capabilities required for the other extreme. Thus most opt for a point in-between.

But regardless of where that point may lie, the primary role and output of that national military force is the application of force. That is why the lead group in the Air and Space Interoperability Council is the Force Application group, with six important but supporting groups. That is why, in the continental staff system, the staff branches are NOT all created equal – operations leads, supported by whatever combination of numbers floats your boat – whoever heard of logistics or intelligence supported by operations? That is because the ops branch is all about creating and delivering effects – and the effect that the military delivers best…is…force.

So you might imagine just how it felt as I scrolled through my ‘most recent’ view on Facebook  to see the link to Wilf’s paper first from DoctrineMan! (still not sure about people who include punctuation in their name) and a ways further down, the original post at Small Wars Journal.  Even more so when I realised that Wilf, who have spent more time at Small Wars disagreeing with than ever agreeing had authored it.

What was disappointing was the number of people on both DoctrineMan! And Small Wars fixated on pulling every literal point of contention from the article. I was sadly reminded of the 45k+ morons who ‘liked’ the Boycott Macsyna King Book page; or the moral minority who all ‘just know’ that Casey Anthony killed her daughter and that there was no need for all that legal dues process stuff: let’s just string her up!! Wonder sometimes if western society is descending to a point where the capacity for independent thought is lost…and we all just become drones circling the brightest, loudest light…

The irony in his article that he does not point out is that while British Army doctrine in 2005 included the quote above from Land Operations (now that I think about it, I was working at Uphaven on CLAW 1 when it was released and got to bring the first copies back home), this was the same period that the UK was trumpeting the success of Malaya and the triumph myth of ‘hearts and minds’ that set irregular warfare back decades. If only the UK had read and applied its own doctrine… (What’s that? You read doctrine? And apply it?)

So where does this leave us? Wilf has articulated what we have probably known along, what the dead Germans told us is right, that the military is about the application of force, not the application of ‘nice’, as an extension of policy. That force may be applied to create the conditions where others can see to the building of a stable society, hopefully where such existed at some stage before; equally as much it may be applied to simply attrite an adversary to the point where further resistance is either untenable or impossible.

But, harking back to the dead Germans again, the ultimate target for force is one specific part of what is popularly accepted as the Clausewitzian Trinity: of ‘the people’, the action arm and the leadership of any collective entity, military force ultimately targets the leadership to either eliminate it as the driving force behind the organisation, or convince it to consider and change its ways. That’s what the military is for….

Strangelove has re-entered the Building

(c) FPA 2011

As a headline, this one that concludes the Time article  According to new Pentagon cyber strategy, state-of-war conditions now exist between the US and China, was too good to pass up…coupled with this SECDEF quote that Michael Yon put up on Facebook a couple of hours ago, it looks like lunacy has well and truly returned…

Just got this from Office of SecDef

“Secretary Gates believes that for the United States, once committed to a NATO operation, to unilaterally abandon that mission would have enormous and dangerous long-term consequences.

You think he might be talking about Libya? A campaign even more ill-advised than OIF? In all fairness, though, at least America had the courage and integrity to see OIF through as her allies and apparent friends slowly bailed on her…she had done the right thing in withdrawing her foot sharply from the (blood) bath of Libya as soon as it was apparent that NATO was getting the wibbles. That there will be ‘…enormous and dangerous long-term consequences…” is without a doubt but those consequences will be for NATO as it finds that it might have to ante up and see it’s own war through to a conclusion without a US safety net…yesterday I heard for the first time the phrase ‘...NATO’s Vietnam...’

I agree with the theme of the Time article that MAD actually = sanity in that it essentially rendered the irretrievable impossible – so long as went kept Peter Sellers out of the White House…As the Cold War staggered to a close in the 80s, Ronald Reagan declared a policy based on ‘you can run, but you can not hide’ and indeed authorised and conducted a number of kinetic actions against those he perceived had crossed the line in the sand…

Those however were all kinetic actions against specific kinetic targets to send  very specific messages…what targets might a kinetic strike against Chinese cyber-warriors hit…a server in downtown Shanghai or Beijing? The same fibre link that carries the world’s communications and commercial traffic? Some geeky buck-toothed nerd who needs a bath and some dress sense?

One the biggest and most-frequently stated concerns at the Irregular Warfare Summit here last week was that the takedown of OBL and the (so far) successful drawdown from Iraq is leading to a growing sense of relief at senior levels that the aberration of COIN is over and ‘…now we can get back to real war...’  This ‘real war’ dogma seems to be set in the minds of those who just missed Vietnam and spent the larger part of their careers preparing for World War III – which, if anyone was paying attention, never happened.

Thus, possibly more by circumstance, the leaders in the ‘new war’ (which is really an old war) are those who were on the ground in Iraq when the pendulum was shoved all the way from clean surgical shock and awe to dirty messy complexity and irregularity…names like Petraeus, Mattis, Chiarelli, Casey…to name a few. It’s no accident these names are all from the land forces because this new war, at the moment, is very much land-centric (sorry, air power guys) because that it where the people are…and while I am noted as not being a uber-proponent of population-centric warfare, this war is one between beliefs which live amongst the people and not platforms which can be anywhere…

Cyberwar is much the same…there are no clearly-distinguishable platforms at which to strike: it is a game of skill and knowledge not fixed to key infrastructure or platforms,,,that guy next to you on the bus, playing with his iPhone could be a node in the attack network…the ‘enemy’ doesn’t even need to be in their own country which leads to thoughts of retaliation for spoofed cyberattacks against countries that only appeared to be guilty – how many times can a cruise missile accidentally hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade…?

Cyberwar is elusive, diffuse and evasive…it’s another facet of complexity and irregularity, warfare conducted by ‘the people’…releasing the kinetic dogs of war on it will achieve no more than ‘shock and awe’ did in Iraq…like any other operating environment, this one will only be conquered by those who get their (cyber)boots dirty and adapt to it…in the mean time we need to THINK a lot more before we commit ourselves to careless policies promising kinetic attack against cyber-strike…regardless of how many cruise missiles and JDAMs might be nearly their ‘use by’ date…

As David Hoffman concludes in The cyber arms race:

The offensive cyber battlefield promises to be far more chaotic than in the nuclear arms race, with many smaller players and non-state actors, and the risks of retaliation against the United States might be quite high. We need good defenses, no question. But should we be fighting back with cyber warheads and real missiles? Are we ready for what could follow? Is there an alternative?