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.

Getting it right

Just snippets today…

A couple of interesting comments (edit: made by visitors to his page – I just omitted the names for privacy reasons) on one of Michael Yon’s Facebook threads…

I’ve been in the army since Regan was president. i lived through the drawdown and saw how within several years the Army culture changed dramatically. zero defects was the norm… PC culture was jammed down our throats by new “sensitivity” initiatives. anyone that dared cross a PC line was slammed and pushed aside. when i attended the Strategy program at CGSC, we were fed a steady diet of liberal internationalist philosophy by Barnett, Nye, Fukuyama , and surprisingly the failed Sec of State Kissinger. these aren’t the people that are going to solve our strategic problems. in fact, they are the problem. we need to return to the classics of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, etc.

Personally I despise Sun Tzu, or certainly the popular pulp interpretations of his philosophies…I always mentally deduct marks when I see Sun Tzu quotes in papers and books I am reviewing…it’s, like, couldn’t you apply yourself enough to find a supporting quote with some substance behind it? But that’s just me…I do however support a return to study based upon the classic thinkers, especially as a foundation upon which to consider more contemporary works…

The government of South Vietnam was inept and corrupt … so it was illegitimate as far as the population was concerned. The South Vietnamese gov’t never won the support of its people and could not stand on its own without massive U.S. financial and military support. So the end was inevitable. I don’t know how much effect we can have on Karzai and his clown posse, but without an effective government in Afghanistan the fight is already lost.

The positive and negative parallels with the war in Vietnam continue to grow…on the positive side we see the incredible dedication and professionalism of individuals at the sharp end, regardless of the direction and reasons for the conflict; and we see the opportunity to get it write through the writings of people like Jim Gant, Josh Wineera and Steve Tatham, all of whom have identified key aspects that might make this war winnable – although chance is becoming slim indeed as the US prepares to meet its 2011 drawdown target…On the negative side we see war in an environment we do not understand; the top-down political meddling in the campaign plan; and the bolstering of a government that only serves to reinforce the opposition…

The Enemy Within

As I type this morning, the news is covering a taxi driver’s murderous rampage in Whitehaven in the UK…already here, commentators are noting the difficulties faced by UK Police due to their unarmed posture and linking this to our own unarmed police force. The anti-gun lobby hasn’t arced up yet but it must be winding up already…the simple fact is that the UK already has very strict gun control laws ans still something like this occurs…

More guns, less guns is not the core issue…if someone wants to go out like this, they will find a way, guns or no guns…and while I support the arming of Police (why not? everyone else is armed), that is a response whereas I think that we need to be looking at how to interdict this threat before it ever gets played out…

On the run…

Right that it for now…have to dash as I have a big day ahead maximising the sun while it has been out…we have had a lot of rain over the last few days and everything is drenched. Fortunately we live in top of a hill and have escaped the floods that hit Whakatane and Oamaru this week…

I have made considerable progress this week is identifying potential options that might finally get us (affordable) broadband access at home – I do so miss being able to listen in on the monthly Virtual Brown Bag sessions at the CAC COIN Center – either through the miracles of satellite or mobile technologies…

I also am steeling myself for the inevitable jabbing and stabbing medical assessments as part of transferring across to the Air Force…so long as there’s no pysch assessments, I should be OK…!!

My two COIN-related priorities remain completing my review of the Mandelbrot book and offering my two cents to the incredible amount of great insights that Dean @ Shiloh brought back from the COIN Symposium at Ft Leavenworth last month…

Edit: This Just In…

Hawkeye UAV in action

This came in just as I hit the Publish button…it’s some of the imagery captured during Hawkeye UAV sorties in the South Island last week that shows off the Hawkeye capability – like Transformers, ‘more than meets the eye’…it is way more than just a little UAV with a camera…the true value to the client is the real time geo-referencing and overlay of imagery over 3D terrain models and subsequent analysis using the Hawkeye suite of tools…all this happens in the field in real or close to real time…very cool…

Good Answer

Nice one, Mike!!

Just when I was about to write Michael Yon off after his disembedment, he comes up with a comment that is both insightful and relevant…

The father of a veteran now in Afghanistan emailed with a question: “Michael: What would you say to a group of US soldiers if you were a company commander (and it’s easy for me to imagine you in this role) if after a briefing you gave them as you and they were about to participate in the BfK – when after inviting questions a soldier asked: “Sir, are we being asked to risk our lives to prop up Wali Karzai and if so, is he a good man or just my generation’s Diem? (Or some such question.) A beneficiary of the drug industry, a thug, feared and hated by the people of Kandahar City? How would you Michael Yon answer this US soldier?”

Answer:
I would likely say, “Yes, we are being tasked to prop up a drug lord. That’s our orders. Let’s get to work.”

It’s a good point – as much as some elements continue to portray the war in Afghanistan as a ‘nice’ war in which no harm really befalls anyone, except the bad guys, and which is conducted according to the highest moral principles….which, of course, is totally false…if what is going on in Afghanistan was anything close to nice, then there would be no need for the thousands of combat troops, strike aircraft, etc, etc, etc…NGOs and aid agencies could run rampant over the country to do-good their little hearts out…but it’s not like that and we shouldn’t be kidding ourselves that it is…

On the same theme are the bedfellows that we might have to partner up with in order to achieve our national objectives…let’s NOT forget that the reason that all these forces are in Afghanistan in the first place is not an overwhelming concern for the wellbeing of the nation or people of Afghanistan…some nations are their for flag-waving purposes, others because the rest of their gang is there, others again perhaps hoping to secure trade or commercial gains…whatever the underlying motives, there is little room for altruistic partnerships based on niceness and the moral high ground. To be blunt about it, most of the nice people that you might be able to partner up with are probably amongst the least effective…

To get the job done, your partners of opportunity will more than likely be those whom you would NOT bring home to meet Mother or the voters but they are way more likely to advance your aims and objectives…

The other insight that falls from Mike’s comment is that these issues of lawful or unlawfulness generally exist at levels stratospherically above the tactical level where the down and dirty fighting occurs…as Mike implies, these issues are not things that the troops on the ground need to be worrying about – so long as someone has taken the time out to remind them why they are face down int eh dirt and the sand, listening to bullets zing by, just over their heads…the direction and ownership of said bullets is largely irrelevant when you’re face down in the sand and the dirt….

Sallying Forth

My brief foray out into civilisation last week went very well. I had (another) great visit to the Air Power Development Centre @ RNZAF Ohakea and am looking forward to doing a lot more work with them. I overnight in Ohakea this time and must comment on the standard of the rooms in the Mess, even for a casual guest like myself…my room had all the amenities necessary for someone working away from home…especially the little details like an alarm clock, towel, bathrobe, iron and ironing board, even a Do Not Disturb sign for the door and some of those little soap and shampoo thingies…all the little details that are such a PITA to lug around with you on the road…very nice…

The following morning I drove down to Wellington – catching the early bird parking deal @ the James Cook by less than two minutes – to listen in on Josh Wineera’s lecture The Contemporary Operating Environment to Victoria University’s Counter-Terrorism course; after which I delivered  Doctrine, COIN and Kilcullen (critiquing The Accidental Guerrilla). It went OK but only OK and I am really annoyed that I ran overtime (despite numerous rehearsals to the big dogs at home) and had to skim over the Kilcullen section. Hopefully I will have other opportunities to polish up my delivery for this type of work as I think that part of the problem is that I haven’t had any opportunities this year to practise let alone hone presentation skills.

I’m now converting the elements of that PowerPoint brief into a loose paper, combining the images with the accompanying words, for Jim Veitch at Vic as a record of those thoughts. I found last year that both MS Word and OpenOffice’s Writer are sub-optimumal tools for this and have opted to try this using a dedicated desktop publishing application called Scribus. It’s open source as well and like much of these open source apps has an almost vertical learning curve (the reason I uninstalled it last year) but I cracked it last night and am now making pretty good progress. The result for this project probably won’t win too many marks for prettiness as I am learning as I go but progress is progress….

You turn your back for just a second…

Exhibit 1

Exhibit #1 - authorities believe Grasshopper is just an innocent victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time...the usual suspects (both of them) are being lined up...

We had the twins for the weekend – it’s always fun but full-on and this is just a none-too-subtle reminder of how quickly they are growing up (literally)…the jar was only about one-third full when one of them swiped (the evidence is difficult to argue with) it off the kitchen bench after lunch. It was quite a good effort as they managed to keep most of the jam off themselves (something they refuse to do at actual meal times) and were only busted when the penny dropped for me that there was simply way too much jam around the house to have come from the jam on toast we had for lunch (with healthy stuff as well) in the lounge…

It’s a lesson that one can never become too complacent that little hands will not extend their reach, the guy you install as president of Afghanistan will not decide to go his own way, or that the service you dedicate 18 years to will not dump you like a hot and embarrassing potato…I refer here to the case of Royal Marine Sergeant  Mark Leader who was court martialed and dismissed, after 18 years of top quality military service five times decorated with campaign medals , after throwing a Wellington boot at a Taliban terrorist. The Taliban in question had been found burying an IED just 50 metres from base  where Leader had witnessed his best friend and two other mates blown up by an IED just prior to this.  There is more information available on the Facebook page established for this issue…

It’d be interesting to see the full facts of this case – perhaps there is way more to it that was has been reported to date – but this certainly seems to be yet another application of the perception that we, the good guys, can fight nice wars. Unfortunately the price of niceness is the blood of US and NATO soldiers…The opposite of ‘nice’ is not ‘brutal’ – it is ‘practical’ and ‘pragmatic’ – and this seems to be totally lost on British leaders who seem think this war (lower case) is simply an over-resourced exercise in flag-waving and a great gesture of unity with the US (which, after all, might be required to sail across the Atlantic and bail out the UK for a fourth time)…

Eon

I’ve just finished a great book, Greg Bear’s Eon, which is one of the main reasons that blog updates have dried up over the last few days. Carmen picked it up for me at the Sally Army shop in Hamilton for a dollar at the same time as she bought me The Star Trek yarn Garth of Izar…I must have read another Bear story in the dim dark past as I have always avoided his books for well over two decades but Eon really gripped me right from the start and I will probably have to go off and ferret out some others once the ‘have-to’ reading list gets a little shorter….

The fractal guy…

Benoit Mandelbrot’s The  (Mis)Behaviour of Markets was recommended to me as a fresh look at irregularity and uncertainty, and as such, a possible source for some out of the square illumination on the complex contemporary environment…I haven’t even got to the end of the preface and already I a. love it, b. have dredged out some really good material, and c. taken off on some wild tangential thoughts…once the employment situation becomes a little more stable, I think that this one will be a permanent addition to the library.

Kilcullen again…

The other recent tome that I have decided to add to the physical library is David Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla. I am speaking on doctrine, COIN and Kilcullen this Friday and have had to wait for the library to reloan me a copy to use as an aid for any parts of my review notes that I can’t, read or remember why I wrote what I did. Dr Kilcullen has secured a place for himself as one of the most influential figures of the last decade and as such is deserving of a place on the shelves in the study here at the Raurimu Centre for Thinking About Stuff (CTAS). He’s just released a new book but I think I’ll test read this from the library first as the abstracts for CounterInsurgency @ Oxford University Press and Small War Journal sounds a little too much like a rehash of previous works…

Ginga Ninja

Andrew Inwald released his 1/33 Yokosuka P1Y Ginga at Paper Models last week…and it surpasses even his Judy and Il-14…those who are into this sort of creative expression might want to download it just to see how it’s done…you can do that here at Paper Modelers although you will need to register and make one post on the forum to get to the downloads…

Yes, it's paper...!

In other paper news, Ken West of XB-70 Valkyrie and B-58 Hustler fame has announced the start of the design phase of a 1/32 Lockheed SR-71, although the exact model or models is still TBC e.g. A-12, YF-12A, D-21 drone carrier etc…

It’s not logical…

On February 12th 1942, No 825 Squadron, based at RAF Manston, carried out a virtual suicide mission in an attempt lo damage or sink the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prince Eugen, and remove them from the Kriegsmarine's order of battle when they made the infamous Channel Dash from Brest back to Germany. All six aircraft were lost for no effect on the enemy ships, but for the sheer courage shown in carrying out the attack, a posthumous award of the Victoria Cross was made to the CO of the Squadron Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde, and the other aircrew were mentioned in dispatches, only five of the eighteen men involved in the attack survived. (c) http://www.marklittlejohn.com

@ Small War Council yesterday, I kicked off a thread The Dumbness of Oneness. While readers will, I’m sorry, have to pop over to Small Wars to view the original post and subsequent comments, the short version is that I am challenging the industrial age mentality that is still so evident in much of our thinking, even after eight and a half years, 5000+ combat casualties and thousands of civilian victims of this ‘new war’ against takfiri jihadists of all races, religions and persuasions.

In the quotes in the thread, a theme emerged that perhaps the commanders from WW1 and WW2 actually had a far better handle on the art of war than those today who seek to make it a simple push-button science based more on Harvard Business School methodologies than the accumulated experience and lessons of history. War is not simple, not is it logical n or rational…it can not be distilled down to simple formulae and calculations that will determine the outcome of an engagement. War is about much more than a simple financial bottom line.

It was no more rational for 825 Squadron to fly into the German guns than it was for the New Zealand Division to break out from Minqar Qaim, the Marines to hold out at Wake, or for any of the hundreds of US CSAR missions in Vietnam and other conflict zones – these actions do not stack up in a balance sheet calculation that has no place for courage, camaraderie or commitment, no value that quantifies the human spirit. This is the myth of modern manouevre warfare – that achieving a position of dominance over a foe takes the place of actually defeating that opponent. History is as full of ‘sure thing’ plans that ended in tears as it is of desperate acts that paid off.

The myth of oneness is equally false. Although there is no dispute that there are advantages in common approaches and equipments, this should never be allowed to adversely affect effectiveness. Amanda Lennon stated at the New Zealand Chief of Army’s Conference last year that “…coalition interoperability requirements drive conceptual laziness…” and this is the risk of oneness as well: under the guise of interoperability, we create a bubble of dumbness that expands throughout an organisation. Driven by drives for efficiency, we forgot not so much how to do things but WHY we do them. We rationalise away the need for drill and colours and things as unnecessary in modern war, forgetting that they foster the courage, camaraderie and commitment that bolsters a force when the going gets really tough.

I surf the Get Frank site periodically, mainly because it has good competitions, and came across this editorial item Schama on New Zealand. In summarising, it states “…but beyond that, these people see only money. They measure the worth of a society solely in terms of GDP. As a result, they are utterly blind to our real achievements, and place no value on them…” This is not simply a question of core values although they are part of it. It is about remembering what is important in maintaining, nurturing and evolving the art of war…for there will come a time when we will face a foe is both prepared to and capable of going toe to toe with us in real War…where the blandness of oneness will be exposed at what cost?

The New War #5 the new intelligences

…the game of chess, even three-dimensional chess, is simplicity itself compared to a political game using pieces that can change their minds independently of other pieces…” ~ Mr Spock, Garth of Izar, Pocket Books, 2003.

It being the twins’ birthday the weekend just gone, I was offline most of the weekend and it was only last night that I  saw a Stuff report of the contact involving Kiwi personnel in Afghanistan on Saturday “…a group using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades attacked a combined New Zealand and US patrol from the New Zealand provincial reconstruction team in the northeast of Bamyan province…the patrol returned fire, driving the insurgents off after a 15-20 minute engagement…” There not much information in the Stuff article but with the recent changeover of Operation CRIB The NZ PRT) contingents this might be simple cases of some of the local likely lads testing the mettle of the newest kids on the block – although ‘newest’ may be a bit of the stretch as some of these troops will be on their third or maybe even fourth deployment in this theatre…in chatting with a colleague yesterday, the conversation turned to ‘what is an insurgent?‘ and ‘who says so?‘. Obviously there is a lot of information on this contact that has not been released into the public domain but one wonders what confirmation there has been that the instigators of this attack were actually insurgents i.e. activists seeking to render political change through acts of violence, or something else, perhaps even a couple of lads out to impress some local lasses with their courage and prowess, or some bored locals seeking tp spice up a small ISAF patrol because they could, or maybe it was just an attempt at ‘accidental insurgency’ to meet local quotas for attacks on the ‘infidel invaders’

As it appears in the Collateral Murder story released by Wikileaks last week, if you go out in the badlands looking for insurgents, then ‘insurgents’ are what you find, often with significant second order effects at both strategic and tactical levels. In all fairness, those who engaged the combined NZ/US patrol on Saturday may very well have been insurgents of some sort, possibly even more focussed than accidental…but as attacks go in this theatre, it was in “…good country for ambushes…, “‘…driven off...” in “…15-10 minutes…” and was all over before air support arrived on the scene. In places like Afghanistan, carrying an AK or an RPG does not necessarily an insurgent make, not does arcing up in the general direction of an ISAF patrol. So if the shooters have been confirmed as insurgents, which would be a an outstanding intel flash to bang noting the time between the attack and the NZDF media release, well and good…if not yet proven, then perhaps some less martial language would be more appropriate.

As David Kilcullen proposes in The Accidental Guerrilla and further discussed in The New War #4 – Normalcy, the development of an insurgent is often as a direct reaction to actions of host nation or foreign interventions…the more we strive to understand not just the process of ‘accidentalisation’ but the local nuances and catalysts that often make incidents of  ‘accidentalism’ so distinct and different between different areas and groups.

I was interested to read in Wired that the UK is deploying its Defence Cultural Specialist Unit (DCSU) to Helmand Province. While this only be seen as a classic example of learning from the experiences of others, specifically the US Army’s Human Terrain Systems teams that have been operating for some years now. I was intrigued by the last paragraph in the Wired article “…the US Human Terrain System has seen its fair share of controversy. It will be worth watching this initiative as well to see if it provokes backlash among British social scientists…” I did some research into the HTS teams after mention of them appeared one of the Interbella briefs. From what I saw then, I rated the HTS as a damn fine idea that’s time had definitely come; more so when it appeared to be a logical consequence of Michael Scheiern’s platform-based to individual-based transition model.

So, I was quite surprised to find the degree of active resistance within the anthropological community, or certainly a very vocal element within it, to the employment of HTS teams in operational theatres like Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve yet to find a copy of Roberto Gonzalez’ Human Science and Human Terrain in which he strongly criticises the US Army’s adoption of anthropological techniques to aid in the understanding and interpreting of contemporary operating environments. In all the reviews and articles I have read in the last day or so that support Gonzalez, I can find few threads of logic; instead I get a very real feeling of rampant prima-donnaism amongst what is really quite a small and relatively insignificant strand in the broader carpet of science. Indicative of this content are Fighting militarization of anthropology, The Leaky Ship of Human Terrain Systems, and The Dangerous Militarisation of Anthropology.

Another finding of the COIN review was that intelligence in the complex environment will need to transformed to closer resemble police-style criminal intelligence (CRIMINT) focussed on a. individuals and b. providing fast ad accurate response to an initiated action. This would require a clear shift, transformation even, from traditional military intelligence focussed on conventional platforms and groupings, and driven largely by predictive philosophies.

Tied into the finding on the need to transform towards individually-focussed CRIMINT, was all need to better integrate operational analysis (OA) techniques into contemporary intelligence systems to enhance and evolve pattern analysis processes to better grapple with the greater amount of information in far greater detail than conventional intelligence systems were ever designed to manage. Unfortunately this finding seemed to die a death when the term ANALINT developed a perverse life all its own, alienating a proportion of the OA community.

If we accept that finding, and – eight years into the war on terror – there seems no reason why the finding does not still stand true, then we also accept that sciences like anthropology offer us very useful tools to assist in coming to grips with the uncertainty and complexity of the contemporary environment. Science and warfare have always gone together in an alliance that is both logical and inevitable. Even the moral objections of some of the Manhattan Project scientists are somewhat strained when these same scientists were remarkably silent on such topics as the firebombing of German and Japanese cities, causing far more civilians deaths than the atomic bombs ever did. The ‘do no harm‘ stance of Gonzalez and his fellow bleating liberal anthropologist cronies is sickening in both its naiveté and its preciousness. If this group really cared about those most likely to be harmed through misuse of social sciences, then surely they would be embracing the HTS concept as a practical and employable means of promoting greater precisions of both information and effects in current theatres of operation?

In the last two decades, we have probably spent too long declaring war (lower case) on every real or imagined threat to western society that we have become somewhat blase and have forgotten what actual War really is. While the generation that sacrificed 5000 of its members in Afghanistan and Iraq may lead the way in remembering what War really is, it’;s influence has yet to be felt…War is not nice, War is not safe…War is not a game…War is not something where we can artificially pick and choose based on what is convenient or suits at the time…

To artificially deny the utility of science like anthropology in winning the Wars we are currently in, to discard tools that save lives on BOTH sides, to dignify self-centred egotists like Gonzales is an insult to every one of those 5000…

http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/middle-east/3555243/US-military-can-t-find-its-copy-of-Iraq-killing-video

Promises, promises

@ Small Wars there is a new article by Wilf Owen rather provocatively proposing that a ‘horde’ of 4WD armed with modern guided weapons could inflict significant damage to an Anglospheric brigade size force i.e. a Stryker Brigade or Armoured Cavalry Squadron. I’m not convinced – we have always been susceptible to myths of uber-weapons from the other side of the fence – remember the Hind super-helicopter killing machine that was going to sweep all before it in the 80s? – and think that we shouldn’t be selling ourselves short…

Wilf’s article is well-written and if the aim was to promote professional discussion, then it is probably successful and more power to anyone prepared to publicly put pen to paper rather than just lip off in the Mess/ O Club (if such things still exist).

If however, the aim was to actually promote a viable capability, then it has a long way to go. What really got my back up was the comment “…if any officer reading this cannot conceive of ways to inflict significant damage to a Stryker Brigade, or Armoured Cavalry Squadron; given 100 SUVs, 100 x ATGM + MANPADS and maybe 500 men; then they probably have no place in their chosen profession…” To me this is an unnecessary and somewhat arrogant (ignorant?) throwaway line that adds no value whatsoever. To turn it around, any officer that would allow such a force to do significant damage to a Anglospheric brigade probably needs to be relieved immediately, as does any unit commander in one of those formations that could wipe the floor with a Toyota horde.

The horde, if successful at all, would be a one hit wonder (anyone remember ‘Promises‘and Baby It’s You from the 70s – not just the lead singer’s ‘attributes’?) that would be easily countered. The terrain necessary for the horde to have any sort of practical mobility would also act against it and unless it could shelter behind the skirts of a large non-combatant population, it would be vulnerable to both ISR and engagement systems. Where the horde might be employable, would be a follow-on force to a more conventional ‘hammer’ to mop small outposts and stay-behind forces.

There is/will most likely be a place for swarming in near/far future conflicts but, at the moment, the concept still awaits some conceptual and technical developments. Ultimately, it could take us a number of steps closer to Heinlein’s Mobile Infantry concept that we aspired to in the mid-90s with the Empty Battlefield et al…

I had a long discussion with a compadre last night and one of the topics we touched on was the paucity of professional papers, other than those extracted by force as part of staff college compliance rituals, on topics of contemporary relevance, from authors down under – certainly there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of serving and former officers prepared to launch themselves into the arena in the Northern Hemisphere and the US Army probably leads in the development and publication of professional discussion, regardless of whether the concepts espoused follow political or doctrinal party lines. Having been privileged enough to have been invited to attend the Chief of Army’s Seminar at Massey University last year and corresponding with some of the speakers and attendees, I wonder, of the 200 or so uniformed attendees, how many have progressed any of the subjects discussed at the Seminar? It probably doesn’t help that the Massey web page for the Seminar exhibits a rather minimalist design philosophy and only links to recordings of the presentations with no transcripts or even speaker bios, let alone forums for further discussion – come on, guys, I think you need to up your game for the contemporary environment and the information age…!!!! It might be an interesting experiment, as I assume planning for the 2010 Seminar looms, to ask all the attendees for their two most enduring memories of the 2009 Seminar…

Oh, what to do…?

It’s all so confusing…I’m looking around for a portable computing device that lets me make notes and sketches away from the desktop PC in the study e.g. when I am away from home, even just popping down to the shop, or watching TV in the lounge so that the notes and sketches can be ported/synced directly back into the main PC. At the moment, I make a lot of my review notes on the good old legal pad and then manually transcribe them which takes more time that I have and eats significantly into productivity. I often forget to take a notebook with me when I leave the house as it always ends up back by the PC for transcription and stays there for my next foray out into the world…

I had thought that perhaps the iPad might be the answer but following up a link from Paper Modelers I’ve found that there are a range of new and impending technologies that might meet my needs…my gut feeling is that I’d be better off with something closer to a tablet than an iPhone so that I can read papers in closer to a traditional page format (am I turning into a fuddy-duddy?) and also so that I can also have a decent-sized work area for graphics…

Mmmmm….

Those from the Wellington IPMS community especially will know that I am a bit of an attention-seeker in my modelling procurements…in 2007, I was allowed to buy the Soar Art 80cm Railway Gun in 1/35 scale. It is very big and impressive – I can only just manhandle the box on my own – and I have been slowly assembling it. Like most people, I built the barrel first…

Yes, folks, the breech block is really the same size as a contemporary tank!! The barrel assembly is now painted and as complete as it needs to be for now and I have psyched myself up to start on the railway trucks that bear this monster but…somewhere in the course of domestic re-orgs that comprehensive instruction manual has gone west – no doubt it has been placed somewhere ‘safe’ – and I went to the Soar Art site to ask for a new manual. While there, I surfed through some of their partnered companies and stumbled into the world of Dust, a “…what-if world, a fictionary world based on our true history and mixed-up with science fiction…” and found this…

KV-152I Fury of Ivan – WOOF!!!!

…and I want one!!! Damn New Year’s resolutions….

Bursting Bubbles

I subscribed to Fast Company ten years ago and collected 4-5 years worth of the magazine. The trouble was that it is very advertisement-heavy which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself as many of the ads were insightful and thought-provoking in their own right; the problem was that each issue was really thick and at 12 issues + specials every year, the stacks weren’t getting any smaller. As stimulating as the articles were (and I assume still are) and despite my own proclivity for accumulating paper, something had to go and so Fast Company disappeared off my radar. I suppose I could have tried to keep track of it online but, dial-up connection or not, I struggle to maintain situational awareness with the current blog roll and distribution lists…

Curzon @ Coming Anarchy asks some questions about a Fast Company finding that the gap between our social and economic beliefs is much the same as when we are teenagers just setting out in the world, and when we hit middle age, even though the beliefs themselves are diametrically opposed. I think the answer to his question is pretty simple and that is consequences. As young people, we are often oblivious to the concept of consequences and wreak merry havoc with our lives and often those of others. If you took the Fast Company survey further, it is likely that you would find that the same permissive approach extends to just about every aspect of a young person’s life, not solely social and economic… in fact, the social and economic head line is a bit of a red herring

So the real finding is actually a lot simpler – when we are young, we take more risks, and are less considerate of consequences…by the time we hit middle age, we have been burned a few times, may be a lot of times and are only too familiar with the Newtonian inevitability of consequences…

Perhaps the real story behind the Fast Company report is the issue that I commented on at Travels with Shiloh earlier this morning…

Regardless of the topic, I think that root cause behind the issues you raise is that for well over a decade now, maybe two or even more, we have stopped teaching people how to think critically and objectively. Today the ‘rule’ is to seek that information that supports the case you want to put up and to ignore or mitigate that which does not. Once upon a time, we would consider all the information and draw a conclusion based upon what was, not what we wanted it to be…and if that meant our report did not reflect the beauty of the Emperor’s new cloths then so be it. Better a sour mouthful up front than a diet of sand later on…perhaps if some senior ‘thinkers’ had been more objective, the mess in Iraq would never have occurred and the campaign in Afghanistan would have been a done deal one way or another by the end of 2004.

The superficiality of many contemporary researchers and their reports was something we saw again and again in the lessons learned world; and it was only when ABCA developed the CLAW that some light appeared at the end of the tunnel. As of the 2009 CLAW, that light was clearly brighter as many participants already had their heads around the processes and the need to disregard the symptoms on the surface and drill into the core issues.

I keep harping on about the CLAW (and the follow-on OUTLAW process) because they are the only ones I have seen in ten years in the LL game that actually work and get to the heart of an issue. The key however is that you still need people with the honesty and courage to run with oft-unpopular and unpalatable findings…perhaps if the authors of this report in New Jersey gangs had stepped back from the issues a bit more and been a bit more open-minded they would have produced something more worth reading?

Maybe I’m on a bit of a roll today (possibly the effects of a long weekend and/or a number of large G&Ts last night – ran out of beer and it’s 40km to the local) but this also ties into my hobby-horsing over at Neptunus Lex about my most-hated quote “…amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics…

I don’t think this post is really about logistics at all but I just have to add my 2 cents re that amateurs and professionals line…it is an absolute crock!! The log fraternity have spent two decades crowing from the top of their dung heap about how THEY won the Gulf War and have forgotten that, in the final outcome, they are but a supporting act to operations…

This is a theme that I have come across a number of times in my work in the last couple of weeks and I think that it is way past time that the loggies dragged themselves out of the Fulda Gap Railway Station and got into the 21st Century; stopped dictating what can and can not be done got into the game of supporting operations. My current bug bear is the falseness of ‘one fuel’ policies which might look all very nice and efficient in the hallowed halls of the G-4 (anyone’s G-4 not just that in the five-sided building) but which reduces effectiveness at the sharp end where operators are unable to introduce the niche capabilities needed for operations because they won’t run on the ‘one’ fuel…

In 2000, a MAJ Morris from the USMC wrote a staff paper on contemporary use of flying columns as part of OMFTS doctrine In it, he debunks many of the logistic myths/obstacles to operations, using Rommel and Monty as examples of a. just getting on with the job and b. keeping log staffs in their subordinate boxes…This is not to diminish the importance of logistics to successful operations just to keep it in perspective with other supporting functions like personnel, intel, plans, comms, training, and doctrine/lessons.

The Morris paper is a great read and I recommend it without reservation and more so because it was written pre-911 but still holds true through the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is delivered in three parts:

  • A general history of the use of flying columns in the 20th Century.
  • A dedicated case study on the SADF’s Operation MODULAR into Angola in 1984.
  • An exploration of how the flying column/bubble concept might be applied in a MEU or MEB.

Thinking out of the square, getting the facts and bursting conceptual bubbles…that’s what we need more off…