View Full Version : Do we make a difference?

05-28-2007, 12:54 AM
It helps if you can acknowledge something other then a singular point of view. The SWJ forum is superb for that (and people know it) because it provides a very public discourse on a wide range of tough, relevant issues by professionals with a diverse background and experience range.

This statement by Mr. Thornton brought me to a question I've been asking myself for some time, and that is what (if any) impact the SWJ/SWC is making on the discourse about Small Wars.

The poll doesn't aspire to capture all the possible responses, but inquiring minds want to know...:D

My going-in position is that the efforts put forth here make an impact that is more wide-ranging than we can possibly know...mostly because many power players who drift by and rub their chin for a while are actually afraid to admit it.

John T. Fishel
05-28-2007, 01:27 AM
Between members and registered users there are a large number of folk who are in positions to influence policy. Look too at the contributors to the blog and the magazine. You can be sure that the site is read by senior members of MNF-I. And Marct struck some nerves in his profession. So, there is a lot of evidence that the message is reaching any number of intended audiences.

05-28-2007, 02:41 AM
I like to check out the world map showing the latest 500 visitors (http://smallwarsjournal.com/site/whovisits/).

05-28-2007, 02:50 AM
On the one hand;
Yes and no...I learn a lot, but our audience is limited to ourselves.

My initial thought, but on second consideration, this is short sighted and pessimistic.

I like to think that
Yes...It opens my mind to differing opinions and I carry them into my projects/tasks.

Our discussions certainly open my mind and shape my work. In time, we could have a significant impact on future policy. To really make this come to pass, we should actively seek out E-4 and below guys and gals, O-3 and below, and DoD/Intel community/White House & Congressional (civilian) interns to participate in our forum. Hook'em while they're young and educate them well before they ossify into the mould the system wants them in.

I am profoundly concerned that
No...There is too much inertia and parochialism that keeps folks' minds closed.

Looking at the narrow range of views represented by our elected leaders, and the intensely and increasingly polarized nature of our country's political landscape, this seems more and more like an accurate observation. Hopefully this view is too cynical, but maybe we can make some small progress at turning back this tide.

05-28-2007, 03:52 AM

I think your poll questions were a little skewed, in that you gave very specific areas for reasoning no or yes. As far as searching people out, I would suggest that all good things take on a life of their own. You have to give them time. I would also suggest that when you actively seek people out you are going to turn off other groups of people.

05-28-2007, 03:52 PM
To really make this come to pass, we should actively seek out E-4 and below guys and gals, O-3 and below, and DoD/Intel community/White House & Congressional (civilian) interns to participate in our forum. Hook'em while they're young and educate them well before they ossify into the mould the system wants them in.

Although I don't fit the "young" part, I am a beginner who is learning from you guys. I find the differences in opinion (many times polar opposites) interesting and mind opening. Criticism is necessary....even of things that, with my "Rightie" attitude, I normally wouldn't critisize. SWC is good for one who just started towards an intelligence degree and hoping, at some capacity, to work in this field.

I'm listening. So keep educating me. :)

05-28-2007, 05:19 PM
Not my poll questions, I was quoting the ones supplied.

I would also suggest that when you actively seek people out...

You have a good point that folks can be turned off when we seek a specific audience, but... There are degrees of "actively". Whenever I run into junior folks who express an interest in "Small Wars" issues, I point out that there is a community of like minded people here at SWJ/SWC. I only mention it once, and only to folks who have already expressed an interest. "Actively" can be with a light touch.

"Hook'em while they're young" was flippantly worded, but important in principle. Consistently, I run into senior (GO/SES/CEO level) people whose habits (good and bad) were shaped by what they were exposed to 30+ years ago, when they were in their twenties. This is one way we can make a difference. Also, what the younger folks bring to the fight is a willingness to think outside the stock, doctrinal answers, and frequently without an agenda. This is good. The SWC seems to play like this anyways, but it doesn't hurt to try to reinforce this pattern of behavior. Having that fresh look from folks smarter than me, combined with outside-the-box perspectives, has always improved whatever I work on (if only to force me to maintain a higher standard of intellectual rigor).

You're right that we have to be careful not to turn off perspective members, but we should, tactfully, invite an expanded membership, especially if we want to be a catalyst for change.

Old Eagle
05-28-2007, 05:28 PM
Some of us are still engaged in SW policy, doctrine, etc. The feedback on this site, from experts, from practicioners, and from people with interest but no particular background are all exceptionally interesting and useful!

Whenever I am out in the informed community, I try to recruit new members, especially ones who are placed where they can make a difference.
We need to keep up the discussions.

05-28-2007, 05:49 PM
You'd be surprised who visits the Council and Journal on a regular basis - well, at least I am amazed based on our stats and comments (in person as well as by e-mail).

Visitors (based on domain) include Congress, DoS, OSD, Joint Staff, COCOMs, all services (to include PME institutions), coalition services, universities and major news outlets - to name but a few.

Who exactly from the above - I don't know - could be a principle or maybe a staffer. Either way - like like an ink spot - we will seep into the conventional institutions.

Keep at it - change is painfully slow but we are helping it along - in our own "small wars" way.

05-28-2007, 06:59 PM
Guys, this place is awesome. Don't ever think that we aren't making a difference. As long as one has an open mind, this place offers a great deal to offer. I've used information from here to help with my Master's program and at work within DoD.

Lots of good things happening with the firewalls of this joint!

Strategic LT
05-28-2007, 09:53 PM
I for one have taken many posts & articles from here and have used them in training in my unit. The CDR, LTs NCOs and Soldiers in my Battery have benefited from this site to varying degrees. I check the site a couple times a day and frequently print off stuff to hand out. It has helped us develop TTPs that we have incorporated into training. I don't know about the rest of the military, but I and my unit are watching, listening and learning from this great source of knowledge and expertise. Iím sure everyone here knows it, but the US military as a whole is making this stuff up as we go. This site and those that contribute to it are the voice of change and reason that will get us on the right track for the future. I hope that through the site and my own experiences that I will one day be a large contributing member of this society. Thanks for building it guys!

Also, I love the large strategic posts, but I would love to see more contributed to the "Boots on the Ground."

Rob Thornton
05-29-2007, 12:37 AM
The attraction I think is foremost the sincerity from which the discourse originates followed closely by the diverse and professional nature of the comments. Why is sincerity first? Because it rings of truth with no other object then to explain that truth. Nobody gets an award, promotion, bonus or kudos from a boss for posting here, in fact there is always the threat of reprisal associated with unpleasant truths. The people here want to be helpful and avail themselves of other members because they beleive in being useful. Those looking for an answer on a realted field are free to browse and borrow with no need to issue thanks -and we don't care - all we are interested in is to see the best practices put forward and to ensure there is debate on key issues. I'd also add that for me, this is a place where I can put thoughts together with the thoughts from others and improve. No subject is off the table, and we are diverse enough where you can find somebody who either knows something about what you need, or knows somebody who does.

It is a fantastic resource, if we had paid somebody with the expectation that it would have worked out so well it be hard to imagine it so.

Hats off to Dave & Bill - and for that matter to the rest of the SWC.

05-29-2007, 01:04 AM
It is a fantastic resource, if we had paid somebody with the expectation that it would have worked out so well it be hard to imagine it so.

Hats off to Dave & Bill - and for that matter to the rest of the SWC.

That is going to be a classic point. Throwing money and technology at the problem would have probably only met with fits and starts, and a contractor with money in his pockets.

Holly Higgins, the author of the poignant article in the Wash Post on her NGO work in Helmand, posed the question to me of whether the SWC matters. I've tried recruiting her to join, but it seems she is very busy between responding to the interest in the article, and other writing pursuits. I think she is definitely one of those people who is eminently worth recruiting, so she can help frame discussion from a boots on the ground perspective.

Guys like NDD fall in the same vein. They are on the front lines and know what they are talking about because they live it every day.

05-29-2007, 01:52 AM
It is a fantastic resource, if we had paid somebody with the expectation that it would have worked out so well it be hard to imagine it so.

Hats off to Dave & Bill - and for that matter to the rest of the SWC.
For a sort-of similar comparison to something built and paid for by the military, look at the Army's BCKS Professional Forums - especially the COIN, Foreign Security Force Assistance and Civil Affairs and Civil-Military Assistance forums. Regarding discussion of issues, there is no comparison at all. SWC is by far the more professional venue. That is, when discussions occur at all - the BCKS forums have large memberships, but there is little active participation. (I recall just a few months ago when a member of the BCKS team posted on SWC asking for feedback on the system) The only advantage the BCKS forums have over SWC is the ability to upload FOUO material.

I strongly agree with the rest of Rob's comments regarding why the site is so popular among such a diverse group of professionals. Well said.

Dave and Bill get huge kudos for creating and maintaining this site. I also wish to sincerely thank all those members who regularly participate in active discussions and by contributing links and material. I have certainly learned a thing or two here.

05-29-2007, 02:35 AM
I've been very impressed with the SWJ/SWC from the inception and in my view, so long as the forum, journal and related sites are permitted to continue to evolve "naturally" within the DIME parameters, I expect the influence of the discussions here to grow for two reasons:

1. Among military personnel, specialists ( academic or military), journalists and milbloggers SWC/SWJ has started to become a " go-to" site. Due to their credibility and communication skills, these people are "influencers" within their professional and public circles and their is a definite " ripple" effect from their citing SWJ/SWC in print or by word of mouth. This is a very, very, high quality readership.

2. "Leakage" of SWJ/SWC threads and articles into the blogosphere via links raises the profile of the site in terms of search engine hit hierarchies. So long as the process continues the effect will tend to be self-reinforcing because SWC/SWJ enjoys the benefit of comparative advantage on Small Wars issues over any competitors ( most of whom do not yet to exist). This brings in the wider audience from outside the COIN and defense communities who wander in because they are writing an undergrad paper or an op-ed piece and SWC came up on Google.

I've noticed a similar effect with my blog which crept from a daily hit rate of about 9 to varying between the upper 200's to the upper 300's depending on my level of productivity and the variety of topics and images employed. I'm also shocked at times who is reading posts I wrote a couple of years ago.

However, no individual blogger or small group of bloggers can possibly field the expertise and generate the debates that the SWC can do collectively. For that matter, most established institutions or media corporations would find the cost of trying to assemble a paid staff to reproduce SWJ/SWC prohibitive. Dave and Bill have created a quasi-wikinomic platform for disseminating Small Wars information that is, in economic terms, exceptionally efficient ( and thus hard to compete against).

05-29-2007, 03:09 AM
As with BCKS, why is it that I sense there are only two or three folks actually driving that train? It still seems like an abortion every time I drift by there. I did finally get some decent feedback on an RFI I posted there. It took me totally off the topic of the RFI, but I did run into a liaison officer who is posted to nthe engineer school at Ft LW and that same school has some search classes hat I had no idea existed. Score one for the team there, as I now have a mobile training team source, but I still don't have the Afghan village search smartcard I was hoping for.

I don't see why the Army is wasting the bandwidth on the other non-professional forums on AKO. I mean, there was this thread I saw about women in the infantry and there was this non-rate who was clearly punking out a SGM who was posting in the thread. I couldn't believe it. The USA could better spend it's money unscrewing that abyssmal graphical user interface that is AKO. I cringe every time I select a link there.

05-29-2007, 04:08 AM
I'd say 100% SWC/SWJ has made and continues to make a difference. Ideas shared and knowledge gained from this forum have influenced the instruction of every Marine infantry Lt over the past year. Further, I communicate with many of these Lts as they're in-country, training for combat, and/or in route to Iraq, and many of them regularly review the threads at SWC and share lessons learned with their Marines.

As stated previously, thanks Dave and Bill and everyone else for an incredibly helpful and influential website.

Semper Fidelis!

05-29-2007, 07:30 AM
As a scenario writer at a CTC, I can tell you that certain things discussed here get presented as training for units going "downrange." If that isn't "making a difference", I don't know what is.

In addition, certain of my own attitudes have been changed, some nearly 180 degrees, directly or indirectly as a result of discussions on this forum.

John T. Fishel
05-29-2007, 11:03 AM
Let me join in on the chorus of kudos for Dave and Bill and all the contributors as well. The site is awsome.

From a (now) civilian point of view I have recommended the site to my students ever since I discovered it. In looking over the members list I have found a few of them (there were only 20 to begin with - I only teach one course a semester) to still be lurkers on the site. This fall, in my forthcoming course on small wars, I will make the recommendation stronger and urge them to contribute. I won't make it required reading but I suspect that we will have some new contributors.

Finally, Zenpundit's analysis of this phenomenon is both superb and fascinating. And, last (I know I said 'finally' above) you can teach an old dog new tricks.



05-29-2007, 01:51 PM
You opened this up to civilians and what you see is what you get and it reflects adaptability and flexibility on the part of our armed forces. Civilians have never interacted with the Military in the same ways they do other components of our Government. This forum indirectly bridges that gap and it is most positive. I said it before, this would be unheard of 30 years ago and most likely discouraged if not outright prohibited. I think it is a reflection of the enemies we face today more than anything else. From the civilian side, it opens our eyes to the extreme complexity of our military forces and more than anything, it squashes the myth of the soldier being a knuckle-dragger. There are some exceedingly sharp pencils in this bin, and I've said that before too. I think the military personnel present are seeing too that not all civilians are passive flag wavers and only interested in bargains at Wal-Mart. It is the best regulated and professional forum I've ever been in and/or observed. I only regret my recruitment efforts of bringing some folks into the discussion have not been successful.

Steve Blair
05-29-2007, 01:57 PM
I recommend the forum to our cadets (with mixed success) and to fellow students (again...not sure of success there), and will continue to do so. Having an open forum where many educated viewpoints (both book educated and experience educated) can come together can only result in more good work being done. Kudos yet again to Dave and Bill for providing this great thing for us!

05-29-2007, 02:53 PM
Dave and Bill certainly ARE fantasmagorical. Feel free to carry on in that vein.

But it is often said that it is better to be lucky than good, and that we have been.

While we are passing the kudos in this thread, let me extend OUR gratitude to:

Our exceptionally level-headed and diligent moderators at SWC.
All of our authors who've contributed original works to SWJ Magazine, or allowed reprints.
The many folks that send us content.
The folks that support (http://smallwarsjournal.com/site/support/) us directly and help take the edge off.
All of you who spread the good word about the site. Keep spreading. It matters.
The great and curious minds that have gathered here at SWC, and continue to advance our collective knowledge and our individual learning.OK. Let's move along. There's lots to be done.