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Thread: Chess With The Sheiks

  1. #1
    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Default Chess With The Sheiks

    Complete article at
    http://news.nationaljournal.com/articles/080414nj1.htm

    Victory in a conventional war goes to the big battalions. Defeating an insurgency is a more intimate affair; it requires small units that can win over, or kill, one enemy fighter at a time.
    Danjel Bout took command of his infantry company in Iraq, about 130 soldiers, after his predecessor, Capt. Michael MacKinnon, was killed in October 2005. MacKinnon, a regular Army officer, had been a friend and mentor to Bout, a National Guardsman from California. "MacKinnon taught me to not just assess the combat situation," Capt. Bout told National Journal.

    "One of the biggest lessons I learned from him was to think through the second- and third-order consequences toward the civilian population. You're not playing checkers anymore. This is chess."


    This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
    this ain't no fooling around
    This ain't no mudd club, or C. B. G. B.
    I ain't got time for that now

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    Default Great article

    That is a great article.....too bad you dont see this type of reporting on the news sources where most uninformed Americans and a few politicians get their news.

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    Default More like fishing than chess...

    That was a great article. I would only add that the analogy of checkers and chess is a bit off the mark. Those are games played in which one participant tries to defeat the other. We have so many common interests with the Iraqi tribes and the people in general. The trick is to identify them and figure out a way to work with the tribes to achieve them.

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    Council Member Randy Brown's Avatar
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    Default Sheik, sheik, sheik ... your booty

    Thanks for pointing out this article. Great stuff for educating soldiers on the complexities they'll face downrange.

    Salon.com's Anna Badkhen's seems to be doing some good reporting from Iraq this month. The second page of her 12 MAY 08 entry ("Buying security in Baghdad") describes a U.S. Army captain's poker-faced response to a neighborhood council dust-up. The scene suggested to me an added level of complexity to the "chess not checkers" analogy--that the COIN/nation-building chess game is actually one in which one is not a player directly, but rather an advisor/mentor to one or more players.

    That, and I was reminded of tantrum-throwing as a calculated technique for mental- and political-gamesmanship--think John McEnroe (in tennis) or Bobby Fischer (in chess).

    Here's an excerpt:

    His long dishdasha robe flowing, his kuffiyeh folded perfectly around his bearded face, al-Athawi rises from his chair, points a long, manicured finger in the general direction of American Army Capt. Andrew Betson, Iraqi police Gen. Baha al-Azzawi and council secretary Faras al-Qabi, and says in a clear, loud voice, "Why are you accusing me of being a member of al-Qaida?"

    Suddenly, everyone is up on their feet, shouting.

    "Please!" al-Azzawi bellows, rolling his eyes. "Let us put these differences behind us. It's over. Let's forgive. It's forgotten. Get over it."

    "We never said any such thing about you," yells al-Qabi. "Why do you accuse us of accusing you?"

    "Al-Qaida!" al-Athawi roars. "I am told that you spread rumors that I am al-Qaida!"

    "Enough, enough!" shout fellow council members, grabbing each other's hands.

    "Stop! Please!" implores al-Azzawi.

    "No one is accusing you of anything!" screams al-Qabi.

    Betson remains in his seat, watching the meeting of a council created to foster reconciliation in the war-torn neighborhood descend into a 10-minute shouting match.

    Then everyone gets up and goes to a burger joint to lunch together.
    L2I is "Lessons-Learned Integration."
    -- A lesson is knowledge gained through experience.
    -- A lesson is not "learned" until it results in organizational or behavioral change.
    -- A lesson-learned is not "integrated" until shared successfully with others.

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    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Brown View Post
    Then everyone gets up and goes to a burger joint to lunch together.
    It's like a Baghdad version of SPROCKETS: "Now is the time that we argue".

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    Default Learning local context

    Excellent article and I can recall, without references, that the British Army, let alone the UK government, were astonished at the situation in Northern Ireland wayback in 1969 when troops were deployed to assist the police. In the late 70's when I was there it was very different from the mainland, for examples local customs and religious intensity.

    It took the UK a long time to learn and understand the local context. Sheiks by another name?

    Given the introduction of a foriegn army is not unique, as an outsider, I still am puzzled that so much depends on hands on learning and then an amount is lost with rotation (Yes, mentioned before on other threads).

    A recent BBC-TV News short report on the Italian contribution in Afghanistan included an Afghan criticism that every six months the Italians started to learn again.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Military egos, David.

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    ...Given the introduction of a foriegn army is not unique, as an outsider, I still am puzzled that so much depends on hands on learning and then an amount is lost with rotation (Yes, mentioned before on other threads).

    A recent BBC-TV News short report on the Italian contribution in Afghanistan included an Afghan criticism that every six months the Italians started to learn again.
    We can do anything better than our predecessor (or boss, or successor...) ergo no lessons learned are required or desired. It is rumored there is testosterone involved. It's called "Eschewing cooperation for competition -- for fame and fortune..." (not)

    Obviously, it's a worldwide phenomenon.

    Equally obviously, it's abysmally stupid...

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    There is a dual dynamic. Some units do not care to pass along lessons. Some do not care to learn. It sucks when both occur simultaneously. I have never seen in instance where the incoming unit is ready to learn and the outgoing unit is ready to teach.

    On my 2nd tour to Iraq, my counterpart in the outgoing unit seemed more interested in getting the hell out of Iraq than on passing anything along. His commander required him to create a continuity book, but it was lacking and he did not have many answers about those areas where it lacked. On my 3rd tour, it was even worse. My counterpart acted as though I was an inconvenience and a distraction whenever I asked him about something. Had I not hunted him down everyday, I doubt that we even would have spoken. As it turned out, he did not do all that much, so maybe he simply had no lessons to pass along.

    After each occasion, having dealt with the BS of not having a good handoff, I decided that my replacement would not have a similarly crappy experience. Unfortunately, in both occasions, I had about 24 hours to do the handoff (so much for the one- to two-week RIP/TOA timeline). The guy at the trail end of my 2nd tour seemed pretty uninterested. The guy at the trail end of my 3rd tour had lots of questions and was geniunely interested, but he got there so late - I caught the last bird out with my battalion commander, so that I could do somewhat of a handoff, and it was clearly not enough. We had to email back and forth for another two weeks after I got back home (and throw in a week-long delay between leaving there and getting here).

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default True. It's the people, not the process.

    There are provisions for it and we say we do the right things (not just on handoffs / RIP...) but the actors don't follow the script all too often.

    We need to be able to go into the brain and tune egos -- and ambition...

    Lacking that, design a failsafe system that forces cooperation -- and I do NOT mean a bureaucratic effort or regulation. It's up to the Commanders to make it happen; the good ones do, too many do not, not being done their way.

    Egos...

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    Default

    A big problem for my deployments has always been adequate turnover time. During my 2005 Afghanistan deployment, for example, the rotator (POS contract aircraft) was broken for three days. I had a couple of hours of turnover with the guy I was relieving which is simply not enough for an intel guy.

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    Council Member Randy Brown's Avatar
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    Default Suitable for framing

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Some units do not care to pass along lessons. Some do not care to learn. It sucks when both occur simultaneously.
    FYI, our lessons-learned team is now displaying your words in a place of great honor, respect and admiration. Thanks for distilling the problems we face daily in such an easy-to-remember manner!
    L2I is "Lessons-Learned Integration."
    -- A lesson is knowledge gained through experience.
    -- A lesson is not "learned" until it results in organizational or behavioral change.
    -- A lesson-learned is not "integrated" until shared successfully with others.

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    Default Not just a military problem

    In my 20 years in the Foreign Service, I had never had an overlap with my predecessor until I came out to my Iraq PRT assignment. The outgoing officer is usually desperate to get back to the US for a few weeks of summer leave while fending off his next boss who thinks any arrival later than late June is too late, while the incoming officer's previous boss is holding on to her with a grip of iron until late August, at least (in part to cover the gap because the guy replacing her isn't coming until September). State just doesn't have the bodies to cover all the bases, especially when you throw in training needs (which usually are addressed during the summer transition).

    Baghdad is different, in this as in so many ways. The directive was established that all Baghdad assignments would ensure at least a two-week overlap, whether inside the Embassy or at PRTs. My sense is that this is in fact held to MOSTLY. I had a solid two-week overlap with my predecessor and really benefited from it. It's so important to "hand off" relationships properly, to have the time to go over longstanding problems for which solutions are only just developing and which must be carried to completion by the new team. This is especially critical in a place like Iraq, where nearly everybody turns over ever year. If you can't have continuity, you at least have to have a good hand-off.

    I suspect this will be the last time I have that overlap, however Maybe someday, when State is properly staffed...but that's another thread.

    Regards

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default It is indeed

    Quote Originally Posted by Outsidethewire View Post
    ...Maybe someday, when State is properly staffed...but that's another thread.
    another thread and one that deserves attention -- if this isn't a wake up call to DoD, State and the Congress to fix the imbalance in staffing and funding and get State up to speed for this Century, we'll never see one...

    That really needs to be fixed. It is arguably (not to me, will be to some) more important than is the military argument over which next war do we prepare for.

    State and the Intel community can stop a lot of wars before they start...

  14. #14
    Council Member jkm_101_fso's Avatar
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    Default RIP/TOA inherently flawed...

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    There is a dual dynamic. Some units do not care to pass along lessons. Some do not care to learn. It sucks when both occur simultaneously. I have never seen in instance where the incoming unit is ready to learn and the outgoing unit is ready to teach.

    On my 2nd tour to Iraq, my counterpart in the outgoing unit seemed more interested in getting the hell out of Iraq than on passing anything along. His commander required him to create a continuity book, but it was lacking and he did not have many answers about those areas where it lacked. On my 3rd tour, it was even worse. My counterpart acted as though I was an inconvenience and a distraction whenever I asked him about something. Had I not hunted him down everyday, I doubt that we even would have spoken. As it turned out, he did not do all that much, so maybe he simply had no lessons to pass along.

    After each occasion, having dealt with the BS of not having a good handoff, I decided that my replacement would not have a similarly crappy experience. Unfortunately, in both occasions, I had about 24 hours to do the handoff (so much for the one- to two-week RIP/TOA timeline). The guy at the trail end of my 2nd tour seemed pretty uninterested. The guy at the trail end of my 3rd tour had lots of questions and was geniunely interested, but he got there so late - I caught the last bird out with my battalion commander, so that I could do somewhat of a handoff, and it was clearly not enough. We had to email back and forth for another two weeks after I got back home (and throw in a week-long delay between leaving there and getting here).
    The idea that a unit or its leaders could pass all the knowledge they've acquired in the last 12-15 months during a two-week RIP is a flawed concept from the get-go. I've been a part of two of them during my time in Iraq. The first in 2004 was an absolute debacle; the second in 2006 did allow much more time, but still not enough to relay all of the information I needed too, nor foster the relationships with the indigenous we should have. There are many ways to mitigate this, but as Schmedlap stated, getting everyone to participate whole-heartedly maybe critical. Here are a few ideas:
    1. Big Army needs to identify what BCTs and BNs are going where in IZ MONTHS in advance, as much as possible, anyway. I understand the battlefield changes.
    2. The incoming unit needs to send at least one ops staff (asst. S-3) guy and one LOG dude to IZ at least three months early. This will allow them to see what the current unit is doing and maintain some sort of continuity for the incoming unit (or change it). These guys can keep SIPR contact with their units back home to deliver briefs and share INTEL. They can also meet and greet local players that the BNs and BDEs are involved with on a daily basis. The incoming commander has the option of sending these guys home early from the tour, because their primary function will be to capture historical data from the outgoing unit.
    3. Try to keep units habitually assigned to the same AO. We are not good at this. My old BCT has gone to three different AOs during their rotations. Why not at least try and keep some continuity, if possible? In general the Iraqi players don't change and they get to see a familiar face...as opposed to "divorcing" from Americans every year.
    4. PDSS is a good program, but should probably happen a few times, not once. I realize this can be detrimental to the unit losing leaders for two weeks a time back home, but the payoff is worth it. It doesn't have to be the battalion commander or XO.

    Just some ideas. RIP/TOA will never be a perfect system. It can't.

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