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It Ain't Just Killin' Applying influence, working with civil and private agencies, dealing with non-combatants.

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Old 08-01-2008   #1
Beelzebubalicious
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Default Do you know what you don't know?

In the last few years, and more recently, I've been hearing some folks in the international development business who have worked or tried to work with military counterparts say that they hit a stone wall b/c their counterparts either directly or indirectly state that they know what the issues are and how to solve them. Amongst some in the development business, there's a belief that military counterparts don't get it and don't know that they don't get it.

I don't think the good folks at SWC are in this category (and I am not referring to anyone posting here), I'm just making a general statement that's obviously not true in every circumstance. I've just heard it enough now to throw it out there and see where it sticks (or hits back).

It no doubt goes the other way, too, and I've seen, heard and read evidence of this (I admit I am probably in this category).

Comments? Thoughts?
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Old 08-01-2008   #2
Ken White
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Default My experience is somewhat dated but in my

observation on four continents with a dozen or so NGOs (and a like number of Govt / UN Orgs) the issue was often stated as you say but my perception was that the reality was often not a lack of understanding, rather a vastly different approach to the best solution.

IMO there were some on both sides who fit the 'don't have a clue' bill but most of the disagreements, while often couched in those terms really revolved around appropriate measures required. There's an almost visceral rejection of violence or even constraint on the part of some and a predilection to both those on the part of others. Those were the extreme; most of the disagreements really boiled down to turf and ego battles with a propensity for a soft approach from the non-mil types and a harder edged option on the part of the military guys with each accusing the other of not understanding.

Most of the time, I could see merit in both sides. About half the time it got worked out but rarely to everyone's satisfaction. That generally seems to happen when the truth -- as it often does -- lies between two poles.

How's that for no help...

ADDENDUM: I omitted to mention what most of us know; that most, not all, of the Development folks truly want to help the local people and they are occasionally if not generally agnostic about who's on which side (a matter of mild concern to the mil types generally). They are focused on helping. They also seem to often forget that the military guys are there for a reason and that reason may be antithetical to some or all the Development issues. Conversely, while some military folks, again not all, do tend to adopt the kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out mantra they've got a job to do and the Development crowd can truly (purposely or not) interfere with that -- that dichotomy often resolves itself into the "They don't have a clue" mentality by both sides. While the two can sometimes agree and can usually find some common ground on which to proceed, most of the cases I've seen involved a 'loss' by the development folks. Seemed to me that usually it was the difference between a generic focus on 'help' and more tightly focused view of the 'mission' with the slightly more narrowly focused side winning the argument followed by complaints of not understanding from the Development folks -- sometimes they were correct, sometimes not. It is a knotty problem, no question.

The live-it-up Expat development types while few compared to those living poorly and roughly don't help, nor do the hard charging, take no prisoners and don't bother me with facts military types. Fortunately, there are more sensible people in both spheres (and I think more now than back in my day) but I suspect it's a problem that'll never entirely go away -- that focus thing. Mars and Venus and all that...

Last edited by Ken White; 08-01-2008 at 03:20 AM. Reason: Addendum
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Old 08-01-2008   #3
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Default Uh, I don't get it

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beelzebubalicious View Post
In the last few years, and more recently, I've been hearing some folks in the international development business who have worked or tried to work with military counterparts say that they hit a stone wall b/c their counterparts either directly or indirectly state that they know what the issues are and how to solve them. Amongst some in the development business, there's a belief that military counterparts don't get it and don't know that they don't get it.

I don't think the good folks at SWC are in this category (and I am not referring to anyone posting here), I'm just making a general statement that's obviously not true in every circumstance. I've just heard it enough now to throw it out there and see where it sticks (or hits back).

It no doubt goes the other way, too, and I've seen, heard and read evidence of this (I admit I am probably in this category).

Comments? Thoughts?
I particularly remember working with an NGO concerning "displaced Iraqis" back in 03-04. This lady flew into Mosul, I picked her up and "escorted" her to the "displacement camp". She had a lot of questions for me, but unfortunately, I was only able to answer the ones concerning security, for the most part. She asked me for a "write-up" on what displacement trends I had witnessed. I told her that I probably wasn't qualified to do that, but would make the attempt. It was my Company AO. She was pretty pleasant and nice, but it seemed that she didn't realize the inherent danger she was in and thought that Iraq was mostly made up of displacement camps. Strange situation, but she was probably sent there with that mindset. Overall, I think most military do "get it"; even though we aren't qualified or trained to, in most cases.
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Old 08-01-2008   #4
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Having worked this arena intimately--I was married to a USAID officer for 10 years--in Sudan, Egypt, Zaire, Rwanda, Somalia, and Washington DC, this is a multilane freeway of misunderstanding that runs at high speed in 3 dimensions. It is not a question of the military not getting it or the NGO/IO or USAID not getting it. Not getting it happens from both sides because "it" is not defined in a manner that both (or all as both implies a simple divide) understand.

That is easy to say and harder to do. It gets harder as the pressure inherent in any situation starts to grow. Clear communications are fundamental. Zero tolerance for gamesmenship regardless of source eliminates fools quickly--or at least in the case in Goma silenced them or put them on airplanes out of Dodge. Humor is a necessary lubricant--especially self-deprecating humor--that can ease a situation. Remember that you can cure ignorance but not stupidity. Work on the first. Contain or eliminate the second.

For the most part folks on all sides want to do the right thing to achieve "it." The ones who don't are the source of the most serious problems. The ones who are too stupid to achieve "it" are a close second. I found that if you identify the first group's vulnerability and stick a needle in it, they often straighten up. Again the second group presents limited options; I had to use those in Goma also.


Best

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Old 08-01-2008   #5
John T. Fishel
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Default Check out the civil-mil coop thread/blog item

and my post on that thread regarding some of the recent historical sources of the "just don't get it" syndorme.

The AID policy referred to in my post on the other thread began to change during and after Operation Provide Comfort in N. Iraq after DS/DS. Then, under the leadership of the Deputy Director of AID's Office of Foerign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Dayton Maxwell, OFDA collaborated with the Civil Affaris community to produce an FM (red cover) that would fit in a BDU pocket on how to conduct similar operations. As an aside, the Director of OFDA at the time was then Major Andrew Natsios, USAR, from the 352nd Civil affairs Command who was called up for the Kuwait Task Force. His boss in the KTF, COL Randy Elliott USAR was in his civilian job a Mid East Analyst in DOS' Bureau of Intelligence & Research. Natsios went on to head World Vision and later AID.

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Old 08-01-2008   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
and my post on that thread regarding some of the recent historical sources of the "just don't get it" syndorme.

The AID policy referred to in my post on the other thread began to change during and after Operation Provide Comfort in N. Iraq after DS/DS. Then, under the leadership of the Deputy Director of AID's Office of Foerign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Dayton Maxwell, OFDA collaborated with the Civil Affaris community to produce an FM (red cover) that would fit in a BDU pocket on how to conduct similar operations. As an aside, the Director of OFDA at the time was then Major Andrew Natsios, USAR, from the 352nd Civil affairs Command who was called up for the Kuwait Task Force. His boss in the KTF, COL Randy Elliott USAR was in his civilian job a Mid East Analyst in DOS' Bureau of Intelligence & Research. Natsios went on to head World Vision and later AID.

Cheers

JohnT
Natsios was George the First's special Advisor on Disaster Relief. He was instrumental in talking us into Somalia; I had him come over and brief the CSA and Staff as we went in for Restore Hope. He bailed of course when Clinton was elected and drew a mega salary from World Vision. Brian Attwood was USAID Administrator and Nan Borden was OFDA chief during Goma. I liked both--they listened and they were not hesistant to tell stupid peeple to shut up.

On the USAID Policy thingy I see it as an good framework; the real issue is like an SOP in any military unit it is worthless unless read and enforced.

best

Tom
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Old 08-01-2008   #7
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Not much direct experience here, but it seems likely to me both sides see the other as "stone walls" simultaneously.

My comment would be: Where is the unity of command? At some point there has to be a big dog to settle these disputes. Imagine a military campaign with no joint force commander. Each component is off doing it's own thing, using its own vision to win the war. ISTM that's what is happening between other agencies, NGO's and the military - there's not higher authority that can make them play nice and work together using a coordinated strategy.
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Old 08-01-2008   #8
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Default Reality

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At some point there has to be a big dog to settle these disputes.
Most of the time, in my experience, there was not, at least not on the ground, unless the ambassador or equivalent stepped up. that was absolutely true in Zaire.

In Rwanda, I had an Ambassador who stepped up. We also had Dick McCall as the #3 man in USAID on the ground. We had Susan Rice on the NSC in our court, and DoD with Joe Nye championing what we were trying to do. Dick Bogosian as State's regional coordinator was also a strong ally. Both SOCEUR and EUCOM were on board with us. US Embassies in Uganda and Tanzania were good partners. Kenya was a wind sock.

Opponents included elements of State Africa Burea, CIA, the US Mission to the UN, the US Diplomatic Missions (embassies) in Burundi and Zaire, and some members of Congress who at times seemed to forget there had been this thing called a genocide.

That is why Africa Command could be a real step forward if it works to iron out these issues before they are issues.
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Old 08-01-2008   #9
John T. Fishel
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Default Tom, at the very least

it serves to enable cooperative behavior. Of course, that depends on the individuals involved. Same problem with sharing intel, etc.

Entropy, you have had a "blinding flash of the ALMOST obvious." Those were the things that we used to call in SWORD sort of slap the head moments. It should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain but for some reason no one got it until somebody actualy pointed it out. Sometimes they don't get it even when it is pointed out. It is also why in interagency and multinational operations we refer to unity of effort rather than unity of command. The latter is a subset of the former and makes things a lot easier. But unity of command is no panacea, especially if the commander chooses to disregard the facts (which has happened on more than one occasion).

Cheers

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Old 08-01-2008   #10
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NGOs don't follow commands. They operate by consensus. You are one person sitting around the table, with one vote and everyone else at the table is a loopy, wanna save the world left wing liberal. (Except for Tom's wife. I'm sure she's a wonderful woman.)
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Old 08-01-2008   #11
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Talking I rest my case...

...............
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Old 08-01-2008   #12
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NGOs don't follow commands.
true

but you can pull their funding

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(Except for Tom's wife. I'm sure she's a wonderful woman.)
not true, at least the one you referring to,

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Old 08-01-2008   #13
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Default Leadership

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true

but you can pull their funding
Too True, Tom.

Soldiers are disciplined and follow the ROE. I think we got along to the extent we humanly could (there) and we were not politically-driven by some agenda (other than wanting to go home).

AMBOs come and go, and we had the pleasure of having a few without agendas. Our team worked because it had to (down to 13 from a "once upon a time" 500 plus "official employees" in a mere 5 days.

Get the job done (or, as Tom did, send the Sierra home and get the team in order).

Enough said
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Old 08-01-2008   #14
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I don't know shinola, so by definition, I don't know sh*t. That's how I always introduce myself. Seriously, I do get far by admitting I have a lot to learn and that's one of the reasons I follow SWC. I also have a preference for getting things done and avoiding bullsh*t.

I work in a not-for-profit and the consensus model drives me nuts sometimes. It paralyzes and frustrates. It's a model for those who don't want to make decisions and take accountability for those decisions.

NGOs can certainly benefit from different management and operational structures. The problem is that when you work with local counterparts on long-term development and capacity building stuff, a lot of time it's about working with them and coming to consensus on how to move forward. It doesn't really work to come in and tell people what to do and how to do it.
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Old 08-01-2008   #15
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I also have a preference for getting things done and avoiding bullsh*t.


It doesn't really work to come in and tell people what to do and how to do it.
That's it. You have to let the locals and NGOs BS until they're ready to do something themselves. The good news, however, is that once everyone agrees, it will get done and if the insurgents try to destroy whatever was built, the population will get really angry at the people who destroyed their work.

Think of it as Reagonomics at a local pace.
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Old 08-02-2008   #16
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I see this issue pop up every time I read a text from an NGO on security management affairs. Their going-in position is that gaining acceptance and ensuring transparency are big priorities if the effort is to ever get off the ground and make headway.

The military answer?..."You want acceptance? how about you accept this M16 in your face." It's an extreme quote, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of folks on one side or the other get polarized by perception and it screws up just about everything else.

I'd offer that those in the development business are selling their efforts short when they take a statement about not knowing what the issues are at face value, and don't have the maturity to realize that self-admitted ignorance is way different than bling ignorance. If anything, they should work harder to inform, change impressions, and overall educate where possible.

We in the military tend to give up too easily too. It's always easier to go with the "damn hippies" comments than making a serious effort.
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