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Old 02-20-2010   #41
William F. Owen
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Gen Mattis
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“I believe the single primary deficiency among senior U.S. officers today is the lack of opportunity for reflective thought,”
Sorry, but it's not the lack of opportunity, but the out right lack of effective thinking, even given the opportunity! Look at the garbage pumped out by those who have ample opportunity.
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“We need disciplined and unregimented thinking officers who think critically when the chips are down and the veneer of civilization is rubbed off -- seeing the world for what it is, comfortable with uncertainty and life’s inherent contradictions and able to reconcile war’s grim realities with human aspirations.”
Again, I submit it's actually more effective to have done the thinking, before the "chips are down." Comfort with uncertainty comes from confidence. You can walk in the Valley of Death because you "fear no evil."
I fully agree that the problem comes from a lack of discipline. There simply is none in the thinking that informs most military debate. -

In fact, in some limited way, this forum represents some of the most rigourous thinking on the subject - yet no one here would be widely recognised as one of the "leading military thinkers."
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Old 02-20-2010   #42
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Default That lack of opportunity for creative thought is a self inflicted wound.

Cessation of micromanagement by the incumbents, removal of the 'up or out' fallacy, ceasing to use personnel policies residual from WW I only suitable for mass Armies and more reasoned competition for promotion would provide more than ample opportunity for thought -- and for creative thought as well. All that is easily within the grasp of said incumbent senior US Officers.

Dumbing down training after Viet Nam had a terrible cost...

An Armed Force has to operate on trust. Deliberately undertrain and undereducate subordinates to keep them ignorant and compliant while 'saving money' and one will not be able to trust them out of one's sight. That will have predictable consequences on where one must place one's priorities and will cost more in the long term.
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Old 02-20-2010   #43
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As much as I believe General Mattis is on the right track, I also believe the current personnel system cannot produce many officers, much less Generals, who have those traits.

If the personnel system, including the 20 year retirement mark, can be successfully reformed so one is not constrained by "key developmental" tours, "three R" tours and time specific command time, then perhaps more of the leaders General Mattis wants can emerge from the system.

We're products of the system, which has consistently focused on producing subject matter experts within a very narrow field (branch/functional area). The general education of an officer should begin well before commissioning. I've said here in the past that history should be a mandatory minor for all Army officers because you need to understand the past in order to understand why the present looks the way it does. When people do not understand the past, you get situations such as "well, the Baathists are gone, Saddam is hiding, now what the hell do we do..."

In fact, critical thinking must be done well before the committment of forces..some dudes named Clausewitz and Sun Tzu had some sort of writings on these subjects...understand the nature of the war you are about to embark on, know yourself and your enemy and you'll be victorious in a thousand battles.

The Army trains people very well, it does not educate people very well, nor does it really foster a spirit of intellectualism except in very select groups. This must change if Mattis' goal is ever to be reached (and I believe it's a worthy vision).
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Old 02-20-2010   #44
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Default Not very well in either case...

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The Army trains people very well, it does not educate people very well, nor does it really foster a spirit of intellectualism except in very select groups. This must change if Mattis' goal is ever to be reached (and I believe it's a worthy vision).
Only 'acceptably well' IMO -- and marginally acceptably at that. The fact that most in the Army are better trained than system design is a compliment to good leaders who transcend that system.

Aside from historical fact, I can look at a picture of action in Afghanistan or elsewhere today and see poor training evidenced. See the attached example of bunching, firing without aiming, firing on full auto for no reason (both those by an apparent Leader...), carrying MG ammo loose allowing belts to pick up debris and misalign cartridges in the links. No one take pictures of Command or Staff errors indicative of poor training but they abound also and few who return that I've talked to fail to have some sad -- and some hilarious -- stories illustrating that shortfall...

Other than that, I agree with your excellent post.

Last edited by Ken White; 10-27-2011 at 02:20 AM.
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Old 02-21-2010   #45
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You know if the Army or Marines would pay. I'd follow a cadre out of bootcamp through their first deployments and chronicle in an anthropological educational system the process and systemic issues. My co-pi Dr. Tyrell and I would travel and train as internal observers using our own gray beard coterie to evaluate our concerns.

Then the group would meet at some Caribbean resort (all paid for by the military sponsors. To discuss the results.
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Old 02-21-2010   #46
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You know if the Army or Marines would pay. I'd follow a cadre out of bootcamp through their first deployments and chronicle in an anthropological educational system the process and systemic issues. My co-pi Dr. Tyrell and I would travel and train as internal observers using our own gray beard coterie to evaluate our concerns.

Then the group would meet at some Caribbean resort (all paid for by the military sponsors. To discuss the results.
Hot damn! Sign me up NOW?!?!

Actually, I've thought of projects along these lines and, IMO, they would be worth the cost - even without the Caribbean end state !
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Old 02-21-2010   #47
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Default Mobilization and Collaboration

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You know if the Army or Marines would pay. I'd follow a cadre out of bootcamp through their first deployments and chronicle in an anthropological educational system the process and systemic issues. My co-pi Dr. Tyrell and I would travel and train as internal observers using our own gray beard coterie to evaluate our concerns.
IMO, this type of involvement/interaction is one thing that we've missed out on since the country was not mobilized after 9/11. I'm not talking about Vietnam-era draft, but rather WWII style mobilization. As I studied psychological operations during WWII, the military had access to advertisement executives, circus managers, and Hollywood types that intuitively understood propaganda and deception. Furthermore, the university system worked hand-in-hand with the military to work through various problem sets.

Today, this involvement is limited to a handful of departments at NPS, the academies, and some ad-hoc organizations/people. Imagine if that changed, and all a MarcT or Selil had to do was submit a short letter of intent defining scope, cost, and purpose to use their expertise to help us.

I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of working groups at NPS (TRAC-Monterey and CORE Lab). Most of the projects we worked on are secret or classified, but y'all got to see some results like the Salinas gang project. I really think an expansion of these type of research teams and analysis groups into civilian universities would be mutually beneficial. In some cases, SF teams outsourced/tasked master's students to work problems for them. They could travel on-site, communicate via secure email, or talk in person once a week using a webcam. Throughout the course of a year, the master's student had his thesis and the SF team had answers.

I'd like this type of problem solving pushed down to the Marines and Army company commanders in patrol bases. We have the technology. They can use an Ipod phone application (currently being created by some Marines at NPS) to gather the survey data, push it back home station to a Selil or MarcT, and get immediate feedback via a Webcam. Most importantly, the subject matter experts can advise them on the questions and considerations that the commander simply doesn't know to ask or think about.

This is one collaboration solution harnessing the power of the internet. Another is far simpler. It just involves a commander taking the time to pass down his Operational Summaries DOWN the chain to his NCOs/PLs and asking them, "What do you think about this?"

v/r

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Old 02-21-2010   #48
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Imagine if that changed, and all a MarcT or Selil had to do was submit a short letter of intent defining scope, cost, and purpose to use their expertise to help us.
I'll be honest I think this is actually possible. A combatant commander J3 had his adjutant approach me for possibly briefing them in person in theater. Now, since the conversation nothing has happened but as they say, "There is a war on". The topic was not "small wars" but "cyber wars" and whether it happens or not I was still surprised when they gave me the time of day.

I'll also say a institutional ethnography or learning ethnography would help TRADOC and others understand where they are and what they really need to get to where they are going. Currently I see TRADOC steering the ship of learning by looking at the wake.
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Old 02-21-2010   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by selil View Post
I'll be honest I think this is actually possible. A combatant commander J3 had his adjutant approach me for possibly briefing them in person in theater. Now, since the conversation nothing has happened but as they say, "There is a war on". The topic was not "small wars" but "cyber wars" and whether it happens or not I was still surprised when they gave me the time of day.
I've had similar things happen, although more along the lines of "can I take you out for a beer and pick your brains...". Again, the topic wasn't "small wars", but.... I can definitely agree with the "surprised" reaction !

From what I have seen, this isn't an institutional mindset but, rather, and individual one; people tapping into their personal networks. I suspect that there is somewhat of an institutional paranoia operating here for, I'll admit, some very good reasons.

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I'll also say a institutional ethnography or learning ethnography would help TRADOC and others understand where they are and what they really need to get to where they are going. Currently I see TRADOC steering the ship of learning by looking at the wake.
Hmmm, I would have said by looking at their sails, but I agree, there isn't much overt consideration of what their institutional environments actually are. I'm not sure how much of that stems from institutional paranoia (aka institutionally reinforced fear reactions), and how much stems from a "not made here" syndrome. There is also the fully understandable question of getting realistic responses verses getting responses that will keep the research / consulting money coming (see here for a perfect example).

Sam, right now a top notch institutional ethnography would take 2-3 years to actually do, and another year to write up. You would need a team of about 5-6 people to do it, and it would break about half of the rules in the book to do it properly. It would also think it unlikely to get IRB approval, given how it should be done ("Oh, too dangerous for the researchers and the LEGAL implications!!!!"). And that is just the fieldwork component of it.

So what they are likely to get instead is extremely limited institutional ethnographies that are, honestly, pretty seriously skewed. That skewing, BTW, will stem from a lot of factors, but the biggest one will be a structural factor stemming from contracting and employment limitations. Unfortunately, I've seen this type of problem before when I've done this type of work; you will get people hired to "fix" individual problems where the "solution" has already been "found" and the consultant just acts as a shaman giving that "solution" an imprimateur. What you almost never get is an organization that says "These are our limitations; this is what we must do; look around and come up with ways for us to do it well".
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Old 02-22-2010   #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by selil View Post
I'll be honest I think this is actually possible. A combatant commander J3 had his adjutant approach me for possibly briefing them in person in theater.
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Originally Posted by marct View Post
I've had similar things happen, although more along the lines of "can I take you out for a beer and pick your brains...".
That's outstanding. Ten years from now, I think some of the ideas we're discussing on collaboration will be standardized and become routine processes. We're already seeing this in the private and to some degree the public sectors- just watch an IBM commercial where the teacher has his students interact with children in China via webcam.. It's just a matter of how long are we going to wait to take care of this comparative advantage that we possess with our intellectual capital.. GEN Patraeus used it at TRADOC to write FM 3-24 and in Iraq with his counsel of colonels.

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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
In fact, in some limited way, this forum represents some of the most rigourous thinking on the subject - yet no one here would be widely recognised as one of the "leading military thinkers."
Wilf, I think you underestimate the amount of indirect influence SWJ has. Dave Dillege and Bill Nagle started a grassroots organization with an amazing idea- a website that has peer-reviewed "living" documents and a rigorous open-debate forum that allows for discussion based off the merit of one's arguments rather than rank/status. Are some "heavy-hitters" afraid to publish here and have their ideas challenged? Of course, but that does not take away from the fact that many reporters come here to write stories, many students come here to learn, and many practicisioners come here to explain. Additionally, the freedom of this site allows for social networking, and it allows academics and other writers to test ideas before they go to print. I think, over time, you'll see more books recognize SWJ in their acknowledgement pages.

v/r

Mike
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Old 02-22-2010   #51
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Hi Mike,

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That's outstanding. Ten years from now, I think some of the ideas we're discussing on collaboration will be standardized and become routine processes. We're already seeing this in the private and to some degree the public sectors- just watch an IBM commercial where the teacher has his students interact with children in China via webcam.. It's just a matter of how long are we going to wait to take care of this comparative advantage that we possess with our intellectual capital.. GEN Patraeus used it at TRADOC to write FM 3-24 and in Iraq with his counsel of colonels.
It's a touch more complex that that . Some of it is systemic as in the organizing principle of the system. Current PME and a lot of Higher Ed uses an Authority Ranking system as its base structural (relational) model, while what we are dealing with here is more of a reciprocity system. If you want an analogy from civilian life, it's the difference when you are looking for a job between just submitting a resume to a company (mail or online doesn't matter) and networking so that the job description and keywords are actually written with you in mind.

These structural, or relational if you prefer, systems are all based around the concept of distribution rather than around production. They have other characteristics that are tricky as well. For example, "trust" and "reputation" are the cornerstones of the system, unlike the current systems where position or office are the cornerstone. In reciprocity systems, you trust individuals; in Authority Ranking system, you trust offices and organizations; at least in our current ones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
Wilf, I think you underestimate the amount of indirect influence SWJ has. Dave Dillege and Bill Nagle started a grassroots organization with an amazing idea- a website that has peer-reviewed "living" documents and a rigorous open-debate forum that allows for discussion based off the merit of one's arguments rather than rank/status. Are some "heavy-hitters" afraid to publish here and have their ideas challenged? Of course, but that does not take away from the fact that many reporters come here to write stories, many students come here to learn, and many practicisioners come here to explain. Additionally, the freedom of this site allows for social networking, and it allows academics and other writers to test ideas before they go to print. I think, over time, you'll see more books recognize SWJ in their acknowledgement pages.
Totally agree with this assessment, Mike.

Cheers,

Marc
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Old 05-12-2010   #52
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Are all those posting here military mens. I saw in one picture the training and the education in military services, it's really tough job right. But still it hold it importance from protecting the country from all sides. it's a awesome duty. Proud to be a soldier.
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Old 05-12-2010   #53
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Wilf, I think you underestimate the amount of indirect influence SWJ has. Dave Dillege and Bill Nagle started a grassroots organization with an amazing idea- a website that has peer-reviewed "living" documents and a rigorous open-debate forum that allows for discussion based off the merit of one's arguments rather than rank/status. Are some "heavy-hitters" afraid to publish here and have their ideas challenged?
I have profound respect for what the Dave and Bill have done, and I certainly do not underestimate the visibility of ideas here - but the good thinking and effective contributors to SWJ are not the lauded "COIN experts."
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Old 05-12-2010   #54
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I have profound respect for what the Dave and Bill have done, and I certainly do not underestimate the visibility of ideas here - but the good thinking and effective contributors to SWJ are not the lauded "COIN experts."
Nor are they they dyed-in-the-wool conventionalists. Some of them may post more than others, but IMO posting volume does not necessarily equal good thinking or effective contributions.

Most of the "good thinking" here seems to come in flurries, often sparked by a post from outside the mainstream. It's also usually collaborative, and not often the product of just one poster or one single point of view. That, to me, is the strength of this forum.
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Old 05-12-2010   #55
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but IMO posting volume does not necessarily equal good thinking or effective contributions.
....and as I have more posts than you, I can confirm this!!
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Old 05-12-2010   #56
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....and as I have more posts than you, I can confirm this!!
I didn't have any single individual in mind, Wilf, but generally making the point that some folks can confuse quantity (their own or others) for quality, or assume that because someone has X posts in Y thread he or she is automatically an expert.

And I certainly don't confuse my own posts with quality (in fact I'd say they most often are good examples of how NOT to find quality...). Usually I'm just thinking out loud (more or less), or tossing out a viewpoint or historical example that I feel might have been overlooked. Usually these sink into the electronic ether where they belong, but every once in a while they might make someone think or suggest a new or different approach. And that possibility is what keeps me posting, since I know there have been some folks here who have done the same for me and I figure I owe the community some payback.
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Old 05-26-2010   #57
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Default The Seed Foundation

60 Minutes had a fascinating segment last Sunday on The Seed School in Washington, DC. The concept is fairly simple. The founders wanted to create a boarding school for impoverished, lower income children. In areas where others said these kids had no chance, the founders asked, "why not?" The current results are outstanding. In the last 4 of 5 years, every Seed School graduate has gone on to college.

I found the segment inspiring and another example of how creativity, sheer will, and leadership can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

v/r

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Old 05-29-2010   #58
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I wish I had seen it, Mike! Unfortunately, I spent half of the last week at a conference on Intelligence education and ended up being profoundly depressed.
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