Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cultural Sensivity Isn't About Being Nice

There is a deep cultural aversion to cultural sensitivity amongst military practitioners and pretenders who think that killing or capturing the enemy, occupying the high ground, and rearranging the furniture is the sum total of the profession at arms. These cries and belches have diminished somewhat in view of the apparent success of the new counter-insurgency doctrine in Iraq. Will the new namby-pamby cultural sensitivity doctrine work against the Taliban?

Well, maybe. It depends on whether the pressure is against the sensitive parts of the Taliban sensibilities. And that’s why being culturally sensitive doesn’t mean being namby-pamby socialist liberal wishwashery. Take “Black Jack” Pershing in the Philippines for example..

There is an urban legend about Pershing that attributes a world wide halt in Muslim terrorism after he had executed some Muslims and buried them with pig parts. While even if the legend is false, it is nevertheless a good example of cultural sensitivity. Pershing was very keen on culture. There were a lot of old fashioned massacres in that campaign. A widely quoted slogan was “civilize them with a Krag”, a Norwegian rifle used by US troops.

Another example of Pershing’s sensitivity takes place in Mindanao, then as now, has been plagued with Muslim “Moro” rebellions. Moro ferocity in battle, aided with tight body bindings to stem bleeding and a toke of smoke, was such that the Luger 9mm pistol then being considered as Army standard, was rejected in favor of the .45 caliber pistol. The 38 caliber or 9mm pistol wouldn’t stop a charging Moro with a really big sword in hand. The 45 dropped them, then as now.

Pershing would supplement fire and maneuver with chess. He would enter a village, proceed to the center, set up a chess table, sit down and wait. He knew that the chiefs of the Moros, called Datos, loved chess. Sooner or later, someone would show up, sit down and play chess. During this exchange, Pershing would negotiate acceptable terms with the Dato, terms which were conducted in accordance with Moro sensibilities.

Pershing was called “Black Jack” as his early career was in commanding segregated black troops, including the 10th Cavalry, the Buffalo Soldiers at San Juan and Kettle Hill. This early experience in commanding black troops was clearly an opportunity to learn how to get the most out of a vastly different culture.

It isn’t about being nice. It’s about being effective.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fame and Blame are the Names of the Game.

“Street Creds”, awards and decoration, the golden resume, net value, trophy spouse, exalted position, all are symbols of fame. Symbols of success to attract attention, for good or bad, to add to the cut and thrust of survival of kith and kin.. And symbols of blame, of infamy, to divert, and displace anger, or expiate fault.

Fame for challenges overcome, enemies defeated, and feats of daring-do are the great social motivators to get things that need to be done in order for a society to survive, thrive and grow. History all too often turns on the acts of one person, just as often unaware of the consequences, only of the challenge or of the dangers. Horatio at the bridge held off Rome’s enemies, when running away would have been the safer play.

Society needs to know who can be counted on to stand in front, and expects that heroes from playing fields are those who can be trusted when the time in near when danger this way comes. And, it is not as odd a choice as it might be, for many who excel in games, excel on the battlefield. Jimmie Doolittle raced air planes, and led thousands in battle after his courageous attack named after him. He also was an aeronautical engineer.

Seeking out fame is a dangerous game, for some think it is a zero sum game, those whose excuses for existence themselves somewhat lame. For many, the reflected glow of a true hero acts as the light around which cowards and jackals tend to gather. Or, from the envious, arrows, come out from the dark and collect on the backs of the brave and creative.

Fame is also a warning, a cry for help, be it from a calf or colt in danger, or a toddler with a diaper full. At its roots, fame is a survival and enhancement tool without which life withers and falls. If help doesn’t come, generations and whole nations wind up with the toddler’s dump, over and over again. Sometimes it is a shitty world.

Hitler, Stalin, Shaka Zulu, Mao, MacArthur, Richard the Lion Hearted and Winston Churchill had abusive fathers and indulgent mothers. The dysfunctional family created highly motivated leaders, some good, some bad, depending on where one was when the fit hit the shan.

The Warrior’s Guide to the Other Guy’s Culture is the decoder that unravels who is dumping on who and why and for what. Cultural Centers of gravity are revealed, and depending on mission, can be turned on it’s head, or sent on it’s way. Do we want to cause them to get together to work better or to make them a better target? Do we want them to break it up, to weaken their will, or to strengthen their capacity?

Psychological Operation isn’t all about subornation and subversion, and surrendering of those who switch sides. It can be elevating their worst to the top of the pile. This was done in WW 2 by the British in fake radio broadcasts of a super hard line German officer criticizing the Nazi best and best practices, and lauding their worst. Many a fine field officer was sent to the desk pile, and idiots sent to command.

So much of the Fame Game is tied to, the rotation of the Heroic roles (Hero, Heroine, and Helpless) with the Villainous roles (Bastard, Bitch, and Brat) to produce an outcome, a result, or a payoff, such as a title and a feifdom. The Fame Game is rarely static, as hero becomes villain, and villain plays hero, with each flip flop gets something.

The Blame Game is the flip side of the Fame Game. The Heroic is the flip side of the Villainous. Both sound the same, speaking of rescue, rehabilitation, and revenge. It is easier to spot the game being played by the payoff, outcome or result in terms of warm fuzzy feelings or of cold prickly, of raging anger, or pompous posturing, as these outcomes are more the motive than any ideological one uppance.

The End State is the emotional buzz, the feelings, more than physical or ideological. These end states, sometime called payoffs, can be described a stamp collecting. Some collect anger stamps, some collect tragedy stamps, some collect failures, and as in trading stamp collecting, they can be turned for a big prize: a free murder, a free burglary, or, in some cases, finally getting around to do what needs to be done. In political lore, the propagandist stacks real or imagined injuries and insults to justify a free revolution, a free lynching, or stopping the barbarians at the gate. Sometimes it is hard to tell the good from the bad, right from wrong.

Such is the case of the current Jihadi terrorist. In the original sense, those who wage Jihad are doing what it takes to defeat the evil in and around us. At the hands of the devious, the Jihadi warrior serves evil, deemed justifiable by the unjustifiable. And that is the Warrior’s job when analyzing a culture, to pull apart the virtuous from the villainous.

The Seven Deadly Sins, and their opposite number, are found as the true motivators in disorder, chaos, and repression. The Seven Virtues are the alleged opposite, but these to excess are often better seen in their sinful array.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fortune: Thy Daily Bread

The usual briefing one gets on the area of operations to be usually includes some percentages of this kind of economic activity or how much it’s worth. When it comes to determining how a people fight, what their priorities are, and their capacity, that sort of numerology isn’t worth dick,

A better question is “how do they get their daily bread”, bread also meaning dough. If we are talking about loggers from Washington state or copper miners from Arizona, or fishermen from Alaska, we are talking about some tough people who don’t take to fancy airs, or PowerPoint. It doesn’t matter whether it is logs, rocks, or fish. A man’s Face is in his fists. Yours too, if he thinks you are looking down, when you should be looking up.

Refugees from the Rust Belt sound like their counterparts in China, or India where the search for cheaper labor keeps moving along. Thiers is a sense of outrage, outrage which is political gasoline for political machines. Displaced farmers crowd into cities where exploitation is better than starvation. They take with them the traditions of former walks of life.

That’s why we have Country and Western music, decades after the country in the west was left for the lights, and paychecks of the city. And people like to hang with their people. Chicago is full of ethnic neighborhoods, once very tight. Cities in Africa and Asia are the same. Tribes hang together in the teeming cities. And the habits developed in the fields, forests, mountains, rivers and oceans carry forward intact or are adapted for life in barrios, favelas, or slums in Mumbai.

A smart warrior would be wise to find out the MOS structure of the economy and of the economic past that carries forward. MOS is Military Occupational Specialty, but rather than invent some goofy acronym to replace it, we can still use the idea/ Likewise branch, service, and rank are important to know.

There are “officer corps” in societies. Sociologists call them caste or class. Works out the same way. The butchery of years past in the Rift Valley of Ruanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Kenya are deeply rooted in an economic past of herdsmen versus farmers in which one tribe dominated another. Thus the tall Tutsi consider themselves the warrior class to whom the shorter Hutu (Bantu) owe obedience. The Hutu have more than once made the tall shorter, with machetes.

Then there is Golden Rule. Those who get the gold get to rule. One the other hand, Mao once said that power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Taken together it becomes a synergistic circle: guns to gold to rule OR guns to rule to gold Or … there are nine possible synergisms.

Central to survival is a sense of self, of self pride in providing, protecting, and presenting one’s self, and one’s family. It’s not uncommon that the rich can be bought off, but the poor won’t put up with it.

Such is the case in Mexico. Invaded by us, and by the French, it was the peon that wouldn’t suck up like the aristocrats of Ciudad Mexico. They still don’t like Gringos. But the cheap housing and cost of living between the Sabine and San Diego is built by the hard working peon, illegal or not. Their skill sets came from building their own villages and homes in Mexico.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kismet, Karma, Fate and Firepower

The bullet that has your name on it will get you, regardless. Most of the bullets zipping across the battlefield, however, are addressed “To Whom It May Concern”. It is those address “To Whom It May Concern” that training, equipment, and leadership will defeat. Trusting in God, Allah, The Fuhrer, or the Cause instead is a central issue the Warrior needs to know about those who are about to die. Including one’s own.

Knowing what Fate is is a personal issue. Knowing how the others see it is one of the big four aspects of Family Decision Values (looking for a better term here) of Face, Fate, Fame, and Fortune that guide the decision making process in allocating resources.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Iraq-Iran war sacrificed hundred of thousands of lives whose courage was greater than their competence. Those that survived were the fittest and most dedicated. And now there is a well trained force accustomed to hardship.

The Iraqi Revolutionary Guard, however better trained, were no match for American firepower, and eventually decided that disappearance was the greater virtue to fight another day….and have, to our chagrin.

The Al Qaeda franchise emphasizes the suicide attack, which we often and foolishly attempt to dismiss. They combine sufficient technical and tactical proficiency to launch a suicide attack or campaign combined with the ability to disappear to fight again. Al Qaeda depends upon a cloak of legitimacy amongst the faithful, and acceptance of death by the attacker as a virtue. This is a values based strategy.

Face and Fate are often closely linked. One insulted, some feel it is an obligation, and honor which Fate requires a response. Action and reaction, and consequence. The Warrior who seeks the acquiescence or acceptance of her troops by locals, need to know what constitutes Face issues and the Fate that follows. There are parts of Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington DC, and East LA where one shouldn’t display the Stars and Bars of the Confederate Battle Flag from one’s pickup. Likewise, and ACLU bumper sticker won’t ft well where the Stars and Bars are prominently display.

Fate is consequence tied to circumstance, real and imagined. Fate is not to be tempted without acceptance of the consequences. The Presidential Unit Citation for Taffy 3 reads:

For extraordinary heroism in action against powerful units of the Japanese Fleet during the Battle off Samar, Philippines, October 25, 1944. ...the gallant ships of the Task Unit waged battle fiercely against the superior speed and fire power of the advancing enemy ...two of the Unit's valiant destroyers and one destroyer escort charged the battleships point-blank and, expending their last torpedoes in desperate defense of the entire group, went down under the enemy's heavy shells ... The courageous determination and the superb teamwork of the officers and men who fought the embarked planes and who manned the ships of Task Unit 77.4.3 were instrumental in effecting the retirement of a hostile force threatening our Leyte invasion operations and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[19

Both the Germans and Japanese dismissed the capacity of Americans for sacrifice thinking that our dismissal of wanton disregard of our own lives was a weakness. In matters of Face and Fate, there is often a really big gap between words and actions. Santa Anna made the same mistake at the Alamo, and got his just rewards at San Jacinto.

We should do no less in fighting terrorism, and make a serious effort to find out what makes the other guy tick.