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An On V Update to Old Ideas: Marketing, Management and Shaken Babies Edition

Just like yesterday, we’re clearing our inbox of updates. Enjoy!

Update to Marketing and Afghanistan

At the height of the surge of troops to Afghanistan in 2009, men from Colonel Henry Tunnell’s 5th Stryker Brigade (as described in an excerpt on Slate from Rajiv Candrasekaran’s new book) drove through an insurgent’s funeral in Afghanistan with loudspeakers declaring, “This is what happens when you fight us.

As we wrote a few months back, the Army can learn plenty from business marketing about what will and won’t change people’s mind. Quick hypothetical: if Osama bin Laden sent trucks driving around New York after 9/11 blaring this message, “America, this is what happens when you defy us,” would that have sent Americans cowering? Would it have discouraged any Americans from fighting back?


Update to Management versus Leadership

Tom Ricks quotes James McDonough’s memoir about his time in Vietnam, Platoon Leader:

For us, violence was killing; there was no management involved. People were either dead, or they     were not. I could not 'manage' my platoon up a hill. I had to lead them up there.

I wonder if this was the beginning of the idea within the Army that management need not apply in the Pentagon. Probably not, but the “leadership trumps management” meme is now widespread.

Update to the Ethics of Leadership

While I disagree with the start to the McDonough quote above, I love its conclusion that emphasizes the importance of officers as the moral compass of their units:

I had to do more than keep them alive. I had to preserve their human dignity. I was making them     kill, forcing them to commit the most uncivilized of acts, but at the same time I had to keep them civilized. That was my duty as their leader. . . War gives the appearance of condoning almost everything, but men must live with their actions for a long time afterward. A leader has to help them understand that there are lines they must not cross. He is their link to normalcy, to order, to humanity. If the leader loses his own sense of propriety or shrinks from his duty, anything will be allowed.    

. . . War is, at its very core, the absence of order; and the absence of order leads very easily     to the absence of morality, unless the leader can preserve each of them in its place.   

Unfortunately, few battalion, brigade and division commanders have been held truly responsible for the conduct of their men. In most cases, the men of the highest rank get the lightest punishment when it comes to the moral or legal transgressions of their units.

Update to Intelligence is Evidence

60 Minutes steps into Frontline’s shoes to tell another shocking tale of prosecutors stacking the deck against innocent men. This time, an innocent man named Michael Morton was exonerated 25 years after detectives and prosecutors immediately assumed he had brutally beaten his wife to death. Most shockingly, prosecutors withheld the testimony of their son who witnessed the murder...which completely exonerated Morton.

Yesterday, I quoted David Ignatius praising JSOC’s effectiveness on the international battlefield. I would love to ask him this: if the U.S. judicial system can repeatedly come close to executing innocent people (and possibly has), and if that system has ten times the safeguards of the military/CIA targeting program, how can he or the government really believe that system is always accurate? Or even mostly accurate?

Why My Solution to Intelligence is Evidence Won’t Happen

I tend to be proud of my simple solutions to drastically complex problems. Iran? Let’s just become friends with them. Afghanistan? Population-centric counter-insurgency. Global instability? More foreign aid from wealthy nations applied well. (Of course, effective diplomacy, population-centric counter-insurgency, and effective foreign aid/democracy movements aren’t really that simple or easy to do, but you get my point.)

And terrorism? Let’s just create a International Criminal Court for Pirates, Terrorists and Trans-national Criminals. This article, in the New York Review of Books, about international law captures the internal contradictions of America’s support for such laws, but our refusal to let international laws apply to us. Which is why my simple solution won’t happen.

Update to A Conundrum: Shaken Baby Syndrome Edition

A year ago, we wrote about a tragedy unfolding across the nation in the form of overzealous prosecutions of “shaken baby syndrome”. In one of the key cases, California convicted grandmother Shirley Ree Smith of killing her grandson with less than compelling medical evidence. Last Good Friday, Jerry Brown officially pardoned her for the crime.

The Economist Keeps the Behavioral Research Coming

Actually, The Economist and Charles Duhigg writing about the subconscious power of habits keep the behavioral research coming. This article--along with this excellent podcast on the HBR Ideacast podcast from a few years ago--just say to me that in a counter-insurgency, our Army cannot rely on a model of human behavior that treats the enemy or population as strictly-rational-cost-benefit-calculating automatons. And we can’t use “fear” as our primary motivator either.

Oh, We Weren’t Done with Thomas Drake Yesterday

In anticipation of our “On V Update to Old Ideas, Round Nine”, The Daily Show’s Jason Jones unveiled a hilarious segment pointing out the inanities behind the Thomas Drake affair in “License to Spill”:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
A Leak of Their Own - License to Spill
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four comments

This is nothing to do with OV but, as I prepare to travel to see West Ham vs Aston Villa tomorrow, I just wanted to say that I am thinking of the OV crew.

What about a discussion about football (soccer) related violence?

Take Care

First, I wish England had email so we communicate that way. But oh well.

Second, has Dusty been over there to liberate your people recently?

Third, I wanted to put a case of Boddington’s on the season, but EC said you wouldn’t go for it.

What is this “e mails” you speak of?

I will take you up on that bet, sir. It was a great game today!

Doesn’t count—you wouldn’t bet.