Coercive persuasion

In 1953, during the Korean War, Ed Schein was ordered to Travis Air Force Base to interview returning prisoners of war, some of whom were thought to have collaborated with their Chinese captors and come to believe in the superiority of the Chinese communist system.

Chinese tactics were to encourage POWs into minor examples of disloyalty (admitting that America had faults), get them to commit to this position (by writing and signing a list of faults), and then to share their perspective with a wider group (in discussion sessions, or on radio broadcast).

According to Schein: “Only a few men were able to avoid collaboration altogether, the majority collaborated at one time or another by doing things which seemed to them trivial but which the Chinese were able to turn to their own advantage.”

Schein’s classic 1961 book – Coercive Persuasion – boiled down the experience to eight key lessons which Schein believes provide a model for organisational change: Continue reading

YouTube Changes the Climate

The days when a whole country watched the same programme at the same time are long gone – much to the chagrin of television executives. But there’s a compensation – thanks to YouTube. With a viral polemic, you get an international debate around a series of virtual water coolers.

The Great Global Warming Swindle exploits this trend to the full. The full length version has clocked 200,000 views with as many watching various extracts. Add in other sites, in particular Google Video, and I’m guessing at a current web audience of a million. The audience will keep coming as well. Perhaps for another couple of years.

Now of course, not many of these viewers will have watched to the end. But that doesn’t matter a jot. Continue reading

Vandergriff: 4th generation leadership (2)

Retired US army major, Donald Vandergiff (see last week’s post), asks “seven key questions that need to be answered in order to solve the problem of how to create leaders who can deal with the future of warfare.”

  1. What is an adaptive leader?
  2. What traits must he or she possess?
  3. Can those traits be quantified?
  4. What conditions have to exist to create and nurture those traits that an adaptive leader possesses?
  5. What are the differences between adapatability, agility and innovation?
  6. How have past and present Army command and control methods restricted and even diminished adaptive leaders?
  7. Do the beliefs, policies, regulations and laws that shape Army culture support adaptive leaders and innovation?

Anyone know of any organisation that has got rigorous answers to these questions?

Bin Laden’s reading list

Back in 1989, William Lind and co-authors wondered how terrorists could metamorphose from an irritant into 4th generation warriors. Three elements were needed they thought:

A non-national or transnational base, such as an ideology or religion… A direct attack on [their] enemy’s culture… Highly sophisticated psychological warfare, especially through manipulation of the media, particularly television news.

Bin Laden must have been reading, even if no-one else was.

Which war?

Tory MP, Douglas Carswell has been in Afghanistan. He’s come back optimistic, but believes the war-on-drugs is interfering with the war-on-terror:

We are winning precisely because we are fighting the Taliban with “hearts and minds”, not just militarily might. Success hinges on not driving the locals into supporting the enemy. Yet this is precisely what poppy eradication is starting to do.

Farmers grow poppies in Helmand for the same reason farmers decide what to grow the world over – because it is the rational thing to do. It is not part of a cunning scheme to flood the infidel West with cheap heroin. To a Pashtun farmer, poppies mean an instant cash-crop.

Advocates of poppy eradication like to argue that narcotics fuel the insurgency. The truth is the precise opposite… Fear of poppy eradication is mobilising local farmers to side with the Taliban. In the poppy growing Sanjin valley, the locals have teamed up with the Taliban and so that is now where our troops face the fiercest fighting.

Conversations as foreign policy

Another weekly slice of excellence from the great William Lind. This week: why “good decisions are far more often a product of informal conversations than of any formal meeting, briefing or process.”

History offers a useful illustration. In 1814, the Congress of Vienna, which faced the task of putting Europe back together after the catastrophic French Revolution and almost a quarter-century of subsequent wars, did what aristocrats usually do. It danced, it dined, it stayed up late playing cards for high stakes, it carried on affairs, usually not affairs of state. Through all its aristocratic amusements, it conversed. In the process, it put together a peace that gave Europe almost a century of security, with few wars and those limited.

In contrast, the conference of Versailles in 1919 was all business. Its dreary, interminable meetings (read Harold Nicolson for a devastating description) reflected the bottomless, plodding earnestness of the bourgeois and the Roundhead. Its product, the Treaty of Versailles, was so flawed that it spawned another great European war in just twenty years. As Kaiser Wilhelm II said from exile in Holland, the war to end war yielded a peace to end peace.

Read the full piece here.

State of play

Amidst the predictable froth about ‘strategic plans’, ‘program evaluations’, ‘senior reviews’ and ‘departmental performance plans’ in the US State Dept‘s 2006 Performance and Accountability Report, there are a few small gems.

One of the more eyebrow-raising is the table starting on page 71 that sets out State’s own evaluation of how it’s doing on a range of key objectives. Across a lengthy range of indicators, there are just three where State judges itself to be ‘above target’ or ‘significantly above target’. One of them – ready for this? – is “stable political and economic conditions that prevent terrorism from flourishing in fragile and failing states”.

Continue reading

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