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Haiti, six months after the earthquake 2010-Jul-18 at 09:44 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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When the earthquake happened, I wrote a blog post suggesting that we mount a serious SysAdmin effort in Haiti.  All of that logic still applies.

From In Haiti, the Displaced Are Left Clinging to the Edge, by Deborah Sontag, 10-July-2010:

Six months after the earthquake that brought aid and attention here from around the world, the median-strip camp blends into the often numbing wretchedness of the post-disaster landscape. Only 28,000 of the 1.5 million Haitians displaced by the earthquake have moved into new homes, and the Port-au-Prince area remains a tableau of life in the ruins.

The tableau does contain a spectrum of circumstances: precarious, neglected encampments; planned tent cities with latrines, showers and clinics; debris-strewn neighborhoods where residents have returned to both intact and condemnable houses; and, here and there, gleaming new shelters or bulldozed territory for a city of the future.

But the government of Haiti has been slow to make the difficult decisions needed to move from a state of emergency into a period of recovery. Weak before the disaster and further weakened by it, the government has been overwhelmed by the logistical complexities of issues like debris removal and the identification of safe relocation sites.

Christ, it’s bad.  I mean, it was bad before the earthquake, but it’s really bad now.  The cynics will say that we’re not strongly participating in rebuilding because there isn’t any oil there.  I think we’re not doing it because Washington and the American public doesn’t yes have a long-enough attention span to pull it off.  And I think it’s karmically appropriate that we should be working to build Haiti, and would change the perception of the United States for some people in the rest of the world if we did lead it.

Unfortunately, we’re wasting an incredible, relatively low-cost opportunity to do the SysAdmin right in Haiti.  Because there’s no war involved, we could get other nations to participate.  We could learn together how to take the capabilities of those nations and plug them into the larger effort managed by the U.S. military (the only organization large enough and skilled enough to run the whole thing).  We could put a general in charge of it who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who knows what counterinsurgency looks like… because counterinsurgency looks a lot like civilian construction, and infrastructure, and creating the conditions for foreign direct investment (FDI) to flow to the country being rebuilt.  In other words, COIN looks like what we need to do in Haiti, minus the smacking down of an entrenched insurgency (because that’s just a part of COIN, and could happily be done away with in more peaceful locations).

As I said in January, I still support a strong U.S. military involvement in the rebuilding of Haiti, and a strong international effort to plug into that.  I know I’m just wishing in 2010, but eventually we’ll have enough attention span to take responsibility for seeing something like this through.

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The importance of a developmental view of our enemies 2010-May-17 at 11:09 PDT

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Combat Generation: Trying to work with an Afghan insurgent, by Greg Jaffe, 17-May-2010

The offer came from an insurgent known as Mullah Sadiq, who had been on the U.S. kill-capture list since 2005. [Lt. Col. Robert B.] Brown assumed that some fighters aligned with Sadiq had taken part in the assault.

Sadiq wanted 50 assault rifles, $20,000 and a promise that U.S. forces would not kill him. In return, he promised to turn against more-radical Taliban insurgents and to begin to work with the Afghan government.

Sadiq’s proposition gave Brown a chance, however tentative, to achieve a victory of sorts in his corner of Afghanistan and redeem the loss of his men.

"This has the potential to work," Brown told his commander.

This is the kind of creative thinking and perspective-shifting that our troops are faced with every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, and everywhere else we’ll deploy the SysAdmin force.  Those who are considered enemies can be, in these messy and shifting situations, our allies, and all for far less than the cost of having a single soldier in theater.  The fact that our Lt. Col. Brown warmed to this proposal, even from a first-tier or flatland perspective on development, is a powerful testament to his own openness and creativity, and makes me incredibly happy that he’s on our side.

Imagine how many more commanders would be able to make this leap if they knew a little bit about vertical development?  What if we trained our military leaders with the basics of Integral philosophy?  What if they had at least heard of the idea of Spiral Dynamics or developmental psychology?

All of this is coming, I promise.  The military is incredibly fast to adopt useful ideas and run with them.  And with that will come a smoother, more predictable and repeatable SysAdmin process wherever it’s required.

In the SysAdmin world, a medal for NOT firing your weapon 2010-May-16 at 17:27 PDT

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Hold fire, earn a medal, by William H. McMichael, 12-May-2010

U.S. troops in Afghanistan could soon be awarded a medal for not doing something, a precedent-setting award that would be given for “courageous restraint” for holding fire to save civilian lives.

The proposal is now circulating in the Kabul headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force, a command spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

“The idea is consistent with our approach,” explained Air Force Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis. “Our young men and women display remarkable courage every day, including situations where they refrain from using lethal force, even at risk to themselves, in order to prevent possible harm to civilians. In some situations our forces face in Afghanistan, that restraint is an act of discipline and courage not much different than those seen in combat actions.”

In the SysAdmin force, which will be deeply embedded in civilian areas everywhere it deploys, military personnel face difficult decisions every day around the use of force.  Highlighting the importance of restraint in that decision-making process is a natural and simple evolution in how these troops are trained.  I look forward to seeing the first of these presented.

As for the objections in the article – “The enemy already hides among noncombatants, and targets them, too. The creation of such an award will only embolden their actions and put more American and noncombatant lives in jeopardy.” – well, our troops already face these decisions.  Nothing about the creation of this award makes their lives more difficult than they already are.

Haiti needs the SysAdmin 2010-Jan-14 at 11:14 PDT

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It’s clear to me, and to our top-level military planners, that we need to have both a war-fighting force and a peace-making and reconnection force, which Thomas Barnett calls the SysAdmin.

Our efforts in Iraq since 2004, and our efforts in Afghanistan starting in 2009, have been all about building the capabilities required to effectively run the SysAdmin.

Unfortunately, because these first two efforts have come after our Leviathan, war-fighting capability has done its job, many people are resistant to it, simply because we’re doing it after fighting.

OK… so let’s do a SysAdmin effort – sustained reconnection, lasting 8-10 years, building government institutions and inviting FDI and connectivity – in Haiti.  Let’s do it where it wouldn’t be “tainted” by having invaded first (leaving aside for now the question of the conditions under which such invasions should be done).

Let’s do it where some of the American public wouldn’t be resistant to it up front.  Let’s do it in a way that invites other nations to participate, and trains them in what such an effort would ask of them.  Let’s do it where NGO’s other than the U.N. get involved.  Let’s do it where the only shooting we’ll be doing is against criminals, not “insurgents”.

Let’s get used to doing it, because we’re going to be doing it anyway, all over the world, for the next 40-50 years.  Let’s get the world used to it, comfortable with it, and expecting the benefits of it.

I’m not sending any text messages to send $5 to Haiti.  It doesn’t matter.  This does.  Let’s all get behind a serious, mature, well-conceived, long-term SysAdmin effort in Haiti to once-and-for-all move that nation up from the hell it was even before the earthquake to a fully-connected part of a globalized world.