Achieving Outcomes on the Street with Integrity, Building Loyalty and Mutual Trust

“If your boss demands loyalty, give him integrity. But if he demands integrity, give him loyalty.” ~COL JOHN BOYD

As I see it, anyone in a leadership position assumes the responsibility of TRUST. I know that’s a pretty BOLD statement. But I feel it is true and stand by it. Trust is what organizations are all about. Trust must be created and nurture by leaders through developing people within an organization. As a leader you have a responsibility for the people that work with you and under your charge. Yes, the leader must get the job done. Getting the job done entails people executing initiative. People are willing take initiative when they trust those in their charge.

At the tactical level is where most problems law enforcement deals with normally dominate the outcomes, therefore, the attributes of skill, morale, discipline, unit cohesion influenced by leadership come into play. Skill must be an individual attribute, but it is officers working together solving problems however big or small a team or unit, that really matters. What counts then is not personal skill but the skill effectively applied by the team as a whole and that depends on competent leaders who know how to influence those in their charge. This is done through creating and nurturing a culture of mutual trust bound by integrity that leads to loyal “doers” on the street.

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Old School realism and the problem of society

The ongoing debate between Dan Drezner and Anne-Marie Slaughter, two of the online US foreign policy community’s leading lights, is an excellent one. Not only is there an attempt to present foreign policy differences which do matter, but are not often enough fleshed out, but it gives me a chance to bore you all with a pedantic discussion of the intellectual history of international relations. Now, granted, one aspect of this discussion has been the problem of strawman explanations of IR theory, so I’ll try not to stray too far from my lane and talk about realism, rather than IR theory generally.

Here’s the part of Slaughter’s piece that I first found problematic:

Of course, Kissinger and his adherents know that many other important actors and forces exist in international relations — as a descriptive matter. But the whole point of realism, as every first year IR student knows, is that structural realism (the school that holds as its bible Kenneth Waltz’s Man, the State, and War) says that international relations analysts can treat the world as if it were composed only of states pursuing their power-based interests. It’s a model that does not conform to observed reality but that focuses on the long-term structural forces that ultimately determine the course of events once the ephemera of what we seem to see is swept away. It is that reductionism (although rarely as stark as Waltz’s particular brand) that makes realism so appealing as usable technology for foreign policy analysts and decision-makers.

There is a going assumption that realism is overly concerned with states and does not think that non-state groups or threats really matter. This might hold up for Waltz, who is infamous for being a “black box” theorist of international relations, who treats states as billiard balls. This is not entirely fair to Waltz, but structural realism in general does have a problem with over-determining state actions from the basic international condition of anarchy [1]. Waltz cares about states because states, in the time periods he examines, are the primary bearers of power. Power, not the state, is likely the more long-standing differentiation between the liberal/idealist and realist schools of international affairs. Realists generally care more about who has power, and particularly coercive power, because in the realist view, it is the power to control – not to collaborate, connect, or convince – which is the final arbiter and source of other forms of  socio-political-economic behavior.

For most of the history of thinkers identified with realism, the state did not exist, nor did the conception of the state as a unitary actor. Thucydides, long identified as one of the fathers of Western realism, was not a Waltzian structural realist in the slightest. As most early realists did, he cited the origins of political behavior in irrational and rational drives, which originate in the hearts and minds of men. There were no states in Thucydides’s day, but city-states, empires, and various other forms of political organization which did not survive to the present day. Thus one had to be quite conscious not just of particular parties and factions, but even individuals, who, in a polis such as Athens could completely upturn the designs of the Athenian state. In his description of the varying governments and systems of organization at play, Thuycdides actually shows a keen awareness of how regime types and the social composition can influence international politics, but only insofar as it involves the exercise of power. The exchange of goods, culture, and ideas matters far less to him. Slaughter does offhand mention that an Avian flu could kill far more than a war and be more likely. Interestingly enough, the plague of Athens does play an important role in Thucydides’s history:

And the great licentiousness, which also in other kinds was used in the city, began at first from this disease. For that which a man before would dissemble and not acknowledge to be done for voluptuousness, he durst now do freely, seeing before his eyes such quick revolution, of the rich dying and men worth nothing inheriting their estates. Insomuch as they justified a speedy fruition of their goods even for their pleasure, as men that thought they held their lives but by the day. As for pains, no man was forward in any action of honour to take any because they thought it uncertain whether they should die or not before they achieved it. But what any man knew to be delightful and to be profitable to pleasure, that was made both profitable and honourable. Neither the fear of the gods nor laws of men awed any man, not the former because they concluded it was alike to worship or not worship from seeing that alike they all perished, nor the latter because no man expected that lives would last till he received punishment of his crimes by judgment. But they thought there was now over their heads some far greater judgment decreed against them before which fell, they thought to enjoy some little part of their lives.

Here we have an assessment of a non-state threat’s impact on social class, the religious practices of average men and their role in the “great licentiousness” which comes to characterize Athenian behavior. When Thucydides speaks of the “fear of the gods” and “laws of men” no longer striking any fear, one can already anticipate the Athenian speech to the Melians and the capricious aggression that marked the Sicilian expedition, and, ultimately, the fall of Athens itself. There is no contradiction between the muddying of international and domestic, state and citizenship because polis, in addition to referring to both the “unit” of politics, also referred to the body of the citizens itself. Continue reading

Trial of a Thousand Years, World Order and Islamism—a review

Trial of a Thousand Years, World Order and Islamism, by Charles Hill

Ambassador Charles Hill’s Grand Strategies, Literature, Statecraft, and World Order was the best book I read in 2010, so I had high expectations for this volume and was not disappointed. Ambassador Hill provides a 35,000-foot view of the relationships between the West and Islam in history focusing on the subtitle of his earlier work in the form of “world order.”

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A Counterterrorism Net Assessment: Bin Laden’s Legacy

I have an unpublished paper (one of a growing pile that I’m trying to sort through) on the need for the use of net assessment techniques for the global war on terror. Although net assessment (as practiced by the titular office) is difficult to really sum up, it can best be understood as evaluating a long-term competition (different from a war–more like, say, something comparable to the US vs. Soviet Union) by tallying up all of the Blue (our side) and Red (the enemy) data in one place for an comprehensive diagnostic picture of what the competition looked like.

A diagnostic assessment shows who is ahead in the competition, where the important “markets” are, and where competitors ought to be best positioning themselves to be more competitive than theirs adversaries. Sometimes net assessments are also local in nature–such as exploring the impact of one weapon on the competition or just looking at one military competition (such as the military use of space as a competition itself).

To my knowledge, this method–borne out of the late Cold War–has never been used in counterterrorism. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross’s new book provides a framework for how it can be responsibly done, free of the politicization that is endemic to the post-9/11 CT debate but yet without pulling any punches. Continue reading

How Many Divisions Does Standard and Poors Have?

The first American historian to exploit the untapped historical treasure trove that is Josef Stalin’s personal library once speculated that, if kindly Uncle Joe had been born Joseph Steele in Gorey, Georgia, USA on December 18, 1978 instead of Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili on 6 December 1878 (Old Style) in Gori, Georgia, Russia, he would be one of the great consumer marketers of the age. Though this counter-factual was gleaned from his detailed forensics on the color pencil annotations Stalin festooned his personal readings with, perhaps there is other evidence for his contention.

From witnesses, we know Stalin that routinely presented different faces to different audiences. To useful idiots he was Josef the Peacemaker and Josef the Progressive, fighting the good fight against the warmongering imperialists who teetered fearfully on the brink of the ash heap of history. To Russians, he was the new Little Father. To his mother he was a dutiful, if distant, son:

Mother Stalin: Joseph—who exactly are you now?

Uncle Joe: Do you remember the tsar? Well, I’m like a tsar.

Mother Stalin: You’d have done better to have become a priest!

Other witnesses suggest that Stalin occasionally played the supervillan for visiting Westerners. Whether he played off his mass murderous reputation among some of his Western contemporaries out of political calculus or mischief we don’t know:

  • At Tehran, Stalin, with Molotov playing his usual role as straight man, proposed killing 50,000-100,000 German staff officers at war’s end. FDR gamingly suggested they stop at 49,000. Churchill stormed out in fury. Stalin and Molotov followed Churchill out into the hall and reassured him that Stalin was only joking…
  • At Yalta, Beria waited impatiently for his introduction to FDR. Poor Beria rarely had the chance shine on the international stage. Now it was his time to shine. Stalin, after drawing things out, making Beria wait and wait, introduced Beria to FDR as “our Himmler”…

In 1935, visiting French politician (and future Vichy collaborator) Pierre Laval asked Stalin to ease up his rough treatment of Soviet Catholics. Laval argued that this thrown bone would strengthen France’s clout with the Vatican and help France to persuade the Pope to oppose the rising Nazis threat more fervently. Stalin dismissed Laval’s request, snorting sarcastically, “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”

Ironically for Uncle Joe, it turned out that there was at least one Pope could command enough divisions to contribute towards fatally undermining Stalin’s own handiwork.

Stalin, though politically an ideological fanatic, was the ultimate tactical realist of the twentieth century, conducting amoral power politics with classic nineteenth century Bismarckian brio. This realism was helped along by Stalin’s intense belief that agreements with imperialists were, like Brest-Litovisk, short-term expedients. Such bourgeois pieces of paper, along with the doomed bourgeois they were negotiated with, would be swept away in a Red tide of inevitability. One partial explanation for the “low point” of Stalin’s career, that curious lassitude he displayed in the months leading up to Barbarossa, is his perfectly realistic calculation that not even Hitler was stupid enough to voluntarily fight a two front war in Europe.

Unfortunately, Hitler’s actions marched to the very different beat of the little Austrian corporal’s drummer and Stalin studiously ignored what he could hear of Hitler’s drumbeats. LIke Papen, Hugenberg, Schacht, Hindenburg, Chamberlain, and others before him, Stalin failed to grasp that Hitler’s rules were not Stalin’s rules and that Hitler’s ideas of the possible were not Stalin’s ideas of the possible. Bridging the yawning gulf between the two men’s perceptions consumed the destinies of billions.

In our own frantic moment, when the imagined and the real are in flux, we might echo Uncle Joe’s sarcasm: How many divisions does Standard and Poors have?

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ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System

The ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System is a revolutionary system of acoustic sensors in use by a number of police departments nationwide designed to detect and report gunshots. The sensor technology involved does more than just triangulate loud noises. In order to be effective, ShotSpotter needs to consistently differentiate between sounds like fireworks or backfiring trucks and gunfire, then locate the shooter in an urban environment with plenty of surfaces for sound to bounce off as well as background noise. Aside from the technical challenges, the system had been greeted with tactical and strategic skepticism in the law enforcement community when it first came out due to fears that faster gunshot alerts would endanger patrol officers who would rush on to the scene unprepared and with no backup as a gunfight was still in progress. Still, the technology held a lot of promise and was adopted by numerous departments. Now that the system has been tried, experience gained, and data collected, CSG Analysis has compiled a report reviewing the technology after extensive interviews with 7 departments that had implemented the ShotSpotter GLS. The findings are dramatic, surprising, and relevant to the security community as a whole.

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One Ring to Rule Them All

I felt rather fortunate to be abroad during the debt debate. But one thought I had while (to get very Tom Friedman-like, listening to Jay-Z and Bun B. talk about their own unique understanding of microeconomics in “Big Pimpin” while moving around the outskirts of Shanghai) was that the current spectacle has largely exposed the 20-year debate over future American grand strategy to be rooted on a fundamentally false assumptions. In fact, one might, as Joseph Fouche often does, compare them to the titular fantasy quest in Lord of the Rings. Why?

To sum it up, we neither understand what grand strategy is nor have realistic expectations of how to make it “work” in our unique domestic political system.  Continue reading

Book Review: Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan

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I remember exactly where I was on March 30th 1981, the day President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. I was with a group of fellow Marines on Court Street in Jacksonville North Carolina having a few beers when we heard the news that the Commander and Chief has been shot. That shooting had a profound effect on me as President Reagan was not only the Commander and Chief while I served in the United States Marine Corps; he was also the first President I had ever voted for and I would again vote for in 1984. In honor of the President  that night, upon hearing the news of the shooting I permanently inscribed the memory with me forever, with the American symbol of freedom, the Bald Eagle in the form of a tattoo on my left arm. I may have had 1, 2 or 3 beers over my limit in his honor as well. :) 

Del Quentin Wilber has written a great book on the shooting “Rawhide Down” The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan. The book is well written and breaks down the circumstances surrounding the shooting minute by minute. The actual shooting lasted 1.7 seconds, six shots were fired that left four people injured. The first hit was White House Press Secretary James Brady. The second person struck was DC Police Officer Thomas Delahanty. The third struck was secret service Agent Tim McCarthy as he attempted to shield the President. The sixth round, the president was hit as he was being thrown into the Presidential limo by Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr as the round ricochet off the side of the Presidential Limo.

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How Private Security Contractors can Save Lives

 Lessons From a Tunisian Car Crash

I almost died a couple of days ago in a banal traffic accident. A car crossed in front of us on the highway, stalled, and we crashed into it going about 50-60 miles an hour. Fortunately, the driver controlled the vehicle as it ground to a halt, allowing all four of us to get out of there in one piece. She took most of the shock upon herself, suffering wounds on both her hands and a concussion.

Though personally affected, I have little broad insights to draw from the accident itself. It’s the aftermath that proved interesting, and particularly how involving a private security firm did and did not help.

Traffic accidents are one of the most frequent and obvious ‘Black Swans” for individuals; unexpected, low probability events that can change your life forever, even end it. World-wide, 3,500 people die on the roads every day, according to the WHO. It’s the 6th preventable cause of death worldwide, expected to bump up to 3rd by 2020. It’s a ‘disease’ that disproportionally targets the young: “Road crashes kill 260,000 children a year, injure about 10 million and are the leading cause of death among 10-19 year olds”. As with many such epidemics, the developing world suffers the most.

Deaths for road traffic accidents per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.File:Road traffic accidents world map - Death - WHO2004.svg


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Sustainable strategy and domestic dissonance

Much virtual ink has already spilled in discussion of Richard Haass’s “Restoration” foreign policy piece. One of the more disturbing trends that it reflects, along with much of the criticism of it, is the conflation of foreign and domestic policy.

It is not that a foreign policy is necessarily externally activist, or that it does not involve any domestic policy components. However, a truly durable foreign policy, or at least one that aspires to the level of grand strategy, cannot be so dependent on domestic policy, nor should grand strategy be advanced as a way to advance domestic policy positions.

It is worth noting again that George F. Kennan was a political outcast with no real domestic constituency, and that containment did not inherently contain any serious domestic agenda. Even in an era of much higher partisan support for a common foreign policy, thanks to the presence of the external Soviet threat among other factors, a grand strategy predicated on the adoption of a specific domestic agenda would not have lasted long.

After all, the United States is a republic. That the parties should come in and out of power, and have relatively divergent views on matters of economics and public policy should be expected. A foreign policy whose selling point is the long-term, bipartisan adoption of a specific domestic agenda in the absence of an overwhelming external threat has some value as a political cudgel, but very little value as a plausible grand strategy. Continue reading