by Andy Weddington
Monday, 24 September 2012
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." George Orwell
With due recognition to Count Alfred Korzybski, father of the discipline called General Semantics which includes discussion of man as a time-binder, today's comment is a blend of mostly truth and candor with a dash or two of humor and a spit of satire.
Fifteen years ago I attended an abbreviated but intense course focused on national security strategy, foreign policy, and decision-making at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
What do I remember about that course?
I remember it was winter - it was dark most of the time and it was damn cold.
I remember the admiral in charge of the college had made up dozens of 8 1/2 x 11 portrait format images of himself pointing a finger with the caption "Put a Lid on it!" - and had tacked them to bulkheads in break rooms, classrooms, and throughout passageways. That was his approach to controlling coffee spills. I did not meet the admiral but rumor had it there was hell to pay if caught with a coffee cup in hand less a lid. I thought the mini-posters ridiculous then. And still do. But, there's no denying the admiral made a lasting impression. His name escapes me - his face, and pointing finger, does not.
I remember there was a Navy Captain in our group who was convinced he was going to be an admiral and he unashamedly let everyone know it, regularly. His proclamations took balls. He did not make it to admiral.
I remember there was another Navy Captain in our group, an aviator whose call sign was "Balls" who happened to know one of my brothers, who never so much as whispered the word "admiral" and he retired a vice admiral (three stars).
Funny how that admiral thing works.
I remember there was a Marine major in our group, my table mate, whose father was an Apollo astronaut and command module pilot. He wore his Dad's gold NASA mission wristwatch. Yes, the watch was impressive. So was the major.
I remember we had a superb course instructor and discussion facilitator. He was a real pro. Like the admiral, I remember his face but not his name. His coffee cup always had a lid.
I remember we read hundreds and hundreds of pages of material and days were filled with crafting strategy, problem-solving, and lengthy discussions.
And I remember departing Rhode Island with an all-encompassing take-away: I'd learned a great deal but it seemed to me we, as a nation, had, for all our education, sophistication, and civility, completely over-thought and over-complicated our national security strategy and foreign policy.
If I recall correctly, at the time our national security strategy was to be able to fight two major theater conflicts simultaneously. And handle 'brush fires' elsewhere.
I'd like to say I know what our national security strategy is today. I do not. Nor does it appear that our administration knows.
In light of never-ending troubles abroad and battling an ideology determined to annihilate the west (especially America), how best to deal with the complexities - whether in the Middle East, North Africa, Horn of Africa, Asia, or any place else?
Simplicity - as created through time-binding.
Ergo the Bush-Soyer Doctrine.
To explain, simply...
In 2001, after the terrorist attacks against America murdered thousands of innocent folks on 11 September, President George W. Bush said, "You are either with us or against us."
President George W. Bush
That is, you are either friend or foe.
Twenty years earlier Francis "Psycho" Soyer said, "The name's Francis Soyer but everyone calls me Psycho. Any of you guys call me Francis, and I'll kill you. You just made the list, buddy. And I don't like nobody touching my stuff. So just keep your meat-hooks off. If I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I'll kill you. Also, I don't like nobody touching me. Now, any of you homos touch me, and I'll kill you."
Francis "Psycho" Soyer in "Stripes"
That is, touch me or anything mine, and I'll kill you.
Bush-Soyer Doctrine: You are either friend or foe of the United States of America. If foe, touch us or any of our friends and we'll kill you. We don't apologize.
It's a simple national security strategy and foreign policy rolled into three sentences. Friends merit and enjoy whatever help America can provide - any time, any place. Foes merit nothing, but fear - all the time.
It's a simple doctrine. It's an easily understood doctrine. It's a doctrine for a complex world - easily translated into any language. It's a doctrine for the ages - knowing the friend/foe list is ever-changing. Only the faces change - the philosophy for keeping the United States of America, and our friends, safe and secure does not.
The Bush-Soyer Doctrine would put a lid on a lot of nonsense. I know a Navy admiral that would agree. And many Marines, too.
Simple as that.
And it wouldn't take 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper to print it. Index cards - 3 x 5 - will do. In fact, it could be printed on coffee cups, and lids, too.
The Bush-Soyer Doctrine - seriously?
In case you're wondering, I passed the course at the War College, but, and surely to the relief of many, do not have a say drafting national security strategy and foreign policy.
Oh, around this workplace, lids are not required on coffee cups.