2012/01/25

About my strange fixation with crisis situations

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Steve McQueen played a USN engineer in the movie "The Sand Pebbles" (1966). His character preferred the dirty work in the engine compartment to the relative luxury on higher decks. When asked about why he didn't delegate work in the engine compartment to Chinese helpers, he replied something along the lines of 'I like work with the engines and besides, the Chinese only know how to polish the engine, they don't repair it.'

This is the finest example for the importance of extraordinary challenges (crisis situations) I can come up with. Everything may be shiny despite incompetence as long as the problems are ordinary, but it takes expertise to handle (or even prevent) extraordinary problems.

Way too many businesses shine with great profits in good times, their management cheers about its own competence - but in a crisis they fail. That is a problem of moderate severity. Military forces exist under a much more extreme regime. Military forces face almost never truly extraordinary problems (most don't do so for a generation or more), but once they do failure would have catastrophic consequences.


One of the reasons why this blog is so un-mainstream-like is that I disrespect the polish and shine demonstrated under ordinary conditions and care so much about competence in extraordinary conditions. This may look disrespectful to many, but it stems simply from my different opinion about how relevant demonstrated performance under fair weather conditions really is.


For example, a ten year war in which one side doesn't lose a single entire platoon is NOT a true test, it did NOT provide extraordinary problems. Extraordinary problems would in my book pose the question "how many or our brigades were destroyed?". "How many", not "whether any".


Well, this was an explanation about why I pay so much attention to crisis situations (type "crisis" in the search field on the left side if you care). I figured it deserved such an explanation, and I figured that this explains a lot of the differences between my thinking and mainstream military writings.


S Ortmann
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1 comment:

  1. I feel that the push for unmanned is leading us to a bad place because we have become so used to doing what and when we want in the air. All these UAV we have running around are nice and all but they fly in a sky that is devoid of threats to them.

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