Pwosesis Ayiti A

No reward for resistance; no assistance, no applause.

— Neil Peart, “Lock and Key

 

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.

— Paul of Tarsus, Epistle to the Romans

La merde a frappé le ventilateur; my earlier post became abruptly more topical on Wednesday the 7th, when we woke to the news of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. This follow-up will consider the implications of developments since late June and will specifically respond to commenters on Dilèm Aksyon Kolektif nan Matisan. Most of the structure of this post will follow the Deming process-workbench model, because history is, to a great extent, a series of contingent events, and because I am a giant process nerd.

Follow along, kids, as I summon the shade of W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) to analyze the biggest mess I’ve ever been in!

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Dilèm Aksyon Kolektif nan Matisan

Generatim discite cultus

(Learn the culture proper to each after its kind)

— Virgil, Georgics II

Stephen Biddle, Nonstate Warfare: the Military Methods of Guerrillas, Warlords, and Militias (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021)

one-to-many entity-relationship symbol superposed over map of Martissant, Haiti

By way of making this more than a merely armchair review, I will be discussing the developing situation of state failure in Haiti, which is providing a personally harrowing example of the phenomena theorized and studied in this book. NB: additional situation reports like the one I quote from below will appear at this OCHA webpage.

I. Increasingly Scale-Free Military Activity in the 21st Century

In this follow-up to 2004’s Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (also from Princeton), Stephen Biddle continues to elucidate the many ramifications of the one-to-many relationship which came to dominate the battlefield between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I. Over that century and in the decades that followed, individual-service weapons increased in rate of fire from a (very) few rounds per minute to ~10 rounds per second, in effective range from ~100 to >300 meters, and in accuracy from (optimistically) 10 to 1.5 milliradians. Say 2½ orders of magnitude improvement in RoF, half an order of magnitude in range, and one order of magnitude in accuracy; multiplying these together to create a sort of index of effectiveness, I get an overall change of 4 orders of magnitude, with stark implications for battlefield environments.

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Generally Speaking

I can’t really speak to the matter of general officers from extensive personal experience with the rank; throughout my military career I was mostly in places removed from direct personal contact. A merciful deity, to quote the rabbi from “Fiddler on the Roof” kept the general ranks – kept them far, far from us, although a SAC one-star did show up one day at EBS-Zaragoza, unannounced and unheralded. It was lunchtime, practically everyone save the radio and TV op on duty had left the building. I was sitting in my office, peacefully adding another layer of much-needed polish to my shoes, when a flight-suited guy appeared in the doorway and cheerily asked, “When you’re done with yours, can you do mine?” He was a youngish-looking, personable guy, and it took me at least five seconds to grok the single star that designated his rank. He introduced himself, Brigadier General Something-or-other. said he was visiting for a readiness inspection of the SAC unit. He just thought he would mosey around and drop in to visit some of the other activities on base which supported his people so well … and could he have a tour of our broadcast facility?

Well, duh – like I could say ‘no, general, sir’. He got the brief informal nickel tour, conducted by yours truly, introduced to the few of our staffers who weren’t at lunch, and the other senior NCO, the maintenance chief, who hissed at me: “Why didn’t you tell us there was a one-star on the ground? We should have been prepared!” and I hissed back that I hadn’t had a chance to tell anyone anything, said one-star just appeared. It was likely, I added, that this general was probably much more knowledgeable about what was really going on in the activities that he visited, because of his practice of just casually dropping by … rather than doing the formal, pre-announced official inspection visit.

But to most junior and med-ranked enlisted, general officers are like saints to Catholics – we know of them, about them, recognize their attributes, and experience the effects of their pronouncements and dictates.

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Poison Fruit of the Poison Tree

Against considerable recent competition in the “Let’s All Hate on White” contest currently going on among our political leadership, the media, academia, national corporations, and the entertainment industry, I must nominate Dr. Aruna Khilanani as a stand-out member of the American team for the ultimate Racism Olympics. Dr. Kilanani identifies as a practicing psychiatrist, at least for the moment. I am not myself qualified as a mental health professional, but I have been around long enough to accurately judge when another person routinely maintains vast colonies of bats in their mental belfry. This woman apparently entertains strange resentments and ultra-violent fantasies of shooting white people for no particular reason than rage, fantasies which were expressed in a lecture at the Yale School of Medicine and only made public this week.

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Four Views of Government

1–If the king did not, without tiring, inflict punishment on those worthy to be punished, the stronger would roast the weaker, like fish on a spit.

–the laws of Manu, 1500 BC

2–Government is not reason, it is not eloquence,—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

–Often attributed to George Washington, although there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that he actually ever said it.

3–The speaker at a meeting, Grant, asks: “What is the prime knowledge acquired by our race? That without the rest is useless? What flame must we guard like vestal virgins?”

Members of the group give various answers: fire, writing, the decimal system, the wheel.

“No,” says Grant, “none of those. They are all important, but they are not the keystone. The greatest invention of mankind is government. It is also the hardest of all. More individualistic than cats, nevertheless we have learned to cooperate more efficiently than ants or bees or termites. Wilder, bloodier, and more deadly than sharks, we have learned to live together as peacefully as lambs. But these things are not easy..”

–from Robert Heinlein’s novel Tunnel in the Sky, in which a group of high school kids are stranded on a planet galaxies away, and have come to accept the idea that they are probably never going to be rescued. After a period of choosing their leader by acclamation, they have now decided to hold a formal election for that purpose.

4–Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.

–Congressman Barney Frank, also Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, and (in somewhat different form) Barack Obama.

My Assertion: The first three quotes all have elements of truth and provide useful perspectives on the problem of government; the fourth one has no such redeeming value.

(I’ve been thinking about a post along these lines for a while, finally motivated to do it by a discussion at Sarah Hoyt’s blog.)

Your thoughts?