Aspirational Cubical Commanders: The Second Element of the New Iron Triangle

By Robbin Laird

Last episode we focused on the impact of Asserted Facts Journalism (AFJ – no pun intended) on our ability to debate, to think and to innovate.

The second key element is players of the self-styled strategic elite, often members of something called Think Tanks.  In my youth, I worked at an Institute founded by Zbig Brzezinski, which had thinkers who were in a group, but not tanked.  And there I met Herman Kahn, one of the founders of so-called Think Tanks.  The thing about Zbig and Herman is that they could think, they loved debate, and attracted around them people with original ideas and a wealth of real world experience.

Fast forward to 2011.  It often seems that the function of the Think Tanks now is to hold conferences with the same attendees who seem to also say the same thing.  When I was recovering from Cancer and had a delightful year of interferon therapy, I struggled to survive, but had to work full time, because I had not inherited a fortune or have written children’s books when President.

I decided to re-enter the professional discussion world by attending a conference on defense issues.  I closed my eyes and listened to the usual cast or is it caste of characters who said exactly what I had heard the year before I had my therapy.  At first, I thought this was the impact of 12 months of interferon.  But then I realized it was the think tank style, of political posturing, political differentiation, and laying out one’s stance.  It had little to do with thinking; it was more like position identification and territorial positioning.

Of course, much of the positioning is about being the next government in waiting.  Here the Aspiring Cubical Commanders craft slogans to differentiate themselves from the current government so that they might catch the attention of candidates who themselves might lack what is called National Security Credentials.  For such Cubical Commanders the key is to criticize whatever the military is currently doing.  The military only buys “deeply troubled programs” which reflect “cold war realities” and represent the “vested interests” of the military industrial complex.

There is a type of innovation held up to criticize the “traditional” military.  The cubical commanders identify some niche technology, which in briefing slides and other such characterizations could replace the outdated systems of today.  Although briefing slides only kill an audience to bad guys, the PowerPoint presentation is a key tool to show the future built around aspirational technology.

And clearly what you do not want to do is to go to factories, or plants, or on deployments to see how difficult translating a briefing slide is into manufacturing reality.

After all, the “military industrial complex” which is running “deeply troubled programs” is in charge of those factories.  There are no workers in those factories only greedy defense industrialists who spend their time trying figure out how to con the government out of its next nickel.

I will invent a notional Cubical Commander called Winslow Why and suggest that if this style of strategic analysis was going on at the time Roosevelt put together a team which became the Manhattan project that the US would never have had the bomb.  This was a costly and “deeply troubled program which of course should have been canceled.

To give a perspective of the problem, which President Roosevelt did not have but current decision makers do have, we have crafted a column from Winslow Why, perennial critic of any procurement decision he does not like.

Why do we need the Manhattan project?

It has been recently revealed that President Roosevelt has signed off on an expensive open-ended project, which this country does not need.  Called the Manhattan project, the President is moving vast amounts of money to build a secret weapon that none of adversaries are building.

And although called the Manhattan project, most of the money will be spent in the backward states of Tennessee and New Mexico.  Because there is no infrastructure in place, the country will spend billions on new towns and facilitates for an untrained workforce of woman and neophytes who will be asked to man machines, which they do not understand.

The President has appointed a man who built the Pentagon, another needless big government project, and with no experience in weapons manufacturing.  In a move typical of a secretive government, this Army officer is being put in charge of potentially the biggest weapons program in history.

The Administration is using the usual, there is a big threat out there game, to justify uncontrolled defense spending.  Although estimates of Nazi and Japanese defense research are often difficult to know, this analyst believes building a nuclear weapon is not on the table and not necessary.

And we certainly do not need to build expensive planes to deliver such futuristic weaponry!  Spending billions on such new futuristic stuff makes no sense when the country is strained to build equipment more than adequate for victory.

We have more planes, more ships and more men under arms than in any time in our history.  We have more than enough capability to seize the islands of Japan without recourse to wasting billions on unknown weaponry. And the waste does not stop there.

Reportedly, the weapons program is spending billions on building housing for workers who have not been trained to live in a new city in rural Tennessee.  These untested building techniques are leading to nearly 20,000 houses being built to support building the largest building in US history.  Untested technology is being gambled on with our money with no certainty of anything but failure as a result.

Even more doubtful is the notion that at this backwoods facility, materials will be prepared and sent in the New Mexican desert where American scientists will get to test their unproven theories and approaches.

Mr. President could you come clean: why are you spending billions for the military industrial complex on such untested and unproven technologies when we have already spent billions on time-tested equipment and technologies?

We have the technology we need know to close out the war and to win.  We do not need to spend billions on untested technologies, questionable theories, and wasting billions on untrained workers, facilities for these folks, and building up support for the President in future elections from dumping money into Tennessee and New Mexico.



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