Different views

I read the entire New York Times book review from last Sunday. It is rare that I do so. I read the review of the book The Insurgents by Fred Kaplan about the …plot to change the American way of war. The illustration features Petraeus against a backdrop of warriors. I share a common ancestry (Dutch) with the man but that is about the only thing, plus maybe the ‘hutspot’ and small talk we shared on one 3rd of October at the Dutch embassy in Kabul.

He was the reason why, in our work in Kabul, we suddenly had to insert COIN in all our writings and reasonings of our, American-financed, health project. But then, one day, we didn’t have to use COIN anymore. The book review told me that …’the counterinsurgency cult was more than a fad (…) but much less than a revolution.’ All of this a reminder that things look so very different and compelling, inevitable even, when you are down in the weeds in the valley instead of high up in the clouds.

I also learned from the review that the army is trying to become a learning organization. Just like MSH. We advocate the military’s After Action Reviews as a learning organization’s tool, which it is for folks in the weeds, but not for the Gods on the Olympus. The lesson I retain is that we should focus on how people in organizations can learn new tactics quickly, rather than sweeping changes in operating systems – where do we see this happening after all? It’s about mental maps and agility, about the dynamics among the powerful, more than getting things right each time, every time, a mantra of efficiency specialists that makes me cringe.

1 Response to “Different views”


  1. 1 axelsjournal February 10, 2013 at 5:22 am

    It’s about mental maps and agility, about the dynamics among the powerful, more than getting things right each time, every time, a mantra of efficiency specialists that makes me cringe. This reminds me of the edition of the HArvard Business Review that we read in Kabul in spring of 2011 in which the lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were reviewed. I’m going back to look at those…


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