FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The incredible must read: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

    The incredible must read: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

  This novel has nothing to do with North Africa, the Maghreb or Africa, at least not transparently.  Matterhorn is a novel about Vietnam.  More succintly, it's THE best novel about Vietnam and ONE of the BEST on war ever written.  
      Marlantes was a Yale grad (try not to hold that against him) and a Rhodes scholar who served IN Vietnam (take note AG Blumenthal) was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals.  And for the past 30 years he has been working on this soul-wrenching story.
Now, I am a Navy helicopter pilot by trade and cannot speak firsthand of the realities, horrors and tears of combat- I will leave that to my Marine and SEAL friends (I can only attest to the drenching boredom of planeguard in the Persian gulf and the sometimes terrifying unaided nighttime landings on small decks at sea).  So I will leave it to the myriad reviews by combat veterans that attest to the accuracy with which he captures these emotions and realities.  

     But I will tell you that I ripped through the 592 page novel and when I finished the last page I felt the frustration, the anger, the hatred, the pride and the bravery of those Marines.  

     We spend a disproportionate amount of time studying the facts, tactics, techniques and history of wars.  I add this novel to my "must read for FAOs" list because it adds something missing: CONTEXT and TEXTURE.    In this case, considerable context and texture concerning the Vietnam War can be gained through reading this novel.  The words "acceptable loss" and "collateral damage" no longer remain as easily typed black words on an after action report, instead they appear in the murky purple of blood and hopelessness.  

   It is imperative that each of us are proactive in developing context and texture BEFORE a conflicts arises within our sphere of influence.  For a FAO this won't be in a battlefield, but instead in relationships developed over a career-relationships that reach out beyond the normal military scope.  

This means within private companies, NGO's, other service branches and foreign countries.  This means stepping outside the normal comfort zone and boundaries.  
This means writing and publishing-pushing out your ideas theories wherever you can get someone to print them (it goes without saying, this needs to be done within your chain of command).  
And the list goes on...
What's on your list of 'this means'?
What do context and texture mean in your area of purview?

FAO Africa Reading List-The long one
FAO Africa Reading List-The executive list

No comments:

Post a Comment