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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pentagon-ISM of the week- 'Reaching out'

 Pentagon-ISM of the week- 'Reaching out'

Ah yes, 'reaching out', also see: 'reach out' or reached out'. 

If you work in the PGON you WILL hear this EVERY day--without FAIL.  Maybe I am just oblivious but I never heard this term until coming to work here.  Or maybe people used it so infrequently or 'occasionally' that I never noticed it.  People DON'T use it occassionally here, that is for sure.
    If I didn't know any better I would think the Pentagon is this cuddly, homely, 5-sided center of out-stretched arms cooperating at every chance.  But of course this is not the case.

Example of use:
"Rick, I need you to reach out to State and see if we can start working a 'way-ahead' (see future Pentagonism OTW) for Chelsea's wedding location."

    Close your eyes. Can you imagine Rick hearing the statement above and slowly turning to the northeast in his cubicle and stretching his arms towards Foggy Bottom, all the while chanting 'Algeria, Algeria, Algeria.'

In this case you can see the way in which the vague nature of the term serves a purpose of masking the actual nature of the tasking.  The reason for this is because often enough, people aren't sure what outcome is actually desired.   And unlike the word 'contact' or 'call' or 'get in touch with', 'reach out' carries with it the presupposition of cooperation...which is pretty funny because that is usually the biggest hurdle when working with other agencies.
    But as always, this PentagonismOTW is a great tool in a junior officer's arsenal because 'reaching out' can mean anything:

"Well sir, I reached out to State last week but didn't get any 'traction' (see future Pentagonism OTW)."

In this case, I forgot to call my counterpart at the State Department and instead literally waved toward Foggy Bottom on the Yellow Line headed northward, but they didn't wave back

So, next time you are home you can mess with your Dad and ask him to 'reach out' to your grandmother regarding who will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year.

FUUO's Pentagonisms:



  1. Nice one, Jack! My particular favorite embodiment of the above is "reach to me for..."

    I instantly get an image of myself with a sad look on my face slowly raising (reaching) my hand up to this individual, hoping and praying for his/her advice, powerpoint deck, alms, etc.

    Please add "leverage" to your list of future PismOTWs!

  2. Hmmmm ... this "Rick" you mention. How well do I know him? LOL!