Following an article on one of the blogs I read, I can across some absolutely hillarious posts on YouTube. On one level they are somewhat concerning in terms of the subject matter, but the semantic gymnastics are absolutely funny. They relate to US congressional hearings over the use of torture and the star actors are David Addingtion and John Yoo. I think my favourites are:
Today heralds a decision that could see Paul Wolfowitz’s future at the World Bank rather quickly curtailed. In highly charged politic situations such as this, it is easy for facts to get overtaken by technicalities that detract from appropriately understanding the situation.
At the heart of this issues lies the fact that Paul Wolfowitz had a conflict of interest but still acted. This is manifestly inappropriate and he needs to step down as he has undermined his own credibility and the credibility of the position he holds, and by extension, the credibility of the World Bank. Drawing a similarity to corporate law, a company director who doesn’t absent himself or herself from a decision where there is a conflict of interest is in a lot of trouble. Dealing with conflicts of interest in business can be painful, but they are of secondary concern to the potential for undermining the integrity of decision making within a business. Regardless of the size of the matter, there is an important principle here. Surely if such duties on directors are so important, then one imagines that they should be more onerous for those that occupy positions such as the Head of the World Bank. By trying to hide his actions does nothing other than reaffirm the thoughts of those that believe he needs to go.
Today’s news services have again covered the decision by the US military to ban its soldiers from using social media (blogs, Myspace etc). Austin Bay’s blog alerted me to this a couple of weeks ago. He also pointed to a very comprehensive article by Wired from the start of May that is worth reading. The two main reasons given are firstly bandwidth usage and secondly OPSEC (or operational security, the protection of sensitive information associated with operations).
While appreciating both of these concerns, this is truly an ignorant decision by people who do not appreciate the importance that deployed soldiers place on being able to communicate with loved ones and the potential wider positive influence that can be used through social media. It is also a bit patronising to entrust soldiers with prosecuting the war at the tactical level, but not consider them sufficiently mature to consider OPSEC.
A large number of US personnel are spending close to one year in two, or six months each year, serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Despite the Iraq war having only started four years ago, many of my friends have now spent two years of their life there. For those of us who have been to war, we understand the real importance of being able to communicate with family and friends. The pressures on soldiers are high enough without taking away their ability to communicate. While the cost of larger bandwidth use may be higher due to the use of myspace etc, surely it does not compare to welfare and morale of deployed forces, and the potential for increased retention problems.
One of the major failures of this war has been the appalling lack of trying to win the information war, at home and in the operational environment. Since the fall of Baghdad, the political-strategic direction of the war has been an almost complete failure. Even some of the great reconstruction work that has gone on has been overshadowed by the complete inability of the US administration to deliver positive messages about this – and into this void, Al Qaeda and other terrorist/ anti-Iraqi forces have been able to bombard people with negativity about what is happening in Iraq. Even in the West, press coverage of the war has been overwhelmingly negative. In some ways, I would equate this decision with some of the decisions in World War One that led to the slaughter of Ypres and the Somme. Back then, senior leaders refused to acknowledge that technology had changed the face of war forever with the advent of the machine gun and other weapons of war; now, senior leaders refuse to acknowledge that technology has again changed the face of war, this time due to the internet.
In the last day or so, I have noticed a post in myspace from Tom, the friendly myspace guide and helper to all. Following the abduction of that young English girl in Europe recently, someone has set up a site on myspace to raise awareness of her plight. While it does not appear to be an official site, it is great to see such an initiative. Some may take a sceptical view of this, but again the growth in numbers of people linked to this site highlights the potential power of these networks that many of us belong to – and possibly assist in tragic situations such as this.
Recently, there have been some interesting discussions on the positive and negative influences of social media and networking, but I would see that this is definitely one of the positives.
There is a great article that discusses how law applies to bloggers. It really is worth reading (not that I live in the US at present).