Monday, February 12, 2007

Latest BYU MBA Newsletter Submission

News from Fort Riley.

Cold, very cold. When you stand around doing nothing, it seems colder still. I knew we were in trouble when during our welcome brief, the presenter said, “We don’t know why you’re here so early.” Oh, dear. So here we are at the beginning of our third week of inprocessing. Something that takes one week typically. I’ve been having flashbacks to operations class as I go from one 300 person line to another. If we had two stations, we could roughly double our throughput. And if we had the foresight to cross-train the folks doing the processing, we could shift resources to clear bottlenecks. Alas, all for naught. I have been reduced to silence, as all protestations and recommendations for improvement are interpreted as impudence and insubordination.

On the other hand, I am honored to be among a group of 300 individuals- Reservists, all- who have left many things precious and dear to serve their country. Truth be told, most of us aren’t losing out financially, but we don’t do this for the money. The contractors out in Iraq are more often in it for the money. We are all here for reasons that I find fairly noble, at times even inspiring. I have been greatly blessed by having Elder Robert Oaks make sure I got a copy of “Let not your hearts be troubled,” a DVD produced for current LDS service members. It contains some great counsel from four church leaders, three of them distinguished veterans. They point out some of the challenges we face in the service as we confront the horrors of war, and they help us see how ancient men of honor addressed matters of state and war in our scriptures. President Hinckley’s comments weren’t bad either. ;-)

Training starts in earnest next week. The waiting has been strangely exhausting.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

How does one assess reality in Iraq? Focus micro or macro? US perspective? Iraqi perspective?

Had someone forward me a posting on the media's reporting in Iraq, listing the accomplishments and progress made as they try to rebuild after Saddam's time and the past few years of conflict:

Do you know?

I didn't know! How could we?

Did you know that 47 countries have reestablished their embassies in Iraq? Did you know that the Iraqi government currently employs 1.2 million Iraqi people?Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under rehabilitation, 263 new schools are now under construction and 38 new schools have been completed in Iraq? Did you know that Iraq's higher educational structure consists of 20 Universities, 46 Institutes or colleges and 4 research centers, all currently operating? Did you know that 25 Iraq students departed for the United States in January 2005 for the re-established Fulbright program? Did you know that the Iraqi Navy is operational? They have 5 -100-foot patrol craft, 34 smaller vessels and a naval infantry regiment. Did you know that Iraq's Air Force consists of three operational squadrons, which includes 9 reconnaissance and 3 US C-130 transport aircraft (under Iraqi operational control) which operate day and night, and will soon add 16 UH-1 helicopters and 4 Bell Jet Rangers? Did you know that Iraq has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando Battalion? Did you know that the Iraqi Police Service has over 55,000 fully trained and equipped police officers? Did you know that there are 5 Police Academies in Iraq that produce over 3500 new officers each 8 weeks? Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq? They include 364 schools, 67 public clinics, 15 hospitals, 83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities. Did you know that 96% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 have received the first 2 series of polio vaccinations? Did you know that 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary school by mid October? Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq and phone use has gone up 158%? Did you know that Iraq has an independent media that consists of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations? Did you know that the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004? Did you know that 2 candidates in the Iraqi presidential election had a televised debate recently?


Instead of reflecting our love for our country, we get photos of flagburning incidents at Abu Ghraib and people throwing snowballs at the presidential motorcades. Tragically, the lack of accentuating the positive in Iraq serves two purposes: It is intended to undermine the world's perception of the United States thus minimizing consequent support, and it is intended to discourageAmerican citizens. ---- Above facts are verifiable on the Department of Defense web site. .......Pass it on! Give it a Wide Dissemination.

OK- so that was the post, here are some of my thoughts on it-

This is blatant right-wing rhetoric. I don't challenge any of those facts. But let's not confuse activities and sheer numbers of positive events with a general reading of what is happening in Iraq. Take a look at the Iraq Study Group Report and the recent National Intelligence Estimate. And it is true that the media doesn't focus on the positives- but they don't do that in the US, either. We don't often hear of service projects, and all the good things people do for each other in our own neighborhoods.

Media tends to focus on the negative and controversial, mostly because it is how they sell copy and advertising- the phrase "if it bleeds, it leads" is the reason behind the negative reporting in Iraq- it is not because of the US media's attempt to undermine the world's perception of the US, or to discourage American citizens. If you watched the news this week, there was much more reporting about the death of a former porn star than there was coverage about the happenings in Iraq. Not exactly the most effective way to discourage Americans, in my estimation.

The facts presented in his e-mail are true, but can also be very misleading in the sense that they ignore the negative, just as the media it criticizes ignores the positive-

The reality is, there is a conflict in Iraq, much more complicated than a civil war (statements from the recent National Intelligence Estimate, which comes from the US intelligence community- part of our executive branch). Violence has been increasing steadily since the bombing of a mosque about a year ago- there are new threats to the US from increasingly lethal explosively formed projectiles- a type of bomb that creates a projectile with great lethality as the charge pushes it out of its casing and hurtles it towards a target. Previous improvised explosive devices (and still the vast majority) are fairly simple and are not as lethal and directed as these newer bombs.

Yes, much good has been done. On the other hand, I watched about 40 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines obliterated by bombs in films just two days ago. These are films available on the internet, posted by the enemy. The individuals who are responsible for the bombings film them so they can get paid for their work (and also as a self-created media influence, extremist You-Tube, if you will)- they prove they accomplished their missions. These films are not shown and rerun repeatedly by the US media- they are readily available only through these other venues. This would suggest that while the US media may focus on the negative, they could easily do more if their true intent were to have the US lose face and discourage the population.

There's my 42 cents worth.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Two weeks to go."

Here's a little exercise for you to take your mind off the daily worries of the MBA Program.

What do you do if you only have two weeks left with your family before an extended 18 month (or perhaps indefinite) absence? You will be able to e-mail or call occasionally, but will otherwise have only a 2 week leave period to reunite with them during that time. To use some management parlance, what are your big rocks? What do you leave undone? Think about it- write it down to help clarify your thinking.

I had the opportunity recently to live this exercise. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this if you feel so inclined- post comments below. I’m trying to post on the page occasionally, and would love to hear from you.