Aug 222014

INDEED, when will the US ever learn?

Hardly had the ink dried on the piece we wrote last week about the subject, than news of ISIS militants killing American journalist James Foley came out. In the irony of ironies, Foley was supposedly executed—Jihadi style—by a British-born militant; a person born to a country with the closest of ties to the US.

Is there anything else to blame for this, apart from the United States’ way of dealing with international crises?

At the risk of some foreign policy expert already coining the phrase, the best way to describe it is the “expediency doctrine.” By this, I mean the foreign policy equivalent of “the means justifying the ends.”

Arguably, the threat of ISIS would probably not have surfaced, had the US done its homework in Iraq. But it decided to cram on exam day instead.

With all the about-turns it has done with Iraq, the US looks like a schizophrenic college kid who could not make up his mind—
deciding to become a doctor one day, only years later realizing he really wanted to play the piano instead.

Against the Iranians, the Americans supported the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein. Once that conflict ended, Saddam became a pariah to them, and they decide to invade the country to get him out. Once they had the man out of sight, they duly support corrupt local politicians to rule the nation. And as the people rebelled in the streets against their crooked and inept leaders, they decide to up sticks and leave the country to fend for itself. In reference to what happened in Vietnam a couple of generations ago – Yogi Berra would have said, “it’s déjà vu all over again.”

To make matters worse, they decide to dilly-dally with Syria, letting the tension there simmer and fester, until it exploded into a bloody conflagration. Amidst this human inferno of no-hope and despair, arose this band of zealous militants styling themselves as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Funny thing is, this band is littered with committed volunteers from many Western states, including the US’ most ardent allies like the UK.

The killing of Foley has really now brought this folly home (no pun intended). And now, the whole world is paying for it.

The US likes to change its mind, and it does so a lot. Not only in foreign policy and military matters, but even those of management, technology and business as well. Which brings me closer to the subjects I like talking about.

Ever wondered what happened to “management by wandering around,” which was all the rage in the 90’s? Well, it seems that faddish management thinkers can’t get rid of it fast enough. Today, it is management by remote control that is all the rage. What do you think, for example, of the matrix-type global organization models that are now masquerading as the best thing since sliced bread?

This is, of course, a problem. People-led organizations, whether they be social, military or political, are high-touch entities. They cannot be managed like drones, by controllers hundreds or even thousands of miles away from all the action. Doing so runs the risk of someone on the ground seizing the initiative, whether these be in the form of ISIS militants, militant labor unions, or just dysfunctional employees, in need of firmer guidance and direction.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 23, 2014.

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