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The Blogs of War

“The implications of soldiers that express their thoughts every day can be explosive,”
– Extract from a war blog kept by a US soldier serving in Iraq.

I am interested in how leadership is changing in the military. Partly because old command and control leadership that permeates all organizations is based on the military model, whereas the military itself has, in many cases, moved on from that.

The US during the invasion of Afghanistan ceded control to junior officers in the field, whose favoured means of communicating horizontally with each other was texting on their mobile phones, using satellite links. The Army recognised that in such a fast-moving environment as a theatre of war, leading through the traditional vertical chain of command is impractical.

The US Army’s recruitment campaign a while back was based on the theme “I am an army of one” and featured individual front-line trooops who had to make fast decisions regularly that would in the past have been passed up a hierarchy for a ‘leader’ to make the decisions.

Nothing illustrates the tension more between the increasing discretion given to troops on the ground to make decisions and the traditional military control model than the war blogs kept by US troops exercising their First amendment right to freedom of expression while serving in Iraq.

Under the old military leadership model, soldiers did not think. How does leadership work in a thinking army? BBC Radio 4 ran a fascinating item today on the war blogs kept by US soldiers in Iraq, including references to some of the highly disturbing and unsanitised clips of war in action as individual soldiers used small handhelds for vblogging that ended up on YouTube. The Radio 4 programme will be available in a day or two on their ‘Listen Again’ facility on the BBC website here if you are interested.

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