In our communities we rely on others to help us out when we are in spot of bother. In the early stages of the pandemic I can remember picking up groceries for friends who weren’t able to leave their houses. When governments are trying to use their authority to ram through legislation that we don’t agree with we get together and protest. When a local politician is caught with their pants down or their hand in the till, we agitate to vote them out. When we want to join local clubs we rely on others to vouch for us and when one of our members qualifies for a prestigious and expensive race abroad we pool our resources to make sure that they get there to represent us.
Whether we like it or not we are in this together but it’s amazing the number of people who think that their job title or position in society allows them to do what they wish.
1. Iraq War (2003)
We’ve just passed the twentieth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The US with assistance from the coalition of the willing – which included the UK – toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime in less than a month and on the 1st of May, 2003, George W. Bush infamously declared “Mission Accomplished” on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. They set up the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to look after the administration of the country until the establishment of a democratic government. On the 11th of May, 2003, Paul Bremmer, on his first day as head of the CPA, issued an order to exclude from the new Iraqi administration members of the establishment Baathist party.
2. Disenfranchised Communities
This led to the removal of close to 100,000 people from their jobs – which included doctors, nurses, school teachers, judiciary and local government officials. The list goes on. The majority of these people would have joined the party in order to get jobs and would have been critical to the day-to-day running of the country. This turbo charged the nascent insurgency which was percolating in the background. To this day, the mind boggles at that decision. The insurgency attracted people from all walks of Iraqi life, and beyond, who had been disenfranchised and no longer had a stake in the future of the country.
3. David Galula and Counterinsurgency Theory
This CPA order along with the US military’s heavy-handed approach towards the greater population saw the development and expansion of a full-blown nationwide insurgency. The US finally amended their approach with an adoption of the counterinsurgency military doctrine popularised by the French military officer and academic David Galula. The following laws provide a flavour of his theories for dealing with a counterinsurgency:
- The aim is to get the support of the population as opposed to the control of the territory.
- The majority of the population will be neutral in the conflict. You can secure the support of the majority with the help of an active friendly minority.
- You may lose the support of the population. To avoid this they must be protected to allow it to cooperate without fear of retribution by your opponents.
This more enlightened approach, spearheaded by General David Petraeus, along with a surge in troops, and reconstruction and job creation programmes, led to the eventual quelling of the insurgency in 2007.
4. Food for Thought
Your success is built on the work and imprimatur of others. If there’s any chance that someone can – regardless of position or job title – influence one of your initiatives, you need to seek them out and do what you can to make sure that they are in your corner. It should be obvious that your time in the C-suite will be determined by the strength of your networks and how you look after the concerns of the people in them.
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