Social Engineering and the Military – 1

I pondered writing about this topic for quite some time.  It is a difficult topic because of the emotional factor.  Rarely does discussion get down to the brass tacks – the unintended consequences.  I used to do this type of pondering during my morning runs.  Since I can no longer run, I do it on the walking track over at the gym.  This morning while deep in thought, I blazed past an 80 year old lady as if her walker was up on jacks.  I politely said good morning, how are you?  I was not aware that 80 year olds could offer that gesture so vigorously.  It had the affect of clearing my mind.  I am starting over from scratch.

The challenge is to make the subject understandable to someone who has not served in the Armed Forces.  Especially when we live in a society that appears to want all manner of behavior deemed acceptable and force fed to the military.  I could address it straight out and every Soldier and Veteran could relate.  They would not necessarily agree with my thoughts or conclusions and I am accustomed to not singing to the choir, but would certainly understand their origin.  Those who haven’t served may not understand or accept that societal norms cannot in all cases transfer to the military and have it remain the most effective war fighting force.  The military is a culture in and of itself – a war fighting culture that must be allowed to focus on what it does.

The military services have standards.  Training standards, performance standards, grooming standards, standards for conduct… name it and there is a standard for it.  There must be one standard applicable to everyone in uniform from General Officer to Private Soldier.  When the military services are decreed to sway from standards to accommodate varying groups based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, race or anything else there becomes no standard.  There was a time it was accepted with the oath that one would place personal preferences aside and abide by the rules and standards of the service – to accept living the military culture.  Seems we have either abandoned that ideal or are working hard to deconstruct it.  The military force is drawn from the society it protects, but it cannot be a mirror of it.  Military service requires higher personal standards and discipline where individual preferences are without exception secondary to the military standard.  Otherwise, there is no standard.  There is no good order and discipline.  There is no foundation.

So what is social engineering?  In today’s technical or intelligence world it is a method used to manipulate individuals or groups in order to obtain information.  Social engineering framed in the context I hope to relay are the attempts to change attitudes and influence a long term transformation of society or culture.  It is about changing the norms.  What was once abnormal over time becomes normal – the unacceptable becomes acceptable.  The truth too often buried.  For some, the societal norm shifts, but the debate remains whether the change is good until such time as it just becomes accepted.  Just to get my bona fides out of the way, in 1974 I did take a Sociology 101 course taught by an ex-pat hippie living in Korea.

Long ago, I adopted a training philosophy.  Actually I stole it because it made clear in my mind what training Soldiers in my charge was all about.  It comes from a quote attributed to science fiction writer Robert Heinlein:

Never try to teach a pig to sing.  It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.

For me, that focused my mind on the critical.  I served in support units where if not reinforced basic combat skills deteriorate quickly.  For those of you who may not understand, Army support units comprise the long shaft behind the tip of the spear.  A great mechanic, medic, cook or clerk still must master the basic skills necessary to defend themselves and units.  So that was my focus to the chagrin of some who liked to remind me that we were not the Infantry.  I was not a social engineer I worked hard to refocus a culture that sorely needed it rather than change it.

© 2017 J. D. Pendry