Many problems in alleviating humanitarian crises caused by natural catastrophes, like that in Haiti, have less to do with raising money and aid and more to do with how the flows of money and the aid are processed through the maw of bureaucratic institutions like the military, Red Cross, and the ever growing welter of NGOs. Adding to the complexity of multiple bureaucratic agendas is a sensationalist media that descends on the catastrophe like a cloud of locusts; it is naturally biased to exaggerate and generalize from any extreme incident like looting or killing or “feel-good” altruistic hype. Many times the picture on the ground is very different than that perceived through lenses conditioned by the needs of bureaucracy and sensationalism — but, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, reality is often made worse by how that conditioning feeds back on and distorts the OODA loops of the various bureaucratic agencies and the public.
My friend Robert Steele, a former Marine intelligence officer and a longtime promoter of the using “open source intelligence,” to open, sharpen, and quicken decision cycles (OODA Loops), just debriefed Sgt William McNulty (USMCR) about his recent trip to Haiti. Readers may recall that I forwarded McNulty’s initial spot SITREP a few days ago. The attached interview organizes and adds information to that spot report.
Sgt McNulty’s findings are very important and should be carefully considered. In my opinion, he exemplifies the kind attributes we seek in our military personnel — intelligence, drive, initiative, and forthrightness. In this interview he identifies crucial bottlenecks blocking the flow of aid to the Haitians. According to McNulty, many of these bottlenecks are self-inflicted and emanate from the US obsessions with top-down organization, bureaucratic control, and security. What is different and makes McNulty’s report valuable is that he examines these bottlenecks from the viewpoint of those on the receiving end of the aid pipe, AND he identifies some ground-level examples of the kinds of self-organizing bottom-up initiatives, based on individual initiative and empowerment of those at the working level, could work more quickly to get aid to where it is needed the most.
Phi Beta Iota: Chuck’s comment arrives as the media is starting to report that the U.S. military is declaring victory and winding down. From where we sit, there is still a need for all that the military did not do in the first 10 days. Haiti is an information and logistics challenge of the first order that none of the NGOs and most nations including Brazil simply cannot handle. If the USA does not step up to its Responsibility to Protect, then we anticipate both another 100,000 deaths, and a million or more incurring dehydration and starvation related illnesses. This is no way to run a railroad!