Recently in Dissertation Category

I look at blogs on a fairly regularly basis and I have my favorites but my all-time favorite is Thomas PM Barnett. It is posts like this one entitled "Smart guy, dumb book: US grand strategy completely misrepresented" that keep me coming back. No doubt Barnett and I differ on some of our politics but I cannot fault a guy who is so even handed in his analysis. He calls them as he sees them: right or wrong, left or right.

Globalization is perhaps one of the greatest things to have happened to mankind in recent history and how it can be ignoed in a book on strategy is beyond me. I am nearing the begining on my dissertation on change in professions, specifically engineering, and globalization will figure prominently in my arguments. To ignore it in a US grand strategy will surely produce a "dumb book".

Resolutions for 2009

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I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions because hey are too easily broken and I see no reason to wait until the New Year to start something. But this year, just once, I'm going to break this rule and make some resolutions.

In 2009 I resolve to:

1) Start and finish my dissertation.
2) Read at least one book each two weeks. I really wanted to do one per week but that could get in the way of resolution number 1.
3) Write/blog on a more regular basis.
4) Get in better physical shape.

I’m feeling pretty good about the dissertation now; I wasn’t just a short time ago. I met with my dissertation advisor and we discussed some higher level topics. The next steps are to complete a high level outline of the proposal—structured but without all of the prose inserted—and we’ll discuss that. Then I can fill in the details and have the proposal ready to go. Once that is done the rest is data analysis and a little more writing.

My goal is to have the outline ready by Thanksgiving. We can discuss it before Christmas break and Christmas can be used to add the prose.

I Sits and Thinks

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So I sits, I sits and I thinks. I’ve taken off work a few days to think about this dissertation thing. Throughout all of my coursework I have, where possible, used my papers and other assignments to explore the interaction of NGOs and the military with idea that it would be the central focus of my dissertation. I am specifically interested in the organizational behavior aspects of the interaction and what can be done to improve cooperation.

The topic is one I have been interested in ever since we had a discussion in one of my Naval War College classes at Millington. The topic we were discussing was NGOs and the instructor mentioned that when he was in Bosnia he found that the Red Cross and other NGOs would not work with the military. The NGOs quite rightly wanted to and needed to maintain their independence and prevent even the slightest appearance that they were cooperating with the military. To do anything else would have limited their effectiveness.

However, the military did have some knowledge that would have helped the NGOs function better. They knew, for example, that it would be in the best interest of the NGOs to avoid a certain part of the city for the next few days. Not only would the knowledge have helped the NGOs prevent injury and death, it would have reduced the risks to the military in performing any rescue missions. And yes, the NGOs had some street level intel that would have helped the military do its job more effectively.

At the time I was more interested in completing my coursework to get the MA from the Naval War College and honestly was not even thinking about a PhD dissertation at the time. But the idea stuck with me. As the US went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq the idea came back to my thinking. This time it was a little different though. Whereas Bosnia was a humanitarian assistance mission, a true Military Operation Other than War (MOOTW), Afghanistan and Iraq were more military missions after war (can I be the first to coin the acronym MMAW?).

My thinking has been influenced some by Thomas PM Barnett as well. His book The Pentagon’s New Map gave me a new world view especially as he talked about the war fighters needed to be young and slightly pissed off men whereas the people that were to rebuild the countries after war needed to be slightly older, a little more mellow, and more experienced. He calls this group the Department of Everything Else.

Now, in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). These are small, relatively small, teams of military who are focused on rebuilding following war. They help get the country (or the provinces in this case) up and running. They help establish the infrastructure to govern, get electricity turned on and get water flowing in and sewage flowing out. In other words they remove some of the physical and structural obstacles to getting the government functioning again.

The question which comes up is whether this should be the job of the military or someone else. What about State? Well the State Department is supposed to provide people for this mission but State Department types are not really inclined to put on body armor to go to work every day. What about the NGOs? Well they too have a role to play but they generally lack the manpower and equipment needed to gets things working again, at least in the early stages. They do not have the expertise to repair power plants or water treatment facilities.

Given we seldom move from war to outright peace, PRTs are often at risk while doing their jobs. This is not something most people want to do on a daily basis but it is exactly what the military lives to do. So, it seems to me that there will always be a role for the military, at least in the foreseeable future, for the military to not only wage war, but also to restore the infrastructure once the war (read major hostilities) is over. But I do see this as a job solely for the military; the NGOs also have a role to play. It seems to me that there are things the military does well and the NGOs do well—the solution seems to be a marriage between the two. I envision a situation where the military primarily works alone during the first stages followed by a period where the military and NGOs work collaboratively, followed by a period where the NGOs work primarily alone.

The problems here are several. The military and NGOs do not seem always understand each other. Perhaps this is because of the differences in personality and experiences of the young, single, pissed off people—the military—and the older, married, gender-balanced, more educated people—the NGOs. But it also seems that we need a force that perhaps combines these two. One force I think of is the Reserve forces.

The Reserves are typically older but still military. They have also been more educated and therefore understand the peace mission perhaps a little better than the typical, young, E-1 to E-4. They also have skills developed in the civilian world but can still speak military and wear the uniform.

One other advantage of the Reserve forces is that they are able to practice their skills in their civilian jobs so that even when they are not restoring the infrastructure of a war-torn state, they are keeping their skills honed. When needed, they can go to the fight, do their jobs, and leave.

All of this will require significant education within the military and within the NGOs. But once obtained it will be useful for restoring peace, and can also be used, or at least facets of the force can be used, during times of national disaster.

The big question is how to pull all this together into a dissertation? What kind of data are out there to be analyzed? And how can I analyze it? I am confident I can reason my argument, although there will always be those who disagree, but how to defend the reasoning in a dissertation? I am leaning towards some sort of qualitative analysis mainly because it will be a stretch for me having been educated first an engineer. But I sense the committee is more inclined to look at quantitative data vice qualitative data.

So, I sits. I sits and thinks. But the time is here to quit sitting and start writing. This is the first step—I hope.

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