Breaking the Serbs: The High Price of a Single Misjudgment Reply

Map of Bosnia

By Chris Simmons

For weeks, anticipation had been building within the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR). One of the deadlines for demilitarization was now just days away and it was unclear whether the rival blocs that constituted Bosnia-Herzegovina would meet the suspense.

“Bosnia” actually consisted of three distinct governments: a weak state-level institution (i.e., Bosnia) with two highly autonomous parts, the Croat-Bosniak Federation and the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS). Each entity had its own government, parliament and presidency. The redundancies were mind-numbing. It was a bureaucracy gone mad, making interactions between NATO and the Bosnian governments problematic at best.

On Monday, the entities were to inform NATO whether they would meet the demining threshold required by the Dayton Peace Accords. The Croat-Bosniak response came first:  they were done, three days ahead of schedule. Then we learned the RS Minister of Defense would appear via Video-Teleconference (VTC) during the evening meeting at NATO’s Sarajevo headquarters. This, we all knew, was not a good sign.

That night, the Minister came on the VTC and told the SFOR Commander the Republic of Srpska (pronounced “Serp-Ska) would not meet the deadline. He professed his desire to help, but said the Justice Minister had ruled the Dayton Accord’s demining requirement unconstitutional. The SFOR Commander, who saw the action as nothing more than political brinksmanship, was not amused. He reminded the RS General that his government had signed the Accord four years earlier. “You will meet your obligations,” the Minister was told before the SFOR Commander abruptly ended the broadcast.

Turning to his Intelligence Staff, the SFOR Commander asked how close the RS was to meeting the suspense. “No where close,” he was told. A weapons specialist stood and advised the General the RS had well over 200,000 mines that still needed to be rendered safe. “There isn’t a country in the world that could de-militarize that many landmines in three days” the analyst concluded. It was clear to everyone the RS had been planning to obstruct the peace treaty for some time.

The SFOR Commander directed his staff to identify the three best units in the RS Army and to secretly make plans to seize their equipment and start discharging their personnel at 12:01am Friday morning. For the next two days, their Defense Minister continued to blame the Justice Ministry. Finally, at Thursday’s VTC, the RS General gleefully announced that the Ministry had reversed itself – the Dayton Accord was constitutional. All he required was an extension of the suspense. The SFOR Commander responded with words to the effect, “You’ll have my answer tomorrow.”

At one minute after midnight, NATO forces surrounded the garrisons of the RS’ three premier units. Entering the compounds, the soldiers were awakened and all of their weapons and equipment seized. Standing in formation, they learned they were being discharged – effective immediately. By dawn, the “crown jewels” of the RS military had ceased to exist.

This bold move broke the back of institutionalized resistance by the RS government. Henceforth, they were as compliant – if not more so, than their Croat-Bosniak counterparts. And the RS military set a record for the fastest destruction of 200,000+ landmines……

The Crazy Professor and “Machine Gun Hill” Reply

By Chris Simmons

Major Gunsberg was one of my History professors when I was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). The Major taught an infamous but highly desired, year-long course called The History of Warfare. Having served two tours in Vietnam as an Infantryman, he brought an edgy, philosophical, yet confrontational style of teaching to the classroom. It was pure theater and it kept us challenged and engaged.

Every day, Major Gunsberg tormented us with the same scenario:  You are leading an Infantry unit. You’ve just been ordered to take a hilltop so well fortified it is now called “Machine Gun Hill.” It’s a daylight attack. No artillery or air support is available. The hill offers no cover or concealment, so friendly casualties will be high. It cannot be bypassed – it must be captured. Pausing long enough for the words to sink in, he would then ask:  “So, how do you capture “Machine Gun Hill?”

Every possible answer we provided was wrong. Finally, on the last day of class, he told us the secret. We had been looking at the problem too narrowly. The only way to lead our men on a charge up “Machine Gun Hill” was to give them a cause in which they could believe. When committed to a cause, Gunsberg assured us, people freely make amazing – and sometimes life ending – sacrifices.

I was reminded of Major Gunsberg years later while running interrogation operations in Iraq. Many of the lower-level terrorists we’d captured began telling us they were fighting neither for Al Qaeda (AQ) or Islam. They explained to us that they did not hate Americans or members of the coalition forces. They fought because AQ had inspired them to fight for a cause – a cause worth dying for. It was a brilliantly cost-efficient and effective marketing strategy.

AQ recruiters had begun canvassing villages where poorly or uneducated residents had long ago abandoned all hope of a better tomorrow. Focusing on the young men and women, AQ wasted no time reinforcing the hopelessness of their lives and their village. The locals had little or no formal education, no schools, no hospitals or clinics, and in all likelihood, would die an early death from diseases that are treatable or preventable in many places of the world. To the young, impressionable men and women of the village, AQ’s grasp of the obvious captured their attention because the recruiters trafficked in that dangerous emotion called hope.

Their offer was surprisingly simple. If enough of them joined AQ, they would become the saviors of their village. They would do what none of their ancestors could accomplish – provide a better life for their family and the village. If enough volunteered, AQ pledged to drill a well and build a school, or at least provide a visiting teacher on a regular schedule. Likewise, an AQ medic would provide medical care for the volunteers and their families. Once again, if enough volunteered, medical care would be provided to the entire village. In some cases, a clinic was built. Recruits were told if they died serving with Al Qaeda, their families would be taken care of for the rest of their lives. By volunteering, the young men and women became immortal in the eyes of their families and friends. The message resonated and brought in a lot of “foot soldiers” to the cause.

AQ ensured they kept hope alive by fulfilling their promises to the villagers. These recruits fought us not because they believed in AQ, but simply because it provided a better life for their family while making them village heroes.

A cause to believe in – an inspirational albeit sometimes deadly thing indeed!

The Stanford (University) Prison Experiment 3

The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted from August 14 to 20,1971 by a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at StanfordUniversity. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research and was of interest to both the US Navy and Marine Corps in order to determine the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners.

Twenty-four students were selected out of 75 to play the prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Roles were assigned randomly. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond what even Zimbardo himself expected, leading the “officers” to display authoritarian measures and ultimately to subject some of the prisoners to torture. In turn, many of the prisoners developed passive attitudes and accepted physical abuse, and, at the request of the guards, readily inflicted punishment on other prisoners who attempted to stop it. The experiment even affected Zimbardo himself, who, in his capacity as “Prison Superintendent”, lost sight of his role as psychologist and permitted the abuse to continue as though it were a real prison. Five of the prisoners were upset enough by the process to quit the experiment early and the entire experiment was abruptly stopped after only six days. The experimental process and the results remain controversial. The entire experiment was filmed, with excerpts made publicly available.

You’re Not That Great: A Motivational Speech Reply

Daniel Crosby is founder of IncBlot Organizational Psychology, a management consultancy headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama. IncBlot is comprised of a team of organizational psychologists with expertise in helping business select exceptional people, perfect their existing talent base through coaching and training, and persuade through leveraging behavioral science. IncBlot works with an exceptional group of businesses including Morgan Stanley/Smith Barney, Guardian Life Insurance, Grant Thornton, Raytheon, Appleton Learning, and Digium. Daniel Crosby is a Huntsville native schooled at Brigham Young and Emory Universities. He is also a featured contributor for and the Huntsville Times as well as a performance psychologist for Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The Science of Siblings Reply

Francine Russo, Parade Contributor

How your brothers and sisters shape your life—long after you’ve stopped sharing a room

What can Maggie, Bart, and Lisa tell us about family dynamics? Click here to find out what the experts say.

Growing up in North Miami Beach, Tobi Cohen Kosanke, now 48, adored her brother Keith. Seven years older, he was a “laid-back surfer dude,” while she was a “chubby, nerdy” little girl. Tobi knew she could never live up to Keith’s cool persona, so while he was quitting school, experimenting with drugs, and focusing on riding the next wave, Tobi threw herself into school, with her brother’s encouragement. The hard work paid off: She went on to earn her Ph.D. and become a geologist. “I hung out with the geeky kids, the good kids, the smart kids, because of my brother,” she says. “I loved Keith, and I know he was proud of me, but I owe my success to taking the road that he didn’t take.”

Tobi’s story is not unusual. Of all the factors that shape your personality—your genes, your parents, your peers—siblings are at the top, according to one major theory of human development. If you think about it, the relationships with your sisters and brothers will likely last longer than any others in your lifetime. Research shows that even in adolescence, you spend 10 to 17 hours a week with them—and experts are finding that their impact continues long after you’ve left the nest. Study after study has shown that the ways you interact with each other growing up can affect your relationships, your happiness, even the way you see yourself throughout the rest of your life.

Article continues here:  The Science of Siblings

Changing The Way We Mourn 1

How do you go from world traveler to funeral counselor the span of one phone call? In her talk, Laura Prince explores the transformative power of grief , death, and her passion for changing the way we as a society approach death.

While studying Gerontology and working with elders who where close to their own death, she became inspired to celebrate life and live as passionately as possible. Later while working on the National Geographic Expedition ships, a tragic unexpected death in her close circle led her inadvertently into a career in the death care industry. To this day, it has been the most passionate time of her life. She is currently working on an organization called Good Mourning offering death education, holistic grief counseling, and funeral planning services. Laura stresses the importance of properly honoring the those who have died, as well as our resulting grief. By becoming closer to the reality of death, we can live more present, passionate lives.

Using People’s Irrationality To Do Good 2

By Professor Leslie John, Harvard Business School

Identifying effective obesity treatment is both a clinical challenge and a public health priority. Can monetary incentives stimulate weight loss? Leslie John presents a study that examines different economic incentives for weight loss during a 16 week intervention.

Leslie John presented at the “The Science of Getting People to Do Good” research briefing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, co-sponsored by the Center for Social Innovation.