(A re-issue of previous article published entitled “Quo Vadis CMO”- 2004)
by Major Roy Anthony O Derilo (INF) PA
“Of course we did not join the armed service just to help develop communities, but I certainly did not sign up to an ‘Army’ that cannot even win it’s war.”
One sad effect of bearing a long-drawn campaign against insurgency is the way it creates a psychology of contentment of people to conditions that doesn’t seem to improve. At the great part of our neutral citizenry, expectations for better conditions has seemingly been overtaken by passive and oftentimes fatalistic dance with whoever would matter for today and whoever will be controlling the day after. Sad but true that, for as long as their lives are not taken, their doors are open to either insurgents who talk of alternative systems, or to soldiers who demand they shouldn’t.
I find it more unfortunate that there also exists the usual unspoken-of psychology of contentment adapted by some military seniors; I refer to higher ups who already find satisfaction and victory over the momentary inability of the insurgents to totally take-over.
“That for as long as they have not taken over the streets of Manila, we are doing just fine…”, goes one senior officer in one of our informal chat- such was a display of clear ignorance to the economic effect of having to spend so much for campaigns without much concrete returns.
I consider this as not only the saddest but also the worst psychology ever to be entertained in an organization which is heavily-depended on for their last hopes by a considerable number of people of this socio-politically and economically challenged society.
I am saying that it is the worst psychology because it is not only highly contagious especially to subordinates but it also discourages thinking and hopeful young minds in the organization from digging deeper for better solutions. The kind of solutions that may be radical but do make sense. Radical in the sense that concepts go beyond what traditional military leaders see as politically safe and traditionally military, as taught in our “worshipped” foreign military training institutions such the US Army’s Fort Bragg. Solutions that do not necessarily bring about enemy body counts and firearms recovery but would probably make a great difference in terms of non-resurgence of this over 40-year old communist insurgency. We are talking about solutions that may not spell military machismo. Solutions that may simply be CMO (civil-military operations).
Of Blood, Sweat, and Blames
After decades of confronting such a seemingly endless insurgency, there had been so many instances in time when we had come to terms with the fact that we cannot totally end insurgency through the traditional combat approach.
For this reason, we resorted to alternative means by combining our efforts with non-armed civic approaches. Hence, new ideas came about such as ACCORD; ALPS; and the SOT. And, at some point, it did matter to some degree.
As a matter of fact, Army Literacy Patrol System (ALPS) earned accolades and even national recognition. Not long after those initial gains, we saw the need to restructure and reengineer our approach if only to sustain efforts, especially that of the SOT.
On a larger scale, strategic thinkers came up with the National Internal Security Plan or NISP. The Plan was basically an approach to address internal security problems by addressing its social, political, economic root causes, and poverty through a convergence of efforts by the different government agencies, NGO’s, and other security stakeholders.
It has provided structures and linkages, and even provided the mechanics on how organizations should cooperate. It even underwent major overhaul as critics deemed that NISP crafting and implementation should not be DND-led.
Then, there came the lingering question, “Was the plan successful after years of implementation?” Well, no less than the former President Arroyo herself said, “… Remedy the lack of orchestration in the actions of political, informational, economic and security components; and the lack of convergence among different societal stakeholders!” Simply put, orchestration and convergence, more than anything else, did not really happen.
CMO has indeed provided a side thrust to orient the military organization, (or shall we say a part of it) towards a more relevant direction on how an economically and socio-politically fuelled insurgency problem could be addressed.
With its super-ordinated objective of winning the hearts and minds of the masses and destroying the enemy’s will to fight, it basically recognized a non-armed developmental approach of winning its wars.
To be more specific, it is the community concerns of CMO, though some of which are rather more dole-outs than truly developmental, that basically defined the basic constants of the formula of such renewed approach to counter-insurgency.
Unfortunately, the equation seems problematic as we realize we still haven’t made so much progress in terms of destroying enemy political veins and obtain strategic control towards ending the problem.
And so we resorted to an easy excuse - “that it is because other agencies of the government failed to do their part that is why we are not winning”. To be more specific, the military officers and leaders throw in the ‘ever-face-saving’ alibi that “other agencies are not committed to do their share as they do not have clear implementation plans of how to execute actions of NISP especially at the lower levels…”.
To make the matter worst, others would simply say… “National leadership lacks the political will to end insurgency…” These times, everyone seems to be contented with such defeatist thinking to justify the issue of the day. “For as long as we do our jobs…our operational budget released… and the enemy not taken over…we are doing just fine…” If this thinking prevails, we will probably be confronting this insurgency problem up to the next century. Or worst, we just might become like the fledging Army of Rwanda who, at first, pretend to be neutral on social issues but allowed the Hutus to carnage the Tutsis. They were later overthrown and sent running by the ‘liberating’ Tutsi rebels.
Feeling restive of the way things are, younger minds in the organization in the past came up with more radical concepts such as Army Social Responsibility Concept and the Public Information Patrol. All of these concepts spell a more pro-active non-armed approach to address insurgency.
Though these new ideas may come on a commendable note, a more urgent concern recognized by even writers of these concept is the lack of competencies and readiness of soldiers towards a more pronounced social involvement in all these proposed ideas. I refer to competencies that are real, trained for…and not assumed. In whatever way it should be attained, at least we have good things to think of for now – that there are still hopeful younger minds who dig deep for better solutions.
The Evolving Trends and the Developmental Paradigm
Today’s global flows of goods, services, finance, people and images spotlight the many interlinkages in the security of all people. We share a planet, a biosphere, a technological arsenal, a social fabric. The security of one person, one community, one nation rests on the decision of many others – sometimes fortuitously, sometimes precariously.
Political liberalization in recent decades has shifted alliances and begun movements towards democracy. These processes opened opportunities for people but also new fault lines.
In our beloved Philippines for example, political liberalization and the subsequent trends towards an emancipated democracy has its unfortunate implications even while still on the process of change. For one thing, democracy has only been mostly ventured in the areas of policy determination through collective voices or sectoral representations. Greatly overlooked is the area of actual collective action most specifically the factor of psycho-social preparations of people towards the emerging needs of inter-agency and inter-sectoral cooperation. Everyone seems to want to say something in the light of collective representation but nobody seems to realize that the emerging trends and challenges require the necessity of preparation or re-preparation of competencies towards the actual collective action. A concrete example of this failure of which the AFP could be partly guilty, being one of the major stakeholder organization, is NISP that is mentioned earlier.
By design, the NISP had all of what it takes to be looked-up as a plan heading towards the right direction. It views addressing security issues by tackling its root causes such as economic, social, political, and poverty through inter-stakeholder convergence of efforts.
However, in one bold stroke of assumption, the AFP organization was made to be involved in the grand hopeful scheme but without comprehensive preparation. Soldiers were committed but not really made prepared or up to the task. The result was not only non-convergence; it has even catered an emerged disappointment, a new fault line, due to realized passiveness and non-commitment of their civilian counterparts.
At one point, though professionally unacceptable, the military may have the right to feel the oftenly unsaid disappointment. But on another point, the organization must have to accept that it somehow missed to prepare soldiers to understand other organizations’ culture, performance standards, their sensitivities, strengths and weakness, goals and objectives, all for the supposed ends of favorable complementation. In the first place, an honest reflection of the past may be due as Filipinos were not that passive before. Perhaps they must have grown sick and tired already of government aside from becoming desperately contented.
As a matter of recognized needs, soldiers work with others. But as a matter of preparation, never did understanding social organizations and issues thoroughly considered in the varied courses and trainings in the military organization. This is happening in the backdrop that the military is now looking into some strategy that involves counter-organizing. Counter-organizing!!! Just how counter-developmental can we be!!! For how can one even counter-organize an organization of people when the ones who thought of it and those we are now calling our “experts” in counter-organizing themselves cannot even organize one?
As a matter of defining standards - should we really insist to fail, the ability to counter-organize presupposes the ability to organize. And the ability to organize presupposes the ability to understand issues and interests to which organizations are slowly built upon. Understanding issues and interest is very important because once one has developed these competencies he just might likewise realize that he won’t even have to counter-organize organizations strayed by incoherent ideologies and interests, most especially those poor ones that emerged from real issues and never on ideologies. Hence, we just might finally realize that it would rather be best to look into the real issues that may have been exploited by the real detractors.
With a better developmental comprehension and a more developed social lens, one may opt that these organizations would be better off re-aligned, re-directed and strengthened rather than destroyed. But then again, traditional military thinkers may not find these things toughly military. Some simply may not adapt because these things are not thought in the traditional military science and in the doctrines of the idolized United States Army. And yet they wonder why such one of the most powerful armed forces of the world is losing its strategic grip and ends of establishing stability in Iraq.
Unfortunately, due to economic considerations, our soldiers have to be hauled in the open to address a very socio-politically charged problem of insurgency - if only to make practical use of the organizations human resource, whether by convergence such as that of the NISP, or as initiatives of some ‘good’ Generals, or in partnership with some ‘good’ politicians projecting strategic political preparations.
Again, proceeding in the open society with non-traditional functions but still without thorough preparations materializes many other new fault lines. Fault lines such as that which permeates a status-quo of never ending insurgency; ault lines such as that which leads to demoralization and “adventurism”; or a fault line wherein military leaders are easily exploited for political ends of influential individuals - All these because we insist to proceed without preparing. All these because we overlooked the necessities of enhancing soldiers cognitive capacities and retooling their competencies. Its basically forcing square pegs into round holes and then scratching head while asking… why does things keep falling apart.
Apprehensions and the Imperatives of Re-Preparation
The Philippine military, as well as the general Philippine society, urgently need a better cognitive understanding of the new paradigm of security and social trends.
We need a paradigm of security that should look beyond insurgency and armed insurgents, or separatism and the armed separatists. We want a paradigm that would worthily make everyone realize security as a shared responsibility between and among those who are dealing with rights, those with security, those with humanitarian concerns, and those with socio-economic development.
All these would necessarily depart from the traditional security question of state and its soldiers being able to wipe out enemies and detractors…of agencies to do each of their functions separately…of military actions from simple reactive actions…of campaigns that are only in terms of body counts…of developmental efforts that are only in terms of number of trees planted; number of school children fed; CC’s of soldiers’ blood donated; and roads and bridges constructed.
It is a paradigm that necessitates enhancement of soldiers’ socio-economic capacities and developmental competencies. It is a paradigm that is truly developmental. All these without prejudice to real and urgent needs of combat capability upgrading and modernization.
As one once said, “War is not an affair of chance. A great deal of knowledge, study and meditation is necessary to conduct it well.” What we have at hand is not simply a war against armed insurgents and separatists, or a war of the state’s armed threats.
As it should be, it is also a war against its economic, social, and political root causes… a fight towards assuring human security. And if to conduct it well, a great deal of knowledge, study and meditation is necessary. Why? Because securing peace is not an easy task. The challenges may take more than what the contemporary definition of military professionalism only describe… of being assigned to distant posts… of going without sleep or food… It is an evolved challenge that should prompt the military organization to elevate professionalism into a pertinent and relevant level – of being able to understand issues… of being able to bridge individual, group, and larger social interest… of being able to link needs and efforts…of being able to help empower people, in the light of real community development and economic sustainability - the true developmental paradigm.
All these enhancement should take form from the strategic to the tactical level. “But concerning ourselves to the developmental context of this nation’s security problem is over-stretching the organization?” No, over stretching only happens when a person tries to extend himself, by and only within his recognized means, and without practical and sensible efforts of using other relevant recourse, or other people, to be able to enhance reach and grasp.
That is why we have to enhance soldiers’ social and developmental capacities and competencies. “But still it is overburdening the organization…” Technically yes. But overburdening presupposes the absence of strength to bear increased weight. That is why we have to strengthen our organization by developing our soldiers’ and leaders’ capacities and competencies in terms of the actual society needs. “But this will be very hard…” Oh yes! In fact it is the hard truth behind the responsibility we have sworn as defenders of the nation; guardians of democracy; and servant of the people. “But don’t you think it is already becoming messianic?” No. Messianism, as it is understood contemporarily, has the dubious strategic intent of taking over total political control with the ends of instilling order through economic and social orchestration. It basically disempowers existing legitimate authority and social organizations from performing constitutionally mandated functions and democratically assured expression.
The basic foundation of enhancing cognitive capacities and enriching developmental competencies is the indispensable requisite of establishing comprehensive understanding by, supposedly all society organizations - of other agencies’ and sectors’ strengths and weaknesses, and establish a common developmental plane wherein which complementing efforts that should address security problem’s root causes could convergently take place.
It is along these lines that soldiers get to learn things such as social empowerment; collaboration;
linkaging; community sense of ownership of projects; area assessments; social marketing; and those that would serve as building blocks towards understanding issues of shared responsibility. In other words, the ends will be empowering social organizations towards realizing their roles and needed contribution in the total society efforts of attaining peace and economic stability. As such, it is not messianic.
A more credible concern or apprehension in the proposed strategic thrust of enhancing cognitive social capacity and developmental competency or “re-preparation” would be the consequence of knowledge and understanding. The risks concerns brought about by consequential and incidental knowledge in the process of understanding a developmental paradigm. Simply put - the apprehension by leaders that idealistic minds might realize the un-ideal reality of the actual situation.
One may ask “With the hard realities of the present social and political conditions, wouldn’t consequential knowledge in the process of understanding developmental paradigm may constitute uncontrolled awakening and lead to possible dangers of adventurism by young idealistic minds?”.
First and foremost, whether we like it or not, soldiers are already exposed and have long been awakened to the socio-political hard realities of their own society. This is so because their actual operational environment is nowhere but the society itself. Secondly, it is from where we soldiers came from and will be during off duties. And as to venturing on developmental premise which is not an area of expertise – the truth is soldiers have already been pushed in that premise and have long been performing developmental tasks despite without comprehensive preparation and understanding of the real developmental paradigm. Thus, most often than not, efforts such as ALPS, ACCORD, and SOT failed and appreciation of CMO derailed. Hence with efforts seemingly failing to conclusively attain victory; aggravated by constantly disturbing socio-political and economic hard realities of society of which soldiers are not made to comprehensively understand; and the fact that they are still yet overzealous of change and hopes for better future for the country, they resort to what we simply call “adventurism”. Unless soldiers see promising alternative and see through “real development” a light at the end of the tunnel, they will have nothing other than desperation and using force to effect instant changes, both within the organization and the general society as a whole.
The basic leadership concern as to risks in consequential knowledge should not be the ability of blinding subordinates from areas we do not wish them to learn or realize. This would rather be more risky because in the present social and political conditions, pressures that may push our soldiers to step on areas beyond their limits will always be there. And already in many instances, soldiers have crossed that limits. It is rather the necessity of making them understand these areas and the interplaying sectors and organizations not traditionally being understood that they may realize the importance of complementing efforts on issues of shared responsibility. Similarly, it is the necessities of making them understand the fact that public policies are not made by saints but by a political process that is still far from perfect. By such way, they may realize responsibility over assuring such process to take place and not do things that may derail it.
It is likewise in the above premise of understanding that soldiers could find opportunities to sought help and enrichment of own weaknesses - and of course the understanding of the total and real situation wherein which soldiers and leaders could comprehensively gauge all the possible consequences of their actions. In this way, limits and measures are established through the culture of learning rather than directed and out-rightly drawn with prohibitions. In other words, a whole plane is explained before lines and delineations are made. Not that where confines and limits are already drawn with other areas already shaded. Besides, in the present global trends and developmental challenges, we may need others’ strengths to help us address our concerns. Concerns that are in the end might be of their concerns too, such as peace and security. All these - taken in a context of development - a context which basically defines the common spectrum or plane wherein which competency enhancements and understanding will be guided, directed, and controlled.
To where with CMO: The Analysis
To answer the question of where our CMO would go and how it should be, with the present operational conditions and possible future campaign emphasis considered, goes beyond understanding its definition and rationalizing objectives. Foremost in our minds should be - why CMO, and what makes-up its present set-up in terms of context and depths, and those that would later describe its capabilities to address the present and future challenge.
First of all, we must come to terms on how CMO came to being; understand what it is actually; and, no matter how bitterly, accept the fact on how we and our traditionalist thinking and reactionary tendencies have muddled and reduced it into a simple structure and a facelift support to combat operations – an office that leaders fill in with those they see as “lesser types” or those with “lesser chances”.
“Form follows Function…Structure support Strategy…”
CMO, in the contemporary military consideration, has become more of a strategy to win rather than just the simple recourse it was to contain affected non-combatant populace in the arena of previous world wars. In other words, it has become a military approach with a “social touch” conceptualized by the military organization upon realizing that traditional combat approach alone could not win its wars. It has gained relative emphasis as it was to be a key component strategy of an operational concept we later describe as “TRIAD”. As TRIAD later gave birth to SOT, and that when SOT was already delivering blinding figures of “successes”, the sense of all these things being a strategy have slowly become forgotten.
A basic management theory in OD (Organizational Development) states that form should follow function and that structure should support strategy.
In other words, never should a unit be formed before one thinks of its function. But if functions evolve or new ones are derived - which they should for the unit to catch up with the emerging or evolving challenges, form must be adjusted also. Similarly, a structure should not be built before a strategy to win is to be ascribed. And if new strategy is derived as dictated by the ever changing demands and circumstances of an organization’s environment, changes to the existing structure should likewise be adopted.
Let us be reminded that any organization that is not flexible enough to change is doomed to crumble. And if we are to mean real changes to structure, we will mean changes to the structure’s form; systems; processes; culture; skills and competencies; training, employment and deployment practices; etc., to be able to support the weight and demands of that new strategy, and in order to survive and win.
If by chance the CMO approach and the SOT to be given more emphasis in order for us to win our campaigns, and other developmental concepts have to be adopted later, be it by realization or directed later by a new national strategy, then by all means let us make changes to our structure.
It’s like Mercury Drug store now selling garments and detergent bars to shoe polish, insecticides and cosmetics. Why? Because they had to survive the market competition. The act of evolving from a purely drug retailing company to a grocery store was a strategy of keeping up with the radical trends and evolving demands and needs of its competitive environment.
The specifics of it revolves around the emerged trend of costumer-oriented thrusts and tactics. Its also like Gardenia Bread producing not only considering mass or volume of loaf breads per day but by what specific type of bread that fits lifestyle of its segmented market e.g., Wheat Bread and 5-Grain Loafs for fitness enthusiasts, the Calcium Bread for women, and of course the white bread or better known as “tasty” for the general consumers. Similarly like PLDT from purely telephone communication to internet and other services.
“…Change causes Conflicts”
All these versatile and successful companies, leading and stable names as they are, adopted quite a wild and risky strategy in order to survive and win their markets. But all these they did not without comprehensive preparations and not without pains and conflicts brought about by their initiated changes. PLDT did not go into internet services without structural capacity and personnel competency enhancement preparation, as well as thoroughly understanding internet services. Mercury Drug Company did not go into variety selling without sales system restructuring and went through the burdens and hassles of thoroughly understanding the “one-stop-shop” industry. They also do have traditionalists in their top brass and ranks so they must have gone through conflicts over proposed reforms and changes.
The military organization on the other hand, did see these external shifts coming, only that it failed to understand what it was really that was coming. Despite such, it went into operational adjustments through time. Hence the CMO, ALPS, ACCORD, SOT, etc., and then made the lounges, the punches and the jobs and started counting ‘figures for success’. Later it realized it cannot sustain its new approach. Burnt out, it went back to its corner and started complaining why people are not cheering, and yes… why people are not doing their part. First of all, it failed to consider comprehensive retooling that should prepare the whole of the organization towards the CMO strategy. It went into something developmental but without really understanding the paradigm. It somehow started recognizing developmental terms such as collaboration, linkaging, and community organizing but, unfortunately, non-traditional but very relevant socio-political and economic subjects were never much considered and appreciated, and training and education has never relevantly changed. Young captains, trained to effectively repulse a theoretic ‘Calabanian Invaders’, were hauled back to the open and expected to converge appropriately with other sectors, attend PPOC meetings and secure SK elections and processes and issues that they never really were made to understand. And where was the CMO? Oh yes! It is but a separate and a specialized training for those who cares about it.
It will not be surprising if CMO’s sub-strategies, operational concepts, and activities such as ACCORD, ALPS, Feeding Programs, Social Involvement, Community Organizing, etc., will not even merit total organizational appreciation - More so with the organization trying to win peace and stability conducive to economic development. It will not be surprising also that military officers and soldiers will soon get confused as ever and, again, display an evasive and defeatist attitude of blaming other agencies and sectors for not doing their part.
Perhaps until leaders finally listen, and that CMO finally has the right developmental depths, captured in our doctrines and ascribed in our actions; and that our operators starting to muster strongest convictions to make the soonest difference through it, efforts may never matter to passive and tired sectors or to hungry and angry masses. CMO on the other hand may never gain organizational-wide appreciation, and of course by the traditional military minds that we just might seek to transform.