FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Monday, April 16, 2018

Kruse's Keys: Read "Beyond the Rice Fields" to Experience the Beauty, Love and Tragedy of Madagascar

It’s hard to express how much I looked forward to reading this book.  I spent three years living and working in Madagascar beginning in late 2013 (my collected writings from that time can be found here and here).  Prior to my arrival, I had scoured the libraries and internet for anything that I could find in English on Madagascar (my list of collected articles and books can be found here and here.).  Unfortunately, this was a rather small task once one gets beyond the myriad travel guides and nature-oriented literature.  
Then near the end of 2015, I came across a post from Ann Morgan, who spent a year reading a novel from EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.  In the post, she lamented the fact that not a single novel from Madagascar had ever been translated into English, but that a translator named Allison Charette had received a PEN grant to translate one and  she’d chosen “Beyond the Rice Fields.”  So I’d been literally waiting for the last two years for the book to be released and it did not disappoint.  

Malagasy author Naivo has crafting a heart-wrenching tale of love sets amidst one slave’s seemingly impossible yearning for success and upward mobility.  Impressively, the author’s expansive piece of pre-colonial historical fiction doesn’t hold back in addressing some oft-considered taboo subjects in Madagascar such as slavery and the wholesale execution of Christians under Queen Ranavalona’s reign in the 19th century. The narrative centers on Tsito, a child whose family were “forest people” and captured, then sold into slavery by the ruling Merina highlanders (called amboalambos, i.e., pig-dogs by the atandroy or antakarana--it’s unclear which tribe the author refers to when he uses the denotation ‘forest people).  He grows up with his master Rado’s family and develops a bond with Rado’s daughter Fara.  The story unfolds through dueling narratives between these two characters.  

The book reads as a mixture of hainteny (oral tale/poetry) and tantara (historical narrative) with a liberal dosing of Malagasy proverbs/adages (I counted 29 of them).  One in particular proves emblematic as Fara ponders her destiny:
Love is like rice, when you transplant it, it grows, but never in the same way.  It retains a bittersweet memory of its first soils. Every time it’s uprooted it dies a little; every time it’s replanted, it loses a piece of its soil.  But it also bears fruit (188).
Fara’s observation captures the tension and movement with Beyond the Rice Fields as the central characters and family find themselves uprooted numerous times amidst shifting factions as King Radama dies and the throne is passed to his wife Ranavalona.  Her reign marks the beginning of an increasingly fraught relationship between Christianity and political power in Madagascar, especially since the crown Prince becomes a Christian.  

While neither Fara nor Tsito are themselves Christians, they find themselves caught in the ill effects of Ranavalona’s power consolidation as she upends traditional tribal power alliances and eventually publicly executes thousands of Malagasy Christians.   Within all this chaos, however, Fara and Tsito ultimately find each other.  
In one key conversation, we hear echoes of the fampitaha song from the novel’s beginning as Fara lovingly spars with Tsito:
“And how will you love me?”  
He replies: “I will love you like my eyes, the windows of my soul; without them, I am as weak as a child, but with them, the world smiles at me.”
“Then do not love me, for I will be of no use to you in the darkness.”

“I will love you like the door to my home, protecting me from enemies and keeping the hearth warm.”
“Then do not love, for you push through me without shame to achieve your ends.”
“I will love you like the Sovereign of this realm, mistress of the our lives and destiny.” (238)
Naivo proves himself a skilled and brave writer in Beyond the Rice Fields. With the publication of his novel in English, he has illuminated a period of Malagasy history previously hidden from most of the world.  Along the way, he has brought to life the rich traditions and deep culture of a country and people that are all too often wrongly associated solely with lemurs and coups by radio DJs.  

*One of my Reading Around the African Continent books--the full list is here.

You can also check out my 2018 Reading List here.

Key Quotes:

“Sing for your highest dreams, dance for your most starstruck plans.  Then you cannot lose (120).”

Key Takeaways:
  • Unless you live in Madagascar I don't think that I can ever make you understand how important rice is to Madagascar, to its culture.  For starters, Malagasies eat rice AT EVERY MEAL. Living in its capital you see the rice fields everywhere, they are inescapable--RICE IS LIFE in Mada! 
  • Book captures a tension that exists today between the Merina highlanders, who consolidate power across Madagascar and everyone else (in the novel’s case the ‘forest people’ who refer to the Merinas as pig-dogs). While many would disagree as to the level of this tension today, I saw evidence of it, particularly between the Merina highlanders and those living on the coasts (6).
  • Torture as a whole plays a central role throughout the novel, whether in its use to break down slaves (9), or as an overall method of societal control.
  • The idea of “purification” also plays an important role in the culture and tradition of the villages and the palace.  Earlier on, we see the ‘witch doctors/seers’ practice of determining a child’s purity by putting them in the path of stampeding cattle and seeing if they live (56).  
  • Fara’s belief that “the city is my destiny” is a harbinger of doom (64)
  • Short hair done as a sign of mourning (72)
  • Keen insight into rather insidious ways that early white missionaries exercised control and ensured their livelihoods as they spread rumours that “killing a white man will give you leprosy” or “vazaha blood was a slow poison that made anyone who spilled it go deaf” (90).
  • Fampitaha singing/dancing competition is seen as elemental part of Malagasy society (117). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBUxRMAZ6oM 
  • Merina referred to themselves as “People under the sky” (117).
  • Lanterns and lights are associated with childhood and celebration of children (133)
  • Annual Bathing feast described as essentially a sexual free for all, as long as the participants hide while they do it (144)
  • While the Queen starts anti-Christian actions (171), they also had the effects of galvanizing the spread of Christianity (175).
  • Tangena poison test played a huge role until the Queen’s successor outlawed it.  Anyone so accused would be required to drink the poison (derived from the toxic nuts of tangena tree.  Then they’d have to swallow three bird skins.  If they could vomit up the three bird skins without dying then they’d be declared innocent.  Evidently this was a widely accepted method of guilt determination with something like 2% of the population dying from it every year (much more during Ranavalona’s reign) (216).  
  • Under the quee, the palace/government started to confiscate everything from the people (220).  
  • Beautiful writing: “I will love you” (238)
  • Words in English as holding no sacred virtue (267)
  • More beautiful writing: “My heart is as solid as a shield” (274)
  • It becomes evident under the queen that the military generals wield the real power (342)
  • Habits of a slave described (23)
  1. A slave skilled at valiha: when you ask him to play, he refuses, but as soon as you speak of work, he goes mad for the music. (9)
  2. A crying orphan, only pitied by the back of his own hand. (10)
  3. Do not cook meat without knowing its name (15).
  4. The seer who wants to make the impossible believable is not afraid to make dying men dance (17).
  5. A banana threatened with a knife with eventually be pierced (33).
  6. A lie likes to dress itself up as a story (40).
  7. A servant’s undivided piaster is the master’s esteem (48).
  8. You must not judge the stranger by his yellowish face but think of his family on the other side of the earth (58).
  9. Better a small soul respected by his friends than a great soul who perishes in vain (69).
  10. The tree that grows too tall will be thrashed by strong winds (70).
  11. The sovereign’s word is law; it enters our homes not on tiptoes, but stomping its feet (88).
  12. He who changes lords changes status (93).
  13. The City’s great houses, the first built are soonest dissatisfied (107).
  14. Hope cannot vanquish destiny (110).  
  15. Only simpletons want to be like their fathers (116).  
  16. He who shows his back hides what’s in his soul (125).
  17. He who has a white soul is like a bird of ill fate (125).
  18. If the waterfall rumbles, it is because of the rocks; if kings rule, it is because of the vahoaka (128).
  19. The poor are not friends of the affluent (171)
  20. Love is like rice, when you transplant it, it grows, but never in the same way.  It retains a bittersweet memory of its first soils. Every Time it’s uprooted it dies a little; every time it’s replanted, it loses a piece of its soil.  But it also bears fruit (188).
  21. They can rise to the top as cream does, but milk will always reveal a common ancestor (189).
  22. A meeting of dogs where they only sniff each other’s asses (199).  
  23. Those who are unified are like a rock, those who are divided are like the sand (221).
  24. Love is like the silkworm in winter: touching it makes its eyes open wide(232).
  25. Only halfwits have less ambition that their fathers (242).
  26. The soul is what makes us human (251).
  27. Everyone is in himself a noblemen (251).
  28. Destiny is a chameleon on a tree branch, it only takes a hissing child for it to change its color (318).
Songs and Hainteny:
We’ll go to the City of Thousands
To eat the laying hen
To eat the fatty zebu hump (18)

The village is rich with children
Grandmother is lucky indeed
Her home has a hundred slaves
Her home holds a hundred cattle (26)

To mediate the difficult
        As saffron does (73)

Come forth! Let them appear
        And the most beautiful will triumph
They will be judged
And the ugliest will disappear (126)

Tell me how I can keep your love:
        If I knot it into a corner of my gown
        The thread might break it and I could lose it.
        If I place it in the palm of my hand
        I’m afraid it might dissolve into dampness…
Instead, I’ll put it in my heart
Although it will make me perish
Will that not make me love you all the more? (131)

Bulls fighting within the herd
        The victor is not cheered
        The vanquished is not booed (135)

The trees of sweet-smelling wood
        Counting two, there finding three
        There on the tall mountain
        On Mount Adrigiba
They wanted to sleep
Pressed against each other
At least rejoice, oh my soul,
That you do not possess
The one you do not love (146)

A thousand words
        A hundred stories
        But all talk ends
        At the hour of confrontation (275)

I implore your forgiveness, O my earth
        I appeal to your mercy, O my earth!
        You, who cover our dear ones
        You, their final shelter
        We trample you underfoot
        But you are the water’s cradle
        And you grow the ears of rice
        And you absorb all sorrow
        O my earth (348).

Key References (for further study):

  • Fampitaha competition (12)
  • Fara name (15)
  • Kalanoro (96)--mythical creature--there’s some weird stuff on the internet about this one
  • “Paul and Virginia”  love story of star-crossed lovers in Mauritius.  You can read more about it here(123)
  • Christian holy man who was killed by the Queen--more about him here. (162)
  • Fara describes the dying away of fampitaha competitions, are these still held today? (192)
  • Mantasoa, man-made lake/Laborde built the city there is and is buried there. (193)
  • Royal decree for export rights (227) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Laborde 
  • Menamasos artists society to surpass Vazahas (236) reference book
  • Zafamanelo family right to recite kabary was rescinded by the Queen(239)
  • Crown prince Radama I a christian (243)
  • Madagascar sent ambassadors to England and France in the 1800’s (247)
  • Sidikina derivation of God Save the King played when foreign rulers would visit Madagascar (259)
  • http://kruzoo.blogspot.com/2016/08/veloma-list-of-madagascar-posts.html
  • http://kruzoo.blogspot.com/2016/08/veloma-list-of-poems-written-while-in.html
  • http://kruzoo.blogspot.com/2016/08/antananarivo.restaurantlist.bestofmadagascarhediard.html
  • http://kruzoo.blogspot.com/p/mada-articles.html
  • www.brooklynbookfestival.org/authors/naivo/
  • http://ile-en-ile.org/naivo/
  • http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/article/december-2015-the-conspiracists-naivo-allison-m-charette
  • https://pen.org/introducing-the-literature-of-madagascar-on-translating-naivo/

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Kruse's Keys: Read "Memoirs of a Porcupine" to Learn About a Congolese Serial Killer...Porcupine (Republic of Congo)

So this is a difficult novel from renowned author Alain Mabanckou.  Hailing from the Republic of Congo (the good one--hint: if a country has the name "democratic" or "democracy " in it, it's probably not), ubiquitous writer Mabanckou has penned a pointed tale aimed at taking down the role of backwoods superstition amidst modernity--at least that's what really smart people say he was doing.  I will admit I didn't really understand the point of this novel and had to do some research to come to this deeper aforementioned conclusion.  As I finished the last pages of this story, I was pretty disappointed I hadn't picked a different Congolese novel for my Reading the Continent project.  But in my research afterwards, I discovered the book was the 2006 Renaudot prize winner (given to the best original French language novel) and so in the aftermath, I've decided to give it a second chance--at least on an intellectual level.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you are only going to read one novel from the Republic of Congo, do NOT make it this one.  An ideal "Reading the Continent" selection is one that sheds light, or offers texture to a specific period of history in the subject country.  "Memoirs of a Porcupine" won't leave the reader better understanding the specific politics, history or culture of Congo beyond a knowledge that many people may still deeply embrace the superstitious.  I might recommend instead "The Lights of Pointe-Noire" which will likely take this one's place on my Reading the Continent List.
  • This tale centers around a boy and porcupine that have possessed each other--the porcupine is the 'harmful double' of a young village boy named Kibandi.  Evidently there are also 'peaceful doubles', but that's not what this tale is about.  As the narrator porcupine unfolds the tale of his life, the reader follows his journey from mere animal to Kibandi's hitman assassin.   The narrative eventually devolves into a murderous spree of anyone who happens to given even minor offense to Kibandi.  
  • A notable practice in the novel is that of "trial by corpse" where a group of men hold up the murdered person and that dead person "directs" them to the guilty party.  This superstitious practice has some commonality with the former Malagasy practice noted in "Beyond the Rice Fields." For a long time Kibandi evades detection by putting a nut up his butt...yes his butt.  

*One of my Reading Around the African Continent books--the full list is here.

Key References (For Further Study):
Three Writers from the Republic of Congo

Key Quotes: 

  • the universally dreaded trial by corpse, where the corpse picks out its aggressor, is widely used in these parts, whenever someone dies, the villagers rush to do it, to their minds there’s no such thing as a natural death, only the dead can tell the living who caused their death (94).
  • ‘sit at the foot of a baobab tree, and given time, you’ll see the whole universe pass before you’, our old porcupine used to say, he told us that at that time the baobabs could talk, respond to humans, punish them, whip them with their branches when the monkey cousins took up arms against the plant world and in those days he went on, the baobabs could move about, find themselves a more comfortable spot where they could take better root, some of them came from far, far away, they would pass other baobabs going the other way because one always tends to think that the soil elsewhere is better than one’s native soil, that life is easier elsewhere (100).
  • what I really didn’t want to do was watch the poor innocent child taking leave of this life just because of the stupidity and irresponsibility of his father, that I did not want to see, and yet something about it bothered me, I felt ashamed of my own reflection in the water, I went to the funeral, perhaps hoping for some kind of forgiveness, I heard the poor folk singing their funeral songs, and I wept (120).
  • I’ve got two ideas I’d like to follow up, first I’d like to wage a merciless campaign against all the harmful doubles in this country, I know that’s a big undertaking, but I’d like to hunt them down, one after the other, by way of atonement, to wipe out my share of responsibility for the misfortune suffered by this and many other villages, and second, dear Baobab, I’d simply like to go back and live in our old territory because spending so much time with men has made me nostalgic, it’s a feeling you might call territory-sickness, men would say homesickness, a longing for their country, I cling to my memories as the elephant clings to his tusks, distant images, vanished shades, far off noises which stop me doing something irreparable, oh yes, irreparable, I do think of that too, of taking my own life, but it’s the most cowardly of all acts, and just as human beings believe their existence comes from a supreme being, I have come to believe it too, since last Friday, the reason I’m still alive, for porcupine’s sake, must be because some higher will than mine has decreed it, and if so, I must have one last mission to carry out here below (149)

Kruse's Keys: Read "African Kaiser" To Learn an Untold Chapter of WWI History

Standard Disclaimer:  For every “great” thing/development done by a colonial power in Africa, myriad awful things (like genocide, theft, and rape) were carried out by the same power.  It’s an unfruitful task to judge past historical figures strictly against our evolving modern standards. Rather it’s usually more productive to attempt to judge their actions with the prevailing standards of the day (what were the standard--albeit flawed--views and how did the person accept or fight against them) and then baseline this analysis against general good and evil.  

While there are various colonial leaders who exhibited brilliance in their fields or who have been reported to have been widely loved by the local populace, it’s worthwhile to acknowledge that in many cases, the local populace didn’t have much of a choice. Facing overwhelming military power, they could either fight back or resign themselves to getting the best deal they could. This was likely a choice faced by many who eventually became Askari (soldiers) for different colonial powers. In Germany’s case, those Askari members of the Schuztruppe were better paid than the locals in the armies of the other colonial powers. Under Lettow-Vorbeck’s leadership they were also the most effective guerilla army in history (conversely, without their sacrifice and discipline Lettow-Vorbeck would have been defeated handily). End Disclaimer.

It quickly becomes apparent in the impressive tome, 
African Kaiser: General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and the Great War in Africa, 1914-1918, that author Robert Gaudi is a bit of a von Lettow-Vorbeck fanboy. But this admiration is not without merit as the reader quickly learns the insurmountable odds faced by the German general fighting alone (i.e., without logistical support) and unafraid in German East Africa during World War I. While the general ends his four-year struggle in unconditional surrender at the hands of the British (after being ordered to following the actual Kaiser’s abdication), he completed his military service as a victor, having succeeded in his mission of pushing Great Britain to expend immense treasure and forces in its pursuit of his small army of guerrilla fighters.

This pursuit was one which spanned the continent and included the longest naval battle in history (9 months) as the British blockaded the Rufiji delta in pursuit of SMS Konigsberg. While the battle ended with the destruction the German cruiser, it took several British ships away from their broader mission of destroying axis commerce around the continent for nearly a year. While much of the book carries an army-centric focus, Gaudi’s thorough depiction of this fight is a notable one for naval enthusiasts as we see one of the first uses of aviation in maritime warfare. Critics of this book point out Gaudi’s inaccuracy in his varying descriptions of SMS Konigsberg as a battleship when it was really a cruiser, but honestly, I am in the Navy myself and I took his shifting descriptions as more of an artistic license in attempting not to be overly repetitive.

And indeed this naval battle is emblematic of von Lettow-Vorbeck’s overall strategy: to execute a fighting retreat in which he is never defeated or captured. In this guerilla campaign he was wildly successful and stands as the only undefeated Axis general of World War I.

Historian Edwin Palmer Hoyt described Lettow-Vorbeck’s campaign as “the greatest single guerrilla operation in history, and the most successful." He did this largely by eschewing the traditional army tactics of the previous century and decentralizing his command in order to attack British supply chains and force them to commit greater and greater forces. His success did come at a high price, however, as his highly disciplined, nail-tough Askari forces (porters and soldiers) died in untallied numbers (although much less proportionately than their adversaries). There’s much evidence though that he was widely respected by his men as seen in a return trip to Tanzania later in his life as an 80 year old retiree in which he was greeted with cheers by again former soldiers and hoisted above their heads.

Despite this being Gaudi’s first book, this lengthy book (18 hours on Audible!) flies by on the strength of his story-telling and narrative prowess. The author also ties up Lettow-Vorbeck’s life story neatly with a well-researched retelling us his life-long quest for love and notably his distaste for Hitler which culminated in his telling Hitler to “go F*** himself” when the genocidal dictator offered him an ambassadorship. 

And if this last tidbit doesn’t pique your interest in the leader, I am fairly certain he’s the only general with a dinosaur named after him: the uncatchable lizard, aka, the dryosaurid species Dysalotosaurus lettowvorbecki was named after him after discovery of its fossils in Tanzania.

*One of my Reading Around the African Continent books--the full list is here.
You can also check out my 2018 Reading List here. 

Key Takeaways (more notes are coming but one of the challenges with audiobooks is that notes are difficult. There's a 'save clip' function on the Pocketcasts app but you still have to go back and listen to all the clips):
Chapter 1: Aggressive and completely self-supportive, famed schutzstruppe--first racially integrated army in modern history.  
Chapter 8: SHaka Zulu--african hitler?
Chapter 8: herroro vs. hottentot genocide (4 phases, each 12 years)  
Chapter 8: First german colonialists stole herroro women and raped and fathered children.  This set off a huge rebellion led by samuel Maharero, the supreme chief of the Herero, led a rebellion against German rule.
Chapter 9: Heinrich Ernst Göring story about him forbading alcohol and fornication whose daughter killed her own baby when she became pregnant rather than face his wrath.
Chapter 11:  Kiboko day, men chosen at random to be whipped.  See more in this excerpt here.  
Chapter 11: German elections  in fall 2006 sweep conservative out of power--colonial political play major role
Chapter 11: progressive regime changes colonial outlook to compassionate caretakers (post genocide) Schnee’s agenda
Chapter 12: More notes forthcoming...

Key References (For Further Study):

Key References (for further study): For the life of me, I can't get the book covers to line up in an ordered manner--I eventually just gave up.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

More Than Flight Hours: Building a Lasting Aviation Safety Culture

DISCLAIMER: I caveat all this with the fact I got out of the naval aviation business when I lat-transferred to Foreign Area Officer back in 2011 so I am not current on the latest developments in naval aviation safety. These are my personal views and not that of the US Navy or DoD.

BUT I did spend three years at the HSC Wing (80 H-60s and 3000 personnel) Safety Officer in San Diego and took to heart the importance of safety programs during my tour there. It's appropriate that the genesis for my article--a Military Times article this week titled "The death toll for rising aviation accidents: 133 troops killed in five years," included a photo collage of those who've lost their lives this past year because all too often the human cost can get lost in the sterile analysis of flight hours and numbers. These aviators and aircrew had spouses and children and loved ones who carry on with a hole in their hearts and lives that will never be filled.

During my tour as the Wing Safety Officer I had the heart-breaking task of investigating a class-A mishap for my former squadron. I was woken with a call from our Commodore one night telling me that a helicopter had crashed. My throat caught immediately and then my heart crashed when he told me it was my old squadron. He asked me to meet with the search and rescue boat at the Coast Guard station and I quickly put on my uniform and drive from my home in Coronado to the Coast Guard station downtown. I was there when they unloaded the remains and personal items they had recovered. To this day I can't smell JP-5 without being taken back to the pier there. In the early hours of that morning, I had the somber honor of escorting the bodies of my colleagues in the ambulance to the morgue at Balboa Hospital. I didn't want them to be alone in this journey and I thought it important that they be accompanied by someone who knew their face, their smile, their laughter.

I share these details to underscore that there's not an aviator out there who doesn't hear about an aircraft crashing and immediately stop and hope and pray that it's not someone they know.

And I'd venture to guess that there's very few of us who haven't been to at least one funeral or service during our careers. Aviation safety is something that should be important and personal to everyone in our field. We owe it to one another to take it seriously and with the gravity it deserves. Aviation safety has come a long way since the pre-NATOPS, pre-Safety Center pioneering days and to its credit, mishaps have plunged since the 1950s. While today our Naval Safety Center today takes its job seriously, aviation safety can't happen at the headquarters level. Aviation safety starts with the individual.



It was one of these individuals that saved my life during a series of unaided night landings on a small boy during my fleet tour. Not yet an aircraft commander and on approach and at the controls during a near zero-illum night, I experienced vertigo and thought I was coming over the ship's deck when I was actually several hundred feet short. Had not AW2 Baecker, one of my aircrewmen in the back, not felt the ocean spray at under ten feet coming into the cabin and screamed for POWER, POWER, POWER, I would have been one of those faces in a collage. Had it not been for her, I wouldn't never have met my wife, never had 5 beautiful children to come home to every day. My entire future and that of my crew, would have vanished at the bottom of the ocean. Were it not for AW2 Baecker, I would have flown the helicopter right into the blackened sea.

Building an enterprise-wide safety culture is a deadly serious endeavor.

I've never shared all of these things publicly but I do now because I believe that it's important that articles like this are shared and discussed because a safety culture doesn't exist in a vacuum and productive, robust safety cultures don't happen by accident. When possible trends are identified, it's important to dig deeper and work to improve across our services. In keeping with this spirit I'd say this article is a worthy starting point if you want to analyze possible systematic safety issues within DoD aviation. The article focuses on the role of diminished flight hours which I believe could play a part in the rise in mishaps but I'd also point out that the "swiss-cheese" nature of aviation mishaps means that even wider trends seldom come down to one simple root cause (and with increasingly sophisticated aircraft and peripheral equipment, just scratching some paint can give push you into the Class C threshold). Unfortunately, in some cases, despite rigorous and exhaustive analysis and investigation, we never know exactly why a mishap occurred.

Following is a brief (admittedly Navy-centric) summary of items that our service safety centers could coordinate on in their analyses.

1. HAZREPS (Hazard Reports) and equivalent reporting across the services (and sharing of information).

2. Service-variable attrition standards throughout flight school. Put simply, how many downs before you fail out? How has this changed over the years? An OVERLY simplified explanation is that these standards tend to change over the years driven by service manning requirements.

3. Human Factors. The majority of aviation mishaps come down to this at some point in the chain of events. This is where one might find useful trends. I don't believe services are sharing this information in a central repository at this time.

4. Squadron safety culture. While "safety culture" is a nebulous terms, there are methods to at least begin to quantify this:
  • Are squadrons getting the baseline surveys done (e.g., CSA, MCAS, NSC surveys, Safety Standowns, Human Factors Councils, Enlisted Safety Committee meetings, anymouse submissions) on a regular basis?
  • Are Commanding Officers debriefing and addressing any noted issues in a timely and transparent nature?
  • Are squadrons maximizing simulator use when flight hours are reduced?
  • Are squadron writing safety articles, submitting NATOPS changes, making NAMDRP/JDRS submissions?
  • Are squadrons ensuring all required ORM coursework is complete? 

NOTE: here's some good background on safety culture here:    http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a490843.pdf

5. More rigorous and systematic Class C analysis is necessary to determine if their rise are actually "lagging indicators" of wider problems or not.

6. Intra-service best practices. This is likely an area where the services can improve. Yes, each service has specific cultures, missions, and standards that make quantitative analysis difficult but that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for this. For example as a starting point:
  • Do services share best safety practices?
  • Is there a method to share this type of information?
  • Does one service have a better method for the equivalent of NATOPS checks? 

This is an admittedly difficult goal because it requires a level of trust between services and requires a willingness to highlight shortcomings and failures.

Further references:
2003 CRS Report on Military Aviation Safety: https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20031125_RL31571_1e95b1b93a0fcdee4874121b47fa34a65fcc4c04.pdf

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Kruse's Keys: Read "Dead Aid" Because--Wait You've Haven't Read Dead Aid?!

My complete collection of Grad School Notes can be found here (Africa, IR, Ethnic Conflict, Economics, Writing, Islam, Comparative Politics).

These are some throwback notes that I came across from a few years ago.  "Dead Aid" is a foundational work for anyone working in developing countries (formerly known as third world).  It is controversial but that's kind of the author, Dambisa Moyo's, thing.

Key Takeaways:

  • CENTRAL POINT:  Aid drives and accelerates African poverty, stunts growth ix.
  •  4 alternatives to aid:
    • *Access interknational bond markets
    • *Large scale direct infrastructure investment (China model)
    • *Free agricultural trade (international community must stop their domestic subsidies)
    • *financial intermediation via microfinance institutions x-xi.
  • Economic development must trump multi-party democracy for poorest countries—in these countries a ‘benevolent dictator’ may be the best solution.  Good luck finding a benevolent dictator xi.
  • 5 year countdown to aid stoppage xi.
  • “Africa needs to learn from Asia” xi.


- Important transition point is that from single party state to multi-party democracy xiv.

 - Moyo emphasize the incredible linguistic, cultural, historical and political diversity of the continent and observes that even the states that have been prosperous can not exist as their own microcosms in the long term—surrounded by corruption, disease, instability, violence and infrastructure desolation.


- A glimmer of a revival has emerged since the beginning of the 20th century; there are contributing factors:
1.  Surge in commodity prices that drives exports and associated revenue
2.  Positive policy dividend due to 80’s market based policies
3.  Increase in free and fair regular democratic elections—even though part of her argument is that these aren’t necessarily that important.  This is more of an offhand statement at this point that actual quantitative proof of anything 3.

- Economically and from an investment standpoint, Moyo points to numerous positive
factors emerging throughout Africa.  She picks and chooses her dates, countries and evaluation factors, however, leading most readers to question whether these are anomalies or true trends 4-5.

- Average per capita income of $1 a day in sub-saharan Africa.  It must be noted that there lies a propensity among economists and political scientists to separate the continent of Africa citing cultural and ethnic differences.  This is a disservice and handicaps many possible solutions. 5.

- Life expectancy in Africa in markedly lower, however, I question some of her hyperbole and numbers.  She cites Swaziland as having a “paltry life expectancy” of just 30 years.  Since 1960’s the world bank database shows it never being lower than 44 years old.  5.

 - Moyo does a good job painting a bleak economic and political picture of Africa as it stands today, especially in comparison to the rest of the world.

- Moyo then lays out her research questions:
“Why is it that Africa . . . [is] locked into a cycle of dysfunction?”
“Why is it that . . . Africa seems unable to . . . get its foot on the economic ladder”
“Why . . . did seven of the top ten “failed states” hail from [the African] continent?”
“Are Africa’s people universally more incapable?”
“Are its leaders genetically more venal, more ruthless, more corrupt?”
“[Are its] policymakers more innately feckless?”
“What is it about Africa that holds it back, that seems to render it incapable of joining the rest of the globe in the 21st century?” 6-7.
*Moyo then lets out a teaser of her thesis: “The answer has its roots in aid.”

- 3 types of aid:
1.  humanitarian or emergency aid
2.  charity-based aid
3.  systematic aid (bilaterally and multilateral) 7.

- While Moyo takes issue with the first two forms of aid, she discards them as small change compared to the billions in systemic aid.  She also points out that the first two reflect a western mindset that all aid is good aid. 7-8.

 - loans and grants have largely come to be viewed as nearly the same due to decades of corresponding policy patterns.  This book treats them both as the same in its evaluation 8.


- Aid as we know it today originated during World War II in Bretton Woods, NH in 1944.  10.
- the evolution of post-war aid had roughly 7 stages
1.  Birth at Bretton Woods
2.  Marshall Plan in the 50’s.
3.  Industrialization in the 60’s.
4.  Aid as an answer to poverty in the 70’s
5.  Aid as a tool for stability and structural adjustment in the 80’s.
6.  Aid as a tool (buttress) for democracy and good governances in the 90’s.
7.  Aid as the only solution to all of Africa’s problems today. 10.

- The Bretton Woods meeting was a precursor to:
The World Bank, the IMF and the International Trade Organization.
The Mandate of the World Bank and IMF originally was that of reconstruction (and an emphasis on risk diversification) 11.

- Marshall was a rescue aid package to repair existing infrastructure and was largely successful.  12.

- Aid’s success in Europe led many nations look to Africa as a good place for future aid.

- An assumption made by the IMF and World Bank was that if a country was poor, it would not have enough financial capital to encourage development—thus foreign aid was the only answer 13.

-  Additionally, the decolonization occurring encouraging aid from an altruistic (guilt) and stability perspective.  13-14.

-  Aid also became a weapon for the US and the Soviet Union during the cold war


- aid was focused on ‘large-scale industrial projects’ thought to be neglected by the private industry because of their long-term nature.  Unfortunately records from this era are lacking and its unclear how much infrastructure was built.  Herein lies one of the major problems with infrastructure development—it also requires a capacity to maintain that infrastructure—something rarely done. 14-15.


- This era saw a pronounced new focus on poverty—even though much of this was lip service since the bulk of aid still went to infrastructure—although by the 80’s just over 50% was geared toward poverty reduction.    This was done amidst an oil crisis that crippled African economies even further.  Much of it was also done as loans—that most nations would never be able to pay back.  16-17.

- nearly none of the aid was effective


- by the end of the 70’s Africa had received $36 billion in foreign assistance. 17.

- with floating interest rates on the rise, numerous nations defaulted on their loans.  18.

- to deal with this crisis—the IMF came up with a debt restructuring plan.  This amounted to two new programs that first emphasize stability and then structural adjustment (ex. Structural Adjustment, and Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facilities) 20-21.

-  this amounted to budgetary aid with philosophical and practical strings attached.  The nations would have to agree to “free-market solutions to developments.”  Among many things it meant the privatization of most industries and the axing of subsidies.  Practically this meant austere conditions for the common citizen  21-22.

- this period also saw an increasing shift toward grants.  22.


- with the Cold War a fading memory, the international aid organizations shifted their focus to that of good governance.  This meant that aid was no longer doled out indiscriminately or as a proxy tool against the Soviets—nevermind that this only fueled cycle of corruption. 22-23.

- This focus on governance and democracy as the ultimate solution remains to this day.  24.

- two themes became prevalent: multilateral agency dominance as the lead in aid distribution and that of donor fatigue.  Thus while substantial aid was still being doled out it was declining.  Unfortunately for many African nations, the foreign aid was (and still is) the largest source of financial income.    25.

-  the idea that if only the yoke of western debt could be thrown off, Africa could be free to thrive also emerged. 26.


- this era saw the rise of the celebrities seeking their own fundraising as a development solution (traditionally they had focused on emergency aid fundraising).  26.

- most hurtful was that this led to a dumbing down of discourse on aid and how it should be used most effectively (if at all).

- Moyo
  displays a penchant for cliché at times: “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”  28

 -  there is little evidence that any economic growth has occurred as the result of aid in the last 50 years.  28.

- today the west used aid as a moral tool/arbiter.  This stands in stark contrast to the Chinese that are ‘human rights blind’ in their aid and investment.  While the US human rights vetting may send a message to governments that we value this, it sends a contrary message to the common people of a country who feel they are being double punished—but a jerk of a dictator/presidents and by the lack of aid from the US.


- traditionally there are 5 main reasons offered to explain dismal status of many African nations:

Guns, Germs and Steel argument—economic record dependent on geography and topography.
Collier’s study showing that land-locked countries suffer most whether resource rich or not.
There are of course land-locked desert countries around the world that have overcome these obstacles. 29-31.

Colonial legacy that left behind administrative and bureaucratic structures ill-suited to the populations.  It also created borders haphazardly—the OAU’s endorsement of the borders only aggravates the situation.  31.

The racist, genetic argument that Africans do not have the same work ethic  or intelligence.
Whether spoken or not, some variation of these sentiments no doubt lies behind the aid-dependency model for both the West and the African population—where they are almost treated as children instead of equal parties.  31-32.
That said, there is also a cultural dimension wherein a lack of nuanced understanding has led to policies that only hurt the population.  An example of the cultural nuance is the prevalence today in microfinance to ensure the money/budget is handled by the matriarch—as they have been found to be most responsible.

1000 tribes in Sub-saharan Africa.  This can elevate the risk of civil/ethnic con
 flict. 32-33.    Moyo offers several assessments that certainly make sense anecdotally but anyone reading the myriad of analysis on the numerous conflicts finds out that it is never that simple.  The most important takeaway is how different each and every situation is.
There are also cases where there has been peaceful co-existence and cooperation.  Moyo closes this by saying that there is no policy prescription so it’s not even worth considering regardless.   I think there may be policy solutions but they just require more study.  33.

Economic performance is driven by level of competence in government institutions.  Moyo gives most credence to this argument, pointing to success stories such as Mauritius and Botswana.
The problem in most African nations is that the institutions exists but in an impotent form—with the exception of the executive branch.  33-34.

- Moyo closes by giving credence to all of these explanations but holding aid dependency as the common thread in almost every African nation. 35.

- $1 trillion in aid has gone into Africa since the 1940’s.
- There are six examples most commonly given to show how aid CAN work:

The Marshall Plan
This is different from African aid because the European nations had other resources to draw upon than solely aid: 3% of GDP vs. 15% GDP in African.
The plan in Europe was finite—5 years and then it was over—versus 70 year flow of aid in Africa.
The plan in Europe was reconstruction of institutions that had once worked.  In Africa there is not the collective memory or history of working institutions.
The plan in Europe focused almost exclusively on physical infrastructure—not so in Africa. 35-37.

The IDA graduates
Graduates of the International Development Association all relied on aid but no longer do so.  However, they all took relatively small amount of aid for a finite period.
The 3 african graduates are Swaziland, Botswana and Equatorial Guinea.  Botswana in particular focused on market economy solutions to quit their aid dependence. 38.

With Conditionalities
Normally 3 types of conditionality:
Procurement:  Aid must be spent on goods and services and staff from
donor nation.
Preselection:  Donor selects the sector/project for their aid money
Policy based:  Aid is based on agreement to economic/political policies
- The biggest fault to all of these things is that most of the time, the nations ignored or obfuscated the conditionalities and the aid STILL flowed!  38-39.

In Good Policy Environments
Democracy is an important variable—but only at the RIGHT time. 44.
For all the studies trumpeting the linkage between economic success and a democracy—most often ignored is the fact that in its beginning stages democracies ADVERSELY affect the economy (and stability) of a country.  42.
Moyo points out that what many nations need at the onset is a benevolent dictator who can push through and enact the needed economic/market reforms—unfortunately benevolent leadership has been notably absent in Africa.  She also point to numerous success stories in Asia and with Chile in Latin America.
Foreign aid has definitely increased democracy in Africa—but not necessarily liberalism.  But democracy has not definitely increased economic growth.  43-44.


- most often aid is a short-term solution without long-term benefits.  The example of the donor who gives 100,000 mosquito nets to a country and then puts all the mosquito makers out of business.  In the short term, people were helped, but in the long-term there are no longer those businesses.    44-45.
- instead aid such as food aid needs to focus on local cooperation.  Instead of shipping food from US, buy from local farmers etc.  45.
-  aid is still being poured in despite the fact that it is still being diverted for other uses.  46.
- even the IMF has acknowledged the limited efficacy of aid—but all in in all—despite the numerous studies showing it as a poor solution at best—and a detrimental one at worst—aid continues to come in.  46-47.

- “Corruption is a way of life” and occurs because of aid and natural resources looting 48.

- corruption leads to more corruption.  In other words, the aid enable corrupt governments to continue to rule—these regimes abuse their power and prevent liberalism which hurts FDI and DI.  This damages economic growth and raises unemployment which increases poverty—they then need more aid. 49

- Corruption hurts growth and does NOT build up the civil service contrary to development agencies.  Instead it is just another avenue to that enables graft and drives
away the principled servants, leaving posts filled by the second tier.
- this also happens with public contracts and government budgets. 50-51.
- Corruption is correlated to GDPs—higher the corruption, the lower the GDP.  51.
- opacity index: how much a country lacks clear and accurate business, investment and government practices.  This affects per capita income and FDI.  51.

- estimates vary, but it is clear that from its onset aid has been misused—studies continue to show that aid increases corruption—countries often use is as a sub for tax revenues.  52-53.

- Despite rhetoric to the contrary, aid continues to go to corrupt countries—there are no real or effectives checks and balances. 53-54.

- there’s a pressure to lend because aid is a business—agencies are evaluated on the size of their donor portfolio—NOT on how the aid is used.    They also need to “use it or lose it” due to FY budgetary concerns.   Compliance be damned. 54

- no international agreement on what counts as corruption.  Thus the corrupt countries can count on the aid money coming from somewhere 56.

- it would be one thing if the stolen aid money was invested and kept in Africa but unlike in asia, the money is Africa is quickly deposited in foreign bank accounts. 57.

- Africa does not have the middle class that it needs, largely because the government has made allegiance to the political elite more important than the economy
- Africa is missing the social contract of we pay our taxes and you provides us services.  By and large, Africa doesn’t extract the taxes it needs. 57-58.

- aid erodes trust or social capital because the government doesn’t need its citizens to trust it because it has all free unaccountable cash 59.

- 3 truths about conflicts:
Start out of a struggle for resource controls
Mainly occur in poor economies
More often internal conflicts 59.
- Aid contributes to all three factors.  Collier cites low average incomes and regressive economic growth as key predictors for civil wars. 60.

- Aid adversely affects poor countries in 4 key ways:
Aid reduces savings and investment
Increased aid is correlated to decline in domestic savings
Increased aid discourages high quality foreign investment 61.
Aid can inflationary
Increased demand for unavailable goods increases prices—this inflation
Erodes the economy 61.
Aid chokes off the export sector
Dutch disease:  increase in foreign aid/currency causes an increase strength of domestic currency which causes an increase in export prices for goods on the international market. 62-63.
Aid causes bottlenecks: absorption capacity
Countries with poor financial development don’t always have the capacity to use the aid money immediately.  If they just sit on it, they still owe interest on it.  If they issue bonds on it, the domestic taxpayers are paying the interest on it. 64-65.

- Aid promotes sloth among African policymakers because they view aid as part of their permanent income.
- Aid also encourages governments not to pursue a tax base and collection—this erodes the social contract.
- The power of aid (and its parent governments and agencies)  takes the power from African policymakers. 65-66.

- these arguments still haven’t convinced the aid decision-makers
-  one of the greatest problems is that viable alternatives have not been offered 68.



- Offers a proto-typical fictional country as a means to illustrate the plight/situation of mo
st African nations
- Point of the book:  “How to finance development agenda so that . . . economic prosperity might be realized.” 72.
-  Despite the fact that Moyo’s solution stems from a free-market solution, she is quick to point out that it can be used to finance a capitalist or socialist agenda—the financial alternatives to aid are multi-faceted.  73.


- the government’s role is especially important in poor developing countries because a strong central intervention is required to set policies in place in a way that the private sector can’t fill. 74.

- Moyo calls for a solution that gradually lessens aid over a 5-10 year period.

- Commercial bonds differ from aid in 3 ways:
1.   Their interest rate is higher
2.   Their maturity is much shorter
3.   More severe default terms 77.
- Issuing bonds enables a country to finance development and/or day to day costs
- Assessing the bond market is relatively simple:
1.  Get a rating.  This is the fundamental starting point.  It may not be the best rating but a country must start somewhere.
2.  Court investors.  This often means a tour/roadshow.
3.  Receive your money.  78.

- A market for emerging countries exists!
1. When a country issues bonds, it encourages other private investment since it signals stability
2.  Investors like the chance for high returns.
3.  It offers portfolio diversification.
*Emerging market debt is often counter-cyclical to the global business cycle.
-  Challenges include a poor credit rating which affects the rating possibilities of private companies within the nation (sovereign ceiling) 84.
- The idea of contagion risk is diminishing meaning that investors are not as apt to punish one country because its neighbor defaults. 84.
- Borrowing is cheaper now than ever.  85.
- “Defaulting is not the end of the world” 86.
-  If a country puts forth necessary reforms, the markets have a history of forgiveness.  87
Instead of reform though, most African nations just choose aid.
- No African nation has return to the bond market after defaulting in the last 30 years 87.
- It’s imperative that African countries develop domestic bond markets too—one reason being that they must be established prior to the development of a stock market.  88.
-  Moyo discusses the world Bank’s GEMLOC program (a ten year program) that helps develop local currency bond markets among other things—thus far only Nigeria and South Africa qualify but there’s not reason other countries can’t in the future.  90-92

- Most African countries haven’t accessed the bond markets because they didn’t want to NOT because they couldn’t.  93.
-  In determining how much to borrow, countries can also consider pooling their risk (a collective bond)  together as a region etc… 94.
- One can also offer insurance/risk guarantee:
Ex. South Africa’s Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund (PAIDF)
Ex.  World Bank can also guarantee 95-96.
-  A final option is to securitize the bond:  devote a certain budgetary portion of a resource to repayment (e.g. oil revenues).  96.