20 March 2009

The Art of Milblogging AND Break-dancing Stormtroopers

Small Wars Journal has alerted us to the fact that one of its editors, Dave Dilegge, and Abu Muqawana's Andrew Exum are taking part in a panel on milblogging, discussing how military bloggers have made in impact in national defense policy, tactical and strategic development, and military professional education. After being part of the Small Wars Journal community for a while, I can honestly say that, yes, a few people with ideas and laptops can make a difference.

Which is interesting, because the art of milblogging has come almost full circle. Since blogs became popular in the early 2000s (sites like Livejournal, Xanga, etc), the military has now embraced the art. Which is kind of funny, because in 2003, when I first signed up with Livejournal, I always lived with this nagging fear that someone would tap me on the shoulder and say, "Captain [Starbuck], we read what you wrote on your blog about how much you want to strangle the people that made the Star Wars Christmas Special, and we are very concerned." Or, "We read all about your debauchery at [insert: college, rival college, Slip and Slide Party, Lizard Lounge, various 3rd-World Tropical locales, Sackets Harbor NY, etc.], and we're here to bust you because, well, what you did is probably illegal in most states/countries".

And the military's attitude didn't get any better for a while. By mid-2007, many milbloggers feared that the art of military blogging was going to get crushed by new Army policies which sought to all but snuff out any unofficial military-related writing. I can remember many instructors in military courses decrying that our youth's propensity for posting pictures and stories on "The Myspace" was going to lose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not troop levels, not population security, not a massive over-reliance on airstrikes for combat power, not economic development. According to our instructors, "The Myspace" was an evil as great as I bet many adults might have felt that The Beatles were in the 1960s.

But fortunately, some have caught on to Web 2.0's ability to give the pundits a forum to debate tactics and defense policy and even share some lessons on conflict in the world today. Some, such as General William Caldwell (a former 82nd Airborne commander), have even mandated that students in advanced military schools maintain a blog, something that had previously been relegated to the arena of a few rebellious junior officers who talked about break-dancing stormtroopers almost as much as they talked about OODA Loops. The 2008 Milblogging conference was even attended by Secretary of the Army Peter Geren.

Now, thanks to the new media, I can network with those who might be critical of defense policy, or miltiary professional education, or any one of a host of other topics. And you know what, every now and then, someone pays attention. Lt. Col. Paul Yingling caused ripples across Fort Hood when he posted "A Failure of Generalship", but the article was a huge wake-up call for military leadership, and Lt. Col. Yingling was in charge of reforming the detainee system in Iraq, which made a drastic recovery from their low in 2004, where they served mainly as propaganda and recruiting for the enemy, not only by those outside, but by the prisoners inside who networked and shared tactics.

Indeed, milbloggers have become such successful insurgents in the military community that now we're starting to become mainstream.

So please, if you like to read milblogs, start one up for yourself. Post about anything that tickles your fancy--purchasing F-22s, foreign relations, or something more mundane. Yes, you could even post break-dancing stormtrooper videos.

A Rave...without glow sticks/chem lights/lightsabers

You all remember this song (Skip the first 45 seconds worth of credits)

At least the dance moves are authentic in this classic from 1989 or so...(fast forward 30-45 seconds)

You know you want to sing along. One minute in, they even have the lyrics on screen so there's no excuse to not sing.


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