11 February 2010

On Social Engineering

One issue that's been brought up recently in regards to the proposed repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is that of "social engineering" (or "experimentation") within the military. According to many, many, many commentators, the military is no place for social engineering.

However, a mere precursory glance at our history and organizational culture shows the military is always "socially engineering" itself. Indeed, the military adapts and changes its internal dynamics all the time, for better or for worse.

Just look at the integration of African-Americans and women. Those could be viewed as experimentation and engineering, and look how it turned out for us. We could look at initiatives like Idea Blogs and Wikipedia-style field manuals, which essentially aim to overhaul the military's hierarchical organizational culture and place anyone from the lowest private to the highest general on the same level--their ideas and arguments matter more than their rank. This could have incredible social impacts.

We could look at initiatives which were developed during the 80s and 90s to make the military more family-friendly, creating a whole host of social services for spouses, children, and Soldiers...but that's not social engineering. What about altering officer evaluation and promotion policies, which dictate what types of officers which will rise to the head of the military hierarchy? Isn't that social engineering, too?

Is "social engineering" simply one of those buzz-words that gets thrown about when people don't like the proposed policy?

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