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Pushing A Rope - Dorian's Corner - Commentaries / Opinions

Listening to talking heads on TV this morning, kept reminding me of the old saw about pushing a rope. If you try to push a rope (motivate people by pushing) it doesn't work. They just go in all directions, and usually not the direction you want. It causes chaos.

If you pull a rope (motivate people by pulling), it works much better. People go where you would like them to go unless they are bumped off by a stone or other obstacle.

Two things


The US tried pushing the rope of democracy in Iraq. People went everywhere, it was tremendously expensive in lives and money supporting a tremendous number of troops on the ground, and people went in all directions. It created a lot of people and groups who hated the US because of the damage done and being on their medieval turf. We ended up with the opposite of what we tried to achieve: Chaos. One partisan group fighting another.

Now what we are hearing loudly is, "We have to have boots on the ground." Journalists, an ex-CIA chief, and other specialists were saying over and over, "We are telling ISIS what we won't do." Okay, we've told them they can't use US presence as a recruiting tool. Maybe in fact, who knows how it might actually end up.

Boots on the ground got us chaos in Iraq. As the war drums begin to pound, we need to move forward judiciously, with a well developed strategy, not like a bunch of reactionary school children, which seems to be the current state of both Congress and the media. This is exactly what happened during the invasion of Iraq that created a lot of this chaos.

It takes time to create an effective coalition of armies from various countries. Eisenhower did it during WWII. It takes diplomacy, a carrot, pulling a rope. The idea of their boots on the ground isn't any more popular in the rest of the world than it is to the US people. But it's "their" region of the world. and they are the ones who need to mediate there.

We already know that special forces will be on the ground gathering intelligence and directing US air strikes. It doesn't have to be US special forces. It is an effective strategy. But people from that general area need to be the soldier boots on the ground. Let the strategy go forward and quit fraternizing with the enemies' intelligence by being their cheering section about US "supposed inadequacy."


The US and Europe are having difficulty with home grown terrorists from all backgrounds, Catholic, Muslim... being recruited through Internet sites and going to fight for ISIL. They seem to be people who lack a sense of strong identity, meaning, and purpose in their lives, some of whom have been rejected by society in one way or another, but not necessarily, who see what is happening and rally to the cause.  ISIL is a cause they can sink their teeth into. They have very effective propaganda.

It would be wonderful if counter-propaganda would be effective. Destroy the identity as a thing to be avoided at all costs. The Muslim community, to its credit, has issued a fatwa against ISIL.

It's pushing a rope, welcome as it is. People aren't motivated into something different just because others are against it. They are already not enfranchised or disenfranchised, so it just pushes them somewhere else, or hardens their opinion, as the US sees happening in our own political system.

Young adults, and others, who aren't fully enfranchised in our world - haven't found a place - if they can be motivated, are motivated by things that attract them... things that respond to their needs.... things that are relevant to them.

President Roosevelt placed the "New Deal" before a Depression and war weary nation, and placed many in the Youth Corps. Eisenhower began the interstate highway system. President Kennedy fired up the nation with putting a man on the moon. Obama fired up the base and especially young people with the idea of change and accessible health care.

Many in our country want to lead by force, whether it is getting their way in politics, addressing protestors, or resolving hostile conflict in foreign nations. Force is pushing a rope.

Leaders in every segment of society, from religious institutions to city government to national leaders, lead by establishing new agendas that inspire people and engage them.

If you want to lead, understand how to pull a rope.