Sunday, November 15, 2009

The New Earth Army

The new movie The Men Who Stare at Goats is a comic take-off on the true story of an Army program to incorporate New Age concepts into the military. In the movie, Jeff Bridges plays an Army Colonel who trains an experimental unit of "Jedi warriors" who bring psychic powers and peacemaking concepts into modern war-fighting. George Clooney plays the most talented soldier trained by this unit, who actually does seem to have psychic powers. Of course, most of the ideas propagated by this so-called New Earth Army, which was based on a real program called the First Earth Battallion, were crazy, did not work, and were scoffed at by the regular Army. Just as you are ready to laugh at and dismiss these wacky ideas, however, the movie provides you a glimpse of how traditional military thinking works. The movie's two main characters get caught in a skirmish between two sets of military contractors who operate with military precision and go at each other with rifles blazing. The fact that they are both supposed to be on the same side does not seem to deter them from causing serious havoc. The moral I took from this story was: think twice before you laugh too hard at the crazy ideas dreamed up by these hippie soldiers; the way that the regular Army fights wars may be even crazier.

Sometimes people get a bit uncomfortable about the touchy-feely aspects of mediation also.  Businesspeople and their attorneys do not necessarily see the utility of discussing their emotional needs, and would often prefer to get down to business and negotiate a deal in an adversarial manner.  They may be put off by mediators who sometimes try to incorporate concepts from psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, game theory, religion or what-have-you.  Although diplomacy has been around for all of human history, the modern field of conflict resolution is still in its infancy, and still needs to develop a better understanding of what works and what doesn't work.  More fundamentally, participants in negotiating resolution of a dispute are often reluctant to let go of their traditional war-fighting mentality. When confronted by some of the crazy ideas that mediators might suggest, participants would probably do well to consider the shortcomings of the usual modes of solving conflicts. Resolution of disputes in the traditional adversary system is generally more costly, highly unpredictable, and at least equally crazy.


Dr. David Leffler said...

The character Brig. General Hopgood (played by Stephen Lang) in the movie "The Men Who Stare At Goats" is based on Maj. Gen, Albert Stubblebine, US Army (retired).

In reality, MG Stubblebine was an intelligent pioneer in the development of human resource technologies. Bert understood the latent potential of the human mind that warriors would eventually be trained to harness. For instance, field-tests by militaries (Ecuador and Mozambique) and peer-reviewed scientific research published in reputable journals have documented the positive effects of a human resource technology called Invincible Defense Technology.

See the article published in News Blaze titled "Don't Stare at Goats, Read Robert Oates - Permanent Peace" or in Senegambia News titled "Taking The Men Who Stare at Goats Seriously" More information can be found on the Internet by searching on "Invincible Defense Technology".

Dr. David Leffler
Executive Director
Center for Advanced Military Science (CAMS)

Joe Markowitz said...

Thanks for the comment and links to all this material. I have to say that even though I did not think this movie totally worked as a movie, it opens up a lot of provocative and interesting ideas that are worth further study.

Kenneth Macfarlane said...

I am interested to know what you think about the role of non-legal mediators especially those who practice Transformative Mediation. You make it clear that the mind sets of most folk are still set in the litigation 'lets just go at it' approach.

It seems to me that knowledge of the legal format is useful/necessary in mediation however, the prime requirements for a mediator are positive listening skills, strong workplace/life experience and a thorough knowledge of one's own inner territory. The abilty to be nuetral and empathic at the same time is crucial in the transformative process.

What suggestions do you have for developing a better understanding of what works and

Joe Markowitz said...

Good questions, Kenneth. You've given me an idea to do a whole post on the differences between lawyer mediators, judge mediators, and non-lawyer mediators. I think that all can be successful, with different backgrounds more appropriate for different situations, and I agree with you that the prime requirements are not necessarily what they teach in law school or law practice, in fact sometimes approaching problems from the opposite direction of the way they teach in law school or law practice is necessary.

As far as what works and what doesn't work, I think we need to do more research! This field could use more science.

Kenneth Macfarlane said...

Hello Joe
I look forward to that post. For the non-legal mediator the question of how best to outreach is a big issue. My thinking is a two pronged approach for example:
a. to various advocacy organisations such as adoption groups where mediation could be a excellent way of resolving issues that arise between adoptees & adopters.
b. Financial advisors and mortgage brokers, they usually are first to hear about discord in marriages/relationships before the issues become hard.
I am also wondering whether outreaching to para-legals that handle caseloads would be an approach you think worthwhile.
The difficulty I can see is the risk of Transformative Mediation being labelled as a therapy with all the ramifications that could arise within the therapeutic community.
Really, I am just brainstorming here trying to find a focus as to how best to raise awareness about this method of dispute resolution.
All suggestions/feedback are welcome

jim channon said...

Gentlemen, I so appreciate your discourse. There were thirty-seven proactive meme's sandwiched between site gags in this film ... the mediation and pre-mediation actions on the contemporary battlefield are essential ingredients in the army's COIN operations. I wonder how many of the other break-thru ideas came through the often obscure hollywood mist for you ... the tone of your exploration with David is very commendable. Thank you! Go planet! (amazon) jim channon proto-mythologist.

Earth Battalion Cavalry said...

"Assumptions are like ass-holes" and assumptions like the following are a form of irresponsible journalism and one of the causes of the problem rather than a solution.

Assumption: "...most of the ideas propagated by this so-called New Earth Army, which was based on a real program called the First Earth Battallion, were crazy, did not work, and were scoffed at by the regular Army".

Where do you get your information? And where do you get off shedding a negative light on something so important.

President Clinton understood when he silenced a crowd of his supporters in 1996 election. They were shouting, "You have no oppostion! You have no opposition!

He quieted everyone down and spoke very slowly and deliberately...

"Oh, yes I do," he corrected them, "and so do you... cynicism and apathy."

So, Mr Joe Markowitz, if you want to be part of the problem rather than the solution, just keep making these dangerous assumptions. You will likely find yourself in need of the some of the more advanced methods of humanitarian aide and mediation in the New Earth Army arsenal.

I recall a story about Lt. Colonel Jim Channon visiting Fort Bragg's Special Forces unit in order to introduce to them "Super-soldier Training", non-conventional warfare, use of the military for humanitarian-aide, etc.

They scoffed at him, writing him off as a crazy, or at least making him think that. When he left, they continued diving deeper into what was already a deep immersion in using some of the most advanced methods in the world to carry-out their military missions including how to kill at a distance and other super-natural abilities like being able to heal at a distance, influence heads of state at a distance, and many other peaceful and not so peaceful super-human, super-natural and spiritual disciplines.

As far as mediation goes, the Colonel (Jim Channon), presented viable techniques for conflict resolution, envisioned such phenomenon as "Combat to the Collective Conscience" and hundreds of other workable, viable, realistic and important ways to avoid conflict and to end it swiftly once it has begun.

Just because you have not a clue what some of these proven methods are does not mean they do not exist. You just make a fool out of yourself and so does the regular Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force when they ignore the obvious- using the military for humanitarian aide and conflict resolution instead of enforcing corporate doctrine on behalf of the Banking System and M.I.E.

Wake-up, get a clue, and publish something useful.

Captain Lakota, New Earth Army

instructor- Non-lethal Combat, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, Meditation, 100% reliable access to intution, Inner Planes Travel, Inner Planes Communication, Absent Healing, Inner Species Communication, indestructible Force Fields, and many other practical and esoteric arts and sciences that work such as learning how to make it rain, the sun shine and the wind blow... how to give life and how to take it away... how to be a spiritual warrior and stand in harm's way, how to fly, and how to create or co-create any reality imaginable. Time for humanity to wake-up, not just the military.

Joe Markowitz said...

Where I got my assumption about the New Earth Army was entirely from the movie. It is a work of fiction, though loosely based on an actual program with which you seem familiar. Anyway, in the movie, most of the ideas WERE scoffed at by the regular army and did not work. But as I was trying to convey in my post, most of the ideas of the regular army did not work very well either, and some of the new age ideas did work.

I'm an advocate for mediation, and other new techniques of conflict resolution. My point, and I'm sorry if I did not make myself clear, was to show that sometimes ideas that seem crazy to people mired in traditional thinking, might actually be worth considering. I think we agree on that.

Check out my piece on Afghanistan, and let me know if you think that is more useful.