Tell us how you really feel, Colonel

As a general rule, when serving military officers decide to place their opinions on the public record, they write in hyper-cautious military-speak that appears designed to conceal any sort of original insight. So thank you, Col. Lawrence Sellin, for being an exception to the rule. Sellin, a staff officer in ISAF Joint Command in Kabul, sounds like he had a Very Bad Day at the office, and then returned home to pen a screed against the work being done at headquarters.

For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general's thought processes as abruptly as a computer system's blue screen of death.

The ability to brief well is, therefore, a critical skill. It is important to note that skill in briefing resides in how you say it. It doesn't matter so much what you say or even if you are speaking Klingon.

Random motion, ad hoc processes and an in-depth knowledge of Army minutia and acronyms are also key characteristics of a successful staff officer. Harried movement together with furrowed brows and appropriate expressions of concern a la Clint Eastwood will please the generals. Progress in the war is optional.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. Col. Sellin sounds like he has a future career as a pundit -- which, come to think of it, may soon come in handy. (H/T Ghosts of Alexander)

Update: Not surprisingly, Sellin has been sacked from his job at ISAF headquarters, officially for violating a directive that requires officers to clear "written or oral presentations to the media" with a public-affairs officer. He says that he bears no ill will to anyone in his former organization, and will be returning to Finland to work for an IT company where he had been employed before going to Afghanistan.



Japanese PM Candidate Ozawa: "I don't think Americans are very smart," "I don't like British people"

Ichiro Ozawa, the backroom dealer and longtime fixture of Japanese politics who announced today that he will challenge Prime Minister Naoto Kan as leader of the ruling Democratic Party, and therefore also as prime minister, will have some explaining to do to Japan's allies if he reaches the top spot. Here's what he had to say about Americans at a political seminar in Tokyo on Wednesday:

"I like Americans, but they are somewhat monocellular," the former Democratic Party leader said. "When I talk with Americans, I often wonder why they are so simple-minded."[...]

Ozawa, who advocates a U.S.-style two-party political system for Japan — which currently has a coalition government — praised Americans for electing President Barack Obama.

"I don't think Americans are very smart, but I give extremely high credit for democracy and choices by its people," he said. "They chose a black president for the first time in U.S. history," adding that he thought once that would never be possible.

I'm not sure Obama will appreciate Ozawa's praise for the political choice of a nation of single-celled organisms. The British didn't get off easy either: 

Mr Ozawa, the former secretary-general of Japan’s ruling Democratic party said the way prisoners of war marched in orderly ranks in “The Bridge on the River Kwai” demonstrated the best qualities of the British.

But he added that he had an aversion to the British. He said: “I don’t like British people”

"Bridge on the River Kwai," if you're not familiar with it, is the story of a group of British POWs trying to maintain their dignity while subjected to forced labor and occasional torture by their Japanese captors. Not quite sure Ozawa got the message of that film.