On the Corner
By Robert Docter –
This issue of New Frontier looks at Army responses to world hot spots–at our efforts to repair the damage of inter-cultural conflict and deliver cooling water in the cause of Christ. Recent changes in international policies have allowed the Army to become much more proactive much more quickly in dealing with these problems. These changes have made the Army truly international rather than territorial.
New Frontier celebrates the untiring effort, the creative problem solving, the unique commitment of some very young people–and some only young at heart–who risk life and limb and daily give big chunks of themselves as acts of love. They work where things are hot.
A fire needs three factors operating simultaneously in order to continue burning–oxygen, heat and fuel. Take any one of the three away and the fire goes out.
Social and cultural hot spots explode into major infernos with the simultaneous presence of the same three elements. They’re just defined in slightly different ways.
The oxygen is generated in the environment with the presence within a society of very real grievances–hardships which make life difficult for a population. Through an overgeneralized and irrational twist, one segment of the society blames these hardships on a different segment of the population. Additionally, oxygen pours into the scene with the accessibility of tools of communication. These allow a dynamic leader to verbalize this blame with a messianic message of hate.
The heat is generated by inflamed rhetoric; by examples of abuse or martyrdom, some true, some exaggerated; by ethnic and racial bias and bigotry; and by external flame throwers with their own agenda and something to gain.
The fuel comes from a past history of reciprocal hostility, the reason for which has been forgotten. This reason is often based on some visible difference between factions in regard to a basic belief system.
Every fire needs an initial spark. It is heat, often flame, applied to easily ignited tinder. The flaming tinder generates more heat, draws in more oxygen and consumes larger amounts of fuel.
We have started to do much, and we have started to do it quickly, but we need more capable firefighters if we are to cool the hot spots of the world. Moreover, our response needs to be a lot more than ordinary. A “business as usual” posture doesn’t make it in the heat of a hot spot environment. Hot spots demand the extraordinary–the over-and-above–a paradigm shift–a major system change.
The “hot spot” metaphor reveals the scope of the problem. What do we need to be most effective? Where will the next “fire” erupt? What do we need to cool it?
Here are some thoughts. First we need planning scenarios which reveal different types of heat and flame which demand variable remedies.
Second, we need to recognize the importance of fire prevention. We need to speak clearly, loudly and very publicly when we see factors present within a society which could easily erupt into flame.
Third, we need to develop teams of volunteer responders stationed all over the world who are well rehearsed in fighting “fires” that fit each scenario. The teams also need thorough immersion in the cultures and languages of that part of the world in which they will operate.
Fourth, we need administrative flexibility designed to allow the teams to function. Fifth, we need worldwide fund raising potential to support the teams when they are called to action.
We’re doing a great job in many places throughout the world. Let’s be ready for the next conflagration when the fire bell goes off.