Fullenkamp: We Use the Past to Better Understand our Present

Trips to relive famous tactical events sounds in this podcast like something we could do a lot more of for information security.

…military historian Len Fullenkamp reflects on the importance of immersing oneself in the minds of strategic leaders facing dynamic and complex situations. One tool is the staff ride, an opportunity to walk a battlefield and understand the strategic perspective of the leaders…

I’ve walked countless battlefields and tried to relive the decisions of the time. One of the most unforgettable was a trench line perfectly preserved even to this day on a ridge that held off waves of attacks for several sleepless days.

On another long-gone battle ground I stumbled upon three live bullets that had been abandoned for decades, slowly rusting into the ground atop a lookout. I held them in my hand and stared across the dusty exposed road below for what seemed like hours.

Yet I rarely if ever have seen a similar opportunity in the field of security I practice most today. Has anyone developed a “staff ride” for some of the most notorious disasters in security leadership such as Equifax, Target, Facebook…? That seems useful.

In this podcast the speaker covers the disastrous Pickett’s charge by pro-slaveholder forces in America. After two-days investment the bumbling General Lee miscalculated and ordered thousands of men to their death in what he afterwards described plainly as “had I known…I would have tried something different”.

Fullenkamp then goes from this into a long exploration of risk management until he describes leadership training on how to make good decisions under pressure:

What is hard is making decisions in the absence of facts.

Who could be the Fullenkamp of information security, taking corporate groups to our battlefields for leadership training?

Also I have to point out Fullenkamp repeats some false history, as he strangely pulls in a tangent about how General Grant felt about alcohol. Such false claims about Grant have been widely discredited, yet it sounds like Fullenkamp is making poor decisions with an absence of facts.

Accusations of alcoholism were a smear and propaganda campaign, as historians today have been trying to explain. For example:

Grant never drank when it might imperil his army. […] Grant, in a letter to his wife, Julia, swore that at Shiloh, he was “sober as a deacon no matter what was said to the contrary.”

We know today what actually happened was a concerted group of white supremacist historians of a defeated pro-slavery war machine began a campaign to posthumously destroy the character of Grant, to undermine his widespread popularity and programs of civil rights.

After Grant’s death, exaggerated stories about his drinking became ingrained in American culture.

First, the truth of charges against Grant are related to America’s pre-Civil War political and military patronage system (corruption basically) being unkind to him. He succeeded in spite of them and he was living proof of someone using the past to better understand the present.

After extensive experience fighting in all major battles of the Mexican-American War he didn’t sit well being idle and under-utilized. He was introverted and critical of low performing peers. A superior officer in California used minor charges of alcohol as a means to exercise blunt authority over the brilliant Grant.

Second, it was KKK propaganda campaigns of prohibition that pushed the false idea that Grant’s dispute with his superior was some kind of wild and exaggerated issue relevant to prohibition.

In fact history tells us how pro-slavery Generals literally became so drunk during battles they disappeared and were useless, every single time they fought. The KKK projected those real alcoholic events from pro-slavery leadership onto Grant to obscure their own failed history and try to destroy his name.

Apparently it worked because it’s 2019 and far past time for people to stop repeating shallow KKK propaganda about America’s greatest General and one of the greatest Presidents.

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