I love a new article by War on the Rocks about “grass roots” engagement because its heart is in the exact right place, yet much of the history and analysis seems off-base.
The following sentence is a giant clue to what this topic is really about:
…fear of losing such expensive equipment induced risk aversion among decision-makers and prevented them from being released…
It reminded me very much of how ill-prepared the US was marching Civil-War style into Spanish American War, and what saved the day. Few Americans remember but July 2nd 1898 the 24th and 25th Colored Infantry rescued the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill.
‘If it hadn’t been for the black cavalry, the Rough Riders would have been exterminated.’ Five black soldiers of the 10th Cavalry received the Medal of Honor and 25 other black soldiers were awarded the Certificate of Merit.
I’ve written about this before also in terms of WWI, where an innovative Beersheba battle victory attributed to British deception operations and a charge of their black cavalry had a decisive effect on the overall war.
And on that note it KILLS me to read in the War on the Rocks article something like this:
The ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos has evolved from hobbyist clubs that were dedicating to building personal computers back in the 1970s…
No. Go back much, much earlier.
It was self-sufficiency and becoming a “made man” (e.g. General Grant was genius at hard-working innovations) that drove Union forces to defeat rigid-thinking Southern Confederacy of slaveholders in Civil War.
American innovation is greatly hampered by inability to leverage diverse thinking that is readily available. When talking about “risk aversion” we need to be honest, describing it in terms more illustrative of the problem such as racism or sexism.
It also is hampered by a lack of teaching history, which illustrates how innovations have best come from integrating, in other words learning to compete together instead of against each other. Victory is achievable to those who collaborate better.