Leadership: How To Handle Maniacs In Your Midst

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April 22, 2010: The U.S. Army, and the rest of the Department of Defense, has decided to change their policy on how they track indicators of violence and radicalization among their personnel. This came as a result of finding that at least eight officers did nothing about a terrorist in their midst. Major Nidal Malik Hasan's murder of 13 people at Fort Hood on November 5th last year was the act of an Islamic terrorist. But the U.S. government initially tried to explain it as just the act of a lone madman. Now it's realized that this is what terrorist attacks often are. Meanwhile, the investigation of Hasan soon revealed that he had not made a secret of his beliefs, and that many of his peers, subordinates and superiors had complained about Hasan's Islamic radical beliefs for months and years. But nothing was done.

The army will punish at least six of the officers who were in a position to do something about Hasan, before he killed 13 people. None of these officers are generals, and those punished are expected to receive a letter of reprimand. This will hurt their chances of promotion.

The army is still unwilling to deal with the atmosphere of political correctness that underpinned most of the bad decisions that enabled Hasan to stay in uniform, and even get promoted. Instead, there are new rules requiring commanders to report certain types of behavior, and better coordinate with intelligence agencies that pick up information (as they did with Hasan) indicating violent tendencies.

In the army, as in any large organization, all the rules are not written down. In the army, many of the unwritten rules come in the form of "the commanders' intent." Sometimes this "intent" is spelled out, but in many cases, subordinate commanders have to figure it out. In the Hasan case, the commanders' intent was that Moslem officers, especially doctors, are to be kept happy and in uniform. When in doubt, look the other way, and hope for the best. In the case of Hasan, no one expected the guy to turn into a mass murderer. But, then, Hasan's superiors were encouraged to be optimistic about their Moslem problem child. So Hasan's radical rants and abusive behavior towards non-Moslems was, if not ignored, then played down.

The army is trying to present this as a situation unique to the way the military handles its doctors (gently, lest they leave). This has been a long term problem, but it doesn't explain all that was going on with the Hasan situation.

So the commanders who followed the commanders' intent will get letters of reprimand for going along with the program, and being unlucky. Which raises the question. What about the other Hasans? Is Major Nidal Malik Hasan the only Moslem who got a pass because of commanders' intent? Do you think chastising eight officers is going to solve the problem? To a certain extent, perhaps. Because of Hasan, the commanders' intent regarding Moslem officers has been modified. If there's a chance a Moslem officer might be a mass murderer, there should at least be discussions about possibly taking action.

 


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