Wavell Room - objective quality Brit PME or an OJAR enhancing echo chamber?

Is the Wavell Room:

  • a genuine bottom up volunteer PME site?

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • handy to get something published pre OJAR?

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • a forum for the "right" chaps to put out correct messaging that everyone should adhere to?

    Votes: 2 40.0%
  • past its sell by date?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • a useful site to keep underemployed Staff types busy whilst the grown-ups get on with the real work

    Votes: 1 20.0%

  • Total voters
    5
On a few threads recently, the Wavell Room has come in for a bit of criticism ( over moderating/editing/not publishing comments & feedback, allowing poor articles about reservists to go unchallenged, etc)


However, this zinger has just come out on the small wars journal


And it has some gems....

Last October, I read “Hyper-masculinity and Ground Close Combat” by Kate Germano published in the Wavell Room. The Wavell Room, bills itself as a publication for “Contemporary British Military Thought,” and includes the famous quote by William Penn on its submission page, “In all debates, let truth be thy aim, not victory, or an unjust interest.” Assuming that this publication was an honest broker, I wrote a reply to Germano’s article, “Ground Close Combat is Masculine.” I was surprised at the time the editor took in helping to shape my article. There was special attention made to ensure there wasn’t even the illusion of personal attacks against Germano within my article. Based on that positive experience, I was shocked to see the publication of “Ground Close Combat is Gender Agnostic” by LtCol Edward Carpenter. This article is filled with defamatory and false statements against my person, logical fallacies, plagiarism, and self-defeating arguments. It seems like there was no editorial care given to Carpenter’s work.

After contacting the editor of the Wavell Room in a private attempt to resolve the disparaging comments and inferences within this article, excuses were made about having a small voluntary team for the lack of fact checking and logical errors, but was informed no action would be taken in fear of “no-platforming” LtCol Carpenter. Furthermore, I was told that I could write a response to this article, but I was “disinvited” to do so within the Wavell Room. The failure of the editorial process with this article threatens the reputation of the Wavell Room as a conduit of respectful intellectual discourse. Not only does the editor allow for false information about my person to be continually viewed online, his failures prevented the “open dialog” that the Wavell Room claims to support. How many contributors would want to write for a publication that would allow for such a defamatory article to be published? How would it even be possible to respond to LtCol Carpenter’s article “in good faith”? The failure of the editor has prevented the academic discussion on the worthy materials within LtCol Carpenter’s article, like the research from the American Psychological Association (APA). The conversation has been effectively ended and not because we found the “truth,” but the editor allowed for a character attack. As long as this article remains uncorrected, the Wavell Room risks reflecting “click bait” or a cheap tabloid publication that dishonors its namesake.

...
I understand that no one will be perfect and there is a significant danger in demanding all articles published be “flawless.” Minor spelling and grammar errors and maybe a logical error or two may occur in small PME Journals and this is natural and excusable if the tone allows for open and honest debate. The publishing of LtCol Carpenter’s article was more on the lines of negligence than simple error made by the Wavell Room editor. The impact of this article will have more than just a negative impact on my personal reputation if it is allowed to stand. This article will become the undoing of the Wavell Room as a forum of open dialog and condemn it to become an ideological echo chamber with few contributors ever participating and the scope of acceptable topics dramatically decreasing. This has already poisoned other avenues of online military discussion. Now we will test the honor and integrity of the Wavell Room. Will the article be retracted? Will the article at least be edited to remove the false assertions / ad hominem attacks that add nothing to the discussion? Will they apologize for their poor treatment of LtCol Carpenter? Until action is taken, I would look with suspicion on any Wavell Room article and take great caution before writing for this publication.

One hopes the Wavell Room consider responding to try and restore its credibility. The US PME community is one of the more developed within 5 Eyes and this level of criticism, especially supported with a forum like SWJ, is difficult to overlook.
 

Just_plain_you

War Hero
But to answer your poll I think it's a mix of 1 and 2. The US seems to be ahead of us with PME and writing. It's good to see people putting forward ideas, but the authors need to be held to account for the less inspired (inspiring?) ones.

The site could be a genuinely useful addition to the discussion, but the reality is it will be roundly ignored by the rules of paper, scissors, rank slide.
 
Unfortunately, on limited experience, I'm worried that it's leaning towards "OJAR-enhancing echo chamber, with a healthy slice of self-congratulation", Bob... Across several articles, I noted a lack of footnotes or justification, and a reliance on confident assertion, in the absence of much (if any) research. I can only claim true expertise in "being a STAB", so articles written by Regulars on how the Reserves should be reorganised are a particular amusement.

I thought I'd give them the benefit of the doubt, signed up to Disqus, and added a comment to one of the less-badly-written "Let's blame the Reserves" CO's-Really-Good-Idea pieces. I got a slightly-grumpy reply from the author in a tone of "my rank slide beats your comment" (which amusingly, didn't make it through the site moderation). I edited my comment to address the points the author raised, but the entire comment (original and edit) was deleted a day later.

I tried to add a much shorter, utterly uncontroversial, comment (with links to actual research, and numbers, and stuff) to make the point I'd been trying to make; let's see whether it ever appears...

To any Wavell Room moderator who's reading this - politely pointing out flaws in an author's unsupported assertions doesn't damage the site. Just bruises the author's ego.

And it has some gems....

...I was shocked to see the publication of “Ground Close Combat is Gender Agnostic” by LtCol Edward Carpenter. This article is filled with defamatory and false statements against my person, logical fallacies, plagiarism, and self-defeating arguments.
To be fair, the bloke who's complaining (Annis) is a bit of a tw*t whose logic isn't exactly rock-solid. Serving US MilTwitter types aren't exactly complimentary of him...
 
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I have just read Carpenter's post but I can't find anything remotely defamatory or particularly personal. Am I missing something or is Annis being a bit of a princess (ironically for someone trying to stick up for the manly virtues)?
 

Just_plain_you

War Hero
I have just read Carpenter's post but I can't find anything remotely defamatory or particularly personal. Am I missing something or is Annis being a bit of a princess (ironically for someone trying to stick up for the manly virtues)?
He is.
 
So to set aside the articles linked - the furore about I suspect are part of a wider, and longer running, “discussion” within the USMC community - there is perhaps a wider argument to be had.

Full disclosure before I start: I have written before for the WR, and am mulling another piece for submission. Similarly, I’ve a fair amount of interaction with the team behind it, and I contribute monetarily to teh running of the site - for which I got a snazzy notebook and an entirely impractical insulated coffee cup.

If we take the premise that it is a bit wobbly, and has raggedy edges (which I absolutely accept), then my question would be: who has stuck their hands up, and given over their time, to help them get better?

There are countless threads on here about PME, about the need to fail, about embracing change, moving the paradigm etc, and one and all accept that we need not accept perfection, and sometimes the most laudable thing to do is to have a go and see what happens. They’ve done that - just like “we” ask people to - and the moment the wheels get a bit wobbly, it becomes about “an OJAR enhancing echo chamber”. Equally I know that one article resulted in the author (who named them themselves) being in front of the Brigade Commander, stood at attention for a one way transmission. Equally, the WR teams’ OJARs were at one point seriously under threat as an influential 2* threatened them; this is not a low cost endeavour. Secondly, if the auto-assumption is that trying to help in a public manner = OJAR enhancement = A Bad Thing, then where is any sense of getting junior people involved in PME being encouraged?

To close off - @smallbrownprivates (and others) - what would you do differently? How do get junior Capts who are trying to get to grips with their jobs find enough time to write fully referenced and deeply researched articles for consumption and wide-spread critique on the interwebs? What is the correct level of engagement? What are you - personally - doing to help those people get better?
 
How do get junior Capts who are trying to get to grips with their jobs find enough time to write fully referenced and deeply researched articles for consumption and wide-spread critique on the interwebs?
I know what you don't do
one article resulted in the author (who named them themselves) being in front of the Brigade Commander, stood at attention for a one way transmission. Equally, the WR teams’ OJARs were at one point seriously under threat as an influential 2* threatened them;
It is a sad function of the 'military mindset' that it encourages holders to think that rank, seniority, corp and regular/reserve status have an impact on the validity of the holders thoughts. How to contradict this idea while maintaining a effective command structure is probably the work of some very good psychologists. To do so without a clear drive from the very top is, I'd say, impossible.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
So to set aside the articles linked - the furore about I suspect are part of a wider, and longer running, “discussion” within the USMC community - there is perhaps a wider argument to be had.

Full disclosure before I start: I have written before for the WR, and am mulling another piece for submission. Similarly, I’ve a fair amount of interaction with the team behind it, and I contribute monetarily to teh running of the site - for which I got a snazzy notebook and an entirely impractical insulated coffee cup.

If we take the premise that it is a bit wobbly, and has raggedy edges (which I absolutely accept), then my question would be: who has stuck their hands up, and given over their time, to help them get better?

There are countless threads on here about PME, about the need to fail, about embracing change, moving the paradigm etc, and one and all accept that we need not accept perfection, and sometimes the most laudable thing to do is to have a go and see what happens. They’ve done that - just like “we” ask people to - and the moment the wheels get a bit wobbly, it becomes about “an OJAR enhancing echo chamber”. Equally I know that one article resulted in the author (who named them themselves) being in front of the Brigade Commander, stood at attention for a one way transmission. Equally, the WR teams’ OJARs were at one point seriously under threat as an influential 2* threatened them; this is not a low cost endeavour. Secondly, if the auto-assumption is that trying to help in a public manner = OJAR enhancement = A Bad Thing, then where is any sense of getting junior people involved in PME being encouraged?

To close off - @smallbrownprivates (and others) - what would you do differently? How do get junior Capts who are trying to get to grips with their jobs find enough time to write fully referenced and deeply researched articles for consumption and wide-spread critique on the interwebs? What is the correct level of engagement? What are you - personally - doing to help those people get better?
I agree on all points.

I think it's a good initiative that generally produces decent content. I think it sometimes hasn't had the engagement it needs due to the lack of engagement in the comments, but overall I think it's a good thing. There are some obviously OJAR polishing articles on there, and some articles that should never have seen the light of day, but there are also some serious articles that I think present a good challenge to current army thinking. They don't always have footnotes but that's fine in my view - it's a blogging site, not an academic journal.

The army is also capable of responding to it well; it isn't just one-way chats with star ranks. The Wavell Room have had forums with ACGS and they're included in a number of conferences including the LWC.
 
If we take the premise that it is a bit wobbly, and has raggedy edges (which I absolutely accept), then my question would be: who has stuck their hands up, and given over their time, to help them get better?
I tried, in my time - but in the days before the interweb, such things were limited to the classic "Essay Competitions". [1]

The Americans have done this in style - anyone who followed the USAF debate over "Ned Stark" has to be impressed by both the quality of the articles, and the response of their establishment. Alternatively, AUSA held a symposium this year on engagement in social media. A few company-grade US Army officers with reasonably large followings decloaked on Twitter; seeing a PAO Lt on the stage next to a General, and contributing equally, is a sign that things really can change.

If we look on it as a more-accessible form of the British Army Review, then I'd suggest carrying on with anonymous articles (to protect the heretics) but have the authors accept that the comments are going to be challenging, and that while moderation should exist to keep the heat down, it's not there to protect the egos of the few (ideally, ping a note to those moderated to explain why their comment got binned). As you say, "OJAR Enhancement" in itself isn't a bad thing - it's the "echo chamber" aspect that's damaging. If you make unsupported assertions, or use crap logic, you should expect to be called on it (as Annis was).

Early days - if the motto is "move fast and break things", then you have to accept variable quality until there are enough examples of well-written pieces to set the tone. Ideally (like the USAF example) you'd see less-junior officers writing pieces to "test the water".

[1] In my case (the Bertrand Stewart), I ended up with a five-year subscription to RUSI and a rather enjoyable paid p*ssup in London - well worth the effort. Granted, it was that long ago that another of the YO entrants strong-armed from ScotDiv that year, has just retired as a Major-General...
 
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The fundamental difference between the cases you cite and the lived reality is the 1st Amendment and the Osmotherly Rule.

I have been ordered off Social Media for engaging in public discussion over the Armed Forces. Until we deal with that level of fuckwittery, UK based PME will never reach the heights of the US experience.
 
I have been ordered off Social Media for engaging in public discussion over the Armed Forces. Until we deal with that level of fuckwittery, UK based PME will never reach the heights of the US experience.
Until we deal with that level of fuckwittery, UK Armed Forces will never ... ?

But then, the Adjutant-General signed a contract with a civvy firm to run recruiting, promptly joined their board, and utterly failed to see how it could be regarded as corruption. A Div Comd banned sandwiches / issued guidelines on seating at dinner. Adjutants issue edicts about morning coffee and biscuits. There are other big hints that the fuckwits aren't being weeded out properly.

I'm watching this happen at the wife's place of employment. Her (lean, agile, mostly successful) firm merged with a (large, traditional, career for life, very low staff turnover, less successful) firm - but what the unsuccessful firm had turned out to be really good at was producing careerist managers who were ruthless in securing personal advantage for themselves and their networks. The merger of the two firms' overlapping back office functions has resulted in entire departments who have been carefully and individually selected from the best-qualified staff available, but by sheer coincidence all came from the (large, traditional) firm. Meanwhile, "process" is being used as an excuse to defend built Empires and justify comfy jobs.

She's becoming convinced that the merger has resulted in a firm where the "careerist" hierarchy will keep patting themselves on the back about how wonderful those deckchairs look on their unsinkable cruise liner... and that any failings are entirely due to a lack of "policies" and incompetent underlings; but definitely not a direct result of decisions that they made against staff advice. Unsurprisingly, she's leaving...
 
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Don't kid yourself the US Armed Forces are any different.

PME (or any public discussion) exists simply due to the 1st amendment.
 
To close off - @smallbrownprivates (and others) - what would you do differently? How do get junior Capts who are trying to get to grips with their jobs find enough time to write fully referenced and deeply researched articles for consumption and wide-spread critique on the interwebs? What is the correct level of engagement? What are you - personally - doing to help those people get better?
Good point, if that level of censorship and oversight is what they've been tackling, then good on them for persevering. One hopes there are some within the hierarchy that will recognise this value, though chances are, it has already capped their promotion prospects.

Still doesn't really excuse pushing out intentionally challenging articles under the guise of provoking debate and suppressing the responses - a clear statement on their moderating policy or the option in the comments to add the very disclaimer they encourage authors to use should be there at the least.
Also, WTAF - a 2* threatening individuals with OJAR sanctions? Even if he came up before CDRILS replaced SOLIDC, that's appalling.

On DC, the overall approach to PME is very reactive and staying in your lane. There is a very process orientated outlook that seeks a cyber secure environment to do the "proper" thinking in, not appreciating that logins, open identity and perceived rank hierarchy all build up as barriers to entry and the starter ideas to get things going. There isn't much debate to encourage and the 1% rule still holds firm. I managed a site there and spent the best part of 2 years pushing out a variety of content to very little feedback*.

Within DC, there is also a sense that CHACR and CAL are the "designated" think tanks and centres of cleverness and that individual efforts/blogs etc are a hobby or personal peccadillo. People seem to think that someone else is doing the responding/thinking. again the 1% rule kicks in, with 99% of the population lurking as voyeurs of content they lightly skip over.
This is where I think those who are critiquing the Wavell Room are missing a trick. we seem to be in an internet world where controversy and conflict are what sustain what passes for debate these days; if you take out the passion, it doesn't become academic, it just dies.

re the Wavell Room events; the army PME lecture circuit is often filled with many of the same faces, lots attending to observe and report back to their organisation, rather than contribute to debate, more often than not using questions to confirm a premise or test a niche policy notion. It is getting better, though genuinely, they has along way to go before they get up to the quality of debate/openness of wartalks


*yeah, i know "maybe the content was cr@p?"
 

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
The main challenges facing western militaries generally involve indifferent service leadership, the over-intrusion of social policy into military policy-making and political challenges due to under-funding, mis-deployment and insufficient moral support by respective governments (though less so for the US) for operational forces. Anything worth reading is likely to aggravate one's CoC, well-connected lobby groups, the government of the day, or perhaps all three. It's not a course of action I'd recommend to an ambitious officer.

The Germano piece referenced in the original post is a case in point. Her article oozes worthiness and ignorance in equal measure and is a vacuous paper designed to give women of a certain type the opportunity for a pastry and a skinny latte at an empowering brunch dedicated to 'breaking through the glass ceiling' or some such similar theme.

Anyone who objects to having aggressive risk-takers in the infantry isn't bringing much to the party but it would be a bold risk-taker indeed who put themselves on the wrong side of that particular zeitgeist by pointing out that wars are won by violent and aggressive boundary-pushers with a robust attitude to risk and that La Germano is thus talking b0llocks. The problem for free and honest discourse is that she's talking approved b0llocks.
 

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