What Happens if you take a Problem Solving Approach to the Insurrection Threat?


January 17, 2021

Anybody who has studied business or read any business books will have come across the topic of Scientific problem solving and “The 5 Whys.”

In a nutshell, it means you will have to ask “Why?” At least five times, before you find the real root cause of any problem and as a consequence, discover the most effective solution.

The most famous example of this is the story of the Lincoln monument in Washington DC. The monument was deteriorating, as chemicals were regularly used on it to clean it from bird droppings. So, cleaning chemicals were being used as the solution, without looking any further.

So somebody asked, “Why?” Why are the birds hanging around this memorial and not the others? The answer was because of the spiders they liked to feast on. At this stage, the obvious solution was to kill the spiders with insecticides. But was that really the root cause?

By asking “Why?” a few more times, the real root cause was discovered and the solution was both time saving and cost saving.

Lincoln Memorial

Could a problem solving approach used on the Lincoln memorial be the key to preventing political violence in America?

The “5 why’s” problem solving approach went  like this:
  1. Why is the monument falling apart?
    Because of the harsh chemicals and excess water used to clean it.

    Possible solution: find a better way to clean it, probably at a greater cost.
  2. Why is so much cleaning necessary?
    Because of the bird droppings staining the stone.

    Possible solution: Shoot all the birds.
  3. Why are the birds hanging around this particular monument?
    Because they like to feast on the spiders that live in the monument.

    Possible solution: use insecticides and kill both spiders and birds that eat them.
  4. Why do the spiders frequent this monument?
    Because there are so many insects for them to feast on.

    Possible solution: more insecticides.
  5. Why are so many flying insects attracted to this monument?
    Because the lights are left on for an hour after dusk.

    Best Solution: Turn the lights off earlier.

So the solution to the real root cause was turning off the lights earlier. Much cheaper than rebuilding the monument every decade or so.

When we apply the “5 Whys” problem solving to the Capital incursion, it would look something like this:
  1. Why was there an incursion into the Capital?
    Because half a million people amassed there and some got carried away or planned to make trouble.

    Possible solution: Bring the national guard to Washington DC.
  2. Why was there a huge demonstration?
    Because Donald Trump enticed them to go there.

    Possible solution: Impeach Donald Trump, prosecute him and make it impossible for him to influence people again.
  3. Why did Donald Trump incite the mob?
    Because he thought he should have been president.

    Possible solution: As above, do as much as possible to discredit Donald Trump.
    Possible solution: use insecticides and kill both spiders and birds that eat them.
  4. How was Donald Trump able to incite so many people?
    Because 77% of his voters 75 million voters believe there was massive election fraud.

    Possible solution: Try and convince them they are mistaken. Shut down any conversation about election fraud, delete anything that suggested it happened.
  5. Why do they believe there was election fraud?
    Because they saw security camera footage and testimonies from witnesses, experts and whistleblowers. Because they believe court challenges were dismissed through technicalities and not through evidence being disproved.

    Solution: Hold a transparent, bi-partisan investigation into election fraud allegations and look impartially at all evidence, so all Americans can be satisfied with the election process.

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

George RR Martin

But somehow, despite the combined centuries of education behind the Washington elite, they have not been able to apply this simple process of problem solving to what is widely touted as “the greatest challenge to our democracy”. The solutions being applied are the equivalent of shooting all the birds, or poisoning spiders to prevent bird droppings on the Lincoln memorial.

Regardless of what you think about the 2020 elections, 77% of Republicans believe there was widespread fraud and 34% of overall voters believe that Biden’s victory was illegitimate. (According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll). These people not only believe the election was stolen, but they believe as a consequence, they no longer live in a democracy. They don’t believe they have any say in the leadership of their country. With no transparent, bipartisan investigation into the allegations, they will continue to hold those views.

“Attacking the head of the snake,” to prevent a rebellion is a Medieval approach to problem solving that often backfires, as it gives rebels a martyr to rally around.

Now I’m no expert, but as a history lover and an avid reader of historical stories, I cannot recall a single time in the past when beating the population into submission ever proved to be an effective long-term solution to any problem.

Just ask the British about Northern Ireland.

tanks in the streets

This could be an everyday scene on streets throughout America for decades to come, very much like Northern Ireland.

At worst, the current approach will result in outright civil war. At best, it will encourage continuous armed conflicts, a growing underground militia and the need to have a large portion of the army permanently stationed on the streets to maintain order.

Long after the satisfaction of grinding their opponents into the dust, those on the winning side will tire of the curfews, the constant tension and fear – and the funerals of innocent people from both sides who are caught in the crossfire.


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