What is LIC?
Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC) is the official name for when individuals or governments hire intermediaries to conduct violent operations from a secure position. LIC is a misnomer; those who have become victims of the barbaric cruelty of those practicing LIC find nothing “Low” about the experience. The conflict is intense, the actions brutal, and the practitioners remain cunning adversaries using and employing willing dupes to hide the true depths of moral decay inherent in the societal destructions and depravations the practitioners are enacting. Many confuse LIC in describing the actions of unbridled violence committed by ideologues under the banner of terrorism. The US Military Joint Chiefs of Staff define LIC as:
“A limited political-military struggle to achieve political, social, economic, or psychological objectives. It is often protracted and ranges from diplomatic, economic, and psychological pressures through terrorism and insurgency. Low-intensity conflict is generally confined to a geographic area and is often characterized by constraints on the weaponry, tactics, and levels of violence (Tinder 1990) [emphasis mine].”
Green (1997) adds a key ingredient to the description of LIC from Tinder (1990).
“… Non-international conflict is a refined term for what [was] formerly known as revolutions or civil wars, particularly when these have developed into major operations with the likelihood or reality of atrocities being committed against non-combatants. Whether civilians or those [rendered] hors de combat, a fact that is often more common in non-international … conflicts, especially when ideological, ethnic, or religious differences are in issue. It is for this reason that it must be borne in mind that the term low-intensity [conflict] has no relation to the severity or violence of the conflict” [emphasis mine].
Lt. Colonel Alan J. Tinder wrote a paper for the Air War College in 1990 titled: “Low-Intensity Conflict.” I have learned much from the Colonel and benchmarked this principle to more thoroughly understand LIC, recognize LIC, and detail LIC for others. The other compelling source is L. C. Green’s paper on “Low-Intensity Conflict and the Law.” I aim to synthesize this information into a manageable topic and aid understanding. Let me state emphatically that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leadership’s actions are nothing short of LIC where employees and veterans/customers are concerned.
Regularly, the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) reports on a comprehensive healthcare inspection of a VHA facility, reports on employee morale in the VBA, or sum analysis of an employee or customer surveys, and include in the report a fairly descriptive, yet starkly utilitarian phrase, “reduce staff feelings of moral distress at work.” Generally, the efforts to reduce “moral distress” is left to an underling, an assistant, or a person for whom this is a secondary or collateral duty and is not considered important or relevant.
Do the actions of a leader represent complicity in creating moral distress fit the general definition of LIC? Absolutely. Consider that the leader sets the culture through actions, words, and behaviors, which originate in the thoughts and feelings of the leader. Correcting moral distress is pawned off on a junior staff member as a collateral duty, another method for displaying disrespect and communicating principles of abuse to employees. But there is no physical violence; how does this apply to LIC? Aren’t dead veterans’ examples enough of violent tendencies to justify the definition of LIC? The VA leader operates from a place of security, exemplifies the culture they deem acceptable, and then works through minions to achieve a “to achieve the political, social, economic, or psychological objective.”
Never forget these two critical points in the description of LIC:
“Often protracted and ranges from diplomatic, economic, and psychological pressures.”
“LIC has no relation to the severity or violence of the conflict.”
At the VA, the leadership calls their example politics; keeping your position or advancing is economical, and the psychological pressure to conform is palpable. All fundamental keys to conducting LIC against veterans, taxpayers, dependents, and non-conforming employees. Multiple times Congress has held hearings and listened to how the VA Leadership exacted revenge and retaliation upon those who reported problems to the VA-OIG, their elected congressional leaders, and other investigative parties. Feel free to peruse some of these hearings; you will hear victims relating physical, economic, and mental abuse, and the VA leadership never takes action. Elected officials never scrutinize and hold accountable those executing LIC, and the victims are victimized a second time.
Want another indicator that LIC is being practiced, the VA-OIG, after learning there are problems with moral distress at work, makes the following to slide the issues under the proverbial rub:
“The OIG’s review of the medical center … did not identify any substantial organizational risk factors.”
Signifying that even though the VA-OIG found moral distress is affecting and influencing employee behavior, the VA considers employee moral distress not an “organizational risk factor.” What does an employee who feels morally distressed do in performing their duties? Delay patients’ appointments, make mistakes on medication shipped, slow walk any responsibility to make things more complicated and take longer than they should. Does any of these actions sound familiar; they should, for this is the standard operating procedure for VA employees.
As reported previously, while I worked at the VA, I had intimate observations of what morally distressed employees do. When I wrote to the VA-OIG, I was informed that since I had my employment terminated, I could not be a whistleblower and get my job back. Plus, what I reported could not be actioned because it did not apply. How’s that for protecting the guilty? The VA Leadership is writing procedures and policies to target anyone and everyone who would report problems and seek help. An employee physically assaulted me; the camera mysteriously broke when I reported it, so no evidence was available. Who was at fault? Me; the assistant director promoted the attacker, and I got ostracized. The attacking employee took moral distress to new heights after this incident, and anyone who reported their behavior felt the wrath of the attacker and the VA leadership at the Albuquerque VAMC.
What is horrendous, this is not an isolated incident. What happened to me frequently repeats daily across every VA office. LIC is the overarching term, LIC is the behaviors named, and LIC is what the taxpayers are forced to pay for, all at the expense of veterans, dependents, and employees who see, know, and can do nothing. Repetitions of moral distress in employees, reported by the VA-OIG, are more than 20 just in 2022. The problem is cultural, and the elected officials desperately need to begin doing their second job, scrutinizing the executive branch and holding people accountable, including canceling the retirement packages of those practicing LIC.
Before someone tries to make this a Republican vs. Democrat issue, it is NOT political. LIC is never political, just as LIC is never religious, never racist, not sexist, or any other distinction. These distinctions are excuses, and the reasons do not justify the means for being violent. The leadership at the VA, and many other government agencies, have found that abusing the taxpayer pays well, provides protection, and allows them to exercise dominion to their heart’s content, all with the power of government to justify their deeds.
Do you realize that the VA-OIG has a metric for measuring moral distress, and the only time the VA-OIG reports moral distress among employees is when the results are higher than national averages? How scary is that to ponder? The problem is so prevalent that it only warrants reporting when it exceeds the norm. Thus, moral distress is declared less frequently when the average worsens. Official protection for LIC is provided by LIC, increasing, and the taxpayer is footing the bill.
I have read reports where the moral distress has worsened from year to year. The same leaders exacerbating the problem of employee moral distress are promoted and moved instead of reprimanded, punished, or fired. One of the VA-OIG reports is particularly heinous in hiding moral distress in employees.
“Selected employee survey responses demonstrated satisfaction with leadership and maintenance of an environment where staff felt respected and discrimination was not tolerated. Patient experience survey data implied general satisfaction with the outpatient care provided; however, leaders had opportunities to improve inpatient care satisfaction [emphasis mine].”
Mark Twain is oft quoted as stating, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” How much more valid are these words when results are “selected,” “cherry-picked,” or allowed to “imply generalities?” Those who engage in LIC are criminals, they are comparable to terrorists, and they have infiltrated the bureaucratic halls of government. Employing government power, they form unholy unions with social media outlets and media companies to further silence and abuse, all while increasing protection.
Where does it end? How do we put paid to the tyranny?
It ends when ordinary people decide they have had enough. Ending the LIC-powered tyranny requires nothing more than elected officials scrutinizing the government and doing the jobs they swore to commit. No violence, problematic or arduous tasks, merely following established law and doing the jobs we elected them to accomplish. LIC is always destroyed when the citizens being oppressed stand up for their rights and demand the bullies, tyrants, and fiends cease and desist!
Thomas Paine, writing in “Common Sense,” discussed simplicity, stating:
“I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature, which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple anything is, the less liable it is to be disordered; and the easier repaired when disordered.”
The American government was established on simplicity, and the US Constitution is a simple document. Using Thomas Paine’s pattern, the disorder in the government is simple to correct; all we need are people insisting that the infection is terminated. Using the systems established in the US Constitution, the US government can be brought to heel, the rot removed, and justice can be delivered to those tyrants employing LIC for personal gain and political profit. LIC is happening in every government agency, and it is time for change to begin. Where are the politicians willing to do the job we elected them to perform?
Mark Twain provides the final word, “The government of my country snubs honest simplicity but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two.” From artistic villainy to LIC is not an arduous shift, merely the extension of abuse of power to a larger audience. Learn, choose, and then make your voice known through elections and peaceful assembly for redress per the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.
© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images. Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.