Last month, I borrowed Francis Brannigan's famous quotation "Know Your Enemy", as the title of my article. This current article is intended to be the continuation of the concepts presented in the last.
Briefly, in the last article I explained that we should push Brannigan's concept even further, considering that the problem doesn't start with the building; it starts with the construction codes. I expressed that our real enemies then were the ones who allow such buildings to be built with little regard for the occupants' safety, and even less regard for the firefighters' safety in the first place. In recognizing the negative connotation of the word "enemy", even if it was used in an analogy, I explained that in my mind it doesn't exclusively mean prolonged antagonistic relationships and, if anything at all, it calls for more focus on diplomacy and negotiations to address the issues. Simply stated, I don't view sprinkler opponents as our mortal enemies in a classical term, but as adversaries that we must defeat with sound logic and science in the various code arenas.
In this article I want to propose that it might behoove us to diversify our tactical approaches in dealing with our well respected adversaries in the code development arenas. I would like to suggest that, as fire professionals, we could and should learn to apply some of the same basic principles that have well protected our national interests in the turbulent global affairs during the past half a century. No, I don't mean merely reliance on shear strength; but also, and even more importantly, on the diplomatic skills to resolve tensions with our adversaries without compromising our principles.
Not wanting to sound too pompous, I think that the age old saying "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar", best explains my intent in this article.
Our country's recent history shows that clearly there is no such thing as a permanent enemy. In the overall scope of world affairs and with the perspective of time, it is clear that we have had periods of strained relationships; and at times, even outright hostilities with our adversaries. But then at the end, we mended fences with them and they became our allies. And then comes yet another adversary, and this cycle goes on and on.
It started with our inception as a nation. We were not too happy with England back in 1776, and fought for our independence, but now they are our closest ally. We pounded our mortal enemies, Japan and Germany, in World War II. But then through our Marshall Plan, right after the war, we helped them rise from the ruins, and rebuilt them to the strong economic competitors and great allies that they are now.
During the Cold War era, the Soviet Union and China were considered our enemies. Yet, while fully involved in the Arms Race, we had the Grain Policy with the Soviets, giving them wheat in the early 70s, and at the very same time we were involved with them in the ICBM negotiations and the SALT treaties. And of course, President Nixon's famous Ping Pong diplomacy that improved our relationship with China, resulting in the great level of current economic interactions with them.
Negotiations and diplomacy are more effective when both sides recognize the strength of the other, they are aware of their own weaknesses, and mindful of the consequences and outcomes of their actions. Negotiation doesn't mean that we have abandoned our principles; but that we are pursuing our interests through diplomatic means. It doesn't mean that we have to discontinue all our other efforts, tactics, and strategies in dealing with our adversaries; it is in addition to those efforts.
No, I am not suggesting abandonment of our fire and life safety goals or even a strategic shift in our policies and approaches toward our well respected opponents in the code development arenas, but merely a tactical adjustment. We should continue, and even increase all our efforts, in enhancing life safety and fire protection requirements through the construction code development processes.