The Good-Idea Fairy has Run Amok

Link and the Good Idea Fairy

Link and the Good Idea Fairy
(image from

Full disclosure: I am a retired CW-3 (Military Intelligence, USAR).  I spent most of my time post-9/11 providing intelligence support to warfighters in Afghanistan.  It was important work.  However, colleagues and friends would be quick to point out that I got hit pretty hard by the good idea fairy myself, most notably in being part of a cabal that developed and implemented mandatory standards and curriculum for intelligence analysts during a time of war.  While I could blame that on congress et al (it was their post 9/11, post WMD mandate)… I could have taken a pass and spent more time DOING intelligence and less time doing staff work and talking about doing intelligence.  Mea culpa.  


When I was in the military, one of the most subversive saboteurs was the good idea fairy.  She wasn’t an enemy like al Qaeda or the Taliban; instead she liked to work from within and she spent most of her time at HQ.  In fact, under some commands, she seemed to have her own position on the commander’s staff!  She was most effective when the army was in garrison, but seemed to thrive any time the ratio of chiefs to indians was high.  Her weapon was her wand.  Every time she waved that thing someone around her would get a “great idea.”  Sometimes she waved that thing harder and faster than a drum major at homecoming.  She worked against the mission but couched her ideas in terms that made them hard to deny.  Her agenda was the stuff of fobbit dreams and their implementation pulling our all-ready overstretched troops away from getting things done.  

Some examples are just silly (e.g. requiring reflective belts at all times on the FOB), but some were absolutely counter-productive (e.g. requiring special forces to maintain standard grooming standards).  

The point is that this was a real problem.  The staffers who came up with the ideas weren’t stupid, they were just distracted by lesser agendas.  The example of reflective belts – who can argue with safety?  The example of grooming standards – the regs are there for a reason and applicable to everyone, right?  The point is that the extra requirements either added unessential rules to already stressful deployments or, as with making special forces soldiers shave their beards, actually worked against the real mission.  The fact that this is a staff problem is important: it was their job to come use their brains (HQ is called the “head shed”), but in this case they were using them in pursuit of defensible but unnecessary and counterproductive ends.  Of course the buck stopped with the commander; lower officers and NCO’s in the chain of command could try to ameliorate the effects of good ideas gone wild, but it was the commander’s job to keep everyone focused and “good ideas” at bay.

The Good-Idea Fairy is running amok in America.  

The university seems to be where she finds her most-amendable disciples, prophets, and preachers.  Micro-aggression?  Safe-spaces?  Trigger warnings?  Imperial expropriation?   There’s no other explanation: the good idea fairy has been waving her wand toward people with more time and brains than common sense or greater purpose.  The irony of the good idea fairy is that most of the ideas she plants in people’s heads are defensible (all things being equal); the tragedy is that they end up working against the purpose of academia and liberal democracy (all things are never equal).  

To make matters worse, academia is the HQ staff (and fobbit central!) for our politicians, reporters, and activists; public servants who are being distracted from doing the kind of good work they were called to do and ruining our culture and dividing our nation.  

For soldiers who suffer from the good-idea fairy run amok, the only hope for change is that the leadership either 1) changes or 2) clues in to the damage they are allowing to occur on their watch and under their command.  Let’s hope that is happening now because there are real problems of evil in this world that need to be dealt with.  

To paraphrase Dennis Prager; “when men stop fighting great evil, they will fight lesser (and even imaginary) evils.”  The rhetorical and emotional knives of American academics, opinion leaders, and activists have been sharpened and they (we!) wield them to great and terrible effect – wouldn’t it be great if they also wielded them with wisdom and discernment?