A SWAGgin We Will Go
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A SWAGgin We Will Go

J. D. Pendry

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "It means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
-Lewis Carroll

The intent of the regulation is a peculiar expression that implies regulations don't always say what they mean or vice versa. A frightening notion to say the least. For example, if a regulation says insert Tab A into Slot B it may not really mean that at all. Depending of course on whom you ask, chances are, "It means just what I choose it to mean...." Your concern is noted Alice.

I lay no claim to being a logical thinking, left-brained person, but it's pretty clear to me that when a regulation says insert Tab A into Slot B then that's the intent, "neither more nor less." "The question is," ... "whether you can make words mean so many different things." Well Alice, I think our naivete' is beginning to show through here.

Intent of the regulation discussions are the hallowed domain of professional SWAGgers, a.k.a., lawyers, Inspector Generals (I Geeze) and others. Regular and otherwise normal people (you, Alice, and me) also get caught up in these intent debates. Especially when they have an interest in ensuring that a regulation means "just what I choose it to mean...." When several parties weigh in on the intent debate, things often become so confused we forget what we wanted to do in the first place.

I try to steer clear of I Geeze, because too many of them hover just above the ground in a perfect world (it's Wonderland Alice) where every regulation (along with its intent) is committed to memory and every decision made is a perfect one.

I Geeze enter the intent debate post mortem. They are good at dissecting yesterday's decision with a SWAG at the intent of the regulation. (Oh sorry, we'll get to SWAGging in a minute.) They render perfect decisions, based on their understanding of the intent, made in the serenity of their stress free offices, after days, weeks, months and occasionally even years, evaluating a decision someone on the ground made in a moment. Then they state precisely how and under what conditions Tab A and Slot B should have joined together, or if they should have been joined at all. All based on their SWAG (in a minute) at the intent of the regulation. To quote one of the most influential philosophers of my time, Mud Puddle (not her real name) from The Vegas Club on the strip in Uijongbu, circa 1972, "I Geeze, Monday morning quarterback, sameo, sameo GI." It's not my intent here to beat up on I Geeze - much, because they are generally well-intentioned folks. But, using their vernacular, a preponderance of credible evidence exists to support my opinion - of their opinions - in my opinion (or SWAG) that is.

And lawyers? Whew! A friend of mine called me a lawyer once. Nope, wait. He inferred that I was lawyer. Once we sorted that out we engaged in an affair of pugilism (that's lawyer talk for I punched him in the kisser for calling me - nope - inferring that I was a lawyer).

How Tab A should be inserted into Slot B is not an easy question for lawyers to answer. Especially when they enter the twilight zone of intent. Lawyereze says: The question raised in the Tab A Slot B issue (heretoforeafterlunch known as the issue) is: Is it intended that we should move tab A in the direction of slot B until such time as A can be inserted into B; or is it intended that we move B in the direction of A until the two can be joined; or does it mean that both A and B should converge on a predetermined location and resolve the issue together at a mutually agreed upon time? We'll have to research the precedence supporting each of the aforementioned alternative actions (heretoandforeverafter referred to as aforementioned alternatives). We should be able to render a legally sufficient decision (read SWAG, OK, OK! - silly wild a***d guess, Got it?) in about eight months based on our understanding of the intent of the regulation. In the meantime A and B should hold their relative positions and not engage in any potentially unlawful couplings. Gag.

Did you ever have and intent of the regulation conversation? They sound like this:

"(Insert your name), I understand that the regulation appears clear when it says that you are supposed to (fill in the blank). However, in my conversation with the proponent of the regulation, (a LTC sitting in a windowless cubicle somewhere in the Pentagon breathing bad air and getting no breaks from intent of the regulation inquiries) I was told the intent (read SWAG) of the regulation is (fill in the blank)."

Then it gets more confusing:

"Tell me (lawyer, I Gee, whoever). Where in the regulation does it explain to me just what the intent is?"

"Well, (insert your name). The regulation doesn't tell you the intent, it's just understood that everyone knows the intent."

"So, (lawyer, I Gee, whoever). When the regulation clearly states in plain English that I am supposed to (fill in the blank), I'm the only person in the Army that doesn't understand that the intent was for me to (fill in the blank). Boy, I feel really stupid now."

Alice had her SWAGger just as the rest of us do. It's unfortunate but, like Alice many of us (me too) are also guilty of an occasional SWAG. When the urge hits, you may want to leave SWAGging to the professional SWAGgers. It's what we pay them to do. Or, the next time you get ready to make a little SWAG of your own about the intent of the regulation at least consider how Alice's SWAGger problem was resolved:

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall...." Ker-Splat!

Copyright© 1998, J.D. Pendry All Rights Reserved