By Robbin Laird
This summer I have spent much of my time in Europe, and notably in Paris.
In normal times, I would have spent time talking about the world and the way ahead for Western strategy with my good friend Alain Dupas.
But this year it has not been possible in light of Alain’s untimely death.
The silencing of his voice and his wisdom is not just a loss for his loving wife and son, but for all of us who have benefited from Alain’s insights and discussions.
Most of my friends are what are described as “outliers.” Besides meaning a bit outside of the mainstream, it also means as well folks who think what is called “outside of the box.”
This has always seemed a bit odd for thinking for me better be outside of the box.
Today there is a strong notion that consensus in thinking within organizations leads to wisdom; for me such a view leads to repeated Afghanistan’s.
That is why when we founded the Second Line of Defense website, we included at the outset the statement by General Patton: “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
With Alain, he always was probing the world in change. He was an unusual Frenchman in his understanding and affection for the United States. He travelled there frequently and had many friends.
And in his work on space, commercial, scientific, and military he pursued discussions with a wide-ranging U.S. space community.
He embraced what became known as “new space” long before that term was coined; he welcomed President Trump’s formation of a Space Command, and he wrote and thought about the future of space exploration.
His 2002 book on Destination Mars, suggests to me that Alain would have not minded being transported to Mars as his final destination.
But that was not to be.
At Alain’s funeral, his close friend, Charles Chatelin, delivered the éloge.
Chatelin spoke for all of us who had the privilege of knowing Alain when he stated: “He had an incredible gift for bringing together facts and drawing a brilliant synthesis from them, in his chosen field, the conquest of space, but not only.
“He was interested in medicine, biology, paleontology, history, geopolitics with, very often, a head start on current events. I remember a column on the exploitation of shale gas where he described the upheavals it was going to trigger on the energy market and on American growth, whereas nobody or almost, at the time, did not had heard of it.
“The strength of his analyses came in part from a complete freedom of judgment, which he fiercely defended: never easy, no complacency. In this, the status of independent adviser or consultant suited him very well.”
That is what I mean by being an outlier.
And to close on this point, I am going to go back to work we did together in 2006 for a major European space company which we entitled: “Space 2025: Forces Reshaping the Space Business.”
Here we focused on the transition from space companies simply building launchers and geo satellites for their own governments and moving into the information age and providing satellite constellations and being part of the dynamics of change which we referred as the information society.
Early on in the presentation we highlighted the following: “The world will change as much in 1Q of 21st century as in the whole 20th century. Better be prepared…”
The brief focused on and discussed in their interaction the following key dynamics:
When we were done, and we had a chance to sit down afterwards, Alain asked me how I think we did.
I said to him: “We were clear. And that was a problem.
“We were like two lepers on a nude beach. We told them that their launching and geo-satellite business was going to be overtaken by a new age, and frankly people don’t like that.”
But then again Alain was happy we were clear; it was up to others to understand and act accordingly.
You have to love a person like that!
Featured Photo: This photo is from a visit of the Dupas’s to Washington DC and attending a Halloween party during their visit.