Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The need for effective world government?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Blackwater remains a national security threat

Dear Editor,
Dismissal of the Blackwater guards lethal actions in Nisour square on legal technicalities may be warranted. But their actions that day are still disgraceful, cowardly and infinitely consequential to our national security. It looks like no individual will be held accountable for the killing of 17 innocent Iraqis. I’m guessing that to many Iraqis and other Muslims around the world that is totally unacceptable. It’s unacceptable to me.
Jim Hanson “The end of a warrior witch hunt” and the Washington Times editorial (The Blackwater lynching 1-7-09) believe the guards should “be cleared of the impression that they purposefully slaughtered innocents”. Unfortunately there was a purpose to their slaughtering of innocent Iraqi’s that day. They did it to save themselves regardless of the local or global consequences. Their “dismissal” on technical grounds may be legal and but they are not innocent.
Mr. Hanson claims that what they did “was not a crime”. So it’s legal to intentionally kill innocent people as long as there is a “perception of a threat.” Mr. Hanson says that’s “what matters, not whether it actually was” a real threat. There is one monstrous problem in this perception. If 17 Americans were killed under similar circumstances here in the US somebody would be held accountable. And, when we chose to have one justice standard for Americans and another for foreign Muslims that’s goes directly on Osama bin Ladin’s recruiting posters. It’s also the same logic al Qaeda uses for killing innocent Americans.
Most U.S. military and counterterrorism professionals know the collateral damage caused by Coalition forces greatly assists Al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts. So each new al Qaeda (or Iraqi insurgent) recruit increases the risk to both US citizens and our brave soldiers.
Blackwater guards volunteered for those jobs with a clear understanding of the risks. They are well compensated for those risks. That day, they were clearly more interested in protecting their own lives than the lives of innocent Iraqi men, women and children who didn’t volunteer. The guards literally had no laws to obey that day. For them it was OK to slaughter innocent people if they perceived any threat. That operating procedure shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone on this planet, let alone legal.
We will never know exactly what happened that day but I’m relatively confident of two outcomes. First, those who pulled triggers that day will have to live with their actions until their judgement day. Second, all of us, even those who opposed the idea of invading Iraq will continue to suffer the consequences of future terrorist attacks inspired by the real or perceived Nisour Square incident.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

StratCom - WTF?!!!

I just discovered this profoundly important topic. Below is the briefing paper that outlines this transformation in war fighting. My questions:
1. Does StratCom make our U.S. Constitution obsolete in terms of the war making powers of Congress?
2. Will StratCom force our enemies to resort even more to IEDs, Suicide Vests, WMD underwear, and biological weapons that cannot (yet) be stopped.
3. Does StratCom give us the illusion that we can win a war...and thus more likely to wage it?
4. Is StratCom the precursor to SkyNet? (Unfortunately I'm not joking)
5. Will your reading this put you on a government watch list?
6. Is Stratcom be the beginning of the end of all human privacy and freedom? Then how else can we stop WMD underwear, biological weapons and Armageddon?

I thank Tim Rinne ( for bringing this to my attention.

StratCom: The Next Generation in War-fighting

The consolidation of eight military missions in U.S. Strategic Command (nuclear deterrence; space; cyberspace; full-spectrum global strike; missile defense; intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance; information operations; and combating weapons of mass destruction) constitutes more than a simple expansion of StratCom’s power and reach.

It represents an evolutionary leap—a paradigm shift—in the way war is made.

Just as the invention of gunpowder and the splitting of the atom ushered in a new age of war-fighting, the creation of this global, integrated, space-reliant command has transformed the face of warfare.

Under “CONPLAN 8022” (the Pentagon contingency plan developed in the aftermath of 9/11), U.S. Strategic Command outside Omaha experienced what StratCom Commander former astronaut General Kevin Chilton described as not simply “a sea-state change, but a tsunami of change” in its mission and organization. In the space of five years, this Cold War icon shed its ‘defensive’ role as the headquarters of the U.S.’s nuclear deterrent to become the command center for offensively waging the Bush/Cheney Administration’s international “War on Terror.” StratCom went from being the ‘unthinkable’ weapon that, it was hoped, would ‘never be used’ to ‘being used for everything.’

On the mere perception of a threat to America’s national security, StratCom (on word from the president) is now authorized to preemptively attack any place on the face of the earth within one hour—using either conventional or nuclear weapons. It’s not for nothing that Commander Chilton testified to Congress that he thought Strategic Command should be re-named “Global Command” to better reflect its new role and mission.

The agility and speed with which the command now operates effectively bypass any constitutional checks by the U.S. government’s legislative or judicial branches (not to mention international bodies like the UN Security Council). As the personal preserve of the executive branch, 60 minutes from now, StratCom could have started the next war and Congress and the Courts wouldn’t even know till they heard about it on CNN.

At a “National Defense Industrial Association” conference in March 2007, former StratCom Commander (and current Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Marine General James Cartwright described the changed face of warfare that StratCom now sees itself confronting in the 21st century:

“Anything that comes off the face of the earth” [be it an explosive detonation, a rocket launch or a missile armed with either a conventional or nuclear warhead]…

…you have about 100 seconds to type it, figure out what it is, and act. I can’t even get a phone call through that fast.
But the national system is set up to have a phone conference about that.
You try to do that in the middle of the night. You try to do that in the middle of the day—get people out of meetings. It’s not possible.
In that 100 seconds, what do we do when we get people on the phone? We describe what’s going on so we spend most of the time in discovery rather than in options and activity and execution. We can’t do business that way.
And that, he said, was “the simple one” compared to the potential threat of a cyber attack:
…Virus launched out of Baghdad towards the United States, out to geosynchronous orbit, 23,000 miles out, and back down to Seattle for the attack—300 milliseconds…
I can’t afford to do business the way we’re doing business, so we have to build the organizational construct to work in these timelines. We have to change the cultural approach to doing business, [from] having people get involved and discuss and review and then decide and then execute… to ‘intervention by exception’—machine to machine, intervention by exception. Build the business rules. Missile defense won’t work without it. Space does not work without that. We’re at a huge disadvantage if we think of it otherwise.
But what happens to all the people who think they have a vote?
They’re disenfranchised. Business has discovered this. What do you do with middle management in those kind of timelines? It’s a huge problem.
Count Congress, the courts, the United Nations Security Council among the “middle management” that’s being “disenfranchised” under StratCom’s new operating format. The compressed time-frame—of necessity, StratCom would argue—limits democratic input. Decisions have to be made—“machine to machine.” The ‘checks and balances’ provided for under the Constitution to prevent the executive branch from overreaching have been eclipsed by technology. Under these conditions, the safeguard of ‘separation of powers’ has become a rickety thing of the past, unsuited to the threats of the 21st century.

This fixation on speed, however, comes dangerously close to a policy of ‘shoot first, ask questions later.’

What about computer error or ‘flawed intelligence’? What if StratCom launches and coordinates an attack (as it did with the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign in Iraq) but there are no Weapons of Mass Destruction? What if, as was the case with Iraq, the information was wrong?

Even if it acts in good faith, with the best of intentions, StratCom—by its very mode of operation—runs the risk of flouting international rule of law. It risks a repetition of the same “illegal” act under the UN Charter that Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke of when rendering judgment on that preemptive attack against Iraq.
This ‘New StratCom’ however, is not just a ‘good soldier’ dutifully and obediently following orders it’s handed.

It proposes. It promotes.

It’s walking the halls of Congress, lobbying elected officials, hobnobbing with military contractors and the scientific community, and spinning its public relations message as it makes its views and wants known—on everything from why we need to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons to having direct control over the newly commissioned “Cyber Command.”

With its comprehensive mission array, centralized authority and emphasis on speed and agility, StratCom will not only plan, direct and execute the next military conflict the White House gets the U.S. into—it will collect and interpret the intelligence upon which the decision to attack will be made. The same entity that (under its “Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance” mission) is framing the alleged threat is also the entity that (under its “Global Strike” and “Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction” missions) will execute the strike. A ‘firewall’ no longer separates the ‘accuser’ from the ‘executor.’ It’s a ‘closed loop’ with lots of room for human error—if not outright mischief.

Ten years ago, with the Pentagon’s more decentralized command and control structure—and without the advantages of space technology—it would have been organizationally and technologically impossible to create a weapon with StratCom’s prowess. In the whole of recorded history, there’s never been a weapon that could offensively attack any place on the face of the earth (with nuclear weapons, no less) in such a compressed time frame.

It constitutes nothing less than an evolution in war-making—one that hourly places the security of the entire world at risk.

Operating as it does with such freedom of action and so little oversight, StratCom is on the verge of becoming a law unto itself: a kind of 21st century presidential “Praetorian Guard,” exercising vigilante justice.

And before things get any further out of control, the Congress and the courts of the U.S.—and the General Assembly of the UN—need to start talking about how best to rein in this new war-making menace with a system of international protocols.

Because (a less belligerent Obama Administration notwithstanding), there’s no putting this genie of StratCom back in the bottle any more than in 1945 we could undo the new danger that was unleashed by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Back then, the world had to learn how to live with ‘The Bomb.’

Now, we must learn how to live with StratCom.

Tim Rinne, UNA-USA Nebraska Division,