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.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Chemical weapons mass murder in Syria. Who did it? What can we learn?

Chemical weapon mass murder in Syria.  What’s next?  What we must learn.
The killer question is ‘Who did it?’  Most reports suggest it was the Assad regime.  Conspiracy buffs think anti Assad forces could have orchestrated the attack hoping to benefit by blaming Assad.  One friend in Europe believes it was Al Qaeda hoping to draw the US into yet another war to cost us treasure and lives.
Hopefully we will learn at least four valuable lessons from this latest mass murder.  Vital lessons that Americans and the world failed to learn after the two most recent chemical mass killings; the Kurds and Iranians in 1980s by Saddam Hussein and the 1995 attack on the Japanese subway orchestrated by an extremist religious cult.
Learning these lessons is essential because they will happen again.  And eventually the attacks will be biological in nature with most biologicals representing an entirely new classification of weapons - cheaper, more deadly, easier to deliver, and harder to control.  Chemical weapons like most weapons are used up when delivered.  Some biological agents like Anthrax are in this traditional class but infectious agents like smallpox (and dozens of others) are replicable weapons.  When used they reproduce themselves for free and in silence.  And with advances in biotechnology their potential for extraordinary effectiveness is growing.  The first lesson we may now learn is that these weapons (chemical, biological and cyber) will be increasingly used by governments, extremists and crazies because of their lethality, affordability, concealability and deniability.  
Thus the second lesson.  Without someone claiming credit identifying the source of these weapons will require an extensive, intensive and expensive scientific forensic investigation.  Any chance of success will require considerable access to the crime scene and an intrusive investigation by a neutral and credible entity.  Three things most nations are unlikely to agree to.  And, even if they do, finding the guilty party could be extremely difficult as with the US Governments most intensive manhunt in history trying to determine the individual responsible for the Anthrax attacks on our own soil a few weeks after 9-11.  It took nearly a decade to determine who the most likely culprit was.   Doubts persist.
Third lesson:  Even the most intrusive collection of information won’t be sufficient to identify all attackers in advance.  Preemption is possible…but increasingly unlikely as individuals learn of government surveillance techniques and publically available technologies advance giving more power to the murderers than the investigators.
Last lesson:  Unless we change our societal/cultural trajectory that accepts war, national sovereignty, lethal but ineffective sanctions, anemic diplomacy and a weak United Nations as our primary means of protecting human lives -- we will continue to be forced to trade freedom for security or security for freedom.   Ultimately we will get neither.   Only by accepting our global interdependence and creating a global system where the protection of human rights is given supremacy over the rights of nations to do whatever they like, will we know real freedom and maximum security.   All else is folly.


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