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.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Syria’s 4th anniversary of horrors: Or, ‘How’s that International Law thing working out?’

Syria’s fourth consecutive year of horrors (An Anniversary of horrors, 3-17-15, Washington Post editorial) should convince anyone who still believes that international law can effectively stop or prevent mass murder (or prolonged wars) to wake up to reality.
Almost without exception, history and current events prove that the United Nations, even when working with the most powerful nation, cannot effectively address the growing threats humanity faces from WMD proliferation, climate change, war, terrorism, or pandemics.
It took the tyranny of King George to convince our nation’s original 13 ‘independent’ states to transform a weak confederation into a more capable federation.   The UN needs such a transformation today.   The grand flaw in the UN design mirrors that of our colonies before 1776.   State’s rights were superior to human rights.   It took a bloody civil war and civil rights movement to correct on important flaw in our nation’s application of this first principle, but it doesn’t have to be that way worldwide.
Us or our children will not see an end to war or any of these threats with a system of unenforceable laws that consistently fortify states’ rights over human rights.  
“We the people” referred to in the UN Charter deserve more than lip service.  Our freedoms and security should not be left to the whims of any government interest or global governance system that holds human rights as an afterthought.   I believe our nation’s Founding Fathers would agree.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nuclear disarmament: A cause for war and a waste of time.

The nuclear war that so many people feared during the Cold War (especially where I grew up*) never happened -- arguably because of the existence of nuclear weapons and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine, not the UN.
There were many efforts to control nuclear proliferation.  Some succeeded.  Others failed.
Fast forward to Sept. 11, 2001.  Nuclear fears had mostly subsided, but Presidential policy pre 9-11 still focused on early detection and missile defense against a nuclear attack.  Having nukes and missile defenses however didn’t protect us.  But using tactical nukes against a new enemy was still an option.   
Most troubling however was the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, which had no link to 9-11, but was conducted as the first preemptive war with the intention of disarming a suspected nuclear state.   Disarmament was clearly not a path to peace.
In early October 2002 Congress empowered President Bush to go to war against Iraq on his own authority whenever he deemed it appropriate, using whatever means including nuclear weapons if he felt it necessary.  Both Senator’s Kerry and Clinton supported it.   Colin Powel testified before the UN to make a case for going to war by saying “Saddam Husain is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb.”  Public opinion of Americans to go to war jumped from 50% to 63%.
In a recorded interview after the invasion of Iraq, Dick Cheney declared “if there’s a 1% chance of Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response”
Along the way the US threatened Libya to give up its nuclear ambitions.  That turned out to be a big mistake for Kaddafi and his regime.  Even the Ukrainian post-Cold War surrender of all its nuclear weapons might now be seen as a mistake.
Yet some Americans are still hopeful that nuclear weapons will be voluntarily eliminated from every corner of the world.   An increasingly unlikely scenario.
“For a nation to entirely forsake nuclear weapons is like taking part in a boxing match and promising not to throw hooks.”  Tadae Takubo, professor of policy at Japan’s Kyorin University, urging officials to reconsider Japan’s long-standing taboo against possessing nuclear weapons. August 11, 2003.

Even if they could be (and it is feasible) it might not be a good idea.  There is the possibility needing them in the future.    Defending against an asteroid, a hostile visit from another world or some other cosmic threat that might need instant incineration is a possibility.
Proliferation is a problem.   In early March 2015 Senator Lindsey Graham (a possible 2016 GOP Presidential candidate) asked a New Hampshire crowd if they though Al Qaeda would have killed far more than 3000 American’s on 9-11 if they had the capacity to kill a million or more?   He had a good point.  Does anyone doubt they might be seeking such destructive power?
And now, we, or the Israeli government, is very close to starting a second nuclear ‘disarmament’ war.  An action that could spark a far larger world war in hopes of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability.   Even if a preemptive strike stopped Iran’s quest for a bomb and there were no war like Iranian counter measures, many believe such an attack would only ensure Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon to defend it against future aggressions.   And now with growing hostility between Russia and the US over Ukraine there is growing collaboration between Russia and Iran.  It is not out of the question that Iran could buy or borrow such weapons from Mr. Putin if his ambitions for power are as insane as many think they are.   
3-17-15: Washington Times: “What’s the big idea?” by Kim Holmes, distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said “Moscow, not Washington, becomes the key decider of whether Iran does or does not acquire a nuclear weapon.  Russia [or China, or North Korea] may now prefer that Iran not get them, but in the future Moscow’s [or Beijing’s, or Pyongyang’s] interest in enhancing its strategic position in the Middle East may trump its current caution.”
March 15th headline:   Top of FormBottom of Form Putin Was 'Ready For Nuclear Alert’  Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in a prerecorded documentary about Russia's seizure of Crimea, said he was prepared to put Russia's nuclear weapons on alert during tensions over the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea. Putin said in the  documentary that he was 'ready to do this,' when asked if Russia's nuclear forces could be put on standby.  The nearly three-hour documentary, Crimea: Path To The Homeland, was aired on March 15.   Source: crimea-documentary/26901915.html
There should be no doubt that nuclear weapons remain a threat to individuals, nations and the world.  There should also be no doubt that.
1: Even without nuclear weapons, the capacity for mass murder on a scale comparable to nuclear weapons will persist in the form of easier to make, more affordable and harder to trace biological weapons.
2: The use of nuclear materials in energy production, medicine, space travel, and a multitude of other scientific research projects, means dirty bombs and smaller nuclear weapons will continue to be a threat to life, property and the environment as long as humans thrive.
3. Any attempt to ensure global compliance with any level of weapons prohibition on any technological developments (nuclear, cyber, bio, chem, nano…) will be monstrously expensive, prohibitively intrusive, and highly improbable of succeeding.
Our greatest error in thinking was exposed over 60 years ago in Emery Reves book, The Anatomy of Peace.  
Once the mechanics and the fundamental causes of wars – of all wars – are realized, the futility and childishness of the passionate debates about armament and disarmament must be apparent to all. If human society were organized so that relations between groups and units in contact were regulated by democratically controlled law and legal institutions, then modern science could go ahead, devise and produce the most devastating weapons, and there would be no war. But if we allow sovereign rights to reside in the separate units and groups without regulating their relations by law, then we can prohibit every weapon, even a penknife, and people will beat out each other’s brains with clubs.   Emory Reves, The Anatomy of Peace, 1945
In summary, security is not a function of armaments or disarmament.  It is a function of justice.
In that context, one more key point must be considered.  There are essentially 4 categories of treaties. Arms Control, Economic, Human Rights, and Environmental.   Advances in technology are making it easier and easier to detect violations of human rights and environmental standards.  Unfortunately, the same technological advances are making the detection of most weapons or money movements increasingly difficult.  I assert that investing limited resources in the protection of human rights and the environment will bring far greater security to humanity considering the range of other threats we face, than trying to control the spread of weapons or financial resources.   Human rights are profoundly tied to justice.  No justice, no peace, and far less prosperity.    
Time, money and energy expended going down the path of disarmament is not just wasteful at a unique moment in history when none should be squandered.  Recent history demonstrates such disarmament efforts are more likely to be counterproductive in keeping the peace.   The question is ‘Why continue down this path?’   Habit?  Professional investment?   Feelings of moral superiority?  Lack of critical thinking?
I assert that it is far more logical, rational and moral to work for a democratic world federation where the protection of human rights being paramount would create a global social environment where the possession of nuclear weapons will become increasingly irrelevant to security --  as well as a waste of money and manpower to make and maintain them.  
What is the logic in working to pass treaties that cannot be enforced and will most likely lead to unexpected and undesirable consequences if effectively pursued?
The main focus of international attention must move beyond the symptoms of weapons proliferation to its causes. It may seem easier to control supply, yet it is demand that raises the tide of proliferation. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for Jan-Feb 1999, p. 76, "Book Note" on Kosta Tsipis and Philip Morrison's book, "Reason Enough for Hope."

"We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women."  Thích Nhất Hạnh
"Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."  - George Bernard Shaw
*Disclosure:  If it had not been for the US effort to develop the first nuclear bomb toward the end of WWII, I would never have been born.  My parents met during the construction of the first weapon in Hanford, Washington and my father continued to work in the nuclear industry for 30 years.  After I graduated from Colorado State University with a Biology degree I returned to Washington to teach and worked summers at Hanford for Battelle NW Laboratories Environmental Evaluation section researching the extent of nuclear contamination in soil from the past waste storage facilities and the potential for agriculture losses in the event of a future nuclear accident.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Drones can fight terrorists by SAVING lives. The lives of Elephants.

Protecting elephants from poachers in Africa has national security benefits.  Drones armed only with cameras have proven effective at deterring poachers who are now killing nearly a hundred elephants a day.  
Profits from poaching aid terrorists and criminal activities that are directly related to corruption.  Corruption that undermines stable governments and efforts to reduce poverty which are both key to eliminating the breeding grounds of violent extremists. 
 Funding these 'angle drones' should not be left to well intended donors hoping to save Elephants from extinction.  These drones should be paid for by the US Department of Defense counter terrorism budget.

Friday, March 13, 2015

DARPA risk taking worthwhile.

DARPA’s risk taking does work (David Ignatius, “An agency willing to take risks” 3-11-15) but “the CIA and the State Department” are not “paid to think outside the box”.  Their paychecks will end if they suggest anything outside of the ‘international law’ box where their agency violations can’t be enforced.  It’s a nasty box where nation states’ rights still remain governing and secure over the protection of human rights.

DARPA’s search for “new technologies to detect and prevent ‘insider threats’ such as that posed by…Edward Snowden” is case in point.   Mr. Snowden exercising his first Amendment to inform ‘we the people’ of our government’s violation of our inalienable right to privacy.  A clear violation of our own Constitution and our 'inalienable rights' that it is supposed to protect.  And, our government does far worse on the international level where there is virtually no protection of human rights...just the rights of governments, a context enshrined in the UN Charter.  DARPA's "new technologies" will mostly ensure that human rights violations will get worse on all levels as more lone wolf terrorists murder innocent people and governments retain the right to do what they please.

This is the “patch and pray’ nature of the UN international law system that cannot provide a 'simple solution'. A democratic world federation with enforceable laws could.  Our UN confederated system that sanctions unenforceable international laws simply can’t.

In this context it is our “addiction to” national sovereignty that creates our government’s “risk-averse culture” that keeps the system broken.   It is this culture that most “limits” our “government’s ability to respond” effectively “to challenges’.   New technology isn’t needed.  But, “we could use more…brainpower” like that wielded by our nation’s Founding Fathers centuries ago.  Was that brain power or wisdom that moved them federate the thirteen states back then?  That is ‘outside-the-box’ thinking and action we now need today if we want to preserve both our freedoms and our security. 

The idolization of national sovereignty and it's military power can no longer keep us safe or free. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

PTS? Where’s the “D”?

U.S. Army retired General Peter Chiarelli (A Bad gap in vet’s care” WPost 3-6-15) correctly highlights that “post-traumatic stress (PTS) is “one of the greatest causes of casualties in our recent wars.”  He doesn’t state, but I’m guessing he would agree, that the source and the harmful consequences of recent wars is not going to change anytime soon.
General Chairelli also correctly identified the weak or imaginary link between Congress, DOD and the VA that causes this damaging and too often lethal failure to “harmonize their drug formularies”. 
I believe the greater blame for this unacceptable loss of American service member’s lives and competent medical attention should actually go to a mental flaw in our basic government structure.  Our Constitution is based on a mythical ideal of ‘independence’.  A myth that is fostered by our human perception that we are separate from one another…when in reality we are all interdependent on each other, our government, it’s agencies, and the natural, economic and social environment  around us all (the earth we call home).
After 9-11 our nation combined 22 independent federal agencies to form the Department of Homeland Security essentially acknowledging this failure of independent agencies to address the terrorist threat then.  Unfortunately, it was identified as a clear threat six months earlier by a bi-partisan Presidential Commission on National Security in the 21st Century that unanimously warned US policy makers that terrorism was our nation’s number one threat.  One of the Commissions key recommendations was creating such a sweeping department by consolidating a number of federal agencies in hopes of eliminating the restrictive procedural wall between vital agencies that could prove fatal. 
After the first Gulf War in the 1990s General Anthony Zinni, former Marine Corp Commander said the US military learned it needed to “federate” its air, land, sea, space and intelligence forces to more effectively operate in that theater.   A stunning win there however unfortunately didn’t end our Iraqi problem which eventually led to other far greater problems.
The common theme here is the value of properly understanding the links between things we formally believed were ‘independent’ in both our local and global theaters.
The post 9-11 the Global War Against Terrorism thrust into our faces the inevitable trade off we are forced to make in confronting nearly every threat  we face today… Do we trade our freedoms for security?  Or, security for our freedoms?  
I assert this is a false choice.  But, unfortunately a realistic choice, given that we have forced ourselves to believe in an illusion of ‘independence’ and maintain government structures based on this flawed mental construct.   And, most dangerously, we cling to this political system that refuses to accept the interconnectedness of our real world – a global interconnectedness that is accelerating with each breakthrough in bio, cyber, nano and even conventional technology.     
IED’s and suicide bombers, our enemies weapons of choice that are responsible for most of our soldiers deaths, physical injuries and PTS.  These are powerful examples of what just conventional technologies bring in destructive power.  Imagine how our world will change in lost freedoms and security when our adversaries turn to biological or cyber weapons of mass death and disruption.  A nuclear threat is the least of our worries.  It would most likely carry a return address.  Bio and cyber WMD are far less likely to make deterrence a effective policy.  
The wisest choice we could make, and we need to make it soon given the unimaginable killing capacity now saturating the world in the form of dual-use technologies, is a federation of nations.
We now have a confederation of nations we call the UN.   It is powerless and resource poor to prevent or effectively address the array of threats we now read about every day.   Our interconnected and interdependent world needs a form of government that puts the protection of human rights and the sustainability of our essential life support system above the rights of independent nations to do as they please.
Such an institution would take into account the interdependence of all humanity and reverse our national leader’s inability to stop terrorism, the risks of climate change, WMD proliferation, pandemics or global economic instability…just to name the more obvious threats we face to our freedoms, security and prosperity.    
What is missing in the world is the “D”.   The General’s missing D was “disorder”.  The D that would bring more order is Democracy.   “We the people’ of the world need to be represented on the global level to deal with the global issues that now threaten our freedoms and our security.   
A Democratic World Federation, where the will of “we the people” is put above the will of individual leaders of democratic or undemocratic nation states, corporate entities, or violent religious cults won’t be easy.  But, until we get this inherent flaw in our mind and political system fixed far more US soldiers and innocent Americans will die or be disabled as a result of PTS, IEDS, and the actions of independent agencies and nations.   Our collective incapacity to accept our interdependence and outlaw war and the human injustices that most often spark it need to be addressed quickly.   Time is not on our side.
Chuck Woolery
Fellow, World Federalist Institute
(the views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author and not necessarily the views of WFI)
Blog: Dothefreakinmath
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“Science is my passion, politics my duty.”  Thomas Jefferson

"It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn."    -- George Washington   (1732-1799) Founding Father, 1st US President, 'Father of the Country'

"A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular,
and what no just government should to rest on inference." -- Thomas Jefferson 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Iran's threat to Israel. There is a solution.

As Congress, President Obama, and Israel considers finding a resolution to Iran’s genocidal ambitions, ISIS, Russia’s violent expansion effort, or more nation state failures as a result of US interventions or endorsement of repressive regimes requires, perhaps they should look outside the current foreign policy tool box.  Who can doubt that a new approach is needed in the name of national security and the protection of innocent lives?   A proven workable solution actually exists.  It’s called ‘the rule of law’ instead of the law of force.   Or, more well defined, a world federation.   
Religious extremism or fear of violent extremists appears to play a primary role in each of the threat dilemma’s mentioned above.   From this perspective, establishing a world federation could do most to greatly diminish the misuse of any religion or nationalism to promote violent extremism (or terrorism -- more accurately labeled 'crime against humanity').  By wise definition, a world federation would be fundamentally secularist by:
1.            Maintaining separation of church and state.
2.            Protecting the religious rights of all religious believers, faith converters, AND non believers (Irreligiosity).
3.            Protecting the human rights (including access to primary and secondary education, adequate nutrition, basic health services, economic opportunity and political representation)
Empowering ‘we the people’ with human rights would do most to reduce the number of individuals turning to violent extremism/mass murder.   And it is only the powerful in nation states that stand in the way of this rational solution.
In fact, the primary cause of global violence and abuse of human rights on almost any level is the nation state. The current UN confederation of states essentially cements this abusive dominance of states’ rights over human rights into place.  And it has since the Westphalia treaty over 500 years ago.
The world has changed.  And it’s changing faster.  The power, affordability and global reach of technology has greatly accelerated such change in the last two decades.  Today, more people and nations have access to WMD via an array of dual-use technologies making them capable of unprecedented mass murder (or mass disruption) than at any time in human history.   That access, affordability and empowerment curve will continue to accelerate while our system of global governance remains the same.  And worse yet, our national governments remain focused on national interests instead of maintaining the freedoms and security for all their citizens.   Independent nations and agencies are by definition incapable of dealing with interdependent sources of risk.
In a move to federate the world's nations it’s possible that the only clutches of people drawn to violent extremism would be those individuals and governments that stand firm believing national or religious sovereignty should remain dominant over the protection of all inalienable human rights.
In that context it would be extremely wise to redefine terrorism, as a crime against humanity.  The threatening of ‘we the people’s’ fundamental rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, is a form of extremism that should be outlawed globally.   Those individuals, governments, or religions that insist on the status quo essentially endorse mass murderers.   Many have already committed such crimes against humanity in efforts to maintain their nationalist/religious right.  It’s called war.
As long as the UN confederation continues to guarantee national sovereignty (the rights of nation states to do as they please) over the rights of “we the people”  (our inalienable rights to speak and assemble freely, and be free from want and fear)  nation states will persist in imprisoning and torturing the innocent, starting wars, ignoring treaties, committing genocide, enforcing lethal sanctions, polluting our environment and fueling violent extremists with such blatant injustices.   Only a world federation that puts human rights above states’ rights can ensure both freedom and security for all.