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.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bloody Friday: Transforming the UN to defeat terrorism.

On Friday (June 26, 2015) the day of celebrating the 70th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations, multiple mass killings occurred in various UN member nations around the world.  Most were carried out by religious extremists.  Day’s earlier respectable reports documented the annual acceleration of terrorist acts in both their quantity and lethality.  News stories this same week report the direct connection between this expansion of violence and an increase in refugees flows not seen since World War II.  It is inevitable that this increasing stream of refugees will carry with them an even greater destabilizing effect on health, economic and political factors that no one in the world will be immune to.
So why are these murderous acts of extreme violence accelerating?  A strong case can be made that they are largely fueled by several factors that individual nations have unintentionally caused or been unable or unwilling to intentionally stop.  The alarming fact is that this horrendous trend in mass murders will only accelerate until the real causes are clearly identified and structures for prevention and effective responses are institutionalized, financed and comprehensively and universally supported.
The number one rule in Sun Tzu’s ancient book “The Art of War” is to ‘know your enemy’.  This profound rule was missed from the start after the World Trade Towers fell on 9-11.  “They hate us because of our freedoms” was the rallying call then.   And a global war against an unbeatable tactic was the chosen strategy.  We fundamentally failed to understand what precisely motivated the mass murder of Americans, not Swedes or South Americans, and gifted Al Qaeda with the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 which only boosted the credibility of their narrative.  Then even after routing them from Iraq we only set the stage for the emergence and evolution of ISIS, a far more murderous group and organized threat to Middle East regional stability, US interests in the region (oil and Israel), and our own homeland security.   Some still believe war is the answer.
US policy makers committed to effectively destroying the roots of ‘terrorism’ must first understand what nourishes the roots to destroy them.  Even the most efficient killing of the branches and leaves of this religiously framed invasive crop only nourishes it roots.  
So what are the roots?  First, would be the obvious injustices that the current global system of international law has inadvertently allowed to persist.  Collateral damage, torture, genocide, war crimes, repression, hunger, illiteracy, lack of access to health care, clean water, sanitation...  These persist primarily as a result maintaining the United Nation’s designed incapacity to effectively outlaw them.
Another is the selfishness innate in most people.  Right wing Americans want security at any cost.  Lefties want peace at any cost.  Neither population has accepted the profound truth offered seventy years ago by Emery Reves in his then acclaimed book “The Anatomy of Peace”.  He alleged ‘security is not a function of armaments or disarmament. It is a function of justice.  And justice is a function of law.  And only world law can bring lasting peace.  Mr. Reves was not referring to holy law, or the law of dictators, kings or Ayatollahs.  He was referring the ‘rule of law’ where laws are created and enforced by a democratic process, applied equally to all, and (most importantly) ‘protective of a certain set of rights that all people have because they are born’.  Not because they are American.  Not because they are Christian, Jew or Muslim.  Not because they are male or wealthy.  But because they are human.  These three fundamental factors were offered by Supreme Court Justice Antony Kennedy in the late 1990s when asked, ‘what makes the rule of law effective?’. 
The most comprehensive and useful list of human rights were derived after the horrors of World War II.  In this context the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may now be the most profound document in human history.  It was drafted and unanimously passed after the triple horrors of a world war, a planned genocide and the first use of an atomic bomb. It was painfully clear to all then that future generations must be spared these threats and that the best hope was in ensuring the most fundamental human rights for all.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered similar wisdom in shorthand at the beginning of World War II with his ‘four basic freedoms’ speech in his State of the Union address.  He insisted all humanity deserves the freedom of expression and religion, and freedom from want and fear.  These must be enforced today if we are to ever ensure maximum freedom, security, peace and sustainable prosperity for all.
Within this enlightened view of human desire it’s easier to understand some of the most powerful motivations for human attraction to ISIS aside from the ‘jihad cool’ factor (ISIS’s skilled social media soldiers offering privileged but disenfranchised youth a global purpose).  ISIS web narratives and videos vividly display real and perceived injustices done to their Muslim brothers and sisters across the Middle East and other less developed, corruptly governed or ungoverned nations.  This narrative has power.  Privileged and disenfranchised youth anywhere gravitate to the freedom to brutally kill those who have caused or supported such repression or insecurity for those they identify with. Once new recruits arrive and witness the repressive rules and barbarity of ISIS itself however, some defect and regret their ‘jihad cool’ seizure.  The more gullible or delusional become the cannon fodder for expanding ISIS territory or suicide bombers for spreading the chaos required for further ISIS expansion elsewhere beyond Iraq and Syria.
Conventional military and counter-terrorism efforts that use war (the law of force) to defeat ISIS only fuel this narrative given war’s inherent collateral damage and inevitable alliance with unsavory forces.  Any unmerited deaths only feed both the Al Qaeda and ISIS narratives.  And, while a heavy US ‘boots on the ground’ offensive could shrink or eventually eliminate the ISIS control of territory, such ‘progress’ would only fuel and mutate their murderous ways. 
War is the path of their advantage given the next critical factor.  A key factor often ignored by old-school warriors and drum circle peace nicks. It is the exponential growth and increasing affordability of dual use technologies. 
Nearly all ubiquitous everyday technologies can be combined into unprecedented WMD killing capacity. A power formerly restricted to nation states.  Any serious effort to try and stop any individual’s abuse of these technologies will now require a ‘Nazi-like’ intrusive police state.  And even it would have great difficulty in pre-empting every mass murder before it happens.  This intrusive attempt to preempt mass murder will most likely incentivize more mass murderers.  Preventing the inspiration of more mass murderers will require a far different approach.  Winning hearts and minds.  This will require establishing a global social, economic and political environment that cripples the motivation for mass murder. While this path may seem impossible, it will be far more effective, affordable and acceptable than trying to eliminate the ubiquitous means of mass murder.  A reliance on the education of progressive ideas such as democratic governance, transparency, justice, and freedom from want; fear, repression and indoctrination for all is a narrative that will generate far more allegiance to a promising global future.  It won’t create heaven on earth but it could save us from a living hell.
If one doubts this hypothesis, consider the evolution of weaponry now before us.  With all the attention on Iran’s possible nuclear threat, far too many national security experts are ignoring the evolution of biological, chemical, cyber, energy, conventional, robotic and even consumer devices that can easily be converted to WMD. 
Examining just one category (drones) should be transformative.  Drones can be combined with almost any other destructive technology (explosives, chemical, bio…).  According to a recently published report by the Center for a New American Security titled “A World of Proliferated Drones: A technology Primer”, “over 90 countries and non-state actors operate drones today, including at least 30 that operate or are developing armed drones.” While most people are concerned about “the proliferation of high-end military-grade systems, in reality, a far wider range of drones is already being used for disruptive purposes.”  The White House, conceivably the most secure building in the world, has already been breached by hobbyist drones.  Alarmingly, it’s best air defenses were unable to detect or stop a manned gyro-copter capable of carrying a 50 lb payload (that could have been a missile instead of letters).  The CNAS report’s final chapter states “hobbyist drones are often less discussed within a security context, though they perhaps hold the greatest potential for achieving overmatch against the United States in the near term.”  ‘Over match’ being the catch phrase for defeating our nation’s best defenses. Cyber and biological threat experts believe the same is true about their technology concerns even without drone involvement.  It should now be clear that security is largely an illusion.  If someone is highly committed and half way cleaver, stopping a mass murder or major disruption is virtually impossible. And our freedom loving, complex and interconnected society only exacerbates our vulnerability.
The key point is that no nation alone can govern the use or abuse of any of these rapidly evolving and increasingly dynamic, ubiquitous and affordable technologies.  We must top making enemies, and work far more diligently at making more friends.  Even good government can’t make all people good friends. But it can provide means of making far less internal enemies.  And, there is one form of government that does this better than most others. It’s called a federal system.  A relatively good case can be made that the United States’ 260 year experiment with it may offer humanity with our best chance of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all’.  Our federal system works to the degree it puts human rights above states’ rights. That’s what the UN design has backwards.
A world federation with human rights superior to the rights of nation states is almost unimaginable today.  But, primarily because of its unexamined potential.  Americans fear world government more than the continuing world chaos that is insured by the current UN system.  But, with dual-use technologies putting more and more power into the hands of ‘we the people’ – it is they who will decide if their new found powers will be used to democratize global freedom and security policies or to destroy or disrupt any or every level of civilization that stands in the way of their freedom and security.
This profound value of inalienable human rights is not new.  It was officially recognized over 800 years ago by the Magna Carta. Some historians believe it was documented elsewhere centuries before ‘western civilization’ existed.  Maintaining abusive national, religious or corporate powers to do as they please will never yield a freer, more secure, prosperous and sustainable future for humanity.   The current UN system maintains this status quo.  “We the people” are only represented in words in the UN preamble.  Nowhere within the UN charter are people outside of governments given any real power.  A strong case can be made that a transformation of the UN system is essential for it to fulfill on its original mission and ensure our species survival on this increasingly troubled planet where intentional mass murder is not the only threat we all face.
Logical steps toward, and structures for, such a more workable world are painstakingly detailed in a new book “Transforming the United Nations System”.  Joseph E. Schwartzberg has dedicated most of his life to studying this noble global agency, its inherent structural flaws and the changes needed to transform it into a manageable, transparent and effective global body.   A body capable of maximizing freedom, security and sustainability for all human kind.
Woody Allen once said “Humanity stands at a crossroad. One road leads to utter hopelessness and despair. The other, to complete annihilation.”  He hoped we had “the wisdom to choose the right path.”
Many Americans believe working toward a democratic world federation is hopeless yet they remain in deep despair about the deterioration of world events they see, read, hear about, or experience each day.   A grand majority remains unable to see that it is our collective unquestioned faith and reliance on unenforceable international law that is the surest path toward annihilation.  But certainly, more people each day, are moved by the growing hopelessness of continuing down the same lawless path, and are seeking new pathways.   Some find the path of mass murder under global Sharia law.  Others see a more promising path of mass human rights, under a democratic world federation.


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