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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trump and Kaplan's unrealistic foreign policy.



Robert Kaplan’s depiction of President Elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy (“An unrealistic foreign policy” 11-13-16 Washington Post) is a perfect example of how today’s experts get things wrong.  Kaplan’s deep emersion in national security issues inside the beltway has blinded him to the real world where fundamental principles underlie everything in the universe.  In Kaplan’s little world and Trump’s imaginary world, ideals continue to be ignored or are viewed as irrelevant to their priorities.
Things that work are systems and structures  based on fundamental principles.   These three elements (like Trump and Atoms) make up everything in the known Universe.  
Take for example a nuclear power plant.   The ideal nuclear reactor is one that doesn’t leak, doesn’t meltdown after an accident, attack or earthquake, and cannot be pilfered for dirty bomb ingredients.   In other words, its ‘systems and structures must be constructed on sound principles’.  This is realism.  Realism based on sound principles not the national “interests” that Kaplan asserts comes “before ‘values” .
Preventing  a breech or meltdown of a nuclear reactor (a large structure composed of thousands of structures and critical systems specifically designed to work effectively relies on the proper application of fundamental principles of physics, chemistry, biology, construction codes, site and offsite security measures, as well as human psychology.   Failure in any one of these factors and catastrophic failure with systemic and structural consequences locally, national, and globally can be expected.
Ignoring even an obvious principle, like using re-bar to strengthen concrete structures were no nuclear operations exist can be catastrophically lethal.   Haitians (those who survived) discovered this in 2010 when an earthquake (anticipated by geologists who had surveyed the region) killed more people in 15 minutes than the two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.   The Haitian government’s failure to enforce this simplest building code has since been corrected.   Such costly reactive measures are not limited to poor and poorly educated nations. 
When the levies failed in New Orleans in 2005 from Katrina’s level 3 hurricane it cost over 1200 lives and over $100 billion in structural damages.    Approximately a year earlier weather scientists cautioned of such an inevitable weather event on the city.  Unfortunately their forecasts were ignored by government experts. Experts who also failed to make adequate preparation for the inevitable catastrophe.  Japan’s Fukashima reactor catastrophe is another example.  This is not an isolated phenomena.
In 1776 our best government experts at the time failed to incorporate a fundamental human principle in the building of our nation.  That error led to more US deaths than both modern World Wars combined.   How could our nation’s profoundly wise founding fathers have failed to incorporate their own ‘self-evident’ principle when drafting our Constitution?   What part about “all men are created equal” did they under value for their immediate interests.
Mr. Kaplan’s limited perspective on traditional national security threats makes the same mistake.   Applying existing dysfunctional human principles to the real world is failing humanity daily. Any clear understanding of world history, human psychology and modern exponential advances in powerful technologies should shred any preconceived notions about preserving our nation’s two most cherished ideals; freedom and security.  Our Pleistocene brains have difficulty in grasping exponential change.   And Mr. Kaplan’s linear thinking has yet to grasp the catastrophic consequences of our government’s affinity for ‘status quo’ and/or “moderation” in the face of current threats.   Nearly every dual-use technology is irreversibly and exponentially yielding more and more destructive superpower capacity.  A WMD capacity formerly confined to nation states is now available to any individual with access to a computer or a bio lab.  The realistic threat of cyber and biological WMD should change everything.  Especially, unprincipled linear thinking.
Kaplan is correct in asserting that Trump’s approach to foreign policy is “unrealistic”.   Trump’s lack of worldly knowledge and grasp of fundamental principles could be compensated for by those now being chosen for his Administration.  But don’t count on it.  Even if they see the world as Kaplan does, both our freedoms and our security will still be compromised….just not as quickly.
This destructive claim is predictable for one reason.  Our founding fathers incorporated another profoundly flawed principle into the construction of our nation’s systems and structures.  The concept of ‘independence’.   Nowhere in the physical universe is anything independent from anything else.   This concept is nothing more than an imaginary mental construct that forces us to risk both our freedom and our security by failing to see the links between our use of military power to protect interests above valuing innocent life.   
Current US military and foreign policy assume that these independent agencies  will not bring lethal consequences back home.   Our government is currently bombing at least 7 ‘independent’ nations that ‘we the people’ have not yet declared war against.   Increasingly we are starting to grasp the reality that the deaths caused abroad by our bombs (delivered by our drones or by our close allies’ bombers) do have, and will increasingly have consequences here.  Consequences that have already cost American lives and one of our most cherished freedoms -privacy.   As the war on terror evolves without abiding by fundamental principle of justice, it will accelerate our risks and our loss of freedoms.
Imagine the loss of American lives and freedoms once terrorists turn to cyber and biological weapons of mass disruption and destruction.   Even if terrorists limit their attacks on US soil to Timothy McVeigh type Truck bombs or Nice, France style truck pedestrian mower assaults, both our freedom and our security will rapidly diminish.
The fact is, we live in an entirely and irreversibly interdependent world.  A real world where only an idealist approach can most effectively address the array of threats now descending upon us.  Our idealism of ‘life, liberty and justice for all’ is the only realistic approach to maximizing both our freedoms and our security.  Unfortunately, this principled approach is still politically unacceptable, but national security experts like Kaplan.  Just as the abolition of slavery was originally rejected by both our nation’s Founding Fathers and slave owners in the Southern states, there will be catastrophic consequences.  And in this era of unprecedented killing capacity by both nation states and murderous individuals, we need to get real by getting idealistic fast. 
Ideally everyone in the world would have access to clean water, sanitation, education, adequate food, and other basic human rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  That global ideal was agreed to 68 years ago (as of December 10).  It was intended to prevent wars.   Remarkably it could also have prevented most terrorism, infectious disease outbreaks,  refugees, and environmental pressures now considered by the US Military, to be a national security threat.   Some of these threats, are linked to war, and some greater than war.  But they all compound our national security conundrum in trying to resolve our freedom /security dilemma.  A dilemma we continue to impose on ourselves because of our addiction to ‘independent’ institutions (structures and systems) incapable of enforcing fundamental principles thus resolving globally interdependent problems.    When we recognize we face a trilemma and not a dilemma, we will see the fundamental principle needed to maximize both our freedom and our security.
If our nation’s approach to terrorism, pandemics, WMD proliferation, Climate change… depends on the full cooperation of 190+ independent nations with each national government appealing only to its own short term self-interests we are in deep trouble.  It would be like the 50 Governors in the US states resolving our nation’s immigration problem with each state deciding on its own immigration policies, and each state maintaining it’s freedom to design its own driver’s license ID and voter ID laws.  This ‘fix’ would continue to have a national and global consequence if even one US state remained unprincipled in engineering it’s systems and structures.  Insisting on independent policies at any level threatens both our freedoms and our security at every level.
Kaplan said “Human nature is driven by fear…self-interest…and honor.”  But Thucydides’ definition of “realism” has only delivered us the world we have today -- a world of interconnected mixes of insolvable problems because national interests continue to trump universal values/principles.  This unidealistic path offers only a chaotic and deadly future.  
If “realists worship truth” as Kaplan asserts, no realist would disregard the ‘self-evident’ truths expressed in our nation’s Declaration of Independence.  Contrary to popular belief this document is not about independence.  It is about universal principles essential to building and maintaining freedom, security and justice for all.
Kaplan states “values follow interests”.  The Post may have a policy on objective journalism (in printing Kaplan’s piece) over fact checking (is status quo politics and policy really working?).  But any expert espousing a directional change in US foreign policy and national security should do their best to rely on facts, history and self-evident truths.  Not exiting national security experts.
Here’s another fundamental truth.   It is in our own self-interest to walk our talk and honor the profound principles that this great nation was founded on, “That all men are created equal [and] endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” such as ‘life, liberty” and “justice for all’.   It’s unrealistic to achieve this when our nation’s experts continue to insist on following old pathways.  Doing anything less than the ideal is profoundly unrealistic. Things are changing quickly and unexpectedly these days.  Can we?

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