Too Much from Too Few

June 22, 2015

“It’s easier to bleed than it is to sweat.” – Flannery O’Connor

Cultural milestones are seldom recognized until long after the fact. Some seminal events languish in obscurity until consequences insist that the past be parsed for tripwires or tipping points. Causality is seldom obvious and often muddled by politics over time, especially if the subject is cultural pathology.  The search for answers or the origins of social problems is more like watching bridges rust than it is like finding a eureka moment.  As with bridges, no one seems to care too much about erosion until edifices start to fail. Inertia is the constant companion of all structural decay in engineering, science, and society.

The inertia problem is compounded by culture. In America, values such as positive thinking and rationalization (or excuses) coexist to produce a kind of stasis. On the one hand, a problem solving ethic might drive social engineering at home and intrusive foreign policy abroad.  On the other side of the equation, excuse making, like multi-culturalism and political correctness, often inhibit correctives or meaningful reform. Protecting cultural, religious, or ethnic  sensitivities has displaced candor as a civic virtue.

Programs and institutions follow policy. Effective or not, all programs develop a clientele or political constituency, a permanence that may have little to do with original purposes. Good intentions alone, unfortunately, are often good enough to ignore falling bridges or failed policy.

Serial defaults often create a host of new problems. Funded failures often become institutional vampires, oblivious to extinction. Indeed, political and military careers are made by creating, not reforming, fixing, or ending ineffective projects and programs.

American Military Decline

American military art/science (strategy, operations, and tactics) is a modern example of an institution in decline. The United States had a long tradition of military success from the Revolutionary War through World War II. The slide may have begun with the Korean War where that outcome might be described as ambiguous. The Vietnam War was a decade-long controversy at home and abroad. All those small wars in the Muslim world since can only be described as serial failures. Modern American military history is characterized by intervention and regime change gambles that are littered by the debris of military fiasco.

Single point failures, military or otherwise, can be beneficial, an opportunity to learn.  All institutions progress through trial and error. Serial failure, however, is often the slippery slope of cultural decay. Low expectations beget bad habits. With enough practice, habits become culture. Correcting a single mistake is routine. Changing a military culture of failure, in contrast, is a generational task.

Losing now seems to be chronic for team America. Some brilliant operational or tactical episodes might be cited, but taken collectively; nothing midst the Muslim small wars of the past six decades suggests strategic success. Indeed, words like war, to say nothing of “victory,” are seldom used today by politicians or generals. Withal, the world is not a safer place today either. Freedom and democracy are not ascendant. Winning on the battlefield seems to be permanently off the military table.

What happened?

Arguably, the US Armed Forces are some of the best trained, disciplined, and equipped fighting units in the world. Tactical excellence occasionally pays dividends at the operational level. Strategic competence, however, is a void.

Since the end of the Cold War, American politicians and generals seem to be lost in a strategic fog. Absent an existential threat like the Soviet Bloc, American military assets, treasure, and young lives have been squandered on a series of small wars where the conflicts are ephemeral and undeclared whilst objectives, or measures of effectiveness, are unclear. Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya, and Yemen are just a few examples where military interventions made matters worse.

Small wars today seem to have little or nothing to do with existential national security and everything to do with domestic politics, political expediency, or the transient crisis of the moment. Force commitment is reactive and ephemeral, not strategic. There is no over-arching vision or objective like “Containment,” to say nothing of expectations like victory. Stated goals and missions are trivialized with meaningless euphemisms like humanitarian concerns, training, “nation building,” or “stability.”

The worst of neologisms might be the so-called “war on terror,” a pleonasm that misfires on three counts.

America has been agnostic since 1948 if the subject is war or Islam. War and jihad is the Muslim perspective, not the American view. Indeed, official US rhetoric relegates Islamic angst, attacks, and terror to common criminal activity, not acts of war. And the rhetorical war on “terror,” the tactic, makes as much sense as declaring “war” on perennial social problems like ignorance, drugs, or crime. War at the Pentagon, National Security Council, and the State Department today is more likely to be an attack on language not Muslim militants. Real combat is regularly obscured by the politically correct burka of political euphemism.

The word “terror” is actually most useful as budget Viagra. No matter the state or federal agency, if you can work words like “terror, radical, or extremist” into your mission statement, funding largesse is assured. Using a word like “Islamist,” on the other hand, to describe the actual threat, is a non-starter at any echelon.

Treating 60 years of terror, anti-democratic barbarity, and a host of small wars as isolated criminal acts with local motives may explain why America and Europe are losing the global conflict with imperial Islamism.

The slow slide into what can only be described as strategic miasma probably began with end of universal conscription in America and the advent of the “all-volunteer” force. Tipping points are always speculative, if not anecdotal, but the cost and consequences of “professionalizing” the American military is now a study in social pathology.

All-volunteer drift

Creating a volunteer force was never about the draft. Conscription in its various incarnations over the years was always controversial, yet effective if military results are a measure of merit. From the Revolutionary War, through the Civil War, and up to WWII; American military expeditions were usually victorious. Conscription was never popular but it worked when it was needed. The Vietnam War changed all that.

The end of “universal” conscription precipitated a storm of cultural, social, and strategic blowback. In fact, the Nixon/Kissinger initiative didn’t just end the draft, it ended military service as we knew it. The civic virtues of shared sacrifice and national obligation went out with the bathwater of political expediency.

If the truth be told, eliminating the draft in 1973 had little to do with national security either and everything to do with domestic politics. The military draft was a political bone thrown by the American Right to the American anti-war Left.

The gambit worked. With the end of the draft, the anti-war movement collapsed. Ironically, scions of the 1970s anti-war counterculture, John Kerry at the State Department is an example, now lead today’s charge into indecisive small wars, regime change schemes, and an assortment of ill-advised interventions justified as counter terrorism.

Alas, a permanent professional standing army was, and still is, at odds with American tradition, just war theory, and everyday common sense.

The founding fathers were justifiably skeptical about standing armies and thus gave Congress the power of the purse, limiting Army funding to two years.  And philosophers frequently argue that ease of misuse is a sign that (any) theory is flawed and ought to be scrapped. “Ease of misuse” is surely a hallmark of American counter-terror theory and tactics since 1973.

The real fly in the ointment of military art as practiced by the Oval Office and the Pentagon today is common sense or pragmatism. In all of this, Congress and both major political parties have been cheerleaders at worst or spectators at best. If the subject is troop deployments, congressional restraint has been AWOL since the Nixon era.

[Personalizing military pathology is a risky business. Nonetheless, the Armed Forces, like any other human institution is the sum of personal integrity – or its absence. Here we might be remiss not to mention several human resource symptoms like Admiral Jeremy Boorda, General David Patraeus, General Michael Hayden, General Martin Dempsey, General James Clapper, Major Malik Hasan, Sergeant Robert Bales, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, and Private Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning. The latter is about to be transferred to a more congenial prison where he/she can undergo sex change therapy at taxpayer expense.]

Disastrous or failed strategic military outcomes of the last 50 years speak for themselves.

The domestic social, or pragmatic, consequences of military malpractice in the all-volunteer era, however, fly under the radar. Chronic “misuse” pathologies now produce record levels of disabled, alcoholics, drug abusers, PTSD victims, suicides, homelessness, welfare dependencies, retention/recruitment problems, and Veterans Administration abuses.  Many of these social costs could be attributed to repeat deployments, a phenomenon unprecedented in American military history.

No one at the strategic tier seems to ever ask if we are asking too few to do too much for too few good reasons. If every citizen benefits from national security, shouldn’t all beneficiaries have some skin in the game?

The all-volunteer army has created a chasm between the combat veteran and the population served. That chasm gets broader with every reckless military intervention or deployment. If national defense is a subset of national security, then every citizen, every family, and every institution that enjoys the benefits of safety and democracy should share the risks and costs. If war is necessary, then so is conscription.

Truth is, in America, if not all republics, there are more votes to be had from grifters, deadbeats, and reluctant conscripts than there will ever be had among earnest volunteers. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates put it best: “Without conscription, war is just an abstraction.” The all-volunteer force makes it too easy for politicians to rationalize deployments without fear of consequence at the ballot box.

The great virtue of universal conscription was that risk and sacrifice was shared and personal; in short, a prudent restraint on use abuse. Without universal personal risk, feckless politicians and venal generals get a free hand, to play fast and loose with lives – and national reputation.

When was the last time you saw a flag officer or a politician in a body bag or a wheel chair – or waiting in line for a pill at a VA hospital? Paradoxically, there is less tolerance for casualties with volunteers than there was with draftees. The solution, according to some thoughtful analysts, is social justice.

“Bring back a draft that starts conscription at the top of the social ladder. Or establish recruiting appeals that will garner some share of privileged youth. Otherwise the all-volunteer force will be an ineffective instrument in any time of war or even in peacekeeping, unless the instance is virtually casualty-free.”

American military deployments today are hardly casualty-free, nor are they effective, just, or justified, if results and outcomes matter. For the moment, the draft and conscription is settled law.  Alas, the ship of state may have to hit an iceberg before any new conversation about service, sacrifice, and American military success begins.

………………………………………………

This essay previously appeared in American Thinker and the New English Review.

 Image

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTp_Rvb6mKAf9oWN7MxjiowLE7Sp80VHkexK9YV-2veeaxX-4Yn


Hillary’s Jewels

April 21, 2015

You might think of political assets like the family jewels, things inherited but not necessarily merited. Hillary Rodham Clinton has a virtual hope chest, an endowment like no other politician in American history. Her first gift was the coat tails of a priapic husband who was twice elected President courtesy of Ross Perot. Her second windfall was a cabinet post, a kind of consolation prize after she lost the 2008 Democrat Primary to Barack Obama.

Four years at Foggy Bottom and a million frequent flyer miles later, Mrs. Clinton was able to twerk over Muammar Gadhafi’s grave and watch Libya descend into the sewer of failed Muslim states.

Celebrating the Gadhafi kill in Libya

Celebrating the Gadhafi kill in Libya

The Clinton/Kerry tag team at Foggy Bottom has an American foreign policy record unblemished by success. Having checked the gravitas box at State Department, Hillary wrote an anthem for Benghazi and a slogan for her presidential campaign: “What difference does it make?”

Beyond endowments from Bill and Barry, Hillary Rodham Clinton has a host of other of political assets that should make her formidable if not inevitable.

Apathy

2016 will be like any other American election, apathy will be the loudest voice in the room. Nearly half (93 million) of American voters sat out the last presidential election.  Apathy is usually an ally of the Left where special pleaders and dependents are easier to control. Just ask Mitt Romney. If the Republicans put up two fat white guys against Hillary, husband Bill gets another run at White House interns for eight years.

Novelty

First Black cannot hold a candle to first woman.  There are more women than African Americans in the US by a wide margin. Indeed, the ladies vote too, more so than men. Expect Hillary to don the burka of false modesty and insist that she isn’t running as a first or a woman. Nonetheless, her camp followers and media groupies will take up the flack slack and insure that no one forgets that it’s high time for Spanks, Spandex, and pastel pants suits on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Giblets

You would be correct today to think of ovaries as the Clinton crown jewels. Even when William was President, there was little doubt about who had the bigger giblets.  Beyond rhetoric at the UN, Hillary doesn’t really have any feminist credits to speak of. Never mind.  Her genitals, like Obama’s melanin, are assets that do not require accomplishment. Indeed, Mrs. Clinton will probably try to out-macho the girly men on the Right. Hillary is already running East of John McCain when the subject is Russia or Putin. If any political stud dare raise his voice to Hillary, he will be pilloried by a fawning Press as a bully or misogynist thug.

Government Employees

You might like to think of federal, state, or municipal employees as civil servants, not political assets.   Unfortunately, phrases like “civil servant” are usually only half true. Government employees trend to the Left and politically correct. Take Washington, DC which has never had a Republican city council or mayor.  Federal bedroom communities of Maryland and northern Virginia are solidly on the Left too. The apparatchik demographic, including the Pentagon, at all levels is Hillary country.

The Academy

Beyond government, the schoolhouse and associated education bureaucracies might be the largest single service employer in the nation. Schooling or warehousing is big business. Never mind that coercion and education are mutually exclusive. Hard as it is to think of public education as a “service,” schools do provide custodial, if not patronage, sinecures in every community large or small.

Alas, American education ranks 26th in the world, below Estonia and Lichtenstein. On average, American custodials are two years behind Shanghai peers. The American classroom is now dead last among developed nations. The schoolhouse is at once the crucible of low information voters, under achievers, and a solid Liberal voting bloc. Mediocracy is the new meritocracy.

Victims

The oppressed class is another growth business. The victim or dependent demographic is now open-ended. Any citizen, who is not a heterosexual, white, male, making less than 50K a year, has victim potential. Indeed, if you see government as a kind of wet nurse, a provider of relief on demand, you are probably a victim. Victims do not believe in Uncle Sam anymore, but they are fond of plump nannies. A hover mother in the Oval Office is a perfect fit for the infantile demographic. The “more is never enough” and “bigger is better” crowd is all in for Mrs. Clinton.

Dysphorics

If you seek to understand fringe America, just follow bimbo journalism. ABC’s Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer are examples. Walters twice featured a middle-aged teacher who slept with, then married, her 13 year-old student. Ms. Walters also uses her network pulpit to defend celebrities who molest or marry their children. Sawyer hosted a primetime piece also which celebrated Bruce Jenner’s gender (nee sexual) dysphoria. You can never have enough Kardashian. Such are the offerings of network news today. Only same sex marriage is likely to get more attention.

Alas, the LGBT community is a lot like PETA these days, selective yet militant activists. Mrs. Clinton abandoned a gay ambassador, Chris Stephens, to the tender mercies of jihad in Libya, the high point of her tenure at State.  Gay America, so sensitive to rights and real or imagined slights, was silent about an American diplomat executed as likely for being gay as for being American. Indeed, homosexuality is a capital offense midst 1.6 Muslims, yet the LGBT demographic is mute on the global Muslim variety of terminal homophobia.

Islamic ISIS throws gay men from tall buildings as we speak. Perhaps victim solidarity is more important than lethal Sharia.  LGBT and Muslim voters, albeit odd bedfellows, should go all the way for Hillary.

Mustabators

If you must put a selfie of your junk on the internet, you are a millennial or a musterbator.  The latter is a dystopic youngster, up to the age of fifty it appears, whose habits and social life, are more virtual than real. Adult gamers take a bow here. Internet addicts also feel compelled to join every social network and dating service that will have them. For the most part, the geek cohort is needy, seedy, reclusive, and greedy.

hillary2

The mustabator sees no distinction between exposure and exhibitionism. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D, NY), husband to Huma Abedin, Hillary’s gal Friday, is an iconic if not chronic mustabator. The Weiner/Abedin demographic is likely to be Clintonista down to the last nerd.

Media

Suggesting that radio, television, public broadcasting, Hollywood, and the Press might be in the tank again for the Clintons is redundant if not superfluous.  As with Obama, the so-called entertainment industry, nee mainstream media, is in it to win it for the Clintons. With 18 months of media makeover, Hillary might get elected -and canonized.

Girly Men

The big nuggets in Hillary’s political purse might be Republicans. Think about it. Leadership on the Right at the moment is spelled Boehner and McConnell. A Republican Congress did not, or will not, compel the former Secretary of State to come clean about Benghazi or her emails. Indeed, in her last appearance before the “boys club,” she bitch-slapped Jenkins Hill. Collectively, the male majority at the Capitol is afraid of Mrs. Clinton. How does any individual Republican girly man expect to whip Hillary in a 2016 cage match?

…………………………………………………………………………………

Images:

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/10/20/article-2051486-0E6EB7E700000578-571_634x429.jpg

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRtajEU2nEjyshFtGuQJPTVf12cxrlIQoYPRT23pC6cpwOC6fQ3


Cooking the Intelligence Books

March 23, 2015

“Love is whatever you can still betray.” – John Le Carre

There was a time that intelligence estimates were cloaked in secrecy. Peer review, such that it was, was limited to a few analysts with security clearances, analysts that were not necessarily substantive experts. The iconic Intelligence report is the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a document that is supposed to represent an Intelligence Community consensus. In practice, a recurring NIE might be dusted off once a year and circulated to up to 17 agencies for “coordination” where “happy” might be changed to “glad.” With the exception of statistics, estimates were seldom changed substantially before being filed away for another year.

Any agency within the IC that might have a factual or analytical disagreement is allowed to take a “footnote” to an NIE which will contain the specifics of any disagreement.

An NIE footnote is as likely to be read as the body of an NIE itself is read. Recurring intelligence reports are read with the same relish as congressional bills are read by congressmen. As long as estimates contain enough threat data to justify departmental budgets, as with domestic spending bills, few politicians care much about analytical effectiveness or any correspondence with the real world. Spending, not truth, reflection or restraint, is the sine qua non of American politics and governance.

The link between Intelligence and defense spending is fairly explicit. The circuit between Intelligence and Intelligence spending is even more direct. With the IC, the folks who define the threat get to write their own meal tickets. Take the Islamist threat since 9/11. Any agency that can work “terror” into their mission statement is likely to enjoy a funding windfall.

Alas, were funding tied to performance, the IC and the DOD might have to have to raise funds like Public Television or the Girl Scouts.

Nonetheless, the national security business has changed in significant ways since the advent of an Intelligence czar in 2004, the so-called Director of National Intelligence. Heretofore, Intelligence estimates were classified. Now big reports also have a redacted version available to the Press. All the while, the specifics of threat might be obfuscated.

Unlike German Nazis, Japanese Imperialists, and Russian Communists of yore, the Arab/Persian/Muslim threat does not have any official cognates where the shooters, bombers, or throat cutters might be named or tied to race, religion, country, or ideology. Words like Arab, Persian, terrorist, Islam, Islamism, Muhammadanism, Islamofascism or the like are prohibited by fiat.

Unlike previous global threats, contemporary Intelligence reports would have you believe that the last fifty years of terror and small wars are without a common thread, without an ideology. Ninety or more nations might be sending religiously motivated jihadists to Sunni Arab ISIS, yet that statistic is of little consequence. Terror victim statistics might have reached an apogee but that fact is of little moment either. You might speak of radicals, militants, extremists, and criminals, but none of these are to be paired with religion, ideology, or Islamic culture.

Thus a national security assessment today is at once officially transparent and functionally opaque at the same time – for the political hustler, the best of both worlds. Alas, transparency, or should we say propaganda, cuts two ways. The 2015 DNI Worldwide Threat Assessment for Congress compared to the 2014 edition is an example. The deus ex machina has now been added to the DNI’s bag of tricks.

Shia Hezb’allah, and Shia Iran disappeared from the threat index in 2015. This is the same Hezb’allah that is the Shia equivalent of Sunni ISIS. Clearly, the latest DNI unclassified threat assessment was written with Shia readers in mind.

The elevation of Cuba to BFF is negligible because Havana hasn’t been a threat to Miami Beach since Khrushchev went shoeless at the United Nations. Any diminution of the Hezb’allah (literally, the party of God) and the Nuclear Persian threats is another matter. A nuclear/terrorist Shia theocracy in the Middle East changes every strategic dynamic; with Israel, with Arabia, with the larger Sunni world, and with NATO.

The motives for cooking the Shia threat are a grab bag of possibilities. Foremost is the specter of concessions to Iran designed to prime the pump for team Obama legacy, in short, a nuclear deal with Tehran at any price. A weak and/or failing American President is an easy mark for Shia ayatollahs with unlimited tenure.

Like the Cuba rapprochement, a lame duck American administration would like to put a Persian “peace” paper in the plus column. Never mind that the Persian priests are unlikely to sacrifice their parity ace to the numerically superior Sunni. At the moment, the Islam bomb is a Sunni monopoly. Only a Shia bomb balances the Sunni/Shia sectarian equation. Nuclear parity for apocalyptic Muslim sectarians would be the strategic equivalent of certain Armageddon for Israel.

Then there is the Syria/Iraq conundrum, two pariah regimes, fast friends of Shia Tehran. Sunni ISIS has made a caliphate of Syria and Iran, a budding empire that aspires to devour what remains of two failing pro-Iranian basket cases. ISIS is also making more than a bit of a splash in Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya.

Washington and Brussels are unwilling to confront Iran or ISIS in the flesh. Such dilemmas make for strange bedfellows. Thus America and Europe now find themselves shagging Syrian Assad, the Iranian ayatollahs, Hezb’allah, and a veritable host of unsavory anti-Sunni mercenaries and miscreants. The Levant is starting to look like a necrotic Abbott and Costello routine. Who’s on first?

And last, but not least, there is the possibility that the dangerous liaison with Shia priests is designed to punish or poke Israel, especially Bibi Netanyahu. In every Arab or Persian political stew, anti-Semitism is sure to be one of the ingredients.

Given the number of times that America has changed sides in the Middle East, only one thing is certain. Neither Sunni nor Shia can trust Washington today, especially an erratic if not incoherent team Obama. Israel especially, with existential skin in the game, has every reason to be wary of motives in Brussels and Washington too, lest Israel become so much collateral damage like the women, children, and Christians of North Africa the Levant.

Withal, one other conclusion is now possible. The American Intelligence Community just might be another Beltway hooker, similar in many respects to the academic and think tank camp followers that surround Washington.  As long as the funding is unlimited, the Intelligence Community seems willing to provide any service or any answer that pays.

Alas, truth is a candid bitch, she can’t be bought. The American Intelligence Community, in contrast, has become just another Washington DC streetwalker.

…………………………………………..

This essay appeared in the 3/23/2015 edition of American Thinker.

 


Broken Arrow

March 22, 2015

Policy is a worldview, a kind of wishful thinking. Intelligence is the real world, a wilderness of untidy facts that may or may not influence policy. The policymaker thinks he knows the answer. The intelligence officer and national security analyst have the much tougher tasks of confirming or changing minds.

When Intelligence fails to provide a true and defensible estimate, a clear picture of threat, policy becomes a rat’s nest of personal and political agendas where asserted conclusions and political correctness become the loudest voices in the room.  American national security analysis has been poisoned by such toxins. An Intelligence report these days might be any estimate that supports the politics of the moment. Truth today is an afterthought at best and an orphan at worst.

Alas, corrupt Intelligence is the midwife of strategic fiasco. Four contemporary failures provide illustrations: revolutionary theocracy, the Islam bomb, imperial Islamism, and the new Cold War.

Back to Theocracy

The Persian revolution of 1979 was arguably the most significant strategic surprise of the last half of the 20th Century. Yes, more significant than the fall of Soviet Communism. The precipitous fall of the Soviet Bloc, however, was another bell weather event unanticipated by Intelligence analysis. The successful religious coup in Iran, heretofore an American client regime, now provides a model for all Muslim states where the default setting among tribal autocracies is now theocracy not democracy. In the wake of the Communist collapse, Fukuyama argued that the democratic ideal was triumphant, an end of history as we knew it, the evolutionary consequence of progressive dialects. Fukuyama was wrong, tragically wrong. History is a two-way street that runs forward as well as backwards.

The fall of the Soviet monolith was not the end of anything. It was followed by profound regression, an era of religious irredentism. Worrisome as the Cold War was, the relationship with Moscow was fairly well managed. Who can argue today that East Europe or the Muslim world is more stable or peaceful than it was three decades ago?

The Persian revolution of 1979, not only reversed the vector of Muslim politics, but the triumph of Shia imperialism blew new life into the Shia/Sunni sectarian fire, a conflict that had been smoldering for a thousand years or more. The theocratic victory in Tehran also raised the ante for Israel too, now confronted by state sponsored Shia and Sunni antagonists, Hezb’allah, Fatah, and Hamas.

Shia Hezb’allah calls itself the party of God! Those in the Intelligence Community who continue to insist that religion is not part of the mix, have yet to explain why God is only part of the conversation on the Islamic side of the equation.

Global Islamic terror is now metastasizing at an alarming rate. More ominous is the assent of the Shia clergy, apocalyptic ayatollahs, a lowering of the nuclear threshold in the Middle East. Sunni ISIS by comparison is just another tactical terror symptom on the Sunni side – and yet another strategic warning failure too.

Tehran is in the cat bird’s seat, on the cusp of becoming a nuclear superpower. Nuclear Iran changes every strategic dynamic: with Israel, with Arabia, and also with NATO. A Shia bomb is the shortcut to checkmate the more numerous, albeit more primitive, Sunni. Iran will not be “talked out” of the most potent tool in imperial Shia kit – and the related quest for parity with Arabian apostates.

The Islam Bomb

The Islam bomb has been with us for years, in Sunni Pakistan, although you might never know that if you followed the small wars follies in South Asia. The enemy, as represented by American analysis is atomized, a cast of bit players on the subcontinent. First, America was fighting a proxy war with the Soviets. When the Russians departed, the enemy became the murderous Taliban followed by al Qaeda. Both now make common cause with almost every stripe of mujahedeen today. In the 25 years since the Soviet withdrawal, Afghanistan has been reduced now to a rubble of narco-terror and tribalism. If we can believe bulletins from the Pentagon or the Oval Office, America is headed for the Afghan exit in the next two years – maybe. Throughout, the real threat in South Asia remains unheralded – and unmolested.

Nuclear Pakistan is one car bomb, or one AK-47 clip, away from another Taliban theocracy. This is not the kind of alarm that has been raised by the Intelligence Community. Hindu India probably understands the threat, Shia Persia surely understands the Sunni threat, and just as surely, Israel understands that a Sunni bomb is the raison d’etre for a more proximate Shia bomb. Who would argue that the Sunni Saudis need nuclear “power”? Nonetheless, Riyadh is now in the game too.  The most unstable corner of the globe is now host to a nuclear power pull.

The American national security establishment seems to be clueless on all of this. Indeed, when a unique democracy like Israel tries to illuminate a portion of the nuclear threat before the American Congress, the Israeli prime minister is stiff-armed by the Oval Office. If Washington failed with Pakistan and North Korea, why would anyone, let alone the Israelis, believe that Wendy Sherman is a match for the nuclear pipedreams of apocalyptic Shia priests.

Alas, the motive force behind a Shia bomb is not Israeli capabilities or intentions. Israel is a stable democracy where any territorial ambitions are limited to the traditional Jewish homeland. Israel is no threat to Persia or Arabia.  Pakistan, in contrast, is like much of the Sunni world today, another internecine tribal or sectarian wildfire waiting for a match.

The advent of the Islam bomb in Asia was not just a strategic surprise, but the step-child of strategic apathy. The folly of taking sides with the Sunni has now come home to roost. Iran is about to go for the atomic brass ring too, with the Saudis in trail, and there’s not much that America can/will do except mutter about secret diplomacy and toothless sanctions. Of course, there’s always the option of blaming Jews when appeasement fails.

Imperial Islam

The Ummah problem, the Muslim world, has now replaced the Soviet empire, as Churchill would have put it, as the “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” There are four dimensions to the Islamic conundrum: the Shia/Sunni rift, intramural secular/religious conflicts, kinetic antipathy towards Israel and the West writ large, and the failure of analysis, especially strategic Intelligence, to unwrap the Muslim onion in any useful way. Imperial Islam, dare we say Islamofascism, now threatens secular autocracy and democracy on all points of the compass.

Islamic imperialism is a decentralized global movement. Nonetheless, the various theaters are united by tactics, strategy, ideology, and objectives. The tactics are jihad, small wars, and terror. The strategy is the imposition of Shariah Law. The ideology is the Koran and the Hadith. And the objective is a Shia or Sunni Islamic Caliphate – for infidels, a distinction without difference.

Muslim religious proselytizers and jihad generals in the field make no secret of any of this. The problem isn’t that some Muslims dissent from this agenda, the problem is that the West, especially national security analysts, cannot/will not believe or accept what Islamic imperialists say aloud, about themselves. The enemy is hiding in plain sight, yet the Intelligence Community doesn’t have the integrity or courage to make a clear call.

Noted British criminal psychiatrist Theodore Dahlrymple captures the bizarre logic of appeasement:

“Racial, religious and cultural identity are morally important in politics, precisely what so many people would like to deny because it can so easily unleash the vilest political passions. Something that is true, say our people of goodwill to themselves, could have nasty consequences; therefore it is not true.”

Propaganda provides many of the strategic “tells” in any conflict. The Nemstov murder in the shadow of the Kremlin provides an example. The knee-jerk reaction of politician and pundits in America was to implicate Russian culture, the Kremlin, or Vladimir Putin.

Contrast the Nemstov blame game with any or every recent Islamist atrocity and the nuclear race in the Ummah. With these, the knee-jerk reaction is to defend Islam, more concern for Islamism and the religious equivalence shibboleth than the nuclear threat or Jewish, Christian, and apostate heads that are now literally rolling on a global scale. In a recent US State Department brief, we are told by State Department spokesman Marie Harf that Islamic terrorism might be attributed to “unemployment” (sic).

Cold War Redux

The West can no longer take yes for an answer. The deliberate resuscitation of the Cold War midst a host of tactical defeats in the Ummah is probably one of the worst foreign policy choices on record.

The old Soviet Union: took down the Berlin Wall, relinquished former satellites, dismantled the Warsaw Pact military alliance, and purged East Europe of nuclear weapons. In response, America and the EU dismantled Yugoslavia, taking the Muslim side we might add, and aggressively expanded NATO up to the traditional Russian border. The “End of (totalitarian) History” as we knew it wasn’t enough. Any vestigial associations with Moscow were relentlessly undermined. The American sponsored coup, orchestrated by Victoria Nuland at the US State Department, with likely help from the CIA, in Ukraine is the best and most recent example.

The “regime change” strategy in Europe has degenerated into some petulant version of nuclear chicken with the Russians. The American embassies in Moscow and Kiev regularly host anti-Putin dissidents in Ukraine and Russia

Regime change folly has lowered the nuclear threshold in South Asia, the Mideast, and now East Europe. Sevastopol and Kiev are side shows. The real target for Brussels and Washington is Moscow – and the Putin regime. The idea that the Kremlin or Russians can be undone or manipulated by: black operations, cyber war, sanctions, propaganda, or provocations is naïve and reckless. Putin is not a Pahlavi, Gadhafi, Assad, or Yanukovych.

Russians were very helpful in ridding Syria of chemical weapons and clearing the Ukraine of nuclear weapons.  Moscow and Putin have the potential also to be very useful against terror, nuclear proliferation, and resolving the Levant lunacy too.

House of Representatives minority leader Pelosi recently lamented losing the “public relations” war with Russia. The American Secretary of State responded that Russian Television (RT) was responsible (sic). The more believable narrative spun by the Kremlin might be closer to the mark. Truth is a powerful ally, especially when it’s coupled with propaganda.

The origin of the new Cold War may have domestic origins. Neither major American political party has a clue as what to do with the metastasizing Muslim problem. Indeed, both sides gag on words like Islam, Muslim, or Mohammed. As 2016 approaches, both parties desperately need to change the subject and find a foreign policy to run on. Regime change in Russia seems to be the consensus choice for American demagogues, Right and Left.

The idea that domestic “politics stops at the border” was always honored more in the breach than anywhere else. The politics of personal destruction is a time honored tradition in America, especially on the Left. That standard has now been folded into the foreign relations bag of tricks. Henry Kissinger claims that “demonization” is not policy. That may be true in any real politic sense, but the Putin bogyman is an ideal straw man for the next American presidential election. Proxy war abroad seems to be the safe sex of domestic politics.

What Now?

The American Intelligence Community is now the largest (17 agencies and uncountable contractors) and most expensive data collection and processing complex in history. Unfortunately, this gold-plated leviathan is undone by inferior analysis; indeed, estimates and reports that are more political than prudent. Withal, existential functions like strategic warning may be in freefall.

The obvious solution would be to take the strategic warning and national estimative functions out from under the IC, and the Executive Branch, and give those tasks to some apolitical body, assuming of course that an impartial forum might be sustained beyond the control of any branch of government. Realistically, it’s hard to believe that any American political party would sponsor an independent and uncontrollable voice of candor or objectivity.

Nonetheless, there are small things that might be done to make a huge difference. During the Cold War, USAF Intelligence ran a service of common concern for the IC called “Soviet Awareness.” The purpose of that program at Bolling AFB was to educate novice intelligence officers and FBI agents about the Soviet threat. The program included Russian history, the rise and spread of Communism, Marxist ideology, and Soviet military capabilities.

Ironically, the inter-agency program that answered the question “why we fight” was discontinued by James Clapper when he became the USAF Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence. Clapper is now the Director of National Intelligence. The Soviet Awareness resources were reallocated to the information processing function. Today there is no awareness program of common concern on Russian, Islamist, or any other threats.

Clapper threw the threat baby out with the Soviet bathwater. Indeed, in most service schools, discussing Islamic ideology or religion is off limits. If any soldier or Intelligence officer were to ask: “Why do we fight?” the answer today would have to be, “trust me.”

The real tragedy of Intelligence failure today is the burden born by American veterans, servicemen and women: the dead, crippled, and maimed.  “Why we fight?” is a leadership deficit, the forgotten readiness issue. Troops don’t have a clear picture of the enemy or the ideology in play in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Arabia, the Philippines, and Africa. They will know even less about the rationale for serving in East Europe should another conflict be engineered with Russia.

Indeed, the Pentagon and the Oval Office throw lives at small wars that generals and politicians have no intention of declaring, justifying, or winning – by their own admission.  The Commander-in-Chief says the he seeks outcomes where there are no victors or vanquished. Indeed!

Traditionally, we like to think of collection and associated clandestine operations as the sharp end of the Intelligence spear. In fact, analysis is the cutting edge. Unfortunately, that edge is gone today. You could do worse than think of Intelligence analysis as the Broken Arrow in the national security quiver.

We may not know why we fight today, but there is little mystery anymore about why we fail.

                                                                                       Epilogue

The importance of information is seldom self-evident. Even if significance were obvious, information is still not knowledge. And clearly knowledge is not wisdom. Just as surely, only conscience allows an analyst to know the difference. All key judgments must be accompanied by courage and conviction too; courage to communicate to policy mandarins, or voters, with enough force to prompt action. Repetition is often the midwife of acceptance.

Good data and good analysis might be necessary, but never sufficient. Bridging the gap between analysis and acceptance is often a bridge too far for the timid. The national security continuum is a perilous enterprise. The messenger is always in danger of being shot. Alas, truth is an equal opportunity offender. It doesn’t care who gets hurt.

Nonetheless, changing minds is the object of any good Intelligence. Policy and action is only stimulated by an altered consciousness about the subject at hand. Prudent policy is a function of correct data, honest analysis, moral certainty, and rhetorical skill – written or spoken.

Alas, none of these self-evident, common sense observations, with the possible exception of abundant evidence, play much of a role in American threat analysis these days. A very expensive and growing Intelligence Community  is now the weak link in the national security chain. Any speculations about the catastrophic failures of American foreign policy in the past fifty years should begin with the “wilderness of mirrors,” James Angleton’s metaphor for Intelligence praxis.

…………………………………………….

  1. Murphy Donovan was the last Director of Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies at USAF Intelligence, the directorate that staffed the associated Soviet Awareness Program. He served under General James Clapper.

Images:

http://www.americanthinker.com/images/bucket/2015-02/194141_5_.jpg

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQxAkcwOeHWetkfgcTRimhoyDrUdnXVKQbpSAy-uQ5cGn3xqFMa


A Sucker Punch

February 19, 2015

“I can think of no better way for the Congress to join me in supporting our nation’s security than by enacting this legislation, which would show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat posed by ISIL” – Barak Obama

Leading with your chin is always bad form, especially in politics. The newly minted Republican Congress is just about to step into a sucker punch from the White House. The President claims that he needs a new authorization from Congress to pursue the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); an authority the President didn’t think he needed for the last six years.

Mr. Obama prefers to call the al Qaeda doppelganger, the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL). At the same time, he denies the adjective, claiming that ISIS is not Islamic. Such semantic shenanigans are designed, among other things, to avoid illuminating Iraq and Syria, two of the more notable strategic failures on Obama’s watch. The Levant can now be put in the loss column like Iran, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. And the “war of necessity” in Afghanistan now looks like a skidaddle too, just as the war in Iraq now looks like the new “war of necessity.” Follow closely, this gets worse.

The troops that remain in Afghanistan and Iraq somehow are not “boots on the ground,” the same kind of boots that bled in the same theaters previously during the Bush administration. Repeat deployments under the Obama regime don’t seem to qualify as combat tours. Does an all-volunteer force deserve such patronizing babble from the Commander-in-Chief? With administration spin, we are lead to believe that American troops deployed to the Ummah in the future will be more schoolmarms than warriors – in little danger of becoming targets.

Such absurdity might be new insult, but not new injury. The Obama regime and the Pentagon have insisted for years that America is not at war. You could be led to believe that all those body bags and wounded warriors passing through Dover AFB for the last decade were simply casualties from workplace violence. If America is not at war, why then is there a need for any new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), nee “war powers” legislation?

For the good part of a decade, the Oval Office has cultivated strategic failure in South Asia, the Mid-East, and North Africa with the Bush charter. Would another AUMF bill from Congress change the effectiveness of heretofore failed leadership?

The paper drill on Capitol Hill and the semantics charade at the White House may not be coherent strategy but these things do have purpose. The Obama legacy and the 2016 presidential election come to mind.

To date, the Obama foreign policy record is a litany of serial fiasco, indeed the ISIS crisis abroad and the AUMF feint at home serve only to divert attention from the engineered chaos in places like Yemen, Libya, and Afghanistan. If the White House can persuade a Republican Congress to sign on to a new war powers resolution, then Democrats will surely argue in 2016 that the foreign policy record for the Obama years is a shared or “bipartisan” failure. The Muslim wars are already bipartisan bungles, why give the next fiasco a legal imprimatur?

Mister Obama’s strategic concerns for the next two years are likely to be focused on personal legacy and blame shifting not defeating ISIS or any other Muslim army in detail. Calling for bipartisanship at this late date has little to do with foreign affairs and everything to do who pays the political piper at the ballot box.

The emerging Islamic state now displacing Iraq and Syria is symptomatic of another imperial Muslim success in the East and another allied failure in the West. In 2016, the Democrats would like Republicans to share blame for the foreign policy and military mess that the next American president is likely to inherit.

Betrayal is the unintended consequence of such venality. Tactical incompetence and strategic impotence is measured in lives. Those who have been killed or maimed may have suffered in vain. The best trained and equipped military in the world has been squandered in small wars that the Oval Office and the Joint Chiefs, by their own admission, have no intention of winning. Half-measures and stability seem to be the new strategic euphemisms for defeat or surrender.

Mister Obama doesn’t need any new authorities, nor does he need obvious Republican collaborators. He might, however, need some cover for Hillary in 2016 and that’s what any new war powers resolution is all about.

Alas, if any new paperwork is required, it should be a declaration of war against a named enemy before another soldier is deployed. The alternative might be a presidential finding of surrender. Surely Abu Bakr al Baghdadi would give a brother like Barak Hussein Obama the best of terms.

Withal, team Obama is beginning to lose its chokehold on the American Left and a pandering Media. Stalwarts like NBC and The Atlantic are finally giving Oval Office foreign and military policy some serious scrutiny. Richard Engel and James Fallows are recent examples, although in both cases you might wonder where they’ve been for the past two decades. Fallows, in particular, has become a skeptic but still has trouble distinguishing between “can do” and “should do.”

Still, Fallows is correct to the extent that feckless European and American politicians, Right and Left, continue to dither with timid policies while Islam is spreading the fires of religious recidivism and barbarity. By now it should be clear that the so-called “moderate” Muslim majority is either passive aggressive, cowardly, or suicidal – maybe all three. If Islam will not fight to save itself from Islamists, why not let the apathetic Muslim majority experience the inevitable? Then allow Allah to sort the rubble.

At this point, for America and Europe, doing little or nothing might be the most prudent economy of force option.

………………………….

Keywords: Islamism, ISIS, ISIL, terror, war powers, Obama, al Baghdadi, Richard Engel, James Fallows

Baghdadi,


Brian Williams and NBC: No honor, No shame. No future

February 9, 2015

“I became a journalist because I didn’t want to rely on newspapers for information. “ – Chris Hitchens

Brian Williams has been the face of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and now he seems to be the face of shameless too. Williams has regaled his gullible Media colleagues for a decade or more about a brush with death in Iraq that never happened. The Stars and Stripes, not the NY Times or the Washington Post, busted Mr. Williams. According to the chronology revealed in the Stars and Stripes, the false tale of near death in combat was embellished over time, becoming more heroic with each telling to audiences like David Letterman and Alec Baldwin.

Blowing a fairytale past Deborah Turness, Baldwin, or Letterman is no surprise, but hockey fans are another matter. Seems that somewhere out in flyover country, some 3rd Infantry Division veterans saw Brian’s fatal, and hopefully final, version of stolen valor – and dropped a dime to the newspaper of record for American GI’s.

Williams was at the Ranger’s game in New York burnishing his “I support the troops” facade by posing with a disabled veteran and spinning another “combat” yarn about himself at the same time. The William’s ego spot at Madison Square Garden was never about the sacrifices of real veterans.

The cameo was about hubris, worse still, stollen valor.  Real veterans, real heroes, and real combat casualties languish in the parking lots of an inept Veterans Administration, while poseurs like Brian Williams try to bask in reflected glory. The charade continued for more than a decade, abetted by the silence of network colleagues. Williams was not alone on that trip to Afghanistan. Who checks the fact checker?

NBC and Williams were exposed by ordinary soldiers in a GI newspaper.  Such   duplicity says everything about federal standards and the national Press today. Williams was not outed by the White House.  A President that consistently apologizes for terror culture is unlikely to criticize an ally like NBC. Williams was not outed by other Media regulars like network crew members and colleagues at Public Television, ABC, or CBS. Williams was not exposed by the brass at the Department of Defense either, the institution with the true record of aircraft movements and combat incidents. Williams was outed by the very grunts he pretends to support. In short, the most popular network anchor in America was exposed by his antithesis – real soldiers telling the truth.

According to eyewitnesses, Williams and his entourage did not arrive at the scene of the Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) assault until an hour after the shooting stopped. Williams apparently seized an opportunity to exploit their grace under fire. The helicopters and troops involved were then stranded for two days by a sandstorm. The worst of William’s experience was a weather delay, an event more common in Chicago than Iraq. Chicago might be more dangerous too.

Hilary Clinton spun a similar “combat” fiction in Bosnia when her husband was dismantling Yugoslavia. Yet, with professional politicians, nobody expects the truth. A better comparison would be with Dan Rather, another celebrity anchor formerly over at CBS. Recall that Rather used forged documents to try to discredit George Bush’s Air Guard service. Like Williams, Rather tried to spin his fraud with “the fog of memory” excuse too. Rather got fired for his stunt. Williams is still on the NBC payroll.

No surprise then that the first Media standard bearer to come to the defense of Brian Williams was “Gunga” Dan Rather. What’s to defend?  A lie?

Becoming the news is a fatal flaw for any objective journalist. Brian Williams is now the news – and a serial liar to boot. His integrity is forfeit. Just as any CBS coverage of the military is suspect, NBC now labors under the same cloud. If you are supposed to be in the fact finding business, credibility is the only currency. NBC and Brian Williams are now bankrupt.

Rather and Williams at the top of their networks is a symptom of more fundamental Media problems: the conflation of news and entertainment, sub rosa anti-military sentiment, and political pandering.

Clearly, Williams like so many of his colleagues are more Kardashian than journalist, professional celebrities. Williams is the most popular of all news anchors, a one man advertising revenue rainmaker.

Let’s not kid ourselves about poseurs like Rather and Williams, their spin on things military is patronizing, revealing an underlying contempt for the real sacrifices made by soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen.

Media coverage of war itself is now a fraud. The President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense will not name the enemy nor call the ideological struggle with Islam and the battles with Islamists a war. Good men and women are maimed and killed in wars where generals and politicians have no intention of winning. Death without strategy or purpose is the dirty little secret yet to be covered by what critics like Limbaugh rightly calls a “drive-by” Media, a pandering Press corps.

Some of the worst today are the political spinners on Public Radio and Television, taxpayer funded propagandists. The News Hour on 6 February featured Mark Shields and David Brooks commentary on President Obama’s appearance before the National Prayer Breakfast. On that occasion, Obama lectured Christian and Jews about the Crusades, Inquisition, and the European slave trade. More White House excuses just after ISIS beheaded two more journalists followed by the incineration of a live Jordanian pilot with a video feed to the internet.

Both Shields and Brooks endorsed the President’s message. Never mind that all three histories cited are irrelevant to the Islam problem and associated terror. Never mind that these very same justifications are used as propaganda by al Qaeda and ISIS. And never mind that Obama, Shields, and Brooks forgot to mention that today’s slave trade is almost exclusively a joint black-African/Muslim enterprise (see Boko Haram for just one example).

Journalism is literally losing its head. On a global scale, Islamists decapitate the very Media cowards who apologize for Muslim behavior. At the same time, too many reporters at home are willing to commit professional perjury, frequently in the name of Islam. Withal, the message is clear. Neither side can trust journalists these days.

Williams has taken himself off the air for a few days while NBC does some internal navel gazing. The longer the network dithers, the worse this soap opera becomes. Williams has created his personal Katrina. Now he needs to fall on his sword, behave like a man. Surely Public Television has a slot for Williams.

…………………………………..

If Ash Carter and Martin Dempsey at DOD want to do something serious about stolen valor, they might start by revoking the military Press credentials of NBC and Brian Williams. Media jock sniffers don’t deserve a free ride on any military conveyance or protection in war zones at taxpayer expense. If sanctions can be imposed on Russia, Iran, and Cuba; surely, sanctions against a dishonest journalist and a network that defends frauds is not too much to ask. American warriors and veterans deserve to be covered by men like Ernie Pyle, not by liars and milksops like Dan Rather at CBS and Brian Williams at NBC.

…………………………………………….

Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security. GMD is a veteran of the East Bronx. He also served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive (1968) and the Invasion of Cambodia (1971).

Images:

http://doggerelpundit.blogspot.com/pixx/Ratherafg1.jpg

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRvLxUT2AOwdj8LFCTImOvJHuMDVzg0gSYwCo_ak19Y3nc-dxkNqg


The Age of Musterbation

February 3, 2015

                                               

“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”  – E. R. Morrow

Media icons are often given credit for thoughts that originated with their betters. The “nation of sheep” metaphor is an example. Thomas Jefferson addressed the subject in the Federalist Papers, long before Edward R. Morrow. And before that, herd similes might be traced to the Old and New Testaments. William J. Lederer wrote a book on the subject in 1961, a follow up to the best-selling Ugly American (1958).

Lederer’s lament focused on a passive electorate, arrogant foreign policy apparatchiks, and myopic politicians;  the tendency of Americans to fail to educate themselves about issues and then throw good money after bad at home and abroad. In short, Lederer despaired of passive voters and venal politicians, a nation where profligate spending sustained failed institutions.

Much has changed in the last 50 years, including language and internet culture. Neologisms abound, the most telling of which is “musterbation.” Albert Ellis (1913-2007) coined the term to describe clients who felt that they “must, should, or ought” to do things that had no rational basis. Much online activity could be described as grazing, peeping, or musterbation. Just one vowel away from onanism, the musterbater is compelled to join, mimic, exhibit, and conform. In such culture, the poorly read are easily led.

Former Congressman Anthony Wiener (D/NY) might be a chronic musterbator, compelled to use the internet in ways that defy reason, reputation, and common sense.

The modern tax dollar still buys votes but few solutions. Indeed, popular music has escalated the zoological hyperbole in a bit of telling doggerel by Otep Shamaya:

We’ve become a nation of wolves, ruled by sheep.
Owned by swine, overfed, and put to sleep.
While the media elite declare what to think,
I’ll be wide awake, on the edge, and on the brink.

On the brink of what is the question? Clearly a herd culture is the dominant social artifact of the early 21st Century. The most obvious symptoms are the internet and associated “social” networks.

So who are the wolves today? Here we could borrow an analogy from the “Occupy” movement, that 99 percent majority alleged to be victimized by the wealthy one percent. Such comparisons are true to the extent that all politics, right or left, are dominated by a small elite, a “vanguard” of one sort or another: commercial, political, or military mandarins. Art, too, is fashioned by elites for the herd.

On occasion, a sacred cow is trashed and the herd is spooked. Salman Rushdie, the Danish cartoon Press, Sony Pictures, and Charlie Hebdo might take a bow here.

The Occupy model is, however, poor arithmetic. Surely wealth is a consideration, but the middle class is as big today as it has ever been and America’s “poor” would be rich by any Third World metric.  Nonetheless, the Occupy lament does help to distinguish between wolves and sheep.

Alas, the real difference is power not wealth.  All wealth is power, but power is not necessarily wealth.  The Clintons, for example, left the Oval Office claiming to be broke. And we may not have seen the last of that poverty- stricken power pair either.

Autocratic, inherited, or democratic power is difficult to parse today. The despotism of dictators seems to have been supplanted by a tyranny of democratic tenure. Here, again, the Clintons come to mind. The reality of all politics, in the end, is consumption. Neither wolves nor shepherds care much about the venue as long as there’s something or somebody to eat.

Apex predators breed and feed in industry and government. The National Security Agency (NSA) and Facebook are examples. Indeed, there’s a chicken or egg conundrum between the two. No matter, both operate with the same business model; a one-way mirror that monitors, collects, and exploits “meta data” for different ends.

The social network/sheep herding meme is not just another simile. Numbers matter to both every day. The digital and grazing worlds only make sense when the numbers are large enough. Facebook has a billion members and makes billions in advertising revenues on those numbers. Mark Zukerberg says he wants the world on the internet – and by implication, in the Facebook pasture too.

Facebook is just one example here, but most telecoms, internet providers, social networks, or financial service companies are operating varieties of the same model, recruiting a large “voluntary” membership and then exploiting “metadata” (the antiseptic euphemism for behavior) for profit. Chaps like Zuckerberg are not your “friend” and he is not in your “circle.” Mark and his dot.com colleagues are the new elite, wolves, one percenter’s who have developed clever schemes to monetize your behavior – and your privacy.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook and General Keith Alexander’s NSA are both fond of uniforms too. Zuckerberg‘s tee shirt, jeans, and hoodie are as symbolic as Alexander’s Class A bemedaled greens. Zuckerberg is suited to look like a hip populist just as surely as Alexander is dressed to look like a guardian, Big Brother’s goal keeper.

The infamous “back doors” of the telecoms, internet providers, and social networks are both collaborative and invasive. Hard to know whether industry or government is the worse offender. There’s no mystery, however, about who is getting buggered.

The Lavabit story is illustrative. Lavabit was one of the few secure internet companies that tried to provide email services free of snoops and data miners. Their motto was “privacy before profit.” When Lavabit’s owner/operator, Ladar Levison, refused to play catamite for FBI/NSA agents, Lavabit was forced out of business with an avalanche of subpoenas, court orders, gag orders, fines, and threats of prison time. After l’affaire Snowden, official Washington, including the judicary, fell on Levison like a ton of bricks.

Ironically, chaps like Edward Snowden are made possible by such federal excess. Contemporary whistle blowers and disloyalty are created problems. Federal mandarins, with NSA and FBI on point, are the top dogs on the internet, the most voracious wolves. Alas, their appetites and capacity for abuse are funded with federal tax dollars.

Predator and prey are separated by perspective, scopophiliacs and exhibitionists joined by uncommon interests. Self-consciously Orwellian language defines cyber space. Sheep are corralled as members, followers, or friends. ‘Search’ on the net is often described as “surfing” as if stroking a laptop or smart phone required skill or exertion.

Measures of merit in cyberspace are mostly about affirmation: membership, pseudonyms, likes, tweets, retweets, page views, site visits, or comments. Belonging and ego are the weft and warp of cyberspace. Joining the flock, growing the flock, controlling the flock, and exploiting the flock are the shared interests of the needy, seedy, and greedy alike.

The “tweet” is the ideal medium for sheep, hustlers, or underachievers – cryptic faceless bursts confined to 140 characters. Tweets are to literature what rap is to music.

Each social circle has different passwords as if privacy were really a consideration. In fact, social networks, the telecoms, police, and intelligence agencies are co-conspirators in the “meta data” roundup. The stealth of wolves is reinforced by anonymity of sheep.

Pseudonymous internet usage has little to do with privacy, or freer speech, and everything to do with mischief.

Hacking is an example. If there are no privacy standards for government or commercial voyeurs, why expect rogue sheep to worry about private or privileged commercial or classified information? Edward Snowden is not just the product of a culture of deception, but his revelations about NSA, like those about Sony Corporation, are a kind of poetic justice.

To mix some metaphors, a culture of wolves and sheep is sure to be a free fire zone. The age of musterbation is a target rich environment.

Mandarins like Zuckerberg might pay lip service to the privacy concerns of his Facebook flock, but in the real world ironies abound.  Zuckerberg just purchased four neighboring estates in California to assure his personal privacy. Would that he and the rest of the cyber moguls had as much concern for the privacy of computer users,

The difference between political and commercial wolves is profound. The Director of NSA is an appointed official who serves at White House whim. Social satraps like Zuckerberg at Facebook, in contrast, are elevated by acclamation, thousands of stockholders and billions of sheep voting with each equity purchase or each new membership.

If you believed the recent Zuckerberg interview in Time (15 Dec 14) you might think that Facebook is all about connectivity, compassion, education, democracy, and globalization. Compared to Zuckerberg, former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is an honest man. Zuckerberg’s hip hop, photo shopped double talk makes Weiner’s junk shots look like tweet candor.

The Facebook czar would have us believe that connectivity is more important than other human needs, things like: employment, potable water, good nutrition, civil society, or flush toilets.

Really, Mark? Giving internet access to the poor and semi-literate is like feeding infants flip phones instead of strained bananas.

With Facebook you can “like” a post as much as you like, however, there is no button to click for disapproval, no way to dissent. On Facebook, the sentiment is yes or nothing, a virtual kindergarten for musterbaters. Internet culture is at once nurturing and infantile.

Cyber herding is a kind of electronic fascism in other ways. Try resigning from or removing a post from a social network, especially data that has been rebroadcast! Try restraining or identifying a bully or an obnoxious troll!  See how much help you get from providers, social forums, or the telecoms with civility complaints of any sort.

Indelible membership is aggravated by the spread of real world political fascism over the internet. Just a few examples would include al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, Boko Haram – NPR or CNN.

The virtual world is not fertile ground for peace, civility, or democracy either. Online games are a pathological subculture where blowback can be measured with shell casings or body bags at schools, theaters, and on the back streets of  Newark or Washington, DC.

Indeed, cyberspace amplifies the science, reason, and morality debate. The internet has been weaponized. And like its nuclear, chemical, or biological cousins, another example of scientific and engineering vacuity, the moral void that asks what and how – but seldom asks should.

Zuckerberg’s world view is just another mutation of engineering arrogance refracted through a progressive lens, a view that confuses technology and the passage of time with progress. The ideological assumptions behind technical optimism are even more naïve. Democracy is not a default setting beyond the EU or the US. Zuckerberg may have been touched by the romance of Hegel and Marx, but he was never exposed to pragmatism of Huntington and Kissinger.

Kissinger argues that there are only two primal narratives in the political world: hegemony and balance of power. In short, the pragmatic politician either imposes his will or negotiates a modus vivendi. The first option is expensive, tenuous, and dangerous; the second requires patience, creativity, and mutual trust. Option one is a zero sum game and option two is a plus sum roll of the dice.

Like the political world, the internet is a clash of civilizations, a win/lose enterprise for guys like Zuckerberg, parsing the universe into firsts or thirds, developed or emerging, educated or ignorant, rich or poor. The “emerging” story is usually just another narrative, the marketing of wishful thinking at the expense of experience. Some social problems are insolvable.

The internet accelerates a binary tautology nonetheless, populated as it is by mustabators and manipulators, digital sheep and wolves.

Like the world of politics, the internet requires a narrative. The story line may have little to do with truth, fact, or reality. Like a fairy tale, acceptance is a function of skillful telling and guileless belief. Indeed, truth is a handicap in both worlds. No one wants to hear that they are being used or manipulated.

Alas, truth is a bitch. She doesn’t care whose feelings get hurt. Government and industry moguls, on the other hand, are more circumspect. Federal or industry mendacity is not a vice in the information age. Lying is necessary – and apparently sufficient.

If modern Media is a “wasteland,” the metaphorical lexicon might be too shallow to characterize social network or virtual culture. Exhibitionists, voyeurs, thugs, and manipulators litter the digital landscape. Sixty years ago, the ugly American was a clueless State Department drone. Today, Media curs and federal voyeurs are the top dogs – and just as ugly.

“Those who know the least obey the best.” – George Farquhar

     .

——————————————

The author is an NSA alumnus. GMD does not belong to any social networks except LinkedIn where he has been a hostage for years. No amount of phone calls or emails have severed the link with LinkedIn. This essay was published in the February 2015 edition of the New English Review.

Images:

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT5_0P5KArDGcBosOXSGzUHx7cx2sYB6qhHAfxzSo8wOxhLueJakw

https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRhpXDBNVImjiMvaWmwbPCFq2QbDI0IEcFGw1qDROKNz8vDyInm

Tags: Facebook, NSA, Mark Zuckerberg, Keith Alexander, Otep Shamaya, Albert Ellis, Garrett Hardin, Sony Pictures, back doors, self-censorship, hacking, social networks, musterbation, nation of sheep, and ugly Americans.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.