This concept helps to explain why careerists who are most anxious to increase their status are often the least suitable for management
positions in military organizations.
Dixon's study of military incompetence deepens the traditional observation that peacetime armies
and wartime armies prefer (and promote) very different types of officers. Dixon seeks to give this observation
an explanation a basis that is rooted in Freudian psychology. The work appears rather dated in its psychology.
I doubt many modern psychologists would credit the idea that Field Marshall Haig sent thousands of men
to their death on the battlefield of the Somme because his mother had been too strict during his potty
training. Besides, Dixon's version of military history, while entertaining, also seems biased towards
supporting the conclusions he wants to reach.
But it is nevertheless a worthwhile effort to study the character of military commanders good and
bad, and even if you don't accept Dixon's interpretation, it at least makes you think about the issue.
It has often been observed that few successful generals are nice, uncomplicated men. His
classification into autocratic and authoritarian personalities is probably an oversimplification, but
still a useful framework that can be applied for many purposes.
The book was interesting in that it brought a whole new approach to thinking about military leaders
and where they come from. It also brought an interesting perspective about military leadership, military
organizations and who they potentially attract for leaders. The author suffers from not having a deep
or particularly wide understanding of war. Additionally, he is very focused on the British military
which really narrows many of his conclusions. It is a topic that is worth thinking about, I am not sure
though that the author really did it much justice. With that said, he is one of the first to write in
this area and therefore deserves credit.
Military incompetence refers to incompetencies and failures of military organizations, whether
through incompetent individuals or through a flawed institutional culture. OPften it is connected
with sycophants whoa re promoted during peace time (Rise
of Another CIA Yes Man – Consortiumnews):
As for Michael Morell, as with many other successful CIA careerists, his strongest suit seemed
to be pleasing his boss and not antagonizing the White House.
...It is sad to have to recall that this was not “erroneous,” but rather fraudulent
intelligence. Announcing on June 5, 2008, the bipartisan conclusions from a five-year study by
the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller described the intelligence conjured up to
“justify” war on Iraq as “uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”
... ... ...
And, if you think it’s unfair to expect CIA bureaucrats to risk their careers by
challenging the political desires of the White House, it’s worth noting the one
major exception to the CIA’s sorry record during George W. Bush’s presidency and how
honest CIA analysts helped prevent another unnecessary war.
After former chief of
State Department intelligence Tom Fingar was put in charge of National Intelligence
Estimates (NIEs), a thoroughly professional NIE in late 2007 concluded unanimously
and “with high confidence” that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in
The effects of isolated cases of personal incompetence are most often mixed with heavy
doze of sycophantism and can be disproportionately significant
in military organizations. Strict hierarchies
of command provide the opportunity for a single decision to direct the work of thousands, whilst an
institutional culture devoted to following
orders without debate can help ensure that a bad or miscommunicated decision is implemented without
being challenged or corrected. One sycophant in the command chain can inflict tremendous damage. Two
can be fatal:
Yet, in the Wall Street Journal feature, Michael Morell lectures Gorman on
the basics and the limits of intelligence analysis.
“We end up having bits of
information that have a multitude of possible explanations,” said Morell. “You’ve got
to be really humble about the business we’re in.”
Well, yes indeed. The WSJ also ran a sidebar with a list of the following CIA
failures and Morell’s facile potions for cures:
–2001, Sept. 11 attacks: A failure of both intelligence collection and
analysis. Lesson: A need to better penetrate U.S. adversaries.
–2003, Iraq weapons of mass destruction: Analysts erroneously concluded Iraq
had WMDs. Lesson: Analysts must describe confidence levels in conclusions,
consider alternate explanations.
–2009, Bombing of CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan: Doubts about the
asset-turned-suicide-bomber didn’t get to the right people. Lesson: Share
information with the people who most need it.
Is this Morell fellow on the ball, or what?
Let’s address these one by one:
–9/11 need not have happened if Tenet and his protégée simply shared the
information needed by the FBI and others. See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s
Tenet Hide Key 9/11 Info?” Or, Tenet and Morell might have risked their cozy
relationship with Bush by challenging his casual dismissal of the existing
–The WMD not in Iraq? How about promoting and rewarding honest analysts; no
“fixing” allowed. Face down White House pressure. We used to do it all the time.
We used to have career protection for doing it.
–On the tragedy at Khost? Well, how about some basic training in tradecraft,
including rudimentary security precautions.
And speaking of rudimentary security precautions: Morell bragged to Gorman that he
had recently flown to Kabul to brief Petraeus, carrying a blue briefing book
emblazoned with the CIA seal and detailing the CIA’s every critical program,
organization and operation.
“It was the most highly classified guide that I’ve ever seen in my life” was
The appropriate reaction, in my professional view, would have been to fire
Morell on the spot for recklessness. He should know better. They down aircraft, blow
up motorcades and shoot people in Afghanistan, you know. Is it really such a great
idea to carry a briefing book with the CIA’s most sensitive secrets into that
However, the most common cases of "military incompetence" can be attributable to a flawed
organizational culture. Perhaps the
most marked of these is a conservative and traditionalist
attitude, where innovative ideas or new technology are discarded or left untested. A tendency to believe
that a problem can be solved by applying an earlier - failed - solution "better", be that with more
men, more firepower, or simply more élan, is common. A strict hierarchical system often discourages
the devolution of power to junior commanders,
and can encourage micromanagement by senior
The nature of warfare provides several factors which exacerbate these effects; the
fog of war means that information about the enemy
forces is often limited or inaccurate, making it easy for the
intelligence process to interpret the
information to agree with existing assumptions, or to fit it to their own preconceptions and expectations.
Communications tend to deteriorate in battlefield situations, with the flow of information between commanders
and combat units being disrupted, making it difficult to react to changes in the situation as they develop.
After operations have ceased, military organizations often fail to learn effectively from experience.
In victory, whatever methods have been used - no matter how inefficient - appear to have been vindicated,
whilst in defeat there is a tendency to select scapegoats
and to avoid looking in detail at the broader reasons for failure.
On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Dr. Norman F. Dixon
- Dr Dixon goes on to postulate that it is the military organisation that contains the potential
to create incompetent leadership or to promote incompetent persons to positions of great power and responsibility.
… He lists several characteristics and values which the military holds in high esteem and strives to
achieve, as well as their negative consequences. Among these are: Uniformity, hierarchy, and the fact
that ambitious and achievement-oriented officers are highly esteemed and respected in the military,
so much so that self-serving and vainglorious officers are sometimes promoted to high leadership, with
disastrous consequences -
Incompetence, as defined in Dr Dixon’s book, refers to the chronic inability to do a particular
job or activity successfully. Incompetence may be due to a lack of adequate training, skill, aptitude
Incompetence can be found in any industry, field or discipline. But incompetence in war takes on
a significance far greater than in any other field.
Because the conduct of war involves vast sums of money, the application of a massive amount of destructive
power, and the fact that millions of lives are at stake, a study of military incompetence is directly
relevant and important to all persons involved in the field.
This book examines the issue in three parts. Part One presents examples of incompetence in British
military history over the past hundred years, from the Crimean War to the Allied defeat at Arnhem ,
during Operation Market Garden. Although the study of military incompetence is universally relevant,
the inclusion of the loss of Singapore lends this book some welcomed local relevance. Parts Two and
Three examine the common features of military incompetence and seek to find the origins of this incompetence
from a psychological point of view.
The Nature of Incompetence
Dr Dixon raises many instances and examples from British military history, from both great wars and
small actions. Through all these wars, he picks out some common characteristics of military incompetence,
A fundamental conservatism and clinging to outworn tradition, as well as an inability to profit
from past experience.
A tendency to reject, suppress or ignore information which is unpalatable or conflicts with
A tendency to under-estimate the enemy and over-estimate the capabilities of one ’ s own side.
An undue readiness to find scapegoats and suppress news about military setbacks.
A predilection for frontal assaults and the belief in brute force rather than the use of surprises
Indecisiveness and a general abdication from the role of a leader.
A failure to exploit a situation due to the lack of aggressiveness.
There are obviously other reasons for failure in war, such as the lack of training, technological
inferiority, the lack of proper intelligence equipment, failure of logistical support, ineffective flow
of information and communication as well as the destruction of morale. However, those factors are external
to the leader, whereas military incompetence is an inherent fault in military leadership. All else being
equal, a well-equipped, well-trained fighting force will be made ineffective by the presence of an incompetent
leader, and no amount of military intelligence, regardless of how accurate and timely it is, will be
used effectively by an incompetent general. Therefore it is clear that a military leader is one of the
most important force multipliers of any military organisation.
Intellectual Ability or the Lack Thereof
Dr Dixon examines in the subsequent chapters the possible causes of military incompetence.
He examines, firstly, the premise that incompetent generals are also those lacking in intellectual ability.
This was true for the British Army, up to the early years of the 20 th Century, due to three main reasons:
Firstly, the officers of the Army were selected primarily for their position in a higher class in
society, on the virtue of the importance and social status of their fathers, and other social connections.
These people were sometimes wholly inadequate for their job, and some displayed mediocre intellectual
ability at best.
Secondly, the examinations for entry and graduation from Staff College and the Royal Military College
were not wholly relevant to what was actually required for competent generalship, and could be passed
with flying colours simply by memorisation of answers and learning by rote. This meant that officers
with poor intellectual ability were not filtered out by the system.
Finally, in such military training establishments, prowess in games, muscle and masculinity then
constituted the main criteria by which a man was judged, and anti-intellectualism was prevalent in the
Dr Dixon then examines the pro-position that military incompetence, manifested in the phenomenon
of incredibly poor decision-making, was a direct result of poor intellectual ability. However, he could
draw no direct link between decision-making and intellectual ability, and therefore rejected the suggestion
that military incompetence is a result of poor intellectual ability.
This review agrees with Dr Dixon. Intellectual ability is best suited to an intellectual profession.
Furthermore, I believe that intellectual ability and innate intelligence are not directly related, and
that a person can be highly intelligent, inventive and cunning without being intellectually gifted.
There are lessons here to be found from Dr Dixon’s argument. Firstly, we have to ensure that officers
are chosen based on their own merit, and not due to their relationship with any class in society, hereditary
reasons or because of race or religion.
Also, training in a military institution must prepare officers professionally for the task they will
perform. In addition, examinations must test the officer candidate adequately. Those who
set examinations must be clear on what qualities they are supposed to examine, and be clear on
the distinction between memory and ability.
Finally, any officer candidate must not be hindered in his recruitment or professional advancement
based on academic qualifications obtained outside the military establishment. Nonetheless, the premise
that a highly educated person makes for a more capable officer is questionable. Instead, an officer
should be chosen and promoted based on his performance.
The Organisation as the Source of Incompetence
Dr Dixon goes on to postulate that it is the military organisation that contains the potential to
create incompetent leadership or to promote incompetent persons to positions of great power and responsibility.
He lists several characteristics and values which the military holds in high esteem and strives to achieve,
as well as their negative consequences. Among these are:
Uniformity, to the extent of oppressive conformity and the crushing of individual thoughts and
the devaluation of initiative.
Hierarchy and the importance of proper authority, to the extent of a fear to report bad news
to superiors, the rejection of suggestions or corrections from the lower ranks, and hostility towards
those of lower rank who initiate action without permission, however effective or necessary the action
A love of regularity and regimentation and an inability to think outside of drill.
The fact that ambitious and achievement-oriented officers are highly esteemed and respected
in the military, so much so that self-serving and vainglorious officers are sometimes promoted to
high leadership, with disastrous consequences.
The factors listed above correlate to the nature of incompetence as previously listed. However, the
values which can so easily lead to generation of incompetent leadership and organisations are also crucial
to the success of any conventional armed forces. The learning point here is that a balanced application
of these values is required. As with all methods to achieve military readiness, these methods must be
applied with their objective in mind, and not be applied for their own sake. The objective here, as
in all military forces, is the efficiency and effectiveness of the military.
For example, drill is a vital part of military training. Drill trains the military operator to carry
out military action fast, efficiently and without error. However, drill when taken to its extreme, robs
the military of flexibility and wastes time. A love of drill hinders the development of novel fighting
techniques and prevents the adaptation of military forces to new fighting environments. A striking example
of this can be found in the Boer War, where British forces were so steeped in drill that they did not
evolve a new process of attack which could counter the Boer’s novel idea of using trenches as cover.
For the British, massed formations and open frontal assaults were the drill, which proved especially
costly against the Boer ’ s use of cover and concealment.
These four factors are less prevalent in modern fighting forces. By and large, modern militaries
understand the importance of flexibility, initiative and feedback, vital especially to situations where
communications are unreliable and information is of questionable accuracy. Additionally, the years of
rapid technological change after WWII highlighted the importance of innovation, technology and ability
to adapt to rapidly changing situations.
It is a pity that this book (published in 1976) is unable to include the Vietnam War, which is arguably
a good example of military incompetence by an advanced nation, or the Gulf War, which is commonly acknowledged
to be a “ textbook ” campaign, an example of how to conduct a war successfully. A survey of global events
in the past three decades suggests that incompetent leadership has, by and large, become a less significant
problem than it used to be a hundred or even fifty years ago. After the Vietnam war, it seems to this
reviewer that administrative incompetence and strategic in-competence have become the leading problems,
taking the place of the incompetence of tactical or theatre leadership.
Administrative incompetence refers to the inability of an organisation as a whole to adapt to change
and innovation as well as the inability of an organisation to learn from past mistakes. This bureaucratic
inefficiency is not caused by any one person, but by organisational culture as a whole. Organisations,
like physical masses, possess a kind of inertia that resists change, and it takes a great force to effect
significant change. One solution to this is to put in place mechanisms whereby change can be implemented.
This has to take place at many levels, from the ground up, as well as from the top down. This reviewer
feels that this is one manifestation of incompetence which deserves greater exploration.
Another form of incompetence raised in the book is strategic incompetence. This refers to incompetence
at levels beyond the military, occurring when the decisions made in deploying or withdrawing the use
of military force. Often this incompetence takes place at the political and national level. Some examples
Sending a military force to a situation without a clear mission or objective.
Sending a military force into a situation without the legal ability to defend itself or the
mandate to fulfill its role effectively.
Leaving a military force in a situation where it becomes progressively more committed, to the
point where it is unable to withdraw safely, or when resources and lives have to be continually
poured into a situation with no clear end.
The lack of political will to sustain losses, or an unrealistic political definition of “acceptable
Withdrawing a military force before the successful completion of objectives.
Recent notable example like the Somali “mission creep” debacle and the US War in Iraq (OIF) readily
come to mind.
Today, with realistic and effective training, innovative use of new doctrines and technology, effective
feedback as well as the understanding and effective use of military intelligence, incompetence on a
personal and tactical scale can be eliminated.
However, the malaise of incompetence in this era arises more from organisational inefficiency and
ineffective political direction which can be important topics for another book.
In Norman Dixon’s book entitled “On the Psychology of Military Incompetence” he describes how
military generals disregard the facts and make decisions that result in disasters. For example,
he considers how the “highly intelligent” General Percival failed to act in time to protect Singapore
against the advancing Japanese force. “Even the Japanese were staggered . . . by the ease,
speed and enormity of their success.”
The human attributes that Dixon identifies in military leaders that lead to military disasters
can exist in any profession, including economists. Dixon’s thesis can best be summed up in
the following statement:
the greater the impact of new information the more strenuously will it be resisted.
There are several reasons for this dangerous conservatism. ‘New’ information has, by definition,
high information content, and therefore:
· firstly it will require greater processing capacity;
· secondly it threatens a return to an earlier sate
of gnawing uncertainty; and
· thirdly it confronts the decision maker with the
nasty thought that he may have been wrong.
No wonder he tends to turn a blind eye!
I will quote an example that Dixon uses but modified to make it more relevant for economists.
Acquiring knowledge involves the reduction of ignorance through the acquisition of facts,
but ignorance is rarely absolute and its reduction rarely total. Hence reducing ignorance
can be regarded as reducing uncertainty about a given state of affairs. It follows that an
unlikely or unexpected fact contains more information (i.e., reduces more uncertainty than one which
is expected. But an unexpected fact is less readily absorbed than one which was expected.
If this is less than crystal clear, consider the following example, cast in a suitably economic
policy context. The message in this case consists of an analytical report which states: “There
is no evidence to support the theory that the fiscal deficit is directly responsible for the current
Now this report, factually so simple, contains amounts of information which differ greatly from
one senior economic policy advisor to another. To senior economic advisor "A" who already
expected that there was no relationship between the two deficits, it conveys very little; it merely
confirms a hypothesis which he already held. In fact he has developed policies that are based
on this understanding and the report, when it came, was largely redundant.
In the case of senior economic advisor "B", however, the same report was quite unexpected.
He had relied on the twin deficits theory to justify his policies. So little had he anticipated
that the report was charged with information. It gave him plenty to occupy his mind and much
Finally we have senior economic advisor "C", for which the report was so totally unexpected that
he chose to ignore it, with disastrous results. It conflicted with his preconceptions.
It clashed with his wishes. It emanated, so he thought, from an unreliable source. Since
the mind was closed to its inception, he found plenty of reasons for refusing to believe it.
Its information-content was just too high for his channel of limited capacity.
One particularly hazardous aspect of the relationship between information and the decision process
concerns the revising of decisions. It seems that having gradually (and perhaps painfully)
accumulated information in support of a decision, people become loath to accept contrary evidence.
Yet in economics, the consequences can be more disastrous than in military battles.
For example, Churchill appreciated the value of the English pound following World War I.
This led to high unemployment in the United Kingdom. Although he later realised it was a mistake,
he refused to reverse his decision.
One country that appeared to have a senior economic advisor of type B is the Philippines.
The Central Bank of the Philippines has acted to change their monetary policies once they were aware
of the relationship between commercial bank credit and the current account deficit under a closed
floating exchange rate system. They once had large
current account deficits but now have current account surpluses.
Military incompetence refers to incompetencies and failures of military organisations, whether
through incompetent individuals or through a flawed institutional culture.
The effects of isolated
cases of personal incompetence can be disproportionately significant in military organisations.
Strict hierarchies of command provide the
opportunity for a single decision to direct the work of thousands, whilst an
institutional culture devoted
to following orders without debate can help ensure that a bad or miscommunicated decision is implemented
without being challenged or corrected.
However, the most common cases of "military incompetence" can be attributable to a flawed
organisational culture. Perhaps
the most marked of these is a conservative
and traditionalist attitude, where innovative ideas or new technology are discarded or left untested.
A tendency to believe that a problem can be solved by applying an earlier - failed - solution "better",
be that with more men, more firepower, or simply more élan, is common. A strict hierarchical
system often discourages the devolution of
power to junior commanders, and can encourage
micromanagement by senior officers.
The nature of warfare provides several factors which exacerbate these effects; the
fog of war means that information about the
enemy forces is often limited or inaccurate, making it easy for the
intelligence process to interpret
the information to agree with existing assumptions, or to fit it to their own preconceptions and
expectations. Communications tend to deteriorate in battlefield situations, with the flow of information
between commanders and combat units being disrupted, making it difficult to react to changes in
the situation as they develop.
After operations have ceased, military organisations often fail to learn effectively from experience.
In victory, whatever methods have been used - no matter how inefficient - appear to have been vindicated,
whilst in defeat there is a tendency to select
scapegoats and to avoid looking in detail at the broader reasons for failure.
The story is probably more complex and Regisr is as close to yellow press as one can get but
discarding 36K smartphones in one year is something that smells incompetence. BTW Lumia 83 can be
upgraded to Windows 10 so this was not a problem.
buy-up by bungling billionairess
Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco
28 Aug 2017 at
The New York Police Department will scrap 36,000 smartphones, thanks to a
monumental purchasing cock-up by a billionaire's daughter.
The city spent millions on the phones back in October 2016 as part of its drive to bring the
police force into the 21st century. And the woman behind the purchase – Deputy
Commissioner for Information Technology, Jessica Tisch – praised them for their ability
to quickly send 911 alerts to officers close to an incident.
There was only one problem: Tisch chose Windows-based Lumia 830 and Lumia 640 XL phones, and
for Windows 8.1 in July.
Even though those two models are eligible to be upgraded to Windows 10 Mobile, the NYPD will
need to redesign more than a dozen custom apps it created to run on Windows 8.1. And every
phone will need to be manually updated to the new operating system. In addition, Microsoft is
only promising to support upgraded Windows 10 phones through to June 2019.
In other words, the phones are effectively obsolete and so,
according to the
New York Post
, the police department has decided to scrap them altogether and go with
That decision has not come as a huge surprise: even when the purchasing decision was made,
Windows-based phones held just three percent of the market. In fact, back in 2016 when the
program was launched, pretty much everyone applauded the idea of giving cops smartphones but
were baffled as to why anyone would go with Windows phones over Android or iOS.
Well, according to department sources quoted by the New York Post, the procurement disaster
was all down to Ms Tisch – who, it turns out, is the daughter of former Loews CEO and
billionaire James S Tisch.
"She drove the whole process," one unhappy cop told the paper, name-checking Jessica.
"Nobody purchases 36,000 phones based on the judgment of one person," he complained. "I don't
care if you're Jesus fucking Christ, you get a panel of experts."
Which is a fair point, since we have no hesitation in saying that even an expert panel of
one would have concluded that Windows phones were a turn in the wrong direction for a huge
According to other sources, the reason Tisch plumbed for the Lumia was because the NYPD was
using Microsoft software on its video surveillance system – a system that Tisch has
closely associated herself with and, back in 2012, demonstrated and boasted about to the press,
You can see how an inexperienced IT manager might think that it made sense to go with
Microsoft all the way. But then that is also why anyone who carries out IT procurement into an
area they are not expert on gets a team of people to review all the possibilities before they
spend huge sums of money.
"She was in charge. It was her project, no question about that," another department source
told the Post.
So why has the notoriously tight-lipped NYPD decided to dump on one of its own? It may be
that Ms Tisch put a few noses out of joint with her smartphone plan, first announced in
At the time, then-police commissioner Bill Bratton specifically identified Tisch as being
the driving force for the plan and joked: "She's a terror if she doesn't get her way, so I
usually let her get her way. So she's certainly getting her way with this technology."
We have asked the NYPD for confirmation and comment on the decision to scrap the phones.
We'll get back if and when they respond.
disappeared, everyone knew exactly where to point the finger
Simon Sharwood, APAC Editor
25 Aug 2017 at 07:02
's weekly reader-contributed tales of workplace woe.
This week, meet "Craig," who shared a story of working for a small IT services company that
hired a new "team leader".
Craig used italics because after meeting his new boss he quickly surmised the title "was an
entire contradiction, as he was neither."
One fine day, Craig was given the job of sorting out an email issue at a small family owned
legal firm. Craig knew the client well: he'd previously fixed their jammed printers, added new
users to the company domain and lots of other mundane stuff.
On this occasion things were a bit more urgent as one of the senior partners had email
issues and there was a whiff of data loss in the air. Enter the new team leader, who dispatched
Craig to the client with thundered instructions to "JUST GO AND FIX IT!"
Upon arrival, Craig liaised with "Dianne", a worker at the law firm who helped him when he
With Dianne's help Craig quickly figured out that senior partner's .PST file was corrupted.
Craig tried his usual tricks but they didn't work, in part because "Outlook was throwing a
hissy fit at every opportunity." So he called back to base to consult a colleague, but the
phone was answered by the new team leader who insisted on taking control of the situation.
At this point, Craig put the call on speaker so that Dianne could hear it.
Both were treated to the new boss suggesting use of a .PST repair tool, which Craig had
"I don't care, run it again," was the response, so Craig obeyed and duly reported it had not
"Delete the account and recreate it" was the next instruction, which again was hardly news
to Craig and again didn't work.
So the boss got extreme and told Craig to "delete Outlook and Office from the registry."
Craig didn't like that idea and told the team leader so, while shaking his head at Dianne,
making lots of bad-idea motions and telling his boss he felt this was not a sensible course of
"Just fucking do what I tell you" was the reply. Which got Dianne smiling as she now
appreciated Craig's situation and realised the boss had no idea he was on speaker.
Craig protested that this was a dangerous course of action likely to create further problems
in an already-unstable system and endanger the client's data.
To which the team leader responded that Craig was a lowly functionary and should do what he
was told by his betters.
So Craig did as he was told, deleting any registry entry that mentioned Outlook while
watching Dianne start to take notes about the incident.
Of course the glorious leader's idea didn't work and Craig was soon able to show Dianne that
the partner's emails had gone, in all probability forever. Which is a bad look anywhere but
even worse at a law firm.
Dianne was furious.
Craig was calm. He whipped out a third-party .PST repair tool he favoured, applied it to the
backup of the partner's file he'd made just in case things went pear-shaped, and recovered just
about all of the at-risk emails.
"Dianne hailed me as a hero," Craig recalls. And not long afterwards he was vindicated when
the client sent his employer a letter saying that they'd be fired if the new team leader ever
had anything to do with their IT again.
Said leader was gone two months later after other clients complained about his skills and
"I was glad to see the back of him because he was an utter dickhead," Craig told us in his
email to On-Call.
Has your boss ever asked you to do something dangerous?
Write to share your story
and it might be
your anonymised name getting readers chuckling in a future edition of On-Call. ®
In my opinion the most under-reported event of the Iraq war was the suicide of military Ethicist
Colonel Ted Westhusing. It was reported at the end of a Frank Rich column that appeared in the
NY Times of 10-21-2007:
"The cost cannot be measured only in lost opportunities, lives and money. There will be a long
hangover of shame. Its essence was summed up by Col. Ted Westhusing, an Army scholar of military
ethics who was an innocent witness to corruption, not a participant, when he died at age 44 of
a gunshot wound to the head while working for Gen. David Petraeus training Iraqi security forces
in Baghdad in 2005. He was at the time the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq."
"Colonel Westhusing's death was ruled a suicide, though some believe he was murdered by contractors
fearing a whistle-blower, according to T. Christian Miller, the Los Angeles Times reporter who
documents the case in his book "Blood Money." Either way, the angry four-page letter the officer
left behind for General Petraeus and his other commander, Gen. Joseph Fil, is as much an epitaph
for America's engagement in Iraq as a suicide note."
" 'I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars,' Colonel
Westhusing wrote, abbreviating the word mission. 'I am sullied.' "
"The tiny pink candies at the bottom of the urinals are reserved for Field Grade and Above." --sign
over the urinals in the "O" Club at Tan Son Nhut Airbase, 1965.
Now that sentiment, is Officer-on-Officer. The same dynamic tension exists throughout all Branches
My background includes a Combat Infantry Badge and a record of having made Spec Four , two
times. If you don't know what that means, stop reading here.
I feel that no one should be promoted E-5 or O-4, if they are to command men in battle, unless
they have had that life experience themselves. It becomes virgins instructing on sexual etiquette.
Within the ranks, there exists a disdain for officers, in general. Some officers overcome this
by their actions, but the vast majority cement that assessment the same way.
What makes the thing run is the few officers who are superior human beings, and the NCOs who are
of that same tribe. And there is a love there, from top to bottom and bottom to top, a brotherhood
of warriors which the civilian population will forever try to discern, parse and examine to their
lasting frustration and ignorance.
It is the spirit of this nation [Liberty, e pluribus unum and In God We Trust ] that is the
binding filament of it all. The civilians responsible for the welfare of the armed services need
to be more fully aware of that spirit and they need to bring it into the air-conditioned offices
they inhabit when they make decisions about men who know sacrifice.
"... The schools teach a combination of staff process and sophomore-level college courses in government and international relations. No one is taught how to be a commander in combat. One Army lieutenant colonel recently wrote me that he got angry when he figured out that nothing he needs to know to command would be taught to him in any Army school. ..."
"... The promotion system reinforces professional ignorance. ..."
It was tragic that the career of General David Petraeus was brought down by a mere affair. It should
have ended several years earlier as a consequence of his failure as our commander in Afghanistan.
Petraeus, like every other theater commander in that war except Stanley McChrystal, could have been
replaced by a concrete block and nothing would have changed. They all kept doing the same things
while expecting a different result.
Thomas Ricks's recent book The Generals has reintroduced into the defense debate a vital
factor the press and politicians collude in ignoring: military incompetence. It was a major theme
of the Military Reform Movement of the 1970s and '80s. During those years, a friend of mine who was
an aide to a Marine Corps commandant asked his boss how many Marine generals, of whom there were
then 60-some, could competently fight a battle. The commandant came up with six. And the Marine Corps
is the best of our services.
Military incompetence does not begin at the rank of brigadier general. An old French proverb says
that the problem with the generals is that we select them from among the colonels. Nonetheless, military
competence-the ability to see quickly what to do in a military situation and make it happen-is more
rare at the general officer level. A curious aspect of our promotion system is that the higher the
rank, the smaller the percentage of our competent officers.
Why is military incompetence so widespread at the higher levels of America's armed forces? Speaking
from my own observations over almost 40 years, I can identify two factors. First, nowhere does our
vast, multi-billion dollar military-education system teach military judgment. Second, above the rank
of Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force captain, military ability plays essentially no role in determining
who gets promoted. (It has been so long since our Navy fought another navy that, apart from the aviators,
military competence does not seem to be a consideration at any level.)
Almost never do our military schools, academies, and colleges put students in situations where
they have to think through how to fight a battle or a campaign, then get critiqued not on their answer
but the way they think. Nor does American military training offer much free play, where the enemy
can do whatever he wants and critique draws out why one side won and the other lost. Instead, training
exercises are scripted as if we are training an opera company. The schools teach a combination
of staff process and sophomore-level college courses in government and international relations. No
one is taught how to be a commander in combat. One Army lieutenant colonel recently wrote me that
he got angry when he figured out that nothing he needs to know to command would be taught to him
in any Army school.
The promotion system reinforces professional ignorance. Above the company grades, military
ability does not count in determining who gets promoted. At the rank of major, officers are supposed
to accept that the "real world" is the internal world of budget and promotion politics, not war.
Those who "don't get it" have ever smaller chances of making general. This represents corruption
of the worst kind, corruption of institutional purpose. Its result is generals and admirals who are
in effect Soviet industrial managers in ever worse-looking suits. They know little and care less
about their intended product, military victory. Their expertise is in acquiring resources and playing
the military courtier.
"... Now think about it a minute. These are the people to whom we have given the authority to make life and death, godlike, decisions, over thousands of their subordinates and millions of people in less fortunate foreign lands. As you will see toward the end of this article, their manifest failings have had some rather serious consequences-that could have been much worse-in an episode in Korea in the 1960s that is revealed in full here for the first time. ..."
What with all the glorification of our "heroes" in uniform, a glorification that seems to grow
in inverse proportion to the real need for them, a person could begin to feel afraid to utter aloud
the sort of jokes that people used to make. For instance, you might feel the need to look over your
shoulder before you repeat the old George Carlin observation that "military intelligence" is an oxymoron.
The growing military hype and the sort of military intelligence with which I became all too familiar
in my two years of service, 1966-1968, came together on this Veterans Day weekend. The picture of
the U.S. Navy's finest engaged in the Sisyphean task of
mopping dew off the basketball court that had been laid on the deck of the USS Yorktown said
it all. That was in coastal South Carolina on Friday night, November 9, in what was to have been
a big military advertisement to kick off the weekend. The same fiasco played itself out on the
deck of the USS Bataan in Jacksonville, Florida, except that the college basketball players there
put themselves in harm's way for an entire half, attempting to play on the virtual skating rink that
the very predictable condensation had made of the surface.
... ... ...
Now think about it a minute. These are the people to whom we have given the authority to make
life and death, godlike, decisions, over thousands of their subordinates and millions of people in
less fortunate foreign lands. As you will see toward the end of this article, their manifest failings
have had some rather serious consequences-that could have been much worse-in an episode in Korea
in the 1960s that is revealed in full here for the first time.
... ... ...
Before we were to do our one dry run we had a planning meeting, presided over by the lieutenant
colonel from Eighth Army Headquarters in charge of the operation, at which the action plan was handed
out. Right off the bat we noticed a problem. Each of the teams was identified with a number. We were
team four. Each of the islands was also assigned a number, one through four, and they were called
"sites." Our team four was to go to site one, team three was to go to site two, and so on.
We wanted badly to suggest that it might be a better idea to match up the sites and the team designations,
so that team one went to site one, etc., but we were told that we would have an opportunity to make
suggestions for the final action plan after we had done our dry run, so we held our fire.
... ... ...
"We're implementing the action plan," said he, or words to that effect. "Move out immediately."
Patting myself on the back for the decision I had made, and in a state of rather high excitement,
I pulled out the phone number of the contact in the Kimpo engineer battalion to make sure that there
would be boats for us when we got to our destination.
It's a good thing the phone worked-the military phones were something of a hit-or-miss thing at
that time in Korea-considering his response. "We haven't had any move-out order," he responded to
I immediately got back on the phone to the Eighth Army lieutenant to ask him what was up.
"Hold that first order," he said. "We've decided to give it a little more time."
Now I was thinking that it was an especially good thing that I had not taken the "immediately"
part of his move-out order too literally, and I was really glad I had gotten that boatman's phone
number. Considering the weather conditions, "high and dry" doesn't precisely describe the position
we would have found ourselves in at the evacuation site without the boats and without even a need
for them, but it comes close.
Having heard many reports of predicted river flooding on the news where the levels expected are
based upon levels already recorded upstream, I inquired of the lieutenant as to the basis on which
the final decision would be made. I remember his response as though it were yesterday:
"Colonel 'Geronimo' is down looking at the river."
As it turned out, no one drowned because some would-be rescue helicopter had landed at Site 3
instead of the correct Site 2 because he had received an emergency radio call from Ground 3, and
we never suffered from the lack of manpower that the Korean Army might have provided at our site.
None of the islands flooded that day-or that year-and the "hold" on that first call from the Eighth
Army lieutenant continued into perpetuity.
The lost in mail laptop and disappear thumb drive with archived emails story is incredibly fishy.
The whole story in incredible. Both Hillary and her close aides (especially Huma ) come out as completely
incompetent idiots, who can't be trusted any sensitive information. This level of incompetence combined
with recklessness is pretty typical for female sociopath
"... The Donald Trump campaign has already called for Clinton to be "locked up" for her carelessness handling sensitive information. The missing laptop and thumb drive raise a new possibility that Clinton's emails could have been obtained by people for whom they weren't intended. ..."
"... The archives on the laptop and thumbdrive were constructed by Clinton aides in 2013, using a convoluted process, before her emails were turned over to State Department officials and later scrubbed to determine which ones had classified information and should either be withheld from public view or could be released with redactions. The archive of messages would contain none of those safeguards, potentially exposing classified information if it were ever opened and its contents read. ..."
"... The archive was created nearly a year before the State Department contacted former secretaries of state and asked them to turn over any emails that they had sent using private accounts that pertained to official business. A senior Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, told the FBI that the archive on the laptop and thumb drive were meant to be "a reference for the future production of a book," according to the FBI report. ..."
"... Whatever the rationale, the transfer of Clinton's emails onto two new storage devices, one of which was shipped twice, created new opportunities for messages to be lost or exposed to people who weren't authorized to see them, according to the FBI report. (The Clinton campaign didn't immediately respond to a request to comment for this story.) ..."
"... The disappearing laptop and thumb drive story is incredibly fishy. Either Team Hillary is lying about it, or they are spectacularly incompetent and reckless with national security information. ..."
"... Hillary Clinton: Incompetent, Or Criminal? Both. ..."
"... Dear God, from the Daily Beast article, apparently they were using one of the laptops as a way to transfer the emails to a contractor they had hired. Since no one knew how to do it, they effected the transfer by sending the entire archive to a personal gmail account, then transfering it again to the contractor. So we have a massive store containing quite classified information going to a major tech company, entirely over the internet with only ssl protection I can only presume, because they could not figure out how to transfer a file system. The incompetence here is astonishing. Even a Google employee who forwards sensitive information to a personal gmail account would risk being fired. ..."
"... Of course the most important detail to come out of this is the use of BleachBit. You don't use that software to delete emails about yoga classes. ..."
"... The employee "transferred all of the Clinton e-mail content to a personal Google e-mail (Gmail) address he created," the FBI found. From that Gmail address, he downloaded the emails into a mailbox named "HRC Archive" on the Platte River server. ..."
"... Honestly, Rod you should highlight this. I can assure you that if something this mindbogglingly reckless were ever done at a major tech company the employee would either be fired or told to find work elsewhere but never enter the office again (because severance is expensive and bad pr). I assume the same is true of the government as well. ..."
A laptop containing a copy, or "archive," of the emails on Hillary Clinton's
private server was apparently lost-in the postal mail-according to an FBI report released
Friday. Along with it, a thumb drive that also contained an archive of Clinton's emails has been
lost and is not in the FBI's possession.
The Donald Trump campaign has already called for Clinton to be "locked up" for her carelessness
handling sensitive information. The missing laptop and thumb drive raise a new possibility that
Clinton's emails could have been obtained by people for whom they weren't intended. The FBI
director has already said it's possible Clinton's email system could have been
remotely accessed by foreign hackers.
The archives on the laptop and thumbdrive were constructed by Clinton aides in 2013, using
a convoluted process, before her emails were turned over to State Department officials and later
scrubbed to determine which ones had classified information and should either be withheld from
public view or could be released with redactions. The archive of messages would contain none of
those safeguards, potentially exposing classified information if it were ever opened and its contents
The FBI has found that Clinton's emails contained classified information, including information
derived from U.S. intelligence. Her campaign has disputed the classification of some of the emails.
The archive was created nearly a year before the State Department contacted former secretaries
of state and asked them to turn over any emails that they had sent using private accounts that
pertained to official business. A senior Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, told the FBI that the archive
on the laptop and thumb drive were meant to be "a reference for the future production of a book,"
according to the FBI report. Another aide, however, said that the archive was set up after
the email account of a Clinton confidante and longtime adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, was compromised
by a Romanian hacker.
Whatever the rationale, the transfer of Clinton's emails onto two new storage devices,
one of which was shipped twice, created new opportunities for messages to be lost or exposed to
people who weren't authorized to see them, according to the FBI report. (The Clinton campaign
didn't immediately respond to a request to comment for this story.)
Read it all. The disappearing laptop and thumb drive story is incredibly fishy. Either
Team Hillary is lying about it, or they are spectacularly incompetent and reckless with national
No one in the media wants to say it, but this report almost entirely exonerates Clinton. Yes,
she's lawyerly and is inclined to walk too close to the line, but no – she didn't do anything
immoral or unethical. If at some point it turns out that she's actually done something wrong then
we revisit, but the obsession with this 'crimeless coverup' prevents us from stating the obvious
– Clinton is a solid candidate for President, intelligent, diligent and serious enough to guide
the nation through difficult times. Trump is uncontroversially not.
The moral equivalence games the media plays with the two candidates amounts to a cancer in
our civic fiber that allows us not to put away our childish things.
We could have had Carly Fiorina dealing with the challenge of cyber warfare in the 21st century.
Voters are choosing a woman who put an insecure server containing national security communications
in her basement, and sold our intention and opportunities to do good in the world to rich people
for her own financial gain.
(I lean toward voting for Trump. My issue is the immense paperwork drag on health care delivery
and the increase in cost caused by the "affordable" care act. I expect more of the same with Clinton.
Dear God, from the Daily Beast article, apparently they were using one of the laptops as a
way to transfer the emails to a contractor they had hired. Since no one knew how to do it, they
effected the transfer by sending the entire archive to a personal gmail account, then transfering
it again to the contractor. So we have a massive store containing quite classified information
going to a major tech company, entirely over the internet with only ssl protection I can only
presume, because they could not figure out how to transfer a file system. The incompetence here
is astonishing. Even a Google employee who forwards sensitive information to a personal gmail
account would risk being fired.
This sort of astonishing incompetence is exactly why I originally thought this was a big deal.
The reason you don't want HRC running her own server is because she plainly doesn't know how to
manage, or even hire for, all the inane details of information security.
Of course the most important detail to come out of this is the use of BleachBit. You don't
use that software to delete emails about yoga classes.
Jay, or, and hear me out, like the other Bill, there has to come a point in time where the shear
amount of claims of criminal behavior has to be considered. The other Bill got away with rape
for years, maybe its time to consider that this Bill and his wife lack credibility in the face
of accusers that HRC has denigrated and called Bimbos.
Leftists make me sick in this. They will cry that we should always believe the victim unless
one of their political leaders are accused. You want to take out a conservative? Give credible
evidence that he is guilty of rape or sexual harassment. We quit voting for them. Your side, deny,
deny, deny….and ultimately demand we move on, just like a previous poster's five stages of a Clinton
The only exception to this I can think of is Weiner, not because he did something that is horrible.
No, you guys abandoned him because he was pathetic and embarrassing.
This is the direct quote from the Daily Beast article:
After trying unsuccessfully to remotely transfer the emails to a Platte River server, Hanley
shipped the laptop to the employee's home in February 2014. He then "migrated Clinton's emails"
from the laptop to a Platte River server.
That task was hardly straightforward, however, and ended up exposing the email archive yet
again, this time to another commercial email service.
The employee "transferred all of the Clinton e-mail content to a personal Google e-mail
(Gmail) address he created," the FBI found. From that Gmail address, he downloaded the emails
into a mailbox named "HRC Archive" on the Platte River server.
Honestly, Rod you should highlight this. I can assure you that if something this mindbogglingly
reckless were ever done at a major tech company the employee would either be fired or told to
find work elsewhere but never enter the office again (because severance is expensive and bad pr).
I assume the same is true of the government as well.
It really makes the Nixon comparisons seem apt, except she has an out for her supporters in
simply claiming that she is a bumbling idiot.
The good liberals here who are starting the writing on the wall with Crooked Hillary should begin
considering the fact that Trump isn't that bad and is actually pretty good in many ways. Come
on over, you will be welcomed warmly.
It's 1990. I'm a young captain in the U.S. Air Force. I've just witnessed the fall of the
Berlin Wall, something I never thought I'd see, short of a third world war. Right now I'm witnessing
the slow death of the Soviet Union, without the accompanying nuclear Armageddon so many feared.
Still, I'm slightly nervous as my military gears up for an unexpected new campaign, Operation Desert
Shield/Storm, to expel Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein's military from Kuwait. It's a confusing
moment. After all, the Soviet Union was forever (until it wasn't) and Saddam had been a stalwart
U.S. friend, his country a bulwark against the Iran of the Ayatollahs. (For anyone who doubts
that history, just check out the now-infamous
1983 photo of Donald Rumsfeld,
then special envoy for President Reagan, all smiles and shaking hands with Saddam in Baghdad.)
Still, whatever my anxieties, the Soviet Union collapsed without a whimper and the campaign against
Saddam's battle-tested forces proved to be a "cakewalk," with ground combat over in a mere 100 hours.
Think of it as the trifecta moment:
Vietnam syndrome vanquished forever, Saddam's army destroyed, and the U.S. left standing as the
planet's "sole superpower."
Post-Desert Storm, the military of which I was a part stood triumphant on a planet that was visibly
ours and ours alone. Washington had won the Cold War. It had won everything, in fact.
End of story. Saddam admittedly was still in power in Baghdad, but he had been soundly spanked.
Not a single peer enemy loomed on the horizon. It seemed as if, in the words of former U.N.
ambassador and uber-conservative
Kirkpatrick, the U.S. could return to being a normal country in normal times.
What Kirkpatrick meant was that, with the triumph of freedom movements in Central and Eastern
Europe and the rollback of communism, the U.S. military could return to its historical roots, demobilizing
after its victory in the Cold War even as a "new world order" was emerging. But it didn't happen.
Not by a long shot. Despite all the happy talk back then about a "new
world order," the U.S. military never gave a serious thought to becoming a "normal" military
for normal times. Instead, for our leaders, both military and civilian, the thought process
took quite a different turn. You might sum up their thinking this way, retrospectively: Why
should we demobilize or even downsize significantly or rein in our global ambitions at a moment when
we can finally give them full expression? Why would we want a "peace dividend" when we could
leverage our military assets and become a global power the likes of which the world has never seen,
one that would put the Romans and the British in the historical shade? Conservative columnist
Charles Krauthammer caught the spirit of the moment in February 2001 when he
"America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than
any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations, and create
new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will."
What I didn't realize back then was: America's famed "containment policy" vis-à-vis the Soviet
Union didn't just contain that superpower — it contained us, too. With the Soviet Union gone,
the U.S. military was freed from containment. There was nowhere it couldn't go and nothing
it couldn't do — or so the top officials of the Bush administration came into power thinking, even
before 9/11. Consider our
legacy military bases from the Cold War era that already spanned the globe in an historically
unprecedented way. Built largely to contain the Soviets, they could be repurposed as launching
pads for interventions of every sort. Consider all those weapon systems meant to deter Soviet
aggression. They could be used to project power on a planet seemingly without rivals.
Now was the time to go for broke. Now was the time to go "all in," to borrow the title of
Paula Broadwell's fawning biography of her mentor and lover, General David Petraeus. Under
the circumstances, peace dividends were for wimps. In 1993, Madeleine Albright, secretary of
state under Bill Clinton, caught the coming post-Cold War mood of twenty-first-century America perfectly
Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell angrily over what she considered a too-cautious U.S. approach
to the former Yugoslavia. "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking
about," she asked, "if we can't use it?"
Yet even as civilian leaders hankered to flex America's military muscle in unpromising places
like Bosnia and Somalia in the 1990s, and Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen in this century,
the military itself has remained remarkably mired in Cold War thinking. If I could transport
the 1990 version of me to 2015, here's one thing that would stun him a quarter-century after the
collapse of the Soviet Union: the force structure of the U.S. military has changed remarkably little.
nuclear triad of land-based ICBMs, submarine-launched SLBMs, and nuclear-capable bombers remains
thoroughly intact. Indeed, it's being updated and enhanced at
mind-boggling expense (perhaps as high as a trillion dollars over the next three decades).
The U.S. Navy? Still built around large, super-expensive, and
vulnerable aircraft carrier task forces. The U.S. Air Force? Still pursuing new,
bombers and new, wildly expensive fighters and attack aircraft — first
the F-22, now
the F-35, both
supremely disappointing. The U.S. Army? Still configured to fight large-scale, conventional
a surplus of M-1 Abrams tanks sitting in mothballs just in case they're needed to plug the Fulda
Gap in Germany against a raging Red Army. Except it's 2015, not 1990, and no mass of Soviet
T-72 tanks remains poised to surge through that gap.
of our military today remains structured to meet and defeat a Soviet threat that long ago ceased
to exist. (Occasional sparring matches with Vladimir Putin's Russia in and around Ukraine do
not add up to the heated "rumbles in the jungle" we fought with the Soviet leaders of yesteryear.)
And it's not just a matter of weaponry. Our military hierarchy remains wildly and
unsustainably top-heavy, with a Cold War-style cupboard of generals and admirals, as if we were
still stockpiling brass in case of another world war and a further expansion of what is already
uncontestably the largest military on the planet. If you had asked me in 1990 what the
U.S. military would look like in 2015, the one thing I wouldn't have guessed was that, in its force
structure, it would look basically the same.
This persistence of such Cold War structures and the thinking that goes with them is a vivid illustration
of military inertia, the plodding last-war conservatism that is a common enough phenomenon in military
history. It's also a reminder that the military-industrial-congressional-complex that President
Dwight Eisenhower first warned us about in 1961 remains in expansion mode more than half a century
later, with its taste for business as usual (meaning, among other things, wildly expensive weapons
systems). Above all, though, it's an illustration of something far more disturbing: the failure
of democratic America to seize the possibility of a less militarized world.
Today, it's hard to recapture the heady optimism of 1990, the idea that this country, as after
any war, might at least begin to take steps to demobilize, however modestly, to become a more peaceable
land. That's why 1990 should be considered the high-water mark of the U.S. military.
At that moment, we were poised on the brink of a new normalcy — and then it all began to go wrong.
To understand how, it's important to see not just what remained the same, but also what began to
change and just how we ended up with today's mutant military.
Paramilitaries Without, Militaries Within, Civilian Torturers, and Assassins Withal
Put me back again in my slimmer, uniformed 1990 body and catapult me for a second time to 2015.
What do I see in this military moment that surprises me? Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones,
for sure. Networked computers everywhere and the reality of a military
preparing for "cyberwar." Incessant talk of terrorism as America's chief threat.
A revival, however haltingly, of counterinsurgency operations, or COIN, a phenomenon abandoned in
Vietnam with a stake through its heart (or so I thought then). Uncontrolled and largely unaccountable
mass surveillance of civilian society that in the Cold War era would have been a hallmark of the
More than anything, however, what would truly have shocked the 1990 version of me is the almost
unimaginable way the military has "privatized" in the twenty-first century. The presence of
paramilitary forces (mercenary companies like DynCorp and the former
now joined with
Triple Canopy in the Constellis
Group) and private corporations
like KBR doing typical military tasks like cooking and cleaning (what happened to privates doing
KP?), delivering the mail, and mounting guard duty on military bases abroad; an American intelligence
filled to the brim with tens of thousands of private contractors; a new Department of Defense
called the Department of Homeland Security ("homeland" being a word I would once have associated,
to be blunt, with Nazi Germany) that has also embraced paramilitaries and privatizers of every sort;
rapid rise of a special operations community, by the tens of thousands, that has come to constitute
a vast, privileged,
highly secretive military caste within the larger armed forces; and, most shocking of all, the
public embrace of
assassination by America's civilian leaders — the very kinds of tactics and techniques I associated
in 1990 with the evils of communism.
Walking about in such a world in 2015, the 1990-me would truly find himself a stranger in a strange
land. This time-traveling Bill Astore's befuddlement could, I suspect, be summed up in an impolite
sentiment expressed in three letters: WTF?
Think about it. In 2015, so many of America's "trigger-pullers" overseas are no longer,
strictly speaking, professional military. They're mercenaries, guns for hire, or CIA drone
pilots (some on loan from the Air Force), or
warrior corporations and intelligence contractors looking to get in on a piece of the action
in a war on terror where progress is defined — official denials to the contrary — by
body count, by the number of "enemy combatants" killed in drone or other strikes.
Indeed, the very persistence of traditional Cold War structures and postures within the "big"
military has helped hide the full-scale emergence of a new and dangerous mutant version of our armed
forces. A bewildering mish-mash of
special ops, civilian contractors (both armed and unarmed), and CIA and other intelligence operatives,
all plunged into a penumbra of secrecy, all largely hidden from view (even as they're
openly celebrated in various Hollywood action movies), this mutant military is forever clamoring
for a greater piece of the action.
While the old-fashioned, uniformed military guards its Cold War turf, preserved like some set
of monstrous museum exhibits, the mutant military strives with great success to expand its power
across the globe. Since 9/11, it's the mutant military that has gotten the lion's share of
the action and much of the adulation — here's looking at you,
SEAL Team 6 — along with its ultimate enabler, the civilian commander-in-chief, now acting in
essence as America's assassin-in-chief.
Think of it this way: a quarter-century after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military is completely
uncontained. Washington's foreign policies are strikingly military-first ones, and nothing
seems to be out of bounds. Its two major parts, the Cold War-era "big" military, still very
much alive and kicking, and the new-era military of special ops, contractors, and paramilitaries
seek to dominate everything. Nuclear, conventional, unconventional, land, sea, air, space,
cyber, you name it: all realms must be mastered.
Except it can't master the one realm that matters most: itself. And it can't find the one
thing that such an uncontained military was supposed to guarantee: victory (not in a single place
anywhere on Earth).
Loaded with loot and
praised to the rafters, America's uncontained military has
no discipline and no direction.
It never has to make truly tough choices, like getting rid of ICBMs or shedding its obscenely bloated
top ranks of officers or cancelling redundant weapon systems like the F-35. It just aims to
do it all, just about everywhere. As Nick Turse reported recently, U.S. special ops touched
150 countries between 2011 and 2014. And the results of all this activity have been remarkably
repetitive and should by now be tragically predictable: lots of chaos spread, lots of casualties
inflicted, and in every case, mission unaccomplished.
The Future Isn't What It Used to Be
Say what you will of the Cold War, at least it had an end. The overriding danger of the
current American military moment is that it may lack one.
Once upon a time, the U.S. military was more or less tied to continental defense and limited by
strong rivals in its hegemonic designs. No longer. Today, it has uncontained ambitions
across the globe and even as it continually stumbles in achieving them, whether in
Yemen, or elsewhere, its growth is assured, as our leaders trip over one another in continuing
to shower it with staggering sums of money and unconditional love.
No military should ever be trusted and no military should ever be left uncontained. Our
founders knew this lesson. Five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower took pains in his
farewell address in 1961
to remind us of it again. How did we as a people come to forget it? WTF, America?
What I do know is this: Take an uncontained, mutating military, sprinkle it with unconditional
love and plenty of dough, and you have a recipe for disaster. So excuse me for being more than
a little nervous about what we'll all find when America flips the calendar by another quarter-century
to the year 2040.
"The military wants to do everything everywhere". And Americans like it that way: THAT's the
problem. Between Hollywood, TV, every Politboro news organ from Business Insider to Fox News,
National Friggin' Geographic fer chrissakes extolling military porn, no wonder the plebs are so
bloodthirsty. Last Christmas for the first time when Norad tracked Santa Claus on his journey
from the North Pole his sleigh was escorted by two fighter jets. Gotta get 'em young. Doesn't seem to matter to anyone that the American military has not won a major engagement since
WWII. Oh, except Grenada. America's defining National Myth Monster rolls on. Dennis Kucinich proposed a Department of Peace, just fund the hell out of it. Since the plebs
operate in a "conscience-free zone", pay enough people to shout "Peace Now!" at every possible
turn and you might move the needle. Worked a treat in 1971.
It's crushing to think how if even a fraction of the trillions sunk into maintaining military
bloat–the F-35 boondoggle, or the mercenary contractors first come to mind–had been invested in
U.S. education system, health care, and/or civic infrastructure, so many people and families would
be alive and thriving today. And who knows if one of them was the next Marie Curie, George Washington
Carver, or Hedy Lamarr?
'Not so much a country with an army as an army with a country' they used to say about Prussia.
The US is increasingly beginning to resemble that description. Historically, countries with unconfined
militaries end up in wars because sections of the military decide there must be a war, not because
the civilian leadership decides. What his happening now in parts of the world (most notably Ukraine
and elsewhere in eastern Europe) is beginning to resemble Manchuria in the 1930's, when an unconstrained
Japanese army simply decided to start a war (actually, more than one war) without even bothering
to consult with Tokyo. Increasingly I do not think it is relevant who sits in the White House,
the crucial decisions are not made there.
With one sad exception: our inequality extends to who bears the ultimate burden for that Sparta-like
militarism. We've fobbed off imperial policing to mostly poor rural whites and Hispanics (blacks
have largely internalized which way the wind is blowing and their participation rates in recruitment
have dropped significantly). Every Spartan male who was not a Helot was a soldier. Here, we've
upended that relationship so that those at the bottom make up the soldiery and those at the top
never go near a barracks.
Plenty of blacks as well. Basically it is a well funded jobs program…….do nothing jobs…….huge
benefits……out of sight medical care abuse……..as General Casey said, "a health care system that
occasionally kills a terrorist." What other industry exists in the US that can offer an average
citizen a middle or lower middle class income? Local Fire? Good luck if you don't have relatives
and same with police.
The insane expense of operating the military and the impossibility of shutting it down or limiting
it in any way it is a good part of the military's (not to mention the empire's) Achilles heel.
The other part is it's clunky, crusty, internal structure so resistant by hubris and habit to
change and reason as Astore aptly describes. But it's cold comfort.
As always with our Empire, the tragedy is that we seem fated to go through all the machinations,
but worse all the unnecessary suffering put mainly on the innocent, of a system that has reached
that level of complexity or what ever it is that triggers the downward spiral of self destruction.
Increasingly I do not think it is relevant who sits in the White House, the crucial decisions
are not made there.
Hard to argue that point, but I suspect in reality it does matter in an odd sort of way. Executives
have a sort of uncontrolled control like a car where the steering wheel is so loose as to be almost,
but not quite, worthless. The President (and Obama with his narcissism is a pip for this) whirls
the wheel and imagines he is at the helm, but the whole contraption, in reality, responds with
a confused will of its own.
It reminds me of how Bomber Command became like a giant machine during WW2. A bureaucracy which
once put in motion ( as Kurt Vonnegut was told by a high level officer within it ), just kept
on rolling even when it was realised, by many of the cogs working with in it that it was no longer
serving a supposedly useful purpose.
There is a possibility that officer might have been the scientist Freeman Dyson, & here he
talks about the sense of helplessness, when knowing something is very wrong within the organisation
you are working for, but knowing that there is nothing you can do to change it :
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer: "America is no mere international citizen. It is
the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in
a position to reshape norms, alter expectations, and create new realities. How? By unapologetic
and implacable demonstrations of will."
"Triumph Des Willens" was a huge fad last century. It came to a bad end 70 years ago.
Actually the best comparison is not Rome but Charles V, who also dreamed with Rome, like all
European power-mongers ever. Like Charles V, the endless campaigns of the USA only manage to erode
the empire, like Charles V, every other "second" power is trying to erode the influence of the
USA, mostly with success, like Charles V, the hypertrophy of the military relies on an huge pile
of debt, impossible to pay. The main difference is that Charles V used old-school money (silver
and gold), while the USA uses paper-money.
It's kind of an ouroboros of European imperialism: the beginning and the end of it.
I think the author is trying to say that our Democracy has been hijacked.
Military people tend to give too little credit to propaganda. Its an Empire of Illusion as
much as it is an Empire of Chaos.
Americans have been too complacent about international relations. This allows our bought government
a free hand for overseas adventures. But the war comes home in a variety of ways, from spying
to cuts in social spending to militarized police and more.
I don't think he is trying to say – he is saying it. Very clearly and concisely and encompassing
all aspects of military malfeasance. The 1990 perspective is appropriate and chilling for those
of us whose memories as adults reach back that far. It truly was a watershed moment, even perhaps
a greater one than the 2000 election as far as this country's potential for actual reversal of
course is concerned.
I understand the man's thinking and praise him for it, but he doesn't take the ultimate step
which Chalmers Johnson did–to understanding that since NSC68 it was always about aggrandizement,
As an historian of Britain, the interesting thing for me intellectually (emotionally if find
this all sickening and appalling) is how there was always a constituency for retrenchment in the
UK, but it never cohered here, or hasn't since Pearl Harbor. British defence spending was always
cut after wars. Hell, it was Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1920s who carried
through the so-called Geddes Axe and slashed the services unmercifully. Despite a vast empire,
the British establishment was always leery of paying the high taxes needed for a huge military.
I guess we owe a lot of this to Nixon closing the gold window and the death of Bretton Woods.
Our unique position as issuer of the global currency with no check on how much of it we can issue
makes our military extravaganzas possible.
says 'This is no secret conspiracy nor a plot to deprive Americans of their civil liberties.
It is the unintended consequence of a thoughtful attempt to head off the very threats that those
attempts have inadvertently created'
Which sounds eerily like stevie's relay of Freeman Dyson's comment about Bomber Command above:
'A bureaucracy which once put in motion ( as Kurt Vonnegut was told by a high level officer
within it ), just kept on rolling even when it was realised, by many of the cogs working with
in it that it was no longer serving a supposedly useful purpose'
So, if it's just a blind monster driven by thousands of little bureaucratic decisions it should
be easier to stop than if it's actually an evil cabal of bad guys, yes? A last quote from Glennon
casts some doubt:
"the term Orwellian will have little meaning to a people who have never known anything different,
who have scant knowledge of history, civics, or public affairs, and who in any event have never
heard of George Orwell."
The most telling bit is that these glorious, freedom loving defenders of free Ukraine are speaking
in … Russian?! WTF??? They speak Russian and the US trainers' instructions get translated to them
I guess they haven't had time to learn proper Bandera while fighting other Russian
I think this is the authors most significant blind spot:
Above all, though, it's an illustration of something far more disturbing: the failure of
democratic America to seize the possibility of a less militarized world.
We are not now nor have we ever been a democratic America. Beginning with the oft cited point
by me that the D word does not exist in the Constitution. I say this understanding that the people
even in a Democracy would likely approve if not demand to be a horrifically violent bunch. Who
will change this, the Green party?
Maybe, but only in a Democracy, the kind which abhors secrecy
and lies as much as bloody war mongering itself.
I think this way as well. I sometimes think we really jumped the shark in the Cold War because
we created so much advanced (mostly secret) technology it would stagger us all to learn about
it. But the Cold War was the perfect window of history to accomplish this applied science. And
now we are in a kind of existential crisis. Yes it was and is expensive to advance science at
such a pace. And we will never know how that money has been spent because it's all top secret.
I wish we could apply block chain accounting to military procurement. Pin down every penny. And
for this reason: that money could have been spent on creating a sustainable world but it was "misallocated"
as the capitalists like to say.
We failed to modernize our brains and our economy at a critical
time. We should send the entire military to the psychologist and appoint a very enlightened bunch
to change course at the DoD. The new Secty of Def is a curious guy. Almost likeable. I'd personally
love to see the greatest oxymoron – a true peace, green peace preferably, even if it is a fascistic
peace. It could be a great new economy.
Tinkering at the margins won't work. Do what Ron Paul said: bring the troops home.
when he would do it, he replied "as soon as the boats can get there". THAT's the world we need to be imagining: America with an unbelievably strong, successful fighting
force (1/10th it's current size) ready to defend our borders against every conceivable threat.
Take another 1/10th of the force and put them to work on American soil building roads, bridges,
TRAIN TRACKS, and hospitals HERE for a change. Aim 1/10th of the force to R&D, techno-science
and manufacturing advancements they are already so good at.
Loudly announce to the Taiwanese and
the South Koreans and the Europeans and the Israelis that they must pay for their own defense.
Faced with the impossibility of doing so just maybe they would find new ways to cooperate with
their neighbors rather than simply hiding behind the World's Apex Bully.
What I find interesting is that the American people are becoming more and more suspicious
and fearful of big government but are still enamored and almost fawning of a big military as if
they are two separate things. They believe politicians are corrupt but the military brass
are honorable and respect worthy. I'm not sure if this is caused by Hollywood, but there is a
real cognitive dissidence in the minds of the American people.
I hope they're able to wake from this fantasy before it's too late.
I don't know if it's ALL Hollywood's fault, but they certainly have something to do with it.
The military parasitic complex doesn't cooperate with Hollywood projects like Top Gun for
And it's not just Hollywood, but news media which serves up blatant propaganda as "news" (yellowcake!)
& pays members of the military-parasitic class to yabber away on network teevee. Not to mention
the NFL which takes Pentagon dollars for salutes to soldiers. It's like an oxoplasma gondii infection,
where the protozoans take over rodent brains and drive them towards the cats.
Government is not just for building bridges. Military is a big, big part*.
Let's not overlook this reality when we are not being skeptical (but we should be) of the unlimited
money creation authority (so claimed, but debatable) for the government to spend (so that it will
trickle down to you), especially when we can do better – we can take away military spending and
use it for all those things mentioned above (which we desperately need) by Harriet, at 4:02AM.
A good start would be to re-institute compulsory national service with NO DEFERMENTS. If there
is pushback from uncooperative draftees, maybe that is valuable feedback that should be listened
to. I am sure it was a dream come true when the brass got their professional, all volunteer army,
and could then forge ahead with their plans knowing there would be little resistance from inside.
For all of the untidiness of the Vietnam era protests, there was valuable feedback indicating
the citizens had lost interest in pursuing that lost enterprise. If the policy makers knew
that their children and grandchildren (and themselves !) were about to become cannon fodder they
might think twice about starting new adventures.
You idea of compulsory national service with NO DEFERMENTS is a delusion. The rich will
NEVER EVER EVER serve with the grunts. Get that straight. Short of revolution (and even then probably!!!).
We already know the criminal laws don't' apply to the rich. And we expect them not to get out
of the law when not just their freedom (ie being sent to the slammer) but their lives are at stake.
Yea right. As always we will die, they will profit. That's the case even with voluntary recruitment.
And it will be the case if they get the draft only no peasants will have any choice but to die
in wars for their profit.
And the feedback from Vietnam took how many years to end the war? How many dead Americans?
(dead Vietnamese too, yes but I'm talking about the war being ended out of self-interest and it's
impact on Americans, or rather that NOT actually happening historically, or at least not until
it had gone on forever).
You want to give our unaccountable rulers in an ever more unaccountable government more power
to send us to die (neo-liberals "go die" isn't nothing, compared to being made to die and kill).
Hasn't Fast Track and the TPP at least shown us that there's no democracy in the White House,
no democracy in the Senate. And as everyone knows there's no democracy in the Supreme Court. What's
left that cares what the populous wants? Maybe the House if the stars perfectly align.
If you want to make policy makers responsible for their wars, why not just send them and their
children to die in them? They are rarely influenced by us anyway.
It's sometimes as if we hardly need our rulers to stuff horrible nonsense down our throats
(and they do of course), when sections of the population beg for it themselves. Few in power have
argued for a draft lately (thank heavens for small mercies, maybe a draft is buried in the TPP
text for all we'd know!). Well then we better do so. "Please, please, oh wise ruling class you
haven't done enough until you make my children die for you. Just as long as you promise it will
be equal, and everyone will have an equal chance of dying, including your children, it will be
equal right …. right?"
A draft over my dead body. There aren't enough horrors in the world to worry about. I mean
I understand wanting some kind of accountability if they read about another wedding being bombed,
another kid having his legs blown off or being made into pink mist by the U.S. empire. But a draft
of the powerless (the 99s) is questionable as a solution to that, but is certain to ruin THEIR
lives. People who come back from these stupid wars are killing themselves right and left from
the trauma already.
Our imperial military has no use for a draft. That just means more unreliable Troops that
might , as they've done before, mutiny or decline to obey orders. I'm waiting for still newer
versions of the Soldier's Oath, that omit that stuff about supporting and defending the Constitution.
The part about obeying LAWFUL orders is fading out, and drones and autonomous battle robots and
UAVs and boats and sub's and missiles (and mercenaries, for wet work in meatspace, are just so
much more reliable, from the Brass Hat's perspective. Too tired to look stuff up tonight, but
a whole lot of planning is going into getting rid of GIs with their long term costs and problems.
So you need not fear having to become a dead body to resist a massive conscription… The Thing
this post describes is a stage IV metastatic malignancy. Now we can all go back to our "Call of
Duty" and Blow some heads off, or a quick round of "Game of War" where you have a chance to " build an Empire
that will Last Forever!!" A little different theme than "Sim City," right?
The people in the USA are a little more diverse than that. Many do not harbor such grand feelings
about the military. Recall how many were opposed to actions in Syria, Iran, Ukraine. Back in 1990,
there was some hoo-rah, but that was largely propaganga based. Many, like the author, were simply
confused by Desert Storm. Of course, the light show streamed on TV made those predisposed to being
led around by their noses fell all warm and fuzzy, so there was that support to show. That was
also a time where the "markets" were just about to lift off and escape from reality, so there
was so much $$$ for people to swim in that there was not any pain from these skirmishes, so they
didn't give it a 2nd thought. Without thinking, there is only the flashing screens, which do seem
to be used by TPTB at every opportunity to mold the thoughts of the masses. At every point in
our progression to this point, there was no shortage of Hollywood / propaganda. This is predictable,
however. I believe it was Goebbels that said that it works the same in all times and places, and
I'm sure that this is correct. I recall reading that a large percentage of the Germans & the Japanese
had no idea of the reality of their situation during or even near the end of WW2.
As pervasive as the propaganda is, the USA has such a wide variety of people that they are
trying to herd cats, with about as much success as expected. The main thing to remember is that
all that is happening militarily is not in support of the USA, but rather of the moneyed interests,
which are not actually contained within the borders of the USA, and is is many ways counter to
the interests of the people in that country.
There are many contributors to our political campaigns
who are not US citizens. Even our super-rich consider themselves to be of a super-national class
rather than US citizens. All of this is not about the USA. Our remaining political system still
has some of the pesky remnants of a democracy, so there is some need to win us over to keep the
charade going. We see that this is not going so well (i.e. TPP).
Still, I'm sure that the MIC
gets funding (official and unofficial) regardless of what the people think, just as the TBTF banks
get what the need as far as trillions in credit/bailouts, simply because this structure maintains
the status of the moneyed interests, which are again super-national. Of course, there are factions
within these moneyed interests that would fight each other to the death given the logical progression
Like you, I hope that there is much more wakening. People right now are in that phase of just
coming out of sleep, and many are completely confused and disoriented. What a mess. Such is life.
Our super-rich are American-citizen patriots who support military spending, and at the
same time, super-nationals with global profit outlook.
They are a long way from the provincial "we speak only one language" American middle class
of the 50's. They are fully aware of the global consequences of printing money (hot money in and
out, but more significantly, as shown in this article – mutant military) here.
They know there is only one exceptional country that needs never to take out foreign currency
They know there is only one exceptional country that can print fiat money as much as it wants
and the rest of the world will share her burden (unlike say, Ukraine who can print as much as
she likes, but no one other country will participate in economic-pain-sharing with her).
Per the Merriam–Webster dictionary : Patriotism – : having or showing great love and support
for your country
Show me one way our super rich prove this love and support.
All I see is self-love and love of power. Support? How is hiding wealth in offshore accounts
and shell companies supportive of their country? Show me the ranks of these rich that have volunteered
for military service.
You commentators have it all wrong. After all, what would the Land of the Free be without its
most viable industry, the manufacture and distribution of weapons of death?
and all the jobs it once generated have been off-shored to whatever country comes closest to pure
slave labor. Farming has been subsumed into a form of industrial sharecropping , with the chief
beneficiary being companies like Monsanto that control the genetic structure of the crops and
banksters that supply credit to purchase the chemicals and machinery that are the primary inputs
into what was once called farming.
The largest volume of "productive" activity in the country is in "finance" which has exactly the
same contribution to the welfare of the nation as a vampire has to that of its' host.
Liberals wring their hands because of what they see as the shortcomings of President Obama,
ignoring his contribution to the welfare of the country.
Under his leadership the US share of
international arms trade has grown from a mere 60% to over 80%. Thank god we have at least one
industry that still leads the world.
Congress allocates the funds. The Presidency and the Congress use the "military" as the
definitive self-licking ice cream cone, channeling these vast and wasteful appropriations of fiat
money to their cronies, while claiming to be anti-Big Government (it was former Nixon-strategist
Mevin Phillips who pegged the Bush dynasty as nothing but a snarling hyena-pack of war-profiteers).
Our Fearless Leader, congress-critters, and their cronies will find the rise of unaccountable
surveillance and assassination described above to be a convenient resource when the masses who
have been out-sourced by globalization continue with ever-larger Katrina/Ferguson/Baltimore-style
uprisings. Just watch.
I will, but hopefully from a "resilient" sideline…
I agree with the points of this post. It just does not bring them to a logical conclusion.
Without the draft and tax on the wealthy, none of the wars that America is fighting from Ukraine
to Somalia will be won. Simply stated, these privatized conflicts are a means to extract the remaining
wealth from Americans until they are so burdened with debt that infrastructure and government
North America will be borderless fiefdoms separated by language and cartel enforcers;
that is if mankind avoids nuclear war, plagues, or a climate collapse.
OK, my third comment, this subject is very close to my heart.
Everyone uses an outdated lens when looking at war today, the old paradigm had nations seeking
to acquire territory, resources, factories, the "spoils of war". But today *war making itself*
IS the treasure: no reason to try to capture and hold territory or resources, the mere act of
making a new war pumps dollars to the corporate and government elites.
We waste endless ink trying
to parse the strategic implications of this or that conflict, who is in it, and what they could
gain. That's meaningless today: just go start punching someone, anyone. This explains America's
flailing around the globe, desperate to find a new enemy at every turn. The Cold War ending was
a giant blow to these forces, the GWOT worked well for a while but is getting stale, hence the
glee at demonizing Russia.
In between we punch Libya, try to punch Syria, get all bloodthirsty
about Iran…I mean it's just so obvious. None of these have to have any glimmer of rationale about
being in our "strategic interest", when KFC gets multi-million $ no-bid contracts to set up shop
behind the trenches, you know the fix is in.
I generally agree, but I think that there is another dimension: exerting stronger control over
the population as its standard of living declines ever more. The War on Terra ushered in the legalization
of the tools for control: domestic surveillance, the militarization of police, the creation of
the fusion centers, etc. Of course that's good for bidness, so we really have a twofer. So for
all the justified criticisms toward the author's belief that we actually had a democracy, he is
correct that whatever crapp and imperfect illusion of freedom there was is taken away gradually.
And I'm not sure how we neo-liberalize markets with the military
Through NATO's military umbrella, NATO being the PC name for the US military occupation of
the "allies". When dependent on the US for defense from the "enemies" we spend so much time and
treasure to cultivate, we ensure our native compradors' loyalty and also their protection from
the natives in case they get restless and dissatisfied. Full spectrum dominance, baby!
This column is quite lopsided. Iraq is over, the US is not invading Yemen, there may yet be
a nuclear deal signed with Iran, and Russia is contained (for the moment) in Ukraine. The 21st
Century is all about Asia and China…and the US pivot to Asia continues.
The US provides target intelligence to the Saudis, so it is a proxy war. And how, pray tell,
is Russia contained in Ukraine? The events of the past coupe of days point to the beginning of
Western retreat from Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia and China went to great length to project an image
of cooperation, with the leadership inseparable during the Victory Day parade and Chinese formations
marching on the Red Square (with Russian formations set to return the courtesy in August's celebrations
of the end of WW2 in Beijing).
Which shows that the pursuit of the pivot to Asia will only gobble
ever increasing amounts…
A lot of the points made in this post are a little dated. Some sound like the author drank
too much of the KoolAid passed around at the time and it's finally wearing off. Just touching
"The U.S. Army? Still configured to fight large-scale, conventional battles, a surplus of M-1
Abrams tanks sitting in mothballs just in case they're needed to plug the Fulda Gap in Germany
against a raging Red Army."
Around the end of Poppy Bush's [Mr. CIA and Mr. Shadow Iran Contra Man] Iraq war, the US Army
was organized around Corps or Division size force structures best suited for a large scale war.
However, following Desert Storm, many of the planners and theorists were re-thinking these basic
structures as well as the larger strategy for structuring the world-wide Army forces. "Modular
Army", "Army Modernization" grew into large scale efforts to re-structure and re-equip the Army
These efforts coincided with changes to the Army mission. I didn't follow this process
and its history well enough to trace its history — but today's Army is organized around modular
brigade structures similar to the kinds of smaller force structure the Marine Corps have used
for years to enable quick deployment of smaller self-contained forces — "expeditionary" forces.
[If you're interested, I believe the Army's Mission Statements and Planning documents are available
to the public so you could trace the evolution in thinking if you wanted, but first better make
several large urns of coffee.]
I don't know about the hordes of mothballed Abrams, but I believe they exist. What impressed
me were the large numbers of Humvees issued to units and replaced in theater with Mine-Resistant
Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles using some specially created paperwork and paid for using the
unit's discretionary funds. The armor on the initial versions of the Humvees was too thin. "Up-Armor"
Humvees replaced Humvees and in turn were replaced with MRAP vehicles as it became evident the
Up-Armor Humvees were too vulnerable to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The force structure
designs still allocated Humvees the last I was involved with that work. As far as I know many
of these expensive vehicles ended up in storage. For a while they were considered temporary bridges
to the future force built around the Future Combat Systems (FCS), a multi-billion dollar boondoggle
which I suspect still haunts the Army higher command when they struggle for DoD dollars today.
Bottom line is that a lot of waste very profitable to the large defense contractors who paid for
the Bush trademark, was created during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
But this colossal waste
isn't evidence that the Army is still organized to fight a major ground war with Russia. It is
good evidence that mistakes were made and saving face is more important than saving tax-payer
money, and besides none of the big Defense contractors complained.
Pretty much spot on the reorganization of the Army. It began about 2001 with the introduction
of the Stryker and accelerated in earnest after we went after Saddam. Remember, during the initial
invasion it still was divisions (though stripped down) who did the deed. M1A2s are still being
procured, matter of fact, even though there are already a ton of these dinosaurs around. What's
more, the development of M1A3s is set to start in two to three years. General Dynamics has to
pay the shareholders, don't you know…
Humvees: awesome dune buggies just as long as no one is shooting at you with RPGs or setting
off IEDs. The Iraqi rascals even had a sense of humor: I've personally seen IED locations marked
with red, white, and blue ribbons to help the triggerman time his blast perfectly. Forget light
armor, most humvees had none initially. It was either a stamped metal doors for the combat arms
or plastic on tube frame for combat support. A few up-armored humvees here and there. When we
deployed in the end of 2003, my unit had no armor of any kind on our humvees. The production of
up-armored humvees was just ramping up Stateside, meanwhile combat arms were receiving completely
inadequate bolt-on armor kits. Support units were receiving none, even though this was a war with
no rear where every unit could become frontline in a heartbeat. The more enterprising of them
would get their hands on scrap armor and torches and fashion themselves a Mad Max version of humvees
and 5-ton gun trucks. It was mostly worthless protection but it did provide a bit of psychological
boost to soldiers. Not much urgency to actually provide proper protection until that dude went
of on Rummy in Camp Udairi in Kuwait and people in the States could support our troops not only
with yellow ribbon magnets but also by demanding that more money be spent of the war machine.
Because the concept of bringing the troops home and not being in constant wars is just unthinkable
for the modern American consumer….
There are many documented false flag attacks, where a government carries out a terror attack
… and then falsely blames its enemy for political purposes.
In the following instances, officials in the government which carried out the attack (or seriously
proposed an attack) admit to it, either orally or in writing:
(1) Japanese troops set off a small explosion on a train track in 1931, and falsely blamed it
on China in order to justify an invasion of Manchuria. This is
known as the "Mukden Incident"
or the "Manchurian Incident". The Tokyo International Military Tribunal
found: "Several of the participators in the plan, including Hashimoto [a high-ranking Japanese
army officer], have on various occasions admitted their part in the plot and have stated that the object of the 'Incident' was to afford
an excuse for the occupation of Manchuria by the Kwantung Army …." And
(2) A major with the Nazi SS
admitted at the Nuremberg
trials that – under orders from the chief of the Gestapo – he and some other Nazi operatives faked
attacks on their own people and resources which they blamed on the Poles, to justify the invasion
(3) Nazi general Franz Halder also testified at the Nuremberg trials that Nazi leader Hermann
admitted to setting fire to the German parliament building in 1933, and then falsely blaming
the communists for the arson.
(4) Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev
admitted in writing
that the Soviet Union's Red Army shelled the Russian village of Mainila in 1939 – while blaming the
attack on Finland – as a basis for launching the "Winter War" against Finland. Russian president
Boris Yeltsin agreed
that Russia had been the aggressor in the Winter War.
(5) The Russian Parliament, current Russian president Putin and former Soviet leader Gorbachev
admit that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin ordered his secret police to execute 22,000 Polish army
officers and civilians in 1940, and then falsely blamed it on the Nazis.
(6) The British government
admits that – between 1946 and 1948 – it bombed 5 ships carrying Jews attempting to flee the
Holocaust to seek safety in Palestine, set up a fake group called "Defenders of Arab Palestine",
and then had the psuedo-group falsely claim responsibility for the bombings (and see
admits that in 1954, an Israeli terrorist cell operating in Egypt planted bombs in several buildings,
including U.S. diplomatic facilities, then left behind "evidence" implicating the Arabs as the culprits
(one of the bombs detonated prematurely, allowing the Egyptians to identify the bombers, and several
of the Israelis later confessed) (and see
(8) The CIA
admits that it hired Iranians in the 1950′s to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran
in order to turn the country against its democratically-elected prime minister.
(9) The Turkish Prime Minister
admitted that the Turkish government carried out the 1955 bombing on a Turkish consulate in Greece
– also damaging the nearby birthplace of the founder of modern Turkey – and blamed it on Greece,
for the purpose of inciting and justifying anti-Greek violence.
(10) The British Prime Minister
admitted to his defense secretary that he and American president Dwight Eisenhower approved a
plan in 1957 to carry out attacks in Syria and blame it on the Syrian government as a way to effect
(12) In 1960, American Senator George Smathers
suggested that the U.S. launch "a false attack made on Guantanamo Bay which would give us the
excuse of actually fomenting a fight which would then give us the excuse to go in and [overthrow
(13) Official State Department documents show that, in 1961, the head of the Joint Chiefs and
other high-level officials
discussed blowing up a consulate in the Dominican Republic in order to justify an invasion of
that country. The plans were not carried out, but they were all discussed as serious proposals.
(14) As admitted by the U.S. government, recently declassified documents show that in 1962, the
American Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on a plan to blow up AMERICAN airplanes
(using an elaborate plan involving the switching of airplanes), and also to commit terrorist
acts on American soil, and then to blame it on the Cubans in order to justify an invasion
of Cuba. See the following
ABC news report;
documents; and watch this
interview with the former Washington Investigative Producer for ABC's World News Tonight with
(15) In 1963, the U.S. Department of Defense wrote a paper
promoting attacks on nations within the Organization of American States – such as Trinidad-Tobago
or Jamaica – and then falsely blaming them on Cuba.
(16) The U.S. Department of Defense even
suggested covertly paying a person in the Castro government to attack the United States: "The
only area remaining for consideration then would be to bribe one of Castro's subordinate commanders
to initiate an attack on Guantanamo."
(17) The NSA
lied about what really happened in the
Gulf of Tonkin incident
in 1964 … manipulating data to make it look like North Vietnamese boats fired on a U.S. ship so as
to create a false justification for the Vietnam war.
(18) A U.S. Congressional committee
– as part of its "Cointelpro" campaign – the FBI had used many provocateurs in the 1950s through
1970s to carry out violent acts and falsely blame them on political activists.
(19) A top Turkish
admitted that Turkish forces burned down a mosque on Cyprus in the 1970s and blamed it on their
explained: "In Special War, certain
acts of sabotage are staged and blamed on the enemy
to increase public resistance. We did this on Cyprus; we even burnt down a mosque." In response to
the surprised correspondent's incredulous look the general said, "I am giving an example".
(20) The German government admitted (and
see this) that, in 1978, the German secret service detonated a bomb in the outer wall of a prison
and planted "escape tools" on a prisoner – a member of the Red Army Faction – which the secret service
wished to frame the bombing on.
(21) A Mossad agent
admits that, in 1984, Mossad planted a radio transmitter in Gaddaffi's compound in Tripoli, Libya
which broadcast fake terrorist trasmissions recorded by Mossad, in order to frame Gaddaffi as a terrorist
supporter. Ronald Reagan bombed Libya immediately thereafter.
(22) The South African Truth and Reconciliation Council
in 1989, the Civil Cooperation Bureau (a covert branch of the South African Defense Force) approached
an explosives expert and asked him "to participate in an operation aimed at discrediting the ANC
[the African National Congress] by bombing the police vehicle of the investigating officer into the
murder incident", thus framing the ANC for the bombing.
(23) An Algerian diplomat and several officers in the Algerian army
admit that, in the
1990s, the Algerian army frequently massacred Algerian civilians and then blamed Islamic militants
for the killings (and see
video; and Agence France-Presse, 9/27/2002, French Court Dismisses Algerian Defamation Suit Against
(24) The United States Army's 1994 publication Special Forces Foreign Internal Defense Tactics
Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces – updated in 2004 –
recommends employing terrorists and using false flag operations to destabilize leftist regimes
in Latin America. False flag terrorist attacks were carried out in Latin America and other regions
as part of the CIA's "Dirty
(25) Similarly, a CIA "psychological operations" manual prepared by a CIA contractor for the Nicaraguan
noted the value of assassinating someone on your own side to create a "martyr" for the cause.
The manual was
authenticated by the U.S. government. The manual received so much publicity from Associated Press,
Washington Post and other news coverage that – during the 1984 presidential debate – President Reagan
confronted with the following question on national television:
At this moment, we are confronted with the extraordinary story of a CIA guerrilla manual for
the anti-Sandinista contras whom we are backing, which advocates not only assassinations of Sandinistas
but the hiring of criminals to assassinate the guerrillas we are supporting in order to
(27) Senior Russian Senior military and intelligence officers
admit that the KGB blew up Russian apartment buildings in 1999 and falsely blamed it on Chechens,
in order to justify an invasion of Chechnya (and see
this report and
(28) According to the Washington
Post, Indonesian police admit that the Indonesian military killed American teachers in Papua
in 2002 and blamed the murders on a Papuan separatist group in order to get that group listed as
a terrorist organization.
(29) The well-respected former Indonesian president also
admits that the government probably had a role in the Bali bombings.
(30) As reported by BBC,
New York Times, and
Press, Macedonian officials admit that the government murdered 7 innocent immigrants in cold
blood and pretended that they were Al Qaeda soldiers attempting to assassinate Macedonian police,
in order to join the "war on terror".
(31) Senior police officials in Genoa, Italy
admitted that – in July 2001, at the G8 summit in Genoa – planted two Molotov cocktails and faked
the stabbing of a police officer, in order to justify a
violent crackdown against protesters.
(32) The U.S.
falsely blamed Iraq for playing a role in the 9/11 attacks – as shown by a
memo from the defense secretary – as one of the
main justifications for launching the Iraq war. Even after the 9/11 Commission
admitted that there was no connection, Dick Cheney
that the evidence is "overwhelming" that al Qaeda had a relationship with Saddam Hussein's regime,
that Cheney "probably" had information unavailable to the Commission, and that the media was not
'doing their homework' in reporting such ties. Top U.S. government officials now
admit that the Iraq war was really launched for oil … not 9/11 or weapons of mass destruction.
Despite previous "lone wolf" claims, many U.S. government officials now
say that 9/11 was state-sponsored terror; but Iraq was
not the state which backed the
hijackers. (Many U.S. officials have alleged
that 9/11 was a false flag operation by rogue elements of the U.S. government; but such a claim is
beyond the scope of this discussion. The key point is that the U.S. falsely blamed it on Iraq,
when it knew Iraq had nothing to do with it.).
(35) Former Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo
suggested in 2005 that the US should
go on the offensive against al-Qaeda, having "our intelligence agencies create a false terrorist
organization. It could have its own websites, recruitment centers, training camps, and fundraising
operations. It could launch fake terrorist operations and claim credit for real terrorist strikes,
helping to sow confusion within al-Qaeda's ranks, causing operatives to doubt others' identities
and to question the validity of communications."
(36) United Press International
reported in June 2005:
U.S. intelligence officers are reporting that some of the insurgents in Iraq are using recent-model
Beretta 92 pistols, but the pistols seem to have had their serial numbers erased. The numbers
do not appear to have been physically removed; the pistols seem to have come off a production
line without any serial numbers. Analysts suggest the lack of serial numbers indicates that the
weapons were intended for intelligence operations or terrorist cells with substantial government
backing. Analysts speculate that these guns are probably from either Mossad or the CIA. Analysts
speculate that agent provocateurs may be using the untraceable weapons even as U.S. authorities
use insurgent attacks against civilians as evidence of the illegitimacy of the resistance.
(37) Undercover Israeli soldiers
admitted in 2005 to throwing stones at other Israeli soldiers so they could blame it on Palestinians,
as an excuse to crack down on peaceful protests by the Palestinians.
(38) Quebec police admitted
that, in 2007, thugs carrying rocks to a peaceful protest were actually undercover Quebec police
(39) At the G20 protests in London in 2009, a British member of parliament
saw plain clothes police officers attempting to incite the crowd to violence.
(40) Egyptian politicians
see this) that government employees looted priceless museum artifacts in 2011 to try to discredit
(41) A Colombian army colonel has
his unit murdered 57 civilians, then dressed them in uniforms and claimed they were rebels killed
(42) The highly-respected writer for the Telegraph Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says that the head
of Saudi intelligence – Prince Bandar – recently
admitted that the Saudi government controls "Chechen" terrorists.
(43) High-level American sources
admitted that the Turkish government – a fellow NATO country – carried out the chemical weapons
attacks blamed on the Syrian government; and high-ranking Turkish government
admitted on tape plans to carry out attacks and blame it on the Syrian government.
(44) The Ukrainian security chief
admits that the sniper attacks which started the Ukrainian coup were carried out in order to
frame others. Ukrainian officials
admit that the Ukrainian snipers fired on both sides, to create maximum chaos.
(45) Britain's spy agency has
this) that it carries out "digital false flag" attacks on targets,
framing people by writing offensive or unlawful material … and blaming it on the target.
(46) U.S. soldiers have
admitted that if they kill
innocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then "drop" automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants
(47) Similarly, police frame innocent people for crimes they didn't commit. The practice is so
well-known that the New York Times
noted in 1981:
In police jargon, a throwdown is a weapon planted on a victim.
Perez, himself a former [Los Angeles Police Department] cop, was caught stealing eight pounds
of cocaine from police evidence lockers. After pleading guilty in September, he bargained for
a lighter sentence by telling an appalling story of attempted murder and a "throwdown"–police
slang for a weapon planted by cops to make a shooting legally justifiable. Perez said
he and his partner, Officer Nino Durden, shot an unarmed 18th Street Gang member named Javier
Ovando, then planted a semiautomatic rifle on the unconscious suspect and claimed that
Ovando had tried to shoot them during a stakeout.
As part of his plea bargain, Pérez implicated scores of officers from the Rampart Division's
anti-gang unit, describing routinely beating gang members, planting evidence
on suspects, falsifying reports and covering up unprovoked shootings.
A former U.S. intelligence officer recently
Most terrorists are false flag terrorists or are created by our own security services.
This might be an exaggeration (and – as shown above – the U.S. isn't the only one to
play this terrible game). The point is that it is a very widespread strategy.
Indeed, this form of deceit is so common that it was given a name hundreds of years ago.
"False flag terrorism" is defined as a government attacking its own people, then blaming others
in order to justify going to war against the people it blames. Or as Wikipedia
False flag operations are covert operations conducted by governments, corporations, or other
organizations, which are designed to appear as if they are being carried out by other entities.
The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is, flying the flag
of a country other than one's own. False flag operations are not limited to war and counter-insurgency
operations, and have been used in peace-time; for example, during Italy's strategy of tension.
The term comes from the old days of wooden ships, when one ship would hang the flag of its enemy
before attacking another ship. Because the enemy's flag, instead of the flag of the real country
of the attacking ship, was hung, it was called a "false flag" attack.
Indeed, this concept is so well-accepted that rules of engagement for
land warfare all
prohibit false flag attacks. Specifically, the rules of engagement state that a military force
can fly the enemy's flag, imitate their markings, or dress in an enemy's clothes … but that
the ruse has to be discarded before attacking.
Why are the rules of engagement so specific? Obviously, because nations have been using false
flag attacks for many centuries. And the rules of engagement are at least trying to limit false flag
attacks so that they aren't used as a false justification for war.
In other words, the rules of engagement themselves are an admission that false flag terrorism
is a very common practice.
Leaders throughout history have acknowledged the danger of false flags:
"Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden
death". – Adolph Hitler
"Why of course the people don't want war … But after all it is the leaders of the country who
determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is
a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship … Voice or
no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you
have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism
and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." – Hermann Goering, Nazi leader.
"The easiest way to gain control of a population is to carry out acts of terror. [The public]
will clamor for such laws if their personal security is threatened". – Josef Stalin
These false flags depend upon the trust of their underling sheeple in their leaders and media.
Trust is an opiate of each nation's sheeple. Yes, fool, your government/king/media lie to you.
Terrorist is word designed to elicit an emote from you Emoting prevents thinking. Power corrupts.
Government power corrupts. Media power corrupts. Stupidity enslaves.
"Cui bono" is thinking. Thinking negates blind obeying. There is no virtue, nor honor, nor self-respect
in emoting to your leader's stimuli.
I think; therefore I am. I emote; therefore I'm controlled.
you missed out the London bombings in 2005, which are riddled with errors, mistakes and evidence
of it being organised by military of Britain or perhaps CIA or Israel.... the train the attackers
were meant to be on, was cancelled meaning they couldn't even get into London in time to do the
bombings... it's all on CCTV and yet the 'official' report just skips over that part....
There are scores of false flags I didn't address ... I only focused on the ones that were ADMITTED.
Quote: "Organisers were bringing a left-wing alliance of protesters from across Germany and the rest of
Europe to voice their anger at the ECB's role in austerity measures in EU member states, most recently
Greece. The bank, in charge of managing the euro, is also responsible for framing eurozone policy and,
along with the IMF and European Commission is part of a troika which has set conditions for bailouts
in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus. A spokesman for the Blockupy movement said the troika was responsible for austerity measures which
have pushed many into poverty."
Dozens of people have been hurt and some 350 people arrested as anti-austerity demonstrators
clashed with police in the German city of Frankfurt.
Police cars were set alight and stones were thrown in a protest against the opening of a new base
for the European Central Bank (ECB).
Violence broke out close to the city's Alte Oper concert hall hours before the ECB building's
"Blockupy" activists are expected to attend a rally later on Wednesday.
In earlier disturbances, police in riot gear used water cannon to clear hundreds of anti-capitalist
protesters from the streets around the new ECB headquarters.
Organisers were bringing a left-wing alliance of protesters from across Germany and the rest of
Europe to voice their anger at the ECB's role in austerity measures in EU member states, most recently
The bank, in charge of managing the euro, is also responsible for framing eurozone policy and,
along with the IMF and European Commission is part of a troika which has set conditions for bailouts
in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus.
A spokesman for the Blockupy movement said the troika was responsible for austerity measures which
have pushed many into poverty.
Police set up a cordon of barbed wire outside the bank's new 185m (600ft) double-tower skyscraper,
next to the River Main.
But hopes of a peaceful rally were dashed as clashes began early on Wednesday.
Tyres and rubbish bins were set alight and police responded with water cannon as firefighters
complained they were unable to get to the fires to put them out. One fire engine appeared to have
had its windscreen broken.
Activists said many protesters had been hurt by police batons, water cannon and by pepper spray.
Police said as many as 80 of their officers had been affected by pepper spray or an acidic liquid.
Eight suffered injuries from stone-throwing protesters.
Police spokeswoman Claudia Rogalski spoke of an "aggressive atmosphere" and the Frankfurt force
tweeted images of a police van being attacked. They were braced for further violence as increasing
numbers of activists arrived for the rally.
Blockupy accused police of using kettling tactics to cordon off hundreds of protesters and appealed
for supporters to press for their release.
What is Blockupy?
Europe-wide alliance of left-wing parties, unions and movements
Vehemently against austerity polices of European Commission, ECB and IMF
First Frankfurt protest attracted thousands in 2012
Activists from Greece's radical left governing party Syriza and Spain's anti-corruption Podemos
are joining the rally
Also includes Germany's Die Linke and Occupy Frankfurt
Rallying call: "They want capitalism without democracy, we want democracy without capitalism"
As the number of protesters grew in the streets away from the new ECB building, the bank's president,
Mario Draghi, gave a speech marking its inauguration.
Mr Draghi said that the it "may not be a fair charge" to label the ECB as the main perpetrator
of unpopular austerity in Europe.
"Our action has been aimed precisely at cushioning the shocks suffered by the economy," he said.
"But as the central bank of the whole euro area, we must listen very carefully to what all our
citizens are saying."
The new headquarters, which had been due to open years earlier, cost an estimated €1.3bn (£930m;
$1.4bn) to build and is the new home for thousands of central bankers.
Blockupy activists said on their website that there was nothing to celebrate about the politics
of austerity and increasing poverty.
"When Russia ratified the adapted CFE Treaty, the agreement's weapons
limit for NATO was three times that established for the Russian army. However, NATO required the withdrawal
of Russian troops from Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnistria as a condition for the ratification
of the treaty.
"NATO countries were not in a hurry to ratify the adapted treaty," Alexei Arbatov said. "Although
Russia had withdrawn almost all its troops, there remained some absolutely insignificant contingents
and objects. The West sought to pursue its line. On the part of NATO, I think it was extremely short-sighted,
it was a big mistake."
In Arbatov's view, this decision by NATO was what "finished off" conventional arms control in Europe."
So for Russia, it now no longer recognizes a balance of forces or limit on conventional arms
it may deploy in reaction to what it considers NATO provocations. The temperature looks to be steadily
I advocated this as an option quite some time ago. The time is judged right by the Kremlin to do so.
But, even the US has foreseen this:
There was a very interesting article (which of course I cannot
now find) from a day or two ago outlining the US military's response to the end of the CFE treaty.
The underlining point was that the US could do quite a number of things that could make it more militarily
threatening to Russia without breaching any CFE commitmets.
Here's a few mil related stuff that is intersting:
New Radars, IRST Strengthen Stealth-Detection Claims
Counterstealth technologies near service worldwide
Counterstealth technologies, intended to reduce the effectiveness of radar cross-section (RCS)
reduction measures, are proliferating worldwide. Since 2013, multiple new programs have been revealed,
producers of radar and infrared search and track (IRST) systems have been more ready to claim counterstealth
capability, and some operators—notably the U.S. Navy—have openly conceded that stealth technology
is being challenged.
These new systems are designed from the outset for sensor fusion—when different sensors detect
and track the same target, the track and identification data are merged automatically. This is intended
to overcome a critical problem in engaging stealth targets: Even if the target is detected, the "kill
chain" by which a target is tracked, identified and engaged by a weapon can still be broken if any
sensor in the chain cannot pick the target up….
I think the point is that stealth has its place, but given the nature of 30 operational lives of
aircraft, they are not going to keep their advantage for long. If you follow the tech news, the world
is going through a sensor revolution. Price has massively dropped, capabilities have grown hugely,
efficiency has significantly increase, its just the case of tying all the data together to make use
of it 'data fusion' as they say in the article above. My camera has gps. In the pet shop I've seen
gps cat collars not to mention video collars that can record all day or be set by sensor motion. It's
only going to get better, cheaper and smaller and continue to reach the consumer in ever more imaginative
Another 'gift' from the Ukraine, except this time to I-ran (the other I mentioned in a previous
post of Su-33 naval prototype sold to China that ended up as the J-11B copy no to mention the copies
TEL-AVIV — Iran has unveiled a domestically produced long-range land attack cruise missile, dubbed
Based on the Russian Kh-55, the Soumar is believed to have a range of at least 2,000 km. "This
missile represents a significant leap in the Middle East arms race," says Col. Aviram Hasson of Israel's
Missile Defense Organization.
"It positions Iran among the world's leaders in missile technology," a Western intelligence source
…Iran secretly received the missiles in the first half of 2001 and began reverse engineering
work. But unlike its publicly displayed ballistic missile program, Iran did not admit to having a
cruise missile program until 2012. … ###
It's old, subsonic tech, but adds another arrow to the quiver that needs to be countered. Nor does
it have a nuke warhead.
Defense Update: France to invest €330 million upgrading 218 Leclerc Main Battle Tanks
The planned modernization work will enable Leclerc MBTs to employ its heavy, direct firepower
and mobility as part of the future "SCORPION" joint tactical groups (GTIA). The contract provides
for the delivery of 200 "upgraded Leclerc" tanks and 18 "Renovated DCL" recovery vehicles from 2020….
Yup, from 2020. That's a lot of money for an extra reverse gear!
"Even if the target is detected, the "kill chain" by which a target is tracked, identified and engaged
by a weapon can still be broken if any sensor in the chain cannot pick the target up"
claim. It perhaps could be true if the "sensor fusion" system consisted of a couple of obsolete radars,
but it would not be true for a system consisting of three or more obsolete radars. American idiots
ripped off the stealth concept and mathematics from the Soviets and now prance around like they dictate
physical reality. American idiots will not see what hit them when people with actual appreciation
and skill in physics and mathematics will face their toys.
The USA's grip on Europe, against all odds, is loosening. Who would have thought it would be over
money, considering it went meekly along hand-in-hand with Washington in imposing sanctions which had
an immediate and deleterious effect on its bottom line? I mean, isn't that money, too?
"The UK insisted
it would insist on the bank's adherence to strict banking and oversight procedures. 'We think that
it's in the UK's national interest,' Mr Cameron's spokesperson added." Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah…Oh,
'pon my word, yes, m'lud. The UK would be everyone's first choice to monitor strict adherence to banking
and oversight procedures, after the
£2.7 Billion in fines handed the Bank of England for currency rigging – which also resulted in
the dismissal of its senior foreign exchange dealer – just a few months ago. Or the
Payment Protection Insurance (PPI)
scam, in which banks greedy for more profit conspired to rig the deck so that insurance which
cost more and more stood less and less chance of ever having a successful claim levied against it.
And let's not even mention Libor.
I don't think there's too much about crooked banking the Chinese will be able to teach the British.
He reminds us what could have been if Putin's vision for creating a huge harmonized economic area
stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok had been realized. (George Friedman has already explained why
this could not be allowed.)
I don't think that anyone has mentioned an earlier article by Sobell that appeared as his contribution
on the experts' panel on us-russia.org, His is the last contribution.
Only problem is, this was written in February. And without regard for Poroshenko.
The weapons withdrawals
were more or less done. Nothing else was. The Special Status law proposal was based on September lines
and not discussed with the Republics so is unacceptable to them. Not only was there no improvement
of humanitarian access, but it has been tightened up, to the extent that virtually no medicines are
getting through, and no food at all. Travel to and from the Republics involves permits that take 3
weeks to get. The gas got cut off once. No social payments have been made and no wages back-paid.
All this is in Minsk2 and Kiev's actually gone backwards on these clauses.
The reality is, Minsk2 will not succeed, because Kiev (and their masters) don't want it to. Poroshenko
is carrying in like he can set conditions, as if HE HAD WON when in fact HE LOST.
From memory, I think that Sobell would agree with your penultimate sentence- I don't think that he
was very optimistic about Minsk2. (On the positive side, the gap between Europe and the US seems to
As for those in the K Street elite pushing Uncle Sam to confront the bear, it isn't hard to see
what they have to gain.
There's a familiar ring to the U.S. calls to arm Ukraine's post-coup government. That's because the
same big-money players who stand to benefit from belligerent relations with Russia haven't forgotten
a favorite Cold War tune.
has said that he won't rule out arming Ukraine if a
recent truce, which has all but evaporated, fails like its predecessor. His comments echoed the
advice of a
report issued a week prior by three prominent U.S. think tanks: the Brookings Institute, the Chicago
Council on Global Affairs and the Atlantic Council. The report advocated sending $1 billion worth of
"defensive" military assistance to Kiev's pro-Western government.
If followed, those recommendations would bring the U.S. and Russia the closest to conflict since
the heyday of the Cold War. Russia
has said that it would "respond asymmetrically against Washington or its allies on other fronts"
if the U.S. supplies weapons to Kiev.
The powers with the most skin in the game -- France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine -- struck a deal
on Feb. 12, which outlines the terms for a ceasefire between Kiev and the pro-Russian, breakaway provinces
in eastern Ukraine. It
envisages a withdrawal of heavy weaponry followed by local elections and constitutional reform
by the end of 2015, granting more autonomy to the eastern regions.
But not all is quiet on the eastern front. The truce appears to be headed the route of a nearly
identical compromise in
September, which broke down immediately afterward.
As for those in the K Street elite pushing Uncle Sam to confront the bear, it isn't hard to see
what they have to gain. Just take a look below at the blow-by-blow history of their Beltway-bandit
No Reds Means Seeing Red
Following the end of the Cold War, defense cuts had presented bottom-line problems for America's
military producers. The weapons dealers were
told that they had to massively restructure or go bust.
Luckily, carrots were offered. Norm Augustine, a former undersecretary of the Army, advised Defense
Secretary William Perry to cover the costs of the industry mergers. Augustine was then the CEO of Martin
Marietta -- soon to become the head of Lockheed Martin,
thanks to the subsidies.
Augustine was also chairman of a Pentagon advisory council on arms-export policy. In that capacity,
he was able to
secure yet more subsidy guarantees for NATO-compatible weapons sales to former Warsaw Pact countries.
But in order to buy the types of expensive weapons that would stabilize the industry's books, those
countries had to enter into an alliance with the U.S. And some members of Congress were still wary
of shelling out money to expand a military alliance that had, on its face, no rationale to exist.
Enter the NATO Expansion Squad
Enter the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO. Formed in 1996, the Committee wined and dined elected officials
to secure their support for NATO enlargement. Meanwhile, Lockheed
buttressed its efforts by spending $1.58 million in federal contributions for the 1996 campaign
The Committee's founder and neocon chairman, Bruce Jackson, was so principled in his desire to see
freedom around the globe that he didn't even take a salary. He didn't have to; he was a vice president
at Lockheed Martin.
By Clinton's second term, everyone was on board. Ron Asmus, a former RAND Corporation analyst and
progenitor" of NATO expansion (who would later
co-chair the Committee to Expand NATO), ended what was left of the policy debate in the State Department.
He worked with
Clinton's diplomatic point man on Eastern Europe, Strobe Talbott.
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were all in NATO come 1999. The Baltic States would soon
follow. By 2003, those initial inductees had arranged deals to buy just short of $5 billion in fighter
jets from Lockheed.
Bruce Jackson began running a new outfit in 2002. It was called the Committee for the Liberation
(36 F-16s are currently
slated for delivery to Iraq at an estimated $3 billion.)
Rivers of Cash
Brookings is Washington's
oldest think tank.
For most of its existence, its research was funded by a large endowment and no-strings-attached grants.
But all of that changed when Strobe Talbott took the reins.
• Among the many corporate donors to Brookings are Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon,
Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin and cyber-defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
David M. Rubenstein, Co-Chairman of Board of Trustees
• Rubenstein is co-founder and co-CEO at the Carlyle Group, a massive private equity
firm. Among the companies in which Carlyle has a controlling stake in is Booz Allen Hamilton
-- a military and intelligence IT firm that is currently active in Ukraine.
• Booz, which both sells to and operates within the U.S. military and intelligence
apparatus, counts four former Carlyle executives among its directors. Ronald Sanders, a vice president
at Booz, serves on the faculty of Brookings.
The Atlantic Council was formed in 1961 as a "consolidation of the U.S. citizen groups supporting"
NATO, according to its website.
Stephen Hadley, Director
• A former national security advisor for George W. Bush, Hadley doubles as a director
for Raytheon. He was also the driving force behind the creation of the U.S. Committee on NATO, on whose
board he sat, and the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.
• Prior to joining the Bush White House, Hadley was a lawyer for Shea & Gardner,
whose clients included Lockheed Martin.
James Cartwright, Director
• A retired general and former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, James Cartwright
has an active work life. He's "an advisor to defense and intelligence contractor TASC, defense consulting
firm Accenture, and Enlightenment Capital, a private equity firm with defense investments," according
to the Public Accountability Initiative. He's also on the board of Raytheon, which earned him $124,000
Other notables include:
• Nicholas Burns – former diplomat and current senior counselor at The Cohen Group,
which advises Lockheed Martin, among other defense companies
• James A. Baker III – Bush 41 Secretary of State and partner at law firm Baker
Botts. Clients include a slew of defense companies
• Thomas R. Pickering – former senior vice president for Boeing
Founded in 1922, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has since served as the premier voice of
Midwest business leaders in American foreign policy. Jeb Bush recently made his
am my own man" speech, outlining his foreign policy priorities, to the council:
Lester Crown, Chairman
• The chair of Henry Crown & Co., the investment firm that handles the fortune
started by his father, Henry Crown. Henry put the "dynamic" in General Dynamics,
helping to turn
it into the world's largest weapons manufacturer by the time Lester became its chairman in 1986. The
defense behemoth remains the single
largest source of the family's treasure; they're currently the 35th richest clan in America. General
Dynamics produces all of the equipment types proposed for transfer to Ukraine in the think-tank report.
Ivo Daalder, President
• A co-author of the report, Daalder is a former diplomat and staffer on Clinton's
National Security Council. He later served on
the Hart-Rudman Commission from 1998-2001.
It was chartered by Defense Secretary William Cohen -- later to become a Lockheed consultant -- and
tasked with outlining the major shifts in national security strategy for the 21st century. Among its
commissioners was none other than Norm Augustine.
The commission concluded that
the Department of Defense and intelligence community should drastically reduce their infrastructure
costs by outsourcing and privatizing key functions, especially in the field of information technology.
beneficiaries have been America's major defense contractors: Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrup
Grumman, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton and Lester Crown's outfit, General Dynamics.
General Dynamics' revenue tripled between 2000 and 2010 as it acquired at least 11 smaller firms
that specialized in exactly the sort of services recommended for outsourcing. Roughly one-third of
GD's overall revenue in 2013, the same year that Daalder was appointed president of the Council by
came from its Information Systems and Technology division.
So even without a Cold War Bear to fuel spending, the re-imagining of that old foe is oiling the
revolving door between the government and defense contractors.
Six days of testimony at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling have proven the
agency’s obsession with proclaiming its competence. Many of the two-dozen witnesses from the
Central Intelligence Agency conveyed smoldering resentment that a whistleblower or journalist
might depict the institution as a bungling outfit unworthy of its middle name.
Some witnesses seemed to put Sterling and journalist James Risen roughly in the same nefarious
category – Sterling for allegedly leaking classified information that put the CIA in a bad
light, and Risen for reporting it. Muffled CIA anger was audible, coming from the witness stand,
a seat filled by people claiming to view any aspersions on the CIA to be baseless calumnies.
Other than court employees, attorneys and jurors, only a few people sat through virtually the
entire trial. As one of them, I can say that the transcript of USA v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling
should be mined for countless slick and clumsy maneuvers by government witnesses to obscure an
emerging picture of CIA recklessness, dishonesty and ineptitude.
Consider, for example, the testimony of David Shedd, who was chief of operations for the CIA’s
Counterproliferation Division when Sterling was a case officer at the turn of the century. On
the stand, Shedd presented himself as superbly savvy about Operation Merlin. He’d met with the
head prosecutor three times to prepare for testifying. Yet, as a witness, Shedd turned out to be
stunningly ignorant about the only CIA operation at issue in the trial.
Like other CIA witnesses, Shedd testified in no uncertain terms that Operation Merlin –
executed to give a flawed nuclear weapon design to the Iranian government – was expertly planned
and then well implemented in 2000. But his testimony included a key statement that was a
fundamentally incorrect version of what happened.
In reality, as Risen reported in his book State of War, and as all other accounts affirmed in
the courtroom, the Russian scientist working for the CIA carried the nuclear diagram to Vienna –
and left it in a mailbox at the Iranian mission office without ever speaking with anyone there.
But Shedd flatly testified that the scientist had met with someone in Iran when delivering the
Shedd’s authoritative demeanor about Operation Merlin was matched by the incongruous immensity
of his error. He had preened himself on the stand as someone who had been the ultra-adept
overseer of Operation Merlin, as the direct supervisor of the man (“Bob S,” who testified behind
a screen) in charge of that CIA program – touted in court as one of the most vitally important
in the agency’s modern era.
As much as anything else, the CIA witnesses at the trial seemed offended by Risen’s
characterization of Operation Merlin as ill-conceived, poorly executed and reckless. Along with
the usual abhorrence of classified leaks (at least the ones unapproved by the agency’s leaders),
the testifying CIA officials and case officers were in firm denial that the Merlin operation was
screwed up. I got the impression that most would much rather be considered ruthless or even
cruel than incompetent.
The subject of competence is a sore spot for career CIA employees proud of their hard-boiled
affects. From their vantage points, it can’t be expunged by dismissing critics as impractical
idealists and bleeding hearts merely concerned with the morality of drones, torture or
Jeffrey Sterling has continued to deny the charges that he was a source for Risen’s book. But no
one disputes that Sterling went through channels in 2003 to alert the Senate Intelligence
Committee staff to his concerns about Operation Merlin.
The first full day of jury deliberations in this historic leak trial is set for Friday. If
Sterling goes to prison, a major reason will be that the CIA leadership is angry about being
portrayed as an intelligence gang that can’t shoot straight. The government cannot imprison
Risen the journalist, but it may be on the verge of imprisoning Sterling the whistleblower.
Based on the evidence, it would be delusional to think of the CIA as a place run by straight
Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for
Public Accuracy. His books includeWar Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to
The most curious thing about our four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq,
and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps. Defeat in Vietnam bred a generation
of military reformers, men such as Col. John Boyd USAF, Col. Mike Wyly USMC, and Col. Huba Wass
de Czege USA, each of whom led a major effort to reorient his service. Today, the landscape is barren.
Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change. Just more money, please.
Such a moral and intellectual collapse of the officer corps is one of the worst disasters that
can afflict a military because it means it cannot adapt to new realities. It is on its way to history’s
wastebasket. The situation brings to mind an anecdote an Air Force friend, now a military historian,
liked to tell some years ago. Every military, he said, occasionally craps in its own mess kit. The
Prussians did it in 1806, after which they designed and put into service a much improved new model
messkit, through the Scharnhorst military reforms. The French did it in 1870, after which they took
down from the shelf an old-model messkit—the mass, draft army of the First Republic—and put it back
in service. The Japanese did it in 1945, after which they threw their mess kit away, swearing they
would never eat again. And we did it in Korea, in Vietnam, and now in four new wars. So far, we’ve
had the only military that’s just kept on eating.
Why? The reasons fall in two categories, substantive and structural. Substantively, at the moral
level—Colonel Boyd’s highest and most powerful level—our officers live in a bubble. Even junior
officers inhabit a world where they hear only endless, hyperbolic praise of “the world’s greatest
military ever.” They feed this swill to each other and expect it from everyone else. If they don’t
get it, they become angry. Senior officers’ bubbles, created by vast, sycophantic staffs, rival
Xerxes’s court. Woe betide the ignorant courtier who tells the god-king something he doesn’t want
to hear. (I know—I’ve done it, often.)
At Boyd’s next level, the mental, our officers are not professionals. They are merely craftsman.
They have learned what they do on a monkey-see, monkey-do basis and know no more. What defines a
professional—historically there were only three professions, law, medicine, and theology—is that
he has read, studied, and knows the literature of his field. The vast majority of our officers read
no serious military history or theory. A friend who teaches at a Marine Corps school told me the
most he can now get majors to read is two pages. Another friend, teaching at an Army school, says,
“We are back to drawing on the cave wall.”
As culpable as our officers are for these failings, they are not the whole story. Officers are
also victims of three structural failures, each of which is enough to lay an armed service low.
The first, and possibly the worst, is an officer corps vastly too large for its organization—now
augmented by an ant-army of contractors, most of whom are retired officers. A German Panzer division
in World War II had about 21 officers in its headquarters. Our division headquarters are cities.
Every briefing—and there are many, the American military loves briefings because they convey the
illusion of content without offering any—is attended by rank-upon-rank of horse-holders and flower-strewers,
The pathologies that flow from this are endless. Command tours are too short to accomplish anything,
usually about 18 months, because behind each commander is a long line of fellow officers eagerly
awaiting their lick at the ice-cream cone. Decisions are pulled up the chain because the chain is
laden with surplus officers looking for something to do. Decisions are committee-consensus, lowest
common denominator, which Boyd warned is usually the worst of all possible alternatives. Nothing
can be changed or reformed because of the vast number of players defending their “rice bowls.” The
only measurable product is entropy.
The second and third structural failings are related because both work to undermine moral courage
and character, which the Prussian army defined as “eagerness to make decisions and take responsibility.”
They are the “up or out” promotion system and “all or nothing” vesting for retirement at 20 years.
“Up or out” means an officer must constantly curry favor for promotion because if he is not steadily
promoted he must leave the service. “All or nothing” says that if “up or out” pushes him out before
he has served 20 years, he leaves with no pension. (Most American officers are married with children.)
It is not difficult to see how these two structural failings in the officer corps morally emasculate
our officers and all too often turn them, as they rise in rank and near the magic 20 years, into
ass-kissing conformists. Virtually no other military in the world has these policies, for obvious
Of these two types of failings, the structural are probably the most damaging. They are also
the easiest to repair. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, the president, and Congress could
quickly fix all of them. Why don’t they? Because they only look at the defense budget, and these
are not directly budgetary issues. They merely determine, in large measure, whether we win or lose.
Fixing the substantive problems is harder because those fixes require changes in organizational
culture. OSD cannot order our officers to come out from the closed system, fortified with hubris,
that they have placed around themselves to protect the poor dears from ever hearing anything upsetting,
however true. Congress cannot withhold pay from those officers who won’t read. Only our officers
themselves can fix these deficiencies. Will they? The problem is circular: not until they leave
If American military officers want to know, or even care, why we keep losing, they need only
look in the mirror. They seem to do that most of the time anyway, admiring their now-tattered plumage.
Behind them in the glass, figures in turbans dance and laugh.
William S. Lind is director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.
Please recommend some books that deal with incompetent military commanders
and, ideally, the competent ones who replaced them.
I've been reading "Wahoo" about a WWII submarine and have found that I really enjoy the "studies
in incompetent commanders" material, especially when a *competent* leader gets their chance too,
in the same story. I've also seen "The Caine Mutiny" and was wondering if anyone could recommend:
- Video games
...that deal with this subject.
Maybe too juvenile, certainly pure adventures,
Hornblower and almost all of the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell deal with this theme.
posted by Some1 at
3:05 PM on April 18, 2010
We Were Soldiers Once, and Young. But the competent/incompetent order is reversed.
posted by procrastination
3:11 PM on April 18, 2010
Seconding Lieutenant Hornblower, which is a very enjoyable romp, and its adaptation into
the second Hornblower miniseries, Duty and Retribution. You might
enjoy the TV show better if you've seen the first series (four films), which also deals with
military politicking and bad command to a lesser extent.
posted by bettafish at
3:42 PM on April 18, 2010
"Once an Eagle" by Anton Myrer is perhaps the prototype for this in the American military.
posted by Etrigan at
5:02 PM on April 18, 2010
Anything about the American Civil War. Most histories of this are fairly huge, so I'm not
sure if you want to slog through them, but the entire history of the Union side of the war is
"we could have won, but our generals were criminally incompetent, and then Grant showed up".
Bruce Catton has a good volume with nice illustrations of the various battles. Ken Burns's documentary
is also excellent. Shelby Foote's 3 volume history is fantastic, but a really long read. Bruce
Catton also has a multi-volume set on the Army of the Potomac (by far the most mis-managed of
all the armies) that has some good stuff but might be more in-depth then what you want.
posted by ghostiger at
5:14 PM on April 18, 2010
A Peace to End all Peace by David Fromkin is a detailed history of the British military
in the eastern Mediterranean during WWI and its commanders, both competent and incompetent.
Spoiler alert: there's a lot more of the latter than the former.
posted by Tsuga at
5:40 PM on April 18, 2010
On the Psychology of Military
Incompetence by Norman Dixon is specifically about the British military, pre-WWII. Summary:
culture stagnates into convention, which drives out the unconventionality you need to succeed.
On the Psychology of Military Incompetence is case studies of failures and their replacements,
who were often competent but despised by the establishment.
One interesting aspect of the institutional incompetence: In Dixon's view, the British military
suffered from groupthink and valued particular upper-class traits over merit. It's astonishing
that military personnel would need to be told that the map is not the territory, the signifier
not the signified, but indeed they cared more about the signs and forms of morale and professionalism
(such as clean clothes and polished brass) than about warm clothes, edible food, and working
posted by brainwane at
8:37 PM on April 18, 2010
Another non-fiction book about a WWII submarine has elements of this -
Below by Eugene Fluckey (plus this is one of the better written books of its type as well.)
Also, the movie Mr. Roberts
might work for you (I've never read the book it is based on, sadly.)
posted by gudrun at
9:21 PM on April 18, 2010
A Bright Shining Lie, about
the Vietnam war. At the risk of sounding like an uneducated rube, the stuff in this book about
the run-up to the war eye-opening.
posted by Gorgik at
9:38 PM on April 18, 2010
Seconding brainwane. A more recent book in the same general pattern as Dixon's book is called
Lions Led by Donkeys (can't remember the author's name and my copy
is inaccessible at the moment).
posted by Logophiliac at
12:18 AM on April 19, 2010
A legacy of ashes about the history of the CIA. I haven't gotten to the part where the incompetents
are replaced but I'm optimistic.
posted by mearls at
6:28 PM on April 19, 2010
Been reading an old book, Norman Dixon's
of Military Incompetence" over the Easter break - I was told it it describes hierarchical incompetence
rather than just military incompetence - ie any hierarchical structure where some people have to
obey the commands of others is prone to this problem.
In Chapter 13 he lists 14 tendencies which in his view are the main contributing factors to incompetence.
its interesting to look at some of the current examples - take for example the Olde Media's inability
to see the new order emerging:
1. Serious wastage of human resources (lack of economy of force)
This normally manifests itself as deployment of staff in the wrong places due to a misguided
view of where value is created, often due to old practices. I think the Peter Principle fits
In a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later
they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their "level of incompetence"),
and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. (This principle can be modeled
and has theoretical validity) Peter's Corollary states that "in time, every post tends to
be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his duties" and adds that "work
is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence".
2. Fundamental conservatism, clinging to outworn tradition
I saw this at its worst when doing a piece of consulting work with a dyed-in-the wool insurance
company with shoe leather (travelling salesmen) all over the country, as telephone insurance
was rising. The top management was employing every trick in the book to persuade itself that
the staus quo remained in situ
3. Ignore or reject information which is unpalatable
4. Underestimate enemy/overestimate own capabilities
I watched this first hand with large corporates and their advisors laughing at the internet
and the dotcoms, and in 90% of cases they were right. But what a change the other 10% made.
This (in my view) is what happens in second stage incompetence, ie when it has become clear
that the world is not working out as planned, but the decision makers either (i) have no mental
models to conceive of what an answer may look like or/and (ii) are unwilling to make the painful
structural changes required as it usually means destroying their own support networks
6. Obstinate persistence in a given task despite strong contrary evidence
"The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different
results." — Albert Einstein. Nuff said.....
7. Failure to exploit situations gained
Typically because the situation gained is not recommended. I started my working life ina hardware
manufacturer that made better UNIX gear than Sun, but over 3 years lots its lead as it's internal
logic made it keep on paddling upstream to promote the minicomputer market (See point 3 above)
and ten got into a funk when that failed (point 5)
8. Failure to make adequate reconnaissance
The number of companies that barge into a market without doing adequate testing or research
is truly breathtaking, even today.
9. Predilection for frontal assaults (against enemy's strongest point)
Doing the obvious - trying to "me too" everything
10. A belief in brute force
In companies this is pretty much the belief that "more of teh same" will work even as the market
11. Failure to make use of surprise
The corollary of the above
12. Undue readiness to find scapegoats
I.e. politically poisonous company cultures are probably a sign of major problems
13. Suppression or distortion of news from the front
The classic problem - look at any company's pronouncements for signs of company propaganda that
don't reflect reality and you have a measure of its likely demise. Start with the mission statement.
14. A belief in mystical forces (fate, bad luck etc)
Sadly he doesn't pull out any as more important than any other, but I'd pretty much go on his his
1-14 list as being in descending order of magnitude in my experience.
There are a number of other useful points made:
On the training of the Officer class
There was a fascinating discussion of the findings of the British army in 1901, which was that few
officers showed any capacity for command, there was too much drill and cramming for marks, and the
lecturers wre selected for prowess at the showy aspects - games and smartness in this case - rather
than knowing the subject. They go further and also point out if all senior officers come from one
social class and educational route then you get a worrying amount of groupthink. Now, with a few
adjustments one could probably make very similar comments today for the MBA degree, the current
"officer training" for business life.
This occurs where someone possesses knowledge or beliefs which differ from the actual situation
they observe and a decision they make. The result is that once a person makes a decision to act
in a certain way, their mindset changes and they become more partial to that decision and biassed
against other options, and seek to justify the original decision - the more vigorously the less
justified it is.
People are not naturally made for Hierarchies - and the problem of brains
Much of the behaviour in a hierarchy is not instinctive, so rules, rewards and punishments have
to be designed to keep people operant in the hierarchy. Over time military hierarchies have had
to put in more and more brains, which puts major strains on the structure (its no accident that
military thought is now leading corporate in the use of small, multifunctional teams)
There is an interesting aside here that stable governments traditionally have ensured that their
senior people are part of the ruling elite (failure to do ensures the military heads will promote
themselves into the elite via coup etc). One can only be struck by the inability of the current
US and UK governments to reform the banks that have now created net negative wealth that destroyed
at least ten years of profits.
The book shows that "Anti-Effeminate" - ie Macho - military cultures have got in the way of executing
orders (never mind making the right orders) countless times in examples of incompetence, and that
the really great Generals were by and large not "macho" by the standards of their day. One of the
biggest problems with "Macho" cultures is that they self select for Macho attributes rather than
those that are relevant to the task so over time organisational incompetence grows.
The book itself goes into many more detailed studies, including the purpose of military bullshit
(reinforces the group separateness), anal types (a**ehole managers, as we'd call them), how authoritarianism
drives towards incompetence etc
In fact the overall hypothesis is that Authoritarianism and its associated traits is the biggest
driver of Incompetence. Partly this is because the Authoritarian nature of a hierarchy attracts
the sort of people you may not wish to have in any leading position in it as they are by and large:
- more dishonest
- less likely to understand opponent's intentions/ see intentions that conflict with their views
- less willing to accept adaptation, innovation etc in response to change
- more likely to insist on blind obedience
- more likely to underestimate the opposition (and to use stereotypes)
- more prone to protect reputations and blame juniors, esp for their own shortcomings
- tend to be more obsessive
- tend not to value other people
Another point they make is that the most effective armies at most points in history are those with
the least past history, ie they have had to reinvent warfare in their time with a cold clear eye
towards what is, rather than what used to be. In the last 100 years or so, South African Boer Commandos,
Germany's between the wars adoption of armoured warfare tactics, the Israeli army of the 1960's
and 70's. Of these the 2 most effective (in terms of ability to defeat far larger enemies) - the
Boers and Israelis - had far less discipline and were far more "civilian" in nature than most of
their contemporaries. He also notes that in the last 60 years or so, as technology becomes more
complex, the independent brainpower of the average soldier has to rise, and thus unthinking hierarchical
authority is less effective, forcing major changes in many armies today as they strive to operate
independently at low level
Towards the end Dixon looks at exceptional commanders (competent and incompetent), and whether they
were competent or fortunate, and what traits they had. Two interested me particularly:
Jackie Fisher, first lord of the Admiralty
He was heavily responsible for pulling the very conservative Royal Navy from a wooden ship sailing
navy to a steel and steam navy, and pushing through the (in the day) radical design of the 1906
HMS Dreadnought that set the pattern for all major warships until the WW2 aircraft carrier. This
is a task I see as akin to being a CEO of many more traditional companies today who have to pull
their hidebound organisations through a period of radical technical - and thus strategic - change
T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)
Forced the hidebound WW1 British Army to use the guerilla tactics that had hurt it so badly in the
Boer War on its enemies - in Palestine at least. To be fair, his superior commander, Allenby, is
also seen as one of the better British generals of the 20th century (and by British WW1 standards
a military genius of Alexander proportions). For a lower level entrepreneur like Lawrence you have
to have people above you who will give you your head. No doubt there were Lawrences under Haig but
they would have been stifled.
In both cases these men are seen to be non-authoritarian and non-obsessive, have wide interests
outside of the military (ie are open to new ideas), were fascinated by the latest technology of
their day, promoted their people mainly on the basis of efficiency and were liked by common soldiers
and senior officers - but were also insistent in getting their way when they believed they were
In other words, if the Big Dogs in your company look like authoritarian, obsessive/anal, have narrow
interests and are resistant to new ideas plus out of touch with modern technology, chances are they
are incompetent and will drive their companies to ruin.
It also argues strongly towards more of a start-up, egalitarian, team-like organisation structures,
which of course is what modern armies are trying to do. After all, it is well known that small companies
nearly all the new jobs and innovation these days. As Thomas Friedman noted today in his Op
Ed (see previous link):
Good-paying jobs don’t come from bailouts. They come from start-ups. And where do start-ups
come from? They come from smart, creative, inspired risk-takers.
There is a certain irony that advanced armies in 2010 are trying to turn themselves into the equivalent
of the Boer armies of 1900.
It is doubly ironic that corporates, having taken their organisation structures from the military
200 years ago are now in many cases keeping to structures that the modern military is dropping.
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