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Military Incompetence

News Books Recommended Links Military Bureaucracy and Military Incompetence Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition Bureaucratic avoidance of responsibility Office Stockholm Syndrom
Bureaucratic Collectivism Toxic Managers Understanding Micromanagers and control freaks Communnicating with a psychopath Bureaucratic ritualism The Fiefdom Syndrome Anger trap
  Drowning in Paperwork Burnout Learned helplessness Steps for Decreasing Toxic Worry Machiavellians Manipulators Tricks Surviving a Bad Performance Review
Meetings mania Empty Suits (Aggressive Incompetent Managers) Understanding Borderline Rage The Iron Law of Oligarchy Media-Military-Industrial Complex Humor Etc

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 mid-2003.

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,’s “Did 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 multiple warnings.
  • –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 Petraeus’s wow-response.

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 environment?


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 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 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.

 Examples of Military Incompetence

Book Review On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman F. Dixon Veterans Today

Book Review: On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman F. Dixon

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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 -

CPT Adrian Choong  reviews the classic On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Dr. Norman F. Dixon (Time Warner Paperbacks (March 1, 1991)).

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 or experience.

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, for example:

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 armed services.

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:

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.

Incompetence Today

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 are:

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.

Military psychology - Psychology Wiki

On the psychology of economic incompetence

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 account deficit.”

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 to do.

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.  

Learn and talk about Military incompetence, Military operations, Military organization, Military theory

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.

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[Aug 29, 2017] New York Police scrap 36,000 Windows smartphones

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.
Aug 29, 2017 |
Bonkers buy-up by bungling billionairess By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco 28 Aug 2017 at 18:48 SHARE ▼ 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 Microsoft officially ended support 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 iPhones instead.

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.

Tsk, tsk, Tisch

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 police department.

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, raising eyebrows .

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 2014.

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."

Oh dear.

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.

[Aug 28, 2017] Bombastic boss gave insane instructions to sensible sysadmin, with client on speakerphone

Aug 28, 2017 |
When data disappeared, everyone knew exactly where to point the finger By Simon Sharwood, APAC Editor 25 Aug 2017 at 07:02 SHARE ▼ The Register '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 visited.

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 already tried.

"I don't care, run it again," was the response, so Craig obeyed and duly reported it had not worked.

"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 action.

"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 service ethic.

"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. ®

[May 24, 2017] The cost cannot be measured only in lost opportunities, lives and money. There will be a long hangover of shame

May 24, 2017 |

Michael N. Moore , says: February 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

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.' "

Michael N. Moore , says: February 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm
As per the request of James Canning for more information on Col. Ted Westhusing, please see:

Or the book "Blood Money" by T. Christian Miller

thefatefullightning , says: June 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm
"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 and ranks.

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.

Terrence Zehrer , says: July 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm
But the Pentagon is excellent at what it does – extort money from the US taxpayer. I call it treason.

"Massive military budgets erode the economic foundation on which true national security is dependent."

– Dwight Eisenhower

[May 24, 2017] Rank Incompetence by William S. Lind

Notable quotes:
"... 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. ..."
Feb 01, 2013 |
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.

[May 24, 2017] A Condensation of Military Incompetence

Notable quotes:
"... 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. ..."
May 24, 2017 |

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 me.

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.

... ... ...

David Martin

November 15, 2012

[Sep 03, 2016] Hillary Clinton Incompetent, Or Criminal

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
Notable quotes:
"... 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. ..."
The American Conservative

Why, exactly, did the FBI wait until Labor Day Weekend to dump this startling news about Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal? Hard to believe it was a coincidence that official Washington wanted this story to have the best chance of going away. From the Daily Beast:

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 revelation of the two archives is contained in a detailed report about the FBI's investigation of Clinton's private email account. The report contained new information about how the archives were handled, as well as how a private company deleted emails in its possession, at the same time that congressional investigators were demanding copies.


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 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 security information.

Clint says: September 3, 2016 at 12:00 pm
The Clintons have gotten away repeatedly by not playing by the rules that others must play by or get punished for breeching.

It's incrementally being exposed and Americans see that The Clintons act as if they're too big to jail.

Noah172 , says: September 3, 2016 at 12:08 pm
KevinS wrote:

It is like going through a red light because you weren't paying close enough attention as opposed to consciously choosing to run a red light

Lousy analogy. Running a red is a momentary lapse, not a years-long, well-thought-out conspiracy, with considerable effort given to covering tracks (BleachBit).

Sebastien Cole , says: September 3, 2016 at 12:09 pm
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.

mongoose , says: September 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm
…like choosing a hangover…rather than a heroin overdose
Buckeye reader , says: September 3, 2016 at 12:22 pm
You're insulting Nixon.

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. )

Abelard Lindsey , says: September 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm
Hillary Clinton: Incompetent, Or Criminal? Both.
Michael Guarino, says: September 3, 2016 at 12:51 pm
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.

Will Harrington , says: September 3, 2016 at 12:52 pm
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 scandal.

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.

Michael Guarino, says: September 3, 2016 at 1:08 pm
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.

Andrew E. , says: September 3, 2016 at 1:23 pm
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.

[May 16, 2015] William J. Astore The American Military Uncontained, Chaos Spread, Casualties Inflicted, Missions Unaccomplished

May 16, 2015 |

By William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) who edits the blogThe Contrary Perspective. Originally published at TomDispatch<

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 Jeane 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 wrote, "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 when she challenged 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. Its 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, ultra-high-tech strategic 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 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. Except it's 2015, not 1990, and no mass of Soviet T-72 tanks remains poised to surge through that gap.

Much 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 "Evil Empire."

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 Blackwater, 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 system that's 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; the 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 torture and 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 down in 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 Iraq, Afghanistan, 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 nation's 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.

Selected Skeptical Comments

Chris Geary May 15, 2015 at 3:41 am

"Military overreach" is a nice way I guess of putting the US ruthless/reckless plan for military control of the planet.

Christer Kamb May 15, 2015 at 5:57 am

It´s name is POWER-HYBRIS. Trying to put the Roman Empire in the shade is asking for the same end.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL May 15, 2015 at 5:36 pm

"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.

Harriet May 15, 2015 at 4:02 am

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?

sufferin'succotash May 15, 2015 at 8:35 am

That's Hedley!

PlutoniumKun May 15, 2015 at 4:55 am

'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.

MikeNY May 15, 2015 at 6:03 am

We're the modern-age Sparta.

According to Boehner, our military can't survive on a dime less than $604,000,000,000 a year. Because "it's downright shameful … to even contemplate turning our backs on American troops."

Every time you cut funding for an F-35 or a drone or a nuke, little baby Jesus weeps.

James Levy May 15, 2015 at 6:52 am

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.

MikeNY May 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Yes, ITA.

Felix May 16, 2015 at 12:45 am

Plenty of blacks as well. Basically it is a well funded jobs program…….do nothing jobs…….huge benefits……out of sight medical care abuse…… 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.

Brooklin Bridge May 15, 2015 at 7:10 am

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.

Brooklin Bridge May 15, 2015 at 7:21 am

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.

steviefinn May 15, 2015 at 5:17 am

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 :

Otter May 15, 2015 at 6:31 am

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.

Maju May 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

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.

Jackrabbit May 15, 2015 at 6:41 am

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.


juliania May 15, 2015 at 4:21 pm

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.

Well done, Mr. Astore.

James Levy May 15, 2015 at 6:47 am

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, not "containment."

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.

Carla May 15, 2015 at 7:07 am

In the "WTF America?" department, I wonder what James Levy and William Astore think of Michael J. Glennon's "National Security and Double Government" ?

norm de plume May 15, 2015 at 8:21 pm

The title sounds like it sails close to the borders of the Deep State, but this review I just read:

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."

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 2:02 pm

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.

A fiat-money empire can be a household or not a household.

The choice is up to the people…the masters of the house.

"You have chosen…wisely."

JTMcPhee May 15, 2015 at 8:21 am

See Spot run! Run, Spot, run! See Dick shoot Jane! Shoot, Dick, shoot! See Dick show Vlad how to shoot, American style! And make tactical decisions just like successful US military!

No more topheavy command and control! Except realtime GoPro Battlespace management by fatass dudes at Global Network-Centric Interoperababble Battlespace consoles!

"War In Ukraine," now we know who the official Good Guys are!
We be fu___ed. Like Totally,, Timmy!

OIFVet May 15, 2015 at 6:12 pm

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 in Russian.

I guess they haven't had time to learn proper Bandera while fighting other Russian speakers…

Eureka Springs May 15, 2015 at 8:27 am

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.

susan the other May 15, 2015 at 2:13 pm

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.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 3:02 pm

You're right – the money could been spent on creating a sustainable world.

Printing more doesn't address the issue if we don't correct the misallocation, and when we correct it, we will likely see we don't need to print more.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL May 15, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Tinkering at the margins won't work. Do what Ron Paul said: bring the troops home.

When asked 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.

Henry May 15, 2015 at 8:30 am

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.

bruno marr May 15, 2015 at 1:18 pm

…I like the creative use of "dissidence" (misbelief) in this comment. I expected to see "dissonance" (inconsistency), but misbelief better describes the American mindset.

A refusal to accept reality.

barutanseijin May 15, 2015 at 1:21 pm

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 nothing.

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.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 2:30 pm

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.

*Big Brother says he's being ignored.

vegeholic May 15, 2015 at 1:24 pm

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.

jrs May 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm

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.

jrs May 15, 2015 at 2:54 pm

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.

JTMcPhee May 15, 2015 at 11:03 pm

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?

tim s May 15, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Edit. Meant as a reply to Henry

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 of events.

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.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 2:56 pm

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 loans.

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).

tim s May 15, 2015 at 4:45 pm

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.

sam s smith May 15, 2015 at 6:39 pm

Prince, the head of Black Water was Navy SEAL.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 8:25 pm

My fault.

Should have put quotation marks around 'patriots.'

Crazy Horse May 15, 2015 at 3:53 pm

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?

Conventional manufacturing 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.

Sluggeaux May 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

One word: Corruption

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…

VietnamVet May 15, 2015 at 4:17 pm

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 collapses.

North America will be borderless fiefdoms separated by language and cartel enforcers; that is if mankind avoids nuclear war, plagues, or a climate collapse.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL May 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm

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.

OIFVet May 15, 2015 at 6:26 pm

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.

jrs May 15, 2015 at 6:37 pm

The MIC gets rich, but there's really no other purpose?

No oil, no pipelines, no minerals, no petrodollar, no markets to neoliberalize and conquer, noone to overthrow who is not going along, no strategic military bases to establish?

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL May 15, 2015 at 11:56 pm

I dunno, if Iraq was about the oil, then why didn't we get any? The Chinese did. And I'm not sure how we neo-liberalize markets with the military…threaten we will invade?

I know Hilary threatened Sweden with reduced cooperation/funds if they didn't lighten up on Monsanto…pretty sure she didn't say we would invade though.

And as far as installing our own bad guys, maybe it's the one-two punch: green helicopters to get rid of the previous guy, then the rep from the IMF shows up for the Economic Hitman routine.

OIFVet May 16, 2015 at 12:16 am

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!

Nick May 15, 2015 at 5:47 pm

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.

OIFVet May 15, 2015 at 6:33 pm

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…

frosty zoom May 15, 2015 at 8:37 pm

turn off your t.v.!

Jeremy Grimm May 16, 2015 at 1:37 am

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 on one:

"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 forces.

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.

OIFVet May 16, 2015 at 2:22 am

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….

[Mar 21, 2015] Presidents, Prime Ministers, Congressmen, Generals, Spooks, Soldiers and Police ADMIT to False Flag Terror by George Washington

Mar 18, 2015 | Zero Hedge

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 see this.

(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 of Poland.

(3) Nazi general Franz Halder also testified at the Nuremberg trials that Nazi leader Hermann Goering 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 all 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 this, this and this).

(7) Israel 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 this and this).

(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 regime change.

(11) The former Italian Prime Minister, an Italian judge, and the former head of Italian counterintelligence admit that NATO, with the help of the Pentagon and CIA, carried out terror bombings in Italy and other European countries in the 1950s and blamed the communists, in order to rally people's support for their governments in Europe in their fight against communism. As one participant in this formerly-secret program stated: "You had to attack civilians, people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple. They were supposed to force these people, the Italian public, to turn to the state to ask for greater security" (and see this) (Italy and other European countries subject to the terror campaign had joined NATO before the bombings occurred). And watch this BBC special. They also allegedly carried out terror attacks in France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK, and other countries.

False flag attacks carried out pursuant tho this program include – by way of example only:

(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 Castro]".

(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; the official documents; and watch this interview with the former Washington Investigative Producer for ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.

(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 admits that it 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 admitted that – 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 general admitted that Turkish forces burned down a mosque on Cyprus in the 1970s and blamed it on their enemy. He 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 found that, 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 this video; and Agence France-Presse, 9/27/2002, French Court Dismisses Algerian Defamation Suit Against Author).

(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 Wars". And see this.

(25) Similarly, a CIA "psychological operations" manual prepared by a CIA contractor for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels 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 was 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 create martyrs.

(26) An Indonesian fact-finding team investigated violent riots which occurred in 1998, and determined that "elements of the military had been involved in the riots, some of which were deliberately provoked".

(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 this discussion).

(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, the New York Times, and Associated 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 said 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.).

(33) Although the FBI now admits that the 2001 anthrax attacks were carried out by one or more U.S. government scientists, a senior FBI official says that the FBI was actually told to blame the Anthrax attacks on Al Qaeda by White House officials (remember what the anthrax letters looked like). Government officials also confirm that the white House tried to link the anthrax to Iraq as a justification for regime change in that country.

(34) Police outside of a 2003 European Union summit in Greece were filmed planting Molotov cocktails on a peaceful protester

(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 officers (and see this).

(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 admitted (and see this) that government employees looted priceless museum artifacts in 2011 to try to discredit the protesters.

(41) A Colombian army colonel has admitted that his unit murdered 57 civilians, then dressed them in uniforms and claimed they were rebels killed in combat.

(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 admitted (and see 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.

Newsweek reported in 1999:

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.

Wikipedia notes:

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.

(As a side note – and while not technically false flag attacks – police have been busted framing innocent people in many other ways, as well.)

So Common … There's a Name for It

A former U.S. intelligence officer recently alleged:

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 defines it:

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 naval, air and 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....

George Washington

There are scores of false flags I didn't address ... I only focused on the ones that were ADMITTED.

[Mar 21, 2015] Germany riot targets new ECB headquarters in Frankfurt

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."
BBC News

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 official opening.

"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 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.

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.

[Mar 18, 2015] Russia withdrew from the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty

marknesop , March 17, 2015 at 11:57 am
Most here will be aware that Russia withdrew from the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, effective about a week ago. But I wonder how many were aware of the lopsided balance of forces Russia was expected to accept in order to ratify the treaty.

"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 rising.

et Al, March 17, 2015 at 2:07 pm
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 ways.

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 Su-27SKs):

AW&ST: Iran Produces First Long-Range Missile

TEL-AVIV — Iran has unveiled a domestically produced long-range land attack cruise missile, dubbed Soumar.

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 adds….

…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!

kirill, March 17, 2015 at 2:41 pm
"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"

Total rubbish 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.

[Mar 18, 2015]

Warren , March 17, 2015 at 12:50 pm

France and Germany join UK in Asia bank membership

France and Germany are to join the UK in becoming members of a Chinese-led Asian development bank.

The finance ministries of both countries confirmed on Tuesday that they would be applying for membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Last week, the US issued a rare rebuke to the UK over its decision to become a member of the AIIB.

The US considers the AIIB a rival to the Western-dominated World Bank.

The UK was the first Western economy to apply for membership of the bank.

But German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble confirmed on Tuesday that his country would also be applying for membership.

France's finance ministry confirmed it would be joining the bank. It is believed Italy also intends to join.

The US has questioned the governance standards at the new institution, which is seen as spreading Chinese "soft power".

The AIIB, which was created in October by 21 countries, led by China, will fund Asian energy, transport and infrastructure projects.

When asked about the US rebuke last week, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said: "There will be times when we take a different approach."

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.

'Not normal'

Last week, Pippa Malmgren, a former economic adviser to US President George W Bush, told the BBC that the public chastisement from the US indicates the move might have come as a surprise.

"It's not normal for the United States to be publicly scolding the British," she said, adding that the US's focus on domestic affairs at the moment could have led to the oversight.

However, Mr Cameron's spokesperson said UK Chancellor George Osborne did discuss the measure with his US counterpart before announcing the move.

Some 21 nations came together last year to sign a memorandum for the bank's establishment, including Singapore, India and Thailand.

But in November last year, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered lukewarm support to the AIIB and said its actions must be transparent.

US President Barack Obama, who met Mr Abbott on the sidelines of a Beijing summit last year, agreed the bank had to be transparent, accountable and truly multilateral.

"Those are the same rules by which the World Bank or IMF [International Monetary Fund] or Asian Development Bank or any other international institution needs to abide by," Mr Obama said at the time.

marknesop , March 17, 2015 at 3:11 pm
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.

james, March 17, 2015 at 3:59 pm
there is a straight line that runs from the boe to the federal reserve… moon of alabama has a post up discussing some of the changes afloat which can be read here –

davidt, March 17, 2015 at 3:14 pm
My favorite Czech, Vlad Sobell, has an new article "The opportunity cost of America's disastrous foreign policy", which most of us here would agree with:

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, His is the last contribution.

If there were an award for clear thinking then Sobell would have to be a prime candidate.

kat kan , March 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm
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.

davidt , March 17, 2015 at 6:17 pm
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 have hardened.)

[Mar 07, 2015] Meet the Big Wallets Pushing Obama Towards a New Cold War By Christian Stork

February 25, 2015 | Alternet
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.

President Obama 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.

Moscow's national security interests are clear. Washington's are less so, unless you look at the bottom lines of defense contractors.

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 benefactors:

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 cycle.

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 the "intellectual 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 of Iraq.

(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.

Strobe Talbott, President

Talbott sought to bolster Brookings' coffers with aggressive corporate fundraising. He took it from annual revenues of $32 million in 2003 to $100 million by 2013. Though always corporate-friendly, Brookings has become little more than a pay-to-play research hub under Talbott's reign.

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 in 2012.

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

Chi-town Chickenhawks

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 "I 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.

The main 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 Crown, 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.

[Jan 25, 2015] Leak Trial Shows CIA Zeal To Hide Incompetence

Jan 25, 2015 | Blog

Leak Trial Shows CIA Zeal To Hide Incompetence

Norman Solomon, January 22, 2015

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 diagram.

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 renditions.

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 shooters.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books includeWar Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

An Officer Corps That Can’t Score The American Conservative

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, all officers.

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 reasons.

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. marapr-issuethumb

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 their bubble.

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 about incompetent military leaders. - incompetence commander leadership

January 29, 2013 | Ask MetaFilter

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:

- Books
- Plays
- Films
- Video games

...that deal with this subject.


The Anatomy of Incompetence

April 4. 2010 | Alan Patrick
Been reading an old book, Norman Dixon's "Psychology 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 here:

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

See above.....

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.

5. Indecisiveness

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 changes.

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)

Can't comment on this, but beware the CEO who plays with his balls....

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.

Cognitive Dissonance

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.

Macho Management

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

(this last issue is taken to greater lengths in The Corporation),

The risk of Legacy

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 right.

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 create 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.

So, what's your CEO like......?


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ABUSE: IPs or network segments from which we detect a stream of probes might be blocked for no less then 90 days. Multiple types of probes increase this period.  


Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least

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Last modified: August, 30, 2017