Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gizmo Wars

by Jeff Huber

According to the New York Times, the U.S. Army says “War would be a lot safer if only more of it were fought by robots.”

Safer for whom, Army? 

It apparently hasn’t occurred to the mavens of the Pentarchy, and likely never will, that the only way to make war a lot safer is to fight a lot less of it.  None of the anointed warfare wizards will bother to bring that tidbit to the national attention, that’s for sure.

Don't shoot it, Honey!  It's cute!
John Dyer, a retired vice-admiral who is now chief operation officer of iRobot (yes, that really is his company’s name) says “One of the great arguments for armed robots is they can fire second.”  Dyer’s pseudo-logic blithely ignores the one might have more than ample reason for shooting first at an armed robot.  If an armed robot with a foreign flag painted on its arm were patrolling my block, I’d be inclined to do a little more than write a defamatory tone poem about it. 

iRobot makes those cute home cleaning gizmos, Roomba the robotic vacuum cleaner and Scooba the robotic floor scrubber.  The Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS), made by QinetiQ North America, is every bit as adorable as its domestic counterparts, maybe even more so.  MAARS is the size of a lawn mower, has tank treads, carries a video camera and a big honking machine gun and has a domed cylinder thingy toward the back that looks just like that peppy little R2D2 character from Star Wars.  The coolest thing of all about MAARS is that it’s remotely operated by technicians through “wireless video-game-style controllers.”

Army Special Forces units have bought six of the MAARS robots.  I guess that makes six soldiers who aren’t at this moment playing Call of Duty: Black Ops

Arguments that say remote operators will kill fewer civilians than on-scene soldiers presently kill are specious at best.  The notion that one can gain a superior map of reality from a remote video camera is sillier than the belief that coffee can sober you up.  But at least one theorist argues that we won’t have to rely on human decision making to conduct wars any more.

War wonk John Arquilla of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School says, “A lot of people fear artificial intelligence.”  Arquilla, an avid proponent of death by gizmo and, thinks an organizational structure “that skillfully blends humans and intelligent machines” is “the key to the mastery of 21st-century military affairs.”  Mastery of military affairs will only be achieved by developing intelligent humans to skillfully run them, not by fabricating “intelligent” machines to execute them.  But if by “mastery of military affairs” Arquilla means consummate skill at chumping the American public into going along with self-defeating, ever expanding wars throughout the New American Century and well into the next one, then he’s probably right.

Arquilla is part of the network-centric warfare cabal, that coven of brainiacs (most of them connected to the Navy) who evangelize the virtues of warfare through a “system of systems” that is really no more than a good-old-boy network of networks designed to sell cyber-age crap to the Department of Defense. 

Like fanatics who championed the spear and then the arrow and then artillery and then air power and so forth, Arquilla and his net-eccentrics fervently believe their new “way” is the “tao,” the long awaited arrival of the ultimate, universal reality in human conflict.  In an article from last spring in war porn glossy Foreign Policy, Arquilla promises that “netwar” (his streamlined version of the network-centric warfare buzz label) will “save untold amounts of blood and treasure” in future conflicts.  That makes you want to go out and start a few more wars doesn’t it?  Heck, if they cost less and none of the good guys get killed in them, we can’t afford not to have more wars, can we?

Arquilla’s arguments have a certain attraction, though.  He very correctly notes that “The U.S. military has exhausted itself in the repeated deployments since the 9/11 attacks” because “It has a chronic ‘scaling problem,’ making it unable to pursue smaller tasks with smaller numbers.” 

But he doesn't make the case that we can get by with smaller numbers.  He says that our present adversaries prevail because they are “networked” and present us with overwhelming numbers.  We could overcome the vast, networked enemy, his reasoning follows, if only we become networked ourselves and approach the problem with smaller numbers.

If we’re being out-networked it’s not because the ism soldiers have better communication technology than we have.  What the ism-ers are networking with is the 21st century equivalent of smoke signals.  No matter what kind of technology they buy off the shelf it can’t possibly be any better than the technology we can buy off the shelf, and we can buy a heck of a lot more of it than they can.

The kind of war Arquilla envisions is the same worldwide circle competition we’re engaged in now: an ever-widening effort to subjugate the rest of the world by occupying every square inch of it.   All he really wants to do is con civilian and military leaders into letting their computers make their decisions and replace all the soldiers with robots that are ten times more charming than that Arnold on Green Acres and ever so much more deadly. 

But wait: if we inhabit the world with that many killer robots, won’t that run into even more money than we’re spending on our self-immolating wars now?  Well, that’ll be okay, I guess.  As long as War Widgets Inc. is tossing seven figure bonuses at its executives and keeping the stockholders happy, that’s all that matters. 

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is the author of the critically applauded Bathtub Admirals, a satire on America’s rise to global dominance.  

Monday, November 22, 2010

NATO (Need Afghanistan, Terminated Otherwise)

Young Mr. Obama’s attendance of the recent NATO summit in Lisbon reaffirms that he has succeeded young Mr. Bush as the faithful doormat of the global Pentarchy.  Counterinsurgency (COIN) crackpot David Kilcullen, senior shaman to both “King” David Petraeus and “Bananas” Stan McChrystal, admitted back in Sept. 2009 that a key reason for staying the course in the Bananastans is to preserve the NATO alliance.  Kilcullen also confessed that the counter-terror mission wasn’t “at the top of my list” of reasons to stay.

The compliant press has been referring to the “NATO mission” in the Bananastans since Rolling Stone and other outlets spilled the beans about American G.I.s saying that ISAF, the acronym for International Security Assistance Force, actually stood for “I Suck At Fighting.”  Pretty soon word will get around that NATO stands for “Need Afghanistan, Terminated Otherwise.”

For all his gas regarding COIN, Kilcullen seems to understand full well that the war-fighting doctrinal is doomed to fail in the Bananastans because successful COIN operations require a legitimate, competent host government that has control of loyal, competent security forces.  Afghanistan will never have either of those commodities.  Pakistan won’t either.  Pakistan has more-or-less competent security forces, but they’re hardly loyal to their government.  Their government is loyal to them—if it knows what’s good for it.  But look on the bright side.  Having a government that’s controlled by its military gives Pakistan a lot in common with us. 

On a coincidental note, a military gaining control of its executive and legislative branches of government is precisely what caused the downfall of Rome.  Don’t take my word for it: ask Renaissance era political genius Niccolo Machiavelli.  In his The Art of War, Machiavelli notes that Rome jumped the shark when the Praetorian guard “became insolent and formidable, not only to the Senate but to the emperors themselves.”  It’s clear as the warning on a pack of cigarettes that Obama doesn’t have the inseminators it would take to stand up to his Long War generals or their sponsors in Congress.

Kilcullen likely also realizes that COIN doctrine is little more than cover strategy for its authors’ real purpose, which is to extend the wartime economy we’ve been on since World War II indefinitely by making “persistent conflict” the permanent global reality.  Part of the reason the Pentarchy never gives us a coherent list of war objectives is the danger that they might accidentally achieve one or more of them.  Then they’d need to make more excuses to keep our troops, and our country, enmeshed in counterproductive wars.  Oh, they could come up with the excuses, don’t get me wrong.  It would just entail extra work, effort that could more efficiently be aimed making more tea baggers who will support the dismantling of the New Deal even though they’re the ones who will suffer from said dismantling.  (Those zombies are direct descendants of the poor dumb white bastards who fought for the plantation owners’ right to own slave during the Civil War).

As to our little NATO buddies, well, they’re pretty much on the same Long War program except they’re not spending the kind of money on defense that we are.  The Brits are lopping defense programs like tumors in a colon.  But that’s okay.  As long as we have war mongrels like John McCain and Jon Kyl and Joe Bob Lieberman in Congress, we’ll pick up whatever slack the Brits create.  We’ll just keep borrowing money from the Chinese to spend on our military until they call in the loan.  Then we’ll take the military we’ve been building with China bucks and declare war on the little bastards.  Well, we won’t declare war.  That would be in keeping with our Constitution.  What the Pentarchs will probably do is pressure Obama or whichever political tart is in the oval office at the time into invoking the September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Forces (AUMF).  As you may recall, that was the near unanimous decree from Congress that the U.S. president could blow the smithereens out of whoever he wanted to blow to smithereens if he thought the prospective smitheree had any sort of potential connection to terrorism. 

We charged the Panty Bomber and the Times Square Screw Up with attacking America with weapons of mass destruction even though neither of their bombs, even if they’d gone off, would have burned their sausages crisp enough to serve with scrambled eggs.  So making a connection between the Chinese and terrorism should be easier than falling off of a backless barstool.  I mean, we’re afraid of them, right?  So if they terrify us, it logically follows that…

One of the ways we and our NATO side boys will keep the war going is by creating more of the enemy than we can ever possibly kill or capture.  We manage that by killing a lot of the civilians we pretend to be trying to protect.  Our latest strategy for protecting civilians will involve killing them with tanks.   

We’ve send a contingent of M1 Abrams tanks to Afghanistan for the Marines to build schools and roads and hand our soccer balls with.  The tanks will have a dual use purpose of killing bad guys, whoever we happen to decide the bad guys happen to be on any given day.  According to a November 19 Pentagon press release run as a news story in the New York Times, the M1s “will allow ground forces to target insurgents from a greater distance - and with more of a lethal punch - than is possible from any other U.S. military vehicle.”

That statement is untrue on two main counts, perhaps the most obvious being that lots of U.S. military vehicles can and have delivered more lethal punches from greater distances than any tank will ever be able to: A B-2 bomber or a carrier air wing or even a pismire CIA drone can outdistance a tank without having to gas up for the next mission.  And don’t believe for a minute that a tank can out-kaboom a strategic bomber or a flat top’s worth of strike-fighters. 

The subtler but more significant deceit in that propaganda statement is “will allow ground forces to target insurgents.”  The tanks won’t allow anybody to target insurgents any better than anything else we’ve targeted insurgents with.  That’s partly because our intelligence in that part of the world had, does, and always will suck.  We get information by beating or bribing people into telling us what we want to hear.  “No, effendi, I am telling you, it just looks like a Muslim wedding chapel.  It is actually a terrorist training camp in disguise!”

An even bigger problem is that we can’t separate the “enemy” from the local civilians because the bad guys are locals too. 

But the biggest lie of all is the notion that we can strike at anyone “surgically” with “precision” standoff weapons.  For a standoff weapon to do the kind of job we need done, it would have to be able to sneak into town unnoticed, pick the lock of the front doors of the targets’ homes, sneak up behind said targets, pick their pockets and check their picture I.D.s, and then disable the targets with the “sleeper hold” made popular by Great Depression era professional wrestler Jim “The Golden Greek” Londos. 

Short of developing something like that, all we’re doing by sending more weapons to the Bananastans is tightening the chokehold we’ve managed to lock ourselves into.  But that bodes well for the future of NATO, which is banking on the Bananastans bunkum to justify its phony-baloney existence for at least as long as the Cold War did.  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Yes, We Could Have

The commander-in-chief’s new call sign: Cave Man.

Media louts are pounding the tom-toms about how now that Obama’s domestic agenda is receiving taking final sacraments, he can focus on becoming a “foreign policy president.”   Jesus in a camisole.  The only kind of foreign policy president young Mr. Obama can become is the kind young Mr. Bush was: a hapless servant of the Pentarchy that aims to keep American is a constant state of war throughout this American Century and into the next one.  Obama won’t have to work very hard to become that

I noted in early 2009 that Obama should have transferred Gates, Mullen, Petraeus, Odierno and the rest of his war domos to civilian command the nanosecond after that Bush appointed Chief Justice screwed up his oath of office.  I further noted that he should have fired them all when they pushed him to send more troops to the Bananastans but couldn’t tell him what they do with them once they got there.  When Bananas Stan McChrystal finally got so cocky Obama didn’t have any choice but to fire him, he should have sent the rest of the four-star hooligans assigned to Fort Palooka as well. 

But Obama didn’t do any of those things.  Instead, he put the head Praetorian, King David, in charge of the banana stand, thereby insuring that no withdrawal timeline would ever be adhered to in that theater of war, just like the timelines have been blown off in Iraq.  Baghdad is under siege again.  I forget how many times that makes, or how many six-month Friedman units ago we turned that corner for the first time. 

The bad news is that Obama now admits we won’t even be able to think about turning responsibility for Afghanistan over to the Afghans until 2014.  The good news is that outgoing defense secretary Bob Gates is “upbeat” about our legacy in Afghanistan, and hopes that his tenure in office has brought confidence about the U.S. role in that part of the world.  If he’s talking about our plight as unwanted and failed occupiers, yeah, I’m as confident about our performance in that role as I could possibly be.

I’m also confident in the future of our role as a stooge of Israel.  According to Likudnik megaphone JTA (they don’t say what “JTA” means for but I have a pretty good guess what the “J” stands for), Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu is positively swaggering over the recent GOP takeover of the House of Representatives.   He’s so sure he can get anything he wants now that he’s making hee-haw noise about how “Containment will not work” against Iran.  I’m guessing Bibi figures the Palestinians can go suck a gas pipe too. 

The man who started us down this road has been polluting the information environment plugging the autobiography that somebody else wrote for him.  Dubya’s telling every microphone that won’t run away from him that he did everything he did because lawyers like ‘Berto Gonzales and John “Fu Man” Yoo told him it was all legal so they can’t put him in jail.  And I’m guessing that Billy Graham told Bush he couldn’t go to hell for any of it either.

For going on two years now I’ve been thinking that Obama was at least better than the alternative we were stuck with.  I’m beginning to think differently.  Grampaw Pettibone and Tea Bag Barbie would have sold us out to the Pentarchs too, but they would likely have destroyed the GOP in the process.  As things stand, Obama has pretty much planted a pair of shiny new pennies on the “Democrat” Party’s eyelids. 

Of course, Obama had a lot of help sailing his party down the River Styx.  Take my old congressman (please), Glen Nye.  Sons of the daughters of the Great Enlightenment turned out in ’08 to meet the Virginia Hillbilly GOP horde and put him in office to promote a progressive agenda: you remember, health care, end the war little stuff like that.  Glen voted against Obama and with the zombies damn near every chance he got.  Then come 2010 campaign time, he spent all the money his Democratic backers gave him on ads bragging about how he’d voted with the Republicans.  He was no doubt as shocked as Captain Renault when Virginia Democrats didn’t turn out to vote for him a second time. 

Where do we find such liberals?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Still Don't Care

I’m taking a hiatus from Antiwar.com until they can afford to pay me again.  In the meantime I’ll be working full time on Sandbox Generals, the sequel to the critically applauded and commercially capsized Bathtub Admirals. 

I’ll also be posting blog-like notes here on Tuesdays.  The Queer-Eye Joe issue has emerged again this week.  Senator Ex-Prisoner of War John McCain says he’ll see Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed over his dead body, which I think bodes ill for the repeal of Don’t Ask.  That patch on his cheek they said a few years had something to do with melanoma?  I have it from unnamed senior officials that that’s actually a side effect of the on-going treatment McCain is having done to have himself genetically turned into a giant tortoise extend his life span.  And as we saw in the last election, McCain will gargle bodily fluids in in front of television cameras in order to stay in office.  So he could put the kibosh on gays serving in the military for as long as he manages to keep us entangled in self-defeating wars, which may be a very, very long time indeed.

He’ll do this despite the fact that the Pentagon review he demanded to have taken backfired on him: a Pentagon survey of active duty members and their families show that a majority couldn’t give a pig’s wings less about it if gay men and women serve openly. 

Defense secretary Bob Gates, in a rare show of sensibility and independent thought, has encouraged Congress to repeal Don’t Ask law in a lame duck session before the Zombies take power in the House. 

Gen. James F. Amos, the newly appointed commandant of the Marine Corps, says (as per the New York Times) that ending the ban in the middle of two wars would involve “risk” for Marines, who, unlike other service members who generally have private quarters, share rooms to promote unity. 

Amos is as full of crap as a four-star officer can get and, folks, that’s might full of crap. 

For starters, the Marines don’t put their troops in shared quarters to promote unity; they do it because they can’t afford to give them private quarters.  Amos is also apparently unaware that other services put their personnel in shared quarters as well.  On Navy ships, for example, only the senior-most officers have private staterooms. 

Amos appears to further be comfortable with a blithe dismissal of the fact that his Marines already know that they’re sharing quarters with homosexuals and that, as per the Pentagon survey, they don’t care.  

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

$80 Billion Down the Plumbing

Intelligence is like statistics. Both can be manipulated to tell you anything you want to hear, and you seldom get the real story from either one. But there is one major difference between intelligence and statistics: we didn’t spend $80 billion on statistics last year.
Our government announced on Thursday that it has spent $80.1 billion on intelligence activities in the last 12 months. Over $53 billion of that was rendered into thin air by the CIA and other agencies that report to the director of national intelligence, and the Military Intelligence Program blew the remaining $27 billion chasing hot tips on which Muslim weddings to bomb next.
Eighty billion dollars is almost 10 times the size of Iran’s entire military budget ($9.2 billion). In 2009 the entire Department of Homeland Security budget was a piddling $51 billion. The proposed 2011 budget metes out the paltry sums of $43 billion for transportation, $38 billion for education, $18.39 billion for border and transportation security, $10 billion on energy, and $2.13 billion for higher education.
This is the first year the government has told us how much it spends on intelligence. How much we’ve spent on War on Ism intelligence before that will probably remain secret for national security purposes. We wouldn’t want our enemies to know how much money we’ve already spent to deceive ourselves.
Whatever we’ve spent on intelligence since 9/11/01, you can bet a pretty penny it was a pretty penny, and one that we might as well have tried to throw across one of the oceans we sit between. Signs of intelligence in our intelligence conglomerate are as rare as one of Monty Python’s clever sheep.
Let’s start with the 9/11 attack itself, a plot the spies from Mad magazine could have stopped in its tracks before the hijackers finished flight training. After a showing that pathetic, our intelligence structure should have been pared down to hard tissue with chain saws. Instead, we made an already bloated calf even fatter, creating even more parochial sub-ministries to withhold vital information for the sake of ensuring that some other sub-ministry didn’t take credit for discovering it.
Then we passed the PATRIOT Act and gave the people who failed to protect us extra-constitutional powers so they could listen in on our obscene phone conversations. We also created a budget for an Office of the Director of National Intelligence but didn’t give the director himself any meaningful budget authority over the people who supposedly answer to him, meaning that nobody really answers to him.
Then we got cooked intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. Then we got cooked intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s non-connections with al-Qaeda and 9/11. Then we got bad intelligence on what the bad guys were or what they were up to or who they were even.
Since Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld first gave our spy programs the special sacrament behind the altar, we have used bad intelligence to demonize Iran and to bolster corrupt regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have used bad intelligence to assassinate “suspects” and to slaughter untold thousands of innocent civilians. In the pursuit of that bad intelligence we have shredded every law of armed conflict enacted by humanity. When we want to get some dirty deeds done that are too dirty for our official dirty workers to do, we hire mercenaries from outfits like Blackwater to do our dirty work for us. Our spy outfits would tell you all the important stuff they’ve found out that way, but then they’d… Well, they wouldn’t have to kill you, but they’d have to fly you off to some offshore rabbit hole and rough you up some. You’re not allergic to water or electricity or anything like that, are you?
Our dysfunctional intelligence behemoth has turned our already polluted information toxic. The lines between intelligence and news and punditry and tabloid sensationalism and propaganda – already gossamer thin prior to 9/11 – have gone the way of the pager. It may never be safe or sane to believe anything you read or hear regarding U.S. foreign policy again. In post-Orwellian America, the mainstream information providers are every bit as untrustworthy as their sources.
If you think all this illegal, immoral, and otherwise downright deplorable activity is justified because our intelligence services are protecting us, consider what they did this past year to justify their $80 billion price tag.
Last December we had the Panty Bomber, whose “weapon of mass destruction,” supposedly designed for him by a famous Yemeni bomb designer, didn’t even leave third-degree burns on his wee-wee. The kid never should have made it on to the airplane. His father made a report to two CIA officers at the U.S. embassy in Nigeria regarding his son’s “extreme religious views” the month prior to the incident. The kid’s old man is one of the richest men in Africa, former chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, and former Nigerian federal commissioner for economic development. You’d think the CIA bozos would have paid attention to him, but no, they blew him off like he was just another Yusuf Sixpack looking to collect his 15 minutes of fame.
On May 1 (“Mayday,” get it? 9/11 was already taken) we met the Times Square Screw-Up. His “weapons of mass destruction,” fashioned from firecrackers and supposedly crafted from a Pakistani design, failed to ignite as well. In the course of attempting to execute his “attack,” the Screw-Up managed to lock himself out of his bomb car, his getaway car, and his apartment. The kid had been on a U.S. government travel lookout since 1999, yet he not only managed to get into the U.S. and set up his Rube Goldberg car bomb caper unobserved, the Screw-Up darn near managed to escape back to the Middle East two days after he screwed up. U.S. agents snagged him up at JFK airport on an airplane headed to Dubai moments before it left the gate. The Screw-Up supposedly told the agents he’d been expecting them. It’s a wonder he didn’t say, “What took you so long?”
This past week we experienced the Rapture of the Airmail Bombing plot, and oh my God, if there’s a single substantiated syllable in that entire narrative, I have yet to encounter it in the New York Times. In a series of articles from 2930, and 31 October, our newspaper of tarnished record created enough cognitive dissonance to drive the Dalai Lama to a therapist’s couch.
We had President Obama telling us that two bombs found on airplanes underscored “the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism.” Mr. Obama said, “The American people should be confident that we will not waver in our resolve to defeat al-Qaeda.” But there’s some question not only as to whether al-Qaeda was behind the attempted airplane bombings, but as to whether any actual bombs were involved. The bomb they found in or around the plane in Dubai was similar to the package found in England, but maybe the package found in England wasn’t actually a bomb.
Maybe uber-evildoer Anwar al-Awlaki was involved, which might connect the Airmail Bombing to the Panty Bomber and the Screw-Up, but maybe not because maybe al-Awlaki had nothing to do with the Airmail Bombing nor with the Panty Bombing nor with the Screw-Up Bombing neither. Intelligence officials and government officials and generic officials say the Airmail Bomb deal has all the earmarks of an al-Qaeda plot but al-Qaeda might not be involved at all. Whoever mailed the bombs that might not be bombs was probably trying to target synagogues in Chicago unless they were trying to target passenger aircraft or unless they were trying to target cargo aircraft. Yemeni students studying English or computers or maybe both English andcomputers might have been behind the plot but maybe they weren’t.
The take-away from all this is that in the last year $80 billion of your tax dollars went toward a self-preserving continuum that aggressively feeds you disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda designed to keep you confused and afraid and on board with a war against a phantom adversary that has no army or navy or air force and no budget to speak of at all.
The really sad part is that nothing you do at the polls today is going to cause the national disgrace that our intelligence structure has become to get fixed, or even make it less expensive.
Originally posted @ Antiwar.com.