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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5145

PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:25 pm    Post subject: Insanity Reply with quote

I believe it was Einstein that said doing the same thing over and over again and expecting better results is insanity. Here are a few suggestions about overcoming insanity by an insider in the Defense industry, John Arquilla, professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

Quote:
H.G. Wells once wrote that the effort to learn from one's experiences is "a race between education and catastrophe." Ten years on from the searing attacks on America, it seems that we have indeed been racing, but in the wrong direction.

The U.S. military has had trillions lavished upon it, even in this era of deep economic malaise, to fight just a relative handful of insurgents and terrorists. Yet the troops are exhausted, the Afghan campaign drags on and Iraq is likely to go up in flames if we pull out, as promised, by the end of this year.

Fighting enemies whose most basic activity is the murder of innocents, the American effort to root out these malefactors should be applauded. But the fact is that the image of the United States in much of the world has been gravely tarnished, in ways that will take decades, perhaps a century, to repair. If ever.

How did all this happen? By failing to learn two lessons: Networks matter, and ethical health must be carefully tended.

It took just a few days after 9-11 for "terrorist network" to become one of the most used phrases in the English language. It still is. And one can hardly walk the halls of the Pentagon, day or night, without overhearing somebody talking about the need to "connect the dots" and "attack the network."

But this is just lip service. Instead of focusing on the use of small, elite teams (like the Navy SEALs who got Osama bin Laden) against al-Qaida and allied groups, the fight against the networks has been conducted this past decade largely by going after other nations in traditional military campaigns. The basic idea is that, by turning societies that "need improving" into democracies like ours, soon there will be little room left for terrorism.

The problem is that it is an inordinately expensive undertaking, this effort to defy the gravitational pull of local history and culture in far-off places and turn Iraqis and Afghans into, say, Iowans. And even if these nation-building enterprises ultimately succeed, the slow pace of advancing democracy and the trillions it costs every time this method is tried guarantee that terrorist networks will always have ample time and opportunity to set up shop somewhere else.

Given that al-Qaida itself still has cells of covert operatives in more than 60 countries, including in advanced societies like those of the European Union, the notion of bringing democracy by force of arms rings hollow. There are simply far too many places around the world for terrorists to hide, and chasing after them with large and balky military forces is a path to failure at ruinous cost.

Our continued support for authoritarian rulers, when it is in our self interest to do so (as in Saudi Arabia), adds an ethical layer to the "cost critique" of American foreign and military policy this past decade. How is it that we can support democracy in some places but not others? Far better for the United States to focus instead on the terrorist networks, allowing nations, even ones whose governments we don't like, to work out their own futures.

The Arab Spring offers cautionary examples as well about the proper American role, if any, in changing societies. Tunisia has moved toward democracy without any intervention from the United States. In Egypt, the situation is one in which the American military has many ties to the armed forces, former oppressors whose leaders now play influential roles in the pace of change there -- which has slowed. In Libya, where American military involvement has been most pronounced, a costly war erupted, bringing carnage, societal chaos and a very uncertain future.

In this realm, perhaps less is more.

But beyond our having drawn the wrong lessons about nation-building and armed intervention, there is another terrible sign, this time in our own behavior, that we have failed to mind our ethical health these past 10 years. From prisoner abuses, such as those at Abu Ghraib, to the gang rape of an Iraqi girl and the murder of her family and on to the 5th Stryker Brigade's "kill team" in Afghanistan, it is clear that the American armed forces, from senior officers to sergeants, must redouble their efforts to stamp out such practices.

While heinous acts committed in the field have thankfully been few, the unethical treatment of detainees has proved far more common. Whatever the euphemism employed -- phrases like "enhanced methods" and "stress positions" are commonly used to describe interrogation techniques -- we have behaved unethically too often and for too long.

And the very fact that the American public can still debate the merits of such methods, in the guise of cool cost-benefit analysis, is a sure sign of our ethical ill health. Perhaps it is a lingering 9/11-related rage that drives such attitudes. Whatever the cause, we cannot allow crimes committed by our enemies to excuse our own unethical behavior.

If we had truly learned that networks matter, and that we had to remain always vigilant about upholding ethical standards, what would the past 10 years have looked like? And what would the world look like today?

A few al-Qaida operatives still might be out there, but if we had focused single-mindedly on the network, with our special operators and much of our intelligence apparatus leading the way, bin Laden and most of his minions would have been dealt with far sooner. And new recruits would have been deterred from joining the jihad by our demonstrated skill at finding and neutralizing them.

If we had refrained from nation-building, we would have kept only a handful of elite troops in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban and would have allowed the Afghans to restore their king, as they asked us at the great jirga early in 2002. As to Iraq, we would never have invaded, saving trillions of dollars and well over 100,000 lives.

If ethical health had been a priority, there would have been far fewer abuses in the field and in the treatment of detainees. There would have been less anger and division here at home and more sympathy and support for Americans abroad.

Two simple lessons. Had they been learned, a much different, far better world would have risen from the rubble of the twin towers.

John Arquilla is professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. His latest book is "Insurgents, Raiders, and Bandits."
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stevenbard



Joined: 11 Nov 1993
Posts: 4061

PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many conservatives did not want the war in Iraq. I'm not sure they were brave enought to speak up though, but either were many liberals in power.

I agree entirely with the fact that we never should have gone beyond the 1st year in Afghanistan, or ever put boots on the ground in Iraq.

Now what? Limit the size of government has always been my solution, and the easiest to accomplish. Eisenhower warned us of the "military industrial complex". He was way ahead of his time. What a shame we nominated Nixon. We've only had a couple of good presidents since.

Fringe talk radio types (conservatives) have been increasingly calling for withdrawal of the vast majority of our troops. I hope this can be done with the least amount of pain for America.

One other thing. I'm very tired of taking my shoes off at the airport. The night vision cameras, strip searches etcetera are begining to remind me of Orwell.
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5145

PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Only Barbara Lee voted against the Afghanistan war. Only Feingold voted against the Patriot Act.
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stevenbard



Joined: 11 Nov 1993
Posts: 4061

PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hope times have changed. I'm sure hearing alot of grumbling from the right about this never ending war in the middle east. Many of my conservative friends want that money and blood to return to America asap. Hard to argue this point.

I really believed that after 911 we'd simply shut our borders and find out who was here. I was also opposed to the patriot act from the right. I'm sick about the loss of civil liberties over the last 10 years.
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5145

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm at least mildly surprised to agree with Bard on his last two posts. The difficulty is that the republicans have kicked out almost all of the moderate, Eisenhower Republicans, and replaced them with church ladies who are interested in regulating everyone's sexual behavior.
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capetonian



Joined: 11 Aug 2006
Posts: 897
Location: Oahu

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So far Huntsman looks like my favorite. He is intelligent, he has business experience and government experience and he doesn't have any kooky ideas a la Perry.
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capetonian



Joined: 11 Aug 2006
Posts: 897
Location: Oahu

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And Huntsman gets it that our tax system is in need of a complete overhaul in order to lower rates and make it equitable.
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windoggie



Joined: 22 Feb 2002
Posts: 2384

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

capetonian wrote:
he doesn't have any kooky ideas

Have you ever checked out the Book of Mormon?

_________________
/w\
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swchandler



Joined: 08 Nov 1993
Posts: 5777

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While Huntsman might be the most practical voice in the cast of characters trying to win the Republican nomination for president, he doesn't really stand a chance with today's conservative Republican party. Sadly, that's the truth.
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capetonian



Joined: 11 Aug 2006
Posts: 897
Location: Oahu

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

windoggie wrote:
capetonian wrote:
he doesn't have any kooky ideas

Have you ever checked out the Book of Mormon?


Sometimes he sounds like he is not as deep a Mormon believer as others. Maybe that is to make him more palatable to the religious fringe that now runs the Republican Party?
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