Friday, September 11, 2009

The Boy Who Cried "Terror!"

I'm tired of telling the same story today. So I'm going to tell a different one.

There once was a nation bored with politics and governing itself responsibly. So it chose to pander to its baser instincts and went out and found the most incompetent sheepdog it could find. While the sheepdog amused itself with crony capitalism and faith-based sheep-shearing, a wolf crept up and killed some of the sheep. The nation cried out in fear and anguish; "Wolf! Wolf! A Wolf is chasing the sheep!"The villagers came running up the hill to help the nation drive the wolf away. They stood beside it, and held its coat and mopped it's brow while the nation went in among the woods where the wolves lived and burnt down part of the forest, killing some wolves and putting the others to flight.But then the nation's leaders saw some foxes that had nipped their ankles years before. With a crafty smile, the leaders spun tales, lied and frightened the nation into thinking the foxes were wolves.

"Wolves! More wolves! We must attack the wolves before they attack us!" The villagers were a litle more skeptical, but they gathered around all the same. Several helped the nation attack the foxes, killing many, and in the process setting alight several nearby farm fields.But when they arrived at the sheepfold after the killing was done, they found no wolves, only the bloody corpses of foxes, some dead sheep and a goat or two that had been killed in the fracas. The nation sneered at the sight of their angry faces.

"Don't cry 'wolf', nation," said the villagers, "when there's no wolf!" They went grumbling back down the hill.

But the nation continued to sing out; "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" He shouted this when hawks flew by. He shouted it when a herd of cattle ambled past the base of the hill.To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers startle and run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.

Every time there proved to be no wolf - or the wolf turned out to be a sick coyote, or a tame wolf, or some dogs, or a hot babe dressed up in a wolf peltto entertain the male readers of this story, or any number of things that were not really dangerous threats to the nation or the other nations - they grew more angry. The began to repeat with increasing vehemence; "Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don't cry 'wolf' when there is NO wolf!"

But the nation and it's leaders just grinned, scratched their asses and watched the others go grumbling down the hill once more.Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, "Wolf! Wolf!"

But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn't come.

At sunset, everyone wondered why the nation hadn't returned to its position of pride and honor and wealth within the village. They went looking for the nation and found it weeping."There really was a wolf here! My honor is scattered, my wealth is spent, I am in tatters, unable to control my worst impulses and falling to hubris, stupidity and shortsightedness! I cried out, "Wolf!" Why didn't you come?"

An old Frenchman tried to comfort the nation as they walked back to the village.

"We'll help you look for your lost honor in the morning," he said, putting his arm around the youth, "But you'd be well advised to remember: nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!"


  1. FDC, I've been away a while, and now you are talking in parables. I like it, but here is another one:

    Over time, people grew weary of the old leadership, perhaps for the lies, perhaps for the deceit, but more than likely, the mob was frustrated for they did not have a clear victory. Despite 6 years (seemingly a life time), there were still wolves in the world. This was utter failure. So the nation turned to a new method, that of hope.

    The nation's new leader gathered all of the wisest, highest educated people in the nation and created a new Kingdom of hopes, dreams. But there were no time for dreams, there was a brush fire spreading throughout the countryside and spilling over into the cities. There were many causes of the brushfire, greedy farmers who burned the forests in hope of quit profit from selling the newly raised land, sleeping fireman whose departments were underfunded and lacked equipment (or authority to use it) and of course, relentless wolf hunting. The smoke was in the air, and people throughout the nation could feel the heat.

    The new leader saw the fire, and what more, saw an opportunity. He knew that there were still wolves in the deep dark woods, and he was resolved to keep hunting them despite the lack of popularity of the wolf hunts. He measured the wind, to see which way it blew and he cried, "Fire! The greatest fire since Chicago 1871!" The leader looked around and consulted the counsel of wise men. "Throw money at the fire!" they all cried. So he did. Only the money burned and left nothing but more ashes (and less money). But the people still feared the great fire, the greatest the land had seen since the dark days of lore, so the new leader, determined to demonstrate action against his "wolf" turned to neighboring nations and borrowed more money, using his children as collateral. "Don't, worry, we will find a way to pay you back."

    In time, the fire burned out as the fire ran its course. It consumed all there was to consume, it simply ran out of fuel. The people of the nation rejoiced, the great fire of 2009 is over! Now it was time to rebuild their homes and their lands. For this, they needed more money.

    Meanwhile, as the lost villagers forget about the fire that consumed their nation, a few of them remembered about the Global Wolf Hunt. They read the news and asked, "Hey, I thought we were leaving the woods of Mesopotamia?" The people found that the rumors of withdrawal were greatly exaggerated. The hunters who were scheduled to return to their homes are instead given new orders, to go to the cross worlds of the world and track down the wolves who started the hysteria. But those wolves were long since gone. Meanwhile, in the deepest, darkest woods where no hunter is allowed to travel, the wolves are killing sheep and are trying on their clothing. Young wolves travel to these forests to learn the way of the pack.

    The new leader, surrounded by the wisest men in the land, is informed of the new forests. He sees pictures, hears testimonies all plainly spelled out on PowerPoint. "We must strike now!" His chief hunters cry. "No" he says, for he fears started another fire.

    I suppose every parable is supposed to have a lesson, but I suppose this is more an "observation" because it is not a lesson learned until someone actually learns from the mistake.

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    Good to see you again, BG. Great stories from both of you. I'm not nearly as talented as you guys are in parables so I'm going to lay my version out plainly.

    Congress refuses to govern. For tools to bring Congress back work, we've got a choice between the R's, who have gone completely nutso, and the D's, who are so badly splintered they are a party in name only.

    This has forced Clinton, Bush, and now Obama to expand Presidential powers in order to keep the government running at all. The scary thing is that Bush (and perhaps Clinton and Obama) really seemed to enjoy boldly going where the Constitution strictly forbade going. It means that we should pick our Presidents more carefully in the future. Unfortunately the pool of candidates comes from the two political parties which makes things much worse.

    Washington has become a giant echo chamber where people go to make changes but they can't hear each other effectively and so wind up canceling out themselves and each other. This is we can't get out of the useless and expensive brush wars in Iraq and Af/Pak.

    Meanwhile the greedy SOB's on Wall Street took advantage of governmental paralysis to rake in fantastic sums of money, forgetting why the regulations were put in place to begin with.

    When the inevitable happened the Bush and Obama administrations decided to implement a giant experiment to test a theory that some economists have put forth that could prevent depressions or recessions from ever happening again. The first step is to throw huge sums of money at the problem (done). The second step is for Congress to re-regulate the system (uh oh!). The final step is for the government to raise taxes in times of prosperity to pay off the earlier deficits (does anybody think this will happen?). By only implementing 1/3rd of the solution we are dooming ourselves to an even bigger disaster in the near future.

    Finally Health Care and Education are simmering on the back burner. Last year's average cost to insure a family of four was $12,500 and is expected to double to $25,000 per year by 2020 (my personal projections are for this to occur in the 2016-2018 time frame).

    Unfortunately ObamaCare seems to be DOA. Obama's great failure was in trying to get Congress to do their job and craft legislation that people would support. Instead the D's proposed four conflicting plans and refused to put enough support behind any one plan to pass it and the R's went on rampage, utilizing the public's confusion with the D plans to spread rampant rumors and "win" the battle. Expect them to do this very effectively again during next year's elections.

    While Health Care's issues are well documented, Education is quietly becoming catastrophe. Our current education system is extremely manpower-intensive and doesn't provide a good way measure results. As a result, it is becoming incredibly expensive due to health-care and pension costs and is slowly deteriorating in quality. Oddly enough the best measure devised so far to capture the relative quality of each state's educational system is No Child Left Behind, check out the numbers and be prepared to be amazed. Especially because the results are badly skewed because the states are gaming the hell out of the system.

    Those of you who have children can further test the validity of my statements by comparing what your kids are learning right now against what you recalled learning at the same grade level. Look especially at science and technology which have been shamefully neglected over the last 20 years. A few friends who send their kids to private schools tell me that the story is slightly better but much the same over there.

    A journalist over at Yahoo Finance recently listed 10 bubble-like situations that could blow up in the financial markets in the near future. I read the story expecting to be able to discount at least half of his examples, instead I found them to all be solid and wound up adding one he hadn't thought of.

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    Obviously we aren't out of the woods yet, folks and our leaders are so very, very lost. The sad thing when they make false statements is that they aren't lying; they've just drunk way too much kool-aid and sat through way too many powerpoint presentations.

    I wish I had solutions to these problems but that seems to be beyond me. All I can do is to help others prepare for the future.

  4. I would have my own story, it doesn't involves wolves directly but rather power and how it corrupts.

    There was once a land of seven kingdoms: Britania, Franca, Teutonia, Alemanoslavonia, Latinia, Russ and Columbia. In addition to the five kingdoms there were various Duchies, but none able to challenge a kingdom alone. That is how the kingdoms defined themselves: in their ability to make war. Russ and Columbia were on the periferies, whereas the other five were grouped much more closely together. The seven kingdoms fought a series of terrible wars, much was destroyed and much booty was taken from the southern landes that the seven kingdoms raided and exploited at will. At the end of these terrible wars only Rus and Columbia survived intact . . .

    They had both amassed enough power as to have divided or be able to dominate the other five kingdoms, dividing the various Duchies likewise among them. Both eyed the other and contined to refine and define their power in terms of warmaking. Ever more terrible weapons were developed ever more barbaric war plans written up. It looked as if the world itself would be destroyed forever when the great confrontation came. Both powers mutated and became something much different than that which they had been before.

    The people became used to rumors of war, but no war, however with the threat of war always around. War inself was expanded to include everything. Who was the enemy? It might be your next door neighbor - a spy. It might be the drinking water - poisoned. It might be those talking on the radio - about change. "Security" became an obsession. Appearances become the most important thing, not actually what could be done, but what one instrument could be expected to do . . . what was most important was to look competent, since the actual test never came. War became a form of business and military officers became actors.

    The people in both kingdoms were told that the threat was existential so arguing that there was no threat was worse than treasonous, since it opened the door to annihilation. Both kingdoms created great image machines that were able to put pictures in the minds of their peoples.

    Suddenly, after 50 years of confrontation, Rus collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. This left Columbia alone as dominant military power, but with a government system that had been corrupted by the whole long confronation, able only to perform a semblance of action defined in a very narrow way, but not really act in the new world, let alone react . . .

    At this point the Columbian elite called their military guardians together. They asked them, "we have won a great victory, so how best to exploit it?" One of the guardians rose in the Great Assembly and said, "We have not won a great victory, rather we have survived a great challenge. We should be thankful to the gods that the terrible war that we all feared never came to pass. Furthermore we must try to once again become what we were."

    But this was not what the elite wanted to hear. Instead they thought only of opportunity. They had prospered much during the confrontation so why should they stop prospering now. The imagines in their minds pictured a victory, so where were the spoils . . .?

    A young member of the business elite rose and said, "Silence you old fool! You are about to throw away the fruits of our labors. We are now in a position to not only dominate all the kingdoms and duchies, but also the southern lands.

    "Rus collapsed because it tried to do too much, whereas we only focus on the business of war. Let the welfare of the people not concern us, they are free to fend for themselves. Rather we must turn this all to our ever better advantage. We need only a convincing new enemy, but not a real enemy, to replace Rus, and everything can continue on as before and we profit only the more . . ."

  5. Whoops, I have to print a retraction. Looks like that one wolf I was talking about got caught. Yea for the hunters, and yea for a very supportive decision.,2933,550100,00.html

  6. bg: Not that I'm complaining about another dead rat, but:

    1. What's one dead rat to the pack? and

    2. Since when does U.S. foreign policy require expending our national treasure to revenge attacks on Israelis?

    I'd cheer more loudly if those fuckers'd own up to the USS Liberty; then if they want help capping wogs who blow up their stuff, well, bombs away. Until then, sorry, Yossi - what the hell do you have a MOSSAD for, then?

    We've twisted out national interests into a pretzel to humor the Israelis already. I don't see this as a particularly delightful item except for the extirpation of the undoubtedly scummy former-human target.

  7. And as a general sort of observation, I might note that killing wolves with BLUs is

    a. like swatting flies with a hammer, and

    b. not a particularly good way to deal with the problem of wolves.

    Long-term you deal with them by domesticating them. Until the Middle East comes up with it's own Enlightenment it will generate new wolves to replace every one we travel so far and at such cost to eliminate. AND the process of elimination keeps the wolves on the front page and makes them heroes to the other coyotes who dream of being wolves someday, too.

    The very fact that this made the news was a FAIL; this guy should have been found "dead of a heart attack" in the bed of a gay lover, done by a covert hit team. The fact that we had to use conventional military assets to do him isn't a sign of success or of strength, but of weakness - the weakness of our intel and covert penetration into the Muslim world.

    Nope. Our sheep pens are falling apart from neglect of infrastructure, unemployment and offshoring, our sheepdogs run around pissing on every trickle of smoke, and we're told that we have to keep this silly "wolf hunt" up or the wolves will somehow take over the world?


  8. True, true. If you believe the AP story. The reasons and justifications for the operation, such as attacking some place in Kenya or some Israelis were likely political (likely by AFRICOM who want to please Israel), and might just be justifications that we can quantify easily and make for a better story. (caveat: these are my opinions or regurgitations of analysis of stories in Open source)

    Dude was a player, a big player. He wasn't important because of what he did in Mombasa, he was important because what he was doing and what he was organizing for the future. There are 2nd and 3rd order effects when you swat the right fly. I am not 100% sure he was the right one, but his absence will have an impact, at least in the short term.

    Pay close attention to Somalia my friend, and the news stories of the 5 Americans already killed fighting there (one was a suicide bomber). My opinion (and one shared by others) is that if there is going to be a successful attack in the US, it will likely have ties to the American Somalis fighting in Somalia today (who were being trained by Mr. Nabhan). Did you see the arrest in Melbourne Australia a month ago? The suspects were Australian citizens with ties by to Somalia, some of them even trained there at Mr. Nabhan's camps.

    Why not tell that story? My guess, that might be perceived as "fear mongering", or at the least, perceived as giving his organization street cred.

    But you are so right, I was pissed when I heard the story was going to be released, we just made another martyr. We are dealing with amateurs in this game (I won't name them, but they are new and don't get it). The best way to go is to simply say nothing. Now they know he is dead, so they can move on with their lives. If they thought he was still alive, they would be wondering what he is talking about, they would go to ground for weeks. Nope, instead someone thought it was more important to pound our chests to let the world know that we are awesome. Not smart.

    Sorry, I missed the reference, BLUs? Those flies got swatted by helicopter gunships, likely hellfires, according to the story.

    But I respectfully, and strenuously object to this comment:

    "The fact that we had to use conventional military assets to do him isn't a sign of success or of strength, but of weakness - the weakness of our intel and covert penetration into the Muslim world"

    There were no conventional forces involved in this op. The one good piece of PR I've seen about this thing is someone who said that this type of precision strike demonstrates that the US must have some rock solid intelligence and penetration. Might be some logic to that statement. I will leave it at that.

  9. BLU: Air Force acronmy for kinetic explosives: "Bomb Live Units". Shorthand for "blowing something up from half a klick in the air."

    And as far as "conventional" versus "unconventional", I'll stand by my observation. If you wear a uniform, fly in a helicopter or a fast-mover, putter around in a gray-hulled ship, you're still a "conventional military asset". SF/SOF like to make a big deal out of how "unconventional" they are, but for the most part they have just become sort of "super-rangers", executing direct action missions like this one while wearing some sort of Lawernce-of-fucking-Arabia getup. Puhleeze.

    No, if this had been done as an ambush by a bunch of Somali mercs led from the shadows by an SOF Jedburgh team, I'd be all over it. No problems admitting that the guy was a playa in the anti-Industrial-Age Muslim mafia. But to whack him from the air? Pussy. Says that we could suss him out and track him down but couldn't get close enough to put two behind his ear. We're not going to "win" - that is, we're not going to convince the coyotes prowling around the lawless parts of the world that they need to go back to hunting local rabbits - that way.

    And Somalia? Whatever. It doesn't take a glass box office and a monthly parking pass to study mayhem: any shithole without law or order will work. There's tons of them out there; Somalia today, Sudan tomorrow, the Congo all year round, the back-ass parts of Mindanao, Sumatra, the central Asian highlands. If we're going to police every lawless shithole with a well and two donkeys, good luck to us.

    As long as I've been alive, the U.S. has done Big and Strong pretty well. Small and Smart? Not so much. The problem I see is that there's a big crowd out there (see my post about the Kagans and Gian Gentile above) trying to sell the idea that all we need is Big and Strong. Big and Strong usually drive out Small and Smart, and in this case it seems to be doing just that.

  10. "Why not tell that story? My guess, that might be perceived as "fear mongering", or at the least, perceived as giving his organization street cred."

    Or possibly 1) compromise some assets, and, more importantly, 2) give the guy any press time at all.

    Why? This is - or should be - a war in the shadows. You're not going to go anywhere publicizing this. The public is a fool, and the fool will get his panties in a wad and demand the government(s) involved do something stupid. Remember when we were going to "solve" the problem of an eeeeevil Iraqi dictator and his eeeevil ties with terror and mushroom clouds and all by invading and...ummm...fighting the Sunni enemies who...we then bought fight our OTHER Sunni enemies...who then lost to our Shiite allies who were...the closer allies of our eeeevil enemy Iran?

    Yeah. Me, too.

    So the "solution" to this is a) deal with the bad people out there planning to attack us by killing, capturing, suborning and coopting them, and b) doing this while NOT stomping around using our conventional military assets to remind the locals that they live in a lawless shithole where foreigners can reach out an kill them at any time fore any reason, AND c) trying to limit our damage to already-fragile and nearly-failed states, lest we produce MORE Somalias.

    To shout the story of badmashes clustering in Somali bazaars does the general public no good - they can either do nothing or the something that can do is very, very stupid - and makes the bad guys look bigger, stronger and more dangerous than they are...

    Just my opinion, mind you.

  11. I won't argue any point, but I will suggest to you that there is a lot more going that you would approve of. Just one just made the news (and this one the one, very rare "conventional" success. Sometimes, it just can't happen any other way, unfortunately. Sometimes reality is a bitch.

  12. bg: I'll approve of anything that helps put a lid back on the Middle Eastern pot. We were fools to get stuck in there in the first place - if we wanted to give the Jews a state, Utah would have been just fine. The only real criticality of the ME is a) petroleum, which is both fungible and which we would be well advised to wean ourselves off of BEFORE it becomes a scarcity, and b) transportation choke points like Suez. Otherwise it is - or should be - a geopolitical and military backwater. We have enough problems in our own hemisphere to worry about without spending a bunch of time fucking around in the global hustings.

    Other than that, the BEST thing we can do IMO is provide political, economic and covert military and espionage assistance to those Muslim factions who don't want a Muslim theocracy and get back to being a neutral party in the whole tribal mess that is the modern Middle East. Assassination? Bribery? Chicanery? Bring it on; that's how the Middle East works. By tossing our Brads, F-16s and carriers in we're arriving at a knife fight with a tactical nuke. Expensive and pointless.