Saturday, September 10, 2011

Worth Sharing

Once in a while, a snippet from an article is so precise, so succinct, that it bears sharing. In an article about the Dept of Homeland Security, Joan Johnson-Freese, of the Naval War College faculty wrote:

DHS was a panic reaction, a precipitous act by a Bush administration determined to show it was "doing something" about terrorism. The horses had already escaped, but the Bush administration went ahead anyway and bought more land, constructed extra barns, equipped them with state-of-the-art doors, and then hired thousands of conscientious civil servants to slam them shut over and over again, for the rest of eternity.

Almost as elegant as "Broke out in assholes and shit themselves to death".

I've always considered myself fortunate to have attended the Naval War College. Professor Johnson-Freese has reinforced that for me. BRAVO ZULU!

The full article is worth reading, as well as the several links in it.


  1. Aviator,
    After 911 the Navy War College Journal had a contest as to why it's now a brave new world and it's all new warfare yaddi, yaddi. The sky is falling yaddi, yaddi.Everythings changed, all the old rules are gone. That was the task to outline the truth of this incorrect statement.
    I wrote a piece to compete and NEVER HEARD back from them. My contention was that NOTHING CHANGED.Well that was in 02/03 and now those folks are brave enuf to talk some reality.
    Where was their elegance and brave truth up front where it mattered?

  2. Can't answer that one, Jim. I must have missed the issue you are referring to. The NWC faculty have spoken up about many of the "misguided missiles" of the Bush years, from 9/11/2001 forward.

  3. Al,
    The contest was an essay on how the nature/definition of war has changed as a result of 9-1.
    I will read your link completely when i get home, and will cmt then.

  4. Al,
    I can't even begin to agree that Dept Homeland Security can improve/help NATIONAL SECURITY. This is total garbage and reflected in this article. She herself is buying into the irrationality of the program.
    It can only improve our internal security posture.
    Anything else is false logic.
    As for the Dept of Energy, now that's a dept that should/could help us get away from oil dependency, but it doesn't get the glamor and glitz of terrorism fears. What energy does could be real, but it ain't.
    National security has nothing to do with TSA or anything that DHS pretends to do. Dept of energy could help our national security in many real ways.

  5. Al-

    Hope you're enjoying the end of the summer in Greece. Fall has seemingly already arrived in Portugal.

    Your link reminded me of this one:

    --In 2008, the DOJ’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations was revised under Attorney General Michael Mukasey. In this new version the FBI no longer has to demonstrate a “predicate” to an investigation, effectively giving the agency the power to spy on whomever it wishes, for however long it wishes, even if that individual has never committed a crime or, more important, is not even suspected of one. According to data released by the DOJ, in the first four months after these rules were instituted, agents launched 11,667 such low-level inquiries, known as “assessments.” (The Justice Department is currently working on another revision of the FBI’s internal guidelines, and the rules governing assessments are expected to be loosened further.)--

    It all fits together, the relentless and methodical establishment of a police state . . .

  6. On the eve as we are of the Annual Waving of the Bloody Shirt, it's rather sad and even more pathetic to pause to consider these "woulda-coulda-shoulda" retrospectives. Yes, of course we reacted in headless panic. Of course we continue to construct this internal security state that excels not nearly so much in deterring foreign skulduggery as snooping on internal wrongthink and common criminality. Of course, for all the occasional throat-clearing and hesitation from one source or another the mainstream thinking of the People Who Matter inside the Beltway - the pols, the MICC lobbyists, the think tank "scholars," the government and academic functionaries, and the journalists and pundits who fancy themselves sophisticated political junkies and insiders - is that this is essential to Making Things Function Correctly in D.C.

    Because, as Orwell wrote in "1984";

    Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist."

  7. And as evidence of the above, consider the following from the cited article:

    "Second, we need a longer term strategy for dealing with terrorism overall. Perhaps the most disappointing non-event of the past ten years has been the complete failure of America's intellectual infrastructure, including its colleges and universities, to create a reserve of expertise similar to that funded by the U.S. government in the wake of the Soviet challenge in the 1950s."

    Got it? The threat from a tiny band of poorly-funded, tactically-incompetent, raggedy-assed geopolitical fabulists is and should be considered the modern equivalent of the challenged posed by the world's OTHER global superpower for forty years.

    What a load of appalling hoseshit.

    What I get from this article is that the author disapproves of the DHS concept not because it is locking barn doors as much as it's NOT the Civil Defense Duck-and-Cover Missile Gap equivalent of the response to the Red Menace of the Fifties.

    He's not objecting to the damn thing wasting time and money snooping and peeking on peace groups or tapping phones to Lebanese delis - he's PO'ed because FEMA is in there with the spooks. He's not mad because the horse is gone, he mostly just wants his Big Government Fear Of Islamic Terrorists straight up, hold the Weather Service.

    Bah. Sorry, Al. If this is the best we can do, we are so much more fucked than I even dreamed of in my worst nightmare...

  8. Chief-

    What I see is that she's calling for a rational intel based approach to see if and what is out there to worry about, and address that. Our current approach is to make an a priore assumption that there is all sorts of threats out there, and we then, in a climate of fear, hurl hundreds of millions in funds and create a police state to guard against something that is not even known to exist.

    DHS has a Terror Target List of some 77,000 sites, to include: Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified “Beach at End of a Street. It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written:

    Consider this:

    "The number of people worldwide who are killed by Muslim-type terrorists, Al Qaeda wannabes, is maybe a few hundred outside of war zones. It's basically the same number of people who die drowning in the bathtub each year," said John Mueller, an Ohio State University professor who has written extensively about the balance between threat and expenditures in fighting terrorism.

    "So if your chance of being killed by a terrorist in the United States is 1 in 3.5 million, the question is, how much do you want to spend to get that down to 1 in 4.5 million?" he said.

    Osama spent about $500,000 to pull off 9/11, and since then, we have spent about half a trillion in homeland security in response. Add to that the costs of the Iraq and Afghan follies, and Osama got one hell of a return on his investment. And we keep on running up the bills. It's the gift that keep on taking.

    So, I agree with Johnson-Freese's premise that we need to do a better job of intel, and transition from "Fire, Aim, Ready" to "Ready, Aim, Fire".

  9. Good article Al. She brings up good points.

    After reading it I stumbled on one of her former articles - this one about the War Colleges "Teach Tough, Think Tough: Why Military Education Must Change". As you are a former student at the NWC, I wonder what your reaction is.

  10. Mike-

    At both Leavenworth and Newport, I saw the dichotomy that Professor Freese mentions. Understand that I returned to active duty after 7 years in academia (grad student and university faculty), so I experienced both environments and my viewpoint was thus influenced.

    That said, I found Newport to be a good intellectual environment for those who wished the intellectual broadening, and a fair portion of the student population were not just getting their "cards punched". The overwhelming majority of the civilian faculty were intellectually alive, fully competent, and the military faculty were, in the main, quite good. I never got the impression that, as Freese says about the Air WC, the intellectual level and content was shaped by the students. NWC set out to influence the students' intellect rather than visa versa. In short, I found the experience on par with civilian graduate school.

    I would add to the causes Prof Freese identifies the very simple fact that by design, our military does not have a full time professional "strategic thinking" career track (if you will) or structure - a permanent, professional General Staff. (We've already debated the pros and cons of that. Just pointing out that we do not have a professional "strategic matters" community.) Our officers will spend the bulk of their careers in tactical and operational assignments, as well as tactical and operational level schooling. Assignments approaching the level of full time strategic planning are transient, so there will always be those who are more interested in what can be directly applied to the jobs they more likely will see than otherwise.

    Those of us who got our "jollies off" in more esoteric pursuits soon identified each other and spent time and energy pursuing what our interests were. In fact, I experienced a similar phenomenon at Leavenworth. At both institutions, the faculty was fully responsive to students seeking more.

    I agree that the War Colleges should be rigorous. Interestingly, a very good USAF buddy was at Air WC in the time frame Freese was there and did say that he was disappointed. Very disappointed. I would add that a CGSC classmate, Marcia. who was a USAF officer, described her service as really being the most "tactical" in mindset of all the services, even though they have a "Strategic Air Command". She was a brilliant logistician, and pointed out that since the USAF tended to think in terms of individual airframes, it was hard to make the jump to higher level thinking. She related an anecdote about the previous Chair JCS being briefed on forces available in a given region. The briefer said something like, "We have 2 Infantry brigade task forces in the region." The CJCS allegedly said, "I'm a pilot. What I want to know is how many troops that represents, just like I would want to know how many aircraft are available". As Marcia put it, the briefer was in no position to explain that "5,000 troops" was of no operational relevance unless you knew the formations they were organized in.

    In academia, a bright new PhD can devote his or her career to growth in their research field. A bright new LT will devote the next 18 years to non-strategic activities. Then we plop that LTC down to take a break and "think big" at War College enroute to what will most likely be another "non-strategic" assignment. Goldwater-Nichols was written to improve preparation of leaders for operational warfare with joint forces, not to improve the inventory of intellectually strategic thinkers. Newport really pushed "strategy" as much as possible within the time constraints of Goldwater-Nichols mandated "Joint Stuff", however.

  11. Al,
    Is it possible that the General Staff/German model is not used in our system b/c we THINK that the NS Adviser does this job.?
    We know he doesn't but that MIGHT be the thinking. Maybe we even think that DOS or CIA are doing this function.
    Anyway there is a gap there. And gaps are always exploited by enemy forces.

  12. jim

    To the best of my understanding, we do not have a professional or career GS as part of our desire to keep the military subordinate to the elected civilian leaders, lest the military become a significant "political class". IMHO, that means that strategic national security thinking in terms of the military, has, and will always be done by transients. The NS Security Adviser is a political appointment.

    I have posted this before, but on two occasions, our friend Mr Rumsfeld, submitted legislative proposals to make ALL flag officers purely political appointments, service chiefs terms expire at the end of an administration, and in the second proposal, even wanted all non-flag officer assignments to the Joint and DOD Staff subject to Sec Def vetting and approval, down to O-3! He wanted a fully politicized military, but politicized to the current administration. He also wanted to severely limit Congress' "advise and consent" role in flag officer promotions. Rummy said that no administration should be "stuck" with a previous administration's service chief! The ideas he floated were not even acceptable to a Bush loving Congress and got nowhere.

    While there is an "Army Strategist" career field, it tends to assign officers merely as advisors to commanders, not create a permanent body at the flag level that has personnel stability and tends to continuous, long term strategic planning from a uniformed viewpoint. I'm not ready to say how we should structure a professional General Staff, but I do think the idea and debate is worthy of merit.

  13. Al-

    "I'm not ready to say how we should structure a professional General Staff, but I do think the idea and debate is worthy of merit."

    That would make a nice post . . .

  14. What I find interesting about Johnson-Freese is the lack of any mention of the Hart-Rudman Commission. Pretty much the entire DHS idea germinated there in a report for the "new" Bush Administration of 2001. The Report went no where until Sep 2001. And, if I recall correctly, the Bushies at first opposed forming the DHS - not unlike the 9/11 Commission, they did not want Congress to do anything they did not ask for. And like the 9/11 Commission, they got buffaloed into supporting the train as it left the station.

    Even in Hart-Rudman (look at who the commissioners were!), professional national security types were made queasy by the proposals. This I can attest to personally as a war college student briefed in Spring 2000 by the Commission's traveling road show.


  15. RP-

    I think Johnson-Freese was more interested in identifying what DHS became and did, rather than covering all historical elements. He view is coyly summed up in her comment about rolling the Weather Service into DHS, since we need to protect ourselves against the weather as well as other threats. In the final analysis, we rolled just about everything that could in any way be a part of a response to or safeguard against an attack into one huge monster police organization, to include agencies that have no police role. The result is too much central decision making (or non-decisions ala Katrina) over too many disparate elements.

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