Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Danger of Logical Fallacies

First, it was the Jesuits at St. Xavier who challenged me to ask "why is what your saying correct?".  Debate team further honed my ability to look at opposing arguments to better understand how to craft my response to their critiques of my position.  At the University of Cincinnati, I met people not only from different walks of life but also from other countries which taught me how to broaden my world view.  Courses in philosophy and history taught me to realize that the future rarely looks like the past.

The US Air Force spent 22 years sending me to various schools (intelligence applications, air-ground operations school, Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, Air War College) and various training seminars to learn about our past so that we would not make the same mistakes in the future.  Yeah, there are a lot of people responsible for teaching me to think and challenge what you think you know and to recognize when there is a logical fallacy.

Therefore, it comes as a bit of a disappointment that a US Army major has an article published that claims the Millennial Generation (or simply Millennials) are our Achilles Heel.  Yes, Millennials are digital adepts with different expectations than previous generations yet the Cavanaugh makes a surprising logical fallacy.  Namely, he condemns a newer generation mainly because it does not resemble the previous generations of recruits entering the military.

What is so surprising about his rather myopic view is he is writing about what it will take to win future wars, not past wars.  Wars up to and including the Vietnam War were manpower intensive despite increasing technological improvements.  Therefore having a large number of fit, disciplined and primarily male troops was a must.  However, conflicts since Desert Storm increasingly used technology not just to enhance troop performance but actually replace it.

In the First World War, so many troops died because generals were still trying to use Napoleonic tactics (long horizontal lines of soldiers charging one another) despite the innovation of the machine gun.  Even after encountering heavy losses due to machine gun emplacements, generals continued to hold fast to the old instead of coming up with new tactics.

Cavanaugh is guilty of similarly holding a newer generation to the same standard as his generation.  After all, his generation was prepared to deal with modern warfare by being physically fit, educated, disciplined and not dependent on technology so why shouldn't a younger generation?

However, are we preparing to fight the last war or the next war?  North Korea, Iran, China and Russia are our most likely opponents in any future conflict.  Out of those, only China can match our manufacturing capability but has thus far not been able to outmatch our military technology.  But a much better question is what do we think they even want to?

The digital world populated by the Millennials that Cavanaugh holds in such contempt is where the next battlefield will occur.  He correctly assesses that something like a cyber attack or massive electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) will cripple us and thus he feels will leave the technologically dependent millennials lost in the mayhem.

Of course if we stop using a strawman argument and actually think about the scenario, who do we think is developing those cyber weapons to attack us?  Most likely the very Millennials that Cavanaugh eschews!

Cavanaugh is not the only critic of Millennials by far and I'm not even really defending them.  My real point in this post is to show how logical fallacies can lead to seemingly expert opinions when in fact they are just regurgitating past tropes with nothing new to show for them.

Our political discourse has been reduced to nothing more than ad hominem arguments.  Rather than attacking a position, we hurl "Libtard" or "Trump Supporter" at each other.  We now view our news, celebrities, and issues strictly in an "us or them" mentality without regard to any merits of the other side.  Iran is an enemy because they are Muslim.  North Korea is an enemy because they have nuclear weapons.  China is an enemy because they are building bases outside their borders (know anyone else who does that?).  Russia is an enemy because it interfered with our elections (know anyone else who does that?). 

So the next time you find yourself about to enter into a Facebook or Twitter war, try to understand what the points are of the person you're pissed off at.  You just might find you have more in common than you realize and may, just may, be able to convince them to at least consider your point of view as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Chaos and nonsense

Upon his return from Helsinki, Mr. Trump flip-flopped (remember when that pejorative was used freely by conservative pundits to deride Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton?  I wonder what happened....) his press conference comments  to the point I'm not certain he knows what he meant.  So rather than learn a lesson, he immediately went back into attack  mode on the NFL.

Meanwhile, nothing has changed in regards to North Korea which still possesses nuclear weapons.  NATO which still is spending the same amount of their GDP as before.  The EU has kissed American trade good-bye and won't be coming back.  We are still dropping tons of bombs on Syria with no end in sight.  But just in case you're not tired of winning,  Mr. Trump and his lackey John Bolton have decided to dust off the old chestnut of a "the danger of a nuclear armed Iran".

Since the inception of the Bush "Axis of Evil" and continuing through the Clinton era at the State Department, the scare tactic has been to pronounce Iran as a Middle Eastern (read Muslim) nation hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons specifically to attack the US and Israel.  John Bolton continues this nonsense with his hawkish assessments of Iran.  Why do I say nonsense?  If we stop threatening Iran, they just might go about their business and forget that whole Shah of Iran stuff.

Oh wait, you mean when they took over our embassy in Tehran for 444 days?  Well yeah but in order to understand something that happened nearly 40 years ago, we have to go even further back in time.  All the way in fact to 1908 ad the founding of a company called the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.  A British millionaire assumed exclusive rights to prospect for oil for 60 years in Iran (Persia).  In exchange, the Shah received the equivalent of $2 million. 

The need for the Royal Navy to modernize from coal powered steamships and use oil instead meant that people such as Winston Churchill wanted to control their own oil supply and sever the British reliance on Royal Dutch Shell (this sounds awfully familiar for some reason?).  The Iranians wanted to have control of their own profits which of course were at odds with British national security interests. 

Lots of broken promises on both sides leads us to around 1941 when both the British and Soviets (yes Virginia, the Soviets were our Allies in WWII) invading and occupying Iran in order to secure oilfields and open a secure route to the USSR.  This resulted in Reza Shah being forced to abdicate in favor of his more western friendly son.  Naturally all of these shenanigans lead to a huge increase in Iranian nationalism.  Mohammed Mossadegh was elected Prime Minister and was a staunch champion of the Iranian nationalist movement. 

In a strange twist, Mossadegh was invited to the US in 1951 a brokered a deal that was very favorable for both the US and Iran.  However, the deal was dependent on the UK which believed Mossadegh was a lame duck.  Mossadegh was even more popular with the Iranian citizens than ever before, however by the British boycotting Iranian oil it meant that Iranians were poorer than ever. 

This was all portrayed by the US and UK as being very dangerous to their respective national security thus was hatched a plan lead by the CIA to oust the much more popular and democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh and replace him with Shah Pavlavi (Reza Shah's son).

By 1954, with the pro-Western Shah Pavlavi in place, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company became British Petroleum or what most of us know today as BP.  In order to appease those that put him power, Shah Pavlavi created the SAVAK or Iranian secret police which committed all manner of torture, kidnappings and assassinations in their attempt to put out the Iranian nationalist movement.

Of course this only further incited the Iranian people who wanted the Shah out and led to the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran.  The Shah was exiled in disgrace and Ayatollah Khomeini taking over as leader. 

That much abridged history lesson of US involvement in Iran is why I stated earlier, Mr. Trump and John Bolton need to just ignore Iran.  The history of the US in this region makes our motives appear disingenuous at best and a chance to rehash the past at worst.  Oh and we really don't need Iran's oil for our national security.  If you Google top 10 oil-producing countries the number 1 spot is held by the US at 15,599,000 barrel per day!  Iran in comparison produces only around 4,6669,000 bpd which is even less than those unruly Canadians at 4,984,000 bpd.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Twilight Zone

Despite his bluster after his summit with Russian President Putin, even Mr. Trump realized the blowback from  his press conference was going to be more than a few Tweets were going to be able to quiet.  So spinmaster John Bolton was called upon during the flight back on Air Force One to come up with a solution.  The result was the even more incriminating "I misspoke" excuse.  Think about that, Mr. Trump the self-titled "stable genius" and his aides collaborated on how to control the damage (meaning he didn't in reality misspeak) and that was the best they could do?

Mr. Bolton, like his boss, avoided going to Vietnam except his course of action was to join the Army National Guard (which during Vietnam, unlike today, did not deploy its troops to the war so Bolton was safe without really dodging the draft).  Fine, I'm not going to judge him for not wanting to get shot then but he has since his time working for George W. Bush been the biggest supporting for sending others to get shot.  Bolton is the one to have claimed Iraq had obtained yellow cake uranium which is used in nuclear weapons.  However, according to former Congressman Henry Waxman the British intelligence report used was spun by Bolton as it was determined in 2008 that the yellow cake uranium was not able to be used in nuclear weapons or even for a dirty-bomb. 

Somehow though, this is still not enough to concern the Trump faithful that Mr. Trump is the last person who should be meeting with a Russian President without any press or outside attendees.  The Trump faithful counter that the FBI, NSA, CIA and DIA (along with all of the separate military branches) have become politicized by the anti-Trump left.  Thus any and all coming from these agencies showing that Russia did indeed interfere with the 2016 elections must be summarily dismissed.

Here are three different articles, from three different sources all pointing to Russian Trolls;

1.  2018 NY Times "Inside Russia Troll Factory"

2.  NPR "How a Russian Troll Factory Waged an Aggressive Campaign to Disrupt the US election"

3 2015 The Guardian "Inside the Russian Troll House Accused of Meddling"

There are more however Trump and his faithful will dismiss this as "fake news".  The Soviet Union and Russia excelled at propaganda and the 21st Century addiction to social media makes it even easier to alter people's opinions.  And it works both ways.  The Trump faithful feel their views are more and more under attack and therefore must dismiss any an all information that criticizes their view.  The anti-Trump crowd feels like they are living in a Twilight Zone episode as more and more information comes out confirming Russian influence, including 16 criminal indictments against Russian nationals, yet the Trump faithful would rather doubt their own government than believe Russia (who portrays Trump as great leader) of any guilt.

The next article I read this morning will outrage the Trump faithful even more since it first is an article from BBC (those insufferable foreigners who dis Trump) and second it suggests that the darling of the right, better known as the NRA, may have been infiltrated by a Russian spy. Of course if you stop and think about it, what better organization than the NRA to infiltrate if you want to influence American conservatives?

As I was getting ready to conclude, I just saw another article where yet another high ranking Trump official is getting ready to resign.  This time its the Director of National Intelligence Coates who insiders are afraid will resign and then all hell (as if it hasn't already) will break lose.  With some many Trump officials resigning or being under indictment, you would think his poll numbers dip more than they have but so far they have not.  You do have to wonder who will replace John Kelly and Sarah Saunders when they step down at the end of the year.

If you are a Trump supporter, nothing I've shared is likely to change your mind.  If you aren't, then the question is what happens next?  More than likely, Congress won't act until after the mid-term elections (which could be a bloodbath for the Republicans or not).  No incumbent wants to risk losing their sit by going against Trump now.  After November, it may be a completely different story.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Trump is wrong.

First Mr. Trump goes to the G-7 conference and insults of the US allies to illustrate "the unfairness" of the terms of the trade deals.  In his now familiar smug way, he leaves early declaring "victory".  The real results was of course more tariffs against US goods.

He next sojourns to meet and insult NATO, calling Germany a puppet of Russia and demanding that NATO up their spending to at least 2% to as much as 4% of their respective GDP.  He again departs early and smugly Tweets that he has show them (NATO) and has addressed the "unfair" NATO agreement that has the US paying more that other allies.  He somehow or other neglected mentioning that NATO had already agreed to increasing their spending under President Obama. 

Mr. Trump then makes his first visit to long time US ally the United Kingdom.  After insulting the British Prime Minister in an exclusive interview with the tabloid Sun, he then attempts to deny that he ever insulted Theresa May nor called her strategy for Brexit "failed".  He also insulted the mayor of London accusing him of failed policies leading to more crime (and what has the President down about US crime rates?).  After facing tens of thousands of British protestors, Mr. Trump leaves for his private golf course in Scotland.

If you perceive the above events differently, so be it.  But Mr. Trump's latest foreign excursion is very disconcerting and some are even calling treasonous.  Mr. Trump agreed to meet Russian President Vladmir Putin in Helsinki.  This even AFTER the 16 indictments against Russian nationals for interfering with the 2016 elections were handed out this week!  But wait is gets worse, not were the indictments handed out but the FBI as well as US intelligence agencies (the CIA and NSA) all concluded that Russia absolutely hacked into our elections Mr. Trump still agreed to meet with Mr. Putin.  Mr. Trump allegedly asked Mr. Putin is Russia was involved and Mr. Putin of course said "no" which was good enough for our President.  He further insulted his own intelligence agencies and FBI by adding "well why would Russian do it?"

I don't care who you voted for, nothing I write will likely change your opinion one or the other.  But if this latest has not gotten you to to write your member of Congress and demand that they do something about this imbecile, then you have fallen victim to very type of propaganda the old Soviet Union used to excel in doing.

The US Air Force spent large sums of money and time training me to become an intelligence analyst.  Our number one adversary was the Soviet Union.  Even when the Soviet Union fell, I used to admonish my fellow analysts not to fall for the line, "oh they're our friends now!".  The Soviet Union at its core was about the downfall of the United States.  Every good Soviet citizen was a part of trying to make that happen.  When the Soviet Union collapsed (as a result of US policies let's not forget), there was no sudden epiphany to start loving the United States that swept the lands.  Mr. Putin especially spent most of his life as a trained KGB agent.

Given all of this, how in the hell can a sitting US President take the word of a foreign leader over his own intelligence agencies and FBI?!  Mr. Trump in his narcissistic, bombastic need to be the center of everything has weakened the US almost beyond repair in the last few weeks.  Congress and the Senate need to reign Mr. Trump in now or we may never recover.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Mr. Trump continues to "win"

Back on June 12th, Trump and Kim Jong Un had a summit.  Mr. Trump loudly declared that we could all sleep better since the threat of a nuclear North Korea was over.  Trump and his supporters were giddy from all of this "winning!".  Except it didn't take long to see there wasn't much more to the summit than a photo-op.

No means of verifying nuclear disarmament were discussed at the summit.  Perhaps details such as verification are best left to others but still it was very it was a very concerning omission.  Trump than wasted no time in announcing that those "silly war games" the US conducts with the South Koreans would cease (news of which took the South Korean government quite by surprise).  As though all of this weren't convoluted enough, Mr. Trump then upon returning to the US leaves the sanctions against North Korea (which drove their nuclear armament program into high gear) in place!

South Korea isn't the only ally left scratching their heads thanks to the President.  Prior to his trip to Singapore, Mr. Trump got into a tiff with Mr. Trudeau and now has a trade war with Canada (one of the staunchest allies of the US.  Don't believe it?  Canadian snipers have been the deadliest in Afghanistan, supporting the US war on terror).  France, England and Germany all are going about their business without their long-time ally as Mr. Trump's foreign policy moves are just too fickle to understand.

Mr. Trump has since forgotten all about the above and has redoubled his efforts on stemming the tide of MS-13 "animals" from illegally "infesting" the United States.  Mara Salvatrucha 13 or MS-13 has been operating in the US since at least the mid-1980s so they hardly represent a new threat.  The US is also responsible for the creation of MS-13 which formed in East Los Angeles in response to El Salvadorian refugees being attacked and abused by local Mexican gangs.  The US government thought the best way to deal with El Salvadorians fleeing war in their own country was to slam in the middle of the Mexican suburbs of East LA.  Nobody remembered to ask the citizens of East LA or the El Salvadorians how they felt about this.

Meanwhile, NATO has moved forward with increasing spending (something Mr. Trump feels they should have been doing all along) in response to their perception of an increased threat from Russia.  Even Sweden, a non-NATO nation, that has historically kept their military spending to a minimum is having to increase their military readiness in response to increased Russian military presence.  Yet despite this, Mr. Trump continues to make overtures to Mr. Putin.  Regardless of what your perceptions of Russian intent may be, you have to at least acknowledge that our Allies are worried and Mr. Trump seems completely tone-deaf to their concerns.

Unfortunately, people are less and less tuning into the news or reading newspapers.  American citizens of all political persuasions are simply tuning out.  If what they read doesn't agree with their point of view, it is "fake news" and is ignored.  Meaning the majority of the public are uninterested in what is going on and therefore tends to be passive politically.  Perhaps a jaded assessment on my part but the mid-terms will be a bellwether on how invested voters are in effecting change or remaining status quo.

Friday, April 20, 2018

What can we learn from the missile strikes in Syria

Mr. Trump convinces France and the UK to shoot cruise missiles at targets in Syria.  This was in response to Assad attacking his people with chemical weapons.  The response was exactly what Mr. Trump had criticized Mr. Obama for doing.  Amazing how times have changed.

But now a week after the missile strikes, the effectiveness of this attack remains unknown.  If Assad did use chemicals against Syrians, then we still don't know if he used Sarin (which required the type of facilities that were struck) or more common chemicals such as chlorine or mustard (both of which are easily available as industrial chemicals).

Reading some of the foreign news sites, it isn't even clear if France launched any of their missiles or cancelled at the last minute.  In comparison, US news sites are declaring a smashing victory of the combined attack with no losses.  However, Russian and non-US sites paint a picture of some of the cruise missiles being intercepted by Russian anti-missile systems.

The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.  The US and allies struck targets in Syria more a show of force rather than any actual degradation of Assad's ability to use chemical weapons.  Even at the best of times, some of the missiles probably failed to hit their targets allowing the claim of Russia and Syria that the attacks failed.  More troubling is the potential that Russian military technology can intercept US cruise missiles, even if it's only a small percentage of the total launched it still would be troubling for the US military.

The missile attacks also support the notion that the SecDef is the only adult influencing Trump's national security policy.  Perhaps this also signals that Mattis can keep the war-mongering Bolton in check.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lookings at problems differently

When you step away from the keyboard, sometimes it is a matter of other things taking precedence.  Other times it is to step outside and get some fresh air.  But for me it has lately been because just too many things are happening and before I can start writing about them, something new has already taken over my attention.  So pardon some of the rambling and jump cuts in this blog, there is just so much going on.

Let's begin with North Korea.  Most of the national security experts on the Trump administration have been expressing some level of concern that war could break out with North Korea.  Until recently, I also shared that some concern but reading an article last month has me re-thinking the matter.

North Korea's nuclear weapons program has always been assumed to be developed specifically to attack the United States.  However, this would almost guarantee North Korea's extinction by US retaliatory strike by either nuclear or conventional forces.  Why then does North Korea continue on a path of sheer suicide?

The assumptions have always centered on the US, i.e. the only possible reason for North Korea to have nuclear weapons is to launch an attack first.  However, a new line of thinking throws the US focused assumptions out and refocuses on North Korea.  North Korea's military does not exist to fight the US (at least not directly).  It exists to attack South Korea with the intent of reunifying the Korean peninsula.  Looking at the North Korean nuclear program in this light shows us the the nuclear weapons are not intended as a first strike but rather a way of holding the US at bay while North Korea launches its attack to the south.

And the evidence thus far says North Korea's policy is working.  The US has NOT launched and an attack on their nuclear facilities.  This may change in the future and it still may prove wrong but for now it is a different way of looking at this problem.

Here are two different looks at the same problem facing society today (and why we may not want to jump into more wars, especially with North Korea or Iran);

Low Recruit Discipline Prompts Army to Redesign Basic Training--Army commanders are complaining that too many brand new soldiers, right out of the training pipeline are showing-up at the units sloppy, undisciplined, asking too many questions instead of following orders and feel "entitled".  After nearly 20 years of constant combat operations, the Army realizes that Basic Training got too far away from the tenets of good order and discipline.  Contrast this with what the Air Force did

Air Force Reprimands First Sergeant For Telling Cadets to Dress Properly--I don't know what the hell to make of the USAF these days.  Apparently the senior officers of the Air Force Academy, the epitome of the Air Force officer corps, are too squeamish when it comes to maintaining good order and discipline at the "Zoo" (Air Force Academy).  Rather than re-evaluate standards or speaking to the superintendent privately, they took him to task for doing his job (so much for thinking outside the box!).  But apparently AFA cadets are no more immune from the same problems as the Army. 

The US military needs to stop pretending that we are in the business of anything other than killing people and breaking things (or in more polite parlance, "management of violence").  Get back to training enlisted and officers to be responsible for themselves and their unit.  Be sharp, be on time, don't be sloppy.  And most of all, shut-up and just might learn something.

But alas this may be beyond even pipe-line training in the military.  Go outside right now and watch the people walking on the sidewalk.  What are they doing?  They either have their noses in their smart phone or are rupturing their eardrums with their music.  In either way, those people are no longer interacting with real people.  They don't get how their actions effect other people because there is no requirement to develop empathy when interacting in the digital world.

In the digital era. we can go Amazon and order whatever consumer pleases our little capitalistic heart and have is delivered the same day!  Who the hell wants to spend years then learning to become an aircraft mechanic or transport pilot?  The millennial generations and those coming after have no concept of waiting for something or the feeling of satisfaction by earning something that took years, not minutes, to earn.

Unfortunately, this is the same reason why the younger people are not interested in the politics of the world and are only persuaded by whatever hashtag is flashed on their social media accounts.  On April 20th (420, ha!), high school students are organizing a walk-out to protest the shootings in Florida.  I'm glad to see young people are actually doing some active rather than passively posting non-sense memes and hashtags on social media.  However, my real interest will be peaked when something meaningful occurs AFTER the walk-out.  Oh wait, you mean I have to wait for results?