[Moblog] Smokies Sunset
Exactly one year ago I ventured into the deep waters of the 'blogosphere, inspired by the likes "of Tom, tdaxp, Zenpundit, Shlok, Soob" to "see how deep this rabbit hole goes."
After 213 blog posts (many from my Treo 680), 37,873 hits (since we started tracking in late August of last year), many face-to-face meetings with Überbloggers whom I had only known online before taking the red pill, and a vastly expanded Blogroll, the ride keeps getting better.
My humble thanks to all who have visited, commented, advised, challenged and cajoled. I have learned volumes, and hope that the coming years will continue to present even greater opportunities for exchanging ideas in order to make our world a better place.
Secrecy & Adaptation
As we near the 40th anniversary of mankind's first steps on the moon, it is worth remembering the people who supported the recovery of astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins -- and who helped avoid the tropical storm that could have killed them.
Captain Hank Brandli, a U.S. Air Force meteorologist at Hickam Air Force Base on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu, had irrefutable information that the designated landing site for APOLLO XI's splashdown was in the middle of a forming tropical storm.
However, since his information came from a highly classified weather satellite (at the time code-named 417, since redesignated as the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program [DMSP]) that was part of the even more highly classified CORONA reconnaissance program, he could not freely share this information.
In a December 2004 interview with Aviation Week & Space Technology, Brandli said:
“With just 72 hours to go, I had all these classified photos of a deadly ‘Screaming Eagle’ thunderstorm, with tops at 50,000 feet, forming over exactly where I knew the Apollo 11 astronauts were going to come down. The [storm] would have ripped their parachutes to shreds. Without parachutes, they’d have crashed into the ocean with a force that would have killed them instantly. I was the only person who knew this and, because the [DMSP] program and its technology were strictly classified, I couldn’t warn NASA.”
Fortunately for Capt. Brandli, the Pentagon's chief weather officer at the Fleet Weather Center in Pearl Harbor (CAPT Willard "Sam" Houston, Jr.) was cleared for information on the 417 satellite. Capt. Brandli brought him into the vault to show him the photos, and convinced him that the USS HORNET carrier task force and the returning Command Module would have to all be moved 250 miles to the northwest. CAPT Houston was then able to persuade RADM Donald Davis (Commander of Task Force 30) -- but without being able to divulge "how" or "why" -- that the aircraft carrier that would be carrying President Nixon had to be relocated.
Only after President Clinton declassified the CORONA program (in 1995) could Capt. Brandli and CAPT Houston talk about their role in saving the APOLLO XI mission.
I was born almost exactly two years before the return of APOLLO XI. In my lifetime, technology has far outpaced our policies for sharing information. Realtime satellite imagery (of far higher quality than the vintage 417 image at left) is taken for granted, with handheld devices (like my bride's new iPhone3G) that have broadband networking capability, multiband communication radios, integrated Global Positioning System and billions of bytes of flash memory storage.
If it weren't for Capt. Brandli's perseverance, and the fortuitous fact that he was cleared for the program that could give him a glimpse into the weather five days hence, APOLLO XI would have been a devastating failure -- a national embarrassment as we would have mourned the death of three of our finest astronauts.
How many failures can be attributed to the absence of a Capt. Brandli? How many more will we endure due to anachronistic policies and the cultural reticence to sharing information across departmental and agency boundaries?
Forty Years Ago ...
On July 17th, 1968, the Ba'ath Party in Iraq seized power in a bloodless coup d'etat that put General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr into power. Though the Ba'athists first came to power in Iraq five years earlier, internal divisions that discredited the party had them eased out within a matter of months.
1968 was different. While al-Bakr was a popular national figure, his deputy (Saddam Hussein) was the muscle behind the scenes -- emerging as the party strongman, using his influence to heavily militarize the organization, and eventually supplanting al-Bakr as the leader of Iraq. July 17th was celebrated as "Iraqi National Day" and "Revolution Day" until Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
While Saddam capitulated to Kurdish autonomy early in the Ba'athist reign (because they lacked the military force to defeat them), he ultimately used his force as a bludgeon to keep his subjects in check.
Iraq today has a far more promising -- albeit more politically challenging -- future.
Fête de la Fédération
In 1790, the French celebrated the "Fête de la Fédération": the celebration of the new (albeit shortlived) constitutional monarchy that was considered at the time to be the happy ending of the French Revolution.
Though the September Massacres, the Reign of Terror and war with their neighbors were yet to come, the date of July 14th ("quatorze juillet") remains celebrated as the turn of the tide for the forces supporting a free republic in France. Happy Bastille Day!
Happy USMC Birthday!
Though November 10th is revered as the birthdate of the Continental Marine Corps (at Tun Tavern on the Philadelphia waterfront in 1775, when Major Samuel Nicholas [the Corps' first Commandant] was charged to stand up two battalions of Marines), the formal creation of the United States Marine Corps is this date, July 11th, in 1798.
The Act of Congress that split the Department of the Navy out of the Department of War also called for the "Reestablishment of the Marine Corps". Monthly stipend for a major, as stipulated by the law, was to be fifty dollars per month and four rations per day; "and to the nom-commissioned [sic] officers, privates and musicians, conformably to the act, intituled 'An act providing a naval armament,' as shall be fixed by the President of the United States..."
Cheryl at Whirled View has asked:
"What strategies are available to a country with fissionable material sufficient for 1-5 nuclear weapons, some of which may be assembled? Take into account probable responses, and assume some sort of rationality on the holders of these weapons and material. You may specifically refer to Iran and North Korea, or any other nation, or make the scenario(s) more general. Flesh out the scenario with some support."Since it has become known to The Great and Wonderful Wizard that nefarious forces in the lands of ZenPundit are "contemplating how to leverage the possession of a small number of nuclear weapons to best advantage," we will develop our own strategy in the interest of global peace and tranquility.
Our resources being small, and our arsenal limited, we can not come anywhere close to the Kahnesque scenarios of On Thermonuclear War. And with a severely constrained national ability to reconstitute, our primary objective is the security and preservation of our fissile material.
Therefore, we will pursue a four-fold strategy we call "Deterrence Light":
1. INTERNAL SECURITY: Ensure the secrecy of our fissile material. Maximize employment of decoys and spoofs so as to preserve this material should it ever be needed. In addition, ensure that only the most loyal forces of Oz are entrusted with this powerful knowledge. Should we fail in this most important endeavor, our national investment in this capability will be for naught.
2. EXTERNAL AWARENESS: Inform the world of our technological accomplishment -- and embed in our announcements disinformation regarding the exact disposition of our research establishment and weapons complexes. Deterrence fails when your potential adversaries don't realize the extent of your capabilities.
3. MAXIMIZED ARSENAL: Given that our arsenal has, at most, five weapons, we will seek to maximize our arsenal by producing the smallest practicable weapons -- weapons still with significant destructive power in order to support our strategy of 'Deterrence Light'. To reinforce our standing in the world, we will stage one underground test (in full compliance with international protocols, short of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which we see as the foil of established powers seeking to preserve their exclusivity).
4. DELIVERY OPTIONS: Develop multiple methods to deliver weapons systems unto our adversaries, should the deterrence strategies of 1. and 2. above fail: via land, sea and air/space -- but emphasizing surface routes due to the high assurance (good) despite the lengthy response time (bad). While Oz may not be able to respond immediately to a clear and present danger, we must preserve the ability to respond at a time and place of our choosing -- akin to the Fedayeen Saddam in Iraq following the fall of the Iraqi government in 2003. Moreover, our declared philosophy will be peaceful coexistence with our neighbors and the world -- but a clear warning to our adversaries that their economic and population centers will suffer should they cause our own government or our people harm.
The Kind and Benevolent Wizard is content that the world will see us for our goodness, and not think ill that we should use this technological capability for the assured preservation of Oz and its ideals.
DNI Open Source Conference
The Director of National Intelligence is hosting an "Open Source Conference" at the Reagan Building in Washington, DC on Sept. 11th and 12th, 2008. The conference is free and open to the public -- but attendees must register online before July 31st.
I've been told that the sponsors of this conference are some of the most forward-thinking people in the intel community. Should be a great conference!
House of Representatives v. Web 2.0
(image c/o Eric Drooker)
A recent tweet from @Fantomplanet and subsequent post by ZenPundit describe an effort underway in our nation's lower legislative house to restrict Members' rights to use Web 2.0 technologies to communicate with their constituents.
At first glance, the letter from Congressman Capuano [D-MA 8th] to Congressman Brady [D-PA 1st] sounds benign: "... existing tools available within the House ... are not user-friendly or efficient" and "... server storage space within the House is currently insufficient to meet the growing demand for video."
However, the 'desired solution' smacks of totalitarianism: the establishment of "official" external channels (Cong. Capuano's quotes, not mine) that "... would allow a Member to post video material on a qualifying external website and then embed the video on his or her Member site from this external site."
Qualifying external website?!?
Congressman Capuano makes a precarious leap of logic by asserting these practices "... ha[ve] been adopted by other government agencies ...", as if Members -- elected BY THE PEOPLE -- are akin to federal employees working in the service of a single executive. As a constituent, I would be appalled if my Representative were to take his position so lightly (thankfully, Cong. Zach Wamp [R-TN 3rd] has a far greater appreciation of a Member's role than the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts).
If Congressman Capuano (who also happens to Chair Speaker Pelosi's "Task Force on Ethics Enforcement") is concerned about the "dignity, propriety and decorum of the House," perhaps he should re-read the Declaration of Independence:
... That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed...... and NOT the "Governing". Taking artistic license from Mr. Jefferson, perhaps the latter portion of our 232-year-old Declaration could be amended to read:
The History of the present Chairman of the Speaker's Task Force on Ethics Enforcement is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these Networks. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.
HE has refused his Assent to Blogging, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.
HE has forbidden his Members to post Tweets of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large video files on YouTube, unless those Servers would relinquish the Right of Data Management, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.
To arms! To arms! The Censors are coming!
We had a great weekend hosting ZenPundit and interact (along with their respective posterity), spelunking in a private tour of nearby Cherokee Caverns, testing our wits at the American Museum of Science and Energy, choreographing a mini-ballet (O.K., that was the girls' doing - hope to have a video uploaded later this week), and eating & drinking wayyyyy too much. Great fun by all!
Sean, this video's for you:
And Mark, a.k.a. Master of First-Person Shooter Games:
We're looking forward to the next 'Blog Summit!
[Moblog] Oz Fireworks
Blogtinis for Three
("On They Came" by Mort Kunstler, c/o The Framery)
There has been much dialogue in the 'blogosphere lately regarding information, from Andrew Exum's recent critique of JP 3-13: Information Operations at Small Wars Journal (h/t MountainRunner) to Chet Richards on "Orientation" (the central concept to Boyd's OODA loop) and "Virtual Water Coolers". Earlier posts by ZenPundit, John Robb, Shlõk, Don Vandergriff, Kotare and Coming Anarchy's brilliant series on the Principles of War are excellent contributions to the topic of "decisionmaking", which I believe is the cornerstone of command and leadership.
What makes good leaders? Is it success? Luck? Perseverance? Or is the "harmonious association of powers" that Carl von Clausewitz described in On War (Book I, Chapter III: "The Genius for War")?
Consider the image above. On the afternoon of July 3rd, 1863, Maj. Gen. George Pickett and his division of 5,500 Confederate soldiers formed the right flank of a three-division assault across the gently rising slope from Seminary Ridge toward Cemetary Ridge in the fields south of the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. His shout, "Up, Men, and to your posts! Don't forget today that you are from Old Virginia," is inscribed on a monument at Gettysburg National Military Park. By the time Pickett's men had crossed Emmitsburg Pike and neared the Copse of Trees by the "Bloody Angle", more than half of his division would fall: 3,000 casualties in a matter of minutes, including 15 regimental commanders, six colonels and two brigadier generals.
What prompted a gifted leader like General Robert E. Lee to risk such a venture? Did the loss of Stonewall Jackson to friendly fire two months earlier at Chancellorsville neuter Lee's maneuverist spirit (a spirit that was alive and well with Hood's Texans, who defied direct orders and seized Devil's Den and Big Round Top on the Union left on July 2nd)?
Or did Bobby Lee see something his subordinates didn't? Did his rational calculus consider (a) Ewell's inability to take Culp's Hill on the Union right, (b) Longstreet's misinterpretation of his orders, thinking Lee only wanted him to turn the Union left rather than assaulting it to build on Hood's success the previous day, (c) the lack of coordination across a 3-mile-wide battlefront amongst his artillery, cavalry and infantry that dashed his hopes for a three-pronged assault, and (d) the near-breakthrough in the Union center (at the Copse of Trees) by Anderson the previous day?
The point is, complex adaptive environments have no unique solutions. Martin van Crevald, in Command in War, described two options for organizations needing to act with imperfect information: either increase its information processing capability (the choice of our modern U.S. military) or redesign the organization to allow it to operate effectively with less information (the essence of Boyd's Discourse and his "Organic Design for Command and Control" and the German concept of Auftragstaktik).
Based on the advice available to him on the scene, and his perception of the unfolding battle, Lee made the best choice he could at Gettysburg for the strategic interests of the Confederacy. Similarly, General George Meade (Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac) made great use of his subordinates (particularly Reynolds and Hancock) and -- knowing the Confederate States Army had moved into Pennsylvania -- chose the best line of defense with the Pipe Creek Line in northern Maryland.
Our challenge today is managing an ever-growing bitstream of data, and balancing our own cognitive load so that we are able to make effective decisions in high-stress, high-consequence, time-constrained environments. Some tools are useful in the context of social relationships and temporal "snapshots" (e.g., Twitter) while others give spatial correlation of resources ("Common Relevant Operational Pictures"). But none are adequate for all requirements.
The basic question we need to ask ourselves is: How much control do we really need? The most effective leaders are able to inspire their subordinates to strive for a common goal, then get out of their way. While information technology is beguiling in giving managers the chimera of perfect awareness, that awareness is a mirage on an ever-changing landscape of perception. Instead of focusing on what our subordinates are doing, or who should NOT see what we know through anachronistic classification practices, we should rather be managing our OWN cognitive load in order to anticipate emergent opportunities. MountainRunner sums up the debate nicely in his review of Exum's IO piece:
Understanding the value of shaping and managing perceptions is critical today just as it was critical throughout history. The difference is today fewer people are needed to mobilize for strategic effects, arguably making the precision and result of influence activities that much more important. We can’t afford to ignore this or get it wrong, but then we don’t have to get it absolutely right on the first cut. We must move ahead and realize that everyone is a strategic corporal and everything we do has information effects, some more than others.Hear, hear!