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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Professional Volunteer Work - What Makes It All Worthwhile

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By Ken Larson  Smalltofeds

"I had two mentors at key points in my 36 year career in Aerospace.

They were a combination of technical, management and communications talent, rarely found in high tech industry. Neither placed salary, position or ego ahead of developing their subordinates and each reached the pinnacle of their respective careers for exactly that trait.  Their skills at developing and utilizing people were their most highly valued qualities.

I owe my survival in a very hectic environment to those two and much of my ability to guide and counsel individuals as well as communicate effectively springs from their legacy of guidance.

 Mentoring can be a dynamic, two way street.

The most successful organizations pair experienced personnel as models on a staff basis with junior ones. Each has individual assignments and reports to the boss but the senior party is the example in the process/experience-driven aspects of the job and is available to answer questions. The younger individual infuses the older one with energy and new ideas much like osmosis.

The result is a hybrid of old and new that works and has been put together by a team.The approach works extremely well, imposes on no one, results in the young and old learning by observation, satisfaction and recognition for collective efforts and reduction in the boss’s work load. A win-win all around."  Mentoring Dynamics



Thursday, December 10, 2020

How Does A Military Veteran Feel About Recent Events?

File photo (Bumble Dee/shutterstock.com)

Whether it is soldiers deployed to the Middle East or soldiers deployed to the streets of our country, viewing threats, including our present civil unrest,  as “war” brings more spheres of human activity into the ambit of the law of war, with its greater tolerance of secrecy, violence, and coercion — and its reduced protections for basic rights. 

The civilian must accept his or her role in the issue. Elected representatives appropriate money and approve U.S. activities in other countries [and in our own].

Solders go where they are ordered by their commander.

If the civilian wishes change, then change can be at hand if the elected official is contacted and a strong input from the citizenry makes the demand heard. [violence is deafening and self-defeating]. 

“Rose Covered Glasses”

“Asking warriors to do everything poses great dangers for our country — and the military. Our armed services have become the one-stop shop for America’s policymakers.

Here’s the vicious circle in which we’ve trapped ourselves: 

As we face novel security threats from novel quarters  — emanating from [civil unrest, pandemics] non-state terrorist networks, from cyberspace, and from the impact of poverty, genocide, or political repression, for instance — we’ve gotten into the habit of viewing every new threat through the lens of “war,” thus asking our military to take on an ever-expanding range of nontraditional tasks.”

How the Pentagon Became "Walmart"

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

United States Warfare Realities Today


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In the last 2 decades the US has reacted to the 911 tragedy by creating a behemoth machine that:

Knows Only Killing  








This outrageous explosion of watch listing—of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers…  assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield—it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source of the documents told the Intercept. “We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”

She Kills People From 7,850 Miles Away

Has Little Understanding of Foreign Cultural Factors in Nation Building


Our government has not considered the risks, the indigenous cultural impact, the expense and the sacrifices required to sustain the nation building that must occur after we invade countries in pursuit of perceived enemies and place the burden of governance on military personnel who are not equipped to deal with it or manage USAID contractors who have profit motives in mind and corruption as a regular practice. 

Risks, Expenses and Sacrifices in Nation Building 

Spawns New Versions of Our Old Enemies 











An observer of our military actions over the last two decades in the Middle East could in no way have predicted the splintered, irrational, “Turn-Your-Back-And-You-Have-Two-New-Enemies”, scenario the US faces today. Perhaps a look back over our shoulder, examining cause and effect relationships along the road is in order.

Cause and Effect Relationships in the Middle East 

Creates a Dangerous Outgrowth of Technology in the Military Industrial Complex and Then Exports It for Profit











The United States remains the leading arms exporter increasing sales by 23 percent, with the country’s share of the global arms trade at 31 percent.

Record US Weapons Sales to Foreign Countries – $1.6 Billion in Lockheed Martin Missiles Alone

 Very smart people in the Pentagon believed that connecting sensitive networks, expensive equipment, and powerful weapons to the open Internet was a swell idea. 

This ubiquitous connectivity among devices and objects — what we now call the "Internet of Things" — would allow them to collect performance data to help design new weapons, monitor equipment remotely, and realize myriad other benefits. The risks were less assiduously cataloged.

That strategy has spread huge vulnerabilities across the Defense Department, its networks, and much of what the defense industry has spent the last several decades creating.












The Pentagon Hooked Everything to the Internet 

Defies Financial Control With Dire Consequences for the Nation’s Economic Future










A law passed in 1994 initially set the deadline for 1997, but the Pentagon’s books were in such disarray that it blew past that date. Then, in 2010, Congress told the Pentagon to comply by 2017.

The next year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged that the department would by 2014 be ready for a partial account of its finances – a much less detailed accounting than requested of the military services — but the department missed that deadline too.

Pentagon Remains Stubbornly Unable To Account for Its Billions 

The Above Machine  Cannot and Will Not Continue.

The debt is too great a burden for generations of tax payers.

It is too risky in terms of technology that has fallen into enemy hands, either through the "Internet of Things" or by blunders in export management. 


It will be replaced by domestic and foreign relations programs that emphasize global human progress and economic development in lieu of threats.  The result will rely on uplifting, cooperative efforts among nations in lieu of killing. 


The globe has become too small to operate the Military Industrial Machine and the resources that have fueled it will be redirected. 


There simply is no other way. 


The change will be brought about in the following manner:


Facing geopolitical and economic realities, stopping war interventions and investing in relationships within and without our country by offering mutual collaboration.


Ceasing to dwell on threat and building long term infrastructure, education and international development.  The threats will melt away. 


Investing for the long term at the stock holder, company and  national levels based on a strategy dealing with both present day and long term challenges in education, communication and society value transitions.


Communicating  with Congress and The Administratrtion to strike a balance between long and short term actions. Let them know what we think regularly about the risk this huge machine  poses. 


Knowing that most cultures and societies in upheaval today are watching our national model and choosing whether to support it, ignore it or attack it.


The Dire Necessity for U.S. Long Term Strategic Vision 



Saturday, November 21, 2020

Have Americans Lost the Art of Independent Thinking Or Are We Misinformed?

                                                     Image:  Mission to Learn dot com


Americans have grown acclimated to viewing the world through media sound bites, opinionated, biased news financed by money driven politicians and lobbying firms that spend enormous amounts to influence our opinions.

As a result, we have very little trust because the product of this buzz portends negative, stagnated government, growing like a money- eating beast and putting generations in hock with unwarranted wars through a focus on big corporations and big business.


Has independent thinking by researching a personal perspective become a lost art in our day in age?

Are we just too busy to develop a credible opinion of our own due to the fast pace our social values demand?

 Or are we misinformed?

THE VALUE OF TRUST

Trust is hard to establish in the modern era. We see very little true statesmanship in the good people we send to Washington who promptly become ground up in the huge machine there in order to survive. 

Communications and expectations are two vital elements in measuring trust.

To an extraordinary extent, the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectations contribute to it.

Consider simpler times a few years past (say 50). Trust was necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day-to-day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician. And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.

THE CHALLENGE

Mass marketing and communications has created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth and the role of nations.  We must come down to earth and become much more sophisticated in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way to have true trust. If we do not we run a high risk of tyranny and that fact is inescapable.

To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility. We must become involved, make prudent judgments and think for ourselves. 

THE ENVIRONMENT

Charles Lewis’ Book, published before the current administration, Looks at the “Lies Your President Told You and Other Mistruths”.  Perhaps he will update it to include our experiences in the last 2 years. 

 INTERVIEW WITH "THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT"

 
Author Charles Lewis

"The most disturbing discovery in my nine years of research and writing is this: leaders don't need to distort information and the truth. All they have to do now, in our fast-paced, short attention-span world, is just delay the truth, by years, months, and weeks. We still don't have key documents from the Iran-Contra scandal, the second biggest political scandal in the U.S. involving a White House since Watergate. That was a quarter century ago! Is that coincidental?  No." 

 Here’s the question you have to ask yourself before reading Charles Lewis’ new book, 

"935 Lies The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity" 

Are we as a country so jaded that we’ve come to accept untruths and    
misinformation from our government as just the cost of living in a democracy?

Lewis, who teaches journalism at American University and who founded  the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), does his best to remind us that we can and should expect more from our leaders. 935 Lies expands upon a CPI project that tracked the number of false statements that the President George W. Bush administration told in the two-year build up to the war in Iraq. The lies were aimed at persuading Americans that Iraq posed a threat to our national security.

Deceit, however, is bipartisan, as Lewis shows.

POGO: What is the big-picture effect of the public being repeatedly lied to by our leaders?

Lewis: Over time—many years which have become decades—persistent prevarications by those in power leads to cynicism, distrust and citizen disengagement. Which, you may have noticed, we substantially have had now for decades. Distrust and disapproval of Congress, for example, is at unprecedented, historic levels. Voter participation in elections has been woeful for years. Etc.

POGO: You describe the problem of misinformation as endemic to our society-- why did you choose to focus on lies told during the Bush administration? Of course they’ve continued since then.

Lewis: The "935 lies" mentioned in the Prologue of my book, regarding the false and erroneous statements by President  George W. Bush and either other top administration officials between 9/11/01 and 9/11/03, were compiled in a 380,000-word database and  published by the Center for Public Integrity in Iraq: The War Card in January 2008, near the five-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

That prompted me to examine the extent to which this had occurred before, over time, since approximately 1950 to today. And of course, the Johnson administration misrepresentations about the Gulf of Tonkin and the U.S. involvement in Vietnam more broadly, pre-dated the Bush/Iraq war by 40 years.

It also demonstrates the extent of what J. William Fulbright called "the arrogance of power" and the fact that lying by those in power is bipartisan. My book also examines untruths in the Obama administration and others, and "mortally consequential" lies by corporations dating back to the 1940s.

POGO: What should a leader’s punishment be for intentionally lying to the public? Should he lose his job—or worse?

Lewis: A leader's accountability should be directly related to the seriousness of what he/she has lied about. In real life, whether a leader should lose his job depends on the circumstances of the moment, and obviously, the political will of the people.

Unfortunately, we generally don't punish our politicians for lying, as we seem to have  a bifurcated, bipartisan perception of "truth" in the United States, to the extent that in one poll, four years after George W. Bush's second term had ended, more than 60 percent of Republicans still believed there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq.

We, as a society, have become increasingly confused, unable to discern the difference between truth and falsehood. And as Hannah Arendt  and others have noted, that is a dangerous state of affairs, when we no longer can ascertain what is factual and what is not, who to believe  and who NOT to believe.

We live in a society that doesn't have "real-time truth" about those in power. How can a democracy predicated upon an informed citizenry and  self-government exist successfully if the people don't know the facts about those in power?

As some point, I hope the public decides to get angry and demand more truth, but getting there from here is an enormous specter to imagine.  First of all, there is no longer a "general public" but instead numerous  carefully studied, dissected electorally and commercially micro-publics  throughout the United States.

Marketing, advertising and high-tech wizardry by those in politics have rendered the concept of "the public"  less meaningful and media political advertising has become a huge source    of revenue for that industry and fanned the fires of fractious, vituperative partisanship during and between election cycles.

We are the only advanced democracy in the world without free air time for politicians during election time.

The only way the McCain-Feingold  campaign finance law could be passed by Congress years ago was when McCain and Feingold agreed to take out the "free air time for    politicians" section of their bill—then the National Association of Broadcasters and others backed off their opposition to the legislation and it passed, among other concessions made. The broadcasters now make a billion dollars per election cycle from political ads...

It is a grim situation which has been deteriorating in many ways for decades. And it will take years, decades, to ameliorate."

 

 

 

 

 





 

 







Sunday, November 01, 2020

The Real Versus Perceived Power Of The U.S. Presidency


A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: 
Those of us in the Military Veteran Community, who also worked for years with the federal government, have become concerned about the public view of the Office of the President. Please note George Friedman bringing reality to our expectations below: 

"STRATFOR GEOPOLITICAL WEEKLY"

"The American presidency is designed to disappoint. 

What the winner actually can deliver depends upon what other institutions, nations and reality will allow him or her.

Each candidate must promise things that are beyond their power to deliver. No candidate could expect to be elected by emphasizing how little power the office actually has and how voters should therefore expect little from him. 

So candidates promise great, transformative programs.  Though the gap between promises and realities destroys immodest candidates, from the founding fathers' point of view, it protects the republic. They distrusted government in general and the office of the president in particular.
Congress, the Supreme Court and the Federal Reserve Board all circumscribe the president's power over domestic life. This and the authority of the states greatly limit the president's power, just as the country's founders intended. To achieve anything substantial, the president must create a coalition of political interests to shape decision-making in other branches of the government. Yet at the same time — and this is the main paradox of American political culture — the presidency is seen as a decisive institution and the person holding that office is seen as being of overriding importance.
The president has somewhat more authority in foreign policy, but only marginally so. He is trapped by public opinion, congressional intrusion, and above all, by the realities of geopolitics. Thus, while during his 2000 presidential campaign George W. Bush argued vehemently against nation-building, once in office, he did just that (with precisely the consequences he had warned of on the campaign trail). And regardless of how he modeled his foreign policy during his first campaign, the 9/11 attacks defined his presidency. 
Similarly, Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to redefine America's relationship with both Europe and the Islamic world. Neither happened. It has been widely and properly noted how little Obama's foreign policy in action has differed from George W. Bush's. It was not that Obama didn't intend to have a different foreign policy, but simply that what the president wants and what actually happens are very different things.
The power often ascribed to the U.S. presidency is overblown. But even so, people — including leaders — all over the world still take that power very seriously. They want to believe that someone is in control of what is happening. The thought that no one can control something as vast and complex as a country or the world is a frightening thought. Conspiracy theories offer this comfort, too, since they assume that while evil may govern the world, at least the world is governed. There is, of course, an alternative viewpoint, namely that while no one actually is in charge, the world is still predictable as long as you understand the impersonal forces guiding it. This is an uncomfortable and unacceptable notion to those who would make a difference in the world. For such people, the presidential race — like political disputes the world over — is of great significance.
Ultimately, the president does not have the power to transform U.S. foreign policy. Instead, American interests, the structure of the world and the limits of power determine foreign policy.
In the broadest sense, current U.S. foreign policy has been in place for about a century. During that period, the United States has sought to balance and rebalance the international system to contain potential threats in the Eastern Hemisphere, which has been torn by wars. The Western Hemisphere in general, and North America in particular, has not. No president could afford to risk allowing conflict to come to North America.
At one level, presidents do count: The strategy they pursue keeping the Western Hemisphere conflict-free matters. During World War I, the United States intervened after the Germans began to threaten Atlantic sea-lanes and just weeks after the fall of the czar. At this point in the war, the European system seemed about to become unbalanced, with the Germans coming to dominate it. In World War II, the United States followed a similar strategy, allowing the system in both Europe and Asia to become unbalanced before intervening. This was called isolationism, but that is a simplistic description of the strategy of relying on the balance of power to correct itself and only intervening as a last resort.
During the Cold War, the United States adopted the reverse strategy of actively maintaining the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere via a process of continual intervention. It should be remembered that American deaths in the Cold War were just under 100,000 (including Vietnam, Korea and lesser conflicts) versus about 116,000 U.S. deaths in World War I, showing that far from being cold, the Cold War was a violent struggle. 
The decision to maintain active balancing was a response to a perceived policy failure in World War II. The argument was that prior intervention would have prevented the collapse of the European balance, perhaps blocked Japanese adventurism, and ultimately resulted in fewer deaths than the 400,000 the United States suffered in that conflict. A consensus emerged from World War II that an "internationalist" stance of active balancing was superior to allowing nature to take its course in the hope that the system would balance itself. The Cold War was fought on this strategy.
Between 1948 and the Vietnam War, the consensus held. During the Vietnam era, however, a viewpoint emerged in the Democratic Party that the strategy of active balancing actually destabilized the Eastern Hemisphere, causing unnecessary conflict and thereby alienating other countries. This viewpoint maintained that active balancing increased the likelihood of conflict, caused anti-American coalitions to form, and most important, overstated the risk of an unbalanced system and the consequences of imbalance. Vietnam was held up as an example of excessive balancing.
The counterargument was that while active balancing might generate some conflicts, World War I and World War II showed the consequences of allowing the balance of power to take its course. This viewpoint maintained that failing to engage in active and even violent balancing with the Soviet Union would increase the possibility of conflict on the worst terms possible for the United States. Thus, even in the case of Vietnam, active balancing prevented worse outcomes. The argument between those who want the international system to balance itself and the argument of those who want the United States to actively manage the balance has raged ever since George McGovern ran against Richard Nixon in 1972.
If we carefully examine Obama's statements during the 2008 campaign and his efforts once in office, we see that he has tried to move U.S. foreign policy away from active balancing in favor of allowing regional balances of power to maintain themselves. He did not move suddenly into this policy, as many of his supporters expected he would. Instead, he eased into it, simultaneously increasing U.S. efforts in Afghanistan while disengaging in other areas to the extent that the U.S. political system and global processes would allow.
Obama's efforts to transition away from active balancing of the system have been seen in Europe, where he has made little attempt to stabilize the economic situation, and in the Far East, where apart from limited military repositioning there have been few changes. Syria also highlights his movement toward the strategy of relying on regional balances. The survival of Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime would unbalance the region, creating a significant Iranian sphere of influence. Obama's strategy has been not to intervene beyond providing limited covert support to the opposition, but rather to allow the regional balance to deal with the problem. Obama has expected the Saudis and Turks to block the Iranians by undermining al Assad, not because the United States asks them to do so but because it is in their interest to do so.
Obama's perspective draws on that of the critics of the Cold War strategy of active balancing, who maintained that without a major Eurasian power threatening hemispheric hegemony, U.S. intervention is more likely to generate anti-American coalitions and precisely the kind of threat the United States feared when it decided to actively balance. In other words, Obama does not believe that the lessons learned from World War I and World War II apply to the current global system, and that as in Syria, the global power should leave managing the regional balance to local powers.
As I have argued from the outset, the American presidency is institutionally weak despite its enormous prestige. It is limited constitutionally, politically and ultimately by the actions of others. Had Japan not attacked the United States, it is unclear that Franklin Roosevelt would have had the freedom to do what he did. Had al Qaeda not attacked on 9/11, I suspect that George W. Bush's presidency would have been dramatically different.
The world shapes U.S. foreign policy. The more active the world, the fewer choices presidents have and the smaller those choices are. Obama has sought to create a space where the United States can disengage from active balancing. Doing so falls within his constitutional powers, and thus far has been politically possible, too. But whether the international system would allow him to continue along this path should he be re-elected is open to question. Jimmy Carter had a similar vision, but the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan wrecked it. George W. Bush saw his opposition to nation-building wrecked by 9/11 and had his presidency crushed under the weight of the main thing he wanted to avoid.
Presidents make history, but not on their own terms. They are constrained and harried on all sides by reality. In selecting a president, it is important to remember that candidates will say what they need to say to be elected, but even when they say what they mean, they will not necessarily be able to pursue their goals. The choice to do so simply isn't up to them. There are two fairly clear foreign policy outlooks in this election. The degree to which the winner matters, however, is unclear, though knowing the inclinations of presidential candidates regardless of their ability to pursue them has some value.
In the end, though, the U.S. presidency was designed to limit the president's ability to rule. He can at most guide, and frequently he cannot even do that. Putting the presidency in perspective allows us to keep our debates in perspective as well."



George Friedman is a geopolitical forecaster and strategist on international affairs. He is the founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures, an online publication that analyzes and forecasts the course of global events. Prior to founding Geopolitical Futures, Friedman was chairman of Stratfor, the private intelligence publishing and consulting firm he founded in 1996.