Morning Ed: War {2017.04.17.M}

Kaveh Waddell talks of a computer model that purports to show what a nuclear attack on Manhattan would look like.

Christopher Caldwell says that we spend too much time trying to figure what to think of Putin and not enough time on how to think about Putin.

Steven Brill seems to really like Peter Theil’s military product offerings.

Waiting for the end of the war. Dear Lord, I sincerely hope you’re coming ’cause you really started something…

The French Foreign Legion as a death cult.

The military would very much like airlines to stop taking their pilots. A high school chum became an Air Force pilot, but also had a degree from MIT and so would have been unaffected.

How do you know when hackware is done by the CIA? When it’s a 9-to-5 job

Well, this is inconvenient.

Nuke the moon!

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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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42 thoughts on “Morning Ed: War {2017.04.17.M}

  1. And in a few years there will be an oversupply of pilots in the airline industry, then in the air force, and the cycle will turn again.


    • “If I don’t have pilots to fly, the enemy has a vote, and if I can’t put warheads on foreheads, then [ISIS] is winning,”

      I did enjoy this quote, though, mostly because its completely free of Public Information Officer influence.


  2. There is a certain type of person that likes to see the Abrahamic religions as the problematic ones and the Dharmic religions and various forms of paganism and animism as more peaceful because they don’t have the idea of a One True God. Buddhism in particular is seen as a peaceful, gentle, and tolerant religion. The situation in Burma is evidence against this.


    • Indeed, better than most articles on the subject. I do like how the made fairy clear that this hound of war needs to be kept on a short leash. I have always had a fascination with the legion, indeed have read quite a bit (my father gave me a copy of Beau Geste when I was young.) Many people don’t know about the attempted coup or the OAS that drove it. In fact, this was the background of Day of the Jackal.


  3. Nuking the moon: You do not want to know how tempted I was to post that raucous weird “We Love the Moon” song that was co-opted by a sandwich-shop chain some years ago for their advertising.

    Also: did they not contemplate the effects it could have on tides? I’m thinking that the chain of unintended consequences would be unpleasant, at the very least.


    • I’m only partway into it, but these things are causing warning lights to illuminate on my analytical instrument panel.

      Problems with that system even helped contribute, as we’ll see, to the massive military information leak by Chelsea (then known as Bradley) Manning.

      Ok, we’ll see, but software can’t prevent a deliberate act from an individual with access and supervisors were grossly negligent in their oversight duties.

      More important, a third general who became a Palantir fan early on was James Mattis. The Marines under his command ended up using Palantir and gave it great reviews, according to an internal Pentagon survey. Mattis is now secretary of defense.

      Mattis was also a big fan of Theranos. So lets not ahead of ourselves in Mattis’s judgement of wizbang technology being pushed by a corporation as a game changer.

      Palantir’s audacious suit against the Army began in February 2016, well before supporters like Thiel or Mattis had any juice in Washington

      Wait, Mattis didn’t have any juice in Washington in early 2016? What? He had juice where it counted, on the Hill. That’s why Theranos brought him on board to be on the board, after all. it’s also how you get confirmed 98-1 by the Senate on practically the first day of an unpopular President’s term. And he certainly had friends and allies up and down the military establishment.

      . In years of writing about legal disputes, I cannot remember one that was this one-sided.

      Yeah, but that been your thing through this article so far.


      • “Insider Threat” is pretty much impossible to overcome when you’re dealing with people who have root and physical access. The best you can hope for is decent forensic tools that can help you prove in a court of law that, yep, the person who had root and physical access is guilty, guilty, guilty.


        • In 2008 the constant DCGS crashes plagued an Army private stationed in Iraq named Bradley Manning, whose job was to collect and make a record of battlefield engagements. According to a statement Manning later submitted in conjunction with the court-martial against him, he found the system so unreliable that he created his own backup disks of the information he was seeing from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as diplomatic cables. Thus began the chain of events enabling the person now known as Chelsea Manning to transmit a trove of classified information to WikiLeaks.

          OFFS, that’s it? This article is worthless.


      • Yet one reason the Palantir case is so pivotal is that taking advantage of new software doesn’t necessarily mean spending more, especially if it’s code created in Silicon Valley. The continual flow of software improvements also renders the buy-vs.-make decision more obvious: buying software that already exists and then licensing upgrades will almost always make the product cheaper and more up to date than embarking on a years-long development project using an architecture that may quickly become obsolete.

        “Licensing upgrades” is doing a *lot* of heavy lifting in this analysis.

        Now, I’ll readily grant that software procurement is something the DoD hasn’t done well, even by the standards of military procurement. Mostly, imo, because ‘software’ became an industry in and off itself in the late Cold War, while military procurement procedures more or less date from the early Cold War. Plus, the software industry itself has undergone at least one or two radical transformations in their default business model in that time (esp compared to say, car companies, where the business model is essentially unchanged in nearly three quarters of a century)

        Regardless, your software procurement in the end still needs to sync up with the overall lifecycle of whatever that software is driving, and the refresh & downtime allowances of the end users. Not to mention reliability and security.

        Yes, the banks are able to do these things, reliability and security at market efficient price, but the banks are ultimately just dealing with numbers, something computers have always been pretty good at. With military stuff, we’re either dealing with physics, or in the case of intelligence, info on people.


        • Not directly. But I could see the chain of causality being

          – Thiel & his immediate associates have met or tried to meet every bigshot general over the past half dozen years
          – Mattis was one of these, and Thiel & co had a more favorable opinion of Mattis than nearly any other general
          – when it came time for Trump to hire people, Mattis was recommended as someone even the Trump inner circle, with its limited connections to the normal sources of administration personnel, knew well enough.

          But I have no evidence to connect these dots. As I’ve said, Mattis was well known and respected throughout official Washington. He also had the status of being one of the flag officers that were ‘fired’ by Obama, so just about anyone in the greater Republican military policy community (either from the ‘establishment’ wing or e.g. the Gaffney wing) could have put his name up. Or Reince for that matter. (I doubt Jared and Ivanka knew who he was off the top of their heads)

          (looking it up, there’s also a David Boise connection between this Palantir story and Theranos)


          • Somehow I just knew would not be able to stay away from commenting on this.

            I’m not surprised military procurement is seriously broken, although I am surprised that a former Army commander seemed unaware of just how byzantine and broken it was.


  4. Having now read the whole thing
    1) yes, military procurement is broken
    2) I’m not sure Palantir & Thiel is the one to fix it; at the very least, the article didn’t make the case
    3) There’s at least one, maybe more, institutional layers going on with the Palantir vs DCGS procurement fight – a) spec forces vs big army b) intel community vs operators (i.e. G2 vs G3) (and maybe c) Army intel vs Big Intel)

    4) They are also fighting the last war with this specific piece of procurement. The problem that everyone was trying to solve from 2002 to 2012 was trying to get an accurate and fully formed picture of the battlespace for widely distributed, but fully staffed command & control nodes. That is, fighting a war where you have 30, 50, 80 thousand troops in the field scattered all over the country.

    We’re not fighting that war anymore.


      • With the contract that is the subject of the lawsuit in the article – as I understand it, a DCGS-A follow-on, which would either still be called DCGS-A or whatever Palantir & the DoD would want to call it.

        Palantir to be sure, is almost certainly trying to sell its wares across a broader spectrum of the DoD. But this specific need – or rather, the functionality that everyone was going gaga about circa 2008-2010 – is not needed as much.

        And I would expect interface design (which is the other thing everyone seemed to be gaga about) to be somewhat better with something designed in 2008 vs something designed in 2002 – and even better today, no matter who is building the system.


  5. You’d think from this post on LGM that the Afghanistan war started 15 days ago, instead of 15 years ago.

    Eta – a self described media anthropologist using a story in Al Jazera quoting former president Karzai in a completely decontexualized way seems like professional malpractice to me.


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