Always National Security

Andy.JPEG

Here is a link to my short video on national security thoughts that keep me up at night.

Advertisements

{Saving Us From DC Ground Zero}

dc

One well-placed nuclear suitcase bomb or nuclear ballistic missile strike on DC and say goodbye to virtually the entire hub of the Federal government. 


As of 2014, there are over 4.2 million federal employees (2.7M in the civilian agencies and 1.5M in the military). 


Over 500K are located in the DC, MD, VA tristate area. 


But it’s not just the numbers, it’s that the headquarters of all the major government agencies are located here. 


While, of course, there are backup sites, and emergency doomsday sites like Mount Weather (48 miles from DC), there is no telling how much advance notice, if any we would have, and who would escape and survive a deadly blow to our capital region. 


And it could be a radiological, chemical, biological, or nuclear (RCBN) attack that does us in…whether from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or other diabolical enemy out there. 


The point is that by concentrating all our federal headquarters and senior leadership and key resources here we are in fact, giving the enemy an easy shot to decapitate the entire country?


While others (like Paul Kupiec in the WSJ) have questioned whether some of the federal agencies can be moved out to other needy cities and communities across the country for economic reasons (to bring jobs and investment) especially those agencies that are actively looking to build new HQS buildings already (e.g. FBI and Department of Labor), to me the far more potent question is one of national security. 


The main advantage of having the crux of the federal government in the DC area is surely one of coordination–the President wants his Cabinet near him and the Cabinet Secretaries want their senior staff near them, and so on and so on. 


So, you get this mass concentration of a who’s who of the federal government in and around Washington, DC. 


But what about the advances of technology? 


Surely, through networks and telecommunications and teleworking, we can support a geographically diverse workforce and do no significant harm to our operating as one.


We’re talking a very big cultural change here!


It’s one thing to have nuclear missiles roaming the seas on attack submarines waiting for orders from Washington, DC and it’s quite another to move the actual government intelligentsia and leadership out from the central hub. 


Let’s face it, in a real crisis situation, with the chaos and panic and transportation overflow and perhaps simultaneous cyberattacks, no one is really going to be going anywhere–especially in a surprise attack. 


If Pearl Harbor (of which we just celebrated the 75th anniversary) and 9/11 teach us anything is that when the sh*t hits the fan, it hits hard and sticks solid. 


Working in the Metro DC area, selfishly, I’d like to say keep the investment, jobs, and great opportunities here.


For the good of the nation and our survival against true existential threats, we’d be much smarter to spread the federal wealth as far and wide across this great nation that we can. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Planetary Colonization Imperative

colonization-jpeg

I read something so simple yet profound from theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (The Guardian).


First, he enunciated many of the threats we face these days, including:


– Accelerating technological change [I would elaborate that these include more advanced weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them]


– Automation, [robotics,] and rise of artificial intelligence


– Economic inequality, mass migration, job destruction, [and divisiveness] augmented by immersive social media that accentuates “Instagram [and Facebook] Nirvana” versus the real poverty and struggling of the masses, 


– “Environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, and acidification of the oceans.”


In one sentence then, Hawking says it all about the high level of risk we face:

“We now have the technology to destroy the planet, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.”


His call to action:

“Perhaps in a few hundred years,  we will have established human colonies amid the stars. but right now we have only one planet. and we need to work together to protect it [and develop the means to eventually be able to escape it for the survival of humanity.]”


In short, we must get to and colonize other planets as quickly as possible, because it the realm of history, it’s only a matter of time and our collective lives are depending on it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal Via National Geographic)

What The Pope Knows That Our Leadership Doesn’t

Crushed Trophy.jpeg

In response to the deluge of terrorist attacks across Europe, but also all around the world, culminating this week in the murder of an 85-year old Christian priest in France (his throat was slit in church by ISIS), the pope said the following:

The world is at war, because we have lost the peace.”

But at the same time, our leader is self-congratulating himself, declaring his next in line for the Pennsylvania Avenue throne, and mocking the daily terror threats we face, calling ISIS the “JV [junior varsity] team” declaring them “not an existential threat, and insisting “no boots on the ground.” 

From the attacks on 9/11 to Orlando and Fort Hood, from the attacks on Charlie Hebdo to Paris and Nice, from the multiple attacks on Germany this past week to those in Belgium in March, from the Madrid train bombing in 2004 to the London bombing in 2005, to the daily terrorist attacks throughout the Holy Land of Israel, and the non-stop violent killing of  millions around the Arab countries of the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and beyond, I ask:

Why is the Pope better informed than our leadership, and who will fight for us? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When They Say They Want To Kill You, Do You Think They Might Mean It?

Moses

We tried out a new large conservative synagogue in Rockville today. 


And they had an interesting speech this Shabbat by scholar in residence, Tal Becker.


He spoke about how as a Jewish people traumatized post Holocaust, we tend to view threats to us as existential or the possibility of them escalating to that. 


And of course, many of the threats out there are or could be–like the Iranian Ballistic Nukes or terrorism combined with WMD!


But in terms of overall Jewish security, normalcy, and exceptionalism–with two thriving Jewish communities in Israel and in America–we are probably doing better than at any time in recent history. 


It’s a paradox, he mentioned, that in America, the Jews are a minority but amidst all the freedom, they may at times feel like a majority, while in Israel, the Jews are a majority, but amidst the dangerous neighborhood they live in, they can feel like a minority. 


Unfortunately, there is still quite a lot of hatred and anti-Semitism out there whether in America or the Middle East. 


Just this week, we saw numerous terror attacks in Israel and Turkey that left several Israelis dead or wounded again. And in America, not only did we have Palestinian protests on college campuses painting Jews as the occupiers and Apartheidists (rather than as the victims of daily Palestinians terror and intransigence toward a two-state solution living side-by-side with Israel in peace), but also Microsoft having to take down their AI Bot after users taught it to spew anti-Semitic remarks like “Jews deserve death” and holocaust-denial posts in social media.


So as wonderful as it is to be Jewish, there is typically not a day that goes by when we are not somehow reminded of those that reject us, hate us, and may want to kill Jews. 


The truth is that Jews (as Mark Twain pointed out)–despite having a pretty large and impressive footprint–are a very small minority of the people out there, and they have endured unbelievably difficult times from slavery to the destruction of the temple and exile (twice), forced conversions, tortured inquisitions, expulsions, pogroms, and genocide…so it is hard not to be a little touchy about people saying or implying that they  don’t like you and want to kill you…someone may take that as an existential threat and it wouldn’t even have to be a bad day at that. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Discuss And Work Together, Respectfully

Nuke cloud (2)

Everyone and their brother seems to be jumping on board to hit on Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of our “Major Strategic Ally” and friend, Israel. 


This after Netanyahu accepted an invitation from the United States Congress to speak about Iranian nukes threatening the State of Israel, the region, and the Western world. 


1) Iran, Israel and Arab Allies:


Truly, can anyone blame Israel and our Arab allies of being distressed that we are disavowing our 2011 commitment to them, as President Obama stated:


“You also see our commitment to our shared security in our…there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon…My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.”


Now we have as reported gone from preventing Iran on obtaining nuclear weapons to instead a possible agreement that still leaves thousands of Iran’s nuclear centerfuges spinning and “sunsets” as early as 2025!


This is a lopsided turning of the tables on Israel and of our Arab allies for reapproachment with Axis of Evil, Iran


2) Russia and Ukraine:


But not alone are our Middle East allies in feeling abandoned by us, as we made security guarantees also to Ukraine in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 that specifically committed the U.S., U.K. and Russia to:


“Respect the independence and sovereignty and existing border of Ukraine [and to] refrain from the threat or use of force.”


Well so much for that as Crimea has now been annexed by Russia and battling rages across eastern Ukraine by Russian-supported separatists, despite a blantant violation of a truce recently brokered by France and Germany.


3) Poland and Czech Republic


Yet once again, with Poland and the Czech republic (members of NATA), we commited ourselves to building a missle shield only then to back away and seemingly abandon them


“In one of the biggest national security reversals of his young presidency, Mr. Obama cancelled…plans to station a radar facility [and]…ground-based interceptors.”


Questions:


Why are we continually turning on longtime friends and allies and embracing enemies sworn to our destruction?


What do our commitments mean to anyone anymore and why shouldn’t our shunted allies speak out, especially when it is their countries that are being placed in jeopardy?


Disrespect and Freedom of Speech:


What is also amazing is how low we have gone in our interactions such that we no longer discuss and disagree respectfully, but instead resort now to withholding security information, disgraceful name-calling (e.g. “Chickenshit”), discrediting, and even seeking to silence opposing views!


What has happened to our dearly held and constitutional rights and values for democracy, free speech, including openly debating issues and respecting differences of opinion?


Institutional Anti-Semitism:


Interesting also is how big and tough we are being on little Israel (population 8 million and about the size of the 5th smallest U.S. state of New Jersey)…


While simultaneously many seem to be proverbially (excuse the language) peeing their pants in front of the newly aggressive “Big Bear,” Russia


What is more important when it comes to the dangers of a Iran with nuclear WMD–a longtime friend and ally Israel that is facing a potentially existential threat just 70 years after the Holocaust or getting an historical “award” for making an agreement (and a potentially bad one at that) with Iran?


Conclusion:


Behavior unbecoming, includes serially breaking commitments, silencing the opposition (uh, against our Constituion), name-calling and bullying, and endangering longtime allies and friend–this is not leadership and does not leave anyone a desired legacy. 


Let’s openly and freely discuss and work together respectfully in true friendship and partnership, and get a good deal that safeguards the democracies of the United States and Israel. 😉


(All Opinions my own.)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to blueforce4116)

Existential Threats–Real or Imagined

Should we worry about something that hasn’t happened to us yet?

Wired Magazine (Sept. 2012) has an interesting article called Apocalypse Not.

Its thesis is that “people freak out over end-of-the world scenarios” and they should know better because despite all the fear and predictions of catastrophe, nothing ever really happens.
It categorizes the doomsday cataclysms into 4 types:
1) Chemicals–these come form things like pesticides (like DDT), smoking, and CFCs, and result in air pollution, acid rain, ozone depletion, and climate change.
2) Disease–recent fears of pandemics were associated with bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, ebola, and mad cow disease.
3) People–we can cause our own hell through population explosion and famine and although it didn’t mention this, I would assume the brutality and wars that can wipe entire races out.
4) Resources–Peak oil theory, metals and minerals, and other resource constraints have been causes of consternation leading us to look for alternative energy sources and even recently consider mining minerals on asteroids.
The article goes so far as to poke fun at those who are concerned about these things even stating that “The one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles.”
Wired does acknowledge that while “over the past half-century, none of our threatened eco-pocalypses have played out as predicted. Some came partly true; some were averted by action; [and still] some were wholly chimerical.”
What the author, Matt Ridley, has missed here in his logic are a few main things:
Smaller things add to big things–While each individual issue may not have reached the catastrophic tipping point been yet, these issues can certainly progress and even more so, in the aggregate, pose dangerous situations that we may be unable to contain. So you can choose to live with blinders on for today, but the consequences of our choices are inescapable and may only be around the next bend.
Recognizing the future–just because things like death and final judgement haven’t happened to us yet, doesn’t mean that they aren’t in store for us in the future. This sort of reminds me of this Jewish joke that no one leaves this world alive.
Destructive powers are multiplying–many destructive forces were traditionally local events, but are now becoming existential threats to whole civilizations. For example, how many people globally can we kill with weaponized pathogens and how many times over now are we able to destroy the world with our thermonuclear stockpile.
Learn from the past–Apocalypses and terrible events have already befallen humankind, whether the bubonic plague in the middle ages, the destruction of the ice age, the flood in biblical times, and even more recently the Holocaust and the World Wars in the 20th century.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad things that can happen to people–individuals or many people–and if we are not conscious of the things we are doing, their potential impacts, and generally act smart and ethical, then bad things can and will most-definitely happen.
Wired ends by saying that things like policy, technology, and innovation can solve the day. However, while these can surely help and we must always try our best to have a positive impact, some things are also out of our control–they are in G-d hands.
Finally, while not every event is an existential threat, some surely can be–and whether it’s the impact of an asteroid, the death toll from the next horrible plague, natural disaster, cyberwar, or weapon of mass destruction, or even possibly when aliens finally come knocking at your door, it would be awfully stupid to think that bad things can’t happen.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to tanakawho)