Friday, January 8, 2010

Post No. 143b: Speaking of Connecting the Dots....


We're always somewhat amused when prominent members of the public declare that the heads of leaders of certain agencies or industries (be they government leaders, business people, bankers, or military / intelligence officials), should roll for their failure to properly adhere to some complex and constantly moving standard.

More specifically, in the case of the recent Christmas day Pampers terrorist attempt, many have complained that US intelligence officials failed to "connect the dots," and anticipate that a terrorist attack was about to take place.

We've often joked that few people have the ability to "properly" manage much in their personal lives, particularly their marriages involving only one other person, and yet seem to have the wisdom and arrogance to readily criticize others in charge of large bureacracies.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times recently wrote an op-ed piece entitled "Father Knows Best," which outlines the thoughts and actions of the Father of the alleged "Underwear Terrorist." In reading it, we thought about how many parents are able to "connect the dots" concerning activities involving their own kids, and even after the event, take responsibility for their kids' conduct.

Should parents be fired, or resign, following their failure to prevent anti-social conduct or behavior on the part of their kids detrimental to society? Would that be letting them off too easily? Should business and government leaders be forced to clean up their purported messes, or should we just fire them or allow them to walk?

This is interesting reading.


"Surely, the most important, interesting — and, yes, heroic — figure in the whole Christmas Day Northwest airliner affair was the would-be bomber’s father, the Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab.

"Mutallab did something that, as far as we know, no other parent of a suicide bomber has done: He went to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and warned us that text messages from his son revealed that he was in Yemen and had become a fervent, and possibly dangerous, radical.

"We are turning ourselves inside out over how our system broke down — and surely it did — in allowing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be suicide bomber, to board that airliner. But his father, in effect, told us something else: 'My family system, our village system, broke down. My own son fell under the influence of a jihadist version of Islam that I do not recognize and have reason to fear.'"

To check out the remainder of the article, simply click here.

16 comments:

  1. Love this:

    We've often joked that few people truly have the ability to "properly" manage much in their own personal lives, particularly their marriages involving only one other person, and yet seem to have the wisdom and arrogance to readily criticize others in charge of large bureacracies.

    Seems like it should be a more common question, doesn't it?

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  2. Thanks for visiting us Passinthru. Yep. Our sentiments exactly.

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  3. I happen to agree with "Passinthru" if he meant "rarely" instead of "truly". On that point, where was that sentiment in the years 2001-2008? It seemed to be in very short supply and the mood was one quite the opposite. Howls went up after 9/11 about the WH's failure to "connect the dots" in a time when the bureaucracies were isolated and had built up walls between them and their peers (some say as a result of policies of the pre-2000 administration) but now it is more sympathy for the overwhelming size of the now inter-connected and communicating bureaus.

    And, one might add, yet another bureaucracy is in the offing. Let's call it Universal Health Care.

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  4. So much of this discussion going on today about terrorism is just pure bullshit. Although many try to characterize the jihadists as having some reason to destroy our way of life, the reality is that the US has too much involvement in the lives of the countries from where these purported terrorists live.

    Additionally, the leaders of the Middle Eastern countries deriving the benefits of this US involvement do not exactly share the wealth with the other citizens of those countries.

    If the US were to withdraw its business and military investments, I'd venture to guess that these terrorists acts would diminish significantly.

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  5. Anon, what would happen if the US withdrew its business and military investments in those areas is difficult to predict. But, first, the adverse impact on the economies of those particular countries would be enormous. that alone would create even more animosity toward the US than there is now. Withdrawing the military investments would destabilize the balance of power in the region and create even more problems that would be exacerbated by that economic turmoil we just mentioned. The end result might be revolutions which would install Islamic regimes such as we see in Iran. Is that what you think is a good thing?

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  6. Douglas, imagine that you rented a house from a property owner. Would you like someone from another town parking his big rig and trailer on the front lawn of the house you rent, even though he paid parking fees to the owner?

    The US obviously derives some benefit from the relationship as does the regime in power in those Middle Eastern countries.

    Yet, the prospect of some negative economic fallout hardly serves as a justification for being on someone else's property.

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  7. Additionally Douglas, a sovereign nation has the right to determine its own craziness within its borders, as long as its not in violation of international law; outsiders are not needed to participate in that craziness.

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  8. What is the appropriate level of security which we seek in this country to avoid terrorist calamities? A number of commentators have suggested that the terrorists have effectively accomplished most of their goals by making us uncomfortable and dramatically altering the manner in which we live our lives.

    Take a look at an article written suggesting as much. Have our purported enemies at least won some battles if not the war on terror? Is it possible to identify, and then find them all and eliminate them? How long will this war on terror last? Who has the answers?

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  9. Anon, I wish I could say you made a good point. But you do not. Your neighbor parks his rig on your lawn and you seek assistance in getting him to move it. That brings in other neighbors (your allies and his allies) and the police (the UN). The truck owning neighbor says "I am parked on my own property, you don't know where the property line is." That is settled but now you have a neighbor who is your enemy. You could have just asked him how long he will be parking the truck there, you know, and worked out some agreement as to when he could park there. That would have been "diplomacy."

    Countries interfere with other countries all the time via the UN and individually and the UN interferes with as many as possible. Iran interferes in Lebanon and Iraq and Venezuela (and, possibly, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and a number of other countries). France interfered all over the world (and left behind some of the most unstable societies the world has ever seen). So did Britain, Germany, Holland, and the Soviet Union. It is the nature of these things. Countries invite businesses in and aid and advice from other governments. This does not make everyone in these countries happy. Neither does not inviting them in. The US is vilified for interfering and for not interfering. We are blamed for sins of our allies and for the sins of our enemies. It is the gist of geo-politics at the gut level.

    None of this is important to my point. Every action has consequences and they are only predictable to a point. Your "solution" has a hole big enough in it to drive your neighbor's truck through. Our pulling out will only create other problems and they may be even worse than the ones we have now. Indeed, they will likely be worse.

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  10. Douglas:

    We've been observing, with interest, your exchange with Anonymous regarding his or her suggestion that the elimination of the US' foreign entanglements, through withdrawal, might reduce the amount of terrorism directed toward the US.

    We would not dare summarize your position as a "justification" for the entangling acts of nations into the affairs of other sovereign nations on the front end; however, you do seem to provide "explanations or considerations," inclusive of some reasons for not withdrawing those entanglements ONCE THEY ARE ESTABLISHED, out of concern for the potentially negative impact on people and their economies.

    You appear to summarize the dynamic as the way things have been between countries over time, or "boys will be boys," on a much grander scale.

    These are just statements not subjective evaluations.

    Is it your position that whether the entangling nation should withdraw its tentacles from the entangled nation should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and is dependent on whether
    the withdrawal will have a negative or positive impact, economic or otherwise, on the country from which the withdrawal is made (if that could be determined by some third party independent body)? Or should the entangler decide? Or should the entangled country decide?

    What if the entangled country involved has a monarchy or dictator or military which does what it wants to do without consulting with its citizens?

    Finally, should countries just do whatever they consider to be in their best interests without regard for other countries, since that is the nature of the international playing field?

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  11. Inspector, you ask important questions. And you do this with the knowledge that actions have consequences. The US does not operate in a world where there are no other competing factions. And what are we competing for? Resources, primarily, and markets, secondarily.

    So, let us take the "withdrawal" option and consider the possible immediate consequences. A number of other countries would immediately move to fill the void we create. What did we accomplish in terms of relieving the problems of the region? Nothing. We were replaced by other countries who have similar desires and goals. The oppressive regimes are still operating and we no longer have any influence in the region. The terror groups are still active and now can proliferate without fear of interference from us. If the countries who moved in our place do not have the resources (or willingness) to suppress them, the growth will continue into movements that will seek to topple regimes and replace them with Islamic "republics" (which are sham republics and theocratic dictatorships) which will be even more oppressive than the current regimes. Let's surmise, however, that we are given a respite from attacks during this period. Our allies in Europe will not be, unless they also withdraw, and eventually allow what I might call Islamation of their countries. You see, this is the stated goal of Islamic fundamentalism which is the core ideology of the terrorist groups.

    Not to mention that we have abandoned Israel to annihilation by its enemies in the region. Israel is unlikely to go down without a major fight and that may mean a localized nuclear conflict in the region.

    Meanwhile, we lose a source for roughly 40% of our imported oil needs. Imagine the impact on our economy from that.

    But, yes, such a simple solution. Pull our turtle head back into our shell and everyone will love us. Sorry, I do not believe it. I am too much of a realist and too much of a student of history to engage in such fantasies.

    The entanglements are already there. They have been there for centuries, we are just the current main player. Civilizations/cultures clash That is the reality. Should we have gone about our involvement differently? I have no idea. I do know that this is how it is now and we must function within the constructs that exist. Engaging in wishful thinking will not alter reality. Acting on that wishful thinking is the most dangerous path to take. It will surely lead to disaster.

    Finally, all countries act in their perceived best interests and no country can function as an isolated state. It has always been thus. Just as I cannot simply ignore my neighbor and his semi, a country cannot ignore other countries who may wish to "park their rigs" on its lawn.

    I should have torn apart his entire metaphor. The terrorists are not "renting property", they supposedly own it (or at least feel they do). The countries that exist there are all artificial constructs carved out of territory seized from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire which backed the wrong side in WWI. Before 1918, there was no Saudi Arabia, no Iraq, no Jordan, no Syria. Just as some think that WWII was merely the extension of WWI, so may all of this chaos in the Middle East. It certainly grew out of those events. Though I think the roots go back to before the Roman Empire controlled it.

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  12. Very nicely articulated Douglas.

    It reflects a healthy appreciation of reality in a complex world with many powerful players.

    What's most interesting about your analysis is its honesty and clarity of purpose, which are difficult concepts for our politicians to embrace, especially when criticizing the acts of the opposing party for their own short-term political goals.

    Quite frankly, we strongly suspect that the vast majority of politicians, be they Republican, Democratic, progressive, conservative, liberal, or libertarian, would subscribe to the principles you outlined. If so, why can't they agree as to a game plan for moving forward? Because they need to get the other guys out.

    Are the interests of the nation their top priority?

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  13. Are the interests of the nation their top priority?

    Inspector, that was a rhetorical question, wasn't it?

    I suppose I could go into a detailed analysis of human behavior as it pertains to practitioners of politics but that could get boring. And pointless.

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  14. According to Shlomo Dror, an Israeli air security expert:

    "The United States does not have a security system; it has a system for bothering people."

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  15. I happen to agree with "Passinthru" if he meant "rarely" instead of "truly". On that point, where was that sentiment in the years 2001-2008? It seemed to be in very short supply and the mood was one quite the opposite. Howls went up after 9/11 about the WH's failure to "connect the dots" in a time when the bureaucracies were isolated and had built up walls between them and their peers (some say as a result of policies of the pre-2000 administration) but now it is more sympathy for the overwhelming size of the now inter-connected and communicating bureaus.

    And, one might add, yet another bureaucracy is in the offing. Let's call it Universal Health Care.

    ReplyDelete

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