Acknowledging a mistaken path of retributive justice after an unprecedented attack matters. Having the curiosity to question the wisdom of that path before it is taken matters as much or more. Ms. Haspel must have eyes wide open not only with respect to the unforeseen, tragic outcomes of our choice to torture detainees, but also the negative consequences of subsequent misadventures in the Middle East. It is not enough to have just learned these lessons from the chastened perspective. We must not blunder again. We’re too big. Our 800 pound gorilla actions, often good intentions gone awry, sometimes a well-deserved punch back, can pave the way for humiliating consequences for ourselves, and for weaker actors, unexpected, often hellish results.
The mission of our nation’s intelligence apparatus, principally, is to provide early warning indicators of hostile activity and predictions of second, third and fourth order effects of our countering behavior; this, so our leaders can make the best decisions on behalf of defending the Constitution of the United States, the safety of her land and people. Ms. Haspel has the experience and dedication to duty to qualify for her new role, and has wisely, if not directly, acknowledged the mistaken nature of the choice she helped make reality in the past, but she must also have the wisdom to help prevent the next unforced error by providing the right advice. She must not only present her agency’s assessments honestly, but also aggressively lead opposition when others in power want to risk our nation’s prestige and the safety of the world with the choice of an unwise path. At the minimum, she must push hard against any factions that want to pull America back toward torture, back toward military adventurism in the Middle East. Will she? We shall see.
Gina Haspel was sworn in as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on May 21, 2018
“Everything is PR”. Peter Pomerantsev explains the transformation of Russia from an aspirational, fledgling democracy to a cynical, authoritarian quasi-oligarchy. According to Peter, a madness of sorts now pervades the culture:
America and her NATO allies might be wise to focus on finding a path forward for the Kurds that works for Turkey. After the vote for Kurdish independence in September, tensions will likely increase in the area. The article and video below provide details.
It’s important to note here that losses incurred in our nearly generation-long engagements in the Middle East have been as much diplomatic as military. Without receiving significant support from Turkey, a nation that fought side-by-side with NATO in the Korean War and supported the first Gulf War, we were unwise to start conflicts in her Ottoman-era territories. The Turkish border has become a conduit for human traffic into and out of Europe, including refugees and jihadists, and the government trends authoritarian and Islamist. This situation is arguably more consequential to world affairs than instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so should be reversed.
The good news is that America and her allies have made great strides against the menace of ISIS, lessening the pressures of human traffic. We can seize this opportunity to work wth Turkey, Iraq, Syria and the Kurds to map a future for the region that is as stable and peaceable as possible, a political solution that provides dignity and security to the Kurds — who have earned some freedom — without taking those same interests away from the Turks.
Turkey, a key member of NATO, has so far chosen to sit out the war against ISIS. Instead, it is at war with Kurdish militias in Syria, the only ground forces so far that have managed to take on ISIS and win.
I recently had to write a few paragraphs about something called a hybrid threat. Results below.
Social media, power, algorithms and politics combine to “gerrymander us down to the person”. Author, social scientist and university professor Zaynep Tufekci speaks with Sam Harris in the podcast below. Zaynep asserts that the tools of what she terms “asymmetric surveillance capitalism” — algorithms Google and Facebook build for targeted advertising — have been used by political power-brokers to micro-target individuals for persuasion and control. The click-bait politics of social media are “a perfect setup for authoritarians”, Zaynep states: algorithms stoke divisions and create closed systems that push viewers down a rabbit hole toward extreme ideas.
In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Zeynep Tufekci about “surveillance capitalism,” the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook, AI-enabled marketing, the health of the press, Wikileaks, ransomware attacks, and other topics.
“What you have for defense… is the ability to think critically, call out falsehood, press for the facts… unflinchingly pursue the truth.”