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5 NatSec Things - 08 May 2018

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Today's things: School loses plutonium; vetting's slowing SFAB's roll; Prince (Erik) is back; lolersk
 
May 8 · Issue #54 · View online
5 NatSec Things
Today’s things: School loses plutonium; vetting’s slowing SFAB’s roll; Prince (Erik) is back; lolerskates over Egypt; Trump’s parade gets a bill.

Quote of the Day
“We don’t want to see tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.” – Republican staffer who does not get how cool that would be
Idaho school loses plutonium, but just a little bit
“The radioactive source in question poses no direct health issue or risk to public safety.” – Dr. Cornelis Van der Schyf, from his new DeLorean
I lost my keys once, so pretty relatable
We’ve all been there: you’ve got about a quarter-sized bit of weapons-grade plutonium laying around the lab, doing research-y things with it. 
Then someone decides you don’t need all that fissionable material anymore, spring cleaning happens, and you’ve got to get rid of it. 
But you fuck up the paperwork, and now there’s nuclear stuff wandering around loose. Happens all the time.
Professor misplaces nuclear material, keeps job. Because tenure. And sequels.
Sounds like a “just the tip” excuse
Not to drop the XX chromosome card, but the folks interviewed for this article? Dudes. Who are alarmingly calm about the fact that something you could turn into a dirty bomb is unaccounted for. 
Because it’s not that much material, and hey, people get forms mixed up all the time.
Accountability starts with someone else
There’s not a lot of national security import to this story, but it does feel like a “boys will be boys” editorial slant and maybe we should be more concerned when those of us with the penises (penii? penui?) are pretty OK with misplacing things that could make other things glow in the dark.
Risk averse leadership in Afghanistan slowing the SFAB roll
“We have the authority to go to the kandak level if we need to, and in some cases we’re doing that, but in others we’ve found that we’re more effective” [at higher levels] – Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, 2018 Boss of the Year nominee because he sets a standard everyone can reach
SFAB into the breach, once the vetting’s done
The first Security Forces Assistant Brigade is in Afghanistan. 
Ready to get on with it. 
As soon the results of the security investigations for every possible partner they might come into contact with while they’re doing all the adviser-y things has cleared the counterintelligence checks and everyone’s 100% sure that there won’t be any more of that green-on-blue nonsense.
Green on blue is so 2012
Not so long ago, back before this war was old enough to drive, the number of Afghan men in uniform (that’s what NATO called ‘em) that took up arms against their oppressor and decided that oppressor was dressed a whole helluva lot like an American soldier was on the rise. 
Which makes it hard to trust the little brown dude when other little brown dudes dressed like him keep shooting at you.
Maybe try some trust falls
It’s not called risk prevention, it’s called risk mitigation. And it says something about the gas station hot dog approach to advising that’s been a chronic failure for this conflict. Because you don’t know where that dog or that Afghan soldier came from, and you don’t have the time to figure it out before you get food/lead poisoning. 
The best advising is built on relationships. Those take time. Years, even. 
Which is a luxury the Americans don’t have. So the SFAB sits, hoping they find all the bad guys before they get on with this war we’re not really fighting.
Prince (Erik, that is) is back, and this time he's turning Chinese
“I was strung up so the politicians could feign indignation and pretend my men hadn’t done exactly what they had paid us handsomely to do.” – Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and recent fan of all things Chinese
Navy SEAL likes money
Erik Prince, Blackwater founder, is back with a new company: Frontier Services Group (FSG), which is not to be confused with its predecessor Frontier Resources Group (FRG) because there’s nothing Prince likes better than changing company names to keep all the folks guessing. 
FSG is now providing a whole range of logistics and security services in places like China, operating in parts of the country where it’d be impossible for him to go without help from Beijing. That’s got former partners and fans in the US security establishment worried whether what he’s doing is all that legal. 
Blackwater ne Xe ne Academi and repeat
Erik Prince took the private military company (PMC) concept to new and exciting levels with Blackwater, the firm he founded and then had to leave once it turned out some of his employees weren’t super picky about who they threw bullets at. 
He’s parlayed that experience and the money he made from Blackwater into services for a lot of countries the US would rather he not, including China.
Read this, kids
Not kidding - it’s investigations like this that make me hopeful journalism won’t turn into a self-licking ice cream cone that only has enough energy to argue about Michelle Wolf monologues. 
So put this on your “to read” list this weekend.
It’s alarming given how much influence Erik Prince still has in US national security circles, despite being what Sean McFate calls a “pariah.” 
Unrelated: Sean McFate writes novels based on his military experiences. This is from one of them. 
It doesn't get better with the 2nd graf.
Congress holding off on Egypt aid thanks to wounded rollerskater
“No doubt, the Egyptians are going to feel unfairly treated. This is pretty much a self-inflicted wound. They had so many opportunities to solve these problems.” – Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and reported CFR beer pong champ
Couples skate was never this expensive
I have no idea if Sen. Leahy knows how to rollerskate, but I do know that April Corley did. Until a 2015 trip to Egypt, when the tour group she was on got itself shot to bits by Egyptian Apache helicopters. 
Now the Senator, who’s head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, wants Cairo to do something about that, including paying for Corley’s medical bills. 
And he’s prepared to hold back $300m in US military aid to make that happen.
And another thing
Plus there’s a few other things the Senator would like to see the Egyptian government do, too. And while Egypt’s eligible for $1.3b in military aid every year, and in reality Leahy’s only locking up $105m of that, but Congress is already putting the brakes on $195m for other stuff Cairo’s done, and that’s a problem for the Egyptian government.
Egypt our best frenemy
Cairo’s long been problematic for the United States. Because stable(ish) government that’s nominally on the side of the angels when it comes to shooting at the right people? Check.
Troubling human rights record and tendency to be not-so-transparent with what it does to dissident? Also check.
Stuck in the middle? People like April Corley, whose family is trying to raise enough funds to cover all the bills it’s going to take to get her back to something like what she was before.
No shit, she was a professional rollerskater, and damned good at it, too.
April before Egypt: Chet Faker - Gold
And if you’d like do something tangible to help April out? Drop by the YouCaring page, because they’re more than a tad short of their goal.
No, April’s not a national security case, and yeah, I’m just some asshole with a newsletter, but fuck: art’s art, and if we can do something to help an artist come back around, how’s about we do that, huh, readers?
Defense bill would give Trump that parade
“What the chairman is comfortable with is veterans– you’re going to of course see a 21-gun salute, you’re going to see firing of cannons and things like that. That’s OK. That’s traditional ceremonial function.“ – Area Republican Staffer who thinks cannons are cool, tanks drool
If the parade looked like this? I'd support that.
So it’s about the veterans
Unless it’s a parade of Rolling Thunder bikes and a whole string of folks who have installed parts thanks to the last several decades the US has been at war, this has fuck all to do with honoring veterans, and everything to do with the preening of a despot still disappointed with the size of hands. 
But it looks like Congress has found a way to pay for it.
This was probably invevitable
If we lived in Moscow, Pyongyang, or Beijing, we could expect this kind of thing. Hell, if we lived in France, even. But military parades for the sake of military parades are not exactly an American tradition. Because pointing out to the rest of the world how many guns you have isn’t being a bastion of freedom.
Tweet loudly and wave whatever stick can fit in your hands
This is the work of a self-serving would-be dictator and would probably be worse under Mike Pence, who’s probably next in line once El Donaldino finally burns in and ends up getting impeached and booted out of office. 
Or we’ll have to put up the parade debacle for the next few years because we thought there was no way he’d win in 2020..
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