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5 NatSec Things - 30 Apr 2018

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Today's things: Pompeo on Iran; fencing Mexico; meet the MAVNIs; carpets bombing in Afghanistan; Room
 
April 30 · Issue #49 · View online
5 NatSec Things
Today’s things: Pompeo on Iran; fencing Mexico; meet the MAVNIs; carpets bombing in Afghanistan; Roomba on ‘roids.

Quote of the Day
“…if I need to…put a fence along a bombing range that’s right next to the border. This is a safety consideration. I don’t care who they are, they are human beings. I don’t want them wandering into a bombing range that was active.” – SecDef Mattis, on that fencing thing
Pompeo hopes Trump pulls out this time
Can we get this done for $130K?
“Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May.“ – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is going to get us all killed
See how they run like pigs from a gun
If there’s anything that could be said about Campaigner Trump, it’s that he was consistent. Consistently terrifying, but consistent nonetheless. And one of the planks in his stump speech? Getting out of the nuclear deal with Iran. Now that it’s time to make a decision with the May 12 deadline for sanctions waivers looming, he might come through on that.
Screw Iran, anyway
Which would be the kind of sentiment coming from those of us who grew up watching the Iran hostage crisis and Desert One and Eagle Claw and the birth of all things Delta Force. Except that the country has a broader political spectrum than we might believe, and by trashing this deal Trump runs the very real risk of turning the clock back on DC/Tehran relations.
If you’ve got about 20 minutes, give John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight episode on the deal and a brief history of US/Iran relations a watch.
Iran Deal: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) - YouTube
This should fix that ratings problem
The only thing Trump cares about more than his next Big Mac is poll numbers. And pulling out the deal is going to play well with the xenophobic isolationists that are his people, even though they think “xenophobia” is that funny feeling you get when you see your cousin again after that unfortunate Jim Beam fueled night after last year’s family reunion.
Pulling out of the deal has nothing to do with the country, and everything to do with the base. A base that’s willing to drink the Orangeade deeply and follow the world’s angriest Cheeto and Bolton the War Walrus right off the cliff into oblivion.
Get the picket pounders: military ready to fence off Mexico
So why are they there, then?
“These forces will not involve themselves with the migrants themselves or have any law enforcement duties.“ – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, glossing over a lot of complicated things
Maybe just move the bombing range further south
And we’re on to another Trump Speech 101 lesson with building the wall. A wall that’s now somewhere on Plan C which is not a wall at all, but a bunch of National Guard troops mobilized to help bolster security with the border. And because Trump’s insisting that the US military could in fact pay for it, SecDef Mattis is forced to say things like of course they’ll build a fence, so long as it’s for safety reasons.
Obama did it first
Feels like we’ve covered this ground before, but it’s still worth nothing: Trump isn’t the first president to send troops to the border. He’s just the first one to make such a big deal about it, after first making petulant demands to build an unfeasible wall instead. Both of the previous operations proved to be costly, as all military operations are, and so the unanswered question remains: Who’s going to pay for all this?
I’ve got more army mens than you
It’s Trump’s sandbox, we’re all just playing in it. And moving troops to the border is his way of saying, "See? Told you I’ve got me an army. And someday there’s going to be a parade of ‘em, too.” I hate giving the Toddler-in-Chief this much airtime, but kids: if this bothers you as much as it should, FFS, get out there and vote.
Fast track to citizenship now a slow boat to nowhere
So let’s get them citizenized already
“Before I joined the military I never had a brush with the law. I worked in the ER, did research. I even helped discover a new drug. Now that I joined the military, I am labeled a security threat. If I am under arrest, tell me what I am accused of. They can’t just hold us as prisoners.” – A MAVNI w/bachelor’s degrees in zoology with an emphasis on medicine, biochemistry and biotechnology, and a master’s in pharmacology.
Institutionalized bigotry is still bigotry
Until I read this article, I’d never heard of the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI). Which was begun in 2009 as a way to get foreign born nationals and their brains into the US military, and was pitched as a way for those same nationals to become US citizens more rapidly than if they didn’t enlist in the US military. But in 2016 the Pentagon started implementing more stringent security regulations for the MAVNI program, and now many of them are stuck in a weird legal limbo that has them mowing a lot of base lawns. 
Thanks, Obama!
Seriously, though, as much fun as that phrase is as a meme, this went into place in September of 2016. So while the current president and his administration is what happens when you animate a can of Axe while it’s sitting in the back of a pickup truck at a Klan rally, things under Obama for immigrants weren’t always super awesome. 
And some of the countries where the MAVNIs are from are now experiencing peace through superior firepower thanks to Obama’s expansion of the drone program begun under his predecessor. So this isn’t just a Republican thing.
Your poor huddled masses, let’s club ‘em to death
As much as I want to believe that America is still a beacon of opportunity, Lou Reed’s probably more right than I’m comfortable with admitting. Because 'murca is not a welcoming place, even when we’ve managed to get non-naturalized folks to help fight our wars to fill recruitment gaps.
Oh, and do put this one on your “to read” pile for the weekend or whenever. It’s a tough one to get through, but vital to understanding, if nothing else, how fucked up the current military recruitment system is.
Afghanistan's carpet sales are bombing
Hard to get folks to Kabul lately
“We have invited a lot (of buyers) But they say, ‘No, it is impossible to come, because of the blood and security problems.’ This is the sad tragedy.” – Diljam Manan Qassimy, a manager at Afghan rug factory
Get your carpets elsewhere
There are some things Afghanistan gets right, and chief among those things are carpets. Some of the finest carpets in the world are still made right here in the graveyard of non-government investment, but thanks to the security situation, makers are having a hard time getting new buyers and dealers to come to the country to make sales.
This is why we can’t have nice things
If your country’s been in a constant state of war for successive decades, it makes it hard for foreign investors to see their way clear to putting money in the country. Kabul’s littered with examples of how those deals have stalled, and the impact to the carpet industry makes it clear once again that until the security situation improves, the real money isn’t coming into the country anytime soon.
Not sure what we got for our billions already
I get how strange it is to be talking about a country needing more money when the US and its allies have already pumped so much aid cash into the place already. But that’s not been done with any eye toward a return on investment. Or a lot of thought about sustainability. 
Until businesses see that Afghanistan is a viable investment, the country will continue to be reliant on foreign government funding. Which perpetuates the current exploitative arrangement of those kinds of funds, and the country can’t move forward until that changes.
How a Roomba on 'roids could fix a bombed runway
Someone never watched Doogie Howser, apparently
“These 20-year-olds don’t have PhDs. and sometimes you need a PhD to read a LIDAR.“ – Bobby Diltz with the Air Force Civil Engineer Command, underachiever
Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap
With apologies to AC/DC, that’s the goal for robotics both now and in the future: to do those jobs that are dirty, dangerous, and dull. And getting a runway back into operation after it gets bombed hits all three of those. So the Air Force is looking at the kind of technology that lets your Roomba vacuum your house to build robots that find and dispose of explosives along a runway and also get it repaired and running again.
FOD walk? We’ve got an app for that
Although we’ll miss the sight of airmen getting in a line and walking a runway looking for things that don’t belong, it’s a colossal drain on resources that could be put toward other things. And for a force that’s struggling to fill slots from maintainers up through pilots, finding a way to have more jobs done by machines is probably a good idea.
Hail, Skynet
Our robot overlords are coming, and this is how: by making it seem like they’re making our lives easier. But no matter how much we try to keep that genie in a bottle, at some point there won’t be any jobs left for the humans. And it all starts with a Roomba.
OK, I get how that sounds, but look at Facebook: since no one gave much thought to how the platform might be used, we ended up with a foreign power using the algorithm to manipulate another country’s election. We have to think more about the implications than we have to date, and not just how cool that next shiny thing is. 
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