View profile

The only dead Somalis are bad Somalis

Realizing as I look over today's stories that I've pulled a lot of quotes in here, particularly the l
January 25 · Issue #20 · View online
5 NatSec Things
Realizing as I look over today’s stories that I’ve pulled a lot of quotes in here, particularly the last one. Which is exactly how it was written in the article I pulled it from. I feel a little lazy using up that much space to quote people, but in both cases it makes the point. 
I’m worried about where the world is heading, and that’s one of the reasons I do this newsletter. Because I think the United States is falling behind in a lot of things that made the country great, mainly leading from the front, a beacon of hope for the oppressed. 
Of course, having done more than a little bit of history digging this last year, I know that’s probably a myth, too. If your average American has been good at anything since the country was founded, it’s been at screwing over someone else. We’d like to believe that Trump doesn’t represent the US, but a vote for a man like that comes from somewhere. 
The US persists in a semi-TR capacity: We’re shouting like assholes, and maybe ours isn’t the biggest stick anymore. But sure as hell are trying to make everyone think it is. 
Today’s things: dead Somalis might be good ones; SpaceX has USAF confidence; medics do more with less; not ready for the next war; drone drivers need a break.

That dead Somali might be a good Somali after all
A couple of days ago one of the articles here was from the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), claiming that a US airstrike killed four people. All four people were totally bad guys and not a single innocent civilian among them. Which is not what a Guardian investigation found when they did some digging. 
Turns out that more Somali civilians than the Americans are letting on are dying as the result of air strikes in Somalia. Here’s where this gets weird: the majority of those civilian deaths? Caused by Kenyans.
Which puts the US back(ish) on the moral high ground. Sure there’s a lack of transparency about where the Americans are dropping bombs every day. And it worries me that US officials aren’t more forthcoming about that. 
But where the US fails is in how it works with its partners. In theory the Kenyans are after the same thing as the Americans: turning anyone that’s al-Shabaab or an affiliate into a find red mist. But the US still has qualms about doing so while putting civilians into harm’s way. 
But since you can’t make an anti-terror omelet without breaking some civilian eggs, national security pragmatism trumps humanity. And the US, while not directly responsible, is pretty OK with the end result. Even if some good Somalis have to die in the process. 
SpaceX loses satellite, not Air Force confidence SpaceX loses satellite, not Air Force confidence
While Thompson’s comments were carefully qualified – he emphasized that “the Air Force will continue to evaluate data from all launches” – they bolstered SpaceX’s position that its Falcon 9 rocket apparently “did everything correctly” in the mission code-named Zuma.
That may increase scrutiny of Northrop Grumman Corp., which oversaw the mission and built the satellite as well as the coupling to release it from the second-stage rocket.
Northrop has repeatedly declined to discuss its role in the mission. Spokesman Tim Paynter has said “we cannot comment on classified missions.”
Like I said, I’m using a lot of quotes this issue, but this is a super interesting exchange. Check out how Elon Musk’s SpaceX gets a pass, and Northrop Grumman goes right under the bus. Without even being mentioned. 
This is actually pretty great: the Air Force can honestly say they never once mentioned Grumman, while not exactly giving SpaceX a ringing endorsement. Because the great SpaceX experiment has to work. For everyone’s sake. 
Part of the appeal of the Falcon 9 system is cost: SpaceX claims that it can relaunch a refurbished rocket at half the cost of building a brand new one. Which, in this age of shrinking budgets, the Air Force (and any other government customers) have to like. And the Air Force doesn’t want to look like they picked the lowest bidder and it just blew up in their faces.
The future of space flight is SpaceX and similar ventures, and the Air Force knows it. Wants to make it work. They’re this close to success, and it looks like it’s up to Grumman to seal that deal. 
Medics doing more with less try to stretch the golden hour
It’s a lesson the Green Berets in Africa are learning the hard way after the comparative luxury of MEDEVAC assets in places like Iraq and Afghanistan: that helo you just called for might be a few hours out. So how do you keep your patient stable long enough for them to reach next level medical care? 
That’s the point behind the Expeditionary Combat Medic program: giving deployed medics higher levels of medical training to make sure their buddies survive. Because the days of having a helo showing up within minutes of being called may be no more. 
Which is what happens when you deploy troops into harm’s way in a lot of places, and you don’t have the assets you once did to get jobs done the way you’re used to doing them. Everything changes, from close air support to MEDEVAC to living conditions while deployed. 
The US military post-GWOT is going to have to learn how to do even more with even less. Which, is a mantra of military service. It’s part of the appeal for those who serve. And that’s all good, until that attitude means more people die who didn’t have to because someone overextended their lines of support. 
Budgeting for this war means we're not ready for the next one
It’s tough to parse out the rhetoric whenever someone’s crying “Wolf” out of the military industrial complex, but this is a real problem: a lack of innovation today means not being able to counter new threats tomorrow. Sure, there’s some Big Defense argumentation here, since defense contractors aren’t getting the kind of money they once did. 
But there is that element of alarming truth that underlies the complaints about thin wallets, and it’s a lack of future planning on the part of budget builders. If all you’re thinking about is maintaining the force to fight wars today, means you may not be ready to fight them tomorrow. 
Being the biggest dog in the fight won’t matter if next time the dog’s smarter than you. Or better equipped than you. Because that dog’s owner had the foresight to upgrade his claws. 
OK, that illustration got away from me a little bit. 
The point, though, is that for a lot of years US defense spending has been focused on keeping the wars going. Which are stupidly expensive. Maybe it’s time to start putting some of that money away for the next one.
Predator drivers need dwell time, too
This was written by a USAF pilot with time in both manned and unmanned aircraft roles. And he’s saying he’d rather go overseas in an actual airplane to a shooting war than to be part of the current MQ-9 Reaper community. Because when your’re “deployed in-garrison” and working out of the trailer park at Creech? The war never stops happening. 
He goes into the usual points about killing and how people need a break. I’ve been one of those who looked at drone pilots as just being overgrown video game jockeys. Because how bad can it be when you’re looking at a war thousands of miles away through a screen?
Pretty bad, as it turns out. Worth putting this one in your “read later” pile. If you don’t, do read this: it’s a damning summary of what life is like for a new MQ-9 pilot. Something needs to be done to mitigate this, because, like all the other units the US has come to rely on in the way we do war, the Reaper community would appear to be at the breaking point. 
Walk for a brief moment in the shoes of a hypothetical new MQ-9 pilot: They are, on average, 23 years old and entering a unit for the first time. Because the squadron is always flying combat, there is no “Hail and Farewell” event to greet them and ease the transition. The first interaction with their new squadron mates is attending the brief to fly combat missions. Two-thirds of the squadron won’t know they exist for another year or two. Scheduling limitations result in their “weekend” only falling on a Saturday and Sunday about once every six weeks. Once every four and a half months that weekend coincides with a normal “day-shift” circadian rhythm. That means that only once every four and a half months, an airman is off on a Friday and Saturday evening with the chance to socialize and form friendships in a manner consistent with most airmen in their early twenties. Additionally, this weekend is only spent with airmen on their same exact schedule, roughly six officers in a squadron of 50. If their closest friends aren’t one of those six, too bad. That airman could go five years without spending any off-time with them.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Thumbs up 1ae5a7bdfcd3220e2b376aa0c1607bc5edaba758e5dd83b482d03965219a220b Thumbs down e13779fa29e2935b47488fb8f82977fedcf689a0cc0cc3c19fa3c6bb14d1493b
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here
Powered by Revue