Let’s say you’re the manager of a large company. You have an employee named Sia, who works in R&D. You don’t hear much talk about Sia, except at periodic, unpredictable Performance Reviews. At each Performance Review, for years, Sia is shown to be very bad at her job. She squanders enormous budgets and makes errors so egregious as to endanger the ongoing viability of the entire company. As a clear-thinking, rational Manager, how would you deal with a failure like Sia?
A) Fire Sia on the spot, with full benefits and pension intact
B) Fire Sia on the spot and push to withhold any further payments
C) Hold Sia for further questioning about her activities before turning her over to the authorities
D) Thank Sia for trying her best under difficult circumstances, promote her to a higher position and offer her a substantial raise in hopes the extra money will encourage her to do a better job until her next disastrous Performance Review
If you answered “D,” then you may pronounce yourself well-satisfied with the way we the American People have dealt with our CIA, FBI, NSA and every other government agency charged with knowing about bad stuff before it happens.
They’re not very good at what they do, yet we consistently reward the Masters of Oopsie with promotions, more money to squander and enhanced extra-constitutional powers, hoping that this time they won’t miss the next mass shooter or backpack bomber. Actually our “hoping” is more like praying for salvation, with no rational basis to believe our prayers will be answered, only a “gut feeling” that what we believe is real because we believe it to be real.
After every terrorism incident in the United States – the San Bernardino shoot-up is the latest – subsequent investigations reveal that relevant information, such as documented declarations of violent intent, were “overlooked,” or were “not developed properly.” You could stock one wing of your private library with all the finely researched award-winning books that have painstakingly illustrated how the 9/11 attacks could (and should) have been prevented. Since that colossal failure of American Intelligence, we’ve continued to throw massive amounts of money at services which ultimately will fail us again. What have we gotten in return? More cameras. Less privacy. More fearfulness and suspicion. Less human contact.
The same cost-benefit analysis can be applied to the United States Military. What has all the trillions we’ve spent really bought us? If it’s a sense of peace and security you were seeking, you’ve received a very poor return on investment. The truth, of course, is that our military and our intelligence services do quite the opposite of “keep us safe.” Follow the trail on this one:
+ The male shooter in the San Bernardino attack was “radicalized” four years before the shooting, information that was easy to deduce in retrospect but seemingly impossible to know in advance.
+ The female shooter in the San Bernardino attack was raised in Pakistan, in a region where the Obama Administration’s CIA, staffed by many of the same failures as the Bush Administration, has carried out more than 100 drone missions, some of which have killed civilians, including families attending weddings. The shooter’s family connections to the region were easy to trace in retrospect but seemingly impossible to know in advance.
Let’s pretend this is an essay question on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. In the scenario above, do you think the CIA and NSA increased or decreased the safety of Americans. Explain your reasons.
What’s most difficult to stomach for the real patriots among us is the ideological similarity between how the Bad Guys and the Good Guys handle their business. The Bad Guys kill to provoke the Good Guys into killing. The Good Guys become righteous killers and the Bad Guys become a pest to be exterminated and soon there’s so much killing that the Bad Guys are able to convince millions of people that they are in fact the Good Guys and the ones that are telling their people, their followers, that they are the Good Guys are actually Bad Guys spreading evil pernicious lies, which is all the more reason why this version of Bad Guys needs to be wiped out, no matter how much the Good Guys must employ tactics that are strangely analogous to the murderousness promulgated by the Bad Guys.
Without neckties and turbans to distinguish them, can you tell them apart?
Cynics claim this self-perpetuating cycle of mayhem is executed on purpose, with a full understanding of strategic consequences on both sides. Conspiracies abound, no doubt. But even without a secret agreement between Big Oil and Islamic State, or Raytheon and the Fox Network, the virtually inevitable outcome of our current way of doing things is obviously going to be more war, more fear, more security apparatuses, more hatred, and ultimately most important, more business. Game out the potential scenarios however you imagine; the outcome is never going to be peace and prosperity for all living beings.
And that doesn’t seem very intelligent.