Tuesday, February 3, 2015

All of this killing and we still don't agree on what is truly important, any more than how to achieve it.

This post was prompted by the Daily Beast article linked below.

It is telling when an article indicates the following:

"...The Pentagon has said airstrikes cannot defeat an ideology and that the war cannot be measured in numbers. But in an opaque war like this, many are leaning on such statistics to assess the air campaign..."

And when you then add the additional factor of having what ever ideology is in question being held by the "true believer," you enter a whole new realm of fixation and intransigence. 

So, as we then contemplate the trade offs of bad guys killed, in relation to the various forms of collateral damage, one is forced to ask: what are we to do about the growth of an extremist group hoping for nationhood? 

And let us not forget that the air campaign is not the only killing effort we have in place here. The Joint Special Operations Command has not only active military forces in play, but a wide ranging contingent of private contractors involved as well. Temporary boots on the ground doing more (hopefully) surgical strikes. But of course many of the recipients for these are added to the action lists by the very imperfect drone and satellite reconnaissance that cannot accurately tell us who is being killed, and the degree to which they are being replaced. Any more than it can give us any sense of efficacy.

The nominal view is that, if we do nothing, these people will grow in strength and then become far more capable of striking directly at us. They will also, of course, further destabilize the region so as to further enable the spread of their virulent ideology; eventually surrounding us even as they pound at will at various soft targets within our own borders.

That this kind of simplistic thinking has at least some small kernel of logic to it shouldn't blind us to what we would face even if this particular threat didn't exist. The fact of the matter is that we face a significant number of threats to life and limb and, as such, have to recognize what is always the primary reality. 

As a collective of individuals doing our best to cooperate socially we will always have a finite ability to both identify and then address those difficulties. The questions we need to ask ourselves in this process is what is most important in the host of requirements that revolve around protecting, preserving and providing what we need, as well as what we want. In that determination does there then come the corresponding array of trade offs as to what we choose to affect, or not affect, and the consequences that must then be accepted.

The problem as I see it is that we have evolved a social organizational model that does not allow us to properly engage in threat prioritization. This is so precisely because we are splintered by that organizational model into very narrow areas of task related interest. This model also compounds the problem because it makes having a level playing field in the arena of public discussion quite problematic. This is so because information has become simultaneously currency, commodity and arbiter of perception. The flow, therefore, of this vital element becomes subject to the needs and desires of task groups hardly ever on the same page.

Religious fanatics around the globe wanting to kill us is not the only problem we face. In fact, on a purely statistical mode of consideration, we are doing far more harm to ourselves on a day to day basis. The interesting thing in this regard, though, is that we seem to accept the trade offs of our own being put down for the material benefits we suppose we receive. We seldom have time, of course, to ask if we really are getting the best cost benefit ratios in these trade offs, and even if we had the time, the already mentioned tilted playing field would make such a debate at least as problematic.

We go on, killing ourselves, killing vast swaths of others around the globe, deservedly or not, and all the while not much changes, other than the faces and the labels that characterize and justify the killing. One can only hope that a point will come when we will make the time to stop and seriously begin to rethink the whole process of how priorities are determined and prosecuted. And that this point will occur before it all falls apart.