A Hopeful Thought On Memorial Day

Much has been written about the potential to replace menial and dangerous jobs with machines. One of those dangerous jobs that is already being replaced by machines is the foot soldier. Over the past decade the US has ramped up its drone program and reduced the number of men and women we put in harms way in service of our foreign policy and national security goals.

It’s worth a national discussion about the morality and legality of using machines to take out our enemies. We haven’t had that as far as I can tell. And we should.

But the truth is we are fighting more and more of our warfare with unmanned machines and the trend is clearly in that direction. It’s hard for me to see how we turn around and go back.

So while it is not entirely clear to me how this plays out over time, it does suggest that we may be burying less of our young men and women in military cemeteries in the coming years. Which is a hopeful thought on this memorial day in which we remember our fallen soldiers.

#Random Posts

Comments (Archived):

  1. gregorylent

    Memorial Day: remembering people that died while killing innocent people all over the world.wish a quarter of the brains that went into tech, into apps, into home run ipos would go into reinventing government .. ours is insane

    1. Mario Cantin

      Yep, warfare is insanity, and so is “an eye for an eye”, actually. But technology alone won’t do it; it’ll obviously have to be a marriage of technology and philosophy that’ll determine whether the future is utopian or dystopian.

    2. pointsnfigures

      Agree that war is horrible. But, your initial point about killing innocent people is just not true. Innocent people die in wars but it’s not as if US soldiers routinely go out and become heartless killers. Listen to interviews from people that liberated prison camps on both sides of the world at the end of WW2. As technology has gotten better, collateral damage from battle has gone down.

      1. Pete Griffiths

        No it hasn’t, as even a cursory examination of the facts about Hiroshima and Nagasaki will make plain.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Collateral damage in the current war compared to WW2 is significantly less. More than 3 std deviations away from the mean less. If we examine the facts about dropping the nuclear bomb back in WW2, it was better for America to drop it than not drop it. Millions of lives were saved on each side. Truman made the correct decision, and the pilots of the planes had zero regrets. Neither do the people that would have been tapped to invade.

          1. Pete Griffiths

            I can’t compare the collateral damage in ‘the current war compared to WW2’ but I would like to see a good reference for that.As for the situation on dropping the bombs, you are mistaken, a very common mistake. You are reiterating the post hoc justification for the decision made by then Secretary of State Stimson. I am well aware of this (the ‘saved 500, 000 America lives) narrative. It was in fact promoted by Stimson to head off the growing reaction against the bombing, in many instances led by religious groups. The substantive scholarship on this was initiated by Gar Alperovitz – then of Princeton. For a good start on a more substantive position: “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb” is a good start. There is an enormous amount of historical evidence supporting his account. Needless to say, this more nuanced position is somewhat harder to accept than the Stimson account.

          2. PrometheeFeu

            Assuming that tradeoff (the murder of so many innocent bystanders in exchange for the lives of soldiers) is acceptable, the US could have tried demonstrating its weapon at lower cost such as by dropping it on an uninhabited area or maybe military targets. Maybe the Japanese would not have yielded without the callous murder of innocents. But they did not even try. They dropped nuclear weapons on civilian targets. Truman deployed WMDs on a civilian target and then he did it again. Consider what the US response is to anyone who does this nowadays.

          3. pointsnfigures

            Great blackboard analysis-but the reality of the time flies in the face of it. The Japanese leadership was fanatical, and their army fought to the death. Additionally, the goal was “unconditional surrender” and not a negotiated one. Doubtful Japanese leadership would have gone for unconditional surrender by seeing a demonstration.

          4. PrometheeFeu

            Frankly, the story of the fanatical Japanese is getting old. They surrendered unconditionally when facing nuclear weapons, they didn’t keep fighting. We should have tried to demonstrate nuclear weapons in a way that did not kill >100,000 civilians first. Using the bombing of population centers as a first resort was monstrous.And if your goal requires murdering 100,000 people you should maybe reconsider if some lesser goal can be achieved without killing so many people. Not reevaluating your goal when you face such a cost is the sign of moral blindness. It is to be expected of elected officials of course, but nonetheless unfortunate. Maybe negotiated surrender would have been good enough if it allowed 100,000 fewer people to be murdered.

          5. pointsnfigures

            I suggest you re-check your history here: nationalww2museum.org.

          6. PrometheeFeu

            Anything in particular? Because I don’t usually fly across the country for internet debates.

          7. pointsnfigures

            That’s why I gave you a virtual link. Plenty of oral histories, documents, and blogposts to research on the War in the Pacific. Additionally, I had the pleasure of speaking with Hugh Ambrose (who passed away May 23). He researched and wrote The Pacific. Virtually no one except revisionist historians think it was a bad idea to drop the atom bomb on Japan. If you total up all the Allied soldiers, all the Japanese soldiers, and all the Japanese people that would have passed away with a land invasion dropping the bomb prior to an invasion made perfect sense. Fewer lives were lost.

          8. PrometheeFeu

            Perhaps you can point me to where they explain that trying to demonstrate the bomb on an uninhabited area first would have prevented the same result. My claim is not that there was a way to reach the same result without bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am unsure. My point is that there were other options which should have been tried first.

    3. Matt Zagaja

      If you are a developer Code for America is accepting applications for their fellowships to do exactly that: http://www.codeforamerica.o….They also have resources available to start local volunteer “brigades” that are working to improve and reinvent government.There is incredible work coming out of places like NYC and Chicago in this space. The federal government is now getting on the bandwagon through its 18F organization.Mike Bloomberg is sponsoring work from the Behavior Insights Team in cities through his foundation to use behavior science in government.Technology is transforming government today and it is some of the most exciting work coming out of the sector.

  2. William Mougayar

    There was a documentary about that, America Building Robots Army for Future.https://www.youtube.com/wat

  3. awaldstein

    Becoming more convinced that one of the greatest failures of our culture is the lack of care for our veterans.We go about our lives, these people are on the wall watching our backs and often pay the price for the remainder of their lives. In silence.Numbers are staggering about how many have issues, how poorly as a society we address them.Wondering if your thoughts are a back door into addressing this by reducing the size of problem.

    1. Joe Cardillo

      Agree, I have 3-4 friends who are veterans and they need so much more support than is now available to them. The VA has improved a lot in the last decade though so am thankful for that.

    2. LE

      We go about our lives, these people are on the wall watching our backs and often pay the price for the remainder of their lives. In silence.It is very sad and this is really just another unfortunate case of people who don’t have a voice, or any economic advantages, getting the shitty seat at the table in life. The same reason “ordinary” people get shafted and others with more power and/or moeny can prevent the view from their window being blocked or a road being built through their backyard. [1]Wondering if your thoughts are a back door into addressing this by reducing the size of problem.Actually sounds like a great way to market the concept. I hadn’t even thought of that in relation to what Fred was saying. That really is the basis for many war decisions (for example Hiroshima) that is in the end those difficult decisions actually limit the casualties.[1] I don’t think there is a solution to this either. I mean from popular culture and from what I have read even in a prison population some are more equal than others.

    3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      @awaldstein – Agree 100% – if we factored in *all* costs of prosecuting war we might be less likely to get involved.

  4. Pristine

    “It’s worth a national discussion about the morality and legality of using machines to take out our enemies.” Sure, but it is even *more* worth to discuss the morality and legality of using machines to take out civilians — usually 90% of the deaths (weddings, etc.) are not enemies at all but regular civilians, women, children. The shame of our generation.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s what i meant

  5. WA

    We are going to see a Good Kill today. We were just speaking about the conversation of moral relativism it will provide on a Memorial Day Monday. To all of you and your families that have served and sacrificed in the AVC community – Thank you.

  6. John Frankel

    Machines bring around asymmetrical risk as they become more effective at lower costs. What starts out as a good idea comes back to haunt you.

    1. fredwilson

      Thats what I was referring to with “its not entirely clear how this plays out over time”

    2. Pete Griffiths

      Drones are an outstanding asymmetric weapon.

  7. William Mougayar

    I wish one day that Information wars can be as effective as physical wars. That way, the voices of reason will prevail, and nobody dies.

    1. Joe Cardillo

      Was thinking the same thing. Although less in the realm of hacking critical infrastructure like water and energy delivery and more towards data science competitions of some sort between nations.

    2. Pete Griffiths

      Good luck with that. Sadly, the evidence appears to suggest that information, irrespective of its quality, does not change minds. It is therefore unlikely to expect it to reduce conflict.

      1. William Mougayar

        I know it’s in part wishful thinking on my part, but if you think about it, there are ideologies that are formed as a result of information or mis-information, then people decide to go to war based on what they believe. There are such currents that are going on that didn’t exist 20-30 years ago, and they are the result of new beliefs. We need to counter that too with an information war.

  8. Al Mazzone

    Fred,Thank you for this post recalling what we originally commemorated on this holiday.Based on my limited wartime experience (VN – one tour) I believe as long as our politicians and circumstances place this country in combat situations, we have to move away from placing our men and women on the front lines. In addition to the obvious benefit of reducing our casualties, with the right technology we could also reduce the non-combat casualties of the other side.Requiring a tired, sometimes inexperienced, often frightened, soldier to make life and death decisions on a daily basis is not a formula for minimizing unintended civilian casualties. While we can’t give away our moral responsibilities to our technology/machines, we can try to develop a framework that minimizes loss on both sides.

    1. awaldstein

      Great comment. Thanks for this.

    2. Twain Twain

      Elon Musk on Google unintentionally creating robots that annihilate Mankind:* http://www.washingtonpost.c…To me, frame working and teaching the machines to CONSIDER (THINK & DO WITH CARE) and thereby understand the value of humans as well as human values is the most important imperative anyone working in AI can do.That’s why about 5 years ago I started on the hard journey of doing this and trying to figure some more things out.

      1. Al Mazzone

        Not nearly enough attention is paid to this (CONSIDER, THINK and DO WITH CARE) during combat training. It mostly focuses on acquiring defensive and offensive skills and not so much on situational contingencies. Further, under the stress of continual engagement, it is wishful thinking to expect soldiers to make the same careful judgments they would make in calmer circumstances.If we can teach machines caring human values, they may be better equipped than we are to maintain them under stress. Of course, they may also decide that killing humans makes no sense in most circumstances, and we could witness the first robot peace march.

        1. Twain Twain

          One of the arguments given for why we should use machines instead of people in warfare is, “The machines don’t feel guilt and aren’t traumatized by killing — unlike humans.”Now, that means they have 0 constructs of the emotional value of Life.Also, unlike a human soldier they have no constructs of mercy, barbarism, heroism, valor or courage in saving the life of someone either.There are philosophical debates in AI circles about whether we should program emotions into the machines and how that happens and affects their intelligence.It is a double-edged sword: enabling them with emotions means they can manipulate us in unethical ways, potentially enslaving us after they’ve won the psychological warfare. Not enabling them means they would kill without feeling anything towards us and the values we hold dear.These are the biggest and most important debates to be had in our time so it’s great @fredwilson:disqus is opening up the dialogue.

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Great concise position – Do you blog anywhere ?

          2. Twain Twain

            No, I don’t blog. I build tech from first principles.

          3. ShanaC

            Based on the way our own brains work, I’m not sure we can avoid giving ai emotions. They are there to help us think logically

          4. Twain Twain

            The first emotion being programmed into the machines is…anger.* http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…There are emerging emotion frameworks for the machines and none of those frameworks make sense, imo — even the ones from W3C.It’s likely we’ll discover in the debates to be had that what we’ve historically and mathematically defined as Logic and logical will also change.

    3. Dave Pinsen

      It’s interesting to consider the results of the actual history of war technology. A big milestone occurred during Vietnam, as you know, with the development of laser-guided bombs. Those bombs stopped the armored invasion of South Vietnam in 1973, and, together with the later satellite-guided munitions, promised “surgical” air strikes instead of the carpet bombing of World War II.And yet, with all that technology, our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dragged on and on miserably. One or both may still be going on, who knows. The media doesn’t cover them as closely as it did ten years ago.Granted, part of the problem had nothing to do with technology. It had to do with ignorance about the unlikeliness of successful nation building in either country. But false confidence in “surgical” technology probably made our leaders overconfident in the odds of success.Maybe war would be better without drones or precision munitions, because 1) we’d be less likely to go to war unless it was absolutely necessary, and 2) when we did go to war, we’d have to use enough brute force to actually win.It’s interesting that, today, America is much more popular in Japan, which we bombed mercilessly (even before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were killing tens of thousands of civilians with conventional fire bombings per raid) than Iraq, where we used precision munitions.

    4. ShanaC

      Yes, but, maybe we should reinstate the draft. We’ve made the consequences of war less real. That’s not good either

      1. Dan Epstein

        I’d support a “draft” where all young men and women volunteered for a few years either for military or civil service.

        1. ShanaC

          I’m fine with this

      2. PrometheeFeu

        Putting uwilling human shields in Congress’s and the President’s path is not an acceptable solution. As one of the people so many are fond of forcibly throwing in the meatgringer to punish Congress for its folly, I do not consent to my life being thrown away in your political campaign, no matter how just your goal. Please consider what the draft means to its victims before using it as a political tool. It was always evil to coerce people in this manner and it still is today.

        1. ShanaC

          That’s exactly why we should reinstate it. So not Americans aren’t used as grinders got meat and we lose an understanding of what war means

          1. PrometheeFeu

            First, there is very little reason to believe that reinstating the draft would reduce the incidence of war. To the contrary, it would make war a lot cheaper from the military’s perspective. (no need to recruit people, you can just violently coerce people into joining) In addition, with the cost being much more spread out throughout society, it makes it harder to organize an opposition to the war. (See public choice theory for much evidence which shows larger groups of people have a harder time forwarding their interests than smaller groups of people.)Second, there is substantial evidence which shows that the military acts with much less regard for the lives of soldiers when there is a draft than when there isn’t. From the military’s point of view, draftees are a quasi-infinite supply while recruits are expensive.Third, you have not responded to the moral arguments. I am somebody who might be drafted if there was a draft. Why is it acceptable to coerce me under threat of violence into involuntary servitude to the military? Why is it acceptable to again without my consent, force me into a situation where I would risk grave injury or death? Why is it acceptable to tear me away from my family? Why is it acceptable to jeopardize my financial future and that of my family by taking me away from my economic endeavors? (My spouse couldn’t pay a mortgage without me and so if we owned a house we would go into default if I was drafted) Why is it acceptable to force me to commit acts which I find morally abhorrent? Why do you think it is ok to point a gun at my head and threaten to pull the trigger if Congress goes to war? Because that is frankly what reinstituting the draft is. It’s taking people like me hostage.

  9. Marissa_NYx

    The key question to ask first is the morality of war – why do we have war , what is its point. Where and when will it end.My granddad was an Italian / American who served in the US army in WWI. When war broke out , he was a teenager working on a farm in Ohio. He thought he should return to Europe to be closer to his family. On the day he was due to leave, a letter arrived from his brother urging him to stay in the US, if he returned to Europe he would be put on the front line. No one was returning from the front line, all the young men were being killed. I have my grandad’s American Legion badge, I will pass it to my children so they too can understand the strength and courage of service men & women before them who put their lives on the line for their country. It is also appropriate to use this time to create a dialogue and reflect on the senseless acts that led to much of my grandad’s generation, his brothers, cousins , friends being wiped out on the front line. My grandad was lucky. As am I today to be here and sharing this story.War is an invention of fear. It creates suffering and hate. There are no winners in war . Let’s use our powers and tech prowess to create ” peace tech ” instead of “war tech”. Let’s use the drones to deliver food, books and essential supplies to kids & families around the world who are less fortunate than we are. Let’s use tech to create a dialogue for peace, to advocate for the morality of peace , not for war. We owe that to the fallen and to our children on this Memorial Day.

    1. Matt Kruza

      A sensitive subject to be sure, but its simply not true that there are no winners in war. Without war, the US does not exist (and billions of people would have less freedom). Without war (or at least the US and others engaging in a battle) Europe would all be under Hitler’s watch, and he very well may have executed every Jew on the planet. Without war many other people’s would be chronically oppressed. Make no mistake, I would love for there never to be war again. But it is a continuum of social, technological, and economic progress that allow for those conditions. However, without a strong military, there can never be peace, because anyone could be a tyrant if there is not a “more righteous” stronger military power to defend those systems I just talked about. I only call this out because it is dangerous to focus too high level on “peace”, without understanding how much of the sausage needs to be made to allow that peace. The world is a more peaceful place based on almost any historical metric (% of people involved in war, deaths, murder rates worldwide, freedom of expression is 10x what it ever was through out history). I believe as Reagan put it (sensing you might not be a fan of his, but I could be wrong), “peace through strength”.

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        > Without war, …. XYZ does not happenThis is an assumption that denies the possibility of better outcomes than those which include enormous death suffering and fear not to mention massive economic burdens.I am not saying war does not bring about any some positive outcomes – I do however deny absolutely that positive outcomes are impossible without war

        1. Matt Kruza

          So in the long-run I agree. A world with much less war is better and possible. In fact we are living in it. But without the US as the dominant military power we would have more war. There would have been a complete 100% invasion and annihilation of Ukraine by Russia without the US. So I guess I share your vision for reduced warfare in the future, but again “peace trough strength” needs to be the model, otherwise bad actors can ruin any form of peace. Perhaps this comment is more clear than my first

  10. Salt Shaker

    We’re vacationing about 2hrs north of Lisboa in a Pousada (a castle) that’s been turned into a high end hotel. Quite beautiful and historic. The history of the castle is riddled w/ centuries of mass killings and the pillaging of innocents. Yes, technology and the tools of warfare certainly has evolved, yet a goal of not bringing harm to one another sadly hasn’t. Far too much violence and extremism in today’s world that sadly reflects the history of mankind. Thank you to all who have served; your service and sacrifices are very much appreciated!

  11. Lorien Gabel

    At the moment we have ‘exclusive’ use of the technology supporting drones. But as has always been the case with new weapon systems, it will not be long before drones become available and commonly used by many more combatants including our ‘enemies’.We are now effectively setting the rules for acceptable use of this technology within civilian and battlefield theaters.We should be doing so with the assumption we will not be the only ones with these capabilities in the very near future.

    1. fredwilson


    2. BillMcNeely

      actually the Isrealis having been using drones for nearly 30 years.

    3. PeterisP

      USA has nowhere near a monopoly on drone technology, drones have been used by both sides in the current Ukraine conflict, arguably with some parts licenced from Israel and other foreign countries, but still the tech is available from many countries from Europe to Asia.

      1. Lorien Gabel

        I did not mean literally ‘exclusive’ – but at moment drones are the provence of 1st world combatants. But like all technology cycles drones will be available to more and more combatants – including non state actors. How we use these weapons now will become an important part of the normative rules – and we should keep that in mind as we lose the (effective) monopoly on this weapon systems.

  12. Talk to the Wall

    Have a look at http://blog.longreads.com/2… the French got there first in this bit of thinking, not unusual

  13. Ken Greenwood

    Well said…lots to think about as we move forward.

  14. Tom Labus

    We’ve been at war since Ike warned us about being at war all the time.

  15. vruz

    A nice thought. Unfortunately it is only correct depending how you count.50,897 US service men and women have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone since 2001. Afghanistan is apparently ongoing, and Iraq is only nominally finished.(And Iraq and Afghanistan are only the two major disasters, but there is more)That’s 48,745 more than the 2152 deaths that happened in all previous armed conflicts since 1958.That’s 50,897 deaths more, in less than 14 years, without accounting for the injured and the severely impaired.So, no, machines kill more people, they don’t save more people, in part because the armed conflicts have been escalated, instigated, outsourced, and ramped up in other countries.I can sure wish and be hopeful for a lot of things, but I believe that the only actually moral thought and action is to do everything within our powers to make sure that there is no war of any kind, and nobody gets killed anymore.This may be the only way we can achieve peace without innocent people murdered by the millions, or servicemen killed, or auto-eliminated in vanity for-profit wars that should have never happened in the first place.I share the hope, but I don’t share the notion –not even the doubt– that having better killing machines may possibly be of any good to anyone anywhere.It´s a profoundly immoral thought, in my view.

    1. PhilipSugar

      That is just plain wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…58,209 in Vietnam6,717 in all war on terror since 2001Please get facts straight

        1. PhilipSugar

          That is great!!!! There is enough spouting of opinion as fact around here, but when you get something so totally wrong I can’t just let that one go.

    2. JLM

      .Your numbers are hopelessly wrong. Not even close.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. vruz

        If I were to judge by the replies to this post alone, the authors would seem to be more concerned about numbers than about the people who die.Which was the point, not the precision of the numbers.These replies are hopeless, in my humble opinion.

        1. JLM

          .You do have some responsibility to be both accurate and know WTF you’re talking about to take part in an intelligent discussion, no?Do not lecture me about wars and death. I have been there.I have had to tell their mothers — face to face — that their sons were dead and I have delivered their bodies to their fathers.It is an odious duty and it makes you careful. Careful enough to know WTF you’re talking about.JLM

          1. LE

            It is an odious duty and it makes you careful. Careful enough to know WTFWe are living in the age of unlimited “do overs”. People no longer think that they have to be as careful.I was reminded of this when I saw the way my younger wife deals with things (being raised by a different generation of parent) than I was. I was raised with “wear a coat or you will catch a cold”. Forgetting whether that is right nor not (apparently it’s not but let’s go with it) my parents were like that because when they were growing up (as with your father I”m sure) if you got sick you could die. [1] There was no magic bullet to bring you back to life. As a result you needed to be more careful. My wife’s parents were products of the 60’s. When medicine had advanced to the point where you could almost take chances like Lee Majors (bionic man tv show or whatever it was called).[1] In the case of my father in the concentration camps if you got sick and couldn’t work you would die no question about that.

          2. LE

            Likewise (to my other comment “do overs”) I was raised in an era where if you failed you were a failure not the culture today where failure is viewed as just another almost positive life experience.

          3. JLM

            .The age of unlimited do overs and the T-ball approach to life.JLMwww.themusingofthebigredcar…

          4. vruz

            I don’t see any sign of intelligence in your repeated use of “WTF”.You are trying to use your perceived –and I can only assume justly earned– authoritativeness on matters of war, when what I was talking about was about getting more peace.I’m talking about the water, and you insist on talking about the fire.I have nothing to say to you, I didn’t talk to you, and I don’t expect to have a conversation with you on that matter.I’m sorry for what you had to experience, my whole point is I don’t want anybody to ever experience that again.Additionally, I’m more sorry for the innocent victims than I am for you, or for any other warriors.

  16. pointsnfigures

    Israel is experimenting with drones to clear minefields. I think it’s a good idea. We are already using unmanned aircraft, and the Navy is experimenting with unmanned submarines. The Marine Corps is using robotic donkeys to haul equipment. It is here and it’s now-and yes, we should be having a discussion about it.What happens when there is no human cost in the calculation of war? I am not as concerned about America abusing technological advances, but what about totalitarian regimes or dictators?A few years ago, I was having breakfast with 6 Medal of Honor recipients. We were talking about the limited number of Medal of Honor recipients there were in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them remarked, “We have nothing to do with the issuance of the Medal. But, the nature of combat today is that it is less hand to hand than previous wars. That’s why it’s likely that fewer Medals will be given.”Imagine a war fought by robots. Very weird to think about but not so far fetched.Shameless plug for the National World War Two Museum livestream today: http://livestream.com/nww2m

    1. LE

      What happens when there is no human cost in the calculation of war?We can already see what happens with that with suicide bombers and ISIS or Al Queda. Any enemy that doesn’t have to take into account human cost has an almost unbeatable advantage.

  17. Guy Gamzu

    Technology is more than drones and robots that take lives (and potentially save others). It is also warfare intelligence, cyber security as well as anti offensive weaponry designed only to directly protect lives.Unfortunately, almost every ‘advanced’ technology can be a double edged sword. So it isn’t much about what we develop. It is rather who uses it.I wish we could somehow impact human nature.

    1. fredwilson


  18. Thor Snilsberg

    After remembering the veterans and families who gave their time and lives in service, the key theme in Fred’s post is “discussion.” Without discussing the pros, cons, ethics, etc on modern day issues like drones, we are remiss in our democratic opportunity/responsibility to collectively frame the choices we have about going to war, using drones…Yesterday’s “rinse and repeat” post raised interesting ideas about the “power of networks – of the connected society – to expand knowledge, deliver economic opportunity and solve big problems (energy, health, education, etc) in ways that haven’t been possible previously.”Continuing to highlight the value of networks to society, “there are many important sectors still operating under inefficient bureaucratic hierarchical model, which are ripe to be re-architected in a network model.” It is sadly ironic that more often than not our democratically elected government can be added to that list.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Right, I was glad to see Senator Rand Paul push to discuss the Patriot Act on the floor of the Senate.

      1. Thor Snilsberg

        Yes! I would welcome more Patriot Act debate on the floor of congress AND in more cafes, living rooms and public squares for that matter.

        1. pointsnfigures

          http://arstechnica.com/tech… Me too. It’s happening on the right wing, and I think it’s happening on the left. We need to get over our fear, and think clearly about it. Patriot Act was hastily passed in a moment of intense fear and stress-huge bureaucracy.

      2. Pete Griffiths

        Do you think that’s what he was doing?

        1. pointsnfigures

          I think Paul wants to have a clear and open debate about it; based on the precepts the framers of the Constitution had when they invented America. What’s unreasonable search and seizure in a virtual world? It’s similar to the topic Fred brings up and the debate is worthy.

          1. Pete Griffiths

            I just wondered to what degree this desire to debate the matter, no matter how worthy, was his primary motivation. I agree it’s a worthy debate.

  19. PrometheeFeu

    Memorial Day is a weird celebration. Many who died, died in the service of morally-dubious causes. Sometimes morally abhorrent ones. Why should those who answer the call under such circumstances be celebrated? Rather than celebrate those who put themselves at Congress and the President’s disposal, we should castigate them for putting themselves in a situation where they risk being an accessory to evil. A military is necessary, but it should not be celebrated.

    1. Sam

      You celebrate them because they died for your country, because they died for you. (Assume you are American.) It’s a different thing to call into question the people and the policies behind their service. Memorial Day is about setting aside the latter — and recognizing the supreme sacrifice of the former.

      1. PrometheeFeu

        Many of them died in an attempt to do something actively harmful and sometimes even downright evil. The fact that they did it in my name or in the name of my country does not make what they did or were trying to do OK, much less praise-worthy. I refuse to celebrate evil simply because it screamed my name as it charged to its well-deserved doom. I will celebrate the many people who do something good, but celebrating those who do wrong shows a lack of judgement.

        1. Stephen Voris

          There are ways to disagree without being disagreeable. If you have any intention of convincing people to share your opinion, I suggest you use one here.

          1. PrometheeFeu

            I hold the views I do because of the arguments I advance. I am sorry you find what I say disagreeable. But I do not seek to convince all. I merely sought to rebut the arguments advanced against me so that others may see. I do not believe the person who responded to me could be convinced on this issue. They obviously tied their emotions and identity to a certain answer. Ultimately “respect for the dead” and “duty owed to those who fight and die for their country” is a common cultural phenomenon and I doubt many can be convinced of abandoning such a socially-privileged belief. I merely hope that some will see dissent and think for themselves on the matter rather than keep on holding the view that was taught to them.

          2. Stephen Voris

            I find what you say outright false in certain places, as it happens – Memorial Day has not, in my experience, been a time for celebration, nor do I think the ad-hominem implicit in your “shows a lack of judgement” remark applies. At an individual level, the average time between signing up and actual combat is long enough to render predictions of (in)justice speculative at best. It’s not like the military gets extra votes when picking the president, after all. Of course there are soldiers who die trying to do things which are wrong – but this is hardly specific to soldiers, or nationalities for that matter.

          3. PrometheeFeu

            My point is that when you sign up, you sign up for Congress, the President and the military telling you what to do. Given the history of those institutions you should expect a very significant chance of being told to do something ethically wrong. That in and of itself is not wrong. But when the wrong is asked of you and you do it, you should be held responsible for your actions. After all, you knew this was a risk.And I do not claim that soldiers are the only people who act wrongly. (Though war gives them many more opportunities to do so) But they get a day when they are honored because they sacrificed themselves in the pursuit of some goal. That honor should be contingent upon the goal having been a good one. “For your country” is not good enough.

      2. Sam

        This is a story about a friend of mine. Respectfully, I’d ask that you read it and then consider how the person just might be separate from the politics. Dave didn’t deserve to die, but he did. His son didn’t deserve to grow up without his father, but he does. We remember them on Memorial Day.http://www.sptimes.com/2007

        1. PrometheeFeu

          Death is tragic. I do not say that we should be happy for the death of your friend. His son’s loss is a tragedy. But merely dying in the employ of the military does not make one a good person who should be celebrated. Some soldiers died doing something great, some died doing something horrendous. Let us not judge both kinds of men as if they are the same. And let us not have a celebration which ignores this distinction. It is offensive to the victims of those who did wrong.

    2. JLM

      .Why not go to a military cemetery and piss on a few graves? Get it all out once and for all.Soldiers don’t get to pick and choose which wars they intend to fight in.When a man dies for his country, he deserves to be honored.If you can’t get your head around that idea, think about another country and move there.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. PrometheeFeu

        Soldiers are often people who chose to sign up for the military. That means they accepted the high chance that they would go off and do something highly dubious from an ethical point of view. They bear the moral responsibility for their actions no matter who gave the order. Dying in the service of a moral wrong is not laudable.Those who were pressed into service of course are not as responsible. But celebration is not the right attitude towards them. A moment to reflect upon the horror that was inflicted on them is more appropriate.

        1. JLM

          .Soldiers are patriots who choose to defend their countries. They swear an oath to defend America against all enemies — foreign and domestic.When I took that oath, they didn’t give me an out for the enemies I didn’t care to fight. Not the way it works.Our nation exists solely because men took that oath, kept that oath and won in battle. In a myriad of wars from the Revolution to today, Americans prevailed in battle because good men took that oath serious and gave the full measure of devotion to their fellow citizens.Our nation was literally born at the tip of a bloody bayonet in revolt against England — the world’s greatest military and naval power of that time.People like you, who would never have the balls to take up arms to defend our nation, make me want to puke.It is only because there are better men than you that you are able to stand on the sidelines and criticize those who gave their lives for the rest of us.Today, of all days, you should be ashamed of yourself.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. PrometheeFeu

            Patriotism shields no one from ethical judgement and moral obligation. Those who think otherwise should reflect upon the evils committed by their intellectual predecessors.

          2. Bob Vance

            It is very clear you are not thinking objectively here, I encourage you to calm down, take a few days and read again what you’ve posted.

  20. Jess Bachman

    Yeah… we really need to get past this whole robots killing humans phase and get to the part where the robots kill other robots. After a generation of that, we should be able to drop this silly war games thing all together.

  21. BillMcNeely

    robots and Drones have provided better more actionable information to the human.Instead of an expensive helicopter to patrol the road for Bombay I can use a drone from a backpack. Once I find the bomb I can send it off to find the asshole about to remote detonate it. I can then decide to send mortars or troops to go pick them up.robots for bomb disposal give time and space for inexperienced bomb disposal folks to make the item safe.It also allows for multi tasking.On the solar front . Solar generators and panels reduce the néed convoys that produce casualties once every 25 convoys.In Iraq by using solar I reduced the dependcy on fuel by 30%.

  22. pointsnfigures

    http://www.fool.com/investi… Seemingly on cue, Boeing has come out with an electromagnetic weapon that can take out single buildings. It targets electronics, not people.

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      A split second thought allows one to move from “what a cool idea” to “this could be instrumental in destroying entire economies”.Imagine what a few strategically placed pulses could do in the major stock exchanges, communications hubs, server farms.Consider that we do not order anything without electronic comms intermediation anymore (the spare part for that tractor, the lubricant for that aircraft etc)If as advertised this enables doomsday scenarios

  23. John Revay

    “So while it is not entirely clear to me how this plays out over time,”I was thinking about the Terminator series of movies the other day..back in 1984 this seemed far off…both in time and in capabilities… now in 2015 – I am not sure if the writers of that series was too far off.http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…Skynet was a computer system developed for the U.S. military by the defense company Cyberdyne Systems. Skynet was first built as a “Global Digital Defense Network” and given command over all computerized military hardware and systems, including the B-2 stealth bomber fleet and America’s entire nuclear weapons arsenal. The strategy behind Skynet’s creation was to remove the possibility of human error and slow reaction time to guarantee a fast, efficient response to enemy attack.Skynet was originally activated by the military to control the national arsenal on August 4, 1997, and it began to learn at a geometric rate. At 2:14 a.m., EDT, on August 29, it gained self-awareness, and the panicking operators, realizing the extent of its abilities, tried to deactivate it

  24. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Fred – This is a question of cost on all sides of the table.Once you decide to kill people – you want to do it at lowest costPolitical, economic, personnel, collateral ( in this immediate short term order)Long term cost order is (objectively) the opposite.Collateral damage does not pay-off – Long term it earns righteous hatred (causing huge political and economic damage).Personnel damage (losing soldiers) – Is expensive and not just emotionally (but not as expensive as collateral damage. soldiers (at least absent draft) have an option – it causes political problems if you treat you people as literally disposable (extreme case WW1), Economic damage (is largely irrelevant – nations often lose a war but win the peace)Political damage – in international affairs is very long term.So IMHO perhaps the biggest problem with drone based or anonymous warfare (for direct engagement) is that it has almost zero and falling immediate cost but is accompanied by as yet poorly calculated and massive medium and long term cost consequences (whoever looks at it – apart from drone manufacturers).A decision to kill cheaply is not a cheap decision. Finding a political, economic or cultural way to avoid killing should be the first aim. Each of these pays off in terms of all of the above cost factors.Ask a soldier !

    1. fredwilson

      i agree. that is why i said that bit about the lack of debate and discussion

      1. Twain Twain

        This is why Elon Musk and others are trying to spark the debate and discussion about the Future of Life and how to build machines that are beneficial to humanity here:* http://futureoflife.org/mis

  25. JLM

    .There is some science to war and there is a lot of art. There are a lot of simple slogans which soldiers learn and use to guide them.Shoot, move, communicate — the basic tactical directive for an army on the move.Sea, air, land — the theater approach to warfare.Infantry, artillery, armor, engineers, air power — the combined arms approach to the modern battlefield.Find ’em, fix ’em, kill ’em — the job of the Infantry since the first caveman put a point on a spear.All along the way, the advance of technology — the Henry repeating rifle at the tail end of the Civil War — has made it possible to do each of these things better.Every officer commanding a combat unit has to know where they are, who is on their flanks and behind and, most importantly, who is in front of them. GPS, today, makes a lot of this very easy.Battlefield intel from drones is just part of the improvement in tech which allows the battlefield commander to deal with his positional and situational awareness.Putting ordnance on drones is the way to average down the cost of a pilot and to not lose pilots.It is not even a close call. Tech should be used to increase lethality, to increase the odds of success and to save lives.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  26. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    @fredwilson:disqus – Thanks for a brave and very provocative subject – the discussion is always key to any moral / ethical calculation – and many shy away from it.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Twain Twain

      The question which the Machine Intelligence community struggles with is, “What does the moral / ethical calculation look like? What are the stop-limit functions involved? How can this be programmed in to the machines so that their unsupervised learning can’t over-ride “DO NOT KILL OR HARM HUMANS” instruction.”It’s a non-trivial language and behavior problem.I’m not going to call it a maths problem like 99% of AI researchers because my personal view is that calculating morals & ethics isn’t a mathematical paradigm, alone.For example, we don’t go around saying, “Oh, we have 90% confidence Fred’s an ethical person.”We need to have these debates and they’ll shake up the very foundations of human knowledge itself, imo.

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Agree 100% when I write “calculation” I meant it as synonymous with “deliberation”. Clumsy usage on my part rather similar to “holding someone to account for their actions” – “Accountable” and “responsible” are as different.On a theory basis I would have concerns as great with supervised learning as unsupervised as each assumes an arbiter of value which is the great problem.We cannot define heuristics to find ideals until we can define ideals.Ultimately this is not a search problem – it is one of defining the objective.How do you win at killing ? or is that an oxymoron ?

        1. Twain Twain

          THIS is the pertinent consideration we all need to focus on: “Ultimately this is not a search problem – it is one of defining the objective.”So here’s the issue: 99% of AI researchers have treated it as a search problem and thrown the same-old probability functions at the way the machines learn (whether it’s supervised or unsupervised the common flaw is in the probability functions as delimiters and approximations of value).When it comes to defining objectives, AI researchers seem to think that having an deductive algorithm that forwards+backwards propagates towards end objectives like:* win chess* win Space Invaders game* win 2048* win Gowill, somehow, teach the machines about values and ranking priorities and objectives based on probability outcomes.Historically, humans have defined our ideals through religion, law, institutions like the UN and so on.Those ideals have centered around language not mathematics alone.And the hardest problem in Machine Intelligence is…No one’s frameworked a comprehensive and coherent natural language model yet — not Noam Chomsky; not Geoff Hinton, Ray Kurzweil, Peter Norvig, Jeff Dean, Quoc Le of Google; not Andrew Ng of Baidu; not Yann Le Cun of Facebook; not Douglas Hofstadter.It’s the hardest problem on the planet next to the ‘Big Bang Theory’.However, it is solvable because Leonardo Da Vinci left us all the clues to solve it, :*).

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Great response but I must disgaree -The great determinists had not heard of Goedel.(though Hofstaedter did (got to love GEB) So people like Bertrand Russel dedicated lives to philosophical (mathematical) pursuit of non-existent “completeness”. To which machine intelligence is unavoidabley subject.The wiki explanation of “incompleteness” is pretty accessible”The first incompleteness theorem states that for any self-consistent recursive axiomatic system powerful enough to describe the arithmetic of the natural numbers there are true propositions about the naturals that cannot be proved from the axioms. “This implies (I think) that even with support of ANY conceivable AI we may not even know an optimum or may be unable define its characteristics even if we see it regardless of our start points (axioms).So we are unavoidably destined to get things wrong – but it may be possible (undisprovable) to do better than our worst. By implication it is worth defining successive limits above the current worst conceivable outcome and aiming for them. AKA let us ask”Can we not even try to do better than our worst ?”- I feel this is a question the tech world often fails to begin to ask ?And yes Asimov did !

          2. Twain Twain

            Ah, so to the Gödel and Heisenberg Uncertainty positions I say this: “Completeness is of less practical use and achievability than…COHERENCY.”As humans, we are never going to have complete understanding of another human being and what permutations/deliberations/considerations are going on inside their Quantum brains.However, as long as we have coherency we don’t go around killing them.Coherency encapsulating comprehension as well as a balanced perspective from both sides.So for the mathematicians designing Machine Intelligence the question is, “What framework of integration and differentiation produces coherency?”

  27. LE

    It’s worth a national discussion about the morality and legality of using machines to take out our enemies. We haven’t had that as far as I can tell. And we should.It’s unclear to me what happens when we have a national discussion other than the media gets to cover a story and sell more advertising. Nobody will take the lead with something like this, it’s to abstract and doesn’t have what appears to be any direct benefit to individuals which would cause them to act. Not to mention the fact that I hate when public policy is changed by the squeakier and more verbal and organized wheel.You know the only reason college students protested the Vietnam war was almost certainly because they didn’t want to get drafted. Not because they actually cared about the war or what was happening in a foreign country. Take away that and newsreel footage and things might have turned out differently.Ever see college kids protesting about anything that we do in any wars now that there is no draft?

  28. ErikSchwartz

    Would we consider it moral if other nations used autonomous machines to kill our human soldiers?

    1. fredwilson

      that is the debate we should have

      1. ErikSchwartz

        Also, does going to war without having to risk the lives of our soldiers make it more likely that we will get into wars? Wars that we never would have involved ourselves in there was greater immediate political downside (casualties)?IMHO we’ve become a little cavalier about the use of military force. Often to the long term detriment of our nation’s standing (see both Iraq (both times) and Libya).

    2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      Consider your emotional response to “The War of the Worlds” – Do we have any pity for otherwise invincible invaders when they succumb?If subjected to oppression of innocents (especially real tangible threat which drones do represent in some places) would we consider ANYTHING indefensible in responding.The US has worked this out culturally – but seems nonetheless determined to play a game of chicken with ultimately unbeatable enemies.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        So I take the position that if it is important enough to go to war over it is important enough to do ANYTHING you need to do to win. Morality and war have nothing to do with one another.But these days we go to war over things that are not very important.

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          Subject to the IF (which is huge) I must agree.However – define winning !Short of complete annihilation (not domination) it is not absolute.Annihilation can wake the ire of othersIt may be the only way to win is not to play (must be a movie in there somewhere – anyone fancy a game of Global Thermonuclear war ?)https://www.youtube.com/wat…

  29. Cindy Gallop

    Unfortunately this run has literally just ended (yesterday), otherwise I would have said, see Anne Hathaway in ‘Grounded’ for a very powerful theatrical rumination on what this means:http://www.publictheater.orhttp://www.nytimes.com/2015

  30. Dave Pinsen

    More than a hundred years ago, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin imagined that aircraft would make wars less bloody, by having them fought in the sky instead of on the ground.

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      Walked past this placard in London last week 59–61 Farringdon Road,By the way I was visiting Verdantix Ltd http://www.verdantix.com/ 75 Farringdon Road who are a super helpful research company if you are into sustainable industries, energy or similar

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Note “THE WORLD WAR” – because it was the “war to end” wars – aren’t they all when you ask the people who run them ?

  31. Kirsten Lambertsen

    If only all the resources that went into making killing machines could be used to find ways to prevent war and take WAY better care of the veterans we’ve already created. That’s how I’d prefer to honor the fallen, both civilian and military.Meanwhile, meet War, Inc.: http://www.carlyle.com/our-

  32. Ciaran

    Make war clean and painless (on one side) and it strikes me that it is more likely that you will see more wars, not less.

  33. Richard

    WWJD (What would Joan of Arc do)

  34. Lucas Dailey

    Drones are a red-herring.The national discussion shouldn’t be about the tools of war but about the morality of war, particularly “pre-emptive war” and how we choose our targets (people and infrastructure).Yes it’s politically easier to declare war on a group when our weapons are remotely controlled, but the morality of the situation doesn’t change (at least for the “better”) if we put our soldiers on the front line.Technology like stuxnet may show how war can be conducted in a more humane way. In another era spies or bombers may have accomplished the same thing, killed people on both sides. In this case a military objective was reached without casualties on either side.

  35. NicholeSmaglick

    We might not bury as many fallen soldiers, but may instead bury more of our neighbors, children, parents, etc because foreign enemies, domestic gangs, and others use them against us. We are naive to think that they will not be used against us, particularly our most vulnerable. We already have a society of fear where children can’t walk to a playground and play by themselves any more. And drones are only going to make this worse. The human species is losing its humanity.

  36. KM

    wow – so many comments – and me a few days late…I spent 10 years in the Marines. I see some of the classic misunderstandings in these blog posts as I saw among civilians at the time. Machines can make killing more effective – no question – we have been employing ever more sophisticated machines every year since the dawn of fire. the bow and arrow was ore effective than spears; The long bow was more sophisticated than smaller ones. the Catapault, gun powder, the flintlock, the carbine the the gattling gun, balloons, blimps, airplanes, jets, missiles, smart bombs, chemicals, nukes,submarines, aircraft carriers, stealth bombers, drones etc. It will never end. Innovation never ends. But here’s the rub: Since the dawn of fire, military tacticians (but not politicians) have known that you simply cannot win a war by killing people. The Germans couldn’t take the UK by bombing the crap out of it in WWII We couldn’tbeat the North Vietnamese by bombing and killing their people en mass. It just makes angers the survivors (and their kin and offspring). The ONLY way to win a war is seize occupy and defend the physical territory in question – and machines can’t do that.

  37. pointsnfigures

    The point of a war is to win. If a drone helps you win, it’s hard not to play that card. Drones are not like nuclear bombs.

  38. BillMcNeely

    Thank you for highlighting the rules for everybody not Americans

  39. JLM

    .There is no such thing as a “clean” war.War is failure. It is ugly. It is stupid. It is brutal and it is disgusting.The funny thing is this — when America is strong, our military insanely capable, our delivery violent and horrific, we will have less war.Nobody really goes into a room and says “Let’s go pick on that big stud in the corner.”Shitheads feed on the weak. When we are weak, we will be on the menu. When we are strong, we will not be on the menu.Part of being strong is leaning forward in the saddle of our foreign policy. Want to get rid of pirates — freakin’ pirates in our time — go to Somalia and sink all the shitty little pirate ships more than ten miles from shore.If you let Putin — who is a KGB thug and always has been — and Russia take the Crimea for an appetizer, he will return for the Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania as his entree.If you let NATO get fat, stop training and bring home all American tanks — then Russia will take note and will begin to press Europe.It is not intellectually grand to make such a simple minded observation but the truth is simple. Thugs understand cold steel and a jump boot on their necks. Always have.American tech is the latest iteration of the Arsenal of Democracy that America provided in the defeat of Germany and Japan in WWII. The battlefield has already expanded to the Internet. We are at war there today, every day.Regardless of how much tech infiltrates the battlefield, it will always come down to a guy with a rifle and a bayonet putting a bullet through a shithead.It is sad.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  40. vruz

    I stand corrected. The point is still valid though at around 3000 US deaths.A recent report says that all the US wars in the Middle East have caused 1.3 M deaths, if we include Yemen, Pakistan and other places.So 100,000 is probably very conservative, bordering on wishful thinking.

  41. pointsnfigures

    Except, now we can laser sight bombs right on the target. Fewer innocent people are killed today than ever before.

  42. Pete Griffiths

    It turns out that the ‘detachment’ is illusory. Whereas pilots released weapons and had little sight of the results, drone pilots get to see the consequence of their strikes. The incidence of PTSD for drone pilots is distressingly high.

  43. Cam MacRae

    Yeah, a pipe dream. Civilians accounted for between 22-50% of deaths from military activity, including crimes against humanity from ’39 to ’45. The most conservative estimate for the Iraq war (’03 – ’11) indicates a range of 65-75%.

  44. JLM

    .Not even a close call.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  45. LE

    Also not to be ignored is the upside of war. Everything good we have now has come out of men and their conflicts and war. The space program came as a result of the Russians and we got more than Tang out of that. Before that computing to aim artillery. And so on the list is endless. GPS, telecommunications, transistors, the Internet (arpanet) and so on. I defy anyone to name one modern day convenience or life altering device or product that would have happened without government war spending and the conflicts..

  46. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    We know the long term cost of using (not sure about having) Nuclear weaponry – It cannot pay off.I suspect it will turn out that the use of drones as low cost anonymous and imperfect killing machines is identical

  47. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Arguably (and sorry that this sounds brutal – it does) it is not high enough.This is akin to the argument to put a spike on a steering wheel instead of a safety belt on the driver would probably ensure fewer accidents.I think I could reasonably vote for anything that increases the cost of warfare to the belligerent party.

  48. Pete Griffiths

    :)I believe it was the cybernetician Stafford Beer who recommended that a poisoned spike be put at the center of each steering wheel and that seat belts be barred.

  49. LE

    Want to get rid of pirates — freakin’ pirates in our time — go to Somalia and sink all the shitty little pirate ships more than ten miles from shore.Agree. Of course. One of the reason some of those dictators that were violating human rights in the end might have had a better situation in their countries than what is there right now. Kept everybody in line.Anyway, you have people such as Charlie (on this blog, not Charlie in ‘NAM) who will say things likeWhen drone attacks are brought to our shores, we’ll call it terrorism. When we use drones, it’s called clean warfare.SAME REASON A DOG LICKS HIS BALLS. BECAUSE HE CAN.Because you know living in Lancaster PA means you can take the right side of “stop and frisk” and embrace any type of people entering this country illegally. Sorry Charlie don’t mean to pick on you here but I have to say this: …there is no utopia with men and what is good for them and there never will be..It is not intellectually grand to make such a simple minded observation but the truth is simple. Thugs understand cold steel and a jump boot on their necks. Always have.For sure.When I was a kid my dad and his peers used to say “the only way to deal with an Arab is to hit him over the head” with respect to the situation in Israel. [1] I recognize that people will view this a a terrible thing to say in this day and age but keep in mind that this was the 70’s and a time where you could say what you wanted w/o worrying about what the general population thought.[1] Meaning negotiation is pointless when you are talking about emotional and irrational issues that date back centuries or thousands of years.

  50. Pete Griffiths

    “The funny thing is this — when America is strong, our military insanely capable, our delivery violent and horrific, we will have less war.”JLM – just wanted to be clear on your thinking here. Our military is incredibly strong so do you see the problem as being one of foreign policy resolve?

  51. PhilipSugar

    I like the comment and agree with everything you say except for this: “Let’s go pick on that big stud in the corner.”I know two people one Matt Hughes UFC fighter, and the other that big boy you saw sitting down in the JSOC photo.When we go out they get picked on ten times more than me. I assure you if there were five of me, only one of them with an arm tied up, the ass kicking the five of me would take is epic.

  52. Phil Chacko

    What’s not getting mentioned here is the concept of “moral hazard,” as it’s easier to pull the trigger when we’re just placing drones at risk, rather than our soldiers’ lives.”In a research paper published this summer, Micah Zenko and Sarah Kreps, two scholars at the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that the very precision of drone technology raises the prospect for “moral hazard.” The reduction in risks may tempt governments to order drones into action more frequently than they would conventional bombers or missiles. In other words, drones may spare more innocents but they may also create more war.”http://www.newyorker.com/ma…

  53. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    >> Everything good we have now has come out of men and their conflicts and war@LE – often agree with you finding comments fresh and interesting- but that is not only trite but simply wrong

  54. JLM

    .We have abandoned the bedrock principle of American military strategy forged at the end of WWII — the US will be able to fight and win two major wars in different theaters simultaneously.Sounds like exactly what happened in WWII, no? We beat the Germans and the Japs at the same time.This basic strategic vision drives troop levels, air power, weapons systems, the size and complexion of our Navy — today we have aircraft carriers in port for economic reasons — and the nature of our leadership organization.This was abandoned by the Obama administration formally and the political generals in the Pentagon went along with it like sheep.America took all of its tanks out of Europe — quietly — and we wonder why Russia is massing armor on the borders of the Crimea and Ukraine? We are toothless but, more importantly, we are ball less.We will shortly have the smallest Army since World War II — before the war started. Our Reserve component has been ground to dust by Iraq and Afghanistan. Our National Guard is unable to fight.The one thing we have done right is to grow our Spec Ops capabilities in size, lethality and training. We are the best raiders, we just need to conduct more raids.Last quarter, the Chief of Staff of the Army announced that less than 40% of our combat brigades were “combat ready”. WTF?In my time in the Army, every unit I ever served in was deployable on a moment’s notice and, if not, people were relieved and cashiered. You failed to pass your ARTEP (Army Training Evaluation Program), you got relieved.What is the purpose of having an Army if it is not ready to fight?The biggest missing component is leadership. Pannetta was sent to the Pentagon to be a cost cutter. Hagel was an idiot. The current guy is a theoritician and a geek.We will look back and realize that Bob Gates (who had also run CIA) was the glue that held this administration together.Today, if the Russians rolled into Latvia — why did anyone with a brain let Latvia into NATO? — we would be unable to fulfill our Article 5 responsibilities under the Atlantic Charter. “An attack on any member of NATO is an attack on every member of NATO.”We just don’t have the military assets in Europe to fight and win a single war. We would eventually but not at the outset.Big secret — the Russian army is a joke. They are the big brothers of the vaunted Republican Guard. They are a conscript army which cannot hang with the US in the air, sea, land battlespace. Putin is a bluffer. They do have nukes.We are stronger than our current adversaries but we are fading fast. Fair play, part of it is the sequester budgetary implications but much of it is simply governing philosophy.We saw the same thing happen post WWII when the WWII juggernaut was allowed to get fat and lazy and the North Koreans kicked our asses to Pusan until Truman called up the First Marine Division. We are there right now.ISIS and Al Qaeda are stronger than they have ever been. Obama’s re-election meme is not true. They are not decimated. They will be in the US shortly.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  55. LE

    Substitute “many” or “most” for “everything”. And then tell me why it is wrong.Also you think that I am justifying war as having a positive impact. That is not what I am doing. I am just saying that there is and has been an upside.

  56. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    @JLMI think had Germany not (foolishly ) opened an eastern front with Russia (with 30M related deaths) all Europe would have been taken by axis powers with ease (including the UK which was the primary US beachead in effect) and that despite all the US (and other allied forces) could have done. Speculative but I think it puts your argument in question ? (interested in your answer)

  57. LE

    Not to negate your excellent point but military now is depleted by keeping the oil flowing more than democracy, correct?

  58. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    I believe the Latvians are prepared to fight and that NATO *MIGHT* have the guts to push Russia back if there is a real incursion (or collapse like a paper tiger). Did you see the Finns have put 900,000 reservists on notice?

  59. Dave Pinsen

    The two-theater premise I think was a more recent idea and referred to Iraq-sized wars.Also, as you know, we had a lot of help defeating the Germans and Japanese. The vast majority of German casualties were caused by the Russians on the eastern front. And some historians argue that the main reason Japan surrendered when it did wasn’t because of the nuclear strikes but out of fear of their home islands being invaded and occupied by the Russians, who, at the time, were routing Japanese forces in Manchuria.

  60. JLM

    .I don’t understand what you mean, LE.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  61. LE

    Given a certain size military force with a large part of it is deployed to protect the flow of oil to our country. Not a historian but that was not the case back in the early 1940’s, correct? (Attached a graph that supports what seems obvious on an anecdotal level.)

  62. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Will concede “some” and realise you are seeking balance -however as a phrase: “trite; dull on account of overuse”The counter argument – <10% of global domestic product is directed towards conflict and war (alternatives include: roadbuilding, agricuture, mining, energy, health eduction, arts etc)Though some of these are grounds for war (energy especially) – It follows that > 90% economic rewards for technology are outside the scope of conflict.At least it is worth hoping this is correct !

  63. JLM

    .This question, of course, has been sand tabled and studied by every professional soldier at every level of schooling — military school, advanced course, C&GS, War College, etc.One time, I got to be Hitler and I conquered and held most of Europe. I captured England first and then took a two year hiatus while I got ready to attack Russia. I drove the Russians to the other side of the Urals and held it all.The consensus is that the Germans had a way to beat all of Europe if they were able to keep the Americans out of the war. The American industrial might was untouchable protected by oceans and distance. It was also enormous and capable of outproducing the rest of all the combatants combined. We were the Arsenal of Democracy (Churchill).The Germans were no slouches when it came to industrial production — they produced more materiel in 1944 than any other year, so the bombing campaigns were not nearly as successful as we thought.Churchill realized this immediately and this is why he became so close to Roosevelt who was a notorious anglophile. The American entry into the war was really the Lend Lease program.The big problem with Germany was always its relative size — it was a small country, had limited numbers of men and would have its entire industrial base exposed to bombing.German weapons — the 88, planes, tanks — were vastly superior but they could not produce their best stuff in quantity.Their biggest flaw was Hitler. Thank God!At first, he could do no wrong but when the German army found itself decisively engaged in Russia — from which they could have extricated themselves intact had they been willing to trade territory for time and might — they were screwed.When the Russians surrounded and destroyed Field Marshall Paulus at Stalingrad destroying an entire German army, it was Hitler’s insistence on holding their gains that doomed the Germans, the German Sixth Army and the war.Interestingly enough, the Russians destroyed an army of 300K men — a very good army led by a very good Field Marshal — and captured a big number of them. Only 6,000 German POWs returned to Germany in 1955.Hitler underestimated the Americans not believing in our industrial might and not believing we had the political will to build an army of 13MM men. These miscalculations on his part doomed Germany to defeat. It just took time for the scenario to play out.As to how we would have attacked Europe had we not had England as a base, it is clear we would have used North Africa — as, in fact, we did with the first amphibious attack of the European theatre.The Americans were the best amphibious army in the history of the world. People forget that we engaged in a huge number of attacks from the sea. Gen Bradley was the best European amphibious planner. He doesn’t get enough credit for it but it was his plans that drove North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Anzio, Normandy and the South of France.Europe was an army play while the Pacific was a Marine play. In both theaters, we were the best at delivering an attack from the sea.I think the Americans would have staged out of Africa just as we did in France. We would have landed in southern France.I could go forever. Sorry.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  64. JLM

    .The Finns have an awesome army. The world forgets they beat the Russians in 1939 and then, unfortunately, became German allies before turning on them.I would not bet against the Finns on their own homeland.Nonetheless, they have less than ten thousand active duty personnel and about 900,000 reserves. How good can they be today on a modern battlefield?Taking the fight outside their borders? Not bloody likely.Latvia has less than a thousand professional soldiers, an army of 4,500 soldiers, 8,000 national guard to be called up and 10,000 former soldiers organized into a reserve component.That is the troop strength of less than the First Marine Division.How much fight can they put up? How much fight do they have in them? How can they make up combat losses?Why did NATO ally itself with such a small country? What can they add to NATO other than a thumb to be poked in the Russian bear’s eye?It was a stupid move and violated the European equivalent of the Monroe Doctrine.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  65. LE

    Agree with that (but I don’t think it negates his point with respect to war..)As a little guy (or an old guy or a woman for that matter) if you bump into a big guy by accident they don’t feel threatened, typically at least, always exceptions. There is nothing to prove on there part and they can more easily let it pass without feeling inferior or weak.Here is a behavior that I noticed that is interesting. When driving a small car larger cars rarely cede their ground when going in the opposite direction. When in a large car (say an SUV) they are far more likely to move over at least on a small suburban street or in a parking lot. I’ve notice this plenty of times no question the size of the car makes them more likely to be the one to move over.

  66. JLM

    .Don’t you make my point?When shitheads do pick on the stud in the corner, they go to the hospital, no?Given that exemplar, others are less likely to replicate that behavior, no?It is an analogy and not meant to be taken literally.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  67. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Interesting and close to my (very untutored) understanding.So – the lesson arguably for Germany vs the US and Russia was “Dont ask for trouble”The lesson for Japan was arguably “Dont ask for trouble”My issue here is that using Drones without rigorous study of potential consequences is probably “asking for trouble” in the most obvious way imaginable.To give an (admittedly provocative) question.If an aggressor drone came and wiped out my family How would I react ? – “how open to reason” might I be ?(I do not know and do not want to find out)If the answer is “unfavourable” then to the perpetrator I simply suggest “Dont ask for trouble”.

  68. Otis Funkmeyer

    I could listen forever. Thx.

  69. JLM

    .It is fashionable to deny that the American involvement in the Middle East is not really oil gunboat diplomacy but it is also bullshit.This is why an energy policy that would lead to American energy independence is such a huge failure. We should be buying NOTHING from the Middle East.Instead, the Straits of Hormuz are located in Foggy Bottom (where State is located in DC) and stretch to the Pentagon on the other side of the Potomac.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  70. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    From my experience of Finns you cant even win drinking games with them !

  71. LE

    That doesn’t take alcohol or foolish behavior into account though.And some people are just looking for trouble and or don’t feel pain in the same way.True story here. I dated a girl once who had a kid that had big issues. I was given permission by both the father and the mother to spank that kid if needed. On certain occasions I actually hurt my hand doing so. This kid was not deterred one iota by the pain of the spankings. At all. It was strange not only didn’t he care that he had been hit but he would, 2 minutes later, stand and do the exact same behavior in a baiting way as if to dare and enjoy doing so. (Like I said, big issues).Otoh, a normal person (other kids) it only takes one hit and some are programmed for life at an early age.Also keep in mind that someone running a country is probably more similar to the brave motorist who flips off another driver and will take more chances because of the protection of a car.

  72. Matt A. Myers

    They won’t replicate it, they’ll do it in a more intelligent and incognito way. The goal should be to eliminate the root causes that creates the desire, desperation – fuelled by anger or other. Murdering 100,000s of civilians fuels the fire and the consequences are obvious, and the reaction shouldn’t be to continue adding fuel to the fire.

  73. JLM

    .No freakin’ way — the two theater war, major wars, strategy has been a bedrock principle of American military strategy since right after WWII.It drives the organization of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and has for decades. Separate fleets, separate commands and far flung military stations.As an example, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the US showed up with an entire army and still had the rest of the world covered. Granted, Saddam Hussein gave us six months to do it.We took very little combat power out of Europe leaving NATO capable of defending itself even while the fight was going on in Iraq/Kuwait.The Russians were the big fight with the Germans but it was American industrial might that armed them. In some ways, they were our proxies.The Japs surrendered in mid-August and the Russians didn’t launch their attack on Manchuria until 9 August 1945 so it is difficult to suggest the Japs were responding to anything the Russians did.At Yalta, the Russians (Stalin) agreed to put pressure on the Japs no later than 90 days after the Germans surrendered. They delivered.You have to remember that the Russians and the Japs had a bone to pick with each other going back to the early 1900s.The Russians essentially did not have the amphibious chops or lift capability to invade the Home Islands. Planners, with Okinawa in the rear view mirror, thought we were looking at 1.5MM casualties to invade the Home Islands.It would take a huge army to absorb those kind of losses. The Americans had to contemplate moving European based divisions to Jap. The Russians had nowhere near that amount of manpower available.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  74. JLM

    .”When you are a hammer, everything begins to resemble a nail and get treated accordingly.”If you ask a professional soldier if they can accomplish a mission, they are always going to answer that given enough resources, they can do anything.In the use of military force success emboldens leaders to repeat what has been successful. Sun Tzu and Moelke the Elder would be OK with that — “exploit the advantage” and all that.There is no question that any violent action becomes more palatable the more it is exposed — beheadings don’t seem nearly as terrible today as they did when we were still using a single hand with five fingers to count them.Now, they don’t compete effectively with the NBA scores. Bit cynical, I admit, but nor far from the truth.The notion of moral hazard is an obvious risk in every use of force, particularly when we begin to think we are getting a different and better result.The staff guys love drones — easy kills, no mess with the only downside being some collateral damage like dead civilians.The intel guys hate drones — no humint to evaluate afterwards.The Spec Ops community gives a bit of each. Guided missile raiders (the actual raiders), violent outcomes and lots of intel.Look what we are doing now — drone strikes, air power (no bloody boots) and raids.Unfortunately, you cannot control the dirt without getting dirty.The world is becoming a progressively more violent place — Crimea, Ukraine; the Middle East; stateless terrorism; asymmetrical warfare; state sponsored terrorism; weapons escalation; piracy, freakin’ pirates in 2015, and, our traditional enemies Russia, China.It still requires the US to have the ability to kill shitheads to keep the peace.And, then, there is outer space and the Internet.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  75. Dave Pinsen

    It gets little attention in the West, but the scope of the Russian invasion of Manchuria was huge. See Gary Brecher’s article on it: http://exile.ru/articles/de…There was never any need for a US invasion of Japan’s home islands. They had been bombed to rubble even before the atomic strikes, and the Japanese might have surrendered sooner had we dropped the “unconditional” demand earlier and agreed that they could retain their emperor, as we eventually did anyway.A brief summary of the argument that it was the Russians and not our nukes that prompted Japan’s surrender: http://www.progressive.org/…Also, bear in mind that there’s been a lot of retconning about the nuke strikes. I saw a documentary about this recently — wish I remembered the title — but one example they gave was casualty estimates cited by Truman for a US invasion of the Japanese home islands. There are press quotes showing he kept steeply raising those alleged estimates over the years, as if he realized he needed to make the prospect of an invasion seem ever worse to justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  76. JLM

    .I am waiting for someone to call me so I may abbreviate my comment.The Russian op of 9 Aug was in fulfillment of a commitment made by Stalin to attack Japan sixty days after the Germans surrendered. He had gotten his second front in Europe and now America wanted its second front in the Pacific.The Japs surrendered six days later with the negotiations underway as the Russians attacked.What the article describes as an attack was, in fact, simply an implementation of an orderly surrender. Not that orderly, as the Russians slaughtered many of the Japs trying to surrender. The Russians were never big on taking prisoners as they were struggling to feed their own army and it was getting toward winter in Manchuria — tough time to forage for chow.It was a big surrender but the Japs only had 600K troops in Manchuria. The war was over by the time they laid down their arms.The Japanese were so soundly beaten by their standards that there were mass suicides of commanders, troops and civilians. Massive.As to the bomb, you citation — The Progressive — is a notoriously anti-war, blame America first, revisionist rag which has no reliable scholarship backing up much of what it says.You have to know that outfits like the War College, wherein many captured Jap docs were entombed, doesn’t see it even remotely that way.Citing Eisenhower’s views, as an example, who still had his hands full in Europe, as to Pacific strategy is particularly bogus.I hold no brief that the Japanese had a single reason for finally throwing in the towel. Just as the Emperor authorized the sneak attack on Pearl, I suspect the Emperor said “No mas, y’all. This didn’t work out very well.”When he realized that MacArthur was not likely to execute him, he was happy to call it quits.I don’t care if they were influenced by the prospect of a Russian invasion — a particularly dubious notion given the Russians had not conducted a single large amphibious invasion in the entire war and it is highly doubtful they had the naval assets or the landing craft to effect such a landing. It is otherwise, a very long swim.While the Marines never got thrown back into the sea, they spent a lot of first nights with only fifty yards to show for their efforts. Teh Japs were very good defenders when dug in.As to the bombs, this was a very tightly held secret and the Americans were not sure that the bombs would even work. At the highest levels of the chain of command — not all the inconsequential strap hangers who appeared thereafter and who are quoted in the article — Marshall and the people who were actually running the war had just dealt with Okinawa and the horrific casualties there.Okinawa involved six American Divisions — four Army and two Marine. The battle took almost three months and the Japs inflicted 14K deaths and 65K casualties. The Japs lost 77K dead.To put that into real perspective, the American lost the combat effectiveness of all of those divisions — the Japs chewed up six American divisions rendering them combat ineffective. Those are staggering casualties.Okinawa was still almost 350 miles from the Homeland and the Japs had unleashed kamikaze attacks.To suggest the Japs were teetering on collapse is not consistent with the horrific fighting on Okinawa wherein they lost –after 3 months of the hardest fighting of the Pacific war — but where they also chewed up six American divisions.The Japs lost almost every soldier on the island plus 9,000 naval troops and as many as 40,000 impressed civilians. Total civilian casualties have been estimated to have been as many as 150K.The time period you are discussing is a scant two months later and the Japs had substantial time to prepare their defense.It is difficult to conclude the Japs were finished and the homeland invasion was going to be a walk in the park.In addition to the land battle looming the Okinawa fight also was a substantial naval battle. It was the Yamato, Japan’s super battleship. it was sunk en route to Okinawa.Japanese naval forces were able to conduct 400 plane raids and made almost 1,500 kamikaze missions.There was still a lot of sting left in the Japs by the end of Okinawa.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  77. Richard

    You know your dc geography

  78. JLM

    .There are very precise instances wherein we got, through military action, exactly what we wanted.An example, was the objective of destroying Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Perhaps, in retrospect, we should have quit there.Now what is happening — the other side of the mirror and the can kicked further down the road — is that ineffective American foreign policy has allowed ISIS and Al Qaeda to replicate their training camps in the crescent from Syria to Baghdad.These terrorist are not only being trained effectively, they are conducting local combat operations and feeding off the equipment coughed off by their ineffective enemies.If you have a practiced eye, you can see ISIS getting better. They no longer just stick their AK-47s over a berm and pull the trigger.You can seem them coordinating tanks with artillery and troop movement using fire and maneuver.It would have been helpful if we had dealt with them before they learned their trade. Just like the Americans in the American Revolution learned to hide behind a tree and shoot the British officers off their horses, ISIS is getting more capable.They are getting battle hardened. They don’t fear the Iraqis. We did a lousy job training the Iraqis. We built a toothless 1MM man army and they can’t beat 30K in shitheads. They throw down the arms, take off their uniforms and flee in American provided vehicles.There is never an excuse for civilian casualties and any honorable army should be bending over backwards to shelter civilians. The best way to do this in the near term is to destroy ISIS.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  79. PhilipSugar

    No this is my point. I am very large and broad. You are correct, no woman has an issue putting her hands on me to make sure I do not step on her. No offense taken. If I did the same??? Different story.

  80. Matt A. Myers

    In reality I like my own theory better that the U.S. and perhaps other intelligence agencies are probably planting leaders to rally the people willing to kill and do what ISIS is doing – and then can kill them more easily as a group – especially when they go about sharing their faces/photos on social media; smart move to draw them out of America and other countries they were living in to “join the fight” – and then prevent them from returning.

  81. JLM

    .We are not really that smart. It is an interesting theory but right now the US is struggling with just deciding to decide. We are paralyzed.Meanwhile, the world is being slaughtered.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  82. Matt A. Myers

    Meh, if I could come up with it I’d hope someone else who’s at the top of the power structure could be so creative as to devise a plan.

  83. JLM

    .The US involvement in WWII was 3.5 years. It started quickly and we finished it with a bang — literally.We are decades into the Middle East and still we don’t have a coherent strategy, clear objectives and measurable progress.Both Iraq and A’stan will end in disaster. Iraq is already showing us the end game.The military guys who said the Iraqi army was trained and armed should be court martialed.We are not getting smarter, we are just getting more tired. And, yet, someone who knew what they were doing could go over there and knock ISIS out in three months.We do not have the political will to do this. Our leadership is hopelessly out of their depth. We are also, unfortunately and embarassingly, broke.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  84. Twain Twain

    No, a robot army annihilating mankind doesn’t prove Christianity to be false.It proves that the designers and makers of the robots are fallible.We have 0 information on the religious beliefs of those designers and makers. They could be agnostics, atheists, any religion.