The Gates Doctrine
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's remarks last week were in keeping with his ongoing effort to restructure the armed forces and create what he has called a “truly 21st century” military.
“Any future defense secretary,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told an audience of West Point cadets Friday, “who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”
In what was something of a farewell speech—he is stepping down later this year—Gates was widely seen as warning against more wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq. But what Gates was actually suggesting was that we are unlikely to have to fight the kind of large-scale mechanized ground war we anticipated fighting against the Soviets, because in the future, conflicts with major military powers are likely to be fought in the air or on the sea.
In fact, as the text of his speech makes clear, Gates was arguing that it is precisely “messy fights” like those in Afghanistan and Iraq that we should prepare for, even if it’s not very likely we’ll have to “invade, pacify and administer” another large third world country again.
We can’t know with absolute certainty what the future of warfare will hold, but we do know it will be exceedingly complex, unpredictable, and—as they say in the staff colleges—“unstructured.” Just think about the range of security challenges we face right now beyond Iraq and Afghanistan: terrorism and terrorists in search of weapons of mass destruction, Iran, North Korea, military modernization programs in Russia and China, failed and failing states, revolution in the Middle East, cyber, piracy, proliferation, natural and man-made disasters, and more.
While we'll always need heavy armor and firepower, Gates argued that given “the likelihood of counter-terrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response, or stability or security force assistance missions” the U.S. should focus on building “swift-moving expeditionary forces”—the kind of forces we would need both to fight in the next Afghanistan or Iraq and to prevent us from having to go into another Afghanistan or Iraq in the first place.
Gates’ remarks were in keeping with his ongoing effort to restructure the armed forces and create what he has called a “truly 21st century” military. While Gates is probably right to say we'll need a flexible military that can take on a wide variety of low-end missions, he fails to really address the question of whether we should have gotten occupied Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place or whether we should still be in either country. Rebecca Griffin argues that Gates needs his own head examined for “continuing deadly, costly wars in the face of mountains of evidence that the strategy has no hope of succeeding.” What to do in Afghanistan in particular is a question the Gates Doctrine really doesn’t answer—save to say that we should make sure we never need to go into a country like Afghanistan again.
Photo credit: Cherie A. Thurlby
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
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