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Why Blackwater cannot be the future of U.S. warfare

Can 6,500 mercenaries "fix" Afghanistan? The U.S. is resurrecting privatized warfare.

SEAN MCFATE: The United States has stopped winning wars. It has stopped winning wars since World War II. And the question is, why have we stopped winning wars? We have the best troops, we have the best equipment, we have the best technology, we have the most money. So what's the problem? But since World War II, you know, Korea is a stalemate, Vietnam went communist. There's Afghanistan, Iraq these are failures. We must be honest with ourselves, these are failures.

But this is not just a US problem. The West, quote unquote, writ large, does not know how to win wars anymore. Look at France in Indochina and Algeria; the British in Palestine and Cyprus; the Soviets in Afghanistan; Israel against Hezbollah in Lebanon. The question is, what does it mean if the West can no longer win wars? It's an obvious question, but nobody wants to ask it because the implications are too terrifying to behold. And the answer is: war has moved on. War has changed. It has new rules, and it looks nothing like World War II, which is our model, our strategic paradigm. And as long as we keep this up, we will continue to have forever wars.

One of the new rules of war is that we will see the return of mercenaries, of private force, of private warfare. You know, they say mercenary is the second oldest profession. Private war has been around for a very long time, but we've forgotten it. Mercenaries have only been sort of underground for 150 years. Now they're coming back. And most of military history is private military history. The reason it's come back is because the US resurrected it, ironically, with the Iraq and Afghan wars. The US it's ironic because it's the superpower that did this. It wasn't small states with money who needed an army that didn't have it, it was the United States of America. And the reason the US did this is because they initially, policymakers thought the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war would be very short, easy wars. And we remember Secretary Defense Rumsfeld saying that these wars would take days, weeks at most, certainly not months. Now it's nearly 20 years later, and we're still mired in these quagmires. We're still stuck in these entrenched places in South Asia and the Middle East.

One of the solutions that's being considered is replacing all American troops in Afghanistan by mercenaries. This is currently what President Trump is considering doing, led by Erik Prince. Erik Prince is the founder of Blackwater. Blackwater was a large private military company that, in 2007, massacred 17 civilians in Baghdad, and it became one of the low points of the Iraq war. He is the sister of Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, and is using political connections for the biggest paycheck of his career. Now, this would normally be a laughable situation, right? Replacing, you know, American troops with mercenaries. What makes it even more laughable and even dangerous is that he thinks that 6,500 mercenaries can fix Afghanistan. Now, at the height of the Afghan war, there was 140,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, which couldn't do anything, really, in Afghanistan. And now, the Taliban control more of Afghanistan. So what is Erik Prince going to do with 6,500? That's a good question. What is even more dangerous, though, is what happens to war when you privatize it.

  • The West has stopped winning wars because it still operates on WWII strategies, says Sean McFate. Poor strategy results in so-called 'forever wars'.
  • To end the nearly 20-year-long war in Afghanistan, the U.S. is considering replacing all U.S. troops with Blackwater mercenaries.
  • Why is that so dangerous? Because this is what the future looks like when you resurrect privatized warfare.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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White dwarfs hold key to life in the universe, suggests study

New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
Surprising Science
  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
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3 highlights from Penn Jillette's Big Think interview on 2020, cancel culture, and friendship

The renowned magician recently joined Big Think CEO and cofounder Victoria Brown for a wide-ranging discussion.

Big Think Edge
Culture & Religion
  • Penn Jillette is an American magician best known for his work as part of the magic duo Penn and Teller.
  • Jillette has also written eight books, co-hosted the Showtime show "Bullshit," and produced the film "Tim's Vermeer."
  • In the interview, Jillette talks about how libertarianism has been distorted in the U.S., and why the democratization of media hasn't produced a utopia.
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Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
  • What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
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