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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.
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.
- 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.
New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.
- 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.
What Are White Dwarf Stars?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7b046e546ce994682b2553a8c978eb32"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/77a1KSxfaR0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The renowned magician recently joined Big Think CEO and cofounder Victoria Brown for a wide-ranging discussion.
- 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.
How being businesslike — not affectionate — can build strong friendships<p>Jillette has been collaborating with the magician and filmmaker Teller for 44 years on their magic act, currently stationed out of Las Vegas. In all that time, Jillette says their friendship has been more businesslike than affectionate.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There's just some people you just want to be with and there's that cuddly feeling," Jillette said. "And there's other people who your relationship would be identical if it were over email, totally intellectual." </p><p>The pair's relationship is decidedly the latter. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Teller and I have never had any affection for one another," Jillette said. "No desire to hug. We only shake hands when it's part of a script. We don't seek out each other's company, but there's no one that I respect more and I believe at a core level that I do better stuff with Teller than I do alone."</p><p>But that's not to say that relationships like these are entirely about business.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It turns out respect is more enduring than love," he said. "Now, I have to add here that my daughter whenever I say this gets very, very bothered because she says that Teller is my BFF and there's no way around that and that's absolutely true. I'm saying that in a kind of skeletal way. The truth is that Teller's my best friend over all those years."</p><p>Jillette's description of this type of relationship sounds a bit like Aristotle's idea of the "friendship of the good." </p><p>The Greek philosopher outlined three types of friendship, each based on a different feeling or value: pleasure, utility, and "good." Aristotle thought the "friendship of the good" was the best kind of relationship, because it's built on the respect and admiration for the virtues each friend sees in the other. Aristotle believed these friendships might not form quickly, but <a href="https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/ethics/section8/" target="_blank">they tend to be longer lasting than the other types</a>.</p>
Why refusing to wear a mask is not a libertarian idea<p>Libertarianism is "the belief that peace, prosperity and social harmony are fostered by as much liberty as possible and as little government as necessary" according to the <a href="https://theihs.org/who-we-are/what-is-libertarian/" target="_blank">Institute for Human Studies</a> at George Mason University. But when this impulse toward individual freedom becomes too rigid, it can pose problems for a society that needs to work together to navigate a nationwide problem, like a pandemic.<br></p><p>Since COVID-19 began spreading across the U.S., there's been a portion of <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-masks-america/2020/04/18/bdb16bf2-7a85-11ea-a130-df573469f094_story.html" target="_blank">Americans who say it's un-American</a> for the government to try to force (or, more accurately in most cases, <em>ask</em>) citizens to wear masks in public. Here, Jillette distinguishes between <a href="https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ocw/mod/oucontent/view.php?printable=1&id=1747" target="_blank">positive and negative freedoms</a>, most commonly defined as <em>freedom to </em>and <em>freedom from.</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Libertarianism has been so distorted," Jillette said. "I mean I don't know if I have to pull my name out of that ring. It's been adopted by people who don't seem to hold the responsibility side of it and don't seem to hold the compassion side of it."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I can see arguments for not wearing seatbelts and I can see arguments for not wearing motorcycle helmets but I cannot see any argument for driving drunk. And that is what not wearing a mask is. It's not risking yourself. It's risking the people around you which I don't see a way that that's your right."</p>
How removing media gatekeepers didn't lead to utopia<p><span style="background-color: initial;">How did the democratization and decentralization of the media change the world? In the 1990s, Jillette might have said that removing media gatekeepers would produce a sort of open, meritocratic utopia: you have an interesting idea, you throw it online, and it spreads all over the world.</span><br></p><p>But that's not quite what happened.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I thought getting rid of the gatekeepers could be nothing but good," Jillette said. "And now it seems like getting rid of the gatekeepers gave us Trump as president and in the same breath, in the same wind, gave us not wearing masks and maybe gave us a huge unpleasant amount of overt racism."</p><p>It also gave us cancel culture. But Jillette said he "can't even rant against cancel culture," because there's no obvious way to fix it without obstructing free speech rights. After all, it's a good thing that victimized people are now able to go online, post grievances, and (sometimes) see justice delivered, whereas in the past they had to file their complaints with a series of gatekeepers. But simultaneously, this unmanaged system leaves it vulnerable for abuse.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Now you could be obviously lying and still have a million-and-a-half people believe you and do real damage to the person that you said wrong to," Jillette said.</p>
A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.
- 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.
Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to go ice fishing on Europa<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="GLGsRX7e" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4790eb8f0515e036b24c4195299df28"> <div id="botr_GLGsRX7e_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/GLGsRX7e-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Water Vapor Above Europa’s Surface Deteced for First Time<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9c4abc8473e1b89170cc8941beeb1f2d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WQ-E1lnSOzc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.
- 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.
3 Tips on Negotiations, with FBI Negotiator Chris Voss | Best of '16 | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b86d518e9f0c9f9d7a7c686e07798152"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-FLlBchonwM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This question forces a response, but—and this is key—the other person has to consider your side of the argument. They have to look at the situation from your perspective if they hope to offer a solution.</p><p>Offering a real-world example, Voss mentions coaching a high-end real estate agent. They were leasing an expensive home in the Hollywood Hills. The first time the negotiators asked the "how" question, the leasing agent relented on a number of terms. A little while later, they asked again. This time, the agent said, "If you want the house you're going to have to do it," signaling that the end of negotiations had been reached. </p><p>Voss says that "how" is not the only word that works. "What" is also a powerful entry into negotiations, such as "What am I supposed to do?" Again, you're forcing the other person to empathize. </p><p>This is a particularly tricky skill during a time when most conversations are online. Nuance is impossible without the immediacy of pantomimes and vocal fluctuations. Whataboutism is too easy an escape. </p>
Aikido Morihei Ueshiba (1883 - 1969, standing, centre left), founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido, demonstrating his art with a follower, at the opening ceremony of the newly-opened aikido headquarters, Hombu Dojo, in Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1967.
(Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)<p>Online debates often amount to little more than frustrated individuals pulling out their hair. In his book, "Against Empathy," Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom writes that effective altruists are able to focus on what really matters in everyday life.</p><p>For example, he compares politics to sports. Rooting for your favorite team isn't based in rationality. If you're a Red Sox fan, Yankees stats don't matter. You just want to destroy them. This, he believes, is how most people treat politics. "They don't care about truth because, for them, it's not really about truth."</p><p>Bloom writes that if his son believed our ancestors rode dinosaurs, it would horrify him, but "I can't think of a view that matters less for everyday life." We have to strive for rationality when the stakes are high. When involved in real decision-making processes that will affect their life, people are better able to express ideas and make arguments, and are more receptive to opposing ideas. </p><p>Because we "become inured to problems that seem unrelenting," it's imperative to make the problem seem immediate. As Voss says, giving the other side "the illusion of control" is one way of accomplishing this, as it forces them to take action. When people feel out of control, negotiations are impossible. People dig their heels in and refuse to budge. </p><p>What seems to be weakness is actually a strength. To borrow another martial arts metaphor, negotiations are like aikido: using your opponent's force against them while also protecting them from injury. Forcing empathy is one way to accomplish this task. You may get more than you ask for without the other side ever realizing they surrendered anything.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>