Friday, October 07, 2016

Will the Red Tape Protect Us, Papa?

The Last Warrior  is an excellent biography of Andrew Marshall, a pioneer in the American defense intellectual community. Marshall worked for years in the revolving door between think tanks and US defense agencies, and is one of the most influential figures in US defense strategy (at least until I get hired by the NSC). In Chapter 3 of this biography, the authors detail Marshall's struggle against the management at RAND to improve qualitative analytical standards.

Similarly, the introduction of The National Security Enterprise: Institutions, Cultures, and Politics highlights complaints about "the parochial nature of organizations and systems that make up the [national security] system." The intro also highlights worries that organizational gridlock between the different NatSec agencies hinders the Executive from controlling the system.

Now, of course, the readings also highlight organizational cultures, decision making models according to the giant that is Graham Allison, and challenges to the NatSec system. But if you, imaginary reader, will allow me, I'd like to hone in here on institutional inefficiency for a while. Especially as it pertains to a potential Trump presidency and nuclear capabilities. Forgive me.

Now, it's no secret that the intel community and defense experts are up in arms over Trump. Trump's disparaging remarks towards the intelligence community and his obvious ignorance of US nuclear strategy are prime examples of this.
It's also no secret that the procedures for the launch of the US's nuclear weapons are designed with expediency in mind. So here comes my point; in the event of a leader that is (a) uninformed, (b) immature, (c) uninterested in expert advice, or (d) unaware of global ramifications of nuclear detonations, might a massive snail-paced and inefficient bureaucracy be just what the doctor ordered?

I know, it's a stretch. And I get your reservations, OK? I do. (No one gets your reservations like I do. You have the best reservations.) When the commander of your nuclear arsenal is level headed, well advised, and methodical, you want that launch process to be smooth and effortless like a slip-n-slide. And I agree.

But you might not want that same process to be as easy and quick if your commander has made public statements indicating that they'd be more inclined to use nukes than other presidents, that they don't understand why the US can't use nukes casually, or that they don't even know how nukes are launched. If your commander demonstrated this level of incompetence regarding such a dangerous weapon, you might wish that there were some reforms in place to make it just a little bit more difficult to launch.

But who knows, right? Maybe Trump's all talk. Maybe he won't get elected and this problem that has been debated by experts for decades will just go away and we won't have to worry about it. I'm sure it'll be fine.

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