Is America Tough Enough to Deal with Modern Threats?

Rachel Marsden
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Posted: Mar 25, 2015 12:01 AM
Is America Tough Enough to Deal with Modern Threats?

PARIS -- The Green Berets need to throw more tea parties, don't you think?

The federal government is requesting public-sector proposals from contractors to train U.S. Special Forces in ethnography and cultural work. That includes, according to the wording of the government tender, "the distinct cultural and societal differences and engagement considerations between U.S. Country Teams, Host Nation military forces, local leaders in rural villages, and political, economic, and social leaders on a national stage."

Great, let's burden our top warriors with more bureaucratic nonsense.

Maybe the next Special Forces training course can focus on animal husbandry or the nuances of needlepoint techniques. Look, if Special Forces are being sent somewhere, their engagement had better be limited to military action or human intelligence for targeting purposes. For anything short of that, send in some kids from the Peace Corps to play board games with the locals.

What kind of war is this administration preparing for if Special Forces need such training? Is there an enemy anywhere on the radar -- now or in the foreseeable future -- that could be subdued using this nonsense? Last I checked, some of our enemies were beheading people.

This administration has lost all sense of how to utilize the formidable tools at its disposal. Special Forces need to learn where to put the bullets in the most effective way possible, not (as per the tender) how to "distinguish between societies of status (clan societies), societies of contract (rule of law societies), and the hybrids that form the core of the human domain." What's next? Making them pass a pop quiz before they're allowed to fire a bullet? If you're that desperate for cultural insight in the event that a particular battlefield is too dangerous for the Peace Corps kids, that's what diplomats, intelligence agencies and reliable nation-state allies are for.

Another important aspect of warfare is psychological operations, or "psy-ops" -- spreading strategic disinformation to undermine the enemy. One of the most effective tools used for psy-ops these days is the computer, if only because cyber is the new witchcraft. Look at all the cyber-wusses that it's creating. Hardly anyone understands what they're looking at when presented with "evidence" of a so-called information security breach. Most of what the public sees as "hacking" is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. For example, "taking down" a website is really just a temporary denial-of-service flooding, and website "defacement" is nothing more than a cross-site scripting illusion. So all any group needs to do to spread fear and insecurity is to appear capable of grand feats of computer wizardry against the enemy.

Recently, a group calling itself the "Islamic State Hacking Division" posted what it claimed to be the addresses of 100 U.S. military members using, according to the group's website, "the huge amount of data we have from various different servers and databases." The reason for posting the personal information and addresses? "So that our (Islamic State) brothers residing in America can deal with (the military members)."

Scary, right? It would be if the same information wasn't readily available via Google and the open-source research of personal information on social media that people willingly spew all over the Internet. This is personal data here, not nuclear secrets. While military members themselves might be savvy about matters of personal and operational security, their spouses, kids, parents and friends likely aren't. And all that it takes to get the kind of information that the enemy claims to have obtained through "hacking" is the failure to realize that a vulnerability anywhere in the social media utilization of a service member's entourage can lead to a breach.

The Obama administration has failed to leverage this perceived scare to explain the objective and the nature of psychological operations, and educate the American public about the inherent risks of social media.

A reaction of strength would have been a good laugh in mockery of the enemy's "skills," coupled with a heads-up to stay off social media in favor of private email or, you know, that ancient relic called the telephone.

But no. The Pentagon did acknowledge that the breach wasn't an actual act of hacking. But an anonymous military official told the Christian Science Monitor, "We want to help people who want to be on social media to share information in a manner that's going to be a good experience for them, and to feel as safe as they can be."

And with that, an opportunity was missed to make America a harder target -- safer and stronger at the level of the average citizen.