Missile Defense


The recent presidential election campaign highlighted many issues between the United States and China. And beyond this campaign, there are many issues that the world’s two superpowers must resolve. But often lost in this dialogue is the clear and present danger presented by China’s ballistic missiles. We hear a lot about North Korea’s missile efforts, but not China’s.

Clearly, China’s ballistic missiles represent just one arrow in a quiver of offensive and defensive weapons in China’s arsenal. And just as there is danger in attempting to address this capability in isolation, it is also not especially useful examining U.S. capabilities to defend against these missiles in a stovepiped manner. In any conflict – and even in the context of saber-rattling – it is important to examine the total force each nation brings to the table today, and perhaps more importantly, in the future.

That said, it is possible to drill down and examine this one capability in detail as a means of understanding not only China’s strategic intent today, but also its likely course in the future, and perhaps most importantly, the measures the United States it taking to enable the U.S. military to address this threat today and tomorrow. There is a vast body of work in this area, and reading just some of it will put this threat in stark relief.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense – and especially defense against China’s ballistic missiles – in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here.

Happy Enough?


The American Declaration of Independence speaks to the importance of, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It’s not an overstatement to say that most of us are zealous in that worthy pursuit. But once we’ve satisfied our basic wants in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, when do we decide how much happiness is enough?

Hanna Rosin’s review of Ruth Whippman’s new book, America the Anxious: How our Pursuit of Happiness is creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks pulls back the curtain on this important question. In Rosin’s words:

“I had largely forgotten that slap in the face until I read Ruth Whippman’s new book, “America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks.” For us natives, reading this book can be an unnerving experience. Whippman, who is a transplanted British writer, moved to California when her husband got a job here. She spent much of her time settling in her family, but all the while she was watching us — how we read, eat, work, medicate, exercise and pray. And what she noticed the most was how the same subject comes up all the time: happiness.”

“Tuning into this alien internal monologue reveals her grand thesis about America: The problem with our quest for happiness is that, apparently, it’s making us miserable. After some idle Googling, her suspicions are confirmed. Various clever studies by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, show that “paradoxically, the more people valued and were encouraged to value happiness as a separate life goal, the less happy they were.” When it comes to emotional temperament, America is the clumsy suitor of nations. We yearn and obsess and plot new elaborate strategies as the object of our desire shrinks ever farther away. It’s a little embarrassing.”

Want to tweak your pursuit of happiness and make it less frenetic?  You can read the full article here.

Chaos Monkeys

If there is one “entity” that has fascinated America – and likely the world – it’s Silicon Valley. It’s where we look for innovation, for cutting-edge ideas, and for the products and services that influence our lives. While Silicon Valley is a catch-all phrase for both a region and an industry, to paraphrase the Willie Nelson song, “It is always on our mind.”

But what do we really know about Silicon Valley? The answer is: Not much. Now, Antonio Garcia Martinez has written and insider’s account: Chaos Monkeys. Here is part of what David Streitfeld offers in his review of Martinez’s book that really does take you deep inside Silicon Valley:

“The literature of Silicon Valley is exceedingly thin. The tech overlords keep clear of writers who are not on their payrolls or at least in their thrall. Many in the valley feel that bringing the digital future to the masses is God’s work. Question this, and they tend to get touchy. Anger them, and they might seek revenge. The billionaire investor Peter Thiel, outed by the local arm of the Gawker media empire, secretly financed a lawsuit to destroy it. Silicon Valley did not rise en masse and say this was seriously beyond the pale. No surprise, then, that there are so few books investigating what it really takes to succeed in tech (duplicity often trumps innovation) or that critically examine such omnipresent, comforting fables as “We’re not in it for the money.””

“Antonio García Martínez’s Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley, a book whose bland all-purpose title belies the fact that this is a valley account like no other. The first hint that something is different here comes with the dedication: “To all my enemies: I could not have done it without you.” This is autobiography as revenge, naming names and sparing few, certainly not the author. “I was wholly devoid of most human boundaries or morality,” he notes in passing. In other words, he was a start-up chief executive.”

“The heart of the book is the period García Martínez spent at his start-up, which was intended to allow small businesses to efficiently advertise on Google. It was an auspicious moment. While the rest of the world was struggling to recover from the recession, the office parks of the valley were full of aggressive young men who had made pots of money by being early employees of Google. To prove they were not merely lucky, they needed to score again. Everyone was terrified of missing the next Facebook or, a little later, the next Airbnb or Uber. Smart entrepreneurs capitalized on these fears.”

A thought provoking insider’s view? You can read the full article here

Missile Defense


Last month, we posted about missile defense and the U.S. Navy’s lead role in dealing with this existential threat to our nation and our allies. We continue that theme here about the ongoing evolution of this critical pillar in our national defense. Whether it is North Korean or Iranian ballistic missiles, the threat is here today and it is growing.

The National Security Strategy underscored the most important functions of the national government:

This administration has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people.  And there is no greater threat to the American people then weapons of mass destruction, particularly the danger posed by the pursuit of nuclear weapons by violent extremists and their proliferation to additional states.

Today, as described earlier, the global ballistic missile threat has morphed from massed numbers of ICBMs unleashed by a peer competitor to the threat of accidental release of a ballistic missile or the threat of one fired by a so-called rogue nation or a national or international terrorist group.  And the threat of what these ballistic missiles could carry – from solely nuclear WMD to chemical and biological WMD – has multiplied the number of nations that can combine these capabilities to threaten the United States, forward-deployed forces, allies, and friends.

Read more about the United States journey to provide world-class missile defense in my series of articles on missile defense on the Defense Media Network’s website here

Our Online World


Who are you? Are there two yous? Increasingly, we have two personas, one we exhibit in person and an entirely different one. This is something that is all new in our society, and something brought on by the internet. Our personas and our behavior does change when we go online. A ground-breaking book helps us understand way.

Jon Ronson titles his review of Mary Akind’s book, “The Cyber Effect,” “Offline Jekylls, Online Hydes,” and it is apt, because while in person we typically adhere to what we feel “polite society” demands, offline we often are different people, sometimes people who are unrecognizable to our family and close friends. Here is part of what Ronson offers:

“This is her provocative and at times compelling thesis: The internet — “the largest unregulated social experiment of all time,” in the words of the clinical psychologist Michael Seto — is turning us, as a species, more mentally disordered, anxious, obsessive, narcissistic, exhibitionist, body dysmorphic, psychopathic, schizophrenic. All this might unleash a “surge in deviant, criminal and abnormal behavior in the general population.” We check our mobile devices 1,500 times a week, sometimes even secretly, before the plane’s pilot tells us it’s safe. Our ethics have become so impaired that some of us take selfies in front of people threatening to jump from bridges. (Having spent years with people disproportionately shamed on social media for some minor transgression, I can attest to how the internet can rob people of empathy.)”

“She paints an evocative image of sitting on a train to Galway, watching a woman breast-feed her baby: “The baby was gazing foggily upward . . . looking adoringly at the mother’s jaw, as the mother continued to gaze adoringly at her device.” How will such a seemingly tiny behavioral shift like less eye contact between mother and baby play out over time? Aiken asks. “This small and simple thing, millions of babies around the world getting less eye contact and less one-on-one attention, could result in an evolutionary blip. Yes, I said it. Evolutionary blip. Less eye contact could change the course of human civilization.””

Thought provoking? You can read the full article here

Relying on Others


Most Americans have grown up with the idea of “rugged individualism” as part of their DNA. We were a pioneering nations and that spirit is part of who we are in many ways.


Now, it might be worth reevaluating the risks and rewards of relying on others. There’s no 100% right answer, and as the TV commercials caution, “Your results may vary.”


Robert Moore does a deep-dive into this question in his piece: “On the Trail of Interdependence.” What he suggests struck a chord in me, and perhaps it may in you:

“Among Appalachian Trail “thru-hikers” — that special class of backpackers dedicated (or obsessed) enough to walk the trail’s full 2,200 miles — the question of whether to carry a tent is hotly debated.”

“Thru-hikers tend to fall into one of two factions. Some (albeit a minority) insist a tent is unnecessary because the trail is punctuated with wooden shelters, or lean-tos, every 10 miles or so. As a rule, these hikers tend to travel light, cook simply or not at all, and sleep in the lean-tos or other shelters on the trail. But other hikers pride themselves on being self-sufficient: They prefer to camp in a tent far from other people; they carry detailed maps; they would never hitchhike into town just to grab a milkshake. We do not have a precise word for these two personality types. Not yet.”

“Since returning from my own through hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2009, I’ve begun to see these two approaches to life pervading every facet of our society. We could call the one “endarkic” and the other “exarkic” (from the Greek word arkeo, “to suffice”). In political science or economics, the word autarky is used to describe a state of self-sufficiency. Endarky is rather the drive toward self-sufficiency; exarky, its inverse.”

“We all know what an endarkist looks like. America has practically mythologized the type. Most of our best-known nature writers were vocal proponents of endarky: John Muir tramping off with a crust of bread tied to his belt, Thoreau hammering together a cabin beside Walden Pond, Edward Abbey advising his readers to “brew your own beer; kick in your TV; kill your own beef.””

“In the past, we may have called these people “rugged individualists.” They tend to internalize information and skills. They grow their own food, build their own furniture, distill their own whiskey. Truly endarkic people crave solitude and, perhaps less consciously, cataclysm, if only for the opportunity to prove their self-reliance.”

“The exarkic person, on the other hand, is utopian, the type who believes in improving systems, not rejecting them; who does not shy from asking for directions; who would rather rent or share or borrow a home than own one; who has no qualms uploading his digital memories to something called the Cloud; who welcomes the notion of self-driving cars. Exarks prefer a well-trained police force to a well-oiled firearm. They walk, nimbly, with a kind of holy faith, atop wires others have installed.”

“While these terms roughly correspond to the age-old dichotomy between individualism and collectivism, they are not synonymous with those terms. Individualism and collectivism are framed primarily in terms of cooperation and competition, while endarky and exarky are framed in terms of sufficiency.”


Curious to learn more? You can read the full article here

Four Scenarios – Non-State World


We posted a number of stories under National Security that mined the National Intelligence Council’s capstone publication: Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. In our last few posts we looked at three of those alternative worlds. This final Global Trends 2030 post discusses the final  alternative world, Stalled Engines.

Without putting too fine a point on it, the Nonstate World scenario represents what is arguably the most uncertain and unpredictable scenario presented in Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. While the future worlds presented in the other three scenarios presented in GT2030 have their own uncertainties and conundrums, the Nonstate World scenario envisions a world where it is hard enough to guess, let alone “know,” what will transpire circa 2030.

Global governance institutions that do not adapt to the more diverse and widespread distribution of power are also less likely to be successful. Multinational businesses, IT communications firms, international scientists, NGOs, and groups that are used to cooperating across borders thrive in this hyper-globalized world where expertise, influence, and agility count for more than “weight” or “position” in this scenario. Private capital and philanthropy matter more, for example, than official development assistance. Social media, mobile communications, and big data are key components, underlying and facilitating cooperation among nonstate actors and with governments.

This is a “patchwork” and uneven world. Some global problems get solved because networks manage to coalesce, and cooperation exists across state and nonstate divides. In other cases, nonstate actors may try to deal with a challenge, but they are stymied because of opposition from major powers who, as noted above, often consider these NGOs, multinational businesses, academic institutions, and wealthy individuals as threats to their authority. This world may be shaping our future today.

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what our world may look like in the future – especially if “Non-State World” prevails.

No Fear of Failure


There’s little question that we’re a success-oriented society. Many carry around famed football coach Vince Lombardi’s mantra, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” as a personal mantra.

And in American society today, with our basic needs fulfilled for the majority of our citizens, we turn to “winning” as our measure of success. That covers the spectrum from getting our kids into the best schools, ensuring we have the best lawn on the block and being almost perfect in every way. In most aspects of our lives we all but shout, “Failure is not an option!”

Now, two Stanford professors ask us to step back and reconsider and try to accept the fact that it is OK to fail and that there isn’t just one way to deal with tough challenges. Here is part of what Steven Kurutz shared in his short piece, “Life Has Questions. They Have Answers.”

“The two professors claim that you can design an amazing life in the same way that Jonathan Ive designed the iPhone. They say the practices taught in the class and the book can help you (in designing-your-life-speak) “reframe” dysfunctional beliefs that surround life and career decisions and help you “wayfind” in a chaotic world through the adoption of such design tenets as bias-for-action, prototyping and team-building.”

“After nine years of teaching their secrets to future Google product managers and start-up wunderkinds, two designers, Mr. Burnett and Mr. Evans are opening up the curriculum to everyone. “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and “Am I living a meaningful life?” aren’t only subjects for late-night pot-fueled dorm hangouts, the men said.”

You can read the full article that hits the core question, “What do I do with the rest of my one wild and wonderful life?” here

Four Scenarios – Gini Out of the Bottle


The National Intelligence Council report, Global Trends 2030, helps us to understand what the future may holds, both for our personal lives, as well as the broader issue of what the world will be like years hence.

We have previously looked at the “Stalled Engines” and “Fusion” scenarios as “Alternative Worlds.” Now we’ll turn to the third-of-four, Gini Out of the Bottle. This more nuanced scenario represents yet another way the world may look in 2030. The NIC’s companion report to Global Trends 2030 entitled “Le Menu” provides the Cliff’s Notes description of this third alternative world this way:

“Inequalities within countries and between rich and poor countries dominate. The world is increasingly defined by two self-reinforcing cycles – one virtuous leading to greater prosperity, the other vicious leading to poverty and instability. Major powers remain at odds; the potential for conflict rises. An increasing number of states fail. Economic growth continues at moderate pace, but the world is less secure.”

“In the Gini out of the Bottle scenario inequalities within countries and between rich and poor countries dominate. The world becomes wealthier – as global GDP grows – but is much less happy and stable as the differences between the haves and have-nots become starker and increasingly immutable. The world is increasingly defined by two self-reinforcing cycles – one virtuous leading to greater prosperity, the other vicious, leading to poverty and instability.”

“In this Gini out of the Bottle world, the lack of societal cohesion domestically is mirrored at the international level. With Europe weakened and the United States more restrained, international assistance to the most vulnerable populations declines. Major powers remain at odds; the potential for conflict rises. An increasing number of states fail, fueled in part by the lack of much international cooperation on assistance and development.”

Read the entire article here on the Defense Media Network website and consider what our world may look like in the future – especially if “Gini out of the Bottle” prevails.

Tough Enough?


David Brooks typically writes thoughtful pieces on issues that impact all of us. He recently penned a piece, “Making Modern Toughness,” that spoke to me. It may speak to you.

Here is part of what Brooks said regarding how we seem to be working hard today to not induce toughness:

“When I ask veteran college teachers and administrators to describe how college students have changed over the years, I often get an answer like this: ‘Today’s students are more accomplished than past generations, but they are also more emotionally fragile.’”

“That rings true to me. Today’s students are amazing, but they bathe one another in oceans of affirmation and praise, as if buttressing one another against some insecurity. Whatever one thinks of the campus protests, the desire for trigger warnings and safe spaces does seem to emanate from a place of emotional fragility.”

“John R. Lewis may not have been intrinsically tough, but he was tough in the name of civil rights. Mother Teresa may not have been intrinsically steadfast, but she was steadfast in the name of God. The people around us may not be remorselessly gritty, but they can be that when it comes to protecting their loved ones, when it comes to some dream for their future self.”

“In short, emotional fragility is not only caused by overprotective parenting. It’s also caused by anything that makes it harder for people to find their telos. It’s caused by the culture of modern psychology, which sometimes tries to talk about psychological traits in isolation from moral purposes. It’s caused by the ethos of the modern university, which in the name of “critical thinking” encourages students to be detached and corrosively skeptical. It’s caused by the status code of modern meritocracy, which encourages people to pursue success symbols that they don’t actually desire.”

“We are all fragile when we don’t know what our purpose is, when we haven’t thrown ourselves with abandon into a social role, when we haven’t committed ourselves to certain people, when we feel like a swimmer in an ocean with no edge. If you really want people to be tough, make them idealistic for some cause, make them tender for some other person, make them committed to some worldview that puts today’s temporary pain in the context of a larger hope.”

You can read the entire article here