Drake’s Equation: The Key to Stopping Terrorism

drake-equation-540pxI’m sure most of you immediately recognized the reference to Drake’s Equation and wondered, what does this have to do with terrorists?

Briefly, everything.

For my Red Sox fan friends who may be struggling with the analogy, Drake’s Equation was the brainchild of Dr. Frank Drake. In 1961, to stimulate discussion on the probability of intelligent life in the universe (leaving aside the argument if it exists here), Drake came up with a way to hypothesize the number of intelligent civilizations in the universe.

This is an inexact science.

But the salient point is one element of the equation, i.e. the fraction of intelligent civilizations who develop sufficiently advanced technology to make themselves known in the universe. We did it with television. Signals of everything from Hitler’s opening speech at the 1936 Olympics to Moe, Larry, and Curly are winging their way bringing tidings of our culture to ET.

The other element implied, but not explicitly stated, is the fraction of civilizations who develop advanced science such as nuclear technology and survive it. Thus, the link to radicalized fundamentalism and terrorists.

In 1956, the year of my birth, the idea that one day I would carry around a device capable of storing 128 gigabytes of data, or that the entire Library of Congress and almost every printed book that ever existed could be accessed by this same device, was the stuff of science fiction.

Such is the proliferation of technology in the intervening years.

In that same year, 1956, three countries had nuclear weapons. Today, there are at least nine. The US developed them first, followed by the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. The technology proliferated through cooperation and espionage. The point being is it could not be contained.

Technology, once released, acts much like a virus. It infects the host (just look around at the cell phone addicts.) Jumps to the next host (because they desire the technology rather than by infection,) and the virus spreads exponentially.

Here’s how Drake can illuminate the solution.

Our response to terrorism is a single dimension solution. Kill them. However, like a virus, you can never quite kill them all. Now imagine if just one small cell of fifty radicalized virulent terrorists, intent on riding the mushroom cloud to the virgin happy hour, obtain a nuclear weapon? The inevitability of such an occurrence, given the unstoppable proliferation of technology, is sobering.

We need to fight more than the symptoms of radicalized fundamentalism. We need to identify and eliminate the underlying cause.  Therein lies the greatest risk. We have lost our ability to face complex issues. We want a 144 character answer for a problem requiring a doctoral dissertation.

Given the current inherent disdain for deep rational thought, I wonder if we have it in us as a people.

There are no simple solutions to this problem. How can we kill them all is the wrong question. We need to ask a different one.

Why do otherwise rational intelligent humans see killing themselves and innocent humans as a path to a better life after death?

The answer is simple. Because life for them and their families is not good. It would seem that trying to kill people who believe they would be better off dead is not a viable solution. Despite sophomoric cries to the contrary, it is not our job to arrange their trip to visit their god.

In the short term, we have no choice but the react and defend. But what about long-term?

If we want to survive long enough for the universe to know we are here, we must craft a long-term solution before we flunk the math of Dr. Drake.


Trumping America

I think I have figured out the Trump phenomenon. His success in the primaries comes from supporters who behave at the maturity level of 15-year-old boys and 13-year-old girls. They are not quite children, not quite adults, and driven by raging emotional responses to anything they cannot or choose not to understand.

They are willing to sacrifice civil liberties and constitutional protections in the pursuit of fighting terrorists. They are willing to employ torture as a means justified by their mistaken belief it will protect America.

They support a candidate who said targeting families, including children, is a worthwhile military strategy. One he is prepared to order our military to carry out. Trump, with all his pride in his Ivy League education, must have skipped history and ethics. His was a poison ivy education.

Here is a quote Trump and his supporters could adopt in support of effective genocide.

Raymond D’Aguilers, a witness to the victorious end of the Crusade of 1096-1099 in Jerusalem, wrote

‘Men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers.’

Men, women, and children not of the Christian faith dead at the hands of the faithful. Unbelievers meaning those who believe differently than the one holding the sword or the launch codes for nuclear weapons.

Trump must believe My Lai was the most successful operation during the Viet Nam war. Unless he missed the story on TV.

Trump’s idea is not even original. Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed thought it a good idea. If we follow Trump’s logic, flying planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon was brilliant.

This country is in a lot of trouble if anyone, let alone a candidate for the Presidency, takes such policies seriously.

They risk destroying the very freedom and moral character that built this country.

Trump screams he will lead us to Making America Great Again. By what measure? By what means? He wraps himself in the flag, portraying himself as the ultimate patriot.

To quote Samuel Johnson, “Patriotism is the refuge of the scoundrel.”

Trump’s idea of patriotism encompasses all the evil of nationalism that no rational American should condone.

Out of this fire of ignorance, Trump emerged as the poster boy of xenophobia.

This pseudo-tough, swaggering, ne’er do well spouting invectives and threatening anyone not in lockstep with him. An American version of ‘das Herrenvolk.’

A schoolyard bully picking on the weak while his “fans” stand around with their cell phones recording and posting their childish voyeuristic nonsense, afraid to stand up for what’s right.

We face the real specter of a President whose policy platform consists of acting like a junkyard dog.

During the last debate, where supporters considered jokes about the size of appendages high humor, there was only one adult on the stage. Trump was not it. Yet his supporters are okay with that.

The reality that people are fooled into believing Trump represents the best of America is frightening.

Nevertheless, he is winning the primaries. True, he is winning Republican primaries under a system rigged to favor the lead candidate; designed to minimize the chance of a brokered convention. They never imagined the rise of the Donald and his living, but brain dead, hordes.

Keep this in mind; he is winning with at best 35% of the vote. Which means 65% of the vote went against him. Many of these are winner take all contests.

Staunch conservatives, like the Tea Party and others, deserve some of the blame here. As Stephen King so aptly wrote. “Conservatives who for 8 years sowed the dragon’s teeth of partisan politics are horrified to discover they have grown an actual dragon.”

We can only hope a St. George will arrive on the scene to slay the dragon before he incinerates us all.

If Trump wins, he will have at least given us one thing of value. We will need that slogan, Making America Great Again, once his Presidency ends. I fear, if there is a Trump presidency, we’ll be singing the line from the Paul Simon song, America.”We’ve all come to look for America…”


Better Way of War: Learning from Star Trek

As I predicted in an earlier piece, (https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2015/11/14/roots-of-evil/),
France has responded in kind to the attacks in Paris. They’ve launched a two-pronged assault, using Law Enforcement to arrest and seize terrorists within their borders and using the might of their military on targets in Syria.

The use of the police to investigate and arrest those responsible I applaud. I hope it results in the dismantling of the terrorist cells. The use of the military I understand, but I have less hope for the effectiveness of such tactics.

I have no doubt of the efficiency of the French attacks, or the effectiveness of the weapons. I am sure they managed to kill a number of ISIS members and those that support them.

The failure lies in they cannot succeed in killing the ideas (as warped as they may seem) that encourage and inspire people to commit such acts through military force alone.

Over the course of the last century, our ideas and abilities regarding warfare have changed. Militarily (meaning all those with sophisticated military hardware and capabilities) have exponentially improved our ability to reach out and kill someone.

We can do it from the relative safely of an Air Force base in Nevada, remotely piloting UAV equipped with HARM missiles to destroy targets on the other side of the world with the push of a button.

The violence and gore of death mitigated by watching it on a screen rather than smelling the blood and stepping over the body parts.

Since the War to End all Wars (WWI) upwards of 80 million people have died (and perhaps more) in war.  Yet we continue down this path.  And we do it because we’ve become better at the advertising that sells this approach.

In December of 1941 President Roosevelt announced we were at war with Japan and Germany. He called on all Americans to dedicate themselves to victory. To commit themselves to battle. To be willing to sacrifice themselves in a noble cause, even at the price of their own lives.

In September of 2001, President Bush told us to go shopping. Yes, we were at war with terrorists. Yes, we would use our military might to smite our enemies. Those enemies that hate us because of our freedom (and shopping malls apparently) and we would hunt them down and kill them.

Between 1941 and 2001 our wars went from all-out calls for the commitment and blood of Americans to the “Police action” of Korea, to the “Assistance” of the Democratic Government of South Viet Nam.

Just a kinder and gentler way of selling war to the world.

So how can we learn from Star Trek? There was an episode wherein Kirk and crew encounter two planets at war. But there are no weapons being fired, no bodies being exploded or shot, no horribly wounded sent home without limbs to recover.

It was a “civilized” way of warfare. Virtual weapons were fired back and forth. Computers randomly selected the “casualties” and dutiful citizens so selected reported to the chambers to be “eliminated” without the horrors of real war.

It worked well at eliminating the horrors of war, without eliminating the motivation of war. No one on either planet could explain the reason they were at war, that had faded into the past.

Kirk, as he always did, violated the Prime Directive and interfered. He gave them back the horrors and reality of war. The two planets chose to negotiate. Happy ending all around.

Perhaps we can learn something here. Either find a willingness to solve the problems that motivate a people to choose to kill another people by virtue of a difference of beliefs, or adapt a more “civilized” way to war.

Think of it. Eliminate the horrors of the wounded, both civilian and military. Eliminate the effect of war on children (they would be ineligible for selection until their 21st birthday.) Redirect the resources of the military into more productive activities.

Let the computers fight the war.

The reality is it wouldn’t work. Until we as a species learn to extend tolerance as much as seek it for ourselves, war will remain with us.

I find it amazing that those that scream the loudest for the path to war, are almost always those that don’t go to war. It seems to me that those who have never seen the effect of a bullet on a human body in person are the first to hand someone else a weapon, identify the target, and send them off to fight. Staying safely behind.