Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 28, 2014

Reality is random

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 28, 2014

A quick review of the summer, now quickly closing:

So far the wildfires have been less destructive than I anticipated.  But worse is likely still ahead.  The exceptional drought in California and extreme drought in Nevada and Southern Oregon set-the-stage for a dangerous autumn.  Precisely when or where?

The hurricane season was predicted to be “below-normal” and results to-date track the projections.  But tomorrow we remember the ninth anniversary of Katrina’s landfall in Louisiana.  We know it will happen again in New Orleans or Houston or Miami or Hampton Roads or following the path of Sandy.

A powerful mid-August low pressure cell brought flooding from Detroit to Baltimore and into New England.  The long-standing record in Islip, New York for rainfall in a 24 hour period was seven inches.  On August 13 the city received nearly 13 inches. Detroit was hit again this week.   More extreme weather has been statistically confirmed.

The 6.0 earthquake in sparsely populated Napa is another proverbial wake-up call for the eventual hit on dense urban areas.  The 1906 San Francisco quake is estimated to have been a 6.8.  The Richter scale is a base-10 logarithmic, so the 6.8 earthquake is almost 16 times stronger than the 6.0.  The 2011 Tohoku earthquake was 9.0 or over 31,000 times stronger than a 6.0 (That’s not a typo.  You can do the calculations here.)  San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Memphis, Anchorage know it is just a matter of time.

Ebola is not casually transmitted.  It has usually been possible to contain it.  But the increasing number of Ebola cases since March highlights the challenges emerging from increased density and mobility. While the Ebola threat to the US is scant, implications for other novel viruses are worth keen attention.  In May several of us exercised a pandemic’s impact on the US supply chain.  As one grocery executive said, “There’s no real solution to this one.  It’s mostly a choice between very bad and awful.”

The March disappearance of MH370 and the shooting down of MH17 in July are each surreal in their own way.   In the last half of July three passenger planes crashed in an eight day period.  Aviation remains comparatively very safe and has consistently become safer over-time.  But with more people flying in more planes more accidents will occur even if the proportion of accidents declines compared to overall use.  Similar can be anticipated for transporting oil and hazardous materials by railway, pipeline, or truck.

Back in February I predicted Syrian-sourced terrorist attacks on Europe. There has been one.  A few more have been preempted.  Given what has happened this summer in Gaza and Northern Iraq, I am surprised we have not seen more attempts.  We will and in the US too.

The Nigerian girls continue to be held captive.  More have been captured.  More boys and girls have been killed.  Boko Haram has also declared creation of an Islamic State (whether related or not to the one in Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq is not yet clear).  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Salafists control large swaths of Libya.  Al-Shabaab has lost ground in Somalia but is increasing its activities in Kenya, Djibouti, and Uganda. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to operate in Yemen and plot operations far-afield.  Religious differences amplify tribal conflicts across the Sahel. The summer months have not been encouraging in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Central Asia.  Political divisions have deepened.  Communal conflict has increased.  The same might be said for places and people closer-at-hand.

North American demand for drugs and Latin American suppliers (some with connections to Central Asia and terrorist-related distributors) continue to develop a thriving market for their dangerous products and associated violence.  As with any complex adaptive system the consequences are manifold and often unintended.  But we have seen across the United States and throughout Central America that children are frequently the innocent victims.

For any child of the enlightenment and every Type-A personality there is in this quick review strong motivation to identify causation.  Is there an epidemiology of evil?  Is there a target-zero?  Some sort of pump-handle to remove and thereby mitigate or prevent unnecessary death, injury and destruction?

Perhaps.  Certainly our retrospective forensic skills are often strong enough to recognize what we missed.  But prospectively?  There are many more of us interacting in many more ways and our connections are increasingly interdependent. The potentialities are as logarithmic as the Richter.  Reality is robustly random.  Extremes are not anomalies, they ought to be expected. But they cannot be precisely predicted.

Plenty of opportunities for October surprises.

We are left with what we can apply in the fleeting present: preexisting resources and relationships, a commitment to accurately observing unfolding reality, and a predisposition to positive — and if we can, collaborative — action.

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2 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 28, 2014 @ 7:47 am

A fine and thoughtful post! Thanks Phil!

As the curtain descends on the Western World’s commitment to science, and reason, and holding the edge in weaponry over most of the world the last 550 years perhaps there is a story behind these stories and headlines.

HS largely rejected existing paradigms and hypotheses to formulate new ways to combat terrorism domestic and foreign. Unfortunately few in the USA in leadership positions were capable of formulating new ones.

So now fortunes AND lives lost combatting terrorism and no consensus even on FIRST PRINCIPLES such as understanding your enemies AND not overestimating or underestimating them.

Or that we have a CONSTITUTION TO DEFEND not people or property.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

August 28, 2014 @ 7:38 pm

https://www.thetrumpet.com/article/11971.2.167.0/world/terrorism/the-worlds-newest-most-radical-state

We have a Constitution to defend and while little changes in the corrupt and perverted world which is seemingly led by the devil, the mighty USA cannot seem to combat a small group of 100,000+ growing daily by numbers and of financial gain and has allowed the “Brutes of Tehran” the power to again hide behind women and children and religion abusing even the Qur’an and its true message where innocents are not to be harmed. Those in the Middle East are seriously concerned by IS and unfortunately for so many, it will be IS and Germany and Tehran who will combat one another where the Assyrians will repeat history with the last crusade initiated long ago with the already manufactured and distributed weapons supplied to the New Confederate of Middle East States in ally to Germany.

Apparently humanity has not learned from the lessons of history and the insistence of others to impose themselves upon one another….

“The Koran is very specific with regard to the nature of human struggle, because in order for a human to be at peace with himself, they must control their baser instincts,” says Nyang.

The quest to control base instincts such as greed, lust, and cruelty and to seek spiritual purity is known by Muslims as the “great jihad.” Featured widely in the Koran, the “great jihad” is a person’s most important internal struggle.

Nyang quotes Chapter 3, verse 172, of the Koran: “Of those who answered the call of Allah and the messenger, even after being wounded, those who do right and refrain from wrong have a great reward.”

But also in the holy scripture is a reference to “lower jihad,” a more earthly and physical—and controversial—struggle. “To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to fight] because they are wronged; and verily, God is most powerful for their aid,” quotes Nyang.

This verse speaks of combat or war to be waged against one’s oppressors—a struggle sanctioned by God.

But the Koran also states in Chapter 2, Verse 190: “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors.”

The essence of the verse, Nyang says, is to fight back “if you are attacked by your persecutors, but don’t fight back indiscriminately. Follow the rules of engagement.” According to mainstream Muslim clerics, those “rules of engagement”‘ are explicit: women, children, and innocent civilians are off limits.

Perversion of Text

Muslims believe the prophet Mohammed received these revelations directly from God some 1400 years ago. It was at a time when he and other Muslims were being driven from their homes, persecuted, and killed. But although the Koran advocates self-defense, its most prevalent message is one of peace and brotherly love.

“The Koran is very specific with regard to the nature of human struggle, because in order for a human to be at peace with himself, they must control their baser instincts,” says Nyang.

The quest to control base instincts such as greed, lust, and cruelty and to seek spiritual purity is known by Muslims as the “great jihad.” Featured widely in the Koran, the “great jihad” is a person’s most important internal struggle.

Nyang quotes Chapter 3, verse 172, of the Koran: “Of those who answered the call of Allah and the messenger, even after being wounded, those who do right and refrain from wrong have a great reward.”

But also in the holy scripture is a reference to “lower jihad,” a more earthly and physical—and controversial—struggle. “To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to fight] because they are wronged; and verily, God is most powerful for their aid,” quotes Nyang.

This verse speaks of combat or war to be waged against one’s oppressors—a struggle sanctioned by God.

But the Koran also states in Chapter 2, Verse 190: “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors.”

The essence of the verse, Nyang says, is to fight back “if you are attacked by your persecutors, but don’t fight back indiscriminately. Follow the rules of engagement.” According to mainstream Muslim clerics, those “rules of engagement”‘ are explicit: women, children, and innocent civilians are off limits.

Perversion of Text

Muslims believe the prophet Mohammed received these revelations directly from God some 1400 years ago. It was at a time when he and other Muslims were being driven from their homes, persecuted, and killed. But although the Koran advocates self-defense, its most prevalent message is one of peace and brotherly love.

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