The Military-Industrial Complex becomes the Sysadmin-Industrial Complex, despite the Kossacks

Wolf, R. (2007). Transfer of military tech to police. Welcome to the police state. Daily Kos. August 19, 2007. Available online: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/8/19/134642/645.

Shrinking the gap requires a Sysadmin-Industrial-Complex, a system that supports mission-readiness and mission-execution regardless of which party wins this-or-that election. This establishment would function like the Military-Industrial-Complex that does the same when it comes to preventing and fighting “big wars.” Indeed, I have argued both can be properly thought of as Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex and the Military-Industrial-Leviathan-Complex: complementary twins for building a more peaceful world.

Because they are similar, its no surprise that technologies created for the Military-Industrial-Complex will find their ways into the Sysadmin-Industrial-Complex. Indeed, this is a great way to build up the Systems administration part of our society, because money and resources naturally flow from where there’s already a lot of it. (And a lot of money goes into the military complex):

Two recent articles captured my attention. The first related to the use of spy satellites by police. The second was the marketing of the new robot weapons platforms to police.

Each of these developments is alarming in its own way. However, since police are supposed to keep the peace, and the military is supposed to pacify using deadly force, the use of something like a weapons platform by police is beyond unnerving. In fact, it was once illegal to transfer military technology to local police forces. But … as the saying goes … 9/11 changed everything….

Now. What about those robots? The equipment being marketed to police departments is very similar to the robot platforms that were put in use by the military in Iraq in 2005. These robots are designed for urban environments and may be deployed for reconnaissance, with an assortment of weapons, or to deploy explosives (as in the picture), or for bomb disposal. The robots are remotely controlled from several thousand feet away. They cost about $230,000 a piece, but that can vary depending on how it is outfitted. The Talon is yet another “force magnifier” technology. The U.S. military strategy of the future seems to be (in part) to use remote operators of lethal arms. For those forces on the ground, they will be “modified” in a variety of ways to either be “super soldiers,” or the meld with the equipment they are operating.

If you noticed something odd about the tone of the piece, it’s because it’s from Daily Kos, a topsy-turvey blog where the murder of security contractors is celebrated and pro-victory politicians are targeted for defeat.

The same good news about the expansion of the Sysadmin-Industrial-Complex, without a weird commentary, is available from The Washington Post and Wired.

The folks who support Daily Kos will one day win elections. Only a Syadmin-industrial-complex can keep shrinking the worst parts of the gap in spite of that kind of electoral disaster.

20 thoughts on “The Military-Industrial Complex becomes the Sysadmin-Industrial Complex, despite the Kossacks”

  1. The post linking to the celebration of security contractor death is broken, it just leads to the DKos main page (and your Wired link goes to the WaPo). If you are referring to Markos' “good riddance” post about the 4 deaths at Fallujah, it's worth noting that when he calmed down he apologized and retracted.

    I used to post at Daily Kos (my first ever blogging experience, I posted under a517dogg) but it got boring. There is still some diversity in thought, but I think the site has gotten so big that it has become self-policing – if you are outside an increasingly narrowing zone of thought, you get harassed, called names, etc., and posting there wasn't worth it any more.

    Probably the most alienating thing about DKos is that it's almost solely about achieving power rather than figuring out what to do with it once you got it.

  2. Kos has its purposes, and although the rhetoric does border on the extreme it serves as a necessary check on that of fictitious statements of the political establishment (this excludes the military) that runs this war. If proponents of the war such as Bush, Cheney, and Lieberman demonstrated that they would do what it takes to win (and not simply spin the facts on the ground into propaganda), then the Kossacks would have far less ammunition, and I would imagine far less anger. Adrian is right though about their focus on achieving power rather than using it correctly, and it that sense they do themselves a disservice.

  3. The link to dKos is bad because of where the permalink points. kos's comment reads in full:

    “Let the people see what war is like. This isn't an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush's folly.

    That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them. “

    Daily Kos is dangerous, not to Bush but to those who reasonable oppose him. By targeting moderates, the Kossacks and their make reasonable debate over methods impossible.

  4. I have a problem with the use of the spy satellites by domestic security because it is ripe for abuse, particularly in 'drug war' uses. Already terrorist charges and homeland security are being used by the local yokles for non-terrorist, non-homeland security uses. However, there are perhaps already applicable precedents in 4th amendment law. For instance police cannot randomly use infra-red devices to look into peoples homes (like, for grow rooms), a warrant is required. I'm not sure this is a genie that can be put back into the bottle, so if the police (or sys-admin) are to use this, I want complete transparency, much in the way described by David Brin:
    http://www.davidbrin.com/tschp1.html

    dKos reminds me of the 'progressive' radio station KPFA I used to listen to when I lived in San Francisco. There was an under-developed tolerance for all forms of lunacy (didn't they tell anyone they sounded like kooks?) and an over-viscious will to attack anyone who sounded the slightest bit heretical. It met the definition of 'fever-swamps.' I don't like their influence on the Democratic party, but I don't think it is as great as they think it is. I find comfort in their hate for the likely Democratic candidate, who despite her liberal image, is a conservative on the world stage.

    I think the danger from people who support dKos lies not in them getting elected, where they must submit their views to the general public, who will reject them, but in their slow subversion of public institutions there. This was the most successful strategy of those from the '60s' who wanted change. Protests did not bring the lasting change they wanted, but working their way up through academic institutions and local government or even federal beuracracies put them in a subversive position to enact actual change or at least retard policies with which they disagreed.

    BTW, there was never a ban on transferring military technology to the police (how do you define that anyway). Perhaps the author is referring to Posse Comitatus Act which said that the military could not be used for police duties.

    Myself, I have a problem with the militarization of the police, for the un-necesary use of BDUs by urban police to the overly aggressive entry tactics. I've also always had an affinity for the mild anti-big brother, but pro-police strain in America (if that makes sense). Concentrating on tools, instead of tactics or tools, as this author does misses the point.

  5. I think that the danger of the Daily Kos set is a little over done (I've never read any of the posts and I do not intend to.) Going back to the post, I believe that militarizing police forces is a very dangerous trend. The acquisition of military grade weapons systems and the undermining of traditional police techniques and protocols is dangerous. Peacekeeping and war are two different types of missions; military tactics and hardware are not intended for peacekeeping. Radley Balko has written extensively about the militarization of police forces all around the U.S. (at his site agitator.com, through the Cato Institute, and at Reason.com.) No offense, but I think that the whole theory of sysadmin. is nothing more than theory without any understanding or grounding in reality.

    Regards,
    TDL

  6. “No offense, but I think that the whole theory of sysadmin. is nothing more than theory without any understanding or grounding in reality.”

    Why?

    As for Kos, one wonders about the longevity of such a cause “beyond Bush” as it were. Say Clinton/Obama ticket wins in '08. Where does that leave 'Kos? Railing against a congressional minority? Or will they delve into political cannibalism and have at their “own”?

    From what I've read Kos exists to deconstruct and vilify. I haven't much use for that brand of thought.

  7. Jay@Soob,
    I see the sysadmin. theoretical framework as nothing more than a sophisticated elucidation of the imposition of one “approved” set of values upon foreign cultures. From my perspective this nothing more than contemporary version of imperialism. As for the peacekeeping aspect, that can only arise locally and I doubt any lasting peacekeeping efforts can exist if imposed from above or from a foreign power.

    Regards,
    TDL

  8. “I see the sysadmin. theoretical framework as nothing more than a sophisticated elucidation of the imposition of one “approved” set of values upon foreign cultures. From my perspective this nothing more than contemporary version of imperialism.”

    What set of values?

  9. TDL,

    I suppose the term Imperialism does, with some tweeking, fit the effect of the sysadmin/leviathon approach. (Ah, the difficulties of being both a Kaplan and Barnett fan, eh?) Though at this point in time, especially given the complete failure that entails a great deal of Africa, I think the term Imperialism might well not be so draconian as many think. Bear in mind the literal term implies some form of (imagine the Roman empire) political vassal state. We certainly haven't chased that dragon in regards to Iraq. But if we had…

    Like Dan, I'd have to explore what you term “set of values” to continue.

  10. Jay@Soob & Dan,
    I actually see the sysadmin. framework (to the degree I understand it) as values agnostic. What I would imagine would happen is that sysadmin. framework would impose a foreign set of values upon “dysfunctional” societies within the “Gap”. Whether these are values that come from Western societies, China, or Japan might be irrelevant; what is relevant is that the sysdmin. framework will attempt to displace local values.

    Regards,
    TDL

  11. How is anarchy an expression of local values? How is submission to criminal gangs and strongmen an expression of local values? Surely the existence of a parasitic elite and anarchy that makes the most simple of commerce difficult is not hailed as a local value in a place like Lagos, or the Delta in Nigeria? I can agree that locals may not want order imposed upon them by outsiders, but those who would fight most would be the parasites who gain the most from anarchy.

    Please define, with example, a local value that would be trampled by such a framework?

    I will provide my own: I live in Chicago, the city actually runs well, but is corrupt. Some would say that if that corruption were banished the city wouldn't run as well because political payoffs are what make things work so well. I would disagree and counter that it can still run well, just not as lucratively for the politically connected. Is the endemic corruption (and nepotism) in Chicago a local value. (ok, perhaps it is) Is it one worth not displacing?

  12. ElamBend,
    I am not defending local values or local conditions (especially in Africa.) Might point is that, an imposed order will most likely lead to longer term violence and take longer for “Gap” societies to make the advances necessary to move away from their squalor. My understanding of how the Dutch redefined Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda is an example of how imposing foreign values (narrow noses and light skin) eventually leads conditions that escalates violence. As a Chicagoan myself I agree with you, but eventually only Chicagoans can fix the corruption pervasive within our local system (just recall the repeated attempts by the Feds over the past 30 years.)

    Regards,
    TDL

  13. TDL,

    You run into some problems of the GAP which prevent self-help. For instance, the very low median ages; plus, endemic poverty and a high premium on resources that become monopolized by those already in power; and so forth.

    “an imposed order will most likely lead to longer term violence and take longer for “Gap” societies to make the advances necessary to move away from their squalor”

    Why must the order be imposed? A good question. Can order be taught rather than imposed; or “sold” to eager buyers rather than be shoved down peoples' throats?

    And, anyway, if the people of the GAP must do all the work themselves, alone, they must be strong and proficient enough to do so (despite an extraordinary lack of good education…); if they are that capable, they ought to be able to navigate the influence of the sysadmin, eh? I'm not sure you can argue that they are all weakling victims susceptible to sysadmin domination while arguing at the same time that they are strong and competent enough to pull themselves out of the hole they are in without assistance of any sort.

    But I think your argument is ideological rather than practical. Having said so, however, I think there is much room for deciding what the sysadmin should be and how it should operate….

  14. TDL,

    “an imposed order will most likely lead to longer term violence and take longer for “Gap” societies to make the advances necessary to move away from their squalor.”

    Why do you imply they are on their way out of squalor? At least when it comes to sub-Saharan Africa, the opposite has been the case since the Europeans left.

    “redefined Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda is an example of how imposing foreign values (narrow noses and light skin) eventually leads conditions that escalates violence.”

    Why do you consider the Rwanda genocide to be atypical for the Gap? It was a population-level kill-off, of the sort which appear to occur cyclically among primitive agriculturalists.

    Curtis,

    I agree completely.

  15. TDL, on the subject of opposing the transfer of military gear from military to police, what exactly are you thinking of? Is it ALL gear (including GPS devices and body armor), or just gear that is too easily used to suppress human liberties?

    On the subject of sysadmin, it seems to me that devils and angels alike are to be found in the details. The changing of values can be minimal (invading your neighbors and harboring terror groups is bad), maximal (change religions, languages, clothing and political systems or else) or somewhere in between. Barnett's vision requires G20 (or NATO, or whatever) approval, but any country with sufficient resources could probably do it alone. Barnett's requires military involvement, but otherwise uses concepts that have been around for decades (Peace Corps, anyone?).

  16. Curtis,

    “Why must the order be imposed? A good question. Can order be taught rather than imposed; or “sold” to eager buyers rather than be shoved down peoples' throats?”

    I do not think that order needs to be imposed. I actually agree that order can be taught or “sold”. I was merely stating that the sysadmin. framework (from my understanding) would eventually be used to impose order.

    “I'm not sure you can argue that they are all weakling victims susceptible to sysadmin domination while arguing at the same time that they are strong and competent enough to pull themselves out of the hole they are in without assistance of any sort.”

    I did not intend to make this argument, my apologies if comments implied this. I do think that the sysadmin. framework will attempt to impose order in order to transplant preferred values; I think it will eventually fail to do so. I do not think that sysadmin. will be successful, because local factions will eventually seek to overthrow a sysadmin. “regime”. My argument has certain idealogical elements, but I believe I arrived to those beliefs by observing and studying the way the world works (I understand that this will probably lead to a deeper and broader discussion.) I also agree with the first paragraph of your comment.

    Dan,
    “Why do you imply they are on their way out of squalor? At least when it comes to sub-Saharan Africa, the opposite has been the case since the Europeans left”

    There are some gains and some reverses. Generally I agree that things have not been very good for most of the Gap nations since the Europeans left, but I believe that this has more to do with the institutions that were created in the post-colonial period and the ideology exported to Gap nations from the West (as well as Soviet influence.) In short, socialism is keeping these nations poor.

    I also do not think that the Rwandan genocide was atypical of the Gap. I was merely using the event as an example.

    Michael,
    I do not oppose the transfer of defensive or logistical technologies from military to police forces. I have problems when you begin to transfer “killing” technologies (such as battle tactics and armored vehicles.) If you look at SWAT teams (as an example) around the country what you will find are very few that are highly trained specialists that are rarely deployed.

    Regards,
    TDL

  17. TDL,

    “There are some gains and some reverses. “

    With the exception of Botswana, I cannot think of any gains. Reverses dominate every other sub-Saharan Africa state.

    “Generally I agree that things have not been very good for most of the Gap nations since the Europeans left, but I believe that this has more to do with the institutions that were created in the post-colonial period and the ideology exported to Gap nations from the West (as well as Soviet influence.)”

    You're adding unnecessary variables.

    The Gap existed in squalor before the Europeans came and then after the Europeans left.

    The two greatest correlaries of national wealth are general intelligence and economic system. The golden age of colonialism (under the British, French, Japanese, etc.) probably resulted in both improving, as well as having the obvious decrease in tribal violence. Once the Europeans left Africa, the continent's steady-state returned.

  18. “The Gap existed in squalor before the Europeans came and then after the Europeans left.”

    Sounds like a good idea for a blog post (if you haven't already written it). By what definition of squalor did the Gap live in it prior to European arrival? How did the European's arrival improve matters? And what was lost when they left?

  19. “By what definition of squalor did the Gap live in it prior to European arrival?”

    Gross domestic product per capita. Economic productivity. Percentage of population to die of violent death. Infant mortality. Complexity of economy. Life expectancy at birth. Average caloric intake.

    What specific data is available varies from place to place and time to time, of course. But the major colonial powers (America, Britain, France, and Japan) were boons to the states they oversaw.

  20. Dan – there's an extensive literature on the negative effects of colonialism on indigenous peoples. Why don't you tackle that from your own perspective? It would help me take statements such as “But the major colonial powers (America, Britain, France, and Japan) were boons to the states they oversaw” more seriously.

  21. V.S. Naipal has much to say in this regard. I friend of mine once commented on the British experiment in India, “They convinced a continent that they were a single country and then almost convinced them they were British, only to lose the nerve in the end.”

    Dan,
    I think you undervalue the shock and disruption of the effects of the European expansion on the world. Certainly the initial expansion broke the trade monopolies across the Asian continents and set the way for a world of uninterupted trade and exchange of knowledge. However, in many cases the European influence was simply one of chaos, whether it was the increase of the Arab slave trade of African prisoners or the Belgium King chopping of hands for his rubber plantations in the Congo. Some of the places directly controlled improved, but often at the detriment to the periphery. That being said, most famine in Africa in the last 50 years has been due to man and war, not to drought or pestilence. The worst lasting legacy of colonialism are the artificial borders that exist now.

    The question is: If order is imposed, but no price exacted (i.e. colonial tribute), is it really colonialism?

  22. Adrian,

    A good comparison between Spanish colonailism and British imperialism can be found in Lange, Mahoney, & von Hau (2006). [1] I've previously blogged about the Japanese experience in Korea. [2] Both of these links should take you to hard data.

    My view on Imperialism is similar to my view on China's involvement in Africa: better than the alternative, but not good as it could be. [3]

    ElamBend,

    The Congo Free State was a running disaster. I do not know enough about the Arab experience to comment, other than the strength and utility of their Sharia-based ruleset made it the only serious alternative to Roman-derived law in the Mediterranean world.

    The African borders are surely unfortunate. However, recall that in international law, those same borders were defended as being necessary for economic and national development. The same crew that now complains the largest about the boundaries defended them the most during decolonization.

    “The question is: If order is imposed, but no price exacted (i.e. colonial tribute), is it really colonialism?”

    A good point. The colonies of the 19th century were either economically detrimental, or at least required significant economic investment, by their imperial owners This is why the first burst of extra-European expansionsim is sometimes called The Age of Colonialism, while the second (where America and Japan joined in) is called the Age of Imperialism. The economics of the two ages tended to be very different..

    (The fall of British India had a lot more to do with a loss of cash than a loss of nerve…)

    [1] http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/resolve?id=doi:10.1086/499510&erFrom=-1879247719010063657Guest
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/12/11/the-commonwealth-of-korea-and-japan-shintaro-ishihara-right.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/08/23/not-rogue-just-not-enough.html

  23. Celebrated? I know Markos said he didn't sympathies with the murder of private security contractors on account of what he believes is a non-noble, profit driven agenda at all levels of the industry, in which he later apologized for said comment. I would think that is a far cry from “celebrating”. That, and your comment on them attacking “pro-victory politicians” makes it look as though you have been taking lessons from Frank Luntz.

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