Monday, October 22, 2012

The Invincible

This is a re-post from June 13, 2012 which I resurrected from cache. It was one of my first few posts here. I mistakenly deleted it, so I hope I am not too presumptuous in putting it back up.  Graphic is new.


RFNJ has been way out front talking about the dim prospects for an Obama reelection. You can put me in the pounded veal camp. Common sense calls for that conclusion, but there is there is an undercurrent from a simpler time, which may move voting opinion in ways the eyeball counters have not considered. I give you the Espionage Act of 1917.

Warfare in the days Congress passed this law involved great unitary actions, which could turn on a small bit of information. British Admiralty intelligence in Room 40 intercepted a May 30, 1916 signal at 14:00 that Admiral Scheer of the German High Seas Fleet sent to his submariners. Admiral Jellicoe used this information, to completely change the dynamics of the largest naval engagement in the history of warfare. Across the pond, Congress learned that secrets matter.

Political campaigns are a kind of warfare, where a big secrets have been enough to make or break a candidacy. Past Presidential campaigns, I think, have steered clear of poking the intelligence community bee hive out of fear of the big secret.

That was then and this is now. Modern military strategy seems to focus upon asymmetry and the damage that swarms of unmanned weapons may achieve. Vast amounts of digital information have changed warfare and politics alike. Yet, intelligence remains as important as ever.

The Obama administration has begun more prosecutions under the Espionage Act of 1917 than any other administration. At the same time, the chattering class now observes that intelligence leaks seem to be strangely selective and geared toward shaping the public image of the President. Men and women in the intelligence services put their lives on the line, with the inviolability of a secret as their only protection. Their community is small, their information is vast and their memories are long. They are also very good at staying hidden.

The days of big information from out of nowhere resulting in fatal damage to a big campaign may be more in the past than in the digital present because public attention is nowhere as unitary as when our information came from singular and iconic sources. Today we have swarms of information. Military planners fear the swarm. I am not so sure big political campaigns have a strategy to defend against an information swarm. This administration does not seem to fear one getting airborne, if you look at how it has used the Espionage Act of 1917 and the trove that law seeks to protect. Perhaps it should.
The battlecruiser HMS Invincible sank in 90 seconds at the Battle of Jutland, after a 12 inch shell penetrated its thinly armored deck. You might say it had thin skin.


chess said...

Chuckie Todd now calling Mitt a winner in 7 out of 10 at this point in the race..
Another tick trying to let loose.

and do I really need to hear Cramer saying Mitt would be bad for companies working in China. Mute button

ikaika said...

too late:

the election already happened with 99% of all precints reporting.
Obama wins poopular vote 43% to 40%

It's true - a CBS affiliate already called it!

Desperate times calls for a wellregarded script!