Does the Trump-Saudi deal indicate that Saudi Arabia is going to build a strong military?

Saudi Arabia actually spends a greater share of GDP on their military than the United States does.

I’ve written two answers that should help people who haven’t been paying attention come to a certain realization that Saudi Arabia and most Arabian Peninsula countries have been working to create powerful and modern militaries for many years.

“The USA led the rise [in military spending], but it was not alone. Of those countries for which data was available, 65% increased their military spending in real terms in 2009. The increase was particularly pronounced among larger economies, both developing and developed: 16 of the 19 states in the G20 saw real-terms increases in military spending in 2009.

— Sam Perlo-Freeman, Olawale Ismail and Carina Solmirano, MilitaryExpenditure Chapter 5, SPIRI Yearbook, June 2010, p.1″

This graph shows the % change in military spending over the last decade. On the right you can see how these amounts measure against one another, but the bars to the side are what are most important. They show long term pattern of growth and answer the question, “Which nations are most dedicated to growing their military?”

Many nations, such as China and India, are staying even with the %GDP spending and the growth in military spending shows a somewhat even with the economy. Others, however, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia show significant spikes even as the world at large, including the US, is showing a pattern of reduced military spending. The US? Why yes, check the bottom graph and several more throughout this post. Military spending in the United States has gone down significantly over the past few years even during a time when we were and are still involved in two different wars. What is interesting is, despite the narrative, though the US is leading the others in military reduction, it doesn’t seem to be determining how much they spend since the reduction in its spending is not matched by a proportional reduction in military spending overall worldwide.

Note the blue line, that’s the US. Since 2010 it has steadily been reducing its military spending in relation to GDP. Meanwhile many other nations have not. I used Russia and Saudi Arabia as two important examples because of how much their priorities seem to be changing and also given their precarious political situations presently.

Jon Davis’ answer to Why does the US government spend so much on military?

To fully appreciate the gravity with which Saudi Arabia wants to be a center for military strength, not just in the Kingdom, but throughout the Middle East, a person needs to also understand that they have worked together with other Arab-League nations to form a single pan-arab military force to combat the growing threats they perceive to Arab nations from terrorism and other nations, as well as creating a force capable of force projection, an important factor in international politics.

The Middle Eastern Cold War is Getting a Bit Warmer – Announcement of Joint Military Force by the Arab League by Jon Davis on The Defense Quorum

The recent news over the weekend is surrounding the announcement of a pan-Arabic defense force lead by the Arab League. The announcement came from a two day summit in Cairo, consisting of important world leaders from the 22 member states of the Arab League. The summit resolution said the newly unveiled joint Arab defense force would be deployed at the request of any Arab nation facing a national security threat and that it would also be used to combat terrorist groups. Egyptian military and security officials stated that the intention is for the proposed force to consist of up to 40,000 elite troops backed by jet fighters, warships and light armor. The force would likely be headquartered in either Cairo, Egypt or Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

There are many questions surrounding the nature of this military confederation, many of them appearing here on Quora – Arab League Joint Military Force Announcement (March 2015). As of right now, though, there are still more questions than answers. Not much is known as most of the plans for the joint military force have yet to be made. The Cairo summit informed the AP that there will be a Chiefs of Staff meeting within the next month and a plan presented within the next four months for the implementation of the force. Whatever is delivered at that time will determine the scope of operations going forward.

So for several years Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in its military assets and even working to create defensive works to defend against attacks and clandestine smuggling networks to their north.

Yep, a wall.

So yeah, sorry you missed the news. Saudi Arabia is preparing to be the center of a major military force in the region, most likely to counter the influence of terror, not only in the form of ISIS, but also much more so, from Iran. Due to the build-up of Iran and its funding of various terror networks across the region (to which The Iranian Quds force, for example, is in large part directly responsible for the Civil War in Yemen, among others) Saudi Arabia and many Arab countries feel that their survival relies on defense. They are also the most situated to combat terrorism in the region, far better than the Americans. So yes, they are very much building a military, and no, Donald Trump did not just come up with the idea to fund them or supply them with weapons.

The Guardian: Obama administration offered $115b​n in weapons to Saudi Arabia: report

The Obama administration has offered to sell $115bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia over its eight years in office, more than any previous US administration, according to a new report.

The surge in sales is in part to reassure the Saudi monarchy of US backing in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal with Tehran, which raised fears in the Gulf that Washington would tilt more towards Tehran in its foreign policy.

“I think that though the Obama administration is not thrilled about the Yemen episode; it feels it can’t stay out of it, because of the need to reassure the Saudis,” Hartung said.

His report found that since taking office in January 2009, the Obama administration has offered to sell $115bn in weapons to Saudi Arabia, half of which are accounted for by deals that are still in the pipeline.

“There are $57bn in sales in formal agreements so far, which is also head and shoulders above other administrations,” Hartung said.

The report comes as concerns about the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia and their implication in potential war crimes in Yemen have split MPs on parliament’s arms control committee.

Arms sales over the eight years of the Obama administration have also included combat aircraft, attack helicopters, bombs, air-to-ground missiles, warships and military training. A division of Northrop Grumman is involved in a $4bn train-and-equip programme for the Saudi Arabian national guard, which has reportedly played a key role in the Yemen intervention.

That report came out in September of 2016, before Donald Trump was even the President. So the answer by another writer on this issue, that Saudi Arabia was using weapons against Yemeni children, well if he didn’t dispute that when President Obama was doing that, then the argument loses it credibility. As far as 100 billion dollars being too much, well, $115 billion is more.

Frankly, there is much to dislike about Saudi Arabia. I’ve been a leading critic of them throughout my writing, from the barbaric traditions they allow in their culture, to their absurd apathy to Syrian refugees, but collateral damage is not murdering young children. It is the cold, hard, ugly, miserable truth that war is not a clean affair, but the fastest way to stop it is for one side to so totally dominate that the other sues for peace and comes back to the negotiation table. Saudi Arabia is positioned to bring peace to the region culturally where American military solutions fail. Does it mean that we empower a nation we often find appalling? Yes. But we have greater influence to introduce reforms when we control the source of their power than if we allow the Saudis to crumble and the entire region descend further into anarchy.

Does the Trump-Saudi deal indicate that Saudi Arabia is going to build a strong military?

Uncertain Future – Part XV – The Black Swan

The last leg of this answer to, “What are the biggest ways in which the world 20 years from now will probably be different from today?” is the Black Swan.

Black Swan events, as defined by the guy who proposed their theory are thus:

  1. The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.
  2. The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
  3. The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event’s massive role in historical affairs.

This is the stuff no one saw coming that will, more or less, invalidate every prediction we have had so far. They are the agents of chaos, and the disorder in ordered states. They are events which cannot be predicted with ease, never predicted together, and barely explained even in hindsight, but which have monumental effects on the hereafter. They are the surprises God throws at us that both level and unlevel the playing fields as industries rise up out of nowhere, nations fall into memory, and cities crumble as the earth shakes. Consider technology, the surprise we all see coming, but no one guesses quite right. Technology is still growing at an exponential pace. Every day it continues to change the way we live, the way we communicate, and how we conduct business. The rise of social media, perhaps the most unexpected event of the last ten years, and the rise of cellular communications in general over the last twenty certainly fits the ticket. Unfortunately, as technology has become a tool which has empowered literally billions of people into a better, more enlightened and more productive life, so too has it empowered millions of others to pursue their own interests at the detriment of everyone else. Twitter, something that was only founded exactly 10 years to this month helped spur revolution in states like Libya and Syria. Of course, now it also serves as a recruiting tool for Islamic State radicals. Drones, the weapons that were only in their infancy during my first deployment to Iraq, are now toys for children and delivery tools for Amazon. Of course, they too have a dark side which many, many already fear.

For that reason, from Swarm of Things to Human Augmentation, Crowd-sourcing to Autonomous vehicles, 3D Printing to Genetic Engineering, the brave new world we are all ready to embrace will empower those of ill-aims so greatly that only an equally aggressive improvement in the means by which we secure our safety, both bodily and the information about us, will ensure the dream of tomorrow the builder’s of this technology wish to provide today.

Beyond technology, Black Swans are the wills of billions of people; competing, converging, colliding. Nearly all you will never meet, but a few of which, will shape your future.

A Black Swan is former fighter of the Soviet Union, setting his sights on his former ally. [83]

Black Swans are are planes filled with people crashing into buildings on a clear day in September, and from the visceral reaction, war in two nations erupts.

As those wars drug on, the Black Swan was an angry and deeply confused young Army private, with a desire to punish the world. He let slip the largest stockpile of military secrets in history. Some were secrets of the United States, but more importantly was what we had learned of everyone else.

In the aftermath, a Black Swan was a wave of democratic energy and revolution. Spurred by the leaks, and the revelations about their dictators, millions went to the streets demanding reform.

Amidst the cheering, the sounds of bullets rang out and three civil wars began.

In the void that arose, one of these saw the Blackest of Swans, a resurrected medieval empire of hate rising from the desert sands to engulf and overwhelm the Levant.

In the terror it brought millions set to flight, many overwhelming Europe.

And terror following them in.

Those of us alive in 1996 remember that time before the towers fell and not a single one could have predicted any of this. Then we lived in a world of plenty where we were all still cheering the fall of the last evil empire which crumbled when its reach was greater than its capabilities. We were building relationships and the world was going closer together. “They were simpler times,” is something old ones always say of when they were young, but looking back to the last two decades, do we not all feel old now? Who, in their most honest self could have predicted any of the events of chaos which bears fruit only to more chaos like it? Who standing back before would have suspected a future like we have seen in his next 20 years?

What we can be sure of is that not everything will turn out as we hope. Change will come, but not like we expect. We can’t turn away from it. It’s coming whether we like it or not. And as soon as think we have it all figured out, a black swan will swoop down to remind us how little foresight we had. This post isn’t meant to scare or to paint a dark cloud on the future because of a few of the nightmares that exist today. It is simply a reminder that the unexpected is a factor, and that running from it, or being afraid of it, we need to prepare for it. The best we can do is prepare. Learn the threats that exist today and prepare as best we can so that when change come, we… you, me, us, are able to embrace it. Only those who build their houses on solid rock will weather the coming storms or terror, hacking, disasters, cyberware, and the dark abyss of humanity behind a mask of anonymity and a jihadist’s mask. Don’t be afraid. I’m sure, exactly because of all the answers which existed to this question, that the world of tomorrow will be as a utopia to the one I live in today, but only if we are collectively prepared for the changes utopia brings along the way. That’s why, above all else, those who look to their own security, their adaptability, and their capacity to embrace change and endure disruption… they will be the x factor in the next 20 years.

Uncertain Future – Part XII – National Defense

As mentioned before, the vast majority of contractors trace their roots to service with the US military, or the militaries where their company operates. The cream rises to the top, so the best contracts are awarded to those with proven success and training, namely to services like the Navy SEALs, Army Delta Forces, Rangers, or the United States Marine Corps infantry, particularly any of these with experience in combat. Less prestige and pay may be warranted to someone of non-combat military jobs, police officers, and security specialists, and the lowest level bids will likely go to local militia and hired gunman. It must always be remembered, though, that the demand will always come for those elite operators, the Special Forces team members of the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

Like any industry built on recruiting the best of a different industry, the first, which expends all the resources to make those operators so valuable, suffers the long term effects of the brain drain. It will be the US military that foots the bill, paying for years, sometimes decades, of training into making civilians into the most lethal warriors on the planet. During their times in, they will amount to the tip of the spear, deploying with units like the SEALs, Marine Raiders, and Army Rangers, to conduct missions in the service of the United States. They will face dangers no one else in the world could handle, able to push through with only the value of the extensive training hours they have logged, the teams they learned to be a part of, and the massive logistical behemoth at their back. As a friend of mine would say, “They are the Dudes of Dudes.”

At some point though, many just get done with all that. Perhaps they just want to do something else with their life. Underwater basic weaving, maybe. Or crochet. These dudes have enough man cards racked up from 12 years in the SEALs to become professional crochet artists if they want. Many want to retire to their families, while some see the reality that, if they take the PMC jobs, they will experience a better lifestyle with far better pay than the military could ever provide, easier missions, and less chance of death or maiming. It needs to be understood that Benghazi was a freak event. From 2009 to 2012 only 5 members of the Global Response Staff were killed [70]. During the same time 1,808 Americans troops lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan .[71] This includes events like Operation Red Wings, the largest single loss to the US Navy SEALs in its history, when four SEALs on advanced recon were attacked, killing three and a quick reaction force helicopter sent to in to rescue them id was shot down with a rocket propelled grenade, killing all eight Navy SEALs and all eight U.S. Army Special Operations aviators on board. [72]Quite frankly, I wouldn’t blame anyone for hanging up the uniform at that point, and it is a wonder why so many of them still don’t. But many do, for all the reasons listed before.

Now it’s important to think about what this means to the military as a whole. The military’s job, be it Marines, Army, Navy, or Air Force, are to be the strong arm of American diplomacy and the backbone of defense in NATO. Over the last fifty years, however, we have seen the military reduce in strength, rather drastically, to the point that today we have fewer active duty military than we did prior to the start of World War II. [73]

Moreover, the prevailing strategy over the last thirty years has been to obliterate the enemy using advanced weaponry and devastatingly superior technology. The problem we’ve seen, however, is that the military is proving more and more often to be under equipped to handle the manpower requirements necessary to successfully pacify an occupied territory such as Iraq or Afghanistan, let alone both. Regardless of the number of drones we have in the air, without boots on the ground, we simply don’t have enough men to keep the peace. This is particularly true when we consider expending and $80,000 missile on a $200,000 bombing run to kill two insurgents in a tent a sustainable wartime strategy.  [74]

Instead, the United States has centered its focus on Special Warfare, creating units whose primary focus is in black ops intervention and direct action operations. These forces are truly lethal, the creme of the crop in every sense of the word. They are, as they say, the point of the spear. The problem is, they are only one small point, and not capable of being everywhere at once. For an example, the SEALs are who everyone talks about. For as much as they are mentioned the US Navy SEAL community only has about 2,500 active duty members [75]. There is a reason they are special. Of the three hundred million Americans, almost none of them have what it takes, including the physical desire just to do it, that is required to be a part of these elite teams. This is also why we can’t just train to be like them [76]. Of those who try, more than 80% will fail, and according to Marcus Luttrell, the subject of the book Lone Survivor, more candidates die in training than do active duty SEALs in combat. [77]It takes a very special person to even consider joining up with the SEALs, but the problem is, there just simply don’t seem to be enough special people to accomplish the missions which are placed on the nation’s special warfare community. There is a real need for a larger presence on the ground, which given the direction of the American military back towards an isolationist point, doesn’t exist in the numbers needed either.

Considering this, if the military is getting smaller and smaller, focusing more of its efforts into the actions of very small, very elite units, and those units are the primary source for private military contractors, it lends one to really consider the threat the PMCs have on the standing military. For the last 7o years, the US military has been the go-to force for international peacekeeping and creating security, protecting international sea lanes, and ensuring that diplomatic efforts stay open. In that time, and despite the constant “If it Bleeds, It Leads” sensationalist news to the contrary, the world has become a pretty awesome place. There are fewer violent deaths, fewer deaths from disease, fewer wars, and increased wealth across the globe. Look at this graph. It’s a nice graph. Do yourself a solid and realize that Coca-cola and the Kardashians didn’t cause this. Globalization did, and globalization doesn’t happen without someone ensuring everyone playing the game is playing by a minimum acceptable set of behaviors.

That job of “globo-cop”, in the words of Ian Morris in his book War – What is it Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots, has traditionally fallen on the Americans. Now considering that the world’s current state of relative peace is reliant on a strong force to serve as its backbone [78], what happens when the backbone of world order is weakened, or removed altogether?

When that backbone, in this case the US military, is suffering from attrition both in the form of budgetary cutbacks in a belief that it can get by with replacing thinking soldiers with more advanced, but ultimately fewer remote controlled or autonomous systems [79], as it continues to pull back it’s overseas holdings [80] and is constantly being cannibalized by the United States’ own State Department, CIA, and numerous multinational corporations to provide for their own security needs, where does that put the rest of the world?

Focusing on the PMCs, when the highest order performers, in this case the Special Forces operators, no longer provide the kind of support often needed of people with their skillsets, but instead act as a force of protection for VIPs, they are not fulfilling their true potential or carrying the burden the world needs of them. They babysit high value targets rather than killing terrorists and dethroning evil regimes. Instead of getting things done and making peace, they simply serve as a force ensuring peace for those they work for. I want to be clear, I have nothing but respect for these men, and everyone should feel free to enjoy life and pursue happiness, but one has to ask if this path the United States is setting itself on will make for a very, very ugly world twenty years down the line when the best of the best simply aren’t where the world needs them anymore.

Quite frankly, this story is already starting to play itself out. Military .com posted a review of the United States Army where an industry think tank warned the service was “weak” and incapable of performing the necessary role of sustained conflict in two theaters.  [81]Add to this a recent Gallop Poll asking asking if Americans still had faith in their military. The results weren’t good. [82]

The answer is increasingly ‘no,’ according to a new Gallup poll. Last year the number of Americans who thought they were protected by the world’s strongest military was 59 percent, but this year that number has dropped to 49 percent – the lowest figure in the 23 years Gallup has recorded the trend.

While polls are only polls, it does point to a very disturbing trend. People are losing respect for the United States military, and when the world’s most important enforcer of global security is no longer respected, one has to wonder what the next twenty years are going to look like. Quite frankly, the United States will be fine. We won’t see any existential threats to our way of life any time soon, but the rest of the world may not be so lucky without us. The Middle East, as I have made abundantly clear, is only getting worse as the United States continues to remove itself from the region. Their conflicts are spreading through North Africa and now into Europe and India. Russia is starting to pick up the slack, for better or worse, but their track record for making the world a better place within their shadow is abysmal at best. Perhaps China? Since they have shown little ever to provide security to any foreign counterparts in spite of their massive military, I don’t see security happening outside of the private sites they lease from host countries. Also considering their increasing internal struggles to balance unnatural growth expectations with a workforce growing more demanding every year, and older at the same rate, I doubt they will ever be able to truly challenge American hegemony in the next century. So if no one is capable of ensuring the kind of peace we have grown to expect up to today, what can we expect of tomorrow?

I’m not one to usually give into pessimistic fears, but if you want to start getting scared, I wouldn’t blame you. The next twenty years are going to get a lot more volatile, and in many places very dangerous. Those who will fare the best will be those who can accept the danger and create a plan to mitigate it.

Uncertain Future – Part XI – High Value Protection

High Value Body Guards and Military Contractors

Executive security is the industry of protection for VIP and High Value Individuals. While this includes those who specialize in shuttling primped up primadonna starlets like Justin Beiber from show to show, unharassed by throngs of fans, there is a much deeper need for experienced, battle ready security teams.

Due to the attention grabbing nature of these massive catastrophes, many other acts of overt criminal activities have grown in practice, but go relatively unnoticed by those not engaged in foreign policy news. First among these is the threat of kidnapping. While assassination or general acts of terror surely rank high on the list, kidnapping has a special role to play in the story of international chaos that exists today and which will continue in the future.

To understand why this is, one needs to understand how criminal empires and murder crazed caliphates primarily get funding. According to documents discovered following a raid of a prominent ISIS leader [56], the organization is funded massively through the use of kidnapping with the purpose of ransom. CNN and Business Insider investigate further to show the staggering amounts of money generated by these tactics [57] and the rationale for why the act of kidnapping is really such a good idea for such criminal and terrorist organizations. [58]

The kidnapping of Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa rattled the international press for this reason. This time, however, it wasn’t for the sheer barbarity that their fellow news agents were experiencing, (those attempting to report the news in the region are a favorite flavor of victim for the Islamic State, along with female humanitarian aid workers  [59]) but the magnitude of the ransom being demanded. The Islamic State demanded of the government of Japan $200 million for their safe return. Like so many others, this negotiation broke down and both were eventually beheaded in brutal fashion.

ISIS’ rationale seems similar to other terror groups: Kidnappings help raise money and, if ransoms aren’t paid, make a point, such as the groups are not to be messed with and even civilians are in danger.

$200 million is sizable demand and one which could drastically help fund the operations of the terrorist organization, which is currently already expanding its reach internationally as its borders shrink locally. While these two did not turn a profit, others did. The French have denied that they have paid ransoms [60], but according to a New York Times Report [61]they succeeded in buying back the freedom of kidnapped Frenchman from the Islamic State from ISIS. A second group working for a french nuclear firm were also freed by an al Qaeda affiliate in return for money. In perhaps the greatest coup for the terrorist state, 49 captives of Turkish origin were returned, seemingly for no reason at all to Ankara. Those following the report, myself among them, strongly suspect a major payoff for their safe and uneventful return [62]. There are other reports of three hundred Christians being charged more than $30 million for their release. One victim gave in an interview with New York Magazine that his captors forced him to call his family and a friend while he was being tortured, in hopes that his anguished screams would move them to pay the ransom money. [63] [64]

“We were blindfolded and chained, and every day they would torture us,” he said. “They would come in, one at a time, and electrocute us or beat us with anything they could find.”

“But they didn’t kill me because they wanted to ransom me. One time, they made me speak to my family on the phone as they were electrocuting me. Then, they made me call a friend, who told them he would pay.”

However, the practice of criminal kidnapping for profit is not limited to the ISIS threat. Moving to the Gulf of Aden and Somalia in one last example, one only has to recount the story of Captain Phillips.  [65]There, Somali pirates attempted to take an American vessel hostage along with its crew. This practice has become common in the narrow straits between Iran and the Horn of Africa. Massive ships with massive shipments worth billions are capable of attracting huge payouts to the pirates and the warlords who control them from the mostly European companies who control them. In the case of Phillips, though, the problem wasn’t solved by a financial transaction so much so as the extremely potent delivery of precision fire from the muzzle of US Navy SEAL Snipers.

Regardless of the success of the Phillips case, piracy and kidnapping for ransom are not going away. In fact, seeing the financial and propaganda potential for such violations, the value of making such attacks has prompted many, many more. This, perhaps, has only been exacerbated by the American shift in policy that some would say encourages the practice by providing a means for private individuals to pay the ransoms of their friends and families, thus encouraging more like kind kidnappings.

Having said all of this, it is no longer safe for most Westerners to travel to the Middle East, and the growing troubles of the region are only spreading more and more throughout the Islamic world, as millions sympathetic to the ideals of the Al Qaeda and the Islamic State begin to copy their tactics and methods. Still, people still have business to do, so Westerners are still going to go there. This leads to the need for private military contractors (PMCs).

Mention of the practice of PMCs is one that elicits fear and suspicion in most people unfamiliar with how they are actually used. Often, they can’t be mentioned without imaginations of secret mercenary black helicopter events and Orwellian fears of off the books private armies. In all honesty, very few such companies are used for anything other than bodyguards for individuals of extremely high value in the region, rather than elite soldiers willing to kill for the highest dollar. The US State department often contracts with these companies to provide a greater level of security than they can do otherwise with the military for their foreign dignitaries and ambassadors, and the CIA for their foreign case officers. This is outlined well in the opening chapters of the new book 13 Hours – The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi. The book begins by detailing the lives of the contractors involved, both professional and personal. All of those in the book possessed varied military experience, some US Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and Marines. They may have in their experience sets Master’s Degrees in Criminal Justice, stints as the local police chief, or run warrants as bail bondsmen, and PIs stateside. Other PMCs may come from more diverse backgrounds; internationals with the French Foreign Legion, British SAS, and any number of other places and backgrounds. When I was deployed to Iraq, one team which frequented our Entry Control Point in Al Anbar Province had team members that came from as far off as South Africa, Romania, and Singapore, lead by an English Special Air Service soldier.

For the CIA and State Department, the go to is the Global Response Staff, an open secret of an organization created after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. The GRS gathers together teams of the best and most experienced operators from within the United States military with the knowledge and experience to be able to covertly guard its most valuable assets anywhere on the globe. What distinguishes these individuals from the common military they appear to be is the benefits package. Some PMCs today take in over $150,000 annually for their work overseas, on average, around three to five times what they could have expected in any given military career doing much harder work. Why they are useful is their flexibility and potency. Small teams deployed to a city can easily intertwine with the area, and adapt to cover any target that needs their level of protection. They can do this, however, without the massive overhead of the slow moving US military and sticking out like a sore thumb in places where Americans already have a hard enough time blending in. While these men (and women) and their skills don’t come cheap, they come without the prohibitive costs of deploying an entire unit of Marines or Army soldiers, which could rank in the millions, assuming an entire base doesn’t need to built for the task.

As Benghazi itself showed, the need for these individuals does still exist, and the threat of kidnapping, assassination, extortion, and any number of nefarious concerns may confront high value individuals at any time. This is why operators, such as those working with the Global Response Staff or other private military contractors will be in extremely high demand by foreign dignitaries of all nations, local government leaders, spies, journalists, and corporate executives who travel abroad, all doing business in places where business has to be done. These are the types of people who don’t want to be recorded in orange jumpsuits, a propaganda tool for murder fiends across the world. What this also means is that over the next twenty years, PMC operators of every brand and color will be in such high demand that they pop up literally everywhere important people can be seen in places where bad things often happen. What’s more, many will be more than the sum of high paid former Special Forces operators. They will be homegrown and specialized to their tasks through courses like the various Executive Protection [66] [67] courses that exist and under instruction by companies such as the American security services training company Academi [68]or the European Security Academy [69]. Both of these firms provide, alongside their training, mission support in the form of human resources, planning, and operational support. Remember that these people aren’t accountants, get creative and realize that that means  more or less exactly what you think it does.

The big change we will see as a result of this will be rather undemocratic shift in politics across the world. As the means of terrorism continues to grow, the need for higher and higher priced body guards to handle the threat will make some very rich people very safe, while leaving many others with little more than a prayer. In the end, expect to never see another photo again of any person of worth in a critical conflict area of the world without a dedicated staff of very skilled warfighters at their sides and at the ready.

Of course, this causes us to ask a very important question, where are all these extremely well paid and well trained operators going to come from?

Uncertain Futures – How Safe Will You Be and How Security Will Change in the World of Tomorrow

I’m starting a multipart series on what are the biggest ways in which the world will be be different 20 years from now, with a key focus on how changes in the security fields will impact all of our lives.

When you ask most people what the groundbreaking “X-factors” of the future will be, they’ll say many wildly bold, exciting, and optimistic predictions of a future not far from us today. So far, answers to that question have ranged from technological leaps in machine automation, biotech, robotic swarms, and 3D printing; to social evolutions such as the conversion to all credit economies, an end to diseases, the post-scarcity, and new levels of international individual equality. Yet more promise better governance via more openness, and even a possible end to war through an even more interconnected world. Of course, others are going the other direction with predictions of diseases we haven’t yet discovered, or worse, haven’t yet invented. Some warn weapons too terrifying to detail. Others have echoed cautionary tales against the possible destruction of us all through climate change, energy crisis, nuclear devastation, and now to add to the list… radical religious fundamentalism.

As I examine the answers I wonder to myself what the odds of any one of these outcomes may be. Some seem well thought out, bringing in insights from brilliant minds. Some are simply ridiculous. I am left, however, with one surreal and terrifying truth… at least a few of them will be right. Some of these predictions, wild as they may be, will come true. The sad thing is, we aren’t really sure which ones. All we can be sure of, is that there will be change. Change, however it happens, is the one certainty among all this speculation.

Change will most certainly come, but it won’t come alone. After great change, there is always a period of disruption. Disruption is often used in Silicon Valley to symbolize the moment one company strikes it rich by finding an unknown vacuum to fill, a need to satiate, or dismantling an inefficient system. For many others, it is the fear that automation will leave them and millions of others out of a job and no hope to fill it. To some governments, disruption means a protest of thousands of angry and jobless people turning into a riot, or even a full blown rebellion. Disruption may be in the creation or destruction of entire industries, or as has been the case very recently, entire regimes. Most of the world has already experienced a decade pass where we feel less safe, less secure, and less sure that some catastrophic event won’t destroy our lives in the blink of an eye or the click of a mouse. Likewise, many millions have already felt the effects of change destabilize their nations with ramifications that will echo for years to come. Many of the other answers to this question have illustrated why, whether they intended to or not.

Consider a case study in change and disruption that was the Arab Spring of 2010. Then, new technology gave way to empowering the youth of several nations with information. A wave of democratic energy swept across the region. Caught in this wave were dictators over nations like Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria. The world watched in amazement as millions upon millions flooded streets to demand change. To them, change indeed came. In several nations, reforms are taking root, and dictatorial regimes have been replaced, if not ousted entirely. Millions are indeed living freer lives.


At the same time, today there are three nations currently gripped in struggles of civil war, numerous uprisings already violently crushed, millions already killed, and many tens of millions of people displaced from their homes both nearby and across the world. Worse yet, chaos and anarchy in the region formed in the void of power that once existed under the despots who ruled there. In that void grew medieval death cults bent on absolute devastation and the full scale disruption of the Western world, for no other reason than that the West needed to be disrupted. Today, news of the Middle East centers only on one word – Chaos.

This isn’t to say that change is necessarily a bad thing, nor even that the disruption that change brings is evil in itself. It is just acknowledging that change happens, and that where change occurs, not far behind it, disruption is sure to follow. Finally, where disruption takes place, as we have seen in Middle East, instability is sure to follow, as well. It is this instability that leads to the crises which we hear about daily, and this instability that creates an ever widening gulf between where are today and the world we envisioned for it twenty years ago. Furthermore, as we experience yet more change, the kinds of technological, social, and political changes highlighted over and over throughout this question, instability will build upon itself, sometimes making way for progress and improvements, but other times, most of the time, preparing the ground for the kinds of horrors that only come from the vacuum where order once existed. It is in these environments desperation happens, and the kind of dangerous actions take place which only further dismantle everything. We see a model of this in Syria, where a desperate leader does unspeakable things to his people, to stop rebels and religious fanatics, all empowered by modern technology, both military and civilian. From the chaos of that nation we have seen yet more chaos spread far beyond when millions fled to Europe, bringing with them terror hidden as one of the refugees.

For this reason, the real “X factor” won’t be any one technology or suite of technologies. It won’t be an idea or a revolutionary act of governance, nor will be the culmination of one single ideological movement. The real “X factor” will be how we deal with all of these changes that are sure to come. How do we deal with change which could come from any source, at any time? How can we continue our operations when others fall into chaos? How do we guarantee safety when we have no guarantees on what tomorrow will look like? The world will change, but it will be the people who can adapt to that change that will survive it the best. Those people are going to be the ones who protect themselves, their communities, and their assets. As others fail and a little bit more chaos is built, these groups and individuals will be those who provide the long term stability needed and become anchors in ever changing worlds. For that reason, the true “X-factor” in the future will be the force, in all its forms, that allows the most positive change for the greatest numbers of people, while preventing the kinds of negative change that pulls us all a little bit closer to the abyss.

The factor, is security.

But wait, security isn’t something that is “possible.” It is everywhere around us already. While I would agree, this answer will seek to explain just how good our security needs to be in the future, and how it has failed us today. More so than this, I want to show all the needs we have for security already, and how improbable it is that we will live in perfect peace in the next twenty years. Internationally, 2015 saw a surge in terrorism born from conflicts in the Middle East. Attacks in Paris, one at the beginning and again the end of the year, along with another in California, woke many in the West to the present threat that exists when terrorists inspired by jihad overseas are brewed at home. The year also saw tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of individuals hacked in some of the largest information attacks in history. Going beyond this, privately operated drones are now being empowered not only to deliver mail to our doorstep, but to look right in on our lives, as well. What this means for today is a desperate scramble to attempt to find a new normal which we can all feel a sense of peace. What it will mean in the next twenty years is a complete change in the way we see the security industry, and scale which we deal with it in our daily lives.

The rest of this series will be dedicated to listing some of the ways the security industry will need change, and how those changes will affect off all of us. Perhaps more than the question asked, this answer will leave you realizing one truth. Anyone can handle when something goes right, and some new technology makes your life better, but who is going to be left when everything goes to Hell?

What are the disadvantages of hiring someone who has been in the US military?

I am going to speak as a Marine and currently a hiring manager. Here are some negative attributes that come with military service that more hiring managers need to understand.

Military people don’t get you and you don’t get them.

There are a great deal of miscommunications and misconceptions dealing with people in the military. What it is like to grow in the civilian world and what it is like to grow in the military world are two completely different things. You may have gone to a great university and interned at a very prestigious company where you met some very important people and this put you in a position of power. These qualities are not that highly respected by people from the military. If they respect you it is because of your character or in the least, your rank. Most of the time if you are CEO or VP or even just Manager that is enough for them to respect on a basis of rank, but don’t expect your story of going to an Ivy League university to mean very much to them at all. This isn’t an attack on you, but most of the time they will just attribute this to luck or born into the right family. You shouldn’t get angry about this, it is just the way they think. I had a personal experience with this in that when I started with a new branch of the company I am with there was a man who served in the military who didn’t really respect me because I was just another yuppie with a piece of paper. I had a “chat” with him where he found out that I was actually a Marine Sergeant and had done quite a bit before getting my piece of paper. Now I have his full respect. I understand where he is coming from though, most military people can be very smart, but grew up in small towns where they don’t get noticed by colleges, they are from poor families and opportunities are not that abundant. They see the military as a place where you can work hard and get noticed, so they really don’t like seeing young hot shots arrive in charge because things like college or connections. That is just a reality that many military have different values than people who became adults as civilians. You have to accept it. They will be able to appreciate and respect what you do though. Good, strong leadership is always respectable.

You have no idea what it is like to be in the military and what their mentality is like.

The fact is that you have never served in the military. You don’t know what it is like to be sent from your family, to live overseas, to live and work with the exact same people for months on end, you have never experienced the degree of isolation they do, you have never been in real danger and been expected to perform under it and you have never been a part of that culture. Your experience is in the movies, the news, some blog about how great military leadership is or that you had an uncle who served in such and such. What makes you think you could possibly understand how they think or how they solve problems. If you think that you do if that is the only reason you are hiring them than you need to investigate your own ignorance and take a look at all the experience they actually have in their resume.

I recently had a boss who was frustrated with me because he gave me very unclear goals with little guidance. He kept saying that his company needed a “Marine mindset”. I asked him what specifically did you want? He always would spit out a bunch of non-sense about how they needed my ideas and my knowledge and experience and “a bit more Marine Corps here”. I took this to mean that he wanted a strong logistics network, clear lines of communication both laterally and up the chain along with good training and discipline for the employees, which I provided. I also have a business degree specializing in entrepreneurship and have started my own company which I run on the side. I really thought that he meant he needed my business understanding and ideas for this company that he in no way actually knew how to run. After I would have ideas for problems I did see I would implement them and they never got any traction and most get shot down leaving the problem now just as bad. Finally I knew it was time to leave when he said “Because military people follow instructions.” I was incensed. Do you think military people are robots you push a button and they magically get things done. Do you expect me to hop to and go get it done with absolutely no clue what you are asking me to do? Would you like a salute with that?…SIR? The fact is that that was an incredibly insensitive and ignorant thing to say. It is an easy way to make a military person feel like they are stupid, have no individual value and can actually contribute nothing to an organization. Of course we also get very angry. Given our proclivity for violence, saying such things could be considered a major mistake, but suffice it to say, that is when I felt it was time to leave.

Military people will tell you when something is wrong, even when you don’t like it, often.

In the case above this is when I told him, with tact (honestly), that I had followed every instruction that he had given, which were almost none. You don’t go and point someone in some direction and say go when you lead them to believe that their job is completely different from the one that you intended them to do. I told him this and he wasn’t happy. Sorry, the fact is that when we serve in the military we hold a great deal of responsibility, not only of property, but of lives. We need to know what is going on and question when something isn’t right. It is a matter of practice that this has to happen something is wrong. If you are one of those people who believe you are always correct, don’t hire someone in the military.

Military people are extremely capable, when given adequate support.

If we are going to work under you, you need to know that you absolutely need to provide us with a framework, training and direction until we are capable. Sometimes this may take a long time, but it is necessary. The fact is that military people are used to a very heavy bureaucracy that provides a great deal of annoyance, but structure. You need to provide that on some level for them to succeed. Here is a point, in the Marines we spent 3 months in boot camp. That is the famous boot camp that everyone talks about. This was just to be called Marine. It was just a giant exercise in on-boarding. We spend another month in weapons and tactics training, as much as six months to a year in job training and then spend months training with our units before we go to actually do our jobs. I spent about 14 months preparing for a 7 month tour. That is why we succeed so well at war. However without that kind of training and support the Marines would suck, just like your company. If you aren’t prepared to give them a great deal of training for their job, they won’t know what to do go off trying to do something that doesn’t fit your strategy. This is in contraindication with my next point, but you will see that they are tied very well together.

Military people are also extremely independent and will go off in random directions when lacking adequate guidance.

As I mentioned in the last point military people need good direction. That is because if any one group could be stereotyped as “alpha males” it might just be young men in the military. They are rash, forceful, arrogant, stubborn and filled with pride. They also have a great deal of initiative and want to fix problems where they see them. The problem is that you didn’t obey rule number three. You hired them because they were “real go-getters” and didn’t explain their role or what a problem in your company actually is. What could have been a massive driving force for you is now more of a bull in a China closet. You will have numerous arguments with this individual and he will not get what your point is. Remember they don’t get you and you don’t get them, but train them well in their job, point them in the right direction and you will have a force and not just an employee.

Military people are not always fun to work with.

There really are two types of military people to work with. The stoic solemn ones who are extremely rigid, professional and have no time for your nonsense or the wild and unruly bombs who can be unreliable, drunks, dissidents, aggressive and might even bring massive drama into your workplace. Both of these types are likely to be extremely proud and can border on arrogance and can be very aggressive in general. They can both be extremely difficult for other personality types to mesh with and can cause conflict just with their presence. As bosses they can be extremely strict and demanding and can bring down the morale of a workplace because “incentive” to them is usually just a lack of punishment. You have a job, you do it. That is how many think. Their punishments can be incredibly severe by civilian terms because most civilians have never dug a seven foot deep fighting hole and filled 600 sand bags because they didn’t clean their room once. Simply put, aggression is not always a good thing, but these guys have it.

A lot of veterans have very real problems you don’t understand.

Post traumatic stress is a real thing. Lower back problems for wearing a 70 pound flack jacket for 8 hours a day for 7 straight months is a real thing. Hearing loss from working on rifle ranges, or near rotary-wing aircraft and artillery is a very real thing. The fact is that most military people get out with some degree of disability. They are proud so most never mention this, but it is something you will need to understand when trying to understand them. The fact is that a 22 year old veteran has the body of 35 year old because of the stresses they endure overseas. You will need to know about that and a good leader will find out how to help the vet cope and work productively. A bad manager will say that “He went to Iraq? He probably has PTSD.” and not hire the person. This isn’t a made up opinion. Recent studies have shown that while only 5-20% of combat vets have justified PTSD (about the same as civilians who have experienced car accidents or tragedy) it is assumed that most have the ailment. It is called PTSD bias and is most damaging among middle managers who don’t understand the disease. The fact is we all had something jarring happen, if it was only the incredibly long periods of isolation from our country and loved ones. This doesn’t mean that there is any likelihood that you will experience violence in the workplace from us. They might be a bit off by your standards, but still deserve a chance.

Military people have what some might call controlled Tourette’s Syndrome.

I added this one after some comments came up about the way that military act toward civilians and I thought that it deserved special recognition. It relates to #6 on my list, but this element deserved it’s place. In the military the way we talk to each other is often not pleasant. In the Marines bootcamp instructors are actually trained on how to manipulate their voices so that they can yell for extremely long periods of time without damaging their vocal cords. This is known as the “Frog Voice” and it is a real as the weapons we use. The fact is that once you enter the military people literally screaming at you all the time and you adapt. Eventually you will be a leader and screaming will be part of your job too. This video actually shows a great deal of things that are important. It is a video of a charity golf tournament where some Marines were invited to give a show for some of the competitors. Listen at the very beginning and you can hear a Marine using a strange voice to speak to the victim/participant. This is Frog Voice. You will also see what is known as the “Omnidirectional Ass Chewing” in which multiple D.I. will be screaming at you in unison as you attempt to make sense of the universe around you.

This video is in jest, but it is identical to the way that Marine recruits are trained at boot camp, except that goes on for 3 months. “Why do all these things you ask?” Because it is the easiest way to get a human being who is unaccustomed to performance under stress to take action while being placed under an extreme and sudden stress environment (combat). It trains them to block out the noise and the fear and the stress and just do what they need to do. We can’t actually shoot at the kids you know. (Oh God, that actually does make sense.) So the Omnidirectional Ass Chewing is one of the most important parts of onboarding that most military go through, and the yelling really never stops after that. What is extremely important to know is that just as quickly as these men started yelling they can turn it off just as quickly. It is mostly an act meant to instill aggression and help military people cope with combat stress without actually experiencing combat. This is why as John Albert put it “Not that my ex-military friends aren’t cool to just hang with when the pressures of work are off, but once you get them into a “business” situation it’s sometimes like flipping the “asshole” switch.” This asshole switch is a very real thing that has taken years to perfect. Yes, I acknowledge it as a conscious decision and part of our leadership and cultural mentality, but now they are in the civilian sector and this can is extreme. If you hire a military you need to know about this. If given a leadership role there might be some moments where the employees stop talking to Jon and start being talked to by Sgt Davis. As with other things, this can be an asset, but if it isn’t what you want in your culture you need to consider that. as well.


If I could really say the hardest thing that I have dealt with since leaving the military it is civilian managers who want to leverage my military experience, but have no understanding of it. I’ve had bosses who hired me thinking that I would be able to kick down doors, then when I made someone cry guess who got in trouble. One guy tried to lecture me on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War because now he understood warfare. Basically the worst thing that I have truly experienced is that so many think that all these traits I have listed are an all encompassing list of personality traits. Only these things are what naive managers think they want. After they realize that this may not be what they want, or that what they want doesn’t rationally belong in a civilian environment, who do they blame? Yeah. They expect some level of unattainable perfection while not allowing you the freedom to move in the way they hired you for. In the meantime, they hold the vet to a different standard than the other peers only because the vet didn’t live up to the managers impossible stereotypes.

In summary, hiring military people can be much less productive than you think if you don’t try and understand them. They can be asset or a liability. What is important for you as the hiring manager or owner is to accept that these are extremely capable and strong willed individuals that will need much guidance in the beginning, but be a major boon to your operations after that. They likely won’t fit your stereotypes and if you expect them to you will only get a great deal of resentment and difficulty. Still, there are few that know how to work harder can be more loyal, providers of effective diversity, are as reliable and can be counted on like a good US Veteran.

In all fairness you should also see my answer in What are the advantages of hiring someone who has been in the US military?

Could a Star Destroyer Defeat the Whole US Army?

More than likely, one TIE Fighter, could defeat the whole of the US Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, Air Force, and the combined military arsenals of all earthly defense forces.

​Let’s not look at this in terms of bigness of the ships, but of advancements in technology. When we really think about the staggering gulf between the technology of the US military of 2016 and that of the Star Wars universe, you will start to see that this question isn’t really if we can be beaten, but how long would it take. For example, would you consider it possible for a few ship loads of European Conquistadors capable of disemboweling the Aztec Empire in only a matter of months?

​In 1518, Cortés, a Spanish Conquistador, was in command of an expedition to explore and secure the interior of Mexico for colonization. Accompanied by about 11 ships, 500 men, 13 horses, and a small number of cannon, Cortés landed on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mayan territory. By 1521 Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs, had fallen, and Cortés was the governor of all their empire.

The advantages that the Conquistadors brought to fight were steel, both covering their body in armor, and with unyielding weapons. Compare this to the Aztec Eagle Warriors, what amounted to the Aztec’s special forces. For generations, they had only specialized in capture and raid tactics to take living captives for Aztec human sacrifice rituals. The only armor they needed were tightly woven cloth over shirts, and the weapons they used amounted to wooden mallets lined with obsidian. This was virtually worthless against the armored knights of Spain. Added to it the devastating psychological effects of even early guns and the whole of the empire was outmatched by a few very advanced foreigners. Disease had no small role in the defeat of the Aztecs, but the fact was undeniable. Around a thousand men conquered a nation. The difference, it should be noted, between Spain and the Aztecs, was no more than 4,000 and by some accounts much less.

​Compare this the Star Wars of the days of Luke, Leia, and the diabolical Darth Vader. According to the expanded universe, (which shouldn’t be changed for the purposes of this article) hyperdrive was invented something around 40,000 year, at which point, advanced technologies started circulating throughout the galaxy.

Let’s assume that we are only a thousand years away from some form of faster than light travel. That still means we would need to progress for another 40,000 years to be relevant to what that civilization can do. To give it some more perspective in thinking about the conquest of Mexico, instead consider what a modern warrior, take a US Navy SEAL or Marine, armed with something like the M-27 Automatic Rifle.

​Now match them up with their 40,000 years ago counterpart… with his somewhat sharp hand tool.

​Now imagine if you will, if the Marines are that much more powerful than the caveman, what is that much more powerful to the Marines? We can’t fathom it, (it’s a Sith) but if we think logarithmically, we can start to understand exactly how much of a mismatch anything the US military could field.

How would that one lone TIE fighter bring us down? I wouldn’t have the first clue how to answer that. Neither, I assume, could Montezuma. We are operating in the realm of the unknown unknowns just as much as our caveman friend trying to determine the strengths and weaknesses of that M-27 rifle. It’s safe to say, though, that by the end of the day, whatever power he fields will outmatch our own without even the slightest hope of a chance.


Oh dear, people in my comments are getting all worked up about stuff. Alas…

Still, a few are cool, so I will address those.

1) Cortez won because of smallpox.

Yeah, I sort of mentioned that, but I want to remind people (subtly) that a person from another galaxy might just have their own Smallpox that could disrupt the whole system just as easily. In fact, far worse. Imagine a bug that can somehow disrupt every living cell on Earth. I’m no space virologist, but I’m just guessing that, like our unfortunate answers the Native Americans, the first time we get the lucky visit from outer space by aliens who aren’t all bad, but lacking in some basic understanding or forethought, billions of us are going to die. We won’t die by murder or conquest, neither malice nor hate… just by accident… which will still be super sad. So… score one for the TIE-Fighter and one against all known and unknown life yet to meet.

2) Cortez won because of allies.

Good job learning your history. Seriously, that’s an important part of the story that I really wish people would research. Yes, Cortez showed up and shifted the balance of power. From that point, all the rival nations tired of, you know, being raided, pillaged, enslaved, and sacrificed for all those years, sort of liked having an opportunity to overthrow the evil empire. Yeah, the Aztecs were horrible people. Don’t feel sorry for them just because a bunch of white Europeans showed up to disrupt their fun and murderous barbarism. Yeah, that’s part of history too. That said, we always have this belief that we will all rally together when evil aliens come to make war on the homeworld (I, for one, still love (with italics) Independence Day) but what happens when they offer a deal to the Russians? I’m just sayin’… in this story, I don’t really trust the Russians. Look, Cortez and his few hundred guys couldn’t have done all that alone. Perhaps our TIE-Fighter couldn’t either… but the TIE and Russia, or maybe China in exchange for a few laser blaster designs… oh yeah, the free world of humankind is boned.

Props for good discussion: Wayne Sherman, Giuseppe Longo

3) “A Tie Fighter is slower than an F16 in atmosphere and has no shields.”

This is actually really cool because someone did good research. Yeah, the specs on the actual ships of the Star Wars universe are weirdly weak, even by modern standards. If you’re interested at all… which you obviously are for reading this far you nerdy nerds, read Brian Collins‘ excellent answer to What technologies in the old Star Wars trilogy (1977 – 1983) are actually not that high-tech and would actually be sort of low-tech if they were actual products/things introduced in 2015? It actually invalidates my answer, but not for the point I was trying to make on how boned we are going to be when a real evil alien menace comes around, but because the creators of Star Wars somehow failed to envision how powerful these things should have been.

4) But how did Ewoks defeat the Stormtroopers with primitive tools?

Shovels are primitive tools. They used shovels… to dig plot holes. That’s how.

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