I started out as a Liberal, university student studying English Literature and Composition in Arkansas; I ended up an Electronic Warfare and Intelligence Professional on the front line against ISIS. What happened in between – the story of just how exactly I went from performing as a stand-up comic in college one summer, to then hunting the enemies of the United States across the globe – is the adventure of a lifetime, and it is the back-drop of everything in this blog. It is at times an entertaining story, the – “so no joke, there I was …” set-up that Soldiers are so prone to speaking from. Other times, it is really nothing more than the soliloquies of dharma bums, old buddies, and long pours of Bourbon.
I have been a Language specialist all my adult life – a journalist, an ESL teacher, an academic linguist at University, and a Military Linguist. I have also been a technologist – a hobbyist computer programmer, ethical hacker, and military signals intelligence analyst. Traversing a spectrum between two largely polarized opposites – the liberal arts and humanities at one end, and the technological profession of arms at the other – I have lived what Margaret Atwood penned: “War is what happens when language fails”
I write and converse with basic principled assumptions in mind: First – most people crave intellectual discussion and want to be heard out – most people want intelligent conversation, even if they don’t regularly seek it out; but give someone a chance, and they’ll have much more to say than for which you might have otherwise given them credit. People are worth listening to. Next, you will likely not convince me of your point of view today, but I will likely not convince you of mine today either. There’s no value in arguing with volume until the other side concedes. Rather, the value is to exchange observations and ideas, such that at some future point, both of us will take to heart what we’ve heard, and consider seeing the world differently, through each other’s eyes.
On the Blog
Foreign Affairs. Security. Tech – three topics I examine every month, analyzing everything from current events, to domestic policies, technologies, security postures and defense developments, often with an eye for their grand interplay and influence on one another. As such, this blog is not intended to be overtly partisan or prejudicial. While there will always be some orientation from which articles are written, the intent of this blog will never been to overtly support or refute a particular ideology, political party, or line of thought. As an intelligence professional, my goal is always to present fair, balanced, and reasoned assessments based on facts. While I do occasionally propose policy (which is decidedly outside the purview of intelligence professionals), I do so by temporarily stepping outside myself and my training, and instead writing as a concerned citizen or as a leader who must make a decision based on a preponderance of evidence. This blog consciously attempts to explicitly identify when a view is based on current facts/figures and realities, and then again when it is purely reflective of my personal values being projected onto a topic. Ultimately, I intend to never confuse the two, but recognize that I, dear reader, am just as fallible as you.
On Blogging as a Medium
As a form of self-publication, blogs do present an ethical challenge for analysts which is absent from traditional print journalism or peer reviewed journals: the temptation to edit into accuracy the predictions of a future now past. While an analyst ruthlessly reasons a position then releases it into the world, s/he can never revise the original and pass it off as pristine. Granted, Government accountability does allow for serialized reporting updates when the topic meets an on-going intelligence need (often at the strategic customer level), but they are sequentially numbered, indexed, archived, and retrievable. The blogging wild west has no formal mechanism to assure that kind of integrity or nonrepudiation. Thus, recognizing analysts’ careers are made or do fade according to their acumen, the ethical challenge facing self-publishers is having self-restraint from editing the original prediction to reflect current developments yet maintaining the verb tense and publication date of the original. No analyst could shrug off missing the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the rise of the Arab Spring. Conversely, an analyst can only double-down so long that North Korea was read to collapse in 1994, or ’95 (or virtually every year since), and still have a name in the intelligence community. Where I have returned to an article at a much later date to update its content, I have inserted a note indicating which portions reflect new material.
Finally, the ideas contained herein are my own, so then again are any mistakes. While I strive to be measured, fair, and accurate, I also know that no intelligence assessment is every truly complete; Intelligence professionals argue within Confidence Intervals, not with any confidence that their arguments are invincible. If you, dear Reader, agree or disagree with my (mis)interpretations, then you are in good company. As we say in the trade, “give one set of facts to ten different analysts, and you’ll get 12 different assessments back.” If on the other hand I have committed factual misunderstanding, or glaring omission of fact, I assure you it was not due to cherry-picking of evidence or by malicious intent to manipulate; more apt, it was ignorance. Forgive me.