Monday, August 15, 2011

Stealth Helicopter, Pakistan, China, and Getting a Grip

If you've been on the planet recently, you probably know that:
  • An American stealth helicopter was shot town in Pakistan
  • Someone in Pakistan held on to the wreckage
    • And showed it to Chinese specialists
On the whole, I'd be a bit happier if Pakistan's national government had collected the wreckage and turned it over to the American military.

I'd also be a bit happier if Pakistan had a national government that seemed to control more than a few parts of the capital city - if that.

As it is, I'm not even convinced that Pakistan's government gave the folks from China access to the wreckage. I don't doubt that someone with enough muscle to grab and hold the helicopter made a deal with China's national government. What I'm not entirely clear about is whether that person is someone in Pakistan's nominal national government, a military commander, someone in Pakistan's spy racket, or a local of the "tribal leader" variety.

Security, Pakistan, and Getting a Grip

I think - hope - that eventually folks in Pakistan will develop a national government that's functional and relatively benign. Until that happens, my take on the situation is that they're stuck with a motley assortment of civilian officials, warlords of various sorts, and the sort of family-based leadership that's existed in the area since the day when Abram moved out of Ur.

Apparently America's operation to get bin Laden had to use a stealth helicopter because Pakistan's alleged government had:
  • A proven track record of leaking information to the Al Qaeda leader
  • Somehow managed to ignore bin Laden's headquarters, which was
    • Large
    • Slightly fortified
    • In a city near the capital
Quite a few Pakistani VIPs seem to have their skivvies in knots over not being allowed to go about the usual routine of passing information on to their alleged enemies - intentionally or otherwise.

Can't say that I blame them, in a way. It must have been a little embarrassing when America's leadership let folks know why Pakistan's bosses were kept in the dark.

Now there's some very secret military technology in the hands of whoever managed to grab it most recently. In a country that's got nuclear weapons and feuding warlords. Plus a spy agency that's apparently a real-world example of America's liberal view of the CIA.

Here's what I think:
  • Can Pakistan's national government be trusted?
    • No
    • It's a trick question
      • I'm not convinced Pakistan has a functional national government
  • Should the stealth helicopter wreckage be returned to America?
    • Yes
    • But that won't happen until one or more conditions are met
      • Pakistan gets a working national government
      • Whoever holds the wreckage gets an incentive to let go
      • Another stealth mission takes care of the problem
      • Something else happens
  • Now that Chinese specialists have seen the wreckage, will chaos be loosed up on the world?
    • Probably not

Some Secrets are Best Kept - Secret

I'm accepting the idea that the materials and other tech that went into making that helicopter stealthy is something that should be kept secret. And that it would be better for Americans - and anybody who's interested in personal freedom - if the wreckage was back with America's military.

What I don't know is how hard it would be to reverse-engineer the 'stealth technology.' And I don't know if anybody with the necessary knowledge has had the sort of access to the helicopter wreckage that would allow them to copy the tech.

I'll grant that my opinion may be influenced by my not being a news editor with advertising space to sell - and that isn't another topic.

It'd be nice if military secrets weren't necessary, and everybody would decide to be nice - but that's not likely to happen. Not soon. In my opinion.

Meanwhile, I think it makes sense to keep some aspects of America's military force a secret. Just as I think it makes sense to not let someone holed up in a building know how the police plan to rescue his hostages - and, if possible, him.

No, I'd rather that America not be 'the world's policeman.' On the other hand, I don't think the world would be better off without a country that's able to put together a coalition of nations - and that's yet again one more topic.

Two Op-Eds, Two Views

Here's what got me started on this post:
"Did Pakistan sell out America?"
Patrick M. Cronin, CNN (August 15, 2011)

"The strategic partnership between the United States and Pakistan appears once again to be careening toward the brink of self-destruction. Reports that Pakistan may have given Chinese engineers direct access to the remnants of an American Black Hawk stealth helicopter left behind in the May raid on Osama bin Laden, are the latest in a series of blows to the relationship...."

"If China Saw U.S. Stealth Copter, It's No Big Deal"
Noah Shachtman, Danger Room, Wired (August 15, 2011)

"By now, everyone with an internet connection has seen pictures of the stealthy helicopter used in the raid to take out Osama bin Laden. So, if the Pakistani government provided Chinese engineers with a closer look at the 'Airwolf,' as the copter was nicknamed in some military circles, it's not necessarily a security disaster. The potential problems would only start if the Chinese took samples from the modified Black Hawk...."
The CNN op-ed isn't nearly as jittery as the headline might imply - and the Danger Room article isn't as careless as the headline's words.

Another example of why it's a good idea to read past the lead paragraph. More topics.

China and High Tech: Why Worry?

I don't "worry" about China having America's military secrets. Not in the sense of obsessively brooding on the 'yellow peril,' or frantically digging a fallout shelter in the back yard.

I am concerned, since China's national leadership doesn't have a particularly good track record for playing well with others.

There have been too many disturbing events over the years: from Chinese servers 'just happening' to host hack attacks on everything from American corporate websites to the Pentagon's files; to "mobsters" gunned down after criticizing the government.

Eventually, I think China will regain its historic role as a major economic force in the world, and one of the great centers of culture. Right now, I'm not convinced that China's political leaders have quite gotten over the Cold War. Or the idea that world conquest is a good idea.

Not that China is the only source of trouble in the world - and that's yet again another topic.

A Competent International Authority - Someday

Back to that 'world's policeman' idea again. I think America is, like it or not, one of the few nations around that's able to organize an effective resistance to dangerous national leaders.

My guess is that eventually the world will have a secular authority that's global, and able to deal with the occasional wannabe world conqueror, or corrupt official, or whatever. I also think that folks who like the status quo, with its fairly constant warfare and dead "mobsters," can rest easy. Tennyson's "Federation of the World" is centuries away. At least. My opinion.

I've discussed this sort of thing before, here and in another blog:
"...We're a very long way from having an "international authority with the necessary competence and power" to simply arrest someone like Saddam Hussein...."
(A Catholic Citizen in America (June 16, 2011))

Pacifists, Warmongers, and Me

As the name of that blog indicates, I'm Catholic. Despite what you may have heard, that doesn't mean that I'm
  • Conservative
  • Liberal
  • Intolerant
  • Backward
  • A Satan-worshiper
  • Un-American
  • Whatever
I'm also not a pacifist. Or, oddly enough, a warmonger. And I'm certainly not "moderate" in the sleazily political sense of the word. I think war is not nice. Things get broken and people get killed. Unhappily, there are some not-nice people in the world who aren't inclined to let others go about their lives. If these not-nice people aren't stopped, eventually a lot of things will get broken, and many people will get killed. Since we don't have an "international authority with the necessary competence and power" to stop these not-nice people, it's up to neighbors, national governments, and the occasional international coalition, to deal with them. Ideally, the Saddam Husseins of the world are restrained without war. Sometimes that's simply not possible:As I've said before, I admire sincere, dedicated pacifists. And I think they will thrive. As long as there are non-pacifists to protect them. Somewhat-related posts, getting a grip about: News and views:


Brigid said...

Stutter: "to have have their skivvies in knots"

As what? "makes as much sense to keep some aspects of America's military force a secret."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Found, fixed, thanks!

(That last was a case of incomplete editing.)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.