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Are these acts of war?

It is good to have someone from inside Washington DC express views on national security that make sense to me and that align with topics that are written about frequently on this blog.

Pw 56113 Ontheedge Final 3

Retired General Stanley McChrystal recently responded to a question on Face the Nation about the greatest threats to US national security.  His reply was that we can deal with terrorism and with a nuclear armed Iran, but the greatest short term threat to our security is the faltering economy and the greatest long term threat is our failing education system.

We too frequently equate national security with what is going on with our military.  Our security is obviously threatened by acts of war.  Yet here we have a leading military strategist saying that it is not military threats that most undermine our security, but threats that are largely self-imposed from within.  Note that self-imposed does not necessarily mean without outside direction.  History is full of examples of one enemy defeating another, not with overt acts from without, but with covert acts that appear to come from within.

If you wanted to undermine America by fiddling with its economy and education system, what would you do?  Create an uncertain business climate?  Loan money to people who can't pay it back?  Fail to develop energy policy?  Speak poorly of capitalism?  Undermine classroom discipline?  Replace time that should be spent on reading, writing, science and math with time spent on mandated soft subjects?  Eliminate real competition and accountability from school?  Get government to spend money that it doesn't have?

This may read like a political statement, but it isn't intended that way.  All of these things are unquestionably taking place.  But we have been lured into believing that they are just social or political choices driven by more liberal or more conservative thinking.  If we thought of them as acts of war that will ultimately affect our very existence, we might respond to them differently.

Next time someone says or does something that could potentially undermine our economy or our education system, ask yourself; "is this a social / political choice or an act of war?".  Then respond accordingly.



I tried to simply agree, but there is a requirement for text in this box. (So here's your text)

Posted by: Chris on March 1, 2013


You're treading on thin ice by speaking such truth! Good job trying to deflect these accurate assessments by couching it as 'non-political', but make no mistake ... it IS political. Until we attain an informed electorate, we're just going to perpetuate the war. I only hope the outcome is more like Bastogne rather than the Alamo!

Posted by: Eric Davidson on March 1, 2013

Tongue in cheek but hit the nail on the head!

Posted by: Barb Fritz on March 1, 2013

What undermines our security is exactly what we are seeing from the ignorant, parochial, lobby-fed radical Right! We are not allowed to see or hear about what is happening in Eurpoe with the FAILED austerity programs which are only hurting already distressed citizens. Spanish children attend schools in which the power has been cut. Unemployment is rampant, and the government has made NO strides in curing its economy.
EVERY business person knows that you have to spend money to make money: don't market? Disappear,. Don't compete? disappear.
Blaming Obama for this mess is blind! Eight years of plunder, followed by four years of obstructionism by the Right have put Americans on St. Stephen's grate. The Congresspersons are not suffering, they are taking their long weekends, vacations, paychecks, health insurance and perks while small business ( like mine ) suffer.
To Hell with ALL of them! I applaud Lindsay Graham for his words to Congress. We need more like him.
You, Keith, I am sure, are in a secure financial position from which you can point a finger at the moderates and Liberals.
Unless you have walked in the shoes of the vulnerable, you have no arguement!

Posted by: Francesca Miller on March 1, 2013

Strength is in the unity of purpose being coupled with diversity and the desire for societal refinement. The power of being true gentlemen and ladies. Not the facade of opulence, but the power of unity and hard work.
This strength comes from proper education and financial discipline.

Posted by: Marty on March 1, 2013



Posted by: Michael Loera on March 1, 2013

I totally agree with you Keith

Posted by: Ignacio Robledo on March 1, 2013

I agree with you overall. But "government spending money it doesn't have" doesn't jibe with "faltering economy." For 100 years, governments that provided strong economic stimulus got their economies going much faster than those that practiced austerity. Yes, the U.S. has debt: we almost always do. But like a good company, our government can carry debt without collapsing. We're not "broke" and a government is not a household. More, smarter stimulus would have had us out of this recession more quickly, and the virtuous cycle would help everyone. I know your essay didn't get into such details, but a government can and should spend money it doesn't have when there's good cause, good precedent and the payoff can be enormous. Or do we all think Britain, with it's flatlined economy, is doing the right thing?

Posted by: james nahra on March 1, 2013

You have some good points but my perspective is tat there are no mandated soft classes in the public schools my children attend. My kids are learning advanced topics in science, math and engineering. They know more than I did at their ages and they are more capable on many levels. Discipline is a problem in our country. This includes selfishness that drives our people to accept the problems in our society.

Posted by: Ken on March 1, 2013

Agreed. General McChrystal will speak to PMMI members attending the annual Executive Leadership Conference in April. I'm looking forward to this.

Posted by: John Kowal on March 1, 2013

Absolutely agree. The best way to defeat an enemy is to wound them not kill them. If you have them so concerned about tending to their wounds they become less able to defend themselves.

Posted by: Kenneth on March 1, 2013

I never have thought of "war" this way, but you have totally intrigued me to open my mind.

Posted by: Margaret on March 1, 2013

I like the analogy in the post. I like that we are investing in America mfg, not blowing up countries and then building them up (and handing out no-bid contracts). Manufacturing is transforming and reshoring is happening and we're focused on it to reap the benefits. But a force wants to stop that now and you're right, it is an Act of War. What did Vince Lombardi say, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

Posted by: Grant Gerke on March 1, 2013

Will we respond. That is the other side of the coin. Many decades ago an old wise man told me that if a strong forthright, knowledgeable, wise, humble, honest person came forward to run and defend your country, would you vote for him. Answer - NEVER. Over the years his statement has always sadly proved true. In the last election Obama proved it again, by people voting for the worst. He also said "you will talk and talk until the vomit from your own words choke you to death". He was very blunt with words. He also said "To vote for an honest man is to accept sacrifice and to vote for a dishonest man is to vote to line your pockets." The day he died he was sad for us.

Posted by: Paul Zepf on March 1, 2013

Thanks so much for your thoughtful words. I agree with both you and General McChrystal. I don't know if it is war for sure, but sure seems like it to me and most of the folks I interact with.

Thanks again!

Posted by: Henry Chidgey on March 1, 2013

Good observation, Keith.

Posted by: Dennis Gros on March 1, 2013

great thoughts and comments. someone in DC should read your blog

Posted by: Dennis on March 1, 2013

You almost had me for awhile --- then I realized that you were spouting the old line of Republican horseshit - -this country is in bad shape because you, Mittens, and other Republican "smart-asses" have gamed the system. Forget it - you guys went too far. Capitalism is as good as dead.

Posted by: richard vajs on March 1, 2013

Hi Keith,

Thanks for your article.

This nation is under attack every day by terrorists, criminals, and hostile foreign governments and those attacks can be viewed as acts of war. I believe we can survive those acts. But what I do not know is if we can survive those things that you mentioned in your article that are degarding our nation. While the issues may be many, I believe that the causes are basic. Foremost is the lack of responsible leadership and individuals with the courage to lead. We have too many people in leadership roles that do not have the skills, experience or courage to effective lead. This is both in the private sector as well as the public sector. We unfortunately put too many people into those critical roles based upon popularity or their ability to make money.

A second factor is an incredible lack of critical thinking. We tend to take positions on issues based upon an engrained belief system.That system blocks our ability to understand and comprehend an issue without reacting to the issue. We are currently a nation of reactors instead of a nation of thinkers. This response is fostered and nutured by the internet and our news media. We chose to beleive the internet or media based upon a reaction not critical thinking.

The third factor is our inability to gain consensus and compromise. Some of our greatest leaders were consensus builders. Currently we are nation of self interest and special interest groups that view compromises as losses instead of victories. We appear to be no longer a nation united, but a nation divided by politics, ethnicity, gender, economic class, etc. Unfortunately we also have so called leaders that encourage and exploit those divisions.

Our nation is under attack, but unfornately it is from within as well as it is external. For those that have studied history is common to see the collapase of great socities from within before the Barbarians tear down the walls from with the outside.

This nation can survive and thrive but it will take leadership with courage in multiple areas, critical thinkers, and consensus builders to accomplish it.

Posted by: Mike O'Neil on March 1, 2013

If you look at how the consumer market has changed over the past 3 decades, you will notice dramatic diversification in the retail market. American consumers have an unprecedented amount of choice, and to say the least, they have a diversified global manufacturing sector to thank for it.

But before you start patting yourself on the back, notice I say global manufacturing, because it is foreign nations, especially China, that are responsible for manufacturing policies that have opened the door to more consumer choice in America. Developing countries have included into their version of "nation building" a special emphasis on highly customizable and highly flexible industrialization. Countries like China mobilize enormous populations of laborers to quickly and cheaply perform highly manual industrial applications. These are basically entire nations of temp laborers at the service of American product development cycles.

Highly manual assemblies are not "cost effective" by American standards, nor do many sons and daughters of the American middle and upper-middle classes view manual labor jobs as rewarding, meaningful, or congruent to Suburban standards of living. As it is, American consumers pay top dollar for branded products because of access to choice, not for premium "Suburban American" labor, and I don't think that's going to change any time soon.

Emerging conventions in education (you call "soft") parallel improved standards of living. These conventions have diversified at the same pace as the consumer market, attending the issues of the up and coming 2nd generation of middle to upper-middle class folks. The problem isn't soft education and unruly youngsters, the problem is that the labor market has not met this generation where it's at as interesting, diverse, highly educated individuals. This is an area where if improved, America could once again lead the world. Instead of proving, as we have in the past that a middle class is possible, this time proving that the middle class is sustainable. This is a labor market problem that will not be fixed by demonizing higher education.

I would also argue that one needs little math and science knowledge to be an effective line operator. Line operators do need to know how to mind their superiors, though. Should this be the core function of your "hard" educational model?

On the other hand, roles in manufacturing like engineering do require higher level thinking. But do you really believe that the American industrial labor model will employ hundreds of millions of engineers? Should we function like Germany and have 40 engineers to every project that currently requires 5 or 6 American engineers? Wouldn't that violate a sense of American scrappiness and productivity? On the flip side, would young suburban Americans educated on the level of engineers/managers be satisfied with a job as line operator? Would you think of your own children as "successful" after a full career of working a line job? No, no and no.

It's time for people like you to stop fooling yourself. Due to generations of advances in automation, the era of mass need for human labor in American manufacturing is over. The only exception remains with highly engineered applications an assemblies that rely on underpaid immigrant or "uneducated" labor. Few american manufactures offer competitive rates for high customization and high flexibility, even though that is what consumers expect in the market. If we had a tax subsidized "temp work draft " on the level of CCC camps and WPA, just maybe we could hedge the advance of the Chinese and Indians have in this sector. In any case, you can't blame slack or "liberalized" education in America for the loss of domestic manufacturing jobs. It's more complicated than that.

To get right down to the point, when the retired general speaks about domestic threats to national security, he means that PEOPLE WITHOUT JOBS TEND TO BE MORE VIOLENT. The longer people like you play the blame game with "soft" education and conspiracy theories about foreign influence, the longer the domestic threat will fester. It's time to stop denying that today's labor market is fundamentally different than those from decades ago because the middle class and it's "soft" education has raised different kinds of workers.

Posted by: Vincent on March 1, 2013

Thanks for all of your comments. Some of you might want to read my post on civility:

Posted by: Keith Campbell on March 1, 2013


Great newsletter.

Hope all is well,

Don Neumeister

Posted by: Don Neumeister on March 2, 2013

Yes, and there are other types of activism, especially types aimed at sectors of the economy like uses of resources and agriculture via over-regulation. Animal rights activism and environmental activism appeal to naive voters who love animals and nature, but are capable of radically changing our economy and industry, and not for the better. The legislation produced by feel-good shill arguments cripple our industries and give economic, trade and even military advantages against us in a global market and even wreak considerable havoc on our own domestic trade and infrastructure. We need to get smart about it and realize that pseudo-ethical attacks on America's farmers, especially, will doom our eocnomy to a "death of a thousand cuts". All small businesses share these same concerns, and live in fear of state, local, and Federal agency raids, incentivized by forfeiture. If there is an area in which we truly need to cut back on government, this is it. We need to whittle down and even sunset these bureaucracies which exist to feed on private enterprise and capital like zombies.

Posted by: Jan B on March 2, 2013

I am in agreement with your comments. How can we accept a drop out rate from high school of 30% and think that we can continue without fixing the problem? Who will fill the highly technical jobs? How will we compete on the world market?
The problem cannot be solved in Washington, DC. As citizens, we must fix the problem. Thanks for speaking out.

Posted by: Rudy Westervelt on March 2, 2013


It's good to see you in action.

Economy and Education are the gateways to our success and both have been under attack for many years.

Press on my friend.

Posted by: Fred on March 4, 2013

Neither political party is willing to compromise. Special interests [Right & Left] wrest resources for their own causes rather than trying to strengthen the whole of society. Education suffers greatly because of political neglect and few representatives have any idea of the total complexities of education and, therefore, how to improve the education system. Both parties have outlived their usefulness; a good 3rd party representing the true middle values would offer some hope for those in the middle are neither right or left. They are the real representatives of America and the hope for curing the dilemma of the slow economy and, hence, a weakened education system. A faultering education system has been identified as to why the USA is lagging in so many areas and why the USA has dropped to inferior ratings worldwide.

Posted by: Richard on March 4, 2013

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