JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 115 : March 27, 2003

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

  • Patriotism does not support bad leadership
  • The myths and mystique of War
  • Why America scares the world
  • Techno-humans in combat - high-tech weaponry
  • Ideas for making the world a better place
  • eFeedback:
    • Advice from first-hand experiences of terrorism
    • China will defeat itself; US loses by exporting jobs
    • The joy of motivation in smaller companies

Pinto Point

In talking with friends over the past few days, many said: "The time for discussion is over. Now that we are at war, let's just support our President and encourage the US troops."

We can only hope and pray that our troops on the front line will remain safe and return safely. The feelings of patriotism and solidarity explain, perhaps, the improved ratings that President Bush has received in the past few days. But still, when the basic premise for this war is wrong, surely we cannot prolong the mistake with our quiet approval.

TV war coverage has all the hype and hoopla of continuous super-bowl, the ultimate "Reality TV". All the TV networks have reporters "embedded" with troops on the front lines, vying for our attention with awesome presentations and endless commentary by a procession of retired generals, providing graphic, real-time video coverage, repeating and repeating the most graphic and awful old news when there is nothing new to report. Who can be so bold as to suggest that maybe, just maybe, this is all wrong?

Yes, we are all preoccupied with the war as it unfolds. Please bear with me while I share my thoughts and feelings generated by the irreversible events of the past few days.

Here, I will NOT reflect the ideas of unknown liberals and pacifists. Rather, I echo and summarize the thoughts of people many of us respect and admire - patriots, leaders, and humanists. My material reflects news and views that have been widely publicized, with web-links that you can use for more complete reading if you wish.

Patriotism does not support bad leadership

On the US Senate floor, US Senator Robert Byrd spoke eloquently, echoing the feelings of many, including my own. Here are brief extracts.
    "A pall has fallen over the Senate Chamber. We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq.

    "Today I weep for my country. No more is the image of America that of the strong yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

    "Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience, or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption that is understood by few and feared by many. We demonstrate that the US has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

    "We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat UN Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split.

    "This Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and grief that emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war. We will drive Saddam Hussein from power. But, the zeal of our friends to assist us in our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.

    "After this war has ended, the US will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe.

    "I continue to hope that the cloud will lift. Perhaps Saddam will yet turn tail and run. Perhaps reason will somehow still prevail. Along with millions of Americans I will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision that for the present eludes us."

Please take time to read Senator Byrd's speech!

Click Robert Byrd: The arrogance of power - Why I weep for my country

The myths and mystique of War

This past weekend, as the Iraqi war commenced, I happened to click on C-SPAN TV; Chris Hedges, the veteran NY Times journalist, was reading extracts from his book: "War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning". The message gave me shivers of significance, especially while all the other channels were reporting on the war in progress.

Chris Hedges has been a war correspondent for many years, covering various wars in Central America, North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans. His book is a thought-provoking discussion of the effects of war, and of the nationalistic myths that often provide the basis for war. It is difficult for most people to penetrate behind the barrage of media rhetoric, to go beyond the unquestioning patriotism that is expected. How easy it is to get caught up by the bravery of our heroes, of their noble sacrifice, of the utter depravity of the enemy! How difficult it is to recover from disillusionment in the aftermath.

Hedges compares war to an addiction, a sustained super-bowl spirit of tribal bonding, adrenaline rushes, violence awaiting victory. In war, people unite in a feeling not of friendship, but comradeship. It brings a sense of nationalism and patriotism, more than what is right, or just. War appeals to the human psyche; to many people, it provides a purpose for living. It allows individuals to rise above regular life and participate in a noble cause.

The veteran war correspondent draws on his experiences covering wars all over the world to look at what makes it so intoxicating for soldiers, politicians and ordinary people. He describes the devastating effects on life, community and culture, the corruption of business and government. He discusses outbreaks of nationalism, the wartime silencing of intellectuals and artists, the ways in the press glorifies the battlefield.

Chris Hedges acknowledges that people need to battle evil; he argues not for pacifism, but for responsibility on the part of those who wage war. This is an important book to read as you witness the reality of the unfolding war with Iraq.

Click Book: Chris Hedges - "War is a force that gives us meaning":

Click Interview with Chris Hedges

Why America scares the world

The cover of Newsweek (24 March 2003) has the headline "Why America scares the world". It features a picture of MOAB, the new 'Mother-of-all-bombs' which was tested in Florida with a lot of fanfare, in preparation for use in Iraq. A significant article in Business Week (summarized here) powerfully describes the failure of US diplomacy and the consequent dangers that now threaten the US and the world.

The US is now at war with Iraq. Many people fear that this is some kind of turning point. The discussions at home and around the globe are not about Saddam anymore. They are about America and its role in the world.

With bad diplomacy, the US lost the prewar battle over Iraq. Faced with opposition from nearly all of its allies and much of the rest of the planet, it launched the first-ever preemptive war. A world that rallied to support America after 9/11 increasingly perceives the US itself as the greatest danger to peace. The price that the US will pay, even if the war ends quickly, will be high. The effects are already obvious - measured in tattered alliances, global tensions, eroding support. The economic consequences may be far more significant.

When the war commenced, there was an expectation that this would be quick and easy. But now, after the first week, there is admission that it is "turning ugly". Iraqis are not welcoming the approaching forces with garlands as expected, but rather, are fighting them as foreign invaders. The President has asked congress for $75B to fund a war that "will last 30 days". However long it does last, this war will be followed by occupation that could last years, cost many billions of dollars and involve tens of thousands of occupying troops. Bungled diplomacy means that the US will bear most of the financial burden. Beyond that, the administration remains too pre-occupied to deal with North Korea's rush to build nuclear bombs, and Iran's move to nuclear status.

After the terrorism of 9/11, the Bush administration has reduced US foreign policy to 3 tenets: unilateralism over the diplomacy of international treaties; no country will be allowed to challenge US military dominance; and the US is free to take preemptive action against terrorists and countries that are suspected to have weapons of mass destruction. As a foreign policy, this is arrogant and corrosive, generating opposition even from friendly countries, and undermining all multilateral agreements. This is the basis of new uncertainty in a dangerous world.

America will win militarily in Iraq, but the damage done by bad diplomacy will be long lasting and deep. America has gained much of its influence in the world from its democratic values and capitalism. Within a few weeks, this has been trashed. There is now a big risk that what was once trumpeted as the American Century will be turning into the Anti-American Century.

Click Business Week: The High Price of Bad Diplomacy

Click Newsweek (24 March 2003) - Why America scares the world

Techno-humans in combat - high-tech weaponry

Homo sapiens eradicated Neanderthal man with superior technology - iron spears, instead of stone. Throughout history, many advanced cultures were subjugated by superior technology - cannons against spears and arrows. Can anyone doubt the superiority of the techno-human?

Over the past years, in eNews and my writings, I coined the expression 'techno-human' to denote humans with superior powers gained through technology. On an individual level, this could be as simple as wearing glasses (or undergoing lasik surgery) for improved eyesight, to the extension of personal capabilities through a pocket PDA. The use of techno-humans in combat situations is now being demonstrated in Iraq.

Imagine the power of soldiers who can see in the dark; who, in a vast desert, can pinpoint their own location within a few feet. These are capabilities that US soldiers in Iraq have today.

Just a decade ago, GPS navigation was too expensive. Now, GPS is everywhere on the battlefield. Every airplane that flies a strike mission has the capability to use precision weapons - laser-guided and satellite-guided bombs navigated by GPS signals. In just one night, 16 stealth aircraft with 200 smart bombs can destroy as much critical infrastructure as weeks of bombing did in Desert Storm a decade ago. Clearly, technology provides power to those who have it.

The latest MIT-Tech-review discusses the latest tools in the US high-tech arsenal. MIT Prof. Owen Cote talks about how technology advances are making this war very different from anything in the past.

Click MIT Tech Review - The New War Machines

Click CNN - US Firepower

Click The Future of Warfare: America’s High-Tech Arsenal

Click Pinto article: Evolution of the techno-human

Ideas for making the world a better place

A better world comes by first imagining it. The new book I have been involved with, "Viable Utopian Ideas: Shaping a better world" is a volume of essays from futurists, scientists, scholars, planners, and others in the futurist community. Prof. Art Shostak, sociology professor at Drexel University, has edited the book. It includes my own essay: "Soft Solutions for Hard Problems", a theme we have often discussed in eNews.

Wide-ranging topics covered include future social developments, a world without war, global democracy, the Internet community, space exploration, ageing & longevity, the future of education and religion.

Explore your own Utopian dreams - read this book!

Click Book : Viable utopian ideas - shaping a better world

Click Viable Utopian Ideas website


Mark McKechnie [Mark.McKechnie@Jacobs.com] from N. Ireland wrote about the terrorism that he himself has experienced:
    "I was born and bred in Northern Ireland, where terrorism was part of life for everyone for the last 30 years, up until recently. This terrorism was a culmination of 300 years of bitterness and mistrust, which developed into bigotry and sectarianism between the loyalist community which support British rule in Northern Ireland, and the nationalist community which would like Northern Ireland to be returned to Irish rule.

    "This conflict between two neighbors over national identity has taken thousands of lives. The opposing terrorist organizations of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the UDA (Ulster Defense Association) often killed indiscriminately, men, women and children.

    "I am pleased to tell you that, as we speak, both sides are sitting down in dialogue. The terrorism that once gripped the lives of the Northern Irish people is now a thing of the past. It is the normal decent, hardworking people who will not let it return. The politicians who have the peoples mandate are working hard to come to a political settlement that allows both communities to live in peace, and never to return to the bloody evil of the past.

    "In comparing Northern Ireland to the Middle East, the solution only lies in dialogue. The Middle East has developed the same traits that became apparent in Northern Ireland - mistrust, bigotry, sectarianism and then terrorism. The only way we can hope to stop the terrorism from continuing for our sons and our daughters is to start talking, understanding, compromising. The elected leaders of the people on both sides should be held accountable, to begin dialogue which can generate understanding and reconciliation. The majority of decent, hardworking people on both sides do not support terrorism, and they hold the politicians accountable, to find a resolution.

    "Violent conflict in the form of revenge, retribution or 'tit for tat' only serves to pass the problem on to our children. Not the bombs and the bullets, but dialogue and understanding between the Middle East and the West need to be the goal of our governments. The talking should never stop!"

Albert P. McCauley, Jr [cvcapm@core.com] wrote about our discussions on China as the next great manufacturing power, and the impact that offshore manufacturing has on the US:
    "I worked in China for 6 weeks, in 86 and 87, and I read Chinese history. Communism is great at first because everyone has jobs, working for the government. But the products they produce cannot compete in the open market. When the government closes inefficient factories people go hungry; and hungry people are not happy. Then the cycle starts over. I have said to my Chinese friends since about 1994 that there will be an uprising in China.

    "Our problem in the US is exacerbated by the fact that our managers have exported low level jobs to countries with lower wage rates. By the time we pay the taxes that support benefits, we as a country may have spent more than what the manufacturers saved. But the money will not have come out of the manufacturer's pocket directly. Their balance sheet will look good, but that of the USA will not. This problem is not being considered by business schools, or Congress.

    "Here in Cleveland, I look at abandoned factories that had previously employed many people with a low skill level. Will the day come when some people in the US will starve? Do we regulate population, as China has done? This does not go well with our religious heritage. What do we do? I don't have a clue."

Bill Bentley [bill.bentley@mindspring.com] of Value-Train read our coverage of major automation companies, and sent me this feedback:
    "After leaving my last position as President of MDT Software, a company whose business simply disappeared after 9/11, I had a brief chance to interview with Invensys, which didn't go anywhere. Too bad, I thought at the time, it would have been a good match. After reading about their travails for the last year, in your newsletters and other places, I'm now grateful that I didn't uproot my family to join them!

    "I remember all too well from my Nabisco days (Director of Automation) what it is like to be in companies that are being torn apart, in that case by KKR. I continue to prefer and will eventually find the right spot in a much smaller and focused firm that can actually do things. The managements of large companies run them, their employees, their shareholders and their customers in ever decreasing circles like the kiki bird. That's a dumb bird with one wing bigger than the other which flies in ever decreasing circles until it flies up it's own behind, whereupon it exclaims "Ki-Ki-Riced it's dark in here!" (Sorry, that was a Jr. High potty joke that I never forgot).

    "In the meantime, I've started a training business which is quite successful. We teach Six Sigma and Project Management to professionals, mostly in the Atlanta area where I live, although our reach is expanding. It's pure pleasure to be focused on delivering quality service at a reasonable price to people who need and appreciate what I do for them. I've received more 'thanks for a good job' comments and letters in the past 6 months since starting this business, than in all of my 30 years of working in corporate America. That is intoxicating - and sad."

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