Saturday, January 9, 2010

Making the War on Terror "Cost-Effective"

When it began, I was naive enough to suppose the "war on terror" would be a spook war, a war of spies—of things that go bump in the night, not boom. After all, the enemy hides among civilians. How else do you get him without harming the innocent? I thought we cared about that. Really. I did.

But wait—there's more. Of course, I thought there'd be propaganda, to polish-up the good old USA brand, but I also thought the war must have an ethical front—a "let's stop doing things that justifiably piss people off" front. Well, it would help the propaganda, wouldn't it?

Let me know when you're done giggling.

But what we did instead was make it a shooting war. What we did instead was invade other people's countries and then have to explain how it is we are not occupiers—while manifestly occupying them. What we did instead was "Shock and Awe." What we did instead was drop bombs on crowds of innocents in case some of them might be bad guys. And as for propaganda, our brilliant president advertised all of this as a "Crusade."

Surely it would have been cheaper just to pay people to join al Qaeda?

Wherein lies a hint. The fact is, from a certain perspective, spook war is just not "cost-effective." Defense contractors rake in oodles of cost-effective from a shooting war, but spies? Chump change, by comparison.

I have an app for that, a sort-of reverse follow-the-money: Deploy the money, and the strategy will follow. We must make spook-war "cost-effective." After all, the greatest country in the world should have the greatest spies and assassins—James Bond Ninjas, equipped with the best and—here's the key—most expensive gadgets.

Such as the SG17a GPS-guided, ultra light weight smart grapple: $80M each. And SG17b self-destructing rope for same: $400,000 a foot.

The Ninja Assassin Wardrobe includes the NAW-P stealth pajamas, the -T stealth tuxedo, and the -L stealth leisure suit @$20M, each. The -S laser-guided shoe tree is a bargain at only $17M.

For infiltrating the home of a terrorist who is hosting a children's birthday party (it could happen), the NAW-C clown costume, with stealth squeaky shoes and exploding hair, and the AP-1 attack pony. Total cost: $800M.

R&D should be "cost-effective," as well. Imagine the development of the SG17a smart grapple:

Because of all the other gear he or she must carry, it is naturally desired that a ninja assassin's grapple be collapsible and as light as possible. So a new carbon fiber composite is developed. Then it is discovered that it is, in fact, very difficult to throw a two ounce grapple with any accuracy or distance. After much discussion, a JATO pack is added. But the JATO pack is too heavy. A spin-off project is launched to develop a one ounce JATO pack—which turns out to need in-flight refueling.

Thinking outside the box, someone at DARPA equips a standard grapple with a pulley, that can be thrown in the usual way and then used to hoist the smart grapple into position, but this is not deemed to be cost-effective, and the researcher is let go.

We can imagine similar difficulties would be encountered by the project to develop a silent squeaky shoe.

The bottom line is, if we can get the cost of fully-trained, fully-equipped operatives up to around two billion dollars, each, I think we can get the defense industry to back a better way of fighting terrorists.

Or, more likely, we'd just create a new cost-effectiveness stream. I guess I'm still naive.

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