Category Archives: WhatIfNews-World

The Mad Dog in the Neighborhood

Just to the south of the Khosr River, olive trees surround the simple homes of Nineveh and spread their sweet scent to every household when the wind blows off the Tigress. On those hot mornings, all the children in the community come outside to catch some of the breeze on their faces. In the evening, if they are lucky, one of the fathers in the neighborhood will bring home flavored ice shavings from one of the many street vendors in town to help ease the relentless oppressive heat of the day. The families in this sleepy neighborhood live a simple life, one that has been repeated for as many generations as any among them could remember.

Rahim lives in a house that was bigger than most in the area, but with six brothers and one sister, the house still felt cramped. Privacy for Rahim can only be obtained when he takes a trip to the secret hideaway he found on the now nearly dry Khosr River bank. Rahim makes the 3 kilometer trek to his special hidden sanctuary several times a week. His favorite spot is where the river folds back on itself and creates a naturally shady environment where he can race up and down the steep embankments, practice his laser sharp rock throwing ability, or just sit for a while and contemplate the many complexities found in a twelve year old boy’s life.

Most families in Rahim’s neighborhood are Sunni Muslim like him, but other families find their universal peace as Yazidi, Yarsan and Mandean. Even a few Assyrian Christians call this Nineveh neighborhood home. Rahim found the religious trappings and customs of his friends to be curious, but all the children from every background still scrambled to be first in line every time the shaved ice appeared on the scene. The apportioning of the delicious evening treat is only decided by which face appears at the head of the line. Existing in this hardscrabble part of the world meant a certain measure of acceptance and tolerance is required by all.

This year, just as the heat of summer started its relentless yearly push into Nineveh, stories about packs of wild dogs from the South of Mosul began to fill the adults evening dialog.  To the children, these stories of the vicious hounds with no soul, sounded much like the mythical stories of the great wars and warriors they had heard told so many times before. But the concern on their parent’s faces when they told these new stories of desert marauders, made these stories feel different. Fear, real guttural fear, cannot be hidden and every one of the children of the neighborhood started to feel a chill in their bones, even on the hottest of days.

One night after evening prayers, Rahim asked his elderly father to explain why everyone was so afraid of the invading pack of dogs from the South. Rahim’s father was very wise and was always honest with his sons. He sat Rahim down in front of him and told him to listen well. Rahim sat with rapt attention waiting for the answer. Rahim’s father took a long time to gather his thoughts then began to speak in a strange riddle.

“Two men go to the river to go fishing, one man says to the other,”

“We should fish in the morning to catch our evening meal.”

“But the other man responds,”

“It is better to fish in the evening, to supply our house for the next day.”

“Rahim, which of these two men is right?”

Rahim was quite puzzled by this problem as there did not appear to be a correct answer, nor a wrong one. After a few minutes of bewilderment, Rahim’s father asked:

“Would your belly be more filled if you ate the fish caught at night or by the one that was caught in the morning?”

This time the answer came easy for Rahim.

“My belly would be just as full for either, so both men must be right.”

Rahim’s father smiled and patted him on the head, in the same manner that fathers have reached out to their children from the dawn of time whenever their children begin to absorb one of the unseen mysteries of life. Then he explained further.

“Men can learn from other men, just as we do from the Imam, and the elders, and even as you do from me. Reasoning men can learn from each other that there is not just one unique path in life. For example, if you discovered that the route you take to go to the river was blocked one day, would you not find an alternate route? And if you did, would you not get to the same final destination?”

Rahim’s father let the message sink in then added:

“But if a man is trying to reason with a wild dog, the dog can learn nothing from the man, for all the dog knows is how to kill and eat. There is no alternate path for the dog to choose from. That is why this pack of dogs approaching us from the South is so dangerous, they cannot reason with other men to find an alternate path.”

The lesson for Rahim was barely absorbed when the rabid dogs with the black beards first arrived in his neighborhood. Shaved ice is no longer delivered to quell the evening heat.

Remember That Crazy Kid in School?

From:                       ;
To:                          ;
Subject: That Crazy Kid in School?
Sent: Sat, Jun 21, 2014 8:06:50 PM

Hi Dad

Sorry, I had to send this by email. Once we arrived in Iraq all normal communications were not allowed. I have to make this brief as our next movement is coming soon. Obviously I can’t say much but I wanted to share something I realized on our first day here.

I saw on the news that they are now calling us “Advisers”. That’s become a running joke around the teams now. Variations on, “I advise you to move or I’ll blow your F-ing head off” has become the standard mantra between the men. Did they label you as an “Adviser” in Vietnam when your men fought in the jungle for eleven months? It’s kind of funny actually. On my first tour here we were called “Liberators”, the next time in we were “Warriors”, the third time we became “The Problem”, and now we are “Advisers”. If they weren’t paying me to eliminate targets, targets that change each time I am here, it would almost be comical.

I was so proud the first time I came here, as I really believed I was helping the local people. Now I see that the vast majority of the locals just want to be left alone to raise a family and find a way to get by. But none of the players with the power in this place care anything about that, even us. Everyone is playing the game for prestige, ego, control of oil, or religious fanaticism. The people simply are not in the equation at all. Yesterday I ran into a local I met last time here, and I could see the weariness in his eyes. He told me that one Uncle had been killed in one of Saddam’s camps, one brother was killed in the Iran war, one of his sons was bombed in Tikrit by a misplaced US drone strike, and now his only other son who lives in Mosul has not been heard from since ISIS moved in. I had no words that could ease the pain I saw in that old man.

I did figure out how to describe the latest crazy militia stirring everything up. You know that kid in school that everyone stays away from? The one that all the kids know is nuts and that all the teachers continually try to help? No one can say for sure what’s wrong with him, but everyone knows instinctively how it’s going to turn out in the end. Well this new militia is made up of those kids who are grown up. You can just see it in their eyes.

I heard on the news the politicians saying “We must find a political solution to the problem”. Well dad, I wish those politicians could see into the eyes of these militia members like I have. There just isn’t a political cure for crazy. Back in school, the only teacher who ever got the message across to those special kids was our shop teacher, old man Reynolds with his big paddle. I hate to say it, but the only cure over here is going to be a super-sized paddle.

Sorry to cut this short, but was just told I have to grab my paddle and go do some “Advising” now.

Love you.

Has Stolen Drone Technology Downed Malaysian FLT 370?

In northeastern Iran in December of 2011, one of America’s most advanced spy drones landed unexpectedly and was quickly acquired by the Iranian military. The Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel was summarily paraded on the world’s news as a victory for the Iranian intelligence services. They claimed that they had broken into the Sentinel’s satellite communication up-link and simply told the super-secret spy plane to land softly in the desert where it could be recovered. The US has never acknowledged anything other than the Sentinel landed in hostile territory.

It is however safe to assume that whatever the reason for the spy planes loss from our control, the full weight of Iranian cryptologists and computer specialists would have been brought to bear on the gold mine of information that dropped into their lap. The cache of secrets the Iranians may have revealed by a study of the planes advanced technology in communications, encryption, flight planning, satellite navigation, photography, and even the fly by wire airframe control of the Sentinel is hard to imagine. The downing of the Sentinel in Iran seemed like an innocuous and unfortunate loss at the time, but with the disappearance of Malaysian FLT 370 the mind starts to ask – What If?

What if, the claim by the Iranians that they had jammed our satellite communications to our spy plane and replaced them with their own communications link is true? And what if they simply had instructed the billion dollar Sentinel to land in the desert where they could drop by and pick it up? And what if over the last three years, their investigations into the Sentinels systems has revealed to them fruitful information about remotely piloted planes, the GPS systems that they rely on, and the communication systems that keep them in the original operators control? Is it then beyond rational thought to ponder the possibility that they could have used that technological leap to remotely snatch a computer controlled civilian plane, say a Boeing 777, as the first demonstration run of that capability?

Is the idea as farfetched as it sounds? Actually yes. But is it within the realm of possibility, unfortunately that answer is yes as well.

Who out of all the nations on earth would have both the intellectual capability to demonstrate such a technological achievement, and possess the temerity to operationally use such a capability? Who indeed, out of that small number of countries, also has in its possession of one of the most technologically sophisticated spy planes the world has ever seen to help develop that very capability. A plane that has so many secrets on-board that its very existence is still muttered in hushed tones. What would such a country do if indeed it did have this new capability in its grasp?

Let’s take this “What If” question one step further and examine the terrorist possibilities such a capability would provide a country possessing this capability. Until now, there have been no credible claims of responsibility for Malaysia Air FLT 370’s disappearance and no concrete answer given to its disappearance. Therefore the mind is still open to wander the various possibilities. If Malaysian Air FLT 370 was indeed abducted from its flight plan by electronic means, the terror implications of repeated use of this capability are enormous. Such a country could blackmail its way out of any situation. It could threaten the entire world’s transportation. It would reserve its place at the big-boy table currently occupied by the nuclear fraternity.

But what if the technological capability to snatch planes out of the air is not yet fully realized, are there still unthinkable terror scenarios still open? Ask yourself, what would be the result if Iran simply claimed it was behind the disappearance and declared that the Sentinel abduction was proof it can accomplish such a feat? What if they decided to use a full on publicity propaganda attack? In such a case the worlds press would transmit the story round the world in seconds. The world’s population would be instantly put on notice that the next flight they take could be their last. The effects on the economy, the security implications, the political ramifications, and the massive eroding of public trust in our most basic systems would be incalculable.

Terrorism would indeed have reached a new plateau, without firing a shot. Have we now arrived at an Elevated Threat?


The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System has taken flight from the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush. These successful test launches guarantee that the future of combat aircraft will never be the same.

The question is, what will the future hold? Will these UCAS’ provide the next step in US air superiority, tipping the balance even farther in our favor and thus saving lives? Will the operational launch of UCAS’ create an imbalance of power that will instead make it easier to order offensive strike planes into the skies? Or, will the very design of autonomous planes usher in the fantasy world of Sci-Fi movies where Skynet-like organizations begin to rule the skies?

From the viewpoint of:

The Air-Frame Designer – Without the sentient organic blob in the plane, the design of UCAS’ air frame is considerably easier. Everything from size, to weight, to materials can be designed for maximum effect rather than for life support. Evasion capability, electronic absorption, material selection, even noise and vibration requirements can be re-evaluated to maximize stealth and offensive effect. Life is good for the Air-Frame designer.

The Operations Manager – X number of planes will be required to create operational success given a Y loss of planes. The math becomes much simpler when loss of pilot life is no longer a consideration in operational success. Operation’s managers will be salivating at the possibilities.

The Software Designer – Games, simulators, drones, and manned aircraft all have advanced auto-pilot-like software. Operational control of the UCAS’ will be the simple part, creating the logic engine to handle every operational possibility during flight will be the hard part. No amount of code can prepare for the challenge. No code is foolproof. Bugs happen, unexpected flight situations happen, and air control failures happen. Will the UCAS’ mistake a wedding party firing guns into the air for a Taliban attack? Will anti-aircraft fire from a mosque trigger a missile launch response into a crowded neighborhood? The software designer will have his/her hands full.

The Politicians – Like MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), the policy that held us back from a global conflagration in the 60’s, manned aircraft held politicians back from quickly entering war zones. When the loss of pilot’s lives entered into the equation, the ability to sell the value of the target to the public was drastically reduced. With fleets of UCAS’ in the operational theater, the decision to launch an offensive attack comes much easier. The very paradigm and psychological introspection by which we engage in war could change. Throughout history, when launching war became easier, war mentality followed. Are we different? Can we create superior weapon systems and never use them? Or will having a clear superiority reduce the need to use them?

The Sci-Fi Dreamers – In the movies, the planes develop a sense of self preservation and turn on their creators. Philosophical angst runs amok by the citizens. In the real world, the software geeks already rule the skies. When a cruise missile launches no one hides under the covers thinking it will develop a conscious on the way to its target. The UCAS’ is not much more than a two-way cruise missile (in the sense of operational control). Fear should not be generated from software becoming sentient, but it should come from malicious developers. Could a rogue developer with an inner hatred of his country build in seemingly innocuous code that could alter flight or operational integrity? Could a misplaced sense of patriotism by a commander or politician order a strike where war had not been declared?

 Are we prepared for a future where UCAS’ rule the skies – are you?