I think I found a temporary solution to the video glitches that have plagued some of my appearances on various podcasts. I moved to a different room, closer to the router. I am in the process of working out a more permanent solution. Thanks for your patience. The Judge and I discuss the collection of intelligence and the threat posed to the principle of privacy implied, but not explicitly stated, in the Constitution.
If you use a cell phone, a computer connected to the internet or a credit card then you are being spied on — i.e., a third party is collecting information about your private activities. The pre-computer world of spying, where you could get a passport in another name and travel undetected is extinct. Advances in facial recognition software and other bio-identity technologies makes it quite easy for an intelligence organization to ferret out someone traveling in alias.
We also discuss the myth that there are “17 intelligence agencies” in the United States. What the average person, American or foreign, fails to grasp is that there are only 7 actual collectors of raw intelligence — i.e., the CIA, the NSA, the DIA, the Department of State, the FBI, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). I include the State Department because the cable traffic sent from U.S. embassies is a form of human intelligence. I also include the FBI on the list because they do some intelligence collection, but most of the information they assemble cannot be disseminated because it is used to build criminal cases. The other ten agencies are consumers of the products produced by the 7 listed above.
Then there is Ukraine’s “clone” problem. What do I mean by that? I will again draw on a cinematic reference to make the point. Twenty seven years ago Michael Keaton starred in a low budget, but funny movie — Multiplicity. He found a way to clone himself with the ostensible purpose of being able to work more effectively, but with each succeeding generation of clone, the divergence from the original Keaton became more dysfunctional. The fourth iteration produced a mentally challenged individual.
So what does that have to do with Ukraine? We are nearing the moment when Ukraine is going to have to try to scrap together a fourth iteration of its army. The first was essentially destroyed in the first three months of the Special Military Operation. The second was finished off during the battle of Bakhmut and the third “clone” is being savaged in the much ballyhooed and long awaited counter offensive. As was the case with the four different versions of the character played by Michael Keaton, each new iteration of the Ukrainian military force is less capable and less experienced.
The Ukrainian military’s biggest deficit is the lack of experienced commanders — I’m talking about Lt. Colonels, Colonels and Generals. These ranks have killed and wounded and their replacements are taking command of units with little experience in commanding battalions and brigades. A good friend, who is a graduate of West Point and spent a good portion of his career in Europe, reminded me of this key principle the other day:
The breakdown in training comes at the higher levels, senior NCOs company and field grade officers.
Those are the guys that normally require years to train, drill, develop.
The normal cycle where a Captain or a Major would spend two years under the command of a Lt. Colonel or Colonel and learn by observing and doing does not exist in Ukraine. And do not forget the vital role played by talented 30 year old master sergeants, who provide guidance and counsel to inexperienced Lieutenants and Captains as well as experienced officers. One of Ukraine’s problems is that young officers are being rapidly promoted to command positions they have not been properly trained to assume because of the grievous combat casualties among senior officers. This may offer one partial explanation for the failure of the current counter offensive — e.g., inexperienced officers have employed tactics that a more grizzled veteran would avoid and they did not have a good NCO at their side.
It takes time and financial resources to reconstitute shattered military units. And Ukraine does not have the luxury of time. Apart from trying to cope with the staggering losses in manpower and materiel, Ukraine is under enormous pressure from its Western sponsors to show some major progress. That political pressure raises the likelihood of reckless, counter productive operations. If there is a fourth attempt to rebuild the Ukrainian Army it is likely to resemble version number 4 of the Michael Keaton clone.