Strategic Miscommunication

There is a long term International Relations concept called the security dilemma, or as I like to think of it, the insecurity spiral. The security dilemma is a Realist concept that arises from the lack of an international sovereign. Basically because there is no overarching international controlling power, the actions of one or more states, usually in regard to military preparations, can/are misinterpreted leading to other states undertaking responses that in turn lead the original actor or actors to respond, leading to more counter responses. All of which causes a crisis of security, an insecurity spiral, which increases the possibility of conflict.

To avoid a security dilemma states, intergovernmental organizations, and a lot of non state actors, try to utilize strategic communication. Joint Publication 5-0 defines strategic communication as:

… efforts to understand and engage key audiences to create, strengthen, or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of … interests, policies, and objectives through the use of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and products synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power. Also called SC.

President-elect Trump’s recent, unsecured communications with many foreign heads of state have many concerned that these conversations are creating a type of security dilemma whereby the President-elect unintentionally or intentionally changes decades of American policy and strategic posture. And does so without the benefit of a State Department Protocol Officer, State Department pre-briefing to prepare for these calls, and secured comms to ensure that his conversations cannot be intercepted and used against the US (and our allies and partners) in the future. These communications have heightened tensions between India and Pakistan. And we now have an escalation in regard to the People’s Republic of China, which actually places the ongoing security of Taiwan at risk.

While some of this is a unique combination of the age of social media, 24/7 news media, and the Internet and a President-elect who seems addicted to social media and has a unique talent for capturing 24/7 news media, it is not unknown. To a certain extent the events that led up to World War I were the result of a classic security dilemma leading to a catastrophic insecurity spiral and the outbreak of actual war.

More recently, in the early 1980s, the aggressive attempts by President Reagan to pressure the Soviet Union led to a breakdown that almost led to war over the NATO war game known as Able Archer.

Able Archer was a 1983 NATO war game that was misinterpreted by the Soviet Union. The signals intercepts being made by Soviet Intelligence led them to mistakenly believe that NATO, led by the US and Britain, was preparing a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. This almost kicked off a classic security dilemma as the Soviets mobilized in response to the war game. This was initially misinterpreted by NATO as the Soviets conducting their own, counter, war game. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. After Able Archer’s conclusion, British Intelligence provided a complete report on the security dilemma that resulted from the strategic miscommunication to Downing Street, which then communicated to the Reagan Administration in order to prevent something like this from ever happening again. The documentary below details Able Archer, the Soviet Response, and just how closely everyone, on every side, escaped a war caused by misinterpretation from unintended miscommunication.

Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner Live Feed: Its All Good Fun Until…


Breaking News: Explosion in the Chelsea Section of Manhattan

Something exploded in a dumpster at 23rd Street and 6th Avenue in the Chelsea area of Manhattan around 8:30 PM EDT tonight. As of now the estimates are that 26 are injured. The explosion, and the dumpster, were located in front of the VISIONS at Selis Manor facility for the blind. The NYPD and FDNY are on site and investigating. This is obviously a developing situation, the information on it is going to change over the next 24 – 72 hours and we’ll update as appropriate. Here’s a link to CBS NY’s live feed. Here’s a link to live radio coverage if you prefer. (h/t: Raw Story for both) And here’s CBS NY’s live feed as an embed:


Update at 11:oo PM EDT

Josh Marshall at TPM, who lives right across the street from where the explosion occurred, provides important context and given the nature of the incident, I’m posting his entire post because its important context:

You may have seen news of an explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan tonight. The cause of the explosion is still unknown, though there’s a flood of speculation. As it happens, the place where the explosion occurred is literally directly across the street from my apartment. My family and I were about thirty miles away when this happened. TPM’s New York office is about three and a half blocks away.

As long as everyone’s talking about this, let me share a few details about the location. The building where this happened (or immediately in front of this building) is a large, old-style institutional home for the blind. Very large, probably hundreds of occupants. The ground floor of the building is also a voting location. For months there’s been some sort of low-intensity construction going on. There’s scaffolding over the sidewalk in front of the building and there’s usually at least one mega dumpster immediately in front of the building – one of those huge construction dumpsters that’s like 30 feet long.

I’ve seen suggestions that this area is a highly congested area or a place where there’s lots of night life on a Saturday evening. That’s not true. You could find places like there within a couple hundred yards, maybe closer – at least places where there are restaurants with outdoor seating on to the sidewalks. But there’s nothing like that at this location, not at this home for the blind obviously but also not anywhere on that block. Even though 23rd street is a major east-west artery in Manhattan, there actually wouldn’t be very many people at all on that street in that area mid-evening on a Saturday night.

Of course, it’s a major street in Manhattan. So everything is relative. But there just wouldn’t be that many people there. I’d say a relatively light amount of foot traffic – virtually all people on their way to somewhere else. But just not that many of them. There are likely even fewer in precisely that area because of the scaffolding which has a kind of tunnel through it that you walk under.

Because of this I’m not terribly surprised that there seem to be relatively small number of injuries simply because at 8 pm or thereabouts there just wouldn’t be that many people around.

I’ve also seen reports that this is a gay neighborhood with an active gay nightlife. That’s at least somewhat misleading. Chelsea is a historically gay neighborhood. (Allow me to use these unwieldy phrases, just to explain some basics about the area quickly. And let me state the obvious: I’m no expert on neighborhood gayness. I’m trying to give people who don’t know the area as much context as possible. Please read the following in that light.) But it’s less distinctly so than it used to be. And there are lots of areas of the west side of Lower Manhattan that could as easily be termed a ‘gay neighborhood’. There are clusters of gay bars on the avenues a bit further south and west. (The Stonewall Inn is maybe a mile and a half to the South.) But there’s no business or bar or anything else on that block that is gay-identified in any way. Point being, if someone had a beef with the gay community there’s nothing symbolic or iconic on that block or really anything particularly interesting at all besides a few barber shops, a deli, a Donkin’ Donuts and a pizza place.

So is Chelsea a gay neighborhood? Sure, by some definitions. There’s a large gay community. But if you’re talking about Chelsea today, Chelsea in relation to other contiguous neighborhoods or this particular block, there’s little about it that would make you think this location as opposed to a thousand other places on the West Side of Lower Manhattan might be targeted by people hostile to gays.

I’ll update more if and when it’s relevant.

Update at 11:08 PM EDT

I’ve updated the links to CBS NY and included/attempted an embed. Mayor de Blasio will be holding a press conference momentarily.

Update at 11:30 PM EDT

The NYPD CT Unit has tweeted out that there is no evidence of terrorism and no specific threat/targeting of Chelsea.

At Mayor de Blasio’s press conference, they have just indicated, as answer to the question if this was a bomb, that they do not yet know what caused the explosion, they are investigating, but they do believe this incident was intentional.

Update at 11:40 PM EDT:

NYPD CT Unit is now reporting 29 injured with one possibly critical:

Update at 11:45 PM EDT

CBS 2 NY is now reporting a second device has been found on 27th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues and that Mayor de Blasio indicates that the 8:30 explosion was deliberate.

Update at 12:05 AM EDT

NYPD has now indicated that it was not the dumpster that blew up/was blown up, but something inside a toolbox placed in front of the building:

Update at 12:25 AM EDT

Raw Story has linked to a tweet at NY City Alerts that “purports to show the explosion”

And the NYPD has issued the following alert:

Update at 12:30 AM EDT

Dean Meminger, the Criminal Justice Reporter at NY 1 is now reporting:

Update at 12:35 AM EDT

And RT has already begun with the propaganda:

Update at 12:50 AM EDT

MSNBC is now reporting that law enforcement (from three law enforcement sources)  is stating that the pressure cooker has tape, wire, and a cell phone on it. It is unclear if it is a legit device or just made to look threatening. This is why they are concerned about the pressure cooker and they are now trying to determine whether they want to do a controlled explosion on site with the mobile unit or try to remove it to the NYPD bomb squad facility. They are also reporting that NYPD believes that the surveillance footage from the area of the initial explosion has information on it identifying a person of interest.

Overnight Open Thread: Ripped from the Headlines… True Crimes Edition

You cannot make this stuff up. A guy named Schmuck attempted to teach an impromptu firearms safety course while drunk in front of the Quick Stop Deli on West Louther Street in Carlisle, PA (former home of me – Carlisle, PA, not a convenience store and deli on West Louther Street).

Christopher R. Schmuck, 39, was charged by the Carlisle Police Department on Friday after officers say they were called to the Quick Stop Deli on the 600 block of West Louther Street for a report of a man with a gun.

When police arrived, they found Schmuck at the front of the store, and they say he had a .45-caliber glock handgun tucked into his waistband.

Police say Schmuck, who was intoxicated, was giving a gun-safety lesson to two teenagers, and at one point, there was a live round in the chamber.

He did not have a license to carry the gun, police say.

Schmuck was charged with a weapons violation, reckless endangerment, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, and is set for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

Needless to say: what a schmuck!

Last Reminder: Phoenix Area Meet-Up TOMORROW, May 22

From commentor / party planner Prescott Cactus:

PHX Balloon Juice Meet Up

Sunday afternoon (3 to 3:30 pm arrival)
Oregano’s Pizza Bistro (the one in Tempe just off I-10 on Elliot.)
1475 W Elliot Rd, Tempe, AZ 85284
Phone: (480) 966-0401

Looking like 10 to 12 !

@ karen marie
@ Suzanne: + one
@ Bumper
@ azlib + one
@ pirate dan + one
@ Jordan Rules (trying)
@ 2liberal (cough-Cough)
@ Prescott Cactus: + one

Come on Arizona, anyone else?

Lurkers, friends & significant others obviously welcome !

Incidentally, RedDirtGirl sent me some pics from the NYC meet-up. I plan to post them tomorrow afternoon / evening, when more people will have the chance to see them.

Last Reminder: NYC Meet-Up TONIGHT

One more update from commentor RedDirtGirl:

Friday NYC Meet-up at Old Town update:

Any time after 6pm at the tavern. As I said, they don’t take reservations, but if I give them a headcount in the afternoon, they should be able to set some space aside.

So far, as of right now, this is what I’ve got:
Me (lurker-instigator) I’ll be there at 6.
Ivan X
Celia and ______
and maybe PsiFighter,
if we are still hanging out when he gets in from…Miami?

MDC and JAFD, we’ll see you at the next one.

Friends & lurkers welcome, of course!

EgyptAir Flight MS804 Update

Despite reports that wreckage from EgyptAir flight MS 804 had been found, the plane is still missing. The airline is reporting that the wreckage that has been recovered is not from their missing aircraft. While it will be impossible to know exactly what happened until wreckage, including the flight recorders, is found, speculation has already begun that it was an act of terrorism. More specifically it has become part of the presidential primary back and forth between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump. What I find interesting about this is that none of the groups that one would expect to have made claims of a successful terrorist attack have done so yet. There is one erroneous report from a news agency I’ve never heard of claiming that an Islamic State’s news agency has claimed responsibility. It sources this to the Islamic State’s news agency, but provides no links to their statement.  The only place that this unsourced report has been referenced is at the notoriously unreliable Gateway Pundit, where its already been updated to indicate that this has not been verified on the Islamic State’s news agency’s twitter feed. The link to that twitter feed goes to an account suspended page.

Whether or not this one seeming erroneous report proves out as true or not, the lack of claims of responsibility are very interesting. There are complete update timelines at both the Guardian and BBC articles I’ve linked to above if you’re looking for updates from responsible news media outlets. The updates provide information on what is known now, such as the behavior of the plane based on its radar returns, prior to the crash. As soon as more detailed information comes out, we’ll update. Please remember that as is the case with every type of incident like this, information is moving quickly between multiple sources involved with the search and investigation, and anything reported within the first 72-96 hours may or may not turn out to be accurate.

Consider the comments an open thread to talk about whatever.