Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Continent Filled With Zoltans

The following article should be more grist for the mill. Moving into an era of negative mood, of upheaval, of conflict and pessimism, those of us in the U.S. need to be especially alert to blindspots that may have infected our models and our worldview over the decades of the Great Boom. Technology has become a sort of minor pagan god to many - a demon to be invoked and supplicated, not a tool to be harnessed and understood. Many of our decision makers have begun to neglect the key element to every social organism - people.

Here is an example of a highly motivated individual that made a big difference. Imagine what happens when the economy falters and violence begins visiting currently calm neighborhoods - we have a vast pool of talented men and women who can and will take current and "obsolete" technologies and turn them into powerful tools for self-defense and profit and probably it will be done in ways not even thought of right now:

How to Take Down an F-117
Strategy Page, Air Defense
The Serbian battery commander, whose missiles downed an American F-16, and, most impressively, an F-117, in 1999, has retired [in 2005, FJ note], as a colonel, and revealed many of the techniques he used to achieve all this. Colonel Dani Zoltan, in 1999, commanded the 3rd battery of the 250th Missile Brigade. He had search and control radars, as well as a TV tracking unit. The battery had four quad launchers for the 21 foot long, 880 pound SA-3 missiles. The SA-3 entered service in 1961 and, while it had undergone some upgrades, was considered a minor threat to NATO aircraft. Zoltan was an example of how an imaginative and energetic leader can make a big difference. While Zoltan's peers and superiors were pretty demoralized with the electronic countermeasures NATO (especially American) aircraft used to support their bombing missions, he believed he could still turn his ancient missiles into lethal weapons. The list of measures he took, and the results he got, should be warning to any who believe that superior technology alone will provide a decisive edge in combat. People still make a big difference. In addition to shooting down two aircraft, Zoltan's battery caused dozens of others to abort their bombing missions to escape his unexpectedly accurate missiles. This is how he did it...

People matter. Never, ever forget that. As Col. John Boyd said - People, Ideas and Hardware, in that order. The article above shows what a motivated individual can do with a well-trained team against a far, far superior technology.

The above story is provided as a warning, not as bashing the U.S. Armed Forces. Clinton sent them in for an ill-advised little war that, in the end, accomplished little for U.S. interests, aside from stoking the hubris of the political class. This was a little war that helped set the stage for the uglier and bigger wars that are helping to bankrupt the country at the expense of the lives of the best and bravest of a generation.

Optimism and System Failure

Systems that grow and then ossify during a great bull market are demolished during the bear phase that follows. During a time of great optimism, credentials can seem to be more important than competence. Technology can seem to overwhelm ability of individuals to "make a difference." When a system comes crashing down - be it a government or collateralized debt obligation markets and the opaque CDS "market" it can wipe out an entire generation of talent, trained to take advantage of that now-dead ecosystem.

The crash should, in my opinion, be seen as a good thing. When things collapse, the nimble, the brave and the smart have a chance to shine and a chance to build something better. Much pain will be felt - but much pain is felt by many left out of the current system. Surely we can do better.

1 comment:

David said...

ENOUGH with everyone's fear of offending the tender, child-like egos of those who believe the propaganda (recruiting commercials) and enlist in the military: Putting oneself in the service of a nation's political masters is not "serving the country" any more than Monica Lewinsky was "serving her country." When are people going to accept, without fear of offense, that the military (a socialist, tax-driven monopoly) is the last way to defend what citizens love about their land? The people who fly the bombers and pilot the Predators, and who steer the ships and pull the triggers are not serving anyone's interest but their own. They are doing so by placing their abilities (and their lives!) at the whim of men and women working in Washington DC and who most of us would not trust to babysit our children. Until those who are tempted by military occupations can wrap their minds around this central truth, and overcome the magical thinking that the military is somehow better than the sum of its (flawed) parts, the slaughter will go on...and as the money dries up to slaughter people on the other side of the planet, the sadists and Machiavellians running the whole sorry enterprise will settle for filling mass graves with us locals.