How Safe Will You Be? – Part II – Information Security

Information Security

Not every bad thing can kill you. Oh sure, there are many things that can still ruin your life, but most won’t kill you.

Something that has remarkably changed in last twenty years is something that didn’t exist twenty years before it – online security. The information we publish online about ourselves, the groups we associate with, and even our country, can devastate our lives, or even the lives of people we will never meet. This is so true, that to sign on to read this article, you no doubt had to fill out at least four passwords. Then there is work email, phone keys, banking password, anything associate with a bill, your firewall software (that one’s ironic) and anything with the Apple logo that assumes anyone with fat fingers are criminals and forces you redo your freaking password every single time I try to buy a song… legally (that’ll teach me the punishment for being good.)

In fact, the information that exists in the open is an entire field of spycraft. Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is intelligence collected from publicly available sources. It is the science of gathering executable knowledge to use against someone which they have willingly left available to the world. That’s not true, some of that knowledge could be stolen and published already, without the subject’s knowledge, and certainly without their permission. In my book, The Next Warrior, which deals with exploring the real way technology will change the face of warfare in the next few decades, this concept is explored with a young female spy named Samantha Avery. In 2026, Avery isn’t like the modern day spies, case officers that are employed by the CIA. She sits at a desk and gathers information at her comfortable office outside Washington DC. What makes her special is the ability to find and pool vast databases and other intelligence sources hidden throughout the internet to decipher useful information and patterns her clients are willing to pay desperately for. Why is this special in 2026, when we have Google today? One might only look back to 2006, when there were only 85,507,314 websites in existence. For a better understanding of how much things have changed, as I write, there are 998,253,877[1], just shy of a billion. Sure Google will still be a valuable tool, but as the rest of this section will show you, the information you can access via Google is limited. Beyond the reach of search engines is information hidden in the dark web, databases and forums which house classified, illegal, or personal information that some would pay well to know, or for Avery’s case, just pay well to know what to do with it.

That said, Cyber Security is already a big deal today. The world isn’t waiting for 2026 when Supersleuthes have already mastered the art of unburrying skeletons. Between personal invasions of privacy, to massive breaches of corporate firms and even national governments, the industry surrounding cyber security has exploded to levels we haven’t seen ever. In the future, this will be even more true. When we consider the other answers, which show a future possible (almost certain) marriage between our electronics, communications, cars, homes, and entertainment unseen today, and add with them more levels of privately controlled automated drones, our augmented reality suites, driverless everything; all at work, school, home, and at play, security analysts cringe at the myriad of ways in which these technologies will interlock and overlap – each time creating a new vulnerability and entry into our own private motherload of personal information. In truth, swarm technology and the internet of things is a terrifying concept, because with each new device that enters our sphere of influence, we experience a new breach point to our data, one that hackers can use to enter into our lives.

Take Nicholas Allegra. He’s a hacker who makes a hobby out of defeating Apple’s best and brightest security chiefs.  [2]

“It feels like editing an English paper,” Allegra says simply, his voice croaking as if he just woke up, though we’re speaking at 9:30 pm. “You just go through and look for errors. I don’t know why I seem to be so effective at it.”

Going by the hacker name Comex, Allegra created the JailbreakMe code, which allowed millions of users to upload any applications they wanted to Apple’s infamously restrictive devices. The way he did it was through exploiting a bug in how Apple’s mobile operating system iOS handles PDFs fonts. That allowed him to both locate and repurpose hidden commands. That critical flaw allowed a series of exploits that not only gains… blah, blah, blah, technical nerd jargon. The point is, this kid was able to publish code allowing millions of people to manipulate their phone against the creator’s wishes because of the way the phone read fontson pdfs.

“I spent a lot of time on the polish,” Allegra says with a hint of pride.

As I said before, these sorts of security failures aren’t limited to phones. In the next era of technological revolutions, new methods will open to new exploits in the same way that a 19 year old can crack the world’s safest phone. In a further example of how more tech means more problems, security researcher Nils Rodday is preparing a demonstration for the RSA security conference in San Francisco that will show how he is able to hack and take control of police drones from more than a mile away. [3]

“…flaws in the security of a $30,000 to $35,000 drone’s radio connection allow him to take full control over the quadcopter with just a laptop and a cheap radio chip connected via USB. By exploiting a lack of encryption between the drone and its controller module known as a “telemetry box,” any hacker who’s able to reverse engineer the drone’s flight software can impersonate that controller to send navigation commands, meanwhile blocking all commands from the drone’s legitimate operator.

I’m just going to take this opportunity to remind people that these things exist, and leave it at that.

Personally, I’m just glad people like Nils Rodday and Comex aka Nicholas Allegra are at worst chaotic good, working for the betterment of us all through nefarious means, rather than a full on evil geniuses.

There are, however, lots of evil people on the internet and many of these people want to do you great harm, or at least, have no concern for your well being as they attempt to make a better life for themselves. Whether it is because of a lone wolf cyber idealist like Comex; a community of hackers with motivations ranging from patriotism, sexism, anarchism, or just for the lulz; corporate hackers out to steal your money; or national hackers out to bring down the power grid, the internet is growing a more dangerous place, and Wall Street knows it.

HACK, the exchange-traded fund bundling 30 cyber security companies, has seen quite a year for just these reasons. Last year, following a spree of high profile hacks across several industries, the fund skyrocketed, increasing in value nearly 30% in only six months to over a $1 billion market cap. [4] Since June, the value in the fund has receded, along with the entire sector. Since the downturn, however, these security companies are coming together, literally, to shake up the security industry again. In the last quarter, niche security companies that weren’t able to compete on their own, are merging together and with much larger firms to solve problems some thought we wouldn’t have cracked for another decade, along with others, no one predicted.

Last year, there were 133 security M&A deals, up from 105 in 2014, according to 451 Research’s February report on the tech outlook for 2016.  Its recent survey of investment bankers showed that security is expected to have the most M&A activity this year, surpassing mobile technology for the first time in six years.

What this means is that many of today’s fears and concerns for tomorrow are getting a lot of attention, and new methods to solve them are gathering steam and energy to attempt the mitigate the flood of invasions expected in the next two decades. One of the biggest leaders in this is a company you know well. Microsoft is shoring up their defense against cyberattacks by purchasing many of these fledgling firms into their corporate umbrella, creating several new layers between its customers (along with itself) and would be hackers.  [5] The majority of the new additions came from startups that didn’t really have a place in the industry, solving problems too specific to truly go it on their own, but filled with good ideas and brilliant people. Microsoft’s recent acquisitions have been intended to add new capabilities, as well as new minds to the brain pool of Seattle. The hope is that, as these new units are integrated, the company will be capable of creating value and new technologies that will keep Microsoft and its users secure for at least the span of this question.

So here’s the real question. What exactly is it that Microsoft is afraid of? Throughout this answer, I’ll attempt to explain some the risks that have the world’s largest tech firms, and even the world’s largest nations, preparing for a battle that we all need them to win. We will start off small with things that can only ruin your life, and then work up to the stuff that can legitimately break the world.

How Safe Will You Be? How Security Will Change in the World of Tomorrow

I’m starting a multipart series on what are the biggest ways in which the world will be be different 20 years from now, with a key focus on how changes in the security fields will impact all of our lives.

When you ask most people what the groundbreaking “X-factors” of the future will be, they’ll say many wildly bold, exciting, and optimistic predictions of a future not far from us today. So far, answers to that question have ranged from technological leaps in machine automation, biotech, robotic swarms, and 3D printing; to social evolutions such as the conversion to all credit economies, an end to diseases, the post-scarcity, and new levels of international individual equality. Yet more promise better governance via more openness, and even a possible end to war through an even more interconnected world. Of course, others are going the other direction with predictions of diseases we haven’t yet discovered, or worse, haven’t yet invented. Some warn weapons too terrifying to detail. Others have echoed cautionary tales against the possible destruction of us all through climate change, energy crisis, nuclear devastation, and now to add to the list… radical religious fundamentalism.

As I examine the answers I wonder to myself what the odds of any one of these outcomes may be. Some seem well thought out, bringing in insights from brilliant minds. Some are simply ridiculous. I am left, however, with one surreal and terrifying truth… at least a few of them will be right. Some of these predictions, wild as they may be, will come true. The sad thing is, we aren’t really sure which ones. All we can be sure of, is that there will be change. Change, however it happens, is the one certainty among all this speculation.

Change will most certainly come, but it won’t come alone. After great change, there is always a period of disruption. Disruption is often used in Silicon Valley to symbolize the moment one company strikes it rich by finding an unknown vacuum to fill, a need to satiate, or dismantling an inefficient system. For many others, it is the fear that automation will leave them and millions of others out of a job and no hope to fill it. To some governments, disruption means a protest of thousands of angry and jobless people turning into a riot, or even a full blown rebellion. Disruption may be in the creation or destruction of entire industries, or as has been the case very recently, entire regimes. Most of the world has already experienced a decade pass where we feel less safe, less secure, and less sure that some catastrophic event won’t destroy our lives in the blink of an eye or the click of a mouse. Likewise, many millions have already felt the effects of change destabilize their nations with ramifications that will echo for years to come. Many of the other answers to this question have illustrated why, whether they intended to or not.

Consider a case study in change and disruption that was the Arab Spring of 2010. Then, new technology gave way to empowering the youth of several nations with information. A wave of democratic energy swept across the region. Caught in this wave were dictators over nations like Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria. The world watched in amazement as millions upon millions flooded streets to demand change. To them, change indeed came. In several nations, reforms are taking root, and dictatorial regimes have been replaced, if not ousted entirely. Millions are indeed living freer lives.

But…

At the same time, today there are three nations currently gripped in struggles of civil war, numerous uprisings already violently crushed, millions already killed, and many tens of millions of people displaced from their homes both nearby and across the world. Worse yet, chaos and anarchy in the region formed in the void of power that once existed under the despots who ruled there. In that void grew medieval death cults bent on absolute devastation and the full scale disruption of the Western world, for no other reason than that the West needed to be disrupted. Today, news of the Middle East centers only on one word – Chaos.

This isn’t to say that change is necessarily a bad thing, nor even that the disruption that change brings is evil in itself. It is just acknowledging that change happens, and that where change occurs, not far behind it, disruption is sure to follow. Finally, where disruption takes place, as we have seen in Middle East, instability is sure to follow, as well. It is this instability that leads to the crises which we hear about daily, and this instability that creates an ever widening gulf between where are today and the world we envisioned for it twenty years ago. Furthermore, as we experience yet more change, the kinds of technological, social, and political changes highlighted over and over throughout this question, instability will build upon itself, sometimes making way for progress and improvements, but other times, most of the time, preparing the ground for the kinds of horrors that only come from the vacuum where order once existed. It is in these environments desperation happens, and the kind of dangerous actions take place which only further dismantle everything. We see a model of this in Syria, where a desperate leader does unspeakable things to his people, to stop rebels and religious fanatics, all empowered by modern technology, both military and civilian. From the chaos of that nation we have seen yet more chaos spread far beyond when millions fled to Europe, bringing with them terror hidden as one of the refugees.

For this reason, the real “X factor” won’t be any one technology or suite of technologies. It won’t be an idea or a revolutionary act of governance, nor will be the culmination of one single ideological movement. The real “X factor” will be how we deal with all of these changes that are sure to come. How do we deal with change which could come from any source, at any time? How can we continue our operations when others fall into chaos? How do we guarantee safety when we have no guarantees on what tomorrow will look like? The world will change, but it will be the people who can adapt to that change that will survive it the best. Those people are going to be the ones who protect themselves, their communities, and their assets. As others fail and a little bit more chaos is built, these groups and individuals will be those who provide the long term stability needed and become anchors in ever changing worlds. For that reason, the true “X-factor” in the future will be the force, in all its forms, that allows the most positive change for the greatest numbers of people, while preventing the kinds of negative change that pulls us all a little bit closer to the abyss.

The factor, is security.

But wait, security isn’t something that is “possible.” It is everywhere around us already. While I would agree, this answer will seek to explain just how good our security needs to be in the future, and how it has failed us today. More so than this, I want to show all the needs we have for security already, and how improbable it is that we will live in perfect peace in the next twenty years. Internationally, 2015 saw a surge in terrorism born from conflicts in the Middle East. Attacks in Paris, one at the beginning and again the end of the year, along with another in California, woke many in the West to the present threat that exists when terrorists inspired by jihad overseas are brewed at home. The year also saw tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of individuals hacked in some of the largest information attacks in history. Going beyond this, privately operated drones are now being empowered not only to deliver mail to our doorstep, but to look right in on our lives, as well. What this means for today is a desperate scramble to attempt to find a new normal which we can all feel a sense of peace. What it will mean in the next twenty years is a complete change in the way we see the security industry, and scale which we deal with it in our daily lives.

The rest of this series will be dedicated to listing some of the ways the security industry will need change, and how those changes will affect off all of us. Perhaps more than the question asked, this answer will leave you realizing one truth. Anyone can handle when something goes right, and some new technology makes your life better, but who is going to be left when everything goes to Hell?

How has Mortality Rate Per Battle Changed Throughout History?

Time and technology have not changed mortality in battle until only very recently.

Looking at the major battles of history will show that the progression of time seems to have not had a significant effect how many men die in a particular battle. What it will show, however, is that what seems much more important is the match-up of enemies in terms of strength, battlefield logistics and tactical advantages. Throw in other factors like if a particular army on any given day is even capable of retreating drastically affects the numbers and is not dependent on what era the battle was fought it. Where time and technology have greatly affected the number of men who die is related to those who would have otherwise passed a few days later or on the roads to and from battle.

Historically many, many more warriors have died as the result of poor medical care, starvation or exposure than have died at the end of enemy weapons. It has really only been in the last 300 years or so that significant enough advances in medicine have had a drastic effect on the survival of a soldier. Add into this logistical capabilities have evolved better and better ways to get more warriors, food, medicine and supplies to the battle lines.

I’ll take a second to also note that historically there has been little distinction in reporting battlefield casualties from fatalities. Fatality refers to an actual death, while casualty refers to either death or severe injury. Since even very minor wounds often would result in death due to little knowledge of the human body or as a result of infection, to get injured was a much more serious thing in wars until just after the American Civil and Napoleonic Wars. Historians of those eras either didn’t or couldn’t record the differences as well as we can today. This also muddles the facts when we try to compare wars of different times. An example of this would be to compare the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American military history, to the Battle of Cannae, one of the most crushing defeats to the Roman Empire. At Antietam we have, however, a total fatality count of only 2% while at Cannae it can be reported that there was over 53% casualty rate. From this we can see what likely has happened is that most of those who died at Antietam did so after the battle and that most of its history probably refers to death and injury, while Cannae would suggest that there is little record differentiating between deaths and injuries. While it was a gruesome battle, particularly for the Romans, I find it hard to believe that a whole half of the battlefield died in the fight.

From these battles it seems that two factors actually have much more effect than the era of the battle on who and how many will die. What seems to affect the mortality rate more than any other factor is the presence of overwhelming force and the availability of retreat.

Presence of overwhelming force:

This is actually a good thing. In many battles where one side held a clear advantage in numbers, equipment, and leadership, the total mortality was surprising low. I contribute this to lower total casualties because the winner doesn’t lose as many men, the loser breaking and retreating early and the concept of surrender, which is much more common than many think. To cite battles by Alexander, by the time he marched into India, a majority, or at least a sizable minority of his men were made of Persian soldiers who were once his enemies that were now absorbed into his army. Many of these were mercenaries, but many simply served the new ruler of Persia. This would not have made many of his battles after he left Greece possible, had the Macedonians killed as many as they could, leaving no one to recruit later.

Another example of presence of overwhelming force would be the invasion of Iraq by the United States and Coalition forces in March of 2003. In that series of engagements strategic pin-point bombing destroyed the Iraqi military’s communication network and much of their leadership. More traditional bombings took out bases, aerial and ground assets, leaving only scattered infantry. With combined arms capabilities, Coalition forces had at their disposal the ability for a single soldier to call in airstrikes, mortar and artillery fire, more infantry, or other specialty capabilities for any enemy they encountered. This, along with the fact that even without these abilities, the individual United States infantry troop has better training, combat tactics, gear and experience than even elite troops of almost any other nation. What ended up taking place during the invasion was that a numerically weaker force of around 265,000 annihilated a force of about 1,190,000 suffering only 172 losses to the Iraqi losing nearly 30,000 in the span of only about three months. That is a kill ratio of 175:1. What this amounts to is the most successful invasion in history with more ground captured and fewer losses than could ever be expected. In spite of this massive win, the total casualty percentage was around 2% overall. It was truly an amazing accomplishment. That isn’t to say that anyone believes the next 8 years went all that well, though.

An example where overwhelming force was not present would be the battle of Yarmouk in 636. This was a face-off of two extremely powerful armies of the time, each believing, reasonably well that they could win, the Eastern Roman Byzantines and the Rashidun Caliphate. The battle lasted for six days, a great deal of time for a pitched battle. The fighting was more or less even until on the sixth day, the Roman line broke, fled and were massacred. The fact that they were so evenly matched lead to very high casualties, in this case 14% for the winner and 45% for the losing side.

From my findings, overwhelming strength seems to be the most merciful way to fight a war. It brings a swift end to a fight, keeps allied casualties down and encourages enemy forces to flee rather than be annihilated. It may seem obvious, but far too often forces will meet with just enough to maybe win and result in catastrophic losses.

Ability to Retreat

Another factor important to many battles is the ability for the loser to get away. Most battles ended in some level of an organized retreat and most people who fought survived. Where this is ability to run away is somehow prevented you see the most massive of casualties. Once again I will refer to Yarmouk and Cannae. At Yarmouk when the Romans finally broke they were greeted with only a series of rivers behind them. Many were then unable to retreat and then massacred by the Islamic army. At Cannae, a brilliant general was able to utilize his units to completely envelope the enemy army. This meant that the Carthaginian forces had to keep fighting until every last Roman in the envelopment was killed. It cost the Carthaginians 16% of their forces, but the Romans suffered a 75% casualty rate. Had either of these armies had the ability to disengage from the battle they had already lost, we would have seen much fewer losses.

These are a few of the things to consider when viewing the history of warfare across such a long span of history. That said I have tried to collect enough resources to answer the question as best I can as a hobbyist.

Greek Battles

Battle of Marathon, 490 BC
Total Combatants: 35000
Total Casualties: 6603
Total Casualty%: 18.87%

This is a major battle involving the Greeks and Persians. According to historical records this showed the Greeks conflicting massive losses to the Persians due to their use of more advanced equipment, training, tactics and a more motivated population of military. In that battle they inflicted losses of more than 6000 on the Persians while only losing a few hundred themselves.

Battles of Alexander the Great

Battle of Gaugamela, 331 BC
Total Combatants: 122000
Total Casualties: 48100
Total Casualty%: 39.43

The Battle of Gaugamela took place in 331 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. The battle resulted in a decisive victory for the Macedonians and led to the fall of the Persian Empire. It is another battle where we see a smaller force, with much better tactics, logistical support, training, equipment and motivation soundly defeat a much larger force.

Roman Battles

Battle of Cannae 216BC
Total Combatants: 136400
Total Casualties: 73000
Total Casualty%: 53.42

Cannae was one of the most crushing defeats the Romans ever experienced. The greatest feat in this battle was the leadership of Hannibal. He marched an army of mostly mercenaries gathered from all over Northern Africa and what is now modern Spain and France through the Alps into the heart of Rome. He led an incredibly diverse variety of warriors, many speaking different languages and vastly different from his own Carthaginian culture, into a highly flexible force combining the unique capabilities of each unit into one amazing strategy. By the end of the battle the Romans were completely surrounded and cut down one by one suffering more than 65,000 casualties.

Crusades

Battle of Yarmouk 636
Total Combatants: 85000
Total Casualties: 29875
Total Casualty%: 35.15

The Battle of Yarmouk was a major battle between the Muslim Arab forces of the Rashidun Caliphate and the armies of the Eastern Roman Empire that I have never heard of before writing this answer. It was extremely important, however, in that it ushered in the Islamic Arabs as the new power, filling the power vacuum as Rome’s time was coming to an end.
Middle Ages

Battle of Falkirk 1298
Total Combatants: 21000
Total Casualties: 3000
Total Casualty%: 14.29

Here Scots led by William Wallace are soundly defeated by Edward the First as their pikemen are arranged into a defensive formation to guard against cavalry charge and are in turn showered by archery fire.

Battle of Grunwald 1410
Total Combatants: 49000
Total Casualties: 12500
Total Casualty%: 25.51

Here an alliance of Polish and Lithuanian forces defeated the Teutonic Knights and brought about the end of the Northern Crusades.

Battle of Agincourt 1415
Total Combatants: 31500
Total Casualties: 8612
Total Casualty%: 27.34

Here English longbowmen secure a massive victory by taking advantage of a confused and disorganized force marching through thick mud. Environmental factors played the largest part of this battle, aiding the archers in staying safely away from the fighting to break up enemy formations and kill many enemy forces before they could reach the fight.

Early Modern Era


Battle of Flodden 1513
Total Combatants: 60000
Total Casualties:12500
Total Casualty%: 20.83

This was the largest battle between the Scots and the English. This was a crushing loss for the Scots, resulting in the loss of their king.

Battle of Vienna 1683
Total Combatants: 305700
Total Casualties: 46500
Total Casualty%: 15.21

This is one of the most important battles of history. This marked the end of Islamic growth in Europe from military victories. An alliance of Christian forces gathered together enough to stop a much larger Ottoman force. The Ottomans would not recover from that loss and their military prowess would eventually fade until they were finally broken up in the 20th century.

American Revolution*

Battles of Saratoga 1777
Total Combatants: 21600
Total Fatalities: 530
Total Fatality%: 2.45

This was an important battle for the Americans though its numbers are not that impressive for a post like this. See my note at the bottom for reasons I think American battles experience such low casualties. Saratoga marked a turning point in the American Revolution in favor of the Americans. What is probably the result of the low casualties were the civility of forces, the ability to retreat and the practice of taking prisoners, more than 2000 English prisoners in all.

Napoleonic wars


Battle of Austerlitz 1805
Total Combatants: 157000
Total Casualties: 16305
Total Casualty%: 10.39%

Here Napoleon led his French Army to soundly defeat an alliance of Russian and Austrian forces. His tactics and strategies in the battle were brilliant and gave the battle and the leader himself legendary status. This battle is often considered one of the greatest executed in history and on par with Gaugamela and Cannae.

Battle of Waterloo 1815
Total Combatants: 190000
Total Casualties: 75000
Total Casualty%: 39.47

Overconfident from Austerlitz and other victories, Napoleon doesn’t factor in the environmental factors and the importance of combat logistics. He suffers greatly and even more so in the retreat back home.

American Civil War*

Battle of Antietam 1862
Total Combatants: 113500
Total Fatalities: 3654
Total Fatality% 3.22

The Battle of Antietam is considered the bloodiest single day in American history. Once again, the numbers above do not give a full image of the battle. It is difficult to say if these estimates include battle losses or losses later from wounds.

Battle of Gettysburg 1863
Total Combatants: 165620
Total Fatalities: 7863
Total Fatality%: 4.75

Gettysburg is much the same story. Here we actually have very good records of how many died at the battle, how many were wounded, and how many went missing. This battle was considered the turning point of the war and resulted in the North securing vital strategic points and resources that would eventually starve out the South from a logistical and economic standpoint.

World War I

Battle of the Argonne Forest 1918
Total Combatants: 740000
Total Casualties: 292000
Total Casualty%: 39.48

While Antietam would be considered the bloodiest day, Argonne Forest is considered the single bloodiest battle in American history. It is hard to be considered a single battle, however, since it stretched two months and along the entire Western front. It was the final offensive by Allied forces and ended in the November armistice bringing about the end of that war. The lethality of this battle was due to the exponential growth in military technology while holding to tactics and strategies that were severely outdated. For the first time air power played a significant role in combat operations. Machine guns had evolved to the point that they were now reliable and afforded a single lucky soldier the ability to mow down entire platoons in seconds. Artillery was now able to fire from miles away reliably. Artillery has accounted for more battlefield deaths in World War I and II than any other source combined. World War I was one of the most lethal wars in history because it combined new technologies with old tactics for devastating effects.

World War II


Normandy landings 1944
Total Combatants: 3052299
Total Casualties: 556323
Total Casualty%: 18.23

Normandy was the beginning of the end for World War II in Europe. It was the single largest military operation in world history. Thousands of ships moved millions of men to swarm the a length of the French northern coast as long as the coastline of Texas. Hundreds of thousands were lost in the attempt to defend it and on the side of those securing a foothold.

Battle of Okinawa 1945
Total Combatants: 303000
Total Casualties: 107513
Total Casualty%: 35.48

This was one of the last major battles of World War II. The battle was important because with the capture of Okinawa, the American forces would be able to easily reach mainland Japan with aerial bombers. Nearing the end of the war this battle was important because of the massive losses experienced by the Japanese defenders, many refusing to surrender and instead volunteering for kamikaze suicide attacks. In the end the Japanese lost more than 90,000 men or nearly 80% of their defense force for the island.

Recent Changes in Warfare

More recently we have seen a significant shift in how many casualties result from a battle. In the Yom Kippur War and the War in Iraq 2003-2011, you see that battle in the modern era is actually much less about killing and much more about securing or destroying vital asset to enemy and ending their ability to fight. This was true for all other wars as well, but never before have armaments such as the B-2 Spirit Bomber, F-22 Raptor, Tomahawk cruise missile or the Javalin Missile system been available. Now the ability to destroy vital targets and prevent actual soldiers from even engaging in a fight is the preferred method of engagement. The ability to strike from a distance has actually done more to end battles quicker and prevent the deaths of many a modern warrior. This level of technological prowess doesn’t guarantee an easy victory and as always is still vulnerable to guerrilla warfare, terrorism and other forms of non-conventional battle tactics. For the purposes of this question though, the modern era is one where perhaps we have seen the last of massive losses of warriors in single battles.

Yom Kippur War

Yom Kippur War 1973
Total Combatants:1125000
Total Casualties: 15950
Total Casualty%: 1.42

The Yom Kippur War was a war between a coalition of Arab states against Israel. The war saw numerous small engagements over a very short time. Early strikes against the Israelis meant that the Israeli feeling of invulnerability was shattered. After regrouping they gained the high ground and at the end of engagements had forces ready to take both the cities of Damascus and Cairo.

Iraq War


2003 invasion of Iraq
Total Combatants: 1455000
Total Casualties: 29672
Total Casualty%: 2.04

As mentioned before, the invasion of Iraq was one of the single greatest engagements in history in terms of land taken and number of allies lost in battle. It was also important in that the speed and lethality of the Coalition forces made it extremely efficient and allowed for a minimal amount of enemy forces to be killed. It stands, however, as battles such as Austerlitz in 1805 and Cannae in 216 BC that without a good plan for after the battle, political incompetence can lose a war started with the greatest of battles.


* American battles surprised me that the casualties were so low. As mentioned before, this may be due to good modern efforts to distinguish between dead and wounded, as well as discounting for the dead who died shortly after. Another theory is that it might lend to the idea that American wars like the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars actually were quite civil. Close relations between the Colonials and English and the North and South may have caused a much more “peaceful” type of war than what could be expected when completely foreign powers meet in battle. The practice of care given to prisoners rather than killing everyone most likely was a huge factor in this as well. A third possibility may be that this was the beginning to the American approach to limit American casualties. The American practice is to send in more than enough men with massive logistical support and focus on strategic wins that damage the ability to make more than the actual warriors themselves. Other cultures haven’t historically shown this as their priority.

**I want it known that to come up with these estimations I wasn’t always afforded perfect records. To keep things simple most of the statistics can be found by following links to the Wikipedia pages on the wars, campaigns and battles I have provided. Where numerous sources disagree I tried to use my best judgement and sometimes averaged the most reliable sources. That said, I am probably wrong, but ballpark on many of my figures. I freely accept this, but just wanted to make a clear representation of the big picture of battlefield mortality over history and not on the details of each individual battle. Let’s face facts, this answer got long enough.

I would really love casualty counts for Battle of Adrianople, Battle of the Catalaunian Plains and many other battles. It was horribly difficult to also find good assessments for any of the major battles in Asia. I would really love good information for them since their forces and battles were astronomical. Please suggest if you find information for other great battles.

What are the disadvantages of hiring someone who has been in the US military?

I am going to speak as a Marine and currently a hiring manager. Here are some negative attributes that come with military service that more hiring managers need to understand.

Military people don’t get you and you don’t get them.

There are a great deal of miscommunications and misconceptions dealing with people in the military. What it is like to grow in the civilian world and what it is like to grow in the military world are two completely different things. You may have gone to a great university and interned at a very prestigious company where you met some very important people and this put you in a position of power. These qualities are not that highly respected by people from the military. If they respect you it is because of your character or in the least, your rank. Most of the time if you are CEO or VP or even just Manager that is enough for them to respect on a basis of rank, but don’t expect your story of going to an Ivy League university to mean very much to them at all. This isn’t an attack on you, but most of the time they will just attribute this to luck or born into the right family. You shouldn’t get angry about this, it is just the way they think. I had a personal experience with this in that when I started with a new branch of the company I am with there was a man who served in the military who didn’t really respect me because I was just another yuppie with a piece of paper. I had a “chat” with him where he found out that I was actually a Marine Sergeant and had done quite a bit before getting my piece of paper. Now I have his full respect. I understand where he is coming from though, most military people can be very smart, but grew up in small towns where they don’t get noticed by colleges, they are from poor families and opportunities are not that abundant. They see the military as a place where you can work hard and get noticed, so they really don’t like seeing young hot shots arrive in charge because things like college or connections. That is just a reality that many military have different values than people who became adults as civilians. You have to accept it. They will be able to appreciate and respect what you do though. Good, strong leadership is always respectable.

You have no idea what it is like to be in the military and what their mentality is like.

The fact is that you have never served in the military. You don’t know what it is like to be sent from your family, to live overseas, to live and work with the exact same people for months on end, you have never experienced the degree of isolation they do, you have never been in real danger and been expected to perform under it and you have never been a part of that culture. Your experience is in the movies, the news, some blog about how great military leadership is or that you had an uncle who served in such and such. What makes you think you could possibly understand how they think or how they solve problems. If you think that you do if that is the only reason you are hiring them than you need to investigate your own ignorance and take a look at all the experience they actually have in their resume.

I recently had a boss who was frustrated with me because he gave me very unclear goals with little guidance. He kept saying that his company needed a “Marine mindset”. I asked him what specifically did you want? He always would spit out a bunch of non-sense about how they needed my ideas and my knowledge and experience and “a bit more Marine Corps here”. I took this to mean that he wanted a strong logistics network, clear lines of communication both laterally and up the chain along with good training and discipline for the employees, which I provided. I also have a business degree specializing in entrepreneurship and have started my own company which I run on the side. I really thought that he meant he needed my business understanding and ideas for this company that he in no way actually knew how to run. After I would have ideas for problems I did see I would implement them and they never got any traction and most get shot down leaving the problem now just as bad. Finally I knew it was time to leave when he said “Because military people follow instructions.” I was incensed. Do you think military people are robots you push a button and they magically get things done. Do you expect me to hop to and go get it done with absolutely no clue what you are asking me to do? Would you like a salute with that?…SIR? The fact is that that was an incredibly insensitive and ignorant thing to say. It is an easy way to make a military person feel like they are stupid, have no individual value and can actually contribute nothing to an organization. Of course we also get very angry. Given our proclivity for violence, saying such things could be considered a major mistake, but suffice it to say, that is when I felt it was time to leave.

Military people will tell you when something is wrong, even when you don’t like it, often.

In the case above this is when I told him, with tact (honestly), that I had followed every instruction that he had given, which were almost none. You don’t go and point someone in some direction and say go when you lead them to believe that their job is completely different from the one that you intended them to do. I told him this and he wasn’t happy. Sorry, the fact is that when we serve in the military we hold a great deal of responsibility, not only of property, but of lives. We need to know what is going on and question when something isn’t right. It is a matter of practice that this has to happen something is wrong. If you are one of those people who believe you are always correct, don’t hire someone in the military.

Military people are extremely capable, when given adequate support.

If we are going to work under you, you need to know that you absolutely need to provide us with a framework, training and direction until we are capable. Sometimes this may take a long time, but it is necessary. The fact is that military people are used to a very heavy bureaucracy that provides a great deal of annoyance, but structure. You need to provide that on some level for them to succeed. Here is a point, in the Marines we spent 3 months in boot camp. That is the famous boot camp that everyone talks about. This was just to be called Marine. It was just a giant exercise in on-boarding. We spend another month in weapons and tactics training, as much as six months to a year in job training and then spend months training with our units before we go to actually do our jobs. I spent about 14 months preparing for a 7 month tour. That is why we succeed so well at war. However without that kind of training and support the Marines would suck, just like your company. If you aren’t prepared to give them a great deal of training for their job, they won’t know what to do go off trying to do something that doesn’t fit your strategy. This is in contraindication with my next point, but you will see that they are tied very well together.

Military people are also extremely independent and will go off in random directions when lacking adequate guidance.

As I mentioned in the last point military people need good direction. That is because if any one group could be stereotyped as “alpha males” it might just be young men in the military. They are rash, forceful, arrogant, stubborn and filled with pride. They also have a great deal of initiative and want to fix problems where they see them. The problem is that you didn’t obey rule number three. You hired them because they were “real go-getters” and didn’t explain their role or what a problem in your company actually is. What could have been a massive driving force for you is now more of a bull in a China closet. You will have numerous arguments with this individual and he will not get what your point is. Remember they don’t get you and you don’t get them, but train them well in their job, point them in the right direction and you will have a force and not just an employee.

Military people are not always fun to work with.

There really are two types of military people to work with. The stoic solemn ones who are extremely rigid, professional and have no time for your nonsense or the wild and unruly bombs who can be unreliable, drunks, dissidents, aggressive and might even bring massive drama into your workplace. Both of these types are likely to be extremely proud and can border on arrogance and can be very aggressive in general. They can both be extremely difficult for other personality types to mesh with and can cause conflict just with their presence. As bosses they can be extremely strict and demanding and can bring down the morale of a workplace because “incentive” to them is usually just a lack of punishment. You have a job, you do it. That is how many think. Their punishments can be incredibly severe by civilian terms because most civilians have never dug a seven foot deep fighting hole and filled 600 sand bags because they didn’t clean their room once. Simply put, aggression is not always a good thing, but these guys have it.

A lot of veterans have very real problems you don’t understand.

Post traumatic stress is a real thing. Lower back problems for wearing a 70 pound flack jacket for 8 hours a day for 7 straight months is a real thing. Hearing loss from working on rifle ranges, or near rotary-wing aircraft and artillery is a very real thing. The fact is that most military people get out with some degree of disability. They are proud so most never mention this, but it is something you will need to understand when trying to understand them. The fact is that a 22 year old veteran has the body of 35 year old because of the stresses they endure overseas. You will need to know about that and a good leader will find out how to help the vet cope and work productively. A bad manager will say that “He went to Iraq? He probably has PTSD.” and not hire the person. This isn’t a made up opinion. Recent studies have shown that while only 5-20% of combat vets have justified PTSD (about the same as civilians who have experienced car accidents or tragedy) it is assumed that most have the ailment. It is called PTSD bias and is most damaging among middle managers who don’t understand the disease. The fact is we all had something jarring happen, if it was only the incredibly long periods of isolation from our country and loved ones. This doesn’t mean that there is any likelihood that you will experience violence in the workplace from us. They might be a bit off by your standards, but still deserve a chance.

Military people have what some might call controlled Tourette’s Syndrome.

I added this one after some comments came up about the way that military act toward civilians and I thought that it deserved special recognition. It relates to #6 on my list, but this element deserved it’s place. In the military the way we talk to each other is often not pleasant. In the Marines bootcamp instructors are actually trained on how to manipulate their voices so that they can yell for extremely long periods of time without damaging their vocal cords. This is known as the “Frog Voice” and it is a real as the weapons we use. The fact is that once you enter the military people literally screaming at you all the time and you adapt. Eventually you will be a leader and screaming will be part of your job too. This video actually shows a great deal of things that are important. It is a video of a charity golf tournament where some Marines were invited to give a show for some of the competitors. Listen at the very beginning and you can hear a Marine using a strange voice to speak to the victim/participant. This is Frog Voice. You will also see what is known as the “Omnidirectional Ass Chewing” in which multiple D.I. will be screaming at you in unison as you attempt to make sense of the universe around you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr4C8PtfMq0

This video is in jest, but it is identical to the way that Marine recruits are trained at boot camp, except that goes on for 3 months. “Why do all these things you ask?” Because it is the easiest way to get a human being who is unaccustomed to performance under stress to take action while being placed under an extreme and sudden stress environment (combat). It trains them to block out the noise and the fear and the stress and just do what they need to do. We can’t actually shoot at the kids you know. (Oh God, that actually does make sense.) So the Omnidirectional Ass Chewing is one of the most important parts of onboarding that most military go through, and the yelling really never stops after that. What is extremely important to know is that just as quickly as these men started yelling they can turn it off just as quickly. It is mostly an act meant to instill aggression and help military people cope with combat stress without actually experiencing combat. This is why as John Albert put it “Not that my ex-military friends aren’t cool to just hang with when the pressures of work are off, but once you get them into a “business” situation it’s sometimes like flipping the “asshole” switch.” This asshole switch is a very real thing that has taken years to perfect. Yes, I acknowledge it as a conscious decision and part of our leadership and cultural mentality, but now they are in the civilian sector and this can is extreme. If you hire a military you need to know about this. If given a leadership role there might be some moments where the employees stop talking to Jon and start being talked to by Sgt Davis. As with other things, this can be an asset, but if it isn’t what you want in your culture you need to consider that. as well.

You

If I could really say the hardest thing that I have dealt with since leaving the military it is civilian managers who want to leverage my military experience, but have no understanding of it. I’ve had bosses who hired me thinking that I would be able to kick down doors, then when I made someone cry guess who got in trouble. One guy tried to lecture me on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War because now he understood warfare. Basically the worst thing that I have truly experienced is that so many think that all these traits I have listed are an all encompassing list of personality traits. Only these things are what naive managers think they want. After they realize that this may not be what they want, or that what they want doesn’t rationally belong in a civilian environment, who do they blame? Yeah. They expect some level of unattainable perfection while not allowing you the freedom to move in the way they hired you for. In the meantime, they hold the vet to a different standard than the other peers only because the vet didn’t live up to the managers impossible stereotypes.

In summary, hiring military people can be much less productive than you think if you don’t try and understand them. They can be asset or a liability. What is important for you as the hiring manager or owner is to accept that these are extremely capable and strong willed individuals that will need much guidance in the beginning, but be a major boon to your operations after that. They likely won’t fit your stereotypes and if you expect them to you will only get a great deal of resentment and difficulty. Still, there are few that know how to work harder can be more loyal, providers of effective diversity, are as reliable and can be counted on like a good US Veteran.

In all fairness you should also see my answer in What are the advantages of hiring someone who has been in the US military?

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

This was a disappointment. The movie made me was sad on many levels.

I’m going to break this down in a few ways. First, I’m going to talk about what my friend, the comic book nerd, said; then our wives; then me; along with why it is important to get their take on it.

What my nerd friend said:

The nerdy friend is that guy who knows the comic books by their smell alone. He can quote every obscure reference and which page it appeared on. That said, these guys are demanding. If you aren’t true to the fan base and the following, the nerdy friend will tear you apart.

That sort of happened here. The problem was that the whole event was rushed. Everyone felt the need to compete with Marvel’s Avengers and that is what they were trying to do. The problem with that is that the Avengers have been in the works for literally over a decade. We are just too far behind to make a “Justice League” movie in time to compete with it.

Beyond that, many of the characters were not in keeping with their comic book traditions. Some were not congruent with in any retelling. People acted out of known character to fit the plot, backstories made no sense, if there was one at all, and others were just dreamed up out of nowhere, destroying the vital and awesome stories that were originally invented for these characters. While I wasn’t really impressed, my friend, the guy who knows all this backstory considers the movie an utter travesty. If that is you, you know you are going to see it, but don’t expect to enjoy it.

Look, if Deadpool taught us anything, it is that if a character is good enough to rate a movie then nobody cares about your stinking creative vision. These people became famous because people loved the character they were and grew to be. The movies should capture that, not try to reinvent them. That’s what Man of Steel did, and people liked it. A lot. When you have 70+ years of collective vision on beloved heroes, you don’t just go screwing with something millions of people already know and love… because your ego demands it.

What my wife said:

The wife’s opinion can be thought of like this. “I am so freaking tired of Superhero movies. I am only here because of my profound love of this nerd, but I just need something different to give a single crap about this movie.”

Mrs. Davis didn’t get that. Mrs. Davis was bored. The words, “Somewhere at the beginning I was thinking, ‘Oh man. This going to be such a horribly long movie.'” actually came out of her mouth tonight and that should just make the creators feel bad. They’ve created a story that can’t hold the attention of the people who may not be interested in comic book movies. You think that is impossible? Think again.

Jennie loved Deadpool. It was funny, it was fresh, it was hot. It kept her awake. Superman just didn’t. It was a snore to her, and if you snore the wives, you have lost the interest of millions of people who will do anything to avoid seeing the sequel… if there is one. Deadpool 2? Yeah, she’ll go see that even if I am not there, because it was legitimately entertaining to people who aren’t there to see their childhood fantasy realized on the big screen… which they are so freaking tired of.

What I think:

This one let me down because, from what I know of the comics, there was so much to draw from here that was just left so completely unused that the story came out horrible. Without spoilers, there were many very, very important characters to the DC Comics universe that were just thrown in here to add spectacle. Each and everyone of these people had so many legendary stories to draw from, that they could have made a movie, or several, all on their own.

Let’s take Wonder Woman for example. We have known she would be a part of this for a while. I’m not spoiling anything right now, because the movie tells us literally nothing about her. We have no idea where she came from, why she doesn’t age, what her powers are, anything, anything about her secret identity. She just sort of shows up. Out of the blue, there she is. It feels extremely forced to tie in so many of these characters for a big finale, but when the finale comes, you don’t care anything about them.

And that’s the problem, you just don’t love these people. You haven’t put in the time investment into seeing them grow and understanding them in this continuity. Just so that we remember, in my lifetime there have at least nine different people Batman in a major way. They all do it different and you have to ask, “Who did it best?” With characters like Wonder Woman , Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and even Aquaman, and the Flash you need a build up. You need to really love them, or really hate them. That takes time.

Instead you had a lot of characters who we got the impression the writing staff thought, “You know people know Batman. Let’s just skim over the whole ‘trauma’ thing. No one really cares anymore. Batman is Batman” and so they skimmed over that to fit in more plot. Wonder Woman? They never even said her name besides “Miss Prishhhh…”, I’m sorry I didn’t really hear that. What did you say? Prince? Fish? I mean, at the end of the movie we know literally nothing about her. It makes you feel like she was added for no other reason than to appeal to female audiences, which was fine… except to do that you have to actually make her an important character, as in a history, a motivation, a damn name for Pete’s sake! I mean, she is one of the big three. Give her some freaking screen time before the very end of the stinking movie. Honestly, feminists are going to pick up on this and it won’t be pretty. Then there was Flash, Aquaman, and the other barely mentions. I just want to say, I was really wanting to see more of these guys. I was excited when I found out that Jason Momoa was going to be playing that guy. I’ve loved him Stargate Atlantis. We see him for literally about six seconds in the film. It was just a massive letdown, though he does look cool.

Add to this that all the characters are acting in ways that are completely against their way for plot sake, which there is way too much of in not enough time and you just end up breaking what should have been the most awesome movie of the year. I can’t really fault too many of the actors. This really felt like direction without vision, but most of all, absolutely terrible writing.

As for the individual portrayals.

Supes…

Look, anyone who has ever read anything of mine on Superman knows that I think Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman is quite possibly the most beautiful thing ever put to film. I simply loved the first film. It makes me sad that it took a limey Brit to portray the ultimate American Superhero, but he did it. I mean look at him. That is a beautiful human being. I can’t say enough for how right his performance was, not only in Man of Steel, but also in Batman vs Superman. That said, even the strongest man in the universe is only so strong, and carrying a whole damn movie is just too much to ask.

Lex Luthor

Robert Frost really captured it pretty well a while back in What are your thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer 2?

In January 2014, I answered What are people’s views on casting Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman-Superman movie? and in my answer included the following diagram.

After watching the latest trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I feel obligated to revise the diagram as such:

In that earlier answer I wrote:

Eisenberg is also too young. He’s done the young cocky genius in The Social Network and Now You See Me. He came across as a petulant child in both. Lex Luthor is not a petulant child.

All I saw in the new trailer was petulant child.

Here’s the thing about Luthor, he’s crazy, but not “Joker” crazy, more Hannibal Lector Crazy. Calculating, sociopathic, cool even. Sometimes he gets too cocky when he starts to monologue his diabolical plans, but that is really the “craziest” he ever gets. Eisenberg comes off as just twitchy and weird. I don’t know if they picked him for his twitchy socially dysfunctional depiction of Mark Zuckerberg in the Social Network, but this was just not the Lex Luthor you know and fear.

There was one good scene, where you see his plan coming to fruition in a beautifully diabolical manner, one which negates all of Superman’s power with just cold hard manipulation. That was a really good scene for him. Everything else, no. It was just terrible. He honestly did come of as more deranged like the Joker than like the criminal mastermind we all know and hate.

What’s more, his backstory was terrible too. All we know about him in this continuity is that his father was was from Eastern Europe when Eastern Europe sucked, he made a big business for little Lexi and that he beat him. Is that it? You want to break the world because your dad hit you? Have some perspective.

Look, a villain is only great when it helps you bring out the beauty of the main character. He didn’t. He was written horribly. He was acted badly, or at least wrongly. And he was even directly terribly. There were actually times you can hear actors refer to him as “Luther”. That’s an issue. It’s LuthOR”, with an “O”. For the director not to have caught that tells me he really didn’t get it when directing for this character, or this role.

The other villain

Look, I am just going to spoil this a little, this is Doomsday. He’s freaking important and a walking spoiler if you know how important he is. That said, for all the significance of the character, he is visually underwhelming (kind of reminded me of the new Ninja Turtles) and his plot line was reduced to just being weird. I mean, he has the coolest background, but they nerfed it to fit into the story.

So fans of the old Doomsday as a force of pure destruction, prepare to be underwhelmed, all the way from ripping off the placenta to the somehow underwhelming defeat, and in spite of thing you already know is going to happen which is implied by his existence.

The Bat…

As I said before, wow. This was just terrible. Possibly the worst part of the movie was Batman. Yeah, Christopher Nolan sort of reset the standard, but this was bad. I won’t say Batnipples bad, but ungood. I wanted to say that, “Hey, nobody expected anything from Heath Ledger’s Joker, but damn.” In reality though, Affleck’s Batsy was just terrible. You didn’t really connect with the Batman, or Bruce Wayne, at all. There was no personality, just sneaking around, and being angsty with Alfred. Oh, and there was a girl in his bed. And he scowled a lot and looked sleepy all the time. There was nothing inspiring about him. He was just the bad guy. Batman is not a bad guy. He is the Dark Knight, the good guy who just operates in the shadows. Why are you trying to retconning this into a “bad guy who catches worse guys”? I mean, it was a completely forgettable performance. All I could think of was that joke from the Family Guy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xy5C-0P0zs

I can’t really blame it all on Affleck though. This one too, came down to writing. Look, this story moved too fast. You have Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, as well a host of other characters that were just forced to do stuff that doesn’t make sense for their characters just so that they can all be squeezed into the same place.

Spoiler:

Batman doesn’t kill people. He has this rule. We don’t kill people. He is also the smart one. Of all the Justice League, Bats is able to hang with people with actual superpowers because he has the overwhelming superpower of planning and intelligence. He also has tons of money, but mostly he wins because of his incredible intelligence, intuition, and foresight. He is never surprised. There was even an episode of the animated series where Bats is poisoned, only to come back in the end with the rational that he had been secretly taking small doses of it for years and was now immune. What luck, huh? No. He was just that prepared. Honestly, nothing stopped him because he carried every conceivable method for solving any possible problem in his cargo belt. If preparedness were a legit superpower, well… it’s Batman. He was also the undisputed champion of putting two and two together. With far, far less information than should be necessary to discover who done it, Batsy had the perp tracked to a warehouse on the docks and all mysteries solved. It was actually sad sometimes to see these demigods and masters of the universe all look to Batman every time and see him hold their hands like little kids watching Blues Clues. “Hmmm… do you see a clue?”, “Ooh! Ooh! It’s the moon!”, “That’s right Diana! Good for you.”

So what’s the story behind Batman.

  • Angsty
  • Doesn’t kill
  • Super smart

The new Batman? He’s not angsty, just grumpy. That’s all, just grumpy and looks like he recently took a melatonin. He just looks tired. Not sad or brooding. Just like he needs a nap. He also kills. He killed a lot of people. He even killed them with guns. What the? No guns. We don’t kill. We don’t use guns. We don’t kill with guns. I mean, this is crazy because Affleck is actually a really devout liberal, so to play a character who doesn’t use guns, but now uses guns because reasons just seems… I don’t know. I don’t understand the universe anymore. Then there is his real super power, smarts. He has none here. Seriously, he is played throughout the whole movie by people smarter than him. It’s embarrassing how stupid he is and how slow he is to figure out he has been manipulated throughout the whole movie into fighting Superman.

Oh, and back to don’t kill. I want to make it clear, he put a lot of effort, planning and detailed preparation into the act of murdering Superman. I mean when you watch it, it isn’t some sort of self defense thing. He is trying harder than anyone in the history of ever to murder Superman. But then what? It takes exactly 12 seconds of, “But wait! There is something else!” and just like that, he has completely abandoned his desire to murder the Man of Steel. I mean, you were wrong, but where is your guts? Honestly, I can’t think of a more unBatman than this Batman. This video sort of explains it all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwXfv25xJUw


Overall, it was pretty terrible, but it could have been awesome. They had a great cast that should have been able to pull this off, but writing destroyed the piece from the bottom up. Frankly, it was obvious that they tried to jump the gun on Captain America:Civil War, and it was a terrible idea. The pacing was all wrong. We just don’t love these people. We don’t connect them. We don’t understand what their motivations are in this movie. We don’t even know them. I mean seriously. Wonder Woman is an anomaly in this movie, just showing up in the end with both the other two like, “Who is this chick?” That’s really, really crappy setup.

Some of us love the characters from when we were kids, but the rest of the world was just lost and confused as the plot moved so fast from one person to the next with no real clue why anyone is doing anything. The background was there, there just needed to be more lead into it. Frankly, most of these people needed their own movies. We needed a standalone Batman movie to buy into this idea of Affleck as such an iconic role. We also could use a Wonder Woman movie. Why hasn’t that freaking happened yet. Look, the nerd world has girls now. Heck, even Lex could have rated his own film. Do all that and we get the movie this movie was meant to be, a real competition for Avengers, which it seriously could have been. Instead what does Warner Brothers do?

The suicide of Will Smith’s career.

Look, if Harley Quinn doesn’t carry the Suicide Squad, I don’t know what DC is going to do, because we are all a bit concerned about Leto and the Joker.

That said, there is so much that could have been done if Warner Brothers took the time to invest in the characters of Superman vs Batman (the correct order). Instead, it is diverting assets to films that shouldn’t be in existence, at least not until after the previously mentioned ones come around to bring the story up to the point where all this action has meaning and the relationships are established. The movie rushed it and that showed through. It was a terrible piece built on a foundation of so much good. The characters seemed forced. The plot is predictable. The ending was anticlimactic, and in the end, you are just mad that they would do this to the beautiful masterpiece that is Henry Cavill. Don’t worry you beautiful man. You’ll do fine. The rest of this franchise… I just don’t know after this.


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The Future of Private Armies!

This is a fun question, and if some of the technologies that research and development organizations like DARPA pan out, the answer might surprise you.


In the future, much of the weapons technology is going to shift to enable smaller and smaller teams becoming able to command more and more power on the battlefield. Of course, this initiative will be led by large nations and their multi-billion, perhaps trillion dollar budgets for research and development. Once the initial technological barriers are overcome, however, and the pandora’s box released, we very well might see new models for the old industries like defense and security come up that we haven’t seen before in history and art of warfare.

[New weapons systems] will allow smaller “players” to take part in global defense operations, allowing smaller nations wishing to get into the game, like the Netherlands or Qatar, to command vastly disproportionate forces to what exists today. The ramifications would be a world where very few, very powerful troops are required to dismantle regimes and upset political realities is that this power will shift from few massive nations, to many wealthy small nations. Large nations will still hold the majority of the strength, but small nations would shift the balance of power greatly. They will also be able to do this without the massive leviathan military apparatus of world spanning legacy systems that the United States currently fields. They will simply leapfrog this system entirely.

One interesting thing this also leads us to is that when small nations can afford elite special forces… so will large corporations and it may be a very profitable business to be in, far in excess of the Black Waters and the Academis of today. Future warfare technologies and techniques will be used against insurgents, unspecialized lightly trained militia, by experienced, professional troops using overwhelming resources. This will mean that the individual soldier will be far more valuable than the insurgent targets, but the average future mercs will also have a kill ratio orders of magnitude greater than that of the difference in their costs.
Jon Davis’ answer to As more advanced weapons and military knowledge become accessible, can we expect a terrorist organization to compete with the US army and use biological and nuclear weapons in the future?

By the way, this is the sort of technology I am referring to.


Raytheon has unveiled their new XOS 2 Exoskeleton, a wearable robotics suit developed for the military. It’s not made to kick soccer balls.

The wearable robotics suit is being designed to help with the many logistics challenges faced by the military both in and out of theater. Repetitive heavy lifting can lead to injuries, orthopedic injuries in particular. The XOS 2 does the lifting for its operator, reducing both strain and exertion. It also does the work faster. One operator in an exoskeleton suit can do the work of two to three soldiers. Deploying exoskeletons would allow military personnel to be reassigned to more strategic tasks. The suit is built from a combination of structures, sensors, actuators and controllers, and it is powered by high pressure hydraulics.
There are two main variants being developed; one which is meant for the logistics of carrying heavy loads in non-combat situations, which I can attest to, is a major pain, and the other a combat variant, intended to carry massive loads such as heavy packs, ammunition, and yes, heavy weapons and even massive shields. Right now the system requires a powered tether and hopefully going to be ready in the next five years, with an untethered version ready in the next eight. We’ll see…

The military is thinking much, much bigger than simple exo-skeletons. Along with these and other companies working toward producing military grade exoskeletons, the military is pushing for more in the terms of a completely armored combat power suit. The project’s name is the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS).

So far, the only thing that has come out of the TALOS project are CG and hopeful wishes, but in the future, the military is hoping to have specialized warriors straight out of the Iron Man comics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=24&v=rFObTuJqEw4

Having shown at least some of what is actually being developed for the warriors of tomorrow, let’s look back at the question: What type of corporations might be capable of getting some use from having private armies? The first thing I always think about when I hear “corporate military” is the thought of some evil imperial international corp who brings about the use of a private army for reasons that aren’t clear in the goal of selling more of product “x”? Does that really make sense to anyone? Think about companies like Coca-cola or Apple, they are already some of the largest and most powerful corporations on the planet. They can sell their products almost anywhere on the planet. Now ask yourself this, honestly, what would adding in someone with a gun to the equation do to help them sell more cokes and iPhones? For the vast majority of products that people sell, the bottom line isn’t created by military conquest, it is provided by selling goods and services better, cheaper, and more abundantly. I just can’t really understand who would benefit in this regard by adding in a military wing. Let’s be honest, for almost any corporate model today, adding a division of trained and lethal, not to mention very expensive, soldiers just simply doesn’t improve profits. In fact, running a war machine is so expensive, that there is a reason that only large nations do it. Think about it, it just doesn’t make sense to add a military to a company that has a logical business model already.

Having said that, and keeping in mind that for most businesses, there is no sense in making a military no matter how easy it becomes, first let’s remember what new quality some of the future weapons are going to have. With the increase in technology and power per dollar, armies will get to be much, much smaller. At some point, a force no larger than a few battalions of United States Marines will reasonably have the fighting strength of the entire attacking force that overthrew Iraq in only three weeks. Don’t scoff. In the seventy years since World War II we’ve created Stealth Bombers than can fly half-way around the world and greater strength than what was held by an entire Marine regiment of Iwo Jima years ago can now be directed by a single squad of AMLICO Marines. Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company

So rather than ask, which corporations might field large armies, ask which ones might have a need for extremely potent small armies.

To that I will suggest a few. The first might be the privatization of national militaries. The European Union could have a use for this model as it would allow them to temporarily gain a large amount of military power when needed, but not have a need to house, man, and fund large standing armies. Of course, this is just a modern variant of classic mercenaries, but given that future technology will lower the threshold of creating world class military forces, mercenaries are going to be an important part of the picture again. That said, professional militaries today have very little geopolitical role outside of private security for high value individuals. That said, we could foreseeable see a time when these forces will be strong enough that they will be able to realistically threaten nations without the means to defend themselves. You could one day soon see a small unit of elite troops, perhaps a thousand or so, be able to win the war against a regime like Saddam Hussein in 2003, where it took the United States and Coalition forces more than 300,000 to do it then with the strongest military alliance formed in the history of the planet.

But just saying mercenaries isn’t really that interesting. The second group that I could foresee having a real motivation for an on-call private army might surprise many today… so that’s why I want to talk about them.

Insurance companies.


Let’s say that a future exists where data science and advanced prediction algorithms exist that are so powerful that they make it possible to estimate the risks of various losses in various conflict scenarios so precisely that one might consider it a logical financial venture to insure candidates with good enough rating, but a lot to lose. Sure, these accounts may be multi-billion dollar accounts, with payouts in the hundreds of billions of dollars if a claim is rewarded, but what if such a business model could still be considered profitable?

Take the country of Lathodonia, a small nation in the Balkans. The Lathodonians are growing concerned about the loss of a power plant in their territory. They have no reason, at the moment, to fear something happening, but if it did, the country would suffer massively. It could be lost in a natural disaster, attacked by terrorists, or captured in a war far down beyond the foreseeable horizon. If this were to happen, they would need their losses covered while they get back online and the people of Lathodonia returning to a normal life with as little disruption as possible. That might including fixing the installation, paying for electricity to be imported into the grid from other sources, or maybe even to pay out damages and reparations for the time when the lights went out. So Lathodonia does what all sensible nations do and it takes out an insurance policy. Let’s say they consult an insurance company like none other in the industry. This company doesn’t deal with automotives, or health care, nor do they deal in fire protection or anything else that might be available on the market in 2015. This company ensures government agencies, multinational corporations, and entire nations in the cases of catastrophic loss for many billions, and sometimes, trillions of dollars against any number of threats and foreseeable losses that could have never been provided with less than an entire branch of government only thirty years prior. That insurance company is named GloboSure.

Where the future gets terrifying is that in the event that a conflict breaks out. GloboSure has a vested interest in ensuring that it suffers as few losses as possible and this means avoiding payout wherever it can. Insurance companies aren’t charities afterall. They would, for that reason, be incentivized into supplementing defense of this particular asset to help ensure that it doesn’t need to award any multi-billion dollar payouts in the near future. Rather than that, they would rather just offset the costs of an defensive operation to defend the asset, this time being a power plant, and deduct it from next year’s tax returns. Of course, before that, GloboSure’s diplomatic wing of international government lobbyists will have a go at it first, keeping, of course, return on invest always in mind. Either way, they know that spending a few million to safeguard a client’s assets will cost far more than paying out the balance of the account.

It won’t end with small nations, though. The second possibility would be very large multinational corporations that have an interest in protecting their fixed assets abroad. Once again, it doesn’t make sense for them to build their own military, and very rarely would it be worth going through a private military company either. All they really want is asset protection, after all. Why go through all that trouble? Once again, they will find their solution through insurance companies like GloboSure. But when would a multinational company ever really want to hire an insurance company that specializes in armed defense?

Imagine a future where nuclear power became the norm and a few companies now produce electricity for billions of people across the globe. They have many, many plants across the world and across border lines. Say that, as sometimes happens, one nation, let’s call it the Meznick Federation, decides it is in the best interest of all parties concerned, that they should annex the Western portion of Lathodonia, which just so happens to be the territory holding the power plant. NuPower, the owners of the international power electric company, are not particularly willing to see their multi-billion dollar energy plant be handed over to Meznick Federal Electric, in what amounts to a very hostile takeover. The billion dollar insurance account includes catastrophic loss, hostile government seizure, or terrorist involvement policy. This happens to be a high risk moment for the event of item #2 “Hostile Government Seizure”, so it is in the interest of the GloboSure Insurance Company to provide a reaction force capable of ensuring that no hostile powers decide they wish to also annex their client’s asset. Globosure’s quick reaction force would also ensure that no patriotic Lathodonian defenders decide to use the site outside of it’s intended design, by turning their own lovely nuclear plant into a defensive location. So while NuPower won’t have a need for its own actual military, it has one available at a moment’s notice… if GloboSure determines that such intervention is necessary.

Of course, there is nothing to say that the policy’s owners may not just another agency, or group of agencies acting together for some other random interest, one that is totally their business, but that few others would expect to be an active participant in a war. The policyholder on the power station could, for instance, be a collection of international environmental agencies pooling their collective funds to ensure that there is no major nuclear disaster anywhere in that part of Europe. If a nuclear power plant were to suffer a catastrophic event caused by some conflict, it could poison the entire region for generations. Clean up from such an event would also be devastating and cost millions to cleanse of the radiological purge and millions more to restore the land to something useful. By their estimation, it is a logical idea to have someone prepared to prevent an incident from occurring, while also having the fallback of getting a large enough payment award that clean-up can be made. So they too have a use for a policy with the hopes of safeguarding, or at least having a plan to clean and rebuild after an event that would be a worst case scenario today. As a side note, if you were paying attention, I just laid the groundwork for the United States Environmental Protection Agency to have a legitimate cause for creating a “Combat Operations” department.

No matter who owns the policy, the government being attacked, the company who owns the assets, or the collective of environmental agencies, or whoever else in the world feels they have a large enough stake in the matter to merit taking out a policy, when conflict seems imminent, GloboSure is going to get a call. When they do, they deploy their troops, most likely third party contractors to the selected sites and a new level of complexity is created in the future of warfare.

In truth, it’s doubtful that anyone in these situations would actually fight. Their goal is to exist as merely the threat of violence that would force anyone who might seek to make this private piece of property their own for either greed or nationalistic purposes. By merely bringing a big enough gun to the show, in this case, that gun being a next generation special operations infantry task force, whose one job is to make sure no one sets foot inside the power station, battlefield commanders for both the Meznick Army invasion forces and Lathodonian Defense Forces will have to decide if taking that asset, or even damaging it, is truly something worth sacrificing men and material for. Likely, a strong nation could take it, but at what cost? Among other things, the station itself when it gets caught in the crossfire, most likely. What would most likely happen following this, is that the power station would become a no man’s land. No one would set foot within miles of the place besides those authorized to. For anyone else, a warning shot from over three miles away, followed by less subtle methods of delivering a message of welcoming.

Quite frankly, if war is unavoidable, this is the best option for everyone. Lathodonia will probably lose, and the plant will probably be turned over, but that isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Consider this from the policy holder’s points of view, what they ended up with, and what they would have had had they not taken out the policy.

NuPower didn’t have a total loss. They still control the plant even if there is a several mile long siege around it. Meznick wouldn’t break the No-man’s-land to suffer some needless battle because that would surely destroy the station. That station, by the way, is no good to anyone broken and impossible to take from the forces guarding it with likely doing just that and definitely killing a lot of his own people. Besides, the plant itself is still precious, not only to NuPower, but to Meznick, as well. Instead, because of the threat of force of what would happen if players didn’t play nicely, it’s doubtful that anything else would bring the new owners of the real estate and the old owners of the plant to a table to plan a mutually beneficial trade. Mutually beneficial may not be an appropriate word, but GloboSure did provide NuPower with the best possible scenario, given the bleak state of affairs and given that their only other option without GloboSure was having their technology looted before being violently taken over by an enemy army. NuPower eventually lost the plant to Meznick Federal Power, but left on their terms, took what they wanted from the plant, and remarkably, never had a day without service to its customers throughout the war.

That was good for Lathodonia too. They got to keep the lights on during the war for as long as possible. Furthermore, there is little to no destruction of the grid, which means life can get back to normal relatively quickly. This wasn’t the case in Iraq where terrorists bombed the grid regularly, keeping a constant state of not being able to rely on the power. In Lathodonia, though they don’t want to admit it now that half their nation is flying the wrong flag, they suffered little beyond the loss of their lands. That was unfortunate, but a completely collapse, that was avoided.

The EPA got their money’s worth out of the deal. One more nuclear disaster averted.

Lathodonia may rate a payout, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Globosure might be able to negotiate a reasonable settlement there too in exchange for leaving the plant peacefully for the Meznick forces. A few bargaining chips like that can be worth a lot, perhaps better terms in the treaty at the end of the war. You never know. Globosure might end up saving a lot of money on this operation, and just out of good fortune and the well applied application of greed, a lot of lives too.


I know this reads like some dystopian science-fiction, but it is actually rather utopian when you really think about it. This move represents one more layer of complexity making the act of war that much harder and more costly for those who want to use it for their own gain, be it nation or individual. As with insurance companies today wanting to maximize their own profits through ensuring the best chance of never paying out, like when they offer you a discount for having working fire and smoke detectors or driving safely, they will be incentivized to make sure that client assets are protected from human harm. This will save lives and save money on all sides. It’s not altruistic by any means. It’s just flat out capitalistic greed. But where greed does more good than altruism could ever hope for, who really cares about why it works?

As twisted as it sounds, for some private companies to gain the ability to become armed forces, it might lead to a future that sees less destruction from war, less disruption to daily life during conflict, and fewer deaths and suffering when times of violence erupt. Conflict will never stop. Conflict is a natural and unavoidable reality of life, but that doesn’t mean that conflict might not become more bearable for the innocents who are caught up in it. That said, in most insurance cases, you aren’t hoping for a best case scenario. No one gets paid unless something bad is happening already. Everyone just wants to make it out better than a total loss. Today we have total loss, but who knows about tomorrow?

Still, I’m a little weirded out by a future that creates actuaries making millions if they hold a double Master’s Degree in both the fields Finance and Accounting and Military Studies.


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Escape From Terror – A Guide to Getting Out

Given no other information than that there is a shooter or an active terrorist attack, one in which the attackers didn’t kill themselves in the beginning, there is a lot you can do to maintain your own survival and the survival of others.

Stay positive

I know it sounds flippant to start off with “Stay positive,” but this is literally a guiding principle taught in the United States Marine Corps Recruit Manual and is part of the US military’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) schools to train Marines, Army, and even Navy SEALs and other Special Forces survival in the harshest of situations. The overriding theme of that first section is that in horrifying situations, much like those of this question, the number one life saving mentality is to stay positive so that you don’t panic. A panicked mind does not make smart decisions. Furthermore, maintaining optimism maintains the belief that survival is possible. When one believes they will be all right in the end, really believes it, their instincts work to support their mind toward maintaining their survival.

Note that I didn’t say that you should tell yourself, “Don’t panic”, because saying “don’t panic” doesn’t actually prevent people from panicking. It’s just something they do in movies to add intensity. It doesn’t help in real life. You do need to stay positive. Most people panic from a flood of many things happening at once. People hear shooting. Someone else screams. A flood of people start moving. Children get separated from parents. More screaming. You should remember to stay calm, not by saying, “stay calm”, but by saying things like, “It’s going to be OK, I know what to do, I will be all right.” Keep repeating affirmations to yourself like this to ensure that you actually do stay calm and remember everything else you need to do to get to safety.


After staying positive, an acronym currently being used to train students, teachers, and businesses on how to handle terror events and active shooters is ALICE.

  1. Alert
  2. Lockdown
  3. Inform
  4. Counter
  5. Evacuate

ALICE is a tool used to keep victims and staff aware of their options during what is called an “active shooter event” and is also useful advice if are involve in an act of terror. It quickly guides you through the important decisions you may need to make. It is important to understand the ALICE acronym is not meant to serve as a sequential list of steps to follow, but to serve as a guide for understanding your role – which it is important we understand isn’t determined by you, but by the shooter or terrorist – in surviving the encounter and aiding others to do so, as well. Depending on where the shooter is in relation to you, you have several different responsibilities to ensure your own safety and help you escape, as well as that of others. In relation to this question, most of the steps involved do not involve interacting with the shooter – in fact, they specifically attempt to avoid it.

Alert

The first is that you witness the event taking place. It is important to remember that, as members of a civilized society, we are all the responsible in some way during a threatening situation to preserve as many lives as possible. Even if you aren’t trained to do much, or aren’t in a position to physically help, the information you know may be vital to others when added to their own. Consider this someone who, from a safe distance, saw someone enter the building with a weapon or acting in a suspicious manner. Perhaps this person saw or heard an explosion or can hear shooting off. This person has the responsibility to stay safe (by not entering the dangerous area) and alerting police or any other official. The information you saw and reported could be compiled with others to help ensure that hundreds who aren’t safe are able to escape who don’t have the benefit of your point of view. Your testimony may also help provide key evidence after the fact, as well.

Lockdown

If you aren’t in the immediate presence of danger, and if warning is given, people should attempt to take a Lockdown, ready stance. If you are very near the threat and a known secure means of escape already exists, then you should always escape first before attempting Lockdown.

Lockdown allows small groups time to create as defensible a position as possible. The average response time for police is somewhere around 14 minutes to produce first responders to a scene of a violent incident. This in no way is a failure of police, but just a reality of having very few people responsible for the safety of very, very many and never knowing where a situation might happen. For this reason, those who are alerted to the presence of danger are asked to Lockdown, in an effort to gain some security during the time when it isn’t known if a safe escape route exists and when first responders have not yet arrived on the scene. Lockdown drills are performed by most schools already, though this is typically the extent of the exercise. They do this by locking all doors, both exterior and interior, and barricading those doors before taking a position in a darkened room, away from visible sightlines of any windows and in a defensive posture.

By defensive posture, this means that students or anyone caught in a terror environment where a terrorist or shooter currently isn’t, such as a room behind a locked door, are to try to use whatever means necessary to provide them with cover and concealment. Concealment is anything that will prevent an enemy from seeing a target, like a curtain. Cover is the military term for something that can conceal you from a threat and be used as a source of shielding in the event that you’re shot at. Once the students are in the most covered and concealed location they can create in a timely manner, they should stay vigilant, and stay prepared to move to escape or react to a forced entry by the shooter.

This is an effort to create a “safe space”, not meant to say that it is perfectly defensible, but as a primary fall back point for all students and individuals to retreat and seek shelter in the event of terror until an escape route can be secured. A terrorist’s goal is to cause as many casualties as possible. That said, if the terrorist or shooter remains a threat after the initial attack, they will often be deterred by obstacles like locked doors, instead looking for easier targets. In this event, creating barriers between a shooter and potential victims often ends the threat of a direct confrontation, before it starts. That said, having a secondary fall back position, in case it seems apparent that a shooter is set to enter your safe space, is a good idea if one is available.

Lockdown is not the same as hiding. We have seen examples of those involved in shootings attempting to make use of whatever concealment they have to hide from the attacker. This includes hiding under tables in the room they are in or in unsecured rooms, then staying put there for several minutes during a massacre. In the Columbine attack, students who hid under tables when it became known that an event had begun were eventually found and murdered. Any defensive position can be overcome by a determined adversary. For that reason, do not get too comfortable in your relative safety, but always remember that your primary goal is escape, not defense. Always be looking for information that will be help you get away from

Inform

Someone in the room should be communicating with police and emergency personnel, both to tell them what you are witnessing and to have a link with information from the outside. During lockdown, communications may be disrupted, or it may not be advised to broadcast escape information while the shooter is active. This isolates victims, which can be deadly. For that reason, it is important for someone in the room to keep an active communication line to the police in the event of an emergency. Most police departments are equipped to handle overflow traffic in the event of a major emergency.

My personal advice is that the person on the phone shouldn’t be the person charge, be it a teacher, the boss, or whoever takes charge of a situation. They need to be in charge of leading the students in whatever circumstances take place from then on. If specific instructions need to be given, than the leader can be given the phone, but generally, the leader’s job in this instance is to keep the rest of the room calm and prepared. Communicating with the outside takes the leader’s focus away from the room and away from what is going on outside their safe space. The communicator needs to calm and level headed and able to communicate; the type of person who can decipher what is important for police and the leader to know and what to communicate. For high school, a student who is calm and reliable should be able to communicate with emergency response and relay important information to the teacher. Most middle school classrooms should, as well. For elementary and primary schools, the teacher unfortunately needs to be the one responsible for many roles.

Key things to be aware of at all times, but particularly in lockdown:

  • Know the source of danger
    Where is the threat? Know where the danger is coming from. Is this person shooting actively? Are they on the move? In which direction?

    Maintain your wits and try to assess what actually caused the threat. Don’t take more than a few seconds on this. Don’t take more than a few seconds on this. This doesn’t mean you create a doctoral thesis on the threat’s relationship with his mother. Where is it that you get the instinctive reaction that the threat is coming from? Don’t look at which way people are running, or running from. Numerous accounts exist of people, usually in panic, running directly toward the danger, in some instances leading others as well. This isn’t their fault. They just lacked the training to know what to do. From there, you have a few options that you need to consider.

  • Find the exits
    Attempt to get away from the immediate danger. Find the nearest avenue to an escape as possible. It may be a better idea to lockdown and stay where you are, but either way, you need to know where the danger is and what avenues you have to escape. Again, time is key, a few seconds at most to find the exits.
  • Arm yourself
    At my school, when we practice for one of these lockdown drills every student has at their disposal a stack of books and other objects to throw or use as weapons. The Marines call these weapons of opportunity and they are any tool you can use to help you defend yourself if you directly encounter the threat. Once you find a tool to use, keep it with you until you have successfully escaped.

Escape/Evade/Evacuate

I’m going to go out of order and talk about escape before counter. As I have said, the ultimate goal of any terror event should be to escape the situation. This needs to be repeated for emphasis. The goal should not be for individuals to stop the shooter, but to get to a safe area. Everything else listed in this answer is strictly in the event escape is deemed more unsafe than staying put, or the shooter has removed the option to escape.

Most of the people who become victims do so very early on. Either they were very close to the terrorist when they began their attack,0 or they were isolated because they hesitated in their movements, or found themselves pinned in and immobilized. Once you find the exit, you should be going there. There shouldn’t need to be thinking about which exit may be closer, or which exit may be jammed or what if there is someone waiting at the exit… just run. A person should be far enough ahead that you can’t get pinned in the event of a wrong turn.

If a shooter is in the open, such as an attack on a mall, one should attempt to get away from the immediate danger as fast as possible. Don’t call the police immediately, just get to a safe location. Immediately seek cover and concealment by staying low, out of eyesight. Remember that concealment is anything that will prevent an enemy from seeing a target and cover is anything that can both conceal a potential victim and will help deflect or absorb incoming rounds fired at the them.

From there, one should remember always to know the source of the threat and find the exits.

Knowing this, a person should find the nearest avenue to an escape as possible. Where is the nearest exit? Can I reach it while staying behind cover and/or concealment? If you know the source of danger and you know the route to the exit, watch for hardened obstacles to keep between you and the threat. A hardened pillar or support beam can be a good source of cover, as can a large desk or wall. A large fountain, a car, the corner around a turn; anything that is hard and large should be a goal of someone to keep between them and the threat. It’s important not to get pinned behind cover, and to just think of it as a temporary obstacle to keep between you and the threat until you reach the exit or safety. Again, time is key, a few seconds at most to find the exits. As soon as possible, make for the exits.

This is also why keeping in contact with police is so vital, primarily if you aren’t in the open and in a lockdown situation where your escape is determined by information you can’t know because it is outside your room. Keeping communication lines open, even if you are silent and just waiting for information to be given to you, lets police and rescue know where you are, which lets you know when it is safe to escape and by what means. Most likely, there will never be a need to encounter a shooter. This is because, once a shooting begins, entire towns shutdown to ensure that the event is taken care of as quickly as possible. For that reason, those who don’t begin an attack in a safe place need to find the safest place possible, fortify, call for help, and prepare to evacuate when it is safe to do so.

By prepare to evacuate, I don’t mean find a safe place and stay there forever. An element of static defenses, those that don’t move or change, i.e. our barricades or locked doors, as I said in the previous section, is that a determined adversary can and will overcome them. Think about if a shooter is searching for one particular person, like that bully, mean teacher, their child, ex-spouse, or their boss. If that person was the motive of the attack, then obstacles won’t deter them. They might slow them down, but not provide true safety. This is true of muggings, burglaries, terrorism, or military combat. Most of the time these are deterrents that force a shooter on, hoping to find an easier target, however, if a gunman is set to defeat a certain barrier, for any reason, they will attempt to do so. Given enough time, they will defeat it. This is why staying in a state of Lockdown throughout the duration isn’t advised.

We can see an unfortante proof for this from the Virginia Tech Shooting of 2007. There, 32 students were killed and the majority of those were traced to a single room. A professor locked the students in the room, similar to a lockdown, but wouldn’t let them leave even when an opportunity was available. The shooter eventually overcame the lock on the doors. The room had no exits and he then proceeded to kill first the teacher, then everyone else in the room. From this lesson we see that a lockdown is necessary, but not a perfect defense. While we must lockdown, we must also prepare for an escape as quickly as possible. Making a plan out of staying put is itself, a danger.

Some guidelines to remember during an escape:

  • Move quickly
    Most of the people who become victims do so very early on. Either they were very close to the shooter when they started or they were isolated because they hesitated in their movements, or found themselves pinned in and immobilized. Once you find the exit, you should be going there. There shouldn’t need to be thinking about which exit may be closer, or which exit may be jammed or what if there is someone waiting at the exit… just run. Stay far enough ahead that you can’t get pinned in in the event of a wrong turn.
  • Use cover
    Cover is the military term for something that can conceal you from a threat and be used as a source of shielding in the event that you’re shot at. If you know the source of danger and you know the route to the exit, watch for hardened obstacles to keep between you and the threat. A hardened pillar or support beam can be a good source of cover. A large fountain in the middle of a food court, a car, the corner around a turn, anything that is hard and large should be a goal of someone to keep between them and the threat. Don’t get pinned behind cover, just think of it as a temporary obstacle to keep between you and the threat until you reach the exit.
  • Avoid traveling along walls
    Bullets travel along walls. I don’t know why, but a bullet that is fired at close to the same angle of a wall will ride the wall and stay very close to it. From what I have seen, they can do this a while. Try to stay at least six or so inches from the wall if you can.

Counter

If a terrorist or gunman enters your safe space, or if he pulls a weapon in the middle of whatever you are doing, say during a class period, work, or, just passing by they have left you with no time to prepare. You have to accept that the gunman has removed all good options from you and that you’re now left with very few alternatives. All your remaining choices boil down to basic human responses to fear. You have probably heard of “fight or flight”, and that is what I am talking about, but there are more and each choice has very different ramifications depending on the circumstances. They are flight, freeze, submit, posture, or fight. Before I continue, we need to consider these five basic human responses to fear and how they would manifest themselves in an active shooter or terror environment.

  • Flight – generally speaking, if you can, fleeing is the best option. That said, as a teacher, fleeing isn’t always an option. For example, in my classroom, which is virtually identical to all the other classrooms in the Middle School, High School, and Elementary, there is only one door. The windows are also shatter resistance, designed to prevent an intruder from the outside getting in, but also preventing students from being able to break out, as well. ( They are actually designed for storm debris because far more people are killed by tornadoes where I live than the violence of this question.) There is only one entrance to the room, and therefore, only one exit. While the ultimate goal of being in an event is the escape the situation, and most of the time, an avenue is available… frankly, sometimes we don’t have that as a real option.
  • Freeze – Freeze is a common response to panic educing situations. For many, it will be the default response. There is a saying, made most famous by the United States Navy SEALs, but common throughout the United States armed forces: “One doesn’t rise to the occasion, but falls back to their training.” This means that if a person is not trained, or have not prepared themselves to recognize and respond to a stressful situation, they will likely fail in that situation.

    A person who freezes, or fails to take any action in the presence of an active terrorist will be an easy target. Shooters aren’t targeting specific individuals usually, at least not long into the shooting. If they are attempting to right some injustice, the shooting eventually turns indiscriminate, where shooters are attempting to not find specific targets of opportunity, those that aren’t actively seeking escape, or using cover and concealment. This obviously isn’t the best solution, but not honestly the fault of the victim. A person must be trained to recognize and prepare for the possibility of violence and have a plan on how to act. If they don’t, they default to the freeze state.

  • Submit – submit refers to complying to the shooter’s demands. This is the hostage scenario. Hostage takers bargain with victims for compliance. They offer safety in exchange for control of the situation. For active shooters, those involved with terrorist attacks, school shootings, and workplace massacres, this is not common. They aren’t interested in a prolonged engagement and may not even care if they get out alive. Typically, these events take place, from beginning to end in less than 12 minutes, that being the amount of time it would take a dedicated shooter to either run out of ammunition, be brought down by police, or as often as is the case, end the encounter by taking their own lives.

    Therefore, it isn’t common for shooters to make demands that will keep people alive. Typically, they are there for a set purpose of inflicting causalities. For that reason, in the event of an active shooter, it is extremely unlikely that giving into the shooter by following any of their demands will ensure survival. In the Umpqua Community College Shooting, this is what students did. The shooter began by first executing the teacher of the room before making demands that all Christians in the room make themselves known by standing. The classroom full of students did as they were instructed and several who stood, were then executed.

  • Posture – Posture is creating the appearance of threat without actually being a threat. Imagine boxers before a fight, trying to look intimidating to psyche out the other opponent. This is an attempt to psychologically dominate an opponent during a fight, in the hopes that it makes them easier to deal with.

    I can’t imagine a worse idea in a terror situation. Shooters are obviously unbalanced people, so attempting to intimidate someone who, because of their weapons, is in an obviously tactical advantage seems, to me, to be suicidal. Furthermore, I can only imagine it further enraging an active shooter, so that, once they are done with whoever tried to appear intimidating is dead, the rest will receive an even more relentless assault.

What is currently being taught, in these danger close circumstances, where escape is not a timely or possible solution, is to fight, some would say attack, the attacker.

The idea here isn’t to combat an attacker one-on-one armed with only a book or stapler against a gunman. It has been shown, however, that working as a group, a number of victims can overcome an attacker and, if nothing else, minimize the harm which he could inflict.

In the instance of a single attacker against a room full of individuals, the presence of massive amounts of common items being thrown to assault, en masse, is the key defensive element. This means that a person doesn’t need to be a martial arts expert, or spend countless hours in training and exercise to prepare for the event. It also doesn’t require that any one individual has the physical and mental capability to disable the shooter. The act only requires coordination of many people moving very quickly. This doesn’t end the threat, but is intended to stun the attacker long enough for the students, once again en masse, to swarm the attacker, ground him, and hold him until others are able to evacuate or hold the attacker until police are able to intervene. Through swarm tactics, which is how they are literally termed in some ALICE training, the groups of potential victims are able to maximize their collective survival by overwhelming attackers.

During this time, students are encouraged to use “weapons of opportunity” or “improvised weapons” in their own defense. “Weapon of opportunity” is a term used from the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and other self-defense programs, which basically means any common place item which can be used a weapon. The Marines train to fight, in the last resort, with sticks, rocks, and anything else which may be available to them. For a classroom or office setting, this translates to books, staplers, tape depressors, and even chairs being used as throwing objects or even blunt force items. It is also advised to keep on hand pepper spray and a very good improvised weapon is also the fire extinguisher. The cloud is both stunning and disorienting, and the canister itself is an extremely blunt object which can be both deadly and easily used as a club. The fact that any good classroom or office should have fire extinguishers available anyway, makes this one of the best self-defense tools for this question.

There is practical rationale to this tactic that is, as well, based on military combat psychology. The term is violence of action.

[The following is an excerpt from SEAL SURVIVAL GUIDE: A Navy SEAL’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster, written by Former Navy SEAL and preeminent American survivalist Cade Courtley.]

Violence of action means the unrestricted use of speed, strength, surprise, and aggression to achieve total dominance against your enemy. I’m repeating this to drive home the concept that any fighting technique is useless unless you first totally commit to violence of action. Don’t be afraid to hit first, and when you do, hit hard. Remember, you are fighting because this is the best and only option. Pull the trigger — because you are in a battle for your life! Your instincts, assessment, and situational awareness have told you that you are in mortal danger. You don’t know the other person’s intentions fully, and you never can. What you can do is survive — it is your right to not be killed or harmed by another person. As with most things survival-related, fighting has its own set of priorities that need to be addressed at lightning speed.

Stories of violence of action successes are well documented in the military, showcasing how lone soldiers or Marines pushed back or dominated enemy forces when they were very much outnumbered. In an active shooter scenario, however, a single person will almost never be able to dominate an aggressor because of the presence of their gun. Working in conjunction with an entire classroom, all working to stun, disorient, and then hold down an enemy until help arrives, would have the effect of violence of action. As a seasoned shooter myself, I don’t know how I could manage to carry on an attack while simultaneously dodging a barrage of non-lethal items. As a teacher, I was extremely pleased with this approach because it addresses the danger involved in Lockdown only training, in which a static defender is always the victim to violent attackers.

If you feel this is a terrible idea, I agree with you. It does put those attacked in momentary extreme danger. It is very, very hard for me to say this, because, to me, these children aren’t statistical, but faces with names and it terrifies me to think of them being in harm. Yet, I know that for this to even be considered, they were already in extreme danger. It’s just very hard for us to imagine it that way. I also know that statistically, though some may come to harm if more organizations implement ALICE type group defense, more of these rampages will have ended before a shooter has a full 14 minutes to blow away anyone who he sees. The long term reality of this is fewer children and innocent people will die. This is particularly true of the children in the room, those who have had the choice to hide and wait taken from them. If history is our guide, these children have faced the cruelest and most unforgivable odds of all, being trapped face to face with an active shooter. Grimly speaking, they are most benefited by fighting back for their own lives.

We see this example too, demonstrated recently by actions of military veterans who took part in ending shootings or aiding others in their escape. The first of these examples is Chris Mintz.

Image courtesy of Chris Mintz – UCC Shooting Survivor.

Chris Mintz is the current man of the hour. Mintz is a 10 year veteran of the United States Army, but became national news when he protected classmates in a shooting rampage at the local community college he was attending. According to eyewitnesses, Mintz ran at the attacker and blocked a door to a classroom in the attempt to protect fellow classmates.

According to a student witness Chris

“ran to the library and pulled all the alarms. He was telling people to run. … He actually ran back towards the building where the shooting was. And he ran back into the building.”

While attempting to stop the shooter Mintz was shot an incredible seven times. He was rushed to surgery, and is now on the road to recovery and a normal life, but will require a great deal of recuperative care. To repay his heroism, a gofundme was set up for $10,000 to go toward his medical expenses. That fund is currently just over $800,000. What Chris’ heroic acts showed was how a dedicated person can slow down and prevent a shooter, making it possible for others to survive and, just as importantly, that this act itself is not a death sentence.

A better example comes from the recent attack aboard a train between France and Belgium. There, a terrorist opened fire on a train wounding a few of the passengers. Onboard the train were National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos, a recent Afghanistan veteran, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, along with a civilian friend Anthony Sadler. They earned international praise for stopping nothing less than a full on terrorist gunman in the middle of what amounted to a holiday vacation.

“My friend Alek (Skarlatos) yells, ‘Get him,’ so my friend Spencer (Stone) immediately gets up to charge the guy, followed by Alek, then myself,” Anthony Sadler said in an interview with CNN.

Stone received injuries during the fight between the Moroccan born gunman, armed with an AK-47 rifle, a pistol, several clips of ammunition and a knife. The Americans wrestled him to the ground after he opened fire. In the end, he was hog tied and, though one of the heroes received superficial injuries, no one, not even the shooter, was killed. No better example currently exists for the argument that active defense is necessary in ending the threat posed by an active shooter or terrorist.

While both of these events center around veterans who placed themselves in harm’s way while in civilian roles, what they did isn’t something that requires one to be a military person to do. In these specific cases, it was just people who believed they could control the situation, who knew how to react to danger, and who were, at least instinctively aware that the collective’s survival was most ensured by the group fighting back.


I know that it is hard for many people to accept this idea. ALICE training is highly controversial because, when it is implemented in schools, it asks teachers to encourage kids to work together to take on lethal and murderous shooters in certain, very limited, situations. No one feels this as much as I do. This has been one of the hardest articles I have ever written in the last six years of writing online. As a teacher, it’s painful for me to accept that this is even something we need to prepare for. I had to stop and gather myself several times when the thought passed through my mind of my kids (students) being put in this scenario. As a Marine, however, I know that our actions are often determined by those who want to do us harm. Sometimes, a terrible idea, such as leading a group of children to assault a deadly attacker, is the only option left to you.

I know that if this information becomes commonplace enough, many innocent people are going to make it out all right, who otherwise wouldn’t. Furthermore, when those people who are thinking about attacking schools and workplaces, or committing acts of terror see similar actions foiled in the first few minutes by groups of individuals before they turn into massacres, they wouldn’t see the sinister glory in it. They wouldn’t be able to dream of suicide after committing massacre or death by cop. Instead, they might even face prison. Their goals would be worthless.

Furthermore, ALICE initiatives take away the helplessness of the victim, and let’s them know that they have options and responsibility in their own survival, as well as the survival of others. This knowledge is empowering in that it lets them know that the power doesn’t just revolve around the attacker, but that they have agency in the matter, as well. I know in my heart that if the people who attack others like this were to become more afraid of the victims, than the victims are of them – school shootings, gun massacres, and vile acts of terror would disappear.


In Summary, two brief lists to remember:

ALICE

  • Alert – notify people around you and authorities of the problem.
  • Lockdown – secure yourself in a location so it’s hard for a terrorist to get to you and those nearby.
  • Inform – continue to keep authorities apprised of the situation and know your surroundings.
  • Counter – if you have no other options, confront or interrupt the attacker.
  • Escape/Evade/Evacuate – if you can escape the situation safely, then do so.

And the other:

  • Stay positive – A calm and collected attitude of optimism avoids panic, maintains clear thinking, and the preserves belief of survival.
  • Know the source of danger – Where is the threat? Know where the danger is coming from and stay away.
  • Find the exits – Attempt to get away from the immediate danger. Find the nearest avenue to an escape as possible.
  • Arm yourself – Anything can be used as a weapon. Make yourself as dangerous as possible in the event you are forced to defend yourself.
  • Move quickly – Never plan on staying still. Always be prepared to move and quickly get to where ever it is you need to go.
  • Use cover – when on the move, move from one strong point to the next, never staying in open longer than is needed.
  • Avoid traveling along walls – Bullets travel along walls. Try to stay at least six or so inches from the wall if you can.

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