Uncertain Future – Part IV – Doxxing

The Gamergate scandal didn’t end at name calling, though. Several key individuals suffered far more than the traditional effects of the average internet rabble. Along with threats of rape and murder, which are disturbing, but easily dismissed given the safety that online anonymity provides, there was another threat, one which pierced that veil of safety and put the power directly in the hands of the mob.

Doxxing.

Doxxing – from documents – search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.

“hackers and online vigilantes routinely dox both public and private figures.” [11]

During Gamergate the ugly side of the conflict saw the threat, “We will dox you,” begin to surface for the first time. Doxxing, as the definition states is when online users attempt to publish personal information about other users, celebrities, or public figures against their will. This personal information ranges from your real name to private email, banking information, and anything that hackers can get hold of. Once one member discovers it and is able to publish it, the fear is that it may lead to future attacks, such as flooding email accounts with harassment emails via a botnet attack, or worse, people literally able to knock on your door.

And this is exactly what happened to the internet’s Queen, Felicia Day.

Day commented that she had thus far remained silent on the issue of Gamergate to fans and the media, including over 2.3 million Twitter followers at the time, not because she wanted to or didn’t care, but out of fear of getting doxxed  – and seeing her personal information become public knowledge on the seedy parts of the internet.

“I realised my silence on the issue was not motivated by some grand strategy, but out of fear that the issue has created about speaking out. … I have tried to retweet a few of the articles I’ve seen dissecting the issue in support, but personally I am terrified to be doxxed for even typing the words ‘gamer gate’. I have had stalkers and restraining orders issued in the past, I have had people show up on my doorstep when my personal information was hard to get.”

This was posted on her personal blog, in a post titled simply The Only Thing I have to Say about Gamergate. [12]She was immediately attacked online and doxxed. Felicia’s experiences in the past have included direct encounters with stalkers, empowered by knowledge about her that they shouldn’t have access to. Others, such as one of the women central to the beginning of Gamergate, Anita Sarkeesian a game designer who also makes videos explaining misogynist tropes in gaming, were far more disturbing.

According to Time, Sarkeesian, had to flee her home because of violent threats. She was even forced to cancel a speaking engagement at Utah State University after an anonymous person sent a letter to the school administration threatening to massacre students if she spoke. “I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America,” the letter read.

Now, perhaps, we are getting the reason that anonymity is something of a concern for security analysts. With abilities such as doxxing, which is just one among many possible issues that internet users face, those who use the internet, or everyone, is going to need to learn to deal with some new and very profound threats. In the way that we prepared ourselves for active shooters with things like A.L.I.C.E. training, training is going to have to be done to teach people how to protect their personal information from slippage, the military term for unwanted dispersal of sensitive information. If we don’t take that initiative,I’m afraid of an internet where anonymity creates a world where there are no activists. Many who have read and follow my work know, if nothing else, one thing about me; I am super American. I like that I have this right and freedom to speak up and speak out, but at the point where living room vigilantes are able to threaten the safety of women for complaining about big tits in video games, along with anyone who happens to listen… I’m seriously afraid of a world twenty years down the road. That anonymity grants protection for criminal acts is something we should very seriously be concerned and something the leaders of the internet need to seriously consider when they list their values. As was mentioned before, to quote Goya, “fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters.” That said, don’t be surprised if in your next annual security briefing, you see the “Dox” for the first, but not the last time.

Uncertain Future – Part III – Online Harassment

Beginning in August 2014, a the hashtag #GamerGate [6] began to form. It was began by groups of video game enthusiasts on differing camps of the politics of gaming. Those on the side of Gamergate gave the stated purpose for it to be combatting political correctness, censorship, and poor journalistic ethics in video game reporting. Specifically, many organized their efforts to target several female members of the gaming community for attacks against the genre norms and values. In retribution, these women and commenters denied the ethical basis and condemned the affair as misogynistic, which then led to reprisal attacks from across the internet world.

The roots of the debate began as a progressive pull to make  females in video games less… um… genetically improbable babes.

Designers and other feminist gamers argued against the exploitive nature in which females were depicted in many games, showcasing outrageous body types, and surfacing new controversies like “Same Armor/Same Stats” and “Less Armor/More Protection”.

So yeah, anyone who argues that is pretty much arguing, “I want more boobs! Don’t take away the boobs!” Granted, in the defense of the status quo, some interesting arguments did come out  deeper than merely, “Save the boobs!” Many Gamergates, argued that coming down on developers was a legitimate attack on free speech, while others decried the very nature of political correctness for gaming. Perhaps the best I had yet heard gave a rather remarkable feminist appeal by asking whether a very popular, and famously buxom, character from the 1990’s should be “reduced” for the upcoming remake. The argument there was that to retool, some said sensor, a character which is already well known on account of her body type is an attack on anyone who legitimately has that body type. In this case, it sends the message that simply having large breasts or long legs is wrong, and something to be ashamed of.  [7]

I honestly didn’t know if I just heard a masterful counterargument supporting both sides of the controversy from the feminist perspective or simply some grade A BS. Regardless, many of the feminists dismissed such views outright, some retaliating through the absolute attack on what it meant it meant to be a “gamer”, coinciding the meaning with being synonymous with misogyny. This, as it should surprise no one, led to a greater and greater tit-for-tat assault on both sides. More joined the Gamergate cause simply in opposition to the radical feminists among those who in over the top demonstrations, stated that all those who don’t agree with the narrative of the feminists were misogynistic, and eventually homophobic, racists, and bigoted.

That was wrong, but what happened next disappointed many as conversation wasn’t the only thing that came out. Users operating, mostly anonymously via sites like Reddit, 4Chan, and 8Chan, began attacking against leaders on both sides taking the stances that games need to redirect. The attacks eventually grew to threats, including the threat of rape and murder for many of the feminists, and threats to have get many of the Gamergaters fired from their real world jobs. Most of us were surprised it got as bad as it did as fast as it did. I wondered why so many gamers became so visceral in their attacks against activists in the industry, or even just their defense of the boobs. I, along with much of the rest of the gaming community with large internet followings, just wondered with surprise how it got that bad.

And that is what is really scary about online security threats like these. People online can get really mean, hateful, and even cruel. I’m not talking about calling you an “asshat” cruel. I mean subjecting people to the constant barrage of hate that results in  IRL (in real life) ugliness. There is even a hashtag going out on snapchat called #TBR. For those of us blessed not to work with children on a daily basis, you’ve probably never heard of #TBR, but it stands for To Be Rude. Literally, it is nothing but children being hateful to one another, insulting one another in “secret”, via Snapchat. Snapchat is a novel tool for kids because it allows sharing of content that will “delete” after a predetermined time or number of views, and only to those you choose. I suppose this may be useful to revolutionaries fighting against totalitarian regimes, but mostly kids just use it to post pictures of themselves naked and be monsters to one another. It sort of explains the ghost icon, though; a hint of secrecy.

Now where this fits into the GamerGate controversy was that we didn’t just see children acting like children. We saw adults acting very maliciously with the intent to cause fear and psychological harm, with the intended purpose of manipulation. By most accounts, that’s terrorism. What made normal, boring actually, twenty and thirtysomething year old gamers turn into, well let’s call it what it was, terrorists is a question we all need to answer, but it is probably the same reason kids use snapchat to post hateful videos instead of Youtube.

Not getting caught.

In both cases of Snapchat or #Gamergate, the offenders function behind a wall of protection from authority. For middle schoolers acting badly, it is really no different than any other time when mean girls said mean things when no teachers were around. With #Gamergate, we saw something very different. Grown adults behaving online in a way they never would in the real world. Many attribute this to the anonymous nature in which they gathered, communicated, and executed their “operations.”

Anonymity on the internet is an important thing if for no other reason than to understand how people act when functioning under the guise of anonymity. Dr. John Suler is a Professor of Psychology and has written on the subject of online behavior. In his paper The Online Disinhibition Effect, Suler argues that those on the internet are able to disconnect from their normal behaviors and can frequently do or say as they wish without fear of any kind of meaningful reprisal. An example being most Internet communities, even one such as Quora which uses real names. The worst kind of punishment an offender can expect for bad behavior is being banned from interaction. In practice, however, this serves little use; the person involved can usually circumvent the ban by simply registering another username and continuing the same behavior as before [8]. Suler calls this toxic disinhibition.

CB radio during the 1970s saw similar bad behavior:

Most of what you hear on CB radio is either tedious (truck drivers warning one another about speed traps) or banal (schoolgirls exchanging notes on homework), but at its occasional—and illegal—worst it sinks a pipeline to the depths of the American unconscious. Your ears are assaulted by the sound of racism at its most rampant, and by masturbation fantasies that are the aural equivalent of rape. The sleep of reason, to quote Goya’s phrase, brings forth monsters, and the anonymity of CB encourages the monsters to emerge.

Suler’s work was a brilliant synopsis, but we on the internet need a simplified version. “John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F***wad Theory” was a posted comic strip by Penny Arcade. The post regards reflects the unsocial tendencies of other internet users as described by the online disinhibition effect. Krahulik and Holkins, Penny Arcade’s creators suggest that, given both anonymity and an audience, an otherwise regular person becomes aggressively antisocial. [9]

How this relates to security is obvious to those who have experience it. The internet can feel like an unsafe place sometimes. The internet can be an unsafe place sometimes. Looking to the long term effects of bullying that are being better understood every day [10], sometimes I wonder if this place I’ve called a second home is a place I want my kids to play on. Most of us who are active on this playground understand this as the status quo, but in the future of internet security, the debate will center around the freedom to be private and the freedom to be anonymous. Many fear, given precedence, what may happen under this veil of anonymity. I can’t help but agree that his is a rational concern for many. Sometimes the internet comments go far beyond words or threats, which carry lasting psychological damage to some of the victims, but transforming to very legitimate real world threats. What this will mean for the future is that companies is deciding what kind of culture they want to deal with. For the internet to stay the internet we want to be on, we may see more companies adopt guidelines like Quora’s, with it’s real names policy and Be Nice Be Respectful Policy, a place where people feel welcome and safe to exchange and interact.

Uncertain Futures – How Safe Will You Be and 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?

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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Thanks for reading. This post is part of an ongoing series into European Refugee Crisis I’ve taken on at the request of patron and follower request. If you would like to follow the series, make sure to follow the blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. Everything I write is independent research supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you want to support this project and any future essays, show your support by visiting my support page here: Support Jon Davis creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays

Movie Tropes and Military PTSD – Hollywood Needs to Start Getting This Right

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for veterans of war isn’t a real disease. It’s a profitable movie trope.

Vets

This is going to be a very serious post. To be clear, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disease that affects many veterans who have taken part in combat and even non-combat operations in warfare, as well as many civilians who have experienced fatal car accidents, work in emergency medicine, and many other people who have experiences which put them in stressful situations beyond the expectations of what a normal person should expect in their lifetime. The disease can affect the way people live their lives, resulting in follow-on social dysfunctional disorders, depression, and for some, result in suicide.

That said, to not dilute the level of frustration other veterans and myself feel, Hollywood is not treating this disease as a problem which deserves understanding and respect. They’ve turned it into a plot device to add drama and communicate a story they wish to tell, depicting their own biases towards the military, the wars they fight, or the politicians that sent them to this unfortunate fate, with the “innocent veteran victim” now serving as the medium for their message. Masked in a story about “the real heroes and the struggles they face” these narrative mechanics boil down to little more than money making engines and good publicity for film creators by exploiting people who want to identify with veterans and their needs, but can’t. We aren’t part of that world. So their best opportunity years after they decided not to serve, and now maybe don’t feel so good about that, is a two hour war movie which is billed as coming from their point of view.

Movies like the Hurt Locker and Brothers are the worst of these. They tell the story of how warfare will always leave people broken, charred remnants of what used to be happy and productive human beings. Please understand that most of us are just normal people. We went to war. Then we came home and did other things. We enjoy going to our jobs where we add valuable experience and promote cultures of work ethic. We enjoy running on the track with our dogs, and we enjoy spending evenings with our families watching How to Train Your Dragon 2 and playing Mario Kart or Skyrim. However, when I see people who have done the things I have done in movies, and see the way they are depicted as I live today, it really breaks my heart. I’ve experienced prejudice, fear, and even been denied opportunities because I was a veteran of Iraq. What’s more, millions more like me have suffered far worse. Many have faced social ostracism, been denied jobs, and accosted publically for their role in an unpopular war. I just want people to understand, if that sort of treatment happens to you, it would mess you up in the head. People need to feel appreciated, loved, or at least not hated for doing something which they did for all the right reasons. Forget that the war even happened to these people. If you were to be treated as many returning vets were and are still today, you would not come out of it psychologically for the better.

This isn’t just something that sucks. It has been shown to affect how often veterans are hired in civilian positions after leaving the military. Did you know that veterans are discriminated against in hiring decisions because of the assumption that veterans have PTSD and may bring violence to the workplace? It has actually been measured that because of the negative bias created by these types of media, military veterans suffer unfair stereotyping and bias in hiring practices. This phenomena began making headlines when USA Today put out an article calling attention to it. Often, managers will look at a resume and say that, “He went to Iraq? He probably has PTSD. He might one day snap and shoot up the office.” The veteran is not hired because of an unfair stereotype no more accurate or just than not hiring an African American or Latino man because he was probably at one time part of a gang. 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 personal tragedy) it is assumed by many people that most veterans have the ailment. It is called PTSD bias and is most damaging among middle managers who don’t understand the disease.

Researchers from the Center for New American Security, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, interviewed executives of 69 leading corporations, including Bank of America, Target, Wal-Mart, Procter and Gamble, and Raytheon. All said hiring veterans can be good for business, but more than half acknowledged harboring a negative image of veterans because of how popular media — from news coverage to films — portray PTSD. [1]

About one in three employers consider post-traumatic stress disorder to be an impediment to hiring a veteran, according to a survey report by the Society for Human Resource Management. [2]
This in spite of the fact that military veterans are less prone to violence than all the other population groups when matched with their own age cohorts [3] and that the presence of non-active duty veterans alone has prevented dozens of criminal acts including bank robberies, muggings, and even acts of terrorism [4]. Still though, veterans are considered potential risk factors by employers when work places say they won’t hire “our kind [5]” and continue to experience higher unemployment rates in spite of more training and more experience than other potential candidates [6].

Hopefully, this example will show that there is a link between the incorrect assumptions formed by media and actual real world civilian perceptions which are affecting veterans’ lives. Perhaps it isn’t that, though. Maybe all vets really do just suck. Well, maybe, but all anyone really has to do is watch the climactic ending to Brothers to understand that Hollywood is pushing an image of veterans that frightens people. Even if you’ve seen the movie, please watch this scene again to really get a feel for how frighteningly people like me are portrayed.

Look, movies have power. The words they say have power. The words said in movies echo over and over and over in the minds of people who see it. The specifics of a guy put into an impossible situation, (literally the premise of Brothers was beyond plausible) are lost as the audience over time forgets the details. Eventually they start to generalize, “it’s a movie about a guy who comes back from the war and is now crazy. As I said, it isn’t just “some guy who came back from the war.”  The “do you know what I did to come back to you?” reference in the clip was of a Marine Corps Captain captured and forced to murder another Marine by his terrorist captors  to buy himself more time in detention before he could be rescued. Anyone would be psychologically damaged from that, however it is a work of complete fiction. There are no stories like that of any actual people who came back from Iraq or Afghanistan. It is complete fiction for the point of adding drama, but that fact is lost. A few months later, people who watched the film only remember, “it’s a movie about a guy who comes back from the war and is now crazy.” When they see a vet a month after that, and find out he was in the war, what framework are they working under? Do you think they are aware that the only reference they had was a movie that wasn’t even possible, which also sort of aligns with vague news reports they weren’t really listening to about veterans and mental illness, and that they already have an incredibly loaded bias behind this person they are now talking to? As I said, it isn’t just, “some guy who came back from the war.” Brothers is a work of fiction, and no one should have to prove themselves against it, but now we do.

Even movies which got a lot right made this unnecessary tangent into depicting veterans as war ravaged husks. Consider the “unfortunate dog scene” from American Sniper.

That was unfortunate because, according to the book, nothing like that was ever mentioned. There was a situation where Kyle killed a dog, but not like the movie. In fact, not even in the United States. In the book American Sniper, on a night before one of Kyle’s overwatch missions, one where he considered his role to be providing security and ensuring the lives of Marines and fellow SEALs under him, there was a dog barking outside his tent. He warned the owner to shut up the dog. The dog kept barking. Deprived of sleep and needing to rest for his responsibilities the next day, he warned the owner again. The dog kept barking. Kyle shot the dog. Given that context, is that anything like what was depicted in the movie? Given the true context of being literally in the middle of a war, doesn’t that kind of sound like something a responsible person might do? Asking another question, what possible reason existed for adding the numerous hints that Chris Kyle had developed PTSD over his numerous tours in Iraq, all the while in spite of no real world evidence existing that the actual person depicted in the film ever had come under the hold of the disease? Was his life not good enough without the extra drama?

In a couple of  interviews [7][8], Clint Eastwood said that the film was meant to be “anti-war”.

“I just wonder . . . does this ever stop? And no, it doesn’t. So each time we get in these conflicts, it deserves a lot of thought before we go wading in or wading out. Going in or coming out. It needs a better thought process, I think.”

While the point is valid, the medium he used was to display a falsified narrative about Kyle, and by extension, all others like him who deployed to the war.

“the biggest antiwar statement any film” can make is to show “the fact of what [war] does to the family and the people who have to go back into civilian life like Chris Kyle did.”
While I agree in practice, I have a problem with Eastwood’s decision to use mental destabilization and broken families as the “facts” that “family and the people who have to go back into civilian life” go through. That sort of experience isn’t universal and it isn’t even common, despite what they say in the movies.

I’m sure from a perspective of cinematography these movies probably pushed the industry forward somehow, but as far as communicating one of the most important social issues of our time, not to mention an ongoing conflict at the time, they have failed miserably. Many have set veterans’ issues back ten years. If we look at how much actually is known about PTSD, much of it discovered through studying and counseling done for combatants of the Vietnam war, and the mysterious black hole of mystery surrounding it now, one might question if the narrative of “a disease we still know so little about,” has set us back even further.

I want people to look at it this way. We have seen LGBT rights and issues get a lot of press and people are now trying very hard to see things from their perspective. It’s not acceptable anymore to portray them as the wildly stereotypical, flamboyant clowns circa the era of Robin Williams’ The Birdcage. No matter your beliefs, (I actually think The Birdcage was meant to help them, somehow…) we all agree that they’re people who deserve respect and to be portrayed in a realistic manner. However, the veteran population is allowed to be portrayed in any manner in which the world pleases to fulfill their narrative, and ironically, is considered a violation of 1st Amendment privileges to argue the practice, where a modern release of The Birdcage might be considered something between criminally insensitive or even a hate crime. These veteran depictions vary from bloodthirsty murderers (Battle for Haditha), psychologically scarred societal dangers (Brothers), impossible killing machines, but incapable husbands while in (American Sniper) unstable love interests, addicted to pills (Parenthood), and everything about the Hurt Locker. In fact, the Hurt Locker was so hurtful to the soldier it was beyond a reasonable doubt depicting, that he sued the filmmakers for his portrayal. Even consider the movie Max, about a dog who goes to Iraq and develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even a freaking dog who goes to war will come back mentally damaged. Where does it end? What is the overriding theme that Hollywood movies and television are trying to present? Basically, once a person goes to war, he is from then on, on the cusp of losing control and murdering everyone around him if the door slams too loudly. That’s what people seem to think is happening. Now, why is it that I brought the LGBT stance into this? Because, frankly, veterans outnumber the estimated homosexual population in the United States by at least 2:1. Why is it that one group of so many people is allowed to be so egregiously stereotyped, when the others aren’t? Furthermore, being gay isn’t a choice, but serving is. Whether you agree with their mentality, or what they did or didn’t do, they chose to serve their nation, which includes many reading this, in the best way they knew how. They deserve more respect than to become plot devices to the profit of people who neither cared about them, nor bothered getting to know and understand them.

I’ll leave you with this, Hollywood has power. It has the substantial power to mold the way that the average person identifies with experiences they have never had. Unfortunately, we live in an age where fewer and fewer people serve in the military. This is true as a percentage of the population and in real terms. We have fewer members of the military today than we did prior to World War II, and when the United States itself is twice as large. For that reason, for many, the movies are the only place they will experience the military, its veterans, or the struggles they face. When movies collectively paint only on the lines of a particular damaging movie narrative, it has a drastic impact on the lives of those it is thoughtlessly depicting. And it isn’t just the Hurt Lockers and the Brothers responsible for this. It echoes in the “artwork” of people who know even less, but who use these same devices in a downward spiral of our depiction. Below is an excerpt from an “incredibly powerful” short film by a college student for Project Greenlight entitled The Present Trauma.

This hurts me to see, not for the message it is trying to tell, but for the abuse on the character of those same individuals. It’s images like this which make a friend of mine tell me that when her husband finally came from Iraq, her friends asked her, “Do you feel safe?” It’s a childish attempt to do some good, more for creators than for the subjects, through the obvious manipulation, veterans as victims clickbait, but actually slapping the face of the plain old vet sitting at home, wondering why no one will hire him. Of course, the echo shows up in darker forms, where we are nothing more than, to use the words of Muse, “Fucking Psychos”.
I can’t help but agree with the rage of one anonymous writer in his visceral reaction to the propaganda layden depiction of veterans in Muse’s Psycho. It’s disgusting, and against no other minority would this sort of ignorance, callousness, and blind hatred be acceptable. But to the military, it is. It hurts us. We feel the sting of words, and this hurts us. Of course, I doubt this filth would have ever seen the light of day if not for a particular idea being so prevalent in our culture … that veterans are fucking psychos, something Hollywood is, in my opinion, doing the most harm in causing and the least good fixing.

Wow… all of a sudden I understand why 22 veterans kill themselves every day. It had nothing to do with Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s coming home to a place that treats them like this.


Thanks for reading. Everything I write is independent research, meaning that I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow JDT.  Please also show your support by visiting my support page here: Support Jon Davis creating A Military Sci-Fi Novel, Articles, and Essays.