Phil 12/3/2021



  • Continuing to work on paper. I want to add a section that talks about how our biases affect our tactical and strategic decisions. From Ethics Education for Irregular Warfare:
    • For the four members of SEAL Team 10, inserted in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan’s Kunar province on the night of June 27, 2005, however, the problem was not this puzzling abundance of private contractors and security firms in the battlespace, but a decided absence of reinforcements or backup support of any kind in a remote and inaccessible region far from their operational headquarters. Codenamed ‘Operation Redwing’, the mission of these Special Forces personnel was to reconnoiter and get ‘eyes on’ Ahmad Shah, a close associate of Osama bin Laden, whose attacks had been taking a heavy toll on Marines operating in eastern Afghanistan. After setting up their observation post on a mountainside, overlooking a village near the Pakistani border in which this key Taliban leader was believed to be encamped with a small army, the four-man team was approached at midday by two Afghan men and a 14-year-old boy, herding their flock of goats. The SEALs debated over whether to kill the three civilians in order to protect their cover, try to hold them prisoner, or simply turn them loose and abandon the mission. After arguing among themselves, the four SEALS decided to let the Afghans go, and attempt to re-position. A little later, however, nearly one hundred Taliban fighters materialized, coming across the same ridge over which the goat-herds themselves had fled. The SEAL team fought for several hours, killing an estimated 35 of the enemy, but eventually they were overwhelmed. Their commanding officer, US Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, was shot and killed as he called for backup.
  • In this case, Lt. Murphy made the ethical choice, and the proximal cause of his death was that choice. However, the lack of support plays into the result as well, and at a still higher level, the abandonment of Afghanistan to the Taliban shows that many of the decisions made in that 20-year campaign were deeply flawed.
  • We, as human beings have many biases. These may involve gender, ethnicity, and race. But we also have less obvious biases also affect how we make decisions on those issues that affect us such as national security. For example, the USA (among other countries) has a bias towards advanced weapons systems [citation needed]. This is reflected in the decisions to incorporate AI/ML into the nations military. The focus is on intelligent munitions, drones, hypersonic missiles, etc. But since the end of the cold war (in 19xx?), the majority of military operations have been in irregular conflict, such as Kosovo, Somalia, and Afghanistan. An intelligent munition would not have helped Lt. Murphy’s team decide whether to kill, hold, or release the Afghan shepherds that stumbled upon them. But information presented in a way that lets a user clearly visualize the likely outcome of a trajectory of choices, may well choose another path. After Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, leaders might think twice if that they see they are heading towards the part of the map marked “Quagmire”.
  • Done with this pass!