The February 9, 2020 edition of The Status Quo: An Electronic Newsletter is dedicated to SFC Javier Gutierrez, 28, of San Antonio, TX and SFC Antonio Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, NM. While career politicians work to divide us, the bravest among us continue to sacrifice their lives so career politicians can exercise the rights guaranteed us by the U.S. Constitution. How depressing to know the greatest threat to the exercise of these inalienable rights is not the Taliban. The Taliban never posed a threat to the U.S. Constitution. The career politician poses the gravest threat to the U.S. Constitution because it is the career politician who measures success by dollars raised not good governance. It is the career politician who promises change but worships the status quo. It is the cancer that is the career politician that is eroding America’s security one 28-year-old NCO at a time.  

Special Operators

Much has been written over the past twenty years about Special Operators and special operations. In fact, it is no exaggeration to assert that more has been written about America’s elite warriors and their missions over the past twenty years than in the entire history of special operations. There is a reason for this increase in media coverage. On a beautiful September morning not so long ago the role modern special operators play in America’s national defense changed forever.

September 11, 2001 ushered in a new era in warfare; one where drones gather battlefield intelligence in real time, cyber warriors patrol the internet 24 hours a day 365 days a year, pilots launch precision strikes thousands of miles away from their intended targets all while working hand-in-hand with the most lethal warriors on the planet. After September 11, 2001, special operations ceased being solely a tactical weapon. These special soldiers, sailors and airmen became strategic weapons as well. The result of this “uptick in tempo” has been without question fewer servicemembers killed in action. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in these special servicemembers paying a much higher price for their sacrifices than other units in their respective services. The article below supports this assertion convincingly.

This change in warfighting did not occur overnight. This development came about only a few years ago with the creation of the Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC. JSOC is a component command of the United States Special Operations Command, which by its charter, is tasked to plan and conduct exercises as well as develop joint special operations tactics when required to execute special operations missions worldwide. It was established in 1980 following the experiences in Vietnam and the disaster that was the Iranian hostage crisis.

The groups or units that fall under the JSOC banner are the Army’s First Special Forces Detachment (Delta Force) and the legendary 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company as well as the US Navy’s famous Seal Team Six (Special Warfare Development Group) and the U.S. Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron have taken the term direct action to new heights. For example, Advanced Force Operations (AFO) is one of the newest terms in the special operations lexicon. AFO have taken the fight to the doorsteps of our enemies even when they hide in Pakistan or drive in Iraq. With special operations bases across the globe and often in very remote locations and well camouflaged, our enemies have come to accept that when JSOC is hunting them it is only a matter of time before they die.

As effective as these Special Operators have been in combating Muslim extremism, the truth is these warriors have been pushed to the limits of endurance both mentally and physically. Like the Army and the U.S. Marine Corps’ combat units returning home after 7 long and hard years of fighting in Iraq, many of these warriors have been pushed beyond their limits. It is also no exaggeration to assert that the most effective fighting force within the Department of Defense is at its breaking point. The article below and the stories emanating from their ranks should wake the American people to two undeniable facts. First, as their nation faces more lethal and determined enemies than the Taliban in 2020, they will do so with the career politician offering no new ideas other than endless wars to defeat these enemies. Second, as the career politician continues to divide us, they lose sight of the importance of ensuring that the special warriors receive the rest and relaxation or “R&R” all warriors need to adjust to life outside the combat zone. To do otherwise is to seriously degrade the most valuable weapon in the U.S. arsenal – men like SFC Gutierrez and Rodriguez.  

Special Operations forces are stretched to the danger point

      By David Ignatius New York Times on-line edition, 29 January 2020.

In late 2015, a Navy lieutenant wrote a graduate school thesis titled “Navy SEALs gone wild: publicity, fame, and the loss of the quiet professional.” That was a warning of trouble among America’s bravest but most stressed warriors.

The ethical squeeze got worse last year, when President Trump intervened in a military discipline case to protect a publicity-hungry SEAL named Eddie Gallagher, who had become a darling of Fox News despite allegations that he had violated SEAL rules. Pentagon leaders cringed at the president’s meddling, knowing it could make discipline problems worse.

“I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy. He was treated very badly,” Trump complained in a November tweet. He probably thought he was standing up for the military, but four retired four-star generals told me this week that Trump’s comment was a gut punch to the order and accountability these brave men and women need to perform their missions honorably.

A former commander warned of the cost to military ethics and discipline of presidential interference in the Gallagher case and two others Trump championed: “Now, the tendency is to reach out to Fox News. You might end up smelling like a rose, and you might even get invited to Mar-a-Lago,” as Gallagher and his wife were.

Special Operations Command (SOCOM) took an important step Tuesday to protect the integrity of its forces with the release of a comprehensive review of the “culture and ethics” of these elite units. It’s written in careful language (perhaps to a fault) and doesn’t go near the issue of Trump’s intervention in the cases of Gallagher and others.

But the thrust of the report is clear: Special Operations forces (SOF) are badly frayed by nearly 20 years of war. They’ve been the fix for every big military problem since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They’ve become the most fearsome killers in the history of warfare. But they’re at the red line.

Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke, the SOCOM commander, told reporters Tuesday: “We have a ‘can do’ culture with a bias toward action,” but nearly two decades of war have “imbalanced that culture” and “set conditions favorable for inappropriate behavior.” Clarke underlined that message Tuesday with a letter to the roughly 75,000 servicemembers under SOCOM: “Trust is our currency,” he wrote, but recent discipline issues have “jeopardized that trust.”

SOCOM warned in its 69-page report that it had “uncovered not only potential cracks in the SOF foundations at the individual and team level, but also through the chain of command, specifically in the core [tenets] of discipline and accountability.” If the underlying conditions aren’t addressed, “unethical behavior and misconduct” could put performance and safety at risk.

The military has known for a decade that its Special Operations forces were stretched to the danger point. Elite units were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan almost continuously, sometimes with no “dwell time” at home between assignments. A SOCOM commander worried a decade ago that the force was ragged. His master sergeant responded that it was worse; there were “gaping holes.”

SOCOM commanders have tried hard to repair the damage. Adm. Eric Olson in 2011 reported on pressure faced by special operators and their families. Adm. William H. McRaven, his successor, created mental- and physical-health facilities to better protect forces and families; Gen. Joseph Votel, the next commander, had earlier removed a Special Operations unit from Afghanistan that was reporting far more enemy killed-in-action than other units; Gen. Tony Thomas, who followed, sent troops a 2018 “guidance on ethics” and directed a focus on core values.

The pressures have eased. Because SOF personnel have nearly doubled since 9/11, servicemembers can now, in theory, spend two years at home for every year they’re deployed.

But culture begins at the top, with the United States’ political leadership. When Trump complains, as he did in a tweet last year, “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” he risks undermining commanders’ work on accountability. Even worse is when he seems to condone Gallagher’s attack on the SEAL commander for conducting a peer review of Gallagher’s SEAL status. “I would have torn him apart,” says one retired four-star general of Gallagher’s behavior. “That was insubordination, pure and simple.”

The United States’ debt to its SOF fighters is immense. They’ve lived the burden of combat and the reality that it can bring out the best and worst in people. Part of protecting these warriors is reducing the burden of too many deployments — and maintaining discipline and accountability when bad things happen.   

Time Waits for No One

Walking In Your Footsteps was written as a warning to humanity that time is running out on Man’s indifference. The indifference paid to the suffering of children permeates every society and all governments and that fact has been proven over and over again in these pages. The indifference paid to the health of our common planet is prevalent in every country and in most corporations and too has been proven in the pages. The simple fact is our species has run out of time to repair this planet and save our children from a future growing darker by the day.   

The quote below is just one paragraph in a book addressing many subjects critical to not only the reformation of government but the survival of our species. Climate change is real and the soaring temperatures across the globe prove this fact. The time has come for America’s leaders to discuss openly the migration of millions of Americans away from disaster ridden areas as well as from the rising tides. Our planet has begun to defend herself against the onslaught of man’s indifference. Unfortunately, she will not take a hundred years to defend herself. It took humans 100 years to destroy her ability to heal herself but it will not take her 100 years to eliminate the virus killing her children. She needs only a few years to mutate that virus emanating from North Korea, raise her temperature in response to fossil fuels or as we are witnessing with our own eyes drown humans by the score.  

The passage below from Walking In Your Footsteps is a clear and unambiguous warning that Mother Earth has grown tired of mankind’s assault upon her. She has decided to fight back. With that said, the following passage from Walking in Your Footsteps is offered as evidence that what was written 20 years ago is more relevant today than when it was written:

 “I believe the past one hundred years have witnessed more fundamental changes in man’s daily life than that experienced by all past generations combined. It is, nevertheless, only the beginning. I believe that the next fifty years will see more change in man’s daily life than that which occurred over the last hundred. I also believe that if this prediction does not come true, it will only be because Mother Earth will have adjusted our moral compass for us. If you believe Earth incapable of responding to the dangers threatening her, you underestimate her. She will not allow us to destroy her. She will defend herself. Who else can so quickly mutate a virus, erase ancient cities with a shiver and kill thousands with her winds, rain and fire?”

The Earth Is Just as Alive as You Are

     By Ferris Jabr, 20 April 2019, The New York Times online edition

Every year the nearly 400 billion trees in the Amazon rain forest and all the creatures that depend on them are drenched in seven feet of rain — four times the annual rainfall in London. This deluge is partly due to geographical serendipity. Intense equatorial sunlight speeds the evaporation of water from sea and land to sky, trade winds bring moisture from the ocean, and bordering mountains force incoming air to rise, cool and condense. Rain forests happen where it happens to rain.

But that’s only half the story. Life in the Amazon does not simply receive rain — it summons it. All of that lush vegetation releases 20 billion tons of water vapor into the sky every day. Trees saturate the air with gaseous compounds and salts. Fungi exhale plumes of spores. The wind sweeps bacteria, pollen, leaf fragments and bits of insect shells into the atmosphere. The wet breath of the forest, peppered with microbes and organic residues, creates ideal conditions for rain. With so much water in the air and so many minute particles on which the water can condense, rain clouds quickly form.

The Amazon sustains much more than itself, however. Forests are vital pumps of Earth’s circulatory system. All of the water that gushes upward from the Amazon forms an enormous flying river, which brings precipitation to farms and cities throughout South America. Some scientists have concluded that through long-range atmospheric ripple effects the Amazon contributes to rainfall in places as far away as Canada.

The Amazon’s rain ritual is just one of the many astonishing ways in which living creatures transform their environments and the planet as a whole. Much of this ecology has only recently been discovered or understood. We now have compelling evidence that microbes are involved in numerous geological processes; some scientists think they played a role in forming the continents.

Trees, algae and other photosynthetic organisms produce most of the world’s breathable oxygen, helping maintain it at a level high enough to support complex life, but not so high that Earth would erupt in flames at the slightest spark. Ocean plankton drive chemical cycles on which all other life depends and emit gases that increase cloud cover, altering global climate. Seaweed, coral reefs and shellfish store huge amounts of carbon, balance the ocean’s chemistry and defend shorelines from severe weather. And animals as diverse as elephants, prairie dogs and termites continually reconstruct the planet’s crust, altering the flow of water, air and nutrients and improving the prospects of millions of species.

Humans are the most extreme example of a creature transforming Earth. By spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we have drastically altered the planet’s response to solar radiation, spiking global temperatures, raising sea levels and intensifying storms.

One of the many obstacles to reckoning with global warming is the stubborn notion that humans are not powerful enough to affect the entire planet. “I don’t believe it,” President Trump said in response to one of his administration’s reports on anthropogenic climate change. In truth, we are far from the only creatures with such power, nor are we the first species to devastate the global ecosystem. The history of life on Earth is the history of life remaking Earth.

Faced with this preponderance of evidence, it is time to revive an idea that was once roundly mocked: the Gaia hypothesis. Conceived by the British chemist James Lovelock in the early 1970s and later developed with the American biologist Lynn Margulis, the Gaia hypothesis proposes that all the living and nonliving elements of Earth are “parts and partners of a vast being who in her entirety has the power to maintain our planet as a fit and comfortable habitat for life.”

Although this bold idea found an enthusiastic audience among the general public, many scientists criticized and ridiculed it. “I would prefer that the Gaia hypothesis be restricted to its natural habitat of station bookstalls, rather than polluting works of serious scholarship,” the evolutionary biologist Graham Bell wrote in 1987. The microbiologist John Postgate was especially vehement: “Gaia — the Great Earth Mother! The planetary organism!” he wrote in New Scientist. “Am I the only biologist to suffer a nasty twitch, a feeling of unreality, when the media invite me yet again to take it seriously?”

Over time, however, scientific opposition to Gaia waned. In his early writing, Dr. Lovelock occasionally granted Gaia too much agency, which encouraged the misperception that the living Earth was yearning for some optimal state. But the essence of his hypothesis — the idea that life transforms and in many cases regulates the planet — proved prescient and profoundly true. We and all living creatures are not just inhabitants of Earth, we are Earth — an outgrowth of its physical structure and an engine of its global cycles. Although some scientists still recoil at the mention of Gaia, these truths have become part of mainstream science.

“It’s definitely time to revisit Gaia,” said Adam Frank, an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester. Some scientists even agree that the planet is in a very meaningful sense alive. “Life is not something that happened on Earth, but something that happened to Earth,” said David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute. “There is this feedback between the living and nonliving parts of the planet that make the planet very different from what it would otherwise be.” As Dr. Margulis wrote, “Earth, in the biological sense, has a body sustained by complex physiological processes. Life is a planetary-level phenomenon and Earth’s surface has been alive for at least 3,000 million years.”

Those who bristle at the notion of a living planet will argue that Earth cannot be alive because it does not eat, reproduce or evolve. Yet science has never established a precise and universally accepted definition of life, only a long list of its qualities. Like many living creatures, Earth has a highly organized structure, a membrane and daily rhythms; it consumes, stores and transforms energy; and if asteroid-hitching microbes or space-faring humans colonize other worlds, who is to say that planets are not capable of procreation?

If Earth breathes, sweats and quakes — if it births zillions of organisms that ceaselessly devour, transfigure and replenish its air, water and rock — and if those creatures and their physical environments evolve in tandem, then why shouldn’t we think of our planet as alive?

Humans are the brain — the consciousness — of the planet. We are Earth made aware of itself. Viewed this way, our ecological responsibility could not be clearer. By fuming greenhouse gases, we have not simply changed the climate; we have critically wounded a global life form and severely disrupted its biological rhythms. No other member of this living assembly has our privileged perspective. No one else can see the sinews and vessels of our planetary body. Only we can choose to help keep Earth alive.

Gaia’s legacy can help us fulfill this responsibility. We can learn to recognize and amplify the planet’s innate climate-stabilizing processes. Earth has its own methods for storing carbon: A complex chain of chemical reactions involving plants, plankton and shellfish can lock atmospheric carbon in limestone. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, many Earth system scientists think we should study how to augment this natural sequestration and related processes.

In recent years the Amazon rain forest has endured unusually intense and frequent droughts, which some scientists have linked to deforestation and forest fires. It would be easy to compartmentalize these ecological shifts as local tragedies, but that detachment is an illusion. Seen through the lens of Gaia, the Amazon’s plight is the draining of our communal veins and arteries. We must learn to feel its thirst viscerally. “We are a part of this Earth and we cannot therefore consider our affairs in isolation,” Dr. Lovelock wrote. “We are so tied to the Earth that its chills or fevers are our chills and fevers also.”