Author Archives: GI Wilson

The Psychology of Killer Drones – action against our foes; reaction affecting us

Summary:  GI WIlson explains that we now have enough experience with drone warfare to study its effects.  Just as in physics, our actions affect ourselves as well as our targets. Social science research shows that drones are a gateway to moral disengagement dehumanization, and deindividuation. The great distances drones operate over, manipulated by faceless-nameless-lawyeristic-voyeurs, creates an emotional, mental, and physical divide between “us” ( i.e. our government) and the enemies we kill. Drones allow us to dissociate our actions from our values, a useful high-cost and high-tech justification.  At the end are links to gain more information about this new form of warfare.


For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
— Newtons Third Law of Motion, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687)

Flying Terminator

From “The Terminator”. Not written as history.


  1. Moral Disengagement
  2. Dehumanization
  3. Deindividuation
  4. Articles about UAV’s
  5. Other posts about UAVs
  6. References

(1)  Moral Disengagement

Bandura studied the behaviour of individuals engaging in destructive activities towards others, describing it as “moral disengagement”. “People do not generally act out destructively unless they have a mechanism to morally justify their actions to themselves and others” Moral disengagement encompasses ways one mitigates, justifies, neutralizes, or eliminates inhibitions or moral constraints connected to committing acts of violence or a crime. Bandura holds that people use moral disengagement techniques such as “cognitive reconstruction and dehumanization to view certain despicable acts or conduct as justifiable or rational” (Bandura, 2004).

McAlister, Bandura, & Owen (2006) describe four behavioural prongs of moral disengagement associated with violence particularly as it pertains to the military. The four prongs are moral justification, minimization of detrimental effects, disavowal of responsibility and dehumanization (McAlister, Bandura, & Owen, 2006):

At the behaviour locus, people transform lethal means into benevolent and moral ones through moral justification, advantageous comparison, and sanitizing language. At the agency locus, they are relieved of a sense of personal accountability by displacement and diffusion of responsibility. At the outcome locus, the injurious effects of lethal means are disregarded, minimized, or disputed. At the other end, foes are dehumanized and blamed for bringing the suffering on themselves (p. 142).

(2)  Dehumanization

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Book review: The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits

Summary:   A review of The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits by Catherine Herridge.  Reviewed by “GI” Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired).


When reading Catherine Herridge’s smashing investigative work on terrorism, The Next Wave, the lyrics from Jimmy Buffet’s “Trouble on the Horizon” immediately came to mind:

We got trouble, trouble right here in River City,
Every day’s becoming Halloween.
We never see it coming, We never have a clue,
But there’s trouble on the horizon, Waiting for the barbecue.

Indeed, “we got trouble, trouble right here in River City” with a lot more to come.  The Next Wave is a chilling autopsy of homegrown evil doers threatening the personal safety and security of Americans!  Herridge artfully provides insight into developing sources, nailing down facts, and collecting information. She underscores the value of open source intelligence concordant with critical thinking and real investigative journalism.

There is no political flummery concerning terrorism’s inroads into the United States. Herridge is all business, straight to the point, and springs a narrative with the force of a titanium-bear trap.   Herridge lives up to her nickname as the “Terror Pixie” — a very respectful well earned moniker given to Herridge by those who have come to admire her persistence, tenacious professionalism, and sheer guts.

In her work, she lays bare the insider threat to American’s existence (let alone America’s survival as a super power) from within at the hands of home grown evil doers. Herridge serves up a diabolical landscape of DC infighting, political correctness, duplicity, and warmed-over-interagency intrigue. Fathom the hypocrisy of a government allowing one of the worst-of-the-worst-Islamic terrorists to enter and depart the US unimpeded to do more evil.

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Careerism and Psychopathy in the US Military leadership

A summary view of our senior officer class:  “Glibness, Superficial Charm, Grandiose Sense of Self-Worth, Deceitful, Cunning, Manipulative, Lacks Remorse, Callous, Lacks Empathy, Does Not Accept Responsibility for Own Actions, and Impulsiveness … ”  That’s the conclusion of GI Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired) in this important essay.


Introduction from the Editor

The internal workings of the US military had little significance to the overall state of the nation, except during wars — until the post-WWII era.   With the military dominating our foreign policy and being one of the most trusted institution, the character of our senior generals may become a major factor shaping our future.  Hence the importance of this chapter by GI Wilson from The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It, edited by Winslow T. Wheeler and published by the Center for Defense Information and the World Security Institute.

This chapter draws on his experience in the USMC plus a Masters degrees in forensic psychology and business management.

“Careerism and Psychopathy in the US Military”

This essay attempts to make it easier for you to identify the quality and character of military officers and civilian bureaucrats, to increase your awareness and recognition of careerism and its consequences. As Americans, we all must exercise more care and caution in our appraisal of our senior military officers and the Washington “suits” that exert dominating influence on the cost of defense and the conduct of American national security policy.

The Department of Defense (DOD) that I have observed all too closely for over three decades is an overgrown bureaucracy committed to standing still for, if not actively promoting, poorly conceived policy agendas and hardware programs funded and supported by Congress. Coupled to that is the task of attracting the blind loyalty of senior military and civilian actors on the Washington, D.C. stage. For the careerists in America’s national security apparatus, it is all about awarding contracts and personal advancement, not winning wars.

Careerists serve for all the wrong reasons. They weaken national defense, rob the military of its warrior ethos and drive away the very highly principled mavericks that we need to reverse the decay. This can only be remedied by rekindling the time honored principles of military service (i.e. duty, honor, country) among both officers and civilians.

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Killing Machines: Promises and Limits

Summary:  Unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones, UAVs) are a large step toward autonomous killing machines (aka Terminators) that will eventually become another generation of warfare.  By themselves they bring the long-standing dream of precision bombing to a degree undreamed of when first imagined in the 1930’s.  Used outside war zones (aka on the “global battlefield”) against targeted individuals they make assassination a routine tool of statecraft, another new development in western civilization.

Tara Mckelvey’s “Inside The Killing Machine” (Newsweek, 13 February 2011) and Robert Kinder’s “The Promise And Limits Of Drones” (New York Daily News, 14 February 2011) are very revealing in ways I suspect that are not intended with their eloquent descriptions of video-game approach to warfare. For example Kinder writes:

“The five men sat huddled together on the floor of the remote building, deep in the mountains of North Waziristan, in Western Pakistan. Bending over a map, they plotted an attack against a U.S. outpost located just over the border in neighboring Afghanistan. Meanwhile, miles away, a pilot stared intently at the screen in front of her as she remotely piloted one of America’s most lethal weapons. Unbeknownst to the men, the unmanned Predator she was flying had acquired their position and was quietly circling thousands of feet above. Two Hellfire missiles crashed through the roof of the home, instantly killing them and curtailing their planned attack on the U.S. base.”

This detached video game depiction by Kinder is further detailed by Mckelvey who writes:

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Building a new generation of visionary leaders for the US military

Summary:  As our military wages an apparently endless long against whatever (terror, jihadists, Islam), it’s not too soon to start thinking about the next generation of military leadership.  Petraeus and his peers took the shining instrument built from the shambles of Vietnam.  How sharp will it be when they’re done?  Who will lead the long effort to rebuild it for the 21st century?  GI Wilson points to some answers.  At the end are links to more on this subject.

Here are two articles of interest for those concerned about the US military, especially the second:

  • Growing Strategic Leaders for Future Conflict“, Barak A. Salmoni, Jessica Hart, Renny McPherson, and Aidan Kirby Winn, Parameters, Spring 2010
  • The Next Petraeus“, Renny McPherson, Boston Globe, 26 September 2010 — “What makes a visionary commander, and why the military isn’t producing more of them.”

Renny gives us much to think about. We need more scribes taking up a discussion of leadership (general officer and otherwise) for where are the mavericks that served the Nation so well a la George Patton, Pete Ellis, Chesty Puller, and John Boyd. Any leadership discussion will eventually go down the path of why the Nation requires a USMC. It is more than the Nation needing and wanting a USMC though theses factors are pillars in the Nation’s sage logic.

I pray Renny is the bow wave of veterans returning to our private and public educational institutions. Renny and those who have served literally “have been there and done that.” They have the moral and professional obligation to now offer respectful umbrage and criticism of politicos. Ironically most of the academic, commercial, and political leaders they meet at the top have never seen combat ( perish the thought of serving for let someone else do that) or experienced providing first aid at scene of a bad auto accident. In other words these labeled-leaders never look the tiger in the eye.

I do offer caution to Renny’s and his colleagues approach to assessing leadership from the top for he writes:

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Defining the Marine Corps’ Strategic Concept

Summary:  Finding a new strategic concept for the US military services becomes imperative.  The army rots from within under the stress of endless deployments without the prospect of victory.  The navy faces no strategic opponents, only regional opponents establishing control of littoral zones we cannot penetrate.  The Air Force faces obsolescence in its present form from the evolution of unmanned vehicles.  As for the Marines, here we see a vision of its future from FM contributors GI Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired) and H. T. Hayden (Lt Colonel, USMC, retired).  This builds on their post from August.  At the end are links to other sources of information.

As the Nation begins its reevaluation of our national security interests and seeks ways to downsize the military’s budget, it would be wise to consider the complementary role naval forces, particularly amphibious forces, play in the future.

The euphoria of the Gulf War’s 100-hour ground combat action was short lived and is now reminiscent of  our measured exit from Iraq.  Although the Navy and the Marine Corps still enjoy the grassroots support of the American people, it is foolhardy to expect that this sentiment to automatically translate into continued Congressional funding to support Navy and Marine Corps programs. Congress and the Secretary of Defense are targeting Navy and Marine Corps programs and do not be surprised with attempts to pit the Navy against the Marines.

Congress bailed on the Marines by not supporting the renaming of the Department of Navy to Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. Despite that this works to the benefit of both the Navy and Marines by correctly refocusing our government on the fact we are a maritime Nation. Unfortunately, with the “combat mission” completed in Iraq and surge in Afghanistan comes the resurgence of inter-Service rivalry, a redefinition of roles and missions, and competing requirements for budget dollars.

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We could reduce government bureaucracy, but much of it is military/intel – and untouchable

Summary:  We need less government waste and greater efficiency.  These are good and important objectives, but we must have realistic expectations about the potential gains.  Other than transfer payments (a separate problem) spending on the government machinery funds the military and intelligence agencies — with everything else an annex.

G. I. Wilson looks at the size of the government bureaucracy

Where are the streamlining and cost cutting efforts of the rest of the US government (USG) to be seen or found? See this article:  “Don’t just cut defense“, Jack Kelly, op-ed in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 29 August 2010 — “The Pentagon needs a trim, but there’s more fat elsewhere.”
We are witnessing state governments taking drastic budget measures but sadly we also witnessing the greed of unions who rather see states go under than contribute to their successful recovery.

If a department or agency cannot streamline their layers at the very top and reduce their budgets by 13%-21%  now they need to be eliminated. It must start at the top. Any department/agency that is allegedly too critical to be subjected to budget control measures AND streamlining the top of their bureaucratic pet rocks need to be immediately placed on the chopping block.

It is not a matter of being too big/fat to fail but a matter of being too big/fat to effectively function at a reasonable cost demonstrating a ROI even in government. Freddie and Fannie are illustrative USG examples of how failure at the highest levels is rewarded/reinforced at huge cost to the tax payer.

Why do we have a USG that steadfastly believes in rewarding and reinforcing failure ? It seems it pays well at the job to be a failure in government. Makes one think of the city government of Bell, CA as well where the city officials paid themselves exorbitant salaries while so many of their constituents are jobless.

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