The Trump Revolution: 9/11 Presidential-Level Issues Considered


Forget all the election rhetoric of the past many months. The new President will face real issues, real challenges. Now is a good time, therefore, to review important lessons learned from 9/11.

Here are six such lessons, beginning with the most important, transition.

1. Terrorists struck during the transition from one administration to another, and from one party to another.

This is not about current planning being done by both candidates. It is about the actual transition of power, something that does not happen overnight. International actors, known and unknown, will test the new administration.

Transition is an inherent period of instability that requires diligence, efficiency, and collaboration. What thought have the candidates given to transition? How are they going to meld the outgoing administration, the incoming administration and the congress into an diligent, efficient and collaborative team?

A comprehensive transition should facilitate decision making, especially if the transition is from one political party to the other. And that is the second lesson learned.

2. The terrorists were able to operated well within the nation’s decision making process

It is a military imperative to operate inside the decision making cycle of an enemy.

The 9/11 attacking force, numbering just 19 members, easily stayed inside the nations’s decision making process. From the moment the first two hijackers arrived in California on January 15, 2000, until ordinary citizens took matters into their own hands and brought down United Airlines flight 93 twenty months later, the nation was always behind, strategically and tactically

The attackers commandeered commercial airliners and converted them into guided missiles that destroyed the World Trade Center complex, seriously damaged the Pentagon, and ultimately failed to strike a final target. Not once did the government under two administrations gain the upper hand, always playing catch up, and just missing a final opportunity to keep flight 93 from taking off.

What will the new President do to streamline decision processes among and within the organizations that make up the bureaucracy?

Just one system was attacked on 9/11. But there are many systems and subsystems in the bureaucracy that are supposed to keep the government functioning and the people safe. And that is the third lesson learned.

3. Government is a complex mix of systems and subsystems that need protection

9/11 was an attack on the National Airspace System (NAS), a subsystem of the National Transportation System. Two people, the National Operations Manager, and the Commander, Northeast Air Defense Sector, were responsible for the operation and defense of the NAS on the East Coast. Over time, the occupants of those positions had never met, their staffs did not know each other, and the two organizations had never exercised together. They never shared a common operating picture of the threat, or the battlefield as the attack unfolded.

What will the new President do to ensure operational information gets to where it is needed and that the operators and defenders of government systems and subsystems share critical information? Do the candidates appreciate the complex arrangement of systems and subsystems that keep the government functioning?

The operators and defenders of the systems and subsystems of government were and are the battle commanders. And that is the fourth lesson learned.

4. 9/11 was a battle in a larger war on terror

Presidents and Generals fight wars. Colonels and civilians of equivalent grade fight battles. There was no time for national level involvement. As it happened, the national level was just getting itself organized when American Airlines flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. No National Command Authority should be so surprised.

What role can and should the President play in a fast moving battle? What are the relevant authorities of the President? What should the President further delegate and how can that be done quickly? Is the National Command Authority where it needs to be to face a national threat? And that is the fifth lesson learned.

5. The National Command Authority failed to recognized that the 9/11 attack was a threat to the nation, not a threat to the person of the President or Vice President.

The attack was a national threat. The Secret Service, with help from the White House Staff and the Pentagon, perceived a personal threat. As a result both the Vice President and President were denied the opportunity to stand and deliver, to face the threat and, if necessary, die.

The Vice President was consigned to PEOC purgatory. The President hightailed to the hinterland because that is where Air Force One took him. Neither could communicate effectively with the other.

How will a new President seek to ensure that the National Command Authority is present for duty in a chaotic situation? And that is the sixth lesson learned.

6. 9/11 and the aftermath descended into Chaos, nearly unmanageable.

Chaos is the one, near universal, word used to describe the events of September 11, 2001. Participants were recorded using the word, eyewitnesses and other commentators used it, and writers and journalists continue to use it. No one defines chaos, it is simply understood.

John Farmer, in a Team 8 memo to the Commission front office wrote:

In perhaps no aspect of the 9-11 attacks is the public record, as reflected in both news accounts and testimony before this Commission, so flatly at odds with the truth. The challenge in relating the history of one of the most chaotic days in our history…is to avoid replicating that chaos in writing about it.

On September 12, 2010, Ted Koppel, in the Washington Post, Outlook Section, wrote:

Could bin Laden in his wildest imaginings, have hoped to provoke greater chaos?” The article was titled: “Let’s stop playing into bin Laden’s hands.

Chaotic events eventually settle into a steady state. Koppel’s comment suggests we are nowhere near a new steady state. The nation and the world must be prepared to manage chaos. How will the new President do that?

Turning Washington upside down on day one is not the answer.


The Trump Revolution: A final word


It is November 3, 2017. This is the sixth and penultimate occasional article on the Trump Revolution. We began the series with the primaries when it appeared that Trump was a new breed of revolutionary. That perspective had a short shelf life, just three articles (one, two, three). It became readily apparent that the revolution was floundering.

In the fourth article, I wrote that “my original premise has turned out wrong. Whatever Trump is, opportunist or charlatan, he is not a revolutionary.”

In the fifth article, I summarized that

Trump has so far mastered just one process of revolution, intimidation. His casual base is anachronistic (Make America Great Again). He has shown limited talent to effectively harness resources. We don’t yet know if he is capable of decisive action against his opponent.

And that is where I left things. The conventions and the three debates were fascinating theater but they added nothing that encouraged me to comment further. Events took a life of their own that enthralled and consumed pundits of all stripes.

However, the election is fast approaching and it is imperative and compelling that I document my perspective, for the record. I begin with a clear statement of what Trump has been all along.

What Trump Is

Trump is a businessman, always was, always will be. So, the question is what business approach looks like a revolution in its early stages? And the answer is hostile takeover.

Trump has, with some loose ends, completed a hostile takeover of the Republican party. Now he is attempting a hostile takeover of the nation. In Trump’s world bankruptcy has been the outcome. In Trump’s world, all others lose and he  walks away a winner.

The Republican party is a bankrupt shadow of its former existence. The nation cannot afford the same outcome.

Ted Cruz, during the primary debates, and Michael Bloomberg, during the conventions, both labeled Trump for what he is, a con man running a scam. In Bloomberg’s words: “Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s run his business. God help us. I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one.”

The con he is running is bait and switch, the same one he used at Trump University.

Bait and Switch

The “New Yorker” describes Trump University as a bait and switch operation. The “National Review” labeled the scam as “massive.” The “bait and switch” technique was no better displayed than students having their pictures taken with a life-sized cardboard cutout of Trump.

Now Trump is running the same con on the American people during his run for President. Two examples will suffice.

First, Trump effectively took the Supreme Court nomination issue off the table by producing a list to lull his base. Those who believe Trump has any allegiance to that list have not been paying attention. That list was and is the bait.  The switch has yet to come.

Second is the wall and mass deportation. Both are bait. Only the true believers think either will happen. Trump has already foretold the switch. He set the table with the formation of an Hispanic council and with a sudden and inexplicable visit to meet the President of Mexico.

Most observers can see the switch coming. No wall, no mass deportation. Trump followers do not see that coming.

So that is where we are, today.

The State of Affairs

The Trump revolution never got off the ground after a nice start during the primary season. The Republican Party as a responsible entity in the national political system has been destroyed. Looming is a hostile takeover of the nation, fueled by incessant stories of gropings, emails, Access Hollywood tapes, and Wikileaks.Those are all depressing looks at the past.

Perspective on the future is needed in the final days leading up to the general election. The nation is at its most vulnerable as it transitions from one administration to another. A different discussion will help the electorate decide who will guide the nation next spring, summer, and fall as international actors, known and unknown, test a new administration and threaten the nation.

During a similar period 16 years ago, the nation was tested, threatened, and attacked. As we approach the 16th anniversary of 9/11 it might be helpful to review Presidential-level lessons learned from that day. That will be the subject of my last article in this series.  Stay tuned.

The Trump Revolution: Convention Time; An Update

It is Monday, July 18, and the political conventions of 2016 are upon us. It is time for another update on the Trump revolution.

This is the 5th in an occasional series of articles begun under the premise that Donald Trump is a revolutionary. That theme played out for three (first, second, third) articles. By the fourth article it was clear that Trump was not a revolutionary and we chatted about that in that last article.

In this article I will discuss the faltering Trump revolution in theoretical terms. Before we delve into that a couple of metaphors may be helpful to set the stage. Let’s begin with a race track metaphor.

The Race Track

Immediately out of the starting gate the Republican field began to sort itself out as the candidates jockeyed for position down the back stretch, the primaries. As the field neared the turn, the pivot in the vernacular, it did not come together as a cohesive pack following a single leader through the turn.

The turn, in race track parlance, is the convention. The thundering herd is supposed to get itself organized behind a thoroughbred leader commanding all erstwhile opponents to follow. That has not yet  happened.

On the Republican side, we have a slip-shod, rogue palomino, attempting to lead a stampeding herd.

Joining him for the stretch run from a parallel race track universe is a filly who has commanded her herd to get in harness and pull together down the stretch. This is no thoroughbred leader on the other side, either.

Even so she has managed to pull together a team of draft horses, to plod a steady course down the stretch.  Clydesdale’s they are not, but it is a team effort.

So that’s where we stand, a plodding team of work horses versus a one horse grandstand show. It is time to break out the popcorn folks.  As you are doing that another metaphor, sand boxes, may help you understand how we got to this point.

Sand Boxes

Consider five sand boxes, two are in the sand lot league, two are in the minor league, and one is the major league–the show, the big dance. The two sand lot boxes are the primaries, the minor league boxes are the conventions, and show time is the general election.

Each party gets a beginners sand box. Here, candidates build castles, hone skills, and toss cat poop at their opponents. Only one can survive, sort of “Hunger Games” on steroids.  The objective is to eliminate all contenders.

On the republican side this was an easy task, even though it was a crowded play space. Some contenders built elaborate policy sand castles. Others peered wistfully over the parapet at the other sides sand box. A few did nothing at all.

Just one person, Trump, understood that it was not necessary to build, peer, or stand idly by. The task was to destroy all sand castles and kick sand in everyone’s face.

The struggle on the democrat side was not easy. There were just two serious players and each had built a castle that could not be easily demolished. It took a while, but one prevailed.

Once the beginners sand box have been conquered the winners advance to the minor league boxes where they must convince the players at that level—the RNC and the DNC—that they are for real and must be supported without dissent.

And that is where we are at as of July 18, 2016. The presumptive nominees are now getting ready to play at the next level. Looking forward, all sides understand that it is necessary to emerge from the conventions with unity to compete in prime time.

With the metaphorical stage set we now have time to go back and revisit an original premise.  That premise was, as outlined in the first article, that the American political system requires that the game of revolution be played every four years.

Those who would be revolutionaries in any other time or place get the opportunity to be just that in our system that, itself, emerged from a successful revolution. Such a revolution was modeled by Roger Darling.

Roger Darling

Unsatisfied with the quantitative, ineffective US Government analysis of the effort in Vietnam, Darling published “A New Conceptual Scheme for Analyzing Insurgency” in February 1974, in Military Review.  He later recognized that insurgency was the wrong term and republished his work in November 1977, again in Military Review, under a new title, “Revolution Examined Anew.”  He changed not a single word in his original work, just the title.

Briefly, Darling identified four processes and three dynamics that described successful revolutions.  His scheme was qualitative, the processes and dynamics were not discrete. Rather, they combined and reinforced each other as the revolution moved forward.

The processes are:

  • Casual
  • Intimidation
  • Resource
  • Guerrilla Action (action against opponent)

The dynamics are:

  • Social Political Participation [primaries]
  • Revolution Resources [conventions]
  • Government (opponent) Resources [general election]

I have added the words in parentheses and brackets to better describe revolution in terms of the American political process. Following is a brief overview of the processes and dynamics as written by Roger Darling

Causal Process

“In…designing the causal process…the qualitative revolution’s leadership is sincerely addressing deeply felt (if not spiritual) sentiments…”  Causes are static.  The causal process makes a static situation dynamic. “The causal process has one basic aim, to capture popular motivation and hold it.” Further, “A revolution’s strength and expansionary capacity arise from [this] process of positive motivation.”

Intimidation Process

This is the negative side of the coin. Darling explained it this way: “The revolutionist is not unaware that some adherents will not be fully attracted…or, if the are, they may waver.” “[The revolutionist]…weaves into [the causal process] a web of real or implied intimidation.” “[Supporters] are induced to cooperate positively through the causal process, and negatively through…intimidation…”

Therefore, “The causal process and intimidation process…become mutually reinforcing in a combined single dynamic.”   Darling called that a “combined dynamic [of] social/political participation.”

He then went on to define the resource process, one critical to maintain, sustain, and grow the organization.

Resource Process

Internally, “the motivation created in the causal process inspires acts of participation.” The cause and resource processes become a dynamic, “a mutually reinforcing relationship.”  That relationship becomes a “self-generating foundation of strength.” That foundation leverages the causal-resource process to generate external resources. In Darling’s words, the resource process “broadens [the] base of strength.”  It becomes a “combined dynamic (re revolutionists) resources.”

The task remains, then, to weaken the opposition base of strength. Darling’s term for that process was guerrilla action.

Guerilla Action Process

Here, we deviate from Darling to focus on the American political process. Nevertheless, his ideas and descriptions remain valid.

The tactics and techniques of the guerrilla action process are the same as those of the intimidation process. Only difference is the target is now the opposition (democrats) not  former opponents (republicans).

Foremost, Darling identified a basic fact. This process is “not geared to win.” It is designed to create a “subtle reign of intimidation” in which the “population is induced to cooperate more significantly with the [revolutionists]” than with the other side. The objective is not to win so much as it is to get the other side to lose.

Darling referred to this last dynamic as a “collective psychological strategy process….[an] exact application of the principle of judo—getting your opponent’s weight and actions to reinforce your actions against him.”

And this is the inherent danger to the democrats in the general election. Aware or not, they are facing the same political judo that laid waste to the republican party.

In Summary

Trump has so far mastered just one process of revolution, intimidation. His casual base is anachronistic (Make America Great Again). He has shown limited talent to effectively harness resources. We don’t yet know if he is capable of decisive action against his opponent. He has yet to show that he is more than a one-trick pony.


The Trump Revolution: So, Where Are We Now?

This is the fourth in an occasional series of articles on the Trump revolution. Given that things seem to be at sixes and sevens it is time for an update as we enter the convention season in the aftermath of the tragedy at Orlando.

To catch up, readers may want to review the first three articles (one, two, three).

In article two we listed four essential tasks for a successful revolution, or political movement, for that matter.  Here they are:

    • Become King of the Hill, the only candidate still standing
    • Master the Game of Thrones, compel all foes to bend a knee
    • Control the Will of the Convention, harness the RNC or become harnessed to achieve unity
    • Run to the Center to cause the election opponent to lose

Trump is King of the Hill, but the revolution has stalled out. He is acting like the dog who caught a car and now does not know what to do with it. It is as if he does not want to win as he consistently sabotages himself. Therefore, it is time for a reassessment.

Trump is not a revolutionary

My original premise has turned out wrong. Whatever Trump is, opportunist or charlatan, he is not a revolutionary. He has shown no ability to master the Game of Thrones. His ability to harness the RNC is increasingly in doubt. He cannot run to a center that does not exist in his world view. We start with the Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones

In a successful revolution all banners are uncased, unfurled, and flying briskly in the prevailing wind. Here we are talking specifically about Trump’s sixteen vanquished foes on his way to be King of the Hill.  He is the only candidate standing, his only success, so far.

Some foes, Bush in particular, have not even uncased a banner. Others have, but they remain unfurled, hanging limply without regard to the hurricane force wind that Trump is blowing. Those that are unfurled fly in disparate directions, with two exceptions, Christie and Carson.

This is not the stuff of a successful revolution. Neither is Trump’s heavy handed approach to the RNC and the convention.

Will of the Convention

No one knows how this will turn out.  In a successful revolution the outcome is predetermined early on and the activists join the banner parade with steadfast enthusiasm. There is nothing ‘stead’ or ‘fast’ about the underwhelming enthusiasm of those who should be supporting Trump.

Further, no one has shown the gravitas to tell the presumptive nominee that he has no clothes. No one has shown the courage to stop what is fast becoming a tilting of windmills. A comparison to Don Quixote, while apt, does Quixote a disservice.

As things are brewing, the convention will be unlike any other. Fascinating theater but to what end for the republican party?  Will the convention be a lemming leap to disaster, a lock step totalitarian parade, or something else we cannot fathom? The early money should be on the latter outcome. We don’t know, but it should be good theater leading into the general election.

Run to the Center

There is a bit of symmetry here. The democrats are also having difficulty getting their act together. They are better organized to run to the center but run the risk of being trampled in the process by someone who has no defined center.

The problem for the republicans is they need a defined center, but their candidate is not interested. So, what do we have with Trump, fantasy or reality? Or something else?

Fantasy and Reality

Let’s call the fantasy story Trumplestiltskin, for lack of a better term. This sentence in the Wikipedia description of the Rumplestiltskin plot is apt (emphasis added): “When she has given up all hope, an imp-like creature appears in the room and spins the straw into gold in return for her necklace (since he only comes to people seeking a deal/trade).”

In reality, we may have the People’s Republic of Trump in the offing. Trump is smarter than every one, so he says. If so, then he knows everything about everything. As such he joins just one other person who lives in that rarefied atmosphere, Kim Jong Un, a person Trump said he would accept if he visited here.

Or Something Else

Something else is uncharted water and no one has the map. Poseidon and Titanic are cautionary words that come quickly to mind as we navigate those waters.

The Trump Revolution: where he is; where he needs to be, second update

This is the third in a series of articles on the Trump revolution. In the first article we established that Trump was a revolutionary, that the American political process institutionalized the processes of revolution, and that Trump was headed down the revolutionary path.

In the second article we set down the following requirements for a successful revolution:

  • Become King of the Hill, the only candidate still standing
  • Master the Game of Thrones, compel all foes to bend a knee
  • Control the Will of the Convention, harness the RNC or become harnessed to achieve unity
  • Run to the Center to cause the election opponent to lose

So, where are we?

King of the Hill

It is now May 4, 2016, and both Cruz and Kasich have suspended their campaigns leaving Trump as the de facto King of the Hill, the only candidate still standing. Difficult tasks are still ahead. The Game of Thrones begins in earnest.

Game of Thrones

Previously, Christie and Carson quickly bent a knee to support Trump. Today, Jindal bent a qualified knee.  His position is that, given a binary choice between Trump and Clinton, he chooses Trump.  Jindal has set the stage for at least a perfunctory bending of the knee by all former Trump foes.

Those who do not bend a knee are consigned to oblivion in this election cycle.  At a minimum, Trump will simply ignore those who do not make at least the Jindal pledge.  Therefore, Trump will approach the convention with at least the illusion that he has unified the opposition.

Will of the Convention

Bending of knees aside, the real battle of wills ahead is that between the Trump vision and the RNC vision of the future.  As that battle looms the RNC would do well to remember from whence came Trump.

Trump has consistently played all sides against the middle. He will continue to do so. Trump is a republican of convenience. As a revolutionary he had two paths to the general election. He could have entered the primary battle as either a democrat or a republican. He chose the clearly weaker path.

What’s not to like about a field of battle divided into fiefdoms by 16 other contenders, as opposed to a field of battle dominated by a single individual?

Interestingly, that other field of battle brought forth its own Trump doppelganger, in the person of Sanders. Both Trump and Sanders are revolutionaries. Both share a common vision, only one has a path to victory, at least so far. The other battle has not yet been decided.

Let the conventions begin to set the stage for the general election.

Running To The Center

Here’s the fundamental factor. Politicians run as close to the center as they can without significantly alienating their base.  For revolutionaries there is no center.  Agendas of base, left-right, liberal-conservative have no bearing.  Why? Because revolutionaries bring their own agenda to the table and that agenda owes no allegiance to conventional wisdom.

This should be a heads-up warning to the democrats and to the democratic candidate.  The Trump revolution laid waste to the republican party. Given the opportunity, it will do the same to the democratic party.  If successful, there will be a new day. There will be no going back to previous conditions. They will no longer exist.

The final Trump challenge is get his democratic opponent to lose.  Regardless of how the run-up to the general election unfolds, neither Trump nor his opponent get to decide.

Successful revolutions rely on assured behavior from the populace.  Nothing about the American populace is assured. The populace will take the measure of the candidates and render a decision. At the end of the day the will of the people will prevail.

“Government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” (Abraham Lincoln)


The Trump Revolution: where he is; where he needs to be, an update

On the eve of the Wisconsin primary it is time for an update on Donald Trump, the revolutionary. When Governor Christie’s endorsed Trump I published “The Trump Revolution: where he is; where he needs to be.” So, where are we?

According to the article, Trump is a revolutionary, the American political system institutionalizes the processes of revolution, and Trump has four tasks remaining to be accomplished.  The four are:

  • Become King of the Hill, the only candidate still standing
  • Master the Game of Thrones, compel all foes to bend a knee
  • Control the Will of the Convention, harness the RNC or become harnessed to achieve unity
  • Run to the Center to cause the election opponent to lose

King of the Hill. Trump has not succeeded in thinning the herd. Two remain, still, at this late date.  His ability to be alone at the top going into the convention is now problematic. Bluster and intimidation are no longer working to his advantage. Successful revolutionary movements have both positive and negative components. A successful movement has an ideology with broad positive appeal. Without positive appeal the Trump revolution lacks quality and has reduced chances of success.

Game of Thrones. Two knees have bent, Christie and Carson. Other knees have also bent, but not in Trump’s favor. In a successful revolutionary movement all knees are bent for the King of the Hill.  Sitting out is not an option; successful revolution requires all knees to bend. If not, the Trump revolution sputters.

Will of the Convention. The necessary outcome of the convention is unity, without reservation. Neither the Trump campaign nor the RNC has demonstrated that they can compel unity. All know they cannot proceed to the general election without unity. The outcome is not predictable, except to say, united they stand, divided they fall.

Run to the Center. Trump has shown an uncertain ability to run to the center if he gets the nomination. He has not shown the astuteness needed to do so in a way that will cause his Democratic opponent to lose.

“On Wisconsin”

The Trump Revolution: where he is; where he needs to be

The Christie Endorsement

Governor Christie endorsed Donald Trump on Feb 26, 2016. A political revolution is well under way. That comes as no surprise when we consider that the American election process is a revolution every four years. Revolution has been institutionalized. Some folks are better at this than others. Enter Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a revolutionary. He is capturing the Republican Party and the party does not know what to do. The party missed the first sign when Trump fired a shot across the bow of Senator John McCain. From that moment, every move that Trump has made follows revolutionary theory, as I understand it.

Revolutionary Theory

During the period 1974-1980, I led a team which developed an original framework for analyzing political revolutionary warfare. The framework combined the research of two individuals that few have heard of, Roger Darling and Tom Grassey. A detailed discussion of their work waits for another day. Here is the short version.

Roger Darling

In 1974, Roger Darling, dissatisfied with the direction of United States policy in Vietnam, published  “A New Conceptual Scheme for Analyzing Counterinsurgency,” in The Military Review, the house publication of the United States Army’s Command and General Staff College.

Darling provided a qualitative framework for analyzing revolution in an era when quantitative analysis prevailed. Darling’s framework included specific processes and dynamics that all successful revolutionaries follow. Darling later acknowledged an language distinction between insurgency and revolution and corrected himself with a republication of his work in 1976 under the title “Revolution Examined Anew,” again in The Military Review.

Tom Grassey 

In 1976, Tom Grassey, now Dr. Tom Grassey, Captain USN, retired, and former editor of the Navy War College Review published “Some Perspectives on Revolution” in the Review. Grassey’s significant contribution was that he defined the groups in a revolutionary situation—leaders, activists, nonparticipants (the populace), bureaucracy, government in power—and the ways in which those groups behaved.

Grassey, expanding on Darling’s work, unlocked the door to a holistic understanding of revolution, one that exceeded the sum of its individual parts. Donald Trump, so far, appears to have that holistic understanding and is in the process of conducting a revolution. The question is can he accomplish the tasks still before him? We begin with the primaries.

Dynamic of Social Political Participation

Darling identified two processes that combine to produce a dynamic to consolidate power. In politics that dynamic is the primaries.

A causal process defines the specific economic, social, and political factors that motivate leaders and give the revolution a reason to move forward. It helps if the revolutionary leader is charismatic and can carry the day with inspiring rhetoric. The rhetoric does not have to be true; it simply has to be believed as true. A simple slogan, such as making America great again, provides motivation and generates support.

All competitors must be eliminated and that is accomplished through an intimidation process. In revolution, that process is brutal—incarceration, exile, execution. It politics it is equally brutal, but the weapons are words and actions, not violence.

And here is the important point that Trump, alone, has grasped. The combination of cause and intimidation, a dynamic of social political participation, is aimed at those who would oppose the revolution in its formative stages. Yes, there is an ultimate foe, the government in a revolution, or the other party in an election. The ultimate foe can be acknowledged but the emphasis and focus must be on primary opponents.

Republican candidates who thought Clinton was the primary target for their rhetoric missed the point. Trump had no illusions. He knew who the enemy in the primaries was and he systematically went after all of them. He has reduced the opposition to just four individuals after only four state primaries. That task is unfinished.

Trump must now accomplish two things if he is going to emerge the standard bearer. First, he must eliminate the remaining four candidates. In revolutions opponents usually just disappear. The American political process has a different approach; opponents are co-opted.

And that is Trump’s second challenge. He must enlist all former foes in a united front as the party moves forward to the next stage of the revolutionary process. All former foes must sign up or be relegated to oblivion, not to be heard from again in this election. Governor Christie is the first to bend a knee.

Revolutionary Resource Dynamic

Once the consolidation of power is total then resources must be harnessed, a revolutionary resource dynamic according to Darling. Grassey provided clarification by identifying active participants as a key group in a revolution. In American politics these are the national committees, in Trump’s case the Republican National Committee (RNC).

So far, Trump has relied heavily on his own resources. He has also mesmerized the media so that he generates publicity and coverage simply be being there or saying something. His dominance is such that he can say things without regard to the consequences. That is a powerful position, one that gives the dangerous illusion of invulnerability.

The media and the Republican Party are assuming he will over-step and self-destruct. Trump is betting he is smart enough not to do that.

Whatever the case, Trump’s next necessary step is to harness the RNC to do his bidding, without qualification. Despite its best intentions the RNC may end up harnessed despite itself. The convention will tell whether or not the Republicans enter the final campaign united.

And united the Republicans must be. Trump knows that. The RNC knows that. They just don’t want to unite behind Trump, yet. However, successful revolutions are united when it comes time to directly challenge the opponent.

Grassey made a very important point about this direct challenge. Revolutionaries get themselves organized not to win, but to give the opponent every opportunity to lose. In revolution, cities fall before they have to be taken. In politics the opposition self-destructs.

Conventional wisdom is that the Republican Party, itself, will self-destruct. Trump’s only route to power requires the opposite to happen. Can Trump accomplish that, RNC in tow?

Collective Psychological Strategy

Darling used the term collective psychological strategy to describe the outcome of a successful revolution. To run the table, to get the other side to lose, Trump has to deal directly with the opposition, whoever the Democrats nominate, to win in November by taking the case to the people

Grassey defined the people as the non-participants, the ones who actually make the decision. Revolutions succeed or fail based on a compliant population. No one at this point knows how compliant the population is for a Trump victory.

But every politician knows what the final step is. No one should be surprised when Trump runs to the center, as he must.

In sum

So, there we have it. Trump has so far been successful in intimidating all foes. He must complete that process and then enlist former foes to support him. Christie has led the way. Who is next? Then he must harness the GOP writ large, specifically the RNC. Finally, he must run to the center in a way that causes his opponent to lose.

There is a cautionary note to Governor Christie and others who would support Trump. A successful revolutionary will cast aside anyone no longer useful. What has been heard lately from Sarah Palin?





9-11: The PEOC Pictures; Secretary Mineta and VP Cheney

Update, August 18, 2015

An additional available photograph clearly shows that there were just four digital clocks in the PEOC on September 11, 2001.  Here is a link to that photo.

Vice President Cheney with Senior Staff in the President's Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)

The fourth clock appears to be set to NATO time, another logical possibility that I had no previously considered.

Also of note, the display, upper left, shows that the PEOC was in video-conference with four other locations.


This article updates, “9-11: Secret Service Timeline; in perspective, a most chaotic time,” written in 2011.  At the conclusion of that article I wrote:

There is just one question at issue. Why did Norman Mineta testify to a precise time, [9:20 am] that was inaccurate? We may never know the answer. For anyone that has worked in an operations or command center with world-wide responsibilities there is a logical explanation. He looked at the wrong clock; Central Time.

On July 24, 2015, the National Archives (NARA) released 356 photographs concerning Vice President Cheney, to include activities in his office, in the PEOC (President’s Emergency Operations Center), and en route an undisclosed location on September 11, 2011. I asked NARA if the photos were date/time stamped.  Here is the response, including a link to the entire set of photos:

All of the 9/11 images we released on Friday are available via NARA’s Flickr photostream at The photographs are from film and don’t have a camera date/time stamp. The quality of the images reflect that these are film and not digital. You are able to download these images from Flickr and enlarge or sharpen the individual images in a photo-viewing application.

That set of photos allows an update to my original assessment.

The Vice President and American Airlines Flight 77 (AA 77)

It is explicit and conclusive from the photographs released that the Vice President was in his office until shortly before AA 77 struck the Pentagon, and that the primary source account in my original article was accurate.  If the Vice President was not in the PEOC, then neither was Secretary Mineta. Therefore, Secretary Mineta could not have been where he said he was at 9:20 as he testified before the 9/11 Commission.

The PEOC Clocks

One photo establishes that a set of vertical-stacked digital clocks was directly visible to PEOC participants. The details of the photo do not directly support the presence of a clock set to Central Daylight Time.  From top to bottom, the three visible clocks display times of 1612, 1212 and 1012.  The second clock, 1212, is faintly titled “Washington DC,” and establishes the time of that photo to be 12:12 EDT.

Therefore, the top clock is set to Zulu (GMT) time and the third clock is set to Mountain Daylight Time (NORAD).  The setting of the fourth clock remains unknown. (It is conceivable there is a 5th clock in the stack).

There are two feasible, critical time zones that, in my experience, would be displayed.  One is Central Standard Time. STRATCOM is located in the Central Time Zone, it was the ultimate destination for the President, and it was an important organization concerning ongoing discussions and activities concerning COOP (Continuity of Operations) and COG (Continuity of Government).

The other critical time, again in my experience, would have been Moscow time.  Recall that, for the first time since the fall of the former Soviet Union, the Russians had scheduled a live-fire, air-launched cruise missile exercise. That was the most important exercise activity of the day at the national level.  Among other activities, there was a national-level need for the Russians to be asked to call off the exercise.

My Assessment, Unchanged

Norman Mineta’s recall was off by one hour.  The actions and activities attributed to him are consistent with the approach of United Airlines flight 93 (UA 93) to Washington D.C., not the approach of AA 77.

The national level account in the aftermath, at all levels, to include that of both Secretary Mineta and FAA Administrator, Jane Garvey, conflated and confused information about UA 93 to pertain to AA 77. That error remained unchallenged until the 9/11 Commission sorted things out.

There was no intent by national level authorities to deceive.  They simply told the story that made sense to them at the time, given the information available.  The fact that their story was distorted and nonsensical was never challenged by supporting staff at any level.

If anything, national level figures were biased to try and show that, somehow, they were alert and responsive.  The battle unfolded too swiftly for the national level to even get itself organized, let alone react.  By the time the national level did achieve some semblance of organization the only threat left with which to deal was the approach of UA 93, by then a ghost, long gone from all radar scopes, but still a track on a situation display.


9-11: The Attack; Chaos Theory, considered


This is the third and final in a series of articles dealing in military terms with the events of September 11, 2001, and the aftermath. The first article dealt specifically with the classic principles of war. The second article examined the components of the attack from a military point of view.  We turn to chaos theory in this last article to better understand why the nation was confused as to what was happening and why it remained confused, thereafter.

In the second article we established that the attack was on two axes, each with two prongs. That is a complex operation, irrespective of scale. Such an attack is intended to create chaos and confuse the opponent.

The descriptive, “chaos,” is routinely used by authors to describe the events of 9/11. The Commission report is no exception.  No author or commentator bothers to define chaos, it is simply used as shared knowledge between author and reader. Here are links to earlier articles that provide some insight.

Chaos Theory and 9-11, some preliminary thoughts

Chaos Theory: 9-11, thinking outloud

Chaos Theory: the butterfly effect, a ghostly experience

Chaos Theory: Unbuilding the World Trade Center, dealing with Chaos

Chaos Theory, Considered

We begin with a brief discussion about the definition of chaos. Here are three useful perspectives, to set the stage:

The dictionary definition is the sense that most people have when they refer to something as chaos or chaotic. And that is the shared, knowing understanding between authors and readers about the events of 9/11.

The Barlett Quotation contrasts what chaos is all about with what we do to get through day-to-day life. We instill order–habits for ourselves, and routines for our families and social groups. For the defenders on 9/11, the order was standard operating procedures or tactics, techniques and procedures, routines that were supposed to work. Even though chaos lurks daily at every turn, we hope that processes and procedures in place will stand us in good stead.

M. J. Girardot, in writing about early Taoism, (Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism) decided that the Chinese word for chaos, hun-tun, was, from Lewis and Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, a portmanteau word, that is one packed with meaning. To Humpty, chortle was chuckle and snort packed together. To us, avionics, aviation and electronics, is a portmanteau word.

Regardless of definition or perspective, chaos is deterministic. Chaos has bounds and can be described using mathematics, the logistic equation and fractal geometry, for example. However, the mathematics of chaos cannot be applied to the events of 9/11, despite the near universal use of the word to describe what was happening and what did happen.

There is a possible exception. It is conceivable that fractal geometry could be used to map the progress of the massive cloud of dust and debris that resulted from the collapse of the two towers.  If so, some future mathematician will create the map.

Mathematics aside, what we can do is use chaos as a metaphor. Specifically, the language of chaos provides a useful qualitative tool for assessing what happened during the battle, in the immediate aftermath, and thereafter, to this day.

The Language of Chaos

Four terms help us “unpack” the portmanteau of chaos concerning the Battle of 9/11.

  • Strange Attractors
  • Nonlinearity
  • Cascading Bifurcation
  • Disruptive Feedback

However, there is a fifth, overarching term that we need to discuss first, sensitive dependence on initial conditions, commonly referred to as ‘the butterfly effect.’

The Butterfly Effect and 9/11

Dependent initial conditions are only knowable retrospectively. I leave it to the long reach of history to provide a refined list of initial conditions important to the events of September 11, 2001. Two candidate topics come immediately to mind; the ‘wall’ between law enforcement and intelligence, and the relaxed visa issuance process in Saudi Arabia that would become Visa Express.

Concerning the Battle of 9/11, two initial conditions stand out, the hijack protocol, and the lack of a defined relationship between the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center (Herndon Center).

The hijack protocol was obsolete. It had not been used for years and if exercised at all the exercise play was notional.  Herndon Center did facilitate a conference call with Cleveland and New York Centers and then with New York TRACON when Boston Center notified Herndon about the hijacking of Americsn Airlines Flight 11 (AA 11). However, Herndon Center simply referred the requirement to notify air defense back to Boston Center.

NEADS, the controlling organization for the four dedicated air defense aircraft, had a long established practice of dealing directly with the en route traffic control centers, specifically Boston and New York. At no time during the battle of 9/11 did NEADS ever talk to Herndon Center. NEADS simply got on with business as if Herndon Center did not exist. It is not surprising, in retrospect, that NEADS and Boston Center became “strange attractors” in the language of chaos theory.

Strange Attractors

Ian Stewart in Does God Play Dice, has it about right. “A…dynamical system…in the long run, settles down to an attractor…defined to be…what ever it settles down to.” The concept is that strange attractors cannot be predicted. Things self organize and information flows to and between specific, receptive entities.

Managers and leaders can only strive to organize things in the hopes they might get lucky in their vision of the future. Ideally, one would like the flow of information in a chaotic situation to be to the people or places that need it the most.

The fact of the matter is that information will follow the path of least resistance. If there are barriers in place, ‘The Wall,’ ‘The Green Door,’ A hijack protocol that was in  the words of a Commission Team 8 memo to the front office, “unsuited in every respect” to the events that would occur, then there is no chance in a fast-moving chaotic situation.

In a very perfect world the defense on 9/11 might have had a remote chance, if and only if the strange attractors were the operator of the NAS and its defender on the East Coast. Those were named individuals, Benedict Sliney, the National Operations Manager, and Colonel Robert Marr, the commander of NEADS. They had never met, their predecessors had likely never met, and their organizations did not communicate with each other either in the real world or in exercises.

What ever it settles down to.  Organizationally, the strange attractors became Boston Center and NEADS, but the identity of the strange attractors is far more precise than that. The flow of critical information was largely controlled by just two individuals, the Military Operations Specialist at Boston Center, Colin Scoggins, and the chief of the Identification Section at NEADS, Master Sergeant Maureen “Mo” Dooley.

That was a sub-optimum solution all around. Herndon Center and NEADS, separately, were talking to the front line of troops, the FAA’s en route air traffic control centers—New York, Washington, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Boston. However, the two organizations never shared a common operating picture of the battlefield.

Government, by and large, operates in a linear world. In that world, NEADS focused outward and established tactics, techniques, and procedures to protect the nation’s shores. To do so it logically established working relationships with FAA en route centers that controlled overseas and off shore flights. For its part, Herndon Center focused inward to manage the flow of air traffic between en route centers.  There was no logical reason for the twain to meet. So they didn’t.

The NEADS world was linear, punctuated by occasional bursts of chaos when unidentified tracks showed up on their scopes. The Herndon Center world was largely chaotic, by necessity. Its daily foe was weather, a chaotic creature by any definition.  It is no accident that a key position at Herndon Center is called Severe Weather.  To put it another way, the NEADS world was largely linear, the Herndon Center world was decidedly nonlinear.


Nonlinearity is another difficult term to define in terms of chaos theory. Most of us have had experience trying to hit a pitched baseball or softball. If nothing else that experience teaches that we live in a nonlinear world, despite what we might have learned in high school geometry.

For perspective, we turn again to Ian Stewart in Does God Play with Dice. “Linearity…to be brutal…solves the wrong equations.” “[One hopes] that no one will notice when it’s the wrong answer.” “Nature is relentlessly nonlinear. Linearity is a trap.”

And that’s the problem with linear processes or procedures. They provide the wrong answer in a dynamic situation. Yet, with minor exception, the nation’s response on 9/11 was linear. Here is a list of linear processes that solved the wrong equations leading to a series of wrong answers.

  • Hijack Protocol
  • FAA Primary Net
  • National Military Command Center (NMCC) Conferences
  • Secure Video Teleconference System (SVTS)
  • Rescue Coordination Center
  • Continuity of Government

Every process listed was attempted and failed during the battle of 9/11. Why? Each process brought with it the baggage of linearity—things were done by rote, by SOP, or by tactics, techniques and procedures.

The hijack protocol wasn’t even used. It failed when Herndon Center turned the responsibility to notify the military back to Boston Center.

The FAA primary net and the two NMCC conferences that were convened failed to connect the FAA and the military in any meaningful way.

The SVTS, a cold-war, isolated system, to put it bluntly, decapitated the leadership of national level organizations by separating them from their staffs.

The Rescue Coordination Center at Langley knew that American flight 77 (AA 77) was lost at 9:10. That information never made it to Base Operations, a party to the battle stations and scramble calls from NEADS to the air defense detachment at Langley.

The NMCC’s convention of an Air Threat Conference, at NORAD request, brought with it SIOP (Single Integrated Operations Plan)  baggage and facilitated a rapid government decision to implement unnecessary Continuity of Government and Continuity of Operations procedures.

Accurate, controlled feedback was needed all along the line. Uncontrolled feedback becomes disruptive and that is what happened on 9/11. Once it was known Mohammed Atta said, “we have some planes,” and New York Center confirmed,”planes as in plural,” the situation became nonlinear. The nation had no dynamic response. Instead, linear procedures continued and the President and Vice President were summarily dispatched from the battlefield, one to PEOC (President’s Emergency Operations Center) purgatory, the other to hightail it to the hinterlands.

Boston Center and Herndon Center, two notable exceptions

Boston Center, left to its own devices, called Otis Command Post directly in an attempt to get air defense fighters involved. Even so, they ran squarely into linearity and were told that had to work through NEADS.  Later, the Center appealed to Herndon Center to direct cockpit notifications to flights in the air. Boston did not wait for that direction and began calling flights in its air space directly.

Herndon Center, habitually conditioned to handle chaos because of weather, did not wait for guidance from above. Benedict Sliney directed a nationwide ground stop and then grounded all commercial flights in the air. Chaos is deterministic, it can be bounded. And Herndon Center did just that, it bounded a chaotic situation, just as it does every heavy weather day.

Those simple and swift decisions put a stop to cascading bifurcation, the next term on our discussion list.

Cascading Bifurcation

We don’t need a detailed discussion when a picture will do, derived from the work of Ian Stewart.

Cascading Bifurcation Stewart Derivation

In a chaotic situation bifurcation continues until things self-organize differently than they were before. The first two bifurcations should be immediately recognizable. They represent an attack on two axes of advance, each axis with two prongs. For the offense the bifurcation stopped there. For the defense the bifurcation continued as false information, misinformation, and lack of information brought about chaos. And that chaos continued during the battle of 9/11 until Benedict Sliney brought things back to order, certainly much different than they were before. But not before disruptive feedback produced a discordant chorus of information that simply overwhelmed the national level.

Disruptive Feedback

For insight we turn, in this instance, to Jim Lesurf, Chaos on the Circuit Board, “New Scientist, June 1990.” According to Lesurf, “feedback must be added with care….Adding feedback to a nonlinear [situation] with gain is a recipe for chaos.”  Here are the important examples of disruptive feedback that became ingredients for the 9/11 chaos recipe.

  • A new track, AA 11 Alpha
  • False report that AA 11 was still airborne
  • Report that Delta Flight 1989 was hijacked
  • A new flight plan for United Flight 93 (UA 93)
  • Report of an unknown aircraft over the White House

New York Center added a new track because the standard procedure was that Boston Center had to ‘hand off’ AA 11, something it thought it could not do. The new track, combined with a late report that American Flight 77 was lost, may have contributed to erroneous information that AA 11 was still airborne. Delta 1989 was presumed hijacked because it fit the sketchy profile concerning AA 11 and United Flight 175 (UA 175). A sudden change in the flight plan for UA 93 created a track in the Traffic Display System (TSD) that became notional but was perceived as real. The “unknown” over the White House was one of the Langley fighters. In the ensuing chaos, one Langley Fighter was sent to intercept another. Two of the three Langley fighters were squawking identical codes and neither Washington Center nor NEADS could tell one from the other.

A Quick Summary

At this point the reader likely needs time to digest what we’ve covered so far. There are heavy seas ahead as we steer the narrative deeper into chaos by bringing cascading bifurcation back into the conversation. So before we do that, what have we learned?  First, we have learned that the military model we discussed in the first two articles in this series continues to be useful.  Second, we now have a grasp, however tenuous, on the use of chaos as a metaphor, specifically the language of chaos.  Interested readers may want to devote time to Ian Stewart’s book, Does God Play Dice.

Okay, now that we’ve caught our breath let’s return to cascading bifurcation and see what effect the attack on two axes of advance, each axis with two prongs, had on the defense on the morning of September 11, 2001. We start with a timeline of the attack and the national response, a highly condensed but straightforward and expanded depiction of Chapter One of the Commission Report, “We Have Some Planes.”

The Attack, Retrospectively

The Attack, Retrospectively

The base time line represents national level actions. A NOIWON was convened at 9:16, the FAA’s primary net was activated at 9:20, the NMCC’s air threat conference was activated about the time the Pentagon was struck. An SVTS conference was convened at 9:40. The critical 9:10 time, in green was nowhere recognized as an opportunity.

The progression of the attack is depicted above the timeline. Clearly, by the time the national level achieved some semblance of organization, the only plane left to deal with was UA 93.  And it is on this very point that the national level account in the aftermath was incoherent.  The account, which focused on AA 77, was fatally flawed from inception.

The attack began at 5:45 when Mohammed Atta and abdul Azziz al Omari entered the National Airspace System at Portland, Maine.

Chaos was introduced during the period 8:42 to 8:51, the approximate times that UA 175 and AA 77 were hijacked. Bifurcation had begun, but had not yet cascaded.

AA 11 was hijacked at 8:14 and crashed into the World Trade Center, North Tower, thirty-two minutes later, at 8:46. UA 175 was hijacked at 0842 and crashed into the south tower twenty-one minutes later at 0903. The Northern axis of the attack was over and the southern axis overlapped and was in progress.

AA77 was hijacked at 8:51 and slammed into the Pentagon forty-seven minutes later at 0938. The timing of the second prong of the southern axis was delayed by the late takeoff of UA 93 from Newark. That plane was not hijacked until 9:28 and plummeted to ground at Shanksville thirty-five minutes later.

From time of takeover of AA 11 to the demise of UA93, the attack lasted just one hour and forty-nine minutes. The most chaotic time was from 8:42 to 9:03. During that twenty-one minute period two planes were hijacked (UA 175 and AA 77) and two planes crashed into the World Trade Center (AA 11 and UA 175). It was a double bifurcation. The main attack bifurcated into two axes and the northern axis bifurcated into a two-pronged attack.

Dimly aware of the complexity of a single two-pronged attack, and unaware of the developing of a second axis of attack, the national level response was to activate cumbersome linear response systems. While UA 93 was being hijacked the nation was struggling to activate its three primary response processes, the FAA primary net, an NMCC conference of some sort, and an SVTS conference.

No one at the national level realized that all the key agencies were already communicating via secure phone. At 9:16 the CIA convened a NOIWON conference to try and find out what was going on. Every member of the WAOC (Washington Area Operations Centers) was on the line, including the FAA.

The net result of the persistence in following established procedures was that the nation’s leadership and crisis management system had no chance to take advantage of the single time at which actionable information became available, 9:10.

At that time, Indianapolis Center reported the loss of AA 77 to Great Lakes Region and the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. NEADS made a critical tactical decision to keep Langley fighters on battle stations and not scramble. The Otis fighters had reached their closest point to Washington D.C. Most important, and undetected because no one cued NEADS, AA 77 was reacquired by the Joint Surveillance System supporting NEADS.

And that is what happened, or rather did not happen. From the attackers’ perspective the attack was over. Now, let’s add cascading bifurcation to the depiction and see what the defense was seeing and doing.

Cascading Bifurcation

Chaotic Situational Awarness

Here is the attack, as observed by the defenders. Situational awareness bifurcated in every case. Three of the four planes changed identities because of the terrorist tactic of manipulating the four transponders in four different ways. AA11 became AA11A, UA175 became code 3321, and AA77 became a fast-moving, non-transponding, intruder.

The tracks for  AA 11 and UA 175 continued, notionally, on their original flight plans in the TSD system. AA 77 also continued notionally, on its original flight plan, and was also reported lost.

In the Northern attack, AA11 flew into the North WTC Tower, but became reborn to the defenders, most likely because of a garbled misunderstanding of the reported loss of AA 77. Mode C Intruder, 3321 (UA 175), flew into the South World Trade Center Tower.

In the Southern attack, the fast-moving unknown (AA 77), itself, became two threats, one to the Pentagon (actual) and one to the White House as perceived by air traffic controllers.

UA 93 was conflated with Delta 1989. That conflation continued in the aftermath. NEADS did establish a track on Delta 1989, the only viable track it established during the battle. Moreover, Delta 1989 was the only plane reported to be hijacked, by NORAD, in the national level Air Threat Conference. UA 93 crashed at Shanksville, a fact known at Cleveland Center, Herndon Center, NEADS, and Washington Center. That fact was reported to FAA Headquarters, but that is as far as national level awareness got. The track continued, notionally,  in the TSD system and “landed” at Reagan National at 10:28. That was the track that Norman Mineta was following.

The national level did not sort out accurate information concerning AA 77 and UA 93. Therefore, those who testified to the 9/11 Commission in May 2003 (Corrected, April 22, 2015) 1993–Garvey, Mineta, McKinley– conflated information concerning UA 93 to apply to AA 77.

Three different threats–AA 11 reborn, the fast moving threat to the White House, a notional UA 93– became added “gain,” disruptive feedback, our next topic for discussion.

Disruptive Feedback

Feedback, in two cases, facilitated the counterattack, but became chaotic thereafter.  The AA 11 reborn false report caused NORAD to launch the Langley fighters, but with an interim destination of Baltimore Washington International airport. The objective was to defend against an attack from the North against the nation’s capital.  The threat, however, was fast approaching from the West; NEADS was unaware until the final moments.

The false Delta 1989 report caused NEADS to expand operations in the sector operations center. NEADS quickly acquired Delta 1989 as a track, which it followed continuously. The disruption came in the aftermath when NEADS conflated its tracking of Delta 1989 to pertain to UA 93.

The disruptive feedback of a notional UA 93 threatening the National Capital Region resulted in the launch of an expeditionary force, the Andrews fighters, into an existing air defense combat air patrol (CAP) established by NEADS using the Langley fighters.  Chaos ensued as air traffic controllers and NEADS tried to sort things out. There were ultimately seven fighters in the CAP, three from Langley and four from Andrews. There was nothing against which to defend.

NORAD and the nation transitioned from that rough beginning to Operation Noble Eagle, a costly, nation-wide effort to patrol empty skies. Concurrently, staffs in the FAA and NORAD chains-of-command set about trying to figure out what had happened. The cascading bifurcation and disruptive feedback we have discussed were never figured out. Critical staff errors made at NEADS were never corrected. Therefore, the national explanation, itself, became a chaotic mess.

It was left to the 9/11 Commission to uncover that mess and get it sorted.  During discovery, Team 8 Team Leader, John Farmer crafted a memo to the front office. There is no better description of what the Commission staff found and what the task was.  Farmer wrote:

“In perhaps no aspect of the 9-11 attacks is the public record, as reflected in both news accounts and testimony before this Commission, so flatly at odds with the truth.” “The challenge in relating the history of one of the most chaotic days in our history…is to avoid replicating that chaos in writing about it.”

Chaos in the aftermath

Tsunami-like, is one way to describe the effect of the tidal wave of chaos that has swept the world since 9/11.  Ted Koppel well described the state of affairs nearly five years ago. Here is what I wrote in 2010.

Ted Koppel

Today’s (Sep 12, 2010) Washington Post featured an above-the-fold editorial in the “Outlook” section by Ted Koppel; “Let’s stop playing into bin Laden’s hands.”  At the end of the continuation, “Our overreaction to 9/11 continues,” Koppel posed a rhetorical question.  “Could bin Laden in his wildest imaginings, have hoped to provoke greater chaos?”

Readers will pardon me from leaping ahead of my own story; that question by Koppel is too good to resist.  (Koppel, as does nearly every other writer, researcher, and historian, uses the word “chaos” without definition.)

I need to speak to his use of the term in the context of his article, my own understanding of chaos, and my understanding of political revolutionary warfare.

As I am writing, David Gregory on “Meet the Press,” (Sep 12, 2010) is discussing the Koppel article with Rudy Giuliani.  Gregory quotes Koppel extensively including the text: “Through the initial spending of a few hundred thousand dollars, training and then sacrificing 19 of his foot soldiers, bin Laden has watched [al Qaeda] turn into the most recognized international franchise since McDonald’s.”

My initial intent

It was, and remains, my intention to write a series of articles detailing the national level’s descent into chaos the morning of 9-11.  I have posted an initial article depicting the friendly situation at 10:10, the time that Air Force One turned away from a return to the capital.

A paradigm shift

Koppel’s narrative is a game changer.  He extends the chaos metaphor far beyond the events of 9-11 by stating that we have “played into bin Laden’s hands.”  And that leads me to the subject of political revolutionary warfare.

My experience

For six years (1974-1980) I was the lead instructor and course manager for the Navy’s Counterinsurgency Orientation (COIN) course at the Naval Amphibious School, Coronado.  During those six years we changed the focus of the course to revolutionary warfare.  The course name changed as well to become a political revolutionary warfare seminar, “Political Warfare Studies.”

We developed a detailed framework to analyze revolutionary and political movements.  I will write about that framework in the future.  For those interested, I did address the framework in this thread on the Small Wars Council forum.

For now it is sufficient to simply state two things that are inherent in any qualitative revolutionary movement.

First, the goal of any revolutionary movement that knows what it is doing is to give the opposition every opportunity to believe in the myth of a military victory.

Second, in the words of Dr. Tom Grassey, Capt (USN-retired), one of our lecturers, an objective of revolutionaries is to encourage the status quo to “strangle in its own strength.”  (Tom Grassey is the former James B. Stockdale Professor of Leadership and Ethics, Naval War College; and former Editor, Naval War College Review.)

Today, Ted Koppel said, “The goal of any organized terrorist attack is to goad a vastly more powerful enemy into an excessive response.”  He  is saying the same thing that Grassey articulated a quarter century ago.

Have we learned nothing?  I will have much, much more to say.

Interested readers may want to review my article “Sudden an Eagle Tarnished,” for additional perspective.

Forward to the present

It has taken me five years to pull everything together in this article. Missing until recently was the clear understanding that the battle of 9/11 was a military action not a terrorist attack, one which triggered a massive military response that continues to this day, with no end in sight.

In our discussion of chaos and chaos theory we have learned that chaos can be bounded. That lesson was learned on 9/11 when Benedict Sliney and his staff at Herndon Center ordered all commercial aircraft to land. The lesson did not resonate at the national level, however.

Thereafter, national actions, specifically the invasion of Iraq, unleashed chaos in the Arab world. What began as an optimistic Arab Spring has bifurcated multiple times and out of that cascade the Islamic State emerged. Ultimately, a new order of things will emerge. Chaos will eventually bound itself; it must. And things will never be the way they were before.

Scholars far more learned will try to tell us about that, but it remains for historians well into the future to try and get the story right.  Hopefully, they will do better than those in government who came up with a nonsensical account of the day of September 11, 2001.


So, we have come to the end of my main work that began with what I felt, heard, and saw when AA 77 slammed into the west side of the Pentagon. The road traveled was interesting, including staff assignments to both the Congressional Joint Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission.

There is remaining work to do on bits and pieces scattered here and there in my posts and pages. I will get at those loose ends at a leisurely pace. I will also continue to monitor things via a 9/11 Google Alert and post when the mood strikes.

Alert readers will know that I have left an interesting story yet untold, one that I promised to include in this article.  Didn’t happen, but I will get around to it.

Amidst the near total chaos during the battle of 9/11 the Otis air defense fighters broke military formation and headed for New York City, leaving the nation’s capital undefended in the process.  The question is did they do that on their own recognizance or were they ordered to do so? The definitive answer is lost in the fog of war and the chaos of the morning. But it is an interesting story that needs to be told.

9-11: Conflation of Events; the Brian Williams situation, considered


News anchor Brian Williams has been suspended for conflating events.  Conflation has become a common word as his colleagues and others attempt to grapple with his abrupt fall from grace.  Conflation of events is apparently more common than one might think.

Certainly, it was common in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 and it continues to be common today as researchers and historians sort out and refine their understanding of the events of September 11, 2001.  It might be useful at this point, therefore, to briefly discuss conflation and the events of 9-11.

A Cascade of Conflations

The single most important conflation took place immediately, perhaps as early as the evening of 9-11. The Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) staff misread its own log, the Mission Crew Commander/Technician (MCC/T) Log, the most important document of the day concerning the military response. An entry that pertained to American Airlines Flight 11 (AA 11) was conflated to be a reference to American Airlines Flight 77 (AA 77). The handwritten notes in the margin are mine.

Thereafter, NORAD, in its own press release timeline, incorrectly reported a time of 9:24 EDT, for notification to the military concerning the hijacking of AA 77.

That single error cascaded into the understanding of senior government officials as they grappled with their own recall of events of the day. For example, the next month, General Eberhart, NORAD Commander, testified to Congress that the military was notified about AA 77 at 9:24 EDT, consistent with the NORAD timeline.

The May, 2003, 9/11 Commission testimony of, in order, Jane Garvey, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, Norman Mineta, Secretary, Department of Transportation, and the NORAD delegation, conflated information concerning United Airlines Flight 93 (UA 93) to pertain to AA 77.

Why? Because the testimony had to fit the flawed NORAD timeline.  The confusion began with Garvey’s testimony and got progressively worse with Mineta’s testimony. When asked what the time was concerning his knowledge of the threat to the nation’s capital he responded, “9:20,” a reference to AA 77.

The NORAD delegation, for its part, continued the original conflation of the log entry pertaining to AA 11 to be an AA 77 entry. Even worse, the delegation then conflated a MCC/T log entry pertaining to United Airlines Flight 175 (UA 175) to be an entry pertaining to UA 93. That new conflated time was 9:16 EDT.

Commission Staff informed, in turn, Colonel Robert Marr, NEADS Commander; General Larry Arnold, Continental Region (CONR) Commander on 9/11; General Craig McKinley, Arnold’s successor; and General Ralph Eberhart, NORAD Commander, about the conflation. NORAD did correct its timeline, but to my knowledge no one at NEADS or anywhere else in NORAD has acknowledged the original staff error.

Mineta Considered

Mineta’s testimony is taken as gospel in the 9/11 truth community. However, his stated time of 9:20 is an aberration, unsupported by all other primary source information and contemporary documents of the day.

Not only did Mineta conflate events he also compressed time, another common error made by participants in any incident as they try and recall what happened.

The time of 9:20 is not possible. Mineta was in his office at the Department of Transportation at 9:03 EDT, when UA 175 struck the World Trade Center South Tower.

For the 9:20 time to be accurate Mineta had to do the following in a short 17 minutes: assimilate what was happening, give orders to staff, field calls from air carrier senior executives, move to the elevators, descend and move to his car, motor to the White House (7 minutes according to MapQuest), pass through security, disembark at the West Wing and enter, speak to Richard Clarke, cross the White House to the East Wing, descend to the President’s Emergency Operations Center, take his position and possess immediate situation awareness. That is an impossible scenario.

The Commission Report, and Commission Staff Statement 17, prepared for a June, 2004, hearing, provide an accurate account of events of the morning. Mineta was dealing with UA 93, not AA 77.

Final Comment

We have discussed two common errors routinely made by eyewitnesses and participants in their recall of significant events, conflation and time compression. There is a third common error, a cautionary note for those who would judge Brian Williams or those who fought the battle on 9-11. Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. Describing events as they actually  happened without imposing current knowledge or understanding is difficult.

Miles Kara, Commission Staff, Team 8