Weekly Update 9-15 Aug 21

Clips on media/communication, national security, politics, sports, and pop culture worth knowing about in the days ahead. 

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From hubris to humiliation: America’s warrior class contends with the abject failure of its Afghanistan project

By Greg Jaffe, Washington Post

Twenty years ago, when the twin towers and the Pentagon were still smoldering, there was a sense among America’s warrior and diplomatic class that history was starting anew for the people of Afghanistan and much of the Muslim world.
“Every nation has a choice to make,” President George W. Bush said on the day that bombs began falling on Oct. 7, 2001. In private, senior U.S. diplomats were even more explicit. “For you and us, history starts today,” then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told his Pakistani counterparts.

Biden Could Have Stopped the Taliban. He Chose Not To.

By Frederick W. Kagan, for NYT
Mr. Kagan is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

This article has been updated to reflect news developments.
The Taliban is sweeping across Afghanistan seizing more than a dozen provincial capitals in the past week, and is poised to seize more. Afghan defense forces, finding themselves mostly cut off from U.S. air support, haven’t been able to stop them, and the Afghan government may not survive for much longer. The United States has all but abandoned the country.
A disastrous Taliban takeover wasn’t inevitable. President Biden said his hands were tied to a withdrawal given the awful peace deal negotiated between the Trump administration and the Taliban. But there was still a way to pull out American troops while giving our Afghan partners a better chance to hold the gains we made with them over the last two decades.

Opinion: We’ve always known this moment would come in Afghanistan

Opinion by Colbert I. King, Washington Post,

“Some Americans who pushed toward the bus tried to pull their Vietnamese wives and children along with them. … There were desperate scenes of families separated and crying out for help, pleading not to be left behind, clutching at the last straw of hope.
Many Americans of my generation will recall that April 30, 1975, “CBS Evening News” report, filed by correspondent Ed Bradley, on the evacuation that was unfolding as North Vietnamese forces closed in on Saigon. Some viewers might have looked on in horror, others in sadness, shame or even anger at scenes of Vietnamese trying to scale the walls of the U.S. Embassy — helicopters landing on the roof and inside the compound — people waiting to be evacuated to the decks of ships stationed off the Vietnamese coast.

A Rescue Plan for Afghanistan

It’s not too late to prevent a bloodbath and total Taliban victory.

By The WSJ Editorial Board
What an awful, tragic irony. President Biden in April chose Sept. 11 as the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan. Now it’s possible that, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban that once protected Osama bin Laden and that the U.S. ousted from power could again rule in Kabul.
Mr. Biden would like to absolve himself of responsibility for this looming defeat, but he cannot. He could have withdrawn U.S. forces in a careful way based on conditions and a plan to shore up Afghan forces or midwife an alliance between regional tribal warlords and the government in Kabul. The President did none of that.


Cases of COVID-19 are rising fast. Vaccine uptake has plateaued. The pandemic will be over one day—but the way there is different now.

By Ed Yong, The Atlantic

In September 2020, just before COVID-19 began its wintry surge through the United States, I wrote that the country was trapped in a pandemic spiral, seemingly destined to repeat the same mistakes. But after vaccines arrived in midwinter, cases in the U.S. declined and, by summer’s edge, had reached their lowest levels since the pandemic’s start. Many Americans began to hope that the country had enough escape velocity to exit its cycle of missteps and sickness. And though experts looked anxiously to the fall, few predicted that the Delta variant would begin its ascent at the start of July. Now the fourth surge is under way and the U.S. is once again looping through the pandemic spiral. Arguably, it never stopped.

Don’t Be a Schmuck. Put on a Mask.

Generations of Americans made incredible sacrifices, and we’re going to throw fits about putting a mask over our mouth and nose?

By Arnold Schwarzenegger, for The Atlantic

Earlier this week, I delivered a simple message: There is a virus here. It kills people. The only way you can prevent it is to get vaccinated, wear masks, and do social distancing.

Some people are complaining, “Well, my freedom is being kind of disturbed here.” Well, I told them, “Screw your freedom.” You have the freedom to wear no mask. But if you exercise that freedom, you’re a schmuck—because you’re supposed to protect your fellow Americans.

Behold Barack Antoinette

By Maureen Dowd, NYT
Jay Gatsby gave big, lavish, new-money parties at his sprawling mansion on the water because he wanted to seem cool. He wanted Daisy to notice him.
Barack Obama gave a big, lavish, new-money party at his sprawling mansion on the water because he wanted to seem cool. Being cool is important to him.

Covid Anxiety and Fear of the Base

Americans need to be more tactful and understanding when it comes to measures like masks and vaccines.

By Peggy Noonan
They’re all afraid of their base. That’s the central fact of American political life now, that leaders of all sorts aren’t leading their people but are terrified of getting crosswise with them. They’re afraid of their own fans. This is true of everyone from cable anchors and hosts who know exactly who’s watching and what they want, to presidents of the United States.

The Limits of Cyberoffense

Why America Struggles to Fight Back

By Eric Rosenbach, Juliette Kayyem, and Lara Mitra, for Foreign Affairs
The recent wave of high-profile cyberattacks by Russian organized crime groups has forced U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to confront a difficult question: How should the United States respond to hacks not by hostile foreign governments but by criminal nonstate actors? Last October, Russian hackers targeted several U.S. hospital systems with ransomware, disrupting access to electronic medical records and leaving some providers to piece together medical protocols from memory in the midst of a global pandemic. Seven months later, in May 2021, hackers shut down one of the largest fuel pipelines in the United States, leading to shortages across the East Coast and forcing the operator to pay a ransom of $4.4 million to restore service. 

When should a PR pro give away advice for free?

For freelancers, the question of how much to volunteer is ever-present.

By Jonathan Rick, PR Daily

Here’s a scenario all freelancers will bump into at some point: I recently completed a project running LinkedIn ads for a client. My client then referred me to a friend of his, who sent me the following email: “I’d love to chat with you about LinkedIn when you have a minute.” Here’s how I responded: “Sure thing! Do you have a specific project in mind? In case you don’t have the link, here’s more about my services.” I never heard back. Any ideas why? Here’s my best guess: This guy didn’t want me to hire me. He wanted free advice.

CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Aug 14, 21] Episode 10…And Just Like That…We Have a SECNAV

By the Defense & Aerospace Report

Welcome to the CavasShips Podcast with Christopher P. Cavas and Chris Servello…a weekly podcast looking at naval and maritime events and issues of the day – in the US, across the seas and around the world. This week…does the US Navy have the right idea about how it uses and deploys its forces? One group of naval analysts thinks the whole fleet structure should be redefined. We’ll discuss. And how do the Chinese view US Navy surface action groups? How are they maintaining their rapidly-growing fleet? We’ll take a look.

In this Week’s Squawk Chris Cavas praises Navy leaders for the progress made on USS Gerald R. Ford.

COVID vaccines to be required for military under new US plan

By Lolita Baldor, AP

Members of the U.S. military will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine beginning next month under a plan laid out by the Pentagon Monday and endorsed by President Joe Biden. In memos distributed to all troops, top Pentagon leaders said the vaccine is a necessary step to maintain military readiness. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the mid-September deadline could be accelerated if the vaccine receives final FDA approval or infection rates continue to rise. “I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” licensure by the Food and Drug Administration “whichever comes first,” Austin said in his memo, warning them to prepare for the requirement.

Commandant calls on senior Marines to stop ‘shackling’ junior leaders

By Philip Athey, Marine Corps Times

It’s time for senior leaders to let go of the reins and allow small unit leaders the freedom to make decisions, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger says. For the past 15 years to 20 years senior leaders have had access to an unprecedented amount of data on every inch of the battlespace while deployed, Berger said Aug. 2 at the annual Sea Air Space conference hosted by the Navy League. Information tied with the natural desire of control has hurt the Corps’ ability to think ahead and has reduced the independence of junior leaders, he says ― an independence that is necessary to cultivate for the future of dispersed operations that Berger envisions.

Change the Surface Navy’s Maintenance Philosophy

By Commander Isaac Harris, U.S. Navy, August 2021 Proceedings 

The surface navy has realized that technology development trends of the past 20 years will not sustain its competitive military advantage. As such, the surface warfare community has embarked on a journey to retake the lead in technologies it has lagged in developing, such as hypersonics, directed energy, and autonomy, as well as revitalizing the methods used to develop these technologies. The speed at which it has recently unveiled and integrated new weapons and sensors into the fleet is unprecedented in my 20-year career. However, this emphasis on a faster and more agile technology development ecosystem has not bled over into readiness and maintenance. 

Tension on the Black Sea: What great power competition looks like from the deckplates

By Megan Eckstein, Defense News

On the morning of July 2, following live-fire drills between the United States and Ukraine, a Russian ship made unexpected radio contact with the American destroyer Ross. Leave this location, the Russians told the crew. The Russian Navy is conducting an exercise here. The Americans were in the Black Sea for an exercise of their own, Sea Breeze 21, hosted by Ukraine and the U.S. each year since 1997 alongside international partners and allies. For the past two days, Ukrainian fast attack craft had zipped around the destroyer and fighter jets had buzzed overhead. The Navy had fired hundreds of rounds from its machine guns.

Getting Old Is a Crisis More and More Americans Can’t Afford

Opinion by Michelle Cottle, The New York Times

Growing old is an increasingly expensive privilege often requiring supports and services that, whether provided at home or in a facility, can overwhelm all but the wealthiest seniors. With Americans living longer and aging baby boomers flooding the system, the financial strain is becoming unsustainable. Consider the demographics. In 2018, there were 52.4 million Americans age 65 or older and 6.5 million 85 or older. By 2040, those numbers will hit 80.8 million and 14.4 million, respectively. From now until 2030, an average of 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day. Already, demand for care dwarfs supply. The Medicaid waiting list for home-based assistance has an average wait time of more than three years.

US and China clash at UN over South China Sea disputes

By Edith Lederer, AP

The United States and China clashed over Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea at a high-level U.N. Security Council meeting on maritime security Monday that also put a spotlight on attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, and drug and human trafficking in the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose country holds the council presidency this month and chaired the virtual meeting, warned that the world’s oceans and seas,which are the common heritage of all nations and peoples, are facing various threats. He pointed to piracy and terrorism, the erection of trade barriers by some countries, and challenges from climate change and natural disasters. 

Wiretaps for Facebook? Maryland authorities are getting permission to tap digital and social media apps.

By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

In pursuit of suspected drug traffickers last year, authorities in Harford County took the investigative step of getting a judge’s permission to listen in on the target’s phone conversations. But in a rare move, they also were able to secure a wiretap for his Facebook page, enabling them to listen in on audio calls placed through the app and monitor activity on the social networking site. It’s common for investigators to get warrants to collect information stored within social media accounts. But the Harford case, authorized by a Circuit Court judge in February 2020, was one of only nine social media or digital app wiretaps applied for by authorities in Maryland last year, according to data reported to the Maryland Judiciary.

In a Field in Iowa, the White Sox Delivered a Hollywood Ending

By Tyler Kepner, The New York Times

Their movie never felt like a surefire hit, not exactly. But what the caretakers of “Field of Dreams” have always had is a sense of duty, as if they were stewards of something precious. Kevin Costner felt that way when filming it here 33 years ago, and he felt it again before the live sequel, of sorts, on Thursday night. “It’s nuanced, and it’s with love, you can see it,” Costner said. “I think ‘Field of Dreams,’ all the way through, from the movie to this moment, has had the benefit of people who are very careful.” 

The intro to MLB’s Field of Dreams Game was a masterclass in nostalgia

By Jack Baer, Yahoo Sports

No sport is more steeped in nostalgia than baseball, and no movie is more tied to baseball’s nostalgia than “Field of Dreams.” The 1989 Kevin Costner classic placed baseball on a mythical pedestal, examining fatherhood, dreams and hero worship in an Iowa cornfield turned ballpark. And it was that exact cornfield that MLB revisited 32 years later, trying to bring that mythos to one of its own games. For the most part, the league stuck the landing, even if it did provide the people who habitually roll their eyes at the movie plenty more material to mock.

‘Like Choosing a Pope’: How Succession Got Messy at ‘Jeopardy!’

The decades-old game show, TV comfort food for many, has been rocked by drama over who would replace the late Alex Trebek.

By Michael M. Grynbaum and Nicole Sperling, NYTimes

When Ken Jennings arrived at the “Jeopardy!” studios in November for the first day of his audition to become the new host of the long-running quiz show, he found a gift waiting for him: a pair of Alex Trebek’s cuff links, along with a handwritten note from his widow, Jean. Mr. Trebek, the “Jeopardy!” galaxy’s central star, had died of pancreatic cancer three weeks before, setting off a frenzy in Hollywood: one of the greatest jobs in television was available for the first time in 37 years. 

How to Bridge the Communications Gap in a Hybrid Office

Too often, remote and in-office employees aren’t even speaking the same language

By Tessa West, Wall Street Journal

I recently met a woman who quit her job after 11 years working for the same organization. The pandemic was stressful, but it was the hybrid meetings that did her in. “During the pandemic we were all in the same boat—trying to work with our kids screaming in the background or our partners fighting with us over the one ‘good’ corner of the house to work,” she said. But several months ago, most of her team started coming back to the office. She and a handful of others stayed remote.. 

Sending Smiley Emojis? They Now Mean Different Things to Different People

Gen Z has adopted new meanings, while older people stick with tradition. The result is a lot of confusing interactions.

By Aiyana Ishmael, The Wall Street Journal

A smiley face isn’t always just a smiley face. Behind the yellow, wide-eyed emoji’s grin lurks an intergenerational minefield. Know what I mean? The ubiquitous emoji means happy, good job or any number of other positive sentiments to most people over about age 30. But for many teens and 20-somethings, a smiley face popping up in a text or email is seen as patronizing or passive-aggressive. Hafeezat Bishi, 21, started an internship at a Brooklyn digital media firm and was taken aback when co-workers greeted her with a bright smiley face.