As it should be, some of the talk regarding the Wuhan China Virus has circled back to the fact of its Chinese origin. On Monday’s David Webb show**, a caller was trying to spark discussion as to whether or not this was a deliberate act by the Chinese government. After thinking about it for a short bit, I concluded that, although knowing that particular bit of information might be important in determining just how far Xi will go, it’s not quite as critical as knowing something else.
First, some background. Over a 37 year military career, I had the great privilege of working for some truly brilliant Flag Officers. One of them, Lieutenant General Benchoff, gave a talk once that has stuck with me for a long, long time. Our Headquarters had the Southwest Asia support mission and the staff was in the “forming/storming” part of the 5 Stages of Team Development. (This was 1998.)
One very large alligator we were trying to wrestle to the ground was how to deal with the vast amount of information we would eventually have to receive, analyze, and distill into a product that would help the Commanding General make effective decisions in a timely manner.
To give you some idea of the scope, our Headquarters would eventually exercise command and control of 47, 000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Contractors, assigned to 16 direct subordinate commands, spread across 39 states, 5 Continents, and 20 some-odd foreign countries. To say it was an information fire hose, was an understatement. Of course, there are processes, procedures, and techniques, all properly codified in several field manuals. But for me, and more than a few others, it took General Benchoff to line everything up so it made sense.
His philosophy was simple. There are three types of information. There is interesting information. There is important information. Finally, there is critical information. Each of those can be broken down into: what we want to know about ourselves; what we want to know about the bad guys; and what we don’t want the enemy to know about us. Interesting information, the CG would likely never see…unless for some reason he had gotten well caught up on his sleep. Critical information, on the other hand, would often necessitate the duty officer waking The Boss up at 0300 to deliver it timely.
Those same principles obtain in dealing with a national crisis. In the Wuhan China Virus situation, the important information we wanted to know about ourselves was what our manufacturing and ICU capabilities were compared to a projected surge. Where we could get that swing capacity and on how short a notice would be considered critical information.
Strategically, we’d also like to know whether or not this was a deliberate act by China. That would be an important information item for the short term. Determining if they had the capability to weaponize and deliver such an attack…and such an attack is likely…that would be critical information.
There’s another item of critical information about us, that we would really like to keep from any enemy…and it’s not just the details of our response to this particular issue, but most critically, what level of harm we would be willing to do to our own economy in a like future event. Both Xi, Putin, Kim, and whichever particular terrorist is running the show today in Iran, would all like to know what that particular breakpoint is for the American public.
We have the mightiest military in the World (despite the efforts of certain perfumed princes masquerading as Flag Officers). That military, however, is fueled by an even mightier economy, an economic engine that powers the rest of the World. The most critical piece of information Xi, Putin et al want to know, is what will it take for us to once again throw sand in the gas tank. We shouldn’t give that information to them.
**David Webb is on Sirius XM M-F, 0900-1200.