Jon Huntress on Dr. Thomas Barnett : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Received this via the mailing list. Apparently, this is part one, with more on this presentation to follow. =========== Y2K Project Findings, U.S. Naval War College Dr. Thomas Barnett Part One

Dr. Barnett is a Senior Strategic Researcher in the Decision Support Department of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI. His biography and his presentation is at the NWC web site at .

His credentials and his presentation were very impressive. This guy is so good he has even had his own existence debated at length on the Internet. He related he once jumped into a chat room where he was being discussed and identified himself to the disbelief of the participants. Some think he is either a CIA front to scare people (or put them to sleep- he gets both sides) and he should fear for his life. Whenever his web server goes down he gets frantic e-mails assuming he has been "taken care of." He said some of his friends won't shake hands with him.

The actual title of Dr. Thomas Barnett's talk was "Year 2000 International Security Dimension Project." He began his talk by saying that the following material is not what will happen but what might happen, based on his and others' strategic thinking. His directive was to come up with a scenario for Y2k and any other "fellow travelers" that will alter the international security environment. He considers this presentation a full disclosure, and used the example of what a surgeon would do when he talks to you the night before mentioning there is a small chance of coma or death but have a good night's sleep and we'll see you in the morning.

The purpose of his talk and the thrust of his presentation was to orient and show decision makers just what kind of possibilities they might have to deal with. He said the military is big on planning, and wants to get all the issues and probables out on the table beforehand. His goal is to make sure that after 01/01/00 there is no decision-maker who will turn to a colleague and say, "I had no idea.....", and promised the audience that after this briefing they should have every idea.

He used a process view, which he displayed as a chart with dates on the bottom from 1998 to 2001. Up the left side of the graph is network instability/failure with low at the bottom and high at the top. "Network" was defined as any system that moved stuff, whether data or material. Network failures will rise as we approach and go through 2000. Just how much they will rise, we don't know. But if there are many failures, at some point they will come to an "Unknown Threshold," a line across the graph that is the level of failure that has not been experienced before and cannot be handled by the regular staff. Above this line the old rules no longer work and new rules need to be created. After the crisis the old rules may be gone forever.

Dr. Barnett said that he and his colleges were "very agnostic" about Y2K, using the word to mean "impartial." In an e-mail, he told me:

"We sought, so to speak, to be "all knowing" on range of Y2K impact on global security environment. But we likewise sought to be non-partial to any outcome, meaning we sought to avoid laying any norms on top of our analysis. So no finger pointing, no criticism of public officials, etc. We made a point of not having any axe to grind, so no matter how it turns out, we "win" if our analysis was good, rather than if it seemed a better "prediction" than others. In short, I strove to make sure I'd never get up any morning and read anything in the papers that would make me wince about what we wrote or what I said in briefings, and amazingly, I think we pulled it off."

But he cautioned that little of his presentation actually is based on fear that there will be a lot of serious network damage. Rather the US Naval War College sees Y2K as an example of a:

"...system perturbation that we will feel increasingly as we become ever more interconnected, interdependent, in a global IT driven new economy. We think this (Y2K) is a model of how things are going to happen increasingly in the future."

And you thought you could forget about Y2K after the first quarter of next year!

In describing the focus of his project, Dr. Barnett used a concrete object of a military base, but said that the same model works for any organization. Up until a short time ago, the bases were only concerned with what was "inside the wire" meaning the internal systems of the base. He called these the "intranet" or the "known knowns." As they began to feel secure with their own systems, they began thinking of the "crosswire" connections: those places where the base and the outside world interacted such as plumbing, electric and network connections.

One of the goads for this concern was the realization that the main air base in Italy has to shut down if they are without electricity for more than 70 hours. And this air base is in charge of everything we are doing in the Balkans. Cross wire problems are called the "extranet" or the "known unknowns." Only in the last quarter of this year have they begun looking at issues "outside the wire." These are the "Internet" or the "unknown unknowns," which is the litany you have been hearing for some time now of, "We are going to be OK but we don't have any idea about ......", where you can fill in the blank with whatever you are afraid of. Often this has to do with how people are going to react to unknown scenarios. Giving us a little insight into US policy, he said that there are usually 20 crisis situations going on in the world at any given time. We pick five and declare them real crises. Why are they the most serious? Because we show up, he said. So what will Y2K do to the normal load? Will we have the usual 20 or will it be 25 and pick 5, or 35 and pick X?

Then he brought up "Millennial Mania" and mentioned the Center for Millennial Studies at run by Richard Landis of Boston University. Richard says the main Y2K story will be with the people and not with the machines, and that a lot of people are date and history obsessed, pointing out that the Oklahoma City bombing was two years after Waco to the day, and Littleton, Colorado was on Hitler's birthday. Having all the zeros line up is like rocket fuel to these people. There are some interesting corollaries here. There were many heretics before Martin Luther but no movement resulted from them. The reason Luther was successful was that the printing press had been invented shortly before, and his views were widely disseminated. And now we have the Internet. Can you hear the theme of "The Twilight Zone" playing in the background? Check out Richard's site.

Dr. Barnett used an unfamiliar word to describe the effects to come from the year 2000 problem. The word is "iatrogenic," and means the unexpected side effects that result from treatment by a physician. He said another definition would be "ordinary people doing stupid things under stressful conditions," and pointed out that when all the numbers come up zeros, it is important because lots of people THINK it is important. The CIA has counted over 100,000 web sites for Y2K survival with a religious angle. One hundred books are coming out on the apocalypse this fall! He thinks as much as a quarter of the population is in a continual state of crisis characterized by an extreme attraction to an exogenous event that will come down and make everything all better in one fell swoop.

Most people react well in a crisis, as long as it doesn't go on for a long time. If it lasts too long or if there is a perceived differential recovery where some are getting more help faster than others, people stop putting others first. He mentioned Gary North's site and Jerry Falwell's video and said that people are giving lots of advice about what to do when society breaks down and other people will act on this advice and will do stupid and illogical things by our standards and create all sorts of problems we have never even considered.

The main question is will Y2K problems be discrete and episodic, or widespread and sustained? Stay tuned for part 2 of Dr. Barnett's presentation in our next mailing.

Best practices,

Jon Huntress

-- (, December 18, 1999


So, in other words, this hotshot doesn't know anymore than anyone else.

-- Lars (, December 18, 1999.

second from the last paragragh infers...

People that are prepared will do stupid and illogical things.

That bit of "logic" renders the rest of this so called analysis meaningless. The military has only "a short time ago" looked beyond "inside the wire". Seriously, they must not know what the problem IS. It goes with all of these happy news conferences recently. Probably very few have looked beyond there "own wire"

-- PJC (, December 18, 1999.

their "own wire" .............

-- PJC (, December 18, 1999.



Your writing of what you find in his work mirrors what I see. Having spent time reading the Security Dimension Project as it evolved, trading emails with Dr. Barnett during that time, and attending his briefing hosted by the Arlington Institute I believe his body of work represents some of the best "what iffing" available to decision makers at any level.

The degree of value in his presentation relies on the capacity of the listener to expand their boundaries of thought.

Sure do wish the public could have seen him do his thing.

Critt (Letting the chips fall where they may in Wilmington, North Carolina.)

-- Critt Jarvis (, December 18, 1999.

Yep, These guys are good. If you look at the list of contributors to the thing, it's like a who's who in spooks, spies and industry heavyweights. These guys got the message to me loud and clear. Thus far though as I can tell Bill Clinton hasn't taken their message to heart. As I recall, one of the ideas posited was that the longer the public was held off from getting real credible what if information before the rollover, the worse off they would be due to the Owl Rooster hardening effect.

Sorry, didn't summarize that well, but those of you who read it know what I mean....Recently pulled out Barnett's Inputs to Isolatores and Cascaders to watch during the Y2K Event Season list....some real insight here....

Chat rooms

Kerosine Sales

Growing increase in major errors in computer generated billing

Bank withdrawals

Company Y2K Expenditures ramp up wildly in 99

Precursors to public fear in news

Rise of fundamentalism

Swell of actual cases of systems that failed....

Fuel wood sales in urban areas

International Petroleum inventories

Selected commidity futures upticks

Ammunition sales

Endangered nations

Closing of bank accounts and withdrawal of cash

PC's drop below $500

Hotel reservations in financial centers post Jan 1

Anyway, I think these guys did a great job. There's evidence that the Clinton regime used this document to tackle the big cascaders without spooking the herd. It will be interesting to see if it works.

-- Gordon (, December 19, 1999.

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