The Atlas Society Asks Erik Prince

December 09, 2021 00:56:25
The Atlas Society Asks Erik Prince
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The Atlas Society Asks Erik Prince
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Show Notes

The Atlas Society CEO Jennifer Grossman talks to former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince about his book "Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror" to learn the true history of Blackwater and the exasperating and tragic story of "men taking bullets to protect the men who take all the credit." Listen to this wide-ranging interview as Prince discusses the history of private military contractors, including their role in America’s War for Independence, the inability of bloated defense bureaucracies in nimbly addressing evolving security threats, what went wrong in Afghanistan (both with the withdrawal and the failed exercise in nation-building). All this and more on the 82nd episode of The Atlas Society Asks.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:01 Hi, everyone. Welcome to the 82nd episode of the owl society asks. My name is Jennifer Anji Grossman. My friends call me JAG. I'm the CEO of the Atlas society. We are the leading organization, introducing young people to the ideas of iron Rand in fun, creative ways like animated videos and graphic novels. Today, we are joined by Eric Prince, someone I have been following for a long time and who is to me, kind of, um, emblematic of many of the characters in Atlas shrugged. Um, but before I even get into introducing him, I wanted to remind those of you who are watching this on zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, use the comment section to typing your questions and to keep them short, we might even be able to get to a few of them. Now, Eric Prince is a former Navy seal. He founded of course, Blackwater in 1997 and he served as its CEO and chairman until its sale in 2010. Okay. Yeah, I thought that was a little earlier, but he tells that story. Um, and that of his company in civilian warriors, the inside story of Blackwater and the some heroes in the war on terror. So Eric, welcome again. Thank you for joining us. Speaker 1 00:01:32 Thank you for having me. I'm very honored. Speaker 0 00:01:34 So in the, you know, nature nurture debate, uh, looking back on your life in your book, you tell a little bit about your upper growing. You were born in Holland, Michigan. Your father was an engineer who started a machine manufacturing company, and your parents took you to, to Europe. Uh, you visited house, you visited, divided Germany, and, uh, you write in your book how those experiences influenced you and kind of put you at odds sometimes with some of your classmates and teachers. So, um, in what ways was that upbringing, uh, instrumental in kind of defining the person that you would become, or in what way did you kind of break the mold and have your parents, you know, shaking, uh, shaking their head and scratching their head at who this kid was, who wanted to go off and join the Speaker 1 00:02:32 Well, my dad, um, uh, he lost his dad when he was 13 during the great depression. And so, you know, in the great depression, he immediately became the breadwinner of the family and was working, uh, 40 hours a week in middle school already, uh, while still going to school. And so he grew up working hard and when he had made a little bit of money, uh, he really wanted the rest of the family to see the world and to participate in that side of the education. And I remember, uh, 1976, I had my seventh birthday in west Berlin, and I remember going to checkpoint Charlie right between east and west Berlin, the communist and the, and the free side. And I remember seeing the guns and the dogs and the tank traps in the minefields and the machine guns all facing in towards east Germany, literally keeping people in a, in a national prison camp and, uh, for a seven year old, that was a pretty clear signal of what, what worked in a society and what didn't. Speaker 1 00:03:36 And so I guess that's deeply, uh, so the seeds of, of anti-communism and pro-freedom, but I'm going to work with him. Uh, after college was not an option for any of the kids in our family, we had to go do our own thing. Um, we had to, uh, do a career or something on our own. And so I, uh, I'd always wanted to be in the military. And, um, it was actually, while I was at the Naval academy that I learned about the seal teams, um, I left the academy, but planned to go into the seal teams after college and it worked. And, um, I was going to go work with my dad after that, but, uh, unfortunately he passed away while I was in the teams. Um, I still deployed right after. And then, uh, I went and got back from a deployment. My wife, uh, who was 29 then was diagnosed with cancer. Speaker 1 00:04:25 So that caused a, a, an, a, a change in changing, heading. And, uh, I really started Blackwater as a way to stay connected to the seal teams. And, uh, Blackwater was a training facility. Uh, the seal teams had used private facilities really since the 1970s, but no one had done it on the large and industrial scale. Um, and, and because of my dad's success, I was in the unusual position to be able to finance something like that. And it was really kind of, I would say counterintuitive at the time, because, uh, there was a time of great, uh, uh, reduction in defense spending and the peace dividend and closing basis. And so I built what was then the largest private facility of its kind in the country, probably the world and, um, you know, between, uh, the tragedy of the Columbine shootings and when the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen. And, uh, those kinds of drove different blocks of customers to us. And then when nine 11 happened, we were ready to, uh, to help the U S where they needed us at home and abroad. Speaker 0 00:05:27 So I'm going back to, to those beginnings. Um, tell us a little bit about what kinds of programs you evolved in response to the Columbine shootings or the attack on the USS Cole. Speaker 1 00:05:40 So the problem with the Columbine shooting, you know, when you have active shooters, the kind of the prevailing mentality for the seventies and eighties had been to surrounded, negotiate to have a SWAT team come and secure the scene, thinking that they could negotiate with whoever was inside for whatever political they wanted to make. But the problem with an active shooter is they were trying to kill as many people as they could. And so law enforcement had to completely changed their tactics. So that the first two are the first four officers to arrive, had to, had to have the wherewithal and training to go in alone and sort out the problem. And so we actually built a huge mock-up of a high school called are you ready? High school with all the piped in sounds and alarms and screaming and sprinkler systems and, and, uh, role-players. And we train tens of thousands of cops, SWAT cops, regular patrol officers, how to go and solve that immediate threat. And it worked. Speaker 0 00:06:38 So, um, one of the biggest eye-openers of your book was the role of the history of private military contractors, uh, in the founding of our country. You start that chapter by saying, Christopher Columbus is my favorite government contractor. Others like Lafayette were instrumental in helping the United States when its independence. Um, and by extension instrumental in how you look back at what you built at Blackwater. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? Speaker 1 00:07:10 Sure. You know, when the, when the Britain went abroad in the 16 hundreds, it did not send British troops. It actually sent, there was three publicly listed companies, the, uh, the Massachusetts bay, the Plymouth, and the Jamestown companies listed on the London stock exchange that came to America to build a colony, uh, for farming, braising, tobacco, looking for gold timber or whatever. And they hired what we would call a private military contractor guys like miles Standish or John Smith, uh, who were former professional soldiers in the British army who signed on to protect that colony, uh, as they, as they became. I mean, um, John Smith became the first governor of Virginia, um, as a, um, I guess as a, as a later contract, as, as a contractor first and then politician later. So the, the role of the private sector in America has been much more prevalent than most history books really reflect, uh, across the street from the white house, um, is Lafayette park. Speaker 1 00:08:10 And you have Lafayette Roshambo when Steuben Koscuiszko foreigners professional military officers that came and built the continental army, uh, and helped general Washington win the private tiers. Right? Um, a private tier is a private ship, private crew. That's issued a hunting license by a sovereign government. Um, nine out of 10 ships taken during the American revolution were taken by privateers, even, even George Washington was an investor in a private deer. And it was, it left such a market. It was so effective that it's actually provided for in the constitution. I think it's, uh, I think it's article two, section eight Congress shall issue a letter of mark and reprisal. So clearly there's a role, uh, for the private sector in the founding of the country, in the defense of the country, and even in dealing with some of our, uh, our current and future problems. Speaker 0 00:09:00 So unlike some of America's historical, private military contractors, um, Blackwater evolved from training to security and, uh, as government demand for your services grew, the company grew to eventually complete a hundred thousand missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of those missions we learn in reading the book was rescuing, then Senator Joe Biden and others, including John Kerry, uh, after their helicopters, I was forced to land in Afghanistan, Hindu Kush mountains. Can you tell us about that? Speaker 1 00:09:37 Yeah, they ha they hit some bad weather. They had a white out snow conditions and, uh, they were required to land and the army was sent to get them, and we were sent to get them. Of course, that was not even part of our contract, but, uh, we were there working for the state department, protecting all the diplomats and, uh, fortunately our guys navigated well and all part of the, part of the team that extracted them. And, um, uh, Joe Biden seems to have forgotten that because he seems to have disdained for contractors. But, um, as a career politician, I'm not surprised. Speaker 0 00:10:07 Yeah. Well, it seems that just right, even in the immediate aftermath of that story, it seems to have gotten blurred, um, in terms of who was responsible. So, uh, you guys, um, take all the blame for serving the guys and take all the credit. So that story is a good segue to why above all, you wrote civilian warriors, which was to bunk, uh, myths about Blackwater. I may interpret the demonization of Blackwater and yourself, uh, through a somewhat Randian lens, um, of resentment of those who were successful in creating the very services and institutions, uh, that we rely on. But there also seems to be an element of partisanship, um, perhaps even an early manifestation of, uh, hostility to so-called toxic masculinity. Um, Speaker 1 00:11:07 Yeah, it was definitely definitely an early experience of cancel culture. Yeah. Speaker 0 00:11:14 Uh, so, but you lived it, right. So, um, when did the hostility begin? What, what drove it and why was it so difficult to, to counter, I guess in part, because of the contracts that you've signed, Speaker 1 00:11:29 You know, in the Vietnam war, the anti-war left when, after the troops, right. They went after the drafted troops. Um, in this time they went after contractors because of the changing nature of how the military deploys from a very conventional state on state warfare footing of the sixties, seventies, and eighties, to now do it, trying to do counter-insurgency, which is a different way for the military to be engaged. It required a lot more support. And trying to, trying to retask someone that does, um, air defense and surface to air missiles as a soldier to try to make them into a bodyguard or to a police trainer is a hard thing to do. And so that's where the, the, the gap was filled on a temporary basis by contractors. And because I was, um, because of my family's support, my sister, uh, from the Devoss family was very active supporters of Republicans for decades. Speaker 1 00:12:24 And I was a, I was a white male heterosexual, Roman Catholic, married to, um, a woman that I had a lot of kids and I own the business and the men were armed. And sometimes they had to use those arms to defend themselves. We represented everything, the hard left love to hate. And so, uh, made us an easy target. And, um, uh, as under contract, we're obligated to, uh, not even address the untruths in the press. And so it just became a, a, a big punching bag. And then when, uh, the Neisseria square incident happened, um, and, uh, there's a long podcast on that by Sean Ryan, which really unpacks that entire, the facts of that case. It's a it's well worth listening to, uh, it's five hours, but it was exhaustive. And, uh, unfortunately those guys were pardoned a year ago by, uh, by president Trump. Speaker 1 00:13:18 Um, but after that incident happened, then the blizzard of subpoenas and political attack was, uh, was extraordinary. It's like nothing I'd ever thought. You know, we'd kind of built a business and prepared and operated in the worst locations on earth, dealing with roadside bombs and sniper, fire, and mortars and ambushes and attacks and surface to air missiles, even. I mean, the company had four of our aircraft shot down in combat 43 of our men killed in action doing the job, but yet it was the internal politics of Washington that, uh, ended up destroying the business. So it was, um, it was, you know, paying two and a half million dollars a month in legal fees for a couple of years. It just, uh, it crushes us. So I sold that business in 2010, uh, although I still own the brand name, uh, but it was a, um, hard and painful lesson. And a part of me makes it, makes me wish I had just gone into, um, the oil and gas business. Cause even this demonizes, that is, it would be an easier job than, uh, than the one we had to do. Speaker 0 00:14:25 Well, it sounds like you did take a page out of Atlas shrug and decided to withdraw the sanction of the victim and, uh, leave them to it. So, um, now a lot of the work that you did of course, Iraq as mentioned, but also in Afghanistan, I don't think we've ever had a guest on this show is deeply knowledgeable about ganas Stan, as you are. So I'd love to get your perspective, um, what went wrong, not just with the five administrations disastrous withdrawal, but you know, with the war in general, which span four administrations. Speaker 1 00:15:06 Sure. I think it's good to go back and recall. How did the, how did the U S government choose to respond after nine 11? Right. When the Pentagon five days after nine 11 met with Bush at the, uh, at camp David, when, uh, they offered, we're going to do bombs missiles in a ranger raid. And then we want to wait six months and do a conventional invasion of Afghanistan with a 45,000 mechanized unit. Uh, six months later, that was the best that the most expensive military in the world came with. It was the CIA that said, give us the money and the authorities. And in three weeks, we'll take it. And that worked. So the very small, innovative, small footprint capability, uh, with backed by air power was brilliant and it worked and it literally made the Taliban run for their lives. But as in this full for your Randian listeners, this is the perfect case where the big bloating plotting bureaucracy of the Pentagon, because it's all about the money for them, right? Speaker 1 00:16:15 The CA just the CIA and the special operations community. Remember the green Berets on horseback doing a cavalry charge with a satellite, with a satellite radio on their back, calling in airstrikes, a brilliant adaptation of high-tech low-tech to, to defeat the enemy, um, when the big Pentagon right, embarrassed at it, because there was never more than a hundred people that did that job on the ground. And the Pentagon says, well, we need to get our share of the pie. And so they have to send in tens of thousands of troops for a peacekeeping mission, which becomes a nation building mission. That's what we did for the next 19 and a half years. And we literally repeated the Soviet battle plan to the point of even occupying the same basis, same locations, same routes, everything, and, and sadly, the money machine of Washington, which appropriates money to the Pentagon pays the same beltway contractors, which gives contributions to the same appropriators that, you know, rinse wash, repeat cycle went on. The military, never changed his rotation policies, and it went through 32 different troop rotations. So you didn't even have the continuity of the troops on the ground providing the local area knowledge. And it was just a horrible, horrible performance by the Pentagon. And no one has ever been held accountable. It's again, a, it is a perfect example of Washington and government spending Speaker 0 00:17:47 You in fact, developed a plan, which you presented to president Trump, uh, which would've cost a fraction of what it costs, uh, the U S and Afghanistan without getting into too much, um, you know, re-litigating of sale policies. Can you tell us anything about that plan or maybe elements of it that might apply? Speaker 1 00:18:11 I can, I can, I can be quick and simple on it as a contractor we'd built and trained units, but we'd attached our people as mentors. Okay. So not that they didn't go there for a few months and then home and never to see them again, they would live with train with patrol with those units. We provided air power. I had, I had at one point 56 of our own aircraft in Afghanistan doing support for the U S and NATO forces. So all I was recommending to the Trump administration was put a small unconventional warfare package of some active duty, some contracted forces to stay in Afghanistan, kind of like the first guys that went in, we only needed, uh, a total of 6,000, not the 29,000 contractors that they had in country. Plus this 15,000 us troops, right? 6,000 man advisory in air power force would have kept the Afghan forces upright. And it would have cost 5% of what we were spending. In fact, it would have cost half of what Congress just appropriated to relocate all the Afghan refugees. So again, people don't like to listen to unconventional, uh, or let's say out of the box thinking, and that's a problem. And I guess, uh, since, since your audience definitely thinks about economics, to me, it all derives from the, um, the problem of the dollar being the world's reserve currency is that Congress and the politicians can just keep appropriating more and more of it creating out of thin air, allowing dumb ideas to compound upon doubt upon more dumb ideas. Speaker 0 00:19:55 Um, so since the withdrawal, you have been independently involved with rescue operations in Afghanistan, what can you tell us about that and how, how did, how did that get started? Speaker 1 00:20:09 Um, it got started because of Afghans that we knew that worked with us, we're pleading for help pleading to be rescued so that our families and they were not brutalized and executed by the Taliban. And so one thing led to another and you, you know, you respond when your friends need help. Um, now I can say the state department is actively blocking, um, the relief efforts to try to get, uh, qualified Afghans out. And so, uh, it's even come, it's even fall into the other European countries that were there that are actually doing a more of a concerted organized job. I think that the byte administration is just trying to put the whole thing in the back window, or sorry, the rear view mirror and forget about it and move on. But sadly, there are a lot of Afghans, whether it's, um, judges or, or business people or civil society, people that, um, are just being horribly brutalized and murdered. Speaker 0 00:21:12 Uh, well, we have a very unique guest in my experience hosting the Atlas society asks has, uh, someone who actually takes on a question, answers it quickly addresses it and, uh, and then, you know, sums it up. So we are going to have time for questions. Uh, if you don't mind, Ms. Prince, we'll take a few. Alright. So, uh, Scott shifts, um, Speaker 1 00:21:39 Yeah, so I apologize. I apologize. I may not have the long academic answers you used to. Speaker 0 00:21:44 No, that's fine. I think we're going to, you know, maybe in the black water, uh, mold, we'll, we'll start a training center for our guests to say, here's a question, you answer it and then you move on. Uh, so Scott Schiff asks just a little random, but, uh, interesting. Did you happen to watch 24? And if so, do you think John Voight's character, Jonas Hodges was meant to portray a bad guy version of you as a private contractor gone? Speaker 1 00:22:17 No, but there is a Russell Crowe movie where I'm definitely portrayed as the bad guy. Speaker 0 00:22:22 What do you remember which one that is? We will have, we will get our research team looking at it, but we don't want to see a movie of you as the bad guy. Any, any movies out there or like any, you know, popular culture. Um, I mean, I hope Homeland was one in which you could see, there was a lot of private contractors there because it was CIA and they needed security that it was portrayed either positively or negatively though. I thought, Speaker 1 00:22:55 Yeah, the, the challenge, uh, you know, I'm, I'm, I've been giving some thought about doing another book. Um, I think it's very important for, um, in the continuum of state graft. Okay. On one end you have embassies and diplomats and international conferences and the other end of state craft, you have nuclear missiles, aircraft carriers in tank divisions. But to me, that leaves 80% of the middle is the world of the intelligence community. And when you have a very risk averse intelligence community that I would say continues to wrap multiple Talmuds around the Torah so that the, you don't even get to the core authorities at the CIA should be doing that's what leaves these kind of lingering burning brush of crazy terrorism around the world, whether that's in an Afghanistan in Mozambique, in Somalia, in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq, um, that if the agency is not taking care of its job, it leaves a gap. Speaker 1 00:24:03 And then the Pentagon with tens of thousands of green suitors tries to fill it at enormous expense in a very limited effect. And that's kind of where we are as a country today. And, and then you see, uh, you know, Russia and China trying to push in with a hybrid unconventional warfare capability. And that's what takes a clever, uh, unconventional capability in the United States to, uh, to, to push back and deter that I'm, I'm reminded of another, um, you know, in 19 80, 19 81, right? When Reagan was first in the oval office, he decided we're no more, we're not going to do containment anymore. Um, you know, we had had 35 years of containment. We're just gonna try to hold the expansion of the Soviet union of preventing Soviet communism from dominating the world. And Reagan said, no, we're going to F the commies. We're going to go at them economically, politically, culturally, socially, everything we can, we're going to go back at them. Speaker 1 00:25:07 And he sent a mentor of mine around the world to literally come back with a list of all the places that we could wait to be pushed back. And there were 20 covert action authorities that were signed by the president. Actually, some of them had even been signed by Carter who learned his lesson late, but he S he signed the, these were signed and enacted in the agency, went to work. And nine years later, Berlin wall collapses, uh, Soviet union does a year and a half later. And it was a great outbreak of freedom. And, and so for other countries suffering under the boot of tyranny, that is a more clever way to, to approach things and not with tens of thousands of uniformed us or NATO forces anywhere, because that's just not very effective, especially when you look, you know, there's a great book called the, um, the shield of Achilles. Speaker 1 00:25:59 Uh, and it talks about the, the, the devaluing of the nation state because of the growth of technology. Right? If you think about Google maps today gives you what a satellite, uh, analysts with a top secret clearance in 1985 would have been drooling for. Right? So the amount of information technology you can have on the Palm of your hand, um, has, has empowered the individual to the detriment of the nation state. That's great, but that means the nation state has to be, if it's going to maintain its legitimacy and provide security, it has to move fast enough to do that. So, um, that's, that's something the U S has to, has to keep up on. And, and the problem, I would even say the P the, the Pentagon and the intelligence budgets are so grossly too large, that it's like trying to do a triathlon, being 50 pounds, overweight, being, uh, doing triathlons and being somewhat overweight myself. Speaker 1 00:27:00 This is something that I can relate to, uh, but it's harder, it's much harder. And so a lean a much more lean and much more focused, uh, security apparatus, um, is in everyone's interest. And someone, you know, you might be surprised as a defense contractor saying, I'll cut the budget. No, I was saying cut the budget from even when I was in active duty in the Navy, and I've continued to do so ever since. And in building Blackwater, um, literally tried to lay it out, uh, really almost based on the Toyota production system. Uh, lean thinking to do things with a tiny footprint as efficiently as possible without the bloat. And, uh, I think the biggest piece of information that military or call it leaders of the security apparatus, uh, miss is the essential information of price. They have no idea what something costs. They have no idea how do they do a cost benefit analysis if they have really no idea what something costs, whether it's a, an hour of flight time for an aircraft, or how long it keeps, how long it keeps the to maintain 10,000 people in the field, if you lose track of price, that's your most essential information. Speaker 1 00:28:10 And really all the military leader is supposed to do is pass information and unleash energy. And, and they're missing the entire economic reality of the side of pricing. Speaker 0 00:28:22 I've never heard it described in quite that way, but, but it makes a lot of sense. You think of analogies also, for example, with, let's say this pandemic and the CDC, which is another huge, um, bloated bureaucracy. And I know in, in, in your book, you fun inside fact was that, uh, Eric and I were actually in the Bush 41 administration at the same time. And we shared this impression of like coming here and saying, what are all of these huge bill? I mean, this is crazy. There's like football field building after building, after building. And it was kind of, you know, a little depressing, Speaker 1 00:29:10 And I don't know about you, but my experience with a white house badge in 1990, you could go anywhere in Washington. And so walking through the department of labor of HHS of these, literally the embodiment of Leviathan, while I'm reading about Leviathan in college, it was, uh, it was really rather frightening and think of how much government has exploded in growth since then, Speaker 0 00:29:32 How much it will be exploding with all of these new entitlements and this insane new spending. But, you know, like with CDC, this huge bloated bureaucracy doing, oh, we're, we're going to have epidemic on gun violence, vaping. I mean, all of these things, rather than just the one thing that it should have been focused on, which is infectious disease and that, you know, in part, if it had been smaller, if it had said, you know, we do something about vaping, but we really can't afford it. It might've actually been, um, been more effective. So, uh, we have another question here from Jerry Gruber asking, what is your relationship with president Trump? Speaker 1 00:30:19 Uh, well, I was an early supporter of president Trump, but I don't really have a relationship with them. The, I saw him once met him once briefly before the election in 2016. And I, the only time I saw him while he was president, was that a veterans day event in 2019. And he came up to me and he said, Eric, you were right. I should have listened to you on Afghanistan. I said, I said, Mr. President, there's still time. But, um, I think that's one of the, it's probably one of the great shortcomings of his administration is he never really got control of the national security apparatus and, you know, complaints about the deep state and the permanent bureaucracy. It's a very real thing. And in any bureaucracy does not like change, certainly does not like accountability. And, and so they were preventing and resisting any kind of change to the status quo, literally from the very first day, as, as, as, as comparison to, to Ronald Reagan when he came in and, and bill Casey as the CIA director. The other unique thing about the CIA is it that, and the peace Corps are the only two federal agencies where civil service rules do not apply. So the CIA director can fire anyone for any reason today. No questions asked and, um, and nobody's cleaned house and the CA like they should have really, since, since 1981, the time is coming again. Speaker 0 00:31:45 Yeah. I've been, I've been surprised to learn about the strength of the, uh, foreign service view and how that was just something hadn't even crossed my radar, but that it was just really handy, hands hamstringing, anytime of effective change. And I do wonder with president Trump's, uh, you know, he very patriotic loved the military, grew the military. Um, but I, I wonder if there wasn't a, almost an Achilles heel in, in that, in terms of his, um, his love of the military that he would just defer to, uh, to the career, Speaker 1 00:32:31 He deferred too much to the generals and, and, you know, I'd, um, I wrote an op-ed in may of 2000 laying out a different path for Afghanistan. Uh, and it had the desired intent because the president circled it at his desk. And he called in the national security advisor who had just asked to send 70,000 more troops back to Afghanistan. Okay. HR McMaster. And the president said, I don't like this. I don't like your plan. I like this one pointing to the articles, do this Speaker 0 00:33:00 Saying that. Speaker 1 00:33:02 Yeah, well, that was recounted to me by another guy that was in the office. And unfortunately, the national school advisor who was a serving three-star armor officer of course, was going to do nothing to counter the interest of the Pentagon and, um, and was blocked and prevented from making any change. So again, it's ultimately president Trump's fault because he did not listen or seek other counsel. It was presented to him and it was not a theoretical exercise. We knew exactly how to do that model of mentors and air power and, and some call it logistics advisory to prevent the massive corruption. I mean, all these smart people were saying, well, how on earth could the Afghan security forces collapse so quickly? Well, anybody, if you ask any enlisted man that served in the military in Afghanistan, they say, if you don't pay a man on time or feed them or provide medivac or supplies, of course, they're going to walk off the job because it's a very high cost of failure when the Taliban surrounds their base and no one comes to help you. And they say, you can surrender now and walk away, or because no one's coming, or we're going to kill you. It's a pretty binary decision. It's pretty easy to drive that what they're going to do. Speaker 0 00:34:12 All right. We got questions coming in from all different platforms, including one coming in from Twitter, where Mary tos is asking what was like, like lifelike after Blackwater. Speaker 1 00:34:28 Um, I moved, so I sold the business in 2010 and I moved to the UAE because of Somali piracy, which was raging off the coast. And there were 85 to 95 big ships taken per year and held for, um, up to a year and through a chance meeting with the leadership in the UAE, I laid out a different plan, how to, uh, how to end piracy. And, um, I remember he said yellow Arabic for let's go. And, uh, and it worked, I'd read a fantastic book called the pirate coast, which is about actually America's first covert action program in 18 0 4, 18 0 5. When you had the library, Barbary pirates off of Libya, and they had the U S Navy ship that was taken hostage well, because the guy ran into ground and he surrendered it. So the, the ransom demand for the pirates exceeded, uh, the U S defense budget. Speaker 1 00:35:28 And so Thomas Jefferson being very much a libertarian and a non-interventionist was in a, in a, in a pickle. And so we authorized, uh, guy named William Eaton, uh, to, to go solve it. And he took eight Marines off of a ship, and he hired 90 contracted mercenaries, and they marched on the pirate layer and they attacked it and they had success. And the end, they would have had complete victory, but in the end, it was screwed up by a pompous harbored diplomat that, uh, that messed it up, but he did get the hostages out. So anyway, going after pirate logistics inspired the, uh, the counter piracy program, and you don't really hear much about pirates off the coast of Smalley anymore. So funny that look at it, we, it, it was, it was a simple equation by going after the logistics, because when the, you know, it was an interesting, it was a business for them, for the pirates, they would go out to sea, they would grab a ship, they'd have to sit on it and wait for the ransom to get paid. So we went after the resupply and whoever was paying their guards. And so we just denied them sanctuary, and it really dried it up almost like drying up, uh, drying up puddles takes care of mosquitoes. It was the same, same analogy, and it costs less than the pirates were taking in ransom per year. Speaker 0 00:36:44 Uh, okay. Ethan G on Instagram is asking, what do you think of the United States having 18 intelligence organizations? Does it have 18 intelligence orders? Speaker 1 00:36:57 I think so. Yeah. When you consider the coast guard has an intelligence org organization to many, and they definitely step on each other. Uh it's to the point of redundancy. I think, you know, a little competition amongst intelligence agencies is a good thing will cause innovation, but 18 is, is beyond ridiculous and redundant. Look, the, the, the J sock forces, right seal team six versus Delta force, they're terribly competitive, but they definitely cause each other to be better because they innovate competition as we all believe is a good thing. Um, but, uh, 18 is to the point of, of, of bloated redundancy, Speaker 0 00:37:39 Scott Schiff asks, should we expect the administration to cook up the new administration to cook up a new investigation against you? In today's politicized environment, Speaker 1 00:37:53 There is always some constant, uh, haranguing or harassment in the, in the media, uh, being very willing participants, uh, it kind of feeds a non-virtuous loop of nonsense, and it adds to the cancel culture with problems with banks and financing and all the rest it's, uh, it, it, it so many analogies to a, uh, to the Soviet system of being denounced and, uh, and even elements of the social credit score you see seeping in from, uh, from China. Yeah, it's disgusting, but it is what it is Speaker 0 00:38:24 Mr. For. How on zoom is asking recently, um, he wrote a paper using your book, uh, as well as Sean. McFate not sure who was as primary sources. Uh, and he is saying that, you know, recently you've been working much more with these international clients, uh, will future work continue to be, uh, direct to foreign co um, agents, or will you try to contract with the United States? Again, Speaker 1 00:38:56 I play most of the advisory work I still do is, is with the us, with certain, certain organizations that take things seriously yet, and, uh, and want to figure out how to address the, uh, the current challenges facing the Republic. Speaker 0 00:39:11 Okay. We have another question here about China is China using the private contractor approach when their companies take over the management of keyboards? Speaker 1 00:39:25 Well, let's first compare how the U S Russia and China kind of go, how they conduct their foreign policy, the Russians. So in 2011, the Russians pitched me to come and build a Blackwater like facility in Russia. And I said, thanks, but no, thanks. I can't do that. But, uh, that was two years before they, they did their incursion into Ukraine using what's called the Wagner group, which is very much a contracted hybrid warfare capability. And so the Russians had been on the move using that capability, of course, first in Ukraine and the Dunbar, and then in Syria, um, in Madagascar in the Central African Republic in Mozambique and Libya and Venezuela, uh, I think they're moving into a Mali as well. So the vacuum caused by proper security support from the west, right? The kind of nimble small unconventional capability, uh, that vacuum is being filled by, by a Russian kind of a Russian version of the east India company, the Chinese, on the other hand, they go abroad and they provide lots of money. Speaker 1 00:40:37 They do black bag diplomacy, very well. They, they buy off whatever local politicians, the mining minister, the presidents of whatever countries they want their concessions, they load up that country with debt. And, um, and then they ended up foreclosing on some of the infrastructure like you might've just heard about they did with the Inteva airport and Uganda, or certain ports from a security apparatus side that the Chinese don't really have a PMC capability. They've they, I can say I used to be associated with a Hong Kong based company and they, they wanted to do security abroad was never going to build never endeavored to build a PMC for them, a private military contractor for them, but just to do simple security for compromise or for oil fields. But even they, they, they can't really get it in their heads. They're the shiny state is so afraid of talented, armed, capable individuals in the private sector that they just can't their, their, their idea of a great security operator, someone that knows Kung Fu and, um, and so it's impairing them on the, on the, I think, I think what you'll see in the next five years are other countries returning to using private military capability effectively. Speaker 1 00:41:50 Certainly the Brits, the French, uh, the Turks have used it, um, uh, certainly in, um, in Syria they have, and Olivia again. So you're going to see it more and more. It is, it is as old as warfare itself, and it is much more adaptable to the kind of below the, below the threshold of conventional combat challenges that you, that we'll face in the next 20 to 50 years. Speaker 0 00:42:16 Um, so is that that company, was it the Wagner group in that? Speaker 1 00:42:21 Yes, it's called the Wagner group. It's a Russian, uh, it's a Russian private military company and it's not really state sponsored it's I would say state promoted, but they're there mostly to, they, they like to focus in resource rich areas and they're, they're, uh, sucking up as many of the resources they can. So in the Central African Republic, thereafter, golden diamonds, Libya they're after oil in, um, and Mozambique, uh, is an enormous, it's one of the largest new gas fields in world. Speaker 0 00:42:52 Okay. Marcus T on Twitter asks, do you think, uh, countries private, military contractors will see more use in the future or has cyber warfare supplanted, conventional actions? So I guess, yeah. Thoughts on cyber warfare and is that, you know, a area that, uh, or cyber defense against cyber warfare that use Speaker 1 00:43:16 Yeah. Cyber war, it's certainly part of the continuum of conflict, right? We talked about the continuum of statecraft from embassies all the way to nuclear, you know, nuclear weapons in the, in the, in the continuum of conflict, you do have cyber and you effectively have cyber private tiers being hosted in Russia now, right? If you find the origins of all these ransomware attacks, about 60% of them plot back to actual IP addresses out of Russia. So like it or not, the Russians are hosting these ransomware guys, which are going after high. Um, I mean, and they're making tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars collecting these ransoms. So their private sector is doing that. I certainly think the private sector in America is best at adapting and helping those countries, uh, those companies defend their networks and their information. Uh, but as you go towards the middle of the, the, kind of the training advisory services up to two to full on combat forces, I don't know that we'll get there completely. Speaker 1 00:44:22 Um, but there's a lot of ways. I mean, I would think, um, I paint a picture of, of if China is going to move on Taiwan, okay. They're not going to start by launching a hundred thousand troops and putting them on ships. They would, they would use their Chinese maritime militia, which are basically a Chinese fishing fleet with all under the control of the Chinese coast guard. Okay. And they've, they've used that Chinese maritime militia to seize a number of violence from the Philippines. I think they would do the same, uh, kind of activity to either stage an incident or a shipwreck or something that causes some of those boats to descend on some of the smaller islands owned by Taiwan and seize it. And they'll look to see what the reaction is of the west, because the us is not going to send an aircraft carrier to defend an island of a hundred people. Speaker 1 00:45:19 So they will, they will dial up constantly the, the dialogue, the threshold of, of, uh, of aggression and constantly keep it below the U S is threshold of any kind of response. And so if you hamstring yourself to only saying we're only going to do it conventional military response, well, the guys can, can slice that sausage, very thinly, but they'll keep, uh, they'll keep working it up and doing it. I, in my travels in China, I actually met, um, the CEO of the state owned enterprise was like China Harbor. And dredge is the company that built those islands in the south China sea. And he said it was never in our wildest dreams, let alone in our strategic plans to build all those islands. Um, they did it because they felt the, uh, the lack of pushback by the Obama administration. And they just, uh, let's just say they didn't do an environmental impact statement before they started building. Speaker 1 00:46:17 And they went fast and they built them very, very quickly. They do that because, you know, China suffered from a hundred years what they call the a hundred years of humiliation, the century of humiliation. And it started with the opium wars in the 1840s. And it ended with the communist revolution in 1949, but all the problems they had came by sea, the Brits and the Americans, and then the Imperial Japanese army and Navy. And, you know, you've heard of the great wall of China up to the north, which was built to keep the, um, the horses of the Mongols from, from rolling in and attacking the north of China. This was the, those islands they built out there is their attempt at building a great maritime wall for the same way. So that's why they did it. I'm not defending it by any chance, but, but they, they, they, by constantly pushing in below that, that zone of response by the United States, they were able to put, uh, I think, 12 to 15 major bases in the middle of the south China sea. Speaker 0 00:47:21 Do you expect that similar kind of patch pattern to happen now with, with Russia Speaker 1 00:47:27 Of Speaker 0 00:47:28 Pushing the boundaries? Uh, Speaker 1 00:47:32 So look, they, they understand hybrid war and, and, and, and operating below the U S is threshold of response. I think the, um, um, look Americans, we kind of dilute ourselves in thinking that we won world war II, right? That we defeated the Germans. We lost 250,000 killed in action in the European theater, we lost 150,000 in the Pacific theater. The Russians lost 1.2 million people just at the battle of Stalingrad. They lost 22 million people in defeating Nazi Germany. So from a Russian perspective, now you have more unfriendly, fully weaponized troops on their border than at any time since may of 1940 Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, all the way down to, um, to the black sea. And so they take defense of Russia very, very seriously. And I think all this buildup on the Ukrainian border look, they view Ukraine as being part of the greater Russian empire because it was for centuries. I think they're just negotiating to make sure that NATO is not expanded any further to the east. Frankly, I think NATO should go away. Uh, I think Washington warned us of entangling alliances and when the Soviet union ceased to exist, I think NATO should have as well, because it really doesn't play much of a purpose other than to continue a us defense overspending and let the Europeans worry about defending themselves. Speaker 0 00:49:13 I think you would find a lot of people who agreed with that, um, perspective here at the Atlas society. So tell us what you are working on now. Uh, you you're in Virginia now, but as you mentioned, you moved your relocated with before Elvis children to Abu Dhabi. Um, I don't know if it was primarily a move of convenience for the, uh, the contracts, the huge job, even, it sounds like very successful job in terms of, uh, eliminating piracy off the Smalley coast. Um, and the other private equity projects that you had in the middle east and Africa, uh, element of golf's Gulch. Speaker 1 00:50:00 So the one thing I'm, uh, I'm very excited that I'm working on now is, um, I see big tech as monetizing, uh, each of their, you know, the, the movie, uh, the social dilemma on Netflix, where they spoke to me about, um, how big tech makes us not their customer, but really makes us their product. And they resell our data to the tune of $180 per phone user per year. They know where you go, will you talk to what you browse and what you shop, and they resell that data and it's part of their business model and that's, and that's their right. But, um, we are working on an alternate phone platform, which will allow people to opt out of that model completely and, um, might even use some terminology that would be very, uh, welcome to, uh, to the Randy in here. So I'll leave it at that, but there'll be some big announcements coming, uh, in February. Speaker 0 00:50:55 Okay. Well, speaking of Randy and ear, uh, wondering if I, either iron Rams literature, or if there are other, um, writers, uh, novelists economists that had a big influence on your thoughts? Speaker 1 00:51:14 Well, I can not, I actually have a, I made a, I gotta make a bracelet made for my wife that looks like it's made of reared metal. Um, so for my, uh, my lovely wife, uh, uh, her name is not Dagny, but, um, but anyway, so, uh, I was an Austrian economics major at Hillsdale, and so the true free market really spoke to me from an earliest, uh, earliest of time. Um, so of course Hayak, and , they're long and brilliant, but, um, but honestly I find them a little dry sometimes, but, um, but they're amazingly and, uh, and truthful. I really like Paul Johnson as a writer who was a, um, it was an advisor to Margaret Thatcher as an Irish Catholic, which I find amazing, certainly at the, at the peak of the troubles, uh, but an amazing a worldview and, uh, his book modern times and the birth of the modern and heroes and the history of the American people are a fantastic perspective on, uh, on Western society. Speaker 0 00:52:19 Excellent. Well, um, we will have to follow up as well with some of these other books that you recommended in the interview. Um, any other thoughts on what's going on in the world, uh, that, that you'd like to share or thoughts about the book that I didn't get to Speaker 1 00:52:39 I'm, I'm, I'm thinking hard about what effect blockchain currencies will have. And I think, I think we live in perilous times because the, to me, the dollar is the world's reserve currency. And our entire society is funded by that by the are the largest of our welfare society and an over bloated military, and really a government that just spends too much. I mean, the five counties surrounding Washington DC are the wealthiest per capita in the country, and that's a terrible, that's a terrible sign for society, but that reserve currency status is underpinned by the perception of us military hegemony. And with the absolute debacle that you saw out of, uh, from the withdrawal from Afghanistan is a bad look. And I think, um, I think the Navy is, is gotten, um, I read a lot of history and so I look at how the us Navy is now. Speaker 1 00:53:45 And I worry, you know, the British Navy was victorious at the battle of Trafalgar in 1804, right. They defeated in poli and fleet and Britain ruled the waves, right? It's even there there's song rule there, Tanya Tanya rules of the waves. They ruled for a hundred and some years, but they got fat and lazy probably politically correct. And they got spanked by a rising German, industrial power at the battle of Jutland. And that was really the beginning, beginning of the end of the British empire. Um, the U S Navy has had some real problems. The last few years, you've had two fatal collisions of ships at sea with commercial vessels, uh, lost a helicopter carrier that was tied up peer site in San Diego, a $5 billion warship that the crew did not put the fire out. It took them more than two hours to even start getting water on the fire. And then a month ago, the U S Navy, one of the three hottest nuclear attack submarines, uh, Virginia class drove into a mountain and almost totaled the boat. And so I worry about the readiness of the Navy and so that any other desktop can a cause significant casualties to our, uh, to our service personnel, but be an enormous blow to American credibility and the knock on effect of destroying the currency as well. Speaker 0 00:55:04 Wow. All right. Well that gives us quite a bit to, to, to think about, um, where can we follow you? I'm going to guess we're not on social media, Speaker 1 00:55:15 Not so much. I'm on a, I think I'm on LinkedIn is all. And, uh, and Speaker 0 00:55:19 I, or, Speaker 1 00:55:22 Oh, trust me, that will be shouted from the, from the mountaintops people will know about it. Speaker 0 00:55:28 All right. Well, we'll say that we heard it here first, so we'll thank you very much, Eric. Um, and everyone we've put the link in the platform, various platforms, please check this book out. Uh, Erik prince, civilian warriors, um, the inside story of Blackwater and the unsung heroes in the war on terror. I also highly recommend the audible version. I have read this book twice, uh, and we'll probably do so again. So thank you very much. We really appreciate Speaker 1 00:56:00 It. Speaker 0 00:56:02 And thanks all of you who joined us today. If you are enjoying the content of the Atlas society, remember we are a 5 0 1 C three nonprofit, please send in your tax deductible donation and make sure to join us tomorrow on clubhouse. And again, uh, next week in this space, it's very much.

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