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The Military Government United States

The Pentagon May Retire "Yoda," Its 92-Year-Old Futurist 254

Daniel_Stuckey writes "Of all the weapons the Pentagon relies on to defend the United States, one of the strangest and most secretive is Andrew Marshall, a 92-year-old man who's spent the last 40 years staring into the future trying to predict the next big threat to America. Known fondly as "Yoda" to his many fans in Washington, Marshall heads up the Office of Net Assessment—the Defense Department's think tank tasked with taking a long view, out-of-the-box approach to defense strategy. In his role as the Pentagon's visionary sage, Marshall is credited with predicting the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of China's global prominence, the role of autonomous weapons and robots in warfare, and even helping end the Cold War. Now, facing budget cuts, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is considering reorganizing or possibly even shuttering the futurist think tank, Defense News recently reported."
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The Pentagon May Retire "Yoda," Its 92-Year-Old Futurist

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  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @01:47PM (#45271333) Homepage Journal

    I'm truly interested. He either called it and they ignored him, in which case he's not useful, or he didn't call it, in which case he's not useful.

    I'm sure he costs less than a redundant engine for the F-35, but everybody who says that each of the thousands of useless programs don't need to be cut because they don't cost too much is ignoring the rest of those other thousands.

    If he's as smart as the ethos contends, many think tanks would be glad to hire him on. I only hope I'm fortunate enough to be in such a position when I'm 92. Also cool that he was already 60 before he picked up his nickname - most career military are outta-there at that point.

  • Stupid Move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @01:49PM (#45271345)

    Ugh, this is so stupid. This is the only long view think tank in the Pentagon, the only one who looks at the entirety of a nation and tries to predict what will happen and more or less gets it correct. One of the big complaints about the military is they're "always fighting the last war"; this group was specifically designed to try to predict what a conflict 20 years from now will be and start preparing for it. Marshall needs to retire; he's damned old, but the group's purpose is still relevant.

  • by rockout ( 1039072 ) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @01:56PM (#45271441)

    Envisioning the implosion of a corrupt, bankrupt police state? Brilliant! Most populous country on Earth is in the ascent? Wizard!

    The difference between someoldguy and "Yoda" appears to be that someoldguy is really good at predicting the exact same things in hindsight.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @02:06PM (#45271539)

    He either called it and they ignored him, in which case he's not useful

    No. In that case he'd be useful, it's just that they didn't use him. If you go out without an umbrella and it rains, that doesn't mean the umbrella is useless and should be discarded, it means the umbrella is potentially useful and you should consider using it.

  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @02:19PM (#45271665)
    Your 'economic warfare' is myopic. China doesn't want to hurt one of its most lucrative export markets, and Europe won't pick up any significant slack, especially since they don't have the same degree of combined consumerism and lax regulation. The US and China are very much codependent, and while each has to make a political show from time to time about how the other is the bogeyman, in the end they both want the status quo.
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWiTfan ( 2887093 ) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @02:34PM (#45271843)

    I would be more curious as to WHEN he predicted this stuff. There is a BIG difference between sitting in 1970 and saying "The Soviet Union will collapse at some point in the future" and saying "The Soviet Union will collapse in the late 1980's or early 1990's." The former is pretty much useless information. The latter could be very useful.

    I would also want to know how much he got wrong. If the signal of what little he got right was drowned out by the noise of much more stuff that he got wrong, his information would also basically be useless.

    As I've never met a "futurist" yet whose predictions were worth much of a damn at the end of the day, I would be very skeptical of the usefulness of his office.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @02:51PM (#45272023)


    He did what any dimwit with a brain could do: he realized that importing everything from somewhere else (e.g. China) would significantly increase the economic power of that somewhere else, and with economic power comes available funding for military power.

    This was obvious back in the 1980s when China was just beginning to crawl out of the dark ages of the cultural revolution? ... [citation needed]

    He predicted what lots of others predicted about U.S.S.R.

    Back in the 70s? ... [citation needed]

    He observed that snipers and assassins were around centuries before he was even born, and were useful, and would therefore probably continue to be useful.

    WTF does that have to do with predicting the fact that Laser and GPS guided PGMs would become a dominant weapons system when most others were howling about how expensive they were? And AFAIK snipers are still not the dominant form of infantry after all these centuries.

    He mentioned a plan for drones to be weaponized that took six years to complete.

    How many others mentioned that in 2003? I happen to know for a fact that the weaponization of drones was done in great haste by a few people in the post 9/11 period leading up to the invasion of Afghanistan. It was not a cleverly thought out plan that took several years to carefully execute, it was hacked together by a handful of air force personnel and a civilian armorer. Very few people were predicting the explosion in drone operations we have seen in the last six to seven years back in 2003.


    That's not a prediction.

    Let's call him "Captain Obvious".

    That's not criticism it's whining let's call you "Spoiled Brat Boy"

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @03:04PM (#45272159)

    They didn't say he was a fucking psychic. Why do people get so stupid over the idea of "futurists"? No one says he magically foresaw things that no one in the world could. Just that he was consistent enough for them to rely on.

  • by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @03:30PM (#45272441)

    I'd dump all of my Treasury bonds on the market all at once, use my US currency to buy Euros, Pounds Sterling, Yen and various other currencies, and lastly, cut the prices for all home grown tech (like Lenovo computers) to the bone and crush US companies. Economic warfare baby!

    What effect do you think that would have on the US?

    Perhaps you think that dumping the bonds would harm the dollar and raise US Treasury rates (the cost of borrowing)? Then the dollar would fall in value against the Euro and GBP, and maybe against the Renminbi itself. That makes US manufactured good cheaper compared to other nations. That reduces imports into the US, while increasing both exports and import-replacement. That slashes US spending on Chinese goods, which would be compounded by an aggressive boycott of Chinese goods by angry US consumers. It would also reduce the effective value of existing bonds (since they are paid only in USD at a fixed yield) to foreign investors, while the higher yields of new bonds would make them more desirable to domestic institutional investors (about 70% of Treasury bond buyers).

    These effects would reduce the value of China's one-shot mass sell-off, both in absolute dollar terms and in those dollars' buying power against other currencies, effectively reducing China's real wealth. And that would reduce the size of the effect on the markets.

    Frankly I doubt the Chinese leadership is anywhere near that stupid.

    They are trying to displace the USD as a reserve currency, while building themselves up. It's a slow long term plan, not a pointless idiotic one-shot spasm.

  • Safe bet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @03:46PM (#45272567) Journal

    Back in the 70s?

    Sure - it's a very safe prediction to make if you had his job. There were basically three possible outcomes: the USSR lost, the US lost or there was a nuclear war and we all lost. In two of these outcomes he's probably out of a job or dead regardless of whether he was right or wrong but predicting that the USSR will lose is the one scenario where he gets to keep his job and so the only scenario where he has to worry about being correct. So what would you predict?

    Cynicism aside what we would really need to know to see whether he is good at predictions is how many other "yodas" the Pentagon had making predictions and getting it wrong. If you toss enough coins you are likely to find one which comes up heads 10 times in a row.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin