Why Did We Wait So Long?

by Kevin D. Freeman on March 30, 2013

cnlargeToday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal has an amazing Weekend Interview titled “Why China is Reading Your Email.” The interview is with retired Lt. Colonel Timothy Thomas in the U.S. Army’s Military Studies Office. The interview was in response to a March 11 speech by Tom Donilon, President Obama’s national security adviser who called out Chinese economic warfare. Colonel Thomas’ first question is the same as ours:  What took you so long?

“Why did we wait so long?” wonders Mr. Thomas as we sit in the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office, where the 64-year-old retired lieutenant colonel has studied Chinese cyber strategy for two decades. More than enough evidence accumulated long ago, he says, for the U.S. to say to Beijing and its denials of responsibility, “Folks, you don’t have a leg to stand on, sorry.”

Referenced in the article is a Chinese Strategy all to familiar with readers of this Blog and our book Secret Weapon:

Unconditional_warfareA 1999 book by two Chinese colonels put it more aggressively (albeit in a sentence as verbose as it is apocalyptic): “If the attacking side secretly musters large amounts of capital without the enemy nations being aware of this at all and launches a sneak attack against its financial markets,” wrote Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, “then, after causing a financial crisis, buries a computer virus and hacker detachment in the opponent’s computer system in advance, while at the same time carrying out a network attack against the enemy so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network, and mass media network are completely paralyzed, this will cause the enemy nation to fall into social panic, street riots, and a political crisis.” No kidding.

Here are the concluding thoughts from the interview:

Then there’s the argument that all this is overblown because no cyber attack has ever killed anyone. Mr. Thomas responds, somewhat impatiently: “If I had access to your bank account, would you worry? If I had access to your home security system, would you worry? If I have access to the pipes coming into your house? Not just your security system but your gas, your electric—and you’re the Pentagon?”

He adds: “Maybe nobody’s been killed yet, but I don’t want you having the ability to hold me hostage. I don’t want that. I don’t want you to be able to blackmail me at any point in time that you want.” He cites the Chinese colonels’ vision, back in 1999, of “social panic” and “street riots.” “I wonder what would happen if none of us could withdraw money out of our banks. I watched the Russians when the crash came and they stood in line and . . . they had nothing.” CONTINUE READING AT THE WALL STREET JOURNAL…..

This is serious stuff and Colonel Thomas is right. It is almost unimaginable that it has taken so long to recognize the threat.

Congratulations to this finally making the pages of The Wall Street Journal. You may recall that we posted something similar to this article in February:

Welcome to the Party–It’s About Time People Realized that the PLA is Engaged in Economic Warfare

People are SHOCKED to learn today that the PLA has been hacking corporations to steal trade secrets, learn negotiating strategies, and otherwise engage in activity that any normal person would call economic warfare. Never mind that it is straight from the PLA’s Unrestricted Warfare playbook as outlined in 1999. Never mind that it has been obvious to nearly every one else in the world. Sadly, Americans (including some of our political leadership) have been naively denying any possibility of such Chinese activity. They have clearly been ignoring reality to avoid having to admit what we know to be true. We are in a global economic war and are wholly unprepared to properly engage in it.

Take the time to click the link for “Welcome to the Party” and read the post in its entirety. There are multiple other links in it worth perusing. 

Clearly, this should have been obvious to our leadership. So why did it take so long? Some believe that it is corruption. There are numerous influence operations targeting Washington and those charged with protecting us. Perhaps the answer for many is “Willful Blindness.” 

From Wikipedia:

Willful Blindness

Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril was published in 2011. In her latest book, (Margaret) Heffernan argues that the biggest threats and dangers we face are the ones we don’t see – not because they’re secret or invisible, but because we’re willfully blind. She examines the phenomenon and traces its imprint in our private and working lives, and within governments and organizations, and asks: What makes us prefer ignorance? What are we so afraid of? Why do some people see more than others? And how can we change?

Examining examples of willful blindness in the Catholic Church, the SEC, Nazi Germany, Bernard Madoff’s investors, BP’s safety record, the military in Afghanistan and the dog-eat-dog world of subprime mortgage lenders, the book demonstrates how failing to see—or admit to ourselves or our colleagues—the issues and problems in plain sight can ruin private lives and bring down corporations. The book explores how willful blindness develops and then goes on to outline some of the mechanisms, structures and strategies that institutions and individuals can use to combat it. In its wide use of psychological research and examples from history, the book has been compared to work by Malcolm Gladwell and Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

In the case of the American people, the problem may also be “Normalcy Bias.”

From Wikipedia:

Normalcy bias

The normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.

Possible causes

The normalcy bias may be caused in part by the way the brain processes new data. Research suggests that even when the brain is calm, it takes 8–10 seconds to process new information.Stress slows the process, and when the brain cannot find an acceptable response to a situation, it fixates on a single and sometimes default solution that may or may not be correct. An evolutionary reason for this response could be that paralysis gives an animal a better chance of surviving an attack; predators are less likely to eat prey that isn’t struggling.


The normalcy bias often results in unnecessary deaths in disaster situations. The lack of preparation for disasters often leads to inadequate shelter, supplies, and evacuation plans. Even when all these things are in place, individuals with a normalcy bias often refuse to leave their homes. Studies have shown that more than 70% of people check with others before deciding to evacuate.

The normalcy bias also causes people to drastically underestimate the effects of the disaster. Therefore, they think that everything will be all right, while information from the radio, television, or neighbors gives them reason to believe there is a risk. This creates a cognitive dissonance that they then must work to eliminate. Some manage to eliminate it by refusing to believe new warnings coming in and refusing to evacuate (maintaining the normalcy bias), while others eliminate the dissonance by escaping the danger. The possibility that some may refuse to evacuate causes significant problems in disaster planning.


Not limited to, but most notably: The Nazi genocide of millions of Jews. Even after knowing friends and family were being taken against their will, the Jewish community still stayed put, and refused to believe something was “going on.” Because of the extreme nature of the situation it is understandable why most would deny it.

Little Sioux Scout camp in June 2008. Despite being in the middle of “Tornado Alley,” the campground had no tornado shelter to offer protection from a strong tornado.

New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. Inadequate government and citizen preparation and the denial that the levees could fail were an example of the normalcy bias, as were the thousands of people who refused to evacuate.

At the same time we are waking up to Chinese hacking, we also are learning about evidence that Al-Qaida is working to get into the act:

Security Expert to Newsmax: Al-Qaida Eyeing Cyberattack on U.S.

Friday, March 29, 2013 05:11 PM By: Bill Hoffmann

Al-Qaida wants to join forces with Russian and Chinese hackers to launch a series of devastating cyberattacks on the United States, national security columnist Bill Gertz says. “An al-Qaida website recently posted a notice calling for major attacks on vital U.S. infrastructure,’’ Gertz tells Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show.’’

“Basically [they are] calling jihadists hackers to join together in this attack. They called it ‘Operation Black Summer.’ So, presumably, it’s going to unfold in the coming weeks. “We’ve been victimized, to a great extent, by Chinese hacks and the Russians are also up there; the Iranians as well. Now, it looks like al-Qaida’s trying to get into the game.’’ 

Gertz said the hackers are likely to focus on two types of attack. “One is an attack on our electrical, which can take it down. The other is an attack on our financial system. That would be catastrophic.’

SecretWeaponKevinDFreeman3D-237x300All of this is covered in our book, Secret Weapon and then updated in this Blog and on our Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/SecretWeaponBook.

It is imperative that we, the people, cast aside the willful blindness and normalcy bias and recognize the global economic war already underway. We must do this immediately as the risks increase daily.

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