Three Quotes About Fortresses

Machiavelli ( Chapter XXIV of the Discourses ):

libertyfund.org

Fortresses are Generally More Injurious than Useful

Whenever … republics are afraid lest their subjects should revolt, it results mainly from … the belief that they can best be controlled by force…

one of the things that induce the belief that they can be controlled by force is the possession of fortresses with which to menace them; and thus the ill treatment that engenders hatred in the subjects arises in great measure from the fact that the prince or republic hold the fortresses, which (if this be true) are therefore by far more injurious than useful.

For all the measures of force and violence that you employ to hold a people amount to nothing, except these two: either you must keep a good army always ready to take the field, as the Romans did; or you must scatter, disorganize, and destroy the people so completely that they can in no way injure you; for, were you merely to improverish them, “the spoliated still have their arms”; if you disarm them, “their fury will serve them instead of arms”; if you kill the chiefs and continue to oppress the others, new chiefs will spring up like the heads of the Hydra.

Wired:

wired.com

Does the White House Have a Secret Laser Defense?

Since 2005, any unauthorized or unidentified aircraft approaching the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in Washington DC has been targeted by the laser beams of the Visual Warning System. This shines an alternating red and green laser beam, "designed to provide a clear warning." This is a Class 1 laser which will not dazzle or blind. The VWS is described as being "part of the overall layered defense of our nation’s capitol." Since any potential threat aircraft is clearly being tracked by a laser, it would only take the flick of a switch to engage the sort of protective dazzler described above.

there is a missile battery-type apparatus on the roof of one of the nearby office buildings … It’s visible from points slightly south of the WH itself. It was put up there after September 11, 2001.

ABC News:

ABCnews.go.com

The White House is more than the first family's home. To the Secret Service: it's a fortress.

The iron fence is the first line of defense. Guard stations control the entrances, while bullet-resistant windows protect the occupants…

inside the fences are what agents calls "perimeters of protection." Alarms are positioned beneath the ground and infrared sensors above the ground to detect intruders.

Circulating around the lawns and gardens, often hidden, are groups of armed agents formed into emergency response teams. Their job is to rush forward, not wait for intruders to reach their zone. The Secret Service won't say how many agents there are. They carry semiautomatic pistols, shotguns and machine guns.

On the White House roof, teams of snipers keep watch. The Secret Service says they are the best in the world and must qualify every month hitting targets accurately at 1,000 yards.

The agents train in the Maryland suburbs, where a few weeks ago, they defended against a simulated rocket attack on the Inauguration…

There are 1,200 uniformed Secret Service agents posted around the clock at the White House … [ and ] …. 2,800 plainclothes agents.

Last 5 posts by Clark

Comments

  1. amblingon says

    You know, articles like this are frustrating because they imply a point, but avoid outright stating it, which makes it awfully hard to respond to. Especially when it's a silly point (what, the President shouldn't be protected from attacks?) like this one.

  2. Sami says

    Note that it is a fortress to the Secret Service; the Secret Service are not the government.

    However, the American habit of murdering their leaders is fairly well and long-established, and not new; a certain siege mentality on behalf of the group tasked with defending the President is rather understandable.

  3. JohnC says

    Truly trenchant advice from the same man who questioned the value of artillery and calvary, among various other meandering depreciations of the advances in modern warfare.

  4. Zack says

    Yeah. I'd agree with JohnC. Machiavelli was insightful with respect to politics but not military tactics. I'd argue that- until recently- it was with good reason called "The People's House" deliberately to avoid these problems. People were (and when the problems blocking them dissolve, one way or another, will again) allowed to see ~30% of the place, the historic portions, because it belongs to all of us collectively- as a republic's history, it belongs to the republic's citizens. And a certain amount of protection for the executive is (from a public perspective) necessary- it would grow tiresome, if we had to continuously waste congress's time promoting new people to the office of president, vice president, and speaker, simply because of a fear of offering or allowing security for the executive. Not to mention demoralizing for our forces, to have a new commander in chief and guiding hand every few weeks, and for our economy, to deal with the shock and uncertainty of a rotating-door, death-trap executive.

  5. jdgalt says

    JohnC and Zack have a point, but I think they miss Clark's point, which is political:

    The government, or most parts of it, have adopted the attitude that they are at war with us the people.

    The White House's fortress-like properties are not really even relevant to that point, except symbolically. A more reliable indication is the way local police departments across the country have been arming themselves like an army for the last 10+ years. Even before the feds started selling them mortars, tanks, and body armor, one podunk town after another have created SWAT teams and stocked up on riot gear.

    At the federal level, you mostly notice it (or at least I do) when the President goes somewhere and gives a speech. When Nixon and Ford and Carter gave one, there was always a heckler or two. You could do that in a free country. Now, it will get you detained by the Secret Service.

    Similarly, peaceful demonstrations at a city council meeting used to be no big deal. Now they will get you tasered and/or pepper sprayed.

    This is what it means to be a police state.

    I want to start seeing candidates for sheriff and for chief of police who will reverse these trends — even if they have to clean house big time.

  6. TheCarl says

    Out of the 44 US Presidents, four got murdered, making US Presidency probably one of the most dangerous occupations worldwide. And that only counts the successful attempts.

    I'm sorry, but I don't blame the White House on being over-cautious.

  7. Fred says

    "There are 1,200 uniformed Secret Service agents posted around the clock at the White House … [ and ] …. 2,800 plainclothes agents."

    Nonsense.

  8. Dan McPeek says

    Four U.S. Presidents murdered and, according to Wikipedia, more than 20 attempts on sitting or former Presidents. Scary job.

  9. Justin Kittredge says

    "Yes, but how many famous dead people can you quote?" -A question never attributed to anyone

    "and then I decided that I was a lemon for a couple of weeks." -Ford Prefect

    "If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a nonworking cat." -Douglas Adams

    "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

    "Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted." -Groucho Marx

  10. says

    @jdgalt

    JohnC and Zack have a point, but I think they miss Clark's point, which is political:

    The government, or most parts of it, have adopted the attitude that they are at war with us the people.

    Ding Ding Ding! Jdgalt wins.

    The White House's fortress-like properties are not really even relevant to that point, except symbolically.

    …and bonus points besides.

    A more reliable indication is the way local police departments across the country have been arming themselves like an army for the last 10+ years.

    Mrs. Clark thought I should illustrate the article with a picture of a Lenco Bearcat, but I thought that would be making the point too obvious.

  11. says

    @TheCarl

    Out of the 44 US Presidents, four got murdered, making US Presidency probably one of the most dangerous occupations worldwide. And that only counts the successful attempts.

    I'm sorry, but I don't blame the White House on being over-cautious.

    I note that all four occurred after Lincoln converted the Republic into an Empire.

    Interestingly, I note that Rome had the same issue: many more Emperors were assasinated than Consuls.

    What a coincidence.

  12. wgering says

    I think this would have been more effective with the Pentagon. But as you say, you didn't want to be too obvious…

    I want to start seeing candidates for sheriff and for chief of police who will reverse these trends — even if they have to clean house big time.

    This is a joke, right?

    @Clark: I was almost hit by a cop car speeding through a roundabout crosswalk the other day. The seething hatred I felt reminded me of you.

  13. wgering says

    I would also disagree with @jdgalt that, "The government, or most parts of it, have adopted the attitude that they are at war with us the people."

    The war hasn't started yet, but they want us to know we can't possibly win. No less tyrannical, but slightly more insidious.

  14. gramps says

    Yeah– Cleveland got 2 numbers due to the "split terms", so 43 persons involved. Which makes the percentage of killed in office (KIO?) a bit more significant, if you count people in harms way.

    Its never as easy as it first looks, is it?

  15. HandOfGod137 says

    @Clark

    I note that all four occurred after Lincoln converted the Republic into an Empire.

    I think there's a typo in there: it should be "Palpatine". And anyhow, it's clearly the publication of "On the Origin of Species" that led to the assassination epidemic. And fluoridation: once a foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids, the next stop is atheism, enforced homosexuality and fascism. It's common sense.

    Am I doing this right?

  16. NI says

    "I note that all four occurred after Lincoln converted the Republic into an empire."

    I'm not sure that has much to do with anything. Garfield was shot by a mentally disturbed disappointed job seeker. McKinley was shot by an anarchist who likely would have objected to republic just as much as much as empire. Kennedy was shot by a Marxist who likely would have objected to republic even more than empire. That leaves Lincoln himself, shot by a sympathizer of the side that had just lost the civil war.

  17. 205guy says

    amblingon (nice pseudomym, btw) wrote: "avoid outright stating it, which makes it awfully hard to respond to."

    It's a rhetorical device with two purposes: to make the reader think about the author's point harder (and thus to be more susceptible to being swayed), but also to avoid taking a clear position that can be refuted. It also probably has a third purpose: to confuse the NSA simpletons who must determine whether or not the authors needs watching.

    Unfortunately, he fails at the first by having a really bad example of the point he wants to make. Bollards (even though certainly reinforced), a metal fence, a green lawn, and a bunch of invisible lasers and snipers do not a fortress make. Here is a picture of an urban fortress (among many others found by the simple act of googling): http://www.romaniatourism.com/images/castles-fortresses/fagaras-fortress2-image.html . If it doesn't really look like a fortress, and the state goes to great lengths to hide the defenses (under said lawn) and the defenders (plaincothes officers and secret service officers in suits), how can the state be accused of creating a fortress to intimidate the citizenry?

    If it is not menacing, not a show of force, and not injurious, how does the first quote apply? And even if you believe Machiavelli, then this example falls into his case of keeping a ready army (the 1200 and the 2800), not one of the other cases Clark is trying to make us believe in (scatter, disorganize, destroy–nope–or impoverish, disarm, kill chiefs–nope again).

    And then a commenter called jdgalt gets all the answers right and wins the approval (the ding-dings) of the author. So obvious it could be Clark himself. Setting up a rhetorical sparring partner to either offer weak opposition or fawning approval is a trick that the master himself, Socrates, revealed many years ago–and he presented it as an obvious trick even then.

    So then we get to the second reason for obfuscating one's actual point: when all your arguments are shot down, you can claim you were talking about something else entirely, though you like to claim they are related. So I'm still waiting to hear how chief executive protection has anything to do with militarization of the police, and excessive budgets for swat gear (both of which I am concerned about). I think HandOfGod137 and NI are close to an answer: the connection is because crazy people and guns.

  18. Dave says

    Wow, tag fail on my part… Let's try closing it this time.

    The war hasn't started yet, but they want us to know we can't possibly win. No less tyrannical, but slightly more insidious.

    I've heard the current situation described as a cold civil war. Seems appropriate enough.

  19. Dave says

    @ David

    There have been only 43 US presidents.

    Hey, if we're gonna be pedantic about this, why only go halfway? You should be claiming 50 presidents at least. 52 if you want to count the two Presidents of the Continental Congress along with the seven POTUS everyone always forgets we had under the Articles of Confederation.

  20. 205guy says

    Justin Kittredge plays the quote game well. I offer my own entry:

    I hate quotations. Tell me what you know. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

  21. Bob Brown says

    If the numbers of White House guards (1,200 + 2,800) are correct, there are over twice as many as the entire sworn force of the Atlanta Police Department, who patrol a city of 132 square miles with a population (who live within the city limits only–on any given work day, there are substantially more) of about 450,000.

  22. says

    There are 1,200 uniformed Secret Service agents posted around the clock at the White House … [ and ] …. 2,800 plainclothes agents.

    From the horse's pony's mouth, there are a total of 1,300 uniformed agents providing security for a number of sites, so the claim that there are 1,200 at the White House 24/7 seems a little suspicious. That'd be a lot of overtime.

  23. wgering says

    @Andrew: Urist McBigBrother has created Ulamog, the State of Watching, a dwarf bone helm. On the item is an image of cheese in rhesus macaque leather. It menaces with spikes of microcline. All craftsdwarfship is of the highest quality.

    @Dave:"cold civil war" seems like a better way to say what I was thinking. Me no good talk words.

  24. Anony Mouse says

    Hm. 55,000 sqft of White House. 4000 guards. 1 guard for every 13.75 sqft.

    That sounds a little crowded.

  25. Aaron says

    The government, or most parts of it, have adopted the attitude that they are at war with us the people.

    The people, or a sizable and growing part of it, have adopted the attitude that they are at war with the government. Trying to figure out who's provoking whom is probably a bit chicken and egg, but it's certainly not surprising to see an entity escalating when it deems itself threatened.

    Illuminating an obvious and expected response from one side in this "war" is not very interesting to me. Nor is an argument about which side is right. I'm more interested in hearing what could or should be done to avoid escalating the situation to the breaking points of either totalitarianism or armed revolution. Got any ideas here, Clark? Would you even consider something less than the mass slaughter of anyone involved with government as a solution to work towards?

  26. says

    The key word in the Machiavelli quote is menace. I'm much less concerned about White House bollards than government employees being told to make things uncomfortable for the people. Isn't that the spirit of the 3rd amendment? Why is quartering troops fundamentally different than any other sort of government taking? I would say it is because it is inherently menacing.