EEI#19 “What kind of war?” – continued (5 of?) – Boundary Layers

 Essential Elements of Information for a Culture of Preparedness


A  ”lesson in aerodynamics” might be of interest as painting- hopefully- a useful “picture” of the period from  shortly before the September 11, 2001 8th hour, 46th minute, 40th second impact of American Airlines Flight 11, on through the remainder of the day as initial reaction and response took place, and on into the  12th as intial world level response was planned. 

Boundary conditions – the set of conditions specified for the behavior of the solution to a set of differential equations at the boundary of its domain – are important in determining the mathematical solutions to many physical problems.

  More specifically, concerning flight, the condition is noted as the boundary layer – the layer of reduced velocity in fluids, such as air and water, that is immediately adjacent to the surface of a solid – the wing – past which the fluid is flowing.  Truth is the air moving at different speeds around the upper and lower surface of the airfoil, thereby creating lift, rides not on the wing itself but rather on the boundary layer. Friction generated with the surface by the air’s movement creates the slower moving  layer with the air  not only riding but additionally holding the layer to the surface. 

 If the angle of incidence of the airfoil in relation to airflow is increased, whether  initiated by the pilot or by impact of turbulent air, the layer flow can slow to the point of turbulence  ( loss of laminar flow)  and in this disruption,  the flowing air can no longer stay attached to the layer/airfoil, drag over comes lift and the wing is no longer in stable positive flight – not flying it stalls.

Characterized and understood by most under the context ”lack of imagination,” the 9-11 attack was planned, enabled and occured  successfully because the initial conditions – the boundary conditions –  that existed on 11 Sept were ideal for the al Qaeda attackers. They were those of the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) as strategy, and what do do with the supposed peace dividend  as the only global suoper-power. Not appropriately factored in were events such as the Khobar Towers attack, the first WTC bombing, or bombing of USS Cole, nor the emergence of non-state, religous and ethnic  players suddenly attempting to control their own destiny in the wake of the USSR’s demise and demise of acceptance of the state boundaries imposed at the end of WWI.  The conditions “of war” were metaphorically laminar for both American Flight 11′s high speed attack on the World Trade Center and for al Qaeda.  A new set of boundary conditions with a great deal of turbulent flow in the layers around any future activity now existed. The fact that “what kind of war” has never been adequately addressed is evidence that “new norm” indicates only partlial recognition of  the flight environment for the ship of state.

Further, not recognized even as clearly, the initial 11 and 12 September plus later responses -

[the attack against the Taliban, invasion of Iraq, the Global War on Terrorism, the implementation of population-centric COIN tactics - and continued dithering (evidence offered in this series) on everything about "the war on terrorism" from its name to what do to with prisoner enemy combatants, to how to fight, where to fight, who or what to fight with, who gets to know what,  to how much money goes to each city or state to how to keep explosives off of airplanes] -

are direct result of operating with the wrong or at least insufficiently defined and understood boundary conditions. With the Cold War mind set prevailing to enable  the attack, the WWII, big war (tanks, fighter jets, war by technology) mind set defined the boundary layers of our planning for response.  All did what they know.  Initial Spec Ops with horses and B-52s with precision bombs, and the run up the Tigris and Euphrates by Marine and Army forces worked well.  Since then our metaphorical wing-of-war has seen more of the air flow shown at the end of the graphic than the beginning. Indeed not all airfoils are usable in all types of flight conditions.

Since Sept 11, 2001 the airfoil of our ship of state continues flight in turbulence – mostly resulting from trying to make the plans of another time and place meet a changed and ever changing 21st century circumstance.  As stated in daVinci’s Horse #5 and in the lead article in this series by Dr. vob Lubitz, we persist in doing what we know, rather than taking the apparently difficult path leading to  knowing what we should do. Unstable air, unstable flight, indeed.

Rectifying the current situation – beginning by answering the question: “what kind of war is it?” – cannot be based on what we would like it to be considering our current defense posture, planning,  and investment, nor can it be built on urban legend or myth.  Retired Coast Guard Commander and recently selected president of the Center for National Policy, Dr. Stephen Flynn  elaborated on this subject  in the Washington Post on  Sunday January 3, 2010.  5 Myths about keeping America safe from terrorrism:

With President Obama declaring a “systemic failure” of our security system in the wake of the attempted Christmas bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner, familiar arguments about what can and should be done to reduce America’s vulnerabilities are again filling the airwaves, editorial pages and blogosphere. Several of these arguments are based on assumptions that guided the U.S. response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — and unfortunately, they are as unfounded now as they were then. The biggest whopper of all? The paternalistic assertion that the government can keep us all safe without our help

Please continue to EEI#20, the sixth article in this series, for the complete article.

The graphic “Boundary Layer Separation” is from Computational Fluid Dynamics and Visualization

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