The AI Column: Why Marine Corps Commandant Gen Neller Really Needs to Read ‘LikeWar’

The Long March
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller speaks to guests at the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C., March 29, 2018.
U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz

While critics might scoff at the notion of social media as a vital national security issue, LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media, is chock full of sobering reminders that what happens online doesn’t always stay there. 


The topic is one that senior leaders should be paying attention to—in particular, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, who has folded his arms and refused to engage with social media, like some 19th-century cavalryman who refuses to ride on the railroad. Headlines aside, both Russia and China have invested heavily in social media influence operations and begun weaponizing that capability. The authors explain how both governments and usurpers have used this new medium to advance their agendas.

The message is particularly relevant to the Marine Corps. John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff and retired Marine general, stubbornly refuses to use Twitter, choosing to find out about Presidential tweets from his aides. The Corps’ belated and tone-deaf response to the Marines United scandal showed how out of touch its senior leadership is with the rank and file as well as their digital existence. On the occasion of the recent centennial anniversary of women entering the Corps, one female Marine remarked on Twitter that, “If you want to know why I’m not reenlisting, read the comments on the USMC Instagram page.”

The commandant, in particular, would benefit from the book, as well as Singer’s primer on cybersecurity. Two years ago, at a think tank speech, Neller punctuated sensible remarks about cybersecurity and the need for troops in the field to manage their electromagnetic profile with this comment.

"We realized that we didn't have the right solution because, you know, Seaman Hicks decided she wanted to check her Facebook page, and so she walked out on the weather deck at night with her phone, and what's that phone got?" Neller said. "It's got GPS. So anybody in the world is going to know there's some GPS somewhere out floating across the ocean, most probably on a ship."

Some of us listening in the audience were dumbfounded because his comments reflected a lack of understanding of the domain that at his level of leadership is stunning.

Without connecting to network towers, cell phones can’t be tracked in the middle of the ocean. The GPS on the fictional Seaman Hicks’ phone receives signals, it does not transmit them. And ship’s captains can and do limit internet access and block access to social media sites like Facebook, mitigating that threat.

It appears that the Commandant doesn’t understand how Facebook, GPS or cell phones work. He might want to add LikeWar to his reading list.

“Mal Ware” is a veteran of the AI racket who is so salty, he is still posting to his MySpace page. He writes a monthly column here on AI, as you can plainly see.

Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner attends the dual interment of fellow USS Arizona survivors John D. Anderson, boatswain's mate 2nd class, and Clarendon R. Hetrick, seaman 1st class, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as part of the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman)

Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning 78 years ago, Lauren Bruner was preparing for church services and a date that would follow with a girl he'd met outside his Navy base.

The 21-year-old sailor was stationed as a fire controlman aboard the U.S. battleship USS Arizona, overseeing the vessel's .50-caliber guns.

Then alarms rang out. A Japanese plane had bombed the ship in a surprise attack.

It took only nine minutes for the Arizona to sink after the first bomb hit. Bruner was struck by gunfire while trying to flee the inferno that consumed the ship, the second-to-last man to escape the explosion that killed 1,177, including his best friend; 335 survived.

More than 70% of Bruner's body was burned. He was hospitalized for weeks.

Now, nearly eight decades after that fateful day, Bruner's ashes will be delivered to the sea that cradled his fallen comrades, stored in an urn inside the battleship's wreckage.

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Joshua Kaleb Watson (Facebook via Business Insider)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Joshua Kaleb Watson has been identified as one of the victims of a shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, CBS News reported.

The 23-year-old Alabama native and Naval Academy graduate was named to the Academy's prestigious Commandant's and Dean's lists, and also competed on the rifle team, Alabama's WTVY reported.

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Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani (Courtesy photo)

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Reuters) - The Saudi airman accused of killing three people at a U.S. Navy base in Florida appeared to have posted criticism of U.S. wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media hours before the shooting spree, according to a group that monitors online extremism.

Federal investigators have not disclosed any motive behind the attack, which unfolded at dawn on Friday when the Saudi national is said to have began firing a handgun inside a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

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Saudi air force Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani (NBC News)

The Saudi military officer who shot and killed 3 people at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday reportedly hosted a "dinner party" the week before the attack "to watch videos of mass shootings," the Associated Press reports, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

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The Minnesota National Guard has released the names of the three soldiers killed in Thursday's helicopter crash.

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