In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus, the two-faced god, took on many assignments. Janus was the god of passages of time and passageways of space like gates and doorways, and Janus, was the god in charge of beginnings, transitions and endings.
At the Pentagon Janus is a god of fear, his two faces see dangers coming from both the past and the future. Take the latest threat assessments being generated in the wake of the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.
From that very past comes the fear that terrorists, either those enabled by the new Taliban government like Al Qaeda, or those opposed to the Taliban like the Islamic State, will launch another 9/11-type attack on the United States. This could happen, military leaks to journalists suggest, in just a year or two.
But the much bigger threat lies a bit farther in the future, the threat of Chinese development of hypersonic weapons. A recent pair of tests of Chinese hypersonic missiles represented, said America’s top-ranking military commander, something close to a “Sputnik moment,” summoning up the fear, the shock and awe, if you will, many Americans felt when the Russians demonstrated that the Soviet bloc could be a serious competitor to the U.S. in the Race for Space.
Of course, in sounding his alarm, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was firing off his starter’s gun for a new arms race, which must have thrilled the Bloomberg News commentator who elicited the close to Sputnik reference. David Rubenstein is the Chairman of The Carlyle Group, which brags on its own website, “For more than a decade, Carlyle has been the leading private equity investor in the aerospace and defense industries completing 23 transactions [worth] more than $7.4 billion.” How quickly let’s defend the nation becomes let’s make a deal.
Mark Thompson covers issues involving the US Military and National Security for the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and writes a weekly blog The Bunker at pogo.org. Thompson has been covering U.S. national security for four decades, including from 1994 to 2016 as senior correspondent and deputy Washington bureau chief at TIME Magazine.
Mark worked at TIME from 1994 to 2016. Before that, he covered military affairs for the late Knight-Ridder Newspapers (including the Detroit Free Press, the Miami Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the San Jose Mercury-News) for eight years. Prior to Knight-Ridder, Mark reported from Washington for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for seven years. During that time, he and his paper were awarded the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a series of articles on an uncorrected design flaw aboard Fort Worth-built Bell helicopters that had killed nearly 250 U.S. servicemen.