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Old 04-05-2017, 02:57 PM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

In connection with our Supers/Technothriller campaign of Project Jade Serenity, I've been considering what the intelligence services, military establishments and political leadership of other nations would think if they got wind of the experiments that the US Army carried out until the year 2000* in our backstory.

The experiments themselves were relatively tame. I don't expect any nation states will flip out at the news that others are experimenting with nootropic drugs, designer steroids or anything of that nature. And when the project was abandoned, it had not produced any dramatic repeatable successes.

On the other hand, in the era in which our play is set, the current time of 2017*, the former test subjects exhibit enhanced performance, major side-effects and even traits that the experiment was never meant to affect. In layman's terms, some of them have superpowers. Here is an attempt at a 'typical' template, but note that most former test subjects will be the lower edge of these, with few of the optional traits.

This has been developing over time, with the first indicators of enhanced performance probably becoming evident to the former test subjects themselves around 2005-2007 and with several isolated incidents of individudals exhibiting full-blown superpowers around 2011-2012.

Once the situation became evident to the US government, at least one task force had been formed to get a handle on the issue and respond appropriately. This is Onyx Rain, the handlers, watchers and jailers of our PCs in the game. They want to contact all former test subjects, study them and place them under permanent observation until a decision is made about what to do with them.

The setting is pretty much unchanged from our world to all appearances. The results of Project Jade Serenity are still highly classified and so far, nothing has leaked to the public, but that could change rapidly in play.

What I'm wondering about is who else might have pieced together information on Project Jade Serenity?

If one secret government experiment had the effects of giving people superpowers, could others have done the same?

What nation states, aside from China and Russia, might be interested enough in the results of Project Jade Serenity to run risky intelligence operations in the Americas?

The potential upside would be getting their hands on miracle drugs that not only enhance the effects of military training, but could actually give recruits superhuman abilities. The downside would be an international incident and damaging US relations.

If it got out that many, perhaps even most, of the former Project Jade Serenity test subjects were fleeing from the US and were currently in Mexico, what nation states might be intersted in offering them asylum in return for information?

*Assuming they ever stopped, but as far as we are aware, there haven't been experiments since then. This could simply mean that whoever was placed in charge of continuing them was better at security than his predecessors.
**It was current time when we started. Now we're about Edit: [strikethrough]two months[/strikethrough] a year ahead of the in-game date.
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Old 04-05-2017, 03:08 PM   #2
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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What I'm wondering about is who else might have pieced together information on Project Jade Serenity?
That's not something you can get firm evidence-based answers on without a security clearance, but I expect that almost any large or rich country could have very good knowledge of any given US government secret program. After all, they spy on us!

The kind of people who spend a lot of time speculating about security and secret government programs on the Internet (ie. mostly not the people you want to listen to) seem to figure that the US relies on throwing a lot of money at problems ("lets build a giant complex to transcribe and store all telephone calls within the United States, and another giant complex to analyse the contents automtically!"), while other countries may do the same with more cunning and HUMINT. Nobody really knows though! And if they do, they can't provide evidence if they want to live a long life in rooms without bars on the windows.

The American intelligence system is so balkanized and lavishly funded that I would not be surprised by anything I heard about it.
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Old 04-05-2017, 03:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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That's not something you can get firm evidence-based answers on without a security clearance, but I expect that almost any large or rich country could have very good knowledge of any given US government secret program. After all, they spy on us!
Some do, of course.

I expect there to be a lot of variation among the ca 200 nation states in the world in how much spying they do in the US and Mexico, however. And relative power and wealth is an important variable there, but not the only one.

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The kind of people who spend a lot of time speculating about security and secret government programs on the Internet (ie. mostly not the people you want to listen to) seem to figure that the US relies on throwing a lot of money at problems ("lets build a giant complex to transcribe and store all telephone calls within the United States, and another giant complex to analyze the contents automtically!"), while other countries may do the same with more cunning and HUMINT. Nobody really knows though! And if they do, they can't provide evidence if they want to live a long life in rooms without bars on the windows.
Sure. There are unclassified studies of international relations in the intelligence arena, information sharing between various nation states and so on. There is also a lot of information reported on the news, with varying accuracy.

But I'm not looking for classified ways and means, at least not currently. I'm mainly looking for thoughts on the strategic goals, international relations and politics involved.

For example, Mexico would probably want information that could allow them to enhance the capabilities of selected elite soldiers and police greatly. But would they want it enough to risk an open breach with their much more powerful neighbour, who regardless of current political climate is a huge contributor to Mexico's security?

I'd lean toward 'no', there. But that leaves the question open, what nation states would risk an open breach with the US for this prize?

In other words, if there are covert operatives from a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) party operating in Mexico while our PCs are there on behalf of Onyx Rain, what would be plausible nations of origin for them?

Does Venuzuela have the capability?

What about Guatemala, Honduras or other small nations?

Or friendly ones, like El Salvador? They'd probably not risk losing their biggest supporter, even for something like this.

What is a plausible political and strategic decision for large and powerful nation states like Argentina or Brazil about something like this?

If they had evidence that Project Jade Serenity had actually given test subjects superpowers and they had the chance to obtain cooperate test subjects, what might they do?

Would they send covert operatives into Mexico, knowing that there was a very significant chance that they'd have to fight local forces and/or Americans (who might be operating in Mexico without official sanction or who might be there as observers alongside Mexican military units)?

Knowing that the US would probably eventually find out who had given the test subjects asylum?
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Old 04-05-2017, 03:21 PM   #4
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Some do, of course.

I expect there to be a lot of variation among the ca 200 nation states in the world in how much spying they do in the US and Mexico, however. And relative power and wealth is an important variable there, but not the only one.
Well, one problem is that due to some forum participants and SJGmes staffers, this is absolutely not the place for a grown-up talk about international politics and the place of the US in the international system. I learned that many years ago.

And I don't think that punditry is a useful or pleasant activity in any case. Even the people with PhDs and scientific minds (sadly not as large as either group alone) seem to have a low success rate, and finding and identifying their publications is not one of the areas of my expertise.
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Old 04-05-2017, 03:28 PM   #5
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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Well, one problem is that due to some forum participants and SJGmes staffers, this is absolutely not the place for a grown-up talk about international politics and the place of the US in the international system. I learned that many years ago.
But the purpose isn't arguing about politics or even necessarily having an opinion about it. It's determining what would be plausible for the fictional versions of nation states to do in a fictional setting, which simply happens to be identical to our world until the change point of these pseudoscientific experiments which gave supernatural abilities to the subjects.

Surely it cannot be off-topic to discuss whether it would be more plausible for the antagonists* in a GURPS scenario to be covert operatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Russia, Venezuela or somewhere else.

Or speculate about the reaction of various nation states to evidence of varying credibility that former test subjects of a US military experiment now have superpowers, whether that reaction involves covert operations, secret diplomacy or even an attempt to publicize the evidence.

*Or allies. We haven't really decided that Onyx Rain are necessarily the good guys or even the least bad guys that our characters can associate with. None of which has anything to do with having a personal opinion about the goodness or lack thereof of specific nation states. All countries have good and bad people.
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Old 04-05-2017, 04:58 PM   #6
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

Hmm, well, a decade plus incubation period for superpowers kinda shifts the technology (in its current form) out of practical weapons technology. Any war would be long over by the time your super soldiers were ready to fight. My first thought is it would be the sort of thing a country would try to deploy to its general citizenry to have a large pool of recruits in case of future war.

In the case of espionage, there's a lot of flexibility because it was (at the time) a failed program that didn't do anything anyone would flip out over. Any major espionage player could have scooped it up unintentionally after a successful breech, then sold it to a lesser power.

"Here's everything we stole from the US DoD in 20xx that we care to sell. Thank you for the briefcase of untraceable cash."
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Old 04-05-2017, 05:21 PM   #7
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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. . . The kind of people who spend a lot of time speculating about security and secret government programs on the Internet (ie. mostly not the people you want to listen to) seem to figure that the US relies on throwing a lot of money at problems ("lets build a giant complex to transcribe and store all telephone calls within the United States, and another giant complex to analyse the contents automtically!"), while other countries may do the same with more cunning and HUMINT.
There was an old story to that effect I heard in DC in the 1980s.

Legend was that in the early 1970s the Russians were building a new tank gun. The Western powers wanted to know how big it was.

The US intelligence community spent 25 million dollars on a camera so sensitive it could tell the diameter of a gun from low earth orbit. (Remember, $25 million dollars then was real money. Also, this required at least a partial side shot -- or waiting for the Soviet tank in question to elevate its gun barrel sufficiently.)

The British intelligence community spent 300,000 pounds on bribing a Soviet official to get the documents with the needed information.

The French intelligence community had one of its people take a Soviet officer to lunch and ask him how big the gun was. The Sov told him. Total cost about $35 dollars (again, real money for lunch in the early 1970s.)

Who knows? Maybe it's true.
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Old 04-05-2017, 05:24 PM   #8
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Surely it cannot be off-topic to discuss whether it would be more plausible for the antagonists* in a GURPS scenario to be covert operatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Russia, Venezuela or somewhere else.
I can think of a few countries which might be candidates, but which I would not post on this forum because I would expect to offend someone. People invest a lot of emotional energy in their pictures of international relations, which countries are basically well meaning, and which are out to get their own country.

In terms of China and Russia, I can't recall an incident where their agents were plausibly accused of committing violent crimes in the USA or Mexico. Usually, in public they are accused of stealing private information and of cyberattacks.

The Old Country under the Previous Regime was one of the strongest supporters of Another Country, and that did not stop Another Country from forging Old Country passports for agents who murdered someone in Third Country.
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Old 04-05-2017, 06:23 PM   #9
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Default Re: International Relations and Implications of US Supersoldier Experiments in 2017

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Hmm, well, a decade plus incubation period for superpowers kinda shifts the technology (in its current form) out of practical weapons technology. Any war would be long over by the time your super soldiers were ready to fight. My first thought is it would be the sort of thing a country would try to deploy to its general citizenry to have a large pool of recruits in case of future war.
Well, the highly capable and motivated young soldiers who were trained as Special Forces in 1999 appear to be operating at their physical and mental peak even 18 years later. For that matter, experienced NCOs and officers who received some of the same experimental battery of pharmacological substances while in their 30s, 40s and even 50s are still sharp, mentally flexible and operating very near peak physical capability.

In fact, if it wasn't for the worrying fact that death from a variety of causes and mental illness are more common to a statistically significant degree among the test subjects than other soldiers, Project Jade Serenity would look like the kind of thing everyone wants, not just a supersoldier serum. It makes ordinary people into athletes in peak health who seem young and fit well into middle age.

People who were already superb athletes with superior willpower and practical problem-solving ability, like specially selected candidates applying to SFQC, seem to be performing at or above Olympic athlete levels physically even into their forties, still learning new things with ease and at least in one case, retaining the skills of a front-line operator even while out of practice and condition for years.

It's very significant to be able to give selected elite soldiers +2 to +4 to physical Attributes and Per, up to 4 levels of varying Talents and such Advantages as Ambidexterity, Combat Reflexes, Extra Attack, Flexible, High Pain Threshold, Longevity, Perfect Balance, Very Fit, Very Rapid Healing and others.

For that matter, as the Talents seem to be a matter of focusing and enhancing already existing areas of interest and aptitute, promising front-line officers who received these drugs may have skill scores 4-6 level higher than their peers who didn't in skills like Intelligence Analysis, Leadership, Operations, Strategy and Tactics.

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In the case of espionage, there's a lot of flexibility because it was (at the time) a failed program that didn't do anything anyone would flip out over. Any major espionage player could have scooped it up unintentionally after a successful breech, then sold it to a lesser power.

"Here's everything we stole from the US DoD in 20xx that we care to sell. Thank you for the briefcase of untraceable cash."
No one would have paid much for it before the results came to light.

Of course, that isn't to say that someone didn't file a report on Project Jade Serenity as one of many DARPA trial projects in the 90s, but only when it became clear that the US was frantically tracking down all the former subjects would someone have paid for information on it. Well, they may have paid for lunch, but not an expensive one.
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Old 04-05-2017, 06:52 PM   #10
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I can think of a few countries which might be candidates, but which I would not post on this forum because I would expect to offend someone. People invest a lot of emotional energy in their pictures of international relations, which countries are basically well meaning, and which are out to get their own country.
Well, people seem to be able to discuss spy novels, technothrillers, espionage campaigns and near-future geopolitics, all of which require this sort of analysis, with more or less success. If people are immature about it, one just ignores them.

In any case, one of the core conceits of classical International Relations as an academic discipline is that countries aren't well-meaning or vindictive. They have interests and they are affected by strategic and economic realities.

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In terms of China and Russia, I can't recall an incident where their agents were plausibly accused of committing violent crimes in the USA or Mexico. Usually, in public they are accused of stealing private information and of cyberattacks.
The most plausible situation would be one where they had to risk providing support and asylum to people guilty of violent crimes in the US or Mexico, in return for intelligence that might allow them to reverse engineer the drugs of Project Jade Serenity. In the ideal situation, to someone guilty of non-violent crimes like desertion and purloining classified information for ideological reasons.

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The Old Country under the Previous Regime was one of the strongest supporters of Another Country, and that did not stop Another Country from forging Old Country passports for agents who murdered someone in Third Country.
Providing amnesty to fleeing test subjects could potentially destroy relations with the US to the point that all direct military and security aid would cease. For a country that doesn't rely on that to any extent, it may be worth it. For El Salvador or Mexico, probably not.
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