Tag Archives: Military

Private drones

Private droneIt’s becoming easy; we’re on the cusp. Soon, you will be able to assemble or buy a private drone that can go anywhere, record video, deliver a payload, retrieve a thing, whatever. Land, sea, and sky. Automated surveillance systems can be easy to control. Can you click on a spot on a map? That’s pretty much all you need.

How do we respond as a society when anyone can spy or kill as easily as clicking an app? How do you trace an attack that is delivered from the sky from anyone anywhere? How do you handle alibis when you can schedule a crime with cron?

I don’t know the answer, but it’s a continuation of a long trend toward putting more lethal power into more hands. I hope some smart people are thinking well about this.

Somehow, I don’t think a drone shield is going to be enough.

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Mad at Pakistan?

Americans are mad at Pakistan.  Last night, Jon Stewart showed a clip of Fareed Zakaria asking if Pakistan is complicit in hiding Osama Bin Laden – or just incompetent.

Do you blame Pakistan for bin Laden living there?  Do you think our relationship with their government should be strained by this?   Should we reduce support?  Sanction trade?

No.  That’s wrong.  Here’s why:

Pakistan is not one thing and their government is not monolithic.  There are many power structures in Pakistan.  You shouldn’t blame “the government” for sectarian separatists, terrorists, or others who secretly hide within their borders.  Thinking that way is like blaming a person when their body grows a cancer.

Did we blame the American Government when Timmothy Mcveigh was a terrorist in Oklahoma City?  No.  America was a victim.  And Pakistan is the victim now.  Pakistan has been in a complex civil war with multiple armies of radical extremists for many years.  Some of them are politicians trying to consolidate power with secret affiliations, others attack India trying to incite a broader war, others hide like rats.  Pakistan is suffering from these cancers.

We should be offering tax incentives to increase trade with Pakistan, increase aid, and increase support for democratic stability, secular and academic institutions, and human rights.   Economic sanctions and saber-rattling are counterproductive because they attack the commercial economy.  It would be better to empower the population through the commercial economy – enable them to overtake and stamp out radical separatists and would-be religious fascists.  Help them get on a path to become a productive and educated economy that has the power and will to suppress it’s own cancers.  Use economic levers to achieve better outcomes.

Winning the Peace, Continued

It is frustrating to watch the coalition fumble the war in Iraq. Let’s be as clear as possible about our goal: democracy of the Iraqi people, by the Iraqi people, and for the Iraqi people.

We should have let them know our intentions before we invaded. We should have encouraged a civil overthrow of Saddam before we invaded. We should have made our case to the Iraqi people even if that meant dropping leaflets before we dropped bombs. The communication would have been simple:

“Countries throughout the world are saddened to watch Saddam Hussein murdering and intimidating the Iraqi people. A new government must come to power or these countries will form a coalition to invade Iraq and assist in the election of a new government. Saddam Hussein must step down from power and an election must be held for new local and national leaders. Otherwise the coalition will invade and organize the election. Elections must be held on or before January 1, 2004. The countries in the coalition look forward to a time when the Iraqi people can be free from tyranny.”

Of course whatever communication we decided to use, it should have been translated into all the appropriate languages.

If the deadline comes and passes, the Iraqi people will know our purpose. We should strike only at Saddam. We should continue until he is captured or killed. We should openly bribe and coerce our way to him before we attempt to kill him. Once he is killed or captured, we should have announced the election immediately. (See Winning the Peace).

Without this communication, the Iraqi people see only the invasion of a foreign power. They may not understand that our purpose is their purpose, but instead they see us as the enemy. This is a top-level strategic mistake.

By approaching Iraq as a war instead of as a revolution, we have become one side of that war. In a revolution, it is the people who fight for change, and the coalition would simply be there to support the people.

Veterans Healthcare

In this country, the burden of healthcare is placed on the employer.

In any other industry, paying for the treatment of work-related injuries is the responsibility of the employer. If soldiers were civilians working for a construction company, for example, they would be given health insurance and likely a token amount of life insurance. Companies who refuse to compensate large numbers of employees for work-related injuries are often sued under class action. The same standard should apply to the military.

Finally, it is the moral responsibility of the nation to treat the injured soldiers that fight for our safety, sovereignty, and freedom. Soldiers are asked to make the ultimate commitment, risking life for country; the country should at least commit to treating the injuries that result.

GPS, as Political Issue

This article in Wired focuses on some interesting military strategic issues around Galileo, the new European satellite navigation system that is supposed to provide consumers around the world with navigation services that supplement and improve on the accuracy of the existing Global Positioning System (GPS) beginning in 2008. The goal for Galileo is to make Europe independent of non-European space infrastructure for strategic and commercial applications associated with space systems. This drive for autonomy is rooted in the idea that space is an essential part of a nation’s infrastructure in the 21st century, just as railways were in the 19th century and roads and power grids were in the 20th. The problem is that Galileo has been assigned two small frequency bands, E1 and E2, which the US military wants the ability to jam if necessary. But because these bands bracket the US GPS, jamming signals in them might risk obstructing a new US military GPS signal called M-code, which will be broadcast in two parts at the edges of the existing GPS band. Some are worried that putting encrypted signals onto the E1 and E2 bands, where it can hide in the M-code’s skirts, may make them unjammable, neutralizing a key tactical advantage for the US military.