Tag Archives: war

When armies become media: Israel live-blogs and tweets an attack on Hamas — Tech News and Analysis

For decades — perhaps even centuries — journalists have been the primary witnesses to and chroniclers of war, piecing together news reports from eyewitnesses and military briefings. But what if the armies or military forces who were engaged in a conflict took on the role of publishers themselves, distributing their own live reports while the battle was being fought? That idea is no longer science fiction: it became reality when the Israeli Defense Forces started live-blogging and live-tweeting an attack on Hamas guerillas in the Gaza strip and uploading video of their rocket blasts to YouTube.

Social media, once thought of as a tool for bored nerds and marketing gurus, has taken on a whole new role it seems — one that could stand to change the face of modern warfare forever. As BuzzFeed notes in its round-up of Twitter posts from the Israeli army (a sentence I never would have imagined typing even a few years ago), the IDF actually warned Hamas guerillas not to show themselves on the Gaza strip or risk being killed in the attacks that began Wednesday morning, and the official Hamas account responded:

In the hours that followed, videos of rocket attacks on Hamas strongholds were uploaded to YouTube, and the IDF blog carried a minute-by-minute breakdown of what was happening — how many Hamas rockets it intercepted, a strike by the Israeli Navy, and so on. It looked very much like the New York Times live-blog The Lede, except that it was being published by a military force: the front of the website even looks like a traditional news blog or breaking news site, complete with the usual social-media buttons for sharing content on Twitter, Facebook and other networks.

via gigaom.com

Boeing’s New Missile Remotely Disables Computers as It Flies By

Boeing’s new missile otherwise known as the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project. It automatically disables PCs and other electronic devices as it soars through the skies, using a burst of powerful radio waves—and it was successfully tested last week.

The CHAMP tests took place in the Western Utah Desert on October 16th. As it flew by a two-story building, its on-board microwave system shut down every piece of electronic equipment running inside the place. In fact, the test went so well that it disabled all the cameras recording the event, too. Oops.

via gizmodo.com

Stuxnet Will Come Back to Haunt Us via @NYTimes

THE decision by the United States and Israel to develop and then deploy the Stuxnet computer worm against an Iranian nuclear facility late in George W. Bush’s presidency marked a significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the Internet. Washington has begun to cross the Rubicon. If it continues, contemporary warfare will change fundamentally as we move into hazardous and uncharted territory.

It is one thing to write viruses and lock them away safely for future use should circumstances dictate it. It is quite another to deploy them in peacetime. Stuxnet has effectively fired the starting gun in a new arms race that is very likely to lead to the spread of similar and still more powerful offensive cyberweaponry across the Internet. Unlike nuclear or chemical weapons, however, countries are developing cyberweapons outside any regulatory framework.

via nytimes.com

I hear politicians and military pundits using the logic of 1950′s warfare to justify cyberwarfare: that when they hit us, we can hit them back. As if a virus were a missile, or a similar physical weapon.

But the metaphor of traditional warfare breaks down when cyber weaponry can’t be controlled – and in fact, aren’t even physical objects. A virus is an idea — not a thing.

Assuming we can control their use, when they are by design, deeply chaotic, is a special kind of naievete. But it’s the kind of hubris we could – and should – expect from the country that first engaged in “preemptive warfare.”

Andy Kroll: How Empires Fall (Including the American One)

AK: How do you see the history of nonviolent action since Unconquerable World was published? What were you thinking about the Tunisian uprising, the Egyptian uprising, the Occupy movement, the general global protest movement of the present moment that arose remarkably nonviolently?

JS: I was astonished. Even now, I don’t feel that I understand what the causes were. I’m not even sure it makes sense to speak of the causes.  If you point to a cause — oppression, food prices rising, cronyism, corruption, torture — these things go on for decades and nothing happens. Nobody does anything. Then in a twinkling everything changes. Twenty-three days in Egypt and Mubarak is gone.

How and why a people suddenly develops a will to change the conditions under which it’s living is, to me, one of the deep mysteries of all politics. That’s why I don’t blame myself or anyone else for not expecting or predicting the Arab Spring. How that happens may, in the end, be undiscoverable. And I think the reason for that is connected to freedom.  Such changes in opinion and will are somewhere near the root of what we mean when we talk about the exercise of freedom. Almost by definition, freedom refers to something not visibly or obviously caused by anything else. Otherwise it would be compelled, not free.

And yet there is nothing obscure — in the sense of clouded or dark — about freedom. Its exercise is perhaps the most public of all things, as well as the most powerful, as recent history shows. It’s a daylight mystery.

This is a fascinating read. But he seems to completely miss the transformative power of communication mediums, and their democratizing effect, on political revolutions and nonviolence. Twitter played a massive part in the Arab Spring and Occupy movements!

Humans Lose, Robots Win in New Defense Budget

The big loser in the Pentagon’s new budget? Ordinary human beings.

About 80,000 Army soldiers and 20,000 Marines are getting downsized. Half of the Army’s conventional combat presence in Europe is packing up and ending its post-Cold War staycation. Replacing them, according to the $613 billion budget previewed by the Pentagon on Thursday: unconventional special-operations forces; new bombers; new spy tools; new missiles for subs; and a veritable Cylon army of drones.

This is the first of the Pentagon’s new, smaller “austerity” budgets: it’s asking Congress for $525 billion (plus $88.4 billion for the Afghanistan war), compared to a $553 billion request (plus $117 billion in war cash) last year.

The idea of replacing human combatants with machines terrifies me. When the results of war are so disconnected from the actual citizens involved in the decision to make war, what stops us from engaging in military actions? The Vietnam War was eventually ended because of the cold reality of Americans seeing American body bags coming home, but what heartstrings would a broken machine body pull at?

Similarly, increasing the budget for mechanized warfare will only strengthen the grasp of the military-industrial complex, for as the perceived benefits outweight the potential sacrifice of human life, combined with the number of jobs and absurd level of profits to be had from producing these war machines, I can’t imagine the trend reversing anmy time soon. You can’t manufacture humans (per se), but you can manufacture mechanized, remote-controlled soldiers now, apparently.

As the technology becomes more proficient, these tools will undoubtedly become more accurate – meaning, fewer collateral civilian casualties for military strikes – which means they’ll be perceived as safer, leading to a positive feedback cycle. But whereas human soldiers can distinguish between a real enemy and a civilain far more accurately, relying on any number of real-world cues, machines will destroy whatever they’re aimed at without regard for potential errors in judgement. Soon, we’ll start hearing more about “acceptable losses” and “military-civilain death ratios” in terms of these unmanned strikes. And reducing warfare to a numbers game, is, in my opinion, completely unacceptable.

Without the remorse of traditional person-to-person warfare, without the moral restriction on civilian casualty, and with an absurdly high profit margin at work, will our humanity be left behind as we continue to engage in worldwide wars on multiple fronts? Can we really stomach the idea of killing foreigners for our own ideology, when we put nothing of ourselves at risk as well?

Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet via @wiredmag

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

I certainly understand the tactical advantage of removing our soldiers from combat situations, but I fear what this technology implies. The drones are tools, which can be hijacked and reused – just like any other weapon of war. Or worse, they can be used to justify engaging in conflicts we otherwise normally wouldn’t partake in due to risk. But when we start to value our own lives so much more than our enemies that we put the destrictuive power in the hands of autonomous agents of war, and disconnect ourselves from the reality and consequences of our war machine, we open the door to our military system being hijacked from within, and fostering even more ‘shadow wars.’