Tuesday, November 10, 2009

War as PlayStation: death by joystick

War from Cyberspace by Richard Clarke


I only have one word about this enlightening article: Whoa....

In Iraq, after having returned into the military after era of maps and compasses for navigating, I was shocked at the amazing large screen GPS and computer capabilities within each gun truck! I was surprised at the immediate real-time feed of video surveillance from Predator and Reaper drones, and aghast that the reliance of computer systems and networks in a war zone that had become so heavily relied upon. My feelings then and today are if it's electronic, it can break.

Suffice it to say, the Internet and Secret as well as more cryptic data lines, occasionally went kaput when the weather wasn't just right or when something electronic went bankrupt. The fully dilapidated buildings we worked from were paradoxically outfitted with the latest and greatest super computers, video monitoring devices and communications technology. What a sight that was! Still, when I arranged for my troops to have compasses and maps (not the digital types) as back-ups, they said, "Sir, we don't use those anymore." Au contraire mon frere, we need to be prepared. We need to have plans in layers. The acronym PACE helps line up what plans ought to be made in war:

Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency.

Now, I'm not ignorant and I'm not necessarily caught in the past. I've graduated from the type writer to the electric type writer. And today I obviously use computers and the Internet. Some kid made fun of me recently when I called the Enter button on my laptop a Return button. "What's that?" he said with a sneer after I explained it.

When I worked for the government, I was issued a PDA instead of a notebook and pen, but I still carried the latter as a back up.

I choose to wear simple and easy-to-use analog watches. While digital watches, that can come with digital compasses, barometers and probably James Bond-type death ray lasers, are cool, they just don't do anything for me. Besides, they're not as nice as the indestructibly rugged Rolex anyway. I must confess I don't have one of those either.

When I went sky-diving, I liked the good old fashioned altimeter -- I didn't need one on my wrist that also recorded my heart BPMs, was solar-powered, probably had an internal staple gun hidden somewhere in its complex micro elements, had cellular phone capabilities and which was supposed to serve as "just a watch."

While technology is wonderful, we can't rely that it will work forever. Cyberspace has been attacked and is destined to fail -- at least intermittently -- in the future. Not that we shouldn't use it, but we must develop better defensive and offensive cyber-warfighting capabilities. We must have multiple layered plans for when things go awry, and certainly they will.

...Nevertheless, I now prefer using our tiny GPS in the car whenever going somewhere unfamiliar. Maps are just too expensive, cumbersome and, well, confusing.

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