I don’t post links to war toys, but this video is just cool: The Apache Gattling Gun. This gun is also mountable on HMMVs M134D. At 4400 rounds per minute makes it look like a laser.
Month: February 2006
The misleading theory of Fourth Generation Warfare
Discussions about the nature of the ‘war’ the United States is presently fighting naturally requires a discussion on how we to fight the war. Understanding the right mixture of people, technology, military and police is critical. So is finding a balance between coercive pressures of economics, ideology (culture and religion), politics, and violence. It is like using the equalizer in iTunes. For some music, you push one slider up a bit and another down a bit and so on. For, say, gospel, the some or all of the sliders will move away, up or down, from where it would be for vocal or "spoken word" (audio books for example). Likewise, the sliders will move again when listening to Metallica. Each slider is independent of the other but yet they work best when operating in unison. This is what war is and has been like, and this is where Fourth Generation Warfare fails.
Continue reading “The misleading theory of Fourth Generation Warfare
US Military practicing effective public diplomacy in Africa
The distinction that the military does not conduct public diplomacy — it practices public affairs — is disappearing by the day. A four country tour by Admiral Harry Ulrich,commander of US naval forces in Southern Europe and Africa, was more military-led diplomacy. Will there be follow up w/ civilian resources? State Department teams of public and cultural diplomats?
Continue reading “US Military practicing effective public diplomacy in Africa
US “military infiltration into Africa”
The People’s Daily from China is an interesting resource. Definitely an item worth monitoring because of the alternative insight which is sometimes just that, an insight. Other times, just like any other source of news from any other agency or media outlet, it comes on a slant. From the opinion section of the People’s Daily Online comes this: U.S. steps up military infiltration into Africa. The piece starts w/ Rumsfeld’s recent trip to the Maghreb, hitting Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria.
Cutting China’s military fat for muscle
Is the Chinese military starting to transform from an institution to an occupation? An 8 April 2004 announcement to "hire civilians as catering service workers and drivers for some logistics posts", all previously held by soldiers, has been followed up by other changes (a recent AFP announcement, via DefenseNews.com, is not new[s]). A 10 Jan 06 Los Angeles Times article aggregated some of the data points on Chinese transformation:
- Three-day sit-in by 2,000 vets April 2005, largest since 1949
- Since the April 2004 announcement, 9% of the service has been trimmed (200,000)
- The Army’s ancillary responsibilities, including planting crops, teaching school and running shops are now in conflict with today’s emphasis on technology, professionalism, mobility and rapid response. These duties are not only distracting but demeaning for soldiers.
- New generation brought up in shopping malls and karaoke halls are used to having much more personal choice than their parents, inevitably exerting more pressure for change.
The Western calendar year of 2006 is already shaping up to be a tranformational year for China. The Google deal, resource hunts, American QDR, continued economic expansion, increasing global political power opportunites, etc.
Fiber Optics connecting Ethiopia and Sudan
News brief Ethiopian firm extends optical fiber telephone line to Sudan.
The extension of optical fiber telephone line, connecting Ethiopia and Sudan via the northern border town of Metema, has been launched, said the state-owned Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC) on Tuesday.
The extension of the optical fiber line would enable Ethiopia access
up-to-date telephone, data, and audio-video communications and curb
congestions in web sites and internet lines, according to Kassahun.
Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest and least-wired nations, wants to expand information and communication technologies coverage to the entire country in three years.
FON: sharing connectivity
RConversation is behind an interesting project, FON, to create "lily pads", to use Negroponte’s term, of WiFi connectivity. This deserves more words than I am devoting here, but Rebecca and others here delved deeply into the subject already and as of now, I’ll rely on their words. Read Ethan Zuckerman’s description of FON here. The project team is very serious about what they are doing and pragmatic about implementation.
Use this GoogleMaps mash-up to find FON accessible areas. Big names that have signed up to back FON: Google, Skype, Sequoia Capital, and Index Ventures.
Question about Commons
Charles Clover, writing in the Transatlantic Edition of Internationale Politik (4 / 2005, Vol 6, p32), reminds us that law, especially international law, is written to address political and social demands at the time it’s written and framed through technological limitations (not many laws governing the territory on Mars… although I think there are some general "for mankind" feel-good "laws" for the moon). His article "Who Owns the Sea?" considers the roots of international laws of the sea, questioning their validity and applicability in modernity. Comparing the causes of the reduction of shared commons on land with the current conditions in fishing and other activity can lead to interesting explorations into a variety of areas, including telecommunications and privacy.
The laws of the sea, based on Grotius’s Mare Liberum, established the ocean as a common. Clover writes "John Selden, an English jurist, asserted in Mare Clausum the right of the crown to claim sovereignty over sea closest to its territory." This was the basis of the three-mile limit, Clover continues, as based by the distance a shore battery could lob a cannon ball. Modern technology, such as radar, sonar, and the Gloria trawl (64m opening), exceeds the limitors of ancient law, stripping resources down to the nub.
As I was reading Clover’s piece, I received an email about the deaths of whales off Gibraltar.
There are 3 more beaked whale deaths in the beach…(last October 2005 one more whale stranded during the passsage of the aircarrier Invincible in his way from the Mediterraneasn to the naval exercises Noble Javalin of the Nato response Force in the Canary Islands)
This was followed by this
We got some information now, the H. M. S. Kent, of the UK Royal Navy, together with the Gibraltar squadron, was dong manoeuvres in the area and carried a mid frequency active sonar (similar to the SQ 53 present in the strandings of Bahamas and Canaries)
There are 4 dead beaked whales by now, searching for a fifth, necropsyes are being done and all indicates the sonar is related to the deaths
The US Navy has dealt with similar issues with proposed sonar systems.
The conflict between man and nature, outside of the global warming debate, will continue to escalate. However, such fights are generally limited to countries with at certain amount of institutional capacity. Somali fish stocks are being plundered by China and other countries without any credible response. As someone pointed out to me a while ago when the Top Cat Marine Security fiasco first appeared, Somalia has tremendous natural resources (beyond energy supplies) that could finance a legitimate government. That particular discussion started from the point of lacking maritime security inhibiting the growth of a legitimate fishing fleet.
Something to think about.
Quote for the Month
“Apparently a lot of things have changed since the concept of the psychological warrior replaced that of the statesman and the propaganda trick replaced the simple truth.” Erik Sevareid in 1953, quoted in Richard Arndt’s First Resort of Kings.
Rumsfeld: Al Qaeda has better PR – Feb 17, 2006
News brief: Rumsfeld acknowledges the sad state of American public diplomacy. Of course, being Secretary of Defense, he focuses on DoD’s public affairs. More does need to be done and it is unfortunate that such a statement is coming from the Pentagon and not from State. We must lead with our non-military assets. See Rumsfeld: Al Qaeda has better PR – Feb 17, 2006.
The United States lags dangerously behind al Qaeda and other enemies in getting out information in the digital media age and must update its old-fashioned methods, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday.
PMC Fraud: Tip of the Iceberg?
Briefly, the Custer Battles lawsuit will likely be an eye opener for many. The Iraq war has been a watershed in the outsourcing of not just tangible assets and roles the military used to provide for itself (meals, logistics) but intangibles also. The role of private military companies in the war, from pre-deployment training to site security to force and VIP/"nation building contractors" protection, are part of the soft power of the United States.
Microsoft as an International Actor
In the vein of the foreign policy implications and impact on foreign audiences comes this reminder. An Aug 2004 article on C|NET describes how "eight pixels cost Microsoft millions":
Hunting in East Africa
News brief from the StrategyPage on Counter-Terrorism Operations on the Horn / East Africa:
the leader of al Qaeda in East Africa, Harun Fazul (or Fazul Abdullah Mohammed), a native of the Comoro Island with dual citizenship in Kenya, is being hunted aggressively. One of the most wanted terrorists in the world (the US has put $5 million on his head), Fazul was a ringleader in the 1998 East African embassy bombings and other attacks in the region. In his early 30s, Fazul has been a member of al Qaeda since the early ’90s.
A few links and thoughts on the Cartoon Riots. The EU Observer notes Europeans question the "provocation by the media". A 10 Feb 05 survey showed 55% of French believe printing the cartoons did not serve free speech. Meanwhile, English-language Pakistani newspaper Daily Times sees the furor as mostly an intra-Muslim issue. Something I wonder if others, who subscribe to the idea of an in progress Islamic "Reformation" would agree with. Stephen Schwartz of the Weekly Standard takes aim at this very point, laying some blame on Wahhabis. What is not frequently reported is a) the addition of inflamatory cartoons and b) the original cartoons were previously published in Egpyt Oct 05. This is ammunition on the Syria / Iran inspiration behind the riots, putting away, momentarily conflict w/ Saudi-sponsored Wahhabis?
Google and American Foreign Policy
Where does Google fit in the scheme of US foreign policy? It is a US company and yet how much does it need the US Government to expand abroad? Does it have a role in trade negotiations, and should the US Government support its expansion abroad as the government does with oil companies and other industries?
Google can launch a Bengali / Bangla language server with little to no government intervention, either local or at home. Independence from the US Government is more apparent when server resides at the US-based Googleplex (which many of the foreign language/country specific servers do). If we ask “what is Google’s foreign policy and how should we anticipate their actions” we need to ask “who and what is Google?” I suggest Google is unlike anything that has come before (perhaps excepting Yahoo!). But the penetration and scale of Google, shown by “verbification” and ubiquity of Google, far exceeds Yahoo!’s reach.
Google isn’t 1950’s General Motors (“what’s good for GM is good for America”). Nor is it 1990’s Boeing who desperately wanted to sell to the Chinese and pressured State / White House to do it (without success). This is not marketplace eBay with a foundation in exchange of tangible goods. For Google, the buyer and seller relationship exist but without a physical transfer. Google is like American credit reporting agencies, accept, as a colleague pointed out in a conversation over this, reporting agencies are very close, one step away, from your money. Google is not nearly that close to your pocketbook or is at best indirectly as it serves as a matchmaker connecting the user with an advertiser.
Google is not like Microsoft, with desktop and server operating systems and software suites. Microsoft is concerned about reverse engineering and intellectual property rights (IPR). It isn’t like CISCO providing boxes and knowledge that can be copied or reverse engineered and likewise concerned about IPR.
How about TiVO? Users can exercise a Lockean choice to time-shift, but it is solidly based on a hardware device and a revenue model based largely on end-user subscription. TiVO would make a logical contribution to the Google information base.
Wal-Mart? Wal-Mart is well known for having a tremendously interconnected knowledge system to precisely understand and react to customer buying habits to maximize (milk) every penny spent in their store. However, Wal-Mart still has mortar, trucks, inventory, and plenty of disgruntled employees and unhappy displaced former store owners.
Google is different. Google is an information broker. Consider Google’s corporate social responsibility. Does one even consider CSR when speaking of Google like you do with Wal-Mart, Ford, HP, or even RAND? What is the Google footprint in the world of political, social, and economic ecologies?
Google is a young company with its stock trading at $358 as of this writing (look up the price on Yahoo!). They use virtual teams of developers residing in multiple countries, but their product does not require tariff negotiations, safety tests, or other legal conformity. Google’s products don’t even need to be finished products when delivered, staying in beta for inordinate lengths of time.
Google is a world wide brand that, because of its localizing (or glocalizing), is less attached to the US as an “industrial age” firm with tangible products that interfere with local manufactures or growers or crowd the streets or pound the ear drums. There will not be any French farmers torching Google.fr or crowds protesting NATO or the ICC in front of Google srpski (Serbian). The good people of Cymru (Wales) can say ‘bording da’ with their morning tea while searching Google Cymraeg. There’s also the odd Google H4x0r (Hacker)… Uighur, and over 100 languages serving over 110 distinct countries.
The recent controversy about two decisions by Google are interesting in how they differ. The first is Google’s challenge to a US subpoena on their data. The poor people scared away from the search engine (I’m sure it was only a brief and temporary flight) are likely not aware of the amount of information Google collects on them and re-purposes, usually in exchange for a few coins dropped in their pocket. Most people don’t understand or take the time to ponder or learn about Google, Yahoo, MSN Search, or any of these tools. Search engines are seen as black box appliances (in fact, you can purchase their systems for corporate intranets as blackbox with varying degrees of customization).
However, the personalization of Google is apparent w/ their search home and search history. It is also seen in searches themselves (at the top, shaded recommended links) and in AdWords, the customized-by-search precision guided marketing (PGM in kinetic war; PGM in gaining eyeballs). The information collected on “named” individuals (i.e. you) is substantial, but not as substantial as the collection on unnamed individuals (i.e. somebody at an IP address). Remember when ads were going to appear within GoogleMail messages? So, there’s information to be collected and then sold. This collection and selling is a brokerage focused on information, metadata. How they distribute this data is up to them, right? How about image searches for Tiananmen? There might be something political on what the China server and the US (default) server retrieves (or this, China / World). Now, what claim do we have to say the difference is wrong? Is it within Google’s right pursue a policy with states that is required? Being a sort of pay for play, it’s illegal in the US, but where in international law does is it codified? One of the many human rights declarations?
From Street and Aerial Maps to Froogle to Scholar to News to Books to Video and more, Google peddles information. Concerns over terrorist use of what amounts to a cheap, GIS package has focused on GoogleEarth, not TerraServer (with its greater control over image selection and resolution) or other photo sites (threads at DefenseTech on Googling Area 51 were entertaining and so is the flying car contest). And then there are the mash-ups of other data into GoogleMaps, using say, FAA real-time data and conspiracy theories. Is this aggregation the democraticization of intelligence and general information?
Ease of use is of course easy through the main user interface (“I’m Feeling Lucky”) and through toolbars. Interesting side note is the new toolbar available for IE (this version is not yet ready for Firefox) allows new, content specific buttons to be added. Now Google can track your searching of the New York Times, MovieFone, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, AOL News, and even other search engines (among probably at least one hundred buttons). You can even search while offline w/ Google Alert and GoogleAlerts (two distinctly different things).
The second decision was Google’s decision to acquiesce to Chinese requirements in order to get behind the Great Firewall. Was there lobbying by Google on the US? Probably. Which department? Who knows. Does it really matter? Maybe. Lobbying on China? Yes, definitely. Does it matter? Probably less so unless you’re a China specialist. Is this unique in Google’s foreign (which implies a “domestic”) policy? Darn right. Did they sell their soul? Maybe, but it’s not the same soul as we came to know and love in the industrial economy. So what if they did? What is it to us? Unless they are selling US-citizen search data (who cares about non-US citizens, right? do you think there will be an uproar in the US if China demanded Mongolian query data?).
Consider the amount of Google data flowing on the Internet. Verizon “accused Google of freeloading“, claiming backbone and last-mile providers are bearing the cost of Google’s information peddling from “cheap servers”. Will Google go vertical? If they do, they’d be smart to do it enough to simply insulate themselves against these types of threats. Is Verizon trying to switch the fee scheme? What will that mean to iTunes? CNNWatch? Tony Blair (watch the PMQs and then picture W standing in Blair’s shoes)? Is Verizon looking at some sliding scale? Regardless, it would be interesting to analyze and quantify the Google-transacted / sourced traffic on # of transactions and gb’s served. Should Verizon be grateful for Google for putting their users in touch with content and therefore wanting to upgrade to higher speed networks?
On a side note, I was told first hand GTE, old SoCal phone company, was working on a fibre roll out and had already started training their technicians to support it. However, when they realized they were about to sell out to Verizon, all work was stopped. That was six years ago. We are still no better than 3mb service, which we’re supposed to be excited about, meanwhile 45mb service is common in Japan.
Another side consideration on what Google has become. Microsoft was known for pre-pre- (sometimes add another pre-) release product announcement. Early mention of a potential upcoming product to inhibit competition. Google has taken the art of beta to a new level. They’re granted an effective license to provide unfinished software without users complaining. Now, the software works, but they allow themselves the theoritical (and ethical?) excuse on failure: it wasn’t a final product. Who else can get away with this for such a long time? Who cares?
So, if Google can defy or give-in at will, it seems fairly independent, right? It has some ability to establish rules on the Internet, considering its heft, right? What if your site doesn’t match the ‘standard of fair play’? Remember when website loaded their metadata header tags with unrelated tags? Or loaded pages with unrelated words or heavily repeated pertinent and related words. Ok, maybe you don’t or don’t want to admit it. Called webspam, BMW in Germany (BMW.de) apparently did try to mess with Google. They got caught. See the post from Matt Cutts with what the Googlebot saw and what humans saw and read his comments at the bottom (Hat tip to Collective Conversation).
When considering the impact of Google’s ability to retrieve, publicize, and broker both content and usage information, the impact on ICT (information communication technology) is significant. Likewise, when a Bengali server goes online, Google steps closer into obvious ICT4D (ICT for development) ramifications. A paucity of content in non-G8 languages is arguably an invisible ‘firewall’ (the ceiling metaphor doesn’t “hack” it) to cultural and social input. Does this mean UNESCO, with its charge to protect culture, should take an increased interest in Google? Would countries begin to lay claim on their national content in a neutral, or less than neutral, internet similar to copyright issues in the Gutenburg Project?
Google has the right to control the quality of the inputs, but at what
point might Google become a public good? Or too big? Can it become too
big? Might it become a new Common, in the traditional almost quaint
notion? Charles Clover, writing in Internationale Politik, reminded me of Grotius’s Mare Liberum that established the ocean as a common and of John Selden’s refinement, Mare Clausum, establishing sovereignty over sea closest to its territory.
Could remanding into the classification of a Common be in Google’s future? Doubtful, but besides predicting Google’s behavior, what can we do to predict the layout of the uncharted “waters” of cyberspace? What will Google’s foreign policy look like and how much will the United States be involved or even the target of it? Will anywhere be domestic, or foreign, to Google?
Practicing Effective Public Diplomacy in Africa (or elsewhere)
Let’s say you’re charged with finding the path to partnership with a few dozen African countries that have resources you want and need. How would you approach the them to establish a relationship to establish a partnership? This might be especially important if you are locking for priority treatment or even to lockout a competitor. A blocking strategy would really entail developing a deep partnership of trust, or coercion. If you want to go with the trust route, believing that it will cost less in the long run (i.e. soft power vs hard power) it would make sense to establish and build trust and understanding. Perhaps even a spirit of mutual assistance since. A little give, a little take. Making governments and people comfortable with your overtures would require a coherent policy, right? What might that policy look like?
Relationships begin with dialogs. The goal is to build trust. Trust cannot be manufactured, it has to be earned. On a personal level now, how did you come to trust your best friend? Was a bond of trust "created" or did it evolve over time? It probably built up over time through actions by both you and the other person after some initial, perhaps small, amount of trust was placed in the both of you by the other. We build trust, we do not "create" trust. We can build and maintain trust just as we can "fritter" it away, to quote Martin Rose of the British Council.
So, in this hypothetical let me add something. Let’s say you’ve had a presence in the region for a few decades. Nearly fifty years ago you initiated a program to assist, convert really, the peoples and governments to your way of thinking. This established contacts in the region. It didn’t go over the way you really wanted, but it didn’t end up in flames either. The reasons for that original approach are now in the pages of history and the contacts have been maintained and in the last few years, you reactivated them to get to a new level. So, with the knowledge that you have at least some amount of trust built up with these countries. What would you do next?
You might consider documenting a policy to share with Africa. This would describe how important sincerity, friendship and equality are to you. It would also put you on a moral high ground when contrasted with other global players. It would emphasize your belief in the mutual benefit of economic and social development and cooperation, especially focusing on reciprocity and common prosperity. This would probably sound like a good, if not great, deal to the Africans, corrupt or not. There is something of a track record that leans toward the positive side, if not completely positive.
The idea of riches to be made in global economy might be appealing, or even just being heard when you suggest how you will help them strengthen their role in global institutions through coordination and support. Those are great words to use, in fact. Non-threatening, friendly, and reciprocal. All key in building trust and deepening ties.
This relationship you’re seeking to build upon and expand would cause each side to learn and develop. So you would suggest cultural, civic, and educational exchanges to deepen understanding and awareness of each other as you learn from each other and create a sustainable world. Well, you can hope for a sustainable world, which is what you want to try for, right? You do not want to pollute. You want a moral high ground, especially when considering the beautiful African continent. Perhaps you might suggest something to your friends on this? There is money to be made in eco-toursism, after all.
How about cooperation on resources, tourism (means $), debt reduction ($ — offering assistance with the global institutions), infrastructure (goods, people and tourists have to get around), agriculture ($ greater crop density and quality), education, media, consular affairs (helping in the international community, did I mention you’re a big country with pull?), disaster reduction, relief and humanitarian assistance, military training, police, courts, and more.
Sounds pretty fancy. Too much to lay out in a document, isn’t it? I mean, who would really go so far to do this? Africa does have all that oil, natural gas, and plenty of other fantastic resources, energy and otherwise.
Does it sound too fantastic if you have already been building prestige buildings on Africa? You’d offer the people the choice of a sports stadium or a government building. Most of the time they picked stadium, but once the bureaucrats got lucky and a government building was built. Africans might see the friendly side you’re trying to promote, right?
They might also see a friendly culture if you’re broadcasting the English language TV into Africa. That would be great, wouldn’t it? Let’s say you’re doing that already.
Does it sound like I’m trying to sell you a bridge or ocean front property (sorry, US-centric joke)? I’m not. The policy document I described exists and was published January 2006. China reportedly gets over a quarter of its oil from Africa, so it is not surprising it’s interested in building up and maintaining relations on the continent. In 2000, Beijing established the China-Africa Cooperation Forum (CACF) to promote trade and investment with 44 African countries. In 2003, Prime Minister Wen visited several oil-producing African states accompanied by Chinese oil executives, and President Hu toured Algeria, Egypt, and Gabon. China has been working closely with governments in the Gulf of Guinea, from Angola to Nigeria, as well as with the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Libya, Niger, and Sudan. (See Sep/Oct 2005 Foreign Affairs: China’s Global Hunt for Energy)
In mid-January 2006, China issued an African Policy Paper. The strategy China has laid out, besides being laid out open for all to see, should cause concern at State. This paper is divided into six parts:
1. Africa’s Position and Role
2. China’s Relations with Africa
3. China’s African Policy
4. Enhancing All-round Cooperation Between China and Africa
5. Forum on China-Africa Cooperation And Its Follow-up Actions
6. China’s Relations with African Regional Organizations
The document is easily available as html, making accessibility as universal as possible. The English is simple and straight forward, making it easy to read for those who first, or even second or third, language is not English. This document is public diplomacy at its finest. The Chinese are doing a bang-up job in the region. China’s connection with the public goes beyond building prestige buildings for the public. Offered the option of a sports stadium or government building, the public gets to chose, only once did a public group chose the government building. Television in the region is also becoming largely English language broadcast from China. In the culture war, the West, and the US specifically, is losing.
The most visible American presence in the area is a multinational military base on the Horn and corporate oil on the Gulf of Guinea. The rhetoric out of Washington is militaristic and focused on counter-insurgency (COIN) and counter-terrorism. Efforts at public diplomacy, economic and cultural connections are not heard when they are spoken at all. They are drowned out by louder actions and lousy follow through.
The African Policy Paper is quite impressive. It is a great piece of propaganda (in the pure sense) and a tremendous example of what public diplomacy can look like. Working from an equality in partnership, establishing two-way communication and understanding is done through exchanges and commitments to build trust through assistance in all sectors of the civil sector. Textbook.
With established relationships with nearly all the countries on the continent, including expanding cultural and economic ties, this policy could very easily be seen as likely steps the Chinese would fulfill. The Chinese are not perfect, despite the appearance of The Policy. Holes in both reality and the document will be discussed in a follow up post. As well as the importance of China in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review.
The international military on the Horn is an effective fighting force working with some USAID elements, but where is the full frontal effort on public, cultural, and diplomacy diplomacy to build deep relationships and trust? Building schools, roads, economies, and social structures is the best way to prevent terrorism and to assure a resource supply that will be steady and sure. The Chinese seem to know that. Does the United States want to sit back and see if the plan works? Countering such a plan is just like countering and preventing terrorism: a long and steady effort. Will it happen? We’ll have to see, unfortunately, I doubt Las Vegas bookies will give me good odds on it.
Technorati Tags: Africa, Horn of Africa, QDR, Current Affairs,
Net Infrastructure Requiring Tolls?
This is a potentially concerning development: Verizon Executive Calls for End to Google’s ‘Free Lunch’.
A Verizon Communications Inc. executive yesterday accused Google Inc. of freeloading for gaining access to people’s homes using a network of lines and cables the phone company spent billions of dollars to build.
The "middle men" in the internet are looking to make some additional money. If they are allowed to proceed, the costs of access, already ridicuolously high for low quality and low speed service will likely go up. America lives in a fantasy of having a great and highspeed computer network, just like we think we have a great cellular service (some people do at least). A good read on this is Bleha’s May/June 2005 Foreign Affairs article, Down to the Wire. A rebuttal and response in a latter issue is also interesting, if not for the redirection of factors and failure to address the core issue of government involvement. I learned our local phone company was already training its people on the fibre optic wire is about run to home when they pulled the plug because they were getting bought out. That was at least 6 years ago and still no fibre. No incentive. Public-private partnerships are required and have been required for major innovation. Meanwhile, we pay handsomely for services we think are the best.
Technorati Tags: ICT,
Tracking stuff is just about to get easier
A new thinner-than-paper-thin RFID (radio frequency identification) chip has been developed by Hitachi Ltd. “Ten or more times thinner than a sheet of paper” (shouldn’t that be 1/10 the thickness?), it is 0.15mm x 0.15mm x 0.01mm. Paper is .08mm-.1mm thick so the new chip could actually be used as a watermark.Applications could easily include enhanced document security. The chip could be embedded in optical media (would RFID interfere w/ electronic media?) such as DVD, CD, etc. What about embedding in clothing, jewelry and watches, etc. Making the tracker inconspicuous raises the possibilities.
A Primer on Pirates
There is an increasing number of questions about what is piracy. This is a brief primer to get the reader started on the road of what piracy may be. As you read, consider the US capture of a Somali pirate in January and how strategy, tactics, and global affairs fit into the game of Risk.
A starter read is the United Nation’s Atlas of the Oceans portal is Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea.
A better, up to date read is from Tech Central Station – Un-Jolly Rogers (16 Nov 05), with highlights below, emphasis added.
The War on Terror features counter-pirate operations. Singapore’s Internal Security Department told me in 2002 that the difference between battling pirates and stopping terrorists is often slight. The Straits of Malacca, located between Singapore and Indonesia, is a prime terror
target. The strait is jammed with container ships and oil tankers.
In fall 2001, a CENTCOM officer and I explored several “ship assault” scenarios in the straits. One scenario had the plotscape of a novel, with Indonesian or Malaysian pirates helping al-Qaida operatives hijack a tanker. Spilling a million barrels of crude creates an eco-disaster.
Sinking the tanker drives maritime insurance rates sky-high.
In June 2005, I received two briefings from CENTCOM naval officers on coalition naval operations off Africa’s Somali coast and in the Red Sea. Chasing pirates is a key mission. Stopping piracy protects African and Arab fishermen and shippers, so it’s good politics. There’s also little doubt that al-Qaida has paid local pirates to smuggle personnel and weapons.
Naval patrols off Somalia, however, didn’t deter last week’s audacious — and unsuccessful — pirate assault on the cruise liner Seabourn Spirit. Somali pirates, riding in small boats, attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. The liner’s captain and crew maneuvered their ship, using it as a weapon — it’s big, and it generates a
massive wake. The liner also employed a directional “parabolic audio boom-box.” The non-lethal “sonic weapon” emitted an eardrum-shattering sound. The frustrated pirates retreated.
The Somali attack generated international headlines. Though international monitors recorded 259 “piratical incidents” in the first nine months of this year, piracy receives very little media coverage.
The spike in media interest may give Jack Gottschalk and Brian Flanagan a belated bestseller. Their “Jolly Roger With an Uzi: The Rise and Threat of Modern Piracy,”
published by the Naval Institute Press in 2000, documented the rise of “new piracy,” to include smuggling and maritime scams, as well as terrorists operating at sea.
Gottschalk and Flanagan identify three “requirements” for piracy, which apply to Viking pirate raiders as well as contemporary Somali sea thieves:
1) Pirates prowl waterways where the targets are lucrative.
2) “The geographic area where pirates prey must be one in which the risk level of detection is acceptable.”
3) If possible, pirates have “safe havens” where they can “hide, seek repairs and obtain supplies.”
Combating piracy takes good intelligence. The authors also offer this warning: Piracy “has never been reduced through any process of negotiation.” Historically, only armed force suppresses pirates.
With the impact on commerce and security clearance, it would be interesting to investigate why piracy has not achieved greater prominence in the news. It seems to have all the necessary attributes, except, perhaps, a perceived unitary backer. While “Islamic Terrorism” is perceived to be part of the Us vs Them scenario described by so many, most notably and unfortunately the President, there is no single Chief Pirate, Chief Propagandist Pirate, or ideological thread to build a fascinating singular story around. Is it possible the cruise ship attack was a lure to allow the TopCat mission? Or was it a chance opportunity?
Rumsfeld on Openness
From WSJ via FAS Secrecy News is the following:
"I have long believed in the importance of granting the public greater access to information about their government–the good and the bad," wrote Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a Wall Street Journal opinion article this week, noting that he had co-sponsored the Freedom of Information Act as a member of Congress in 1966.
He wrote of the challenges of informing the public in "this new Information Age," and observed that "a healthy culture of communication and transparency between government and the public needs to be established."
"This openness, however, does not obviate the necessity of protecting the secrecy of confidential information that, if revealed, could harm the security of the U.S."
"While I have long believed that too much material is classified across the federal government as a general rule, an increasingly cavalier attitude towards sensitive information in various quarters can put the lives of our troops at correspondingly increasing risk."
During Secretary Rumsfeld’s tenure, a growing quantity of formerly public information has been withdrawn from public access.