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Drones, Computer Viruses and Blowback 257

Posted by Soulskill
from the fighting-never-gets-cleaner dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Michael Crowley writes that using drones rather than soldiers to kill bad guys is appealing for many reasons, including cost, relative precision and reduction of risk to American troops. But there's plenty of evidence that drones antagonize local populations and create more enemies over the long term than we kill in the short term. The failed 2010 Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, has said that about the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan, and the Washington Post has described how drone strikes may be breeding sympathy for al-Qaeda in Yemen. 'It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness. It plays well domestically and it is unpopular only in other countries,' says Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence until May of 2010. 'Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.' Now there's another component to the new warfare that threatens blowback: cyberwar. Like drones, cyberweapons are relatively cheap and do their work without putting American troops in harm's way. The blowback comes when those viruses get loose and inflict unintended damage or provide templates to terrorists or enemy nations that some experts think could lead to disaster and argue that cyberweapons are like bioweapons, demanding international treaties to govern their use. 'We may indeed be at a critical moment in history, when the planet's prospects could be markedly improved by an international treaty on cyberweapons, and the cultivation of an attendant norm against cyberwar,' writes Richard Wright. 'The ideal nation to lead the world toward this goal would be the most powerful nation on earth, especially if that nation had a pretty clean record on the cyberweapons front. A few years ago, America seemed to fit that description. But it doesn't now.'"
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Drones, Computer Viruses and Blowback

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  • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:49PM (#40268969)

    Well known, and has been for quite a long time. The use of overwhelming force may satisfy some primitive emotional desires, but it basically never leads to a win in any conflict. I am surprised that people are still surprised at this.

    As to malware created by states: Just make them responsible for the full damage caused if they miss their target. With the incompetence displayed recently, that is bound to happen quite often.

    • by yoctology (2622527) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:57PM (#40269007)
      I respectfully disagree. When you give the opposition hope that resistance might prevail, you simply discourage their elements that counsel diplomacy or other political engagement over armed response. That is why you don't send a single officer to quell a riot.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:08PM (#40269073)

        You are both right, it depends on the definition of overwhelming. You don't sent tanks and machine guns to put down a riot, because in doing so you will (and rightfully so) create enemies who don't care about their own lives anymore and whose only reason for existing from then on is to damage you in any way possible - as much and as frequently as possible. We call those people terrorists these days, but they are not necessarily interested in terror, just vengeance. You are much less likely to get that kind of result from sending an over-sized squad of policemen with rubber batons, so in that sense overwhelming force isn't necessarily so bad compared to sending an under-sized squad of policemen. Though it still can be, since the police (or any other group of humans) is inevitably going to behave in inexcusable ways if you make it so that they know they cannot get themselves into a bad situation no matter how much they provoke the people they have been sent to manage.

        • You don't sent tanks and machine guns to put down a riot, because in doing so you will (and rightfully so) create enemies who don't care about their own lives anymore and whose only reason for existing from then on is to damage you in any way possible - as much and as frequently as possible.

          Wow. Crap like this is at +5 insightful?

          You might want to look at Syria. Unless and until somebody with more tanks and machine guns kicks eight shades of shite out of Asshat and his goons he totally will "sent[sic] tan

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      History proves you completely wrong. Please learn some history before you post further. Not only that, but you comment is contrary to 100% of the world's military's doctrines.

      Why does slashdot attract so many people who have no clue on the subject matter yet insist on sharing their ignorance with everyone?

      • Thousands of years of military doctrine became obsolete after WWII. Asymmetrical warfare is the only kind of warfare left.
        • by Loosifur (954968) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:57PM (#40269637)

          Respectfully, I couldn't disagree more. Strategy and, to some degree, tactics have not changed fundamentally since Alexander. Technology has altered the way that strategy is applied, and changed how tactics are implemented, but the fundamentals remain the same. Military doctrine, if by that you mean a sort of understanding of the role of various elements of the military and their proper application, tends to change as technology alters capability. Even so, it doesn't change that much.

          Consider the role of armored cavalry (by which I mean everything from mounted knights to modern tanks). It has always played the traditional role of cavalry. It screens moving columns, light cavalry scouts ahead of a main army, heavier cavalry breaks defensive lines. Whether you're talking about lancers or tanks, the role is basically the same. It is as true today as it was four hundred years ago that cavalry is only effective when it support infantry. Equally true is that infantry is the basic unit of warfare. You've gotta have boots on the ground to occupy territory, and you have to occupy territory to control it. If you call asymmetrical warfare by it's more traditional name, i.e. guerrilla warfare, you will see that it hasn't changed much, either. Whether you're talking about American revolutionaries harassing British troops during the Revolutionary War, or insurgents in Iraq detonating IEDs, asymmetrical warfare is the only way a smaller, weaker combatant can fight against a stronger, larger combatant. And even then, the goal isn't to defeat the enemy, but to make occupation more trouble than it's worth.

          The only real thing that changed after WWII was the geopolitical structure of the world, and even that wasn't something completely alien in the history of international relations. To claim that the only warfare left is asymmetric warfare is to propose that all future conflicts will be between a state and a non-state actor, or between two dramatically mismatched states. I think that such a viewpoint ignores the potential for interstate conflict between rivals in the near and distant futures.

          • It is as true today as it was four hundred years ago that cavalry is only effective when it support infantry.

            This is 100% true. Carrhae and Little Big Horn were not 400 years ago or yesterday.

            And neither was Beersheba.

            The Parthians never had an empire, and neither did the Mongols.

      • He is largely wrong, but not completely wrong.

        If any one nation were to develop overwhelming military technology and begin to use that force indiscriminately, they would quickly run out of allies around the world. Eventually you reach a point where overwhelmingly powerful technology is defeated by sheer numbers.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:30PM (#40269217)

      The US is using targeted, small scale means to attack people we don't like. I won't claim it's perfect, or that we don't kill people we shouldn't.

      But "overwhelming force"? Hardly. We're not leveling entire cities with fleets of a hundred bombers. We're not turning the entire nation into a glass parking lot. We're not even attacking the nation at large, but trying (again with admitted imperfection) to surgically attack specific elements within it. We're even trying to befriend and assist other segments of the population.

      The US is capable of using far, far, far more overwhelming force than it is doing.

      • by aepervius (535155) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:59PM (#40270009)
        You are at best only killing "militant" and at worst terrorist, what traditionally has been done using either proper police, or cloak and dagger (and gun),a nd to do that you use *bomb* and *missiles* remotely controleld from a military plateform. This is a hammer to kill a fly , sorry. This is by definition overwhelming force for the problem at hand. That the US military can use much more force than that, is a testament to your incredibly high military budget, and the fact that some (not you) use the argument to indicate you are going "soft" in the middle east is a sad sad conclusion that some peopel lost utterly the sense of perspective.
      • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @04:03PM (#40270023)

        Cyberwarfare, drone attacks, assassinations... these things are a marked improvement in how war is fought. Ten years ago, war was fought by "shock and awe" -- a huge barrage of missiles and bombs intended to sap the enemy's will to fight. Fifty years ago, (e.g. Vietnam) it was fought with millions of boots on the ground, and millions of civilian casualties. A hundred years ago (e.g. the World Wars), it was fought with tens of millions of soldiers, and entire regions laid to waste through carpet bombing. Go back farther, and war was fought by sending a whole bunch of people into a town to literally rape and pillage.

        We're moving in the direction of fewer civilian casualties and lower overall body counts. I know that some people will say that this removes reasons for avoiding war and makes war more likely. But the leaders haven't been on the front lines for centuries, and they've never particularly cared about getting their pawns killed. High body counts don't discourage them. If war is now fought with economic attacks and assassinations, well, maybe it will finally start hurting the leaders instead of the peasants. And that might make them think twice.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Well known, and has been for quite a long time. The use of overwhelming force may satisfy some primitive emotional desires, but it basically never leads to a win in any conflict. I am surprised that people are still surprised at this.

      A. I don't see what this has to do with the subject you picked.
      B. Overwhelming force is a great way to win a conflict, unless you run into asymmetric tactics (see Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan)

      Car analogy time:
      Cyberweapons are like hot rods. You can build one in your garage or get one made if you know the right shop to do it for you.
      There's no way to regulate that the same way we regulate bioweapons.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      So the US didn't win against the Japanese in WW2 then? You don't get much more "use of overwhelming" than nuking two cities when no one else has nukes at all.

      • by Goaway (82658)

        The US versus Japan was nothing like "overwhelming force" for most of the war, it was two forces of similar strength fighting each other.

        Japan had mostly lost by the time the nukes were dropped. They did not "win the war", they just ended it a little earlier than it would have ended otherwise.

        • by gtall (79522)

          A little earlier? Check out how hard the Japanese fought on Saipan, Okinowa, etc. Japanese civilians chose suicide rather than surrender. The home islands expected to be invaded and expected every last woman and child to defend them. It would have taken years to take Japan with millions of dead.

    • by khallow (566160)

      The use of overwhelming force may satisfy some primitive emotional desires, but it basically never leads to a win in any conflict.

      Well, never always leads to a win. OTOH, it's certainly one of the best advantages to have in conflict.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      For all those that cannot read: I am of course talking about overwhelming force in the context of asymmetric warfare. Any moron can see that, but apparently some people here cannot.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Clearly you weren't because you said "in any conflict" which any moron can see is not restricting the claim to asymmetric warfare.

      • by khallow (566160)

        I am of course talking about overwhelming force in the context of asymmetric warfare.

        Still doesn't make sense. Sure, asymmetric warfare happens because one side has overwhelming force and thus, can't be attacked in a conventional sense by the other side.

        But there is a precedent, which Afghanistan is still painfully aware of, for why the context of asymmetric warfare shouldn't be thought to automatically hold. When the side with overwhelming force is willing to completely destroy whoever is using asymmetric warfare tactics (and anyone who merely is in the neighborhood), then that's a very

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "The use of overwhelming force may satisfy some primitive emotional desires, but it basically never leads to a win in any conflict."

      The American Civil War, WWII, and the unification of China under the Maoists are some examples disproving that bit of wishful thinking.

      • by gtall (79522)

        The U.S. used overwhelming force in Iraq, along with asymmetric warfare. The result was the first Arab country that is a democracy. They certainly have their troubles, not least fighting the civil war within Islam that has been going on for 1300 years. However, the Shia are no longer the kick toys of the Sunni in Iraq. The Kurds are not being gassed. Their oil producing is increasing. They at least have a fighting chance now of progressing into a real nation. I'd call that a win, it is essentially what Bush

  • Treaties (Score:3, Insightful)

    by morgandelra (448341) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @12:54PM (#40268995)

    The problem is that since WWII the groups we tend to fight ignore all treaties. So if we agree not to use "cyberweapons" and thus do not buld effective counter measures, we leave our stuff open to attack by groups who would not give a second thought to vilating a treaty, be it for cyber, biological, nuclear or chemical weapons.

    • Re:Treaties (Score:5, Insightful)

      by king neckbeard (1801738) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:05PM (#40269057)
      Except, of course, for the fact that we can build counter measures without building actual cyberweapons. Basically, the counter measures consist of good security practices and quickly plugging exploits.
    • Self Awareness (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Uberbah (647458) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @07:32PM (#40271107)

      The problem is that since WWII the groups we tend to fight ignore all treaties.

      Like when we ignored the anti-ballistic missile shield treaty when Bush was president, or ignoring the U.N. treaties on torture under both Bush and Obama, or threatening to attack another country (Iran) under both Bush and Obama, to ignoring Geneva Conventions, to ignoring silly treaties on how wars may only be fought for defense or humanitarian reasons....

      • Re:Self Awareness (Score:4, Informative)

        by cold fjord (826450) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @11:42PM (#40272077)

        Like when we ignored the anti-ballistic missile shield treaty when Bush was president, or ignoring the U.N. treaties on torture under both Bush and Obama, or threatening to attack another country (Iran) under both Bush and Obama, to ignoring Geneva Conventions, to ignoring silly treaties on how wars may only be fought for defense or humanitarian reasons....

        You are confused. The US didn't ignore the ABM treaty, it withdrew from it as was allowed under the treaty. Bush and Obama aren't ignoring the Geneva conventions - Al Qaeda is not entitled to their protections due to fighting in an unlawful manner - but captured Al Qaeda members are still being treated in a humane fashion at Guantanamo Bay prison camp. A broad coalition of nations is dealing with Iran and its unacceptable behavior, but if it makes you happier - Iran has been threatening to attack the US, Europe, Israel, and various Arab nations for some time, not to mention making veiled threats of genocide, and engaging in an active campaign of terrorism and assassination around the world. Iraq committed an act of war against the US (firing on US aircraft) pretty much every day for years prior to the invasion. Torture has a specific meaning under US law, which the US didn't violate when it water boarded a total of three (3) people, the most recent of which was nine (9) years ago.

        • Re:Self Awareness (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Uberbah (647458) on Sunday June 10, 2012 @04:00AM (#40272799)

          You are confused.

          You are spinning and rationalizing. And it's beneath you.

          The US didn't ignore the ABM treaty, it withdrew from it as was allowed under the treaty.

          Pedantry over "ignored" is noted, and met with...pretty much every treaty ever signed with any of the native tribes.

          Bush and Obama aren't ignoring the Geneva conventions - Al Qaeda is not entitled to their protections due to fighting in an unlawful manner

          The sheer, soulless, unmitigated arrogance in bombing weddings, rescuers trying to help the wounded and then finally bombing the funerals for the dead, and then having the gall to whine about "fighting in an unlawful manner"? Fuck that neocon bullshit. Either Al Queda operatives are soldiers and captured ones should be treated as P.O.W.s, or they are suspected criminals. Either classification carries rights.

          There is NO third category that allows you to kidnap people and torture them, or simply assassinate them along with any poor bastards that happen to be standing nearby.

          but captured Al Qaeda members are still being treated in a humane fashion at Guantanamo Bay prison camp

          We've held people there for nearly 10 years, many of which we knew were innocent, some of which were even captured as minors. The president's of both parties have insisted they have no rights, with the current one even insisting he has 'post acquittal detention' powers. As in: Obama will keep them imprisoned, even if ordered released by a court of law.

          A broad coalition of nations is dealing with Iran and its unacceptable behavior, but if it makes you happier - Iran has been threatening to attack the US, Europe, Israel, and various Arab nations for some time, not to mention making veiled threats of genocide, and engaging in an active campaign of terrorism and assassination around the world.

          Every single word in those two sentences was a total lie. It's been 200 years since Iran attacked another nation - compared to dozens of first strikes and wars of choice for both Israel and the U.S. since WWII alone. Iran's "threats" have been retaliatory [salon.com] in nature, as in "we will strike back if we are attacked". Well, no shit, Sherlock. The "genocide" shit is another lie based on a willful mistranslation by the press. The 'torture and assassination around the world' shit is pure projection, as it's the U.S. doing that shit with CIA blacksites and drones.

          The Secretary of Defense has clearly stated that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. But even if they did, they have every reason to want such weapons as a deterrent to Israel and their arsenal of 200+ nuclear warheads. The United States has stated that it will treat 'cyberattacks' as an act of war - guess what Stuxnet under U.S. rules? And of course it's actually the United States in violation [salon.com] of the U.N. charter with it's multiple belligerent threats towards Israel.

          So, you want to walk back that hairball of propaganda and tell us just who is threatening who [juancole.com] here?

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:00PM (#40269033) Homepage

    This is just an extension of what people really object to: the US coming to their country and killing people. You were not invited, you kill civilians and there is no justice or consequences. You develop drones to make this even easier.

    I'm not sure why US commentators can't see this. Imagine if every now and then a Pakistani drone blew up a random wedding or accidentally killed some people trying to do their weekly shopping in your neighbourhood. Wouldn't that annoy you?

    • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:24PM (#40269177) Homepage

      Good points. A fundamental question after 9/11 was "Why do they hate us?" The knee jerk response was "They hate us because we are free and wealthy and they hate freedom and wealth". But a truer answer is more likely "They hate us because we fund their oppressors and so have contributed to their relative unfreedom and poverty".

      The biggest issue with all this is that advanced technologies of abundance like robotics, networked computing, nanotechnology, nuclear, aerospace, biotech and so on must be used from a perspective of abundance. Such technologies, like Bucky Fuller talked about, could create universal abundance for all of humanity -- and then some, as we spread into the solar system and to the stars, But, people are often using such technologies of abundance from the perspective of scarcity and so they are adapting advanced technology to fight the last century's wars over perceived resource scarcity. Thus we have ironies like people creating nuclear missiles to fight over oil fields, rather than using advanced materials and knowledge about how the atom works to make clean cheap energy for everyone (whether via nuclear means or solar panels or hot or cold fusion or whatever). I wrote a related essay here:
      http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-transcending-militarism.html [pdfernhout.net]

      The same is happening with the misguided energy going into creating stuff like Stuxnet, especially given that what goes around comes around, and now everyone has access to Stuxnet as a prototype platform to build even worse stuff. Obama's escalations of the drone wars and the cyber wars just adds more ironies to his Nobel Peace Prize.

      Still, ultimately, "war is a racket", and that racket sadly drives much of US foreign policy:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Is_a_Racket [wikipedia.org]

      In general, everyone globally needs to totally rethink our collective economy and geopolitics for new 21st century realities. That will happen eventually because we can't survive the way we have been going on. It's only a question of how long until that change in mindset happens and how much suffering the world experences (including from nucelar war) until then. Here is another related website:
      http://anwot.org/ [anwot.org]

      • Most of the people of Afghanistan are uneducated and illiterate. Foreign policy and global affairs are meaningless to them. Meaningless because they don't understand the adjacent tribe let alone any other nation outside its borders. They really are that clueless. They may have heard of a nation called American and its red white and blue, but that's it. That's all the majority of Afghans know.

        So then why do they hate us? Religious fundamentalism. To the extreme Taliban, freedom and self-determination is an a

    • A few years ago, America seemed to fit that description. But it doesn't now.

      Hmmm.....was that before or after the Eisenhower Administration, on behalf of the oligarchs, overthrew the democratically elected and sovereign governments of Iran and Guatemala, etc., etc., ad nauseum?????
      While I fully agree with AmiMoJo's comments, I would hasten to add that the "US commentators" are extremely well paid to make such propagandistic bullcrap pronouncements, and haven't either the morality, ethics nor credibilit

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm not sure why US commentators can't see this.

      They do see this but as far as I can see. no one will say it. Maybe Keith Olbermann may have in one of his rants.

      Back when all this shit started, anyone who criticized military action, the killing of civilians in terrorist harboring countries and any other attitude that was "Weak on Terror" was considered anti-American and you "hate America".

      We have a culture that worships brute force and all ends well when the "bad guy" gets his ass-kicked.

      Watch any action flick that has come out of Hollywood.

      In America,

    • by gmuslera (3436) *
      Hey, but US have the right to invade any country, they are freeing people or at least resources from surely evil regimes there, no? And put in the arsenal of cybeweapons social engineering too, if everything else fails, you can make enough people of that country to ask to be invaded.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:24PM (#40269465) Homepage

        Hey, but US have the right to invade any country, they are freeing people or at least resources from surely evil regimes there, no?

        Not sure if you are joking... The problem with the way the US and its allies liberate countries is that it tends to be very bloody and result in a fractured state with a joke of a democracy. Plus you can't just make a country a democracy, it has to be fought for by the population if it is going to be appreciated. Parts of Afghanistan actually prefer Taliban rule to the "democratic" government, not least because there was no ideal or popular movement to create that administration. They are just another bunch of crooks imposed by a foreign power with some highly dubious elections to try and legitimise it. Funny how the guy that the US picked to run thing was re-elected president, despite widespread unpopularity, no?

      • by Uberbah (647458)

        That's snark, right? The problem with that storyline is that the United States is happy to support coups against secular, civil-rights-respecting countries if they tell the U.S. to go fuck itself. See: Iran, Venezuela.

        ...while also supporting nasty dictatorships as long as they play ball with the United States. See: Egypt, Libya, Iraq (before the Gulf War), Pinochete, etc etc etc.

        Every once in a while they overplay their hand and make it plain what their agenda really is. Like when we were bombing Gadda

    • I'm not sure why US commentators can't see this.

      Commentators are propaganda, they are paid to justify those actions.

      Many people in the US do see this, but we can't effectively intervene (due to a lot of things, the discussion of which would get off-topic).
    • by hey! (33014)

      This is very true. But it's true of conventional warfare too. The sixteen unarmed Afghani civilians killed by a an army solider (or soldiers) in March didn't do us much good either. But in the end that was not really any more preventable than the innocent people killed by drones either by mistake or as "collateral damage". Every army in history has had sick people in it, and we've made our soldiers so lethal that one bad (or sick) apple do untold damage.

      That a drone attack antagonizes the populace doesn't

    • by gtall (79522)

      Yeah, the Taliban poisoning girls at school shows how enlightened, and multiculti they are. Your problem is that you see no reason to ever lift a finger to fight against tyranny.

  • by dryriver (1010635) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:03PM (#40269045)
    Because drones don't take any risk with themselves - no human pilot - but take BIG risks with the lives of people on the ground - collateral damage is very common in drone strikes - they are widely seen as a "Coward's Way of Fighting" in the countries in which they are used (Afghanistan, Pakistan et cetera). This in turn helps various "undesirable" organizations to recruit many new people, to fight the "Western Cowards killing our Countrymen with Aerial Toys". ----------> In short, drone strikes make the local population hate you, and help the enemy recruit new ground troops. That simply isn't a great formula to bet on over the long run...
    • There's barely any collateral damage now that Obama has defined "militant" as being "military age male".

      http://www.salon.com/2012/05/29/militants_media_propaganda/ [salon.com]

      A few infants here and there don't really bother democrats.

      • by sgt_doom (655561)
        Well said, although in agreement with the list linked to, that War on Whistleblowers has been ramped up considerably to the max.
      • by artor3 (1344997)

        Just days after taking office, the president got word that the first strike under his administration had killed a number of innocent Pakistanis. “The president was very sharp on the thing, and said, ‘I want to know how this happened,’ “ a top White House adviser recounted.

        In response to his concern, the C.I.A. downsized its munitions for more pinpoint strikes. In addition, the president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a “near certainty” that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead.

        Counterterrorism officials insist this approach [to counting militants] is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

        Let's not pretend it's as black and white as you're trying to paint it. They are trying to minimize civilian casualties. But if there are five guys hanging out at a terrorist training camp, odds are they're all militants, even if we don't know each individual's background. Just like people who died on the battlefields of World War II are considered to have been soldiers, even though it's remotely possible that some were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    • They are considered cowardly because it means that have no chance of winning. Killing a bunch of remote controlled robots just means there will be more robots in the next wave.

      Fuck our enemies feelings about our weaponry.

      Should we be forced to use stone clubs and IEDs because those apes do?

      • We need selective weapons that minimize collateral damage only for high value targets not doable by less disruptive means. Imagine our policy if we paid damages for each noncombatant killed or injured also.
      • Fuck our enemies feelings about our weaponry.

        Way to miss the point. "Enemy" is not a status assigned at birth. The world is full of people who really don't care about us one way or another, who in fact have never given a thought to the US in their lives ... until an American drone appears in the sky over their homes. Drones are fine tools for finding and killing the enemies we already have, but this isn't particularly useful if we also create more of them with every use.

      • by Mitreya (579078)

        Fuck our enemies feelings about our weaponry.

        Including the (non-trivial) civilian casualties that they don't like? Who cares about that, right?

        Should we be forced to use stone clubs and IEDs because those apes do?

        Oh, my, you must be one of those people who aren't bothered by the collateral damage at all...
        You know, they are people - even the actual terrorists and certainly the civilians (medics, funeral processions, etc) that are being killed. Dehumanizing people who are being bombed is a common strategy, but an evil one. And someone modded you up, too.

    • by davester666 (731373) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:13PM (#40269103) Journal

      So it's cowardly to remotely fly a drone and fire on people, but it's not cowardly to dress as a civilian, snipe at the enemy clearly outfitted as non-civilians, then when the enemy comes after them, hide their weapon and claim to just be a regular civilian?

    • by djl4570 (801529) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:17PM (#40269125) Journal

      "Western Cowards killing our Countrymen with Aerial Toys".

      Hypocritical whinging from zealots who hide in mosques, impose themselves on the homes of non combatants or hide in and attack from a civilian population. Veiled suicide bomber kills four French soldiers in Afghanistan [reuters.com]

      • by Cyberax (705495)
        You might notice that it was a suicide bomber. Blowing yourself is hardly a cowardly act.
        • by zill (1690130)
          There's nothing more cowardly than the act of killing innocent civilians. Whether you choose to kill yourself or not during the act makes no difference whatsoever.
          • by Cyberax (705495)
            Basically, that's what US is doing with drone strikes. As a collateral damage they manage to hit a few terrorists.
    • by codepunk (167897)

      Hmm you just perfectly described a cowardly IED.

    • by russotto (537200)

      Because drones don't take any risk with themselves - no human pilot - but take BIG risks with the lives of people on the ground - collateral damage is very common in drone strikes - they are widely seen as a "Coward's Way of Fighting" in the countries in which they are used (Afghanistan, Pakistan et cetera). This in turn helps various "undesirable" organizations to recruit many new people, to fight the "Western Cowards killing our Countrymen with Aerial Toys". ----------> In short, drone strikes make the

      • "They" is the wrong word to use here. "They" would not gloat, for example. Terrorists would gloat. Citizens would be happy, except in those cases (crushingly brutal regimes a la Syria, corrupt politicians a la Egypt) where they were not. Either way, it is provably wrong to think that the solution of going in and reducing people to wet chunks is a better one than standing back and acting in more difficult, less dramatic ways.
        • by russotto (537200)

          "They" is the wrong word to use here. "They" would not gloat, for example. Terrorists would gloat. Citizens would be happy, except in those cases (crushingly brutal regimes a la Syria, corrupt politicians a la Egypt) where they were not.

          Terrorists would gloat. Citizens would see the terrorists as stronger and more effective as a result. More citizens would then join them.

          Either way, it is provably wrong to think that the solution of going in and reducing people to wet chunks is a better one than standing

    • First let me grant that any innocents who are bereaved or injured as so-called collateral damage certainly are entitled to accuse our joystick wielding soldiers of using cowardly or inappropriate war measures. With that out of the way, let me add that I couldn't care less what al Qaida operatives say about us. Not only are they extensively trained with psychologically effective propaganda lines, but they also are the ones who send their women and children (some of whom are either unaware of what's going o
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds consistent with established U.S. foreign policy to me.

  • winning pakistanis approval might be the most noble goal, but so much of pakistan is so antagonistic to the usa's goals, nevermind the usa's methods, that earning scorn for our methods doesn't really amount to much, as we're already heavily scorned

    i don't really understand an analysis of the usa's lack of moral loftiness when we are dealing with organizations within pakistan whose own methods make the usa's drones and cyberwarfare look like jaywalking. the goal is to defeat these organizations, not look like paragon of moral virtue

    you might say that because we aren't acting as paragons of moral virtue we are losing public sympathy within pakistan. i am saying the public sympathy already was nonexistent and therefore disavowing something like drones and cyberwarfare wins us very little and loses us strategic abilities

    i really don't understand an analysis of american actions that starts with the prerequisite that the usa always be morally lofty while engaged with enemies whose behavior is utterly amoral, within a populace that hates us no matter what we do while large sections of the society and body politic provide cover and cheer for the likes of lashkar-e-taiba

    where is your analysis of their moral fibre?

    i am not interested in hearing what the usa can do better to win over pakistanis. i am interested in hearing what pakistanis are willing to do to defeat the religious fanatics which will most certainly consume their country. if pakistanis cannot will themselves to see the usa is their ally in this struggle, then the let the chips fall where they may. there is no use wooing a society or a country where there is nothing to build upon in the first place. you cannot hide someone like bin laden in pakistan without tacit support within the establishment, and then jail the doctor for treason who revealed the mass murderer, and then expect to take seriously the idea that the usa's behavior is the problem here

    you really have to wonder why pakistan is considered our ally when so much of their actions are that of an enemy. pakistan will be eaten alive form within by the likes of the religious fanatics, and pakistan currently seems to think that's not the most pressing problem. so i see no relationship to salvage. let the fake relationship fall, and i am not impressed by appeals to the lack of the usa's failure to be morally lofty. let us hear more of pakistan's failures, since that is the real story here

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:18PM (#40269135) Homepage Journal

    There's a school of thought that says "rules of war" are inherently stupid, that whenever we go to war we should kill as many people as possible by whatever means we have available, that prisoners should be treated harshly and civilians as disposable. When used in reference to our current wars, this usually goes along with some Internet Tough Guy posturing about how wimpy liberals don't understand that the world is full of bad guys who want to kill us, blah blah blah.

    But the Iraqis who surrendered en masse in Desert Storm (you know, the Iraq war we actually won) did so in large part because they knew they'd be treated well when they did so. Yes, they were shell-shocked, but remember that the Iraqi army of the day was hardened by years of grueling WW1-style combat against Iran -- they could have kept fighting, and would have done so if they'd believed there was anything to be gained by doing so. I know; as a medic I had a good perspective on the guys on the other side (there were far more Iraqi wounded to treat than American or other Allied soldiers.) And in the more recent war, the insurgency picked up steam with every atrocity. A similar pattern was seen in Vietnam, and probably in every guerilla war in history. Big, technologically advanced occupying powers always think that they can use a steamroller to intimidate the populace into submission, and they're always wrong. Inevitably, they end up creating more enemies than they kill, until their only choice is either to go home or "make a desert and call it peace."

    It's worth noting that Sherman, who popularized the phrase "war is hell" (and earlier made the more precise statement "war is cruelty, and you cannot refine it") and who is largely remembered today as the boogeyman who burned his way across the South, actually took care to minimize civilian casualties, made sure that displaced populations had the means to feed themselves, and was punctilious about the care of prisoners. Had the technology been available to him, I'm sure he would have been happy to use drones to find and destroy Johnston's army, but I'm equally sure he would have rejected out of hand the idea of using them against civilians. Smart guy, he was.

    • by poity (465672)

      I would bet that every single US military officer agrees with you. Hell, I'd bet every single modern military officer agrees with you. That's why modern military doctrine is no longer based on carpet bombing or genocide. These "war is hell" folks are as unthinking as the "peace at any cost" folks. Luckily they're few in numbers and always in the margins.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        Total War, lest we forget, was completely SUCCESSFUL in the cases where it was applied to defeat the Axis.

        Rather than attempting to speak for officers, study history. Many of them do.

        No war since WWII has been anything other than limited war fought to ADJUST international relationships.

        Because we (now) wage limited war as (small) moralist jihad instead of as a normal way to adjust the international landscape, there is overmuch passion (which clouds JUDGEMENT) attached to Limited War. That leads to mission c

    • *ahem* ... Sherman absolutely waged war against civilians. He confiscated or destroyed their lifestock, crops and supplies, and burned their houses and barns. Sure, he didn't go around shooting all the civilians in the head, and nobody's suggesting that he even wanted to. If he had, he would likely have been hanged for war crimes. So I'm not sure why you're trying to paint Sherman as some kind of saint exercising great self-restraint.
    • by fa2k (881632)

      On one hand you have the motivation. I think war should be the last option on the table, what you turn to when you have desperately exhausted all other options. Not desperate as in fighting for you life, but as in "we still think we are right, you are wrong, and we will have it our way at any cost". Some people, on the other hand, think that war is a powerful political instrument which is part of our culture. Just like the big bully can have his way in the schoolyard, there is nothing immoral about flexing

  • by ISoldat53 (977164) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:19PM (#40269143)
    Better than carpet bombing from 20,000 feet.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      The drone campaign is sold to Americans as accurate and targeted, when it can never be any such thing.
      I'd much rather the USA carpet bombed from 20,000 feet and had a public discussion about the consequences of its actions.

  • A drone strike on a cybercafe or physical address with too many bots ?
  • by James McGuigan (852772) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:39PM (#40269261) Homepage

    Any treaty on cyberweapons is doomed to fail.

    This is information warfare, and in essence requires knowing more hidden features about your enemies computer systems than they do, and thanks to globalization we all pretty much use the same computer systems.

    The best defense against cyber weapons is bug free code, finding all the security flaws within the software systems that are used and then fixing them. The best form of attack with cyber weapons is finding all the security flaws, before the other side does, not fixing them, and then attaching a payload to software that can exploit this. Ignorance is hell. So a treaty cannot ban computer security research, as its the only defense against cyberweapons, and this sort of research is not limited to state actors.

    Creating a virus and then releasing it is almost undetectable. With both Flame and Stuxnet, we have narrowed the list of suspects to probably USA or Israel but this is based mostly on question "who gains"? Was it explicitly state sanctioned? Was it a rogue department with the CIA or Mossad? Was it Anonymous? Was it an Iranian traitor/defector with inside information? Was it a black flag operation? Its very easy for each of the state actors to deny responsibility for this, and almost impossible to prove.

    The rules of course are firstly don't get caught, most attacks only work once, so use them wisely, and thirdly don't piss anybody off so badly that they will actually want to physically invade your country.

    This is a perfect example of asymmetric gorilla warfare in the digital age. Having a large standing army and being dependent upon huge computer systems just makes you more vulnerable rather than less. Even

    This is asymmetric warfare, so even MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) is not going to help you here. Treatys are based on consequences, so what good is your treaty going to do here? The Hans Blix of the cyberweapons world will be looking for a bunch of smart people in a room full of computers, good luck with that!

  • by H0p313ss (811249) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @01:52PM (#40269315)

    The U.S. has been engaged is what is now called "cyberwarfare" through "Active SIGINT" for decades, the only difference is people are catching on.

  • by poity (465672) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @02:21PM (#40269443)

    How are you going to get weapons inspectors around a cyberweapons facility?
    "Ma'am we need to ask your son to leave the premise for the next 12 hours and for you to grant us full access to your basement"

  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @03:23PM (#40269785)

    Include those right here at home.

    The attitude that Americans have towards the deployment of such drones isn't all that much different from tribal areas in Afghanistan. People just don't like to be spied upon and treated like a bunch of peasants under the King's authority. The primary difference is that, in Afghanistan, its a foreign power, not local law enforcement. They didn't like it very much back when it was the British either.

  • The US culture is based on inventions and the application of those inventions to labor saving devices. When the US goes to war, it is natural that they apply that philosophy. War throughout history has been a major incentive to produce innovation.

    Instead of innovation, the Indians created multiple classes within their culture which doubtless stifled innovation.

    The Chinese Taoists had exhortations (in the Tao Te Ching) against using labour saving devices (Pien 80).

    The Muslims had a religion that promised v

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      The Muslims had a religion that promised virgins to holy warriors that died, and if you survived, you got to have multiple wives to breed your successful genes into the next generation. And so on recursively. Not unnaturally, they have a warlike culture that used conquered peoples as slaves (e.g. the Turkish empire prior to WWII).

      This is the crux of the issue. Muslims would not "like us" if we didn't use drones. Their religion teaches them to hate and kill non Muslims anyway. We may as well use all weapons at our disposal against them, as they surely will do to us.

  • "cyberweapons are relatively cheap .. The blowback comes when those viruses get loose and inflict unintended damage or provide templates to terrorists or enemy nations that some experts think could lead to disaster and argue that cyberweapons are like bioweapons, demanding international treaties to govern their use"

    The only reason cyberwarfare is even possible is the vast numbers of Windows computers connected to the Internet. And `international treaties' won't protect you from malware, what will is not
  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:07PM (#40270579)

    I know this view is sincerely held by people who have only the best interests of the US at heart. But look, you have to consider the real-world alternatives and likely consequences of those alternatives or your analysis is coming up short.

    To be sure, the US would like to have a weapon that causes people to just drop dead, or better yet, be whisked into US jurisdiction for a proper trial. That magic weapon is not available to us, and drone strikes are the closet thing we have right now. We don't want collateral damage- i.e. dead people- and we spend billions on weapons systems research to make them smarter, more precise and more flexible for just this reason.

    The people who hate us would hate us just as much if we intervened in any other way which was equally effective at stopping people who are actively planning to kill us. If we sneak into the country and kill them, they'd still hate us as much and be just as motivated to harm us. They'd just have a different back story when interrogated. Why did bin Laden hate us? Because he wanted to be the one in Saudi to protect it and expel Saddam from Kuwait. And there we were, on HIS holy sand, doing what HE was meant to do.

    So are we going to decide that we shouldn't do anything until they show up here with the biological agent / terror plot / suitcase nuke? Because if that's your defensive strategy, as everyone form Clinton to Bush to Obama has realized once they've had a few daily briefs from the CIA, it's not going to work.

    We have to intervene earlier in the pipeline. Terrorism is going to be an ongoing reality that we have to face and deal with. There are no really good options, only less bad ones.

    The fact of war is some individual personalities are critical to the enemy. Sorry to say but even in terrorism there's a thing called talent. Drone strikes such as the one that took out al Awlaki or al-Libi are a huge win that sets the enemy back. Until we understand the roots of terrorism, and I am not saying that US foreign policy has always been benign (why don't all Iranians just automatically hate us? Because they don't. Not the young people. ), until then we have to face the fact that people want to kill us and we need to stop them before they can succeed.

    We are working on weapons systems even more precise than drones. We COULD go the other way and turn NW Pakistan into a sea of glass. That's not who we are. Drone strikes piss people off and incite, anything goes, suicidal rage in people. That was always baked into the equation from the start. This is a war, and the enemy doesn't like seeing their side's heroes dying. This is not news.

    I am all about looking giving a thorough, searching and honest look our own actions in the ME . I myself think we should be in Syria right now, tipping that scale, hard. I am deeply concerned with how the rest of the world will perceive our inaction on global warming.. This is something that could galvanize and unite our enemies and coalesce neutrals against us. It's a huge propaganda weapon we're turning on ourselves; a massive unforced error our guys will ultimately end up dying for. That's why it's an act of patriotism and in fact our duty to wage a cultural war on deniers and bring it to them.

    Drones are not good , they're just better than all the alternatives right now, that's all.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Saturday June 09, 2012 @06:34PM (#40270769)
    What a hatchet job that is. They paint a picture of a President whose only concern is the next election and the effect of a successful terror plot on it.

    Is Obama sacrificing America's long-term security for short-term political gain?

    Christ what an asswipe. So stopping terrorism is a now just something a sitting President does for "short term political gain" ?

    I have two words for the author of the below quoted excerpt- prove it.

    Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.

    These tribesmen were not previously sympathetic to al Queda? Is that what you're saying? Or they were sympathetic but that sympathy has "increased"... as measured by by what previously existing measure of "sympathy" ? And no, the vividness with which you imagine such a thing being true doesn't count.

    I love this bit of fucking loose-associational "causation"

    Across the vast, rugged terrain of southern Yemen, an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes is stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.

    Hmm let's see might something else transpired in Yemen to effect the number of active participants in AQAP since 2009-2010? Well there's this:

    The 2011-2012 Yemeni revolution followed the initial stages of the Tunisian Revolution and occurred simultaneously with the Egyptian Revolution and other mass protests in the Arab world in early 2011. The uprising was initially against unemployment, economic conditions and corruption, as well as against the government's proposals to modify the constitution of Yemen. The protestors' demands then escalated to calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.

    And oh, fuck, he also forgot about the civil war the north and south had been fighting which finally culminated, in 2007, with a split of the country and the establishment of the South Yemen Movement.

    Yeah events on that scale sure can bring factions out of the woodwork and release previously occupied energy and attention or previously suppressed hatreds .

    Of course the article doesn't recommend any alternative, equally effective course of action and the author, Robert Wright, isn't going to take responsibility or even be associated with it if a terrorist plot materializes because we backed drone strikes off in Yemen....

    Here's some more:

    If the strikes have such a big downside, why has President Obama accelerated their use, first in Pakistan, then in Yemen?

    The answer: These strikes do, in the short run, impede the operational capabilities of al Qaeda, and Obama is scared to death of the fallout from a single successful al Qaeda strike.

    The foiled airliner bombing on Christmas of 2009, which originated in Yemen, apparently freaked him out big time. At a meeting in its aftermath, Obama was "simmering about how a 23-year-old bomber had penetrated billions of dollars worth of American security measures."

    Just what sentiment would you like POTUS to display given these events? I mean, is this guy serious?

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