The US has announced
plans to increase its West Coast missile defense force by 50%, citing the
possibility of a mainland nuclear missile attack by North Korea. In particular,
it plans to deploy another 14 ground-based interceptor missiles to Fort Greely,
Alaska, by 2017 at a cost of one billion US dollars.
The missile defense
(MD) system is being criticized as a waste of taxpayer money, raising questions
about its effectiveness when tests have resulting in an interception success
rate of only around 50%. The country’s aim, however, is to cement its comparative
superiority at a time when many other countries have long-range ballistic
missiles. This is why the US has spent such astronomical sums on its MD system,
and why the development accounts for such a sizable chunk of the American
The North Korean
“threat” of hitting the mainland US with a nuclear weapon has already been
laughed off by Washington. Its attention is focused less on the possibility of
such a strike than on finding an excuse to beef up its MD budget. The big
beneficiary is the defense industry. In other words, the North Korean nuclear
missile threat is essentially a big gift to the American military-industrial
complex. Meanwhile, South Korea has no small part in boosting this industry, as
the world’s single biggest importer of US weaponry.
Now the US faces a new
challenge in its international relations, namely the rise of China.
Since the Cold War
ended, the US struggle for political hegemony with China has become
unavoidable, with the two sides facing off in a cool relationship where neither
is friend nor foe. Washington has maintained a “pivot to Asia” focus in its
diplomatic policy, an idea articulated by President Barack Obama underscoring
the new importance of the Asia Pacific region. The MD expansions represent a
strategy to maintain military dominance in East Asia vis-a-vis China, while
also serving as a safeguard for economic expansion in the region.
relations experts called this a “strong message” from the US to China, which it
hopes will use its leverage to encourage North Korea to give up its nuclear
program. But this idea is also flawed. In the first place, the expansions show
that Washington has no intention of pursuing a peaceful resolution with
Pyongyang, but is instead looking out for the interests of defense companies.
Second, while China
does place some importance on resolving the nuclear issue in its North Korea
policy, it is focused more on preventing the regime in Pyongyang from
collapsing, and it is not likely to compromise its own international prestige
under military pressure from the US. Indeed, the new Chinese leadership under
Xi Jinping is more likely to respond to this pressure by beefing up the
country’s armaments and facing off against the US in the power battle. Third,
even if the US does succeed in getting China to pressure North Korea, Pyongyang
is not likely to give up its nuclear program without some guarantee of its own
regime security. In short, all the MD reinforcements have done is to give China
an excuse to face off against the US.
Under Xi, China is
voicing a new slogan: the “great revival of the Chinese nation.” Pride in being
Chinese is being emphasized like never before, as is the country’s new
superpower standing. This links with the ambitions toward the rest of East
Asia, which were in evidence not long after the Xi administration took over.
The MD reinforcements from the US are a sign that the power battle between
Washington and China is going to center around the Korean Peninsula.
the bipolar era where the US and the Soviet Union reigned, Koreans spent a
half-century enduring hardship and adversity. Now, they appear poised to be
sucked back into the vortex of another battle for Asian hegemony, this one
between the US and China. This could mean yet another crisis for an already
Last month, Darpa (the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency) launched a program that aims to design something called
a TERN, or Tactically Exploitative Reconnaissance Node, a surveillance and
strike drone that can fly up to 900 miles from the deck of a destroyer. Darpa
released a full, formal solicitation for the drone in a statement, noting that:
"The TERN will be substantially beyond current state-of-the-art aviation
capabilities from smaller ships." The solicitation placed heavy emphasis
on the "node" component of TERN and highlighted the fact that Darpa
encouraged its potential research teams to explore the capabilities of
the new drones to exploit cooperation between aircraft and ship to
achieve enhanced performance. Such cooperation could potentially take the
form of data exchange, external energy addition, and/or manipulation of the
The solicitation itself is interesting from a
technological perspective, but there are implications stemming from the TERN
program that extend beyond just enhanced drone warfare. Most significantly, the
collaborative effort points to fact that the Navy and the Air Force are working
on a master concept for future partnered operations called AirSea Battle.
However, the parameters of such a comprehensive model are still ill-defined,
even in the nascent stages. Its architects have yet to concretely
announce how exactly long-range bombers and stealth jets are supposed to
work alongside carrier strike groups, submarines or close-to-shore fighters.
Another core problem is the lack of a common communication structure between
the two branches of the military. This would likely cause serious tactical
problems and lead to failed coordinated efforts.
I personally have two primary hesitations for
funneling government money into the development of the TERN program.
Fundamentally, I think coordination is often a positive and constructive
effort. However, TERN would require the configuration and implementation of a
"bilingual" communication system that could communicate with both
Navy ships and Air Force planes. This would likely be an exorbitantly costly
endeavor that quite frankly seems implausible at the moment given sequestration and defense budget issues. What makes the proposal even less appealing is the fact that
ultimately, it may not even work. One of TERN’s major technical obstacles
is “devising a reliable launch and recovery technique,” according to Darpa
itself. LCSs and destroyers don’t have the deck space for a long takeoff run
which explains their reliance on the catapult-launched alternatives in the
past. It's a hard sell to inject billions of dollars into a comprehensive data
system overhaul when its success isn't even guaranteed.
More importantly, we must first define the
paramaters of the drone program itself before we work on expanding drone
capabilities. The program continues to be shrouded in secrecy and, as some
would argue, continues to lack a concrete legal basis. To expand drone capacity
into naval territory would be to get ahead of ourselves at a time when the very
foundations and competencies of the drone program are still up for debate.
The Obama administration has come under increasingly intense scrutiny
for its targeted killings using drones over the last two years, causing the
White House to consider a policy shift of the lethal targeting drone program
from the CIA to the Pentagon. While there are some benefits to the U.S. in
allowing the CIA to maintain its drone program, a shift of the program to the
Pentagon will be more beneficial from a public, Congressional, and
international credibility standpoint, due to the level of transparency and
oversight provided under the Pentagon. However, in order to increase the transparency
of the program, it should not be put under the Joint Special Operations Command
Although the U.S. has largely held a monopoly on
targeted drone killings and was able to keep those operations out of public
view for many years, recent developments are creating a need for more
transparency in the U.S. drone program. The targeting of U.S. citizens abroad, which
has also sparked fear of targeting U.S. citizens on American soil, has
increased pressure from growing public and Congressional scrutiny for legal
justification. Pressures are also mounting against the U.S. internationally,
due to the friction created between the U.S. and other countries, particularly
Pakistan, from the increase in civilian casualties caused by U.S. and NATO drone
strikes. The study being conducted by the U.N. surrounding civilian casualties will
likely bring further pressure from the international community for greater
transparency of the U.S. drone program. Furthermore, as other countries begin
to implement their own targeted killing drone programs, such as China and
Russia, the U.S. can use this opportunity to set the standard for the
international community and influence global guidelines on drone policy. In
order for the U.S. to continue the use of drones as a part of its warfare, including
the war on terrorism, the administration must take steps to institutionalize
the program, by refining its standards and creating more transparency.
Both the CIA and
the U.S. military currently manage their own separate drone programs with the
purpose of carrying out targeted drone strikes. However, only the CIA program
is officially considered to be a “covert” mission, meaning that it is deniable
under the law. The military’s program is clandestine, but not covert, and
therefore not deniable under the law. While the Obama administration maintains
that the CIA drone targeting is legally justified under the U.S. Constitution,
the covert status of the operations under the CIA have shielded them from information
requests made through the Freedom of Information Act.
Drone strikes conducted by the CIA have the advantage
of targeting decisions being made within the CIA, with little or no input from
other agencies. While President Obama is involved in some decisions, he does
not sign off on all of them. This allows the CIA significant autonomy and
flexibility on deciding when, where, and how to conduct the strikes.
Intelligence on targets can be acted upon quickly without interference from
outside the CIA, which could otherwise be affected or stopped by regulatory
oversight. Additionally, since intelligence is the main focus of the CIA, the
quality of intelligence on targets is considered to be much higher than is
likely compared with the military’s capabilities.
Another advantage of keeping drone strikes as a covert
operation is that they are not being conducted by the U.S. military, and
therefore can be denied as a type of military combat or infringement on
sovereignty. This is particularly important in countries where the U.S. does
not have forces on the ground, such as Pakistan, and soon Afghanistan. Once
U.S. forces have pulled out of Afghanistan, the use of CIA drones would still
allow the U.S. to keep a light footprint there in order to target Al Qaeda operatives
(and possibly other threats to the Afghan government). While the CIA is
compelled to notify Congress of its intelligence activities, it is not required
to seek input on targeted drone strikes. Therefore, while the covert nature of
the CIA’s drone strikes has significant advantages for U.S. national security
and fighting the war on terror, it does not lend to the oversight and
transparency which are being sought by the American public, Congress, and the
Shifting the targeted drone program entirely to the
military has the potential to toughen the standards for drone strikes, strengthen
the accountability of the program, and increase transparency. Transferring the
program to the Pentagon would bring it under the oversight of the House and
Senate Armed Services committees. With this oversight, the vetting of targeted
strikes will be subjected to interagency input, adding an extra layer of
accountability. Furthermore, the Pentagon may be subject to budget threats from
Congress if the military withholds information or acts contrary to oversight
committee authority. From the international community’s standpoint, drone strike
operations under the military are likely to be considered more acceptable
because the military considers itself to be bound by international law and the
laws of war. Finally, transferring the program to the military may potentially
increase transparency to the public by the fact that the Pentagon is subject to
requests by the citizen Freedom of Information Act.
Ensuring oversight is dependent on the program within
the Defense Department to which the drone program is transferred. If the
program is transferred to the Joint
Special Operations Command (JSOC), less oversight and transparency can be
expected, as the JSOC operates under different rules than the rest of the
military. The JSOC is equally as secretive as, if not more so, the CIA, and is therefore
less likely to share information about its drone strikes. Furthermore, the JSOC
is not required to report targeted attacks to Congress, which could result in
less oversight than provided under the CIA program. While the administration
should aim to strengthen its imagine at home and abroad by improving the standards
and transparency of the drone strike program, the best option is to incorporate
the CIA’s program into current the current military drone program.
Kim Jong-un has been quite busy of late. Between the nuclear tests, irritating the bulk of the international community, threatening everybody he lays eyes on, and the whole oppressing-his-people schtick, I find it faintly impressive that he also has the time to sit down and slap together videos about how awesome he and his country are. And yet he does:
Yesterday, the North Korean government posted another propaganda video (which I have thoughtfully included above) on both their official website, Uriminzokkiri, and on YouTube. If memory serves, this is his third video so far this year. At the rate he's going, Kim Jong-un is going to have a charming little propaganda film festival before the year is out. Hopefully, it will be possible to buy them all in some sort of DVD/Blu-ray anthology, because I can think of no better stocking stuffer to get for my family and close friends.
I was a little disappointed doing research for this, because I'd hoped that the word "Uriminzokkiri" would have some delightfully stupid translation like "America is the Devil" or "Kim Jong-un is Incredibly Verile," but it is actually quite mundane, transliterating simply to "Our Nation". I suppose it should be of some small comfort that as unhinged as he may be, Kim Jong-un seems to still be a tad more rational than Saparmurat Niyazov. But then, it could simply be he's too busy pillaging video game footage for YouTube videos to go about renaming the entire calendar. Or, he's just not as efficient as a nice, crazy Turkmen.
On the subject of names and words, the "film" itself is titled "A Short, Three-Day War," which is also somewhat underwhelming. I don't speak Korean, but The Telegraph was kind enough to translate a few snippets. Apparently, we all must beware as "crack stormtroops will occupy Seoul and other cities and take 150,000 US citizens as hostages". I don't know where Kim Jong-un's fact-finders have been looking, but I think they may be a tad off with the numbers. I know we have plenty of troops stationed in South Korea, and its delightfully high standard of living has made it a popular spot for American expats (the schnazzy music helps), but 150,000 seems like a touch of an exaggeration. And I'm not even going to touch the sketchy karaoke music playing in the back. It had me simultaneously thinking of Cher and Dschinghis Khan. Not a good combination.
The high seas are instrumental in facilitating international commerce, however the combination of sheer size, limited scope of policing efforts, and less developed international governing bodies as compared to land based commercial exchange creates an environment which requires countries with global economic interests to take security into their own hands or otherwise rely upon close allies with a strong naval capacity.
A period of sustained economic growth beginning in the late 1990's has propelled Russia to a level of global economic relevance not experienced since prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. As Russia's international economic and political interests continue to expand, so too will its naval ambitions. So far, the Russian Navy seems to be taking a Corbettian approach to its efforts of naval expansion, seeking to secure sea lanes of commerce rather than positioning itself to win decisive battles against other naval powers. Russia's recently announced permanent fleet in the Mediterranean will consist of 5-6 ships (a combination of frigates, cruisers, and support ships). These ships are equipped with a variety of armaments to include anti-ship missiles, surface to air missiles, and anti-submarine munitions, however the size and composition of this small fleet is best suited for policing vital sea lanes against malicious surface vessels threatening Russian commercial freighters rather than seeking decisive battle with competing navies.
In an era of contracting American naval presence, Russia is seeking to expand its influence around the world by reaching out to former Cold War allies to establish naval bases that will expand Russian influence in South East Asia, Africa, and North America. Currently, the only base outside of Russian sovereign territory is in Tartus, Syria, a facility with a questionable future given the ongoing civil war in the host nation. Russia has entered into talks with Cuba, Vietnam, and Seychelles (an island off the east coast of Africa) about possibly establishing naval facilities in each of these host nations that would effectively expand Russian naval influence beyond its regionally focused capacity to a limited global reach.
Given the composition and limited scope of Russian naval expansion, the American Navy has little to fear in the form of a Russian challenge to its control of the seas. Furthermore, cooperative efforts between the Russian Navy and the American Navy in combating the common enemy of piracy and jointly responding to international crises and humanitarian assistance opportunities may create efficiencies for both navies that could relieve some of the added budgetary pressures facing the American Navy as well as establish a common interest between the two nations that could serve to repair relations that have so far deteriorated in the 21st century.
“International Herald Leader”, a
Chinese state-run newspaper publishes a commentary to advise PLA Navy to build
oversea naval bases to protect its energy line in Indian Ocean area.
The article forecasts 18 possible
overseas bases of PLA Navy, including Chongjin Port (North Korea), Moresby Port
(Papua New Guinea), Sihanoukville Port (Cambodia), Koh Lanta Port (Thailand),
Sittwe Port (Myanmar), DHAKA Port (Bangladesh), Gwadar Port (Pakistan),
Hambantota Port (Sri Lanka), Maldives, Seychelles, Djibouti Port (Djibouti),
Lagos Port (Nigeria), Mombasa Port (Kenya), Dar es Salaam Port (Tanzania),
Luanda Port (Angola) and Walvis Bay Port (Namibia).
Chinese navy to build oversea bases is
not a new topic. Couple years ago, news reported that Pakistan has requested China
to build its first oversea naval base; Seychelles has proposed the same request
as well. Recently, even a rumor has a saying about that Iran would like to
provide a small island to China for building an oversea naval base. No matter
if it’s true or not, all of these news are a sign of Chinese naval force’s
growth, and show that China to build overseas naval bases is becoming a more
serious worldwide talk.
China is the second largest economy in
the world, and one of the fastest growing economies. Its development is largely
relying on importing oversea energy and resources. Most of its oil and gas
imports come from Middle East and East Africa (except Russia and Central Asia).
And China’s most oversea mineral resources purchase is from Africa, Australia
and Brazil. Among all these countries, except Australia and Brazil are on the
“East Route”, the rest countries are all on the “West Route”. The “West Route”
can be seen as China’s energy line, which is in Indian Ocean area, especially
in Strait of Malacca. That’s why we can see 16 of the possible overseas naval
bases are all on the “West Route”. Also, China’s growing global economic
interests also need China to build a reliable naval force.
China has been to avoid the
establishment of naval bases abroad is largely due to the legacy of its long-term
foreign policy, non-interference in internal affairs of others and non-aligned
foreign policy, especially the principle of no overseas military bases.
However, this declaration has become less high profile in recent years. . In
last year’s 18th CCP National Congress, former leader of China, Hu
urged to build strong national defense and powerful armed forces that are
commensurate with China’s international standing and meet the needs of its
security and development interests. This actually provides the legitimacy for
China to build an overseas naval presence. Another realistic reason is that Chinese
naval force is still weak. PLA still doesn’t have the ability and capability to
build military bases abroad. But as China’s first aircraft carrier - Liaoning’s
service in PLA Navy, the Chinese navy has already officially started its
journey in blue water.
In fact, there is no reason to doubt that China
intends to create a world network of military bases, so that the PLA have the
ability to support China’s growing global interests. Even Japan has built its
first overseas naval base already. And PLA achieves global presence is also a
necessary step of China’s road to rise. PLA
Navy to build overseas naval bases is just a time issue.
I’ve been meaning to do a write up on some of the topics at
the most recent RSA Conference on cybersecurity issues for a while, and it’s certainly
overdue. Sure, a lot of the presentations are oriented towards private companies,
but the issues matter to all entities – individuals, law firms, defense
contractors, corporations, and governments. Let’s take a look at some of the
Know Thine Enemy!
We don’t know the enemy, but the enemy knows us. Art
Gillibrand of HP referred to Sun Tzu’s Art of War when articulating
the current security climate. Defenders are at a real disadvantage these days,
and it’s not going to change anytime soon. Gillibrand presented some rather
depressing statistics: 94% of breaches are not detected by in-house IT.
Meanwhile, between 2010 and 2011, the time spent to repair a breach had
increased by 71%, while the cost of repairing a breach also increased by 41%. So,
defenders are spending more time, and more money on fixing breaches, and
haven’t gotten any better at detecting them in the first place. So, why are we
losing ground, and what do we do about it?
We don’t understand cyberattackers. We don’t know how they
work, we don’t know who they are, and as a result, we don’t know much about how
to stop them. Meanwhile, cyber attackers have specialized, through the very
same principles that organize companies. Almost every Hollywood movie with a
hacking element in the plot depicts one guy who is single-handedly capable of
breaching a system and exploiting the system for profit. Spoiler alert:
Hollywood isn’t accurate. Criminal attacks generally operate in a market with a
“distinct process”, and tasks are allocated to different actors within that
market. Some individuals within the market are responsible for collecting data
on suitable targets through various open-source opportunities, such as Facebook
or Linkedin. These profiles are then sold to cyber attackers, who determine
vulnerable access points and map the network. This information is then sold to
the larger black market. This is of course, a simplification. A great resource on the how the market is organized and operates is a 2010 Panda Security Report, available here.
Gillibrand argues persuasively that there needs to be a new
cyber strategy, one which acknowledges that cyber threats have been so
effective in part, because they rely on a huge network of intelligence. Another
statistic? 86% of total cyberdefense expenditures are oriented around infiltration blocking. It’s a losing battle. Instead, those with stakes in
cyber defense need to figure out an efficient method to identify threats from
individuals, organizations and markets, and communicate these threats to the broader
community. This isn’t just something for private companies to figure out –
policymakers should be taking note. Private organizations may not be the best equipped to
handle the intelligence capabilities that the cyber environment requires on their
Authentication, Hostile Toasters, and Pseudonymity
This was a big topic at RSA. When Google devotes its time at
an RSA conference to a topic, it’s worth it to pay attention. How do you ensure
that people are who they say they are, but only to the entities that need to know?
Can we also associate devices with their owners? Vint Cerf attempted to issue
that very challenge to conference attendees, with the following requirements: a
device must be constructed to generate unique key-pairs, the private key must
not be extractable unless it destroys the pair, the private key cannot be
computed from the public key, and either key must be able to encypt or
de-encrypt on demand. It’s a tall order. It becomes a bigger problem when we
consider the current and future scope of authentication needs. Cerf noted that
internet-capable refrigerators, picture frames, and yes, even toasters, are
entering the market and providing more opportunities for compromise than ever
before. If you thought protecting your credit card was the big priority, just
wait until hackers figure out how to burn your toast. Joking aside, the
proliferation of devices associated with an individual are creating big
problems for existing authentication measures.
In 2002, LG introduced a $17,000 internet-capable refrigerator.
Another conference attendee sought to address the problem. Paul
Summers of the Jericho Forum and CEO of the Global Identity Foundation was also
there to drum up support. “Right now, with the system we have in place, we
don’t have any connection to the person.” Bingo. Biometric readers, DNA links,
and iris reading are great new technologies. That doesn’t mean they’ve fixed the end-user issue. Summers’ proposal is interesting: assign a
single crypto to an individual, which has several pieces of data - some of
which are publicly available, some of which are privately held, and neither of
which can be used to complete the full crypto. Each entity may only request and receive a
certain number of crypto components for any given request. It’s an interesting
premise, that’s been alluded to in other cybersecurity discussions elsewhere.
It’s a nice idea, that may eventually transform the way we interact online, but there’s definitely a
lot that still needs to be fleshed out. How does a bank make sure that the two
components received are the right ones? Will it be one private crypto
component, and one public crypto component? Can it be ensured (in this day and
age), that all components of the crypto could not be found through some online
research? The proposal reminds me a bit of the security questions often
used to authenticate identity. Name of my first pet? Chances are, you could
probably find that out on Facebook or by calling my mother under false
pretenses. No, the name of my first pet is not on Facebook, but for a lot of
people, that information probably is. Also, please don’t call my mother.
And My Personal Favorite: “Lessons from Stuxnet” (for
Defenders) – William Cheswick (Cheswick.com)
You really can’t have any serious discussion about cyber
attacks without at least acknowledging Stuxnet. Stuxnet is one of the most visible examples of a remote cyber attacks which
resulted in actual physical damage. There are just so many interesting components
worth discussing. So, what makes Stuxnet so scary?
-How easy it is. Okay, it’s not actually
really easy to design a highly specific bit of code that only affects one
particular kind of hardware, put it into a USB drive, and then make sure it
gets into one of the most secure places in Iran. But what is scarily easy about
it – is that it only takes one USB stick. That’s right, just one. Cheswick
highlighted the problem perfectly: if you put a flash drive in an
organization’s parking lot, it only takes one person to pick it up, and plug it
in at work. Humans are naturally curious, and in a room of a few dozen people,
one person is going to try to plug the thing in. We’re not sure if that’s
precisely the scenario that happened, but the problem would still be the same.
Defenders have to make sure ALL employees know not to play with foreign USBs.
-How damaging it can be. Estimates vary
as to how much damage the Stuxnet worm actually did in terms of Iran’s nuclear
program. However, Stuxnet wasn’t just about “hard damage”. It was also about
soft damage. In the Stuxnet case, it was engineered to overwhelm centrifuge
components, but it was also about decreasing overall confidence in the venture.
Soft damage can also simply be the erasure of data. A cost and labor intensive
project could potentially be shelved simply on the basis of soft damage.
-If you’re not actively looking for the
threat, you won’t find it. There’s a lot of ways for a Stuxnet-style attack
to happen undetected for a long time. Apparently, there are a lot of people in
IT who just don’t bother updating their network maps regularly enough. Network
maps should (but often don’t) include everything from printers to industrial
controllers. Bought a new printer and forgot to add it? Mistake. Printer
firmware is fabulous for hiding all sorts of things. Also, network maps
typically have notes about exactly what is on there. Centrifuge locations on
there? That’s just reduced time and effort for attackers to know exactly where
they need to go on their shopping spree. Meanwhile, this attack doesn’t
even need the internet to tell its creators that it’s working. It just needs to
create a live link, perhaps through a VPN, using STP headers to
release small chunks of information. Only a small amount of information is
necessary, as in just one or two packets per day, making it even more difficult
to detect. A Stuxnet-style attack could also use a cell network to exfiltrate
information. So, not only can your employees only use work-issued USBs, they
may also not be able to bring their cell phones to work.
But there’s hope. This presentation was geared towards
(primarily) private industry. Cheswick raised some interesting points though
that will probably have to be (or already have been) put in place in law firms,
defense contractors, and government agencies. The new rules in a post-Stuxnet
era: keep your network maps updated, don’t allow foreign USB drives, be discriminatory
about cell phone access, and monitor low TTL packets. For those interested in the technical details about Stuxnet, here's the Symantec report. Fair warning, don't expect a Live Free, Die Hard action sequence in there.
Now that we've covered all the good stuff, I'm looking forward to hearing about the DEFCON conference in August. I bet there will be a lot of complaining over the recent conviction of Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, for his exploitation of AT&T back in 2010. If the RSA conference was any indication, the FBI isn't going to be the only one collecting information on guys like Weev. Hackers may very soon have profiles on them distributed throughout the security community. It's about time.
Last Wednesday (20 March) the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on possible privacy abuse--pertaining to drones, of course. Targeted killings overseas have made drones controversial and often suspect among average Americans and the impending reality of extensive drone use at home raises understandable suspicion. The concerns shouldn't be understated. Use of drones in the US is practical; they're "cheap, able and ubiquitous," and, as far as the greater public is concerned, likely to be snooping on you in the near future. I don't mean to belittle any concerns related to drones and privacy issues, because those concerns are legitimate, well founded, and--in my opinion--wholly appropriate. Any new technology demands policy keep pace--and at the moment, legislation seems to be inadequate.
That's an issue for another blog post. Here, I want to outline some of the seriously awesome things that drones could potentially do--and things that they're already doing--all of which have little to nothing to do with privacy concerns or targeted killings.
To be fair, I realize that Drone Journalism easily translates into a little UAV hovering directly outside the Kardashians' bathroom window. Again, privacy concerns. But paparazzi aside, drones have some interesting applications for the field of journalism. A few universities have picked up on this as well. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers a course in Drone Journalism, and the University of Missouri offers a similar program. Below is a video showing one of UNL's test flights.
Both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Missouri register their UAVs with the FAA and are following their strict guidelines. Most news stories developed using this application are, understandably, about the environment and conservation. But the potential of using drones to report on traffic and to provide bird's eye views of natural disasters and crime scenes is well understood and anticipated. One can easily appreciate how this application would effortlessly extend to disaster relief. Drones could easily go into places too dangerous for rescue workers, and efficiently search for survivors across large swathes of territory.
Also, just imagine how drones could be used to photograph non-arena sporting events, such as extreme sports. Instead of attaching a camera to clothing, an athlete could have a drone companion--providing up close and personal footage of the athlete's performance.
The United States has a lot of roads and a lot of bridges, you may have noticed. These roads and bridges require a fair amount of upkeep and monitoring to stay safe for public use. Consider this, there are roughly 4 million miles of roadway in the United States, that's something like 500x the diameter of earth. Who's watching all these roads? Who's making sure they stay in working order?
The easy answer for the future? Drones. Drones are cheap, cheaper than sending out actual human beings to squint at a stretch of blacktop. Drones would monitor highways and other forms of infrastructure (dams, bridges, etc.), survey land with laser mapping technologies, and automatically alert officials to things like traffic jams and accidents. In fact, the Georgia Department of Transportation recently received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to do just that.
Environmental research, conservation, and compliance
The US Geological Survey (USGS) was been testing Raven A, a frankly adorable (and US Army decommissioned) 3 foot long drone, equipped with a camera to see if it can be repurposed to conduct aerial counts of an endangered species: the sandhill crane--a species that is notoriously skittish. Here's a video of the Raven A in action:
The wildlife perspective easily extends to hunting applications. Take the story from the end of this New York Times article, for example: a Cy Brown of Bunkie, La., began hunting feral pigs nocturnally by outfitting a basic model airplane with a heat-sensing camera. The plane, dubbed Dehogaflier, was piloted around his brother's rice farm (where the pigs were gorging themselves on the crop) feeding live images of the pigs to Cy on the ground. A friend with a shotgun took care of the rest--no sloughing through the muck in search of the errant pigs for hours necessary. Handy. The other side of the coin, poaching, are also easily addressed. Use of drones would make it much easier for US Fish and Wildlife and even game wardens to pick up on and shut down illegal hunting.
Use of drones would also assist the efforts of environmental law enforcement officials. Suddenly, midnight dumpings and other nefarious activities would be much harder to get away with. Also, the great news? Using a drone to monitor suspect companies is cheaper and more effective than sending a representative to do an on site inspection.
The flights were scheduled to start in January of 2013, and they're only the first of a multiyear campaign to study how changes in water vapor in the stratosphere can impact global climate. The Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) relies on a Global Hawk drone (pictured)--a type of aircraft also used by the U.S. Navy and the Air Force. NASA anticipates that ATTREX will provide "unprecedented measurements of the tropical tropopause." Which, in its own way, is pretty cool.
There are, of course, more applications--such as drones securing the border and drones being used in provide aid and support during natural disasters. I've tried to provide some possible uses that aren't quite as obvious. Simply put, there's more to drones than blowing up terrorists and spying on American citizens. Drones have some pretty impressive civilian applications that will only serve to improve our quality of living. Legitimate concerns kept in mind, drones are worth getting excited about.
For many of us at the Patterson School, the War in Iraq was the most prominent foreign policy issue (debacle?) that defined our formative years. I remember watching the TV in my bedroom during my junior year of high school as reports surfaced of stealth fighters providing the opening bombs that ultimately led to "Shock and Awe." Although the 1990s saw its fair share of violent conflicts (Rwanda, the Balkans, etc.), nothing like this new round of war had occupied our attention since Desert Storm. Since we just commemorated the ten-year anniversary of our invasion, I thought I'd provide a little context.
Oct. 11, 2002 -- Force authorized
Congress authorizes the use of force against Iraq. Ending a somber debate that pushed past midnight, the Senate votes, 77 to 23, for the resolution. The action came hours after the House gave its approval on a 296-133 vote.
Nov. 8, 2002 -- U.N. ultimatum
United Nations Security Council passes Resolution 1441 calling on Iraq to cooperate with weapons inspectors. The show of international unity sends a strong message to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that he is without allies if he continues to defy the United Nations, ambassadors said.
Jan. 28, 2003 -- ‘Imminent threat’
Speaking to a skeptical world, President Bush in his State of Union address gives a forceful and detailed denunciation of Iraq. He promises new evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime poses an imminent danger to the world and demands the United Nations convene in just one week to consider the threat.
Feb. 5, 2003 -- Colin Powell at U.N.
Secretary of State Colin Powell argues before the Security Council that the U.S. has evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, based on information provided by source codenamed “Curveball,” who later admitted to lying.
March 17, 2003 -- Bush’s ultimatum
President gives Saddam Hussein a 48-hour deadline to leave Iraq or face sure destruction “at a time of our choosing.”
March 20, 2003 -- U.S. Forces Enter Iraq
U.S. and British troops sweep into southern Iraq in an invasion aimed at Baghdad, where a new wave of missiles and bombs struck a presidential compound housing several government departments at the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power.
April 9, 2003 -- Baghdad falls
U.S. troops break Saddam Hussein’s 24-year grip on Iraq. With help from the Marines, Iraqis topple a four-story statue of the president. Looting of government and public buildings, including museums and armories, ensues unchecked amid mass disorder.
May 1, 2003 -- ‘Mission accomplished’
Aboard USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush tells a cheering crew that U.S. forces have brought about a ‘turning of the tide’ against terrorism. Underneath a banner reading “Mission Accomplished,” the president says the conflict with Iraq marked the beginning of “a new era” in waging war.
Dec. 13 2003 -- Hussein caught
Saddam Hussein was captured by American forces at a farmhouse in ad-Dawr near Tikrit in a hole in Operation Red Dawn.
June 28, 2004 -- Iraqis take power
Led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, an interim Iraqi government takes power from U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer III after a furtive ceremony meant to preempt insurgent attacks that could have disrupted the hand-over.
Jan. 30, 2005 -- Iraqis vote
Millions of Iraqis defy violence, calls for a boycott and a legacy of despotism to cast ballots in the nation’s first multiparty elections in half a century.
Dec. 30, 2006 -- Hussein executed
A defiant Saddam Hussein is hanged at dawn in a secret concrete death chamber. Before his execution, he denounces the West and Iran.
Jan. 10, 2007 -- Troop surge
President Bush acknowledges that his previous strategy has failed and announces the U.S. needs to add more than 20,000 troops in order to avert defeat.
Aug. 19, 2010 -- Combat troops leave
The last of U.S. combat troops withdraw from Iraq. The move comes amid a deep political crisis that many think could turn increasingly violent, and Iraqis are deeply apprehensive.
Despite our substantial military success in the initial invasion, the United States was unprepared to execute the occupation needed to reunify the country. Moreover, we had no plan in place to guide our efforts. According to then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "Our exit strategy in Iraq is success; it's that simple. The objective is not to leave [but] to succeed in our mission."
President Bush tapped Lieutenant General Jay Garner to lead the transition in Iraq. His strategy -- which quickly led to his ouster -- was to maintain the same state institutions that operated under Saddam, although many (including many Iraqis) wanted a clean slate. The problem was "Excluding all 1.5 million party members from the new government would mean shutting out virtually every public servant, precisely the people who know how to get things running again." Garner's logic was: "As in any totalitarian regime, there were many people who needed to join the Baath Party in order to get ahead in their careers. We don't have a problem with most of them." American forces would work to identify the nefarious elements within the state and bring them to justice. To prepare Iraq for a quick American exit, Garner pushed ahead with a plan to have national elections as soon as possible (within as ninety days of the fall of Saddam) that would install a new Iraqi government. The general was swiftly replaced by L. Paul Bremmer. After his ouster, reports stated Garner said "he fell out with the Bush circle because he wanted free elections and rejected an imposed programme of privatisation."
The resulting policy of de-Ba'athification proved disastrous. The the International Center for Transitional Justice's:
research and interviews with the official body that led de-Baathification initiatives for much of this period showed that these wholesale dismissals, combined with a lack of due process, badly undermined Iraq's government and military structures and fuelled a sense of grievance among those affected - not just employees, but also their families, friends and communities. It is unsurprising that the process became a significant contributing factor in widespread social and political conflict.
The Iraqi military was especially affected by de-Ba'athification, which resulted in the dismissal of up to 500,000 soldiers. Ultimately, the decision to disband the army fueled a growing insurgency.
In the aftermath of CPA Orders 1 and 2, Ba’ath officials became natural allies to the angry and financially troubled ex-soldiers of the Iraqi Army after the Army was disbanded, with no effort made to recall those former soldiers who may have remained interested in serving. The ability of senior Ba’ath leaders to obtain and provide funding to the insurgency was particularly important in helping to organize it into an effective force able to include unemployed and desperate Iraqis willing to strike at U.S. forces for money.
As of March 2007, the Sunni insurgency stood at 70,000 fighters. There were approximately 1,300 foreign mujahedeen fighters. The sectarian conflict broke out into fullon civil war in Iraq in which almost The violence prompted President Bush to commit an additional 20,000 troops in the so-called "surge." The surge was ultimately successful because it took advantage of a new dynamic within Sunni tribes in western Iraq: the Anbar Awakening. "The Awakening movement, a predominantly Sunni Arab force recruited to fight Sunni Islamic extremists like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, has become a great success story after its spread from Sunni tribes in Anbar Province to become an ad-hoc armed force of 65,000 to 80,000 across the country in less than a year."
Seven years, over 130,000 civilians, and more than $2 trillion dollars spent, the last american combat troops left Iraq in August 2010. And for all that blood and treasure, the United States gained little. A study conducted by the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University:
concluded the United States gained little from the war while Iraq was traumatized by it. The war reinvigorated radical Islamist militants in the region, set back women's rights, and weakened an already precarious healthcare system, the report said. Meanwhile, the $212 billion reconstruction effort was largely a failure with most of that money spent on security or lost to waste and fraud, it said. [Ibid]
Given the traumatic experience we've had in Iraq, it's worthwhile to ask: How has Iraq changed us? And for that analysis, I defer to Dan Drezner:
Here's the thing: Deep down, the American people are pretty realist. The legacy of Operation Iraqi Freedom is that this realist consensus has cemented itself further in the American psyche. The American public has an aversion to using force unless the national interest is at stake, and a deep aversion to using force to do things like promote democracy or human rights. . . .
It took a generation and the end of the Cold War for the lessons of Vietnam to fade away. I'd wager that it will take at least a generation for the legacy effects of the Iraq War.
Indeed, in American history, the war that Operation Iraqi Freedom reminds me of isn't Vietnam -- it's the War of 1812. That was another war of choice that was launched in no small part because of War Hawks in the halls of Congress. It went disastrously for the United States save the Battle of New Orleans, which allowed politicians to put a gloss of victory on an otherwise calamitous conflict. The long-term political effects on some of the War Hawks were pretty severe however (see: John C. Calhoun).
Operation Iraqi Freedom's effects on the international system were minor at best. The effects on American foreign policy, however, are significant and will be with us for some time to come.
That conclusion is all the more instructive given the the number of conflicts around the globe in which the United States could become involved: North Korea, East and South China Sea disputes, Taiwan/China, Syria, Iran's nuclear program. The list goes on.