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Saturday, March 20, 2010


The AfPak war is going well, from the western side, for a reason which has had virtually no coverage in our media.

This is a shame not just because it means we are, as normal, being kept in the dark by our media but also because we are seeing a major change in the nature of warfare, arguably as important as the invention of gunpowder.

The Americans are using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) not just as observers but to kill Taliban. There have been some amazing successes here, with many of the leaders dead. This is not nice because that is the nature of war. It is, in many ways, the high-tech equivalent of the Taliban's remotely operated booby trap bombs which have also been the major killers of western forces.

This is just the start. Technology makes things smaller & easier to control from a distance. If current UAVs are invisible to the locals because they fly at 20,000 feet future ones will be the size of medium sized birds & able to track individuals. This ability to hit and run before being seen was a large part of what made the 20thC the century of the guerrilla, most of the rest being their willingness to take casualties that conventional western forces hesitated to do. Casualties in UAVs are hardly a factor.

This is not a matter of approving this - reality doesn't stand aside if we refuse to see it. A world where the military advantage lies with the organised high tech state is not automatically better or worse than one where the balance lies with the guerrilla/terrorist/gangster but it is different.

"Americans are cowards," the 42-year-old said. "They are afraid of fighting man-to-man in a battlefield and that is why they hit from the sky and run away."

"Many people who did not support the Taliban previously support them now because the Americans are killing innocent people," Khan said by phone from South Waziristan, one of the restive tribal region's seven districts.

It was not clear whether the government of former US president George W Bush took these risks into account when it stepped up drone attacks in 2008.

But it had little choice after realizing that Pakistan was doing little to eliminate Taliban fighters attacking NATO forces in Afghanistan or al-Qaeda operatives planning attacks in the West.

The strategy paid off.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden remained untraceable, but the US drones killed several second-tier al-Qaeda operatives, including the mastermind of a 2006 trans-Atlantic aircraft terrorist plot, Rashid Rauf.

US President Barack Obama continued to use the drones as a critical tool in the revised policy on Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, which also focuses on militant hideouts in neighbouring Pakistan.

A report by the New America Foundation, a conservative US think tank, said last month that there had been 45 drone attacks during Bush's two terms, compared with 51 during the first year of the Obama administration.

Altogether, the strikes have killed more than 1,200 people. more
What happens when it is possible to build UAVs the size of insects, because it will happen.

Note also that to control such things without interference requires satellites in direct line of sight. In yet another way we see that space is becoming the dominant arena of human development. It is now virtually impossible to conceive of a major technological war being won by a nation that does not have free access to space, in the same way that in Renaissance Europe only armies big enough to afford their own artillery train could conquer - which meant the end of invulnerable castles & the feudal system.

This was a prediction Harvey Kurzweil had made for last year, discussed previously, which he claimed had come largely true.

By the bye the fact that these planes have found no trace of bin Laden supports the unreportable belief that the NATO countries favourite hobgoblin, Osama bin Laden is long dead, as I previously reported.

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