19 February 2008

Warfare 2.0

Web 2.0, world 2.0, why not warfare 2.0?

A quick note on Web 2.0. 2.0 is the Time Person of the Year 2006. You. That is the ability of any of us to broadcast ourselves, our ideas, our persona, our misgivings, instantaneously to a global audience. Youtube, blogs, flickr. Wikis, facebook comments, response videos.

Web 2.0 is an integral part of World 2.0. World 2.0 is as Thomas Friedman describes it, a flattening of the World with global barriers significantly reduced or eliminated. Mumbai look suspiciously like Silicon Valley. Singapore like New York. Video conferencing puts Seol in my Sacramento board room Collaboration has sped up. Real-time has replaced near real-time has replaced snail mail has replaced the pony express. Barriers have been eliminated. There is no middleman between me and the world.

Web 2.0 has application in war 2.0 though is not a substitute. Blogging from the frontline, youtube videos from the frontline, pictures from the frontline.

Youtube video from the frontline

In Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers for the first time have the ability to cut through official news channels and publish reports on firefights, roadside bombings, deaths and more nearly realtime. Uncensored, uncut, unadultured reality available for you and I to view. This is not warfare 2.0 though, this web 2.0 in action. What is warfare 2.0?

Warfare 2.0: The ability for a soldier to project their presence beyond their range of fire.
And in theory have a global reach with no middleman.
A Marine no longer constrained by the 600 yards effective-range of their M16. A Delta Force Sniper letting their presence be known beyond the 1000 yards of their XM25 Sniper Rifle. Me sitting in front of my computer not blowing the heads off zombies in Doom 3D but firing hellfire missiles and knocking out Afghan bunkers. This is no Petraeus fantasy but Warfare 2.0 very much in action. The following are two such examples

1. MQ-9 Reaper as seen on the right is an upgraded version of the unmanned predator drone. During its first mission in Afghanistan "it dropped two 500-pound laser guided bombs and neutralized some enemy combatants". (Airman Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008) The operator, contrary to what you might expect, was not stationed at Bagram Air Base outside of Kabul, but rather sat comfortably, coffee in hand, at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. From this remote and secure location, satellite uplink makes it possible to launch a Reaper whether it is Okinawa, Thule Greenland, Djibouti, or on the USS Harry S. Truman in the South China Sea.

2. US Marines under attack request A-10 Thunderbolt airborne assistance. Within minutes an on-call Warthog flies low, unleashing a barrage of deadly firepower. The enemy retreats thus ending the training scenario. The Marines stationed on the East Coast immediately began breaking down the scenario with Air Force counterparts who are situation in California. This virtual battlefield permitting any variety of missions to be practiced.

Through such technology, a special forces group conducting a tactical mission in Baghdad can consist of a Predator Drone overhead piloted from Nevada, an Air Force Combat Controller in direct contact with Officers at Prince Sultan Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia, a contingent of CIA paramilitary communicating with Agents at Langely, VA and Seal commandos speaking securely with a carrier in the Straight of Hormuz.

The Future of Warfare 2.0
Machines will increasingly replace various tasks formally handled by boots on the ground, with warfare increasingly relying on remote operators in secure locations. The scaling back of the down and dirty soldier will never be total though. Much like human intelligence officers saw their role change with advances in signal intelligence, image intelligence, and communication intelligence, their job as spies did not become obsolete. The soldier of the future will still be a soldier, though their job description will change.

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