Friday, May 11, 2012
Push-Button Warfare: a science-fiction, comic book world.
In terms of push-button warfare, we live in the science-fiction comic-book world of our youthful imaginations. The trouble is we don’t know it. We haven’t figured it out yet.
The transition from conventional to push-button warfare.
The transition from conventional to push-hutton warfare has been so seamless that no one noticed. Back then, when someone coined the phrase ‘push-button warfare,’ we all nodded sagely and thought that meant some military personnel sitting deep underground, thoroughly trained, with nuclear-hardened command and control systems, and responsible oversight, composed of some duly-constituted authority acting on behalf of some identifiable polity. With a smidgeon of moral rectitude we hoped that our missiles were so much better and more numerous than our enemies’ missiles that they would never risk the all-out confrontation. We thought it meant satellites, and drones, and robots. In some ways we were right, because we have all that now, don’t we? The future really did come true.
In more recent times, there are media reports, interviews, and official documents including the national budget which make provision for the latest big threat facing us, terrorism, which includes cyber-terrorism. Billions of dollars will be spent globally to fight online wars which, deep in some underground bunkers, are being fought right now by highly-trained military and other professional personnel. They still follow the standard model of traditional warfare with modern adaptations. Like many threats, it’s a bit over-rated, but the tax dollars must go somewhere, as it contributes to GDP, and this is as good as anywhere.
No one saw it coming.
No science fiction writer or futurist of the world of thirty or forty years ago ever envisioned in its fullest detail, the true nature of the threat. If the pen is mightier than the sword, it is also rather limited, just as the sword is, for other uses. But we don’t use pens now, or swords. We have something much better.
We have the internet, and now, ladies and gentlemen, we have a battle for the hearts and minds of the people. It’s all over the evening news if you care to observe, rather than just watch. The internet and social media are abuzz with players in the game.
I don’t want to underplay the role of Homeland Security, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service or other international agencies involved in the constant struggle to protect national interests in the rapidly-growing field of electronic warfare. This is not a new field, but in the past it was mostly directed outwards. It is a rapidly growing field, and it is increasingly being focused inwards.
The enemy lives among us.
The enemy is mobile, and the enemy is dispersed. It is self-evident. The enemy lives among us.
No one could deny that this is an actual war, one that is being fought right now—just go up to any responsible leader, whether in government or opposition, and ask them. None would state otherwise.
Foreign and domestic terrorists and organizations large and small, with any sort of anti-social agenda, or those with political, ideological, social or even completely irrational agendas will turn to computers, the internet, cloud-based systems, social networks, websites, viruses and hacking in order to further their aims. Anarchists will try to ‘destroy the world’ simply because it is there and maybe now there is a tool better than a thrown cast-iron bomb with smoldering fuse to achieve their goals.
The odds of a one-man operation with a pistol providing justification and thereby setting World War Three in motion are fairly remote these days.
Not the Real Threat
Even this is not the real threat, because it is at least on the radar, and with all due respect to various and sundry minorities, the perpetrators will often fall into recognizable demographic criteria. They generate chatter. They must communicate. They move about, in ways that can be observed, and documented. They can be profiled, and detected, they can be prevented, captured, tried, and punished. They can serve as a ‘deterrent’ to other like-minded individuals. This involves new challenges, not unnaturally. Gathering intelligence, assessing individual threats, engaging in counter-operations, is not easy when the enemy is dispersed or sheltered to some degree by rogue or unfriendly states. It’s not easy when the enemy lives among us, and looks like us, talks like us, and lives like us. Prevention is most difficult when suspects have legal and human rights, and access to a system of checks and balances, meant to prevent tyranny from ruling over us.
This is the ‘obvious’ threat, and one much talked about in media, and yes, science fiction.
The Real Threat.
But now we live in an environment where a person, sitting quietly in the privacy of their own home, acting unilaterally, with no training or identifiable ideology, of their own accord, can set in motion a train of events which will, eventually, with a logic that cannot be denied if the laws of causality have any social application at all, change the world. They can do it for whatever reason, or for no particular reason at all.
In my humble opinion, no one saw that forty years ago, and most would deny it now. I say that because of all the mistaken assumptions we will make.
What if they are non-violent? What if their goals are not anti-social? What if they are quiet and well-behaved, and do not enter into ill-conceived conspiracies? What if they keep within the bounds of the laws of the nation-state in which they reside? What if they do exactly the right things, and say all the right things, and what if they are charismatic, articulate and persuasive?
What if everyone thinks it’s a joke, and just laughs and turns away?
Every day we click on these little mouse buttons, most of us barely knowing what happens when we do.
With a click of a button, this person—a private citizen, is going to change a few outcomes. Those outcomes lie far in the distant future, and no one can safely predict exactly what forms those outcomes will ultimately take.
But they don’t care. Any notion that warfare should be conducted by ‘gentlemen,’ in ‘a civilized fashion,’ went out the window a long time ago. It is better to divest ourselves of such illusions.
And the war for the future is already on as far as this writer is concerned. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen—the war for the future is and must be fought in the present moment.
Hopefully the right people will win it, but you never know.
Most of those who read this will not live to see the benefits, or the cost. Still, we must all do our duty.
It goes without saying that God is on our side.
And the first casualty of war is Truth. The second casualty is compassion, and the third is respect. Wars, no matter the state of the technology with which they are fought, have a way of becoming a little too personal very, very quickly, no matter what bright and shiny new weapons of mass instruction are used.
It’s a risk we must be prepared to take.
Disclaimer: This is a work of satirical speculative non-fiction. Dreamers in general and persons or entities in particular who wish to change the world should always seek to comply with state, federal, international and local ordinances. While this confers immunity to nothing, it is in essence your only protection, and it helps to keep certain moral obligations in their proper perspective. At the time of this writing, nowhere in the world has legislation been enacted prohibiting or otherwise limiting behaviours intended to interfere with the future outcomes presently indicated by factors which occur with depressing frequency upon this timeline which we refer to as ‘reality.’.