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Journal: Using the Internet to fight terrorism in Iraq

Journal by TropicalCoder

Is it possible that the special knowledge and talents of Slashdot readers could save the life of a soldier in Iraq?

The world's best trained and equipped armies are bogged down by guerrilla tactics of terrorists that have no regard for the lives of innocents and even less for their own. It is far easier to destroy than to build. It is appears to be easy for terrorists who have no goal other than to cause terror itself in the short term to hold a powerful army at bay and inflict terrible wounds, death and destruction daily with their relentless suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, and hit and run tactics.

Is it now a given that there is no practical solution to guerrilla tactics? Are we collectively to admit defeat?

Readers of Slashdot represent some of the most knowledgeable, well informed, and capable routine users of high technology on the planet. Is it possible that together, we could offer solutions to the unique problems presented by the guerrilla tactics employed in Iraq? Could we dream up innovative technological solutions that might save the life of even just a single soldier?

I propose a discussion dedicated to this theme. We want two kinds of responses. Comments detailing the typical kinds of problem faced in urban guerrilla warfare, and brain storming solutions for same.

As an example, I will kick off with the first idea...

One of the worst problems are the IEDs, or "improvised explosive devices" that have maimed or killed hundreds of soldiers, or at a minimum left the survivors to suffer post traumatic stress disorder for years to come. My idea was inspired by diverse sources. I have read of hi tech solutions borrowed from standard GIS technologies to detect soil that has been recently disturbed (possibly by burying an IED), but this solution does not seem to have stopped the carnage due to IEDs. One of the simplest defenses against IEDs would be constant vigilance of a given roadway to ensure that no one ever gets the opportunity to plant explosives in the first place, but this is rarely possible, given the limited numbers of troops and the vast areas they must control. However, with "many eyes" watching, it would become extremely difficult to plant an IDE without being detected.

The idea is this: Saturate the air over the theatre of operation with little UAVs - little model airplane sized craft with cameras, uploading the images taken to some central server. I'm talking about hundreds, even thousands, flying fast, high above the ground, day and night, darting about like dragon flies, almost impossible to shoot down, with infrared vision and good optics. Then who is going to process all those terabytes of images generated? Why, volunteers by the thousands on the internet! Think about it - we have thousands of people looking for specks of space dust buried in aerogel right now for Project Stardust, and thousands more identifying both galaxies and features on mars for NASA. Why not have thousands searching for terrorists? With a thousand eyes working around the clock, we could spot not only people laying IEDs, but setting up a sniper nest and even terrorists loading up their car with explosives "to take to the market". Pictures of known terrorists could be put up, and people could try to match up faces in a crowd with the examples given. The military would only have to expend the minimum of manpower necessary to launch the UAVs and ensure that images of their base camps and other classified areas don't end up getting uploaded. Of course the usual controls will be in place on the results sent in by viewers to screen out false positives and deliberate attempts to confound the results. How effective would guerrilla tactics now be under a thousand watchful eyes? Among those thousands of UAVs flying around would be hunter-killers, ready to take out any terrorist anywhere in the theater at a moment's notice. I am certain this will save more than one life, and not only in Iraq but in Afghanistan as well!

What ideas do you have? There are many soldiers and ex-soldiers that read Slashdot. Not only will they enlighten us on the typical threats and challenges faced, but I believe there is a good probability that any useful ideas generated will in the end reach those with a chance of actually promoting their implementation.

There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly. -- Publius Terentius Afer (Terence)

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