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United States

Space Wars 442

There have been lots of interesting stories recently about the US's growing reliance on satellites to control gee-whiz weaponry and provide detailed real-time images to battlefield commanders. MSNBC has a story on the military's growing bandwidth crunch. The AP has a story about how many other nations are putting up their own spy and communications satellites, suggesting that the US edge in space imagery might disappear (unless we start shooting other satellites down, of course). And Bruce Sterling has a fun story in Wired (fun in writing style, not in its implications) suggesting that we're entering an age of Pax Americana, where the US military is so dominant that competitors exist only at our sufferance (though that might not stop people from trying).
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Space Wars

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  • Space Wars? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Didn't they used to call Reagan's space-based anti-nuke program "Star Wars"?

    Oh, I get it, only one Star Wars story a day.
  • Not Really A Concern (Score:2, Informative)

    by jbischof ( 139557 )
    This bandwidth crunch isn't really a major problem. The Star Wars program won't be up and running for a long time so they have plenty of time to solve this problem. As the program grows and is funded year to year they will have enough money to put up more satellites.

    The reason that the program won't be done for a long time is that as far as publicly released information goes, we have only had one successful attempt to shoot down a fake ICBM and this was with a missle that was sending out a HOMING SIGNAL. I doubt the enemy will be so courteous. Also, modern ICBMs, unlike the dummy ICBMs, have many countermeasures to prevent missles from shooting them down. We are not currently prepared to deal with these countermeasures including :

    • Dummy warheads of same shape and size
    • Metal Shrapnel Grids that dissipate electric signals and make it difficult for automated identification of the missle
    • Hot dummys to confuse heat seekers
    • just to name the ones I am currently aware of. We have dumped billions into this program and had no success yet, who knows when we will actual be able to shoot something down.
    • I have heard that argument many times and it still makes little sense. When testing a guidance system (i.e. can we even manuver the missle to contact the other missle) then how we detect it is irrelevant. Much the same as any software product you write does not meet every goal before you test it neither will this. Just the same as a software project you write "drivers" for the parts not implemented. The parts to counter act those measures have not been implemented, thus testing a guidance system any other way is stupid.

      As a test for the guidance system it was a very large success, they successfully made one missle strike another. Of course as a test of overcoming counter measures it was a complete failure, but well, the linux kernel makes a pretty shitty word processor - read what they are working on/testing before you make a knee-jerk reaction to a success or failure. Now then when they test detection systems then that's another story.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      >"This bandwidth crunch isn't really a major problem. The Star Wars program won't be up and running for a long time [...]"

      You might want to actually read the MSNBC article. There is ALREADY a bandwidth crunch and it has nothing to do with Star Wars. One Global Hawk unmanned plane consumes ~500 megabits/s, "about five times the total bandwidth consumed by the entire U.S. military during the Gulf War."
  • by atrowe ( 209484 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @07:33PM (#3320174)
    While war and weaponry are generally considered to be Bad Things(tm), there could still be an upside to all this. The fact exists that the military is traditionally the single biggest innovator in new technologies and ideas. During the cold war, our government spent trillions of dollars funding research in all fields of science and as a result, we gained a lot of useful technology that has civilian as well as military usefulness.

    Without the soviets to compete against, NASA's budget has been shrinking to pathetic levels, leaving little funding for research and exploration these days. Perhaps the threat of military satellites orbiting the Earth, and the need to defend against them could be just the thing the government needs to start funneling some more much deserved money into NASA again. Think of all the benefits that would result from the US getting into another space race with China.

    • Actually, competition promotes innovation. Military conflicts are a form of competition.
      But in contrast to most other forms of conflicts, military ones tend to be quite lethal.

      Furthermore, for some reason, the military tends to be quite picky about releasing their achievements to the public.

      They have developed a microchip-cpu for some fighter several years before the supposed first one by Intel. And now guess what, about a year or two ago the chief architect was finally allowed to lecture about the chip. What an achievement for humanity.

      Of course, the money is not lost. Military people tend to spend their money, too. But the scientific and technological achievements are surely hidden away for about 20 to 30 years.
      • You have obviously not seen the huge amounts of DARPA grants that most universities get. A lot of research (including some I did in grad school) was made possible by military assistance.

        Remember, the internet was developed with military funding.

        (DARPA = Defence Advanced Research Projects Administration)
    • Think of all the benefits that would result from the US getting into another space race with China.

      Of course there downside is that one of the big-spenders in that race will lose usually... Russia, for example, is now a whimpering and pathetic country left in ruins. Besides, I don't feel like starting a Cold War with China -- and yet nothing else would spark any meaningful competition between us. Certainly China's committance to space will make us slightly more competetive... who knows, we might even keep up NASA's budget with inflation... but let's avoid the 'bigger stuff,' shall we? :)
    • The important thing is the reason, military competition is the reason why war promotes technological advances, be it World War or a Cold war, it's all the same, to varying degree's..

      Economic competition has the same effect, to varying degree's, some area's such as space have at present limited commercial applications, for example with the Moon and Mars, there is no financial return on such ventures. At least not yet. So it takes government spending, mainly for propaganda purposes to reach them, meaning that in todays world, we're a long way from putting a man on Mars.

      Throughout history war has benifited many things, such as for one peace itself! Without certian major wars, the relative peace we now how enjoy would not exist. War may be an absolutly terrible thing, but it's benifits are very noticable it has shaped the world we now live in, the question is when war is made obsolete (through the lack of significant threats) what will drive us?

      Of course the answer is simple, it is the same thing that WWI and WWII were fought over, that is democracy, or more specifically capitalism. In years past it was the merchants and growing middle (working) class of Europe and America that created the revolution that replaced Monarch's with Democracies, those newly rich democracies then were forced to defend against the old ways of the Empires and Dictatorships! Hence very vaguly WWI / WWII.

      The new world we live in, one of capitalism ruleing, will mean a much slower path to certain advances. Space exploration will only take off (excuse the pun) when the econmic need is found, say new resources, living space, etc.

      Pure exploration right now unfortunatly is on hold... :(
    • The problem is that this dosen't measure what is lost. A cold war might spur innovation, but a government is neither the most efficient innovator, nor is it the most likely to freely distribute its innovations. You can measure what war 'gives' in terms of technology, but it's difficult to measure what it 'takes' away.

      Would lower taxes result in more innovation, or not? Our economy is based on the idea of constant expansion. Research (in war or peace) is one way to do it.
    • Sheesh - old propaganda trap you fell into!
      The military budget is so overblown, wasteful and outdated: stoneage dialog: Uh - you hit me, I hit you better with a stone
      Fact is all the $$ are going into a destructive porpose which could be avoided altogether with a little bit more smartness
    • Military innovation in modern times has been kind of pathetic. I'm sure there's scientific advance that leaves the realm of the military, but a great deal of it is never used productively. It just wallows in secrecy until it is eventually reproduced in the larger world.
  • Pax Americana (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The US might be the big kid on the block for now, but wait about 10 years. The European Union has talked about creating a European military. If this happens, the EU might give the US a run for its money.

    What I'm NOT saying is that a Cold War will start between the EU and US. (Although relations have chilled recently between theUS and EU.)
    • Europe's 're-entry' into the world power scene will not be a military one, at least not in the near future. More importantly though it will be increasingly more an 'Economic Power' and in the future that likely will mean a lot more. When you look at the numbers, population, technology (largly shared), etc Europe's position is one which could well surpass America in the not too distant future.
    • Re:Pax Americana (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Brian_Ellenberger ( 308720 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:15PM (#3320577)

      Um, it would take *alot* longer than 10 years for that to happen. Remember Yugoslav? If the EU can't even take care of a problematic country in their own back yard, how the heck are they going to project their power anywhere?

      For example, a great deal of America's power comes from its Aircraft Carriers. It would take them alot longer than 10 years to build anything equivalent to our fleet. And even, they tend to do stupid things like spend billions on a carrier that isn't even long enough and broke its port propeller on its first long-distance trials: [] nk/2357.html []

    • Re:Pax Americana (Score:4, Informative)

      by rho ( 6063 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @09:50PM (#3320691) Homepage Journal

      I might be worried, except the EU can barely operate cohesively now. Entropy always increases--they'll be squabbling like a bunch of horny teenage boys over a Playboy in 10 years (or less).

      The EU already has traitors in their midst [] economically. The end result of that debate will be quite interesting.

      If you want to get a look at what an EU military would look like, keep an eye on the UN's military endeavors.

  • by Prolapsed Anus ( 555310 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @07:36PM (#3320183)

    I believe that the US push for 'defensive' weapons in space is a farce; they're going to primarily be offensive weapons, 'defensive' only in their 'deterrence' to nations (particularly Third-World) that do not possess such weapons....

    Dr. Bob Bowman [] has asserted this for years - his website is an excellent resource for alternative analysis of the SDI programs that you won't find in the major media outlets.


    • by prisoner-of-enigma ( 535770 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @07:48PM (#3320237) Homepage
      I'd love to know how you'd propose turning a space-based kinetic kill vehicle into something you could conceivably use against a ground target. Or for that matter an orbitting laser.

      Do a little research on kinetic kill vehicles from the old Reagan-era "Star Wars" program. It's essentially a hunk of dense metal with a few thrusters and an infrared seeker on the front. It has no explosives and doesn't need any; it kills its target by impact at orbital velocities (18,000mph). Using this against a ground target would result in either (a) a burnt-up kill vehicle or (b) a small hole in the ground about the size of a trashcan. Offensive weapon? Unlikely.

      What about space-based lasers? Well, let's forget for a moment that no easily-loftable laser is currently available, and if it was it'd be hideously expensive to launch. Let's focus on the physics, namely "blooming". No, we're not talking about flowers here, we're talking about atmospheric attenuation of a laser beam. You could try shooting a ground target with an orbiting laser, but you'd lose a ton of beam power just punching through 50 miles of atmosphere. And again, all you'd get is a very small impact. You'd do much more damage with a cruise missle.

      No one is proposing lofting any orbiting nukes, and even if they did, so what? What can an orbiting nuke hit that an ICBM or nuclear-tipped cruise missle can't already hit with impunity?

      Or were you referring to space-vs-space offensive weaponry? Well, what would we shoot down with our lasers and KKV's? Comm and surveillance satellites perhaps, but we'd risk war by doing so, and for what gain? The only folks on earth who have a sizable space presence other than the U.S. and the E.U. is the former Soviet Union. Last I checked, the cold war was over, so I don't think they're our target. China is starting to get into the game, but a conflict with them would have to be decades off if China wants any hopes at actually winning anything.

      So, in short, take your knee-jerk reaction and apply a little logic and common sense to it. Space-based weaponry right now pretty much HAS to be defensive, because we lack the technology to make an offensive use practical or even economical. If you're so concerned about indiscriminate use of offensive weapons, why not choose weapons that are actually useful at what they do, like cruise missles.
      • While it is not currently fesible to orbit weapons-grade lasers, that does not mean it won't be possible soon. The Air Force is building a 747 [] that can shoot down missiles with a laser. Of course killing a missile is not the same a carpet-bombing cities. Lasers hit small targets.

        Regarding nukes in space... the Soviet Union, under Khrushchev, did plan to build a space station that would hold and launch nuclear weapons []. You are correct in that an ICBM could already hit any target that a space-based platform could target. The space platform, however, could launch with significantly less warning. Defensive systems are designed to detect the launch of ICBMs, they would not detect a space-based launch. There are, of course, significant drawbacks. A space-based platform is easily tracked and would likely be an easy target in case of war (assuming it wasn't used for a nuclear first-strike).

        • I would point out that an orbiting nuclear launcher would be subject to intense scrutiny by any potential target, thus partially offsetting some of the "surprise" factor. It would also be a fat and juicy target, as manuevering satellites is very expensive from a fuel standpoint -- ergo, the satellite will be easy to track, target, and destroy with something much cheaper than an orbiting nuclear "bomber".

          Remember our anti-sat missle program using F-15 jets as launchers? Very cheap. Not very reliable, but if you can launch 50 missles at it for 1/10 the cost of the target, who cares?

          And I'm going to go out on a limb here that will undoubtedly bring some flak, but I'm going to say it anyway -- the U.S. is not about to start an offensive nuclear war of conquest. If we were, we would've done it in the 50's when we could've wiped the Soviet Union off the map without fear of retribution. We had the nukes, they didn't. We could've taken over the world militarily and nobody could've stopped us. We didn't. I have a very funny feeling that had things been reversed (i.e. the Soviets having the bomb, not us) the outcome would not have been so pleasant. Or if the Nazi's had developed it first...imagine a nuclear payload on a V-2 rocket hitting London. How many of those would Churchill have put up with before capitulating? He would've had little choice except extermination, and the Nazi's already showed they had no compunction in that area.

          The U.S. will continue to ply the world's economic and political culture to further our national interest -- as does ANY country on the planet. Again, I will allude to Darwinism and the survival instinct. It is in our best interests to cultivate governments that are friendly to us and to penalize those that are not. Like it or not, that's the way the world operates and the U.S. is far from being the worst example here (we are, however, the LARGEST example, one reason we're a lightning rod for criticism). While other countries kill their own citizens for speaking out against their government and no one utters a whimper, we are castigated daily for failing to shell out billions in economic aid to "the less fortunate", even though "the less fortunate" chant "Death to America" every other breath.

          Okay, I'm heading OT here, so I'm going to stop. I still say that a defensive space-based weapons system is absolutely necessary. One crazed madman controlling one silo in Siberia could make the WTC disaster look like a sunburn, and there is nothing at all we could do to stop him once the "launch" button is pressed. A defensive shield would not be to protect us from mass nuclear war for the obvious reasons that are plaguing the system now (tracking, decoys, etc.), but it could make childs play of a small attack mounted by some lunatic with an axe to grind, nothing to lose, and a desire to be a martyr.
      • No one is proposing lofting any orbiting nukes, and even if they did, so what? What can an orbiting nuke hit that an ICBM or nuclear-tipped cruise missle can't already hit with impunity?

        Its not what they can hit so much as *how soon*. An ICBM takes 30+ minutes to reach its target. Launching a nuke from an orbiting satellite could cut the time from launch (read: detection) to detonation in half.

        As for cruise missles, I think they would be subject to easier detection, since they are launched from ships or submarines which would have to get through sonar nets to be within range (I think).

        A couple of these, well placed, could prevent the chain of command from authorizing a response attack. This weapon's advantage would be in a first-strike use only.

      • "What about space-based lasers? And again, all you'd get is a very small impact. You'd do much more damage with a cruise missle."

        Just how small is small? Spy satelites can read a license plate from orbit. That technology combined with a high powered laser could be a nifty assasination device. I bet Rumsfeld would get a big chubby out of watching Saddam on TV and pushing the special red button.

        I know, I know it's far fetched but that certainly hasn't stopped us before.
      • Um, I don't know exactly what the poster meant when he was talking about SDI being an offensive weapon, but I've definitely felt similarly before. The potential is not for offensive strikes on ground targets, but offensive strikes on spaceborne targets. If SDI is completed and installed, then the US will be able to decide exactly what can get off the ground, anywhere in the world. If someone wants to fly to the moon, install a satellite, they will have to get US permission.

        That, IMHO, is fucked. And other behavior of the US definitely inspires paranoia: They've been backing away from the UN doctrine that the moon can belong to no nation. Of course that means nothing whatsoever right now, but it could mean something in 50 years.

        Of course, SDI isn't a very good way to help the US control the Earth. It would make the US control everything else. I'd be a lot more upset if I weren't American...
        • And what do you think the U.S. is going to do, shoot down some other nation's space shuttle? Why? We're not a nation of bloodthirsty, baby-killing, run-over-old-ladies-for-the-hell-of-it warmongers here. We're pragmatists. Before we take an action, we weigh the action to see whether it will benefit us or not, and then weigh the costs and consequences. Why in the hell would we want to stop another nation from peacefully exploring the cosmos? To create a monopoly on space? PLEASE! "Space is big...REALLY big". We couldn't do that if we wanted to, and we don't want to.

          Hell, if we wanted to do that, we could ALREADY threaten nations with conventional or nuclear arms. "If you launch that new comsat tomorrow we're going to vaporize your capital". We could do this with any nation on the planet right now without much fear of retribution. Heck, we could corner the global sat market, force everyone to pay ridiculous taxes to use our satellites, charge duties for any nation wanting to send up an astronaught.

          Don't you get it? The U.S. is THE superpower on the planet right now. We can militarily do pretty much whatever we want. Tomorrow we could crush Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and there is nothing they could do to stop us. The U.N. can carp and moan, but we can ignore them if we choose to do so.

          If we're so fucking bloodthirsty and Imperialistic, why aren't we doing this already???

          I'll answer that: it's because we have no interest in it. We are not a conquering nation. Sure, we pressure, we cajole, and politic to get our way, as does any nation, but we do not rule by the sword. History has shown this never works for long, and we are astute studiers of that. I think that we're in a unique position in history being that we're the strongest nation ever, yet we have launched no wars of conquest since achieving that position. I can think of many other nations that would not have been so...restrained. Most of them hate us virulently. Gee, I wonder why.
  • Yeah for us. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by czardonic ( 526710 )
    Our enemeies are not nations, with navys to sink, armies to slaughter and cities to destroy. Having all the cards doesn't amount to much when your the only on left in the game. These new schemes are deisgined to protect us agains threats that are all but non-existant, while leaving us open to the next terrorist with a scheme that no one else thought of before.
    • The parent deserves to be modded up significantly IMOHO.

      Asymetric warfare may be a new buzzword, but its concept certainly isnt. If you dont have the resources of your enemy to line up ranks of musketmen at each other in nice set piece battles, dont rely on mobile units and intelligence. If you dont have sheer might of firepower to fight an enemy with helicopter gunships, close air support, defoliants, rely on being invisible using tunnels and local knowledge. If you cant launch a conventional strike on your enemies assets and symbols, seek to exploit laxes in the security his own transportation system turning them into the weapons you cannot get.

      i.e. If you cant fight an enemy on his terms, fight him on your own. High tech toys and vast armies are of little use against an unconventional enemy/terrorist.

    • The nature of the international game really has changed. Nobody (nobody) can compete with the US of A anymore.

      Solution: for nation-states, don't even try. China has a billion cheap laborers and endless patience. All your base may well really belong to them one day. The EU will never be a military giant (in the near term, anyway) but has the potential to be an economic collossus. Live well, buy shiny toys, and let the USA spend hard-earned dollars building another fifty carriers, another constellation of military sats, and another round of missiles. Who cares? Classical war is a sucker's game now - only loser states run by maniacs even think about it. Countries that matter can protect their interests by a million subtle monetary and legal means. The real winners for the next century will be the states that can exploit those parameters.

      Does this mean I like being under Uncle Sam's oft-times simpleminded thumb? Not particularly, but that's the world we live in.

  • that wired article was originally in the magazine two months ago, and, at the time, certainly did offer some piece of mind.

    unfortunately, there was an article in wired news [] this week (also covered in the la times [] -- can't find wired's) talking about america's losing ground to other nations such as china and india in the satellite advantage rate.

    well, that pax americana sure was fun, eh?
  • What will happen in the future when there's all kinds of ancient satellites and spacecrafts and junk in space? Will there be weekly warnings of old stuff re-entering the atmosphere and possibly crashing to earth if it doesn't break up?
  • What time is it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by depth_13 ( 454306 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @07:42PM (#3320211) Homepage
    This is kind of scary stuff really. When I was in the military there were several times when we were using Satellite Communications Uplinks and we had to sit around on our asses waiting for the right time so we could get an allotted frequency. There is so much demand for the few frequencies that the military satellites possess that you can end up waiting quite a while. The bad thing was sometimes you REALLY needed it. And you could get 30 minutes.

    For what its worth...
    • That's why the cell phone folks (and their congresscritters) are so anxious for the military to give up huge chunks of its part of the spectrum- because the Pentagon has all the bandwidth it needs. That's why my PRC-127 is useless any real distance from my unit- they cripple the range of the radios so they can reuse freqs more easily because they already don't have the bandwidth they need, space based or otherwise.

      It's pathetic, the things people will do just for a couple more cents per share this quarter.

  • by Myriad ( 89793 ) <myriad.thebsod@com> on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @07:43PM (#3320214) Homepage
    "Huge American sums spent on space strengthen US economy by creating Tang instant orange drink and heat-trapping pizza delivery bags. US will commodify your discontent, sell it back to you on DVD."

    Dear Customer,
    Upon ordering your DVD make sure to order using the correct Region Designation. Should you plan to move from the caves of Afganistan to some other hidyhole you will need to re-order your DVD. Also, you may not sell, lease, transfer, display, view, listen to, or otherwise make use of any products purchased.

    Thank you,
    US Gov. ^H^H^H^H^H MPAA/RIAA Consortium

  • by SrlKlr ( 219192 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @07:44PM (#3320221) Homepage
    I could really care less if they shot down some military spy satellites, but can you imagine if a foreign country went after our other satellites? Boom, no more cell phone, no more tv, no more satellite internet. You could seriously harm a nation's communications by targeting their satellites. Also, it is not just consumer end stuff, but much of the backbone of the communications go through satellites. I wonder if there are any internation war laws about this. I am sure the government has already mapped out this senario, at our cost of course...
    • What makes you think satellites matter to the cell phone network... If it were we wouldn't have such crappy coverage... Cell phone networks are quite terestrial based...

      Very little communications bandwidth goes through satellite anymore... The speed of light matters when you have to go 46000 miles, I prefer terestrial fiber thank you very much
    • Except that there are SO many satellites involved.
      Like thousands it would be VERY hard if not impossible to do this.
      It's funny how vulnerable people think the US is. When the WTC went down it didn't effect my job or my finances at all.
    • The aliens knocked out our satellites in Independance Day.

      Of course, Jeff Goldblum uploaded that virus and fixed their little green wagons...
    • imagine if a foreign country went after our other satellites? Boom, no more cell phone, no more tv, no more satellite internet. You could seriously harm a nation's communications by targeting their satellites. Also, it is not just consumer end stuff, but much of the backbone of the communications go through satellites.

      ...And through ground-based fiber, and through microwave relays (all those metal towers in the middle of nowhere that you drive past).

      Satellites are very useful for sending _small_ amounts of information over long distances to destinations that are relatively isolated. High-bandwidth communications to/from densely populated and well-connected areas don't go through satellites.

      Knocking out microwave relay communications would require either a host of *insanely* powerful jammers orbiting overhead, or far more sticks of dynamite than is likely to be practical.

      Knocking out fiber communications would involve taking out all of the fiber routing nodes on the continent, or cutting an insanely large number of backbone cables.

      Taking out satellites isn't a cakewalk either (it only takes a box of nails, but the box has to be very high up and positioned to within a few metres).

      In summary, I think the lower levels of the US's communications network are robust enough to survive virtually all practical attacks (if an enemy can wipe out the communications infrastructure, we have bigger problems than just losing communications).

  • Ha, you know you're a fan when after reading the articles title the first thing you think is "YES! TLC is at it again! Uhhhm IN SPACE???"

  • Too much? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tadrith ( 557354 )
    It seems to me that this is simply the next step in something that has been going on since the beginning of mankind. Due to the competitive nature of the human race, getting ahead is the primary objective in life. True, you do have individual cases of people who do not following this pattern; there are always deviations.

    The real question is, will we ever get to the point where we overcome this? Everybody has enemies, and the closer to the top you get, the more enemies you have. That leaves us with two options... we either keep building, keep progressing, and keep defending ourselves against this, or we stop. While some would argue that stopping is the moral high ground, how can we stop knowing that in doing so, we might bring about our destruction?
  • by WillSeattle ( 239206 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @07:49PM (#3320244) Homepage
    OK, first, in theory we never make other satellites crash.

    However, nothing's to keep us from just happening to lose control of a short-term satellite that we decommissioned which just happens to take out a rogue satellite that we don't want up there.

    Do we have such technology? Of course.

    Will we use it? You bet.

    Will we ever admit it? No way.

    So, yes, we will "keep the skies clear". But we won't be so stupid as to do it in a way that we can be blamed for.

    Given that, don't you just love seeing all those old satellites spinning around up there?

    • American President to Chinese Ambassador (in a few decades):
      "Yeah, sorry, we really need to get on the ball with that unoperational satellite thing, and we take responsiblity for the accidents. But you have to admit, what a coincidence! Ten collisions in ten days? You guys have the worst luck!"
  • by Nightspore ( 102270 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @07:58PM (#3320291)
    Sometime around 2008-2016 the machinations of supra-national trade organizations will have finally hammer-locked the bulk of humanity into a cycle of miserable economic and cultural servitiude as well as political impotence. At that point we'll experience protest like those of Seattle and Genoa but played out on an enormous, international scale.

    That is the moment you and/or your children will find out first-hand what it feels like to be attacked by space-based weaponry.

    All of this stuff is ultimately meant to exert power over /you/ - American, Canadian, French, Pakistani -- it doesn't matter. This is a jackboot in your face and the joke is you're paying for all of it and Bruce Sterling thinks it's cute. Have a nice day!

  • This article is a great sound and fury which signifies nothing. People have been commenting upon the video-game wars since '91. The obvious advantage of satellite intel was figured out with the Chronos missions of the 50's, and is the reason we've got a half dozen hubble space telescopes pointing down at us.

    If you're going to write a report on modern military technology deployment, you might want to do a better job of explaining the variated threat we face today from both traditional military-industrial threats like China, to fluidic asymetric threats like rogue states which have the conventional ability to cause great damage, but not defeat, and support terrorist insurgents which can cause defeat without great damage.
  • Bandwidth crunch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:02PM (#3320311) Homepage
    One of the biggest roadblocks to military bandwidth is the number of TDRS satellites in orbit. These guys (Tracking Data Relay Satellites) are the backbone of modern space communications and have been in orbit since the early 80s.

    The TDRS network was originally put in place to support the Space Shuttle and provide 24x7 communications access to ground control. Before TDRS, there had to be tracking stations around the world and in expensive ships crewed by hundreds. Before TDRS, re-entering spacecraft would experience a communications blackout because the ionized gases of the reentry blocked line of sight transmissions from the ground.

    With TDRS, there is almost always a relay satellite around to link a spacecraft (or military satellite) to ground. Re-entering space shuttles now have contact with ground control through the entire entry sequence because the antennas can 'see' the TDRS network above them, unblocked by the plasma around the nose.

    The problem? The TDRS network (which is continuosly refreshed with new satellites as older ones go out of service) is based on protocols from the 1970s that were supposed to provide voice and telemetry. Now, they're being tasked to channel still images and even video in some circumstances, and not just by the shuttle fleet and NASA. The military uses TDRS on occasion to get spy satellite data too, further sapping the infrastructure.

    It's time to start upping a new network of satellites with K band or better transmitters and receivers (which use more power) and so on.
  • Lecture in Seattle (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This is a little geo-centric, but if you live in Seattle (and I'm sure there are a bunch of Redmond folk reading this, right? :) then you should check out a freee, open lecture tomorrow night. Here are the details:

    The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Regime. (Part of the lecture series "Open Classroom on International Law and Arms Control). 5:30-6:20pm in Kane Hall 220. Speaker: Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., Executive Director of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security. Sponsor: Institute for Global and Regional Security Studies.

    I went to the first in the series last week, it was a brief history of nonproliferation treaties in the world. It was extremely interesting, and extremely pertinent to this article.
  • Well in Canada... (Score:4, Informative)

    by sfrenchie ( 524076 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:22PM (#3320388) Homepage
    the US edge in space imagery might disappear

    Ha! When I read that I couldn't help but chuckle... here in Canada it is a FACT that the US basically tells us whether we are allowed to launch a new satelitte or not.

    For example, when Canada wanted to launch the RADARSAT 3, which would give the Canadian military a resolution about 5 times LESS than the current estimated US imagery resolution, they had to bargain with the US gvt before launching.

    By the way, I am pretty confident that the US WOULD start "shooting other satellites down" if the need be.

    So in other words, Americans need not fear, as long as their mighty guns are near!

  • Wired (Score:2, Funny)

    by Drath ( 50447 )
    The Army should just use the font colors wired used in that article mentioned above as weapons, just about burned my eyes out reading it.
  • by cybergibbons ( 554352 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:27PM (#3320409) Homepage

    The article says that each Global Hawk requires 500Mbits/s. That is a huge amount of data. Yo think that it must be relaying a lot of recon information (probably at least three cameras, and I should imagine they have radio scanner as well), on top of the data required to fly it in both directions.

    They must have some major processing power on board - I should imagine that trying to fly something over a relatively high latency satellite link would be hard otherwise/ But they still have a lot of human intervention - it's probably more guidance than actual flying. I remember seeing an experiment where they introduce a random delay between 0 and 0.5 seconds to what the pilot sees (not feels, as this was in the back of a large jet used for remote flying experiments) and it made control of the aircraft very hard - the pilot overcompensating, and almost unable to land the thing.

    There could also be a level of redundancy in the 500Mbits/s - possibly two or more links, because clouds and other conditions can stop them working, and I should imagine that would be a bad thing to happen.

    Anyway, I'm off to do some research on these planes... but if anyone else finds anything interesting, why not post it.

    PS. Yes, I am glossing over the real issues behind these articles. But hey, it's better than the "What about the treaties" or the serious "US kick ass, no one can touch us posts". Wake up. The world isn't like that anymore. Flying planes into building, killing lots of civilians goes against a lot of international laws and treaties.

    Face it - these treaties are to stop developed, civilised, large military forces from wiping out small countries and commiting war crimes. The smaller countries do not give a shit.

    Like the US listen anyway: ec.bush.abm/ []

  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:42PM (#3320461)
    Why go through so much trouble? Just get the other nations to run their satellites on Windows CE and use IIS. Those satellites will go down faster than a shashdotted err... umm... really really small server? Hey... Why even go through that much trouble, just post a link to the satellites on /.!
  • by Mittermeyer ( 195358 ) on Wednesday April 10, 2002 @08:45PM (#3320477) Homepage
    Folks, this is not good military analysis, this is just Bruce selling an article.

    It is true that the satellites provide massive reconaissance and communications force multipliers to the military. It is also true that we are very dependent on them not just for military functions but also for tele-economic industries (making them juicy targets). And it is true that America's constant investment in various technologies mean a uni-polar world re: conventional military power.

    What Bruce fails to realize is that these tools are just that- tools that can be broken, circumvented or worse copied and used better by others.

    For instance, if we follow through with heavy DEWAD use (Directed Energy Weapon Air Defense), yes we can knock down missiles and rule the skies- for a while. Then our enemies will eventually duplicate the technology, and knock down our cruise missiles, UAVs and bombers. Then all the satellites in the world won't help our inability to affect events on the ground with airpower.

    Even if we have a Rumsfeldian dream US Space Force, that doesn't stop the VW driving in from Mexico City with the nuke in the trunk.

    Our enemies will move around our military power. Take a looksee at this translation [] of two Chinese colonels writing about our Desert War dominance, and how to circumvent and defeat the US in spite of military superiority. Somehow in his rush to sell his article, he did not deal with assymetric warfare.

    Pax Americana needs these toys to happen, but the toys by themselves can be beaten. What we really need is plenty of mutual interest (read money and self-determination) for most of the world to participate in Pax Americana, the will to crush in Cold or Hot War those who will take away self-determination and money from others in the name of an ism (even if they are American), and the spread of fair legal and financial system to the average world citizen.

    We will win with satellite TV moreso then satellite lasers.

    I don't know what happened to Bruce- way too many blue hawaiians on Austin's Sixth Street I imagine.
    • Our enemies will move around our military power. Take a looksee at this translation [] of two Chinese colonels writing about our Desert War dominance, and how to circumvent and defeat the US in spite of military superiority.

      I believe that you think that some of these weapons are useless or easily circumvented, and most of the rest of the world sees our army as full of "toys."

      Toys indeed, if you definition includes things that burrow in ground and blow you up inside rock, track you with your cell phone, passive radar that just listens and never transmits, and all sorts of other nefarious things like that. They are not toys. IF OTHER NATIONS THINK THAT A SMARTBOMB IS A TOY, THEN THEY ARE OUT OF THEIR MINDS. They are up for a rude awakening.

      Why is it a small, voluntary service US force always seems to run over a full blown, military controlled, conscripted nation in days? Its got to be the toys! Yeah right.

      That is a childish justification for the fact that there are people that have put in billions (yes, freaking billions!) into not only developing these weapons, but coming up with the concepts and designing systems for their best implementation.

      IN OTHER WORDS, IT IS ALL ABOUT THE RESEARCH EDGE. Go ahead, thwart it, Version 2.0 just shipped last week. See if you can crack it now.

      Good example-
      the trusty M-16 and its variants. Reliable. Cheap. Useful. All other modern nations have gone to guns with bullpup designs (clip is behind the trigger for more streamlined, futuristic look), because they say they are better balanced, shorter designs for guns. Sounds like a great idea. I thought so. They look cool in movies.

      Until you learn that you have to not only take the 'dangerous end' of the weapon away from the enemy, but you have to take your trigger hand off of the grip and trigger to reload it. It takes two hands and more time. Also its nearly impossible to reload easily while laying down to fire, and soldiers do that A LOT. Also a bullpup exposes more head and shoulders around a corner when firing.

      That idea has brought you such guns as the British SA 80. It looked and fired like it was made by Kenner. It had plastic parts. IT WAS EASILY OUTMATCHED BY A GOOD OL KALASHNIKOV.

      Every arms manufacturer wants the M-16 contract, for obvious financial reasons. They hold competitions constantly and try every possible idea. The US military has tight, important standards FOR EVERYTHING. To think that there is a nation that can just up and exploit the weakness of the US tools in five minutes, is well, ridiculous and full of speculation. The difference? The US has not been speculating, they have been testing these things for decades even after they implement them. They know their holes.

      If they research the M-16 so deeply and periodically, then what do they do with bleeding edge stuff?

      I just don't see those Chinese Colonels reaching any new conclusions that we probably haven't a generation ago, and are actively trying to fix.
  • The Chinese have already announced the development of very small mini-satellites that attach themselves to our satellites and can be blown up on demand. The idea is that they would launch these long before any war and have them in place just in case they needed them. They were small enough that many could be launched at once.

    The concept is so simple and cheap and seemingly effective as to make it mind boggling that we would ever depend on satellites in a real war. If China wanted to retake Taiwan, all they'd have to do is put one of these on every military and civilian satellite and then push the button a few hours before their attack. We'd be so lost when all of the beepers, cell phones, TV networks, GPS units and other satellite based technologies stopped working all at once that it would probably take a couple of weeks before the majority of US citizens even knew what happened.

  • War is immoral, but the hardware is cool. How to decide?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    These articles are all indicative of the problem the USA faces today. Unfortunately whilst the USA continues to have no respect for the sovreignty of other nations it will continue to find that other nations and terrorist organisations will have no respect for the USA.

    Before you write me of as another mis-informed mad terrorist let me make a few things plain:

    I am a citizen of a country that is an ally of the USA, yet the USA was instrumental in bringing down our democratically (Westminster System) elected Government.

    I've lived in the USA and seen the general paranoia of its' citizens - I know of no other country in the world that is so convinced that all other countries are out to get them, so they must be crushed.

    I'm not so naive as to believe the world is a nice friendly place, but I am sure that as long as the USA remains dedicated to massive military force and the continual de-stabilisation of other nations the world will remain much more dangerous than it need be. As long as American Ideology is far removed from reality this will continue.

    The fact is that most countries and people do not want to be like America, we don't want to own America, we don't want to destroy America. The USA is a great example of how not to run a democracy - your last Presidential Election demonstrated that you don't have a democratic system as is generally understood in civilised countries.

    As long as the USA continues to believe that it is the de-facto "leader of the Free World" (tm) and engages in aggressive "Police Actions" to further the agendas of the real powers in the military-industrial complex there will continue to be terror attacks against it. I myself know that as a foreign national in the USA I could buy dynamite with no problems, I could buy firearms with no problems.

    And for my final piece of hyperbole, many Christians outside the USA consider GW Bush to be the Anti-Christ. God help us all.
  • by j09824 ( 572485 )
    The US really doesn't have much power to act independently. While the US has a big military, if that were ever used in ways not consistent with the interests of powerful European or Asian nations, the US economy would find itself in complete shambles very quickly. It wouldn't even require explicit sanctions by those nations, the market itself would exact the punishment, since the US is highly dependent on the economic well-being of Europe and Asia. The US military is, for practical purposes, a mercenary force that acts in the interest of the other economically powerful nations of the world, not primarily the US domestic interests.

    Economically, the US doesn't have that much power either. Sure, the US government moves a lot of money around. But there are very view US corporations left--corporations and capital have become global, and they are associated with the US only to the degree that it furthers their economic interests.

    While globalization has its problems, globalization and economic interdependencies have delivered on one big promise: they have eliminated all superpowers and forced all wealthy nations to cooperate, and that's a good thing. Whether Americans realize it or not pretty much doesn't matter. The only nations that are not subject to the imperatives and constraints of globalization are those nations that feel they don't have anything to lose; and the best way to fix that is to make them wealthy enough that they, too, feel that it is to their advantage to play by the rules. In different words, if you turn Iraqis and Palestinians into well-off, happy consumers, they'll kick out any leader that endangers a steady supply of PlayStations or BigMacs. Depressing perhaps, but it beats the alternatives.

  • One of the most important space assets is a global positioning system. So far, the US has allowed free use of our DoD-sponsored GPS, but everybody knows that policy could change at some time in the future. The Europeans felt that without their own system, their soverignty was threatened, so they proposed their own system, called Galileo [must have been some Europoean guy.]

    Anyway, the US is all in a sweat about this, and has put quite a bit if pressure on the Europeans to get them to forego this system. The US says that it's not needed, [] that it would interfere with our system, that it would destabilize the planet -- basically the entire bag of boogeymen. To it's credit, Europe has recently reversed course [] and decided that they would create this system on their own. Germany had been leaning toward the US position, but just changed their mind.

    Galileo is not very well defined yet (even basic things like how many satellites, and which orbit configuration), but most people expect that it will be somewhat better than the current GPS system -- although the US insists that it's super-duper GPSII system will be better than Galileo, whatever Galileo ends up being.

  • Listen, Noam Chomsky has been talking about this for years. The contemporary view that most people in power (in America) is that American culture is the end of history. Fukiyama aside, the powers that be are acutally acting this way. Decisions are made regarding foreign policy not with a mind to the future but toward the redemption of history. This is not a peace in any sense of the word. It is a subjugation by economic might. Think of it this way, kids. Microsoft is only a small piece of the puzzle when you start talking trillions of US dollars. The Military Industrial Complex (y'know the guys who really invented the Internet) is the largest corporate entity on the planet. It operates secretly (well, its actions are well known by the people who die from them) and it uses the ruse of peace to feed itself.
  • Death to America

    It ain't gonna be easy, says Bruce Sterling, but that won't stop enemies from trying. Thirteen strategies they might use to knock the eagle out of the sky.


    Method: Duplicate American space assets: surveillance, navigation, telecom, the works.

    Upside: Legal. Can be accomplished largely using commercial products and services. American contractors might even build a lot of it for you.

    Downside: Cripplingly costly; Russians tried it and went broke. Looks suspicious. Takes years. Yankees in good position to blow your assets to smithereens.

    Already pursued by many other nations, India, China, Russia, Japan and the EU to name but a few.
    All of these countries have far cheaper launch costs. They can replace a satellite for far less than it costs the US (currently) to replace its own satellites. A huge military advantage. Also, due to the location of US lauch sites, not that hard to shoot down sats launched from the US.

    It's also possible to combine launching your own satellites with leasing/buying satellites from
    other nations.


    Method: Never mind fancy space assets. Obliterate Washington with a truck nuke.

    Upside: Massively destructive, highly destabilizing. Heavy casualties among governing elite. Deadly shock to US national morale. Can be repeated in other cities.

    Downside: Nukes hard to build. Sets dangerous precedent that puts your own cities at risk. US space assets still up there, available to US allies even if US no longer exists. Loss of Congress and Washington bureaucrats might be dangerous tonic to US military.

    Not a likely strategy. Any nation that does this is asking for nuclear war. The safest way to implement this strategy is to give nukes to a terrorist group (NNAQ - short for NNAQ Not's AL Qaida ). Let them take the heat.

    Bruce omitted chemical/biological warfare. Especially with biological, great built in denial.
    Your heroes die carrying the disease to the US. No trail to lead back to you. Chemical also has great potential. Imagine the release of sarin in a football stadium.


    Method: Detonate nuclear warhead in upper atmosphere, disabling spacecraft circuitry.

    Upside: Inexpensive, quick, ruthless. Disables civilian assets, including pagers and TV, by stripping circuits on ground. To evade detection, bomb can be disguised as something benign, like a commercial satellite.

    Downside: Some military sats hardened against radiation. Might destroy your own space hardware, if you have any. Unlikely to destroy distant sats; might destroy very little, in which case you've gone nuclear against a superpower.

    This would be a very valuable tactic. Combined with the other tactics 4-11, it makes it possible to annihilate US forces.


    Method: Infest space with armed mobile nanosatellites. Sneak them up to expensive American space machines. Attach like limpets. Detonate on signal.

    Upside: Sneaky, insidious, inscrutable.

    Downside: Hard to test. Americans likely to build fleet of nanosats teensier and sneakier than yours.

    Very easy to test. Take out an American satellite or one of your own. The countermeasure is very
    weak. Considering the Americans will build nanosats anyway, this is no deterrent.


    Method: Spew sand into paths of orbiting Yankee assets, turning them into Swiss cheese.

    Upside: Ultracheap. Slowly suffocates space power. Might be done persistently in tiny quantities by some unorthodox launch method, say electromagnetic rail-gun launch or Jules Verne space cannon.

    Downside: Space too big to pollute. Armor countermeasures possible. Retaliation by all space users likely. Sand sifts down into atmosphere after a while.

    If you're careful about targetting, potentially useful. A nuisance tactic at best. High risk
    of making every space faring nation come after you.


    Method: Mimic American datastream. Hack satellites, own them.

    Upside: Bloodless, sexy, wired. Gains huge military advantage.

    Downside: Requires vulnerable ground stations plus better hacking, crypto, and dongle skills than NSA and Air Force. Still can't launch, repair, or replace space assets.

    That's not hard. Many of the US potential adversaries posess all three. And the US ground
    stations are very vulnerable. There are many unmanned and poorly guarded ground stations
    for US satellites here in Australia and NZ begging for just such a tactic. One man who was a demo/sniper could easily take them out.

    All it needs is one weak link. If the encryption is weak, all the other skills do not matter.
    If the admins securing machines lack the necessary skills, it is also easy to compromise hardware.

    It's also not necessary to have vulnerable ground stations. If you can crack encryption, you
    can spoof a ground station easily, without ever having been near it.

    7. JAMMING

    Method: Deploy huge electromagnetic noisemakers that thwart US communications.

    Upside: Disables guided missiles, turns smart bombs into dumb bombs. Good for locals who communicate via fiber optics.

    Downside: Ineffective beyond theater. Noisemakers make obvious targets.

    A tactic that will be used by almost all opponents. Not enough by itself, but in combination very deadly. Only terrorist groups will possibly lack the ability to use this.


    Method: Use mortars, bombs, or missiles against satellite ground stations.

    Upside: Kills highly trained analysts, destroys specialized equipment. Bases generally easy to find, not well fortified.

    Downside: Secret mobile backup facilities likely to exist. US has large techie population, can train more space geeks.

    Can they train them instantly? The crucial element is time. If you can open a window of vulnerability
    where the US has no space assets, you can decimate the US forces by the time they recover.


    Method: Hide facilities underground. Scatter armadas of fakes on surface. Broadcast phony transmissions to fool spy sats. Camouflage everything.

    Upside: Effective during wartime. Forces US to waste expensive munitions.

    Downside: Windowless cave quarters bad for soldier morale. Constant, consistent deception hard to maintain. Avoiding surveillance increases cost of all operations.

    This tactic will be used by everyone, including the US.


    Method: Bribe or coopt Yankee sat personnel, obtain manuals, secrets.

    Upside: Cheap, traditional. Proven success with Pollard, Walker, Falcon and Snowman.

    Downside: Satellites return to US control once mole is discovered.

    If used to create a window of weakness, where the US has no functioning sats for a short
    period of time, means mega death for US soldiers.

    By the time the US recovers, there might be no
    army/air force/carrier group left in the region.

    11. DEATH RAY

    Method: Build laser or particle beam. Blind or cook satellites from ground.

    Upside: Unexpected, shocking, repeatable. Appealing to Aum Shinrikyo-style tech-literate madmen.

    Downside: Ambitious, expensive, hard to conceal. Requires huge power source. Works only in clear weather. Invites swift conventional retaliation.

    Much easier/cheaper to use ballistic missile for the same job. The laser beam tactic will only be used by advanced nations, US allies and India, China, Russia.


    Method: Abandon conventional warfare. Go nuclear, descend into terrorism, or both.

    Upside: Everybody's doing it.

    Downside: Going nuclear is expensive, destabilizing, dangerous. Terrorists lack secure bases, logistics, traditions, esprit de corps; "masterminds" hard to distinguish from deranged amateurs. American social, economic, cultural pressures irresistible. Your war may devolve into reading Noam Chomsky while sipping Coke.

    By far the best tactic for every opponent of the US. Is already used, and has proved very successful. So far, no terrorist has yet started to read Chomsky. Has already beaten the US in Somalia. Will be used extensively by China when the war over Taiwan begins.

    13. WAIT IT OUT

    Method: Wait for US to get careless, go broke, forget, sell out, and/or collapse from inherent contradictions of postindustrial capitalism.

    Upside: Easy. Basically indistinguishable from giving up.

    Downside: Capitalist democracy has buried many competing systems. Top challenger blatantly suicidal and feared by all. Huge American sums spent on space strengthen US economy by creating Tang instant orange drink and heat-trapping pizza delivery bags. US will commodify your discontent, sell it back to you on DVD.

    This is hardly a tactic. US culture helps to create enemies as well as allies.
  • about usual US self-congratulatory propaganda? Have I missed some sarcasm? And why american propagansa STILL insists that duplication of American space-based military technology driven Russians "broke" while it's obvious that USSR neither had any program to put any offensive weapons in space, nor had to spend enormous amounts of money or effort on its space program, and was dissolved entirely for political reasons?

    Americans feel the need to morally support their morally bankrupt army and government (well known to be cowards in uniform and crooks in suits)? They need to sell themselves the idea that they are the smartest people in the world? Or they expect to scare everyone else with this? They believe that China, Russia or a bunch of other countries can't turn their precious government into a hole in the ground if it will piss them off sufficiently?

    I am not a diplomat, so my answer to this would be "They can kiss my ass".
  • by Bnonn ( 553709 ) <> on Thursday April 11, 2002 @03:24AM (#3321738) Homepage Journal
    ...but apparently I was wrong. I couldn't help but grind my teeth when reading this article. It seemed to capture so perfectly what makes the US not only unpopular in other countries, but hated as well. The quote at the end of the article sums it up brilliantly:
    • "On the other hand, Washington's war wonks don't seem actively oppressive, bloody-handed, or evil. Old Glory hangs all over town in its riveted incarnation as the 9/11 battle flag, but there are no jackboot parades or martyr cults. Let's face it, the world might do much worse."
    Leave that mod button alone for a sec--I'm trying to present an honest viewpoint, not troll. I don't hate the US. But this smug, presumtuous attitude is a problem. I agree that there must be measures in place to stop factions like the Taleban from damaging our own society. But I believe this should be something that is done through international cooperation. A single country cannot assign itself as judge, jury and executioner simply because its the most powerful. When people do that, they're called bullies.

    The article seems to take the attitude that the "Usian way" is the "right way"; that it's just fine for the US to target whomever they please in order to ensure their own safety. You can't build a "New World Order" by simply crushing anyone who disagrees with you. And if you're on the side that would benefit from such a New World Order, you should probably be concerned about how your way of life is built, and who will be the next target after all the opposition is gone (hint: the population of this New World Order).

    Once again, please don't misunderstand. I don't mean to bash the US; I would like to question the article itself for assuming that the world must go along with the US or be beaten into submission, because to me that's what it seems to say. The problem is primarily with the leaders, who are people apparently intoxicated with their own power and completely without the wisdom or responsibility to use it with restraint; and also with the population, who are apathetic to the attitude their leaders hold as long as their easy way of life continues.

    Now, I'm not saying that the US is without cause for its actions. I don't want to make any judgements on who is in the right in specific instances. But the reckless attitude of "Global Cop" put forward in the article, as if it's the most obvious thing in the world, is something that is heavily, heavily resented, and not just by radical Middle-Eastern parties. I don't feel I speak for myself alone. As a New Zealander and former South African I know that what I'm saying is a fairly prevalent viewpoint in both those countries. One only need watch TV to hear Bush commenting on the Israeli activities of the last few days: words to the effect of "I am not going to put up with this." Perhaps to people in the US these sound like strong words, but to people in other countries they sound like the words of a spoiled man with no real understanding of what he's talking about, assuming that the power he has gives him some right to dictate the actions of other countries. Of course I'm not saying that Sharon is right or that Bush is wrong--I agree with Bush's intent, but not his conviction that whatever he wants another country to do must happen, however true that is.

    This attitude is what I see in the article. I imagine I'll be heavily downmodded for this post, since this is a Usiacentric forum, but I'm hoping open minds entertain differing ideas, on the supposition that most Slashdot readers are fairly open-minded and will realise that I'm trying to state an honest viewpoint as inoffensively as I can.

  • by jdfox ( 74524 ) on Thursday April 11, 2002 @10:22AM (#3322743)
    Driven by al Qaeda's atrocities, the US charged into the classic quagmire of Afghanistan, legendary death trap of military ambition. With the customary roll of thunder, out came the full routine of the modern American expeditionary force. First, a cautious, methodical, widely televised suppression of local air defenses. Then, once CNN became accustomed to the violence, some leisurely and terrible precision targeting throughout the theater, around the clock. In Serbia in 1999, US aircraft smashed stationary targets, like buildings and bridges. In Afghanistan, thanks to much faster satellite relays, they demolished rapidly moving tanks, fleeing Toyota trucks, and amazed guerrillas. It took only two weeks to chase Taliban and al Qaeda forces into Pakistan, Iran, and beyond.

    "Driven by al Qaeda's atrocities", they decided to go create a few atrocities of their own. Seen any estimates of civilian casualties on your TV news lately? A few dozen? Hundreds even? No, thousands. Professor Marc Herold has put together the only methodical public attempt to date on casualty estimates, and his figure is between 3,000 and 3,400 [].

    "Terrible precision targeting"? Yes, the precision was pretty terrible alright. But the carnage isn't over yet, and won't be for decades: the UN estimates that around 14,000 unexploded cluster bomblets [] are still on the ground in Afghanistan. They're bright yellow, the same color as the food parcels the US very kindly dropped, while all the aid agencies pleaded with them to stop. So thousands more will die, long after you've had all your parades and pinned on all your medals.

    Slow, careful police work was far too unglamourous. Much more sexually satisfying to bomb the shit out of the country harboring the prime suspect. Do you really think that the strikes against the US will stop, simply because the Taliban have been chased into retreat? How many more young suicide bombers are being created daily, thanks to these atrocities and all the others supported and funded around the world by the US? Will they all just give up and go home, awed by superior US satellite technology? Use your brain, for God's sake. You will reap what you sow.

"Plastic gun. Ingenious. More coffee, please." -- The Phantom comics