Christopher Hitchens Stands Trial
Gregory Shupak reviews Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens, in which Richard Seymour uses Hitchens’ career as a foil to explore the role of the public intellectual in the modern media sphere:
If Hitchens was a serial plagiarist who failed to get even the simplest of facts right, was allergic to nuance, and made no scholarly contributions, one might reasonably conclude that he ought to be ignored, and that a reader’s time and Seymour’s considerable talents be put to better use. But Hitchens matters precisely because of the inverse relationship that the quality of his work has to his status. His career reveals much about the function of the public intellectual. [...]
That said, Hitchens’ later years and the enormous celebrity he enjoyed during that period are a case study of just how handsome the rewards are for those willing and able to serve as attack dogs for the dominant powers of their place and time. Hitchens’ main service to the American elite was to employ a combination of innuendo and character assassination to cast aspersion on virtually every high-profile figure critical of American foreign policy after 9/11—a roster that includes Julian Assange, Noam Chomsky, George Galloway, Michael Moore, Harold Pinter, Edward Said, Cindy Sheehan, Oliver Stone and Gore Vidal.
Hitchens could never have amassed such a large following—and perhaps more importantly, such a powerful following—had he not so entirely embraced American power and its corresponding ideologies after 9/11. Would Hitchens have been invited on as many talk shows if, rather than writing fawning biographies of safely institutionalized figures like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, he had taken as his exemplary subjects two others he professed to admire even near the end of his life, C.L.R. James and Rosa Luxemburg? If, instead of levying facile criticisms of organized religion primarily at the United States’ enemies, Hitchens had selected neoliberal capitalism for his most ferocious late-career critiques, is it likely that 60 Minutes would have profiled him when he was ill with cancer, or that his audience would have been extended to readers of Newsweek, much less the Weekly Standard?
Full Story: In These Times: Christopher Hitchens Stands Trial
See also: Christopher Hitchens: from socialist to neocon
As The Lone Wolf Rises, A Post-Mortem For Fifth Generation Warfare
Justin Boland offers a post-mortem for Fifth Generation Warfare and a brief history of lone wolf/spree killings.
“Fifth Generation Warfare” is not catchy. Consumers need something relatable, something visual and visceral. That’s why “5GW” has devolved from the critical theory of the warrior class into the crude shock and awe of “Lone Wolf” domestic terrorism. The dumbing down process is irreversible and immune to reason, so this isn’t written as a defense of the concept so much as a post-mortem for the field. [...]
So with “Cyberwar” getting a bored response from the body politic, we’ve got some product testing underway in 2012 and the “Lone Wolf” angle is a promising pitch. [...]
Skilluminati: 5GWTF: The Post-Everything Future of War
Be sure to read the whole thing, and the first comment from “Eric.”
The Number of Armed Conflicts Increased Strongly in 2011
Last year, the number of armed conflicts in the world increased markedly, with the strongest increase taking place in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is the conclusion in a new report by researchers at the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), published in the Journal of Peace Research. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has presented the statistics to the UN General Assembly in his report on international mediation. [...]
Following a year (2010) that signaled hope for a more peaceful development, the number of conflicts increased by nearly 20 percent, from 31 to 37. Last year’s jump in conflicts deviates from the long-term trend line, which shows that the world is gradually becoming more peaceful.
Full Story: PhysOrg: The Number of Armed Conflicts Increased Strongly in 2011
(via Social Physicist)
CNN’s Bogus Drone-Deaths Graphic
CNN is running a story on a CNN graph that, in he words of Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf, “indicates that the Pakistan drone program overseen by Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama killed 163 innocent people in 2009, 40 innocent people in 2010, 26 innocents in 2011, and zero innocent people in 2012.” Friedersdorf continues:
Is our drone-strike program really only killing bad guys now?
The casual CNN reader can be forgiven for drawing that conclusion. Why worry about drones if everyone dying from them is now a militant? she might conclude. What the authors neglect to mention is this bit from the May 29, New York Times story that explains how the United States government — and perhaps our allies of convenience inside Pakistan? — define “militant.” Per the newspaper (emphasis added), “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” [...]
Americans ought to know that the Bureau of Investigative Journalism claims to have verified a minimum of three civilian casualties in 2012, that the U.S. government’s definition of militants makes its claims unreliable, and that our method of identifying militants almost certainly isn’t foolproof. Clive Stafford Smith, who has reported from Pakistan, wrote in The Guardian last month that “just as with Guantánamo Bay, the CIA is paying bounties to those who will identify ‘terrorists’. Five thousand dollars is an enormous sum for a Waziri informant, translating to perhaps £250,000 in London terms. The informant has a calculation to make: is it safer to place a GPS tag on the car of a truly dangerous terrorist, or to call down death on a Nobody (with the beginnings of a beard), reporting that he is a militant? Too many ‘militants’ are just young men with stubble.”
The Atlantic: CNN’s Bogus Drone-Deaths Graphic
The Afghanistan War’s Signature Wound
The Great War had shell shock. World War II had facial burns. Vietnam had amputations. Iraq, traumatic brain injuries. What’s Afghanistan’s “signature wound”? Penis mutilation as a result of homemade bombs that are detonated underfoot, injuring soldiers feet, legs and genitals. Their compensation? Fifty thousand dollars.
Men’s Health is selling a Kindle single on the subject. I read the feature in the print magazine, and it’s well worth your time and money.
Here’s a sidebar specifically on fertility: War is Hell (On Fertility)
5th Generation Warfare for Dummies
Skilluminati describes this as 5th generation warfare reduced to marketing copy for contractors:
“America still hasn’t quite understood that we are opening Pandora’s box. Take drones. We feel we can use them anywhere, soon others will be using them against us. There are dozens of countries around the world developing their own drone technology or buying what is out on the market. The same is true for technologies like those associated with Stuxnet,” said the former senior diplomat who has worked closely throughout his career with the military and intelligence communities. Or as another journalist friend of mine put it who has been covering the issue closely, “The day after Stuxnet was like the day after Hiroshima. We had the technology and no one else did. But within a matter of a few years that had changed.” So had the nature of modern warfare…and by extension of modern diplomacy and that’s what is going to happen here.
Imagine wars that were conducted constantly, wars in which both sides might not be bent on destroying one another but would rather focus on capturing resources or slowing down economic performance or producing popular frustration or distributing misinformation or manipulating elections or markets. Shutting down power grids or stealing money from bank accounts or spilling pollutants into a river are old hat with current technologies. Imagine what the future might hold.
Foreign Policy: The Phantom War has begun
See also: Wired for War
Are we starting a full-out war on the Internet?
DARPA’s New Crowdsourcing Initiative to Target Pets
Right now, only 1 percent or so of America’s population contributes to the country’s defense and offense. In its new budget, Darpa announces a $25 million effort to build tools that’ll rope in the other 99 percent. Doesn’t exactly explain how. But think crowd-sourcing, plus a touch of machine learning to pair peeps up. The program is called “Unconventional Warfighters,” and the idea is to tap three pools of potential contributors.First, Darpa is looking to plug in “futurists, inventors, hobbyists and tinkerers who approach military problems from an unconventional perspective.” Then, the agency would like to call upon “military Veterans, including disabled Veterans, who have deep knowledge of the missions and the operational environment.” Lastly, Darpa wants those veterans’ pets.“Animals are another class of potential contributors,” the agency explains in its budget. “This is not a new idea, as animals possessing special abilities such as dogs and dolphins have been used before to perform military tasks such as mine detection. The new aspect to be examined under Unconventional Warfighters is the potential for creating new sensor, processing, communication and actuator systems specially adapted to enable animals to execute tasks beyond their natural capabilities.”
Darpa’s New Recruits: You, Your Grandpa and Your Dog
DARPA and Raytheon Building New Ad-Hoc Mobile Network for the Military
The military is decentralizing its networks. Here’s a piece I wrote for ReadWriteWeb about it:
DARPA contracted Ratheon in 2009 to build the “Mobile to Ad-Hoc Interoperable Network GATEway” (MAINGATE), a mobile network that both military and civilian organizations can use to communicate using any radio or wireless device. The agency announced last month that the system has now been tested for video, voice and data by both high bandwidth and low bandwidth users.
A key component of MAINGATE is Network Centric Radio System (NCRS). According to Defense Industry Daily, NCRS provides: “1) a backbone radio architecture that enables IP versatile networks and 2) a radio gateway that enable legacy analog and digital communications systems to be linked together.” NCRS provides a self-healing ad-hoc mobile network that enables seamless communication between nearly any radio.
Defense Industry Daily reports that MAINGATE also features disruption-tolerant networking to cope with disruptions caused by line-of-sight issues, spectrum access, congested radio frequencies and noisy environments.
ReadWriteWeb: DARPA and Raytheon Building New Ad-Hoc Mobile Network for the Military
Previously: Douglas Rushkoff: Abandon the Corporate Internet
Are we starting a full-out war on the Internet?
WikiLeaks is the perfect storm for all past issues on the net, but I’m afraid it also will draw us into a future that I’ve believed was coming and didn’t want to talk about. We don’t like to think about how much our civilization depends on the proper running of computer networks, and how vulnerable they are. Whoever it is that attacking Mastercard and Paypal are anonymous. They could be teenagers (that’s what we hope) but they could also be professionals working for foreign governments, or even the US government.
I watch my friends root for the attackers and think this is the way wars always begin. The “fighting the good fight” spirit. Let’s go over there and show them who we are. Let’s make a symbolic statement. By the time the war is underway, we won’t remember any of that. We will wonder how we could have been so naive to think that war was something wonderful or glorious. People don’t necessarily think of wars being fought on the net and over the net, but new technology comes to war all the time, and one side often doesn’t understand.
Are we starting a full-out war on the Internet?
This is as good a time as any to re-iterate my anti-vigilante stance.
However, that cyberwar is breaking out largely between non-state actors (in response to actions by state actors, but still).