China Shoots Down a Spy Satellite, Japanese Navy Attacks Russian Fleet in North Sea, Britain Threatens War
Feline Spy Satellite. Credit: Julia
Feb 21 2008: For a post on the recent American downing of a spy satellite click here. The below post dates from January 2007.
World news continues, as always. China has successfully shot down a satellite using a missile. On one hand, shooting down a satellite is quite an achievement. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier than say, trying to shoot down a missile. It doesn’t take anything fancy to destroy a satellite, a well placed bean bag will do the trick. And unlike missiles, satellites are extremely predictable, there are even civilian “satellite watchers” who make a hobby of observing and keeping track of them.
The USA is of course very upset about this, as well they might be. At least those who want the USA to dominate the world through military force. Yes, China having an anti satellite weapon seriously threatens America’s plans to rule space. Of course America’s plans to rule space are just an excuse to build mind numbingly expensive weapons systems in pursuit of the impossible dream: absolute military superiority. At least this Chinese launch might get the subject on the table, weaponizing space is far more deadly a threat to humanity than a few crude nukes hidden in Asia’s mountains.
More importantly, this leads into the Achilles heel of American military thinking. We have become so wed to our technology that we have let the non technological aspects of warfare lag. Our generals and intelligence directors are so addicted to satellite photos and electronic eavesdropping that they have almost no “on the ground” assets. This is why after years of insurgency we still know very little about who we are fighting in Iraq. When it comes to high technology as the ultimate in gathering intelligence and waging war, the emperor has no clothes.
What I mean is this, a reasonably clever man can figure out simple ways to avoid being eavesdropped upon by satellites and electronic snoops. Like not using the telephone for example. Even better, any halfway intelligent person could figure out ways to send so much false information into the electronic eavesdroppers net that they would never figure out what was real and what was a decoy. In real life the bad guys are as smart as the good guys, it’s easy to think of simple countermeasures to high tech. This applies as much to war fighting as intelligence gathering, in some senses they are the same thing, your ability to wage war is only as effective as your ability to understand your enemies.
There’s an interesting historical example. Before the turn of the last century Japan pioneered the use of open source intelligence. That basically is intelligence gathered by people acting openly as opposed to spies. One way they facilitated this was that every Japanese Naval Officer was required to speak a second language fluently, and expected to keep their ears open when in foreign lands. Thus the Japanese had a sophisticated world wide network of spies and informants when war with Russia started, and they put it to good use.
When the Japanese learned that the Russian Baltic Fleet in Europe was going to sail to the Pacific Ocean, they used their network of spies to float a rumour that Japanese torpedo boats were going to ambush the Russian fleet while it was en route. They were able to spread this rumour so successfully that the Russians believed it. (In contrast to Japan, the Russian equivalent of the Pentagon at the time had exactly zero pemployees who could speak or read Japanese.) The Russians were so rattled that when their fleet got to the North Sea, they mistook a fleet of English fishing boats for Japanese torpedo boats…and opened fire. The resulting loss of life (modest though it may have been, only three guys died) so inflamed Britain that they came very close to declaring war on Russia themselves. Pretty slick result from just spreading rumours in bars, eh?
The point I am making is that understanding your enemy and making clever use of low tech methods is far more effective than all the superweapons in the world. America’s technological superiority didn’t win the Vietnam war, and it’s not winning in Iraq or Afghanistan. The idea that if we just build enough super weapons it will allow us to rule the world is madness, though it is making a small number of Americans rich beyond imagining. The USA is spending more money on its military than the rest of the world combined, and it has not bought us peace and security. Tom Engelhardt touches upon some of the above in his recommended Crusading Scorecard.
I am assured that no animals were harmed in the production of the above image. One cat was humiliated though.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and it is properly attributed and linked. It is not yet an historically important image, but stranger things have happened.)