Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Open-Source Warfare

Terrorists are leveraging information technology to organize, recruit, and learn--and the West is struggling to keep up

On the afternoon of Thursday, 8 April 2004, U.S. troops stationed in Iraq deployed a small remote-controlled robot to search for improvised explosive devices. The robot, a PackBot unit made by iRobot Corp., of Burlington, Mass., found an IED, but the discovery proved its undoing. The IED exploded, reducing the robot to small, twisted pieces of metal, rubber, and wire.
The confrontation between robot and bomb reflects a grim paradox of the ongoing conflict in Iraq. The PackBot's destruction may have prevented the IED from claiming a soldier's life--as of 31 August, IEDs accounted for nearly half of the 3299 combat deaths reported by coalition forces. But the fact remains that a US $100 000 piece of machinery was done in by what was probably a few dollars' worth of explosives, most likely triggered using a modified cellphone, a garage-door opener, or even a toy's remote control. During the past four and a half years, the United States and its allies in Iraq have fielded the most advanced and complex weaponry ever developed. But they are still not winning the war.

Although there has been much debate and finger-pointing over the various failures and setbacks suffered during the prolonged conflict, some military analysts and counterterrorism experts say that, at its heart, this war is radically different from previous ones and must be thought of in an entirely new light. Spectrum

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