Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wonders of the Hubble Telescope: Deep Space views, thousands of galaxies.

Les Paul, Thanks.

The Tweeting New Media and Time Constrained Military Operations

An interesting post at Kings of War

Please click the post title for the complete post.

My thoughts:

Seems to me in both cases, the answer to the question “what’s the damn hurry” has to do with what Patrick postulates:

“Both possibly wanted to restore a sense of their military-strategic mystique. They wanted this done but without generating a sustained global reaction.”

I don’t know so much about restoring mystique, but certainly both Russia and Israel wanted to get done what they wanted to get done before the attention of other nations, NGOs etc.. were drawn.

No doubt, as has been seen particularly in the case of Israel, a shrewd opponent is going to make use of the media, new or old, in an effort to rouse the ire of outside folks, and paint the acting nation as acting immorally in bello, in hopes this will generate outside pressure to cease. This places quite a time constraint on the attacker, if he chooses to worry about this.

The interesting question of the post: is this going to become a more or less permanent feature of wars, at least those that cross borders, for the foreseeable future? It seems likely.

But, as we have seen in Iran, I would say that we’ve seen this dynamic in an internal conflict, the regime trying to act quickly to quell the uprising, probably less brutally than they might have without all those cell phone photographers, tweetinistas, and youtubers lurking about.

Can you imagine how less successful the Nazi regime or Stalinist Russia might have been in imposing tyranny internally if they had populace so thoroughly linked to the outside? Interesting counter factual to consider. If you doubt that the outside world would have generated enough pressure to stop the internal oppression, at the very least, the risk of a Chamberlain-like naivety would have been lessened, perhaps, the greater war averted.

Another one: supposing there were a significant portion of the Palestinian population that was at odds with the goals of Hamas or the PA vis-s-vis Israel. They, armed with mighty cell phone, might have created a counter to this media generated pressure, allowing more time for operations such as in Gaza.

This suggests that the Western worlds’ militaries might consider more extensive use of embeds, or more extensive use of social networking stuff by troops, as an element of warfare. It also suggests, an element to preliminary or preparatory phases of warfare in such places as Iran or Gaza, cooperating with insiders who wish regime change, providing them with the means necessary to record and transmit to the world before and during the conflict, in ways that will in some way nullify the efforts of the enemy propaganda efforts.

This would all have to be done, of course, in a way that does not threaten operational security.

The Curious Case of the Dreaded Cartoons That Shall not Have Eyes Cast Upon Them

According to NYT Yale University Press is going to publish a book concerning the worldwide violence, threats etc.. that occured after Danish press published this set of editorial cartoons depicting Mohammad:

The book, a scholarly examination of the events, will no doubt be interesting, but the surrounding "making of" story of the book itself, and the decision YP has made not to include any representations of the offending cartoons speaks volumes.

The author is not pleased with the decision, which was arrived at by a body of advisers convened by the publisher. The advisers predicted certain violence if the cartoons were to be published again. They, of course could not specify where this might occur, and the article does note that they determined the likelihood of any such events in the U.S. are not high.

So, in a replay of editorial decisions made after the initial appearance of said illustrations, and out of concern that they may bring about deaths of innocents caught within the ambit of the aggrieved rioters, Yale chose to go with the advice of the panel, and not include any reproductions of the allegedly blasphemous cartoons. This, in a book about those very cartoons, mind you.

While not as obviously strange as publishing a book about some given text, let's say the Declaration of Independence, without including that very text, this does nevertheless approach that level of strangeness or absurdity. Surely, part of the analysis must be an honest assessment of the cartoons' offensiveness. How is this possible without seeing the objects themselves? Not impossible, on the basis of prose descriptions of the cartoons, but surely more difficult.

One has to ask why this choice was made. The only answer can be "fear." Fear, not necessarily for oneself (be that Yale or the author) but a fear that is felt for those in other parts of the world that may be killed as a result of the reaction.

No doubt, there would not be this same level of fear if some book were to be published concerning similarly blasphemous materials intended as commentary on Christianity, Buddhism, or some other religion. That is a simple fact. Hep-cat photographer Andres Serrano can immerse a crucifix in urine, photograph it, rile up some anger, and make a name for himself, serene in the assurance that he will not be murdered in the street. Not so, Theo van Gogh after a far less offensive film.

Did you know that the panel of advisers for this book wished anonymity? They agreed to advise, only on the condition that their names be kept secret. They demanded a signed statement from the author to that effect. She refused. Some of the panel eventually agreed to have their views become public. Not all. Some. Why? Once again, the only reasonable answer; fear. And, this time, fear for their personal safety.

When those in Europe and elsewhere become afraid of elements of their own populations, to the extent that they will self-censor to avoid threats and death, and when Muslim advisers become afraid of fellow Muslims to the extent that they will offer frank advice only anonymously, this is indicative of a real problem that must be addressed.