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Are new technologies undermining the laws of war?

the-taranis-drone_smallby Braden R. Allenby via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Throughout history, new military technologies have had profound ramifications: The rise of gunpowder and cannon created economies of scale that encouraged the emergence of nation-states, and Prussia used railroads to surprise the Austrians at Königgrätz, beginning the end of the Austrian Empire.

Today, emerging military technologies—including unmanned aerial vehicles, directed-energy weapons, lethal autonomous robots, and cyber weapons—raise the prospect of upheavals in military practice so fundamental that they challenge assumptions underlying long-established international laws of war, particularly those relating to the primacy of the state and the geographic bounds of warfare. But the laws of war have been developed over a long period, with commentary and input from many cultures. What would seem appropriate in this age of extraordinary technological change, the author concludes, is a reconsideration of the laws of war in a deliberate and focused international dialogue that includes a range of cultural and institutional perspectives

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OECD: Future Global Shock – Improving Risk Governance

In this project, public and private experts explore how to increase resilience to Future Global Shocks. The Project will generate options for governments to enhance capacity to identify, anticipate, control, contain and/or mitigate large disasters.

The project recognises that shocks can provide opportunities for progress, not just negative consequences. Amongst the inputs from which the final report will draw are six background papers and case studies on the following themes: Systemic Financial RiskPandemicsCyber RisksGeomagnetic StormsSocial Unrest and Anticipating Extreme Events.

Read the entire report: “OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies: Future Global Shocks“, PDF.

Reducing Systemic Cybersecurity Risk

The report “Reducing Systemic Cybersecurity Risk” is part of OECD’s “Future Global Shocks” series, in which thinkers from various disciplines assess whether events in their fields might become as damaging to the world as the recent financial crisis or a global pandemic.

Single online events, such as a major DDoS attack, are unlikely to have such worldwide effects, but the combination of something like a botnet DDoS attack, a major EMP, and specific attacks on SCADA or other computer-controlled machinery, and some form of real-world “kinetic” attack might well shock the world.

Via Ars Technica. Download the report (PDF) “Reducing Systemic Cybersecurity Risk” from OECD.

Why you already live in a cyberpunk future

Our perception of a cyberpunk future is shaped by the foresight of luminaries like William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Bruce Sterling. Their vivid scenarios of ubiquitous computers, high tech weaponry, corporate tyranny and social disintegration have never been closer to reality than in the world of 2011. Here’s a few facts that will make you question the very fabric of our contemporary existence and learn to embrace the promise and perils of an increasingly cyberpunk reality.

A reality filled with high technology run by low life.

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How US strategic antimissile defense could be made to work

The authors show that the United States has the ability to defend itself from long-range nuclear armed ballistic missiles if it builds the right systems defenses based on stealthy drones that could shoot down ballistic missiles in powered flight after they have been launched from fixed known sites.This same system could defend Northern and Western Europe, and Northern Russia from large and cumbersome long-range ballistic missiles that Iran might build in the future.

Source: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (PDF).

Stuxnet worm heralds new era of global cyberwar

That attack took place in 2008 and was acknowledged by the Pentagon only this August. It was strikingly similar to the recently disclosed cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities using the Stuxnet worm, which also appears to have used contaminated hardware in an attempt to cripple Iran’s nuclear programme.

Like the attack on Centcom’s computers, the Stuxnet worm, which Iran admits has affected 30,000 of its computers, was a sophisticated attack almost certainly orchestrated by a state. It also appears that intelligence operatives were used to deliver the worm to its goal.

Its primary target, computer security experts say, was a control system manufactured by Siemens and used widely by Iran, not least in its nuclear facilities.

Source: The Guardian. Also read the analysis of the attack by Symantec; W32.Stuxnet Dossier (PDF).

What Kind Of Top-Secret Assassination Tech Does $58 Billion Buy?

Every year, tens of billions of Pentagon dollars go missing. The money vanishes not because of fraud, waste or abuse, but because U.S. military planners have appropriated it to secretly develop advanced weapons and fund clandestine operations. Next year, this so-called black budget will be even larger than it was in the Cold War days of1987, when the leading black-budget watchdog, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), began gathering reliable estimates. The current total is staggering: $58 billion—enough to pay for two complete Manhattan Projects.

Source: Popular Science.

Debating Space Deterrence

Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite [KE ASAT]

Lessons from the Schriever X space wargame, which took place at Nellis AFB in May, are driving some hard thinking among deterrence strategists. In the second US Strategic Command Deterrence Symposium in Omaha this week, panel speakers explored what turns out to be a nightmarishly complex issue.

One big lesson from Schriever X, which simulated the world of 2022, is that “it’s hard to do attribution”, according to Lt Gen Larry James, boss of Stratcom’s Joing Functional Component Command for Space. “It’s easy with an ASAT” (anti-satellite weapon) “but it is not easy with an object that has been there for years.”

Source: Avation Week.

(c) Copyright Plausible Futures Newsletter 2013