In light of American forces shooting down a Syrian jet in Syria, and a second Iranian-made drone in Syria, America’s situation appears (in the usual social media hubbub) to be getting sketchier, to say the least. This might not be helped by the White House giving the Pentagon much more say in the day-to-day running of the Coalition operations in Syria, the White House being chronically understaffed and looking less attractive as a career option with every passing day.
This isn’t a “buy my book” post but I do have a book out this week, that includes a chapter on the Reyaad Khan strike, and I’m sure my publisher would be a bit miffed if I didn’t take the chance to point this out. It’s available from Amazon. Post mirrored at Medium.com
It’s been just over a year and a half since David Cameron, then Prime Minister, announced the existence of the 2015 strike, conducted by the UK’s armed forces, that killed Reyaad Khan.
This is a series of posts that I’m building into an online course on the use of metaphors to describe war and warfare. In short: what can we learn by picking apart Clausewitz’s metaphor of war as a series of duels? Mirrored at Medium.com here
Clausewitz’s definition of war as “an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will” is probably to most cited phrase in books about war (That’s the Howard/Paret translation, JJ Graham’s is “an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will”).
“Think different” - the late 90s Apple slogan - could also serve as a rule of thumb for soldiers trying to stay one step ahead of their opponents (and in the process, stay alive). Geoff Manaugh’s book A Burglar’s Guide to the City focuses upon different sort of people who tend to “think different” - burglars. Manaugh writes from the perspective of an architect, examining the many-varied ways in which burglars interact with the built environment in order to enter buildings, and remove things from them (usually for some form of personal gain).
Note: this is a sketch of some work that I’ll be writing on over the next couple of years. The core of this work is dissatisfaction with the revisionist account of the ethics of war, how this in turn informs my perception of debates regarding the development and use of lethal autonomous systems, and what I think this holds for the future of warfare. The TL;DR - expert systems will mean that any object legible to machines as a military target are dead, whereas those that can’t (humans, for example) will continue to require human decision-making, and thus less vulnerable.
If not inevitable, last night’s French air strikes on Islamic State, in the wake of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, were an understandable response by the French government. This is ‘understandable’ in the sense that the worst terrorist attacks in Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings were bound to stir the French government into action. The French President, François Hollande, called the murder of over a hundred civilians an ‘Act of War’, the French police have conducted over 150 raids, and French aeroplanes have hit Raqqa, the default capital of the Islamic State.
Nick Bostrom’s latest book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, is a tour-de-force analysis of the consequences of research into artificial intelligence. One element of Bostrom’s book that I find enviable is that he manages to pack so many ideas into a single book. Different conjectures and ways of thinking about AI pretty much fly off the page. Although much of what Bostrom writes about could be found elsewhere, I can’t think of a book that addresses such a wide range of issues associated with AI.
Was the destruction of Alderaan justified? Sonny Bunch says yes, Daniel Drezner says no and Stephanie Carvin wonders “Why academics want to talk about make-believe when there are SO MANY more interesting real-life examples is beyond me.” More important, I think, is Carvin’s follow up: “This is not to be anti-sci-fi or TV, but I think that over-use pedagogically dements our theories and our lesson plans.” As someone who is utterly bored of academic articles on Buffy, Zombies, Vampires, Terminators and so on, I’m inclined to agree.
Hey, welcome back. This post is part-inspired by The Scholar’s Stage’s look at the wane of blogging on strategy and national security. I’ve basically been too busy to write a blog, and tip-toeing around a lot, because I’m meant to be a professional. The thing is, some of the most creative things I’ve ever written have been when making off-the-cuff comments about events connected for my research.
Like today: The UK Government’s publication of its draft, 299 page, Investigatory Powers bill.