Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Information Warfare (page 1 / 1)

What is the most sophisticated piece of software/code ever written?

What is the most sophisticated piece of software/code ever written? →

Buckle in.

The most sophisticated software in history was written by a team of people whose names we do not know.

It’s a computer worm. The worm was written, probably, between 2005 and 2010.

Because the worm is so complex and sophisticated, I can only give the most superficial outline of what it does.

If you've heard this story before, you already know what this worm is and the effect that it had. If you haven't, then you should ready this story. It's incredible. All the more so for being true.

The Ghosts of Anbar

Several weeks ago, journalist Michael Yon posted a series of dispatches from Iraq, entitled "The Ghosts of Anbar". I recently read through them and was struck by several passages. I'm offering them here as a teaser and as an advertisement for the full series.

Michael uses lots of pictures set the mood throughout the series. His captions are more than merely descriptive. They offer a wealth of information in their own right. He also intersperses quotes from the Army's counterinsurgency manual. These quotes illustrate the model that the Army and Marines strive daily to implement.

The overall tone of the series is both reflective and hopeful. Michael offers the tantalizing vision of a strong, free Iraq as a friend of the United States -- if only we will learn the lessons of Anbar. He paints a picture of an Iraq that wants to be free -- but desperately needs us to model both the military and civil side of a functional democracy.

Here's Michael.

Michael Yon : The Ghosts of Anbar, Part I of IV

Better Business Partners

Anbar was the special provenance for al Qaeda, the one place in Iraq they could establish and maintain a robust and largely unchallenged dominance. To achieve this, al Qaeda had used the stick of terrorism and the carrot of promises to gain allies. A lot of carrots, actually, in the form of promises that they would cast out the Americans, and reward the people of Anbar with ministries in the new government.

Ironically, in Anbar al Qaeda has become our best ally for killing al Qaeda. They've managed to do this directly, just by being al Qaeda. Despite the promised carrots, what al Qaeda consistently delivered here was mostly stick, and with a special kind of hypocritical contempt that no sensible person would believe possible. (Not unlike the notion of baking the children of resistant parents or ordering shepherds to diaper the corrupting genitals of goats.)

Al Qaeda has a management style--doing drugs, laying up sloppy drunk, raping women and boys, and cutting off heads, all while imposing strict morality laws on the locals--that makes it clear that they have one set of principles for themselves, and another for everyone else.

In that kind of scheme, it didn't take long before people in Anbar realized that any benefits from al Qaeda having control would not be distributed equally. Once that realization spread, the tribal sheiks--almost all Sunni--had to consider the alternatives.

The sheiks of Anbar turned against al Qaeda because the sheiks are businessmen, and al Qaeda is bad for business. But they didn't suddenly trust Americans just because they no longer trusted al Qaeda. They are not suddenly blood allies. This is business, and that's fine, because if there is one thing America is good at, it's business.

Reframed thus from a position of strength, this stage of the Anbar-war is more a sort of business transaction, where alliances beneficial to all sides--except al Qaeda--are formed. From this perspective, there is now a moment of genuine ground-floor opportunity in Anbar, if the people here can see that by doing business with the Coalition, everyone benefits--except al Qaeda, an exclusion that most can live with.

Michael Yon : The Ghosts of Anbar, Part II of IV

Media -- The Key to Victory

Many people know the old adage about restaurant kitchens: to know if the kitchen is clean, check the bathroom. The same holds true for Soldiers, only it calls for checking windows. If you are going on a combat mission and Soldiers have not cleaned all their windows to a sparkle (during times when it is possible to do so), do not go with them. Soldiers with dirty windows are not watching for tiny wires in the road, nor are they scanning rooftops. They are talking about women, football, and the car they will buy when they get home. I will not go into combat with Soldiers with dirty windows.

On the command level, there are other indicators. In counterinsurgency, as our Vietnam veterans will vouch, press has both strategic and tactical influence. Commanders who are afraid of the press or who cannot handle it cannot win this fight. They are often the same people who alienate Iraqis. I remember one captain who had allowed his men to ransack an Iraqi home, much later shouting in my face while his lip quivered with anger, "You are a piece of shit!" He could not handle having press around, and resented the very air they breathed, and he made sure they knew it. Of course anyone whose idea of winning is to bully Iraqis would not want media around. I watched him for months as a study in how not to do certain things. Tactically, he was competent and knew how to win the gun battles, but he was incompetent and inadequate for counterinsurgency.

Dealing with the press is just a reality, like the weather. We would never put a commander in the field who refused to make plans for fighting in the cold or heat. Although it's just a reality, cold weather, for example, could destroy a unit overnight if they had not prepared for it. As with the weather, the press also influences the enemy. Cold weather freezes everyone's toes; bad press stalls progress. In either instance, he who is better-suited and more adaptable has a supreme advantage. There was a time when many of our enemies in Iraq were beating us in the press, both their press and ours, but now that is changing.

Changing Enemies into Allies

In mid-May, 2007, days before I arrived, the Iraqi Army and Police had conducted a "Combined Medical Exercise" in the village of Falahat, wherein Iraqi doctors saw about 200 villagers. About two days after that, the Iraqi Police opened a police station at the Falahat train station. That was just about the same time I was driving out to stay with a small team of Marines who were assigned as "MiTT 8" (Military Training Team 8)

The men of MiTT 8 are living along with their Iraqi protégées in filthy shipping containers on a highway. Several months ago they were attacked by a car bomb. But at about 0900, while I was traveling to their location with Marines in a Humvee (with sparkling glass) some Falahat villagers went to the new police station to report the presence of a culprit they knew to emplace bombs on the road.

It happened that quickly.

Within mere days of opening the station, people spoke up. The Iraqi Police (some of whom freely admitted to having been recent insurgents) called the tip into the Iraqi Army who were living with the Marines of MiTT 8. The Iraqi Army in turn told Marine Captain Koury, whose Command Operations Center is conjoined with the Iraqi Army unit there. Finally, CPT Koury told Staff Sergeant Rakene Lee to take care of the developing situation.

Michael Yon : Ghosts of Anbar Part III of IV

Respecting Justice

Iraqis respond to a sense of justice. The importance of this fact cannot be overstated, and it is this sense of justice on an international scale that gets undermined when people are held in prisons without being charged with any crimes.

To many of the Iraqis I've spoken with, terrorists are fair game. Kill them. But if we kill justice while doing so, we will create terrorists out of farmers. Here the Marines are creating farmers, police officers, shepherds, and entrepreneurs out of insurgents. To do that, they have to be seen as men who respect and honor legitimate systems of government and justice.

The Value of Character

Iraqis in every province I have traveled all respond to strong leadership. It's a cultural touchstone. A man like SSG Rakene Lee is not someone they would overlook. Physically, the man is amazingly strong. But what is most amazing is the strength of his moral fiber. Whatever the man talked, he walked. After all of al Qaeda's false promises, the people here have learned a hard lesson about the true value of character.

Over the next several days, I saw how much the Iraqis respected Rakene Lee and the other Marines who were all courageous, tactically competent, measured, and collectively and constantly telling even the Iraqis to go easy on the Iraqis. It's people like Rakene Lee who are winning the moral high ground in Iraq. It is people like this who are devastating al Qaeda just by being themselves. Over those same several days, I would also see the Iraqi Lieutenant Hamid treat prisoners with respect and going out of his way to treat other Iraqis the way he saw Americans treating them. Lieutenant Hamid, in his young twenties, seemed to watch every move of the Marines and try to emulate them.

The Character of Our Enemy

In August, when people were groping for answers as to why about 400 Yazidis were murdered with bombs during an attack in Nineveh, the BBC and others asked me why I thought the Yazidis had been targeted.

Al Qaeda and related groups do not need reasons. They buy press with blood.

Michael Yon : Ghosts of Anbar, Part IV of IV

The Importance of Learning Lessons

Fortunately, everyone had gone in easy and not blown doors off with explosives. Those mistakes also happen sometimes. Sometimes our own guys blow down doors to the wrong homes. Back in the early days of the war, this might have seemed like an innocent "Oh well that's war" type mistake, but after spending all this time with Iraqis I now see that it was in part actions like that which also blew open the door in Iraq for al Qaeda to come in.

Counterinsurgency is all about perception. Perception is how reality gets interpreted by people. It can be shaped, cajoled, hardened or distorted by innumerable influences

Differences Between Americans and Iraqis

At one of the houses, Iraqi Soldiers said that there had been a lot of shooting on a recent night. What had all the shooting been about? Were insurgents trying to take over? No, the old man said, it was just a couple of brothers having a shootout over a small land dispute. "Okay," the Iraqi Soldiers shrugged it off. It was just a shootout between brothers. Nothing more to ask about.

There are many similarities between Iraq and home, but at the end of the day, a Cain and Abel shootout is not even something that warrants paperwork. Tribal law. This is not Kansas. Some things are very different.

Looking Like Idiots, in the Middle East

So, apparently, the President has been negotiating an arms deal with the Saudi's. (Last I heard, it still needed Congressional approval.) Unfortunately, the State Department still doesn't understand the Middle East. Therefore, we're getting taken for a ride and -- assuming the deal is approved -- the entire Middle East will think we're morons of the highest degree. Why? Middle East observer Daniel Jackson comments.

One Hand Clapping > Blog Archive > The US-Saudi arms deal - a view from Israel

So, if I understand all of this, the US is giving the large men of Saudi Arabia $20 billion worth of high tech toys with no strings attached. ... Here is the first warning -- the Shah of Iran. Five years after the fall of Vietnam (the dread of the liberal left), Jimmy Carter lost the first round of this war without a shot. According to Professor Steve Brahms at NYU, it was largely due to the inability of the State Department to understand what Khomeini's value preferences were in the emerging standoff.

To the point, as history has shown, it was unthinkable to the State Department mind that a rational actor might prefer death (read martyrdom) to money. Who would not want to talk to the US and not get lots of money?

While the liberal left is worried that Iraq as another Vietnam, they are ignoring the first total failure of the post-Vietnam foreign policy culture -- Iran. Carter's failure, and the first complete humiliation of the US, was simply because of a refusal to work in the Bazaar. There is no market/capitalist mode of production out here.

As I mentioned before, negotiating in the Bazaar is not working the Market. Possession is everything and all transactions are conducted in front of all other actors in the Bazaar. Whoever wins is considered to be a Big Man because he was able to force the other person (the loser) to take a lower price or pay more than the item was worth. There is nothing here about mutual benefit -- whoever has the good has the power and dictates the price. Just look at Hamas's recent change in the price for Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped (he was 19 then) last year. It is not about price, it is about power.

The worst, however, position to be in the Bazaar is to be the one who gives up something for nothing. This is the freier -- a term that can only be roughly approximated as a sucker, but this lacks the total humiliation of the term. The freier is the guy who gives up a good or does a job for nothing. Even the concept of "getting ripped off" lacks the appropriate derogatory abuse that accompanies being labeled a freier.

We're about to be the freier. The last thing we want is for the Middle Eastern nations to view us as imbeciles. But, if State gets the deal approved, that's exactly how we will be viewed.

Read Daniel Jackson's full commentary -- he provides much more information than the little bit I've excerpted here.

Update 4 on the Iraq Surge

The fight in Baqubah continues. Drilling for Justice

American losses include one soldier killed in action, with 21 wounded. One Bradley and one Stryker have been destroyed. The low numbers of friendly casualties have been largely due to the slow, methodical clearing operation where success is not measured against the clock. In meeting after meeting, I have seen Townsend stress to his subordinate commanders the importance of moving deliberately and at their own pace. Given the massive amounts of IEDs that have been found, my guess is that we might have taken dozens more killed by now if the clearing operation had been rushed.

Fortunately, the Iraqi people are eager to help.

Other AQI edicts included beatings for men who refused to grow beards, and corporal punishments for obscene sexual suggestiveness, defined by such "loose" behavior as carrying tomatoes and cucumbers in the same bag. These fatwas were not eagerly embraced by most Iraqis, and the taint traveled back to the Muftis who sat in supreme judgment. Locals, who are increasingly helpful in pointing out and celebrating the downfall of AQI here, said that during the initial Arrowhead Ripper attack the morning of the 19th, AQI murdered five men. Townsend's men found the buried corpses behind an AQI prison, exactly where they'd been told to look for the group grave. Locals also directed Townsend's men to a torture house. Peering through a window, American soldiers saw knives, swords, bindings and drills. AQI is well-known for its macabre eagerness to drill into kneecaps, elbows, ribs, skulls, and other parts of victims.

One local Mufti who was said to have always worn a hood and sunglasses"”and to have somehow disguised his voice"”was pointed out to the Iraqi Army this weekend, who promptly captured him. Iraqi officials said today that although they did not previously know that this man was a Mufti, his name had been on their target list. The Mufti is being questioned and his name has not been released.

Yes, many of AQI's top leaders may have escaped -- but others may not have.

There are conflicting signals about how many of the AQI leadership escaped before Arrowhead Ripper launched. This weekend's capture of a possible high-value target in Baqubah indicates that not all AQI leaders successfully fled the city before the attack.

Media reports indicating that many top leaders escaped before Arrowhead Ripper began appear to be mostly true. But other information suggests some AQI leaders are trapped just down the road from where I write. In addition to the seven men who were caught trying to escape while dressed as women, there is information that some AQI leaders remain trapped in a constricting cordon.

Meanwhile, the battle for Baghdad continues as well. Iraq: We Won?

That's because Baghdad is the home of Saddam's staunchest supporters. These guys are prime candidates for war crimes prosecutions, for the many atrocities committed by Saddams' secret police over the decades. While the government has been willing to offer amnesty to many lower ranking Baath party members, the Baghdad neighborhoods and suburbs are full of people considered too dirty to qualify. This is the no-surrender crowd. But let's face it, these guys are also all over the lists Shia death squads carry. Iran has even offered cash rewards for the deaths of many Saddam lieutenants who were involved in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, or subsequent murders of Shia clergy. The Kurds have their death lists as well. These are desperate and dangerous people.

Saddam's henchmen were no dummies. They were smart enough, and resourceful enough, to build a police state apparatus that kept Saddam in power for over three decades. For the last three years, that talent has been applied to keeping the henchmen alive and out of jail. Three years of fighting has reduced the original 100,000 or so core Saddam thugs, to a few thousand diehards. Three years ago, there were hundreds of thousands of allies and supporters from the Sunni minority (then, about five million people, now, less than half that), who wanted to be back in charge. Now the remaining Sunni Arabs just want to be left in peace. Thus the Sunni nationalists of Baqouba are shooting at, and turning in, their old allies from Saddams Baath party and secret police. This isn't easy for some of these guys, but it's seen as a matter of survival. While the Battle of Baqouba is officially about rooting out al Qaeda, and hard core terrorists, it's also about taking down the Baath party bankers and organizers who have been sustaining the bombers with cash, information and encouragement.

Unfortunately, the media is still unable to report on the true story. Instead, they get caught up in irrelevant details.

Both the terrorists and U.S. troops know that victory has been defined as several weeks with no bombs going off in Baghdad. The media is keeping score, and they use their ears and video cameras. No loud bangs and no bodies equals no news. That's victory.

Not really. The real war is within the Iraqi government. The terrorists lost two years ago, when the relentless slaughter of Moslem civilians turned the Arab world against al Qaeda. Journalists missed that one, but not the historians. The war in Iraq has always been about Arabs demonstrating that they can run a clean government, for the benefit of all the people, not just the tyrants on top. So far, there have lots of victories and defeats in this, and no clear decision overall.

It's very easy to explode a bomb on cue, for the media. It's part of information warfare. As long as the media believes that a suicide bomber represents an effective strategy, Baghdad will continue to be filled with suicide bombers. Why not? Right now terrorists know that strapping a bomb to your waist and blowing yourself up will lead your enemy to decide that he's being defeated.

Let's recognize suicide bombs for what they really are -- a desperate, last-ditch attempt at influence. Let's mock the force that's so weakened that it can only fight us by wiping itself out one fighter at a time. Then let's ignore the bombings as the distraction that they are and focus on the real task -- helping the Iraqis learn how to run a clean government.

Our government is dirtier than it should be -- but it's still better than Iraq's. Let's help their government become at least as clean as ours is.

Contrasting Freedom With Oppression

On Friday, Fred Thompson reminded us of the importance of engaging the world with our ideas:

It's equally tragic that the U.S. is in no position to provide the victims of [Hugo Chavez] with the truth. There was a time, though, when Americans were on the front lines of pro-freedom movements all over the world. I'm talking about the "surrogate" broadcast network that included Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, often called "the Radios."

When Ronald Reagan was elected, he greatly empowered the private, congressionally funded effort and handpicked the Radios' top staff to bring freedom to the Soviet Union. Steve Forbes led the group.

Cynics still say that the USSR fell of its own weight, and that President Reagan's efforts to bring it down were irrelevant, but Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev say differently. Both have said that, without the Radios, the USSR wouldn't have fallen. The Radios were not some bland public relations effort, attracting audiences only with American pop music. They engaged the intellectual and influential populations behind the Iron Curtain with accurate news and smart programming about freedom and democracy. They had sources and networks within those countries that sometimes outperformed the CIA. When Soviet hardliners and reformers were facing off, and crowds and tanks were on the streets of Moscow and Bucharest, the radios were sending real-time information to the people, including the military, and reminding them of what was at stake.

Unfortunately, we scaled back the Radios and are in no position to use them to influence the Middle East or Latin America.

Fred Thompson mentioned that "we'll have a whole new set of media technologies" to use, if we start to stand up to today's dictators. It's true. Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez has forced Radio Caracas Television off of the air, for the heinous crime of disliking him. RCT has decided to keep fighting anyway. Instead of broadcasting their content over their airwaves, they are broadcasting it over YouTube. Last Friday, YouTube listed RCT as their most-subscribed feed of the week. Today's dictators will have a much harder time controlling the flow of information than yesterday's dictators. I think that's something worth celebrating.

Finally, if Iran's government is so peace-loving and wants only to be granted a measure of respect, why are the Iranians so busy clamping down on freedom in their own country?

Unemployment among young Iranians is about 50 percent. Some 40 percent of the population is on the government payroll, and there is not enough oil money to pay off all the people who do support the government (about a third of the population). Thus the government keeps printing more money, and the result in an inflation rate of over 20 percent. The Iranian people are getting increasingly restless, and, more ominously, surly. The government has relied on street level gangs of young Islamic conservatives to discourage such behavior. But it isn't working, and there have been more and more street battles. The government can more readily call in reinforcements, and has won all these brawls so far. But if the government starts losing them, it's the beginning of the end. Some of the kids have cell phones, a technology the government tried to keep out. The fear is that a street level disturbance will result in the protestors calling in their own reinforcements, defeating the security forces, and spreading. The clerics fear an event similar to the one that suddenly destroyed communist rule in Russia and Eastern Europe 18 years ago. For that reason, much attention and cash is spent on the street level muscle (the Basij militia), and a constant willingness to use physical violence against any protests or "un-Islamic" behavior.

There is a difference between the U.S. and our enemies. We need to remember that. More importantly, we need to highlight it whenever and wherever possible.

Media Ghouls

It seems that our mainstream media is obsessed with mangled bodies, blood, gore, and death. How else do you explain this article from the New York Times? David Carr spends two pages whining about how unfair it is that the Army makes it hard to take photos of wounded and dead American soldiers.

Since last year, the military's embedding rules require that journalists obtain a signed consent from a wounded soldier before the image can be published. Images that put a face on the dead, that make them identifiable, are simply prohibited.

Ashley Gilbertson, a veteran freelance photographer who has been to Iraq seven times and has worked for The New York Times, (along with Time and Newsweek among others), said the policy, as enforced, is coercive and unworkable.

"They are basically asking me to stand in front of a unit before I go out with them and say that in the event that they are wounded, I would like their consent," he said. "We are already viewed by some as bloodsucking vultures, and making that kind of announcement would make you an immediate bad luck charm."

I think this shows where Mr. Gilbertson's priorities lie. He's far more interested in photos of dead and dying soldiers than he is in photos of combat, photos of soldiers on patrol, photos of Iraqi children, Iraqi marketplaces, Iraqi schools, or anything else. He comes across as a man interested only in portraying the death and destruction in Iraq. There is death and destruction in Iraq. But there is much more as well. Photographers like Michael Yon and Michael Fumento manage to capture that. The mainstream media seems uninterested in the effort.

Journalists are frustrated with the new regulations in part because, as this current surge has progressed, there have been further pinches on information. On May 13, the Iraq Interior Ministry said bombing sites would be off limits for an hour after an event; just days later, Iraqi police forces fired shots over the heads of working press to enforce the decree.

The Iraqi police want time to investigate a bomb scene -- in a war zone -- before reporters trample all over it. That the reporters think this is an egregious violation of their rights says far more about them than it does about the Iraqi police. None of it good.

Meanwhile Peter Collier (at the Wall Street Journal editorial page) laments the way the media has ignored recent Medal of Honor winners.

Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays. But in a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration. We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away. And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.

Former football star Pat Tillman and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham were killed on the same day: April 22, 2004. But as details of his death fitfully emerged from Afghanistan, Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict--a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, coverup and possibly conspiracy. By comparison, Dunham, who saved several of his comrades in Iraq by falling on an insurgent's grenade, is the unknown soldier. The New York Times, which featured Abu Ghraib on its front page for 32 consecutive days, put the story of Dunham's Medal of Honor on the third page of section B.

Not long ago I was asked to write the biographical sketches for a book featuring formal photographs of all our living Medal of Honor recipients. As I talked with them, I was, of course, chilled by the primal power of their stories. But I also felt pathos: They had become strangers--honored strangers, but strangers nonetheless--in our midst.

As we celebrate Memorial Day today, let us remember -- not the images of broken bodies, but the heroism, purpose, and valor that inspired that sacrifice. Don't reduce Memorial Day to simply a remembrance that the men and women of our Armed Forces have died in combat. Remember what they fought for, why they fought for it, and what they've accomplished in the process.

Many of the men in Iraq and Afghanistan have re-enlisted multiple times since the wars started. They obviously believe that there is a job worth doing. Honor them for that and quit whining about not being allowed to photograph their injuries.

On Information Warfare

Welcome to Information Warfare 101. This is a topic that the American public desperately needs to know about. The war in Iraq is not just a war of bullets and bombs. It is a war of ideas and information. Right now, our enemy is better at fighting this war than we are. We must win this war through information and ideologies, not through strategic bombing campaigns or overwhelming force. While overwhelming force is effective, it is not sufficient to win the war by itself.

What is Information Warfare? According to Kim Taipale, "information warfare is the protection, monitoring, disruption, or manipulation of information and information flows to improve one's own decision-making process or to degrade that of the enemy." It is making the enemy see what you want him to see and hiding what you don't want him to see. Information Warfare is the art of making your enemy react in a way that you want him to react by feeding him information that you have manipulated in some way.

Our terrorist enemies are masters of this type of warfare. They know that they cannot defeat our forces in an open fight. They also know that we have proven vulnerable to information warfare in the past.

We lost our first major information battle during the Vietnam war. In January of 1968, the Communists of North Vietnam launched a surprise attack against American and South Vietnamese forces -- the Tet Offensive. Their main goal was to provide the impression that American forces were not winning (and could not win) a fight in Vietnam.

The actual attack was a disaster. The North Korean forces suffered 35,000 dead, 60,000 wounded, and 6,000 captured. The American and South Korean losses totaled around 3,900. The attack was not judged in military terms, however. It was judged in terms of perception. The American media and the American people perceived it as a devastating American loss, mostly due to the surprise of the attack and the wide-spread nature of the attack. The Tet Offensive marked the beginning of the end of American involvement in Vietnam.

The goal of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and other terrorist groups, is to duplicate the success of the Tet Offensive. They are willing to take large military losses if, in doing so, they can convince the American people that the terrorists are winning.

Judging by the media coverage of the Iraq war, we are losing the information war. That needs to change. We can win in Iraq, but only if the American people are willing and able to look past the misinformation, lies, and distortions of the terrorists.

I'm willing to spend my time pointing out exactly where and when we're being lied to. Are you willing you follow along with me?