Monday, April 13, 2009

In the War on Terror Bigger is not Necessarily Better

Three stories about digital spying and vandalism and the ongoing saga of the Somali pirates make me think of the American Revolution and how far we, as a nation, are from that.

First the news:
Wall Street Journal claims Chinese and Russian hackers have infiltrated the US power grid system leaving the spector of our enemies suddenly pulling the plug on our gadget crazy culture. Why bother to bomb us when we can be so easily stricken at one of our most vulnerable points? (

AT&T Broadband and Telecom Paralyzed in California Attack on Fiber Optics lines
Last week 10's of thousands of Californians had no cell phones, Internet access or 911 services because "vandals" cut a series of the fiber optic cables that not only supply Internet access but also serve as the "backbone" for many of the cell phone companies in the area including Sprint. Subsequent commentaries have show similar incidents in the past year around the country leading some to speculate that these are terrorist tests for our vulnerability.
17 year old Cyber punk infects Twitter with a worm...because he was bored.

And then there are the Pirates of Somalia (the screenplay is probably being written somewhere in LaLa Land even as you read this.) Easter Sunday was a resurrection for the US captain recently captured and a moment of judgment for three pirates who died. The drama has not ended with their deaths because the piracy continues with increasing boldness even in the face of a massive, multinational naval presence in the area. How is it that these pirate warrior clans can prey with such brazen impunity? The answer to this question and the truth that ties all them all together is utterly simple: Bigger is not better and we were the ones who taught the British.

King George's army landed on American shores believing that the undisputed might of the British Navy and Army could squelch the colonial uprising only to find that the Minutemen didn't "fight fair". Guerilla tactics defeated over-extended supply lines and armies of professional soldiers found they could not defeat an impassioned populace fighting in their backyards for the right to "live free or die". Bigger was not better.

American military might, billions of dollars and some of our finest young men and women have been spent in two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan). Those struggles have helped to bankrupt our economy, scar a generation of young and impassion some of the world's deadliest terrorists, but by no stretch of the imagination can America claim to have won these contests.

Now the battle seems to be coming to our comfortably insulated shores. 911 showed us just how patient and bloodthirsty our terrorist enemies can be. The vulnerability of our electrical power grid and its penetration by hostile foreign agents show the breadth of the internal threat. The fiber optic vandalisms, according to some reports, showed a high degree of sophistication (knowledge of the underground locations and which wires to cut), and they smack of probes by terrorist cells testing our infrastructure further. All of these threats were executed by small numbers of strategically placed, small units. Bigger definitely is not better.