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Digital Weaponry Saves Lives--and Will Only Get Better


The success or failure of high tech's application in the U.S. military cannot be judged on the basis of a single conflict. There are many variables to assessing the impact of "Point, click...fire" throughout the military ("The doctrine of digital war," Cover Story, Apr. 7). Different services and branches have used different applications. The employment and benefit of high tech may vary greatly from the combat soldier marching on Baghdad to a logistician supporting him in Qatar. Also, a perceived "failure" could well be a baseline to create improved systems -- the Patriot missile defense system has performed magnificently after upgrades following its less than stellar performance in the Gulf War of 1991. In addition, as with any tool used by the military, whether it's a wooden spear or a powerful computer network, an enemy will develop countermeasures to exploit its weaknesses. This, in turn, forces improvements in the original weapon or system. This battlefield Darwinism ensures that systems will continue to adapt and improve. High tech will only further be applied to military operations, strategy, and tactics.

As a logistician, there is simply no way that I could access the huge amount of data available, filter it, analyze it, and disseminate it to decisionmakers in time to impact the battle without the aid of technology. Some 25 years from now, the technological tools that we employ will be as archaic as the slide rule and logarithm books I used to calculate artillery fire direction almost a quarter-century ago.

Sergeant Major John J. Blair

Supply & Maintenance Directorate

9th Theater Support Command

Fort Belvoir, Va.

"Point, click...fire" questions the Pentagon's heavy reliance on technology in this war. It presents the relatively few, though unfortunate, number of friendly fire incidents as an argument against the widespread use of technology. The article fails to point out the countless lives (both U.S. military and Iraqi civilians) that have undoubtedly been saved as a result of our superior use of technology. Although any loss of U.S. soldiers' lives is unfortunate (especially by friendly fire), we are losing sight of the large number of casualties we would sustain in a "traditional" war. Mistakes will happen, but technology minimizes their impact and scale.

Tom Kucera

Somerville, Mass.

Unless and until every man and woman and each piece of equipment in the military is operating with the same high-tech capability, we will continue to have fratricide and lost personnel and units. You have to adjust, and it appears we are trying to do that, but we're not there yet.

Gary Rieth

Mine Hill, N.J.

Your piece reminded me that a little over 10 years ago, my boss at the time, Donald H. Rumsfeld, was at the helm of General Instrument (since purchased by Motorola Inc.) when it launched the television digital revolution so prevalent today. GI proposed the first all-digital HDTV system to the Federal Communications Commission, and that was followed by DigiCipher, the first and dominant commercial digital-TV system. Don lead the success then and seems to be in control of this next phase of digital deployment.

Jim Faust

Golf, Ill.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has no doubt played a role in the digital war. But the concept of C3 -- command, control, and countermeasures integration using digital technology -- has been an ongoing project for at least four decades. For example, the AirLand battle doctrine to fight the Soviets in the 1980s with an inferior number of forces points to the concept of a digital war. The former and current defense officials and military strategists in this nation's armed forces should deserve much credit for Rumsfeld's success.

Quentin Fong

Kodiak, Alaska An important point about Trireme Partners: Richard Perle set up Trireme in November, 2001, two months after September 11 ("Richard Perle is not alone," Cover Story, Apr. 7). He then used his position as chairman of the Defense Policy Board and his connections in the Administration to aggressively push for a preemptive strike against Iraq. He knew full well that the September 11 hijackers were not Iraqi and that Middle East experts were cautioning that an invasion of Iraq would result in increased terrorist threats overseas and at home.

I live in downtown Manhattan. In November, 2001, my neighbors and I were picking up body parts, grieving over lost loved ones, and trying to calm our frightened children. Meanwhile, it appears that Perle was busy figuring out a way to profit from terrorism. His timing, combined with his push for a war that has led to a heightened threat of terrorism and the placing of American troops in danger defines conflict of interest. Everyone in this country should be calling for an investigation.

Susan Burklund

New York

Here in Britain, many believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that the Iraq war is being fought to promote U.S. economic interests. Is it any wonder that people are cynical when Richard Perle appears on British TV promoting the war when he is a partner in a venture capital firm that is investing in defense and homeland security? And it has not escaped our attention that all the reconstruction contracts have been awarded to U.S. companies even when (as in Umm Qasr's port) there are competent Iraqis to run things. It is extraordinary that there appear to be no clear rules to ensure that Administration insiders are not making money from the war. And it's frightening to think that British soldiers may be dying to enrich the likes of Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle.

Henry Tinsley

London Frederik Balfour's story "Critical supplies...are unaccounted for" rings home for me (Cover Story, Apr. 7). What's so different from his story and a business that is launching a product, acquiring a company, or expanding into a new territory? He observed prepared people (not soldiers) slugging out major problems that were not considered in the generals' overall strategy. Embedded reporters reporting on-time activities has changed military strategy, both good and bad. Consider if all companies had reporters embedded to openly report daily on a company's strategic efforts and outcomes to all.

Jack Veale

West Hartford, Conn. A confidentiality agreement is not, as your article "Blab-proofing" (Dividends, Apr. 7) implies, ironclad. It can be overridden by the "mandated reporter" status of a nanny. That mandated reporter status requires a nanny to report to any appropriate authority, such as the police or Child Protective Services, any instance of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment on the part of the parents, her employers.

In my 20-year career as a nanny and household manager, serving clients throughout the Silicon Valley area, I have reported three of my former clients to Child Protective Services for actions that I viewed as dangerous for their children. I could easily have reported more.

Mary Perkins

Atherton, Calif.


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