It briefly occurred to us in the midst of the ongoing Israel-Iran confrontation that a new era might be dawning.
When brilliant minds from Israel and the US created havoc in the Iran nuclear sector with the Stuxnet virus and more recently with one called Flame it seemed as if we might have found a way out of the horrific consequences of armed conflict.
Instead of missiles, air strikes, armored sieges and infantry engagements, we could fight a virtual war, one in which the weapons themselves, and not human beings, would be the targets.
With so much of modern warfare dependent on computers, the logic went, why dont we settle our conflicts with technology? Leave the infrastructure, the collateral civilians even the soldiers and sailors out of it.
It sounds very science fictionish, of course, but think about it. US military technicians in Maryland or some other innocuous location are already remotely operating drones hovering over terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They see their targets in real time, maneuver their craft and order them to fire when ready.
Asimov, Silverberg and Bradbury couldnt have written a more farfetched scenario than that.
Alas, we now believe that we have been getting ahead of ourselves.
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Without doubt, what some defense experts call the fifth dimension of warfare will play an ever increasing role in how we do battle against each other. In the future were very likely to see viruses shut down the infrastructure, electricity, communications and transportation of our enemies
But it doesnt seem as if this will obviate all the rest of wars terrible baggage.
The bloody 20th century saw the advent of aviation, chemical weapons, rockets, the atomic and hydrogen bombs and satellite surveillance, all military technologies that were once believed to be the ultimate answers to moving warfare away from its personal, ground-level and sanguinary origins.
None of them, of course, came close to accomplishing this goal. If anything, they raised the death tolls to unprecedented heights.
In short, our hopes that Israel could shut down Irans nuclear weapons drive with nothing more than silent, invisible and bloodless computer viruses are probably in vain.
In the end, the dispute will most likely have to be settled the old-fashioned way through the kind of fighting that old William Tecumseh War is Hell Sherman would instantly recognize.
Were forced to agree with Avi Weissman, chairman of the Israeli Forum for Information Security, who recently told JTA that cyber warfare is not going to take the place of conventional warfare just like chemical warfare isnt replacing conventional warfare and planes dont replace ground troops.
Cyber warfare, Weissman went so far as to say, will complete warfare.
Hardly a comforting thought.
Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News