Wednesday, July 15, 2020 -
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Cyber warfare: Beyond Asimov

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 don’t 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 couldn’t have written a more farfetched scenario than that.

Alas, we now believe that we have been getting ahead of ourselves.

Read related news coverage, “Post-terrorism: now it’s cyber-war

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 we’re very likely to see viruses shut down the infrastructure, electricity, communications and transportation of our enemies

But it doesn’t seem as if this will obviate all the rest of war’s 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 Iran’s 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.

We’re 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 isn’t replacing conventional warfare and planes don’t 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

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