Sunday, May 12, 2013

On stealth drones and killer robots: On Thermonuclear War, Herman Kahn (1960)


This blog is about domestic drone law. However, that body of law is going to be developed during a World Wide Arms race, among all nations, to deploy drones, robots, and hybrids of all types, for War.

For those of us who mastered the strategy and tactics of Thermonuclear War, while reading Herman Kahn in the 1960s as college or high school debaters, this will be new ground on an order of magnitude reduced by one and will not present significant intellectual challenges. If you have a high tolerance for ambiguity it will be fun.

When at 16 you read a book about which Hubert H. Humphrey said: "New thoughts, particularly those which contradict current assumptions, are always painful for the human mind to contemplate. On Thermonuclear War is filled with such thoughts," thinking of strategy and tactics becomes second nature.

However, the next years are going to be very painful, full of all sorts of fears, doubts, and uncertainties. for those who have never thought about “unknown unknowns” having life or death consequences of enormous magnitude.

Will any foe have supersonic drones? How fast will they be? Will they be stealth? What armaments will they carry? Nerve gas or virus? This is to say nothing about bugs: miniature insects with poison tips.

The verification problems are going to be immense, for a country like China with immense manufacturing capacity could produce millions of drones or robots within a very short period time.

I have become an advocate of civilian drones based on my judgments leading to two assumptions about this foreseeable course.

First, bluffing is the best deterrent. The nuclear arms race started to wind down with people agreed to stop testing. This increased the unknown unknown risk, making MAD (mutually assured destruction) madder than ever.

Even Morocco has a drone program. Any fan of John Grisham and a reader of The Broker knows that unknown unknowns must include the possibility that a Moroccan drone coded by a Pakistani computer scientist may be a killer app.

This possibility, and others, leads me to assume that drones have or will very shortly make war between modern nation states impossible. Drones will assure that no solider, on either side, will survive on any future battlefield in a conflict between two modern powers. What defense exists against an enemy who may be armed with billions of micro drones armed with poison tips.

What I assume we will see is a rise in the use of drones for asymmetric warfare. Look to drones to replace suicide, car bombs, and IEDs.

In that world, I am assuming private and public cooperation, several magnitudes above what has been previously witnessed, networking public and private search and surveillance capabilities of all types. This state of mind of private public cooperation was on display in Boston, when law enforcement asked people to cooperate and stay indoors for a few hours. Libertarians need not apply.

These judgments are assumptions and may be proved wrong by events, but they presently inform my POV.