Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

China Shoots Down a Spy Satellite, Japanese Navy Attacks Russian Fleet in North Sea, Britain Threatens War

with 10 comments

Feline Spy Satellite. Credit: Julia

Feb 21 2008: For a post on the recent American downing of a spy satellite click here. The below post dates from January 2007.

World news continues, as always. China has successfully shot down a satellite using a missile. On one hand, shooting down a satellite is quite an achievement. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier than say, trying to shoot down a missile. It doesn’t take anything fancy to destroy a satellite, a well placed bean bag will do the trick. And unlike missiles, satellites are extremely predictable, there are even civilian “satellite watchers” who make a hobby of observing and keeping track of them.

The USA is of course very upset about this, as well they might be. At least those who want the USA to dominate the world through military force. Yes, China having an anti satellite weapon seriously threatens America’s plans to rule space. Of course America’s plans to rule space are just an excuse to build mind numbingly expensive weapons systems in pursuit of the impossible dream: absolute military superiority. At least this Chinese launch might get the subject on the table, weaponizing space is far more deadly a threat to humanity than a few crude nukes hidden in Asia’s mountains.

More importantly, this leads into the Achilles heel of American military thinking. We have become so wed to our technology that we have let the non technological aspects of warfare lag. Our generals and intelligence directors are so addicted to satellite photos and electronic eavesdropping that they have almost no “on the ground” assets. This is why after years of insurgency we still know very little about who we are fighting in Iraq. When it comes to high technology as the ultimate in gathering intelligence and waging war, the emperor has no clothes.

What I mean is this, a reasonably clever man can figure out simple ways to avoid being eavesdropped upon by satellites and electronic snoops. Like not using the telephone for example. Even better, any halfway intelligent person could figure out ways to send so much false information into the electronic eavesdroppers net that they would never figure out what was real and what was a decoy. In real life the bad guys are as smart as the good guys, it’s easy to think of simple countermeasures to high tech. This applies as much to war fighting as intelligence gathering, in some senses they are the same thing, your ability to wage war is only as effective as your ability to understand your enemies.

There’s an interesting historical example. Before the turn of the last century Japan pioneered the use of open source intelligence. That basically is intelligence gathered by people acting openly as opposed to spies. One way they facilitated this was that every Japanese Naval Officer was required to speak a second language fluently, and expected to keep their ears open when in foreign lands. Thus the Japanese had a sophisticated world wide network of spies and informants when war with Russia started, and they put it to good use.

When the Japanese learned that the Russian Baltic Fleet in Europe was going to sail to the Pacific Ocean, they used their network of spies to float a rumour that Japanese torpedo boats were going to ambush the Russian fleet while it was en route. They were able to spread this rumour so successfully that the Russians believed it. (In contrast to Japan, the Russian equivalent of the Pentagon at the time had exactly zero pemployees who could speak or read Japanese.) The Russians were so rattled that when their fleet got to the North Sea, they mistook a fleet of English fishing boats for Japanese torpedo boats…and opened fire. The resulting loss of life (modest though it may have been, only three guys died) so inflamed Britain that they came very close to declaring war on Russia themselves. Pretty slick result from just spreading rumours in bars, eh?

The point I am making is that understanding your enemy and making clever use of low tech methods is far more effective than all the superweapons in the world. America’s technological superiority didn’t win the Vietnam war, and it’s not winning in Iraq or Afghanistan. The idea that if we just build enough super weapons it will allow us to rule the world is madness, though it is making a small number of Americans rich beyond imagining. The USA is spending more money on its military than the rest of the world combined, and it has not bought us peace and security. Tom Engelhardt touches upon some of the above in his recommended Crusading Scorecard.

I am assured that no animals were harmed in the production of the above image. One cat was humiliated though.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and it is properly attributed and linked. It is not yet an historically important image, but stranger things have happened.)

Written by unitedcats

January 19, 2007 at 12:07 pm

Posted in History, Science, War, WMDs

10 Responses

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  1. Excellent post!
    The drawdown in Humint over the past 20 years (or so)is inexcusable, and both parties in the US government are responsible. The so-called ‘Peace Dividend’ has ended up costing us much more in the long run, which is always what happens when one starts “spending” (human)capital instead of re-investing it against future ‘rainy days’. The dearth of knowledge of Arabic culture, Islamic culture, and the various languages of the Islamic world are a huge weakness for the West. The West cannot hope to contend with such an alien foe, without better understanding of their motivations. Sometimes I wonder if so much mayhem could have been avoided if US leadership hadn’t seen the end of the Cold War as the beginning of some long ‘Pax Americana’. It is unfortunate that Soviet Paranoia was not replaced with Islamist Paranoia.

    And now, of course, the West is in a fight for its very survival.



    January 19, 2007 at 1:40 pm

  2. […] by Shoulung on January 19th, 2007 Doug’s Darkworld features a post on the weakness of Western militaries when it comes to dependency on high-tech […]

  3. What good is all this high tech gear the US has, when it is very possible that the Manchurian Candidate, Barraka Hussein Obama (a secret Muslim) gets into the White House?

    Check out the Madrassa attending Obama very carefully..


    January 20, 2007 at 8:34 am

  4. Obama is an Al-Qaeda sleeper agent? Could be I suppose, but still, I thought Sholung was the paranoid one. ;) I think Obama is all style and no substance, so I’m not a fan mind you. I’d say he has no chance of being elected, but hey, a retired movie star got elected twice solely because he looked so presidential. Strange days indeed.
    JMO —Doug


    January 20, 2007 at 9:16 am

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised if America finds reason to build a lunar military base…. Since, communist-thinking terrorists are obviously attacking space… and space must be free for democracy……

    now, doesn’t that sound like something Bush could say? :P

    Good lord, could you imagine if you guys had a monarchy-type ruling system rather than a democracy which only allows a person to be in power for 8 years? Could you imagine if Bush was there for life!??!!? :0 Its almost too horrible to contemplate….

    Regarding a previous post, I think the Greenland melting story is alarming… I keep thinking that the movie “The Day after tomorrow” is actually gonna happen one day…. God help us all…


    January 21, 2007 at 11:11 pm

  6. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that they are NOT after me…


    January 22, 2007 at 10:47 am

  7. “Paranoia is just reality on a finer scale” I didn’t say that Al Qaeda and such wasn’t a threat, just that the threat posed by them and similar groups has been wildly exaggerated to provide an excuse for seizing control of the Middle East and Central Asia’s energy resources by force. “You can’t pump oil with bayonets” to paraphrase what France discovered in the thirties, so this misbegotten GWOT is making the former much worse and doomed to failure on the second count. JMO —Doug


    January 22, 2007 at 11:39 am

  8. I respect your paranoia guys but contrary to what you think may be commom sense, it is far better to have america holding absolute military superiority. There would be little ned for any war on the planet and before you say it, no they would not install puppets in every country to rape their resources and enslave the poor. Look at the history of Japan and Germany, no really look. No one ever defeats an enemy and then builds them back up to be a world class economy. The Americans were the firat to do this on amy scale and continue to do it today, at huge expense to themselves. The worlds economy depends on the american economy and its stability. A few crude nukes could easily destroy that. Please dont support the petty hatreds that are undermining the chance that this world has for peace. I know that it is hard to accept, but please sit back and look through the smoke screen that the world media is profitting from.


    March 12, 2007 at 7:51 am

  9. As for space weaponization, the Chinese have built themselves a nice
    loophole. They didn’t shoot down their outdated weather satellite with a
    space based weapon, they shot it down with a terrestrial based
    anti-satellite system.

    So look for them to push for a treaty banning space based anti-satellite
    weapons. This way they can keep their anti-satellite weapons.

    Danny J Norman

    March 30, 2007 at 2:57 pm

  10. The Chinese have been masters of dilpomacy and foreign policy for decades, which is why they are running rngs around the US which still is in a 19th century “do as we say or we will blow you up” diplomatic mode. You’d think that school of diplomacy would have died in Vietnam, but keeping up with the times is out of fashion in America where we still haven’t even adopted the metric system.


    April 2, 2007 at 11:31 am

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