Friday, January 21, 2005
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When information technology weakens terrorism
One meme that has been a constant since the September 11th attacks has been that terrorist networks have been so adroit in using information technologies to plan, coordinate, and execute acts of violence.
However, an even older meme is that civil society can exploit these technologies to improve their lot in life as well. Two stories out of Iraq today highlight this fact.
Ellen Knickmeyer reports for the Associated Press that Iraqis are using text messaging as a way of outing terrorists:
In the Chicago Tribune, Aamer Madhani reports on one radio station in the Sunni triangle that's strongly encouraged Iraqis to vote in the upcoming elections:
These uses of technology toward improving life In iraq mesh with recent polling evidence suggesting that there is greater support among ordinary Iraqis for the elections than previously expected. As Karl Vick points out in this Washington Post report:
The one thing that bugs me is that all of these behind-the-scenes efforts mean nothing unless people are physically willing to show up on Election Day. And unlike the transfer of sovereignty, the election date can't simply be moved up at the last minute. An no amount of information technology can alter that fact.
UPDATE: Reuters reports on one way to blunt the terrorist threat on Election Day: "the location of voting centers will be revealed only at the last minute in some areas." Another Reuters report quotes UN election official Carlos Venezuela stating that, "(Conditions) are not the best and certainly far from ideal, but if the security measures work there is a very good chance that the elections that take place will take place successfully ...and will be accepted as legitimate."posted by Dan on 01.21.05 at 10:16 PM
Let's see. They have a way to make anonymous tips to accuse their neighbors. This is progress, yes. Kind of.
"I think the real story of this election is what's gone on beneath the radar," the official said.
Hmmmm kind of like another recent election that the media completely missed what was going on...posted by: Steven Andrew Miller on 01.21.05 at 10:16 PM [permalink]
All the insurgents have to do is flood the tip line with red herrings to render it inoperative.
And the fact that it's currently ringing constantly isn't necessarily a good sign. According to Knight-Ridder's moving average of Pentagon figures, the number of attacks, number of casualties, and number of killed have all gone up and remained near or at highs. In other words this is like a little boy trying to plug a leaking dike with his finger. Admirable in character but hardly likely to hold back the dam.
I see however Dan that you're apparently no longer above grasping at anecdotal evidence when the simple numbers no longer support your position.posted by: oldman on 01.21.05 at 10:16 PM [permalink]
posted by: Jon H on 01.21.05 at 10:16 PM [permalink]
I'm sure there is. But the insurgents don't need to go after people who secretly offer minor help to the americans. They have no lack of targets just going after official paid employees of the americans, and paid employees of the "puppet" government. They don't need a witch hunt.
It makes sense that various employees would try to hedge their bets by spying for the insurgents. But unless the insurgents are particularly well organised, one group won't know who's spying for another group, and so the safety that would provide would be minimal.
I am glad to see the posters here using 'insurgents' rather than terrorists. This indicates an acceptance of the reality that we are fighting against a war of national (and religious) liberation. We are the occupiers -- and I say this as a veteran.posted by: stari_momak on 01.21.05 at 10:16 PM [permalink]
Stari, there clearly are terrorists in iraq. Also gangsters.
Ideally we would provide security to the iraqi people by protecting them from the gangsters. But we can't. We're too busy fighting the insurgents.
It's hard to tell the gangsters from the terrorists. We don't really have any way to tell either of them from the insurgents, and they may be mixed. The same guy might be a gangster when he's extorting money from iraqi civilians, and a terrorist when he's blowing up iraqi politicians and an insurgent when he's attacking US troops.
The only way it would matter to make such distinctions would be if you wanted to claim that there are only gangsters and terrorists, and no real insurgency. But we're way past that now. It would be idiotic to argue there's no insurgency, and someone who tried to claim that would only get laughed at. Bitterly.
Voter-turnout is an overrated measurement of the strength of democracy. High or low turn-out in the first election will not make or break democracy in Iraq. Many, many, many countries have held fair elections with high participation, but then seen democracy crumble under the weight of economic hardship, corruption, ethnic divisions, and legislative dead-lock, or power-grabs.
In fact, I've never seen research that shows that high voter turn-out is associated with stable democracy.posted by: sdsam on 01.21.05 at 10:16 PM [permalink]
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