“A calamity in which we’ve been afflicted”

Drone carpet Afghanistan

The title refers to Osama bin Laden’s characterization of the drone threat.

A fascinating episode of the Irregular Warfare Podcast on the “Bin Laden Papers.”

Episode 59 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast dives into the internal workings and communications of al-Qaeda and uses that insight to draw lessons for counterterrorism strategies. From the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden to the recent strike against Ayman al-Zawahiri, targeting key leaders has long been a cornerstone of counterterrorism strategies, but what do these terrorist leaders have to say about the effectiveness of the campaigns against them?

THE BIN LADEN PAPERS: THE INNER WORKINGS OF AL-QAEDA’S LEADERSHIP

I remember in the mid-2000s when there was a lot of talk about whether the drone war was creating more terrorists than it was taking out. And General Petraeus says the same in this episode, that it was an important consideration.

I remember holding that same thought and being very skeptical of the value of drones.

But having listened to this episode, you can sense just how effective they were. You can make the argument that drones (and the drone infrastructure – intelligence, partnerships, etc.) effectively suppressed Al Qaeda for the length of the GWOT.

Does that invalidate the concerns? No. But it’s possible that those concerns were overblown.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention General Petraeus’ take on one of my favorite lines. At the ~40:30 mark, in reference to a past operation, “We’re getting hammered in the court of public opinion.”

Which, as you know, is basically the same as “we’re getting our ass kicked in the information environment.”


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“Tactical things don’t matter for big-picture deterrence”

reagan receiving a brief about the middle east

Get smart on the Russia-Ukraine developments.

Over the past several weeks, tens of thousands of Russian troops have gathered in the area near Russia’s border with Ukraine. But what does it signify?

Michael Kofman joins this episode of the MWI Podcast to discuss all of this and more. The director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses, he is a longtime observer of Russia and specializes in the Russian military. You can listen to the full conversation below, and if you aren’t already subscribed to the MWI Podcast, be sure to find it on Apple PodcastsStitcher, or your favorite podcast app so you don’t miss an episode!

MWI PODCAST: A LOOMING SHOWDOWN OVER UKRAINE?

I’m not a Russia-guy, so this was a good episode to get me up to speed on what is (and isn’t) going on on the border with Ukraine.

The whole episode is good – and Michael Hoffman clearly has firm control over his material (Russia and Russian military capabilities).

I love this quote:

“Most of the cockamaney ideas about sending some more weapons or things to Ukraine – fine, if you want to increase military costs but you have to just appreciate that it’s going to make no difference in the calculus.”

~26:00

And he goes on.

“Tactical things don’t matter for big picture deterrence. Javelins, drones, are completely irrelevant to political leaders. They don’t know and don’t care about the stuff.”

~26:30

I appreciate this take, and I tend to agree. It’s what I was getting at the other day in regards to culture and other aspects of the human dynamics in strategy. These are interesting things to consider, but at the political and strategic level, they ultimately don’t matter.

Should they? I don’t think so.

Even when it comes to military strategy – the input of this or that tactic or weapon system may make a difference on the margins, but if they don’t alter the overall endstate, then it’s an exercise in futility.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are on the capability. There are limits to military power – and if you are using any of these “things” in service of the military, they are also limited – mostly by the strategy you’re operating under.

Then again, maybe it’s worth just rolling the dice? What’s there to lose?


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Magic and Steel: The Predator Drone as Magitek Armor

predator drone the sun also rises
Predator

Something fun for the weekend.

One of my favorite pieces of music from the Final Fantasy series is ‘Devil’s Lab,’ which is the mechanical theme played while exploring the Magitek factory in Final Fantasy VI. Magitek armor, for those not in the know, is the fusion of magic and technology to create a powerful weapon.

I don’t know what gave me the thought, but as we soar into the future, I can’t help but think that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or “drones” as we commonly know them, are our Magitek armor. It’s the fusion of all of our best technologies to create a beautiful and deadly machine, without too much thought given towards the ethics of the matter.

If I were to visit a drone factory, this is the music I’d expect to hear.

In drafting this post, I listened to a lot of different version of ‘Devil’s Lab.’ This one, done 8-Bit style, was the most interesting.

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Fotros Drone

fotros drone graph

Week ending November 24, 2013

The top search was ‘fotros drone.’ Earlier this week, I posted this: The New Iranian Drone – Fotros “a redeemed, fallen angel.” I haven’t posted much middle east stuff for a while and I found the name of the drone to be interesting, considering the mythology behind it. Doing another Google search for ‘fotros drone,’ I found that past the news articles concerning the big reveal, there isn’t much else written about the drone, thus the reason the search term led a few people to Carrying the Gun.

fotros drone

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