The Junk-Shop Pragmatism of Asymmetric Warfare
Like any mere bystander, I'm always at risk of getting etherized by the abstractions of war. So there was something compelling and arresting about hearing writer Mark Danner detail the junk-shop pragmatism that goes into making a roadside bomb and waging so-called "asymmetric warfare."
Danner spoke to radio host Christopher Lydon late last month. The exchange went like this:
Lydon: Your book keeps raising the question of what is power in a world where an IED may represent a few hundred dollars worth of effort that can blow up a multimillion dollar tank. And it happens all the time.
Danner: I remember distinctly finding an IED when I was with some troops in Dora in southern Baghdad. This thing, when we finally were able to get it out of the plastic bag — it was disguised as a bit of garbage — was as simple as you can imagine. It was a little mortar shell — millions of which, literally, are around Iraq, Sadaam bought millions of these things — that had been duct-taped to the base of a phone, the kind of mobile phone you have in your house and you can press button on it that will beep the handset if you lose it. An insurgent would stand up in a building, take the handset and beep it. That would blow this thing up. Simple as can be. Easy as can be to make it. Probably cost a couple hundred bucks, depending how you value the mortar shell. And these things are incredibly effective.
Danner's account really just gives fresh details to something I knew already. But reminders such as these shake me up every time. You can stop a random angry guy who needs a nuclear warhead to carry out his plans. You can't stop a random angry guy who murders with a box-cutter or a cordless phone.
Or, as Danner put it, "You cannot stop all of the IEDs from being made. You cannot stop that. You have to at some point stop the people from wanting to make them. You won’t succeed in stopping all of them, but you might succeed in stopping most of them. It is one thing that I think Americans have learned in the last eight years, that the road toward killing every Jihadist is not the road that the United States has to take."
Danner built on that idea by citing an issue I wrote about here last month:
We read everyday about these drone attacks. Another theme in the pieces by David Rohde in the New York Times was the extreme anger caused by the civilian deaths that are a side effect, a direct effect of using these missiles to attack targets on the ground in parts of Pakistan. And we think this is surgical warfare, but in fact it is people standing on the ground, suddenly being blown up. And blaming this directly on the United States. So these things do have a political cost.
Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.
- Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
- Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.