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Radnor Geopolitical Report


Berlin, December 2007

 

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Strategic geopolitical intelligence for decision-makers

 

 

 

 

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Tasting the smoke in Chinese light bulbs

by Ken Feltman

Indeed, whenever a new idea is developed, as for example ballooning, warfare immediately takes possession.

- Fredrik Bajer of Denmark, 1837-1922

Peter Mandelson lost. Global warming foes lost. So did cost-conscious consumers in the European Union. Ostensibly, the battle was over jobs in Europe and light bulbs manufactured in China but destined for European consumers. In fact, the battle showed that some Europeans are still beholden to the old struggle between labor and capital while China is moving quickly into the new thinking of the 21st century. What was this all about? Let?s look at what transpired.

Facing a protectionist backlash led by German fears of job losses, Europe?s top trade official, Peter Mandelson, postponed for at least a year an effort to eliminate trade duties of up to 66 percent on energy-saving bulbs from China. This protectionism came at the expense of efforts to influence climate change: The EU is trying to phase out common incandescent bulbs for domestic use within two years but EU production of energy-efficient bulbs meets only a quarter of the European demand. Thus, Europe needs to import bulbs and key European bulb manufacturing companies outsource production to China. European labor intervened to protect jobs.

Meantime, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel planned an official visit to China, that country continued with preparations for a cyber-future that may involve cyberwar. Chinese computer attacks on German government networks convinced European and American security experts that China was stepping up its capacity to wage cyberwar as part of China?s rapid military buildup. British, French and American computers were also attacked at about the same time, with Chinese computers identified as the culprits.

China is not the only nation exploring cyberspace as a possible battlefield of the future. Earlier in the year, Estonian computers were attacked from Russia. According to British intelligence, the Chinese military has concluded that Western militaries have a heavy and growing dependence on computers. China sees that dependence as a weakness. The use of computers for military purposes is outstripping the development of firewalls and other protection against invasion in cyberspace. The Chinese seek ways to exploit the weakness.

No secret

China does not try to keep this a secret. Chinese military publications have carried articles suggesting that attacks designed to disable enemy networks or to extract information from enemy computers is under serious testing. Successful cyber attacks could prove decisive in warfare.

Articles in Chinese military journals speculate that attacks directed toward disrupting communications or acquiring intelligence secrets could produce a decisive military advantage for China. ?It is part of China?s concept of unlimited war,? according to Philip Yang, an expert on the Chinese military from National Taiwan University. ?Unlimited war means employing all possible means? to win the war, he says. ?Cyber attack would probably be quite useful in terms of economic and psychological impact.?

Following the U.S. presidential polls?

Here are links to a compilation of polls collected by a popular website. The polls show Hillary Clinton with a strong lead nationally but having trouble in Iowa. They also show Rudy Giuliani declining but ahead nationally, and quite weak in Iowa.

Democratic poll numbers

Republican poll numbers

While Chinese military planners look to a future and see cyberwar as a way to undermine the technological edge of the West, and especially the United States, Germany looks back to the Social Democratic and Socialist battles of the past century. These were epic battles among government, labor and capital. So as China probed and tested this new form of war, Germany buckled and the EU gave up at least a piece of the future to sustain the past. We cannot blame them. This is the way societies behave when they have achieved great gains in a relatively short period: They protect their gains. But whether we want it or not, the future is here:

Moonlight Maze is the U.S. government's name for a series of allegedly coordinated attacks on American computer systems in 1999. The attacks were traced to a mainframe computer in Moscow but it is not known if that mainframe was the ultimate source or was merely used to pass along the attack. It was claimed that the hackers obtained large stores of data that might have included classified naval codes and information on missile guidance systems, but even today that is not certain.

Titan Rain was the U.S. government's name for a series of coordinated attacks on American computer systems first detected in 2003. The ongoing attacks are believed to be Chinese in origin, although their precise nature (state-sponsored espionage, corporate espionage or random hacker attacks) is unknown. So sensitive is information about these attacks that the name Titan Rain has been changed. The new name is classified.

Two years ago this month, the director of a key security institute in the U.S. said that the attacks were most likely the result of Chinese military hackers who were attempting to gather information on U.S. systems. Apparently, the hackers gained access to many U.S. computer networks, including those at Lockheed Martin, Sandia National Laboratories, Redstone Arsenal, and NASA.

Should we be fighting over light bulbs when the Chinese are fighting in a new theater of war?

Well intentioned but bureaucratic wonks

The United States is doing things a little differently from the Europeans, but the result may be the same: The U.S. is creating a new command to fight in cyberspace. The new mission, to be conducted by the U.S. Air Force, is to deliver sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests to fly and fight in air, space and cyberspace. The new cyber command will deliver the full spectrum of effects and evolve a coherent enterprise, with war fighting ethos, ready to execute any mission in peace, crisis and war. We will foster a force of 21st Century warriors, capable of delivering the full spectrum of kinetic and non-kinetic, lethal and non-lethal effects across all three domains.

Your complaints

Readers were sharply divided on former Representative Henry Hyde, who died last month. Basically, many who disagreed with Hyde's position on federal funds for abortion were unwilling to put up with any positive words about Hyde.

Those who opposed the impeachment of President Clinton were also angry. Many wrote to say that Hyde wanted to remove Clinton over oral sex. No, Hyde said publicly and privately many times that he believed that lying under oath was the reason impeachment could proceed.

Those who demanded that I apologize for my comments about Hyde are going to be disappointed again.

Several wrote to say they had no idea Al Capone was a Republican. They may misunderstand Capone. He was an opportunist who took over the political party in power just as he took over criminal organizations. It just happened that, at the time, the Republican party was in control in Chicago. His political philosophy may have been summed up by this comment: "You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone."

Huh? That bit of bureaucratic, Orwellian writing is an excellent example of what hobbles the American military. Burdened by Congressional oversight led by bright but unrealistic staffers who have no idea what it takes to compete on the cyber battlefield, the Pentagon has countered with its own policy wonks. The wonks engage and do battle by memorandum. The Pentagon wonks consider it a victory when they protect a budget line against an attack by wonks on Capitol Hill. Strangely, generals, senators and congressmen ? even the president (as commander-in-chief) and his cabinet officers ? are caught in this web of wonkism. Critical long range military planning is held hostage by very bright people who have no idea what their decisions may ultimately bring.

Tasting the smoke

Save us from these intelligent, well intentioned people. Give us a few grizzled old sergeants who have been on the battlefield and have tasted as well as seen in the distance the smoke of battle. Technologically advanced nations are increasingly dependent on cyberspace. Use your ATM card or your cell phone and you enter cyberspace. Log in to the Internet and you cross the border into cyberspace. Sonograms are part of cyberspace. So, increasingly, are X-rays and MRIs. Our lives have become dependent on cyberspace. But we may not understand the implications. The importance of any coming battle in cyberspace is simply stated: That battle may determine our future as self-governing people.

The low cost of cyberwar makes it attractive not just to other nations, but to criminal and terrorist organizations as well. Perhaps forces that could never attack a Western democracy symmetrically will attack with a laptop, a cell phone or even a phone card. They need not invest in the computer or phone. They can go to an Internet cafe.

We can go to work protecting ourselves. Part of that protection includes recognizing that China and possibly Russian, as well as terrorists and others, are working to be able to attack us in cyberspace. That does not mean they will attack us in cyberspace, but it does mean that if we are prudent, we will prepare to counter and defeat the attack. That prudence involves recognition that authoritarian governments have more freedom to pursue the development or acquisition of war-making technology. They can move systematically and ruthlessly. In the pursuit of a military goal, authoritarians are seldom troubled by well intentioned but detached policy wonks.

We need some people who have tasted the smoke. Remember the comic strip character Pogo? He was a possum possessed of down-home wisdom. As he and his friends from the swamp prepared for war, Pogo observed: We have met the enemy and he is us!



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