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One of the great ironies of the current situation is that while Osama Bin Laden's "Al Queda" network is, on the one hand, trying to tear down the modern information society, it is, on the other hand, the archetype of a modern network. With all sorts of loose cells, various forms of horizontal networking, lack of a strict hierarchy, communication through a variety of advanced media, it's the perfectly structured organization to survive and thrive in today's world (which is undoubtedly one of the reasons it's been so "successful" in its own despicable way). Well, how do you destroy a network? Yes, you try bombs when necessary, but they don't always work well. Could you destroy the Internet, for example, with a bomb? Probably not -- but you could destroy it with a well-designed virus. In other words, biological means are sometimes more effective for attacking networks. This was basically the thrust of the Washington Post link I sent out this morning (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41015-2001Sep16.html).
Anyway, Miguel Marcos of Madrid sent an interesting response to the Washington Post article that I thought I'd pass on (with his permission, below). Additional comments (or links to other writings along a similar vein) are welcome. (Note as well his link mid-stream to an also interesting Observer article.)
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 23:18:50 +0200 To: Mark Warschauer <email@example.com> From: Miguel Marcos <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: [pn] tech/network/cyberwar links (and a note)
Mark, hi. (Love Papyrus News BTW). On that WashPost article, I was actually tempted to write Joel but I figure someone else probably already emailed the same comments I'm going to make. All these ideas on how to target such an elusive, structurally different enemy are interesting and I'm sure can be applied but they're double-edged swords: they can be applied in both directions, and can come back to haunt us. I have some (incomplete) thoughts on this.
On and on. I've never read Garreau's stuff and, indeed, he seems to be well connected and has a good understanding of technology. I'm tempted to read his writings on cities (I love Lewis Mumford). I just get turned off, especially in such a sensitive time as this, by articles that propose solutions and just seem to look at the good side without considering the potential negative effects.
Getting to the heard of the terrorists is a human problem, and to get to these people will require human skills. I think we should also be analyzing why these people are doing these things. What drives an individual to perform such an act? Doesn't it seem we are missing an opportunity here to break out of our shell and learn what the other half thinks, how they live, why they do things? With this knowledge we learn what it is that would help them break out of the mindframe they have.
There is a large factor at play in many of these countries that is dependent on lack of education, lack of health care, poverty. If the US government continues with foreign policies supporting countries who flagrantly violate principles the US govt is protecting in our country, what else can happen but more of the same? In addition, the people in the US need to learn about the outside world. The bulk of Americans are generous, good people, hard working, innovative. But they are mighty ignorant of world outside the borders. Look at the death of that poor Sikh, the story of the Brazilian student beat up in CT, what can be the source of that other than ignorance? The bulk of Americans don't seem to pay much attention to foreign policy, they are too complacent.
I hate that this happened. I lived in NYC 13 years before moving to Madrid, Spain (a country quite familiar with terrorism and its ravages). in June. I dearly love NYC for what I learned, the people who live there, the energy the city breathed, the opportunities I had, the variety of experiences and culture. When this happened, I felt nothing short of the experience of a death in the family, so emotionally invested was I in the "The City". I remember some members of my family elsewhere in the US refused to visit me because they thought NYC was the Tower of Babel, danger everywhere, bad people, crime all over. It really hurt me. I feel empty inside and don't know what to make of what happened. I shudder to think of the people who are suffering the incident firsthand and what they are going through.
In spite of all this, I would like this to be an opportunity for the country to grow, to learn, to overcome the biggest weakness: self-complacency (self-obsession as well, as Dave Winer states.) Such is the atmosphere, though, that I fear the wrath of many Americans for having opinions like this, based on what I have read and seen, especially the type of language I hear ("dead or alive like in the West"?. At this moment, the new services are reporting US military aircraft flying to the middle east.
BTW, Jose Saramago wrote a wonderful article in El Pais here in Spain a couple of days ago about what people have been capable of doing "in the name of God" throughout history. It's in Spanish, I've been looking for a translation but haven't found it. If I do I'll pass it on.
Miguel Marcos --
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