”What we are seeing is the empowerment of the individual to conduct war,” says John Robb, a counterterrorism expert and author of the book Brave New War (John Wiley & Sons), which came out in April. While the concept of asymmetric warfare dates back at least 2000 years, to the Chinese military strategist Sun-tzu, the conflict in Iraq has redefined the nature of such struggles [see photo, ”Road to Perdition”]. As events are making painfully clear, Robb says, warfare is being transformed from a closed, state-sponsored affair to one where the means and the know-how to do battle are readily found on the Internet and at your local RadioShack. This open global access to increasingly powerful technological tools, he says, is in effect allowing ”small groups to…declare war on nations.”
While I’d hesitate to describe the conflict between WikiLeaks and the United States as a war, it is the latest example of America’s inability to cope with these threats. Our nation is based on the assumption that supreme military power can quell any conflict. Unfortunately, that’s no longer true. The ability to innovate is now hindered by the massive standing army and infrastructure used to support it. That’s not a criticism of our armed forces. But the fact is: they’re not capable of winning many of the asymmetric battles and wars that we face in the future.
The idea of sending our army to fight WikiLeaks is obviously ludicrous. But it’s almost as ludicrous to suggest that paramilitary operations (like a CIA assassination of Assange) would change anything. Assange would be replaced by some subordinate with the same goals. Even if that’s not the case, the ideology is just as threatening as the man himself. WikiLeaks, just like al Qaeda, is a decentralized organization that relies on the ability to exploit large-scale vulnerability at low cost. Their battles are focused on disruption and achieving minor victories. The secondary goal of these organizations is to create (political) fatigue associated with the larger entity’s reaction to the attacks. Literally EVERYTHING they attempt is a victory.
Consider this: America’s official response to WikiLeaks has been… complaining about WikiLeaks. The only reason the site is having trouble is due to INDEPENDENT “crusaders” (read: hackers) fighting for America by attacking WikiLeaks’ servers. The site quickly moved to Amazon and then was booted by Amazon. American politicians, such as Joe Lieberman, considered this a victory when it was really a choreographed move by WikiLeaks to drag the first amendment into the discussion. They also had their American domain eliminated by EveryDNS.net due to the hackers’ attacks. But both of those issues were remedied by simply registering a Swiss domain name and the hosting to a Swedish company called Bahnhof. Aside from that, the most powerful country in the world is simply pouting about how it’s been embarrassed with no ability to fight back.