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Worries about war technology

February 06, 2009

Re "The American killing machines," Jan. 30

Despite his skepticism, P.W. Singer's discussion of the brave new world of robotic warfare still overstates its impact.

As sophisticated as U.S. forces have become on the virtual battlefield through the use of drones to identify and destroy targets, grunt work on the ground remains more important. One need not look further than Afghanistan to determine that technology cannot substitute for manpower and finesse. By some accounts, the Taliban, often with little more than a gun in hand, is beating American forces despite all our gizmos.

Although Singer may be impressed that "the future is already upon us," relying on technology will not suffice to win counterinsurgency wars.

Bennett Ramberg

Los Angeles

The writer served in the State Department in the George H.W. Bush administration.


So "science fiction is coming true on our battlefields"? "Killer applications" still in their "Model T" phase of development are fighting on America's behalf? Singer's enthusiasm seems palpable -- "warrior-robots" indeed, the perfect toys for tomorrow's soldiers, who grew up mastering computerized war games.

Why am I not encouraged by Singer's call not to worry about the Terminator showing up at my door? That is precisely what I am worried about, except that I don't expect a Terminator. More likely the latest mutation of Blackwater Worldwide.

Once upon a time, Americans sang praises to the Winchester repeating rifle, "The Gun that Won the West," believing that it would bring about a more peaceful world. If history is any guide, it's only a matter of time until the descendants of the Americans who paid for these "killer applications" and picked up the tab for privatized police forces will find that an unwelcome guest has indeed showed up at their door.

Diane Loud


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