So-Called Bloodless Wars: IT in the Early 21st Century

An Interview with Noam Chomsky, by Carl Whithaus


Chomsky: Now military IT is used in global war fighting; hypersonic drones, space stations are being thought about for surveillance and for instantaneous attack anywhere in the world. Those are the kinds of wars that are being planned—very high-tech wars, even at the counterinsurgency level. The drone assassinations in Pakistan and Afghanistan are examples that require sophisticated communication, as does having US troops on the ground there. Undoubtedly that is part of the core education of officers these days.


[Author's Note: Analyzing the physical and material conditions of these very high-tech, counterinsurgency wars can be enriched by drawing on the work of military historians and researchers in cultural studies. They have been examining the use and implications of using Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) in the Middle East and South Asia.

[con't.] In "From Colonial Air Attacks to Drones in Pakistan," Priya Satia (2009) suggested that "only a permanent end to the strategy will win Pakistani hearts and minds back to their government and its US ally" (p. 34). Satia, like Chomsky, sees the use of drones as an "uncanny echo of the past" because "Aerial counterinsurgency was invented in precisely these two regions—Iraq and the Pakistani-Afghan borderland—in the 1920s by the British" (p. 34). She argued that "The memory of that colonial past crucially shapes the military and political dynamics of any aerial strategy in the region. Col. [David] Kilcullen shrewdly discerned that Pakistanis see the drones as 'neocolonial'" (p. 34).

[con't.] Within cultural studies, scholars such as Caren Kaplan (2006) have analyzed the history of representing the precision of air strikes in US military discourse going back to World War I. In "Precision Targets: GPS and the Militarization of U.S. Consumer Identity," Kaplan argued that recent uses of air power rely on Global Positioning Systems (GPS); she connects these military applications with "GPS-enhanced consumer goods and civilian applications of the technology" (p. 708). Kaplan's argument reinforces the points Chomsky makes in this interview about the relationships among the US and Israeli militaries and international high tech industries].

[Editor's note: See also Kaplan's (2010) multimedia work, "Precision Targets," with programmer/designer Erik Loyer and illustrator Ezra Glaytan Daniels, which reiterates in game-play her argument about the use of GPS systems in warfare.]

Chomsky's face and glasses with lines Introduction
West Point Cadets Training U.S. Military Officers
Philipines The Conquest of the Philippines
Red Block IT in the Early 21st Century
Binary Numbers Cyber Section of the Pentagon The Cyber Section of the Pentagon
Lt. General William Caldwell's name on a uniform Blogs and Schizophrenia
Intellectual Property Intellectual Property
partial Israeli flag Israel
Circuit Board High Tech Corporations
War Photograph War Images
Chomsky Closing

Note: The complete audio recording of the interview is available to listen to as you browse the edited webtext.