Friday, January 15, 2010

How Technology Is Changing Warfare

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on how technology is making war "safer," at least for those who use the technology. Included among descriptions of various weapons systems is a brief history of how we came to have a fleet of Predator drone aircraft which have been widely used in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theater:

When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it had just a handful of drones. Today, U.S. forces have around 7,000 unmanned vehicles in the air and an additional 12,000 on the ground, used for tasks including reconnaissance, airstrikes and bomb disposal.

In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force trained more "pilots" for unmanned aircraft than for manned fighters and bombers.

After Syrian missile batteries in Lebanon took a heavy toll on Israeli fighter jets in the 1973 war, Israel developed the first modern unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.

When Israel next invaded Lebanon in 1981, the real-time images provided by those unmanned aircraft helped Israel wipe out Syrian air defenses, without a single downed pilot. The world, including the U.S., took notice.

The Pentagon set aside its long-held skepticism about the advantages of unmanned aircraft and, in the early 1980s, bought a prototype designed by former Israeli Air Force engineer Abraham Karem. That prototype morphed into the modern-day Predator, which is made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.

Unlike the U.S. and other militaries, where UAVs are flown by certified, costly-to-train fighter pilots, Israeli defense companies have recently built their UAVs to allow an average 18-year-old recruit with just a few months' training to pilot them.

There's more at the link.


Trends Bode Ill for Democrats

James Pethokoukis explains the formidable difficulties the Democrat party faces in trying to keep control of the House of Representatives in 2010.

He lists eight which I paraphrase here:

  1. Momentum. Big GOP wins in the gubernatorial races greatly helped Republicans with candidate recruiting for 2010.
  2. History. In 13 of the past 15 midterm elections going back to 1950, the party in control of the White House has lost an average of 22 seats in the House.
  3. Party dominance. Particularly in the House, there are lots of Democrats in places with a proven willingness to vote Republican. Currently 47 of them are in districts won by both John McCain in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2004.
  4. Obamacare. Americans disapprove of healthcare reform by a 51-38 margin. And only a little more than a third think the $787 billion stimulus plan has done much good .... There's also plenty of worry among the electorate that Washington spending is creating a dangerous level of government debt.
  5. Rep. Parker Griffith. Griffith recently switched from Democrat to Republican and could be an electoral harbinger. His district, Alabama's 5th, gave 60 percent of its votes to Bush in 2004, and 61 percent to McCain.
  6. Unemployment. It would take a year of 4 percent growth generating 200,000 to 250,000 jobs a month to bring the rate down to 9 percent. And even that would be twice as high as what Americans have been used to during the past two decades.
  7. Voter apathy. a recent poll by the liberal Daily Kos blog found just 56 percent of Democrats definitely or probably voting in 2010 vs. 81 percent of Republicans.
  8. Lag time. Even if the unemployment rate falls a full percentage point next year, it may not help Democrats much. Americans only slowly regain their economic confidence after a deep recession.

Pethokoukis goes into more detail on these in his article which, if you're a political junkie, is worth a read.

You might also be interested in developments in Massachusetts where they're having an election to fill the seat of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. In a state with a three to one edge in voter registration the Democrat is actually slightly behind in the polls. It seems that even in the bluest of states people may have had enough of the Democrats' shenanigans and policies.