Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rather be up in the club shakin' for a thug

Get triple times the money and spendin' it like they wanna.

Danger Room has done a 180-degree turn in the past week or two. Most of their old pieces have been on the Drone War in Pakistan, and how American technology was affecting the War on Terror. Since the Haitocalypse, though, they've been doing a lot of stuff on American aid going to Haiti. It's a whole other way of looking at the same military. The whole thing kinda culminated for me with the following picture:That's the National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. Taken from a spy drone. That's pretty neat. The theory is that the high-resolution imaging can help relief workers see what places need help and how to get there, since this scale of natural disaster, combined with Haiti's scale of infrastructure, makes street maps nigh-useless.

So here's the military using their awesome technological advantages for good. Not just for good, but for great. All of these drones, robots, and vehicles can be easily used for aid purposes. One of my favorite robots, the Big Dog, could bring food and medicine across Godawful terrain quicker then humans. It's a whole lot more useful for that then it would be for a military use (it can take a kick, sure. But I imagine there are easy ways to make it go awkward turtle.

I'm reading this at the same time that I'm reading Monocle, a great if ineffably pretentious magazine, discussing nation branding. They talk about how Western countries who use their military capabilities for soft power have this tremendous moral advantage. Tyler Brule's crew love the Norwegians and the Germans, but I'm sure there are hundreds of examples that can be thought of. Like, say, USMil sending drones over Haiti.

So what is really interesting for me is the military's ability to use their Haiti experience to build up infrastructure in Afghanistan (which is purportedly a huge goal). Sure, there's nobody shooting at them in Port-au-Prince, but that doesn't mean there aren't lessons in the building infrastructure in a difficult environment. Even if I couldn't think of an environment less like Afghanistan then Haiti (maybe Guam?) the concept of using a military as a massive Engineering Corps and pillar of soft diplomacy is a concept worth developing.

I can't be the only one who has this idea. But if I am, then cite me in your think-tank white paper.

UPDATE: Better yet, cite this guy.

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