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A Farewell to Arms 97

A Farewell to Arms - Wired Magazine

A Farewell to Arms is a long-form journalistic article, written by John Carlin in 1997 and featured in Wired Magazine. The article pertains to the future and changing landscape of information warfare in the digital age. A few months after publication, Carlin was approached by 20th Century Fox to buy the rights to his article. Working with screenwriter David Macaroni, Carlin developed a script for a film called WW3.com, which was subsequently shelved in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. A few years and iterations later, this script evolved into Live Free or Die Hard (it is even listed as the source in the opening credits), but "what the film patently did not do was honour the spirit of the article’s title, ‘Farewell to Arms.’"



The article argues that the perceived convenience of digital connectivity comes at the cost of potential insecurity. Carlin points out that while an army's digital infrastructure can level the playing field against superior military forces, that same connectivity can render them vulnerable. Comparably, digitally connected civilian infrastructures lay vulnerable their power grids, stock markets, phones, etc. In this sense warfare in the digital age may be fought on different battlefronts and without weapons, hence the title 'A Farewell to Arms.'

The main question posed is how to best attack these insecurities in an ever-changing landscape. Militaries and governments tend to be rigid, hierarchical and procedural and thus slow to react and adapt to these conditions. Meanwhile, the breadth of internet warfare changes exponentially. In a digital age, massive purchases of military hardware such as planes, ships and aircraft carriers can actually lead to greater vulnerability.

Part of a government effort to combat on these new fronts are The Day After Games. These "games" are highly competitive thought experiments, undertaken by small but diverse teams of government agents. The goal is to train these new agents to best respond to a number of possible doomsday scenarios. However, questions remain about how to rewrite the playbook for such warfare, and who or what obstacles remain in the way.


This paragraph describes the fears of one Day After Games alum, Howard Frank. This would appear to be a part of the impetus for a movie script:

Frank is a Day After veteran; he even supervised one of the sessions. But at one point in our interview, he lets slip a remark so melodramatic that we can confidently expect it to be written into a Hollywood I-war blockbuster. We're chatting about last summer's big West Coast power outages, when suddenly he exclaims, "Each time I hear about one of these things, I say to myself, 'OK, it's started!' And when I find out it really didn't, I just think we've bought some additional time. But it will start."

Given the recent NSA revelations, these paragraphs seem particularly prescient:

The idea of confronting the threat of I-war by, in effect, opening up national security does have its appeal. Marc Rotenberg, director of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, sees the I-war debate as a possible doorway to a full-scale reexamination of national security and the institutions devoted to guarding it. "Now's the time to bring more of the NSA's activities into the public light. If there are these looming threats, you don't want to keep the debate locked up in the White House basement or the back rooms of the Pentagon."

And later:

But it is a fair bet that, sooner or later, we will find ourselves stumbling toward a genuine national debate - not, one hopes, in the wake of a real electronic Pearl Harbor. Certainly no elected official is likely to challenge the plausibility of the I-warthreat, so long as the risk exists that events might spectacularly contradict him. The issues will be how to go about countering the danger, and how to do so without setting off a mêlée over hot-button issues like domestic spying, privacy rights, "hidden" enemies, and official regulation of privately owned networks.

That's not just a tactical problem: when the FBI, the NSA, the CIA, and the Pentagon get together to talk about national security, a lot of people start reaching for their copies of the Bill of Rights. And when the threat everyone's talking about is from faceless foreign hackers, terrorists, and bomb makers - why not throw in a few child pornographers - it is a fair bet that paranoid demagoguery will not be absent. It's happened before: look at the 1950s. The best will lack all conviction, the worst will be full of passionate intensity, and the political fabric will start to fray.


Wired article in its entirety - ☀http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/5.05/netizen.html

John Carlin's Die Hard 4 webpage - http://www.johncarlin.eu/#/die-hard-4/4536652901