February 06, 2008

Once, sure, Twice, Maybe. Three? Four!?

Once, sure. Twice, Maybe. Three? Four!?!

Much of the Middle East has been without reliable internet access recently due to the somewhat suspicious cutting of four seperate underwater cables, in seperate locations, within a few days of each other. The problem has been alleviated by re-routing of traffic until ships can reach the cables to repair them, a process which may take several weeks. The problem was initially believed to be caused by anchors of passing ships, but that has since been retracted and deals have already been signed by several companies for new cables. Without knowledge of the complex infrastructure we can’t really ascertain how unlikely four separate cables having near simultaneous problems is – but many are treating it as suspicious considering recent news. Personally, I think things may have been blown out of proportion by the limited information we have, although it was believed that Iran had been isolated by a single disabled router this is plain untrue and given the redundancies inherent in internet infrastructure it would be difficult if not impossible to fully cut off a country, but that is not to understate the consequences of these problems.On a related note, Iran has recently announced plans to move to trade oil with the Euro rather than the US dollar, which will cause further devaluing of the greenback. Saddam Hussein was in the process of doing the same before the US invasion, a decision reversed by the occupying force.Some are interpreting this as signs of an “info war” and while I don’t subscribe to the analysis, I find it interesting to consider the idea that in an age where increasingly large amounts of money can be attributed to companies based on estimated worth of intangible assets such as human networks and brand identities, the idea that you have to physically invade a country to do it economic damage is becoming outdated. There has been a documented shift towards “proxy war and if one agrees on the existence of this trend then more abstract forms of conflict between powers seem to be a likely follow up.If you do buy into the “information war” analysis there is ample fodder in the media, but more interestingly rumours of a theoretical invasion plan hint at a sophisticated attack not necessarily limited to military action. Indeed, Several large governments, such as the US, are spending increasing amounts of their military budget on more abstract forms of warfare (pdf)Again, although I don’t subscribe to this view, I find it interesting to consider as a growing trend a shift from conventional war to proxy war to purely economic warfare as engaging in open hostilities with any country becomes increasingly risky from a game theory point of view.See Also.

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