Surveillance Supremacy

Monday, October 24th, 2005

In Surveillance Supremacy, Arnold Kling explains why we need command of the spies:

In the twenty years between the two World Wars, there was a paradigm shift involving air power. Air combat, which was a sideshow during the first World War, was decisive during the second. The most important naval engagements — Pearl Harbor, Midway, Coral Sea — were decided by aircraft. The Battle of Britain was famously a duel in the air. During the Second World War, no country could attempt a major ground attack in the face of an enemy’s air superiority. (The Germans launched the Battle of the Bulge under cover of un-flyable weather, which according to legend caused General George Patton to ask for divine relief.)

From 1940 on, the air was viewed as a decisive theater of war. Military men spoke of ‘air superiority,’ ‘air supremacy,’ or ‘command of the skies.’

The cheapening of material goods is leading to another paradigm shift in military affairs. It is becoming less and less costly to assemble and deliver weapons that can cause mass casualties and major economic loss. It is becoming commensurately more valuable to be able to figure out who the bad guys are and keep track of what they are up to. What we need in the information age is surveillance supremacy — command of the spies, if you will.

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