It’s a commonly accepted tenet of both warfare and gamesmanship that the best defense is a good offense.

This is wrong.

As anyone with any basis in the underlying concepts of space-age warfare can tell you, the best defense is a force field.

But combining defense, like a force field, with offense, like a tank, as the British military is doing right now? Well, that’s just some diabolically clever shit right there.

But will it be a match for the battleship mounted, weapons-grade laser being developed by Boeing right now? Only time will tell.

Well, time and the inevitable Mech War of 2019.

American Atheists, Inc. has won it’s continuing battle to keep God out of Kentucky.

Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate, who apparently despises The Lord and all of His magnificent creations, has declared that a 2006 law requiring Homeland Security officials in Kentucky to recognize their “dependence on God Almighty” to defend the Bluegrass State from those who would harm it. Exactly which terrorist cell was out to get Kentucky remains unclear, but the fact that legislators felt they needed the direct protection of YHWH suggests that an impressive array of nefarious forces were being aligned against the northernmost region of the American south.

Even for a devout agnostic like myself, it seems that there’s a little room for divine intervention in this case. After all, if you’re not going to get God to come down and protect the American bourbon supply, not to mention the beating heart of the twin industries of horse racing and glue manufacturing, what are you going to call the big guy in for?

Now that they’ve made Kentucky safe for secular humanism, the folks American Atheists Inc. can get back to their more important humanitarian work of feeding the hungry, fighting poverty and providing quality housing in depressed neighborhoods.

I’m just joshing! They’re gonna file a complaint about a cross on some stretch of bumfuck highway or some shit. Keep up the good work, guys – you’re really making the world a better place.

Oh, BBC, you’ve put me in a wicket that is ever so sticky.

On the one hand, I’m as ready as anyone for a serious rethinking of how we use Predators and other UAVs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s particularly important in the latter theater, where civilian casualties caused by drone strikes play a major part in turning public opinion against US and NATO forces. The fact of the matter is that we don’t win the war against the Taliban in the region until we end public perception that we are the enemy, and we don’t end that perception until we stop killing civilians. Because frankly, until we stop killing civilians, we are the enemy to the vast majority of people on the ground in Afghanistan.

Since I’m on record as feeling this way, I couldn’t be happier to hear that Professor Noel Sharkey, who has been talking for years about the need for a reconsideration of whether the new face of modern warfare is a net improvement. For the soldiers who get to control these heavily armed automatons from half a world away, it certainly seems like it. But if we’re unable to distinguish civilian from combatant – a task that’s often difficult enough for a soldier on the ground – then are we really making wars more winnable? Or are we just making the rules a little different?

America - Are You Going To Let A Robot Fight Your Battles For You?

America - Are You Going To Let A Robot Fight Your Battles For You?

Maybe, by their definition, there’s no such thing as a safe weapon. But there’s a clear line between weapons that are ready to be used safely and ones that aren’t. And it’s time for a serious conversation about where UAVs and other robotic weaponry are in that process. Are they highly advanced? No doubt – technology has made undeniable strides from the days when all that robot warriors could do was rock ’em and/or sock ’em. But are they fool proof? Hardly, and when they’re not, the results are disastrous. So yeah, I’m happy that the media is giving the subject some love.

But really, BBC – did you have to run Jason Palmer’s excellent story on the matter under the headline ‘Call for debate on killer robots‘?

File Under Completely Unsurprising:

We still don’t know a lot about the secret CIA intelligence program that was revealed this week, and by “don’t know a lot,” I of course mean “don’t know anything at all.” We don’t what sort of program this was, or what it entailed. We don’t know what information or results it was after, or how it went about getting them. And we don’t yet know why or how the CIA misled Congress about it.

But as of this morning, it seems we can confirm that we know one thing about the situation, and it shouldn’t surprise anybody: wherever there is a controversial intelligence program that needs to be kept under wraps due to its potential to offend the decency of Americans everywhere, Dick Cheney will be there .

Sources have told CNN that Cheney gave the order not to reveal to Congress the details of the program, which began shortly after Spetember 11, 2001 but was never fully enacted.

The item at the top of plenty of military wish lists looks like it’s on it’s way to a battlefield near you with the long awaited XM25 is out of the prototype phase and due to begin field testing in Afghanistan and Iraq this summer.

Designed to eliminate targets in cover, such as snipers standing behind walls or entrenched in caves, the XM25 is a sort of high tech hybrid of carbine rifle and precision grenade launcher that fires High Explosive Air Bursting (HEAB) 25mm rounds. Courtesy of a laser range finder, infrared, built in compass and thermal optics, the rifle can tell it’s user, via a wireless signal, exactly how far away their target is. The user can then tell the rifle how at what distance from the target the 25mm high explosive round should explode in the air, eliminating whatever material, be it trench, cave or door frame, the target is using for cover, and in all likelihood, eliminating the target as well.

Right now, the only ammunition available is the standard HEAB round, but munitions for every situation are in development, including less lethal rounds. Details on ammo and the tech heavy aspects of the last available prototype can be perused at Gizmodo. But the fact is that if even one of these $25 rounds at some point prevents troops under fire in Afghanistan or Iraq from needing to call in artillery fire or air strikes, that are far more potentially hazardous to the lives and welfare of innocent bystanders, then it has served it’s purpose admirably. The XM25 is a gun designed to prevent collateral damage and save civilian lives, and that is fundamentally a good thing.

It also happens to be one of the only ways that the United States is going to come out of the current wars in the Middle East in a better position than we entered them. Whether you believe they’re necessary or not, we’re not going to come to victory in Afghanistan on the back of a Predator drone. We have to stop indiscriminately endangering and harming civilians, and until we do, the mission on the ground – to disable the roots of global terrorist cells, rob their leaders of places to hide and cripple their ability to attack the citizens of the United States – has to be seen as a failure.

In other security news, scientists in the United Kingdom have made a big step forward in detecting concealed weapons. Researchers have unveiled the prototype for a hand held microwave radar scanner that can detect gun like objects discreetly, from a distance and, to hear the inventors tell it, outside of a laboratory environment. What exists right now is a very early but promising iteration of the technology, which resembles in principle a portable airport security sensor that’s limited in what sort of objects in can detect – guns, but not knives – and isn’t able to paint the clear picture of the object that one would get from a larger machine. But more advanced versions of the device could be helping police in the UK get a read on suspicious characters sooner than later, though it’s perceived usefulness as less a security countermeasure and more of a predictor of accuracy in ‘stop and searches’ does have the troubling ring of Newspeak to it. Then again, this is the London Metropolitan Police we’re talking about, so maybe a lack of concern for privacy that shouldn’t be surprising.

Finally, this week also brought a reminder that while microwave radars and laser range finders are all well and good, these things are not what security is ultimately about. At the end of the day, it’s about whatever works for your situation. And if that entails smiting your gigantic enemies with thousands upon thousands of stinging insects, then so much the better.