30 August 2006


The AK-47 is, unhappily, one of the great engineering feats of the 20th century. It can pour out its 30 round magazine in three seconds. It's so durable and reliable that you probably could use one to hammer nails all day, leave it buried in the mud for a week, dig it up, brush the mud off with your hand, and still expect it to fire. The design is so simple that you could stamp most of the parts out of pot metal using machine tools scavenged from an old toaster factory. There are factories working in the third world right now that are churning them out at a manufacturing cost of maybe fifteen dollars a pop. Not that they need to; thanks to the disintegration of Russia and the vast manufacturing capacity of China, the world is flooded with the damned things.

There's over a hundred million of them out there.

Sure, by modern firearms standards, they aren't terribly powerful. The rounds it uses have a hard time penetrating more than a quarter inch of steel plate, and only have a range of about three hundred yards. The rifle itself isn't very accurate, either—beyond a hundred yards, you can't reliably hit a man.

But isn't that enough?

The AK is a big reason why the world is full of endless bloody civil wars and insurrections and border conflicts and so on.

And I just found an article saying that if you thought having a world full of AK-47s was bad, you can look forward to the cruise missile being to the start of the 21st century what the submachine gun was to the end of the 20th.

How many cruise missile types exist in the world today and how many countries have them? Given that reverse-engineering and modification have produced different variants of the major types, some accounts reckon that as many as 130 types exist, with 75 countries possessing them.
Regarding the democratization of cruise missile technology generally, Arquilla continues: “When cruise missiles are as widespread as AK-47s, we will truly have the war of all against all.” As for the strategic prospects in such an era, [U.S. Naval Postgraduate School professor John] Arquilla says, “I always send people back to Jean Bloch's The Future of War (1898). Bloch was a banker and he looked at society, security, and strategy all together. Before World War I, he understood that technological advances were creating systems of enormous destructive capacity, but the societal systems that were emerging would be capable both of taking great damage and of continuing. Because everybody had these capabilities, you would end up with a long attritional war, which both sides would lose. I think we're in a similar situation to the one Bloch described, where the barriers to entry have dropped sufficiently so that, as long as anyone has the will to fight, they'll be able to continue fighting. I think that's the strategic picture that's most pertinent to our time.”
Emphasis mine. Are we just running out of time to find a better way than war to resolve our differences?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you've likely seen the movie "Lord Of War". If you haven't, its excellent. Its basically about a guy that becomes an international arms dealer, and his experiences. The "behind the scenes" part of the movie is particularly powerful. I'll paraphrase the producer "In the scene where Nicholas Cage enters the room filled with piles and piles of AK's, we discovered that it was in fact cheaper and easier to find and rent real AK-47's for the scene than it was to aquire fake ones. We got thousands of them, also the tanks you see were rented, and real" Thats a paraphrase, but it gives the idea of how available those weapons really are.

I also thought you might be interested in hearing about Darra Adam Khel, one of the towns in Pakistan that M&I were thinking of visiting on a trip there



Apparently things just aren't the way they used to be in the NWFP. When we talked about going there in 2000 you could still rent tanks and blow up abandoned buildings and test RPG's. Although I'm sure if you had enough cash there you could do anything.
Other things I read was that they claim that they can copy a gun that they have never seen before in 9 minutes. And that they apparently can use hand turned laithes and bow drills with such accuracy that you can't tell which gun was produced at a factory and which was made by some guy in a tribal wrap with probably the oldest tool in the world since the throwing stick.
Dio D.