Believe In Me, Cyber War

A Man and a Team of Girls

Back in 1964, Jim Keith took a job at an Oklahoma high school to coach boy’s basketball.  But when he arrived, the administrators changed their minds and gave his job to someone else.  Keith’s contract didn’t specify which gender he’d coach, just that he’d coach.  So they switched him to the girls.  Keith was extremely disappointed.  Who wanted to coach girls when it was the boys who played real ball?  Especially when Keith was supposed to be head coach.  Keith tried to get the promised position back, except the girls he coached had other things in store for him.  Harold Keith, Jim’s brother, wrote a novel based on what happened.  That novel was made into a movie in 2006 called Believe In Me.  

Now, we all know the plot line of sports movies: a losing underdog of a team rises up to win.  It’s predictable, right?  But we could say that of all crime shows as well—in this episode investigators discover a crime and figure out who did it!  Wow, what a shocker.  We could say it of all romantic comedies as well—in this movie a couple at odds gets together.  No way!  We could say it of lots of stories.  And yet we love these stories anyway.  Why?  

Because the characters suck us in.  Because the story tellers do such a good job with the particular details we forget we’re watching a movie or reading a book.  We forget to think about the ending.  Furthermore, the stories are often about more than just winning games.  And so we worry about these people who have become real to us and focus on their immediate situation.  At least, that’s what happens when the story tellers do a good job.

And Robert Collector, who both wrote and directed the film, did a great job with Believe In Me.  Now, I don’t know how accurate the film’s depiction of five-on-five play is; I believe the girl basketball teams of that era played six-on-six.  But that’s a niggling technical detail.  Besides, the movie isn’t about technique anyway.  It’s about a man and a group of country girls who have to face difficult obstacles, not so much on the court, but off it.  If you have girls or like sports at all, I think you’ll love this movie. 

Cyber War

I recently reviewed America The Vulnerable which explained how exposed we are as individuals, corporations, and a country to cyber crime, cyber espionage (both state and corporate), and cyber attacks.  Of all the cyber threats we face as individuals and a nation, the least likely is an all out cyber war.  But just because it’s less likely that doesn’t mean the threat isn’t real.  Especially since cyber warfare has been in use since the 1990’s.  We used cyber weapons openly in the gulf war in 2003, knocking out Iraqi air defenses.  Israel used them to own Syria’s air defenses when bombing their clandestine nuclear site in 2007.  Russia used them against Estonia in 2008 and Georgia in 2009 on a variety of targets, bringing many critical systems to a halt.  In 2010, somebody, most likely the US or Israel, developed the Stuxnet worm to sabotage the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in Iran.  China has already conducted trial runs of cyber attacks on the US and has planted logic bombs and trap doors to activate in the future.

In Cyber War, Richard Clarke shares his insights into what cyber war is, how cyber weapons work, and how vulnerable we are as a nation.  He discusses the cyber warriors (hackers) we now employ in the US military, and how a cyber war is like and unlike other wars.  In the second half of the book, he discusses the factors that have created our current vulnerability, how to set up a defense, and what we need to think about when conducting a cyber war. 

And Clarke knows his stuff.  He worked for the State Department during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.  In 1992, President George H.W. Bush appointed him to chair the Counter-terrorism Security Group and to a seat on the United States National Security Council.  President Bill Clinton retained Clarke and in 1998 promoted him to be the national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection, and counterterrorism, the chief counterterrorism adviser on the National Security Council.  President George W. Bush kept him in the same position and later made him special adviser to the president on cyber security.    

The thing I liked most about the book is that in addition to describing cool cyber war weapons, threats, and incidents, Clarke examines answers to many critical questions.  For example, how can we set up a defense without the government becoming a 1984 nightmare?  Would arms agreements work in cyber space?  (No.)  How do you prevent a cyber war from turning into a kinetic (guns and troops) war?  How do you attack your enemy when it’s sometimes hard to know who launched the attack in the first place?  He discusses these and many more questions.

The book does have one fault.  Clarke has an obvious axe to grind with the Bush administration, and can’t help but make snide and irritating comments whenever he brings them up.  The good news is that those spots are few and far between.  If you want an excellent introduction into how cyber weapons are used and will likely be used in the future, you’ll want to read this book.

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4 Responses to Believe In Me, Cyber War

  1. Kate says:

    What are the 3 story phases you track for your outlines?

  2. John Brown says:

    Kate,

    Luckily, I wrote a series for SFWA on this. Go here http://www.sfwa.org/2010/12/key-conditions-for-suspense/ and read post 17 through the end.

  3. Kate says:

    Wow! Thank you. You have put an incredible amount of time into analyzing and teaching about writing. It’s been so helpful. I really appreciate your willingness to share.

    Over the past few months I’ve been reading and collecting books from your lists of most helpful and useful. Every one is packed with good info. I wish I’d seen the list before I started buying books on writing–I could have saved some money.:)

    Thanks again!

  4. John Brown says:

    Glad to hear it’s helpful, Kate. Good luck!