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Bomb them with 'bots

"Bomb them with butter" campaigns are popular among both opponents and supporters of W's war in Afghanistan. There is some evidence that food airdrops are more about propaganda than about feeding people, but as long as we're fantasizing about humanitarian gestures we can make without getting our hands dirty, I've got another suggestion. We could bomb them with 'bots.

There are an estimated 10 million land mines in Afghanistan, enough to kill or maim over a quarter of the population. I'd like to see the mars rover people team up with the bomb-sniffer folks to make a rugged little rover that puts spray paint wherever it finds a suspected land mine -- and if possible sounds an alarm and detonates the mine as well. I say make 'em cheap and sow the country with millions of sniffer bots so those land mines don't stand a chance. Make them out of recyclable plastic so their remnants can start a new industry in Afghanistan. And if that works, bring in the wizards at I-Bot to make more ambitious devices that target other kinds of arms as well. Turn Afghanistan into a no-explosives zone and watch the bad guys find somewhere else to play.

Ah, fantasy is a nice thing. Except that I fear that less benign fantasies are what really drives this conflict.

toys 2001.10.08 link
/ Usenet thread


There's an AP story out in which the US Air Force is patting itself on the back for dropping 35,000 meals on Afghanistan. That's one meal for every 1000 Afghans or about one for every 30 refugees -- assuming they all reached the people who need them and not counting the 2,000,000 refugees already in Pakistan. Not exactly impressive...

Prentiss Riddle [riddle ARROBA io PUNTO com] • 2001.10.09
Sez the Times (UK): `When I asked an Afghan friend still living in Kabul what he thought of America's airdrop of bread as well as bombs, he replied: "We prefer the bombs. At least then we can collect the shrapnel and sell it for scrap."'

Prentiss Riddle [riddle ARROBA io PUNTO com] • 2001.10.16
Probably the only way land mine sniffer robots could be developed is along a business model; i.e. let us clear the land and we (the company who sponsers it) get to keep money from scrap metal sales. Obviously, the robots would have to be cheap - but, just hundreds of them. They could clear safe passage corridors first. At this point in time they would have to be remotly driven, perhaps by volunteers (Afgans given a quick 2 week seminar, happy tyo clear their land), with 2 models a discovery unit and a disarm and dig unit. If you start with 1000 units, it would be realistic to expect 300 in active service at any given time, with the others in transit or repair. Disarming units could use a long arm digger (along with knowledge applied to special aids for the land mine designs used in the area)with shielding used to minimise damage should a detonation occur.
The explosive material, first neutralized, could be processed in a small plant, to provide chemicals that could resold hopefully for peacefull purposes. There would be waste that could be reburied (enviromentalists will just have to look the other way - reminding themselves its better in this form than the other form.)
This would continue for years, ever widening the safe areas. After a decade the units could be replaced with the next generation technology, faster more advanced units, automomously clearing the land wiht the relaistic chance of finihing the job about 35 years form now.

Terence Spross [twspross ARROBA juno PUNTO com] • 2001.11.05
Sounds like the DoD is already thinking along these lines, although not at the price tag I had in mind. Check out the mine-clearing lobsters. (Thanks to Reenhead.)

Prentiss Riddle [riddle ARROBA io PUNTO com] • 2002.06.28
In a late-breaking development, Kehaar of Silflay Hraka reports on a proposal to bomb them with trained monkeys.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle ARROBA io PUNTO com] • 2003.03.26
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