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Democracy & Technology Blog One Tech Company’s War Effort

Unlike World War II, when Americans were asked to sacrifice a great deal in support of the war effort–think rationing, rubber and scrap metal drives and the iconic image of “Rosie the Riveter”–the War on Terror has demanded little in the way of citizen involvement. In fact, given the country’s cultural obsession with Anna Nicole Smith and American Idol, one would be hard-pressed to know we’re at war at all. As a result–and not surprisingly–few individuals or corporations have gone out of their way to directly contribute to American military success (or if they have, did not receive coverage in the media for doing so.) One notable and poignant example–highlighted in this Associated Press article–is the recent commitment by IBM to provide $45 million worth of Arabic-English translation software to the Pentagon to better facilitate communication between American soldiers and Iraqi citizens.
According to the report–which appeared on page A13 of The Seattle Times–the offer came about as a result of an explosion in Iraq that gravely wounded the son of an IBM sales specialist. The story eventually made its way to IBM Chairman and CEO Samuel Palmisano, who contacted President Bush directly offering the software at no charge to the Department of Defense. Of course this being America, the offer is under review by attorneys seeking to ensure the legality of the donation!
That hurdle notwithstanding, IBM is to be commended for its leadership and for recognizing that its corporate success is intricately connected with a successful outcome to the war–one that would undoubtedly result in greater global stability. It also creates an incentive for other companies to consider ways in which they can contribute to the war effort–not for any potential financial gain, but for love of country. That’s what characterized the citizens who gave of themselves in World War II, and it’s something that is sorely needed today.
As for the soldier who was injured in that terrible explosion, presently recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center, he’s delighted. While acknowledging that the software would not have prevented his own injuries he commented, “Communicating with the locals is difficult. This technology that IBM is going to offer is really going to help.”
I hope to read many more of these stories in the months and years ahead–hopefully closer to the front page of the newspaper.

Steven J. Buri

President, Discovery Institute
Steven J. Buri was appointed President of Discovery Institute in December 2011. He joined the Institute in April 2000 as Executive Director and was named Vice President in 2005. Mr. Buri has served in various capacities in government at the local, state and federal levels. Steve was born and raised in the small farming community of Colfax, Washington and is a 1994 graduate of Washington State University (Double Major-Political Science, Criminal Justice). He lives on Mercer Island with his wife Angelica, a daughter, Caitlin, and a son, J.D.