Fox News and CNN have long been pushing the idea of “military action against Iran to restore democracy”, but the nature of the invasion force has taken some by surprise. For the first time in this type of warfare, no soldiers actually entered enemy territory.
It’s a lot like a computer game, except that the enemy units being destroyed are not computer-generated objects, but real vehicles, buildings and people. The Commander sits well behind the front lines, directing the passage of war on his WarStation screen.
It looks uncannily like a PlayStation game.
The planes and ground forces are all remotely controlled and un-manned droids, fed by constant feedback from spy satellites and webcam drones.
The actual fighting on the ground and in the air is done by the ‘Top Guns’, contest-winning youngsters who control their fighting units from computers connected to the military ‘net.
With years of games practice behind them, they can out-gun and out-manoeuvre any real enemy in the field.
Needless to say, engineers are in high demand and there’s one unit the US Army doesn’t need – that’s the medic.
As for the enemy, that’s their lookout. “They should just surrender,” says General Martin. Freedom Alliance commanders are just waiting for their call.
Read the full story in the detailed Analysis/Synthesis section
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
Video games and computer games have always featured war-like strategy and fighting genres. More recently, FPS (First Person Shooter) games have become incredibly life-like and graphically realistic. Even interaction with other players has become seamless, with two opposing teams playing on a LAN (Local Area Network) or over the Internet having to contend only with each other’s actions, the computer server providing only the landscape, feedback and game rules. Youngsters become addicted to these games, playing them on-line for hours on end. Some games even offer a combination of Strategy (building up a base and force and sending your units out to engage the enemy) and First Person Shooter (taking the part of a unit in actual engagement).
War itself has become more divorced from reality with the passage of time. In ancient times, the brutal horror of war was depicted in murals and paintings, but never conveyed in full, except perhaps in poetry. In more recent times, we have watched Baghdad being bombed on CNN and over the Internet. This of course was heavily censored, but in the future, when every camera phone is connected to the world wide web, we will have to choose what to look at and what to believe.
The US is perhaps the most sensitive to losing citizens’ lives to war. From WW2 to Iraq, we have seen the importance of American casualties increase to fanatical levels. Even one life lost is too much on the American political home front. But technology provides the solution. Weapons of mass and individual destruction can increasingly be controlled by computer and console; cruise missiles, smart bombs and reconnaissance drones already fall into this category. Fighter planes will be next, and then tanks and ‘infantry’. The US military agency DARPA is investing heavily in robotics research. A global network of satellites and wireless communication completes the picture for real ‘war games’.
The final question is who will ‘drive’ the robots? Obviously those with the most skill. Once there is no risk of loss of life, game champions can be drafted into the process. But what about the psychological effects of using kids to physically destroy a real enemy, even if they are only viewed on a screen? Will the world tolerate this new breed of cyber soldiers?
2003: US Invades Iraq>
The United States invades Iraq with a conventional force to depose Saddam Hussein. Although casualties are light and the invasion swift, the body count increases as the occupation wears on.
2004: US Army launches America’s Army game>
Capitalizing on young cyber gamers’ love of action games, the US Army makes a game called “America’s Army” and gives it away for free. Not only does this game contain overt and subliminal patriotic and recruitment messages, but the game play encourages players to undertake ‘training’ to advance to the next level. These tasks are based on real soldier education. Players who have reached a certain level can skip some basic training when they join the real US Army! American kids love the realistic graphics and action scenes in this new game.
2007: Faceless Fighters
The US Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (a pilotless fighter aircraft) begins active duty, “with integrated sensors, navigation and communications that can operate in the network-centric battlefield of tomorrow.” These stealth fighters can be controlled interactively by a special version of Microsoft Flight Simulator. The pilot experience is a lot like being in the training simulator, rather than the aircraft under enemy fire.
2009: Road Warriors
The US Autonomous Fighting Vehicle (essentially a driverless tank) takes to the battlefield. With thermal imaging sensors and “intelligent mission control” software, these vehicles are launched on “seek and destroy” missions without constant remote control. But when they run into difficulties, an alert is triggered and they can be driven by remote. On-board cameras provide a real-time view of the action.
2011: Men in Arms
The US Army unveils the Remote Infantry Combat unit (RIC), a wheeled device that resembles the Mars rover, with a swivelling turret gun. RIC can be controlled by any authorized wireless broadband access, and has already been pre-tested in the latest version of the game, “America’s Army V6.0”. It’s a favourite unit with the top players in the World “America’s Army” Series.
2013: US-led coalition invades Iran
After months of failed diplomacy and UN attempts at a resolution, the US invades Iran with a completely un-manned air and ground force. Resisting with manned vehicles and human-operated weapons, the Iranian Army suffers massive casualties. The ‘Top Guns’, soldiers and fighter pilots with the most enemy kills, are actually American college kids. Used to seeing the enemy get ‘fragged’ (slang for fragmented or blown to bits) they are hardened to scenes of devastation and death. They all get medals of honor from their Commander-in-Chief.
The Swiss are in uproar, proclaiming “this invasion flies in the face of the Geneva Convention.” The US disregards these objections, claiming “we have the right to protect American lives.”