The Noosphere vs. Blogosphere: 
Is The Devil in Your Laptop?
 

 

Video Games and the Wars of the Future

by Oyang Teng

``In 2013, the Army will unleash a new breed of soldier. A soldier whose lethality has been honed by the finest technologies. A soldier equipped to see first and strike decisively. Today, he's yours to command."

--Advertisement for the video game "Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter"

 

Welcome to Dick Cheney's fantasy world, where the U.S. fights permanent wars against the ``failed states" of the Third World, with legions of Special Forces hunter-killer squads backed up by ``shock and awe" air power. Forget that the reality in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a disaster; the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) continues, with heavy emphasis on automated and space-based weapons systems, ``information dominance," and computer simulation.

If the wars of the future are to be fought by a new breed of soldier, a ready pool of potential recruits is already being trained. Many of them have not yet entered the military, or even high school, and some have never touched a weapon. But, thanks to a perverted transformation of the ``Military-Industrial Complex" into the newly-styled ``Military-Entertainment Complex," the video games of today are brainwashing today's 14-to-25-year-olds for the wars of tomorrow.

``Ghost Recon," which is based on the premise of a near-future ``U.S. intervention on Mexican soil in order to bring back Democracy," was developed by Ubisoft, in conjunction with the Army, to showcase its Future Force Warrior concept that it plans to implement soon. ``America's Army," an enormously popular online game, was developed by the Modeling, Virtual Environment and Simulation Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School, and released in 2002 as the ``U.S. Army's Official Game" to bolster recruitment.

Today's trigger-happy gamer has the choice of hundreds of similar titles plying virtual violence as entertainment--and as training. With American fighting forces bogged down in Southwest Asia, this new phase in the militarization of entertainment and the commercialization of war is only the latest in a long-term project to destroy the U.S. military from within. Combined with the man-machine doctrine of cybernetics, the post-war military transformation has been a key feature of the imperial policy of globalization now being used as the imperative for new wars of ``Democracy."

 

The Soldier and the State

In 1957, when Samuel Huntington wrote the RMA founding treatise, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations, the United States was already in the midst of a degeneration into a post-industrial state. President Kennedy's extraordinary scientific-industrial drive for the Apollo project was only a temporary interruption in the design for what Zbigniew Brzezinski called a `technetronic' society. As capital-intensive investment in agriculture and industry gave way to an emphasis on the white-collar services economy, another pillar of national sovereignty, the institution of the military, was under assault by what President Eisenhower warned was the ``Military-Industrial Complex."

Huntington claimed, in the spirit of H.G. Wells, that, ``The professional army which fights well because it is its job to fight well is far more reliable than the political army which fights well only while sustained by a higher purpose.... The military quality of the professional is independent of the cause for which he fights. The supreme military virtue is obedience." According to Huntington, who today champions a ``Clash of Civilizations," the Korean War was exemplary since it was the first major war in which the American soldier ``fought solely and simply because he was ordered to fight it and not because he shared any identification with the political goals for which the war was being fought. Instead, he developed a supreme indifference to the political goals of the war--the traditional hallmark of the professional."

It is no surprise that Huntington explicitly attacked the influence of France's Ecole Polytechnique on the 19th-Century curriculum of West Point, America's premier academy for military officers. With a heavy emphasis on subjects like constructive geometry, West Point produced the nation's leading engineers, who directed the massive rail-building projects that integrated the continental expanse of the country. These served as an essential part of the nation's military, as well as economic security. Instead of the trained killer of today's gaming world, the military was helping to turn out productive citizens who could think creatively.

 

Is That a Joystick in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

Meanwhile, Norbert Wiener's cybernetic theories of automation were being put into practice by the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as ARPA (today, called DARPA,) which was the dominant sponsor of computer-related research. Cold War-driven projects like SAGE (Semi Automatic Ground Environment,) an automated air defense network of unmanned jet planes, led to a growing interest in war gaming and command systems studies.

Behavioral psychologists like J.C.R. Licklider were called upon to concoct breathless new theories to explain the emerging interface between man and machine. Licklider had been a participant at Wiener's cybernetics conferences[1] and was hired by various government, academic, and private research labs, many of which sprung up with funding from ARPA. While heading the Command and Control Research division of ARPA in 1960, he wrote a paper titled, ``Man-Computer Symbiosis." In it he stated, ``The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today."

That hope would take form in such later projects as DARPA's Augmented Cognition to create soldier-computer ``dyads," and the sterile vision for a ``Posthuman Renaissance," where ``there are no demarcations between bodily existence and computer simulation, between cybernetic mechanism and biological organism."[2] This would become the holy grail of the front-end research that has spun off not only future battlefield technologies, but also much of today's sociopath-creating video-game industry.

 

Third Wave War

The post-Franklin Roosevelt degeneration in U.S. policy exploded into full view with our entry into the Vietnam War. Among other lessons, the experience on the battlefield demonstrated that victory doesn't come from kill-power alone.

Changes in combat training had increased the firing rate--that is, the percentage of American soldiers who would shoot their weapon at the enemy with the intent to kill--from 15-20% during World War II, to over 95% by the end of the Vietnam War.[3] New methods conditioned soldiers to shoot at human-like targets on reflex, to break down the natural psychological aversion to killing other human beings.[4] This kind of stimulus-response operant conditioning to create stone-cold killers, would become a central feature of shooter video-games found at most arcades, beginning in the 1980s, and which are now a fixture at U.S. military installations worldwide.

With the Indo-China war as the vehicle, the transition to the so-called Information Age as the supposedly natural evolutionary shift from ``second wave" industrial civilization, to ``third wave" post-industrial civilization, was celebrated in Alvin and Heidi Toffler's 1980 The Third Wave. In their 1993 follow-up book War and Anti-War, as if stealing from Wells' The Shape of Things to Come, they argued that under the clash between second- and third-wave cultures, nation-states will dissolve as they faced ``endless outbreaks of `small wars.'|" Militaries, including privatized ``professionals" on contract with the UN or individual states, would have to be reshaped to adapt to this post-nation-state world of ``anarchic turbulence."

At the same time, military officers were closely studying how to apply the concepts of The Third Wave to warfighting. The Army's Training and Doctrine Command, which was formed in 1973 to rethink Army doctrine, would draw on some of the worst concepts then being popularized by ``intellectuals" like Toffler and the freakish Stewart Brand to sell the end of national sovereignty in the sleek packaging of globalization.[5]

In the aftermath of Vietnam, cyberfreaks, New Agers, and downright occultic Satanists threw their efforts into remaking the military. Army officers Col. Paul Vallely and avowed Satanist Lt. Col. Michael Aquino authored a 1980 discussion paper titled, ``From PSYOP to MindWar: The Psychology of Victory," detailing a scheme to utilize new technologies to wage the equivalent of psychological Total War, using America's dominance over electronic media to ``make possible a penetration of the minds of the world such as would have been inconceivable just a few years ago."[6] In the Hobbesian virtual world projected by these utopians, the U.S. military would be the world's high-tech Leviathan, playing whack-a-mole with any upstart regional power that didn't accept the supposedly emerging consensus for a globalized world order.

Named ``Transformation," this new paradigm would emphasize smaller, more mobile, more lethal forces, not dependent on the (quickly shrinking) in-depth industrial capacities of the national economy. The ``lethality" of the individual ``warfighter" would be enhanced by networked communications and other digital technologies. The new military ideal would no longer be the model of the citizen-soldier, but that of the cyborg.

 

The Military-Entertainment Complex

It was also in 1980 that the military formed its first major partnership with a video-game company, when the Army contracted with Atari to modify its tank-shooter arcade game ``Battlezone" for official training use.

Video games had come into their own during the late 1970s, having been developed by veterans of early ARPA-funded defense projects. By 2006, video and PC games had become a $13.5 billion industry (not counting the many online games available for free), including a huge array of war-based games, ranging from re-enactments of World War II battles in the ``Medal of Honor" series, to the modern (urban) warfare of ``Battlefield 2.[7] Today, game company Kuma\War (motto: ``Real War News. Real War Games") goes a step further, offering re-enactments of battles only days or weeks old, with a constant real-life source for updated missions coming straight out of the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite ``pre-historic" games and graphics, by comparison to today, military recruiters had already begun to troll video arcades by the early 1980s, to find kids whose skills in front of the screen would serve them well in future combat roles.[8]

With the end of the Cold War, the military's transformation kicked into high gear. Operation Desert Storm was taken as proof by advocates of the RMA that war had entered the Information Age, and would now include such revolutionary features as the massive privatization and outsourcing of core military functions--much like the private army of the British East India Company of the 18th and 19th centuries--to dirty outfits like Cheney's Halliburton.

President Clinton's Defense Secretaries William Perry and William Cohen were also big fans of ``information warfare." In a 1997 speech at Fort Irwin, Calif. Cohen told the troops: ``What we're witnessing now is the transformation of the level of information as broad and as absolute as one can conceive of it today. So, actual domination of the information world will put us in a position to maintain superiority over any other force for the foreseeable future."[9]

Despite the proliferation of euphemistic phrases and acronyms to describe this supposedly new form of war, the stench of old-fashioned British-style imperialism is hard to cover up. For example, Pentagon advisor Thomas P.M. Barnett, in his book Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating,[10] outlines a lunatic plan to enforce globalization through a combination of ``Netcentric" (high-tech automated weapons systems) and ``Fourth Generation" (Special Forces counterinsurgency) war, to export security from the ``Core" (the globalized Western world and its allies), to the ``Gap" (everyone else).

Of course, today's 14-to-25-year-olds are to be the foot soldiers to carry out this imperial wet dream, given that they are ``the most overly programmed ... generation that America has ever produced."

 

`All But War Is Simulation'

While the military pushed ahead with ambitious simulations research throughout the 1980s and 1990s, through such programs as the Simulation Training and Instrument Command (STRICOM)--with the motto, ``All But War Is Simulation--and Simulated Network (SIMNET)," virtual reality combat wasn't confined to military research centers. A generation of bored youth was spending increasing amounts of time in virtual battle in the arcade, on their home video-game consoles, and increasingly on their PCs.

As Bill Gates would soon realize, the 1993 release of id Software's ``Doom" for the PC was something of an innovation.<[11] Although the first-person shooter genre had been introduced with the previous year's ``Wolfenstein 3d," ``Doom" had more violence and better graphics. Subsequent versions also included the source code, allowing players to modify the game to their personal specifications (like the ``God mode" programmed by Columbine killers Harris and Klebold).

It was such a modification that produced ``Marine Doom." In 1996, Marine Commandant Charles Krulak issued a memorandum with a directive to find ways to ensure that ``Marines come to work and spend part of each day talking about warfighting: learning to think, making decisions, and being exposed to tactical and operational issues," including through the use of ``computer-based war games." The Marine Corps Modeling and Simulation Management Office established a ``Computer Based Wargames Catalog," and two Marine programmers, who would later go on to work for video-game companies, gave birth to ``Marine Doom" as a tactical trainer for four-man combat squads.

The wall separating the commercial and the military market had been decisively breached.

A year later came a report entitled ``Modeling and Simulation: Linking Entertainment and Defense," summarizing the proceedings of a National Research Council conference which brought together representatives from the military and entertainment world. Their goal was to map out a working relationship whereby the same cutting edge simulations and virtual reality research brought to bear on enhanced training programs for the military, could also be used in commercially developed and mass-marketed video games. Such would be the mission of the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT).[12]

 

Just Like the Holodeck

With an initial sponsorship of $45 million from the Army, the ICT was established in 1999 at the campus of the University of Southern California, to be the premier laboratory for the science and art, of fantasy. It is staffed with Hollywood writers, graphics designers, and computer engineers, whose simulations research revolves around behavior modeling and artificial intelligence.

But the ultimate aim, explicitly outlined by some of ICT's creators, is to actually construct Star Trek's ``holodeck" (the holographic virtual reality room used on the TV show): the ultimate immersive experience.

How to achieve this? As stated in the summary for the ICT's Sensory Environments Evaluation (SEE) project, whose research includes studies on the role of video-game play on performance in simulated environments, ``Recent neurobiological studies have found that emotional experiences stimulate mechanisms that enhance the creation of long-term memories. Thus, more effective training scenarios can be designed by incorporating key emotional cues."

Creating memories is exactly what simulations research is all about, where the ultimate measure of success is when reality and simulation become indistinguishable in the mind of the human guinea pig.

In addition to conditioning through immersion, the newest combat training techniques emphasize ``increased situational awareness" for ``data-rich environments"--namely, the urban battle zones that young Americans are expected to fight in during the coming years. DARPA's Improving Warfighter's Information Intake Under Stress project, otherwise known as Augmented Cognition, shows where this research is headed.

Through a device attached to the soldier's head, brain activity would be directly regulated, creating a man-machine symbiot called a dyad. Here is Huntington's professional soldier with a cyberculture twist: a souped-up warrior whose primary virtue is that he can process information faster and better than the enemy.

The training techniques being designed by today's ``visionaries" in virtual technologies and artificial intelligence are, in reality, based on nothing more than the reductionist belief that the human mind is a programmable system, not fundamentally different than an animal or machine. This absurd premise had already been thoroughly refuted by the time of Plato, where, in dialogues like the Meno, Plato demonstrated the characteristic power of the human mind to transcend logical systems--in other words, to change the rules of the game.

 

Killer Graphics

With ventures like the ICT, the gap between official training simulations and gaming ``entertainment," which had been shrinking for 20 years, has all but vanished. The commercial logic of using video games for training is reflected in growing profits for game companies, while the military logic of relying on recruits primed on violent games coheres with the new emphasis on lethality.

In early 2007, ``America's Army" surpassed 8 million registered users as one of the topmost played games. Like the extremely popular Counterstrike, America's Army is a networked first-person shooter, with the added feature of taking the recruit through virtual boot camp and basic combat training before the start of a variety of simulated missions, all of it rendered in authentic detail. Although it is a recruiting tool for the U.S. Army, the game is available for free to anyone in the world with an Internet connection and an itchy trigger-finger.

While the PC-based ``America's Army" was produced by the Navy's MOVES Institute (headed by Michael Zyda, who chaired the 1996 National Research Council (NRC) conference that included the participation of Facebook ``change agent" Gilman Louie),[13] the ICT Games Project, with the collaboration of Sony, and game-makers THQ and Pandemic Studios, turned out the console-based ``Full Spectrum Warrior" in 2004, with a sequel two years later. The commercial version is only slightly different than that used as an official training aid, although a simple code available to gamers unlocks the military version. The game--whose title refers to the RMA concept of full spectrum dominance, a key term in the Department of Defense's ``Joint Force" blueprints for future war--simulates urban combat against fictional Middle Eastern insurgents like the ``Mujahideen al-Zeki" and the ``Anser al-Ra'id."

Although players gun down ``insurgents" and blow up buildings, cars, and people, developers emphasize that, more than anything else, these games teach ``leadership skills" and teamwork.

 

Reality Check

As globalization has brought our once-proud economy to the brink of a violent implosion, our military has been reduced to fighting brutal wars of occupation--a reality which can't be masked by ``Newspeak" phrases like ``Netcentric Warfare," ``Full Spectrum Dominance," or ``Third Wave Cyberwar."

So, a challenge stands before the young adult generation of the world today, to choose the pathway for the next 50 years of human history. Recent international developments suggest an imperative that does not involve perpetual war and economic hell. Instead, they point to the possibility of worldwide corridors of development, spanning the globe in a network of nuclear power plants, magnetic levitation rail lines, and new agro-industrial centers.

Such a future will require not a revolution in military affairs, but a revolution in political affairs--beginning with the impeachment of Dick Cheney.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] See ``INSNA: Handmaidens of British Colonialism," by Dave Christie, in this report.

[2] Tim Lenoir, ``All But War Is Simulation: The Military-Entertainment Complex," Configurations, Vol 8, No. 3, Fall 2000.

[3]The concept of the ``electronic battlefield" was also first introduced during Vietnam. Military planners, sitting in front of display screens hundreds of miles away, would call in airstrikes on digital blips registered from sensors inserted along the Ho Chi Minh trail, a key supply route for the North Vietnamese. Systems analysts extrapolated the amount of damage their bombs were inflicting on enemy equipment and personnel, but soon discovered that their readings were vastly inflated (It was claimed that more trucks had been destroyed in these operations than actually existed in the country).

[4]Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1995).

[5] Surrounding these new developments in military practice, was the transition from ``counterculture to cyberculture" then taking shape amidst the social and political trauma of the Vietnam years, and chronicled by freaks like Stewart Brand in his 1972 Rolling Stone article, ``Spacewar! Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums." (Spacewar! was an early video game that was created at one of MIT's ARPA-funded computer labs.) This new cyberculture would embrace not only the anti-authoritarian romance of digital communalism, typified by the advent of the Internet, but also the supposedly liberating principles of ``market populism"--that is, the anti-government economics of globalized free trade (see Harley Schlanger, ``From Hippies to Hedge Fund Operators: The Case of Jeff Skoll," EIR, April 20, 2007). As stated by two of today's leading advocates of the RMA, Felix Rohatyn and George Shultz, this supranational economic model was far better suited to the operations of private mercenaries than for national armies that might, after all, be called upon to defend national interests.

[6] Jeffrey Steinberg, ``Cheney's `Spoon-Benders' Pushing Nuclear Armageddon," EIR, Aug. 25, 2005, and ``Satanic Subversion of the U.S. Military," EIR, July 2, 1999.

[7] The favorite ``game" of Finnish classroom killer Pekka-Eric Auvinen. See ``The New Cult of the Suicide Bomber," by Nick Walsh, in this report.

[8] Ed Halter, ``From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games" (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006).

[9] James Der Derian, Virtuous War, (Boulder: Westfield Press, 2001).

[10] G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2005

[11] See ``Facebook: A Tombstone With a Picture Attached," by Nick Walsh and Megan Beets, this report.

[12] ``ICT's `Full Spectrum Warrior: Virtual Reality Prepares Soldiers for Real War': One blistering afternoon in Iraq, while fighting insurgents in the northern town of Mosul, Sgt. Sinque Swales opened fire with his .50-cal. That was only the second time, he says, that he ever shot an enemy. A human enemy. `It felt like I was in a big video game. It didn't even faze me, shooting back. It was just natural instinct. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!' remembers Swales, a fast-talking, deep-voiced, barrel-chested 29-year-old from Chesterfield, Va. He was a combat engineer in Iraq for nearly a year. Like many soldiers in the 276th Engineer Battalion, whose PlayStations and Xboxes crowded the trailers that served as their barracks, he played games during his downtime. `Halo 2,' the sequel to the best-selling first-person shooter game, was a favorite. So was `Full Spectrum Warrior,' a military-themed title developed with help from the U.S. Army." --From the ICT website.

[13] Ibid, ``Facebook."



Return to subject index

Return to main index


Rolf Witzsche
researcher and author

 

e-mail: cygni@shaw.ca

 

Rolf Witzsche home page

Other Rolf Witzsche Websites / Pages


novels exploring the dimensions of love in spirituality, humanity, life, sexuality, marriage, romance, relationships, politics, and in economics

Thank you for visiting - Rolf Witzsche

Published by
Cygni Communications Ltd.
North Vancouver, B.C.
Canada