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Technology at war

War X: Human Extensions in Battlespace
Tim Blackmore, University of Toronto Press, November 2005

Tactics of the Crescent Moon: Militant Muslim Combat Methods
H. John Poole, Posterity Press, January 2005

Professor Blackmore, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario, author of War X, please meet H. John Poole, Vietnam vet, former Non-Commissioned Officer, author of Tactics of the Crescent Moon.

The impact of technology on winning war weighs heavily on both authors.

Blackmore argues that an intimate relationship between man and technology has evolved as humans have sought first to save themselves and then to extend their fighting capabilities with technology. But at what cost? The ‘X’ is derived from the diminution of the fighter to simply a generic label or, more frightening, reduction to an experiment to ascertain human suitability as a weapons system.

Poole states that Western fighters must divorce themselves from this relationship if they are to beat their technologically disadvantaged opponents. As Canadian Forces Sea Kings fall from the sky, a Canadian reader can perhaps be forgiven for questioning the relevance of this University of Toronto offering.

Concerned Canadians attempting to grasp the three D’s of diplomacy, defence and development may have difficulty framing Blackmore’s quality wordage in the context of the late Liberal regime’s foreign/defence statement. One wonders how the technologically enhanced war-fighter can implement the concept of combat, mediation and delivery of humanitarian assistance within three city blocks.

The interface of Americans with the introduction of body armour, aids to transform soldiers into supermen, tanks, helicopters and unmanned vehicles/aircraft is certainly brought to the reader’s attention in prose that English instructors could model. No matter how you feel about arguments based on RAND reports, Blackmore’s phrasing will stick. Weapons developments of the last century have never been summarized by better language.

Ironically, it is in his chapter titled “Wastage: War after War” that Blackmore’s book has greatest application to Canada, perhaps because it has the least to do with technology. The recent settlement of claims by the federal government that date back over fifty years is sufficient evidence that Canada offers abundant cases that resemble this book’s American examples.

Readers going to Afghanistan in any capacity should read Poole’s book. For anyone who wishes to reinforce a ‘gut’ fear of where technology is taking us, particularly in war, there can be no better source for provoking thought, as well as great quotes, than Professor Blackmore’s War X.

 

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