The Pentagon's Obsession with Toys

News at Home

Mr. Turse is a graduate student at Columbia University.

In his famed 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a dangerous intertwining of private corporations, the armed forces, and the federal government for which he coined the term"the military-industrial complex." By then, the Pentagon had long been exercising script control over most war films made in Hollywood and the CIA was running covert operations in Vietnam through a front program at Michigan State University, but Ike wasn't focused on minor supporting players like the entertainment industry or academia. In the intervening decades, however, both have grown ever more central to the Pentagon's mission. No longer is the Ivory Tower's participation limited to advisory programs and research for future weapons systems or Hollywood's contribution a series of Why We Fight propaganda films or triumphalist John Wayne flicks.

In the late 1990s, the otherwise dreadful soundtrack for Godzilla, that blockbuster-flop of a movie, featured a track,"No Shelter," by rebel rap/rockers Rage Against the Machine that trashed both the movie ("And Godzilla pure muthafuckin filler, To keep ya eyes off the real killer") and a consumer-driven militarized Hollywood, writ large:

What ya need is what they sellin'
Make you think that buyin' is rebellin'
From the theaters to malls on every shore
Tha thin line between entertainment and war

The line had by then grown thin indeed. Today, it hardly exists at all. The military is now in the midst of a full-scale occupation of the entertainment industry, conducted with far more skill (and enthusiasm on the part of the occupied) than the one in Iraq. Perhaps the"front" where the most significant victories have been scored in the military's latest media-entertainment blitz is the one where our most vulnerable population – children -- resides. Through toys, especially videogames, the military and its partners in academia and the entertainment industry have not only blurred the line between entertainment and war, but created a media culture thoroughly capable of preparing America's children for armed conflict. This is less a matter of simple military indoctrination than near immersion in a virtual world of war beyond John Wayne's wildest dreams.

"Can someone please call my father?..."

Last holiday season the Forward Command Post, a bombed-out dollhouse from hell, rankled many consumers who objected to a toy that seemed to glorify civilian casualties and so prompted an outcry that caused JC Penny to withdraw it from sale and KBToys to stop stocking the item. This year's target is likely to be the"Battle Command Post Two-Story Headquarters," a brownstone-turned-battle bunker. At 2 ½ feet tall complete with fully stocked gun-rack, it's a militarized dollhouse large enough to dwarf your child (but also with a basement hospital –perhaps a nod to peacenik parents and liberal loudmouths.). Tiny action figures would disappear in its airy expanses, but if your child has a collection of 12" high G.I. Joe figurines then he's in great shape. And he'll be well prepared to take out the"Talking DOA Uday," a specialty doll with a two-sided head that spins 360 degrees (à la The Exorcist) transforming Saddam Hussein's son Uday from a smiling face into the bloody mangled one popularized in U.S.-issued photographs. And just when you thought it couldn't get worse, it does. In an unabashedly Orientalist faux-Middle-Eastern accent, the doll cries out:"Someone must help me. I . . . I am still alive only I am very badly burned. Anyone! Can someone please call my father? I am in a lot of pain, I am very badly burned so if you could just… (gunshot). You shot me !! Why did you… (3 gun shots)?" (Click here to see it and, while you're there, click on the sound clip for Talking Uday.)

In a recent article on war toys at, Petra Bartosiewicz noted,"Since 9/11, a new generation of war toys has emerged -- action figures and accessories pegged to U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," and then asked,"Are they harmless patriotic playthings, or a shameless attempt to market combat to kids?"

These toys, however, represent primitive means of marketing militarism, clunky methods of a bygone era when a child had to check out war American-style at the local movie theater and then go home and fight battles with toy soldiers on the floor of his room with fortifications made out of any object at hand. Today, the video screen is available to anyone; war play is a controller's button-click away; and the U.S. military is capable of bringing war into a child's home in ways that put action figures and play-sets to shame.

Play all that you can play

In 2002, the Army launched"America's Army," a training and combat -- they balk at the term"shooter"-- style videogame that it made available online and at recruiting stations free of charge. Developed at the Modeling, Virtual Environment and Simulation Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School with the assistance of such entertainment and gaming industry stalwarts as Epic Games, NVIDIA, the THX Division of Lucasfilm Ltd., Dolby Laboratories, Lucasfilm Skywalker Sound, HomeLAN, and GameSpy Industries, it cost taxpayers some $6-8 million, but was a huge success for the Army. It hit the very youth demographic the Army was targeting for potential recruits as well as their younger siblings.

Rated 'T' for Teen!"America's Army" teaches military training, weapons, and tactics by allowing players to"experience" Army life -- from the on-screen"rigors" of boot camp to blasting away at enemy troops. It is now one of the five most popular videogames played on-line, boasting over 2 million registered users. This October, the Army will introduce an update, making the combat simulator even more realistic and introducing the elite U.S. Special Forces ("Green Berets") into the mix.

Chris Chambers, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, a former Army major and the deputy director of development for"America's Army" admits that the game is a recruiting tool. However, in response to criticisms that its scenarios of blood, violence, and killing are excessive, he says,"The game is about achieving objectives with the least loss of life." He notes as well that it"doesn't reward abhorrent behavior, it rewards teamwork." To highlight the point, Chambers notes that a player who frags (assassinates) his drill sergeant instantly materializes inside a jail cell. Killing non-U.S. personnel, however, is perfectly acceptable as long as it's done the Army way.

The Navy-produced"America's Army" is only the tip of the military's video iceberg. While the game may be a recruiting device masquerading as a toy, there's nothing clandestine about who was involved in its creation. Much less evident is the Army's role in"Full Spectrum Warrior" (FSW) – a videogame for the recently unveiled Microsoft Xbox system that will be released to the public early in 2004. FSW is a realistic combat simulator that allows the gamer to act as an Army light infantry squad leader conducting operations in"Tazikhstan," a fictional nation, nestled between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China. Following the lead of America's present commander-in-chief, the game leaves out all gray areas, casting Tazikhstan firmly within the axis of evil due to its fanatical strongman Mohammad Jabbour Al-Afad, a former guerilla leader of Mujahideen fighters. His"hatred of the western world is well known" and he has turned his nation into"a haven for terrorists and extremists," especially"Taliban and Iraqi loyalists." In short,"Tazikhstan" is a one-stop shop for evil-doers.

But FSW is not just any old military-themed video game. It was developed under the watchful eye of military personnel who teach at the Army's Infantry School at Fort Benning, and is actually a revamped version of"Full Spectrum Command," a PC-game/combat simulator used by the military to teach the fundamentals of commanding a light infantry company in urban environments. Thus, unlike other shoot-em-ups that use violent imagery and military themes strictly for entertainment purposes, FSW has been designed specifically as a combat learning tool.

So just how did military instructors create a videogame that teaches gamers the fundamentals of Army strategy, tactics, and weaponry? The answer lies in Marina Del Ray, California, at the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), a center within the University of Southern California system. ICT is a $45 million joint Army/USC venture begun in 1999, designed to link up the military with academia and the entertainment and video game industries.

Full spectrum dominance

In addition to creating"Full Spectrum Command" and"Full Spectrum Warrior," ICT is involved in a"full spectrum" of other military projects from"Advanced Leadership Training Simulation" a partnership between ICT and entertainment giant Paramount Pictures designed for training soldiers in crisis management and leadership skills, to"Think Like a Commander…," a collaboration between the US Army, the Hollywood filmmaking community, and USC researchers designed to"support leadership development for U.S. Army soldiers" through software applications.

Believe it or not, the Institute for Creative Technologies also draws on the talents of a host of Hollywood's top creative minds to dream up futuristic weapons, vehicles, equipment and uniforms for the Army. Through ICT, production designer Ron Cobb (Star Wars, Aliens, Total Recall) lent his creative skills to a program to design the Army's super soldier of the future, the Objective Force Warrior (OFW). The OFW is to be unlike any other soldier the Army has ever sent into battle, having been"built" from the ground up like other sophisticated weapons systems. The OFW concept relies on constructing an integrated system of weapons, armor, camouflage, and electronics that will monitor a soldier's vitals signs, the outside environment, and an on-board temperature regulation device. Think of it as a first step toward Hollywood's sci-fi dream of the cyborg soldier -- an integrated human/machine combat system that, says the military, will transform a man or woman into a"Formidable Warrior in an Invincible Team." And, owing to its Tinsel-town roots, it looks the part.

In June 2003, General Dynamics won the contract to complete"preliminary and detailed design" for the Objective Force Warrior project for $100 million. Yet, even before General Dynamics had its contract, toy-maker Hasbro, perhaps best known for its G.I. Joe line of action figures, had already received the specifications of the OFW concept. Why Hasbro? Perhaps because the Army is reportedly patterning its new quick-loading assault weapons on the design of Hasbro's immensely popular Super-Soaker water gun.

The interconnectedness is confusing, isn't it? So let's recap: ICT's Hollywood team put together the concept for the Army super soldier of the future and its video-game corps developed the military simulator"Full Spectrum Command" that has now spawned"Full Spectrum Warrior," a video game produced by the military-entertainment-videogame complex at ICT for Microsoft's Xbox system. And Microsoft isn't just adapting Army video concepts either. It turns out that this sort of"gaming" is a genuine two-way street, for Microsoft is also the core software provider of wearable computers for an Army program now in production, the Land Warrior, a proto-super soldier package to be introduced next year which, just to square the circle, is scheduled to be replaced in the 2010s by the Objective Force Warrior.

Microsoft also appears to be embracing the OFW concept, because its futuristic combat game"Halo" features soldiers who look strikingly similar to the Army's future super soldiers. Dropping down an age level, Hasbro may also embrace the Objective Force Warrior concept for its toys as they have evidently been given advanced access to the OFW plans. Whew. Got that? So now from tots to video-playing teens to teen soldiers playing video to soldiers turned into cyborg warriors, we know what"full-spectrum dominance" actually means.

Such cooperation -- or is the word"interpenetration"? -- wasn't always the order of the day. Hasbro's video-game line now boasts a tank combat simulation called M1 Tank Platoon 2 that was developed by a company known as Microprose. In the late 1980s, Microprose introduced its predecessor, M1 Tank Platoon, but, for security reasons, its creators were barred by the Army from even setting foot inside an actual tank for research purposes.

By 1997, however, the military had seen the light. The Marine Corps inked a deal with a company named MÄK technologies to create the first combat simulation game"to be co-funded and co-developed" by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the entertainment industry. A year later, the Army signed a contract with MÄK to develop a sequel to its commercial tank simulation video game"Spearhead" for use by the U.S. Army Armor School as a training tool and by the Army's Mounted Maneuver Battle Lab for weapon experiments and tactical analysis. The military has been gaming ever since.

Children at work, do not disturb

In 2001, the DoD pressed another video game"Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear" into service to train military personnel in how to conduct small unit military operations in urban terrain. Recently, a sequel to"Rogue Spear," Tom Clancy's"Rainbow Six: Raven Shield," was drafted to test the Army's Objective Force Warrior concepts.

Perhaps ICT was a bit put off by the Army's choice of"Raven Shield" over their"Full Spectrum" video games, but it has now hooked up with the CIA to develop a game to help Agency"analysts think like terrorists" according to a recent article in the Washington Times. CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield explains,"For out-of-the-box thinking, we are reaching out to academics, think tanks and external research institutes that are critical in the fight against terrorism" -- though a military official derided the project as"a ridiculous and absurd scheme."

Of course, the military just might be jealous of the fact that CIA counterterrorism officials who traveled to ICT headquarters were given VIP tours of Hollywood movie studios, or perhaps they're bothered by the way the Agency recently landed television-secret agent Jennifer Garner of ABC's highly rated CIA drama Alias to star in its recruitment videos. Says the CIA's liaison to the entertainment industry Chase Brandon,"If Jennifer ever decides she doesn't want to wear dark glasses of the celebrity status, she can put on dark glasses and be a spy. She's got what it takes." In the meantime, Garner's co-star from the movie Daredevil, Michael Clarke Duncan, is lending his voice to a Sony videogame set to be released this fall,"SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs," produced with the assistance of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. Not surprisingly, Alias itself, complete with Garner's voice has been turned into a video game (to be released this December).

"SOCOM II" and"Alias" will be joined on store shelves in early 2004 by"Kuma War," developed by newcomer Kuma Reality Games in cooperation with the Department of Defense. This is being billed as the first shooter game that will allow players to recreate actual military missions, such as the raid that killed Saddam Hussein's two sons -- with each combat assignment introduced by television footage and a CNN-style news anchor. Like any good military-industrial company, Kuma has linked itself to the military through the Pentagon's revolving door of employment: a retired Marine Corps Major General serves as one of its corporate chiefs. Further, Kuma boasts a board of military veteran advisors"whose job it is to make sure the missions [they] put out are as realistic as possible."

But the interaction between the toy industry and the military doesn't end there. Video games are being used not only to train present and future soldiers in Army tactics and concepts, but also to help soldiers learn how to operate other military"toys" with minimal training. Case in point: the Dragon Runner, a small remote-controlled car-like vehicle designed to travel inside buildings and spy for Marines waiting outside. Developed by researchers from the Naval Research Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute working with the Marine Corps' Warfighting Laboratory, the toy-like Dragon Runner is guided by a six-button keypad, modeled after Sony's PlayStation 2 videogame controller. Major Greg Heines, a Marine attached to the Warfighting Lab project, says it was chosen because,"that's what these 18-, 19-year-old Marines have been playing with pretty much all of their lives, [so they] will pick up [how to drive the Dragon Runner] in a few minutes."

But perhaps the central player in providing the Pentagon's boys with their high-tech, lethal toys is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Founded in 1958, in the wake of the USSR's Sputnik launch, to make certain that the U.S. was never again caught flatfooted on military-applications technology, DARPA specializes in outside-the-box high-tech projects. It reports directly to the Secretary of Defense and operates"in coordination with, but completely independent of, the military research and development (R&D) establishment." It should come as little surprise then, that MÄK Technologies, Inc, which produced the first Pentagon-sponsored video games and the creators of"SOCOM II" both have a DARPA legacy that stretches back to the 1980s.

These days, DARPA is gearing up for a new project that promises to further entwine the various parts of the military-industrial-entertainment complex -- the"Grand Challenge," an off-road race between Los Angeles and Las Vegas by"autonomous ground vehicles" (translation from DARPA-speak: unmanned, self-driving trucks and sport utility vehicles). To the team that wins this March 2004 race, which will take the robotic vehicles over a 250-mile off-road course (the exact route of which won't even be revealed to competitors until two hours before the start of the race) and is mandated to last less than 10 hours, goes $1 million dollars, dreams of future DoD contracts, and the knowledge that they, says DARPA, will be playing"a vital role in helping to shape the future of America's national defense."

To all the participating teams, made up of a motley array of"Advertisers and corporate sponsors, Artificial intelligence developers, Auto manufacturers and suppliers, Computer programmers, Defense contractors, Futurists, Inventors, Motor sport enthusiasts, Movie producers, Off-road racers, Remote-sensing developers, Roboticists, Science fiction writers, Technology companies, Universities,[and] Video game publishers" go increased interactions with other key players in the military-industrial-entertainment complex.

According to Don Shipley, a DARPA spokesman for the Grand Challenge, the idea behind the race was to"attract fresh thinking on the subject [of creating unmanned combat vehicles and] to get beyond the Lockheeds and the Grummans." But what the contest has actually done is link up big name defense contractors with academic centers, independent inventors, techies, and entertainment professionals.

At the race itself, a Cal Tech team, sponsored by Northrop-Grumman, Ford Motor Company, IBM, and ITT, among others, will face off against a team of scientists and engineers dubbed American Industrial Magic, with backing from Hewlett Packard, and a vehicle named after Jennifer Garner's Alias alter ego Sydney Bristow. At a recent competitors' conference for race participants, members of these teams were joined by folks from such defense giants as Raytheon, Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman; entertainment industry types from Indigo Films, Dezart Cinematic, Authentic Entertainment, Sierra Films, and Wired Magazine; techies from firms like CISCO Systems, SoftPro Technologies, Rockwell Scientific, Adobe Systems Inc. and Intel; and representatives from such academic institutions as the University of Michigan, Auburn University, University of Washington and Ohio State University and, of course, government/military players from DARPA, the Air Force and the Naval Surface Warfare Center

While helping along the creation of advanced fighting vehicles of a sort that once might only have inhabited movies like Star Wars, the great DARPA race of 2004 is likely to forge yet more complex collaborations among entertainment and high-tech companies, the military, and the older branches of the military-industrial complex, connecting them all in ways that must leave Ike spinning in his grave. With military spending locked in (even without the supplemental requests the Iraq war is sure to inspire) at nearly $400 billion in 2004, with a $10-plus billion videogame industry, a toy industry that brings in $20-plus billion each year, a transnational entertainment and media industry that tops out annually at $479 billion, and with no outcry from the public over the militarization of popular culture, who knows what the future holds? Can the day be far off when DARPA gets a producer credit for an ABC TV combat reality-series and Kuma Reality Games is granted office space in the Pentagon?

With the lines between entertainment and war blurring totally, more and more toys are poised to become clandestine combat teaching tools, while an increasing number of weapons are likely to be inspired by toy culture or its makers. What of America's children in all this? How will they imagine the world through the dazzling set of military training devices now landing in their living rooms, crafted by Hollywood and produced by videogame giants under the watchful eyes of the Pentagon?

This article first appeared on, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.

Copyright C2003 Nick Turse

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NYGuy - 10/27/2003

UN Organization:

“Like the U.N. system itself, Ahtisaari said security was scattered among semi-independent U.N. relief agencies and political staff. There was little accountability, no clear chain of command, a stifling bureaucracy, too little money, and too few professional staff to evaluate intelligence.


I would just suggest for those who want a different form of government, such as the UN, they should move to Chicago where the Mayor Daly government would meet their needs and is more in line with the democrat's policies.:)

Peter N. Kirstein - 10/26/2003

Josh Greenland - 10/25/2003

"th[e] less than 1% of our poulation who are homosexuals"

This is the first time I've seen a figure this low. Where does it come from, the Christian Coalition?

" in the case of homosexuals there is a clear and broad perception that it won't work. "

Within what group does this clear and broad perception exist?

Dave Livingston - 10/25/2003

My Lai? Don't think I would have done or permitted what happened there, but I have some slight sympathy for the G.I.s involved.

Contrary to the soft, protected life in climate-controlled environments in which most Americans work those boys, hot, exhausted and wired tight had quite recently lost some of their buddies to a V.C. ambush, V.C. who appartly lived in or My Lai.
They were expecting another firefight to begin at any moment, perhaps one boy over-anxiuous or simply careless cut loose with his weapon. That happening naturally enough set off the rest of the platoon, but shooting kids & unarmed women was clearly beyond the pale, for which both Lieutent Cally & his C.O., Capt. Medina learned by courts-martial.

But as far as I know, no-one has been, nor ever will be, courts-martialed for the cold-blooded muders of 2,000 civil servants, university professors, priests, cops & school teachers the Communists committed in Hue during Tet, '68

Dave Livingston - 10/25/2003

This photo offered us by Dr. K. reminds me of the infamous photo of the young Vietnamese girl running away from her village because it had been struck by American-dropped napalm. In the first place, the naplam that had been dropped had not been dropped by U.S. aircraft, but rather by South Vietnamese Air Force craft. Secondly, the bombs were not dropped as a deliberate atrocity, but rather to assist in the defense of ZSouth Viet troops in the village who were about to be over-run by Communist trops. The bombing did assist in halting the Communist attack.

This leads in a way to the even more famous photo of Saigon police General Loan's execution with his Smith & Wesson revolver of a V.C. in a Saigon street during Tet, 1968. It is indeed a dramatic photo implying lyncjh law justice by General Loan. BUT the photo-journalist did not bother to tell us that a) the V.C. was the commander of a commando team that had within the hour executed General Loan's best buddy in his living quartersa. AND the V.C. had executed too his best buddy's wife AND all nine (9) of their good Catholic children, aninfant in arms to teens.

Nor did the journalist remind us that an enemy soldier fighting in civilian clothes is deemed bu intern'l law a spy & subject to summary justice, that General Loan had full authority by his gov't to exercise such justice.

In short, the journalist lied by showing the truth.

Dave Livingston - 10/25/2003

Up until a few weeeks ago I would have strongly ageed with Dr. Kirstein's conclusion hat it abhorent that Guard & reserve units are being utilized rather than increasing the size of the actve duty Army by the Bush administration in order to save money. For Pete's (St. Peter's) sake, the gate guards at the Air Force Academy have been for months reserve artillery calle3d to temporary active duty. But recently I've swung to the opinion that if the administration is able to get corporate Ameroica to co-operate by giving reservists called up their jobs back using reserves & the Guard is earer to producing an armed forces in the image that the Founding Fathers envisioned of the citizen/soldier.

Dave Livingston - 10/25/2003

Certainly, this from "The Nation" is anti-military propaganda, the objection the writer makes to the employment of technology for improving the effectiveness of our armed forces.

Those of who served, more, fought, wany weaponary in our hands which will improve our effectiveness in combat, increase the odds of one surviving a shooting war. As always, the armed forces is open to trying nearly anything, if there is a perception that it will accomplish those goals.

In a like manner, the armed forces without a great fuss was willing to try out having Coloreds (Blacks is the PC word for younger generations today) in combat line units and women in more rloes than as nurses, buit by the same token it is yet strongly opposed to integrating than less than 1% of our poulation who are homosexuals into the armed forces. In the first case there was a broad perception it would, given time, work out And it did. In the second case, women in more duty assignments, there has clearly been far less success in achieving cost-effective utilization of that resource and even more clearly, in the case of homosexuals there is a clear and broad perception that it won't work.

The straw man off raised by those not under arms to support their cases that women & homosexuals should be fully integrated is that other nations have successfully integrated them, the Netherlands & Demark, homosexuals; Israel, women. This is a straw man because a) neither the Netherlands nor Denmark has been involved in a shooting war in aboutfifty years and those two tiny militaries have no rational idea about really works in combat. Israel's armed forces, the standard-bearer for women soldiers has quite recently determined that women should no longer be allowed to serve in infantry, aermor or artillery units.

Hector Rasmussen - 10/24/2003

More than a few people died near Church Street a couple of years ago, due to "severe security breaches" enabled by GW, the great leader. I suppose you remember that day pretty well. Blunders are not exclusively franchised to the UN.

Happy UN Day (Oct 24) !


Kent Hartmann - 10/24/2003

Perhaps you confused my comment with one of the others you are responding to. I nowhere said branding the terrorists evil is simplistic. You may prefer the Old Testament to the New, but bypassing the teachings of Christ as a fulfillment of the Old seems like cafeteria Christianity. In the New Oxford Annotated Bible, the most respected translation among biblical scholars, the commandment reads "You shall not kill." Exodus,20:13. It would be interesting to see a list of the times you believe the avoidance of war as devastating as the consequences of war laid side by side. Again, I agree that it is sometimes a necessary evil, but in this new age of "moral clarity," it is startling to me that one could brand it no evil at all.

Alec Lloyd - 10/24/2003

Okay, so let me get this straight: Calling terrorists who purposefully target civilians "evil" is simplistic, but branding war as "evil" is okay?

War is a morally neutral act. The commandment reads: "thou shalt not commit murder." Indeed the Old Testament is full of divinely sanctioned wars.

War is a tool, it is policy by other means. It is one that should be rarely used, but refusing to resort to it can have consequences just as severe as resorting to it too often.

Alec Lloyd - 10/24/2003

You'll excuse me if I faint from surprise.

kidd video - 10/23/2003

America's Army has been rated "Teen (T)" by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) due to depictions of blood and scenes involving aggressive conflict. Titles rating "Teen (T)" have content that may be suitable for persons ages 13 and older

a 13 yearold is a child!!! these are not for adults!!!!

NYGuyd - 10/23/2003

Thanks Peter,

That would be a big achievement for me but I appreciate your interest in my welfare. The best I could do was night school and so I missed out on hearing the brilliant Professors in the field. The good news is it helped me keep my head on straight.:)


What did you think of the UN report. Read like a Mayor Daly report.

Kent Hartmann - 10/23/2003

It boggles my mind to think Mr. Lloyd actually stated that war is morally neutral. Sometimes it may be a necessary evil, but it is an evil nonetheless. Have you ever heard the phrase, "Thou shalt not kill?" Granted, no human being is morally pure, but to suggest that war is simply a tool that can be pulled off the shelf at any time to serve worthy ends suggests frightful consequences - some of which we are seeing near the cradle of civilization today.

Peter N. Kirstein - 10/23/2003

NYGu - 10/23/2003

Thank you Neocon Watcher,

My mother used to say "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" :)

Beside I am just a loveable guy and also send warm greetings to you. It is always nice to be nice.


NYGuy - 10/23/2003

Prof. Kirstein

“It was by American military forces in My Lai.”


Thank you clarifying the picture of dead Asians. After awhile one becomes numb, 25 million Chinese slaughter here, a few Vietnamese there, etc. To bad we did not have photography during the rule of Ghengis Khan.

I saw the article in the Guardian you were referring to:

“Last week, one of Germany's most controversial historians, Jörg Friedrich, published a new photo book about the issue. Called Brandstätten, or Fire Sites, it contains some of the most grisly images from the war ever to be published. None of them have been seen before.”

"One British editor told me my book would 'estrange' readers," Friedrich said. Colombia university will bring out an English edition next year.

"The main fact is that the British bombing of German cities wasn't very heroic. This was no heroic victory."


Now that Columbia University will be printing these grisly pictures I am sure we will be treated to some new scholarly research. I understand this a new field in the profession called, “Shock and Awe.”, and young historians are flocking into the field.:)


neocon watcher - 10/23/2003

wow, the last note from NYGuy to Herodotus is sweet and touching. it shows even neocons have a caring side and reach out to each other with expressions of tenderness.

good show, neocons!

Peter N. Kirstein - 10/23/2003,2763,203214,00.html

Peter N. Kirstein - 10/23/2003,2763,203214,00.html

Alec Lloyd - 10/23/2003

There are other historical events beside My Lai, Mr. Kirstein.

I find your arguments every bit as simplistic and narrow as the "warmongers" you condemn.

Alec Lloyd - 10/23/2003

It may be helpful for you to actually read what I say, rather than impute my motives.

I neither glorify nor condemn war. To do so would indeed be the mark of a small mind.

John Cuepublic - 10/22/2003

It is a very boring world where the only choice is between glorification of violence and mindless militarism (ala Lloyd) and utopian pacifism.

Peter N. Kirstein - 10/22/2003

Peter N. Kirstein - 10/22/2003

It was by American military forces in My Lai.

NYGuy - 10/22/2003


Seems like we missed out by not keeping Saddam in power and getting our security on the cheap from the UN.

UN Security Accused of Risking Lives in Iraq
Add World - Reuters to My Yahoo!

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A chilling report on Wednesday accused the United Nations (news - web sites) of a catalog of severe security breaches that probably cost lives in the Aug. 19 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Iraq (news - web sites).
“Like the U.N. system itself, Ahtisaari said security was scattered among semi-independent U.N. relief agencies and political staff. There was little accountability, no clear chain of command, a stifling bureaucracy, too little money, and too few professional staff to evaluate intelligence.

The deficiencies cited by Ahtisaari's team ran the gamut of abuses -- from not knowing the number of foreign staff in Baghdad, to delaying until this day installing shatter-proof glass, to not reacting to reports shortly before Aug. 19 that the U.N. offices were a target.

The security personnel, however, did make recommendations. They were ignored -- even by Annan who was under pressure to keep staff in Iraq and reduced them only gradually until only a handful remain.

The report also points to a Steering Group on Iraq, headed by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette, saying the body did not have a proper chain of command needed for security. “

“Annan will study the report closely and will take steps "to ensure early implementation of its main recommendations," U.N. spokeswoman Hua Jiang said. “


YeaH, just like all the other reports it will gather dust on the UN shelves. What a leader! No wonder many take him over GW.

NYGuy - 10/22/2003

I must confess that I was suspicious. I have always enjoyed reading your contributions to HNN and I did not think the tone was typical of you.

That is why I tried to signal with :)and not turn it into a battle between us.

Thanks for clearing that up.

Keep up the good work.


NYGuy - 10/22/2003


“We have just seen a 5 division force of 130,000 soldiers defeat a country of 22 millions, with 3 some million under arms, armed to the teeth with weaponry which was state of the art a few years ago, and with much that is state of the art today. The conquest took place in 3 weeks, with minimal US and Iraqi civilian casualties.”

“Rather than a snotty dismissal from a warmed over leftie, this technology deserves extended study, much as the recurved bow or the musket, or for that matter bronze and iron weapons did in their day.”


As usual you are right on track. Good observations.

To add to your point, the semiconductor and electronic technology both in the military and non-military activies is changing so fast that those who want to waste their time killing each other fall further and further behind and become weaker and weaker as your example shows. This applies to businesses as well as to the military.

That is why those countries that recognize how rapid these changes are occurring have come to the conclusion that if they don’t have a stable, peaceful world so they can stay current with the rapid changes they will become obsolete just like the Iraqi army. Meanwhile with faster and faster communications around the world their people are becoming more aware of the outside world and say, “what about us.” This can lead to great upheavals. Trade creates customers which makes the wheel go round.

You are quite right to focus on the rapid technological changes since they will provide answers to what is happening in the world, and provide analyses and conclusions that are impossible to make if we assume the status quo. I think the events in Asia this past two weeks prove that point. And your fine analysis of the “technology driven” military is another proof. China and Russia, among many other countries understand what you have just shown us. Terrorism does not help them or us. GW was right to put it on the table for all to see.

Alec Lloyd - 10/22/2003

War is a morally neutral act. It can be fought for a good cause or a bad one. War itself is neither just nor unjust; it is the purpose and method of the war that determines its morality or lack thereof.

This is where Mr. Kirstein's arguments finally devour themselves: if war is inherently immoral, why bother to abide by any standards of restraint? If D-Day = Liberating Iraq = My Lai = The Cultural Revolution, we may as well use maximum force and wipe out entire populations with indescriminate glee.

Of course, that is what our enemies would prefer to do. They don't much care for the niceties of the Geneva Conventions, nor to they bother to abide by the Law of Armed Conflict. In fact, they are exactly what Mr. Kirstein would have us believe the US military embodies: an implacable, irrational force bent on maximum slaughter.

Those who do not have swords can still die on them. Mr. Kirstein and his ilk are the modern equivalents of the shamen who believed magic potions would somehow protect them from bullets.

His magic potion is pacifism; he believes that by refusing to touch a weapon and damning those that do, he will somehow be spared.

He ignores the fact that to our modern enemies, pacifism simply means you will be easier to eliminate. A culture that advocates stoning women to death for showing their faces is not moved by civil disobedience.

Mr. Kirstein is in advanced denial. He has walled himself off from unpleasant facts and, safe in his tenured world, contratulates himself on his "courage" in sending emails to Air Force cadets - an enterprise that does nothing to endanger his safety or livelihood.

There aren't death squads killing dissenters; those are in Iran. Mr. Kirstein doesn't have to fear that the noise he hears in the middle of the night is the secret police coming to take him away for his views; that happens in Cuba. He does not have to worry about re-education or slave labor, as the mainland Chinese do. He goes to bed each night with a full belly, unlike the North Koreans who've known famine for more than a decade.

In short, he lives in a little cocoon of safety and blames his protectors for the evils of the world. Understandable, perhaps, but utterly misguided.

Herodotus - 10/22/2003


It isn't me who is posting as "A Smarter Herodotus". I should like the editors to install a feature where one can register an identity (and still post anonymously, as most of us do) without fearing that such imps will do more than just stoke anger. But of course, they won't, even if it would raise the tone of discussion on here.


Herodotus - 10/22/2003

Yup, it should.
Except that it's not all My Lai all the time.

NYGuy - 10/22/2003

What is your point. I see a peasant and her child slaughtered by either the Chinese communists or the occupying Japanese in the 30 and 40's. You have to be happy you don't live in such countries and express yourself without fear.

F.H. Thomas - 10/22/2003

Military technology has gone through another paradigm shift. Not a Madison Avenue paradigm shift, a real paradigm shift.

We have just seen a 5 division force of 130,000 soldiers defeat a country of 22 millions, with 3 some million under arms, armed to the teeth with weaponry which was state of the art a few years ago, and with much that is state of the art today. The conquest took place in 3 weeks, with minimal US and Iraqi civilian casualties.

Regardless of one's opinion about GW II, this was a notable feat of arms. It was also a picture of what one wants from his army-to smash the other guy's toys and disarm him quickly, while protecting your own.

The technology which made this possible, including video games for training, remote recon aircraft, armed helicopters, intelligent artillery, and automatic location and battle management systems, works and works well. Rather than a snotty dismissal from a warmed over leftie, this technology deserves extended study, much as the recurved bow or the musket, or for that matter bronze and iron weapons did in their day.

John Cuepublic - 10/22/2003

Turse's article is informative and well-written, even if some misunderstood his satirical "Tazik" remarks. It calls to mind the "Foremen"'s satirical song "Buy War Toys for Christmas" (from circa 1994). Ultimately, though, parents are responsible for the upbringing of their children. "Just say no" should be the main response here.

Peter N. Kirstein - 10/22/2003

Alec Lloyd - 10/22/2003

Mr. Kirstein has yet again revealed one of those pesky fault lines where his vision of reality slams full-force into the real world.

Reenlistment rates aren't plummeting; for the active services they are well above average. The Navy is in fact involuntarily discharging people because of surplus personnel.

As to the article, it is utterly incoherent. Did the military invent DOOM and other first-person shooters? Was Avalon Hill a CIA front company? Proof of that might amount to a thesis with a point, but otherwise, this is just a series of clippings from video trade magazines.

Given the fact that the military recruits voluntarily, one would expect it to use marketing, advertising and tie-ins to entice recruits. For Mr. Kirstein and his ilk, of course, that merely shows the military's "hypocrisy" and "weakness." Indeed, to their minds, if we simply threw away all our guns, terrorists and dictators would cease to exist.

We heard the same tripe about the Soviet Union: if the US simply disarmed, why the Soviets would do it, too. Obviously those 10,000 tanks in central Europe were to defend them from NATO, (even if they occaisionally ran over Hungarian and Czech dissidents).

When we reach that utopian plateau, I'll be the first to throw away my copies of QUAKE, DOOM II, HALF-LIFE and whatever other military-industrial alien-killing zombie-splatting video games that Mr. Kirstein finds so offensive.

And I must also commend the poster who pointed out movie "brainwashing" has more than one dimension. Perhaps we should revive the censorship board to prohibit smoking, unwed sex and other illicit behavior from movie screens? Or do only violent thoughts get picked up?

Wesley Smart - 10/22/2003

You shouldn't take any of this as fact, though, as his case is badly argued. The thinking in here would lend itself to a similar argument being made about the popularity of Swiss Army watches and knives, Hummer sport utility vehicles, and Camelback hydration systems being popular among the general public and being pushed by companies that benefit from military contracts purchasing much the same product. NYGuy is right in pointing out above that the author failed to explain the targeted demographics of the various toys. Action figures for children is something completely different from "toys" pointedly marketed as collectibles or novelty items.

Wesley Smart - 10/22/2003

I think you are incorrect. Mr. Greenland assumes agency on the part of the military when the original article weakly asserted this.

What evidence do you have for "disaster" in Iraq? Additionally what evidence do you have to suggest that reenlistment rates are plummeting? Finally, what evidence do you have that "bloodless, popular and quick' was a "neoconservative" assertion or just faulty reporting on the part of a media that before the Iraq war had very little ability to explain to an equally clueless public how wars work and how the U.S. military works?

Do you think that the United States would be better off without any military at all? that is the tone of your final comment.

Wesley Smart - 10/22/2003

Desensitization in basic training is directed at the individual who is being trained, not against a mythical enemy. Enlisted candidates are not put through classes with movies showing Al Qaeda terrorists as caricatured human/ape hybrids or shown posters that depict civilians in the middle east as irrelevant. I strongly recommend, just as a window into that world, the new book about the 1st Marine Division in this past conflict, called The March Up.

What evidence do you have specifically (or the author of this article) that suggests that the military uses computer games and simulators to render the opponent unhuman? If anything the simulator training is meant to emphasize that the opponent is very human and very dangerous.

The desire to minimize opponent casualties is a part of the training as well-- Sun Tzu's famous dictum about the best battle being the one that is never fought. If the military was interested in casualties they would not have switched to precision munitions; the use of bombs filled with concrete rather than explosives during the Iraq war was the opposite example: the desire to hit only the particular target and not kill everyone around it.

NYGuy - 10/22/2003


I see your point now. You are correct that in the first post on this subject you did indeed ask: "Why is this here."

I can see where my response did not answer your question and you are correct to remind me of that. I agree with you that it is not a worthwhile article for HNN and only the editorial staff can answer your question.

My analysis of the article is that it is a an anti-military propaganda piece but in the process of replying to you I got our wires crossed. I apoligize.

So we are left with your unanswered question: "Why is it here" and my analytical conclusion that it is propaganda piece, but if my thought is carried to its logical conclusion one could say I raise the same question you did and therefore we have some common ground.

I have enjoyed your past posts and therefore was dismayed by your using an intemperate remark such as liar. It raises the question in my mind, "why must you resort to such tactics?"

As you can see I am clearly claiming that I am the victim in our exchange. :)


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/22/2003

Mr Greenland makes an astute point. With the disaster unfolding in Iraq, and the renewed knowledge that the Vietnam syndrome was good medicine and not bad medicine (American soldiers can die in war), reenlistment rates are plummeting, morale among the troops is declining, and the neoconservative conviction that our wars will be bloodless, popular and quick has been proven incorrect.

The reliance upon National Guard and Reserves is dramatically increasing, and perhaps, the military, as career, will lose its luster for millions of potential soldiers who wish to live to adulthood.

A smarter Herodotus - 10/22/2003

The answer to why the article is here can only be known to the editor. You must ask the editor for the answer. Of you are not the editor, then you do not know why it is here. Again, ASK THE EDITOR!!!!!

Tad Zhikistan - 10/22/2003

Listen, close and learn something! First, the nation you write about: "Tadzhikstan" does not exist! Second, the nation in the article, "Tazikhstan" ruled by Mohammad Jabbour Al-Afad, is fictional. Third, "Tadzhikistan" is a real nation and is NOT ruled by Mohammad Jabbour Al-Afad. Got it?!?!

NYGuy - 10/22/2003

Hi Smarter,

Not sure if your terse comment is brillant or you can't defend you position. How about telling us the truth. If I am wrong, which I doubt, then tell us why.


Smarter, smarter, NYGuy

A smarter Herodotus - 10/22/2003


Jonathan Dresner - 10/22/2003

Mr. Smart,

You're right about our current officer/NCO tactics training emphasizing flexibility and allowing for the intelligent creativity of the opponent (though I've never heard anyone else suggest that minimizing enemy casualties was a benefit of that approach). There have been some spectacular successes as a result, both in combat and in peacekeeping.

But basic combat training, and the modern tools of combat, remains a desensitizing process, emphasizing technical skill and unit discipline against any and all enemies. Acknowledging the technical abilities of your opponent is not the same thing as considering them to be a human being equal to yourself. I do think that the use of video games is part of the desensitization process: research on children, for example, shows a completely intuitive and obvious link between violent TV and games and violent personal behavior.

I'm not sure that a humanistic warrior isn't a complete oxymoron, at least not at the mass scale required for full armies. And the ubiquity of PTSD after military events suggests that desensitization is rarely a completely successful process. Perhaps that's what they're trying to fix with the simulators?

David - 10/22/2003

On a slight change of topic, but related because of the hypocrisy I see here. Guys like the author, and P. Kirstein, who decry how children are indoctrinated to militarism by the popular media, are probably the first to defend that very same media when it's criticized for sexualizing our children at earlier and earlier ages. After all, children aren't affected by what they see on t.v. That's censorship! Leftist hypocrisy everywhere I turn.

Jesse Lamovsky - 10/21/2003

The backbone of the Northern Alliance is ethnic Tajik, and that republic, to the best of my knowledge, was the only area of the old USSR to come under fire from Afghan guerrillas during the Soviet war. I'm a little surprised that a person can get to an Ivy League graduate school, actually express some sort of an opinion on this war, yet think that Tadzhikstan is not a real country. I mean, I understand that knowledge is specialized, but geez.

Josh Greenland - 10/21/2003

The military is threatened with greater cultural irrelevancy with the shrinking down of the military during the Clinton years and therefore a predictably smaller number of young people in the future knowing anyone in the military. The military seems to be making a very capable bid to remain an important part of our country's culture.

Josh Greenland - 10/21/2003

This is a fascinating article. It touches on the military recruitment and pre-training of young people, increasingly close relationships between toy and game companies with military and intelligence agencies, and these governmental agencies' new ways of picking the brains of, involving and perhaps sucking in entertainment, computer and game innovators who aren't yet "with the program."

We've come a long way since I played commercial board wargames in the mid-1970s with a bunch of kids from my educated, middle-class community, some of whom subsequently joined the US military through ROTC or directly. (Most of us were moderate to liberal, and the only kid with a career military parent definitely did not want to join up.)

Josh Greenland - 10/21/2003

"Tazikhstan" made me think of Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, both of which are where the fictional country was placed.

NYGuy - 10/21/2003


Good catch. The argument of toys encouraging kids to go to war is a bogus one in general. In this case the author take the changes in technology and tries to make a case for it while making a political statement.

What he is really talking about is the growth in the computer graphics market, which finds application in a broad range of end uses not related to the toy industry. As he shows there are a huge amount of technical manpower and a broad range of companies working in this field. Trying to suggest that the main market for these products is to sell them into the highly seasonal toy industry is clumsy and not believable.

As we have seen we are now capable of creating movies using this technology and it is natural that this animation would find other uses in the military and business. All these uses are geared toward the adult world as the author admits, i.e. training, recruiting, sales programs, and also for adult gaming programs. Just using a soldier in a computer game does not make it a toy, nor does it corrupt children, boys or girls.

As I mentioned the toy market is highly segmented. The simple segments are boys and girls and then it gets further segmented into age groups, educational toys and games, entertainment, etc. So it becomes obvious that we are dealing with a broad divisive marketplace and the idea that all children are being indoctrinated by the military is ridiculous. That is why the author never identified the size of the toy market by category nor did he show the size of the market for computer graphics and the market size of the toy industries use of these products.

It is also important to notice that the so called bombed house and doll house were not being offered by the traditional companies in the field, nor through the traditional distribution channels. Again, technology steps in and the items are sold over the Internet. A review of the product lines for these Internet toy companies reveals that they sell to various age groups and the above items were geared to older children, adults and as special items for adults who like such mature products. None that I saw were being toted to toddlers, pre-teens, or other minors. If these items were top sellers in the toy industry than the author should have made the approximate sales volume vs. total industry sales if he wants to make his case. No statistics were presented.

It is unfortunate that the author tried to show that the military were trying to corrupt our children. There is not evidence of that relationship. Actually kids probably see more military action on TV. The article is just another example of the extremes some people are willing to go to undermine our military.

Keep up the good work.


Wesley Smart - 10/21/2003

You might benefit from speaking to a member of the military about the last part of your theory of military training. Dehumanizing the enemy is often seen as a negative thing; rather, training emphasizes the need to consider the opponent, whether a fully mechanized large ground force or a bunch of irregular fedayeen, as every bit as clever and motivated as U.S. forces. Assuming that the enemy will behave like Americans, or assuming that they are dehumanized idiots, gets people killed. The military training at present is geared towards teaching junior officers and NCOs to act with initiative and to understand the likely motivations of the opponent in order to minimize casualties on all sides and achieve the object with the minimum amount of force.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/21/2003

Two points:

First, war toys are not a new thing, but there does seem to be a connection between childhood experience and adult outcome. For example, the dramatic rise in availability and popularity of toy soldiers in England in the 1890s and after played a role, it has been argued, in the ease with which England joined World War I and the ease with which it filled its ranks with eager young men (England didn't institute anything like a draft until very late in the war.

Second, and however, the interest in war toys by the military is a new thing, a very contemporary marketing strategy and immensely powerful training (and pre-training) strategy. The essence of military training lies in three interlocking areas: competency with the weapons and other tools of war; obedience to authority and unit cohesion; dehumanization of the enemy. Video-training with cutting edge computing power and carefully scripted and designed scenarios works very well in all of these categories, it appears. This is an historic step in the way our military trains, in the way it presents itself to society and in the way it draws in members.

A smarter Herodotus - 10/21/2003

why would a reader know? ask the editor!

Herodotus - 10/21/2003

Except that it doesn't have anything to do with history. Nor does it adequately explain the influence of these toys. Are they novelties? Are they seriously marketed? What makes them any different from toy cannons or pirate costumes? It just looks like this guy cobbled together a bunch of things he once read about and tried to argue some significance from them, but his agency is misplaced: is it really the government doing this or someone trying to make a dollar, just like those idiots who printed off zillions of rolls of bin Laden toilet paper?

NYGuy - 10/21/2003


As a rule of thumb, the longer the articles on HNN the greater likelihood is that the author will not prove anything of merit but is only constructing a political piece of propaganda. We certainly have that here. The author concludes:

What of America's children in all this? How will they imagine the world through the dazzling set of military training devices now landing in their living rooms,

First of all we have to define what children are. According to Merriam Webster:

Children: a : an unborn or recently born person b dialect : a female infant
2 a : a young person especially between infancy and youth b : a childlike or childish person c : a person not yet of age


1 a : the time of life when one is young; especially : the period between childhood and maturity

And of course to maintain the impression that the article is about children we get this cross head.
Children at work, do not disturb

And than the wonderful image of “landing in their living rooms as if it were a train set, a doll house,etc. that are typically givren during the holidays. Instead he is talking about toys viewed on a TV or a computer screen.

As one reads the article, however, we quickly find that the author is not talking about children or children toys he is talking about adults and products for their market, not toys.

Anyone who understands marketing knows that the toy market is segregated into age groups. And the popularity of toys for any age group is determined by the sales of a particular toy into each market segment. But, no such luck here toys are a homogenious market. We get a lot of mumbo jumbo and then the conclusion that our children are in danger. Of course everyone recognizes this is not an indictment of the children but of the stupid American parent.

After one or two dollhouse stories we are quickly lead into the adult gaming market, not the children’s gaming market, but the adult gaming segment of the market.

In this segment of the market we learn that new ways are being developed to train troops and attract recruits by means of these adult games. (No one under 18 need apply).

The adult content is so complicated and intense that:

“At the race itself, a Cal Tech team, sponsored by Northrop-Grumman, Ford Motor Company, IBM, and ITT, among others, will face off against a team of scientists and engineers dubbed American Industrial Magic, with backing from Hewlett Packard, and a vehicle named after Jennifer Garner's Alias alter ego Sydney Bristow. At a recent competitors' conference for race participants, members of these teams were joined by folks from such defense giants as Raytheon, Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman; entertainment industry types from Indigo Films, Dezart Cinematic, Authentic Entertainment, Sierra Films, and Wired Magazine; techies from firms like CISCO Systems, SoftPro Technologies, Rockwell Scientific, Adobe Systems Inc. and Intel; and representatives from such academic institutions as the University of Michigan, Auburn University, University of Washington and Ohio State University and, of course, government/military players from DARPA, the Air Force and the Naval Surface Warfare Center “

Hmm. To meet the child criteria set out by the author all the above most are 10-year-old geniuses.

Note how the “Perhaps” and “victories” is used in this wonderful construction of the argument: " the front" where the most significant victories have been scored in the military's latest media-entertainment blitz is the one where our most vulnerable population – children -- resides.

Finally the author acknowledges his prejudiced:

“Dropping down an age level, Hasbro may also embrace the Objective Force Warrior concept for its toys as they have evidently been given advanced access to the OFW plans. Whew. Got that? So now from tots to video-playing teens to teen soldiers playing video to soldiers turned into cyborg warriors, we know what "full-spectrum dominance" actually means.”

How does one drop below the 1 year age level of children or is he really saying that these games are not for children and tots but for adults. Yes that is what he is really saying.

We live in a world of rapidly changing and new technology, of which computer graphics is a rapidly growing segment. Cooperation between artists, script writers, story writers, business people, TV, the military, etc is not something that threatens children. It is part of our rapidly changing technology.

As I said in the beginning the longer the article the more it will reflect a propaganda piece than an intelligent analysis of a subject.

Read the artilce again.

Stephen Thomas - 10/21/2003

Military culture pervades human society because self-defense is a human need. Duh! Eating food culture also tends to prevade human society. So does having a bowel movement after one eats.

Mr. Kirstein is as good an example of the Stalinist mindset and fallacy as can be found. He likes things that sound good. That these things are contradicted by human nature strikes him as unfair.

Self-defense and national defense will continue to be human and national needs. When unicorns fly across the skies, Mr. Kirstein's reality will prevail.

Mr. Kirstein, are you capable of saying something that actually is something of substance?

Peter N. Kirstein - 10/21/2003

Brilliant article. Demonstrates the military culture infecting the crib and beyond.

Stephen Thomas - 10/21/2003


More Stalinism from the Stalinist blowhard mouthpiece, the Nation.

Pretended concern about humanity. The stupid feminist determination to remake humanity into sexless drones. The brain dead hatred of masculinity. The predictable hatred of America.

All the usual Stalinist garbage straight from the Stalinist source.

Jesse Lamovsky - 10/21/2003

"'Tazikhstan,' a fictional nation, nestled between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China..."

Actually Tadzhikstan is a genuine, real country which is, in fact, nestled between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China (as well as Uzbekistan and Kirghiztan, two other refugees from the defunct USSR). "Mt. Communism", the highest peak in the disbanded polity, is located in this former republic (this is an old map; perhaps the name has been changed).

Herodotus - 10/20/2003

I read over this article several times, and I really think it is more a report on pop culture at present than anything remotely historical. Why is it here?

There is loads to be said on the historical links between entertainment and the military, not least about military toys since the second world war and the collaboration between the film industry and the government, but none of that is really in evidence here.