Technology is a wonderful thing. Thirty-five years ago when I was to be drafted, the U.S. military decided on a lottery for picking new recruits. My number was 292, far enough back to keep me watching the war on the sidelines, on a black-and-white TV, part of the audience for a "living room war" called Vietnam. Today, the Internet is bringing another war in living color to desktop and mobile devices, together with blogs-interactive diaries from individual soldiers. Relatives and friends can keep in touch with their loved ones in a far-removed hot desert, taking the pulse of the conflict from a human perspective, unfiltered by news anchors. Meanwhile, sophisticated command-and-control centers can monitor, analyze and command fighters at will. Smart weapons can now pinpoint and destroy targets to an accuracy not seen since the Greek soldier lanced his opponent up close in the Trojan wars.
We can fight the enemy and we can see and feel the fight up close, all through the magic of technological innovations. Is that enough?
Seen through the eyes of one U.S. soldier, it may not be. The scariest thing 23-year old Nikolai Rousanoff, an American-born young man of Russian descent, has encountered in the scorching Iraqi desert is a giant spider. My wife's godson explains in an e-mail to her that "I have spent most of my time calling Holly and battling my ultimate foe . . . the dark and mysterious camel spider. In this heat these huge spider-scorpions fly across the house. They are fast and mean and they eat flesh so I check my sleeping bag three times while I sleep. . . . I have jumped three feet up to get away, and ran like a little sissy. The problem is they run faster than I do and oh, yes, they can jump too."
A digital camera transmitted an image of two spider camels somewhere in Iraq (see photo). A quick Google check on camel spiders shows this monster is no folk tale. Isn't technology wonderful? Facts (and fancy) are only a few keystrokes away.
Now if we could just develop some smart-sensor technology combined with a miniature zapper embedded in his uniform to help Nikolai sleep better.