When I was a kid, I used to read a lot of science fiction. Books like Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. As I grew older, though, I began to realize I was living science fiction — things were changing so fast — and so I moved on to other genres. I thought about how much reality has come to resemble cold-war science fiction yesterday when I read this passage in a Wall Street Journal story:
“One drone attack Monday is believed to have killed the leader of the Islamic Jihad Union, Najmiddin Kamolitdinovich Jalolov, an Uzbek native implicated in terrorist plots and attacks in Germany and Uzbekistan. Officials said he was killed, though a DNA test hasn’t yet been performed.”
Aside from the name of the deceased terrorist — which is at least as exotic to my ears as the names of fictional characters from my youth — look at what is happening here. An unmanned aircraft is using smart bombs with pinpoint accuracy to kill an enemy whose remains will be analyzed by dissecting his genetic material. The year I was born, 1951, none of these technologies existed. Watson and Crick didn’t even propose the existence of DNA until two years later, and things like Predators and satellite-guided munitions lay decades in the future. So while the notion of military transformation has now fallen out of favor, don’t fool yourself — we are all living in a world that only the boldest science-fiction writer could have imagined a few decades ago, and the way we wage war reflects that fact.
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