Recently, I came across this rather amazing article (magazine subscription required to read entire article).
The first two paragaphs ought to give you the gist of what the article is about, though:
To embed on some of the niftiest air missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, I had to fly to Las Vegas. I drove out of town past the MGM Grand, the Bellagio, and Caesar’s Palace and checked in at a low-end hotel-casino complex in Las Vegas for $59 a night. It was crowded with obese people in sweat suits and seniors driving motorized wheelchairs, yanking one-armed bandits in a masturbatory frenzy, and smelling of whiskey, cigarettes, and popcorn. Ten minutes away, at Nellis Air Force Base, I found a cluster of camouflaged trailers.
“Inside that trailer is Iraq; inside the other, Afghanistan,” explained Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Plamp, of Louisville, Kentucky.
What the author is referring to is Predator missions. You may know that Predators are unmanned planes operated by remote control used to reconnoiter areas and sometimes attack them. What you probably didn’t know was that the pilots controlling these planes are on the other side of the world.
For most of the history of man, when you went to war, you went to war. Outside of maybe some guerillas and air force guys, you couldn’t put in your eight hours, then go home to the wife and kids and dog.
But even the guerillas and air force guys had to live with the principle of being both hunter and prey: if you can get them; they can get you. Sometimes that’s very likely, sometimes, that’s rather remote, but the possibility is always there.
These have been pretty long-standing military principles. If you had asked Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar or Genghis Khan or Napoleon or Douglas MacArthur that you wanted to fight without being there, they would have thought you mad.
Yet today, rules that have lasted for milennia are being blown away with a lot of computer chips and telecommunications: real-time, real-life fragging without any real (at least for you if not your target) consequences. This isn’t a mere quantitative improvement; it changes the whole nature of the beast.
What’s the worst that can happen to these guys? Your Predator gets blown out of the sky? Well, it’s a lot better when you’re not in it. Just a matter of “Game Over,” and wait until the taxpayer pumps in some more quarter-millions so you can try again. Hell, so long as the taxpayer has plenty of quarters, you could become an experienced kamikaze.
About three decades ago, Orson Scott Card wrote a work called Ender’s Game in which a military prodigy unknowningly commands by remote control a military mission
Granted, we are a long way from interstellar invasion forces and instant communications, but besides those, the main difference between the story and any real life “Ender’s Game” is that the soldiers get to stay home, too.
Look a couple decades down the road (if even that far), and it’s not only possilbe but probable that the children of today’s gamers will do the same thing down to the foot soldier level, with tomorrow’s games serving as basic training.