Monday, July 24, 2006

LEFT TO THEIR OWN DEVICES: Two good books dealing with security and the war on terror, reviewed at the Voice, investigate the Department of Defense's pursuit of dubious technology

The first question that comes to mind on reading Ed Halter's From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games is: How did a military that's so handily made a mess of its real war make one of the best computer war games for kids ever? The title of the 2002 game was America's Army, downloaded from a whopping 2.5 million times in its first two months of availability. Intended as a recruiting aid, it's been a failure. While it seemed to be a fun digital war experience, the army's limp tally sheet indicates the game didn't persuade a legion of young people desperate to get out of town after graduation to sign up . . .

Sharon Weinberger's Imaginary Weapons is another tale of military technology—one more disturbing than Halter's. It's a fascinating investigation into the investment in the hafnium bomb, a device that entranced the military because salesmen promised a weapon with the bang of an atomic bomb in the size of a golf ball. As with Halter's book, one defining feature of the story is the military's enthusiastic pursuit of the dubious.

Read all of it, by me for the Village Voice, here.


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