Wow. In part one of my article, I asked for your thoughts on a clearly divisive and complicated issue. Boy did I ever get some. I heard from you, our loyal readers. I heard from ex-military vets. I heard from former recruits. I even heard from Al-Jazeera! But, perhaps most notably I heard from fellow PNG’er Pete Irace in the form of his counter-point article: The Case AGAINST Video Games as an Army Recruitment Tool.
Get ready Pete, this one may go on for a while.
While I respect the amount of research you put into your rebuttal, I can’t help but come away with one overriding impression that I took away from your piece: disappointment.
Ok, so where do I start?
I couldn’t help but be struck by one abundant theme of your entire article, and that is that War is hell. Brutal death and horrific life long terror is but a bullet away.
Of course. In a related topic, water is wet. No one, not the government, not the Army, not a recruiter, and I dare say not even a realistic recruit would beg to differ. Of course a world with LESS war, a less militaristic society would be a better place. Unfortunately, this is not the world that we currently occupy. We need people standing on the front lines to protect us and I think you would agree.
Now, while we need these young brave people on the front lines to protect us, it would truly be a tragedy if they were there through some sort of deceit. This is precisely what you hear the protesters claiming over and over again in the video supplied in my first article, the most memorable of these being Iraq veteran Jesse Hamilton proclaiming “I am utterly disgusted that the Army which I love… has resorted to such a deceiving recruiting strategy.” Well what would make it deceiving? Glorifying war definitely would be deceiving. But you and I have agreed that the AEC is not doing that.
So what does that leave? Well, there’s your agrument that the tech simulators don’t present the horrors of war, the absolute reality. Well, I can’t dispute that while the simulators do show you and your squadmates die, they don’t show dismemberments and people turning into a pasty sludge. You really think that’s going to do anything to deter possible recruits? Who has been sheltered to the point that they haven’t seen that on the internet, in an average action movie, or even in Saving Private Ryan. It’s still on a screen sir. Until you lay those bloody entrails out in front of their faces, digital blood isn’t going to deter anyone. Not to mention, I doubt you could get away with that in a mall, which conveniently ties into my next point.
The AEC is positioned inside a mall. Why? To escape the crowded confines of a dank glorified closet that has traditionally been the habitat of military recruiters and get out to the families. This way Mom and Dad, Bro and Sis can pop in to also hear what the Army recruiter is telling young Johnny what this profession has in store. In my experience with military veterans, there is no bigger opponent to someone joining the armed forces than their own parents who go out of their way to tell of the harsh realities that you and your supplied poem have so aptly pointed out. Instead of the Army trying to combat those parents by isolating their child, they are instead inviting them into the experience as well. I can not think of a more responsible strategy.
To your point that you would be okay with this if the experience was limited only to potential recruits and not those aged 13-17. Well I assume this is for one of two reasons. One, the Army has no business trying to recruit impressionable minds at an early age. Well, lucky for us, they can’t! Thirteen year olds can’t join the Army. What they can do is go hands on with the tech that their big brother may potentially be using. When they see the amount of technical innovation available to them, they may gain some piece of mind in knowing that the Army, and our tax-payer dollars are doing everything possible to keep our young men and women safe.
Second reason: the material presented is inappropriate for a teen. Debatable, but not our call. Remember that this is a family friendly exhibit where the parents are involved in deciding what is right and wrong for their children. If this is your argument then your argument should be to shelter teens from all forms of violence, not strictly those available via the Army. Let me remind you that images of war are ever abundant in PG-13 cinema and digital, immersive, interactive teen rated video games. How many different gun peripherals are available on the family friendly Wii console? Now, just because it’s common practice in movies and gaming doesn’t necessarily make it alright in the AEC, but again, that is not our call. However, at that point it turns into the moral majority telling parents what they should allow.
Finally, what I find most disappointing about your counterpoint is that you never address my agrument that the Army does not send every warm body off to war. Most military men and women never see a battlefield. The ones that do are their for a reason. They made it through boot camp, thorough training and showed the physical, mental, and emotional fitness to not only excell in battle, but be responsible for their health, and the health of those around them. Much like Ed’s comment in my original article, if any of these three areas are lacking (mental in his friend’s case) you don’t go to war. Much like ML’s comment, a large chunk of recruits never make it out of basic training, meaning the Army wasn’t just going to send them off to their potential death just because they can squeeze a trigger.
The point is that the Army has shown that they possess responsibility in who they ship overseas. So why would they invest $12 million dollars and a whole lot of deceit to irresponsibly recruit? They are providing tools, tech, and a family setting to try and cut down on the large number of washouts, all of whom were recruited the old fashioned way: isolated away from Mom and Dad in an intimidating glorified closet.
In closing you did not need to tell me what the protesters were in fact protesting. They are not un-American or un-patriotic. If anything, exercising their rights as an American makes them anything but. However, you have agreed that the AEC is indeed NOT glamorizing or glorifying war. So at this point we should remember the very title of my article. While the protesters want for less militarism is both duly noted and indeed highly desireable, their entire protest proclaiming that “war is not a game” is at the very least a big misunderstanding and at most steeped in ignorance.