"Through whitish swathes of smoke a row of men with packs came on in
a straight line. Some fell and lay there, others turned head over heels like
shot hares. A hundred meters in front of us, the last were sucked down into
the shell-pocked earth. They must have been young troops, still unacquainted
with the effects of the modern rifle, for they came on with all the hardihood of
In his war diary of 1916, Ernst Juenger took the visionary leap from men to hares. In those gas-bitten,
barbed-wire badlands of the First World War, massive artillery shook the earth while mere men scrambled
like rodents from trenches to monster shell-holes.
Progress marches on, so we are all hares now. Unlike the soldiers that Juenger shot, we are healthily
spared the illusion that an inner strength of blood and guts can ever outmatch steel projectiles.
Subtract the vivid, tender meat of hare and human from the parabolic equations of Nintendo warfare, and
you have the lovely martial landscapes of ROCKET SCIENCE. No enemy, no front, no flags, no braid and
no salutes. No trumpets and no parades. No courage, no commitment and no martial sacrifice. The whitish
swathes of smoke have become our heroes. Ruptured cruise missiles turn like hares, tumbling vent over
nosecone. Chill infrared scopes glow over the shell-pocked earth. It scarcely even looks like war.
If rocket science kills us, we'll never know why. The explosion hits before the sound of its arrival. It's globalized
targeting, satellite-coordinated, so any precise spot on Earth can become an instant Somme. This is military art
for our own dear times. If there's something very obviously missing here, it is something we have truly and
irrevocably lost with the dead century. Rocket science took that from us. There is no hardihood in ignorance.
We just can't have it back, that glorious, murderous human innocence.
"When once it is no longer possible to understand how a man gives his life for
his country – and that time will come -- when all is over with that faith also, and the
idea of the Fatherland is dead; then, perhaps, we shall be envied, as we envy the
saints their inward and irresistible strength."
2001 Bruce Sterling
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