Over the years I realized that the scariest story I’ve every watched on TV or the movies was an old Star Trek episode. The Enterprise is transporting a diplomatic party to an area where the Federation would like to open diplomatic relations and hopefully establish a base. An attempt had been made a generation before. The last message from the original party stated that the planet in question was at war with a colony world. When the Enterprise arrives they find the war is still going on. In fact, the war has been going on for nearly five hundred years.
The capital city is attacked while the landing party is on the ground. Funny thing is-no booms, no tremors, no radiation. Turns out, the whole war is being handled by computers. Since you can’t have a war without casualties, the citizens in the affected areas have a day to report to suicide stations. The planetary leaders state they finally realized their society was hopelessly warlike anyway so they figured they might as well make the process as “civilized” as possible. Since the story is no fun without threatening the ship and her crew, the Enterprise is declared a casualty and the crew ordered down. Of course the captain takes extreme exception to the idea and throws a large monkey wrench in the works. He and Spock blow up the war computer. In answer to the council leaders’ accusations that the Federation is just as warlike as his people so get off your high horse all ready. Kirk answer that yes, maybe they are, but they finally realized that while humans may be killers with generations of wars in their history, we “don’t have to kill anybody, today.” That’s the first step, “We don’t have to kill anybody-TODAY.” The story ends there. You never find out how the war ends, just on the note that maybe, just maybe both sides will be so terrified of the idea of fighting a war with real weapons that they might actually try to make peace.
This little summary was prompted by stories in both papers about the attempts to develop robot soldiers. The idea is to field automated troops that don’t get scared, don’t worry about getting killed, don’t care if their buddies get killed, don’t get hot tired, don’t get hungry, don’t get thirsty, and aren’t entitled to pensions twenty or thirty years down the road. I find this very, very scary.
You see, I think war is supposed to be terrible. It’s supposed to be horrifying. The idea of fighting one is supposed to scare the living daylights out of you. That’s so we don’t fight them unless we absolutely have to. I believe that aren’t face with the realization of the human costs of a war, it will remove a very important obstacle to starting one. Personally I think we should go back to swords and clubs. When you’re trying to take another’s life you should have to look that person in the eye.
There is a wonderful scene at the end of the D-Day episode in Band of Brothers. It’s nighttime and Easy Company has an hour or so to grab some grub and catch their breath before they have to move out again. The new company commander, a lieutenant Winters (the old one is missing presumed dead, along with everybody else on his plane) is looking at the flames in the sky with that “thousand yard stare’ and promising himself that if he gets out of this alive he’s going to find a nice quiet little cornor and never fight again. He did and he did.
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