Tomgram:> William Astore, The Remoteness of 1% Wars

Nick Turse    December 8, 2011      Tom Dispatch  

Editor’s Note:  See William Astore’s article  “Fighting 1% Wars Why Our Wars of Choice May Prove Fatal”  in a separate post.

This year, 155,754 recruits joined the active-duty U.S. military with the Army leading the way to the tune of more than 64,000 soldiers.  Many more Americans, however, went to war.

Virtual war, that is.  On a single day last month, to be exact, 3.3 million citizens responded to the call of duty or, more accurately, played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 — simultaneously, together — via Microsoft Xbox LIVE.  Millions more played that combat-packed, first-person shooter video game on the Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3, or personal computers.

While relatively few young Americans smell cordite on the battlefield, increasing numbers of them experience war through ever more screens: televisions, computers, smart phones, and tablets.  Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is only the most successful of these digital draft calls, and if you’re wondering what success means, consider that this virtual portal into World War III “shattered theatrical box office, book, and video game sales records for five-day worldwide sell-through in dollars,” according to its producer, Activision Publishing, Inc.  

That is, over five days it generated $775 million in sales, beating the previous record, set by last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops (which raked in a mere $650 million), and trouncing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (just $550 million in 2009).

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Fighting their way through virtual world capitals — from New York to Paris, London to Berlin — Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 gamers are immersed in a virtual world of war.  Then there are those mainlining combat through this year’s other popular first-person shooters like Battlefield 3 (which boasts that it provides “unrivaled destruction”) or forays into fantasy fighting like Resistance 3 (in which a human resistance movement battles alien invaders in the ruins of 1950s America).

With so much virtual war to worry about, who has time to keep up with other conflicts, like America’s real wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, or even the one just now winding down in Iraq?  Who among us can spare a moment to ponder the fact that those wars, too, are increasingly being waged by men and women staring at screens, disconnected from the homes they turn into rubble, cars they turn into flaming heaps, and blood they spill thousands of miles from their climate-controlled trailers in the Las Vegas desert?

Thankfully, TomDispatch regular Bill Astore has been thinking long and hard about the remote nature of America’s wars, while so many of the rest of us are racking up hours liberating Lower Manhattan from the Russians. (Yep, they’re the new Occupy Wall Street crowd in Call of Duty!)     —Nick Turse

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