[Previous Memorial Day posts here, here, here]
I watched Dr. Strangelove with my kids the other day (me for the umpteenth time, they for the first), and, since I knew it so well, could focus on some of its less obvious qualities. Like the looks, how perfectly it captured some of the era's technology and design aesthetic. And how it treated humans bound up into technological systems that escaped their creators. In particular, the crew of the bomber, little human fleshopoids that travel along with the aeronautical and nuclear technology and guide it along, towards their own destruction.
The technology seems rather quaint, coming as it does at a too-early stage of the control revolution, where you had to have actual humans close to the weaponry. Having humans in the loop means unreliable control, and unacceptable cost. Nowadays our nuclear deterrent is based largely on ICBMs, where the humans are far from the destruction. More significantly, remote-controlled drones are becoming the weapon of choice, also pushing humans back from the front.
War, up until recently, involved groups of men carrying sharp sticks running into each other. Technology like cannons and armor and fortifications made some differences, which were very important in context (even something as simple as the stirrup is supposed to have played a significant role in the spread of feudalism), but it didn't change the basic way in which humans were immersed in violence. They were of necessity, close to it.
With the coming of the industrial age the balance started to change. The technology of destruction became too powerful for humans to withstand, and too complex for humans too control. This became obvious in WWI, but not really remediable until recently. Now we can have wars without soldiers, nobody but our enemies needs to risk anything worse than carpal tunnel syndrome. We've already removed most of the visible economic costs of war from the public consciousness, the human cost is the next to go.
Well, not quite. We are still getting a solider or two killed per day in Afghanistan, for no apparent reason. We're supposed to start withdrawing them in a few months, also for no apparent reason. Perhaps in the next war we'll have eliminated the need for memorials.