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21 October 2006

Try explaining this to a Cold Warrior...

The Cold War being so long over, now, that we have had time to erect memorials and catalogue the countless memoirs – but there are always those who are unwilling and unable to adapt to the new century’s wars. The disorder of the 1990’s and even the Long War itself are but an afterthought, or so the thinking of the large scale conventionalists go.

It is extremely difficult to reason with those who persist on holding views set into stone nearly a quarter century ago. It is even more difficult for the newer generation of analysts and collectors coming into the game to understand or communicate with the relics that refuse to face Smoking Mirror. The new entrants only understand the Cold War through the lens of a history book.

But they do understand technology, natively and intimately. And through this they understand the weapons and tactics of the Cold War, having grown up on ever more realistic generations of play adapted from the serious games of combat simulators. Better yet, they understand the proliferation of these systems, and are better positioned to observe and comprehend the implications of these legacy weapons in the hands of new decentralized and non-state actors. After all, among the favorite new forms of entertainment for this generation is the online video – whose content is certainly a far cry from the pre-packaged fare doled out by the major media houses. Like this marketing video for the Hind gunship….. one of many showing this platform.

Once it took the collective effort of the community to pursue the rare sightings of these dark birds at airfields and air shows across the globe. Now even those once elusive demonstrations are the latest viral fad….

What begins with the flailing attempts of a dying state kombinat to market military exports far and wide becomes the harbringers of proxy war using capabilities never before seen in the hands of non-state actors. These unanticipated surprises have even spawned informal attempts at distributed collaborative open source analysis for battle damage assessment….

This is the cognitive environment the new generation of analysts must navigate. And it is nearly impossible even to explain the terms of reference of this environment to those whose thinking is still grounded in the last century.