Sunday, June 04, 2006

Global Kipling, Again

This post back in January dealt with Rudyard Kipling's excursions into science fiction, As Easy as ABC and With the Night Mail, and a curious contemporary relevance.

Strange, in the light of their vision of a future ruled by a globalised technocracy in nuclear-powered airships, to see this article, "A Conceptual Vision for Near-Space Operations" by one Major Mark Steves in the US Air Force's Air & Space Power Journal. Both very ABC-esque, and (it hardly needs to be said) an interesting example of the sheer range of behaviour described by the word "sane".

What sets it apart from As Easy.. is that, despite the immense technological and military changes Major Steves foresees, the political background changes not at all. His ultra-high altitude airships are stationed over the Iran-Iraq border, in support of (what else?) the new democratic Iraq's army, over the US/Mexican border, as well as along the coasts of the continental US for reasons of homeland security. Out in the field, the forward-deployed ships are stationed, inevitably, in the UK (RAF Fairford, one presumes, or perhaps Lakenheath?) and "a friendly Central American state".

On the one hand, this can be read as a creditably realistic view of technology's limited power to alter the political-economic correlation of forces and the geographic constraints, the "permanently operating factors" as the Russians call them. On the other, this can be read as an alarming lack of curiosity as to why the same problems continue, year after year.

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