THE ELECTRONIC BATTLEFIELD by Paul Dickson

THE ELECTRONIC BATTLEFIELD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Dickson, whose previous books include Think Tanks (1971) and--more happily--The Great American Ice Cream Book (1972), now surveys the Dali-Bosch realms of electronic people-sensors, laser guidance systems, smaller and better ""bomblets,"" and pilotless drones (now styled ""Remotely Piloted Vehicles"") for painless Kamikaze missions. These dreadful fantasias are already fact, and figuring ever more prominently in defense budgets and limited-war scenarios. Dickson's study is neither as savvy nor as comprehensive as that of veteran military-affairs reporter James Canan (The Superwarriors, 1975). But within his narrower focus he has plenty to make the hair stand on end. From the infamous ""Jason"" group's 1966 proposal for supply interdiction through an electronic ""fence"" in the DMZ, Buck Rogers equipment proliferated with stunning swiftness in the Vietnam War. There were air-seeded listening devices, infrared and light-intensifying cameras, the RPV ""Bullshit Bombers"" which blanketed the enemy with leaflets (to say nothing of incendiaries). By 1970 Senator Proxmire was carping about the curious invisibility of electronic warfare in the official Defense budget, but the concept is unhappily here to stay. Remote-control technology drastically broadens the scope of permissible hostilities that an administration can undertake without endangering American lives or requiring a Congressional declaration of war. Though Dickson's treatment is no model of care or penetration, it does concisely assemble some important and horrifying material. The biggest nightmare of all is a 1969 speech by General Westmoreland--printed verbatim in an appendix--which visualizes the battlefield of the future in the sort of terms others might use to describe Jerusalem the Golden.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1976
Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press