Thursday, March 8, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 112



U.S. Army makes abrupt about-face

Shaun Salnave

OK -- I knew America was going crazy.

Britney Spears and boy bands are popular.

People are shocked that white middle-class people are shooting other white middle-class people, which is surprising. If you study modern history, it's almost always white middle-class people who do most of the shooting.

People seem to believe orange is a good color for things other than oranges. Craziness all around.

I thought there was one place I could turn and be sure it wouldn't change its hidebound, inefficient, half-witted ways: the armed forces.

While the military and I almost never agree (they're in a profession that I don't think should exist), I could always count on them to push the values of conformity and killing.

Until recently, that is: Until the Army and the Marines unveiled their new "nonlethal weapons."

Yes, that's right. Tools, not weapons, of war that don't kill anyone; they just make the enemy run away.

The Marine Times is calling this "perhaps the biggest breakthrough in weapons since the atomic bomb." (Is this a phrase that worries anyone else?)

It's called the "Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System," and the Marines describe it as "a nonlethal weapon that fires directed energy at human targets." This may be the silliest thing I've heard about in a while.

Now, I'm all for not killing people. But being something of a realist, I understand that this happens in war -- and that when you do not kill your enemy, you leave him the opportunity to attempt to kill you again later.

This does not seem like a brilliant strategy.

Thankfully, the Army is still being as stupid as usual. They have a new slogan: "An army of one."

Well, because I'm a helpful person, I looked the word "army" up in this neat thing we have here at The Daily Cougar office called a "dictionary."

According to the dictionary, which lists the meanings of almost every word, "army" means more than one person. Phrases like "a great number" and "a vast multitude" catch the attentive reader's eye.

"One" seems to me to exclude the possibility of there being a number of people, since it applies only when there is a single person.

I think, then, that there is a problem with the phrase "army of one." Such an army can't exist.

It also goes against the army's second (or possibly third) most important goal, after wasting government money and killing people, which is to encourage conformity in the masses.

Calling for an army of one seems to encourage individualism, which is against the whole armed forces idea of general issue (from whence we get the GI we put before our Joes) and the generic soldier.

If we start making these soldiers people, can we continue to be so cavalier about wasting their lives so we can protect our oil reserves?

Once again, I'm all for this. Anything that makes people rethink the whole stupidity of this war business gets my support. I'm just very confused to see the Army working with me this time.

Salnave, a senior oxymoron major, 
can be reached at

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