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War Toys

Shirley Farlinger — December 1984

The A-Team, soldiers of fortune living on the edge,” has all the latest military equipment: helicopters, combat attack gyrocopters with working bomb release, interceptor jet bombers, tactical vans, etc. These will help defeat “the Bad Guys they dare to challenge the A-Team.” The pilot is Howling Mad Murdock. Or as President Richard Nixon described it to Bob Haldemann “I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war.”

If you don’t want to enlist in the A-Team, you can always become a G.I. Joe. The Cobra Battle Game has 12 rockets and can “knock out the enemy base.” The Combat Jet Skystriker has 2 phoenix, 2 sidewinder and 2 sparrow missiles and an ejection seat and parachute for G.I. Joe Ace to save himself. The Cobra Command Weapon is a tank with two diabolo cannons and the Amphibious Personnel Carrier APC carries 28 soldiers, not included. To add to the realism there are flashing “laser” lights and battle sounds.

The centrepiece is the Headquarters Command Centre with heliopad, searchlights, cameras and machine guns. You have to pay the full price before you find out what the top secret weapons on the inside really are.

Exciting, isn’t it? War always is.

But this is cheaper than the real thing. Helicopters are $14.99, tanks $22.99 and the whole headquarters full of secret weapons is just $34.99. Available at The Bay.

The missiles are soft foam and just as useless as nuclear missiles in modern war. And the game is just as winnable as nuclear war, ie. in double suicide there are no winners. Yet the idea that the enemy must be destroyed before it destroys you is the illogical theory for military games large and small.

To maintain the present chronic state of war the population must be ready. After all it is their money and the sums are enormous. One MX missile costs $210 million. One B-1 bomber is $280 million, mobile single warhead missiles are cheap at $107 million, a supercarrier is $3.5 billion, a destroyer $1 billion and an F-15 aircraft is $20 million. Next year nerve gas will cost $54 million.

But the next generation, the people who will really have to pay the U.S. military deficit, will be all set to cooperate. It was fun. They started, as recommended, at age 5. They know that defence and deterrence are sound theories and that “Captain Bludd and Destro” must be destroyed, whoever and wherever they are.

The “toys” do not have to be assembled or painted. Previous military model kits at least pretended that the activity was model-building. Now the idea is to create your own battle scenes. War is a game, military exercises really are called war games, and they are given such fun names as ‘Jolly Rabbit.’ Targets are destroyed. Our Canadian soldiers, part of the RIMPAC war games last year destroyed an island in the Hawaiian group which, although uninhabitable, was a valuable archeological site. It’s easier to do this if you know everything about war games and nothing about archeology.

Conditioning is all-important. So last year the American military spent $887,000 to promote rifle practice for youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and the Y.M.C.A., and $75 million was spent in Canada on Canadian Cadet organizations.

But the game of war is ultimately a computer game. That’s why Reagan praised the use of video games as good training for the young. It’s all a question of being fast on the button. If you stopped to think about it, some relevant ideas might enter your mind. Ideas like:

The trouble is, all these considerations require patience and intelligence. G.I. Joe has never been long on either.

War toys come in two sizes. Unfortunately boys do too.