In his prophetic story “The Land Ironclads” written in 1903, the British author H.G. Wells foresaw the introduction of what were later called “tanks” into land warfare. He described a war between the “men of the country” against the “the men of the city,” and it was the latter who were innovative, who introduced the “land ironclads”, large metal clad containers that were mobile and that had men inside them, protected from enemy fire, who fired through holes in the armor and were able to shoot and defeat the enemy.
Note that this was before the ravages of trench warfare of WWI and the actual introduction of tanks into warfare in 1916 by the British. It was the introduction of the tank that revolutionized land warfare in the 21 years between the end of WWI and the beginning of WWII. Note also that Wells predicted that the men of the city, small, clever and innovative (“nerds”), would always defeat the men of the country, who were large, physical (“jocks”), but dependent on age-old means of war, such as horses and cavalry. H.G. Wells was also, of course the inventor of the genre of “science fiction” with his stories “The Time Machine” (1895) and “The War of the Worlds” (1898).
It is not a great leap of faith to go from Wells’ two groups of protagonists to identify the “men of the city ” with the West and the “men of the country” with the Islamists (previously the Nazis). We have not only tanks and fighter jets (as well as air superiority) but also the control of vast amounts of technology, control of cyberspace and the means of electronic communication. If we can’t defeat a bunch of crazy barbarian ideologues whose main means of fighting is the pick-up truck-mounted machine gun (an iron horse), then we are in for a great holocaust. One might argue that the “barbarians” in this case are able to use technology, such as flying airplanes into tall buildings as in the World Trade Center attack of 9/11/01 and the effective use of social media to radicalize and gain adherents, but note that they are using our own technology against ourselves. They do not have the means to develop new technology, such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system, themselves.
Western Judeo-Christian civilization (for want of a better descriptor) has the concept of “progress” embedded in it. Every now and then we do have “back to nature” and “back to simplicity” movements, such as the hippie movement of the 1960s, with its cults and communes, and various “utopian” movements. But, generally speaking they have not stopped progress, for example going from radio to television to the internet or from records to tapes to CDs and DVDs to solid state memory devices. Even with our hands tied behind our backs by weak, ineffectual leadership and legalisms, we will still defeat those who want to go back to a medieval concept of living the life of Mohammed in 7th century Arabia. We do not want to go back, we want to go forward, and the future is with us.
Jack Cohen: Born in London, UK, lived in suburban Washington DC area for 30 years, moved to Israel in 1996. He has a web site: Comment From Israel