High above the mountainous terrain a flying machine passes over just as a van moves along a rutted road below.  Without warning, nor an audible sound, a bright orange ball suddenly erupts and engulfs the vehicle.  Moments later flames continue to lick at the now motionless metal skeleton, parts of which are scattered all about.  A drone attack directed by military forces back in the United States results in a clean kill, or so the report from the field will state.

Looking across the vast expanse of water the sea could not appear more tranquil.  There’s nothing in sight, little to attract the eye.  But then suddenly there is.  A sleek cylindrical rocket breaks through the surface, ascends in a vertical flight path, then arcs across the sky bound toward land.  In less than a minute, with a computer guiding its trajectory it will strike its intended target.

American troops approach a village suspected to have been infiltrated by enemy forces.
Street fighting and significant casualties can be expected.  Moving slowly down the street, however, are not American infantrymen, but a vehicle about the size of a snow-blower with tank treads.  Mounted on the device are a machine gun and a grenade launcher.  A video camera on board swivels back and forth, then stops having detected a figure on the roof of a nearby building.  A short burst of the machine gun follows while the camera transmits a picture of a man, presumably a sniper, slumped over the ledge on the roof.

This is the face of advanced modern warfare featuring the latest in battle technology.  The future is here and more of the same is already being tested on the field.  Expect, increasingly sophisticated guided robots, advanced drones and detection devices to be taking over more of the surveillance functions, as well as the dirty work of war.  The battlefield will become more remote and bloodless, at least for those able to deploy the new weaponry.

Compare this with some current tactics as described in recent accounts of civil disturbances and mass demonstrations.  Protestors gather, clearly in an ugly mood.  The local police, supplemented by elements of the armed forces are on hand and under orders to prevent nasty clashes and widespread property destruction.  With tempers rising, neither side is prepared to back off.  How or who initiates the encounter is unclear, but heading toward a parked car is a group of young men who set it to rocking to the point that it rolls over on its side.  Others in their ranks, brandishing clubs and sticks, descend upon nearby stores, smash in window after window.  Stones are sent flying in the direction of the police, those hurling them rushing forward, then hastily retreating.  That is followed by a barrage of Molotov cocktails, some of the bottles breaking near the feet of the police, then bursting into flames.

The police determined at first to hold their ground and avoid an all-out fight, stand in place, shields held high to ward off flying objects.  But their patience does not last.  In closed ranks they move forward brandishing clubs and swinging forcefully at anyone within reach while surveillance cameras all about record the turbulent scene.  Water cannons filled with putrid fluid send demonstrators reeling as the police begin firing rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at knots of people.  This is followed by the sudden burst of very high-pitched noise frequencies emitted by sound machines a distance away, creating a disturbing and disorienting din.  Meanwhile, helmeted policemen, visors pulled down and in full protective gear, direct pepper spray at those close by.

Here we see armed forces employed in two distinct ways, one distant, deadly and chillingly precise; the other close up, even face-to-face with a primitive ferocity, augmented by updated technologies.  Take your pick.

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