Virtual wars of independence

Things seem grim on the eve of our 59th Independence Day celebration - but they've seemed grim before, and thank God we've not only survived, but thrived.

computer cartoon 88 (photo credit: )
computer cartoon 88
(photo credit: )
'Make love, not war - but be prepared for both" goes the old saying - and in the case of Israel's struggle for existence, a more accurate description of what the country has had to do to survive would be hard to imagine. There are lots of cliches used to describe Israelis - that they're tough on the outside and sweet on the inside (like the sabra fruit), that they're rude, hard to control, don't take things seriously, drive like maniacs - I'm sure you can add a few to the list yourself. Some of these cliches are more or less true, some are exaggerated and some are absolutely false. Fortunately for us all, though, there is one that has been proven true time and time again - when it comes to defending their country, Israelis forget their differences, whether economic, social, ethnic, political or religious - and band together to fight the enemy. Israel's neighborhood has always been a tough one, but it's gotten even tougher over the past few years. Besides the localized rioting, Kassam rocket firing, stone-throwing, shooting, etc. by Palestinians, the industry of war in the Middle East has become a sophisticated business, in which terrorists develop techniques on one front to be used against other targets. Urban terrorism tactics that were first used against Israelis, like suicide bombings, have been exported to places like Iraq, where terrorists use them with great success against American, British and other troops trying to secure that country. The terrorists in Iraq hone their techniques and re-export the new, improved terror tactics back to Israel - and the rest of the Western world. And besides all this, there's Iran, with its nuclear weapons development program. Iran is either months or years away from developing its nukes, depending on which military or political official you choose to believe, but it's pretty clear what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is planning to do with his bomb, once he gets it ( And while Iran's president reserves his vitriol for Israel, the leaders of the US have no doubt that their country is next in line ( Things seem grim on the eve of our 59th Independence Day celebration - but they've seemed grim before, and thank God we've not only survived, but thrived. On the other hand, it's not enough to just hope for the best; any and every method should be employed to figure out our enemies' weak spots and vulnerabilities, whether military or diplomatic. And while we civilians don't always have access to the sensitive information top military and political officials do, ideas on how best to fight a battle, on or off the battlefield, often filter from the bottom up - which means that the more familiar people like us are with the problems and their possible solutions, the more likely an idea will hatch in someone's head on how to handle the the threats we face. Those methods can, and should, include using computers - especially reality strategy games - to analyze strategy and come up with creative ideas on how to deal with those who seek to destroy us, whether directly or by proxy. And the best computer strategy game dealing specifically with the problems facing Israel is called KumaWar (, a free game that will put you in the thick of things in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria - and even Iran, projecting what a military assault on that country's nuclear facilities might look like. In KumaWar, you take on the role of a soldier/officer in a battle scenario, and deal with fighting your enemy, either as a single player or as part of a unit (with other Internet players). But what sets KumaWar apart from other war strategy games is how realistic and current it is. The game's missions are based on real-life events, replete with news footage, interviews with soldiers who participated in the real life battle, newspaper articles and military documentation (non-classified, of course). There are nearly 90 games (missions) available to play with KumaWar so far, and a new mission is released every two weeks, based often on very recent events (the game's developers work closely with the US military). In Mission 79, for example, you're a soldier on patrol in Iraq's infamous Sadr City, whose mission is to track down terrorists in the Mahdi Army who use urban terrorism techniques against you. In Mission 31, you reenact the fateful December 2001 battle at Tora Bora, where they almost got Osama bin Laden. And in Mission 58, you're a Special Forces soldier sent on a mission to infiltrate Iran's nuclear installation at Natanz, with the goal of gathering evidence of Iran's nuclear plans and, if possible, destroying the centrifuges there. If there's one thing you learn playing this game, it's that war - the Kuma version or the real one - is hell. But that's the advantage of a game like KumaWar; by trying out tactics virtually in these true-to-life scenarios that we in this country could (and do) face, you might just come up with an idea that will save a soldier - and maybe even prevent a real-life war. KumaWar is free for Windows 2000/XP; requires DirectX9.