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Posts Tagged ‘Drone War’

Back during this year’s SHOT Show, it was ‘reported’ that Trijicon marks its Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, or “ACOG,” a rugged, fiber optic scope in use with the U. S. military,  with a “Biblical passage.” I use scare quotes around “reported,” because users started noticing this in 2006–if not earlier.

The offending markings include “JN8:12,” which appear as part of the model description “ACOG4x32JN8:12” alongside the magnification (4x) and objective (32mm).  The Military.com article gives us the text of John 8:12:  “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”  For reasons both secular and religious, this will upset more than a few people, but before anyone gets too hysterical, let us consider the technology at hand.  The scope’s reticle is illuminated via fiber optic without any help from batteries.  This, rather than any ‘holy war’ histrionics, explains light reference.  While this is no doubt one of the more explicit references to religion in the American arsenal, the media is largely silent on the AGM-114 “Hellfire” air-to-ground missile taking center stage in the Afghanistan-Pakistan “drone war.”  This begs the question “why?”

GEN Petraeus called the revelation “disturbing,” and no doubt COINdinistas everywhere are cringing at the possible alienation of Muslim populations.

Commentators have put significant blame on Trijicon, but the personnel responsible for the solicitation should not be held blameless. I polled several non-experts on the the markings, and all recognized them for what they were.  There is no excuse this slipping past those responsible for the solicitation.

Clearly, the military needs more people from the humanities who have the intellectually curiosity to ask the right questions about these systems–particularly when they will be deployed in complex cultural terrain. As I have written before, there is much more to these solicitations than selecting the best technology for the application.  However, there must be an effort to ensure that the non-technical aspects affecting the solicitation are the right ones. Indeed, making weapons is not purely an engineering task but requires a multitude of lens not the least of which is a “culturally aware” humanities approach.  As the epigram on Thomas Ricks’ blog reads, “Weapons speak to the wise, but in general they need interpreters.”  And even the wise get it wrong sometimes. (See Ricks’ goofy response to the BulletFlight app.)

It is important to not that this optic is, as folks in the military say, “very good kit.” It is extremely durable and, by all accounts, performs its mission well. A concerted effort must be made to minimize the disruption to warfighters as the “Bible verse” faux pas is corrected. For example, they must be re-zeroed if the optics are removed from the weapon and any time they are without the optic they are denied what may often be a life-saving edge.

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