Thursday, 27 February 2020

The Super Soldier Conundrum

Recently I read an article regarding the very unhealthy obsession Western media has had for the Spartan mythos. While it does concentrate on the modern far right's unhealthy obsession with what has always been a deeply problematic image, it did get me thinking about one other aspect of the Spartan image. The super soldier.

Now, perhaps the most well understood modern reference to the super soldier is the men and woman of the SPARTAN program from the Halo franchise. I admit, I grew up on those video games and surrounding media, and found them cool, as any young adult uninformed about the horrors of war would. What did help was that the novels by Eric Nylund, especially Fall of Reach, went to great lengths to describe the blatant immorality and cruelty in the creation of the SPARTAN program. Essentially kidnapping and torturing children to create a group of well trained and augmented soldiers superior to any individual soldier produced via natural training.

Naturally though, this does raise the question of what purpose an augmented super soldier actually serves? Especially in a science fiction setting where a warship in orbit is probably far more useful than an augmented super soldier on the ground in most situations. Sure a squad of elite super soldiers faster and more deadly than a platoon of regular men may be useful in a surgical strike, but would they actually be worth more in an age of nuclear arms and guided missiles? The obvious rejoinder would be that even today special forces serve a purpose, for surgical strikes and to help gain information, but they are not war winners by themselves. Even a group with exponentially more ability than the modern SAS or Navy Seals would be of questionable utility in many respects vs slightly more augmented regular soldiers.

To be honest, creating a super soldier program makes very little sense. It offers no innate advantage over regular special forces outside specific context, and the costs/morality is something which is horrific to consider. Unless you are engaged in infinite war, like the Space Marines in Warhammer 40k, then you really don't have a use for them. And even if you do construct them, what on earth do you do with them in peace time?

My own, as yet unpublished novella Integration, deals with this idea. Could a super soldier really reintegrate into society peacefully? Can they even be seen as anything other than a threat by the government which created them? Would someone indoctrinated into military service be able to just hop back into civilian society without issues?

Ultimately, this is really an answer for fiction to think about. Well, so far at least...

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