The War in Iraq: Tactics

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Internet Generation Gap in Iraq
by James Dunnigan
February 16, 2005

Discussion Board on this DLS topic

One of the generation gap angles seen in Iraq is the reaction to email and VOIP (phone calls via the Internet) availability. Older troops, who served overseas in the days before email and VOIP, find these connections to the folks back home a great improvement. But for the young troops, who grew up with email and cell phones, expectations are high. Internet access in Iraq is via satellite links, and thatís expensive. Internet access is a combination of links set up by units, for their own troops, or commercial Internet cafes, available for $2-5 an hour. Unit based access is rationed out to the troops in the unit, while the Internet cafes provide access on a first-come-first-serve basis. And you have to pay. The cost is not much if all you do is send and receive email. It goes up if you use VOIP and stay on the phone for a while. And for those who like to surf the web for hours on end, this can get expensive. In late 2003, when many units in Iraq were getting Internet connections, everyone felt great about it. But now expectations have escalated, and if access is slow, or down completely, morale suffers. Civilians have access to the Internet cafes on some bases (if they work for the military), and those in most Iraqi cities. You can get your own satellite service, at a cost of about $1.50 per megabyte of material received or sent. This can get expensive real fast. But satellite access is expensive, and the military doesnít want to install a lot of equipment, and pay for as much access as the troops would like to have. The older troops, who remember when the only connection with home was letters (on paper, not a computer screen), are fine with that. But many of the younger troops are accustomed to being connected at all times, and the shortage of Internet access has become a morale issue in some units. In this 21st century military, troops overseas are not allowed access to booze or loose women, so they see ample Internet access as a form of compensation. The brass disagree, and you will be hearing more about this issue in the future.†




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