This War Is a Real Hummer

When the US and its allies go head to head with Saddam Hussein, I plan to be right there. OK, so I won't actually be camped out in the desert, or in Baghdad, engaged in hand-to-hand combat. I'll be doing my part for homeland security right here -- behind the wheel of my new Hummer.

In my combat-ready H2 -- an updated version of the Army's fave transport, the Humvee -- I can experience the excitement of a military moment without the hassles, inconveniences and bland ready-to-eat meals. Suburban al-Qaeda cells will tremble in their boots as I trundle by in my civilian tank -- that is if they can see me at all. My H2 is fitted with optional camouflage magnetic panels to give the 3-ton ride some serious cover.

Apparently I'm not the only one experiencing military envy these days. Even as plain old civilian-style cars and SUVs sit on dealer lots, idle as pre-positioned tanks in Kuwait, sales of the $50,000+ H2 couldn't be better. Hummer dealers report that in recent months they've sold some 10,000 of what GM describes as "the SUV that can drop and give you twenty."

Hummer gear is flying off the shelves too. Still need a special gift for dad? How about a faux military outfit from the Hummer clothing line, modeled on what a colonel might wear?

What's behind this Hummer fever? Despite the fact that the super-sized rides get a scant 10 miles per gallon, they're great for homeland travel. And the H2's off-road capabilities along with the helicopter-lift "hooks" protruding through its hood make it perfect for this season's most combative activity: homeland shopping. Find yourself in a parking spot tussle with Hezbollah guerrillas or a suburban soccer mom? Not to worry -- this machine reigns supreme. The H2 can even climb a 16-inch straight wall barrier, making lane dividers a quaint relic from the past.

While the road beasts may seem like an extreme choice for driving to Pilates classes or navigating cul de sacs, they're just the latest weapon in what's been a steady suburban arms escalation.

First there was the minvan, then the Explorer, the Expedition, the Excursion, each one out-muscling the last. But somewhere along the line, the SUV lost its, well, manliness. Drastic measures were needed. "You don't just drive a Hummer for the fun of it," said one prospective H2 buyer. "We're sending a message to all the SUV moms in the suburbs: if you want to play hardball, we'll play hardball.'"

As the US embraces its new doctrine of "All war, all the time," the success of the Hummer provides an inspirational tale: With just a little ingenuity, even the most obscure military equipment can be adapted to civilian life. Worried that your spouse is cheating, your nanny tippling or your kids grooving to R-rated rap lyrics? You need the home version of the predator drone. Unsure whether to go with the shoulder bag or the shoulder holster? The shoulder-fired missile could be next season's must-have accessory.

So what will be the next hot military gadget pitched to consumers? With the conflict in Iraq almost certain to be coming to a small screen near you, they'll be plenty of opportunities for military marketing. And $400 billion buys a lot of stuff.

Jennifer C. Berkshire is a freelance journalist in Boston.

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