Today the question of when and whether to trust the government is becoming exponentially more difficult. Sure, the U.S. has always exploited or contrived pretexts for war, and we are hardly alone in that regard. But right now we are dealing with emerging technology and a leader for whom truth is not a meaningful discursive category that taken together will profoundly complicate judgments relating to the commitment of military force.

The scope for manipulation is enormous. One can easily imagine the havoc caused by falsified video that depicts foreign Iranian officials collaborating with terrorists to target the U.S. Or by something as simple as invented news reports about Iranian or North Korean military plans for preemptive strikes on any number of targets. The universe of possible counterfeiters is large and growing: The Russians are not the sole purveyors of such corrosive material—the New Yorker, for example, has reported on an Israeli firm hired by California businessmen to deploy computer-generated lies about candidates for local office. The defense and intelligence establishments of numerous countries, as well as plenty of private entities, are likely able to do this kind of deception now.

Governments, if they so choose, could rely on one fabrication upon another to provide the pretext for war and the confirmation of the rectitude of their actions. Imagine living in virtual reality game, and you’re not far off.