This is a bit like saying that if lions were bigger, they could hunt elephants. Of course they could! But in the meantime, they are still lions, replete with claws, jaws, teeth, muscles and power enough to maintain a place at the tippy-top of the food chain, and incidentally to dispatch, in fair combat, just about anything else on the planet desirous of messing with them. However, even if a coterie of mad scientists were keen on breeding a strain of Giant Super-Lions with atomic brains and laser-eyes, I would still prefer this to America developing the real-world equivalent of a death ray.
Y’know why? ‘Coz lions, awesome predators though they may be, are still in no danger of blowing up the entire fucking planet.
Behold my staggering lack of confidence in human restraint, mercy and sanity when it comes to pushing the Big Red Button, as personified by this quote from the above article:
“To be sure, there are serious arguments both for and against developing such a system. Part of the justification is that the U.S. military already has such a capability. Unfortunately, it’s nuclear, which renders it worthless for anything but Armageddon.”
Let’s tackle this statement one sentence at a time. First off, there are “serious arguments” for such a system? As in, in favour of? Pro? Sweet Frickety Moses. I can argue seriously to be paid a $100,000 salary to stay home, write books and watch Dr Who (incidentally, if anyone does want to pay me for this, please contact ASAP), but that doesn’t mean it’s a good argument, no matter how serious I am.
Similarly, very small children can argue quite vociferously for their right to stay up late, hit each other with Tonka trucks and eat sugar until they vomit, but that doesn’t mean any right-thinking adult should let them. In this instance, at least, there are signs of prevailing intelligence, Congress having blocked George Bush from building his new toy two years in a row. The article phrases this as: “Lawmakers are concerned that Russia, and soon China, might mistake the launch of a conventionally-armed Trident with the start of a nuclear war against them — and respond in kind before realizing they were mistaken.” (My emphasis.)
Secondly: part of the justification for building an Awesome New Weapon (ANW) is that – wait for it – they already have one. Is it lonely, do you think? Are they trying to get it a mate? If the ANW were a giant panda, I can see why finding it a friend and eagerly awaiting the pitter-patter of little panda paws would be a good thing. There would be cute photos, and women worldwide would go, “Awwww.” But we are discussing high-tech, city-destroying weaponry, and not a photogenic variety of large, endangered fauna, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say no.
Thirdly: this existing ANW is nuclear. Oh – this makes it better. The Awesome New Weapon is too awesome. They want permission to build a slightly less powerful variant (i.e. one which will leave vast stretches of God’s Green Earth inhabitable for Americans after they’ve won the Next Great War, but still destroy the lives of countless millions) and use that instead. How do they describe it? Safe as houses, aye: “The lack of any explosive would generate precise mayhem, “comparable to the type of limited damage caused by meteor strikes.””
Meteor strikes? Meteor strikes. This is their benign military alternative to nuclear Ragnarok? This, according to the article, “Sounds nifty, until you read the fine print”?
The fine print (for those who are wildly curious) means, essentially, that the weapon “represents only a “niche capability” designed to attack stationary terrorists or nuclear weapons or supplies,” and not, say, anything that moves. As weapons go, I almost like the sound of that, except (warning, warning, Danger Will Robinson) “there remains the challenge of finding a target in the first place”. (Translation: we can, potentially, hit anything – just not necessarily what we were aiming at.)
The next paragraph lists two (notably specific) scenarios in which the system “could” be perfect for saving the day – except that this still “raises at least the possibility of an accidental launch of a nuclear weapon”.
All in all, I think they’d be better off with a pointed stick and maybe a cartoon anvil. Possibly, under strict supervision, they can use the adult scissors. Or, here’s an idea, we could not blow each other up.
Now that, I like.