Monday, June 19, 2006

Dr Strangelove gets a makeover

Whilst browsing around Internet news sites the other day I came across a story titled ‘Pentagon Seeks Nonnuclear Tip for Sub Missiles’ which reported that the US military is hoping to arm some of its Trident submarine launched missiles (SLBM) with explosive rather than nuclear warheads. The rationale being that an SLBM can hit a target virtually anywhere in the world within an hour.

We’re talking the ticking bomb scenario that fans of Fox’s ‘24’ have grown to know and love, as in…

"people putting together some terrorist weapon, and while they are putting it together we can take it out, and if we miss that opportunity it may show up on the streets of New York City or Washington, D.C."

This is, of course, a totally demented idea straight out of Dr Strangelove, which presumably means that it will receive full-funding and become operational within a couple of years. Donald Rumsfeld is reportedly a strong supporter of the concept

Donald Rumsfeld

How the leadership of Russia or China would react should the Americans ever be insane enough to start launching SLBMs out of the sea in the direction of Asia remains to be seen; though Putin gave a teensy weensy hint when he said

the launch of a ballistic missile with nonnuclear warheads could provoke an inappropriate response from nuclear powers and a full-scale counterattack using strategic nuclear forces

For people who can still remember all the talk of Peace Dividends at the end of the Cold War this story is a nice pointer towards what the War on Terror is really all about.

There never was going to be any Peace Dividend. There’s just too much money and influence tied up in the ‘Defence’ industry for that ever to be the case. The challenge faced by those who make a living out of War was to come up with a new menace, before your average voter began to notice that defence spending wasn’t being reduced in response to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Cue the War on Terror

And, from a Defence Industry point of view, the War on Terror is working a treat. Defence spending is now even higher than it was during the Cold War.

And, whatever your politics or opinion on the War on Terror, you can be sure that the entire business is one great big con just by looking at what the bulk of that money is being spent on.

Take the nuclear submarines for example. Any strategist with half a brain cell in the Pentagon or Whitehall knows that the Russians or the Chinese could fuck us good, if they ever chose to, without recourse to nukes. The Russians could simply turn Europe’s gas supplies off and the Chinese could stop supporting America’s colossal national debt. They could shag the West blind at the drop of hat.

The concept of large fleets of fabulously expensive nuclear-armed submarines is dead.

The plan is to turn nuclear deterrent systems into fabulously expensive anti-terrorist systems before too many people notice.

During the last Iraq War some people, including a few military people, started questioning the sense in using cruise missiles costing $2,000,000+ a pop to demolish mud huts and slaughter the occasional goat. If the nonnuclear SLBM concept ever flies that sort of disproportionate insanity will start looking like small change. And is it any wonder that our military armed as it is with hugely complex, deliberately expensive weapons systems hasn’t got the insurgencies in Iraq or Afghanistan under control. Countless billions spent on stealth bombers, nuclear submarines and God knows what else, not enough money to kit everyone out with decent body armour.

OK, this is all a bit highfalutin for a personal blog but the point is that the same kind of nonsense is taking place across the board. No matter how ludicrous or expensive the concept you are trying to sell is, if you can work a War on Terror angle into it there’s a good chance you’ll get to trough out on some public money.


Here’s something a lot closer to home than SLBMs for example

I’ve just spent an amusing few minutes running the demo videos (highly recommended) for Ipsotek’s ‘Intelligent Pedestrian Surveillance’ system being marketed in the UK and elsewhere which I read about here. Apparently, the key characteristics of 'suspicious behaviour' can be digitised in such a way that they can be automatically identified by CCTV systems...

What makes watching the Ipsotek demo videos so amusing is realising just how useless the concept clearly is. Sheer uselessness was, of course, no impediment to the system being trialed in two London Underground stations.

Look around, you’ll see useless and expensive crap like that sprouting up everywhere. And at an ever-increasing rate.

It’s there to make us safer

and poorer

and more afraid

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