THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 752, January 5, 2014
Only you can help yourself.
That's why it's called self-defense.
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
A few weeks ago I submitted a letter to the editor pertaining to Neil's article "Mandarin in the Moon" which arrived too late for the next edition. The more I thought about the issue and what I written—I was kind of glad it didn't publish—least the world think I was some kind of frothing at the mouth "Kill em All—Let God Sort em Out" warmongering Neocon! And I hoped that Neil or Ken didn't get that impression either.
I don't think they did.
In the letter I speculated about the use of the neutron bomb for defense against an invading army vs someone using it to get rid of someone else so they could move in and take their land and their stuff—or a desperate despot using it to put down an internal insurrection. Thinking maybe it would be better developed into an article written with more attention to detail. Given what people are known to do with sound bites. Which some are sure to do anyways no matter how carefully worded.
So I reworked the piece—to give a more objective treatment to the issue of strategic warfare and ballistic missile defenses including use of the neutron bomb for repelling a foreign invasion as it pertains to the Zero Aggression Principle—or ZAP.
Having grown up in the days of the Cold War I remember what it was like to fear The Bomb! The obsession with civil defense and "Duck & Cover" were a little before my time but I do remember Greenpeace and the Nuclear Freeze movement and talk among church goers that equated the arms race between the USA and the Soviet Union as a literal countdown to Armageddon as described by the Prophet Daniel and in the book of Revelation. It was especially bad in the 1970s—when we were also—according to the "Prophet Malthus"— running out of everything—especially oil and food and World War III was inevitable with the world destined to go out in a big bang and then die with a whimper in the bone chilling cold and dark of Nuclear Winter.
Movies like "The Day After", "Threads", and Hal Lindsey's "Late Great Planet Earth" didn't help much either. The message of the preacher Herbert W. Armstrong in the pages of The Plain Truth Magazine was that according to a passage in the scriptures: "least no flesh be saved alive"—only Devine intervention—as in God himself stepping down from on high and intervening directly in human affairs to save the world from nuclear annihilation. The Cold War impacted me psychologically and influenced some of my life decisions. There had been a renewed interest in civil defense in the early 1980s which prompted me to think seriously about survivalism. My house (at the time belonging to my Grandmother) has a cellar with thick stone walls which with some sandbags on the door and in the window would offer pretty good shelter against radiation from fallout. And then I chose majoring in English Studies at the Pitt Greensburg campus over the Art Institute of Pittsburgh because I didn't want to be downtown when the missiles arrived from Russia With Love! What was the point of going through all that trouble to prepare a refuge only to be stuck somewhere else—especially at Ground Zero!
Then in the ultimate irony I ended up joining the Air Force!
Never got around to sandbagging the cellar door and window but the idea has remained in the back of my mind ever since and was briefly brought to the forefront again for Y2K when I actually got serious about prepping and bought a generator. Which has sat idle for years—though now I have serious plans to get it running again due to concerns over the ongoing shift back to frigid winters and the likelihood of power outages. And how such might affect my greenhouse full of valuable plants not to mention my household plumbing—hot water radiators and fin tube baseboards that I was so glad that Grandma and Grampa decided to install years ago because they interface beautifully with the outside wood furnace via a heat exchanger that allows me to flex between fuel sources—but would be a disaster if the pipes were to freeze and burst. For the want of a few five gallon cans of gasoline to get thru several days without grid power that is sure to come sooner or later.
In the short term some survivalist plans are certainly useful for getting through a crisis. However the logic of some are questionable. Like the idea of digging out a trench in your backyard and laying doors across it and covering it with dirt—3 feet would make effective radiation shielding equivalent to a foot of stone or concrete or a few inches of lead. But it looked more like a good way to dig your own grave which was not lost on the democrats in the 1984 Election when they ran a commercial ridiculing some of the Civil Defense ideas put out by the Reagan Administration. "All you need to survive a nuclear war is a shovel and 3 feet of dirt"!
The prospect of whether or not a nuclear war is survivable has been the subject of heated debate—mainly between the Left & Right since the dawn of the Nuclear Age through the duration of the Cold War. The republicans for the most part capitalized on the fear of communist aggression and the democrats on the fear of The Bomb. The defeat of Barry Goldwater—aside from being demonized with the "throw Granny out into the street" rhetoric that Dems have always loved to play—might be attributed to a commercial of a little girl picking petals off a daisy and a countdown to nuclear explosion and that dreaded mushroom cloud. Combined with a campaign slogan that was reverse engineered from the historically famous "In Your Heart You Know He's Right"—to "In Your Gut You Know He's Nuts" it proved to be a pretty potent propaganda weapon. In reality it is unlikely that the combined power of all the nuclear weapons on Earth could kill all life and even some human life is likely to survive. Still the experience would be nothing short of horrific—not so much from the bombs and the radioactive fallout—but more so from deaths caused by starvation and exposure to the elements and lack of medical care as a result of the disruption of grid power and transportation systems that are critical to the function of our civilization. Add to that the violent social chaos that will result from people struggling for power and control of resources. For those who survive the direct effects of The Bomb it will be very much like the aftermath of a grid down collapse associated with an EMP attack or natural solar flare event—or economic meltdown the likes of the one in the Rawles storyline: Patriots: a Novel of the Coming Collapse. It would be like in the words of Carl Sagan—a dark age deeper than the one caused by the collapse of classical civilization.
Because Goldwater was right about Peace Through Strength—we are until we come up with a viable ballistic missile defense—BMD—stuck with the MAD Doctrine—which means Mutually Assured Destruction. I have never seen it articulated in political speeches or writing but my own gut tells me that the main purpose of MAD aside from being a deterrent against nuclear attack because of the ability to threaten payment in kind—is the option to cripple the economy and military power of an enemy superpower and probably other nations that might share the ideology of the enemy or any we think might try to take advantage of us in a weakened state after a devastating nuclear strike. Which means the possibility of combatants taking sideswipes at non-combatants to prevent them from rising to power in the aftermath. That, along with the collateral harm to innocent people in enemy nations is a violation of the ZAP and it also makes MAD a fitting acronym for current strategies involving nuclear warfare. The doctrine of flexible response is little better than massive retaliation which was the strategy early on in the Cold War to counter the numerical superiority of the Warsaw Pact armies in the event they tried to invade Western Europe. Most scary were "Use It or Loose It" or "Launch on Warning". Which essentially meant the end of the world within 30 minutes or so—factoring the travel time of American and Russian ICBMs over the North Pole in a full blown nuclear exchange.
And then came the Neutron Bomb.
A device that evolved out of a line of development involving anti ballistic warheads intended to neutralize the uranium fissioning agent in oncoming warheads with a burst of neutron radiation. Turning them into duds—or so it was hoped. They also figured out that such warheads—also known as Enhanced Radiation Weapons might be very useful on a battlefield. Maybe a good way to bitch slap an invading army or enemy fleet.
I recall from my younger days how the Left was up in arms against it when they were proposing deployment of that weapon to counter the numerical superiority of the Red Army in Europe. 60 Minutes even did a good job of explaining how a weapon that released a burst of lethal radiation over a battlefield with minimal fireball and minimal fallout could limit collateral damage in densely populated region like Western Europe where the fighting might be perilously close to the charming little German town they showed.
But the Greens and the left on both sides of the Atlantic were outraged and fought tooth and nail against the neutron bomb. In their opinion it was the "Ultimate Capitalist Weapon" because it destroyed people while leaving property intact. In reality it would make the ultimate communist weapon for the same reason since those on the left—the coalition of looters and their bootlickers would love nothing better than to kill someone else with minimal effort and be able to move in and take possession of their property. I always had a sneaking suspicion that the main reason for opposition to the Neutron Bomb—and SDI for that matter—was that the Left in the western nations that stood against the Communist Bloc was secretly—and in many cases not so secretly rooting for the Soviets to win the Cold War and looking forward to serving them as vassals and getting in on the spoils as the Soviet Union and other communist nations moved in to occupy and carve up Western Europe and the continental US! They were counting on that numerical advantage of the Red Army to sweep in and overwhelm the NATO forces in Europe and the neutron bomb threw a monkey wrench into that plan! Like a machine gun would be a serious impediment to an angry mob of witch hunters wanting to drag someone out of their house and burn them at the stake!
In terms of gruesomeness, the neutron bomb: the terrible a weapon that it is considering what it is like to die of radiation sickness—would not violate the Zero Aggression Principle if used to repel an invasion by an enemy nation as opposed to being used to liquidate the inhabitants of a city or region so you can take their land or other resources, or to put down an insurrection in your own country. Using it for purely defensive purposes against foreign invaders is really no different than using a gun for defensive purposes against home invaders. The reason for designing a nuclear weapon to irradiate enemy combatants on a battlefield with an invisible but lethal burst of radiant energy is not unlike designing ammunition for home defense that is less likely to travel beyond the walls of the dwelling and inflict harm to other in the neighborhood. Collateral damage. Which is essentially harm to innocent bystanders.
On the other hand I did a little research which maybe I should have done sooner, before deciding to become an armchair general! Found some articles that suggest a big part of the reason the neutron bomb was abandoned by the US (at least officially on the record!) in addition to the controversial nature of the weapon—was that it might not be that effective for its intended purpose as an anti-tank weapon given that simple things like titanium alloys and even plastics and diesel fuel can absorb the neutrons that give the N—Bomb its formidable power. To get the full intended effect on the tank crew in some scenarios might require detonation at very close quarters at which the effects of the fireball from the explosion would achieve the same ends and at a lower altitude would have less spread to take out surrounding infantry.
How this might pertain to "bitch slapping" an amphibious assault by Chinese troop ships landing on our coasts; I am now a little less confident about the effectiveness of ER weapons—other than psychological warfare to degrade the morale of enemy troops with the prospect of sloughing out the lining of their guts as they die from radiation sickness. Maybe to make them less enthusiastic to fight. As if Chinese leadership ; which considers its own people expendable would even care. Might even consider it a good way to dispose of the surplus male population that has resulted from their population control policies!
The notion of a gun behind every blade of grass which made Admiral Yamamoto caution the Japanese government against invading the US mainland in World War II might be a more effective and cheaper deterrent than a neutron bomb. A strong economy that goes hand in hand with a saner economic policies the kind we have going would also help and at the risk of getting accused of being an enemy sympathizer come World War III—I will dare say that we as a nation are our own worst enemy setting ourselves up for financial disaster and borrowing money from a potential foe. I know it seems like a snowball's chance in Hell—but America really ought to get its act together and prioritize its spending and reduce it while settling our debts with China and other nations.
As for the neutron bomb—while it does not violate the ZAP when utilized as a defensive weapon or deterrent may not be the best defense expenditure for a nation that is teetering on the edge of collapse. If your resources are limited it is best to spend the money on something that will actually do the job. I was surprised to find recent renewal of interest in the application of this weapon system to a scheme to irradiate a border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to prevent movements of insurgents and supplies hauntingly reminiscent of a similar proposal for the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula many many years ago. [Link] A bit crazy. Might be a better idea to just get out of there since our country is broke—even if it doesn't know it yet! Could we maybe look into a real national defense—maybe before we pass the point where we can no longer afford to defend ourselves? Instead of burning up money in so many Third World hellholes that end up no better off despite our efforts.
Revisiting thoughts on strategic defenses—the price tag of SDI—the Strategic Defense Initiative proposed by Reagan in the 1980s was pretty stiff in it's day and ridiculed by the Left as "Star Wars" which from my point of view then; only increased its appeal! The Left who now call us bitter clingers—clinged bitterly to their MAD doctrine as Walter Mondale wrung his hands fretting about turning the heavens into a battlefield in the 84 Election. I think they were not so afraid of an escalating arms race as much as they were the escalation of technological progress. And the escalation of economic growth that tends to put a hole in the arguments of "Limits to Growth" that progressives like to use to justify a rationing economy that they have always wanted. Space technology in particular which would have probably led to the development of better launch systems and cheaper access to space—which would be essential to deploying and maintaining the orbital component to the missile defense system being proposed at the time. It would not be long until other enterprises like mining resources from the moon and asteroids, and eventually human settlements out there—places for people who don't like being controlled to go—and a flood tide of new wealth creation and energy from solar power satellites that would unleash a tide of prosperity and nourish an affluent and strong middle class that might not want to be controlled either. And ditto for those who were totally dependent on the government. As long as the checks keep coming and there is no fear of budget cuts they would not care that much either.
I came to the conclusion long ago that politicians—those on the Left in particular prefer the perpetuation of problems over solutions. They want the cancer; not the answer. It's how they make their political hay come election time and can justify demanding more money to throw at problems. Crisis management is the name of the game and they are determined not to let any good crisis go to waste. Or let it go away anytime soon! And the threat of nuclear annihilation had long been among the most compelling reasons for the Left to argue for global governance.
Of course I must confess (and confession again is always good for the soul!) that it is easy for someone like me with a life long interest in space is easily tempted to do the same thing as the leftists in welcoming a good crisis an an opportunity to advance my own pet agenda—the human colonization of the Solar System and other items on the laundry list above. Which was how I thought as a youth. And I was wrong there too. In light of current events, the best strategy is to encourage private development of space resources. Which just might be the thing that could net the wealth to pay down the national debt and pay for national defense.
Much as we wish it to be a new frontier of peace and prosperity—the militarization of space is probably inevitable once humans begin moving onto space in large numbers. We could look into utilizing asteroidal resources and the construction of a military station in one of the lunar liberation points to counter the establishment of a military presence of China or any other potentially hostile power that might use the moon as a base for throwing rocks at Earth in the fashion of the Heinlein novel! That is the real strategic high ground of the Earth / Moon System which gives you control of the moon the same as control of the moon gives control over the Earth.
While on the subject of militarizing space I might as well make mention of Dandridge Cole—the guy who advanced the "Islands in Space" concept which was the title of is famous book of the 1960s—who also proposed "planetoid bombs" . That was his chosen term for "asteroid"—which in the case of his proposed strategy were going to be the smaller rocks capable of leveling a city as opposed to ending the world—placed in orbit around the Earth as an alternative to nuclear weapons. That one would surely have the anti-military / anti-space Left bugging big time for sure! Such a system would make an effective deterrent and the nice thing about it—it could not not be used in a preemptive strike/sneak attack because the weapons sit out in space in plain site and would take a while to de-orbit and bring them down on enemy targets. But once started the process would be next to impossible to stop, much like ICBMs. It would be effective punishment for a nuclear strike by another nation—but more importantly—a deterrent to aggression like a nuclear arsenal—or personal firearms for that matter. As you said it makes the price of aggression too costly for a would be aggressor to undertake.
However; dropping asteroids on enemy cities runs into the same problem as strategic nuclear warfare when it comes to the ZAP. Mainly because innocent lives will be destroyed as a consequence of deterrence if the deterrence fails.
The essay "Mandarin in the Moon" and the one with the Paris Gun concept in DWP (which sounds something like the Brilliant Pebbles BMD) [Link] do an excellent job pointing out major flaws in the current strategic doctrine as well as the defense plank in the Libertarian Party platform. "A non-interventionist foreign policy" while it may be something we sorely need as a nation that is hemorrhaging financially from the cost of policing the world—on top of trying to maintain a welfare state at home—it is too vague and will only tempt enemies to pick at us without some credible means to make them sorry if they do.
As for the libertarians who might object—they are entitled to their opinions but should remember that the primary purpose of the federal government is to secure the liberties of the people in the way of providing for the common defense—which is to keep hostile foreign powers from coming in and imposing their will and laws upon us, taking our property or enslaving us, blackmailing us with the threat of annihilation or—annihilation itself! Rather than a knee jerk reaction in the fashion of the supposably "pacifist" Left ; Real Libertarians—even those who don't understand all the nuts and bolts of national defense and foreign policy—can always make the effort to study the issues and be better informed so they can at least serve as a conscience which has always been sorely needed to prevent the abuse of the situation in times of crisis by those who seek to empower and enrich themselves at the expense of us all.