Joined: 25 Sep 2008
|Posted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:24 pm Post subject: Are Nuclear Missiles Our Easter Island Statues?
Everybody has heard about Easter Island, the place in the South Pacific where the inhabitants, all of Polynesian ancestry, became so obsessed with carving enormous stone statues that they exhausted the resources of the island, cut down all the large trees from which oceangoing canoes could be made, and ended up marooned on the island, unable to fish in the deep sea, trade with other islands, or otherwise maintain the high standard of living they had once enjoyed. In Collapse – How Societies Fail, author Jared Diamond dug into the story in detail. The island was divided into pie-shaped territories governed by about seven or eight tribes that coexisted in a competitive balance. They didn’t want to have bloody wars, but they had to keep their populations busy with work that would prevent them from hatching plots to overthrow the tribal leaders. Tribal chiefs and priests competed to make ever larger statues, and it consumed a huge amount of slave labor to create and erect each one. When they couldn’t make them any bigger, they competed by placing a little hat of rare red stone at the very top. It must have placed a great strain on the people of the island, because the system broke down suddenly and irreparably all at once while the demented project was still in full swing. Out of a total of 887 statues on the island, 397 were still in production in the main quarry at Rano Rarak, while only 288, just 32% of the total, had been erected, and 92 were abandoned in transport by the slaves who decided to give up the process of hauling them up and down the steep volcanic ravines to their sacred destinations. In the quarry, tools were cast aside as if perhaps there was a sudden revolt. Too late to save the island ecology, however. The leaders who had lead the people into an economic boondoggle were deposed, but the revolutionaries didn’t have enough resources left to work with to save the society. Ironically, the Easter Islanders were the descendants of heroic seafaring tribes who traversed thousands of miles of open water in outrigger dugouts to reach the remote island. But the civilization they created so depleted the island’s resources that they couldn’t even find enough trees to build their traditional dugouts, and by the time westerners arrived to discover them, their numbers had dwindled to a couple of hundred, and they had descended into cannibalism, watched over and mocked by the stone abominations hewn by their short-sighted, overcompetitive ancestors.
I live in Tucson, Arizona, where the US Air Force housed 18 Titan Intercontinental Ballistic Nuclear Missiles for many years. And I was born in 1956, in the heat of the cold war, when the nation’s military superiority to Soviet Russia was a constant topic of discussion, and people who had bomb shelters really seemed to have an advantage over the rest of us, who didn’t even have basements. Everyone had seen the movies of houses and buildings being swept away by the shockwave, and we lived in real fear. Movies like Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe were the big hits of the day. As Dr. Strangelove reminds us, during those years, there was at least one squadron of nuclear armed B52 bombers in the air every day, all day long, refueling in mid-air so that if need be, our nation would not be late to Armageddon.
If nuclear bombs were going to revolutionize warfare, the results have been underwhelming. Ever since the other guys got them, our nation has not gotten close to using them. Truman directed them dropped on the Japanese only because they could not retaliate in kind and the window of opportunity to ever use them without fear of igniting the apocalypse was closing. He knew that the Russians were going to get them soon, and he wanted to show that the US was not afraid to incinerate 200,000 people in one day. It was now or never. “Give ‘em hell Harry” sure as hell did. Interestingly, of all the nations clamoring to obtain nuclear weapons, the Japanese have never been among them.
The fact is nuclear bombs are not real “weapons.” A weapon is something you can use to destroy your enemy. If it destroys you simultaneously, it’s not a weapon, it’s a suicide device. Imagine calling up a gun company, like Glock, or Ruger, or Remington, and you say, to their product development people, “I have a great idea for a new weapon.” They’re like, “Okay, how does it work.” And you’re all, “It’s great. You pull the trigger, and it simultaneously kills your enemy and you.” They’re like, “That’s not a weapon, you idiot. Who would we sell it to? The police? They would have to hire a whole new police force everytime there was a shootout.” But that’s what nuclear weapons are – mass suicide devices, and that’s why we’ve never used them but twice, on a defenseless nation of non-Caucasians.
No, the only purpose for having a nuclear arsenal is for the same reason the Easter Island chiefs built their big statues – because the other tribes had them. People wonder at the excess megatonnage that we have – enough to blow the crust off the earth I once heard, or to knock it off its rotational axis I heard another time – at any rate, far more than any usable amount. Indeed, a much more efficient way to deal with this would be to allow the Russians to actually place their bomb right in Washington D.C., and the US could place one in Moscow, and we’d have an equally effective balance of terror. That would of course be altogether too raw a way of imposing a balance of terror, though, as if Kruschev and Kennedy had just decided to sit down, snort lines of crank and toss off shooter of vodka, and play Russian roulette with a snub nose thirty eight.
So instead, we create these incredibly sophisticated machines. With solid fuel rockets that will nearly put the missile in orbit, with inertial guidance systems that are supposed to enable the things to fly fifteen thousand miles and hit a city, and all stuffed with the rarest of all metals, put together by the most intelligent engineers, and creating toxic waste all along the way. Then we stuff these gigantic pillars of military symbolism in holes in the ground and they sit there. And sit there. And sit there.
You know, they’ve been sitting there so long, the last thing you’d want to do would be to launch one. I mean, would you want to rely on a car built in the fifties or sixties? Would you buy a computer built in the eighties? I mean stuff gets old, and rockets, well they aren’t so f’n reliable in the first place. About every seventh time they launched a space shuttle, it blew up. And with the missiles, they never really tested them extensively. They couldn’t. “Hey Moscow, let us see if we can hit you with a target missile. Just a dud, y’know. Practice our aim.”
No, these suckers were just a big Easter Island scam from the get-go. We took all this time and resources, and built and built and built, and guess what, it had the same result. While our engineers were building missies, they weren’t teaching high school. While our welders and riveters were building missiles, they weren’t building bridges, schools, and hospitals. And the best part of all – the companies that made these things – they knew they would never be tested. It didn’t really matter if they blew up halfway to Moscow, or turned around and hit Pittsburg. The shitstorm on Judgment Day would be thick enough to cover any incompetence. Yeah, we feel sorry for the Easter Islanders. But next to doomsday, cannibalism sounds appetizing.
Fight on all occasions. Fight the more for duels being forbidden, since consequently there is twice as much courage in fighting.
A. Dumas, The Three Musketeers.