Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's a Mad, M.A.D. world

It's a Mad, mad world. Not that anything wrong with that, we're all a little insane inside.

But this Madness is of a different kind. It's the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction - M.A.D.

A little more about the concept - MAD is a doctrine of military strategy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two opposing sides would effectively result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender It is based on the theory of deterrence according to which the deployment of strong weapons is essential to threaten the enemy in order to prevent the use of the very same weapons. The strategy is effectively a form of Nash equilibrium, in which both sides are attempting to avoid their worst possible outcome—nuclear annihilation.

This has worked well in the past, and to a great extent, is still working really well. Yet, there are some flaws to the inherent assumptions of the concept. Indeed, I am going against my general personality and being cynical, pessimistic and playing doomsday soothsayer; but I can hardly help thinking that even the most optimistic prediction makes for only a fearful world, teetering on the brink of war.

MAD is not a new concept, but nuclear weapons bring the concept to an entirely new level, and takes the power out of the hands of many, and puts it in the hands of a few.

I will cease disserting MAD further, and move on, in general to Weapons of Mass Destruction.

WMDs have changed the dynamics of war. While war was always an arena to prove one's superiority over the "enemy", never before has it brought with it such utter and dramatic results, and never before have they had the potential to be more destructive - or more prolonged.

There are many kinds of Weapons of Mass Destruction today - Biological, Chemical, Nuclear, Conventional, Radiological (Dirty) - each with its own "Pros and Cons" if weapons could ever have them.

Oh, and additional terms used in a military context include atomic, biological, and chemical (ABC) warfare and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) warfare. We even have funky abbreviations for the types of weapon.

Weapons exist for one sole purpose - to destroy, but the weapons of today make it much easier to take a life than ever before.

We all remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki - "Little Boy" (Hiroshima) had a yield of 13-18 kilotons while "Fat Man" (Nagasaki) had a yield of 21 kilotons.

While those numbers by themselves mean little, I would like to hazard a guess that visuals may help. This ( ) is a 50 tonne bomb. Exploding this bomb would be equivalent to exploding 50 tonnes of TNT. Now imagine exploding 840 of these all at once in the same place. That was Nagasaki.

I shall not argue on whether the specific actions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were warranted, all I wanted to do was paint a picture of the destructive potential of our weapons - but wait, we've made progress since then. Now we have Megaton bombs. The Soviet Union's Tsar Bomba was originally designed to have a yield of about 100 megatons of TNT; however that was reduced by half in order to limit the amount of nuclear fallout that would result.

A 100 megaton test would have the destructive potential of about five thousand Nagasaki's. The test with reduced tonnage released about the same energy as two and a half thousand Nagasaki's and about four thousand Hiroshima's.

Thousands of people died without a name. Thousands more still live with its effects, and the entire world lives either in the shadow of fear of a blissful (and often wilful) ignorance of the possibility of war raising its ugly head again. The possibility now is more real than ever.

There exist lost Nuclear weapons in the world, and as Giles Prentice (Frank Whaley) says in a movie bearing the name of what these lost weapons are called - "I don't know what's scarier, losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often there's actually a term for it." That movie was Broken Arrow. And yes, it is a real term, and yes, there are Broken Arrow's in this world.

Of course, I only talked so far of nuclear weapons. What of the other kinds. I fear I'm losing my audience here. I urge you to stay with me for just a while longer. If need be; grab a coffee, take a leak or listen to some happy music if this depressed you.

"Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god" (Jean Rostand). How true. And so is what Oppenheimer said when he exclaimed "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." and so is what Test director Kenneth Bainbridge said (replied?) to Oppenheimer: "Now we are all sons of bitches."

Oh, and Oppenheimer said this during the Trinity test, a precursor to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The test was an explosion with a 20 kiloton yield.

It isn't just nuclear weapons. Guns, bombs, high explosives, landmines, grenades, trip mines, torpedoes, homing missiles. All these are weapons that can are meant to be able to make killing cold, ruthless and efficient .It wasn't in a day that all these weapons were made; certain nation(s) [hint, hint] spend the most on "defense", even in the middle of a recession. There's never enough money for whatever needs it, but there's always money for mayhem.

Call it whatever you want; defense, security, it doesn't matter, although in truth, the obscene spending on what should rightly be called offense can best be called insecurity. Why is it that when we are armed to the teeth, we are still quaking in our boots?

Why is it that the very power that empowers us drains us? It's what maintains the delicate balance in this fragile world. It was what kept the world together - and yet apart at the same time. How can you truly be friends with someone when you know that they could potentially decimate you? Do we actually take pleasure in taking life?

I can hardly think of a better answer to this than that we have merely made it easy - taken emotion out of the equation. Take guns for example. All it needs is one pull of the trigger. It isn't called the great equaliser for no reason. At the same time, it made it easier to take a life.

Anyone (feel free to disagree) who has been in a fisticuff though, would attest to the how surprised they were at how much of a fight they put up as well as how much of a fight the other person put up. Sure; it was two people aiming to hurt each other. Yet at some level - there is fear, there is respect for the other person, and at the end of the fight, there is surprise at what was just "achieved". There is a feeling of being tired, more appropriately - spent. The next time, you'll think twice before getting into it even if you "won".

Now imagine a person wanting to kill with their bare hands, it can be safely assumed that he/she in for a long fight and they must really want the other person dead if they want to succeed.

Take away the method of violence; what remains is the effort it would take to resort to those acts. If world leaders, terrorists, soldiers, criminals, shooters, and pretty much anyone with intent to hurt or take life had no option but to fight with their bare hands. Just their bare hands, I have a feeling we'd have much less violence in the world.

We need to go back to the time when taking life meant murder, passionate revenge, directed violence, mano a mano. Instead, we have decimation, utter and complete obliteration, annihilation of people with no means to defend themselves as means to becoming a god or a martyr. We need emotion. The fact that taking life still means you're killing should be brought back into the consciousness.

I don't condone killing, but all I'm saying is that it's too easy now. It's easy to forget death when confronted by numbers. One dead, I can feel something, 2 dead - sure. What about five, or 10, or 78 dead, 150 dead, 45 injured. I hear the news tell me that 85-90 people died, why; don't the five people make a difference to the count? What does all this mean to me - ALMOST NOTHING! I shed a tear now and then. Once in a blue moon I shed two - one for the fact that so many people are dying, and one for the fact that I'm so inured to it that I could write something like this without shedding a single one.


P BOY said...

Really informative and loaded with sardonic yet funny ( in a sort of evil and wicked manner)quotes. Especially, the test director's retort..

Lakshman Srikanth said...

People who fight are emotional, they have emotion towards their territory i meant their team/military....

but they don't show emotions to enemies!

Quotes are impressive... nice post!