politics & governmentterror & war

A most suspicious chicken coop

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A half-baked clone of Snagglepuss by the name of Huntsman has announced his enthusiastic intent to join the scrum of  the Republican Primaries. He commandeers the best view of the Statue of Liberty to do so. One would think that schmaltz like this would be in heavy demand, but no. Only twice before has a Presidential candidate made their debut here. One was Pete Wilson, modestly competent Governor of California. The other was Ronald Wilson Reagan. Old Pete hoped to trade on his commonality of office and, hilariously, of name, to ladle some sweet Reaganny goodness over his own head which would be punctuated by the familiar location. This seems to have failed but Huntsman is up to give it another go.

In this case Lady Liberty is asked to do much more than she ever was for Wilson. The former Governor of Utah and ambassador to China for Obama is about as far from a Reagan as a living, breathing man could be. Effete, smarmy and unsure Huntsman invokes no Reaganite policy but rather a sometimes observed sentiment on “civility” that also recalls Lincoln while he himself looks nothing if not shovel-ready in his burying suit and with his studied servility. Reagan is being press-ganged into service for nearly everyone in the racket these days. Newt defends himself from the shrapnel of his imploding campaign with a bust of Reagan; he also lost advisers, here and there. Yes he did! The Other Guys are also besotted with Reagan; to be sure not Reagan the man or Reaganite policies but they want Reagan-like electoral results. Of that you may be certain. Given this recrudescence and implicit ignorance not only of Reagan but of his times, let us examine an event illuminating of both. Let us call it, The Case of a Most Suspicious Chicken Coop.

In days of old when knights were bold the world lived under the constant threat of annihilation. Yes, it’s true. The internets will reveal the details to the curious. There was a great movement afoot called International Communism which had two giant though sometimes adversarial henchmen: the late, unlamented Soviet Union and the still ambulatory and still Red China. The Chinese were a little late to the game of global thermonuclear war and have not really caught up so we can consider just the Soviets; also known as Russkies, commies or generically, The Bad Guys. It wasn’t really the Manhattan Project that brought us to this state. Sure, Hiroshima and Nagasaki took some hard licks but the A-bombs used in those demonstration projects were not all that powerful. Strategists saw these devices as a more efficient and splashy method of bombing a massed target but that was a capability we already had. Unknown to the world then, the sum global stockpile of atomic bombs was three; one was tested, two were dropped. So the stockpile was reduced to zero. The earliest days of the Cold War were just a bluff on both sides but this did not last.

Enter the physicists from the old Third Reich and other recently war-torn lands. German and jewish scientists, some both, dominated US weapons development. They did the same in the USSR. Sought by both parties was a technology that could produce bombs of much greater power, of much smaller size, in much greater numbers and the means to deliver them for that, clearly, was the future of warfare. The answer all around was the ICBM; the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. These were produced on both sides in vast quantities and with tremendous power. A-bombs were out. H-bombs were in using the obsolete fission bomb to reproduce the fusion reactions at the heart of the sun. Practical warheads of 20 or even 50 megatons were fielded; that is the blast effect of up to fifty million tons of TNT could be dropped on a single target by a single weapon and that was not the half of it. Beyond the blast there was heat, radiation and lingering lethality from precipitating poisons known as fallout. If you think things are out of hand today, think how tremendously terrifying these developments were. The yield, range and number of these deadly missiles grew at the rates our national debt does today. Further the simple existence of these weapons, the mere possibility of their use provided a strategic shield for the aforementioned International Commies to forward their murderous cause around the globe. The Chinese benefited as free riders. America will not trade Seattle for Seoul, was the theory and it proved a pretty good one.

The Genius Strategists were tasked to catch up with the Genius Scientists. The result? MAD; the most infamous and depraved acronym in human experience. This was of course the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. It amounts to a formalization of international relations as a Mexican stand-off; both parties have a gun to the other’s head. So let’s all talk real quiet like. Let’s all be cool. And we were cool. But while we were cool our dedicated, ideological enemies were on the move wherever they could be. But even if that were not happening in Viet Nam and it’s environs, Berlin, Greece, Africa, Peru, Bolivia, the Middle East, the Balkans and numerous other encroachments, still we at home were living daily in the shade of the Mushroom Cloud. All US Presidents and damn near everyone in politics took this state of affairs as an unshakeable fact of modern life for forty-odd years. Only that old ham actor would say otherwise.

His plan, or fantasy or Geritol induced hallucination was the Strategic Defense Initiative; Star Wars the papers called it, which Ron hated. This was a program to develop technology that would make the ICBM obsolete. Today, we have the long delayed fruit of that vision in the rather cramped anti-missile installation in Alaska, the Aegis system used to defend the fleet, Israel’s Arrow and Iron Dome defenses and the proposed European shield so it is easy to forget how utter and pervasive the contempt for this very concept was. Our own elites on their editorial pages and Reagan’s Democratic foes were in thorough agreement with the Soviets and their allies: this is “destabilizing”, dangerous and above all, laughably unworkable. Three failed tests were each met with yet louder gales of laughter. The fourth successful test, doing the allegedly impossible was met with stony silence. Even in recent years it is the same. Derision meets defense and the only foundation for it, other than the busted notion of impossibility, is that America, for sundry reasons, does not warrant protection from her enemies. Indeed, the very concept of “enemy” is obsolete, loopy and quite quite rude. Sound familiar?

But in one regard the Democrats and Soviets fell out. The Russians didn’t really think missile defense was laughable. Not at all. How do we know? Because their public denials to the contrary, they were always working on their own missile defense system. But saying so was considered stupid, rude and obviously false even after the exposure of the chicken coop.

Churchill called the contest between rival scientists on opposite sides The Wizard War. Most of the Cold War was a Wizard War but much of it was also a Media or Propaganda War. Bridging those two theaters was A Most Suspicious Chicken Coop. The first thing one must do if you expect to shoot a missile out of the air is to see it coming. This was a very high hurdle and regular radar won’t do. Conventional radar sweeps back and forth, every pass locating the target at one location, then the next pass updates it. We have all seen this in action. But missiles are moving way too fast for that. You won’t get two passes before the thing is exploding over Kiev, for example. The answer is a phased-array radar. It doesn’t track back and forth, it broadcasts radio waves of broad spectrum and great power in a wall towards where the missiles might appear. Back then this meant you needed a very large transmitting antenna that would be a bulky construction, long and low resembling nothing so much as a giant hen’s roost. Early technical literature mentions this specifically; chicken coop construction was a term of art describing this method. But there is a funny thing about a radar antenna: since it is blaring out radio waves of colossal power, it cannot be hidden.

The intelligence world was always well aware of the Russians gigantic chicken coop radar installation perched high on cliffs overlooking Finland. And it’s purpose was in no way ambiguous; even advance air defenses don’t use a radar like this. It is unnecessary, expensive and not pointed at the air routes. Only missile defense could reasonably explain the existence of this structure but reason was far from the only option. When the Reagan administration and its few friendly voices pointed out that our own missile defense system is nothing but a response to the Soviet system that this antenna proved existed, the response from the Russians which was echoed by all SDI foes in government and media was… Hey dummy, that’s just a chicken coop!

Yes, it is thirty feet high, a half mile long, made of exotic alloys and pumping out radio signals at massive wattage 24/7… but it’s just a chicken coop! The success of this obscurant campaign of lies can scarcely be exaggerated. The whole concept of preventing the immolation of Americans by the millions was in danger of sinking beneath waves of laughter deriding this self-described rancher and he-man as ignorant of barnyard reality. You can be certain none of Reagan’s Democratic opponents or bitter enemies in media, academe or even the State Department looked into the facts of this at all because the facts were on his side. But to no avail. The whole thing was a big joke. Reagan wants to bomb Russian henhouses! No matter that this particular chicken coop was empty of chickens, built in a location quite hostile to chickens and that chickens were a far scarcer commodity in Soviet Russia than military hardware. Nope, it’s a chicken coop, you big dopes!

But Reagan was not the type to talk to the hand. This example of hatefilled mockery is but one, though one of the most delish, that Reagan overcame to do what he thought was right and necessary to defend this country from enemies that most certainly were real, as well as a real and present danger. It would be easy to compare his decisive and forthright actions unfavorably to those of today’s administration, when our sound allies the Cheks and our hoped for allies, the Turks are both abandoning a proven defensive technology they could have nearly free, but do not because they doubt American resolve. And of course it would be more than fair, given the shameless mining of Reagan mojo by all parties in office these days, but we won’t. He would not. Rather he would say, as he did on whatever issue, this is what I propose. And this is why. Make your choices accordingly. The biggest rout in American history was the electoral result. The greatest wealth production ever was the economic result. A reputation so grand that EVERY candidate for President lays claim to it is the historical result. Is Huntsman or Romney or Obama the type who could withstand the withering mockery of just one Most Suspicious Chicken Coop? Nope. Not if their lives depended on it. And if only your life depends on it, you can certainly forget it.

 

 

 

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