"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Russians Militarize Space While The US Putzes Around On Mars - What Were We Thinking?

In the movie Dr. Strangelove the Russians have built a 'Doomsday Machine', a cluster of buried bombs set to detonate automatically should any nuclear attack strike the country. The resulting nuclear fallout would then engulf the planet for 93 years, rendering the Earth's surface uninhabitable. When a  rogue American nuclear bomb hits Russian territory, the Doomsday Machine will explode, annihilating the planet.  


Stanley Kubrick made the movie during the Cold War, at a time when both the United States and Russia were armed to the hilt with nuclear missiles, all pointed at each other and ready to be launched at the drop of a hat.  Optimists said that such guaranteed MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) was the only reason the two countries did not go to war, while pessimists claimed that the arms race had brought the world closer to disaster than ever before.

There followed decades of disarmament and nuclear stockpiles were reduced but never decommissioned; and given the explosive power of just one hydrogen weapon, the chance for mutual annihilation seemed only  to have receded not disappeared.

Fat chance. Russia has now deployed nuclear weaponry in space and aimed it at New York, so tit for tat will begin again with plenty of room to make the generals on both sides happy; but what was the US thinking? and why has it been so busy putzing around on Mars looking for life when the real action is just a few miles off-planet. The only hope is that the inevitable war will be galactic between fully automatic space armadas, but that too is just whistlin' Dixie when the temptation to shoot downward will be hard to resist. 

Bob Muzelle had cut his teeth on the peace movement of the Sixties, and although complete detente was never achieved, at least the levels of parity were reduced.  In other words, complete annihilation would simply take a bit longer.

Bob was heartened by this spirit of bilateral cooperation between formerly implacable enemies. If such an agreement could be reached, then even more ambitious goals of world peace might well be achieved in his lifetime.  And so it was that peace morphed into civil rights which morphed into climate and all were fitted into the big tent of progressive values.

So it was with sadness that Bob, now an old man with more of life in his rear view mirror than on the road ahead, read the news of the Russian space deployment which was ironically on the same page of the Times as pictures of the Mars Rover, making its way back and forth across the surface of the planet poking and prodding, sifting and analyzing in hopes of finding life.

Bob had been an enthusiastic supporter of the space program because of its humanitarian, scientific, and intellectual promise.  'It can't happen again', he replied to cynics who said the US was only interested in militarizing space, and sending rovers here and there only helped perfect launch angles, trajectories, and soft landings.  Yet, here it was on page 3 above the fold. The Russians had pulled their nukes out of storage and put them a scant 250 miles from Earth.


Most Americans were too young to remember Sputnik and how the Russians beat us into space, and how our landing on the moon was a triumphant victory over the Reds far more than a technological achievement, and how the space race was the logical outcome of the adventure. 

Influence came and went, the Soviet Union collapsed, and Francis Fukuyama declared the end of history, but it hasn't taken long for Russia to recover and show its imperial colors once again.  While we were dithering with inclusivity, diversity, and gender, tending to inner society's needs while the rest of the world took advantage of our naïveté .  Of course, they say, there will be another major war, of course it will take place in part in space, and of course no holds will be barred. 

Ronald Reagan accelerated the downfall of his old nemesis, the Soviet Union, through a massive buildup of the American military to which the Russians had to respond, thus putting even more pressure on a failing socio-economic system.  Vladimir Putin knows that even if the missiles in space are not used for a while, they will disrupt the self-righteous, self-assured, desperately naive United States and force anti-progressive investments in war. 


So Bob once again donned his cleats and pads and went back onto the field.  He might be old and fading, but his fires had not gone out, only banked.  His country needed him more than ever. 'Give peace a chance', he shouted in a reprise of 1963 when he and the Reverend William Barnes Loughlin marched on the national Mall, demonstrating for nuclear disarmament.  Of course such liberal blandishments were music to Russian ears.  Once more the American giant was retreating into a Robert Louis Stevenson Child's Garden Book of Verse world, reading The Land of Counterpane instead of Churchill. 

Images of the Mars Rover, picking, pecking, and rolling its way over the Mars landscape were seen throughout Russia with the accompaniment old Soviet-style newsreels of bustling arms factories, launching rockets, and smiling spacemen. 

President Biden, thinking that all he had to worry about was Ukraine, was shaken by the news. The Jews were causing him immeasurable trouble in the Middle East; the corrupt Zelensky regime was sucking billions of dollars in military aid to keep the country afloat for just a few more months; the Iranians, delighted that no one was stopping their disruptive, canny proxy wars, were stepping up activities in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon; and that pesky fat bugger in Pyongyang was acting up yet again.  

And now this. Russian nuclear missiles in space.  What to do? It was an election year and his base, died-in-the-wool old liberals and young idealistic progressives wanted peace, cooperation, and consensus in a peaceful, verdant world. 

There was nothing he could do.  All the sanctions, threats, and attempts at intimidation over a nasty little war in Ukraine amounted to nothing.  Putin has continued the war, neutralized his opponents, and consolidated a hold on power.  The only recourse would be to defund the Rover and put billions into a nuclear, militarized space program.

Biden tested the waters, but his claques, too busy with their parochial issues of transgender rights and the Pinnacle of the Black Man enterprise were uninformed and unconcerned.  Space was certainly not a good campaign talking point and war with the Russians even less. 

'Do it before Trump gets re-elected', advised one of Putin's top military advisors knowing full well that the big man would be a royal pain in the ass, would do a Ronald Reagan and bet the store on space weaponry, and would not hesitate to pull the trigger.  

So Putin is amping up his space program, unconcerned that his investments are very public while Joe Biden is still trying to figure out what goes where and how to make sense let alone lead a nuclear counter-insurgency.  

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