boingboing.net just put up an article entitled, “The Profits of Fear”, by Charles Platt (a former senior writer for Wired Magazine, back when it was worth reading). It is the story of Sam Cohen, the man who invented the Neutron Bomb, and his attempts to sell it in Washington, DC… and his encounters with our government’s civilian and military leadership, who appear to be driven by lunatic medacity, pathological incompetence, and insatiable greed.
Why, as an STF reader, should you read this piece? Well, aside from the fact that it is a flat out fascinating read, the type of thoughtful, quirky journalism that expands the mind… to quote the author: “For those who wonder how neo-conservative think tanks managed to incite empire-building conceits that fomented a renewed war in Iraq, Cohen’s experiences fifty years ago turn out to be unexpectedly relevant.”
The article analyzes parallels between the nature and scope of the influence on policy that RAND (the original think tank) had in the early 1950’s, and that modern incarnations like the “Project for a New American Century” have today.
I always thought that the nuetron bomb was a bad idea, because it would make war “too easy”, by limiting the scope of the damage to property and life, etc. but I see that this was naive: our leaders, and our military could give a damn about the damage caused by war (this is evidenced, by, among other things, the fact that when a version of the nuetron bomb was finally built, it functioned like any other bomb: destroying everything in it’s path).
Platt’s theory is that our political process self-selects for pathological power-driven egotists, and that war provides these individuals with an excuse for self-importance (not to mention feeding the war machine) – and that the Cold War, and now, obviously, the “War on (some) Terror” serves this purpose ideally.
P.S. The reaction of Platt’s editor at Wired to the idea of doing a profile of this sort, “The guy sounds wacky.” explains why Wired became “tired” as the millenium arrives and lost it’s relevance. The early Wired would have embraced the idea of a piece like this.