KILLER ON THE LOOSE
It was some 40 years ago that ABC News staged its first made-for-TV “war game.” It was a videotaped simulation of how local, state and Federal officials would answer the “what would you do?” question about fictional terrorists threatening to blow up a hi-jacked tanker anchored in New York harbor.
The first stupidity was ABC News President Roone Arledge’s demand that the fictional tanker be loaded, not with liquid natural gas, but oil. The fact that LNG could explode to damaging effect, whereas oil could not, didn’t bother Roone at all. “People don’t know anything about LNG,” he argued, but – this was the late 1970s – “they worry a lot about oil.”
OK, it’s just a “scenario,” and he is the boss, so what the hell? Oil was declared to be the cargo of the menacing target lurking just off-shore near the Financial District at the southern tip of Manhattan.
Roll video. There they are, a bunch of brand-name politicians, regularly-quoted military and security experts, local cops and firefighters, all gathered around a table in a conference room, proposing “solutions” to the tanker crisis.
Everything from flights of bombers to squads of frogmen was considered, but each plan had its uncertainties, until one of the future Reagan Administration’s masters of military overspending raised his voice. “Nuke ‘em,” said John Lehman, who as the California chucklehead’s Secretary of the Navy wasted gobs of time and money pursuing a 600-ship Navy.
Heads snapped up, and I’m guessing Roone was delighted, since the same astonishment expressed by the “experts” likely riveted ABC News’ audience. Here was a recognized military “strategist” who not only didn’t know the meaning of the word “fear,” he didn’t know the meaning of the word “wind.”
After a couple of beats, probably shortened in the edit room, someone, probably one of the New Yorkers around the table, gently reminded Lehman that, once used, a nuclear weapon would leave behind a cloud of radioactive materials.
His chosen target zone, New York harbor, it was mentioned, is a place of strong, but constantly shifting and virtually unpredictable winds. And it is surrounded by populations of millions of innocent civilians, all of them potential downwind fatalities.
Thanks, John, for your stimulating idea. Now would you mind replacing your head in its customary place of repose, under your seat.
All of this, of course, is brought to mind by President Trump’s naming of John Bolton as his National Security Advisor.
Bolton, at least, clearly does know the meaning of fear. It was the frightening thought of dying in a Vietnamese rice paddy, he has admitted, that induced him to spend the war years of the 1970s safely at home in the National Guard and Army Reserves.
Since the 70s, Bolton has shown no fear of sending other people into war. He may be the last and loudest defender of the American invasion of Iraq. He has frequently recommended waging war on Iran or North Korea, but rarely mentions the possible consequences.
Perhaps that’s because he assumes the consequences will fall on Iran and North Korea’s neighbors and not the distant USA.
The widely-predicted likelihood that even a wounded North Korea could easily kill millions of South Koreans? What’s that to him?
And what about concerns that an attack on Iran might escalate the already-devastating Sunni-Shi’ite regional war in the Middle East or trigger an attack on Israel?
And what about the post-war, which follows war as inevitably as the dark night follows day?
Another word that seems to have no meaning for Bolton is “occupation.” Part and parcel of “winning” a war with Iran would be the responsibility for perhaps decades of military occupation, just to pre-empt threats to America’s security.
Other costly parts of the occupation parcel are restoring some semblance of law, order and governance to, what in Iran would be a seething-angry country of 80 million people.
America is already losing reputation and influence because the Trump Administration is choking on the costs of physical and political recovery in Iraq, whose population – 37 million — is less than half Iran’s.
The population of Libya is just over 6 million, and controlling post-conflict chaos there has proved to be impossible. Post-war Libya today is much more dangerous to global peace and security than the awful pre-war regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
Tremble, world, at the Trump Triumvirate of Wannabe Terminators: Bolton, Mike Pompeo and the man himself.
They raise the stakes on this question – What about Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis — will he be the old ultraviolent “Mad Dog,” or the White House’ last man standing for sanity?
National Security Advisor Bolton’s predecessor, Gen. H. R. McMaster, apparently annoyed Trump by constantly asking about his President’s plans – “What happens next?”
It’s a question we’re all asking now.