"Fifty years ago the WHO launched a huge campaign to eliminate smallpox, one of the worst diseases mankind has ever known, a real killer that destroyed tens of millions of lives. There was a global programme of vaccination, involving doctors and governments in every country. Together they finally wiped it from the face of the earth."
"I'm glad, doctor - if only we could do the same for war."
"Well, in a real sense we have, Ryan - almost. In the case of smallpox, people can now travel freely all over the world. The virus does survive in ancient graves and cemeteries, but if by some freak chance the disease appears again there are supplies of vaccine to protect people and stamp it out.... Left to itself, the smallpox virus is constantly mutating. We have to make sure that our supplies of vaccine are up-to-date. So WHO was careful never to completely abolish the disease. It deliberately allowed smallpox to flourish in a remote corner of a Third World country, so that it could keep an eye on how the virus was evolving. Sadly, a few people went on dying, and are still dying to this day. But it's worth it for the rest of the world. That way we'll always be ready if there's an outbreak of the disease."
Ryan stared through the plastic windows at the wall map of Beirut and the TV monitors with their scenes of smoke and gunfire. The Hilton was burning again.
"And Beirut, doctor? Here you're keeping an eye on another virus?"
"That's right, Ryan. The virus of war. Or, if you like, the martial spirit. Not a physical virus, but a psychological one even more dangerous than smallpox. The world is at peace, Ryan. There hasn't been a war anywhere for thirty years - there are no armies or air forces, and all disputes are settled by negotiation and compromise, as they should be. No one would dream of going to war, any more than a sane mother would shoot her own children if she was cross with them. But we have to protect ourselves against the possibility of a mad strain emerging, against the chance that another Hitler or Pol Pot might appear."
"And you can do all that here?" Ryan scoffed. "In Beirut?"
"We think so. We have to see what makes people fight, what makes them hate each other enough to want to kill. We need to know how to manipulate their emotions, how we can twist the news and trigger off their aggressive drives, how we can play on their religious feelings or political ideals. We even need to know how strong the desire for peace is."
"Strong enough. It can be strong, doctor."
"In your case, yes. You defeated us, Ryan. That's why we've pulled you out." Dr Edwards spoke without regret, as if he envied Ryan his dogged dream. "It's a credit to you, but hte experiment must go on, so that we can understand this terrifying virus."
"And the bombs this morning? The surprise attack?"
"We set off the bombs, though we were careful that no one was hurt. We supply all the weapons, and always have. We print up the propaganda material, we fake the atrocity photograms, so that the rival groups betray each other and change sides. It sounds like a grim version of musical chairs, and in a way it is."
"But all these years doctor...Angel and Moshe, Aziz..hundreds of people dying!"
"Just as hundreds are still dying of smallpox. But the thousands of millions are living - in peace. It's worth it, Ryan; we've learned so much since the UN rebuilt Beirut thirty years ago."
"They planned it all - the Hilton, the TV station, the McDonald's...?"
"Everything, even the McDonald's. The UN architects designed it as a typical world city - a Hilton, a Holiday Inn, a sports stadium, shopping malls. They brought in orphaned teenagers from all over the world, from every race and nationality. To begin with we had to prime the pump - the NCOs and officers were all UN observers fighting in disguise. But once the the engine began to turn, it ran with very little help."
"Just a few atrocity photographs...."
Lebanon has one tourist attraction that's making money
Right, because if Israel didn't exist fundamentalist Muslims (or anyone else) would have absolutely no reason whatsoever to want to attack the United States or Americans abroad. Ever.
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