the new Dr. StrangeLove
May 13, 2003 1:01 PM   Subscribe

The Real Dr. StrangeLove?
Last May 9, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to repeal a 10-year ban on the research and development of "low-yield" nuclear weapons—defined as nukes having an explosive power smaller than 5 kilotons. (The House committee will take up the measure this week.) The Bush administration has lobbied heavily for the repeal. Democrats oppose the idea on the grounds that "mini-nukes"—by blurring the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons—make nuclear war more thinkable and, therefore, in the minds of some, more doable.

Scary people. How weird can our new overlords get? I'm afraid to speculate.
posted by nofundy (25 comments total)
Actually, the real inspiration for Dr. Strangelove was probably John Von Neumann, mathematician, early computer pioneer and developer of the basic architecture most all computers use now, game theory pioneer, possibly a progenitor of nanotechnology with his idea of the self-replicating Von-Neumann machine, all around smart guy, and of course cold warrior. Now to go and see if there are already fpp's about him.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:16 PM on May 13, 2003

Obviously, the article isn't suggesting that Keith Payne was the inspiration for Dr. Strangelove (if he was in his 20s in 1980, he couldn't have been more than twelve or thirteen at the time Kubrick's film was released.

But what he's suggesting -- and, more to the point, that it's being adopted by the administration as official policy -- is quite disturbing.
posted by UnReality at 1:31 PM on May 13, 2003

Yeah, I know. I was just hoping to sidetrack into something that wasn't Standard Flamewar #314-G.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:08 PM on May 13, 2003

the thought of "mini-nukes" is certainly scary -- but this strategy probably means that the Pentagon, by now, assumes that a radiological/nuclear attack on American soil in the future is more than likely. and low-yield nuclear weapons will probably be the weapon of choice for the American retaliation -- i.e. instead of invading difficult-to-invade - for various reasons - nations like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, the US will bomb certain limited targets (Al Qaeda camps in Pakistan, SA, Chechnya, Syria, etc) with mini-nukes.

non-linear warfare is a difficult beast
posted by matteo at 3:39 PM on May 13, 2003

Five thousand tons of TNT is nothing, people. Get over it.
posted by Hildago at 4:19 PM on May 13, 2003

Dr. MerkwurdigLiebe?
posted by spazzm at 4:43 PM on May 13, 2003

I'm sheepish about all of the attention I've been getting lately...
posted by drstrangelove at 4:57 PM on May 13, 2003

Let's see...MOAB is all of 10.5 tons.

So this is 500 MOAB bombs. That's a big deal to me.

Plus, it's an unfortunate truth that these smaller yield nukes still are VERY dirty. Read this google-HTML-ized PDF for some math.
posted by taumeson at 5:03 PM on May 13, 2003

Five thousand tons of TNT is nothing, people. Get over it.

yeah. that's not even enough explosive to kill a kitten! much less a city full of people. i frankly don't see what everyone is so worried about.
posted by fuq at 5:15 PM on May 13, 2003

"What's going on here? Having failed to stop a gang of marauders armed with nothing more intimidating than box cutters, the U.S. is now using the "war on terror" to pursue a long-held hawkish Republican dream of a "winnable nuclear war," as the president's father memorably described it to me in a 1980 Times interview. In such a scenario, nukes can be preemptively used against a much weaker enemy – millions of dead civilians, widespread environmental devastation and centuries of political blowback be damned."
posted by homunculus at 5:28 PM on May 13, 2003

Heck, I always thought Dr. Edward Teller was the model for Dr. SL.
posted by alumshubby at 5:37 PM on May 13, 2003

here is a quiz
posted by clavdivs at 6:00 PM on May 13, 2003


but they're easy questions, clavdivs

how about some more interesting trivia: how did peter george die? was he an American?

peter sellers was supposed to play a fourth part in the movie -- which part, and who got it at the end?

which national tragedy postponed the opening of the movie?

what's the Soviet premier full name?
posted by matteo at 6:18 PM on May 13, 2003

speaking of strange, "advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool...." [ "Rebuilding America's defenses", page 72: Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz all participated in excreting this particular document. "Politically usefull tool"? - it would seem that they are fond of the idea that specifically tailored genocidal agents might be used for widespread bioterror attacks. ]
posted by troutfishing at 9:00 PM on May 13, 2003

Heck, I always thought Dr. Edward Teller was the model for Dr. SL.

This is a two-part answer. Dr. S. isn't the guy who is always quoted about nukes, it's the crazy general: (As Gen. Buck Turgidson, the George C. Scott character in Dr. Strangelove, put it, "I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed up, but 10-20 million tops, depending on the breaks.")

Who was the general based on? The answer is found here:
#3) On what real-life military man was George C. Scott’s Buck Turgidson based?

Turgidson’s gung-ho attitude, cigar-chomping and ability to talk about "acceptable casualties" were inspired by Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the 1950s. LeMay attempted to run for [Vice] President in 1968, on the same ticket as controversial Alabama Governor George Wallace.

Dr. S. was more concerned about the mineshaft gap, when we all would be living underground in holes after the nuclear war.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:02 PM on May 13, 2003

"advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool...."

They're apparently not the first to research this. Apartheid South Africa researched bio weapons that would affect blacks only. The main accused scientist seems happy to implicate the US and other western countries in supporting his work.
posted by biffa at 3:40 AM on May 14, 2003

biffa - Dr. Stephen Hatfill (under investigation for possible involvment in the post 9-11 Anthrax attacks) worked in conjunction, at various points in his career, with the US, Rhodesian and (I believe I recall this) the South African government. There were, in fact, suspicious disease outbreaks in Rhodesia with coincide with Hatfield's time in that country.

Meanwhile, "1969:
On June 9, 1969, Dr. D.M. McArtor, then Deputy Director
of Research and Technology for the Department of Defense,
appeared before the House Subcommittee on Appropriations to request funding for a project to produce a synthetic biological agent for which humans have not yet acquired a natural immunity. Dr. McArtor asked for $10 million dollars to produce this agent over the next 5-10 years. The Congressional Record reveals that according to the plan for the development of this germ agent, the most important characteristic of the new disease would be "that it might be refractory [resistant] to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease". AIDS first appeared as a public health risk ten years later. "

Found here

Here's another lead: "I obtained a copy of A Higher Form of Killing by Jeremy Paxman and Robert Harris, published by Hill & Wang. On page 240, you will find an excerpt from an Army manual discussing the feasibility of manufacturing and deploying "ethnic chemical weapons" - designed to kill people from specific ethnic groups.
On page 241 you will find an extract from a 1969 Senate appropriations hearing, with testimony (speaker unidentified) regarding the development of a new class of biological weapons (note the plural) which would be "refractory" to the human immunological system.
Whose testimony was this? Was he asking for money to build a few of these diseases? What senators heard this testimony? Are they still in office? Did they appropriate any funds? If so, who got them? What did they eventually spend them on? The book doesn't say, but presumably some answers might be found in The Congressional Record. "

and a good research entry point: here

posted by troutfishing at 4:48 AM on May 14, 2003

You know, even if you accept the idea that we need the capability to bomb our enemies into nonexistence (and I don't), nuclear weapons, small or not, come with their own set of complications. Like radiation.

Can't we work on ensuring that the weapons we already have work (they often don't)?
posted by UnReality at 5:47 AM on May 14, 2003

Actually, the "mineshaft gap" quote came from Buck.

Turgidson: "Yeah. I think it would be extremely naive of us, Mr. President, to imagine that these new developments are going to cause any change in Soviet expansionist policy. I mean, we must be increasingly on the alert to prevent them from taking over other mineshaft space, in order to breed more prodigiously than we do, thus, knocking us out in superior numbers when we emerge! Mr. President, we must not allow a mine shaft gap!"

Dr. S: "I have a plan... Mein Fuehrer! I can walk!"

Disclaimer: I have the entire script of this movie memorized...
posted by drstrangelove at 6:06 AM on May 14, 2003

So, when does a bomb cross the WMD line again?

Oh, I forgot. It's okay for responsible countries to have them. You never know when we might be invaded by, like, aliens or something.
posted by moonbiter at 6:15 AM on May 14, 2003

peter sellers was supposed to play a fourth part in the movie -- which part, and who got it at the end?

he was suppossed to play major kong....slim got it. I have heard he was to play 5 roles.

which national tragedy postponed the opening of the movie?
jfk got whacked...oh by the way, the only time kubrick censored himself was in the scence on the bomber when kong was reviewing the emergency kit. he said '"boy a fleer could have a good weekend in vegas with this stuff" or something like that....The original line was "a feller could have a good time in DALLAS with this stuff"...I can see why Kubrick changed the line.

premiers full name....dimitri something kissoff/
i dont know the other questions...
posted by clavdivs at 8:05 AM on May 14, 2003

how did peter george die? was he an American?

He was English, and he commited suicide in 1966. (bio)
posted by kirkaracha at 10:14 AM on May 14, 2003

p.s. I got conflicting sources saying he was either Peter George writing as Peter Bryant, or vice versa. Stupid internet.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:27 AM on May 14, 2003

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