Friday, September 14, 2012

Bombs away

In the middle of his first term, the president made public the number of bombs the United States keeps in its nuclear arsenal — talk about full disclosure.

Look, I love America and I am in favor of a strong military to defend our country and our way of life. But I'm not convinced we need every one of our 5,113 atomic bombs in order to accomplish that.

So exactly how many bombs do we need? Well, that is hard for me to say off the top of my head. So bear with me.

Every day we see what a crazy and unpredictable and dangerous place the wide world is. What we don't see is diplomacy or cooperation keeping pace with the madness, meanness and medieval mindsets menacing us and our precious national interests. Sure, it's downright horrific to imagine, but suppose we find ourselves at wits' end and feel we really need to push the button and wipe out an enemy nation. Iran comes to mind. Maybe North Korea. OK, for the sake of discussion let's say both. I figure three dozen nukes should be more than enough to calm the ayatollahs. As for the North Koreans, better send them six dozen. They might have some of their own and we want to be sure to hit all those targets.

Now that still leaves us with 5,005 nuclear bombs.

Oh, but now I'm thinking those paranoids over in Russia and China are going to try to preempt us if we start nuking other nuisances. So we should really start with them. Always punch the biggest bully first, my old man taught me. Now the Soviet Union exists no more, but to be on the safe side we better blanket all its former Asian republics and we might as well hit Serbia while we're at it. It's a tall order but 600 atomic bombs should pretty much pulverize those Russkies, plus four more for Serbia. OK. 4,401 nukes left.

Gee, this is like trying to spend a Megamillions jackpot. But wait, I almost forgot Red China, excuse me, I mean the People's Republic of China. That country has really grown in recent decades. There are probably at least 100 major cities over there that would have to be smashed — say two bombs apiece — plus a baker's dozen for the Beijing area. Maybe drop another on that big dam to really scramble their infrastructure. Down to 4,187 bombs.

Let's not forget the Taliban. How many nukes to flatten those mountains in Afghanistan? About 250 mounted on drones should really blast apart all those caves and steep valleys. Down to 3,937 bombs.

Of course, that might rile Pakistan so we might need to vaporize that place, too. Big country. Another 88 bombs should do it. Down to 3,849 bombs.

Now maybe if the winds are right we could get away with tossing a few on ol' Chavez in Venezuela — say 10 in the interests of overkill. And if we ever close Gitmo we could also detonate a few, that's three more, over Cuba, as long as we evac the Florida Keys first. Down to 3,836 bombs.

Of course, there seems to be plenty of trouble brewing in Africa these days, what with the confluence of chronic civil wars, recent revolutions and old school colonels killing to hang on to their dictatorships. We may not quite be at the tipping point but we ought to build a special stockpile nonetheless to light up the Dark Continent, should it become absolutely our only option. Figure maybe 520 bombs for that eventuality. OK, only 3,316 bombs left.

Now we may have to divert an asteroid from outer space some day. You know like the one that zipped by Earth this week within 1.8 million miles. Sixteen nuclear candles should be more than enough to do the trick, if Hollywood screenwriters know anything.

Down to 3,300 bombs. Kind of ironic don't you think, using nukes to prevent an earth extinction event? On second thought, better double that number to 32 just in case. After all you don't want the future of your species depending on Hollywood screenwriters, do you? Down to 3,284 bombs.

"Doomtown VII: Mushroom Cloud in Glitter Gulch" courtesy of artist Doug Waterfield

Then we really should save a few A-bombs in case we are ever forced to deal decisively with dangerous sleeper cells inside our own nation. I know that sounds dire, but remember we used to test nukes ourselves in the Nevada desert. Who knows, maybe fallout in Vegas stays in Vegas. Anyway wouldn't it be better to be a partial United States than to let the terrorists win? I think we must earmark at least 100 nukes for eventual use on our own territory — if it means saving the republic — anything less might be scoffed at as less than a credible deterrent. Down to 3,184 bombs.

Here's where smarter folks than I would add some redundancy, you know, extras to offset any duds that might fail to deliver that radioactive punch we're looking for here. Given quality control in American manufacturing, those smart folks might calculate an additional 10 percent just to be on the safe side. I say when it comes to Armageddon why skimp? Make that 20 percent. OK, rounding upward, that still leaves us with 2,798 extra atomic bombs.

Finally, I guess we owe it to posterity, if there is a posterity, to bestow the museums. What would the Smithsonian be after all without a nuclear bomb on display? And I guess it's only fair to stick one in Truman's presidential library. Then figure another for the Plutonium Hall Of Fame and one for the Slim Pickens Memorial Traveling Rodeo. And we might as well give one to that Sticky Lips BBQ joint in Rochester, New York, that serves up its own "atomic bomb challenge" and another for the lobby display in the Stanley Kubrick Arts Cinemaplex. And last but not least, why not let Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, the Mushroom Capital of the World, have one to show off on cloudy days in Chester County? There, we're down to 2,791 bombs.

That should about do it. Wait a minute. The older I get, the more I forget. So we better toss another, say, 300 onto the stockpile for stuff I haven't thought of. That leaves a surplus of 2,491 bombs.

But how do you dispose of nearly 2,500 nukes? Too bad you can't just scrap metal them at today's rates. And dismantling so many weapons of mass destruction is a job I couldn't in good conscience saddle anybody with, not even organized labor. What to do? Wait a minute. I got it: Shower all those leftover bombs on Bikini atoll! After all, that place should be used to it.

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