Trump Nuke Tweets and Rouge One Death Stars
No I have not yet seen Rouge One. But apparently there is a nasty Death Star that has to be retrieved before all known organic, chemical, and sedimentary life forms are deleted in one big, big, bang. And Oppenheimer thought he was the real evil genius. Maybe President-Elect Trump has seen the film, or maybe members of his family or staff certainly have, if he hasn’t.
So when Trump tweets about boosting America's nuclear arsenal, or at least upgrading aging components of the system - with a suddenly wary eye on Russia's upgrading of its own nuclear arsenal - perhaps nuke disarmament wonks will use Rouge One metaphors to express their shock and horror. Because while it is just a tweet, it may indicate a sharp turn away from America's decades old policy of disarmament. And that is big news, as much for Moscow and Beijing as it is for the Defense, State, and other Departments in Washington D.C.
Of course, this means money. Lots and lots of money to invest, in order to bring America's nuclear capabilities up to some subjective level that perhaps will make both China and Russia a little more nervous. Is it true that Trump has bought into Nixon's apparent Madman tactics? I'll be so unpredictable they won't know what my administration is capable of and will react accordingly when it comes time to negotiate points of disagreement - whether military or economic - between our nations. Could it be? You can be sure Putin was advised of the tweet within minutes and one would love to have seen the look on his face as his advisers whispered nervously in his ear.
Is this an even scarier new world that we can look forward to? Perhaps. But it is just a tweet for now. We would need to go through Congress to appropriate the funds and that would be some debate. Even among Republicans. But there's another point as well: nuclear is so old-school. Didn't you know?
What gets defense contractors salivating nowadays is Directed-Energy Weapons. You might also know it as laser. But it also includes mega-powered microwaves to fry opposing electronic systems, or even to control crowds as is suggested by its proponents. A giant microwave to control rioters? Now that's scary. Actually, it's called Active Denial and it has been unclassified, but apparently unused, since 2001. Which is also scary.
How do DEW systems work? Ah, that's the point. They're almost there, but they need money. Lots and lots of money, to ensure that America maintains an edge (trying hard not to make a bad Star Wars joke here) over China and Russia. And who knows who else? For example: the older DEW systems used chemical-powered laser systems. They were, or are, bulky and dangerous. The solution? Solid state systems that focus the energy through a crystalline material. Dilithium crystals maybe? Sorry, sorry. But according to Booze Allen Hamilton Executive VP, Terry Obering in an article in the Cipher Brief, "we are technology rich and funding poor." We being the DEW crowd. You being the taxpayer who will pay for all this.
There's a new administration coming in and no one knows quite how foreign and defense policy will change over the coming months and years, but change it certainly will. And defense contractors like Booze Allen Hamilton are leaking up a storm about their really cool new weapons systems in order to start the process of getting funding from government. That means that nuclear technology and DEW systems may end up competing with each other for Defense Department dollars in the coming years. One suspects that Trump will lean towards the proven, while perhaps giving some money to the DEW guys.
And that's a decision and a debate that China and Russia will be watching very closely.Posted by Keeley at December 23, 2016 9:09 PM