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The Pentagon's Imaginary War with Russia

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The Pentagon and their vendors of ultra-expensive superweapon systems (General Dynamics, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, etc.) are a hammer searching for a nail.

Having rediscovered the theoretical impossibility of winning a guerrilla war in the Middle East, after first discovering this fact in Vietnam, they are turning their attention to the tried and true enemy of the 20th century: Russia. Fighting a regular army that can issue strategically valid surrender must seem fresh and invigorating to the planners and politicians that are guaranteed to do exactly none of the fighting and dying on the battlefield. Russia is a respectably scary enemy, and if they are portrayed as threatening the livelihoods of Americans by the US body-politic, then there is no doubt that more tax money can be squeezed from a spineless Congress, into the coffers of the war machine, and onward into their campaign coffers.

Exactly nothing geopolitically has changed since 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed as far as our relationship with Russia. They have enough nukes to destroy the United States, and we have enough nukes to destroy them. This same stalemate has existed since approximately 1965, and no useful means of defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles has been deployed. Simply enough, each country mutually assures the other's destruction.

Despite no change in the strategic landscape, newspapermen and politicians wonder aloud how we will contain the Russian threat to Europe, and wax hysterical about conventional weapons systems and whether or not ours measure up to theirs. Is there a plausible scenario in which a Russian tank will actually be forced to fight head to head with a US tank? Would this happen before nuclear weapons are falling? After? If nuclear weapons fall at any point, does it matter what kind of fighter jet anyone has? 

Seeing no need to consider these questions, the US government contracted a stealth destroyer be constructed, and has been in the midst of an enormously expensive procurement project for the F-35 joint strike fighter for as long as I can remember. It's operational effectiveness is questioned by everyone, and its usefulness claimed by no one. It is an albatross, and may end up costing the taxpayer a trillion dollars. Even a good jet is useless in a nuclear war, much less a bad one.

It is an atrocious case of normalcy bias. The Air Force buys better planes that its stated enemy. The Navy plans for battle with the ships belonging to its stated enemy. The Army plans for battles involving tanks and men because they have tanks and men to fight with. If either the US or Russian government ever face an existential crisis, where the politicians themselves face annihilation, the nuclear weapons will come out. Everything else is a sideshow.

There is no point in fighting a war where there is no chance of winning, and if, after 40 years of the Cold War the US and Soviet Union never crossed swords, what is the likelihood that the tinker-toy weapons systems of today will ever be used against the Russians in the future? Cold War doctrine was always calculated based one-hundred percent on nuclear capability, and nothing has changed since. A tank is like a dust-mite in comparison to an H-bomb; an aircraft carrier a match box, still.

But even fake wars have real costs. Another Cold War with Russia will waste the labor of untold millions, and worst of all it will be labor of our best and brightest. Scientists and engineers who could otherwise be building bridges and eradicating diseases will instead be tasked with designing glorified fishing boats and ATVs for a generation of men trained to fight a war that cannot possibly occur against an enemy that will vaporize them or be vaporized long before the two sides ever meet. The material and genius already wasted in fighting the Soviet bogeyman is practically incalculable, as the progress we would have enjoyed daily is instead locked up in a boneyard of rusting airplanes in Arizona. The life's work of thousands of brilliant minds, brilliant airframes with fabulous designs, never used, wasting away in the desert. Another Cold War will cost us the billions it cost before, but it will also cost us in the peacetime technological advances that bring us all a better life.

No nuclear power has ever been invaded, and it is difficult to imagine the circumstances under which a nuclear power would tolerate defeat when it could be avoided at the touch of a button. To envision a second Cold War to be any different is absurd, and to waste the labors of the United States in preparing for an imaginary conventional war will certainly cause more damage to the country than it could ever prevent.

Richard is an engineer by day, and a political activist by night, fighting would-be totalitarians and government busybodies everywhere.