December 2, 2010

"It’s the most sane and moral weapon ever devised."

"It’s the only nuclear weapon in history that makes sense in waging war. When the war is over, the world is still intact."

The neutron bomb — so sensible to its inventor — was so intensely reviled.

Samuel T. Cohen, dead of stomach cancer at age 89.

***

Dialogue from the movie "Repo Man":
I had a lobotomy in the end.

Lobotomy? Isn't that for loonies?

Not at all. A friend of mine had one. Designer of the neutron bomb. You ever hear of the neutron bomb? Destroys people, but leaves buildings standing. It fits in a suitcase. So small. No one knows it's there, until... blammo!

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48 comments:

John Lynch said...

We came up with alternative ways of stopping tens of thousands of Russian tanks- the M1 Abrams tank, the A-10, and the Apache helicopter, to name a few.

If you look at the US military, everything can kill tanks even though we no longer see them on the battlefield. It's like the North American antelope that can run much faster than any predator- there used to cheetahs to chase them. The threat is gone but the counter remains.

Thank Ronald Reagan for a large conventional force that gave us an alternative to the neutron bomb. We are still using the basic tools paid for in the 1980s.

rcocean said...

Ever been to Utah? Ra-di-a-tion. Yes, indeed. You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked goggle-box do-gooders telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense. Everybody could stand a hundred chest X-rays a year. They ought to have them, too. When they canceled the project it almost did me in. One day my mind was full to bursting. The next day - nothing. Swept away. But I'll show them. I had a lobotomy in the end.

traditionalguy said...

Mein Fuhrer, I can walk...and I can also inherit the earth when all of those surplus people are put down.Back to the drawing board.

HDHouse said...

I had a friend in the USSR in the 80s who was a missle inspector and on a team that came here. He commented to me on the neutron bomb and only half in jest. Seems that this fellow valued buildings more than humans or he would have designed a bomb that did the reverse.

The Crack Emcee said...

I take it, now that he's gone, I can have his apartment, right?

HDHouse said...

"We are still using the basic tools paid for in the 1980s...."

The basic tools are a sense of humanity and some common sense..neither of which have been in long supply for a very long time.

Kev said...

(the other kev)

When the initial controversy erupted in the late '70's and early '80's, it was Larry Niven who asked how we would have reacted if the neutron bombs had come first and someone proposed switching them over for the dirty kind.

Lynch is right, though. The reason enhanced radiation weapons were even considered was because U.S. conventional forces had become such a joke under Nixon, Ford and especially Carter. Weakness sometimes makes unthinkable solutions attractive.

Charles said...

"a neo-pacifist weapon"

Bob said...

"It’s the most sane and moral weapon ever devised."

Captain Kirk didn't agree.

Mark said...

"Seems that this fellow valued buildings more than humans or he would have designed a bomb that did the reverse."

Here in the US, though, we (at least some of us) value human dignity over human life, and therefore do not evacuate New Orleans in the run-up to Katrina.

Thank you Mayor Nagin. Thank you, Governor Blanco.

Mark said...

In all seriousness, when it was designed, the assumption was that the Russians would be rolling with heavy tanks.

People would flee, leaving their homes, possessions, etc.

Assuming our side won the exchange, coming back to largely intact infrastructure would have been a humanitarian miracle. If you don't think that's true, look at some of the documentary film about life in post-WW2 Greater Deutschland.

John Lynch said...

The neutron bomb is a sane and moral weapon in the sense that it hasn't killed anyone.

The AK-47 is about 30 million deaths ahead.

virgil xenophon said...

The neutron bomb--or "enhanced radiation" bomb--was probably subject to more mis-information propagated by the treasonous left than any wpn in history. In reality it was a standard-sized nuke that was "tactical" only in the sense that it was to be used on the "tactical" battlefield. Most were of the Hiroshima-sized variety whose blast (the "blow-down" factor) was only slightly less than standard nukes, but whose enhanced people-killing gamma radiation (hence the left's sobriquet of the "capitalist bomb" which left *evil* property intact. A total myth as even a check of Wiki will reveal.) made it so potentially effective against advancing WP/Soviet massed tank armies. As such, it was a great deterrent weapon.

Unfortunately the American citizenry seems incapable of distinguishing between wpns systems used to deter from those meant to defend. "Defense" is what occurs once "Deterrence" fails..

Cedarford said...

John Lynch -
"Thank Ronald Reagan for a large conventional force that gave us an alternative to the neutron bomb. We are still using the basic tools paid for in the 1980s."

Actually, the much and much justly hammered Jimmy Carter and his Secretary of Defense launched the defense buildup after the Soviets ran wild after Nixon fell. It started in 1977. If you look at development history of most weapons Reagan is credited with, you find they were green-lighted for funding and development under Carter.

Wish it was otherwise, because I hate Carter with a passion, but the history shows Reagan and his people taking credit for actions the miserable Carter and his people initiated - the media, ignorant of the development-funding-deployment cycle at DOD only focused on deployment and concluded Reagan hatched the buildup out of thin air.

===================
The demise of the neutron bomb was one of the few great Soviet propaganda coups they achieved after the 1968 May Day marches in Europe... Greatly assisted by clueless Reaganites talking about limited, easy nuclear war confined to European battlefields becoming a reality. Which the Euros at the time did not exactly savor.

Lem said...

Wow.. I had always believed that a neutron bomb was much worst than a nuclear bomb..

That belief was just based on what I had heard..

(somebody please tell Palin ;)

John Lynch said...

C4-

I said "paid for" for exactly that reason.

The M1, A10, and a lot of other programs were started in the Carter administration. They almost got canceled many times, too. The B-1 was canceled, only to be revived by Reagan.

Reagan was the one that really dumped the money into the modern defense establishment after Vietnam. When Carter left office in 1981 the armed forces were in no shape to fight a war. We would have been forced to use nuclear weapons to defend Europe.

The conventional force has been much more useful than neutron bombs would have been. So, Reagan again.

If you're an antiwar type, there's another reason not to like Reagan.

Cedarford said...

A-10 approved by Ford, full production under Carter.

M-1A Abrams Tank -Carter. Full production approved under Carter, starting in 1979.

Apache - developed under Carter. Army delayed production 1 year to do extra operational trialsafter allegations earlier trials were rigged. Full production left to Reagan Administration.

Bradley Fighting vehicle - Developed and funded under Carter as a response to the Soviet BMP fighting vehicle/troop carrier. Production started in 1979.

F-16 Developed and approved under Ford. Full production started under Carter for US and participating NATO, Asian allies plus "Our Special Friend".

F-117 Stealth Fighter. Approved and production run of 138 planes funded by Carter. Plane 1st flew though after Reagan came to office.

UH-60 Blackhawk Approved and began production under Carter.

Hellfire missile - Initiated during Ford Administration, full development funded by Carter's people as a Soviet tank buster. Production began a year after Reagan took office.

Aegis Cruiser - 1st, USS Ticonderoga, ordered by Carter Administration in 1978.

B-2 Bomber. Carter initiated development of, in 1978.

==============
That's the record.
Carter started it all, Reagan got credit.
Just as Reagan got credit for ending the Cold War - while the most important decsions that led to avoidance of "Hot War" and steering the Russians to their eventual downfall happened under Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, and Nixon.
(THough Europeans would argue what was the real downfall - as the US stood there to stop the Red Army from pouring in - was that West Europeans proved their socialist-capitalist system was immensely more successful, culturally and economically, than the Soviet model)

Alex said...

C-4 what's your point that the people were STOOPID electing Raygun in 1980?

Quaestor said...

Cedarford wrote:
F-117 Stealth Fighter. Approved and production run of 138 planes funded by Carter. Plane 1st flew though after Reagan came to office.

I understand Carter blew the black program to the press in order to gain brownie points against Reagan in the 1980 campaign.

master cylinder said...

great movie.

Ralph L said...

Quaestor, I believe that was the B2, which he revealed after cancelling the B1.

I had a friend in the USSR in the 80s
What do you mean, "a"?

Bob said...

Cedarford - the Abrams tank was designed under Ford. Production was approved by Carter. But numbers were significantly increased under Reagan. And the main gun was upgraded to a 120mm.

BFV took 19 years to develop. Again, numbers bought by Reagan were significantly increased.

Aegis - Reagan doubled number to be built plus moved technology into destroyers, not just cruisers.

Lets not forget about Star Wars, aircraft carriers, F-18, etc. And the billions in recruiting and pay so that we had quality personnel to use those weapons plus billions more in changes in training. Read about Dupuy and changes he instituted at NTC.

Carter started priming the pump after Afghanistan and Iran but Reagan opened the throttle.

rcocean said...

MC,

Repo Man was a very good movie. Full of great quotes and very funny. Unlike most of this thread.

rcocean said...

I think we need to talk more about the Bradley fighting vehicle and the A-10.

'cause its past my bedtime and I'm having trouble going to sleep.

Penny said...

"Lobotomy? Isn't that for loonies?

How could I possibly know without checking the Urban Dictionary?

William said...

Before committing to ghastly weapons, we should stop and ponder the fact that within fifty years such weapons will be within the reach of third world mad men. Add another twenty or forty years, and the Radio Shack version will be within the reach of a cult member with a flair for gadgets......This drone program will come back to haunt us. Most of a weapon's cost lies in the R&D. Once its feasibility has been demonstrated, it takes no great leap forward to duplicate it. You probably won't even need a good espionage program. It's only a matter of time before Wiki publishes the nuclear bomb building manuals.

Penny said...

"A friend of mine had one."

You had a friend who had a lobotomy,
and all he had to say was "Blammo"?

It's a puzzle for sure...

Mark said...

Before committing to ghastly weapons, we should stop and ponder the fact that within fifty years such weapons will be within the reach of third world mad men.

So far, it's been 65 years or so since a fission bomb has been used in battle. It has been significantly fewer years since such weapons have been "within the reach" of third world mad men.

We should contemplate why this is so.

T J Sawyer said...

As noted in a couple of posts above, actual effects of the Neutron bomb don't match popular conception.

Cohen wrote "The Truth About The Neutron Bomb" in 1983. It is mostly about politics, international and internal.

Sample: "It was the first time I'd ever appeared before a group of congressmen, or even met one of them. My father used to tell me when I was a kid that they were all a bunch of crooks.
... I was so flabbergasted by the first few questions that I was practically paralyzed in trying to figure out how to answer them. But then I noticed something. If I didn't say something because I couldn't, one of the congressmen would say something. These guys were unable to keep quiet. So I made a point of hesitating after every question, and each time I was saved. I don't think I made one reply."

It only get better!

I'm glad to see that Cohen's cigars didn't do him in until age 89.

reader_iam said...

There will come soft rains

reader_iam said...

Just a blast from the past, is all that previous comment was about.

EK said...

“Carter started it all, Reagan got credit.” I’m sorry Cedarford, but this statement is hardly reasonable or accurate. In fact, I would go so far as to say that your attempt to make Carter’s administration look hawkish on defense procurement is nothing short of silly. I’ve re-written your list more accurately reflect the actual history of these weapons:

A-10 development initiation under Nixon; production initiated under Ford and continued under Carter and Reagan.

M-1Abrams Tank development initiated under Nixon; production initiated under Carter in 1979.

Apache development initiated under Nixon and continued under Ford and Carter; production initiated under Reagan.

Bradley Fighting vehicle development initiated under Nixon and continued under Ford and Carter; production approved under Carter in 1980—after the program was nearly killed on his watch.

F-16 development initiated under Nixon; production initiated under Carter.

F-117 Stealth Fighter development initiated under Ford and continued under Carter and Reagan; production initiated under Reagan.

UH-60 Blackhawk development initiated under Nixon; production initiated under Ford.

Hellfire missile development initiated under Nixon and continued under Ford and Carter; production initiated under Reagan.

Aegis Cruiser - 1st, USS Ticonderoga, ordered by Carter Administration in 1978.

B-2 Bomber development initiated under Carter and continued under Reagan and Bush.

Chip Ahoy said...

"I had a lobotomy in the end. "

Explains why it didn't take. Anatomically impossible unless the frontal lobes are in one's bum.

Unless he meant bell end, which would be totally different.

master cylinder said...

rcocean-ordinary fucking people....man I hate 'em.

Clyde said...

I loved both the Repo Man movie and the punk soundtrack. Matter of fact, it's listed among my favorite movies in my Blogger profile, which probably says something about my warped sense of humor.

Robert Cook said...

"When Carter left office in 1981 the armed forces were in no shape to fight a war. We would have been forced to use nuclear weapons to defend Europe."

Why should we maintain a standing army "in shape" to fight a war?

Why would we be the ones to defend Europe, assuming it ever needed defending?

LarsPorsena said...

"That's the record.
Carter started it all, Reagan got credit."

That's how the Dem's do defense. They're always in favor of research and development for new programs with prototypes trotted out as proof.

But when it comes time for full scale production and deployment, not so much.

AST said...

The basic tools are a sense of humanity and some common sense..neither of which have been in long supply for a very long time.

Good line. Quote from Ahmedinejad? Or Hugo Chaves?

AST said...

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me.

Clyde said...

@ Robert Cook

"Why should we maintain a standing army 'in shape' to fight a war?"

Si vis pacem, para bellum. (If you want peace, prepare for war.) -- Vegetius

If you are perceived as being weak, other people will push you around. The same is true for nations as for people.

"Why would we be the ones to defend Europe, assuming it ever needed defending?"

Because the Europeans are our trading partners, and it was not in our best interest to allow them to fall to Soviet communism after World War II. If we hadn't been there, the Soviet empire would extend from Lisbon to Vladivostok -- and there would still BE a Soviet empire.

Pogo said...

"...and there would still BE a Soviet empire."

Don't make Mr. Cook wistful. It always starts him crying.

I hate see a grown man blubbering.

Pogo said...

Cue The Internationale, Russian version.

Clyde said...

@ Pogo

Let's make Robert happy, then:

The Hymn of the Soviet Union: Red Alert & Red Alert 2

Tissue?

Ann Althouse said...

Why not an endal lobotomy in the front?

dbp said...

Ah, Carter. When he canceled the B1 bomber, he said it was because we had some wonderful "stealth" technology in the works. Years later, the B2 bomber was unveiled and Carter, long out of power, was against production of this bomber.

dbp said...

Seoul, South Korea has a metropolitan area containing around half the population of the country. The North Koreans have thousands of artillery tubes that can range this area.

If the North opens fire with these guns, can anyone think of a less destructive and quicker way to silence them than with neutron bombs?

Larry J said...

The irony of the neutron bomb is that because of its lower blast yield, it produced less radioactive fallout than a standard nuclear weapon. The enhanced radiation of a neutron bomb only lasted for a very brief time compared to fallout. It would've killed far fewer civilians had it come to that.

From Wikipedia:

Neutron bombs could be used as strategic anti-ballistic missile weapons or as tactical weapons intended for use against armored forces; in fact, the neutron bomb was originally conceived as a weapon that could stop Soviet armored divisions from overrunning Western Europe without destroying Western Europe in the process.

As an anti-ballistic missile weapon, an ER warhead was developed for the Sprint missile system as part of the Safeguard Program to protect United States cities and missile silos from incoming Soviet warheads by damaging their electronic components with the intense neutron flux.

Tactical neutron bombs are primarily intended to kill soldiers who are protected by armor. Armored vehicles are extremely resistant to blast and heat produced by nuclear weapons, so the effective range of a nuclear weapon against tanks is determined by the lethal range of the radiation, although this is also reduced by the armor. By emitting large amounts of lethal radiation of one of the most penetrating kinds, ER warheads maximize the lethal range of a given yield of nuclear warhead against armored targets. At the same time, modest fallout shelters of ordinary design will protect civilian populations.

One problem with using radiation as a tactical anti-personnel weapon is that to bring about rapid death of the individuals targeted, a radiation dose that is many times the lethal level must be administered. A radiation dose of 6 Gy is normally considered lethal. It will kill at least half of those who are exposed to it, but no effect is noticeable for several hours. Neutron bombs were intended to deliver a dose of 80 Gy to quickly kill targets. A 1 kt ER warhead can do this to a T-72 tank crew at a range of 690 m, compared to 360 m for a pure fission bomb (the blast would likely destroy it, however). For a 6 Gy dose, the distances are 1100 m and 700 m respectively, and for unprotected soldiers 6 Gy exposures occur at 1350 m and 900 m. The lethal range for tactical neutron bombs exceeds the lethal range for blast and heat even for unprotected troops, which is likely the reasoning for the idea that a neutron bomb destroys life and not infrastructure. If a neutron bomb were detonated at the correct altitude, deadly levels of radiation would blanket a wide area with minimal heat and blast effects when compared to a nuclear weapon of conventional design.

The neutron flux can induce significant amounts of short-lived secondary radioactivity in the environment in the high flux region near the burst point. The alloys used in steel armor can develop radioactivity that is dangerous for 24–48 hours. If a tank exposed to a 1 kt neutron bomb at 690 m (the effective range for immediate crew incapacitation) is immediately occupied by a new crew, they will receive a lethal dose of radiation within 24 hours.

Robin said...

The reduced blast and fallout was the reason for the bomb's existence. As an acquaintance of mine once put: "Germany's cities are about 10 kilotons apart".