In the 1964 film Fail-Safe, an accident has sent a group of American bombers carrying nuclear weapons towards Moscow with the intent of attacking. In the Pentagon and at SAC headquarters, generals and civilian consultants meet to advise the President:
Prof. Groeteschele: In my opinion [the Russians] will take no action at all.
Gen. Stark: They're not going to just sit there, Professor
Prof. Groeteschele: I think if our bombers get through the Russians will surrender.
Gen. Bogan: Who's this professor, Mr. Secretary? What's he doing there?
Defense Secretary Swenson: Professor Groeteschele is a civilian advisor to the Pentagon, General. Will you explain your statement, Professor?
Prof. Groeteschele: The Russian aim is to dominate the world. They think that Communism must succeed eventually if the Soviet Union is left reasonably intact. They know that a war would leave the Soviet Union utterly destroyed. Therefore, they would surrender.
Gen. Stark: But suppose they feel they can knock us off first?
Prof. Groeteschele: They know we might have a doomsday system, missiles that would go into action days, even weeks after a war is over and destroy an enemy even after that enemy has already destroyed us.
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: Maybe they'll think that even capitalists aren't that insane, to want to kill after they themselves have been killed.
Prof. Groeteschele: These are Marxist fanatics, not normal people. They do not reason they way you reason, General Black. They're not motivated by human emotions such as rage and pity. They are calculating machines. They will look at the balance sheet, and they will see they cannot win.
Defense Secretary Swenson: Then you suggest doing what?
Prof. Groeteschele: [leans forward] Nothing.
Defense Secretary Swenson: Nothing?
Prof. Groeteschele: The Russians will surrender, and the threat of Communism will be over, forever.
Gen. Bogan: That's a lot of hogwash. Don't kid yourself, there'll be Russian generals who will react just as I would -- the best defense is a good offense. They see trouble coming up, take my word for it, they'll attack, and they won't give a damn what Marx said.
Prof. Groeteschele: Mr. Secretary, I am convinced that the moment the Russians know bombs will fall on Moscow, they will surrender. They know that whatever they do then, they cannot escape destruction. Don't you see, sir, this our chance. We never would have made the first move deliberately, but Group 6 has made it for us, by accident. We must take advantage of it -- history demands it. We must advise the President not to recall those planes.
Fail-Safe (film, 1964) screenplay by Walter Bernstein based on the novel by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler directed by Sidney Lumet
In Walter Matthau's Prof. Groeteschele, I think we get a taste of the kind of advice, based on grossly mistaken premises and drastic misunderstanding of the psychology of non-Americans, which formed the basis for the neo-con belief that the invasion of Iraq would be a cakewalk, that we would be welcomed with roses and open arms, that there would be no need for a long-term occupation, and no possibility of a widespread insurgency.
In the film, Groeteschele's advice does not prevail, being overridden by the good sense of civilians and generals alike. It's a shame that in our own time, people who think like Groeteschele are the ones in charge, at the White House and in the Pentagon.
Update:DarkSyde points out what many of us who lived through the Cold War know -- that the threat from radical Islamists like Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda pales in comparison to the threat of nuclear annihilation we were under back then. To compare the two is ludicrous, since "the odds of falling victim to Al Qaeda rank somewhere between falling off a ladder to your death and being struck by lightning inside your home," while the result of a Soviet nuclear missile attack would have been "convert[ing] some 20 million US citizens into plasma."
Update: I see that the right is (as usual, *yawn*) framing this as meaning that liberals are soft on terrorism and don't think it's necessary or important to prevent further terrorist attacks. What it actually means is that comparisons of the threat of radical Islamist terrorist to the Cold War or to World War II, so popular among wingers at the moment, are ludicrously inapt, and the strategies and tactics which were appropriate then aren't the best way to protect us now.
Knowing the precise parameters of the situation you're in and the capabilities and inclinations of your enemy, to the extent that you can do so, and then planning one's actions and responses in light of that information, is tremendously important. Unfortunately for the right, that requires seeing things as clearly as possible, without ideological blinders and filters -- which is something they apparently cannot do.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.