|The post-Sputnik national pall of gloom encouraged American scientists to explore unorthodox weapons, and they left no stone unturned. The U.S. military forged ahead with research on weapons using radiation, particle beams, nuclear energy, and kinetic energy. The Army Chemical Corps even investigated the use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and cannabis as non-lethal, incapacitating agents. The National Academy of Sciences noted this approvingly in 1958 and suggested that the Air Force begin administering LSD to airmen as soon as possible, to judge whether to add it to the arsenal of chemical weapons.
With so many wide-ranging ideas being vetted, NATO allies worried that the Americans were moving in too many directions at once. It was ﬁne to support science in the United States and to speak grandly about possibly controlling forces of nature—but which ideas could be incorporated into actual NATO war plans? In 1960 NATO members agreed to convene a special group of scientists and military leaders to assess the long-term prospects of war. They wanted to know what would really be feasible by the 1970s, and what was just science ﬁction. [...]
Jacob Darwin Hamblin
In a 1956 Fortune article, mathematician John von Neumann had suggested that militaries would be able to make large-scale changes to climate. He pointed out various ways to alter oceans and seas. One was to blanket ice sheets with blackening agents, to absorb more light and melt them. If it could be done to Greenland, its ice sheet alone would raise sea levels by about 10 feet “and cause great discomfort to most world ports.” Another scheme was to divert the Gulf Stream, which would severely change the climate of Northern Europe. Still another idea was to dam the Bering Strait. Such alterations would have clear, long-term eﬀects on world climate. And these changes seemed possible. Reﬂecting on von Neumann’s predictions, the NATO group believed that an extraordinary tool lay in the hands of military planners: the hydrogen bomb. “It is perhaps true,” the committee concluded, “that means presently within man’s reach could be employed so as to alter global climate for long periods.”
Given the later controversy about the role of carbon dioxide in inducing global climate change, the focus on the hydrogen bomb might seem surprising. But the reason for this was simple. Advised by physicists, the defense establishments of NATO’s strongest members believed that in order for “synoptic scale” weapons to be feasible, man had to achieve physical power that was comparable to nature’s power. The only tool that seemed likely to provide that was the hydrogen bomb. [...]
NATO scientists found the prospects of such power over nature intriguing. They called it environmental warfare. “This kind of warfare has the peculiarity that it could look like our image of nuclear war, or could be so subtle that the ‘weapons’ and ‘battles’ are hard to identify.” The enemy might undertake a vast engineering project to change the climate of a whole region, “leading gradually to economic ruin and loss of strength.” This could be done even without declaring war. [...]
NATO saw it diﬀerently. Environmental cataclysms could become part of the alliance’s arsenal, with the help of a well-placed nuclear explosion. The cascading eﬀects of energy release from the existing instabilities of nature could be, quite literally, earth shattering. The power over nature was tempting: “The large engineering capability which is provided by multi-megaton nuclear weapons might open up the possibility of changing the course of ocean streams which are known to aﬀect climate and continents.” Narrow straits could indeed be dammed up, as some feared the Soviets planned for the Bering Straits. Peninsulas could be turned into islands, changing the patterns of water ﬂow and mixing. With enough nuclear bombs, the sea ﬂoor in some areas might be reconﬁgured entirely.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2008—SCOTUS Upholds GOP-Pushed Voter ID Laws:
|In a case reflecting a solution truly in search of a problem, and opening the door to all sorts of harassment for minority, elderly and other traditionally Democratic voters, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today that Indiana could legally require all voters to present photo identification cards in order to vote.
The Complaint had argued that voter ID laws would substantially burden the right to vote in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; that they are neither necessary nor appropriate to avoid election fraud; and that such laws would arbitrarily disfranchise qualified voters who do not possess the required identification and would place an unjustified burden on those who cannot readily obtain such identification.
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