north korea and mars

Fred Kaplan’s response to North Korea’s announcement of it’s a bomb test is pretty standard:

“It doesn't take more than a handful of nukes to become a "made man" in this club. If Saddam Hussein had possessed some nukes in 1990, before he invaded Kuwait, it is doubtful that the U.S.-led coalition (and that really was a coalition) would have mobilized armed forces to push his troops back. If Mao Zedong had not possessed an atomic arsenal in 1969, during intense border clashes with the Soviet Union, it is likely that Leonid Brezhnev would have mounted an invasion. More to the point, without the nukes, Mao wouldn't have had the nerve to trigger the border clashes to begin with.”

LI totally agrees with this. Which is the reason I suggest we sue the Pentagon for, oh, 5 to 10 trillion dollars. As Kaplan shows, practical invulnerability is cheap. Spend, say 50 billion dollars over a decade, build 20 to 100 H bombs, and that is it. Instead, the U.S. built something like over 40,000. It built perhaps around 20,000 to 40,000 ICBMs. In other words, after the threshold of practical invulnerability was reached, in 1952, the U.S. just kept going. My estimates for Pentagon overspending are probably off by as much as ten trillion dollars, but what the hell. LI is feeling generous this morning. Ten trillion, what is that? Lagniappe. In any case, what we want to know is: Why? when the evidence is right before our eyes on things like China, why did the Pentagon, why did the American people, keep spending and spending and building and building weapons?

There are two answers to that question. One, on the practical narrative level, is that once Mars has its hooks into a nation, the nation is fucked. There was way too much money to be made making redundant weapons, and way too much power to be accrued in approving and overseeing the redundant weapons programs, and so a powerful alignment between economic, military and political oligarchs was forged while the world’s total (virtual) destruction became a multiplier – and the thing that brought, for instance, the primitive South back into the U.S. economy. A powerful constituency emerged that ultimately depended on the defense dollar. This is the very origin of big government conservatism.

The metaphysical answer to this question is the advance of the notion that a nation could actually be the end of history. Could, that is, be so important that its fall should be prevented at the price of extinguishing all future human life. War, in the insane LI view, is the real political system here on planet Mars, and the state is a function of war. But just as the veil of Maya prevents us, as individuals, from seeing that our individuality is an illusion, so, too, a similar veil – the veil of Mars – prevents the state from seeing its subordination to war. From the veil of Maya, one gets methodological individualism and the market society. From the veil of Mars, one gets the absolute state.

Which is not what I meant to write about today.
I’ll save that for my next post.