McGoverning

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Yes, Jan 2, 2018.

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  1. Expat Monthly Donor

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  2. King of the Uzbeks Charles Curtis is my Baby Daddy

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  3. wolverinethad InfoSec for America

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    For both you and @Yes, the Democrats for Nixon ad features a familiar number. 47% of Americans would allegedly have been on welfare under McGovern. The same 47% Romney complained about forty years later. It's almost like they just picked a number and ran with it...
     
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  4. Kaiser Julius Well-Known Member

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    Given a Shriver's in cabinet and McGoverns ties to Hollywood, whats gonna happen to Ahnold?
     
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  5. Excelsior Time's arrow marches forward

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    Arnold already thought Hubert Humphrey sounded too much like a socialist, so I don't think he'd react positively to McGovern just four years later.
     
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  6. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    The two tie together quite directly. I've read some PDFs of the GOP oppo research and talking points that generated the "47% on welfare" line (delivered by John Connally's Democrats for Nixon, as you ably pointed out to me) which was based on what percentage of Americans would qualify for some measure of tax-credit with the Demogrant plan. Mitt's daddy George was still in the cabinet then, his mother Lenore just off losing the Senate bid against Phil Hart (P H I L), and I suspect that number stuck with him through the years as all kinds of other Republican talking points encrusted around it like a vast negative-advertising mollusc. He'd been hearing that number since college days and repeated it again to confidants, forgetting that you should treat every reporter as miked and every mike as loaded.

    This is all very true. Plenty of time also for various butterflies to take AHNOLD and Maria in different directions. With her dad George McGovern's most important and probably most trusted foreign policy grandee the Shriver kids will spend a lot more time mixing in those circles, with a lot more unspoken encouragement to go in to the fields of public service or even electoral politics sooner or more directly ITTL. Whether that works out for them, mileage may vary, but given that their dad has considerably upped his game and is now one of the biggest Democratic wheels on foreign affairs, the gravitational pull goes strongly in that direction.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2019
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  7. Expat Monthly Donor

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    Arnie's first role after the POD is The Long Goodbye, which took such a long time to make I think it's butterfly-resistant at least. Pre-production stretched back years. Perhaps it would do better here. One theory for the film not really catching on with audiences is that they were already depressed from Watergate and didn't appreciate Altman serving up a heap of cynicism. How's the national mood these days? Or would that be telling?

    The most fun butterfly under this heading would be if he got that Incredible Hulk gig he tried for IOTL. But that's years away.

    Another media question readers are dying to know: Who gets to play Phil and who's stuck with Gary between Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers?
     
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  8. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    I approve entirely of this play-on-an-Xer-childhood cultural reference. H2H was one of my dad's all-time favorites, I think it's returned to one of the nostalgia channels now for his continued delectation. Dad had been a Stephanie Powers fan since Girl from UNCLE days. He married a brunette but I do get my thing for redheads from somewhere, y'know.
     
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  9. Threadmarks: McGoverning: A Big Damn Nuclear Explainer, or, How I Learned to Start Worrying on the Road to Overkill

    Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Hey sports fans!

    What have we got here? The title may give it away: welcome to the Big Damn Nuclear Explainer!

    What's that when it's at home? Pretty much just as it says on the cover. It shows up here with some of the most important subject matter in the upcoming McGoverning chapter very much in mind. This BDNE offers the Careful Readers a chance to get up to speed on the bureaucratic, political, and cultural world into which George Stanley McGovern and his band of Scoobies step as they tread into the nuclear den, amid its alchemists, philosophers, Templars, and inquisitors. It is a deep, rich, warped, fascinating, compromising, horrifying, enlightening, sobering, wizening funhouse-mirror pocket universe where humans confront and contend with things many of those who inhabited that universe could barely look in the face if at all. No one comes back from even a daytripper through its realms unchanged.

    In this BDNE, I've tried to stay clear and give the topics here a narrative focus. For that reason much of it, particularly the subject-matter structure, is cribbed from easily the best academic article on the evolution of US strategy, and organizational structure, for fighting a nuclear war. That'd be David Alan Rosenberg's "The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy, 1945-60" International Security. v. 7, No. 4 (Spring 1983).

    To put it straight it's a masterwork, for two reasons. First, Rosenberg is really frickin' good at what he does. The piece shows a clarity, a drive, and an ability to make bogglingly complex and messy things clear that few academic writers have anymore, even at the time Rosenberg got it down on paper. This matters especially, given his subject.

    Also, Rosenberg researched and wrote during a now-famous window in the early Eighties when crucial, previously classified sources were available. The Carter administration declassified them on their way out of town and researchers like Rosenberg dove in, though none to better effect than him. But those better effects clued Saint Ronald of Pacific Pallisades and his wrecking crew in that these nosy academics were giving the super-secret game away (the one that really mattered, as Bill Bradlee of the Post liked to point out: obscuring the truth from outside observers so those involved could get away with what they wanted to get away with.) So the same materials were re-classified not long after Rosenberg's article dropped and it has been a long, bloody, litigated FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) battle to get them back out ever since. Much has been recovered in the last ten years or so thanks to the tireless efforts of the National Security Archive, who really do the Lord's work on this stuff. But there's still some parts where we have to rely on just how good Rosenberg was and thank heavens we can. Truly.

    What did Rosenberg find? What's the thrust of his piece? I'll let him, with usual clarity, sum it up in a sentence:

    "It is essentially a study in the failure of regulation."

    Yeah... hoo, boy. Rosenberg does like the dry delivery. "Failure of regulation" is a little like calling the Pacific Ocean "damp," or the mathematical concept of infinity "really big."

    Where does that story start?

    In 1945, a virtual Justice League of the greatest atomic physicists in the world - those who had not harked to the dark lights of a perverted fascist science, at least - created the most profound destructive force humanity had ever devised. Before its first test in the New Mexico sands several scientists worried out loud that they had the math wrong, that when they split one of the smallest forms of matter it would keep splitting, until the universe tore asunder. After they found that it merely destroyed cities in entirety, not the cosmos, the United States dropped two of them on secondary coastal ports of Imperial Japan. Buildings crumbled under demonic power. The sky darkened in the backlight of a second sun, the hell-fires of nuclear wind whipped through their streets rending and poisoning the poor souls there at a cellular level. Bodies near Ground Zero left only shadows, dust burned in their shape against concrete walls. That done, and faced with what they saw as the totalitarian vastness of half a continent ranged under the power of the Marxist-Leninist tsar Stalin and Red legions strong enough to grind even Nazi Germany down, the Americans made more. By the end of that decade the same alchemists of apocalypse who had birthed a Fat Man and a Little Boy discovered how to combine a primary component that sheltered and rent atoms of the right fissile material through an implosion process, vastly accelerated and empowered by a secondary element that lit off pure nuclear fusion and turned blasts the equivalent of thousands of tons of explosives into the equivalent of millions.

    And then, they had to figure out what to do with the damn things.

    For a time, a considerable time when you look it over, that figuring-out process was kind of a shambles. Through the Truman administration Give 'Em Hell Harry notably absented himself from serious consideration of how to conceive of and structure American policy on when and how to wage war with nuclear weapons. Bearing the weight of decision on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Truman stayed leery of engaging with the Bomb again except for assurances they could be used to knock hell out of the Russians. In the vacuum, parallel and sometimes contradictory policies cropped up in what seemed to be a presidential fit of absence of mind.

    There were several big players. There were the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of those several creations of the postwar defense reforms though they existed in form if not statute during the war. Ostensibly they'd be the top military decision makers on practical strategy and tactics. Above them at the political level was another new beast, the National Security Council. There, in theory at least, the Secretaries of Defense and State, and the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, had principal roles forming strategy, relating military action to national policy goals, and managing the bureaucracy so the trains ran on time. (The Atomic Energy Commission was an interesting case, one part administrative and regulatory board for nuclear energy and research, one part a nationalized industry for making nuclear weapons. The functions have ported over to the modern Department of Energy now under the leadership of Rick No Really Perry. The conclusions you draw there may be your own.)

    In practice, the uniforms often went their own way and the suits another in defining priorities and structuring task management. Within each of those categories, too, there was inter-service friction and absence of communication and the same likewise among the civil departments. By the end of Truman's tenure, at the very least, they'd come up with the formalities of the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan and the Joint Strategic Objectives Plan. The first one of these was the "how would we fight a nuclear war this fiscal year" think piece because that's in the habits of mind of a vast complex bureaucracy. The second was a "how do we organize and plan for a nuclear war somewhere between four and six years from now?" Those were the first real tools to get a handle on things.

    There were lots of fingers in those two pies. On the uniformed end alone you had the individual services, each of whom (the Marines partially excepted, but their Air Component guys got to handle some bombs) had nuclear weapons under their control, plus the "unified commands" which were typically geographic (European theater, Pacific theater, etc.) commands that combined each of the services in those places under a single commander. They all jockeyed to influence the Chiefs' annual and medium-term planning decisions. Along with unified commands, though, the post-1948 armed services also had what are called "specified" commands, which handle a specific task or tasks that the services all have identified as crucial for the larger US military. And one of those specified commands had some specified advantages.

    The Strategic Air Command was born, you might say, with a silver nuke in its mouth. The first nuclear weapons ever employed in anger were what they call gravity bombs - you drop them, they fall, no fancy guidance systems or rocket power - dropped out of B-29s of the United States Army Air Force. Soon enough after the war that became the just-plain United States Air Force, and while every kid wants to be a fighter jocks it was the bombers that bejeweled the USAF's crown. Bombers were already essential to theories of air power - the fervent faith that you really could bomb an enemy into submission - weathered the doubting Thomases of the Strategic Bombing Survey conducted after 1945 (that, among other things, showed that bombing the unimaginable fuck out of Germany mostly hardened the population's resistance rather than the opposite, and the only true successes in Japan were in killing larger numbers of people at one time than in any wartime act that wasn't part of the Holocaust.) Now it seemed the air-power guys had an ultima ratio for their critics: they had the Bomb, and others did not. Even once there was not only the Bomb but bombs, and artillery shells, and torpedos, and depth charges, and primitive rocket-fired systems, the really big bombs - the thermonuclear "hydrogen bombs" - were property of the B-29 Stratofortresses and their successors like the B-36 and jet-powered B-47. That by itself gave SAC powerful attributes.

    Also, a little like the Holy Trinity, SAC was two things (I did say a little like) at once. It was an Air Force command, part of how the service divvied up tasks and made assignments. But it was also a "specified command," that reached outside and above just the Air Force. From the moment of its birth SAC's personnel, especially its leaders, understood that potential. Too many analysts of our complex and bureaucratic age of vast organizations have treated them as mechanisms, or transactions, or a kind of flesh-and-blood machinery. They are not. They are better understood as organisms, as life forms, because they surely have the qualities thereof. They develop a kind of self awareness; they seek sustenance; they will defend themselves viciously on terms of life or death; and they seek to preserve and propagate their species. Looked at in that way, creating a coherent US policy for the possibility of nuclear war wasn't just a matter of learned arguments or technical details, it was a quite Darwinian struggle over which bureaucratic life forms were best adapted to dominate the landscape and drive out their competition. That's certainly the best way to understand SAC's part of the story.

    One part of the Cold War story that doesn't get told very often is that for most of the Truman administration the USAF's general WE SHALL END THE COMMIES IN A RAIN OF ATOMIC FIRE MWAHAHAHAHAHA approach was reckoned not to be enough. The stats Rosenberg cites are telling: the Army Air Corps had a whopping nine operational "Fat Boy" model (i.e. very large and unwieldy) bombs available in July of 1946 and the infant USAF about fifty in 1948, all of which would take nearly two weeks to assemble into a usable state with a platoon of ground crew on the job for each bomb. By the turn of the Fifties the Air Force offered up Operational Plan TROJAN (as in "works like a" presumably, successor to OPLANs HARROW, FROLIC, and HALFMOON) that envisioned a wartime knockout punch of 133 fission-model gravity bombs dropped on seventy Soviet cities. Against that the other services - in a preview of coming attractions the Navy led the charge - felt that putting all the war-plan eggs in that basket was insufficient, that despite the horrendous damage this would do the Soviets could find ways to carry on, and that strategies for reinforcing Europe across the Atlantic and strangling the Soviets' sea access to other regions (and sinking the growing Northern Red Banner Fleet of submarines) should carry equal weight with the Joint Chiefs.

    All that was complicated further by something not very far short of panic when the Soviets gained the ability to nuke America right back. Up to that point the nuclear basket into which SAC had lovingly placed all the Holy Eggs of Air Power Theory looked like (1) it didn't pack enough punch to destroy the Soviets outright, (2) lacked the flexibility and technical capacity to chase tactical (i.e. battlefield) targets, and (3) now the Commie Bastards had their own atomic bombs set to drop on American cities in turn. Any blessed assurance that SAC's Warhammer Kiloton approach to solving the thorny issues of a third world war offered a magic solution looked very much in jeopardy. A damning critique by Yale professor Bernard Brodie, brought in by the Chiefs as a consultant, showed that SAC had put no meticulous thought into its target sets: what they actually needed to hit to achieve certain effects, what the Soviets could survive and carry on without, how to destroy networks and grids like Red Army logistics or the civilian power supply. Brodie said in measured, acid tones that the SAC guys just expected Moscow to collapse under the sheer weight thrown at them, which certainly had not happened in Germany or Japan during the last war. The SAC model of Armageddon found itself in a fight for survival.

    In the Fifties SAC rose to the occasion. First SAC's second (chronological) and most famous commander, Gen. Curtis LeMay, performed a fourth-level black belt piece of bureaucratic judo. LeMay went before the ad hoc targeting panel set up through the Chiefs' good offices and said, you know, the targeting and delivery process is fucked. By implication, LeMay laid a share of the blame on the non-SAC planners. More precise photoreconnaisance (controlled through the Air Force independent of the CIA's control over other signals/technical reconnaissance assets) and a flexibility about potential targets that would let bomber crews seize opportunities, plus a more focused concentration on destroying Soviet industry in urban centers (e.g. nuking cities to wreck the Soviet war machine) would all improve the outcomes that the Chiefs and the National Security Council above them wanted. On the ground, with his genius for effective training and personnel management(Curtis LeMay was in many respects a deeply awful human being, but he never would have been a powerful deeply awful human being without deep skills at some crucial tasks) LeMay whipped SAC into shape. It was LeMay who birthed the flying elite of the Cold War Air Force, trained for hair-trigger massive response to a nuclear alert, capable of threading the needle through ever more intense Soviet air defenses to destroy the USSR's industrial heartland. LeMay also knocked SAC's planning staff into order, headhunting and occasionally recalling to service the men who'd planned the great bombing campaigns over Europe and Japan to cast a more realistic eye over the mission to dump America's nukes on the Russkies in one fell swoop.

    This was both reinforced and complicated by engineering and industrial developments. In perhaps his only real intervention in the nuclear sphere, President Truman said in vague and general terms that it was necessary for the US to maintain superiority in atomic weapons. Around the same time US engineers perfected the first thermonuclear weapon, the first "hydrogen bomb." The Nagasaki bomb had delivered a yield somewhere in the 20-25 kiloton range; the new thermonuclear "physics packages" offered vastly more devastation, yields greater than Nagasaki by a hundred times or more, even "modest" battlefield weapons anywhere from twice to a dozen times more powerful than Nagasaki's. Also by the early Fifties the Atomic Energy Commission had developed an infrastructure that would let it turn out nuclear weapons at a much faster rate. Against that, again, raced the specter of mutual doom when the Soviets tested their own "H-bomb" soon after.

    All this greatly sped up the industrial and bureaucratic drive for nuclear expansion. In practical terms there were two arms races. One was external, to make sure the US could deliver a massively more powerful and complete death blow to the Soviet Union with thermonuclear gravity bombs dropped from SAC bombers in a great combat surge. The other arms race was internal, as other commands and other services got their hands on nukes for their own purposes: miniaturized warheads for nuclear artillery for the Army to knock back the deep ranks of Soviet armor, tactical bombs and nuclear depth charges and suchlike for the Navy to end the Soviet submarine threat and eliminate Communist sea lines of communication. That dropped SAC into a two-front war: to make sure the US was more able to totally devastate the Soviets than the other way round, and to make sure SAC remained the sole indispensable military command for American nuclear war-making.

    Already, by the time a weary Harry Truman went home to Missouri and I Like Ike set up shop in the West Wing, a great industrial expansion of America's Armageddon factories was underway. From those fifty half-assembled and boiler-sized bombs when Truman battled his way to reelection, the American stockpile was now around 1,000 total. But what happened from there beggars the imagination. From that figure in 1953, by the end of the Fifties the United States armed forces' nuclear stockpile contained over eighteen thousand nuclear weapons, in a couple of dozen operational varieties, with a number of different forms, for use by each of the four services (and even the Coast Guard may have been trying to get in on the game which is fucked up, man.) In the vast and frankly wondrous postwar economic boom, America's assembly lines for megadeath played a yeoman part.

    The question, as the Eisenhower administration took shape, was what precisely the fuck were you supposed to do with all these nukes lying around? To set the scene we can quote Rosenberg's own words:
    "The United States had been launched into the era of nuclear plenty [ed. damn that man could spit bullets in print], a series of targeting categories had been approved which emphasized preemption of Soviet nuclear capability, and the Strategic Air Command had gained a major voice in how targets were collected and damage criteria established."

    (That last one is particularly important, and hard for us to pore over now using declassified sources. Rosenberg had more access when he wrote. In part the Soviets did begin relocating and "blast hardening" industry towards the geographical middle of their half-continental nation, where US bombers would have to fly the farthest distance to reach. On the other LeMay's damage-assessment guys argued - legitimate scientific tests or tendentious lobbying? - that the blast effects of early fission-only weapons had been greatly exaggerated so, in plain words, you'd need a hell of a lot more boom to kill targets the way SAC and the Chiefs wanted them killed.)

    The Eisenhower years also brought a change of mindset. To let Rosenberg make his own case again:
    "Where Harry Truman viewed the atomic bomb as an instrument of terror and a weapon of last resort, Dwight Eisenhower viewed it as an integral part of American defense, and, in effect, a weapon of first resort."

    First, over the course of his time in office Ike switched the balance of control over nuclear weapons from the Atomic Energy Commission to the military. When he entered office most nukes were held directly in the hands of the AEC. By the time he was done only about 10 percent were, usually the ones most recently produced, with the rest distributed forward to the military units that would use them if the order came. To some degree you could expect an outcome like that, especially with the Soviets (much more slowly) building up their own capacity to hit American and European targets. The biger, interlaced, questions were how would those weapons be used by the US, and who would get to decide that?

    Already on several fronts, not just nuclear, inertia favored the Air Force. Over Eisenhower's first term, the USAF averaged over 47 percent of defense spending, almost half, with the other half split between the other services. The Air Force also owned some of the best assets for assessing and choosing targets for an American attack on the USSR, and the fastest, most effective response time to any Soviet nuclear moves. In the mid-Fifties US analysts believed it would take as much as a couple of weeks for the Soviets to properly ready their nuclear forces for a massed attack on the US, preparations that would be visible, and indeed that the Soviets couldn't deliver their arsenal all at one time. As a result, the speed of SAC in marshaling American nukes to preempt a communist attack, or respond overwhelmingly before the Soviets had delivered their full capability, was crucial and made SAC that much more valuable.

    Around the same time, the Chiefs made a crucial operational and procedural decision. In order to streamline targeting - officially to let people closer to the action find and pursue targets of opportunity not planned in advance - the JCS handed the targeting process back to the unified and specified commands, of which the most-adapted to the task of course was SAC. This removed an entire senior layer of inspection and review from targeting, and opened the door for SAC to go bootstrap AF in terms of saying, "well we could hit targets Q,R, and S as well as A, B, and C, so why don't we hit X, Y, and Z too, and to ensure destruction why don't we use the most stupefyingly massive multi-megaton thermonuclear weapons we have lying around?"

    That kind of flagrant SAC bootstrapping dovetailed with the general-terms grand strategy that aggregated around the opinions and conclusions of the National Security Council. Early in Ike's second term the Net Evaluation Subcommittee - set up by the NSC to divine exactly what fresh hell they could expect from a Soviet attack on US soil and how America might both defend itself and prepare for that possibility - reported that there would be nearly a thousand Soviet bombers capable of striking the US in service by the end of the decade (both long-range aircraft and ones on suicide one-way missions, more bombers in fact than the USSR had nuclear bombs to drop at that point.) The subcommittee also reported, as Eisenhower set down in his official diary at the time, that in the month or so of warning/lead time the US likely would have before a massed Soviet attack there was not much Americans could do to defend or preserve civilian lives and infrastructure, in terms of fortifying or relocating or other such measures. That suggested two things. First, that sometime in that lead month it might be necessary for American forces to launch a preemptive attack. Second, if that were not done, that the US had to retaliate massively and totally in order to cause far worse hellfire and annihilation across the USSR than Soviet bombs had caused in the States. (This strategy was called "massive retaliation," no prizes if you see what they did there.) In both cases, no American military or administrative entity was more qualified to draw up and prosecute either of those military options than SAC.

    Then, as you find sometimes in the study of evolution, the landscape changed: into it soared the ballistic missile. In the early going among the first forges of the nuclear age, missiles tended to get written off as crude rocketry, since to that point in-flight control and ballistic accuracy hadn't yet passed beyond the OG MAKE SKY CANDLE GO FOOM stage of aeronautics. But that was changing fast, and the arrival of thermonuclear warheads meant you could loosen up strictures on accuracy (a big yield physically went farther in its effective damage range) and warhead weight (smaller packages now packed bigger punch.) The Secretary of the Air Force's deputy for R&D, Trevor Gardner, recommended opening up the field on missiles: that the US had to keep an edge on the Soviets in this technology; that for flexibility and max effect the US ought to develop both intercontinental and intermediate range with its missiles; and that the services should have a free-for-all in development. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all charged into the technological gap.

    Now SAC found itself in a brand-new two front war. On one side, other powerful entities inside the US armed forces stood to develop technology that could rival SAC's. If the development curve of ballistic missiles continued in a positive direction they would be cheaper, much faster, and over time develop an accuracy that could compete with manned bomber missions. (The quality of one's aim with a ballistic missile is called "circular error probable," defined as the radius of a circle, measured in physical distance, inside which circle at least fifty percent of all missile rounds fired would arrive.) On another front, there was the nagging problem that the external enemy got a vote too. The Soviets were developing their own ICBMs: the Sputnik program and all Soviet efforts to bridge the lofty gap into space were thoroughly dual-purpose, working out military engineering problems for nuclear weapons as much as launching satellites or charismatic cosmo-dogs. Now warning of a Soviet attack would be measured in minutes not weeks, and a favorite target might very well be the bases for all those nasty American bombers. This posed one practical problem for US policy as a whole: it would take a few years before ballistic missiles could take the nuclear lead for the States, and in the meanwhile you had to keep those strategic bomber resources secure against attack. It posed another problem for SAC in particular: now other military entities would have technology and counter-arguments to start taking parts of SAC's indispensable job away from SAC.

    SAC got its first leg up on the defensive end of things. A major report for President Eisenhower that arrived midway through his second term concluded there was more or less fuck-all you could do to protect America's cities, farms, and population from nuclear devastation if the Soviets launched an attack. The solution then was to deter that attack by making sure SAC's bombers survived and Moscow lived in such fear those bombers would spread their wings on the fold and breathe death across Eurasia that Moscow wouldn't risk throwing the first punch. That gave SAC breathing space.

    While SAC managed to remain the center of nuclear conversations, the command had bootstrapped the space-time-defying shit out of its mission brief. Already by Ike's reelection SAC had identified 2,997 justifiable (but justified how, I hear you say, hold on to that) Soviet targets. As photoreconnaissance capabilities multiplied manyfold with the U-2 and other advances, by the end of that second term SAC had bumped up its "yeah, we should maybe hit that" list to over twenty thousand targets. Some were "munitions depots" smaller than your local National Guard armory, others secondary and tertiary railway junctions in the middle of goddamn nowhere. But, while the mission remained "destroy the Soviet Union's economic and war-making infrastructure," you could stretch and stretch, strap your boot all out of straps, on and on. Especially if no one came and knocked on the door at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska where SAC had its headquarters, and took a look at your maps.

    In response to SAC's logic-defying targeting death spiral, the Army and Navy went green. The Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, and the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Arleigh Burke, did not invent the term overkill, but without its use attacked SAC's plans on those grounds, in particular the environmental and human damage likely from such a gratuitous and geographically vast use of yigh-yield nuclear weapons. As Rosenberg puts it, Blast radii were huge, and there were as many as seventeen overlaps in a single location." Seventeen. Seven-motherfucking-teen. Let that sink in. Sure there is such a thing as prudent military redundancy. If your target is Joe (Stalin) & Nikita (Kruschev)'s Bar & Grill & Social Club with an address of The Very Beating Heart of Commietown, Moscow, maybe you do want three or four weapons' warheads ranged in on it just to assure one hits home. But seventeen?!? Really, guys. With that shot across the bow, the other service chiefs formally awakened SAC and the Air Force more broadly to the bureaucratic threat the other services posed if they could not only challenge the logical excesses of SAC but also provide practical technological alternatives.

    It was the Navy who really came through. Up to Ike's reelection both Big Green and the Squids had been involved in a joint project to develop an intermediate-range ballistic missile. That split up, and the navy carried on with what they labeled the "Polaris" (North Star) project. Within another year or so it yielded a result: an IRBM with a good-sized warhead and reasonable accuracy, that you could load into missile tubes aboard new classes of nuclear-powered submarines. These new ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs, "SS" for subs, "B" for ballistic missiles, and "N" for nuclear-powered, quickly nicknamed "boomers" in the fleet) could linger at sea for long periods, however long the crew had food and mission tolerance to patrol and get home. By the technical standards of the day they were bloody hard to detect, and by the second class of SSBNs launched by the US Navy that had been upgraded to "damned near undetectable." With forward basing in Scotland, Spain (Francisco Franco says hi! Hi, indelible moral compromises of the Cold War era!), and Guam, you could keep SSBNs in striking range of just about all of the Soviet Union, largely immune to a Soviet attempt to wipe out your submarines. Already the Navy, even more than the Army, had chafed against subordinating all its nuclear-armed systems and targeting to Air Force direction, and civilians up to President Eisenhower complained about the messy snarl of non-coordination, overlap, and even potential friendly fire between USAF and USN nuclear war plans. Now, to use an Eisenhower-adjacent metaphor, the Navy had slipped a big fucking club into their golf bag.

    This touched off one of the great strategic, technological, bureaucratic, even philosophical, contests of modern times. Everything we do and say around here mitigates, rightly, against trying to reduce such fraught and complex events and processes to individual people. But we're going to do a little of that here, because we get two of the closest things in this process to an outright hero and an outright villain attached to this particular donnybrook. In one corner:

    [​IMG]

    That's Adm. Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations in the late Fifties. A son of Swedish migrants (at Ellis Island Bjorken turned into "Burke") who set down in Colorado, Burke was neither a fighter jock nor a sub driver, but a sailor's sailor, a destroyers-and-battleships man. Along with his distinguished combat career leading DESRONs (DEStroyer squadRONs) in the Pacific, he also had tours with the Navy's R&D command and in the early Fifties with the Strategic Plans division, e.g. the Atomic Apocalypse Gang. Once installed as Chief of Naval Operations, Burke made the Polaris project his personal crusade.

    Quite a few other admirals, especially air-wing and surface-warfare guys like Burke, were deeply skeptical of nuclear missiles fired from submarines. Burke believed they were a central, indeed fundamental, answer to the most important questions about stability and survival in the nuclear age. Without yet having the term "overkill" to toss around, Burke believed - and argued vigorously - that SAC had grotesquely overcompensated and overcommitted to one aspect in the universe of nuclear-warfighting possibilities, and done it in order to win once and for all the argument for Air Power Theory trying to prove that by their lonesome SAC's bombers could wage the Apocalypse itself and carry the day for the USA.

    Burke argued that this approach got, well, practically everything wrong. It encouraged an ever-spiraling arms race to deliver ever more massive retaliation by each side, an arms race that was both financially and morally ruinous. Also, with this new development arc for ballistic missiles, the bombers at the heart of SAC's case were really vulnerable now. That meant the US would live in fear of losing them to a Soviet sneak attack and easily might overreact in a crisis, launching SAC's bomber fleet on the basis only of a scare in the early-warning systems that Soviet missiles might be coming. This was and is known as a "launch-on-warning" posture, and Burke believed it was both fundamentally unstable and, because of that, a potentially disastrous recipe for unbalancing the Cold War nuclear balance into just-plain war.

    Instead Burke wanted what he described as "finite deterrence." It was finite in two ways. First, Burke had no plans or desire to use a Polaris-armed SSBN fleet to make the rubble glow at every railroad crossing in Siberia. He wanted the capacity to effectively destroy the USSR's command and control and its central urban-industrial infrastructure, leaving a nation too devastated to function effectively. In his heart of hearts he believed that for the Soviet leadership, who had lived through one kind of apocalypse already at the hands of the Nazis, with over twenty million Soviet citizens dead and a third of the USSR in ruins, would consider that damage enough that they wouldn't nuke the States just to score political points. Burke also called his model "finite" because nuclear launch from a Polaris fleet might be calibrated and relatively controlled. There was no practical way yet for the Soviets to hunt down and sink the Polaris-armed subs, they could linger at leisure rather than panic into a "general release" at the first sign of Soviet movement. They could also be used in limited numbers in reply to some kind of Soviet testing/spoiling attack, a chance to prove that both sides were ready to lay their atomic cards on the table with general war, so why not instead negotiate a cease-fire? If that failed, certainly, the Polaris fleet would have plenty enough capacity to make the outcome for Moscow the stuff of nightmares - a concrete, rational, specifically bounded fear that might induce restraint and careful choices, the very definition of deterrence.

    Against that came SAC, and in that very historical moment the reductio ad absurdum of SAC's most extreme flights of logical madness found their purest champion:

    [​IMG]
    This guy. This fucking guy.

    Now, y'all may have expected to see Curtis LeMay's bulldog face up there. No. Curtis LeMay was many things, but it is very important for this story that we understand the many things LeMay was and the many he was not. LeMay was a hard, calculating, relentless, bloody minded man. He was a gifted organizer and trainer of military organizations, and a hellhound on the trail of any strategic assignment you gave him. He was dispassionate, his will was iron, he never shied from profound cruelty towards his enemies. But he was, at a fundamental level, sane. A very particular kind of sanity marks out Curtis LeMay. He was one sort of Stanford Prison Experiment participant in spades. Not the horrified empath who recoils from torturing other humans, nor the vicious sadist who shocks them for shits and giggles. LeMay was the kind who has rules, and goals, and a mission, and if the mission requires specific, regimented, deliberate shocks delivered to the experiment's guinea pigs, LeMay would deliver precisely the load and rate of shocks required to meet his objectives. He was a man who could normalize the open door into Hell's abyss that was nuclear warfare. As he famously said to unguarded microphones when George Wallace named LeMay his running mate in 1968, what the American people didn't properly understand was that nukes were really just bigger and more powerful weapons. Through a certain lack of empathic imagination, he had already brought high-yield nukes into a universe of logic that contained the mass firebombings of Tokyo and sundry, and reasoned that the calculated, deliberate use of those weapons against Soviet targets would break Moscow's will and deliver victory. Curtis LeMay was always ready to carry out his mission.

    That's one thing. When LeMay retired in the late Fifties, he was succeeded as the boss of SAC by Gen. Thomas S. Power. LeMay was, as I say, a cold and deliberate man, ready to wield a vast wave of nuclear fire in order to do what he saw as his nation's duty with calm dispatch. Indeed he understood such acts as horrendous, as destructive, as bloody to the core. Yet he believed just as hard that in the correct circumstances they were justified, necessary for national survival, and required men tough and measured enough to see them through.

    Tom Power, on the other hand, fucking reveled in it. LeMay was a hard, unkind, surely relentless man, but in the end at the unpleasant end of the realms of sanity, the places that force us to recognize that the dull grim darkness in the human spirit is not always drawn from true madness. Tom Power may actually have been a bloodthirsty psychopath, able to game the system and rise and rise by throwing himself into the work of wiping out half the world and trumpeting the most twisted SAC logic for unfathomable overkill with the zeal of an SEC cheerleader. Certainly a number of Power's contemporaries, from rivals and enemies in other services to fellow USAF generals to civilian leadership who came upon Power with no brief one way or the other in the inter-service struggles, commented often about something ... off in his responses to others' emotional cues, his titanic lack of empathy, his ability to laugh heartily about wiping out smaller satellite nations that might not even be directly involved in a given conflict just because SAC could do it as though he were making dad jokes over coffee at the local diner, and his excited zeal at suggestions of crushing enemies under his heels and hearing the lamentations of their irradiated women. From the wiki:

    So there you have it: into this fundamental debate about the nature of nuclear war, the purpose of national strategy, and the morality of deterrence, comes a guy who makes Jack D. Ripper in Doctor Strangelove look misguided but almost noble, and Curtis LeMay like a fundraising door-knocker for the Little Sisters of the Poor. What fun.

    All right: we've got our cage-match participants here, now how did they throw down?

    With support from the other services, and from several well-placed civilian staffers and decision-makers, Burke and the Navy lobbied for what they called the "alternative undertaking." This would be a fully fleshed-out nuclear-warfighting plan apart from and largely opposed to SAC's model for targeting and the prosecution of conflict. It would focus on retaliation only, not preemption, and would make no particular efforts to specially target the Soviet military, even Soviet nukes. It would be designed around a combination of maximum deterrent effect - strikes that would devastate Soviet society so badly that Moscow could not call the aftermath any kind of victory - and might be layered or sequenced such that the US didn't hurl everything at the USSR at once but instead tried to respond in kind to whatever Moscow chose to do. It was based not on winning a nuclear war but on making nuclear war unwinnable and introducing breakwaters wherever possible where the two sides might shrink back from total destruction and choose peace, or at least a cease-fire shy of the apocalypse, instead. Besides just that nuclear-planning vision, the "alternative undertaking" had a very large lesser-included case on behalf of the non-Air Force services: the problem of limited wars with non-nuclear powers, where everybody who didn't wear light blue agreed a lot more strategic and budgetary attention ought to be given. Both Max Taylor with the Army and the whole senior leadership of the Marine Corps backed the Navy's argument that an alternative-undertaking-based strategy could transfer badly needed resources back to suiting up for potential conventional dustups that might have more to do with the nation's immediate interests than a worst case scenario with Moscow.

    This was further refined by a joint-service committee chaired by Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Hickey, that gave "finite deterrence" flesh and bone. "All-out war is obsolete as an instrument of national policy," said Hickey at the bleeding edge of his report. Saner heads would then plot out the scope of a deterrence policy that would make the most unthinkable war impossible for Moscow to choose, which would fix the Cold War in place for diplomats to chip away at while the uniformed services got back to planning and prepping for conventional (or at least non-apocalyptic) conflicts that actually could happen. They even had facts and figures in mind: a Polaris-armed force of 45 SSBNs (in practice they got 41), with roughly 29 on patrol at a given time, capable of destroying a few hundred of the most high-priority targets that would entirely cripple the USSR's urban and industrial (and command-and-control) infrastructure. They had it costed out to a reasonable amount, and had the courtesy not to touch the obvious live wire about whether that meant SAC was obsolete. Some other, tactical nuclear weapons would likely be judged necessary but beyond that was, as Douglas Adams memorably put it, Somebody Else's Problem.

    In principle, President Eisenhower agreed some with both sides but more with the philosophical thrust of the alternative undertaking. He wanted a central, streamlined command-and-planning structure for nuclear warfare to prevent infighting, point-scoring, and duplication or friendly fire. At the same time he wanted to "get it down to the deterrence," to have a force that would keep Moscow from going to war rather than a force designed to make that war the awesomest super-fantastic happy fun time a bomber pilot ever had.

    With SAC, all that shit failed to play. Like - as Hunter S. Thompson said of the late Richard Nixon - the badger that rolls over and emits a stink of death that lures in the hounds so they can be rent with the badger's claws, SAC first curled in on itself and then hit back in dramatic fashion. In one of the most soul-boggling acts of chutzpah in the history of the human species, SAC stepped right to one side of the "finite deterrence" punch and dodecahedroned-down on bootsrap targeting. Horseshit, said sac. We (said SAC) estimate that by 1963 there will be 8,300 necessary objective targets in Soviet territory in the event of war, and by 1970 the figure will reach over 10,000. Let's kick it back to Dave Rosenberg again:

    "Since multiple weapons would be assigned to each DGZ [Designated Ground Zero] in order to achieve the 90 percent assurance of destruction factor specified in Air Force war plans, this would require a force of 3,000 Minutemen [ICBMs, then in the design and testing phase], 150 Atlas, and 110 Titan ICBMs, as well as a combined total of nearly 900 B-52, B-58, B-70, and nuclear-powered [!!!] bombers by 1968."

    [​IMG]
    Actual footage of the Strategic Air Command J-5 plans division, c. 1959

    At the same time, SAC learned to stop worrying and love "counterforce" strategy: that is to say, a plan for nuclear war that isn't so much about laying waste cities and nations, as it is striking the other side's nukes before those Horsemen of the Apocalypse get out of the barn. For SAC the great things about counterforce strategy were twofold. One, at a time qualms were rising about the deliberate destruction of Soviet society as a first-choice policy, counterforce made nuclear destruction acceptable again by saying that, rather like the TV Westerns beloved of Fifties viewers, you aimed to shoot the six-gun out of the other feller's hand. On top of that, finding, tracking, and successfully killing all the counterforce targets you hoped to kill justified nearly endless layers of weapons-system redundancy and a model of action that married up nicely with SAC's extant "at the first twitch from the Russkies we hit 'em with every damn thing from out of the blue" model for warfighting.

    SAC also jumped right up in the streamlining-and-coordination game. Of course this should all be centrally planned, targeted, and coordinated, SAC said. And guess who has two thumbs and the best possible resume that job? they added. Fortunately for the Navy, from the Navy's point of view, they had a counterargument handy: SSBN ops would have to integrate with the rest of naval operations at sea for strictly practical reasons of logistics and seamanship, and land-lubbers had no business involving themselves in that without practical experience. At the same time Gen. Nathan Twining, then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an Air Force man to his fingertips, operated on a different front and dragged what we could call the Overton Window of nuclear war plans in SAC's direction. Twining made concessions to Hickey's commission, pared down the target list to a little over 2,000, and called for an "optimum mix" of countervalue and counterforce targets - with plenty enough of the latter, and enough reliance on land-based means of delivery, to ensure SAC's predominance in the process.

    In the meanwhile the shadows and demons of nuclear conflict, spurred on perhaps by his personal brush with death a few years earlier, came to dominate Dwight Eisenhower's mind. All that truly counted, Ike now reckoned, was deterrence, because the whole point was no longer massive destruction to assure victory or even massive retaliation, but rather massive deterrence to make sure such a war never happened. This struck the Air Force as worrisome, especially when Ike killed their darling the B-70 supersonic bomber, with its vast fiscal cost and vulnerability (as the U-2 Incident showed) to new Soviet surface-to-air missiles. All of a sudden Ike was no longer playing ball.

    At the same time, SAC could yet grab hold of a few threads in Ike's troubled consciousness and pull thereupon. Eisenhower didn't believe Polaris was fully proven yet, and the old Supreme Commander was leery of weighing the scales too far in favor of one service. He also believed Polaris' prime immediate usefulness was to "clear the way" for bombers and Ike continued to presume that any American response to Soviet nuclear action would need to be fast, not measured or calculated.

    In the end SAC could bank on the inertia of tired men. As the odometer rolled toward 1960 Eisenhower and his recently-minted Secretary of Defense Thomas Gates (Gates had worked his way up the Pentagon food chain under Ike and was no stranger to the debates) decided they needed a centralized operations and planning system for nuclear warfare even more than it needed to be any good. So they handed the ball to SAC and by God SAC ran with it.

    upload_2019-5-3_16-4-11.jpeg
    "Hands off, realists! Where we're going, we don't need rationales!"

    They called it the Single Integrated Operational Plan, or in the usual military acronym-argot, SIOP. (That's with a hard "i" and "op" like the first syllable of "operation.") It blasted SAC's Greatest Hits loud and proud. Vast resources? Check. Hair-trigger delivery planning? Check. Making all the other services carry water several steps behind the Vaunted SAC Legions? Check. Grotesquely pointless overcommitment of resources to individual targets? Check. Massive weapon yields designed to satisfy spurious damage metrics that were themselves designed to justify massive yields? Check. Target list 29 percent longer than anything authorized at the level of the Chiefs or the civilian "principals" of the NSC? Check. All the engines were humming at Offutt AFB and Tom Power whistled along with a happy tune.

    The Navy, however, jumped SIOP as it got up off the bench, much less before it trotted out onto the court. And they brought in outside help. Harvard prof George Kistiakowsky, one of the unsung geniuses of nuclear planning analysis, came in to give the highlight-reel CONPLAN (concept plan) for SIOP a once-over. Like most people who neither wore light-blue uniforms nor were based in a few square miles of Nebraska, Kistiakowsky was fucking appalled. Very little if any of it made operational sense. As Kistiakowsky said with scathing plainness, it was not an operational plan, one based on specific estimates of how to destroy or deny resources and capabilities to the Soviet Union so as to break its capacity to fight or carry on the normal activities of a complex society. It was instead a capabilities plan, that is to say "lets see how many nukes we can fling at the wall and watch what sticks!" plan. As he went on Kistkiakowsky grew more blunt. A lot of SAC's much touted computer procedures and calculations were to his mind "sheer bull" and only existed to justify the stupefying excess of warheads and megatonnage SAC intended to pile on more targets than any truly joint decision-making body could justify (a few Navy officers had been allowed to tag along with SAC's targeting process because yay tokenism! In a defeatist mood the Army simply turned that opportunity down.) And, once Kistiakowsky explained that the plan's alert force (bombers kept in the air at all times, and selected SSBNs and ICBMs on especially hair-trigger alert) was probably about right in proportion, the rest of the whole meshiver would throw four and five and six too many megatons at people and places that were already dead.

    Understandably, Kistiakowsky's counter-briefing on SIOP for Ike was an exercise in "How To Frighten The Actual Shit Out of An Old White Man's Body." SIOP's level of overkill nearly made Eisenhower physically ill. Over at the CNO's office Arleigh Burke lined up a taxi rank of detailed objections and wanted SIOP subjected to rigorous war-gaming. But SAC meanwhile had done something else that great strategists do: they had played the clock. It was now in medias res of 1960, with a new administration just months from taking office. Given that, it would be a dereliction of duty if they didn't prep and submit SIOP-62 (the Single Integrated Operational Plan for fiscal year 1962 which would start in the federal system in September of 1961.) The plan that everyone outside the Air Force hated would become a reality because in order to preserve bureaucratic norms there just wasn't time to start over.

    And so the seed was planted. We'll let Rosenberg give a quick summing up on the Eisenhower experience:

    "Eisenhower's decision to produce ... SIOP was primarily a response to organizational rather than strategic concerns. Irritated and frustrated by the private and public disagreements between his service chiefs, he was determined to impose unity, and never fully understood the gravity of the disputes over nuclear targeting and strategy which raged in the JCS during his final three years in office."

    During those three years too, we could point out, the US nuclear arsenal more than tripled, from a bit over six thousand warheads to around twenty thousand. This made Ike's valedictory address about the dangers of the military-industrial complex rich with enough irony to kill four stadiums' worth of British comedians. In that environment of plenty SAC frolicked amid the missile forests and soared with the bomber fleets above the trees.

    The next few years compounded and confirmed the sheer damning fudge of letting SIOP in the door to prove that they hadn't screwed up or wasted their time. Two particularly apt developments elaborate the theme:

    • The Giant With Feet of Clay we know as Robert McNamara hemmed and fussed about the edges of SIOP with think-tanks in tow, wanting something that had more calculated damage limitations and the ability to target more selectively. This watered itself down through inertia in the face of complexity and McNamara's own timidity in actually cleaning house with the relevant uniformed powers into gradations of SIOP, "limited" and "full" versions of the plan. All the worst elements survived: targeting China and satellite nations even if the beef was with Moscow, and vice versa if the beef was with Beijing; massive overcommitment of resources; pell-mell application and blanket targeting; the fact that the "limited" and "full" versions were not really that in any practical operational sense but really just "little" and "big" versions of SIOP's unthinking "wargasm"
    • In order to restrict access to the targeting process - following Ben Bradlee's iron rule that you create secrecy when you don't want people to know the truth - SAC created a special classification level for access to the actual targeting mechanisms and details and metrics that went into SIOP, a classification level designed to exclude members of the Joint Chiefs and for that matter also senior civilian principals up to and possibly including the President of the United States, all just for good measure
    Against this admirals and think-tankers and secretaries and muddy-boots generals and presidents fumed and prowled and agonized and kvetched and fiddled or sulked around the edges. But none of them actually tackled SIOP and its creation of a military within the military and a state within the state - a sort of set of nuclear Templars, not fully beholden to Crown nor Pope - in a direct, comprehensive way. Not Kennedy with his charm and iconoclasm towards the Chiefs. Not Lyndon Johnson with his colossal self and iron-fisted grandiosity. Not Richard Nixon with his Machiavellian flair and relentless, proactive paranoia. Not Jimmy Carter with his technocrat's eye for meticulous detail. Sure as hell not Saint Ronald of Pacific Pallisades, though his own horror at a full SIOP briefing played a substantive role in his voluble, sincere, if slightly naive, negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev to eliminate all nuclear weapons. It took the sheer inertia of an entire generation and the substantive end of the Cold War before SIOP could at last be undone. Even then too many of its habits of mind linger.

    But the sky of alternate history is a broad horizon, and full of Butterflies. What else might have happened? We'll have to see.
     
  10. wolverinethad InfoSec for America

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    Because I am a benevolent provider of hard to access information (having dug out the Rosenberg publication for @Yes and his edification, of course I'm tooting my horn, it's not like anyone else will ;)), a one-time, special, limited offer for the readers of this epic story: The Origins of Overkill, in PDF form.
     
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  11. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Thank you very, very, very much kind sir! And trumpet away and I'll join in too. Besides being a Turtledove-winning author who can mix it up with loose nukes, Big Bad John Connally in Watergateland, and the P&Sverse in equal measure, @wolverinethad's been an irreplaceable resource and an invaluable friend in my own adventures in nukeland and other frontiers besides. This is quality stuff folks: get yer PDFs while they're hot! And full credit with tremendous thanks to @wolverinethad in the preparation of this appropriately acronymed BDNE!
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
  12. Wayside If It Were Up To Me

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    The history of the American nuclear program will never fail to stun me. How many silos built, how many lives spent training, how many tense meetings and office dramas and designs drawn up and discarded, how much blood and treasure and materiel spent... for an event that would take less than a day and lead to nothing ever mattering again.
     
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  13. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    This is a wonderful summation. Hang on to that one in your back pocket. I pray you only need it for literary purposes.
     
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  14. Wayside If It Were Up To Me

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    It's how I think about a lot of history, but reading Command and Control shook me in ways I didn't necessarily expect.
     
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  15. Bulldoggus Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion

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    First airplanes now this.
     
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  16. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    I suppose it's a bad time to mention my great-grandmother came by one of these honestly in her collection, for fund-raising. Over time it passed to one of my cousins so I don't have the original but Google was my amigo finding a match for it:

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Command and Control is a stone-cold Thing. Should be required reading for American citizens.
     
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  18. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Also if we're really going to be pedantic an aircraft is an aeronautical machine that flies in the sky, and an airplane is a dimension of aerodynamic physics... :openedeyewink::openedeyewink::openedeyewink:
     
  19. Bulldoggus Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion

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    You know if the mods didn’t run such a tight ship I’d be spamming videos of plane crashes, right?
     
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  20. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    :cool::cool::cool:
     
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