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Science campaign

Nice names for nukes

In case we had forgotten why bringing democracy to Iraq was important, George W. Bush reminded us in his speech to the American Legion yesterday:

Governments accountable to the voters focus on building roads and schools – not weapons of mass destruction.

This is slightly odd, since democracies such as the US, the UK and India spend quite a lot of money on “weapons of mass destruction”. But what if you gave these activities soothing names? Instead of a “weapons of mass destruction-related program activity”, for example, you could say that you were engaged in a “Science Campaign” . . .

Look how it works. The US military budget for fiscal year 2007 will include nearly $20 billion to be spent on designing new nuclear weapons and maintaining old ones. This budget is split between the Department of “Defense” and the Department of Energy. (Nuclear weapons sure release a lot of energy, so it is only natural that the Department of Energy, even though it doesn’t sound very belligerent, should be involved.) One section of the DoE’s 2007 budget request on nuclear weapons is what they call the “Science Campaign” [Vol 1, p93]. Well, we all like science (as long as it’s “sound”). A Science Campaign is presumably unlike a military campaign and more like an advertising campaign, making for better living through science, persuading the public of how brilliant science is. Some sort of public-education initiative, right? Not exactly:

The goal of the Science Campaign is to develop improved capabilities to assess the safety, reliability, and performance of the nuclear physics package of weapons without further underground testing; enhance readiness to conduct underground nuclear testing as directed by the President; and develop essential scientific capabilities and infrastructure.

Oh, so the Science Campaign is about designing better nukes and testing them. Well, that’s science too. (The Science Campaign money alone, by the way, is three times the amount devoted to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative [Vol 1, p559], designed to secure nuclear weapons and material around the world in order to prevent them “falling into the hands”, as it is always curiously phrased, of “the terrorists”. GTRI gets $107 million, or about 0.5% of the US’s nuclear-weapons budget.)

How to reconcile all this with the President’s statement that “governments accountable to the voters” do not “focus on building […] weapons of mass destruction”? Perhaps the operative emphasis is on focus. Sure, the US spends a bunch on nukes, but it focuses on building roads and schools. And indeed, there is $39.8 billion earmarked for highway spending in the Department of Transport’s 2007 budget. How’s that for focus? (Please do not carp about global warming etc.)

The other tempting interpretation of Bush’s remark, of course, is that the US was never meant to be included in the comparison, because he simply does not consider his government “accountable to the voters”. But that’s the kind of interpretation you’d expect from folks who appeased the Nazis in the 1930s.

  1. 1  arbuthnotite  September 1, 2006, 4:39 pm 

    Hey, he had his “accountability moment” two years ago. You can’t seriously expect him to be accountable, like, all the time.

  2. 2  abb1  September 1, 2006, 7:14 pm 

    That’s right: he’s earned capital in that election and now he’s spending it – it’s his style.

    And it’s one of the wonderful — it’s like earning capital. You asked, do I feel free. Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That’s what happened in the — after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I’ve earned capital in this election — and I’m going to spend it for what I told the people I’d spend it on, which is — you’ve heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.

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