Both before and after his service in the US Navy during World War II, my father worked in a defense plant, the US Army Arsenal at Watervliet, New York, just a couple of miles up the road from Albany.
He spent 33 years there before retiring and for most of those 33 years I had little to no idea exactly what it was he did. I knew he was a machinist and that over time he was promoted to foreman and then general foreman in charge of the 'minor components department.' That was it.
But every May on Armed Forces Day, the normally secure Arsenal would open its gates to the public, and we could go in to see military displays and demonstrations. There were tanks, artillery pieces, armored personnel carriers, and one year there was a rope slide that simulated one used in the training to become an Army paratrooper. I spent more than an hour in line that year, waiting to be fastened into a harness, then stepping off the tower for a five-second flight.
But on those days I also had an opportunity to tour the machine shops where Dad worked, and view the weaponry that the Arsenal produced. In the late 60s, after I was in the Marines, that included refitting the huge 16-inch diameter barrels for the guns on the USS New Jersey battleship that was firing support for ground operations in Vietnam.
Before that though, there was a year when my Dad showed me the barrels for 'Atomic cannons.' He said they were specially built artillery pieces that could accommodate low-yield atomic shells. We talked about using 'The Bomb' on the battlefield and how dangerous it would be to our troops. We discussed how foolish it would be for an enemy to force us to use such weapons, but more important was what my father told me about my opportunity to see such displays.
"If you can see it," he said, "it is already obsolete."
Dad's observation came back to me with an unexpected force when the news was released this week that the Chinese used a land-launched rocket to destroy an old weather satellite in outer space. Their satellite orbits are at roughly the same altitude as many of our weather, communications and military intelligence satellites, meaning they could destroy our satellites too, if so inclined.
Regular readers of this column know that observers of the international scene have been warning repeatedly that the Chinese and Russians are pulling strings behind the scenes in the War on Terror, keeping us focused on the North Koreans, the Iranians, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Somalia, Bosnia, and other hot spots du jour. Meanwhile, the Chinese have been making great strides in weaponry and building their land- and sea-based forces to a point where they can challenge the US military.
In the last 15 years, specifically during the Clinton Administration, the Chinese were given electronic technology that enabled them to move ahead exponentially in missile guidance systems. This technology was characterized by the Clinton Administration as useful only in video games, but it also could be, and was, quickly adapted for military use. The Chinese also got docking rights at former Navy installations on the West Coast including San Diego; they stole the stealth technology for our fighters and bombers rendering that technology obsolete; and they stole the technology that enables our SONAR operators to hear their submarines trying to sneak up on our ships.
Prior to that, during the Carter Administration, that former president gave up our control over the Panama Canal, potentially risking our abilities to quickly move ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific if necessary; and he altered our treaty with the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan, much to the favor of the mainland communist Chinese who want to take over Taiwan and eliminate any form of a democratic Chinese government.
All these blunders, concessions, lapses, missteps and manipulations not only have put our troops at risk, they have put the entirety of the US mainland at risk. The capability to destroy satellites doesn't have to stop at military communications and spy satellites.
They can destroy civilian satellites eliminating cell phone communications, wireless computer networks, business and banking transactions, and global positioning for everyone from interstate truckers to recreational hikers.
Also, in the last couple of months the Chinese have been getting more and more aggressive.
As I wrote last month, short shrift is given in the media to a Chinese submarine evading our best sonar capabilities and sneaking up to well within torpedo range of one of our aircraft carriers in the Pacific. Reports say the US Navy didn't know it was there until it surfaced.
The media also glosses over the revelation that a naturalized US citizen gave our stealth aircraft secrets to the Chinese, making the Stealth bomber more like a bull in a China shop than the ultimate sneak attack weapon; we hear nearly nothing of the successful test by India of an anti-missile system while ours is hung up on a technicality; and it was only last month that the Chinese had advanced as far as shooting a laser beam at one of our satellites.
They have come a long way in just one month.
I repeat. We are focusing on the small screen while the real threats to our country and form of government are being studiously ignored. This doesn't mean that the Islamo-fascists and other terrorists aren't dangerous. They are, and we should kill or neutralize every last one of them.
But I maintain that the missile and bomb testing in Korea, and the on-again, off-again threats from Iran were diversions engineered by the Chinese and Russians trying one last time to impose a new world order of communism on the religious zealots who just can't seem to find enough room for each other to exist peacefully. If we eliminate the source of the money and arms that keeps the terrorists going, we will have made great strides in ending this round of terrorism.
So what do we do about the fact that the Chinese have advanced in one short month from "painting" a US satellite with a laser to blasting one of their own to smithereens with a rocket?
Well, I suggest we come out and admit that we are in a global struggle with communism, again or still, and that it is time to let the Chinese know that despite the allure of their potential markets, we are taking the gloves off. They have a foreign trade balance, thanks primarily to us, while we have a foreign trade deficit, thanks in great part to them.
We have had two simpering pro-communist presidents in the last three decades, which is two too many, and they have put us back on our heels in a dangerously defensive position.
So, make a good offense our best defense. I say, sail ten "Boomers," those huge ICBM carrying subs, right up to the Chinese coast, underwater of course, put one in Hong Kong Harbor, one in the Huang He (Yellow) River; one in the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) River; a couple in the strait between Taiwan and the mainland, and a few others in locations that would shock the Chinese leadership simply because we could put them there without anyone knowing it.
Then, on a pre-arranged signal, surface simultaneously, and open up the missile ports. I believe there are 16 per sub, meaning 160 nuclear missiles looking right at the communist heartland.
Then President Bush should instant message Hu Jintao, the leader of China's communists with one word. MIRV.
Remember MIRVs. Multiple-Independently targeted-Reentry-Vehicles. A MIRV-tipped rocket carrying five separate warheads sends an unmistakable message.
Let's say that we do that. 160 missiles, times 5 warheads each, equals 800 warheads, of Oh, let's say 10 MEGA-tons each. Can you say Ta-ta?
I'm not kidding. Our leftist Democratic party loves to call Bush a cowboy, and they don't mean that in a positive way. OK, cowboy, it's high noon. Let's see what you got.
In a street fighting environment, what the Chinese have done amounts to strolling down someone else's turf, insulting everyone you come in contact with, shoving people around, and bad mouthing the guys who claim control over that area.
In a street fighting environment, the way you handle a situation like that is to round up every badass in your group, surround the intruders before they can get back to their territory, kick the living crap out of them, kill their leader, kill the entire next level of authority, and bash the leaders of the second and third tiers hard, really hard, so they'll remember it and won't try that crap again.
If we don't send a real and unmistakable message, right now, the Chinese will assume that we have been bluffing all along and the next time out they won't take out one satellite, they'll take out a few dozen. And it won't be one of theirs, it will be a few dozen of ours.
In the meantime, it is high time to launch our killer satellite killers. Whatever happened to President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative? Remember Star Wars, his initiative to make space safe for us that the Democrats and the left ridiculed and then ended as soon as they had the votes? Remember that? Where is it now that we need it?
Does anyone have an answer? Mrs. Pelosi? Mr. Reid? Mr. Franks? Ms. Boxer? Mr. Obama? Mr. Murtha? Mr. Kerry? Mr. or Mrs. Clinton? Answers please!
I took a ride up Route 787 in the Albany area last month. My route took me right past the Watervliet Arsenal, which you can see from the highway. My Dad retired from there in the mid-70s, he has been gone for nearly 8 years now, and it has been nearly 50 years since I took those Armed Forces Day tours of the Arsenal.
But the building where he spent about a third of his life is still there, and there even are some huge battleship gun barrels stacked up right in front of it.
I don't know what they make there anymore. But whatever it is, I hope that they still show some of it off on Armed Forces Day. And I hope it is far more advanced than what the Chinese have. And I hope it is already obsolete. I fear we are going to need everything we have, right now.
Friday, January 19, 2007