Sunday, October 24, 2004

Somewhere Under the Radar

My Dad was convinced to the day he died that the Japanese and Chinese would one day get together and stab us in the back. Where he got this notion I have no idea. It wasn’t that he harbored bad feelings about Asians—he didn’t have any discernable animus towards the many Nisei who lived in our town—and his prophesy was certainly not based on any knowledge of the history of the region or the culture or languages of the peoples involved–he didn’t have any of that either. When he would pronounce on the matter, I tried to suggest that the Chinese had every reason to hate the Japanese, but he waved that off with a smile as if I were being na├»ve. The strangest thing about his conviction on this issue is that he never acted as if the forthcoming reversal of alliances was at all important. It was just something he absolutely, positively could foresee. What was impressive was his perfect assurance that he was right.

Maybe Beijing and Tokyo will get together one of these days, possibly inspired by old Fu Manchu novels. That’s not why I recall this bit. It’s just that I get my own premonitions from time to time and have to remind myself that they may sound—or be—as quirky and unsupported as Dad’s offhanded warnings about the Yellow Peril. For example, I’m quite sure that the Star Wars anti-missile system is a fraud; and my skepticism about it has very little to do with the widely-held opinion in the scientific community that the whole thing is a crock. I mean that’s a good reason not to think the thing will work, but it’s not my reason. After all, from that kind of reasoning one could arrive at the reasonable guess that the system is impractical but never achieve the kind of total confidence that runs in my family. On the other hand, unlike my father, who was as absolute in his oracles as a Priestess of Apollo, I do have some reason for what I think though maybe my syllogisms are only suitable for a Sibyl. Anyhow.

This is the theory that I have and the theory that is mine. If there were any real prospect of an anti-missile missile system really working, we wouldn’t have heard a word about it. Whenever practical and important weapon systems are in the works, they are treated as the darkest of state secrets as in the case of the Manhattan Project and more recently of stealth aircraft, which never appeared on the radar until they didn’t appear on the radar. The technical possibility of atom bombs and undetectable planes was indeed suggested long before the realization of either—my Dad, for example, had heard about the possibility of nuclear weapons from his physics profs at UCLA in the early 30s—but once the technology became something that could be realized in a matter of years, all mention was squelched. Indeed, I understand that the Germans gleaned some inkling of what was up when many topics in atomic physics disappeared from journal articles in the 40s. On the other hand, since we hear a very great deal about Star Wars indeed, it’s obvious that nobody in the military expects it to work. QED.

Next week: news about Knight Templars.

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