"Maximizing Human Death was the Principal Goal"

When the Pentagon pondered plans to weaponize the weather.


Over at Salon, an article adapted from Jacob Darwin Hamblin's upcoming book Arming Mother Nature looks at a bizarre byway of the Cold War: the Pentagon's proposals to weaponize the weather. The "immediate post-Sputnik years," Hambloin writes,

You tease, and you flirt, and you shine all the buttons on your green shirt.

had a peculiar air, both of desperation and of opportunity. Doors were wide open to a range of technological possibilities. Nearly anything that was technically feasible made it to the highest levels of discussion. For starters, that meant revisiting the questions surrounding biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. But it also sparked discussion of the ambitious, the horrendous, and the quirky. Like wildcatters exploring for oil, American scientists grasped desperately around them, striving to ?nd the next weapon of the future….

The only thing not in doubt in these discussions was that maximizing human death was the principal goal. Which was better, [Edward] Teller and his colleagues asked—drowning villages along the coast, igniting the countryside with thermal radiation, or simply laying waste a city? Should humans be contaminated through the food chain, or beat into submission through ecological dependence?

The excerpt ends with a hint of the argument that I gather is at the heart of the book: that the Pentagon, rather than the counterculture, was the birthplace of what the author calls "catastrophic environmentalism." An interesting thesis, and I'm certainly curious to read more.