…by Karna Small Bodman
Our Rogue Women Writers current topic is weapons of all kinds. Many of us are writing about research we have done so that any descriptions we use in our thrillers turn out to be accurate — not always an easy task considering the influence of television and movies showing all sorts of villains utilizing everything from guns to “new-fangled” gizmos to inflict damage to our heroes and heroines.
When I decided to finally sit down and create my political thrillers, I knew that I wanted to write about international intrigue and national security scenarios where various government or “rogue” militant groups try to create threats, take power, increase profits, seek revenge or maintain control in all sorts of nefarious ways. What kinds of “weapons” do they use in order to get what they want (or cause havoc for their perceived enemies)?
Looking back through history, one can see what whenever a new weapon is invented, a defense is developed at about the same time. The sword vs. the shield, the gun vs. a bullet proof vest, poison gas vs. gas masks, bombers vs. stinger missiles — you get the idea. Now think about the most devastating weapon the “bad guys” could use today: a nuclear weapon. And yes, we needed a defense against one of those too.
When I served in the Reagan White House I became quite intrigued with the President’s announcement of his Strategic Defense Initiative or “Star Wars” as one columnist dubbed it. I’ll never forget listening to his famous speech announcing a new initiative to try to develop a system to destroy an incoming missile.
But that announcement was met with loud negative reactions from many quarters. Some diplomats at the State Department were saying, “Missile Defense? Who does he think he is – Superman – hitting a bullet with a bullet? That’s crazy. It’ll never work, so we’ll just recommend trading it away in Arms Control Talks to the Soviets in exchange for some of their big missiles, and that will be good for us.”
Then some of the officers over at the Pentagon were saying, “Missile Defense? We have no idea how that would work, but we’ll put out a bunch of contracts with defense contractors to see if someone can come up with a decent program to carry out a Presidential order. It’ll cost a ton of money. However, that’ll force the Soviets to spend a ton of money to try to keep up with us which will bankrupt their system, and that will be good for us.” (And of course, that happened!)
I heard the President take a third position many times — it was his “moral approach.” Our policy at the time was “Mutual Assured Destruction” – we called it “MAD” — that said in effect that if the Soviets (or any other bad outfit) launched a nuclear armed missile our way — even by mistake — it would kill millions of innocent Americans. And all we could do in retaliation, if it had a return address, would be to send one back their way, killing millions of their innocent people. He said that this is not the way he wanted to conduct his foreign policy.
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He wanted to task our best scientists to try and develop a defensive system that would stop a missile before ANYBODY dies. And his great line was, “Wouldn’t it be better to save lives than avenge lives?” And so the Missile Defense Agency was born which has been doing research, conducting tests, deploying interceptors along with sophisticated radar detection systems all over the world, including some that are sea-based like this one to the right.
We are now working with a number of countries including Israel, which has had great success with their own Iron Dome missile defense system. We also have arrangements with Japan, Germany, England, France, other Eastern European countries (finally) as well as Scandinavian allies.
Right now our MDA has developed land, sea and airborne systems that are quite exciting. In fact, in the last several years, they have had 65 successful tests against ballistic missile targets and are working constantly to protect the homeland as well as our troops deployed overseas along with our allies. We do have interceptors on the West Coast at Vandenberg Air Force Base, but none as yet on the East Coast. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to invest in a system there?
All of this was, as I said in the beginning, so intriguing to me – having watched it all play out inside the West Wing as well as in Arms Control Talks with the Soviets in Geneva, I simply had to write a thriller about the concept – which was turned into my very first novel Checkmate. So yes, there are many scenarios where enemies of the United States might conjure up ways to threaten or attack us. The Soviets thought our missile defense system would work — which was, in itself, a deterrent to their ever firing a nuke in the first place. And so I’ll keep watching for more scientific breakthroughs in all sorts of defensive weapons and I, along with many other thriller writers, will undoubtedly try to keep writing about all of them in the future.
Now, please leave a comment and let us know about some “defensive weapons” you have read about that allow you to “sleep better” at night knowing they are available to protect you.
…by Karna Small Bodman
I didn't know that missile defense is still a viable project. I wonder whether it will work against North Korea. Thanks
It's a continual circle, isn't it? A weapon is developed, a defense is developed, a weapon in improved to get around the defense. Good blog, Karna. Thanks!
John – thanks for your question — one of the very reasons to have missile defense interceptors based at Vandenberg AFB is to protect us from North Korea. However, we have the added protection of the Aegis System aboard ships that are out in the Pacific for just that purpose as well. Appreciate your checking our blog here.
What a great blog post, Karna! You know so much about the subject, and you have such intimate experience that you help all of us to understand … and give reason to dramatize it!
I have friends from Israel whose daughter was doing her mandatory service in the IDF. She said the first time she saw the Dome in action she just stood there and gawked–until a more senior officer told her to take cover and stop being an idiot. It definitely works. Your explanation of the systems was great.