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The Pentagon’s New Wonder Weapons for World Dominion
Or Buck Rogers in the 21st Century
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[This piece has been adapted and expanded from Alfred W. McCoy’s new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.]

Not quite a century ago, on January 7, 1929, newspaper readers across America were captivated by a brand-new comic strip, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It offered the country its first images of space-age death rays, atomic explosions, and inter-planetary travel.

“I was twenty years old,” World War I veteran Anthony “Buck” Rogers told readers in the very first strip, “surveying the lower levels of an abandoned mine near Pittsburgh… when suddenly… gas knocked me out. But I didn’t die. The peculiar gas… preserved me in suspended animation. Finally, another shifting of strata admitted fresh air and I revived.”

Staggering out of that mine, he finds himself in the 25th century surrounded by flying warriors shooting ray guns at each other. A Mongol spaceship overhead promptly spots him on its “television view plate” and fires its “disintegrator ray” at him. He’s saved from certain death by a flying woman warrior named Wilma who explains to him how this all came to be.

Mongol airships fire disintegrator rays to destroy America. (Buck Rodgers, 2429 A.D., 2-9-1929, Roland N. Anderson Collection)

Mongol airships fire disintegrator rays to destroy America.
(Buck Rodgers, 2429 A.D., 2-9-1929, Roland N. Anderson Collection)

“Many years ago,” she says, “the Mongol Reds from the Gobi Desert conquered Asia from their great airships held aloft by gravity Repellor Rays. They destroyed Europe, then turned toward peace-loving America.” As their disintegrator beams boiled the oceans, annihilated the U.S. Navy, and demolished Washington, D.C. in just three hours, “government ceased to exist, and mobs, reduced to savagery, fought their way out of the cities to scatter and hide in the country. It was the death of a nation.” While the Mongols rebuilt 15 cities as centers of “super scientific magnificence” under their evil emperor, Americans led “hunted lives in the forests” until their “undying flame of freedom” led them to recapture “lost science” and “once more strike for freedom.”

After a year of such cartoons filled with the worst of early-twentieth-century Asian stereotypes, just as Wilma is clinging to the airship of the Mongol Viceroy as it speeds across the Pacific , a mysterious metallic orb appears high in the sky and fires death rays, sending the Mongol ship “hissing into the sea.” With her anti-gravity “inertron” belt, the intrepid Wilma dives safely into the waves only to have a giant metal arm shoot out from the mysterious orb and pull her on board to reveal — “Horrors! What strange beings!” — Martians!

Space Warrior Wilma is pulled from the Pacific into a Martian space orb.
(Buck Rodgers, 2430 A.D., 2-27-1930, Roland N. Anderson Collection)

With that strip, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century moved from Earth-bound combat against racialized Asians into space wars against monsters from other planets that, over the next 70 years, would take the strip into comic books, radio broadcasts, feature films, television serials, video games, and the country’s collective conscious. It would offer defining visions of space warfare for generations of Americans.

Back in the 21st Century

Now imagine us back in the 21st century. It’s 2030 and an American “triple canopy” of pervasive surveillance systems and armed drones already fills the heavens from the lower stratosphere to the exo-atmosphere. It can deliver its weaponry anywhere on the planet with staggering speed, knock out enemy satellite communications at a moment’s notice, or follow individuals biometrically for great distances. It’s a wonder of the modern age. Along with the country’s advanced cyberwar capacity, it’s also the most sophisticated military information system ever created and an insurance policy for global dominion deep into the twenty-first century.

That is, in fact, the future as the Pentagon imagines it and it’s actually under development, even though most Americans know little or nothing about it. They are still operating in another age, as was Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential debates when he complained that “our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917.”

With words of withering mockery, President Obama shot back: “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed… the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities.” Obama then offered just a hint of what those capabilities might be: “We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about space.”

Indeed, working in secrecy, the Obama administration was presiding over a revolution in defense planning, moving the nation far beyond bayonets and battleships to cyberwarfare and the future full-scale weaponization of space. From stratosphere to exosphere, the Pentagon is now producing an armada of fantastical new aerospace weapons worthy of Buck Rogers.

In 2009, building on advances in digital surveillance under the Bush administration, Obama launched the U.S. Cyber Command. Its headquarters were set up inside the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Maryland, and a cyberwar center staffed by 7,000 Air Force employees was established at Lackland Air Base in Texas. Two years later, the Pentagon moved beyond conventional combat on air, land, or sea to declare cyberspace both an offensive and defensive “operational domain.” In August, despite his wide-ranging attempt to purge the government of anything connected to Barack Obama’s “legacy,” President Trump implemented his predecessor’s long-delayed plan to separate that cyber command from the NSA in a bid to “strengthen our cyberspace operations.”

And what is all this technology being prepared for? In study after study, the intelligence community, the Pentagon, and related think tanks have been unanimous in identifying the main threat to future U.S. global hegemony as a rival power with an expanding economy, a strengthening military, and global ambitions: China, the home of those denizens of the Gobi Desert who would, in that old Buck Rogers fable, destroy Washington four centuries from now. Given that America’s economic preeminence is fading fast, breakthroughs in “information warfare” might indeed prove Washington’s best bet for extending its global hegemony further into this century — but don’t count on it, given the history of techno-weaponry in past wars.

Techno-Triumph in Vietnam

Ever since the Pentagon with its 17 miles of corridors was completed in 1943, that massive bureaucratic maze has presided over a creative fusion of science and industry that President Dwight Eisenhower would dub “the military-industrial complex” in his farewell address to the nation in 1961. “We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense,” he told the American people. “We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions” sustained by a “technological revolution” that is “complex and costly.” As part of his own contribution to that complex, Eisenhower had overseen the creation of both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, and a “high-risk, high-gain” research unit called the Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, that later added the word “Defense” to its name and became DARPA.

For 70 years, this close alliance between the Pentagon and major defense contractors has produced an unbroken succession of “wonder weapons” that at least theoretically gave it a critical edge in all major military domains. Even when defeated or fought to a draw, as in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s research matrix has demonstrated a recurring resilience that could turn disaster into further technological advance.

The Vietnam War, for example, was a thoroughgoing tactical failure, yet it would also prove a technological triumph for the military-industrial complex. Although most Americans remember only the Army’s soul-destroying ground combat in the villages of South Vietnam, the Air Force fought the biggest air war in military history there and, while it too failed dismally and destructively, it turned out to be a crucial testing ground for a revolution in robotic weaponry.

To stop truck convoys that the North Vietnamese were sending through southern Laos into South Vietnam, the Pentagon’s techno-wizards combined a network of sensors, computers, and aircraft in a coordinated electronic bombing campaign that, from 1968 to 1973, dropped more than a million tons of munitions — equal to the total tonnage for the whole Korean War — in that limited area. At a cost of $800 million a year, Operation Igloo White laced that narrow mountain corridor with 20,000 acoustic, seismic, and thermal sensors that sent signals to four EC-121 communications aircraft circling ceaselessly overhead.

At a U.S. air base just across the Mekong River in Thailand, Task Force Alpha deployed two powerful IBM 360/65 mainframe computers, equipped with history’s first visual display monitors, to translate all those sensor signals into “an illuminated line of light” and so launch jet fighters over the Ho Chi Minh Trail where computers discharged laser-guided bombs automatically. Bristling with antennae and filled with the latest computers, its massive concrete bunker seemed, at the time, a futuristic marvel to a visiting Pentagon official who spoke rapturously about “being swept up in the beauty and majesty of the Task Force Alpha temple.”

However, after more than 100,000 North Vietnamese troops with tanks, trucks, and artillery somehow moved through that sensor field undetected for a massive offensive in 1972, the Air Force had to admit that its $6 billion “electronic battlefield” was an unqualified failure. Yet that same bombing campaign would prove to be the first crude step toward a future electronic battlefield for unmanned robotic warfare.

In the pressure cooker of history’s largest air war, the Air Force also transformed an old weapon, the “Firebee” target drone, into a new technology that would rise to significance three decades later. By 1972, the Air Force could send an “SC/TV” drone, equipped with a camera in its nose, up to 2,400 miles across communist China or North Vietnam while controlling it via a low-resolution television image. The Air Force also made aviation history by test firing the first missile from one of those drones.

The air war in Vietnam was also an impetus for the development of the Pentagon’s global telecommunications satellite system, another important first. After the Initial Defense Satellite Communications System launched seven orbital satellites in 1966, ground terminals in Vietnam started transmitting high-resolution aerial surveillance photos to Washington — something NASA called a “revolutionary development.” Those images proved so useful that the Pentagon quickly launched an additional 21 satellites and soon had the first system that could communicate from anywhere on the globe. Today, according to an Air Force website, the third phase of that system provides secure command, control, and communications for “the Army’s ground mobile forces, the Air Force’s airborne terminals, Navy ships at sea, the White House Communications Agency, the State Department, and special users” like the CIA and NSA.

At great cost, the Vietnam War marked a watershed in Washington’s global information architecture. Turning defeat into innovation, the Air Force had developed the key components — satellite communications, remote sensing, computer-triggered bombing, and unmanned aircraft — that would merge 40 years later into a new system of robotic warfare.

The War on Terror

Facing another set of defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq, the twenty-first-century Pentagon again accelerated the development of new military technologies. After six years of failing counterinsurgency campaigns in both countries, the Pentagon discovered the power of biometric identification and electronic surveillance to help pacify sprawling urban areas. And when President Obama later conducted his troop “surge” in Afghanistan, that country became a frontier for testing and perfecting drone warfare.

Launched as an experimental aircraft in 1994, the Predator drone was deployed in the Balkans that very year for photo-reconnaissance. In 2000, it was adapted for real-time surveillance under the CIA’s Operation Afghan Eyes. It would be armed with the tank-killing Hellfire missile for the agency’s first lethal strike in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in October 2001. Seven years later, the Air Force introduced the larger MQ-9 “Reaper” drone with a flying range of 1,150 miles when fully loaded with Hellfire missiles and GBU-30 bombs, allowing it to strike targets almost anywhere in Europe, Africa, or Asia. To fulfill its expanding mission as Washington’s global assassin, the Air Force plans to have 346 Reapers in service by 2021, including 80 for the CIA.

Between 2004 and 2010, total flying time for all unmanned aerial vehicles rose sharply from just 71 hours to 250,000 hours. By 2011, there were already 7,000 drones in a growing U.S. armada of unmanned aircraft. So central had they become to its military power that the Pentagon was planning to spend $40 billion to expand their numbers by 35% over the following decade. To service all this growth, the Air Force was training 350 drone pilots, more than all its bomber and fighter pilots combined.

Miniature or monstrous, hand-held or runway-launched, drones were becoming so commonplace and so critical for so many military missions that they emerged from the war on terror as one of America’s wonder weapons for preserving its global power. Yet the striking innovations in drone warfare are, in the long run, likely to be overshadowed by stunning aerospace advances in the stratosphere and exosphere.

The Pentagon’s Triple Canopy

As in Vietnam, despite bitter reverses on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington’s recent wars have been catalysts for the fusion of aerospace, cyberspace, and artificial intelligence into a new military regime of robotic warfare.

To effect this technological transformation, starting in 2009 the Pentagon planned to spend $55 billion annually to develop robotics for a data-dense interface of space, cyberspace, and terrestrial battle space. Through an annual allocation for new technologies reaching $18 billion in 2016, the Pentagon had, according to the New York Times, “put artificial intelligence at the center of its strategy to maintain the United States’ position as the world’s dominant military power,” exemplified by future drones that will be capable of identifying and eliminating enemy targets without recourse to human overseers. By 2025, the United States will likely deploy advanced aerospace and cyberwarfare to envelop the planet in a robotic matrix theoretically capable of blinding entire armies or atomizing an individual insurgent.

During 15 years of nearly limitless military budgets for the war on terror, DARPA has spent billions of dollars trying to develop new weapons systems worthy of Buck Rogers that usually die on the drawing board or end in spectacular crashes. Through this astronomically costly process of trial and error, Pentagon planners seem to have come to the slow realization that established systems, particularly drones and satellites, could in combination create an effective aerospace architecture.

Within a decade, the Pentagon apparently hopes to patrol the entire planet ceaselessly via a triple-canopy aerospace shield that would reach from sky to space and be secured by an armada of drones with lethal missiles and Argus-eyed sensors, monitored through an electronic matrix and controlled by robotic systems. It’s even possible to take you on a tour of the super-secret realm where future space wars will be fought, if the Pentagon’s dreams become reality, by exploring both DARPA websites and those of its various defense contractors.

Drones in the Lower Stratosphere

At the bottom tier of this emerging aerospace shield in the lower stratosphere (about 30,000 to 60,000 feet high), the Pentagon is working with defense contractors to develop high-altitude drones that will replace manned aircraft. To supersede the manned U-2 surveillance aircraft, for instance, the Pentagon has been preparing a projected armada of 99 Global Hawk drones at a mind-boggling cost of $223 million each, seven times the price of the current Reaper model. Its extended 116-foot wingspan (bigger than that of a Boeing 737) is geared to operating at 60,000 feet. Each Global Hawk is equipped with high-resolution cameras, advanced electronic sensors, and efficient engines for a continuous 32-hour flight, which means that it can potentially survey up to 40,000 square miles of the planet’s surface daily. With its enormous bandwidth needed to bounce a torrent of audio-visual data between satellites and ground stations, however, the Global Hawk, like other long-distance drones in America’s armada, may prove vulnerable to a hostile hack attack in some future conflict.

In 1929, Buck Rogers imagines America’s future spacecraft for space wars.
(Buck Rodgers, 2429 A.D., 8-26-1929, Roland N. Anderson Collection.)

The sophistication, and limitations, of this developing aerospace technology were exposed in December 2011 when an advanced RQ-170 Sentinel drone suddenly landed in Iran, whose officials then released photos of its dart-shaped, 65-foot wingspan meant for flights up to 50,000 feet. Under a highly classified “black” contract, Lockheed Martin had built 20 of these espionage drones at a cost of about $200 million with radar-evading stealth and advanced optics that were meant to provide “surveillance support to forward-deployed combat forces.”

So what was this super-secret drone doing in hostile Iran? By simply jamming its GPS navigation system, whose signals are notoriously susceptible to hacking, Iranian engineers took control of the drone and landed it at a local base of theirs with the same elevation as its home field in neighboring Afghanistan. Although Washington first denied the capture, the event sent shock waves down the Pentagon’s endless corridors.

In the aftermath of this debacle, the Defense Department worked with one of its top contractors, Northrop Grumman, to accelerate development of its super-stealth RQ-180 drone with an enormous 130-foot wingspan, an extended range of 1,200 miles, and 24 hours of flying time. Its record cost, $300 million a plane, could be thought of as inaugurating a new era of lavishly expensive war-fighting drones.

Simultaneously, the Navy’s dart-shaped X-47B surveillance and strike drone has proven capable both of in-flight refueling and of carrying up to 4,000 pounds of bombs or missiles. Three years after it passed its most crucial test by a joy-stick landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush in July 2013, the Navy announced that this experimental drone would enter service sometime after 2020 as the “MQ-25 Stingray” aircraft.

Dominating the Upper Stratosphere

To dominate the higher altitudes of the upper stratosphere (about 70,000 to 160,000 feet), the Pentagon has pushed its contractors to the technological edge, spending billions of dollars on experimentation with fanciful, futuristic aircraft.

For more than 20 years, DARPA pursued the dream of a globe-girding armada of solar-powered drones that could fly ceaselessly at 90,000 feet and would serve as the equivalent of low-flying satellites, that is, as platforms for surveillance intercepts or signals transmission. With an arching 250-foot wingspan covered with ultra-light solar panels, the “Helios” drone achieved a world-record altitude of 98,000 feet in 2001 before breaking up in a spectacular crash two years later. Nonetheless, DARPA launched the ambitious “Vulture” project in 2008 to build solar-powered aircraft with hugewingspans of 300 to 500 feet capable of ceaseless flight at 90,000 feet for five years at a time. After DARPA abandoned the project as impractical in 2012, Google and Facebook took over the technology with the goal of building future platforms for their customers’ Internet connections.

Since 2003, both DARPA and the Air Force have struggled to shatter the barrier for suborbital speeds by developing the dart-shaped Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle. Flying at an altitude of 100,000 feet, it was expected to “deliver 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from the continental United States in less than two hours.” Although the first test launches in 2010 and 2011 crashed in midflight, they did briefly reach an amazing 13,000 miles per hour, 22 times the speed of sound.

As often happens, failure produced progress. In the wake of the Falcon’s crashes, DARPA has applied its hypersonics to develop a missile capable of penetrating China’s air-defenses at an altitude of 70,000 feet and a speed of Mach 5 (about 3,300 miles per hour).

Simultaneously, Lockheed’s secret “Skunk Works” experimental unit is using the hypersonic technology to develop the SR-72 unmanned surveillance aircraft as a successor to its SR-71 Blackbird, the world’s fastest manned aircraft. When operational by 2030, the SR-72 is supposed to fly at about 4,500 mph, double the speed of its manned predecessor, with an extreme stealth fuselage making it undetectable as it crosses any continent in an hour at 80,000 feet scooping up electronic intelligence.

Space Wars in the Exosphere

In the exosphere, 200 miles above Earth, the age of space warfare dawned in April 2010 when the Defense Department launched the robotic X-37B spacecraft, just 29 feet long, into orbit for a seven-month mission. By removing pilots and their costly life-support systems, the Air Force’s secretive Rapid Capabilities Office had created a miniaturized, militarized space drone with thrusters to elude missile attacks and a cargo bay for possible air-to-air missiles. By the time the second X-37B prototype landed in June 2012, its flawless 15-month flight had established the viability of “robotically controlled reusable spacecraft.”

In the exosphere where these space drones will someday roam, orbital satellites will be the prime targets in any future world war. The vulnerability of U.S. satellite systems became obvious in 2007 when China used a ground-to-air missile to shoot down one of its own satellites in orbit 500 miles above the Earth. A year later, the Pentagon accomplished the same feat, firing an SM-3 missile from a Navy cruiser to score a direct hit on a U.S. satellite 150 miles high.

In a 1929 comic strip, Buck Rogers fights space wars in the 25th Century.
(Buck Rodgers, 2429 A.D., 5-8-1929, Roland N. Anderson Collection)

Unsuccessful in developing an advanced F-6 satellite, despite spending over $200 million in an attempt to split the module into more resilient microwave-linked components, the Pentagon has opted instead to upgrade its more conventional single-module satellites, such as the Navy’s five interconnected Mobile User Objective Systems (MUOS) satellites. These were launched between 2013 and 2016 into geostationary orbits for communications with aircraft, ships, and motorized infantry.

Reflecting its role as a player in the preparation for future and futuristic wars, the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, established in 2006, operates the Space Surveillance Network. To prevent a high-altitude attack on America, this worldwide system of radar and telescopes in 29 remote locations like Ascension Island and Kwajalein Atoll makes about 400,000 observations daily, monitoring every object in the skies.

The Future of Wonder Weapons

By the mid-2020s, if the military’s dreams are realized, the Pentagon’s triple-canopy shield should be able to atomize a single “terrorist” with a missile strike or, with equal ease, blind an entire army by knocking out all of its ground communications, avionics, and naval navigation. It’s a system that, were it to work as imagined, just might allow the United States a diplomatic veto of global lethality, an equalizer for any further loss of international influence.

But as in Vietnam, where aerospace wonders could not prevent a searing defeat, history offers some harsh lessons when it comes to technology trumping insurgencies, no less the fusion of forces (diplomatic, economic, and military) whose sum is geopolitical power. After all, the Third Reich failed to win World War II even though it had amazingly advanced “wonder weapons,” including the devastating V-2 missile, the unstoppable Me-262 jet fighter, and the ship-killing Hs-293 guided missile.

Washington’s dogged reliance on and faith in military technology to maintain its hegemony will certainly guarantee endless combat operations with uncertain outcomes in the forever war against terrorists along the ragged edge of Asia and Africa and incessant future low-level aggression in space and cyberspace. Someday, it may even lead to armed conflict with rivals China and Russia.

Whether the Pentagon’s robotic weapon systems will offer the U.S. an extended lease on global hegemony or prove a fantasy plucked from the frames of a Buck Rogers comic book, only the future can tell. Whether, in that moment to come, America will play the role of the indomitable Buck Rogers or the Martians he eventually defeated is another question worth asking. One thing is likely, however: that future is coming far more quickly and possibly far more painfully than any of us might imagine.

Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of the now-classic book The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade , which probed the conjuncture of illicit narcotics and covert operations over 50 years, and the just-published In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power (Dispatch Books) from which this piece is adapted.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Drone War 
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  1. i think a lot of these lefty types are less interested in determining a viable foreign policy than they are in being anti-white. In other words, while they may have valid points about aspects of US led order, what really activates them is the fact that it was a product of white people, or at least people who can pass as white (Jews)

    • Replies: @Thirdeye
  2. Thirdeye says:

    That OT post of yours is yet another demonstration of Poe’s Law.

  3. Thirdeye says:

    The whole move to maintain dominance through wonder weapons is predicated on the assumption that no one else in the world will be developing an in-kind response with their defensive capabilities. Powerful and complex systems have multiple points of vulnerability. Penetrating a small fraction of them is enough to make the whole system malfunction. There were some low tech measures that were very effective against the sensors monitoring the Ho Chi Minh trail. IIRC one involved buckets of urine. The 2014 Donald Cook incident and the induced malfunction of most of the Tomahawk missiles launched against Syria this year indicate opposing EW capabilities that may surpass the USA’s.

    • Replies: @Wally
    , @Epaminondas
  4. Does not Afghanistan confirm the old saying ‘one can do a lot with bayonets, except sit on them’ ?
    I wonder if a cost benefit analysis of USA militarism exists.
    The after WWII officiel British investigation into the effects of British bombing of Germany concluded that the cost to GB was equal to the damage done to Germany.
    War is the art of with low cost to oneself inflict high cost on the enemy.
    Zuckermann, in WWII the RAF’s scientific adviser on bombing, is of the opinion that the officiel investigation is wrong, the bombing by the RAF damaged GB more than Germany, and lenghtened the war.
    Solly Zuckermann, ‘From Apes to Warlords, an autobiography, 1904- 46’, London 1988

  5. WHAT says:

    This drone masturbation trend is tiring, especially seeing how US MIC is only good for sucking more money out of the goobermint for transferring it to Israel, and was like this for decades. Never working moneyhog F-35/Zumwalt/THAAD bullshit may seem bad, but it`s only the tip of the iceberg.

    SAM missile is always cheaper than the drone, and muh stealth is not so stealthy.

  6. Brabantian says: • Website

    Above all today, this ‘wonder weapon’ … US Pentagon advisor & former John Kerry staffer Kelly M Greenhill, wrote a 2011 book on ‘Weapons of Mass Migration’ describing what is being done to Europe & the West today … Greenhill recommended artificially-induced mass migrations as an excellent strategy to divide & control societies … She gushingly documented 59 examples of refugees being used as weapons since the Second World War … ‘It’s all a plot’, as they say

    On this theme, Irish Communist Gearóid Ó Colmáin did an interesting 11-part series of articles, ‘Coercive Engineered Migration: Zionism’s War on Europe’, published on ‘Dissident Voice’. For example, Ó Colmáin writes of how Marx & Engels also confronted the ‘mass migration’ weapon in the 1800s … and they totally opposed such schemes as destructive of the working class, an oligarch tool of conflict-creation & worker de-moralisation. Nothing new under the sun.

    • Agree: Sarah Toga
    • Replies: @Sarah Toga
  7. Ironically, the main effect of these Wunderwaffe seems to be on civilian consumer technology, from the GPS in my smartphone, to civilian drones. They never – can never – win 4th Generation wars against low tech opponents. Even conventional wars are still fought mostly with artillery. But the effect on civilian daily life is huge.

  8. Logan says:

    “the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities are”

    Not entirely true. The most powerful ship imaginable can only be in one place at a time. Number of platforms is not irrelevant.

    • Replies: @SteveRogers42
  9. It all DEPENDS on fifth column regimes in Moscow and Beijing or ANY other country not willing to be enslaved by Anglo-American Reich.

  10. neutral says:

    If one wants to talk about the future, then one first has to talk about the future people of America. Having the demographics of Brazil or worse (USA will probably be even browner than Brazil in 30 years) means that all these fantastical ideas will simply not work. The dwindling number of high IQ goodwhites (and a few asians) trying to maintain US hegemony with increasing automation of warfare will not be able to insulate themselves of the third world masses that make up the nation and the military.

  11. annamaria says:

    How to look really, really stupid:
    “The Global Engagement Center’s chief technology officer, along with two other members of its analytics team, resigned without providing reasons.
    Former President Barack Obama established the GEC in March 2016, directing it to “counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations,” including Islamic State, Al-Qaeda “and other violent extremists abroad.” By the year’s end, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act had broadened the GEC’s mandate to include advancing “fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests” and countering what Congress called “Russian disinformation.” … It’s not immediately clear how many analysts remain at the center. The GEC is currently leaderless…”
    More stupidity:
    “Last week, Facebook issued a statement saying it had looked into whether Russia purchased ads on the platform to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election. The social media giant claimed it “found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017” connected to “about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.” … The Daily Beast claimed the Kremlin set up a Facebook event to organize a protest in rural Idaho last year, which was attended by four people.”

    • Replies: @Sergey Krieger
  12. Tom Welsh says:

    For a realistic assessment of US high-tech weapons, try Andrew Cockburn’s book “Kill Chain”.

    “So it was that on the night of March 2, 2002, a helicopter flew a SEAL team directly to the summit [of the 10,000-foot Takur Ghar]. They noticed the fresh tracks and goat-skins the moment they touched down, but a discussion on whether to quit the scene was interrupted when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter, which was simultaneously ripped with machine-gun bullets. A special surveillance AC-130 with an array of electronics had sent data back to HQ, but failed to detect the obvious presence of the enemy. The people at HQ 1,000 miles away in the Persian Gulf told the officer on the scene to “get off the net” because they knew more. “Operation Anaconda”, which continued until March 18, seems to have been a prolonged clusterfuck.

    “On the ground, 39 separate Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (whose job is to call for air support) in the 5-by-9-kilometer ‘kill-box’ were radioing urgently for air support: ‘we’re getting mortared, Dshk [machine-gun] fire… we’re getting hammered’. In the gathering darkness, fighters, gunships, and helicopters thronged the airspace, moving at hundreds of miles an hour; all ignorant of each other’s position and missing each other often by mere yards. A navy fighter shot between Campbell and his wingman: a Predator ‘practically bounced off my canopy’. In his vivid recollection, ‘weapons coming off the jet(s) fall through that sky…. All of a sudden a 2,000-pounder blows up just as I’m sitting there looking down at the ground. That means it probably just dropped right through my formation off a bomber at 39,000 feet. So it quickly dawned on us that this is a mess and the threat is not from the ground really, from guys shooting at us, it’s from each other’”.

    • Replies: @Sergey Krieger
  13. annamaria says:
    @jilles dykstra

    The war profiteers are incorrigible:
    “…the plan is to expel the populations of the North of Syria and replace them with people who were not born there. In order to implement this ethnic cleansing, the Pentagon and the CIA have mobilized combatants from the circles of the European extreme-left.”

  14. A small point: when Germany went to war in 1939, it didn’t have any of the wonder weapons mentioned above. They were developed in the latter half of the war, when, in practice, Germany was already defeated and were never available in sufficient numbers to make a real difference.

  15. Amazing amount of good info in this article, and generally good comments too.

    One wonders at the stupidity, futility and motivation involved in all the murderous toys.

    The Am Rev War historian, Mercy Otis Warren had much to say against standing armies. All of them apply to the subject at hand. Here’s one.:

    “The feelings of native freedom among the sons of America, and their own good sense taught them, that they did not need the appendages of royalty and the baneful curse of a standing army to support it.”

    Mercy Otis Warren, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution vol. 2, Chap XXXI, [1805]

    All of her philosophical comments regarding standing armies are as true today as they were over 2 centuries ago, and as a fetid protection racket, it keeps getting worse.

  16. Zionist controlled America is a nation of perpetual Zionist induced wars and this will eventually lead to the total destruction of this country for just as a parasite eventually destroys its host so will the Zionists and their homeland Israel destroy America.

    • Agree: ChuckOrloski
  17. @annamaria

    Under be personal Vlad the Impaler supervision!

  18. @Tom Welsh

    And that against goat herders. Imagine what would happen were there war with Russia, God forbids. USA is extremely lucky to never test Soviet army but with enough attempts sooner or later luck runs out.

    • Agree: Tom Welsh
  19. Miro23 says:

    Great article. I wonder if it has occurred to the Chinese that they are underwriting all this hostile weapon development.

    Asian bond ($) buying, and oil denominated in the US dollar, are essential to the dollar as a reserve currency.

    If the Chinese were serious about messing up the trillion $ US weapons industry, they could accelerate their switch out of the dollar into anything else that holds value (Euro, gold etc), and take the blow to their US export trade.

    With the US increasingly having to monetize its own debt, oil producers may not like being paid in such a feeble high risk currency, and could well switch out, putting the last nail in the dollar’s coffin.

    The MIC, same as everyone else, wants to be paid in real money.

    • Replies: @Tom Welsh
    , @Erebus
  20. Tom Welsh says:
    @jacques sheete

    “Of all enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germs of every other. War is the parent of armies: from these proceed debt and taxes. And armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare”.

    – James Madison (Political Observations, Apr. 20, 1795 in: Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, vol. 4, p. 491 (1865)) (The USA has been at war for 93% of the years since 1776)

  21. Tom Welsh says:

    “With the shock of war the state comes into its own again. It is the reason given for high taxes, internal revenue bureaucracies, pervasive spying, censorship, military conscription, the abolition of civil liberties, heavy debt, an explosive growth of government spending and borrowing, extensive excise taxation, nationalization of industries, socialist central planning, massive public indoctrination campaigns, the punishment and imprisonment of dissenters to the state’s rule, the shooting of deserters from its armies, the conquest of other countries, inflation of the currency, demonization of private enterprise and the civil society for being insufficiently “patriotic”, the growth of the military/industrial complex, a vast expansion of government pork barrel spending, the demonization of the ideas of freedom and individualism and those who espouse them, and a never-ending celebration, if not deification, of statism and militarism”.

    – Randolph Bourne, “The State”

  22. Wally says:

    The problem is that we’ve been defeated or are being defeated everywhere.

    Some ‘wonder weapons’ those are.

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  23. @Michael Kenny


    Mr. McCoy’s article is good and your historical point is “big” and potentialy helpful for him.

    Too little writers of skill and conscience are aware of Suvorov’s unique work, “The Chief Culprit.” (Sigh)

    That’s very infortunate and such lapse of knowledge gives great advantage to those who run Operation Third Reich Perpetual Demonization Program.

    Thank you

  24. …exemplified by future drones that will be capable of identifying and eliminating enemy targets without recourse to human overseers.

    SkyNet approaches…

    • Replies: @SteveRogers42
  25. @Wally

    they are being improved upon. but for the purposes in the middle east, they work. they are perfectly fine for killing current or emerging muslim leaders in that part of the world. without a leader, a modern society, the muslim world will never pose a threat. only turkey n iran remains.

    so in a way, this assassination thing works for the ME.

    • Replies: @Wally
  26. Greg Bacon says: • Website

    How many think this space warfare will be used to protect Americans?

    How many think it will be used to keep the FED and other gangsters banks alive and well while we peons get fed Soylent Green?

    Not to worry, if its anything like the F-35 Lightning (NATO Code Name CLUNKER) none of this junk will work, but it will destroy our wallets and economy.

    • Replies: @Charmin Billy
  27. People here complaining about supposedly useless DOD spending…

    … on the internet

    • Replies: @jacques sheete
  28. @neutral

    I was thinking the same thing. It’s impossible to have a first world country with a third world population. Money will be spent on welfare and police in instead of the military. The Chinese or Russians? Perhaps.

  29. @jacques sheete

    Human being are never more ingenious then when thinking up new and better ways to kill their fellow human beings.

    • Replies: @jacques sheete
  30. @Tom Welsh

    No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare”.

    And that applies to entities that engage in economic and diplomatic warfare as well as physical hostilities.

  31. @anony-mouse

    People here complaining about supposedly useless DOD spending…

    … on the internet

    As you point out, then, it’s worse than useless from to PoV of the Pentagon.

    Nothing like turning the enemies’ own resources against him…

  32. @Ris_Eruwaedhiel

    Human being are never more ingenious then when thinking up new and better ways to kill their fellow human beings.

    That’s true, but humans can also get pretty ingenious in figuring out ways to get and keep the public alarmed so’s to profit from it.

    The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

    A Mencken Chrestomathy (New York: Vintage, 1982), p. 29.

  33. If any of this crap worked as advertised, they would have shot down the North Korean missile that was fired over Hokkaido today. It seems to me like they tried and failed, thus the lame cover story that south Korea just happened to fire a missile into the sea at the same time.

  34. @jilles dykstra

    “Solly Zuckerman”? Ya don’t say!

  35. @Logan

    Obama’s comprehension of military matters was a bit — lacking.

  36. @jim jones

    F-35’s do very impressive flyovers at halftime of Air Force Academy football games. The vibrations from their stealthy passage sets off every car alarm in the parking lot.

  37. @neutral

    I believe that all the Mirage fighter-bombers in the South African Air Force have been grounded for a long time due to the lackawhitey syndrome.

    • LOL: Ace
  38. @GourmetDan

    Where is Linda Hamilton when we need her?

  39. MarkinPNW says:
    @jilles dykstra

    Actually, these “problems” are a feature, not a bug. The longer a war goes on, the greater the profits for the weapons makers, and the more advancement of careers of the professional officer corp. If it damages the little people, whether through taxes and privation or through being blown to bits as soldiers or civilian “collateral damage”, well, it’s just the cost of business. “All wars are Bankers wars!”

  40. A tip of the ol’ chapeau to Mr. McCoy for a fascinating and informative article ( and some cool cartoons). However, I think that there is a nuance of the air war in Laos that he failed to explore. American air power was constrained to a mind-boggling degree by political considerations and rules of engagement. Missions were confined to certain geographical areas and forced into specific approach patterns. Bombing pauses were mandated during which time recon platforms and SOG operators on the ground observed increased traffic volume down the Trail.

    In addition, the Laotian interdiction effort was not quite a one-sided high-tech vs low-tech affair. After the end of the Rolling Thunder campaign against North Vietnam, the NVA moved a lot of anti-aircraft assets into Laos, which made things difficult for the USAF.

    Finally, while certainly not an unqualified success, the air campaign did erode Communist capabilities to the point that several major campaigns against the South were delayed or cancelled.

  41. Ace says:

    ** the Army’s soul-destroying ground combat in the villages of South Vietnam **

    Why was combat in Nam any more “soul-destroying” than in any other war. If part of you didn’t die inside you at Omaha Beach I don’t know what it would take to damage someone’s “soul.” Did combat on the Eastern Front damage “souls”? How about Tarawa and Okinawa? Or service in U boats in WWII when 75% of the boats never came back? Or participating in Pickett’s Charge or Gettysburg?

    Nam was fought in villages, towns, cities, jungles, swamps, mountains, rice paddies, canals, roads, and the air.

    Nam wasn’t “a thoroughgoing tactical failure.” It was a military victory achieved in spite of LBJ’s micromanagement, absurd rules of engagement, and failure to take obvious steps like mining Haiphong. Leftist traitors in Congress snatched defeat, etc.

  42. @Michael Kenny

    Hitler’s insufficient knowledge of international affairs was dramatic, he let himself being provoked by Poland into attacking the country, as was the object of the March British Guarantee.
    Simon Newman, ´March 1939, The British guarantee to Poland, A study in the continuity of British Foreign Policy’, 1976, Oxford
    Von Ribbentrop had the wrong friends in GB, he believed that GB would not declare war.
    As Francois de Wendel said ‘Hitler underestimated the power of international jewry’.
    Jean-Noël Jeanneney, ‘Francois de Wendel en République, L’Argent et le Pouvoir 1914-1940, Paris 1976

  43. Thirdeye says:
    @Michael Kenny

    Also not considered is the advantage attained by the Brits with their much more advanced radar systems that marshaled their fighter force – the first technological edge that made a difference in the war.

    Had the V-2 and Me-262 programs been developed in time to make a difference, the next step would have been B-29s over Germany, which operated above the ceiling of the 262, And Germany avoided the Hiroshima – Nagasaki treatment by a mere four or five months.

  44. annamaria says:

    Some rather surprising signs of decency from the US, as if the US brass has finally found the courage to stand up to Israel-firsters:
    Colonel Patrick Lang:
    “1. The US/Russian refusal of Israel’s wish for a 50 km. buffer zone free of Iranian/Hizbullah presence east of the Golan Heights occupation line suggests that there is substantial US/Russian coordination on Syria policy.
    2. Yesterday, the US coalition forces announced through its official spokesman, that SDF forces would not try to enter the city of Deir al-Zor. This did not seem to be the case earlier given the SDF’s rapid advance to the cross Euphrates suburbs of the city. This suggests that the policy of coordination with Russia in Syria has percolated from the White House to the US field command or that the SDF has told their American minders that they are not willing to try to “outmaneuver” the Syrian government east of the Euphrates.
    3. Mike’s comment above indicates that a separate non/US-Russian link now exists between the SDF and the Syrian government. This bodes well for a post civil war Syria and its territorial integrity.”

  45. anon • Disclaimer says:

    “The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) uncovered evidence revealing the Pentagon is not only shipping as much as $2 billion in weapons to Syria through shady means, it is also purposely covering up the paper trail.”
    “Failed Syrian rebel training program cost US taxpayers $2 million per fighter.”
    Why the US is on the territory of the sovereign Syria?

  46. From the few contacts I have had with US veterans of Vietnam, I got the impression that it was “soul destroying” because they felt that they were fighting on the wrong side.

  47. Miro23 says:

    I didn’t know that. It looks like it has occurred to them.

    When Saddam Hussein switched away from pricing Iraqi oil in US dollars it led straight to the Iraq war.
    They probably know about that as well.

    • Replies: @ChuckOrloski
  48. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The best wonder weapons for world domination are Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and many others including Tom’s “Propaganda” Dispatch. Put a target on your brain, because it’s open season every day.

    Rail guns, space craft death hardware, Stratego, blitzkrieg, the Saker, romantic memories of killing people in Vietnam or Iraq – these are topics for the dinner table or for some spook to write a book about. Meanwhile, keep posting. Always obey and believe!

  49. What this article misses is the essential nature of the American defense establishment program. That is, one would might assume that a defense establishment would be focused on defense. It is not. It is focused entirely on profit: profit for the defense industries; profit and promotion for the professional officer class; political profit” for the politicians who promote it.

    The defense industry wants to maximize profits. The more expensive the proposed weapons system, the greater the profit. It follows that proposed weapons are as expensive as possible.

    But what of effectiveness? Well, that’s not really relevant is it, since it is to be presumed that any weapons system will ***of course*** work perfectly and just as intended. Riiiight!

    The complexity and technically-advanced nature of these weapons systems makes them more vulnerable. Vulnerability is inherently proportional to complexity. The more complex a weapons system becomes, the more unreliable it becomes, and consequently the more susceptible to countermeasures. Do the defense manufacturers care? Of course not. Why should they? Their profits don’t depend on whether the systems work or not. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s better if they don’t work. Better if they have complications. Better if they have more and unexpected problems that need to be solved. For them it’s just more work and more profits. What could be bad?

    Then too, consider the issue of defense industry attitude toward vulnerabilities and countermeasures. In the design of a weapons system, it would be the most natural thing to ask: will it work, how will it be defended against, what are its vulnerabilities? But if too much time and effort is expended exploring potential weaknesses — likely flaws of the system — then the more certain the answer to these inquiries will be that the system is not viable, and that it consequently cannot be made into an effective system. Where’s the profit in that conclusion? So there’s a built-in motivation to look the other way regarding system features that may make it non-functional. A non-functional system, a non-viable system, is a system you won’t be able to make and won’t be able to profit from making. So the defense Industries are highly motivated to not notice, to avoid noticing, any potential vulnerabilities of their proposed weapon project.

    The current “govt” and “defense” bureaucracies of the US are a cancer of corruption that will continue feeding on the American nation until there is nothing left.

  50. @Thirdeye

    The best weapon the North Vietnamese had were the moles in the US government.

  51. @Miro23


    No Iraq leader has hurt the country more and helped do the American-Israeli Empire’s will > ex-CIA, President Saddam Hussein.

    Theater it was when “Sad-Dam” was caught by US troops hiding in a hole, afterward lynched, barbarian style.

    Thank you.

  52. anon • Disclaimer says:

    The courageous and principled Americans are rising up against the war profiteers and other traitors to the US: “CIA Agent Whistleblower Risks All To Expose The Shadow Government”

  53. yeah says:

    The world of “Munitions manufacturers” was exposed by G.B. Shaw in “Major Barbara” by setting up the character of Andrew Undershaft. I think that work was first published sometime around 1895. Brilliant as that expose was, no lessons have been learnt. Highly recommend this work.

  54. Ah, yes, the Yellow Peril. In the early part of the twentieth century, the Yellow Peril was supposed to be the stuff of comic books and pulp magazines, and many people laughed at anyone who seriously believed that an Asian power could pose a threat to the United States.

    Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

    Remember, every move the United States makes is motivated by greed, paranoia, racism or all three. We don’t face any external threats, or we wouldn’t if we weren’t racist imperialists. The real danger comes from fascists lurking behind every tree and under every bed.

  55. anon • Disclaimer says:

    McCain’s people in Ukraine:
    The Ukranian neo-Nazis have declared their manifesto.

  56. @Brabantian

    You made my point much better than I could have.

    And thank you for those resources on “coercive engineered migration” – a perfect description of the global plague of mass migration.

  57. @neutral

    Perhaps we transfer our existing military technology to Japan and beg them to protect us.
    Their high IQ mono-cultural society is and will be very capable.
    Our part will be to furnish Japan food, fresh water, and industrial raw materials, energy supplies.

  58. @Tom Welsh

    If Madison were alive today he could substitute “welfare” wherever “war” appears.

  59. @Greg Bacon

    Greg Bacon makes the sweetest comment up to here. hahahahaha.

    posters here behave as if all of this ‘weaponry’ will be targeted at the rest of the world and not at ordinary americans. interesting. [smiley]

    I imagine the first and most to be terrorized would be ordinary americans..are indeed americans, being terrorized right now given what already is going on.

    the rest of the world is in mighty effort to free itself from america. to the extent the rest of the world succeeds the worst its going to get for ordinary americans.

    when america is driven home to its borders, the very elite will have protect itself from the american people. americans will have to deal with the full brunt of that elitist power, find a way to overthrow it or be totally enslaved and reduced in numbers drastically

    no! the job of belling the american MIC is the job of ordinary americans who are its chief victims..not the Chinese.

  60. I am amazed that this article does not refer to the man-made “UFOs”, aka ARV ( Alien Reproduction Vehicles) produced by Lockheed and others.
    See among many others:

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