Home » Edge of Apocalypse » EoA: Sermonizing on the State of Affairs

EoA: Sermonizing on the State of Affairs

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 51-54 (Chapter Eleven)

The battle is not quite yet joined between Jordan and Straworth. If this were boxing (which I know something of thanks to reading The Power of One and Tandia), this would be like the opening bout where the two fighters are firming up their positions. Mostly the firming-up of how this will go is on Jordan’s side.

On the committee side we’ve got a guy named Senator Hewbright whose function in this book is to talk up what a great patriotic guy Jordan is. This is purposeful: it sets up Senator Straworth as the principal antagonist, the venal politician who wants his own glory and, as is typical of the caricature put forth by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck of political liberals, will do so by tearing down the Brave Patriotic Men (TM) who defend the country.

Keep in mind there are millions of people who believe this kind of stuff.

But back up a bit:

“Senator Straworth was anxious to rip into Joshua Jordan. The North Korean nuke incident and Jordan’s RTS antimissile system had spawned a growing media storm. There were allegations that the experimental system was too risky to have been tried and that the missiles could have been disarmed by conventional means that were already at the Pentagon’s disposal. Several major media outlets were beginning to call the incident ‘lasergate,’ and the blogosphere was spinning out of control with an avalanche of conspiracy theories.

In the midst of this media firefight, Senator Straworth had maintained a public face of disturbed concern mixed with strained neutrality. After all, it was an undeniable political reality that the City of New York and its residents had been saved.”

The offensive thing here is that Straworth is portrayed as the kind of man who would prefer a city get destroyed for his own advantage. I don’t think anyone, anywhere, who’s any kind of human being wishes for the destruction of cities in his or her own country.

Of course, the above argument is often twisted around for the self-serving benefit of those paper patriots who talk a good game but manage to avoid having to put their money where their mouths are. The paper patriots will insist they are the ones who wouldn’t dare wish destruction on the United States of America and it’s just those pansy-wristed liberals who want it to happen.

I warned y’all that once you start reading this thing the sheer bizarro political viewpoints will make themselves known.

“But those who knew the senator understood that beneath his cautiously managed exterior was an attack dog straining at its leash. In the congressional cloakrooms he had made his position clear. The North Korean incident had been mishandled by the Pentagon. White House policy and usual Pentagon procedures had been, in his view, arrogantly disregarded. Not to mention the question of whether the military’s choice of antimissile response, lobbing the two nukes back where they had come from, had actually violated international antimissile defense treaties. Because Straworth had personally championed those treaties in the Senate, the use of Joshua’s RTS weapons technology was viewed by the senator as a political knife in his own back.”

As you can see, the Senator is portrayed as one of those suspicious shifty-eyed eeeeeeeeeevil internationalists who think the US shouldn’t defend itself at all.

As I noted previously, the perception, by the political followers of the kind of ideology put forth in this book, of United States power is centered around the idea of the acceptability of unilateral action and the refusal to be hamstrung by any damn treaty. Never mind that I’m sure treaties involving multilateral disarmament do contain exceptions for things like – oh gee, I wonder … maybe unprovoked attacks?

The legal (insofar as you can call it “legal”!) basis for counterattack is crystal-clear here, contrary to that for the US’s invasion of Iraq. A North Korean battleship, likely tracked by satellite and/or a US Navy flotilla, launched, with no warning whatsoever, two nuclear missiles directly at the United States.

Even though the Daedong was destroyed, telemetry data and post-nuclear-explosion radioisotope analysis would have conclusively established that the attack happened and that it was not the US’s own weapon(s) that did it; as I understand it, slightly different techniques (depending on the nation) used for the separation of the fissionable and nonfissionable isotopes of uranium* mean that it’s possible, with some caveats, to use the post-explosion distribution of fission products, actinides, and unfissioned uranium to determine with some certainty as to who might have actually let the thing off.

Even if my understanding is off or if the analysis wasn’t conclusive, just the presence of the radioactive isotopes in the air and water would have screamed “Hey! A nuke went off here!”

In short there’s abundant evidence that solidly establishes the United States’ case, under just about any basis you want to consider, that they’re in the right and that self-defence was an entirely legitimate response.

I really am not sure the authors have really thought this through: one thing that made the early 1980s such a dangerous time was the fact that the Soviets were deathly afraid that the US might actually get this SDI thing to work, and if they did, would the US promptly launch nukes and destroy the USSR? Within the USA as well, there were people who believed that such a project was tailor-made for the escalation of international tensions because of the danger of an asymmetrical MAD.

This RTS thing has the potential to create the same sort of affairs, which would be more, not less, dangerous for the US.

Anyway, antimissile-defence-treaty or no, only an idiot would stand up in the United Nations and denounce the USA for protecting against an unprovoked attack.

Thus, I don’t think this Senator guy serves any purpose except to be a caricature and a foil against which to show that only Real True Military Men(TM) can be trusted to run the country for the Patriotic Greater Good(TM). As fans of Harry Potter will know, Albus Dumbledore discovered to his dismay that the “Greater Good” can mean whatever you want it to mean; Gellert Grindelwald decided it meant using the confusion and disarray of World War II to try and cement his own agenda and wipe out his enemies.

So while the idea of a PGG seems nice, making it whatever one wants it to mean can end up justifying behaving like an uncommonly badly-behaved bully on the international stage; sadly, this is considered acceptable in right-wing political circles.

The first round of Jordan vs. Straworth kicks off:

“Straworth smiled, turning to the man seated next to him. ‘First order of business, the chair will recognize the honorable senator from Wyoming. Now, I understand, Senator Hewbright, that you have some other business you must attend to in another committee you chair. So, Senator, as ranking member, I’ll yield, and you may proceed first today.'”

Nitpick: I think “ranking member” refers to whoever in the minority party is the most senior Congresscritter or Senator. This Senator fella must have been a pretty powerful Democrat to warrant becoming committee chairman while in the minority party, so I suspect this is a mistake or wishful thinking among LaHaye and Parshall.

Now for Hewbright to heap accolades on Jordan and tell us what just such a great swell guy he is:

“‘Thank you, Mr. Chairman.’ Senator Hewbright, a square-faced man with his dark hair cut short, almost military-short, turned to face the witness, Joshua Jordan. ‘Colonel Jordan, let me say, sir, that I consider you a true American hero. I know your stellar military record as an Air Force pilot. I’m aware of the great risks you took to fly secret intel missions over Iran to help us determine the extent of their nuclear ambitions. We all have a copy of your impressive resumé: your activities after leaving active military duty, your graduate degree from MIT in applied physics, and your brilliant work as a defense contractor. So let me say thank you, sir, for your courage and your service to this nation.'”

Okay. Now for the juice of the meeting and the button-pushing that’s gonna get real frantic over the next few chapters.

“Senator Hewbright continued, but as he did, his tone changed. ‘However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about your recent weapons achievements as I am. As I see it, this special committee is tasked to address several questions. First, there’s concern about the use of so-called Return-to-Sender weapons technology, especially when it involves reversing the trajectory of a nuclear warhead, and whether that violates the Six-Party Missile-Defense Treaty, a treaty I personally opposed, and vehemently, I might add. The treaty didn’t include, as signers, the world’s biggest nuclear threats, namely North Korea, Iran, India, and Pakistan. On the other hand, it did include nonstate entities like the United Nations and the European Union, which I didn’t think was appropriate. But worse yet, to me that treaty represents just one more major erosion of American national sovereignty–‘”


Notice how LaHaye and Parshall start jabbing at those buttons: The ZOMG UNITED NATIONS thing, in particular. Sen. Hewbright sports his cred by bashing the treaty and holding himself up as the Real True Patriot in the process.

Now, Fred Clark has noted that people like LaHaye really, fundamentally, do not understand how the United Nations works and really don’t understand what a paper tiger it is.

The UN has no sovereignty of its own. To command any army, even for peacekeeping purposes, the UN has to ask member nations to voluntarily contribute troops.

The United States, in particular, is very fond of screwing around with its back dues owing to the UN to score brownie points with the reactionary folks back home (Jesse Helms, lookin’ @ u). This means that de facto the USA actually can manipulate the United Nations for its own benefit rather than the other way around.

Also note the emphasis on Europe. Europe is held out to Americans as this weird exotic place that is Suspiciously Socialist by US standards. People would be surprised to hear you can get McDonald’s, Subway, all that, in the UK, France, etc. And Europe may have high gas prices, but people still drive cars (In fact, West Germany built some of the best cars driven by people for years, which is amusing counterpoint to East Germany building some of the worst 😉 ) and no German government would seriously consider curtailing car use as Germans are fond of driving when it suits them.

So really, if you were transplanted to Europe and still had all your credit cards, you could probably navigate your way around and get things done not too painfully.

Then Hewbright and Straworth get into it for a bit:

“‘With all due respect,’ Senator Straworth interjected with only a thin veneer of restraint, ‘I’m going to ask the senator to stick to the issue at hand. Namely, the use of Mr. Jordan’s weapons technology, which was unauthorized by the White House on the day it was used, and which had not been properly approved through the appropriate congressional channels or through the Defense Department’s own vetting. In short it was completely untested and frankly dangerous–‘

‘Mr. Chairman,’ Senator Hewbright shot back, ‘this man’s technology saved the City of New York and its inhabitants from a nuclear holocaust–‘”

To be fair to Jordan, the RTS system was an emergency maneuver, tossed in at the very last minute as a desperate hope to save New York City.

The way Straworth is carrying on is typical of the caricatured Liberal who cares more for bureaucratic procedures than in the he-man-style can-do-git’er’done mythos of the Real True Patriot.

I really don’t think any real-life inquiry would have happened this way. The American culture, even among Democrats, glorifies the kind of person who takes initiative and gets stuff done.

“‘Senator,’ Straworth cut in, ‘I believe that this hearing is going to show that the Air Force jets dispatched that day were quite capable of stopping those warheads in midair, without detonating them, without using Mr. Jordan’s highly experimental Return-to-Sender laser weapon, without any loss of life, I might add, and without creating an international crisis–‘”

Straworth has either been severely misinformed or he’s purposely slanting the facts, so his portrayal by the authors is either as willing dupe or maliciously venal politican.

The use of characters like this, as I’ve said before, to push political agendas and grind axes is a rather annoying aspect of Edge of Apocalypse. Consider the classic Fail-Safe book. The authors Burdick and Wheeler used the characters not to push an agenda, but to tell a story: the story of how nations can be trapped into awful, no-win scenarios by the advent of nuclear weapons and mutual distrust between the Americans and the Soviets. Political afflilation is very secondary; though the Congressman in the book is a Democrat, it adds flavor to his personality and is not fundamental to his analysis of the situation.

Let’s keep reading. Senator Hewbright speaks some more:

“‘As I was saying, I’m concerned less about any perceived chain-of-command issues and more about our loss of national sovereignty, and with it, a large measure of our national defense. This incident with the North Koreans should force us to evaluate where our nation is right now. How did we find ourselves in such dire straits? How? Well, I have a pretty good idea, and it didn’t start with foreign policy or military defense. No. It began as a matter of simple economics. When OPEC decided to cut our oil imports so that India and China could get increased allotments, we all know how that caused an energy crisis here at home. We had failed to make sufficient gains in alternate energy sources so we had to go crawling on our knees around the globe searching for other sources from equally unsavory providers: Russia, Venezuela, Brazil. Now I suppose we could have weathered all of that, but the fates, or the hand of Providence, or Mother Nature, whatever you want to call it, had other plans. A two-year drought in the Midwest, together with devastating livestock diseases, have had a catastrophic impact on our agriculture. And we’ve all seen the Dow, the tumbling numbers on the Standard & Poor’s index, the closest thing to a stock-market crash since the Great Crash of–‘”

The rather odd thing is that this almost reads like an indictment of Republican policies pursued under George W. Bush. But notice that OPEC is specifically blamed here, and that India and China are portrayed as being extended preferential treatment. This is a button-push of the latent xenophobia of the intended audience.

In actual fact, if you look at the statistics on US oil imports, what should immediately leap out at you is that it’s the Canadians providing a lot of the oil. We also don’t usually charge more than the going market rate for oil, and that’s because Alberta is largely a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Oil. Even if you look at petroleum, it’s still the Canadians providing the biggest chunk.

Note that Mexico is third on the list. So the two immediate neighbors to the US, both traditionally friendly to the US, so that something like 30% of the total US oil import requirement is not from unfriendly nations. This would seem to put a rather big hole in LaHaye and Parshall’s (through Hewbright) paranoiac fantasies about how everybody hates the US so very much, they hates us, my precious! (In actual fact blame can be laid straight at the doorstep of Dubya Bush’s cowboy swaggering style of utter lack of regard for the sensibilities of any nation besides the USA)

Hewbright goes on some more:

“Senator Hewbright’s face was slightly scarlet now. ‘The point, ladies and gentlemen, is that America’s catastrophic financial problems, the ruined dollar on the international monetary market, our loss of credit globally, the fifteen percent domestic unemployment rate–all of this, if I can put it bluntly, simply scared us stupid–stupid enough to sign off on disastrous treaties in exchange for the promise of more favorable trading and credit terms with the European Union, China, and other nations who are now holding us economically hostage. Our freedom and security in exchange for a little more cash in our pocket, a little more oil, and a whole lot more debt–‘”

Senator, I might point out that the mess you’re bitching about was largely a direct result of de facto or de jure Republican control over all three branches of the US government from 2001 to 2007, upon which the Democrats regained both houses of Congress.

What’s fascinating here is that the “remedies” the Senator’s now grousing about are again, products of a caricatured and distorted view of what Democrats actually believe will solve the US’s problems. The button-pushing here is the fear of loss of United States primacy in the world. When you’ve been Number One for a long time, having to be Number Two can start to seem like a terrifying prospect, especially if you know in the back of your head that you’ve been Number One by purposely keeping all the Number Twos right where they are.

It gets even more fascinating as we dive into the bizarro-world fantasies of the kinds of people LaHaye and Parshall are aiming this book at:

“But the ranking member kept talking. ‘I’m not talking just about that ill-conceived missile-defense treaty that is involved in this hearing.’ Senator Hewbright had his arms outstretched in front of him as he addressed the other senators and representatives on the dais. ‘A missile-defense treaty we negotiated out of our financial fear. I’m also talking about that United Nations Covenant of Tolerance and Human Rights that, I’m ashamed to say, the United States Senate also ratified. And what’s the result? We now have permanent U.N. monitors being placed in many of our major cities. U.N. monitors on American soil–giving us advice on how to administer our own civil liberties and our own laws!'”

The first time I read that, I just stared at it for a good minute and then burst out roaring with laughter.

It’s just sad how LaHaye seems to really believe the United Nations has all this power, all this authority, when it really has so very little. The reference to the “United Nations Covenant of Tolerance and Human Rights” seems to be a coded reference to a UN treaty which parental-rights wackos in the United States have been hollaring about, which is the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which urges that corporal punishment be discouraged.

Given penchant for these folks to paranoiac fantasizing that being unable to smack your kid around will bring on worldwide ruin it’s obvious what button-pushing that last paragraph is all about. The fact that American culture embraces violence as a solution to a lot of problems is mirrored in the idea that discipline can come at the end of a belt strap with no need to respect the fact that children have brains, know when they’ve done something wrong (if even house pets know to slink away when they’ve doo-dooed on the carpet, children are leaps and bounds ahead of even that response) and can be reasoned into not doing something the parent considers unacceptable.

The fact that these folks really believe the UN has the kind of authority as fantasized in books published under LaHaye’s aegis is a necessary ingredient in premillenial dispensationalist (PMD) theology, as explained in far more detail on Fred Clark’s site. The basic idea is that a One-World Government is seen as heralding the onset of the kick into high gear for Satan’s battle against God for the souls of human beings, as elucidated in the Book of Revelation (or rather, as LaHaye’s particular belief would seem to elucidate).

The fact that Europe is federalizing into a supranational entity is regarded with deep suspicion by PMDs (and indeed, non-PMD right-wing Christians who believe in some kind of End-Times scenario) because of things like fanciful interpretations of “a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns”, from Rev. 17. The “ten horns” thing used to be made much of back when the EEC had ten countries in it.

Hell, if I wanted to come up with a crazypants version of Revelation theology I could argue that Yugoslavia was the country mentioned in it, because of the way Josip Broz Tito set it up after the 1974 constitution: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and the federal Presidency are the “seven heads”, and the ten horns… well, make something up. 😛

Obviously, when such a text has such elastic interpretations open to it, a great deal of energy can be directed on trying to figure out what it means, rather than on more important things that face the world today. But hey, to each his or her own.

Ok. The political sermonizing is over. Y’all can relax now. Whew! 😀

Given how much meat was in this, and I’m not even done yet, I’m going to put a bookmark in the book, metaphorically speaking, and start a second follow-up post dissecting the remainder of Chapter Eleven and going into Chapter Twelve.

* For that matter, if plutonium-239 was used, the mass distribution of the fission products is noticeably different than that for uranium-235 and can be used to hypothesize the origin of the bomb


9 thoughts on “EoA: Sermonizing on the State of Affairs

  1. A NK ship off the American coast? Never mind the task force, there’d be real-time satellite imagery telling you when that guy on deck last spat into the water and what size hat he wears. “The first missile was fired from the port launcher at 21:19:22; two seconds later the second missile was fired from the starboard launcher.”

    Much of this could be pretty easily short-circuited. I see two major points:

    “You used this experimental weapon when conventional ones would have done the job.” “No, conventional weapons were tried and didn’t make it in time.”

    “The use of this weapon violates the missile defence treaties.” “No, its existence violates the treaties. I’m just the contractor who was employed to build it, I don’t make policy.”

    Of course if Joshyboy did in fact build this thing on spec, he is indeed the primary cause of a treaty violation, and probably a traitor. But it sounded to me as though the Pentagon were aware of and approving of what was going on, which probably means they were paying for the development. So it was a black project, and everyone involved is a naughty boy, but it’s no worse than a bunch of others.

    If there were any actual clarification of the source of funding, that would help a whole lot.

    Being fair, a whole bunch of people were distrustful of the USA and inclined to regard it negatively well before Bush2 got in, because we remember Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs and all the dodgy crap that various bodies got up to in the 1970s and 1980s; he was more living down to our expectations than doing something new and horrible.

  2. Remember what you were saying about “meaningful names” a bit back? Hewbright fits the bill–“hews to brightness”, or “cleaves to the Light”.

  3. Good grief, and I thought Diane Carey’s four-page screed on the eeeeevils of capitalism in Dreadnought! was anvilicious. This isn’t the authors with an axe to grind, this is the authors going for the monomolecular glass blade.

    • ISTR Diane Carey is an out and out Libertarian and that her Author Tract of a book was all about the eeeeeeeeevils of government. :O I definitely recall her human Mary Sue ranting to her Vulcan friend about this and he says things like “humans actually believed the government could do this?”

      Ugh, almost as bad as that Senator Hewbright character.

      • A Vulcan? Someone tried to shoehorn Libertarianism into _Star Trek_?! Where the exemplars of Capitalism are Harry Mudd and the Ferengi?

        I wanna hear how they rationalized THAT.

  4. Here via slacktivist… checked out your blog because I really enjoy your comments there. So of course, I’m going to make my first comment a negative one, sorry, but:

    That’s because Alberta is largely a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Oil.

    This kind of thing? This is part of the reason Albertans overwhelmingly vote Conservative. I’m a lefty, but I find it hard to vote Liberal or NDP on the federal level because it hurts to vote for and with people who have nothing but negativity and contempt toward me and my loved ones… it’s alienating toward people who could maybe otherwise be convinced to come around.

    • Ok, seguing into Canadian politics for a sec — it’s not a surprise that the oil and gas industry in Alberta does not want an NDP government, in particular, and that attempts at Albertan economic diversification have failed because the extractive sector continues to be a huge chunk of Alberta’s economy.

      It’s also no secret that when Premier Stelmach tried to raise royalties (quite modestly, one might add) the extractive sector basically had a collective pearl clutch and no doubt waxed lyrical about how there’d be no more jobs and no more Alberta Advantage, ever. This sort of rhetorical trickery has been pioneered by the likes of Ralph Klein who explicitly followed a political strategy ripped from the pages of the Republican songbook. It’s not a reflection on you, I feel, to point out these realities.

      British Columbia has similar realities to the point where the NDP out here is actually somewhat right-wing compared to our fellows in Ontario; people out here don’t think much of Ontario or Quebec, either. And I bet the average NDPer out here would be a little more inclined to accept that personal responsibility plays a role in addition to societal factors in things like crime, jobs and education.

      If you’re taking personally a comment that’s intended to be reflective of a peculiar political and economic situation in your province, I would like to ask why it is that you are, in effect, giving the Conservatives exactly what they want – because I’ve had more than a few chats with Albertans over the years and y’all seem like very reasonable people. 🙂

  5. A Vulcan? Someone tried to shoehorn Libertarianism into _Star Trek_?! Where the exemplars of Capitalism are Harry Mudd and the Ferengi?

    I wanna hear how they rationalized THAT

    I assume it means ‘Vulcan Analogue’. Because… yeah, trying to make Trek libertarian is hilarious. Especially given it’s a setting where the government self-evidently *can* and *did* ‘do that’. (Some exceptions granted)

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