Mark Steel: The secret plans of the world's most dangerous rogue state

'If Bush is true to his word, he's ready to zap his own country from across the solar system'
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The Independent Online

What must the IRA think about Blair being so cuddly with Bush? They must assume that the way they can become accepted by the British government is not to decommission their weapons, but announce a whole new weapons system, in which their Semtex is strategically placed in outer space. Then, just as Bush is tearing up disarmament treaties, they could tear up the ceasefire agreement and carry on as before, but in orbit – blowing up the wrong asteroid and issuing an apology, kneecapping off-duty time lords, that sort of thing.

To be fair to Bush, it is possible that his plans for placing nuclear missiles throughout space have come about because he isn't aware that space isn't a country. There may well be sessions with his aides in which he's asked questions such as "So is the guy in charge of this space one of ours?" and "Hey, it's one helluva size, shouldn't their leader be at Genoa?"

That aside, Bush's plans should remind us that arguments in favour of the arms race were crazy enough in the 1980s. Generally, the idea was that each side had to keep stockpiling more weapons, because if they could only blow up the world 39 times instead of 40, that was hardly any defence at all and the other lot would be straight in and marching up the high street. Although even a street-fighting Geordie at closing time wouldn't be so intent on a bundle as to go "Wahey, they've got three ICBMs less than us, let's have the soft Western ponces."

In truth, some of the opposition arguments were not as incisive as they might have been. One of the strategies put forward by protesters outside the bases was that by holding up mirrors they could reflect the evil of the weapons back inside the camp. Which I was never entirely convinced about. Though I'd love to have been proved wrong, as a square-jawed Norman Scwarzkopf knelt to the ground clutching his ears and screaming "No, no, take the mirrors away," consumed by his own energy like someone at the end of an episode of Doctor Who.

But this time round, even the warped logic of the Cold War has been abandoned, and now the weapons have to be piled up just in case. Telling Bush that he doesn't need these weapons must feel like someone from social services visiting one of these people that stores bottles of their own urine. Suggest getting rid of them and he'll say "Oh you'd like that, wouldn't you? Then what would I do when they came? Eh? Or maybe you're one of them."

Which would be more coherent than the Phase II report of the US Commission on National Security for the 21st century that reads "Outer space and cyberspace are the main arteries of the world's evolving systems. Through technical and diplomatic means, the US needs to guard against the possibility of 'breakout' capabilities in space and cyberspace that would endanger US survival or critical interests."

What the commission may have been getting at is Bush's point that "they" are "rogue states", and in particular, he refers to North Korea and Iraq. But he can't be putting nuclear laser-guided treaty-busting arms-race inducing missiles across the galaxy to stop the threat of North Korea and Iraq.

It would be cheaper to ensure they was no threat by having the entire populations of both countries individually hypnotised by Paul McKenna. So that on receiving orders to fight America they removed their trousers and broke into "Heartbreak Hotel".

And the most deadly thing actually used by the Iraqis against Americans has been the medieval-style Scud, since when their defence systems have been systematically dismantled, so their most effective weapon now is probably something you can buy in a joke shop. Besides, the Cold War arms race was justified by the process known as "Mutually Assured Destruction", in which peace was assured by neither side daring to use their weapons because of the appalling consequences that would result for both teams.

So, if that was true, the best way to ensure continued stability would be to do as Bush is doing, but then make another stockpile and hand them over to each of the rogue states he's worried about.

What is clear is that the arguments with which America justified the Cold War were never their reasons for pursuing it. The Soviet regime was atrocious, but America wasn't bothered by that, America wanted world domination. And it still wants it. Which is why the world's most dangerous rogue state is the one that illegally napalmed Indochina, that overthrow the elected government of Guatemala because "that country is not ready for democracy", that aided the murder of the elected President of Chile, and planned to murder the leader of Cuba with an explosives-rigged sea-shell.

So if Bush is true to his word, he's preparing to zap his own country from half way across the solar system. Which would make sense, as frying them one by one is highly labour-intensive and must get pretty frustrating all round.