Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Man Who Refused To Drink Champagne At Alamoagordo On July 16, 1945

That would be Robert Wilson at the first successful  explosion of a nuclear bomb, a plutonium one, at the Trinity test on the date in the title, about 120 miles south of Albuquerque, quite far from the Los Alamos site that Wilson oversaw the construction of, reportedly riding around on a horse to see that the sewer and electrical lines were properly installed, he being a native of Wyoming, unlike the majority of the Manhattan Project crowd, many of them Jewish refugees from large cities in Europe totally unable to deal with the American Southwest.

No, this is not the co-composer of the minimalist opera, "Einstein on the Beach," or the microeconomic theorist that some think should receive a Nobel Prize (forecast, no).  This one built the Fermilab near Chicago as well as Los Alamos, and after the war attracted the largest group of Manhattan Project physicists to be with him at Cornell University, including Nobelist Hans Bethe as well as Richard Feynman, and many others.  They respected him that much.

So indeed, he was the man who when the bomb went off did not join in with the others to drink champagne and celebrate their great achievement.  It is true that his boss Oppenheimer expressed a complicated view, suggesting that what they had done was in honor of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and creation (how Schumpeterian), but he drank the champagne, even as he would later be deposed by McCarthyites for his leftist connections when it came to the matter of the H-bomb.

So,  his oldest son and wife has been a serious conservative, voting GOP and quite critical of the political views of his left/progressive parents. However, last night I spoke with him and his wife, and this person acutely aware of nuclear weapons issues, the oldest son of the man who said that "We have done an evil  thing" when the others were celebrating and drinking champagne, has, like many other serious Republicans, decided that Trump is completely unacceptable and irresponsible on the grounds of his completely ignorant and ridiculous remarks regarding nuclear weapons policy, which  themselves have already degraded the peace of the world.

Barkley Rosser


Steve Douglas said...

So, Clinton is clearly on line with the nuclear "option" as are all of her advisors and surrogates, but you are afraid of Trump? Astonishing blindness.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Yes, Steve, I am "afraid of Trump." It took decades for Thomas Schelling's focal point doctrine of "no first use of nuclear weapons" to become accepted by the major nuclear powers. Now some people around Putin at the time of the Crimean annexation and the imposition of economic sanctions over that matter started going on about how Russia could still "nuke New York City," so they started the retreat from that doctrine. But now we learn that along with calling for Japan and South Korea to obtain nuclear weapons, in contravention of long established non-proliferation doctrines (and this supposedly to save the US some money), he is reported to have asked a national security expert three times in an hour, "Why can we not just use our nuclear weapons?" and some of his statements have sounded like that is just what he wants to do about ISIS.

This is a reason why we have just seen 50 Republican national security experts come out against him on the grounds that he is a danger to US national security, not to mention to world peace, because of his apparent ignorance and tendency to shoot from the hip with regard to nuclear weapons.

Maybe he is going to calm down and get real on all that now that I gather he is getting intel briefings, but he has certainly made a bunch of statements that make the late Barry Goldwater look like a high priest of reason with regard to nuclear weapons.

As for Hillary, there is every reason to believe that she accepts long standing policies, and she is clearly both very knowledgeable and cautious and experienced with these matters, even if I have concerns about her being more hawkish than I like on some matters.

On that latter, I note that Trump is excoriating her for her vote on the Iraq war, which she has since agreed was a mistake. He claims he was against the war, but in fact he supported at the time it happened, so this is yet one more of way too many lies he puts out.

Bottom line, I view him as far far more dangerous in connection with nuclear weapons than I view her.