Glad to help out the Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert, like a lot of other people, had some fun with Bill O’Reilly’s idea of a mercenary force to fight terrorism, which I commented on (as you can see in my previous post). I guess Colbert thought what I said was funny, because he riffed off my comments on his show this week:


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Tom on The O’Reilly Factor: Mercenaries a “terrible idea”

I joined Bill O’Reilly’s show yesterday to talk about Bill’s idea of creating a 25,000-man anti-terror mercenary force. I said it was an impractical, immoral idea; what more can I say? But I enjoyed the visit and credit to O’Reilly for ensuring (as his producer noted to me) that he had guests who were opposed to the idea. Here’s the clip.

I was kind of surprised by how much press this generated; within a day the story was covered by Media Matters (and don’t I have mixed feeling about that), MSNBC, Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Politico’s Dylan Byers media column, and others.

I guess other media take a certain amount of pleasure in seeing O’Reilly getting pushback, but to be clear: I knew what he was going to say, and he knew what I was going to say, and it was just what it looked like: a debate.

Here’s how it looked to Steve Benen at MSNBC:

In fact, after unveiling his preferred approach, O’Reilly sought an assessment from U.S. Naval War College Professor Tom Nichols. The guest responded, with a polite tone, “Well, Bill, I understand your frustration. I really do. But this is a terrible idea, a terrible idea not just as a practical matter but a moral matter. It’s a morally corrosive idea to try to outsource our national security. This is something Americans are going to have to deal for themselves. We’re not going to solve this problem by creating an army of Marvel Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy.”

O’Reilly remains convinced his idea is going to happen, and he led the next night with more discussion of why it would be “moral.” I guess I hit a nerve on that.

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Lasers! Day One! (Or how I’d rebuild the strategic deterrent)

Devil-Time-BanditsToday, National Interest asked me how I’d rebuild our strategic deterrent from scratch. Echoing the “Evil” character from Time Bandits, I said: missiles, day one. Bombers were a result of the limitations of technology in the 1950s, and we’ve been re-inventing reasons for them ever since:

I would start with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles buried in silos in North America.

This might seem an odd choice. Why choose such destabilizing weapons? After all, ICBMs are ill-suited for very much besides killing millions of people. They only have an offensive role; they cannot be meaningfully defended; they cannot be recalled once launched; their existence cannot be hidden; their flight times are terrifyingly short. Why not start with something with a little more flexibility?

History and the state of technology in the 1950s did in fact lead to a different conclusion at the time. Before the invention of long-range missiles, the United States and the Soviet Union created huge bomber forces over six decades ago. All of the vices of missiles are reflected – supposedly – in the virtues of bombers: they’re slow, they can be recalled, they have human beings in them who can make real-time decisions, and they can be used for a broad array of missions. They are a prefect nuclear Swiss Army knife, suited for all kinds of missions.

If you want to read why that’s not a good idea anyway, the rest of it can be found at The National Interest here.

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