Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Nuclear War

For discussion of Poul Anderson's non-fiction book on Thermonuclear War, see here.

Anderson's "Cold Victory" considerably advances his Psychotechnic History. This story:

informs us that the Humanists have overthrown the Psychotechnicians but have in turn been overthrown by an alliance between the Terrestrial "cabal" and the extraterrestrial colonies;

uses the framing device of a conversation between a Martian Professor, a "Venusian" clan member, a Planetary Engineer from Luna and a Solar Guard Captain from Earth;

tells the story of what is in effect a civil war within the Solar Union through the tragedy of two brothers fighting on opposite sides;

addresses the morality of nuclear war.

The admiral of the Union fleet announces that the threatened bombardment of Earth will be treated as genocide. Lieutenant Robert Crane, knowing that his brother is on the Humanist side, protests against the possible execution of men obeying "...the government they had pledged to uphold..." (Cold Victory, p. 176)

Personally, I would regard nuclear bombardment as genocide, therefore a war crime. Soldiers are obliged to disobey illegal orders. In fact, there is, in the Union, widespread revulsion against the use of nuclear weapons:

"'I'll mutiny before I give my name to such a thing.'
"'And I...And most of us, I think.'" (p. 177)

In Isaac Asimov's future history, there is speculation as to how Earth, the original planet, could have become so radioactive as to be almost uninhabitable. Question: Could it be artificial? Might someone have deliberately caused a series of nuclear explosions as an act of war? Response: Impossible! In all of Galactic history, the only Admiral even to suggest that was immediately lynched by his own men! (Asimov occasionally makes some telling points through his fiction. Another: How did the dinosaurs become extinct? A time traveler explains: It was the small ones. The small ones with the guns killed the big ones, then each other.)

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