Heh. In fact, Carol Cohn was talking about my graduate program, which was where she spent her observation period. I can testify that, yes, there is an awful lot of double entendres in the jargon used to describe strategic weapons. I would like to point out, however, that one must be careful not to conflate sexual imagery - not phallic imagery alone, although that is predominant - with strategic militarism. In fact, many of the analyses and reports issued by my department spent a great deal of research and time demonstrating that in fact we didn't need to deploy such enormous amounts of stuff, and that some of the stuff we want to deploy is completely &*(@*#Q stupid and unnecessary.

One of the reasons the terminology went this way, I think, is that (initially) it was reflective of the male-only world of defense analysis and practice. It was, in essence, a symptom (not a cause) of the U.S. military's generally misogynistic atmosphere at the time (whether or not it has improved is a question I will strictly avoid). Speaking from experience, one of the purposes of this jargonization is to insulate the analyst from the fundamental horror of the subject matter! Using terms like:

  • Penetrate - defeat defenses
  • Harden - make resistant to damage
  • Erector/Launcher - a truck which lifts missiles vertical for firing, like Iraq's SCUD launchers
  • Hole - silo
  • etc.
...allows the analyst to remain more objective than when using phrases like "defeat the defense and kill 1.2 million people by flash-cooking them and melting their bodies," which is what happens when one of these toys detonates over an inhabited major city.

The question that naturally follows is, why think about this stuff at all, then? Isn't thinking about it just another example of men obsessed with their peepers1?

unless there are people actively involved in working on making it not happen. That's the result of the releasing of the nuclear genie from the bottle. As I believe Oppenheimer once said, "The biggest secret of the Bomb is that it can be done."