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The Feature Creep

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Interview with the creator of the Neutron Bomb

08/17/2005 9:28 AM

There is an interesting new interview with Sam Cohen, the inventor of the Neutron Bomb. Among some of the interesting things he said was that it was "The most moral weapon ever made.". This is in reference to the fact that with his bomb you were either dead or alive after it detonated and there were no long term side effects to being near the detonation point.

I've read a lot on the creators of the Atom Bomb, nice to read something on a lesser known creator of our nuclear stockpile.

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The Engineer
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#1

Moral Weapon?

08/17/2005 11:41 AM

A atomic bomb can kill hundreds of thousands of people in a second, and make its target dangerously radioactive for thousands of years. It makes no distinction between young and old, women and men. People who are unlucky enough to be outside the immediate kill zone suffer the slow, painful death of radiation poisoning.

The atomic bomb is the most immoral and cowardly of weapons, allowing the aggressor to destroy without any personal risk to him or herself. To kill without the vast visceral repulsion associated with massacre. It is sterile, detached, and inhuman.

Some suggest that the atomic bomb, as a deterrent, has brought about peace, since the thought of atomic war is too terrible to contemplate. The inventor of the machine gun believed the same thing. The truth is, if a weapon exists, it can be used, and though we can't imagine a justification for it's use now, there may be one offered in the future.

I don't blame Sam Cohen for working on the neutron bomb. If it wasn't him, it would have been someone else. I don't blame him for his justification, we all need to sleep at night. I just don't agree.

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The Architect
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#3
In reply to #1

Re:Moral Weapon?

08/18/2005 1:52 PM

Putting the words "moral" and "weapon" next to each other is pretty much asking for trouble, but I don't think I'd be willing to say that it is "the most immoral" weapon. Poison gas is pretty bad, for instance. Torture devices (perhaps not quite weapons) also come to mind. At any rate, the only actual uses of this particular weapon ended a war, and arguably fewer people died on both sides as a result. So in that context alone, it's at least morally ambiguous.

(IIRC, atomic bombs and neutron bombs are different with respect to radation levels after a short time, so I think your "thousands of years" comment is not accurate.)

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#4
In reply to #1

Re:Moral Weapon?

08/19/2005 8:28 AM

" ... allowing the aggressor to destroy without any personal risk ... "

So, we should only use knives and our bare hands in combat? (Actually, since knives can be thrown, I guess it's bare hands only!)

Weapons are simply tools and have no moral value attached to them. The user of the weapon holds the morality of its development and use. The ICBM would be the immoral device if you were defining it by the ability to project the weapon, the warhead can not go anywhere by itself.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki show the target effects of a nuclear weapon. Last time I looked, the cities are still in existance and are being used.

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The Engineer
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#5
In reply to #4

Re:Moral Weapon?

08/22/2005 9:32 AM

Of course I'm not suggesting we use knives or bare hands. As I said later in my post, had he not invented the neutron bomb, someone else would have. The truth is, if the US didn't develop the nuetron bomb, it would probably have to operate under another country's sphere of influence.

The bomb is built to kill indiscriminately. The only way the bomb doesn't kill is if it isn't used. Any device built expressly for the purpose of killing is immoral.

You're argument is that inanimate objects can't have morality, only man can have morality, ie, the person that uses it. Well then, say some known serial killer comes to me and says "please build me a bomb" and I do it. Aren't I at least partially responsible when he goes and blows some place up and kills countless people? Even a saint with the truest of intentions can only use that bomb to kill. Inevitably, the deaths of all the people killed by that bomb is at least partially on the hands of the man who builds it. That morality is embedded in the weapon itself by the intent of it's design.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a tragedy. Probably necessary to save American lives, but we traded those American lives for Japanese civilain lives. Yes the cities are still there, but there are lingering effects to this day. http://www.csi.ad.jp/ABOMB/today.html

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Guru
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#2

Morality and Technology

08/17/2005 2:54 PM

Whether it's a hand gun or a neutron bomb, an inanimate object can be neither moral nor immoral.

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Anonymous Poster
#6

Re: Interview with the creator of the Neutron Bomb

04/27/2008 9:37 PM

Many of you seem to not realize what a NEUTRON bomb is! It was specifically designed to kill people while limiting destruction of buildings and other infrastructure. It is known as a Radiation Enhanced Weapon. Considering that the hydrogen bomb and missiles had already been developed and deployed, they did not really contribute as a deterrent in the Cold War vs. other nukes. There was a moral aspect-- because it could be used differently. It could conceivably be used against civilians to wipe them out while leaving property intact--- On the other hand, it could be used on legitimate targets, while leaving hospitals, water systems and sanitation useable, minimizing suffering and collateral damage. The morality is arguable, but there are moral issues involved.

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