I know this peculiar old man. He says that in the last three places he worked, he was nicknamed ‘Dr. Strangelove’. He claims to be basically a nuclear physicist, but he knows all kinds of odd people (including a ‘rude, cheeky, greedy and incompetent’ subcontractor hired by the computer firm he worked for in the 1970s – name of Gates) and very odd things. And he wears those 1950s Ray-Bans, which make him look very much like the mad scientist in Repo Man.
He says that according to some great philosopher ‘blackmail’ is a nasty word, but not as nasty as ‘phlegm’.
His modest proposal for dealing with the present terrorist crisis went roughly like this.
“We get hold of the Saudis and we say to them, in public, ‘Are you, as you so often claim, really the leaders of the Islamic world, being the guardians of the holy places of Islam?’
“‘Of course we are,’ they will reply.
“‘In that case,’ we then say, ‘Here are our terms. The very next time that a single civilised person is killed by an Islamic terrorist, whether upon your direct orders or not, the city of al-Madinah will immediately be destroyed by the airburst of a small thermonuclear explosive device.'”
“‘Furthermore,’ we go on, ‘Upon the occasion after that, the city of Meccah will eventually be destroyed in the same way, but not until the middle of the next hajj.'”
The consequences of such an ultimatum being quite clear, I pointed out that the Russians probably wouldn’t like any of this very much.
“We have,” he replied, donning a pair of those little half-moon type spectacles over which one can peer academically, “Far more in common with the
Soviet Union Russians than with the Arabs. Moreover, there would of course be no question of anything strategic happening; it’s not as though anyone were about to invade Saudi Arabia, or seize any oilfields, or anything like that; Saudi government would continue in Riyadh and Jeddah; the royal family would remain undisturbed, and so forth. It’s not really even a proper act of war – merely one of the most utterly crass vandalism and very large scale mass murder, to both of which concepts one would suppose that the Islamic zealots might by now be quite well accustomed. An eye for an eye, as it is written. Provided we kept the yields below, shall we say, 100kT, I imagine we’d get clean away with it.”