Titan II Missile Museum

Filed under: a group of folks,neat!,thoughts @ 15:53

I was in az.us this past weekend visiting my grandpa with my dad (and the rest of my family) for father’s day. While we were there, we visited the Titan Missile Museum: the only Titan II missile silo left after the other fifty-three were intentionally destroyed in 1984 as part of the Titan II ICBM’s retirement. (Tidbit: when the silos were demolished, they were left in ruins for six months so the Soviet satellites could confirm their destruction before being relandscaped into reusable property.)

It was pretty freakin’ cool. The tour started with a walkabout on the grounds above the actual installation. From above, you can look down through the silo door and see the vast tower of armament looking back up at you surrounded by its various service platforms, vibrational dampers and supports. (Tidbit: the jets on the Titan II were so powerful that, if ignited in the silo, they’d shake the missile apart. Massive streams of water were injected into the jet’s exhaust flow so that the resulting steam could absorb and dissipate the energy safely.) The thing is just plain big. (Tidbit: really big.)

Once underground we got to see some of the control center and learn about the daily operations of the compound. My mom even got to turn the brass key (Tidbit: Allen and I figured out it wouldn’t really be all that hard for one person to launch the missile instead of the two that the military had carefully designed the system to require). She annihilated “Target 2”; has that woman no compassion?

But what affected me most was the whole (inter)national culture behind the installation: Mutual Assured Destruction. Peace through Deterrence.

I’m no Cold War history buff. I’m no sociologist, no politician, no philosopher. But these seem like horrible guiding principals. What about Peace through Dialogue? I understand that there are big threats in this world and carrying a big stick makes those threats a lot easier to handle. But how much money was spent on this project and those like it? What if that had gone toward education or international (or, hell, domestic) aid? Would people be so enamoured with the idea of blowing up the U.S. if we didn’t have such a gigantic military machine building weapons capable of destroying most of the rest of the world?

People say the best defense is a good offense. I say the best defense is to not have people hate you. (Tidbit: that’s a lot harder to accomplish.)


    MDA 06.22.2005 @ 17:48

    I forgot to mention that Allen had an absolutely brilliant idea regarding the destruction of the other fifty-three silos. Why destroy them at all? They’re nuclear hardened facilities capable of withstanding some seriously bad news. He suggested turning them into libraries and then sealing them up. If the world as we know it were to ever take a dive (due to, I don’t know, the lack of petroleum or a massive nuclear offensive), future archeologists (of whatever species) could recover a wealth of information.


    Ed 06.22.2005 @ 18:40

    Allen’s idea reminded me of the
    Mount Rushmore Hall of Records
    which was vaguely planned as some kind of repository. They weren’t as ambitious as building a complete library, but they were thinking ahead a bit. They carved the documents that they watned to store into porcelain tablets so that they wouldn’t deteriorate severely over time.

    MDA 06.23.2005 @ 00:40

    Ed, Woah – I’d never heard of it. Pretty slick. Thanks for the info.

    Adam 06.23.2005 @ 01:03

    So, first of all, I have more to say about Mutually Assured Destruction and nuclear weapons than I can write here, so feel free to bring it up sometime in person. After all, I come from a town famous for building nuclear weapons, so I probably have slightly different views than most people.

    Second, if you haven’t ever seen it, I highly recommend watching Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). It’s short. It’s extremely good. And it’s completely relevant to this discussion.

    Third, Allen’s comment reminds me of a really good book by Walter M. Miller, Jr., called A Canticle for Leibowitz. I have a copy here in California that I’d be willing to loan out if anyone wants to borrow it. The story is about a the progression from a post-nuclear holocaust, anti-technology society to a second nuclear age society. One of the central events of the book is the discovery of technological blueprints in an old fallout shelter.

    And, lastly, I’ve always though it would be pretty nifty to convert one of these missle silos to a residence. I know that some other missle silos have indeed been converted before. I think it’d be cool to live in one, although I’d probably get tired of it after a while. (I like watching shows about houses built in weird places such as caves, up in the trees, old fire lookout towers, etc.)

    Uber 06.24.2005 @ 02:34

    I happen to really like MAD. It did break a number of deciders on WWIII. For example, examine the Korean War, and the strategic positions of China, the USSR and the USA on escalation into Manchuria.

    More importantly, it might be worth noting that Open-skies and MAD policies were significantly closer to peace-through-dialogue than the extremely common “pre-emptive war for peace” (sound familiar?) opinion found in people like the Joint Chiefs and other senior people.

    MAD placed the Bomb outside the inventory of nations, which was far preferable to their profligate use.

    Ask now what is preferable: spending billions to store them, where we keep them as a massive, scary bogey monster. Or use them so that the deterrent becomes more abstract, and less scary?

    Dark Horse 08.07.2005 @ 09:55

    Peace through dialogue works great if you aren’t dealing with someone who will just build nukes to wipe you off the face of the earth while you are talking to them.

    But since we can totally trust Iran, Iraq, Somalia, China, India, and Russia (remember Nikita Khruschev – “we will bury you!”) to be totally honest with us and talk out any differences then I see your point that there really is no need for weapons of mass destruction.

    Wow, I wish we would have thought of that before. We can just talk it out…

    When the bully approached me in school and threatened to muscle me out of my milk money – I should have realized that if I had just had meaningful dialogue he would have left me alone. But instead I had to tell him that if he didn’t leave me alone I had a big brother that would come and kick his butt.

    Why was I so stupid? I didn’t need to threaten him back. He would have left me alone if I had just reasoned with him. But, you see I wasn’t as skilled at dialogue as the author of this blog.

    MDA 08.07.2005 @ 11:35

    I guess you weren’t.

    Griztown 08.25.2005 @ 19:21

    I feel I must chime in since I work in Missile Defense and on the current ICBMs and all. I tend to agree with Uber, people are far more likely to come to the table when the thought of a nuclear war is the alternative.

    But further, don’t think of the money as wasted. A by-product of developing the intercontinental ballistic missiles was the space age. Where would JPL and Caltech be right now without that? The Titan and Atlas are also your what get most of our current satellites to orbit which benefits us in all sorts of ways. I know this has been covered ad nauseam but all the DoD funding has given us some mighty nice things like the internet.

    Also, when the Titan was developed most people in the world thought very highly of .us. Assuming they lived outside of Communist regimes that is. Having the Titan didn’t make people hate us. Going into their countries and killing them did.

    But I am, of course, highly biased in this regard.

    MDA 08.25.2005 @ 21:57

    I vacillate between idealism and bitter cynicism, so I’m probably not the best person to debate issues like this.

    The idealist says: I’ve never bought the “investing in missiles allowed us to have Hubble and the internet” argument. They were by-products, as you say. They could easily have been by-products of other initiatives. What if our priorities were not militaristic but instead based on opening dialogue between different people and cultures? The internet could easily have fallen out of those goals as well (PS: this is an example; nobody needs a history lesson on how the internet actually came to be).

    I don’t think negative reinforcement is always a bad thing, but if used consistently, it really hurts the ability to actually understand and work with one another.

    Besides, .us is not in the position it once was. Perhaps, then, our means of interacting with the rest of the world needs to adapt.

    The cynic says: You’re right. We can’t “all get along” because of people like Dark Horse up there.

    Glad to see you around Grizzle.

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