OPINION: The United States Air Force disclosed last week that 34 officers entrusted with the world's deadliest weapons have been removed from launch duty for allegedly cheating in a proficiency test. Here's the test:
Instructions: Circle the correct answer (d) to each of the following questions.
1. Whose side are you on?
2. Under what circumstances would you be willing to change sides?
a. On receiving a large sum of money.
b. If we seemed to be losing.
c. If I fell in love with a woman from Unsure.
d. Don't expect me to fall for a trick like that. It's like the question on the immigration forms asking people to tick a box if they belong to a terrorist organisation. Jeez, have you ever actually caught anyone with that?
3. USSR in question 1 is:
a. A deliberate anachronism.
b. The best enemy we've ever had.
c. Far preferable as a national bogeyman to those terrorist ragheads who don't provide a proper territorial target to threaten, invade or bomb.
d. All of the above.
4. The warheads in your charge and which you are responsible for sending wherever they may be needed, though the accuracy of the word "needed" could be disputed, depending on whether you live in the USA or a potential target country such as Unsure, are:
a. Nuclear fusion bombs.
b. Nuclear fission bombs.
c. A mixture of fusion and fission bombs.
d. Astonishingly good at destroying people and property whether they be fusion or fission bombs so the distinction is academic.
5. If you wish to launch a missile you should:
a. Press the green button.
b. Press the red button.
c. Press the red button and the green button simultaneously.
d. Ask yourself first whether there are any conceivable circumstances in which launching it would do the world good and also whether having launched it you would ever again know a moment's mental peace.
6. The weapons in your care were designed to:
a. Deter nation states from attacking the USA.
b. Discourage atomic war by guaranteeing mutual destruction.
c. Bolster American power in the second half of the twentieth century.
d. All of the above.
7. In the 21st century, any attack on the USA is most likely to consist of:
a. Naval bombardment followed by troops in landing craft.
b. A rain of nuclear missiles.
c. Conventional bombing raids on American cities.
d. Small terrorist actions, cyber warfare, subtle biological threats or a combination of these and other untraditional methods emanating from a source that is geographically indefinite and therefore not amenable to a retaliatory missile attack.
8. So the vast nuclear arsenal is:
a. Fundamental to the defence of the free world.
b. An incalculably valuable deterrent without which the United States would be overrun in minutes.
c. A necessary evil in a naughty world.
d. So last century that it is by and large redundant. Once the genie of nuclear technology was out of the bottle, the USA had no choice but to seek to be its master, and for a while American missiles may have acted as a deterrent. But now the whole huge collection has become an encumbrance: serving almost no military purpose, ruinous to maintain but near impossible to destroy.
9. The Chinese have recently been testing a hypersonic missile delivery system which, if perfected, and the Chinese are nothing if not dedicated to perfecting things, will:
a. Travel at 10 times the speed of sound.
b. Biff through and destroy all existing defence systems before they can do any defending.
c. Render current nuclear missiles even more redundant than they already were.
d. All of the above with knobs on.
10. Therefore the likelihood of your ever having to fire one of the missiles to which you've dedicated your entire professional life is:
b. More or less nil.
c. So small as to be effectively nil.
d. Roughly the figure arrived at by adding answers a, b and c and then dividing by three.
11. On considering the implications of the preceding 10 questions you may wish to be removed from launch duty. The best way to achieve this is to:
a. Assassinate the president.
b. Defect to Unsure with the woman you love.
c. Press a few buttons just for the fun of it.
d. Cheat on this proficiency test.
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