Saturday, September 22, 2012

Capitalist vs. socialist bombs

While reading Ross Anderson's massive tome, Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Systems (second edition), I came across this paragraph in section 19.7 on "Directed Energy Weapons" (p. 584):
Western concern about EMP grew after the Soviet Union started a research program on non-nuclear EMP weapons in the mid-80s.  At the time, the United States was deploying 'neutron bombs' in Europe--enhanced radiation weapons that could kill people without demolishing buildings.  The Soviets portrayed this as a 'capitalist bomb' which would destroy people while leaving property intact, and responded by threatening a 'socialist bomb' to destroy property (in the form of electronics) while leaving the surrounding people intact.
This reminded me of a science fiction story I read in Omni magazine at about the time in question, which Google reveals was "Returning Home" by Ian Watson in the December 1982 issue.  In the story, the Americans and the Soviets attacked each other, the Americans using neutron bombs which killed all of the Soviets, and the Soviets using some kind of bomb which destroyed essentially everything except the people.  The ending twist was that the surviving Americans ended up migrating to the Soviet Union and adopting the Soviet culture.