We Will Mock The Brave And Wise

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Shannon Love says, We Will Mock The Brave And Wise, because we in the general public don’t share in the information that our leaders use to make national security decisions:

Nova on PBS ran an episode this week about the secret history of Sputnik. The show explored the real reason that the Soviets beat the Free World into space: Eisenhower desperately wanted spy satellites to forestall a nuclear Pearl Harbor, so he deliberately held back the U.S. launch and let the Soviets go first. Doing so required the Soviets to establish a legal precedent for satellite fly-over, something Eisenhower desperately wanted so that the U.S. could launch its own spy satellites.

If the Soviets had not gone first they no doubt would have employed their considerable propaganda power to raise powerful objections in international law to the orbiting of satellites. The law of space and subsequent development of space flight of all kinds would have evolved much differently, and most likely much more contentiously. Sputnik represented a subtle strategic coup for the Free World, one that arguably saved the entire world from nuclear destruction by reducing paranoia and fears of a surprise attack on both sides.

Yet the world, and especially the American public, saw Sputnik as a devastating defeat for America. It damaged Eisenhower’s presidency to such a degree that had he been in his first term, the event would have most likely cost him his reelection. It prompted a flurry of legislation that federalized education and scientific research. The sting of the perceived defeat led directly to the largest and most expensive work of political art in the 20th century, the Apollo moon missions.

How does a free and democratic republic hold its leaders accountable, when those leaders must keep crucial strategic information secret?

Leave a Reply