Last week's Tne New Yorker (February 23, 2009) has an article about the inventor of the AA-12. He lives on his Tennesee farm and is in his early seventies. What is an AA-12? It's not a weapon used by the U.S. military, if that's what you cynical readers think. However, you'd be right if Jerry Baber had his way--that's the inventor's name who invented a recoiless, automatic firing shotgun (equivalent to a 12-gauge without the kick-back.) The article by Evan Ratliff reports that the AA-12 shoots five rounds every 10 seconds and can be fired held in one hand. Having used my dad's double barrel 12-gauge shotgun as a teenager, trying to hit just one skeet, I can still recall the recoil into my right shoulder almost knocked me off my feet! Due to that 40+ year old memory and my becoming enamored during my Advanced Infantry Training in 1968 with the 50-caliber machine gun, I find that of all the weapons I have fired before the age of 25, the shotgun remains the most impressive and practical for private use.
No, I have not gone over to the NRA. If one lives in a rural area such as are many of the mountains and valleys of California, Arizone, New Mexico and Nevada, okay even Texas, some kind of gun keeps people safer from rattle snakes, mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes, predators that pose a deadly threat to one's stock, geese, chickens and turkeys, and small dogs or cats. I can attest, however, that living alone or with a family on farmland or ranches where your closest neighbor may be a mile or ten away, there are legitimate reasons for having access to a rifle or shotgun. And, you never know whose intentions might be less than friendly should they happen onto your property. Poachers still plunder snimal herds and criminals do look for isolated targets of opportunity.
Were I living still in a city, though, I see no positive value from owning a firearm or other weapon. That is, unless our government were to turn against its citizens or lost control to local gangs. During the Bush/Cheney Junta's years, we were very close to the impossible--a governmental coup for authoritarian government. When I realized how much Bush had corrupted our Bill of Rights and the separation of powers, I found new solace in the Second Amendment. Think Germany in 1933. Think Mexico in 2009.
Meanwhile, this Jerry Baber has this incredible weapon and he has joined with a robotics firm Robotex of Palo Alto, CA, to develop battlefield, un-manned, armed weapons to seek out enemy targets and "take them out" using the concept of the violent video games with pre-programmed signals and probably maneuvered with joy sticks. These robots are not like RoboCop, or the Mars explorer robots. These have treds like tanks, but much, much smaller. They are like personal artillery weapons meant primarily to kill people--the enemy, of course--not detonate an oil field or supply terminal.
The technology Baber and Robotex includes helicopter-robots, armed with two AA-12's, so configured that they can be folded up and carried in a back pack by special forces troops in the field and then launched by a soldier when needed. So I have your attention yet?
The New Yorker article rolls out this information with a logic usually reserved to engineers. Baber is an engineer living in isolation and his story reminds me of a long-past neighbor Al who invented several incredible hydrology processes all over the world, yet lived on several acres, in a house he built, when there were no other people within 20 miles in any direction. Al's entrepreneurial feats of engineering helped humanity and that underlines the key difference from Mr. Baber. [Note to linguists: I'll bet it sounds like 'Barbar'.]
Articles like this offend and alarm me. I'm reminded of academic researchers who choose funding from the military for their applied research at campuses and institutes of higher learning around the country. The explanations, technical writing and results are so divorced from the ultimate purposes with which their research findings will be used. Those incredibly intelligent scientists of The Manhattan Project must have been able to segment their personalities between their work lives and their personal lives. Yet, they created the nuclear age of this world for all peoples on every continent. The Great Renaissance man, Leonardo Da Vinci designed military weapons for his income while simultaneously creating such beautiful, new artistic wonders that can capture the soul.
Final comments: Baber has decided to sell his weaponry to the US military only, mostly because of the hassle involved to sell to foreign customers. To date, military procurement officers have not been very receptive to this outsider's product. Of course, this article is great advertisement. Secondly, if he is not part of the military=industrial insiders, he and The New Yorker's editors must have decided what information could be made public and what should be classified. Borrowing a phrase, cemeteries around the world contain very brilliant inventors and entrepreneurs. Among the living, there may be those who could have an "Aha!" moment just from reading this article.
In war decisions are amoral for combatants--kill or be killed based on radical desire to survive, and survival depends on a very tightly, emotional bond among soldiers on every side. That is why war is in itself immoral by definition. Morality is not an intellectual process in my mind; morality frames and informs my soul. How ridiculous and useless it is to say "Oh, what have I done" or "we had no choice" after the fact.
The issue is not "we" but I. It matters not whether the contrite person is a soldier, a politician, a sympathizer or a media commentator. A person, not a group or a boss, makes moral decisions about one's own actions, knowing or ignorant of possible outcomes. An individual may not accept responsibility, but the question of accountability for moral living feeds humanity's spiritual faith everywhere.
Labels: AA-12, inventions, military, The New Yorker, weapons