Judo and War
Colonel Holmer reached his left hand for the sleeve of his opponent's jacket, and was fought off twice before getting his grip. Holmer was a strong man, but he had come late to judo, the Strategic Air Command's favorite pastime. His oppenent was younger, quicker, and more knowledgeable.
Then, suddenly, the colonel recognized the beginning signs of uchimata, a technique in which his opponent's leg would thrust up between his own, lift him off the ground, and dump him on his back or head. It was the same feeling he had had many times when he had flown B-17s in the war. There was just a second, or much less than that really, in which one realized that an enemy fighter had dropped out of a cloud dead ahead, and was closing. The automatic reaction was a convulsive muscular movement which would throw the big plane off to the side in a slight bank. The fire from the fighter might then miss the pilot's cockpit, and might even miss altogether. His reaction now was similar. His right hand, which had hold of the lapel of his opponent's gi, yanked left with all his considerable force. The uchimata kept coming, but the opponent was slightly unbalanced. The leg came up and caused pain, but it wasn't enough to throw the colonel. Just then, the sensai, a major who was a second degree black belt, called a halt to randori for the evening. Colonel Holmer and his opponent, a young lieutenant, bowed to each other and lined up to face the sensai.
Only in SAC would a junior officer, or even an enlisted man, have a chance to throw a senior officer through the air, perhaps injure him, and, worse, humiliate him. Only in SAC would an entirely separate ranking system, that of judo, be allowed to take precedence over the ordinary military one. A sensai might be a sergeant, but a general would bow down to him on the mat.
Apart from its recreational value, judo was accepted in SAC because it had its origins in a medieval warrior class, and was appropriate to a modern warrior class. The comraderie that went with it, and which could unify officers and enlisted men, was that of a radical organization utterly cut off from the conventions of life almost everywhere else. The members of SAC believed that they could make their own rules because they, in their isolation, were protecting most of the world. They sometimes thought that they were protecting it almost as much from itself as from the red communist enemy.
Colonel Holmer had, a few hours earlier, been leading his group of heavy bombers, fully loaded and bombed, in a long circuitous flight from their base in North Dakota over the wilderness of the Canadian north, a good deal of it still frozen. They had just switched from B-36s to B-52s, and flying required more concentration than usual. Holmer had previously gone from B-17s to B-29s, and from B-29s to B-36s. The B-52, like the others, was faster and hotter than its predecessor. It was also the first pure jet, and it landed faster. Until one got used to it, there was always the danger of letting it stall in the approach. Seeking release from the tension, he had come to the dojo before going home.
The little community situated next to the base buildings and hangars looked both pathetic and perfect from the air. It was pathetic because of its total vulnerability to the everlasting threat, but its perfection lay in streets laid out in exactly parallel lines with uniformly built ranch houses which were perfectly maintained and ordered in all respects. Even from five thousand feet, one could see the domestic strength and efficiency of the women there, just as the long lines of perfectly positioned B-52s climbing through the clouds expressed the strength and efficiency of the men.
From ground level, one could, in fact, see some blemishes. A few straggly lines of shrubs and flowers indicated that some people weren't as good gardeners as the Holmers. The plastic that some people put up over the windows in a vain attempt to keep out the fine black dust that was driven into the houses by fifty mile an hour winds was also unsightly and irregular looking. Then, too, some of the children ran wild with their shirt-tails hanging out and chocolate on their faces. But one had to be tolerant. The women and children were actually in greater danger than the airmen.
When the attack came, Colonel Holmer might well be in the air. But nothing could save anyone on the ground. The school did conduct air raid drills, but he was told that even the ten year olds joked about the probable effectiveness of the shelters.
On his walk home, Colonel Holmer suddenly caught sight of his youngest daughter playing on a swing set behind a neighbor's house. When he called to her, she came running, full of enthusiasm and affection. As he picked her up, he consoled himself with the thought that there might never be an attack.
Everything that was done on the base depended on contingency planning. The children understood that. If there should be no nuclear exchange, they might eventually have to make their way in a strange alien world which they had hardly seen. It would be one in which there would be no roar of big engines and in which, they were told, there would be funny men who didn't wear uniforms with their rank on their sleeves.
The women, of course, knew that there were men whose status couldn't be ascertained at a glance, and that there were women who had to deal with those and other ambiguities. But most were good SAC wives. They took their husbands' missions for granted and assured their children that there was nothing to be concerned about.
When Colonel Holmer reached his house, his little daughter still at his side, he got the same smile and hug from his wife as always. There was also milk and a snack before he turned in early. He was off to Washington early the next morning, and he needed a good rest. The B-52s that later roared right over the house, only a few hundred feet above it, didn't even cause him to twitch.
Tom and Sid suddenly found themselves promoted. Instead of starting on the machine at one in the morning, they got to start at five. It meant getting up very early, but it was easier than trying to go to sleep in the late afternoon.
FRACE LIP also underwent some changes. The original objective had been to predict, albeit roughly, the circumstances under which Red would strike. However, once Tom had adopted a monetary measure of the pain which would precipitate that strike, it became necessary to simulate, also in an extremely rough way, the Soviet economy. Then, when they took up the option of stirring up discontent about shoes, it became necessary to simulate the black market within that economy. That alone, supposedly just a sub-part of the original simulation, had occupied Tom for days. Everyone assured him that simulations were like that.
Tom had lots of algorithms linking the many variables he had isolated, and, given starting parameters, it was possible to arrive at some results. Whether either the input or output values of the variables were realistic was anybody's guess.
The first surprising result, coaxed out of the machine at about 7AM, was that a successful advertising campaign for black market shoes slightly shortened the lines in the stores for all sorts of goods. Neither Sid nor Tom trusted anything until they could state the principles in English and argue for the plausibility of the results on the same level. As Tom put it,
"We can assume that any western goods that make it into the Soviet Union will be sold. If we make our shoes more desirable and drive up the black market price, more money will be going into the black market. That means less money is left to chase ordinary goods sold in state stores. Since those prices are fixed and can't drop, the lines of people waiting to buy them will decrease in length."
"The irony is that Soviet officials will think things are getting better. Short lines are likely to be less unruly and less likely to foment rebellion. That will save on police costs."
"Plus, the planners will be under less pressure to produce more ordinary shoes. The upshot will be that they'll be able to order even more guns than before."
"Would we be strengthening or weakening Russia?"
"It can't be good to have a growing black market, could it?"
"I imagine that the people who buy goods first have to buy dollars. And those dollars probably end up outside the country."
"I'm sure they do. So a small but increasing part of the GNP would be exported in exchange for consumer goods. Hence, there has to be less for munitions in the long run. If the Soviet leadership pretends to itself and others that the black market doesn't exist, it may proceed with unjustified optimism."
"Or they may tacitly encourage the black market because it shortens the lines in stores and reduces discontent. I can imagine any government doing things to simplify its problems and stay in power even if the country is going to rot from within thirty years down the road."
Tom, beginning to wonder if Ellie Goldstein might not be right, forebore from mentioning her as he replied,
"Well, none of the guys at the top are young. I suppose thirty years would seem like eternity. Of course, our guys aren't any younger. Would they be willing to wait until after they're dead for a Soviet collapse?"
"They might, unless they thought that Red would hit us just when they saw the collapse coming. Which is what your model assumes, Tom."
"I notice that it's 'my' model at times like this and 'our' model otherwise."
"That's the way people talk about their children. I'm preparing you for parenthood. Anyhow, let's put in a full set of parameters and see if our model will run from start to finish."
Tom brought out his list of parameters with its approximation of the military and economic strength of Red and Blue at the present moment. Sid, her fingers flying, set the registers. Then, before pushing the START button, she prepared the Voice of America to run its shoe propoganda.
As usual, they could hear the machine go through its loops as it generated random numbers and conducted its successive approximations. Finally, there was action at the Flexowriter behind them. It was a minor miracle that the program had gotten far enough to print anything. Tom tore off the sheet and displayed it. It said, "Red strikes on July 22, 1973." Sid burst out,
"Eureka, it flies."
Tom was just about to suggest that she was combining Archimedes with the Wright brothers when she threw both arms around him and kissed him. With her blonde hair in his face and his hand on her back, he felt her taut body, almost like that of a big cat, as she pressed against him momentarily. When Tom eventually regained the power of speech, he said,
"Of course, knowing how that prediction was arrived at, there's no reason to take it more seriously than the message in a fortune cookie."
"Sure, but, if we pretended to be serious, we could scare the shit out of some people."
"We could also improve the program to the point where we might be able to scare ourselves."
Sid, taking him more literally than he had intended, swung her swivel chair away for the console to the little desk on which the coding sheets were piled. Watching her clean up some little inelegancies in the program, Tom said,
"You could just as well be one of the programmers instead of an operator. You have more expertise than I do."
Sid, talking as she continued to work, replied,
"But not nearly as much self-confidence. That's important, too. I can do fine in the middle of the night, but it's another matter to have everyone looking over your shoulder and reviewing your results."
"I bet it's just that southern women are taught not to compete with men. You could do whatever Janet and Eileen do."
"Most of the men hate Eileen, which is too bad. She doesn't deserve it. And, in case you haven't noticed, Janet downplays her abilities."
"I have noticed. But you keep yours a virtual secret. If you don't want to be hated, you could at least be like Janet."
"I'm not as quiet as Janet. I get away with that because I make a point of not threatening people in other ways."
Sid then produced one of her looks, the kind that had thrown Tom completely off balance when he first met her. He laughed, and she said,
"I am getting gradually more ambitious, though. And I've been doing some things that'd surprise you if I told you about them, which I won't. Just give me time. Speaking of ambitions, how are you doing with Goldstein's wife?"
"I have a date with her tomorrow night."
Sid actually hit Tom on the leg, none too gently, with the side of her hand. She then said,
"Well, you can come to me after she uses you and drops you, and I'll give you undeserved sympathy."
On the new schedule, Tom carried on as usual during the morning, going to a meeting of the larger group upstairs. This meeting was concerned with the interception of Blue bombers over Red territory. General Edwards led off,
"The model has assumed all along that conventional anti- aircraft fire won't be a significant factor, the way it was over Germany in the last war. In this case, the target countries are too big to allow for that kind of concentration of flak, and, since bombers can approach targets at more than fifty thousand feet, the chance of hitting them is extremely small. Surface to air missiles will eventually take the place of flak, but not for several years. Our next out model gives them no significant role. That means that it's bombers against fighters in the near term."
The general then introduced two visitors from the Strategic Air Command. The more senior of the two, a Colonel Holmer, explained succinctly,
"As far as fighters go, it's the same as it was over Germany. We'll just fight our way through."
This was a youngish man, obviously a pilot, and he sounded as one would expect a pilot to sound. A mimeographed handout was then distributed. It gave the characteristics of the three American bombers, the B-36, the B-47, and the B-52, and of the Soviet fighters they would encounter in the greatest numbers, the MiG 17 and the MiG 19.
Tom had never heard these aspects of the main model fully discussed, and he learned that the three kinds of bombers had three quite different missions. These were largely independent of one another, and some could succeed even where the others had failed.
The first case to be discussed was that of the thirteen hundred B-47s. These were medium large aircraft with six jet engines, a maximum speed of 600, and a relatively modest range of four thousand miles. They were based in such countries as England and Turkey, but even then couldn't reach the industrial region east of the Urals and return.
It was obvious to everyone that the B-47s would have a very difficult time. The ones which weren't already in the air when the Red attack was spotted might well be destroyed on the ground. Of the ones in the air, only a minority would get through to their targets, much less return safely (if there was anywhere to return to). But, still, the minority that bombed would wipe out whole cities and districts.
The next force to be discussed was that of the three hundred B-36s. Huge, with a normal range of 6800 miles (which could be greatly extended), they could fly from the US, hit any enemy target, and then land in some friendly (or even neutral) country that hadn't been thoroughly nuked. However, they were much slower than the other bombers with a maximum speed of only 411, and would arrive many hours after the decisive battles had been fought. If the Red fighter bases had, by that time, been put out of action, the B-36s could roam the Soviet Union and the satellites, truly turning everything into radioactive rubble.
If, on the other hand, substantial Red fighter forces remained active, the big planes would be extremely vulnerable. They were heavily armed, with twelve 20mm cannon each, and they could cover each other in a tight formation. But a fighter force which, if it survived, might outnumber them ten-to-one would be able to pick away at the pack, increasingly ganging up on the ones that were left. Either way, the fate of the B-36s would be sealed a good many hours before they arrived.
That left the newest and most interesting force. The B- 52, just becoming available in large numbers, was a remarkable aircraft. About the size of the B-36, with about the same range, it was faster than even the B-47. Indeed, at 660 miles an hour, it was only barely subsonic at most altitudes.
Behind that speed lay an interesting trade-off. Boeing had promised the air force an extra hundred miles an hour on the B-52 if it would eliminate all guns and turrets except for a single one in the very tail. The air force had agreed on the grounds that the bomber would be too fast for fighters to attack from any direction but aft, in which case its two radar-directed guns would give it almost as much protection as any bomber would have when attacked from a particular given direction.
Colonel Holmer said that the B-52 force would almost entirely be directed at the industrial heartland of Russia, the only area that couldn't be reached by the B-47s. That made sense. But, then, it turned out that, when he had spoken of the bombers "fighting their way through," he had meant that the whole B-52 force would attack in a single massed formation. Goldstein was immediately on his fleet, saying,
"That's a mistake. You need to split the formation up."
"Four hundred ships together will have eight hundred guns. That's quite a gauntlet for an opposing fighter to run."
"Our simulations show that more will get through if they enter Red air space singly or in small groups at a great many different places, and at different altitudes."
The argument was, at first, quite rational. The MiG 17s, enjoying a maximum speed advantage of something like fifty miles an hour over the B-52 and hardly anything at their subsonic cruising speed, would be almost impossible to vector on to the attacking planes, except when they happened to lie in the path of the attack. Even the supersonic MiG 19s would cruise subsonically, and wouldn't enjoy any greater advantage at cruising speed. That meant that, while there might be two thousand of them, it would be difficult to concentrate them in large numbers, and then loose them at the B-52 formation. Holmer concluded that, when subjected to scattered stern attacks, the single massed bomber formation would be able to hold its own.
"We'll get the kinds of losses we got over Germany, or, at most, ten per cent. But, this time, we'll have nukes, and one attack'll do it."
It sounded reasonable to Tom, but not to Goldstein. The latter said,
"By this time, the Red command and control system will have been degraded to some extent. Most bombers attacking singly would never be intercepted at all. And, anyhow, Red would have to spread its MiG 19s all over the map. They'd have to attack B-52s singly or in small groups, and the bombers would still have a good chance."
That, too, sounded reasonable to Tom. The argument went on, and Goldstein, sounding more restrained than he usually was, eventually proposed,
"In our model, we've also had good results with a hundred groups of four B-52s attacking at widely separated points and converging on the trans-Ural area. If Red tries to wait until they converge, it's much too late."
It did seem that the eight guns of four bombers would be able to lay down an effective fire on fighters attacking from aft, probably in single file. But Holmer was intransigent. Finally, Goldstein said,
"We have computer simulation techniques that will answer questions of this sort. Why are you coming to us if you won't pay any attention to our results?"
The younger of the two visitors, who seemed to have been restraining himself, then spoke out,
"The computer may be all right, but who knows what you've fed into it? You've never flown a bomber in combat, probably never even been in one."
Goldstein was probably about to call him an idiot when General Edwards quickly intervened, saying,
"It's my understanding that our mission isn't to try to tell SAC, or anyone else, how to conduct their operations. Rather, we need to know how those operations are going to be conducted so that we can simulate them, and then report our results to the pentagon."
The general, as was his custom when he judged that things were going downhill, thanked everyone for their participation. Then, just after closing the general meeting, he introduced Tom to the visitors from SAC.
General Edwards gave the two officers to understand that Tom was the person who could tell them the most about simulations. Tom knew that this wasn't true, or even close to being true, but he made no objection. When the visitors moved away to gather up their papers and briefcases, Tom found money being thrust into his pocket. General Edwards whispered to him,
"Take them out for a good lunch. Take Sid with you."
Tom had never been put into such a position before, but he began by suggesting a look at the machine. The younger of his guests, Major Williams, laughed in a way that might have been derisive, but they followed Tom downstairs.
The problem with viewing the machine was that even the flashing lights on the console did little to explain what it did. Tom tried a lame explanation or two, and Colonel Holmer did manage a couple of polite questions. Tom, with a feeling of desperation, wondered what he could possibly say next. Just then, Sid came by.
By great good fortune, she accepted the invitation to lunch, suggesting that they go immediately to beat the rush. The heat wasn't too bad that day, and, as they walked along, it seemed to Tom that his guests were somewhat conflicted. They obviously didn't like civilians very well. It was also doubtful if they approved of a woman like Sid being privy to military secrets. But they nevertheless softened visibly. Tom, much more relaxed, made so bold as to say,
"General Edwards stuffed money into my pocket and said we should go somewhere good, so I guess we should take him at his word."
Major Williams, a very direct man, asked how much money it was. Tom took it out and counted fifty dollars, adding,
"The best place around is the Petit France. If you like French food, that'll see us through there nicely."
Tom wasn't sure whether the zealots of SAC would eschew anything French, but it seemed not. There was enthusiasm for the idea, and Colonel Holmer allowed,
"There probably isn't a single French restaurant in all of North Dakota. We could do with a change."
"Do you mind being isolated up there?"
"Not most of the time. There aren't any distractions, and it's a good place to train for our mission. Anyhow, SAC people don't have any friends outside of SAC, and so our social life doesn't suffer."
This seemed intended as a bit of a joke, but Tom suspected that it was literally true. Sid led the conversation easily, but, as they passed Pete Helton's favorite restaurant, she seemed momentarily disconcerted. She then said,
"That little restaurant reminds Tom and myself of something. We have a colleague who liked to go there, but he recently shot himself."
That led to questions, and the story of Pete soon came out. It seemed to disturb Colonel Holmer and anger Major Williams. The latter said,
"So this is a guy engaged in defense work, and he goes and shoots his face off for some stupid reason and leaves whoever was depending on his work in the lurch."
Tom and Sid explained gently that no one had ever depended on Pete's work. Williams replied,
"Then it sounds as if he was only being kept on as charity anyway. That's a hell of a thing in an organization that has a serious mission."
Colonel Holmer said, a little less passionately,
"Well, of course, we wouldn't have anyone in SAC who we didn't think we could depend on absolutely. And then, if someone did try something like that, we'd get rid of him even before the ambulance got him to the hospital."
It was funny to see Sid react. Even though she had never liked Pete, she thought he should be treated humanely. She replied,
"I can see that you couldn't afford anyone like that in SAC. But we're not a combat group. No one else's life is going to depend on what Pete does. And, anyway, he seems to have lost his balance over a woman. Couldn't that happen even in SAC?"
This last was said teasingly with a smile. Major Williams smiled back and Colonel Holmer said,
"Sure. People fall in love. If it's with someone they can't marry, it's a problem. But we expect self-discipline, just as we do in combat. You keep on flying, and you get over it eventually."
It almost sounded as if the colonel had had the experience himself. Tom wondered if he had fallen in love with the wife of another officer in one of those isolated bases. But, of course, no such things would ever be spoken of outside SAC.
The air conditioning of the restaurant was a little overdone. Sid was in a light summer dress, and, as they sat down, Tom saw her shiver. Major Williams noticed it too, and immediately put his uniform jacket around her shoulders. Sid loved that sort of gallantry, and, of course, she was particularly pleased to have a jacket with pilot's wings and all the other insignia of SAC. Tom was himself not pleased. It was obvious to him that, all other things being equal, Sid would prefer the major to himself.
This thought was connected in Tom's mind with the fact of Major Williams having the same surname as himself. It was such a common name that people sharing it often didn't even remark on the coincidence when they met. Tom and the major had perhaps given each other a special look, but that was all. On the other hand, Tom had always felt competitive with other male Williamses, almost as if they had belonged to the same family.
He had immediately noticed that the major, shorter than himself and a dozen or so years older, was very solidly built and athletic looking. He might well have been a college football player, and, even now, was in a glamourous dare- devil sort of work. He was also a handsome man, much better looking than Tom felt himself to be. On top of everything else, he knew his way around women, Sid in particular. It was hard for Tom to escape the conclusion that the major was, simply, the better man.
It soon reached the point where Tom was talking mostly with Colonel Holmer while Major Williams, at his side, seemed to have no difficulty in entertaining Sid. But, anyway, there was no lack of conversation.
When the various courses of food came, both Holmer and Williams were pleased and ate well. It seemed to be far from their first experience with French cooking. They might not have been as cosmopolitan as the diplomats, but they had been all over the world, and they had evidently ventured out of their enclaves enough to sample the local cuisine. In answer to a question, Holmer said,
"We've always been very well received in Europe, and in many other places. They know we're protecting them, and they appreciate it. It's in North Dakota that we have trouble."
This last was said with a smile, but Major Williams was less tolerant. He said,
"If you go into some two-bit town that doesn't have anything worth having anyway, you discover that they charge you double what they do the locals. And they aren't even polite."
The colonel said,
"It's really inexcusable. We aren't the army, and we don't have thousands of enlisted men who'll get the local girls into touble. In fact, our men won't even go near the local girls."
It turned out that General LeMay himself was concerned with the problem, and was going around to the local towns to try to improve relations. Major Williams said,
"We really appreciate the effort he's making. At one drugstore, he asked directly whether he was being charged the local price for the milk shake he was getting. The man behind the counter agreed to cut the price."
Colonel Holmer then said,
"The local people aren't really so bad. They're just suspicious of strangers, and they can't quite realize that they're in just as much danger as the people in Berlin."
They had been having wine throughout the lunch, and, after dessert, they had brandy. It was then that the discussion turned to Goldstein. Major Williams said,
"I was ticked off at him at the time. But, now, it's almost funny. Imagine someone trying to tell us how to attack Russia! We don't even trust the rest of the air force, much less civilians."
Colonel Holmer, looking more at Sid than Tom, said,
"A lot of people don't realize what SAC is like. We're our own world, really. We know we have enormous power, and we have to be careful about any kind of infiltration or alien influence. We take our orders from General LeMay, and he takes his from the president. And that's it."
There was silence for a moment. Insofar as the president had been freely elected, SAC was under democratic control. On the other hand, the attitudes of both officers could easily be taken for those of men who served a noble who served a king. The unquestioning loyalty was certainly there, and, in this case, the king could unleash forces far beyond anything dreamed of by Louis the Fourteenth.
Colonel Holmer then returned to Goldstein and said,
"At least, he seems to realize that an attack is a real possibility. We meet a lot of people who think that nuclear weapons couldn't be used."
"Goldstein is certainly a hawk. He believes in striking first."
That made an impression. Both SAC officers looked as if they thought they might have misjudged Goldstein. Major Williams said,
"We get so aggravated with people who are afraid to use power, or who call a truce when we're just about to win. That's what happened in Korea."
It turned out that both officers had a rather odd, and Tom thought unrealistic, view of the American establishment. They perceived it as being largely under the control of political liberals who were intent on denying American power and influence wherever possible, and on giving great chunks of American wealth away to foreigners who responded only by sneering at the American flag and denouncing American intentions.
Tom had, in fact, grown up with the kind of people who were suspected of such things. It was true that they were allergic to words like "patriotism," and some would have found it embarrassing to fly the flag from their porches even on the fourth of July. They also believed that third-world statesmen who made ringing anti-American speeches were often quite willing to co-operate in more private circumstances. There were even some who, like Ellie Goldstein, hoped that the Soviets would become richer so that they would have less motivation to attack. Indeed, if these officers were to meet Ellie, their worst fears would be confirmed.
On the other hand, Tom was himself sure that the eastern establishment, while not quite as hawkish as Ellie's husband, was in the end totally concerned with American interests, and wouldn't be willing to give a penny to anyone unless it looked as if that penny would be mulitiplied and returned. It was, however, impossible to explain such things to these gentlemen, even under the helpful influence of the brandy.
It was Sid who said,
"I think everyone realizes that you have a mission that's potentially extremely dangerous."
Major Williams replied,
"We're not a bunch of martyrs who're going out there to get killed. We're going to win."
Colonel Holmer spoke with less passion, and even with a little smile,
"As General Patton said, the point is not to give your life for your country. It's to make the other son-of-a-bitch give his for his."
The colonel was not the sort of man who would ordinarily have used even mild profanity in front of a lady, but things were well loosened by this time. Major Williams then said,
"Everyone from the president on down is charged with minimizing the probability of our country being nuked and destroyed. By far the safest thing is to let us win it now. Then, we'll know exactly when the return strike is coming. Our fighters, given that kind of advantage, will knock down every one of their bombers."
Sid said slowly,
"I can see that it probably is safer for us to do that. But can we destroy fifty or a hundred million people to make things maybe ten per cent safer for ourselves?"
The question reminded Tom of all the inclonclusive arguments between ethical philosophers. They were always asking, in a purely abstract way, whether it would be justifiable, under various circumstances, to sacrifice so many X's for the sake of so many Y's. That sort of question was no longer abstract and hypothetical. But he didn't say anything. Sid was allowed to be humane because she was a woman, but he didn't want Major Williams to sneer at him.
The conversation then shifted to less weighty matters, in the course of which Sid offered to take Major Williams shopping to get something for his wife. Tom could imagine her trying on dresses and posing prettily in front of Williams.
When Tom got home that day, he found Hal Holmes on his doorstep. It had always been Hal's practice to appear unexpectedly, and he had taken the train down from Philadelphia. It went without saying that they would talk far into the night, and that Hal would sleep on the floor. Mama T might even be prevailed on to provide an extra mattress.
As they walked up to the Hot Shoppe for dinner, Tom told Hal about the SAC visitors. Hal remarked,
"Dad was involved when SAC was set up, and he knows LeMay and all the other generals."
"What does he think of them?"
"He has great respect for LeMay. He thinks he's one of the most competent generals we've ever had. You know, LeMay's not a West Pointer at all. He's a poor boy who went to Ohio State and had to support his parents as well as himself. Dad likes that kind of thing."
This was said with a smile, and Tom asked,
"Does your father think you'd support him if he lost his money?"
"I think he has serious doubts. But he'd like a son like General LeMay. Dad says that he's not a crazed hawk, the way he's sometimes pictured."
"Yeah, no one who knows him seems to think that. But he may think that the Russians are crazed hawks, and that's just as bad."
"Becuase he'd think he has to get them before they got us?"
Hal was silent for a moment, and Tom realized that such thoughts were second nature only to people who were daily immersed in the peculiar logic of the cold war.
By the time that they were ordering the Hot Shoppes special turkey dinner (without gravy), the subject of conversation had changed to girls. Hal had found someone who seemed to be interested, a somewhat older divorced woman. He had met her when her child had fallen from a playground swing and Hal had rushed up with first aid. He said,
"She seems nice and she's certainly friendly, but I'm afraid she has ulterior motives."
"Money, you mean?"
Hal replied affirmatively, as if he knew excatly what was in the woman's mind. Tom, a little irritated, said,
"If you were the way you usually are, I can't imagine how anyone would ever guess that you have money."
"There are little signs of money."
"Sure, but you've systematically eliminated every last one of them."
"Then there are the theoretical considerations."
Those were well known to Tom. The first was that it was unfair to have children and bring them into a world of suffering. It was from Tom that Hal had found out about the Buddhist doctrine that the world is, in fact, one of unrelieved suffering. While Tom had always been somewhat sceptical, Hal had swallowed it whole. Still, whatever the ethics of the matter, Tom was in no hurry at all to have children. There was thus no practical disagreement.
The other main principle was that it was a mistake to ever relax rational control over feeling, and it wasn't even clear if there was any place for sexual gratification. Even if there was, Hal held that any sort of involvement with a woman was likely to set loose a chaos of emotion which might never be brought under control.
These principles had originally been formulated when neither Tom nor Hal had encountered anything but frustration in their attempts to get girls to go out with them. There had been comfort in such theories, particularly when they walked past the house dances and saw their class-mates with beautiful glamorous young ladies on their arms. But, now, things were a little different. Tom said,
"I've also, I guess, found someone. She's the wife of a colleague, but he seems not to care. We've been out necking once, and she seems ready to go all the way."
"Well, that sounds safer than mine. She can't very well want you to marry her. It might also be less emotional."
"She's strictly intellectual, hardly emotional at all. And I've always wanted sex with someone, just to satisfy curiosity if nothing else."
"There's an old adage about curiosity, isn't there?"
"Yes. It kills cats. But I haven't meeowed lately."
"I'll let you try. If it goes well, I'll think about it myself."