[16 July 2007]
In June 2007, the world was treated to the Onion-esque news that the US Air Force, in its ongoing search for effective non-lethal weapons, had considered one USAF researcher’s $7.5 million suggestion to develop, among other things, a hormone bomb, pitched with unabashed political incorrectness: “One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior.” While this scenario sounds like a plot line lifted from a lost ‘50s Cary Grant comedy, this so-called “gay bomb” proposal occurred in 1994, hardly the dark ages of homosexual understanding. (Proof: Ellen debuted the same year.)
Apparently, the hormone bomb was to be dropped at the enemy front line, and the rich cocktail of gaseous aphrodisiacs would overwhelm soldiers with sudden sexual impulses, causing them to ignore their military duties in favor of impromptu battlefield intercourse. US forces would simply deploy the payload, give the enemy enough time to disrobe, and then…well, I’m not sure what would come next: Personally, I would not feel comfortable interrupting two rifle-clad men while they satisfied their most primal of urges. (“Gentlemen, pardon my intrusion; finish up, enjoy a cigarette. After that, your revolution is over.”)
Astonishingly, the most absurd aspect of the hormone bomb proposal is not its blatant misunderstanding of homosexuality. (Such ignorance might be attributed to the fact that it was only Ellen‘s first season, well before the infamous puppy episode; I’m sure this never would have been suggested in the Will and Grace era.) No, the most absurd aspect of the proposal is its blatant misunderstanding of heterosexuality.
Even if the hormone bomb could defy existing scientific limitations and achieve its comic overreach in a test environment, the theaters of operation where it would be deployed would negate the hormone’s effect. Sure, deploy a heavy dose of airborne aphrodisiac in a Banana Republic store, where the male customers are stylish, attractive, and smell faintly of the Nordstrum perfume counter, and perhaps a few straight males might succumb to the chemical stimulation and sneak off to the changing room; but in a desert, where the men haven’t showered for days or weeks? That’s an environment in which even a gay man would pass on mano-y-mano intimacy, let alone a hetero male.
While much is made of men’s constant appetite for sex, Entrourage‘s brash Ari Gold uttered a line that speaks volumes about the male psyche: “I won’t even f**k my wife after she plays tennis.” Could any amount of airborne aphrodisiac inducement cause a soldier like Ari to suddenly feel frisky for the hairy brute beside him who has spent the last three days supine in the sand during 100 degree heat? (Ladies, don’t take that as a cue to pass judgment on my fickle gender: Your corresponding expression of contempt for men who have the audacity to sport the scent of a natural human appeared in a ‘90s deodorant ad featuring a woman stating with thinly veiled disgust, “If we get close, and he smells? Forget it.”)
The Air Force’s theoretical love bomb asks its cargo to deliver an undeliverable: it proposes to invoke in the enemy a desire to do something that it would not normally do. If the goal is a non-lethal weapon that will distract the enemy from the war at hand, why try so hard to defy the hard-wiring in the brain when a variety of other options would be simpler and more effective? The key is to appeal to a preexisting tendency, one that needs only the slightest encouragement. It is with that logic that I suggest the armed forces begin immediate work on the following chemical devices:
The Donut Bomb
Rather than a payload of hormones, this bomb will be packed with rapid-acting THC vapor. As anyone who has ingested THC understands, the enemy soldier’s post-detonation thought process will be quite predictable: First, as they sit hunkered in their foxhole, they’ll ponder why there have been no major advancements in foxhole technology since such shelters were developed; this will lead to the realization that the foxhole is a nearly flawless meld of form and function, and short of adding a toilet and a small stove for heating dinner, there is no room for improvement. Thoughts will then drift to these imagined amenities: if the foxhole had a stove, what could they cook for dinner? Now fixating on food, the soldier will notice they’re a bit hungry. Actually, quite hungry.
That’s when we’ll send in the next wave: 100 mobile vending trucks, each fully stocked with Krispy Kreme donuts, ventilation units in the roofs wafting the sugary aroma across the battlefield. Once the scent distributes, enemy combatants will think, “That smells delicious. I wonder how much they cost?” Soon, soldiers will be sifting through their pockets for loose change, assuring their comrades, “I look forward to defeating our enemy. But for the moment, I’m going to go grab a few confections. You want any?” In short order US forces will see an army of hands poking out of foxholes making the shape of a “T” (the universal signal for “time out”) and then there will be a mad rush for the trucks (because it’s Krispy Kreme, and everyone wants to get the plain glazed rings before they run out.) The Krispy Kreme’s are sold (ancillary benefit: bankrupting the enemy), and when the soldiers put down their rifles to wipe the pesky sugar residue from their fingers, American troops step from the back of the trucks and the enemy is captured.
Naysayers will insist that this plan is flawed: How will US forces keep the glazed donuts from melting in equatorial climates? While I see this as a feature rather than a flaw (it will require US Presidents to be judicious in their choice of enemies), the concept could easily be expanded to allow for corporate sponsorship, the full cost of the program covered by the highest bidder. The Army could posses an arsenal that includes The Whopper bomb (the name alone is a marketing department’s dream) and the Pizza Hut Pan Pizza bomb to name just two.
Liberal nutritionists will probably complain that defeating our enemies with nothing but high fat / high sodium products sets a poor example for the rest of the world, and America should instead develop a Soy Bomb. (No, not that soy bomb.) While I can’t personally attest to the deliciousness of tofu whilst enjoying a THC euphoria, I suspect the overall effectiveness of the weapon would be compromised if the army tried pedaling tofu treats to the stoned enemy. Should such opposition arise, I recommend the Pentagon silence such protests by reasserting the belief that tofu makes you gay and reminding the protesters that the gay bomb has already been dismissed.
The Cubicle Bomb
Emitting an invisible cloud of gas made up of no-pile industrial carpeting, burnt popcorn, designer perfume knock-offs and photocopier ink, the initial explosion will have no apparent impact on opposing troops. The full power of the weapon will be engaged via an audio cue: taking a page from the Operation Just Cause playbook (the US Effort to bring General Manuel Noriega to justice that culminated in the blaring of rock music at the Vatican embassy in Panama in order to offend Noriega’s music-lover sensibilities until his surrender), enormous loudspeakers will be distributed across the front lines of the battlefield, their audio spectrum adjusted to perfectly mimic the midrange-heavy, slight-feedback-howl of an office-wide conference call.
Over this system, the army will broadcast a series of monotone recitations and meandering improvisations from career middle managers: One will congratulate the enemy on their effectiveness at leveraging limited resources in a dynamic arena and ensure them that despite minor setbacks, including an impending right-sizing of troop strength, the upcoming year promises exceptional military success; the next broadcaster will outline an excruciatingly detailed 17-point strategy for cost-savings that will fund additional reinvestment in infrastructure, in turn allowing faster response to shifting market forces; the next will laboriously highlight the valuable contributions of a roster of employees whose names most of the other soldiers have never heard.
Note that this is not a rehash of the Vietcong’s efforts in the ‘70s to demoralize its opponents by broadcasting lies and propaganda: the announcements that accompany the Cubicle Bomb, by virtue of intentionally vague language and empty platitudes, will seem to offer a positive outlook on the future while surreptitiously instilling a disquieting sense that the best-case scenario being presented is unlikely to come to fruition.
Skeptics who are unfamiliar with this type of warfare may deem this proposal just as absurd as the “gay bomb”. However, I have worked corporate jobs, and have seen these tactics in action. I assure you, the impact will be stunning: Exceptionally talented people will cease to be effective; natural leaders retreat to their foxholes and await directives from the command central; and despite the fact that no one will quit the enemy’s army, US Forces won’t need to capture anyone: they’ll simply have to make sure the enemy combatant’s paychecks continue to arrive. In the meantime, the troops will remain in place, alive but inert, spending their time surfing the web or discussing the state of their Fantasy Baseball teams.
The Celebrity Bomb
This device will distribute a transparent cloud derived from Starbucks frappuccinos, McDonald’s french fries, Bangladeshi cotton and unleaded gasoline, accompanied by an annoyingly constant UHF signal like those emitted from American television towers. Rather than immobilizing the soldiers, the Celebrity Bomb causes an inexplicable disinterest in anything related to the war, replacing conscientious involvement and justified outrage with an unnaturally heightened fascination with the social activities of Lindsey Lohan. On those rare occurrences when talk turns to war, conversation will focus on who is a more credible antiwar activist, George Clooney or Sean Penn.
The most valuable side effect of this weapon is that its victims will fail to recognize any of their own symptoms: in the trenches, soldiers sharing a dog-eared copy of People magazine will insist that they usually read their nation’s version of The Economist; in the tanks, soldiers will assert that they never watch bourgeois American TV moments before exhibiting an uncanny ability to list the cast of Desperate Housewives; in the barracks, soldiers will defend that the computer browser is displaying E-Hollywood.com only because the Al Jazeera website was down for maintenance. All the while, the enemy will remain in position but irrevocably distracted; the war will technically continue, but the enemy will not be paying any attention to it…and there’s no better time to take advantage of people than when they’re not paying attention. (Frankly, I suspect this device already exists, and has been secretly tested on the US population with increasing regularity over the past few decades.)
Critics may assert that the chemical components of the Celebrity Bomb are unlikely to have a comprehensive effect on the enemy, that no amount of irrelevant diversion will distract every soldier from continuing to fight the good fight. Therein lies the true power of this weapon: While a certain number of soldiers will remain engaged and furious, their voices will be drowned out by the majority who vociferously insist that any long-term strategy needs to be coordinated around the next season of American Idol.
I hope the US Air Force gives these non-lethal weapon suggestions their proper consideration. True, none are quite as sexy as the hormone bomb, but then, we’re talking about war, the subject that inspired Brando’s Colonel Kurtz to utter those infamous words, “The horror. The horror.” Within the breadth and depth of that horror, there’s no room for sex. At least not until they start equipping foxholes with a few extra amenities. Like a shower.