Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Capitalism and Freedom

One aspect of the rejuvenated military-industrial complex under George Bush is the application of marketing skills to weapons systems. In other words, stuff that destroys other stuff (or people) has to have a cool name. Consider for instance a story in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) about how US defence contractors have found a useful reserve market in Israel for technology that the Pentagon has passed on: mobile short-range missile defence systems. The Israelis are interested, though possibly not at the price the American firms want, since the Palestinian rockets are low-tech and not that difficult to spot and stop.

But some thought clearly went into the names for these systems. Northrop Grumman has a system called Skyguard, which sounds like something to do with air traffic control (which in a sense it is). Competitor Raytheon, which ingeniously used CNN to in effect run ads for their Patriot system in the 1991 Gulf War, goes for the classic Greek reference this time with Phalanx. There's something about this terminology that calls to mind the earlier, non-prurient, Paul Verhoeven films, like Robocop.

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