Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Little Chips Don't Know Where Home Is Anymore

In yesterday's post about the "obsolete-before-it's-built" plans for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement, I concluded with the observation:

The very idea of nickel-and-diming infrastructure projects until they are "built broken" is asinine. The whole disposable culture has got to end. Remember when things were built to last, and one paid a fairly high price for durable goods? Now, we buy cheap crap that we have to continually replace, which is wasteful and stupid. It's wasteful and stupid when such items as shoes, clothing, and small appliances are concerned, it's tragic and suicidal when major infrastructure is concerned.

Speaking of tragic and suicidal, we can't even build killing machines (something we used to excel at) that work any more... weapons manufacturers have purchased over 59,000 cheap Chinese microchips for installation into weapons systems. Some of the chips may have been hacked so that they will fail at critical moment. Personally, I am appalled at the hypermilitarization of our culture and believe that we should have relied on "soft power" in foreign relations rather than a bloodthirsty policy of "kill them and take their stuff". That being said, even the bloodiest of hawks would be appalled that we are now buying cheap foreign components for our vaunted weapons. At the end of the Cold War, pundits were speaking of aUnipolar Moment (I believe that Charles Kraphammer coined the phrase, but I won't send any hits that ghoul's way), when the U.S. was a single "hyperpower" after the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, after eight years of Dubya dumbassitude and ten years of continuous war, we have now reached "banana republic with nukes" status. By cutting corners even in the construction of our war machine, with the resultant increase of profits for the war profiteers (reminiscent of Arthur Miller's All My Sons), we are even losing that dubious distinction. With the renewed drumbeat for drumbeat for strikes against Iran, the possibility that our weapons incorporate faulty chips could make a really, really bad decision into a positively disastrous decision. Hell, we're even losing the ability to be a belligerent rogue actor on the world state.

The "bad chips" scandal reminds of a key plot point in Jack Vance's novel The Killing Machine in which **WARNING: MAJOR SPOILER** the protagonist incorporates an intentional design flaw into a weapon which is being designed at his enemy's behest, a design flaw which is instrumental in the protagonist's victory over his foe. I don't know if any of the Chinese military brass are Jack Vance fans, but the intentional sale of flawed components to a greedy, stupid U.S. military industrial complex would be a plan worthy of a fictional mastermind.

Of course, the title of this post is a riff on a lyric from Making the Bombs by the Circle Jerks:


fish said...

Don't worry, our military is too secure to worry about these small details.

Our allies like China whose industries are completely independent of the gov (just like ours are, right AT&T?) would never build into a chip something that would allow a breach in security. That is never done.

Smut Clyde said...

weapons manufacturers have purchased over 59,000 cheap Chinese microchips for installation into weapons systems.

Sounds from the article that they have purchased far more than that, and are continuing to do so; 59,000 is just the number of the ones that proved to be counterfeit (and possibly melamine-tainted). Which is not to say that they're the only batch of counterfeit chips (since the manufacturers are buying whatever's cheapest), just the ones that were traced.

So (1) the US armaments industry was supposed to be the one area left where the govt. can stimulate the economy, but now it's the Chinese economy you're stimulating;

(2) You're buying weapons components from one of the countries that will be a target for those weapons, and expecting them to work... on the theory that Chinese corporations will be intent on profits above national loyalty, like their US counterparts.

Comments in that Dangerroom thread are hilarious, with one nimrod blaming teh meddling Federal Govt. for corporate malfeasance, which can presumably be fixed by reducing the federal role in national defense.

Just saying, the NSA has no trouble maintaining its own chip foundry for special-purpose numbercrunching without outsourcing all the sensitive work to potential targets. Perhaps the difference is that the NSA has a specific job to do, rather than being a money funnel for subsidising private companies.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Our spending on wars and "defence" is one of the major threats to our country.

I hope the Pentagon is some high-tech weaponry to face this danger...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

That is never done.

It's axiomatic!

(and possibly melamine-tainted)

Note to self, skip the fission chips.

I hope the Pentagon is some high-tech weaponry to face this danger...

A simple pocket calculator would suffice!

Laura said...

I'm happy to know that, *if* you guys ever get pissed off at us and decide to send a bomb our way, it will most likely fizzle out before it hits my house.

Still, giving "our tank" a winter tune up would probably be wise-just in case!


M. Bouffant said...

Indeed, aren't many of China's corporate entities wholly owned by the PLA?

Laura said...

I came over here to tell you something and in the time it took for the page to load, I'd forgotten what it was.

Cripes I'm getting old! :(


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

You know who ELSE forgot what they were going to comment?

...umm...I don't recall, either.

Brando said...

Oh, that CJ video brings back some memories. I love when Keith Morris tells the crowd, "We don't give a fuck what you think because we do care about you."