+Coronavirus: what if this were a war? I said a few days ago how mad it would seem for a state to launch an attack on its enemies by targeting its own people first, especially with a weapon that could easily be uncontrollable. But if you knew you were going to do it, you would surely have your plans in place before you did it (and before anybody else understood what you were doing). I am not suggesting here that the Chinese have launched a weapon—what I am doing is considering what one of the new weapons of ‘mass destruction’ might look like today. If you were intent on destroying or seriously damaging your foe’s economy, you wouldn’t now resort to nuclear weapons. They’re expensive to maintain, hard to deliver, easy to identify and of course could lead to mutually assured destruction at the touch of a button. So what might your strategy be? Develop your own resilience. This thought reminds me of the reasoning behind the old UK Civil Defence Corps, with their role to detect and monitor a nuclear attack on Britain from little bunkers dotted around the countryside. The idea behind this, apart from anything else was to send a (rather pathetic) signal to our great enemy the Soviet Union that we were dug in and ready for anything they might throw at us. That idea of resilience fell foul of government cuts in 1968, the year which in the UK truly ended the history of what might be termed a Dad’s Army mindset (and the start of the comedy series, a pure coincidence I’m sure). So, let’s put to one side for a moment the horrendous possibility of nuclear war (I nevertheless wouldn’t rule it out) and consider the weaponisation of viruses. In this context the notion of your country’s resilience will be measured not in terms of firepower, but population survival rates. Remember the neutron bomb—somebody came up with the idea, and I can’t recall to what extent it was tested—that a device could be created which wiped out people but left buildings standing. Now, wouldn’t it make more sense to deploy a less easily traceable infection? And if the target nation had insufficient medical facilities, it would be defeated? The object is to ensure the state cannot recover without its people and to deliver the weapon as it were, anonymously. So ventilators become more important than Armalites. Maybe this sounds implausible, but is it not plausible to imagine that in a Strangelovian sense such ‘thought pieces’ have not been gamed in the Pentagon, or its many associated thinktanks (and not just the Pentagon of course). Indeed, I would be astonished if they hadn’t, given that that’s precisely what they’re paid to do. I say again, I don’t believe this is what is happening now. I am merely considering a world where climate change will be a threat multiplier and in which the competition for resources (baked beans and bog paper it seems, the popular choices) will lead to intensified hostilities. In such a world I do not put it past any populist leader to, shall we say, ‘get a grip’ on the most economical (i.e. cheap) weapons of choice.
+My Great International Beer Challenge, launched in a fanfare of publicity here just three days ago has crashed. I have sadly been forced to recognise that beer doesn't keep. My souvenir collection of beers is merely a collection of bottles with pretty labels and unquaffable content. The third beer in my exploration of the collection was a 66cl bottle of Forst Premium lager from Italy, with a best before date of October, 2006. ABV 5.2% At first, despite the usual drop in fizzy liveliness (maybe down to 30% of what might be considered normal) I thought this could be the first bottle worth drinking. It soon became apparent that this would be a struggle. Once again, despite never having been opened, the liquid had a bouquet of staleness. The sort of whiff you can occasionally find in a pub beer that is edging towards the end of its barrel (along with the possibility of not being maintained, dirty pipes and all that). What goes on inside a bottle of beer to make it go off I have no idea—if it’s hermetically sealed it can’t be anything to do with the outside atmosphere. The stale bouquet is the same in all bottles, which is really just the common stale smell of alcohol, like the smell of spilt drinks the day after you had everyone round for a piss-up (apols to my Methodist readers). So, it’s with great regret that very prematurely I am ceasing any further bottle openings in my Great International Beer Challenge, and will now be donating the entire collection of bottles to any beer ingredients equivalent of the Svalbard seed bank (p&p not included).