Although most of us are preoccupied with the agony of our country's self-inflicted wounds, the extent of which an amateur like Osama bin Laden can only envy, the threat posed by Islamic frogmen is still grave and gathering.
A few military experts hoped that this problem could be solved by training dolphins to attack enemy swimmers. But some people -- let's call 'em "traitors" -- argued that that was...well, not entirely ethical, but also pretty fucking stupid, when you come right down to it.
Noses were accordingly reapplied to the grindstone, and in due time, we arrived at Plan B:
[T]he sea service is bankrolling an alternative project: an "electrical swimmer barrier... that will take advantage of ocean oil-barrier deployment technology, the conductive properties of near-coast waters, and the physiological sensitivities of human swimmers to electrical shocks."Here's one of those tiresome semantic quibbles that've made me famous from Uelen to Shishmaref: the opposite of "dangerous" is not "non-lethal." The Taser, for instance, is a non-lethal weapon. All it really takes to earn that designation is the lack of an intent to kill on the part of the weapon's designers; without that intent, any deaths that occur are simply unfortunate accidents that happen to troublemakers who deserve whatever they get.
Electricty plus water usually makes for a dangerous combination. But this system will be "non-lethal," promises Bedford, Massachusetts' Diversified Technologies, Inc., which recently won a Navy contract to start development on the thing.
I don't want to be seen as a coddler of terrorists, who may be plotting to strap themselves with explosives, swim from Bullhead City to Laughlin, and launch a suicide attack on the Colorado Belle Casino, for all I know. But I can't help thinking that this barrier is more likely to be used to protect our language, borders, and culture from migrant lettuce-pickers.
The system is "deployable and retrievable by two persons working from a 24- to 28-foot boat," which begs the question of how we'll keep evildoers from tampering with it and its power source. Maybe its perimeter can be patrolled by attack dolphins.
What really interests me about this scheme is how well it'd work against people who are wearing some sort of electrically insulating suit. Which, in turn, brings up the question that always fascinates me about projects like these: what's the cost to evildoers of adapting to a barrier of this sort, versus the cost to us of re-engineering the system once it's been overcome?
(Image at top via Modern Mechanix.)