The Ultimate Vanishing Act
a book by
Eric LaMont Gregory
Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind
The four chapters in this book, The Ultimate Vanishing Act, are based on lectures delivered by the author at Oxford University.
‘The Ultimate Vanishing Act’ is history written in narrative style.
A narrative is simply a means of threading people and events together into a specific setting and time frame. Despite the fact that, these events occurred in many places and over many years; they are brought together (in the chapter China Doll, for example) by the testimony of a solitary witness; in a single hearing room; over a few hours; on one afternoon.
The historian, Lawrence Stone described the use of narrative for this purpose as, ‘organized chronologically; focused on a single coherent story; descriptive rather than analytic; concerned with people not abstract
circumstances; and dealing with the particular and specific rather than the collective and statistical.’
While developing a lecture to serve as an introduction to nanotechnology, the author recalled an encounter he had with two rather remarkable gentlemen while at college. They were recent business school graduates, Ivy League in fact. One was from South Asia the other most likely of Mediterranean origin. We met one evening at a very popular restaurant among academics while waiting in a queue for a table. A table for four became available and we decided to dine together.
At that time there was a very popular TV miniseries, Les oiseaux se cachent pour mourir, translated literally; the birds that hide to die. The program aired in the United States as the Thorn Birds. There was a French-sounding name in that series and these two gentlemen were travelling across the country buying billboard space to advertise their French-sounding name brand of - Jordash - designer jeans. They had not actually manufactured any blue jeans when the author met them. They were simply following a business plan that suggested that they should put their money into advertising, build a market and then satisfy that market once it was established.
The billboards displayed models wearing tight-fitting jeans with fancy stitching on the rear pockets, an 800 number and the slogan, rare; but obtainable.
When a caller reached the 800 number, an operator answered and asked for their geographic location. The caller would be told that unfortunately the jeans were not yet available in their area at that time; however it would be helpful if they would give them the name of a department store where they would like to buy the jeans. The operator would thank the caller for the information they supplied and tell them that when they went to buy the jeans, if they mentioned a code word to the cashier they would be given a ten-dollar discount on their purchase. They had not produced a single pair of jeans. Their activity was confined to promoting and building a market.
When the author met them they had worked their way almost to the Mississippi River; they began on the east coast. It was a very interesting conversation over dinner.
And, that was the seed of the idea for the doll as the delivery vehicle for the nanotechnological bomb. A product advertised widely, a demand created for it, but which was not actually available for sale.
Around the time of 9/11, the author had just completed a lecture narrative entitled: Crisis in Vienna.
Crisis in Vienna is a story about a young woman named Sandy, whose father was the American partner of a Greek shipping magnate. Sandy’s father and mother, a French-speaking woman from Liechtenstein, divorced when she was 12 years old. Her father won custody of her, and her mother who had not become an American citizen, returned to Liechtenstein.
Sandy’s father realized that he has his hands full trying to raise her. So in time-honored tradition, he sent her to a residential finishing school in Switzerland for the daughters of the very rich. These finishing schools were in essence a place that prepared adolescent girls and young women to become the wives of wealthy and powerful men. They learned all the domestic arts; hosting; managing the staffs of people necessary for diplomatic parties; etiquette as well as music and the arts. They become what is known in the vernacular, China dolls.
For Sandy this was a fate worse than death, and in the magical thinking mind of an adolescent, she grew to hate her father. And, she wanted to get even with him.
Sandy recounted how as punishment for her often rebellious nature, she was made to sit with perfect posture balancing a book on her head. While the instructors, the weary wives of rich and powerful men spoke about their latest or the next encounter with their lovers, and how their husbands did not actually notice them anymore. Many of the women had children that had gone off to college and the wives found themselves alone in the doll house.
The instructors could not imagine the affect that these conversations had on Sandy, and what she was planned to do when she got out.
When Sandy thought her life was irredeemably and utterly bleak, a new girl Sarah arrived at the school. Sandy and Sarah were drawn together by kindred spirits and became the best of friends. In Vienna, Sandy now a young woman and her friend Sarah trigger one of the largest diplomatic crises in modern history and simply as a means for Sandy to teach her father a lesson. However, in the process, they create a situation where Soviet and American agents were in gun battles on the narrow pathways of Vienna. Vienna is an international city known in the gray world as a den of spies.
In a world apart, an Israeli head of state grapples with the imponderables that the three main cultures that have to live side by side present, and runs a program to allow any Arab or Jew to settle in a third country when cultural difficulties make it impossible for them to live in the Middle East in peace. One example is when Jews and Arabs fall in love with one another; the young will be vigorous. And, there were other things that happen, such as, the horrible responsibility the eldest son in a traditional Islamic family had if one of his sisters' became pregnant before marriage. A brother or sister in these circumstances could go to the Prime Minister of Israel, and she would help them emigrate to a third country. The program was highly secretive, but it shows the lengths that this head of state went through to try to make it possible for these communities to live together. Nevertheless, all her good intentions were about to unravel because an Israeli boy was interested in an Israeli girl that was interested in an Arab boy. And, he goes after the Arab boy, which could spark unrest on the West Bank, and such incidents often led to war in the Middle East.
And this is one of the recurring themes of this book, disputes between individuals can become disputes among whole communities, and those conflicts become conflicts between nations. Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?
Acts of revenge carried out among family members, neighbors, powerful individuals and small groups are so commonplace their importance to larger issues is habitually overlooked. All too often, history tells us that what begins as a dispute between individuals, pit whole communities against each other, and what begins as battles between communities unsettle nations. The author has witnessed these disputes fester and grow in every corner of the world, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, the Americas, and South, Central as well as South East Asia. There is very little written about this aspect of war, but it is an aspect of war nonetheless.
The second chapter is entitled, The Ultimate Vanishing Act, and is about the nature of East/West
relations and is an account of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, what came to be known as the Helsinki Accords. And, is the story of a period of American when there was for all practical purposes a caretaker government, the Ford Administration, in Washington.
Unfortunately, while America was emerging from the heart wrenching days of Watergate, world events did not slow or permit American non-involvement. Watergate eclipsed the 1973 oil crisis in American headline news, but not in the larger sphere in which international relations are carried out. And during that period a number of other crises were not properly attended to and the United States has been embroiled in crises that began during that brief period ever since.
While, the conservative half of American elected government dreamed of the day when they could force a Democratic elected president to either be impeached or resign, an American ally now rich beyond
imagination decided to use its new found wealth to agitate for religious freedom in the formerly Islamic states of the Soviet Union stretching from Belarus to the Chinese border. To do so they corrupt Afghanistan and Pakistan, and use those to two states to launch incursions into the Southern Soviet Republics to bomb buildings, especially those Soviet administration buildings that were located in buildings that were before 1917, mosques, and to assassinate Soviet officials. These events were the source initial of the trouble that the greater Middle has been consumed in and will have been comsumed in when in 2025 they will have been ongoing for 50 years.
The Soviets tried to raise the thorny issue of proxy warfare during the Helsinki talks, but without direction from the Ford Administration these proposals went addressed. The Soviets also raised the possibility of a 'no first strike clause', which for all purposes would have meant an end to the possibility of a direct nuclear confrontation between the USA and the USSR. Again, with leadership from Washington this proposal also went nowhere.
A subtle nuance in the communist world view also occurred during this period, one that altered the notion of - from each according to his ability; to each according to his need; to something at more closely resembled the Western ideal; from each according to his ability; to each according to his work. The idea of rewarding according to work one performs was thought to be a uniquely non-communist view. And yet, in an America where one's stand on the USSR could still win elections there was little attention paid to what amounted to a major step by the Soviets in our direction, as it were.
Superpower relations are never unimportant matters, but they are not always given the attention that they deserve, and The Ultimate Vanishing Act provides a unique view of what ought to have been.
An End to War, is about a very long conflict in Southern Africa. It answers a question: 'How does a war end' and one answer to that question is they frequently come to not very dramatic conclusions. It is a fascinating concept to say the least. The story is a behind the scenes look at how things happen when a few dedicated people come together who understand how things work in the upper chambers of the executive branch of governments.
It is an interesting way to organize an international effort to stop a war by interacting with heads of state and their top advisers only. First, there is the hunt for that one person in an entire executive branch of a government that can place you in a hallway that the president or prime minister is going to walk through for 30 to 60 seconds, while he or she is going from one meeting room to the next. And, because he or she sees you are standing next to that one person they come over to you.
The head of state does not ask; what can I do for you? They ask; what do you want me to do, and please be very specific? You respond; call the ambassador from this or that country into your office, present them with the disturbing information that has come to your attention, and ask them to respond. And they ask you if the information is verified? And, the person who arranged the hallway meeting standing next to you, raises his hand palms exposed, and nods his head, yes. Then, the chief executive asks you: And, what will that accomplish? And, you respond: It will end a war. Then, you stand eyeball to eyeball, no one speaks for ten seconds, then someone inevitably comes up and says; Sir we must move on. Then, the head of state leans slightly forwards with both hands extended, thumbs up and shakes your hand while placing his other hand on your upper arm and walks away. And, you remain still and your eyes fixed straight ahead until the person standing next to you, lets out an audible sigh. And, then and only then do you know that you are one step closer to ending a war.
Now, you must arrive in an office where the foreign minister and the chief of intelligence are together, because the intelligence service that collected the disturbing information has to furnish it to that government directly and through discreet channels. You make that call back to London. And, this time they inform you that the official request has already been received and the information is with the foreign minister. And that tells you that the chief of intelligence is probably with him. So you head to the foreign minister’s office. However, this time the person that arranged the hallway meeting will have to wait for you while you have your three to four-minute meeting with the chief of intelligence and the foreign minister.
And you do the math, by the time this trip is over you would have traveled over a thousand miles and the total meeting time with the relevant parties, the prime minister, the foreign minister, and their chief of intelligence comes to a grand total of no more than five minutes. And every second of it was worthwhile. The war is one step closer to ending.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, everyone other than the characters in this story thought that all attention would be placed on the events of 9/11. A fierce (shocking and awful), but only 30 days of actual war, was all the government thought was necessary to kill or capture those responsible for the attacks, and that aspect of the whole distressing affair would be brought to a swift and justified conclusion.
In reality, it took over two years before the government began setting things in place to counter international terrorism. And, over a decade later the problem is still very much with us. Therefore, in those many months there was ample time to address other matters. And, three skilled international operatives set out to do just that. Namely, they plan to involve the executive branch of government only; no print or broadcast media, no legislatures or courts, no international organizations governmental or non-governmental, no Security Council Resolutions or lengthy debates. A plan designed solely to involve the executive branch of governments, and where feasible only the heads of state and their closest advisers. A tactic that was not without risks; the best laid plans as it were.
The chapter China Doll: The nano-technological bomb; is about international terrorism in the near future, and how this new science of very small things actually works.
When our machines rise into the lofty atmosphere, we confront threats that are not a problem at or near sea level. And, that is why aircraft must have very special shields on all their electronics because at 35,000 feet there are wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that will interfere with them.
A few clever and determined people exploit this naturally occurring phenomenon. And, the rarefied atmosphere in the enclosed space of the cargo compartment of a plane at altitude to fill the cargo compartment with a nano fine dust, and trigger an explosion. A dust explosion that would increase the pressure in the cargo compartment and be followed by an implosion when that pressure was suddenly released destroying the aircraft. That is what would have happened if it had not been for the one scientist who alerts authorities, and they able to act before any of the planes get off the ground that one night. But unforeseen human factors delay transfer of critical information from a senator’s office to the intelligence services, and a second error places two crates of the China dolls on a plane that is flying across the Atlantic towards Europe.
Although, the nano bomb scenario presented here is terrifying, at the same time working at the nano-technological level portends significant advances in our understanding of the world around us. Albeit in a dramatic fashion, I trust you will find China Doll an interesting introduction to the nano-scale universe, where we can manipulate a single atom and even minute parts of an atom.
There is a lot of room at the bottom.
Eric LaMont Gregory MSc Oxon
An end to war will be published in the fall of 2013. There are preliminary copies of the individual chapters available for comment purposes, however only one chapter be sent to any one address. And, one half of the preliminary copies of the individual chapters have been reserved for UK and at Oxford University reviewers.
The four chapters are entitled:
Crisis in Vienna
The Ultimate Vanishing Act
An End to War
for further details write: America@inbox.com
Eric LaMont Gregory