The Breakfast Table

Bring Back Napalm

Apocalypse Now Redux, rereleased with new scenes, is a classic fiction film. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” is a popular phrase from the Francis Ford Coppola attraction. The only place you’re likely to see or hear from napalm today is in the theater. Napalm is no longer part of our defense arsenal. View the gruesome scenes in Coppola’s film to see why. Images of innocent life running from burning villages remain indelible.

I propose we debate revisiting the use of napalm as a wartime tool. It might be useful as we deal with the cave-dweller. Napalm is a highly effective weapon in cavernous territory. A splash across the horizon of the Hindu Kush is certain to dampen the ardor of Taliban fanatics as we suck the air out of their holes, suffocating them.

The debate is theoretical, of course, since the United States dumped its ability to produce napalm in the Carter era. We trashed napalm because it reminded us too much of the uncomfortable past in Vietnam. There was also an interpretation of the Geneva Convention that makes weapons using flame to kill illegal. Flame throwers disappeared, too, although they were used effectively to clear caves in World War II without significant condemnation.

So, the odds aren’t in napalm’s favor. In part, that’s OK. Our Defense Department has another proven weapon at its disposal not subject to the international treaty. “Fuel-Air Explosives” were used against Iraq in 1991 to clear minefields and, among other things, asphyxiate hostile occupants. Unfortunately, FAEs won’t instill the same fear as napalm could. FAEs are virtually invisible. I want our foe to see sunshine on the horizon.