Blogs > Cliopatria > Divine Testing

Apr 5, 2006 12:50 pm

Divine Testing

William Arkin, in his “Early Warning column for the Washington Post let’s us know that the world’s largest conventional explosives test is coming up soon near Las Vegas. It’s code name: “Divine Strike.”
Correction: It's actually Divine Strake.

Arkin goes on to quote from the 1997 military rules governing the creation of code names (the current rules are classified):

(2) Nicknames improperly selected can be counter-productive. A nickname must be chosen with sufficient care to ensure that it does not:

(a) Express a degree of bellicosity inconsistent with traditional American ideals or current foreign policy;

(b) Convey connotations offensive to good taste, or derogatory to a particular group, sect, or creed;

(c) Convey connotations offensive to our allies or other Free World Nations;

(d) Detract from the perceived relevance of the operation."

Now maybe there is some logic to this name. Maybe the thought is that the Iranians will pay more attention to this demonstration if its name makes it seem like Bush thinks he is God.

Whatever the motive, the United States is certainly not alone in conflating weapons testing and the divine. The Iranians also like religious references. The military maneuvers in which they have tested a number of weapons in the past week are called “God’s Prophet.”

The same is true for India. For both its first and second Atom Bomb tests India used the phrase “Buddha smiles.” Of course, in his compassion the Buddha often smiles at the folly of humans blinded by their passions, but I somehow don’t think that was the reason this phrase was chosen.

But it’s an irony that humans might learn from anyway.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Ben Cline - 4/12/2006


"ivine Strake is far from the biggest chemical blast ever, and indeed far from the biggest open air non-nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site. The Non Proliferation Experiment conducted at the Nevada Test Site on 22 September 1993 involved 1,410 tons of ANFO, twice the amount of Divine Strake."

More info and backstory at GlobalSecurity.Org (

Jonathan Dresner - 4/5/2006

I note, from Arkin's column, that "strake" is also an aeronautical design term, as well as a nautical one. That makes a bit more sense, though it suggests that it's the targetting, not the force, of the bomb that's at issue.

I'd like to see Operation Fluffybunny, myself....

Alan Allport - 4/5/2006

They're just picking words out of hats, now?

The British line has always been that picking words out of hats is by far the best way to allocate code names. Churchill noted during the war that "operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be described by codewords which imply a boastful or overconfident sentiment, such as 'Triumphant', or conversely which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency." He also added that they should not be frivolous - so no Operation Fluffybunny. The UK's codename for the current operations in Iraq is TELIC, which might not be as exciting as IRAQI FREEDOM but which opens itself a good deal less to charges of misplaced hubris.

Oscar Chamberlain - 4/5/2006

"Strake?" Oy!

I would have sworn on mulitple copies of sacred texts that Arkin wrote "Divine Strike."

Jonathan Dresner - 4/5/2006

I went looking for a definition of "strake" online and found

Pronunciation (strk)
n. Nautical
A single continuous line of planking or metal plating extending on a vessel's hull from stem to stern.

They're just picking words out of hats, now?

Josh Kaderlan - 4/5/2006

The codename is actually "Divine Strake", not "Divine Strike". Slightly less hubristic, at least.

History News Network