My wife and I were watching the evening news when Walter announced that President Carter had given the go-ahead to the Defense Department to start making the components for a neutron bomb. Walter said that while the components would be manufactured, they would not be assembled at the present time.

My wife, whose only weakness is she doesn't keep up on sophisticated nuclear weaponry, turned to me and said:

"What's a neutron weapon?"

"It is designed to kill people without destroying property. We call it an enhanced radiation weapon," I told her.

"Who's we?"

"Those of us in the military-industrial complex."

Are you in the military-industrial complex?" she wanted to know.

"No, but some of my best friends are. It's one helluva piece of hardware. With the right warhead you can zap a battalion of Soviet tanks 80 miles away," I said.

"Why do we need it?" she wanted to know.

"That's the most stupid question I ever heard. We need every type of nuclear weapon we can get. We've got hydrogen bombs and atomic warheads, and Nike and Polaris missiles. But they're too powerfull to use in the field. The neutron weapon fills the gap and lowers the kill threshold to just the right level to fight a civilized war."

"Do the Russians have it?" she asked.

"They certainly do not. All they have is monster weapons that can destroy entire cities. They're in a lot of trouble."

"I guess I should know this," she said, "but if the Soviets don't have a neutron weapon and we do, how do we prevent them from using their monster weapons after we use our small one on them?"

"Because if they use their monster ones they know we'll use ours, and then we'll destroy each other," I said patiently.

"But if we use the neutron weapon against their armies in the field, won't we be destroying them? They're certainly not going to stand by and see all their men and tanks destroyed without retaliating with everything they've got."

"I'm sorry but I'm not a liberty to answer that at this time," I replied.

"Can I ask you another question? If we have developed a smaller weapon that just kills people and doesn't destroy property, what is to prevent the Soviets from doing the same thing?"

"They don't have the know-how to make a neutron bomb or they would have before now."

"That's what you said about the atomic bomb after World War II."

"Can you keep a secret?" I asked her.

"You know I can."

"Carter really doesn't care if we have a neutron bomb or not. But he wants a SALT treaty very badly. Even if the Soviets agree to one, he'll have a hard tome getting the Senate to approve it. So by announcing he was going ahead with the neutron bomb, he'll win over the senators who are against SALT."

"Then," she said, "Carter's not going ahead with the neutron weapon to impress the Soviets, but to placate the U.S. Senate?"

"Now you're catching on," I said.

"I think I'll watch The Gong Show."

"How can you watch The Gong Show at a time like this?" I asked.

"Because it makes a lot more sense than building a neutron bomb."