Starship Troopers Are not Harsh Mistresses

For those unable to parse my title, I am curious: Was anything stopping the Mobile Infantry from just dropping rocks onto Bug planets until all life was sterilized?
If not, why didn’t they?

The bugs had large nest deep underground. Dropping rocks wouldn’t have eliminated them as a threat.


I mean really big rocks. The size of Texas, even.

If you have engines capable of moving rocks that big around, why don’t you use the engines to burn the planet?

Because that was the Kzinti Lesson, and that was Larry Niven’s gig.

Well, if the solar system containing the bug homeworld had an asteroid belt (as ours does) I can easily imagine setting up a few ships and “nudging” some 'roids so that they splat into Klendathu a few weeks or months later with extinctioon-level force.

The reason this doesn’t appear in the book, though, is because Heinlein wanted to make some esoteric point that defeating the enemy doesn’t necessarily mean exterminating them, but trying to somehow bring them around to your way of thinking.

Personally, I would have nuked the bugs into oblivion, but that’s just me.

I don’t recall how the conflict began in the book, been a long while since I read it, but clearly in the movie the humans should have apologized. It was their actions that sparked the war, the bugs were acting in self-defense, the humans should have withdrawn from bug planets entirely and attempted to show that no further hostility would be taken on their part.

Later in the war, the humans apparently develop “Nova Bombs” that are capable of cracking open the whole planet to destroy all the bugs (!). However, by this point the bugs are holding human prisoners on some of their worlds and the ethos of the humans prevents them from performing extinction-level attacks, which would kill their own guys too. Hence the ground-pounding even at the end.

(I read this book way too many times.)

There were a few reasons.

  1. They were holding human hostages.

  2. The critters burrowed deep. You would have had to practiacally destroy the entire palnet (ala The Death Star) to get rid of them through bombing.

  3. The humans did not want to necesarily go about destroying every habitable planet that the bugs happened to infect. Class-M worlds don’t grow on trees don’t ya know?

I thought this thread would be about the nude coed shower scene. Dammit.

The movie has nothing to do with the book.

One point: The book opens with Rico’s platoon carrying out a raid on a “Skinny” colony world. At that point, the “Skinnies” are allies of the “Bugs”. Later, the Skinnies break off their alliance with the Bugs and become “co-belligerants and de facto allies” with the Terran Federation. If the Federation had adopted a policy of simply nuking Skinny colonies from orbit, the Skinnies probably would have never decided we make better allies than the Bugs.

At one point (I can’t find my copy of the book), I think Rico says something to the effect that one reason the Federation needs to take “brain” caste Bugs prisoner (in addition to trading them for human POW’s) is to try and understand the Bugs. Can the Bugs surrender, or make a negotiated peace? The fact that the Bugs at one point seemed to have an alliance with the Skinnies implies that at least possibly they can co-exist with non-Bug species; if so, we might be able to force them to make peace with “conventional” warfare*; if we just start obliterating all their colonies, then probably we’ll take the war to the point where the only way we can end it will be to kill them all–at that point, negotiated settlement becomes impossible.

*Or “semi-conventional”: I think it’s the disastrous mission Rico goes on as a probationary 3rd lieutenant, it’s stated that the Navy had pretty much nuked the other continents on that particular Bug colony world from orbit, so that the M.I. on their brain and queen hunting expedition won’t (theoretically) have to worry about their flanks and rear.

I recall hearing something about the Terrans purposely prolonging the war because it was good for the economy. However I’ve never read the book I just read that out of one of the past Starship Troopers threads…

Your memory does serve you correctly. That was the operation & they had nuked the other continents. The explanation you give is pretty much the explanation relayed to us by Rico. The point of nuking the other contintents was to prevent the bugs from coming up there more then it was to actually kill all the bugs there. It is stated that the Navy was also flying patrols over those other contintents to make sure nothing poked its head out, which depending on your POV, may reinforce the notion that the Bugs were dug in pretty deep.

By the way, this book is a contender for “Favorite book of all time”. I still think that it was Heinlens best.

I believe that you are confusing “Troopers” with The Forever War.

Not to mention the simple fact that, had the Terran Federation attempted to wipe out whole planets, the Bugs could have done the very same thing to old Terra.

Or have we all forgotten the lesson of Mutually Assured Destruction?

And even that was an oversimplification.

In TFW, the war starts to get humanity to unite, as it was on the verge of self-destruction or stagnation. It continues, not because of any desire to help the economy, but because they just don’t know how to stop. Neither side can communicate with each other to negotiate a peace. Eventually, humanity ‘evolves’ to becomes enough like the aliens they are fighting to be able to communicate with them. Then both sides ask “why did you start this?”. War ends because both sides realise its a mistake.

As for Heinlien

In the end of ST, Rico mentions the devlopment of a Nova bomb, which one get the impression is designed to destroy entire planets. The only reason troopers are used is because the bugs put human prisoners on on the planets and honor demands they at least try to rescure them.

Also, during Rico’s training (when they’re learning knife fighting, IIRC), someone asks Zim why they don’t just drop bombs on the bugs. Zim responds saying (esentially) that it would destory valueable real estate.

I’ll dig up the quote later.


Is it just me, or did MEBuckner possibly just get a bit whooshed by RexDart.

[sub]Hint, think Isreal, Iraq, and Al’Queda.[/sub]

It’s just you. Sorry. In the movie commentary track Paul Verhoeven states that it was set up so that the humans were the people that started the whole thing by colonizing a bug planet – the whole scene with the mormon colony that got destroyed was about it.

[sub]I own both the DVD and the video. Stupid well meaning idiotic gift givers… [/sub]