The Raptor, aptly named for a dinosaur, is a project that Defense Secretary Bob Gates has desperately tried to kill, but even he cannot drive a stake through its reptilian heart. Congress refuses to let it die off, though it's the wrong weapon for the wrong times and a stupendous waste of taxpayer money as we face record deficits.
This is one of those times when democracy and common sense follow skewed paths. You can hardly blame Congress. Weapons systems have traditionally served as socialistic jobs programs for small-government types (actually, all-government types) who use "defense" as a fig leaf for their self-preserving largess with our money.
You can't blame the defense contractors, either. After all, it is they who figured out how to game the system by spreading their subcontracts out to as many congressional districts as possible, thereby making the projects virtually bulletproof. In fact, you should tip your hat to them. If getting rich by being merchants of death is their raison d'etre, then they have no peer.
Imagine if the Raptor, rather than being a plane we don't need, were a program of wind turbine and solar panel construction, spreading as many jobs out to just as many districts as now benefit from the defense contracts. As we became more self-sufficient in our energy needs, the need for new weapons systems to protect our far-flung and vulnerable sources would gradually disappear.
But that would leave the dinosaurs out in the cold.