My overall point was more generic than specific. I was using the SSC and HLC symbolically to represent the kind of colossal projects we often think are out of reach economically and juxtaposing them to the truly fantastic sums of resources humanity expends on war, for whatever reasons. R&D in health and medicine, and myriad other constructive endeavors, are just as worthy if not more worthy of our funds and attention, but smaller projects simply don’t require the same will and commitment to achieve as grand endeavors.
Moreover, you highlight the reality that we much decide which scientific endeavors to invest in, and that underscores my point. We wouldn’t have to make as many of these kind of choices, choices about what to achieve, if we didn’t have to allocate so drastically to war and defense. Again, I am fully and pragmatically aware that there is conflict, there is war, but we are at a point in our technological history where it is far less excusable. I say this because we have the technology to address the most pressing forms of scarcity. That of course is an entirely more complex discussion.
I would like to point out that while the SSC would have been similar to the LHC, it is not as if it would sit fallow because the LHC existed, and the project was already very much underway when canceled. If the SSC were complete now, there would be significant research being conducted there, LHC notwithstanding. Canceling the SSC mid-way rendered the funds already dedicated to the project a waste, and that is a kind of tragedy in and of itself. That being said your point about redirecting those funds is well taken, though I’m on the fence whether it was the right call mid-project.
Finally, though I have my opinions about the Iraq war, they are not specifically germane to my point. Like the SSC and HLC that war is symbolic of a larger facet of humanity, but on the opposite side of our priorities and endeavors.