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    Missile Defense

Nazi engineer and Disney space advisor Wernher Von Braun helped give us rocket science. Today, the legacy of military aeronautics has many manifestations from SDI to advanced ballistic missiles. Now there is a controversial push for a new missile defense system. What will be the role of missile defense in the new geopolitical climate and in the new scientific era?

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rshowalter - 01:34pm Oct 10, 2000 EDT (#400 of 408) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

In today's NYT, Barry Bearak's Lahore Journal: A Jehad Leader Finds the U.S. Perplexingly Fickle

offers a clear example of how the U.S. nuclear policy increases danger, and offers excuses for horror, all over the world. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed justifies all sorts of terrorist activity, all sorts of random, hateful destruction, on the argument that "since the U.S. uses nuclear weapons, and claims the right to use them on first strikes, I can do anything."

His terrorism is horrific, but his argument is widely accepted.

Too often, people do argue that "two wrongs make a right."

Everything decent or useful that the United States wants to do, everything effective that we'd like to do to control terrorism, and raise moral standards in the world, would be much easier if WE renounced first strikes with nuclear weapons, and got rid of the weapons, along with Russia and the other powers who have them.

Our moral position in the world, for all our good intentions elsewhere, is besmirtched by our nuclear policy. So far as I've been able to find out, that policy has nothing coherent to be said in its favor, now. We'd all be safer, and cleaner, if we got rid of nuclear weapons. Much safer. And if we do not, the world might end.

lunarchick - 09:40pm Oct 10, 2000 EDT (#401 of 408)
Barrier Reef - not the place4 - NUKE SUBs !

Sounds final. So, how to change the minds of politicians. A problem with them is that they have a short tenure -- and obviously taking down the missiles either never made the agenda or hasn't been considered a priority. Politicians exist via votes. So, how to change the minds of voters?

rshowalter - 07:36am Oct 11, 2000 EDT (#402 of 408) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

I think the press has to be involved - and that some individuals will have to take some risks, because of the perverse psychology at work here.

On TV last night, the old James Bond thriller THUNDERBALL played. I didn't watch but a few minutes, but I did remember the show, and some dramatic effects of many other "007" shows. Reference to nuclear bombs, and their use, produces reliable, visceral terror in the population of movie goers - which is to say, an enormous fraction of world population. There doesn't have to be much exposition. Just a quick reference in the dialog - and the effect is powerful, and motivates the movie's action. Nuclear weapons equate to FEAR - including a menacing fear of the end of the world much used in these movies - and much a part of our culture, of the psychological fabric of our lives.


Not because the weapons are not understood (though the last generation is more vague than mine) but because they ARE understood, at some basic emotional levels, the basics are so fearful that they've been repressed, and we are, as a culture, even as a world population, REPRESSING these ideas.

In my view, fear paralyzes consideration of these issues, and now, EXPLICIT, CONSCIOUS FEAR is exactly what we need.

Really, it is almost all we need to take these weapons down. The mechanics of the takedown is easy.

And if doings in the Middle East don't reinforce reasons to fear for the stability of these weapons, they ought to. People, threatened enough, don't run. They don't become passive. They fight. Sometimes in militarily insane ways.

Want nuclear buttons around, with current hair trigger arrangements? The question, which I believe I know a good deal about, scares me so much that I will do anything I can, to try to get these weapons down. And I believe that if other people understood, they'd drop a great deal that they were doing, and act the same way.

In the "philosophy" forum, the argument is being made for "civility" - and I think, in some minds, I'm a type case for "uncivil" discourse.

I don't think civility is right here - I think we should face up to our fear of nuclear weapons, so we can do some honest bookeeping, and take some honest actions that could quickly take them down.

I've made some suggestions on the mechanics of how that might be done. Perhaps I can expand, here, on what might be done to move along on the hard part - moving hearts and minds in the population, so that politicians are motivated to act, and can act.

rshowalter - 02:22pm Oct 11, 2000 EDT (#403 of 408) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

I set out the mechanics in this thread, #'s 266-269 rshowalt 9/25/00 7:32am

Those mechanics aren't difficult. We take practical steps (leader bugging during stand-down, hostage exchange) to deal with rational fears of a first strike.

With those fears dealt with practically, military forces of the U.S. and Russia could take the nuclear weapons down, and destroy them, in an organized, mutually verified way, within weeks.

Other, much smaller arsenals could be taken down, too, in practical ways set out simply in the thread.

The REAL military posture of all involved would be strengthened by doing this. There's no discussion here of "demilitatrizing" or having anyone trust anyone else. The objective is only to eliminate a menace to all concerned.

I've been talking to a number of people about it, and the only objection anybody has had, so far, is that it is "too good to be true." In this thread, which has included some distinguished participants, the "too good to be true" argument has not faired well. There is no good reason not to take these obsolete menaces down.

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