New York Times on the Web Forums Science
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?
(451 previous messages)
rshowalt - 06:16pm Oct 29, 2000 EDT (#452 of 461)
Here's a circumstance where the consensus among people matters a great deal. If an overwhelming number of people believe "nuclear weapons are wrong, and their use is terribly wrong" fewer people are likely to hear such voices, and if people do hear such voices, they are more likely to be constrained.
If the consensus was strong, nuclear weapons might be effectively outlawed.
Establishing a moral consensus on how bad nuclear weapons are is very important.
But so long as the U.S. continues to say
"we have a right to use nuclear weapons" it sets a truly terrible example, and such a consensus is impossible.
There's a moral problem here, and behind it, an intellectual one, that has, I believe, much to do with the tragedies of the 20th century, and the whole logic of nuclear weapons.
If you believe that, for deterrance, the more threat the better, then nuclear weapons make a certain perverse sense.
But the fact is that, for real people, after threats escalate enough, unstoppable, irrational, vicious fighting behavior occurs. All sorts of people and countries who "rationally shouldn't" fight in wars, in fact do.
That means that the core logic of nuclear weapons is flawed. It produces the paralyzed, escalatory sequences that we in fact see. (I wish CNN would rerun
REHEARSING ARMAGEDDON so people could see how astonishingly the responses of the U.S. and Russia have escalated, till now they have firing plans that ASSURE the destruction of the world, if communication breaks down.)
Excessive threats don't lead to peace. They lead to paralyzed standoffs, or all out war that no one wants, but that occurs for basic instinctual reasons.
I think the behavior of people threatened beyond their limits of tolerance are on show, again and again, in the Middle East today.
rshowalt - 08:38pm Oct 29, 2000 EDT (#453 of 461)
I believe that, if people knew how human beings
really respond to threats, then an enormous amount of progress might be made in peacemaking, and wars would be distinctly less likely.
I think that if this fact were widely understood in the Middle East, a great deal of history would look like what it is - a tragedy, and MOST players in that tragedy might see the chance for a more peaceful accomodation.
I think that, if this one misconception were identified, it would be very much easier for people to understand what they did to each other as enemies, and much easier to make the kind of peace where people can deal with each other.
And very much easier for all concerned to fashion systems of proportionate threats and incentives, that would lead to stable conditions of peace, for real, imperfect people.
This question of
fact "How do people respond to threat?" needs to be understood, for our military judgements are centrally concerned with making threats, or countering them.
Currently, people all over the world, including people with nuclear weapons, are making terrifyingly perverse decisions, because they have this answer wrong.
lunarchick - 07:18pm Oct 30, 2000 EDT (#454 of 461)
Science Panel Says Nuclear Test Ban Is
Last updated: 30 Oct 2000 16:41 GMT (Reuters)
By Paul Taylor, Diplomatic Editor
LONDON (Reuters) - A global nuclear test ban can be
reliably verified with existing technology, creating a
powerful deterrent against any attempt to cheat, an
international panel of scientists said in a report issued
The commission was established by VERTIC, an
independent arms control pressure group, after the
U.S. Senate last year refused to ratify the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, partly due to
concerns over possible cheating.
The multinational panel, including experts from the
United States, Russia, Britain, France, Japan,
Germany and Israel, found that a combination of
international and national, public and
non-governmental resources made it virtually
impossible to evade detection of an underground
"When fully in place, these resources will be capable
of meeting the international community's expectation
that relevant events will be detected, located and
identified with high probability," the report concluded.
VERTIC director Trevor Findlay, who chaired the
panel, said he hoped the study would contribute to a
better-informed, less polemical, new debate on
ratifying the treaty after next week's U.S. presidential
and congressional elections.
More than 150 countries have signed the CTBT but it
can only come into force when 44 potentially
nuclear-capable countries ratify it, including India,
Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
Democratic Vice President Al Gore is committed to
working for ratification while Republican candidate
George W. Bush backs a continued U.S. national
moratorium on nuclear testing but opposes ratifying
The panel said a dense global network of verification
assets, including seismography, hydroacoustic and
infrasound monitoring, satellite imaging and
radionuclide detectors created a "verification
gauntlet" which any potential violator would be
(7 following messages)
New York Times on the Web Forums Science Missile Defense