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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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kalter.rauch - 07:11am Nov 13, 2000 EDT (#495 of 507)
Earth vs <^> <^> <^>

I would hate to see a World Government, but unless the causes of war are removed, and with them any reason to use nuclear weapons, how would you like to see responsibility delegated for the supervision of a force sufficient to dispense with any forseeable threats (those small enough to be dealt with by nuclear weapons)?

We can calculate the threats posed by comets and asteroids (except for chaotic gravitational resonances)......but how do we know what the entire range encompasses of possible threats from beyond?

rshowalter - 11:00am Nov 13, 2000 EDT (#496 of 507) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

I've advocated getting rid of nuclear weapons, not getting rid of militaries.

It will take me a while to go back and find all the statements, from senior U.S. military people, stating that nuclear weapons are not reasonably useful military weapons, and that military stability does not need them. That's what you are asking for.

I am for a strong national defense.

The desire for a strong national defense is no valid argument for maintenance of nuclear weapons - especially in the ridiculously large numbers now maintained, that threaten the existence of the whole world.

robertbriscoe - 10:58pm Nov 13, 2000 EDT (#497 of 507)

In the controversy over the proposed missile defence system might we be overlooking something?

If I were an Iranian or Iraqui leader or a terrorist who came into posession of atomic weapons, I would not spend more years and billions developing a reliable missile delivery system in order to attack the U.S. Indeed I might not have the capability to do so.

I would pack a bomb in a container and ship it to the U.S. from a neutral third country. Once in the U.S., I would have it trucked to within a few miles of any civilian or military target I desired. I would then have an agent activate a timed detonation mechanism.

This delivery method would bypass any U.S. missile defence systems and have the advantage of preserving my anonymity, something a missile attack would not do.

In my opinion, this scenario is more probable than a nuclear missile attack from a rogue state. Has the Department of Defense done any studies on what measures we may realistically take to defend ourselves against such an attack?

jorian_s - 09:35am Nov 14, 2000 EDT (#498 of 507)

Mr Briscoe, that is my fear. I can see some Pakistani religious fanatics dutifully rowing a nuke laden skiff into an american port...

rshowalter - 07:49pm Nov 16, 2000 EDT (#499 of 507) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

kalter.rauch (#495) and I agree that nuclear charges would be useful for deflecting comets or asteroids from collision with the earth.

However, no military can reasonably respond to any and all hypothetical threats a science fiction writer might come up with. Even if it could, responses would seldom take the form of nuclear weapons.

kalter asks “how do we know what the entire range encompasses of possible threats from beyond?” Of course we don’t know what we don’t know. --- But the argument that nuclear weapons would fit such yet unforseen threat scenarios seems farfetched.

kalter also suggest that we can’t hope to get rid of nuclear weapons so long as the causes of war persist. That doesn’t follow. Nation states can be responsible, with their allies, for their own defense. With nuclear weapons outlawed, and information flows becoming faster and better, conditions would favor the defense rather than the offense, and therefore favor stability. “World government” isn’t necessary.

For most threats, probably including unforseeable ones, the best responses are likely to be directed in a sharp and aimed fashion. Nuclear weapons, in contrast, are sloppy area weapons, the opposite of ideal military responses.

rshowalter - 07:59pm Nov 16, 2000 EDT (#500 of 507) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

robertbriscoe (#497 ) makes an interesting point, seconded by jorian.s . I agree with that point.

Any missile defence system would be useless in defending against the most probable form of delivery of nuclear weapons, because the most probable form is the delivery of such weapons to cities by simple uses of existing shipping arrangements.

The U.S. does not monitor freight coming into the US nearly well enough to defend effectively against these attacks, nor do other countries. Nor could it easily do so.

It is not only possible, but pretty straightforward, to bypass any U.S. missile defence system. And doing so could preserve anonymity or the attacker, as a missile attack would not.

General Charles Horner has considered such dangers, and has suggested that it is likely that a nuclear weapon would be exploded on a US city in the next decade by some such means.

Nor would it be easy to defend American ships at sea, or in foreign ports, as jorian_s points out.

No missile defense system can help any of this.

Well, how can nuclear terrorism be made less likely? We can make nuclear weapons harder to obtain (and an absolute prohibition would be best here.) And we can reduce the moral arguments for such terrorism, by refraining from extermination threats ourselves, and by making clear to all how terrible and reprehensible use of nuclear weapons is.

Nuclear weapons should be anathema – that would be safer for us all. We can’t make them so, until our own nuclear arsenals are either eliminated, or radically smaller than they are.

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