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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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rshowalter - 06:27pm Feb 27, 2001 EST (#797 of 802) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

In dealing with nuclear weapons, the questions who is guilty? and what to do about it? can dominate thought and action in ugly, counterproductive, and fundamentally unjust ways.

The beauty of justice, from one perspective, is utter injustice, and ugliness, from others.

Our nuclear postures, and the history of how these happened, are so conflicted, and subject to so many different, yet existentially valid points of view, that a justice with proper conformity of the parts to the whole and to one another is impossible.

Results, even in the hands of well meaning, sympathetic people, can be and have been monstrous. People have done things they knew were terrible, or that could have terrible consequences, feeling that they were morally compelled, on other ground, to do them.

For more than fifty years, and especially since the late 1950s, weve had large groups of people knowingly acting to make it possible to reduce large populations, almost all innocent in military terms, into masses of rotting unburied corpses.

There is no reason to think that the US population, or the Russian population, was in any substantial doubt about what was being done, and threatened, by our military forces. rshowalter "Science in the News" 8/29/00 7:26am

Even today, people deny crucial aspects of the holocaust in part for intellectual reasons. What they know of it seems not to fit what they "know" about what human beings do. Some of the actions and intentions of our own military forces are denied, or suppressed from consciousness, due to similar "ignorances."

To the degree that people were responsible members of German society during the Nazi years, they needed to know enough for the complex cooperation, and focused and mutual coercion, that they actually showed. (That is, everybody had to know practically everything, except for details of execution.) The same holds for us. rshowalter "Science in the News" 8/29/00 8:03am

But were the American and NATO forces using or threatening to use nuclear weapons aggressors or defenders? What about the Russians? There can be MANY views of this, and most people, from most positions, have reasons to be give credence, in one way or another, to several perspectives.

My own view is that the Americans, at most times, were the agressors, though they had good reasons to do what they did. Perhaps they had no choice, in term of the imperatives they faced, until after the fall of the Soviet Union.

But the Cold War is over now, nuclear weapons should be taken down, and they should be prohibited.

I don't think the mechanics of doing this are difficult, setting the costs and challenges against the needs.

I've set out one possible way of proceeding. rshowalt 9/25/00 7:32am Once the inescapable reality of fear and mistrust is recognized, there may be many ways.

rshowalter - 02:47pm Feb 28, 2001 EST (#798 of 802) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

It is worth pointing out a practical sense in which nuclear war is entirely, vividly real - a sense in which crimes and massive injuries have already happened. They have happened, over and over, in great detail, in the imaginations of people. And those imaginations have been made vivid, and reinforced repeatedly, by careful and detailed rehearsals.

People who are part of forces set up to launch nuclear weapons think about what they are going to have to do. In all sorts of ways. Again and again. They have to go on, for years, in a condition where they are plotting premeditated mass murder, and ready to commit it.

Some among them, if not all, will have guilt feelings about this. And will have built up psychological rationalizations about this. And they will have had to endure a great deal of emotional strain, dealing with this. In the minds of these people, on both sides, nuclear war has already happened. And it has also happened, to an inescapable degree, in their hearts.

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    Nuclear weapons are intended to make enemies fear death, and politicians and populations subject to that threat have in fact felt the fear. They have imagined, clearly and vividly, what nuclear destruction would mean to them personally, to the people they care about, to their countries, and to the body of emotional reactions that they live by. In the minds of these people, on both sides, nuclear war has already happened, and they have been injured, violated, and outraged.

    It is a mistake to think that nuclear weapons can be considered, realistically, in an abstract, analytical, emotionless way. Absolutely everybody involved is intensely emotional about them. And the emotions involved are deeply conflicted.

    This can get in the way of the logic of all concerned. This can immobilize all concerned. The emotional nature of nuclear weapons, and damage already done, and now being sustained, needs to be remembered.

    When we negotiate as if fear, and distrust aren't essential parts of our nuclear impasse, we may feel that we are being "polite" but we are also being impractical. The sensible thing is to acknowledge the fear, distrust, and other emotions that are there. And deal with these emotions as they are, in ways that work for all the human beings involved.

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