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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 - 05:54am Mar 8, 2001 EST (#868 of 871) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

almarstel2001 , you ask a profound question about the US -

Why whould any country on Earth feel safe in this (the US's) situation?

We are indeed vulnerable - and we'd be safer if we knew it. Here is a point where the Bush administration has taken positions that are right. There ARE limits to how much of a "policeman of the world" we can be.

A core point is that the logic of unlimited threat does not do for us what we've assumed and hoped it would. We've been using that logic of threat, and getting some very bad results from it, since World War II.

almarstel2001 is right to say

"if country feels treatened, it may indeed commit suicidal acts of violence."

and right to ask us to

"Just look at the recent shooting in the school by a weak angry guy, constantly boolied by some others. Isn't it clear and understandable?

These points ARE clear and understandable.

The US may not be able to avoid some enemies, and may not be able to avoid all fights. But we should try to avoid making more enemies than we have to, so we can avoid fights when we can -- especially fights that we cannot win.

And we should deal with the consequences, including the emotional consequences, of our actions of the past.


We've been generating desperation, and underestimating it, for a long time.

rshowalter - 06:13am Mar 8, 2001 EST (#869 of 871) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

We now live in a world where the US has grown, and commited to a new "nervous system" that is so vulnerable that the occasional "computer vandal" can do massive damage. We ought to have a sense of how vulnerable that has made us.

Of course this is old news --- a few H bombs, exploded at altitude, would generate enough EMP to paralyze the nonmilitary parts of the US (on which the military depends, for anything bue immediate destruction of the world.)

Now we've become vulnerable in other ways, as well.

If a nation state worked at all hard at it, that nation state could come close to shutting down the United States (doing many hundreds of billions of dollars of damage.) Or perhaps could do so. Massive damage, including much loss of life, would be easy to arrange. There are millions of ways to do this. We can't forsee or defend against enough of them to in any significant way decrease our vulnerabilities -- except in one way.

We need to be able to a act efficiently, together, as a nation -- in complex cooperation -- facing unpredictable challenges. Lies work against this capability. Secrecy works against this capability.

Not so long ago, a leaky water pipe at the University of Nebraska knocked out internet service to seven midwestern states (it was denied that N.Dakota was one of them, but S.Dakota was).

There are literally millions of combinations of "choke points" that would take down the US internet, and long distance telephones. Many ways of attacking the many possible combinations of these choke points would take these vital services down for days or weeks. The technical ease with which it can be done is stunning. With deregulation of our phone system, a great deal of "expensive redundancy" carefully built into the system for military reasons has been scrapped, and we've committed to a nervous system that is militarily indefensible.

It is technically straighforward, now, to take down the internet, most long distance telephony, most electrical power, most radio and television, and services that depend on these (which is to say, nearly everything people have come to depend on, that they can pay money for). Over the whole US, or in targeted areas.

An individual vandal couldn't do it. A motivated nation state, or large corporate group, could do it easily. As technology changes, some old vulnerabilities will be removed, but new ones will occur for as far ahead as anybody could forsee.

One can ask -- what would the US's ability to respond to military and civic needs be, if this were done?

rshowalter - 06:18am Mar 8, 2001 EST (#870 of 871) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

A reasonable concern for our vulnerabilities, and for the DANGER of our military arrangements in the new world, is overdue.

Getting down nuclear weapons that are otherwise a menace to the safety of the world is an essential step.

And a reasonable concern for the MORALITY of our actions in the world, and of our internal arrangements and cover stories, is overdue as well. We live in glass houses. As all people do. We should remember that, and try to help our neighbors, and cultivate the ways of peace.

The current US policy of threatening the whole world with first use of nuclear weapons doesn't fit this at all well. And even if our intentions at present are entirely pure - - our past is not.

There are many ways to see that. One way is to read Richard Rhodes' DARK SUN: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb , or just looking at the points made on the cover of the hardback edition of that widely respected book.

We need to step back from a world of unlimited threat -- for moral reasons, for economic reasons, and because we are vulnerable, too.

rshowalter - 06:30am Mar 8, 2001 EST (#871 of 871) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

My computer is penetrated -- when I'm being threatened, my optical reader program activates -- and I have to take some steps to shut it down. I just got warned.

Even so, the power of the people warning me, though they could undoubtedly kill me easily, is limited.

ALL power based on threat is limited.

It is a fine argument for the position that people need to be polite, and careful, and need to think about the Golden Rule, search for disciplined beauty, and look for redemptive solutions - so that messes can be cleaned up that could otherwise destroy the world.

Our nuclear weapons systems, and those of the Russians, are intolerably dangerous obsolete menaces, and they should be taken down.

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