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?
Some situations are very scary indeed. And in those situations,
the denial of fear is denial and represssion in the Freudian sense.
That denial shuts off hope.
That's a problem at the level of a fiction - - in my view, one of
the most damaging fictions people have.
There's also a problem of indiscipline. People, when they are
afraid, if they can just keep their wits about them, should be able
to think clearly, and work things out. At least after the fear is
bearable -- as, with a little experience, and a little learned self
control, it often is.
People are going to have to think about nuclear weapons
issues under circumstances where they feel fear. Because fear is
intrinsically, inescapably, and properly, associated with them.
People simply ought to bear that fear in themselves, and
expect it (and also tolerate it) in others.
From where I stand, that doesn't seem like a helluva lot to ask
for. But it is hard to get, with people as they are. And it is
absolutely essential here.
When Roosevelt said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" -
he dealt with an important kind of human circumstance.
This time, there is ample reason for us all to "fear fear itself"
to enough of an extent that we can take actions which, except for
our denial and panic, are fundamentally rather easy actions.
- 04:57pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1126
From where I sit, Vladimir Putin seems to be a VERY impressive
leader. Maybe because I have a soft spot for some of the kinds of
sophisication that intelligence officers need. He's not being
treated fairly in a ECONOMIST story that I found interesting, but
the circumstances, I believe, may be much to his credit.
In Moscow starts and ends as follows:
" President Vladimir Putin’s biggest
achievement in Russia has been political stability. Intrigues—or
at any rate confusion—now put that in doubt
" WHEN a government faces a no-confidence vote
in parliament backed by its own supposed supporters, something odd
is afoot. When, a few days later, those same law makers change
their mind, it looks even odder. And when the president of the
country decides that this is just the time to take a short
holiday, then you have a choice between a bunch of baroque
conspiracy theories—or the conclusion that Russia’s political
leadership is losing its grip.
One "conspiracy theory" is that the man is thinking, and taking
time to concentrate.
The piece ends as follows:
" So far, Mr Putin has listened hard, but
wavered when it comes to decisions. Sometimes he favours his
liberal advisers. The next minute he is closeted with the hard men
in uniform, or is being swayed by the many denizens of the Kremlin
left over from the Yeltsin era. He spends an extraordinary amount
of time talking to foreign leaders: this year’s tally includes
leading politicians or government officials from Azerbaijan,
Austria, Belarus, Britain, Finland, Germany, Iran, Israel, Latvia,
Moldova, NATO, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Slovakia, Slovenia, South
Korea, Ukraine and Vietnam. But at home, rather than get involved
in the current kerfuffle, Mr Putin went on holiday, to a mountain
resort in Siberia. Aides said he was working on an important
That sounds like just what a brilliant leader, working to solve
essential problems, is supposed to do. Get advice, integrate
information, make judgements, for the sociotechnical system he
leads, and figure out how to solve problems, and find new
- 05:06pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1127
I'm wishing, as I often do, that my old friend and partner
Stephen Jay Kline were still alive. Steve and I worked together on
two things - some math, and the logic of complex, and especially
socio-technical systems. The part on sociotechnical systems is in
large part written in Steve's
CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATIONS FOR MULTIDISCIPINARY
THINKING ..... Stanford University Press , 1995
I'm going through some things I hope President Putin knows, in
Steve wrote me a recommendation letter, that includes some things
helicopter designers and other technical people ought to know, in http://www.wisc.edu/rshowalt/klinerec
and I gave a eulogy of Steve in his memorial service in Stanford
Chapel that a lot of people liked. http://www.wisc.edu/rshowalt/klineul
I wish I could talk to Steve now, and ask
"What could we tell Putin, that might help him do
his job - a job that he has to do well, in the interest of the
I can imagine some of the things Steve might say, and warn me to
check, and I'm taking a little time to think about them.
- 05:31pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1128
When we apply SIMPLE models of structure to circumstances that
have a more complicated structure than we are thinking of, we can
get into trouble.
We can fail to see how thing work.
And we can be misled by thinking we see "contradictions" where
there are no logical contradictions -- though there may be aesthetic
or moral tensions.
A complex system can be two "contradictory" things at the same
time -- in different places within the larger structure -- without
Bertrand Russell got caught up with this one -- but for
complicated circumstances, and for dealing with complicated
histories, it is an essential thing to know.
It you know it -- solutions that seem "classified out of
existence" are seen, and these solutions can be real.
Some moral points can get clarified, too.
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