[F] New York Times on the Web Forums  / Science  /

    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?

Earliest MessagesPrevious MessagesRecent MessagesOutline (1124 previous messages)

rshowalter - 02:55pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1125 of 1130) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

People who say "this doesn't scare me" -- aren't able to think at all about some essential things.

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.

    rshowalter - 04:57pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1126 of 1130) Delete Message
    Robert Showalter

    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.

    Muddle 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 speech."

    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 hope.

    rshowalter - 05:06pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1127 of 1130) Delete Message
    Robert Showalter

    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


    I'm going through some things I hope President Putin knows, in that book.

    Steve wrote me a recommendation letter, that includes some things helicopter designers and other technical people ought to know, in

    and I gave a eulogy of Steve in his memorial service in Stanford Chapel that a lot of people liked.

    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 world? "

    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.

    rshowalter - 05:31pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1128 of 1130) Delete Message
    Robert Showalter

    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 contradiction.

    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.

    More Messages Unread Messages Recent Messages (2 following messages)

     Read Subscriptions  Subscribe  Post Message
     E-mail to Sysop  Your Preferences

     [F] New York Times on the Web Forums  / Science  / Missile Defense

  • Home | Site Index | Site Search | Forums | Archives | Shopping

    News | Business | International | National | New York Region | NYT Front Page | Obituaries | Politics | Quick News | Sports | Science | Technology/Internet | Weather
    Editorial | Op-Ed

    Features | Arts | Automobiles | Books | Cartoons | Crossword | Games | Job Market | Living | Magazine | Real Estate | Travel | Week in Review

    Help/Feedback | Classifieds | Services | New York Today

    Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company