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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 - 08:04pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1144 of 1148) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

Here's a pair of guidelines, that Steve sets out for scholarly groups, that I think should apply to political and economic systems, too.

" Guideline for Scholarly Controversy: When two (or more) groups of empirically grounded scholars create conflicting solutions for a single problem, and this leads to back-and-forth arguments for decades, then it is likely that each group has some of the truth, but not all of it.

Corollary: When two (or more) groups of empirically grounded scholars have a long-continuing argument, an improved solution can often be found by reframing the problem to include the solidly grounded data underlying both sides of the argument.

The world views of the Russians and Americans each have some of the truth, but not all of it.

Reframings that preserve what works well empirically, for both systems, might well improve things.

Also, when a system as a whole fails, it doesn't necessarily make sense (for a social system, which is multiply articulated) to abandon and discredit all of it. There may be good reasons to preserve the parts that worked well. And may be good reason to be proud of all the parts of it that worked well in the past, and especially the parts that worked well consistently.

rshowalter - 08:22pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1145 of 1148) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

In the West, more in America than anywhere else, the idea has been standard that conspiracies are somehow bad to talk about - that everything is the result of impersonal forces, or anyway, "nobody's fault" -- or, as a matter of convention, that's the way to talk about it.

. This pattern makes for some non-confrontational and smooth social conventions, and may be efficient for that reason, even in some cases where it happens to be wrong. The pattern may also very often fit reality. Even so, this pattern, as a doctrine, makes a social group vulnerable to real conspiracies, especially conspiricies involving things not to be discussed.

. . . . . . .

In Russia, and in Marxism in general, the idea has been standard that economic activity was based on decisions of people - and that these people, exercising social and technical power, determined outcomes.

. This pattern institutionalizes certain inherent tensions between the better off and the worse off, and may be inefficient because of these tensions, under some circumstances, even in cases where it happens to be true. But the pattern may very often fit reality, and give good guidance, as well. Even so, this pattern, as a doctrine, makes a social group vulnerable to misjudgements, when social interactions do not have conspiratorial explanations, as often happens.

  • *****

    Both patterns are sometimes empirically right, and sometimes empirically wrong.

    In cases where facts matter more than the comfort that comes from social fictions, it would make sense to consider BOTH the "conspiracy" kind of explanation, and the "no fault" pattern of explanation. In some cases, one pattern will work, and in some other cases, the other.

    In matters of war and peace, and especially where the nuclear terror is concerned, facts matter.

    And these facts should be determined, in specific detail. Because these facts matter so much. Russia, and the rest of the world, and the 99.99% of the American public which CANNOT have any interest in military misrepresentation, should insist on it.

    rshowalter - 09:14pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1146 of 1148) Delete Message
    Robert Showalter

    rshowalter "Science News Poetry" 2/14/01 7:18am sets out the advantages of sending in clear in the new internet world. Because mistakes and deceptions are so harmful to the workings of sociotechnical systems, it is important that we move toward more open ways of doing business. It is safe to do so.

    Dawn Riley spoke of "One thousand and one excuses have been made as to why the missile status quo will remain ... how can this chain of NONcommonNonSense be broken?"

    This seems clear to me - FACTS have to be determined, that will take staff work, and access to information sources that are now widely available on the internet.

    It may be that, for now, the US government will abstain from participating in any effort ot determine those facts - as it has sometimes vetoed the will of everyone else on the Security Council, or even the whole UN.

    If the current US government "declines to participate" would that vitiate the exercise?

    rshowalter - 09:15pm Mar 17, 2001 EST (#1147 of 1148) Delete Message
    Robert Showalter

    No. Because the government position crumbles when it can be shown to be based on lies and gross misjudgements. Our government may sometimes be skilled at evading facts, and much of our press may be motivated to "keep people happy"-- and maybe keep its owners happy, by ignoring unpleasant facts. But the evasions have their limits. And when the tide turns, it can turn forcefully. Newspapers don't like to miss the truth, it enough of their customers notice. Reporters are sometimes proud people, and they can have power as well. With the internet, information is hard to suppress.

    And there are MANY Americans interested in getting the facts.

    Could the US government just ignore this -- American society would not, and politicians, who care about votes as well as payoffs, couldn't either.

    Berle's rules of power are important here -- when the ideas behind an institution lose legitimacy, that institution's days are numbered. See especially rules #3 and #5 (948)rshowalter 3/12/01 10:02am

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