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

    Missile Defense

Technology has always found its greatest consumer in a nation's war and defense efforts. Since the last attempts at a "Star Wars" defense system, has technology changed considerably enough to make the latest Missile Defense initiatives more successful? Can such an application of science be successful? Is a militarized space inevitable, necessary or impossible?

Read Debates, a new Web-only feature culled from Readers' Opinions, published every Thursday.

Earliest Messages Previous Messages Recent Messages Outline (1252 previous messages)

rshowalter - 03:05pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1253 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

Look, where there's a lot of feedback, Americans usually have things pretty straight. But where there's no feedback, or where they have to rely on information from authority, they may be entirely mistaken.

Americans are just like everybody else in that general way. But the details of what people are clear on, and mistaken about, differ from culture to culture.

Americans are very good at persuasion and psychological warfare -- and it was, for a long time, a conscous objective to act to maximize Russian fear of nuclear death, while minimizing our own, insofar as that was possible. And now, you're VERY aware of dangers that Americans fear deeply, at a buried level, but don't face.

That's a big persuasion problem - and it will be necessary for people to understand what was done.

The objective of US policy with respect to Russia, from the early 1950's on, included a very conscious objective of keeping you afraid -- so afraid that you'd spend more money than you could afford on weapons, and spend more emotional energy than you could afford militarily, too. In the Eisenhower administration people were clear about what was being done. It may have run, to some extent, on "automatic pilot" since 1960.

I don't think anyone in power EVER seriously contemplated a first strike on Russia, except at the level of bluff --(though there were plenty of people bluffing hard, and maybe Kurt LeMay wasn't bluffing at all -- though he WAS under some control.)

NOW, in large part for technical reasons, risks are hugely greater than Americans are consciously willing to believe. So that's a big persuasion problem.

To do the persuasion job, it will be necessary for people to understand what actually happened, during the nuclear terror.

We were the agressors by any reasonable objective standards, and the American people do not believe it (at least conscously.)

Evidence will have to be marshalled to make what should be obvious clear. That will take some staff work. And much of that staff work may have to happen outside of the United States, at least at first.

almarst-2001 - 03:05pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1254 of 11890)

Unfortunatly, it is common characteristic of human's brain that is called "selectivity".

We ALL see what we like and expect to see (as you mentioned in those playing cards experiment).

But up to the point! From one who frequently trevels around the Glob and have an access to much more information then an average man, my expectations are much (unreasonably?) higher.

rshowalter - 03:10pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1255 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

The terrible truth is that Americans, as a people, are going to have to be persuaded that what actually happened did happen.

We do a lot of things well, but as a nation, we're crazy-wrong here, and it will take a serious, informed effort to make a case that, in a better world, shouldn't have to be made,

In THIS world, the case has to be made. And there ARE powerful forces, in America, that resist the making of it. But there are ways to go around these forces, in the world as it now is, with many people of good faith, and with the internet.

rshowalter - 03:12pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1256 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

In my opinion, Gorbachev deserves a big apology from the American people, and maybe from the Russian people, too.

Gorbachev could not have made peace with America, because the American power system (not the people, but the tiny group effectively controlling nuclear policy) didn't let it happen.

My heart ached, as I watched it happen.

almarst-2001 - 03:20pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1257 of 11890)

The deceptions and aggresiveness are signs of a weakness, always noticable in nature, including the nation's mentality and behavier.

From what you say and I observe, Americans feel very insecure. Why?

rshowalter - 03:27pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1258 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

We are afraid of different things than you might expect -- but we are very afraid, and we hide it in ways that a lot of others don't read. We lie to each other about how afraid we are -- and it makes it easy for us to coerce each other, and to make certain kinds of misjudgements.

Something that has always pissed me off, personally, about my countrymen is how hard they try to deny that they are afraid. When all you have to do is look at them straight, and not avert your eyes for a second after they expect it, and you can scare them to death.

We try to find protection in ways that can't work -- and our dealings with fear are not wise.

You ask a hard question. Some people outside of our culture might be able to help us see some significant things about ourselves here.

rshowalter - 03:30pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1259 of 11890)
Robert Showalter

As a matter of FACT, we very dangerously misunderstand how threats can be useful in human interactions. We think that we need to terrorize - when all we need to do is keep our threats on a rational, calibrated level, and expect the same.

Nuclear weapons, an American invention, reflect this.

almarst-2001 - 03:33pm Mar 21, 2001 EST (#1260 of 11890)

That sounds a bit IRRATIONAL for me. What is America as a nation afraid of?

More Messages Recent Messages (10630 following messages)

 Read Subscriptions  Subscribe  Search  Post Message
 Email 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 2002 The New York Times Company