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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 - 09:14am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1297 of 1308) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

lunarchick 3/22/01 6:08am before you can get to the level that Susskind describes, you have to have common understandings about how the parties are alike and different in the practical and aesthetic ways that matter to the case. Unless this level of "common ground" occurs -- things may NEVER close.

An old teacher, and an accomplished gambler for money, once taught me something basic. Here it is:

"If you can't talk to somebody, then you don't know something.

There are a lot of "somethings" that the Russians don't know about Americans, and vice versa.

Just as an exercise, I pulled 24 books off my shelves that I thought would be difficult, yet informative, from a Russian perspective. I tried to imagine how these books would seem unreadable, or wrong, or ugly to a Russian - and there were many reasons. Maybe it was a waste of time. But I felt it was useful, to get a sense, with specific examples, of how deep and wide the conceptual chasms are between us, and what might be done,

not to make us more like each other:

not even to make us like each other more, but

just to teach us enough so that, when issues of detail arose, we could find enough common ground to really do business.

It seems to me that a lot could be done, and the problems of world survival, let alone peace, might motivate some of the "staff work" involved.

I also thought about a problem, posed to me, that I hadn't been able to solve. A REALLY worthwhile question. If I wanted to write the Queen of England, and inform her of problems that would concern us mutually, in the cause of survival and peace, how would I do so? Could I do so? How would Putin do so, if he wished to? Could he do so? Would he know enough to do so effectively, or even know enough to understand how important the Queen of England might be in a case of this kind? These seem to me to be very interesting questions -- and thinking about them connects to a lot about what "breaking through barriers" may take.

rshowalter - 10:04am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1298 of 1308) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

Part of "doing business" is knowing when the other side is telling the truth, and when it is lying, and shifting the discourse so that truth, that both sides can work with on an ongoing basis, emerges.

In America, that happens "informally" -- really, it happens very formally, but the formalities involved, in many, many key spots, are "status exchanges." If a nation is barred from participating in these, in its relations with a society, it learns very little worth knowing about how that society can be expected to behave.

But the bars are now very permeable.

Though there are circumstances where a certain eloquent yet vulgar phrase, which was taught to me when I was being put through my paces as a user of Godel's proof, does apply. . . . .

rshowalter - 10:05am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1299 of 1308) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

If officers of the United States govenment, even the highest ones, are actually caught violating rules of decency, among "people who count" that can have serious consequences.

A trick, sometimes, is getting to "count."

almarst-2001 - 10:27am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1300 of 1308)

It requires mutual respect and good will.

I suspect the prevealing attitude in American's "circles of power" is "If I have a power, I don't care what do you think or feel and can force my way. The power dictates".

Even if it's not entirely true, it requires a lot of effort, patience, sensitivity and imagination to put yourself into someone else's shoes, so to speak. And even that will not guarantee the result - one, who have never had a similar experience, may have a great difficalty to understand.

rshowalter - 10:46am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1301 of 1308) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

Mutual respect and goodwill, in American usages, quite often, depend on "status exchanges" that are exchanges at the level of ideas. People help each other. People vouch for each other.

In American circles of power, there are "outsiders," who are indeed treated as you say:

"If I have a power, I don't care what do you think or feel and can force my way. The power dictates".

That seems to be true, in especially blatant ways, of some of the idealoges who seem to have been welcomed into the Bush administration.

Even so, "American circles of power" consist of people who have VERY wide circles of connection among our very complicated, multiply articulated society. And if any of a thousand different people of status care, and especially if voters care, the same people who may seem entirely arrogant, and even inhuman, in their treatment of outsiders, can be quite careful what they do. Not just out of fear, but also out of real concern for what the people they are dealing with THINK.

So getting social connections that are in essence status exchanges is important.

And getting enough common ground so that conversations at the level of "doing business" are important.

The United States power structure is not monolithic -- if you polled people in it, you'd find, just as you'd find for the population at large, that people are FOR peace, and for standards of mutual toleration, when they know how they may be achieved. The people who are FOR continuation of the nuclear terror, and for endlessly threatening military expansion, are indeed in powerful places. But they are relatively small in number, and their power exists (and this is true even of Presidents) because of an implicit consent that would not continue to be given, if core facts could be established.

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