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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?
(1296 previous messages)
- 09:14am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1297
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
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
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
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.
- 10:04am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1298
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,
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. . . . .
- 10:05am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1299
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."
- 10:27am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1300
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.
- 10:46am Mar 22, 2001 EST (#1301
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
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
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
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