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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 - 06:06pm Apr 3, 2001 EST (#1953 of 1967) Delete Message
Robert Showalter April 3, 2001 ...... Asian Reaction to Collison Is Mixed, but Predictable by HOWARD W. FRENCH is an interesting piece. But it illustrates a reason that people get into fights that are not worth it, that are ugly because they are so disproportionate. People need to have a sense of quantity when they discuss disagreements, costs, fears, and threats -- - otherwise a "sense of proportion" is classified out of existence.

Human language is remarkably nonquantitative -- good for qualitative description, -- terrible for answering "how much?" questions. As a result, judgements can be very disconnected from notions of quantity and proportion.

Here are examples, which I'm happening to point to in the Asian case, described by French, probably, at about the level of sophistication that is really there.

"These days northeast Asia is fraught with tension to a degree rarely experienced since the cold war ( a quantitative judgement here) , and the causes are as varied as they are intertwining, as each of the neighbors looks at the others and finds them wanting. . . . "

People need to discuss, more clearly, what they have to fear from each other -- what they have to fight about. And they need to have a more quantitative sense of the magnitudes connected to "issues" and "arguments."

" . . . . there is the issue of the United States' annual review of arms sales to Taiwan, which wants to buy advanced weaponry to protect against the missiles that China recently situated along its southern coastline."

Unless the missiles are nuclear, are they REALLY a big enough threat, or a technically predictable enough threat, to justify the money it takes to "defend" against them? And to do so eight years before the protection comes?

If the Taiwanese need protection now, why doesn't Taiwan buy an operational boat from the US, guarding against missiles NOW, and at the same time initiate peace talks? Or just tolerate the missiles, which are not a very credible or large threat, unless they are nuclear. There's little reason to expect a nuclear first strike from China.

Is it REALISTIC to think that China could SUCCESSFULLY invade Taiwan, or try to do so?

If China fired ALL her missiles, and all hit targets in Taiwan, how much more than a pinprick discomfort would it be for Taiwan? (And these are missiles, which as a practical matter, aren't very accurate -- not better, or not much better, than artillery.)

rshowalter - 06:11pm Apr 3, 2001 EST (#1954 of 1967) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

"The incident came at a time of strongly swirling winds in this region, with North Korea feeling aggrieved (what does this mean quantitatively?) over the Bush administration's plans to suspend negotiations with the North and with Japan being criticized for nationalists' efforts to revise textbooks to dilute responsibility for atrocities in World War II

(What does the criticism cost Japan, and what does protection from the criticism cost, if it is possible at all?)

. . . . .

"In the harsh light of the submarine accident, some Japanese were quick to dismiss the alliance as a relic of the cold war that had outlived its purpose."

"But the Japanese have also been reading published reports of China's fast-growing defense spending, and of its increasingly harsh attacks against the new textbooks, which many here take for simple anti-Japanese sentiment

(so the Chinese, for very good reasons, don't like the Japanese, who have not apologized for historically recent and merciless behavior. If this is something for Japan to be concerned about? And if so, is a larger military a useful answer? How can China realistically threaten Japan militarily ?) .

"Seen in this light, the American-Chinese air collision and subsequent showdown over the fate of the United States' aircraft and crew seem to be reminding many here of the value of their country's alliance with Washington."

(What military value is being referred to here, and what might it mean in sensible quantitative terms? -- How much is it worth, in money and risked lives, to permit Japan to lie in its textbooks? Wouldn't the truth be cheaper, in many ways - and can Japan actually defend against the truth in effective ways, without imposing great costs on herself? Isn't a well defended peace more efficient?)

  • *****

    If people took the trouble to quantify treats, and their costs, and defenses, and their costs, it would immediately be apparent that the world is more stable than it may seem, and that rational, cost effective, just, and humanly entertaining and beautiful means could be fashioned to make the world more stable, more honest, and richer.

    People need to get a sense of proportion. If they did so, they'd see how useless nuclear weapons are -- and that would be a big step toward eliminating them. If they did so, many of the reasons for fighting people erect to separate themselves would be much less threatening..

    A sense of proportion requires, in a fundamental sense, an ability to get some notion of magnitudes. When the magnitudes are missing from dialog, "beautiful language" can be used to "justify" almost anything at all.

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