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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?
(1952 previous messages)
- 06:06pm Apr 3, 2001 EST (#1953
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
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
- 06:11pm Apr 3, 2001 EST (#1954
"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
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
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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