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    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?

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rshow55 - 03:06pm Apr 3, 2002 EST (#1030 of 1035) Delete Message

I'm posting excerpts from the first chapter of 'Wilson's Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century' by ROBERT S. McNAMARA and JAMES G. BLIGHT because I feel they give perspective -- and supports key insights that I feel must be more widely felt and understood.

One simple but difficlut point is that we can, and must, engage our moral sense and our emotions to understand the human agony ugliness of war but at the same time, we can and must maintain a sense of proportion. We need not downgrade the importance of suffering - we need to see how much there is - and weigh consequences. Both our hearts and our heads need to be involved - - - we need to be both "clinical" and empathetic.

Another point is that we need to understand, not only intellectually but emotionally, too, how easy it is for human beings to fight, as individuals and as groups -- and how brutal the process often is. War is a kind of human behavior - - no less ugly for that. Cancer is natural, too. Both war and cancer occur under specific kinds of circumstances, have specific characteristics, and can be less likely and less ravanging as we understand more about them.

Some of the understanding comes hard -- because some facts are hard to face, either about ourselves, or about others. We need to see the ugliness - both emotionally and in ways that can lead to practical decisions. We need to see not only how willing to kill people are, but also how willing to face death people are. Even essentially certain death. Even certain death. McNamara and Blight estimate, from the roughly 160 million people killed by war in the 20th century, that the world may see 300 million or MORE deaths in the 21st century - and the world could easily end.

It is easy to reprehend all fighting - and in some clear senses, morally right. But not necessarily helpful - especially when it dehumanizes. The idea, just now, that the suicide bombers are especially twisted, and especially reprehensible, may be "morally right" in real senses - but not in some others -- and may not be particularly useful. Under circumstances that have happened often, people have often been willing to fight to the death, and have often done so -- even in the face of certain death. One need not like this. One need not "understand" this in ways that make fighting seem morally acceptable. But it seems to me that it is dangerous, and immoral, for us to forget what dangerous, brutal, brave animals people actually are. It is rather late in history for people, including people so brilliant as Friedman, to be surprised by people willing to sacrifice themselves, and kill, for "their country"-- as that country exists in their minds, and within the culture that surrounds them.

rshow55 - 03:12pm Apr 3, 2002 EST (#1031 of 1035) Delete Message

Here are excerpts from the first chapter of 'Wilson's Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century' by ROBERT S. McNAMARA and JAMES G. BLIGHT

" By 1910, Europe was enjoying unprecedented growth and prosperity, a circumstance made possible by an equally unprecedented degree of cooperation and integration among the economies of the major nations of Europe, and of the United States. At about this time, many political leaders, intellectuals, industrialists, and ordinary citizens of these countries made what the Oxford historian Niall Ferguson recently called "the greatest error of modern history." They reasoned—some consciously, some less so—as follows: First, the new interdependence and cooperation among the Great Powers was necessary for prosperity; second, anything that destroyed these conditions for prosperity would also destroy prosperity itself; third, an outbreak of war involving the Great Powers would certainly disrupt, possibly even destroy, prosperity; fourth, this connection between war and economic disaster was understood by all concerned; therefore, fifth, a major war was unthinkable. The road to the hell that was the First World War was "paved" with this logic: Since war had become economically counterproductive, it would be deterred by awareness of this fact or, in the quite unlikely event of an outbreak of war, hostilities would quickly be terminated, for the same reason.

" . . . David Starr Jordan, the president of Stanford University, said in a 1910 speech at Tuffs University that "future war is impossible because the nations cannot afford it."

" Not everyone was convinced. In his 1910 essay "The Moral Equivalent of War," the American philosopher William James admitted that "modern war is so expensive that we feel trade to be a better avenue to plunder," but, he added, "modern man inherits all the innate pugnacity and all the love of glory of his ancestors. Showing war's irrationality and horror is of no effect on him. The horrors make the fascination." James's remark is an almost clairvoyant description of events all over the British isles in August 1914, when young men by the hundreds of thousands, laughing and carrying on as if on their way to a sporting event or a picnic, deluged conscription centers in an effort to be among the first to fight.

. . . . .

" What is a war? The PRIO group defines it as: "an open armed conflict about power or territory, involving centrally organized fighters and fighting with continuity between clashes." On the number of such wars in the 20th century (through 1995, the last date for which the data are regarded as reasonably comprehensive), one widely cited estimate identifies, between 1900 and 1995, 83 interstate wars and 135 intrastate wars, for a total of 218 wars. This is compared with 102 interstate wars, 69 intrastate wars, and a total of 171 wars between 1816 and 1899. And war became much more lethal in the 20th century than in previous eras; in fact, it has been estimated that in the 20th century there were "six times as many deaths per war as in the 19th." In total, it appears that something on the order of 110 million people died due to wars between 1900 and 1995. One often-cited source, Ruth Leger Sivard's World Military and Social Expenditures, fixes the number of war deaths at (a curiously precise) 109,746,000. (McNamara and Blight raise the estimate to 160 million.)


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