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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 - 03:34pm Apr 3, 2002 EST (#1032 of 1035) Delete Message

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

" Indicative of the changing nature of war are the rates at which civilians have been victimized. One source breaks down an estimated 105 million killed in 20th-century wars into 43 million military dead and 62 million civilian dead. Another estimates that whereas at the end of the 19th century, approximately 10 percent of war deaths were civilians, 50 percent were civilians in the Second World War, and 75 percent were civilians in the wars fought in the 1990s. From all these estimates, it is clear that in the 20th century, war was a common occurrence, it was increasingly lethal, and its toll fell primarily on civilians—noncombatants, the elderly, women, and children.

" The 20th century was not just history's bloodiest century but also the century in which noncombatant immunity—long held in the West to be a requirement of a "just" war—virtually ceased to operate. German journalist and scholar Josef Joffe recently gave this epitaph to the 20th century:

" How will we remember the 20th century? First and foremost, it was the century of the Three T's: total war, totalitarianism and terror.... In the 18th and 19th centuries, enemies were defeated; in the 20th, they were exterminated in [places like] Auschwitz or in the killing fields of Cambodia.

This applies equally to the roughly 140,000 people who died instantly at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and to the victims of the systematic terror inflicted over decades by Stalin and Mao on their own people. . . .

. . The wholesale slaughter of innocents that became the grisly hallmark of the 20th century ... continues into the 21st.

While the numbers permit an appreciation of the scale of the tragedy, they can also be mind-numbing: so many wars, so many millions of dead, so many tragic cases. But numbers of course cover only those aspects of the horror of the 20th century that can be quantified, however roughly and unreliably. Poets, novelists, memoirists, playwrights, painters, photographers, and filmmakers are left to convey as best they can the human tragedy as it has occurred, human being by human being. Alongside the numbers, we need to consider individualized records of the colossal tragedy of 20th-century violence and war. We need to think about the Cambodian women who are blind, but who have no known organic defect, and are assumed to have witnessed horrors so unspeakable that physical blindness resulted as a protective mechanism. We need to meditate on the moment in William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice, when Sophie arrives at a concentration camp and is forced by a Nazi prison guard to decide, then and there, which of her two children shall live and which shall be killed by the Nazis. We need to stare for a while at the recent photographs taken by James Nachtwey of the victims of torture in the wars in West Africa and elsewhere.


rshow55 - 03:36pm Apr 3, 2002 EST (#1033 of 1035) Delete Message

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

"We must try to identify with other human beings who have been victimized by war and violence—like the hundreds of children whose arms and legs were brutally chopped in half recently in Sierra Leone—in order to make human sense of the numbers, and in order to be moved by the numbers to take preventive action.

Comment: McNamara and Blight don't mention that about 80% of women who pass through war zones are raped - but this bears thinking about, too.

"In this way, we can guard against the tendency to treat numbers of this magnitude as if they were only numbers. They are not. Attached to every number is the suffering and premature extinction of an individual human being, a person capable of enjoying life, of suffering, and of facing death quite consciously, often courageously—they were all human beings who were, or who should have been, treated as selves, as ends in themselves. Long before the 20th century, the human race became familiar with the perversion of Immanuel Kant's imperative—of treating people as means, rather than ends. What is a soldier but a person willing to fight and sacrifice himself for a cause—to become a means for achieving victory? But in the 20th century, the debasement of Kant's imperative was taken a step further, as human beings' relation to war and violence became, by and large, neither an end nor a means. Most victims of war became something that simply got in the way—to be destroyed and discarded, like rubbish. Thus in the 20th century, dying in war or because of war became, for the first time, largely meaningless or absurd.

. . . the Carnegie Corporation of New York established a high-profile international Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Carnegie Corporation president Dr. David Hamburg. The commission's 1997 report is focused squarely on new threats that are likely to be central in the 21st century:

" Peace will require understanding and respect for differences within and across national boundaries. We humans do not have the luxury any longer of indulging our prejudices and ethnocentrism. They are anachronisms of our ancient past. The worldwide historical record is full of hateful and destructive behavior based on religious, racial, political, ideological, and other distinctions—holy wars of one sort or another. Will such behavior in the next century be expressed with weapons of mass destruction? If we cannot learn to accommodate each other respectfully in the twenty-first century, we could destroy each other at such a rate that humanity will have little to cherish.

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