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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 - 05:42pm Apr 3, 2002 EST (#1037 of 1053) Delete Message

Mazza, it is easy to say "there can be no justification whatsoever . . . " and it may sound good, and feel good, to say so. One can easily enough set out "logical" moral systems that justify exactly that position.

To what purpose do you take that position, in the situation that is actually there? That's both a moral and a practical question.

One need not deny that killing is ugly, and that killing civilians is ugly. If, in the face of ugliness, one says "the people who do the ugly thing are not people -- we don't have to deal with them" - that is a fine mechanism for dehumizing almost every nation that has ever been at war, including the US.

US sanctions on Iraq have plainly killed more than half a million people, mostly children, and the killling has been intentional (and of course, one can say it was for "sufficient reasons" but from someone's perspective, it is almost always possible to say that.) In Korea, the US bombed cities and dikes and killed more than two million civilians. In Vietnam, the number of civilians killed was approached or exceeded a million - and the US knew very well that it was making decisions that inflicted those civilian deaths (I heard people close to the policy say so at the time.)

In 1994, there was an excellent radio program "DOES THE UNITED STATES NEED NUCLEAR WEAPONS?" http://www.cdi.org/adm/Transcripts/721/ that includes quotes from Colin Powell, acknowledging how bad nuclear weapons are, and there is this quote from Adm. EUGENE CARROLL, Jr. (USN, Ret.) , as well:

Admiral CARROLL: "The problems of nuclear weapons are unending and there are no benefits. Up until 1955, I was like Joe Citizen. I thought that nuclear weapons were good. They kept the peace. They made the United States powerful. But in 1955, I trained as a weapons delivery pilot for the US Navy and, by 1956, I was standing watch on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, ready to go behind the "iron curtain" with a nuclear weapon and destroy a target. But to destroy one marginal military target, a supply center, the one weapon would have also killed 600,000 people. . . . . ."

As I recall, Mazza, you're a great fan of nuclear weapons, and feel the US should keep them forever. Perhaps, to you, this is a moral stance - but can't you imagine that others feel differently?

There have now been something fewer than 500 Israelis killed by suicide bombers. One need not deny the ugliness and the tragedy involved - - and it makes total human sense to be angry. These were human beings who were killed. Not just numbers - - a point McNamara and Blight made very well in MD1033 rshow55 4/3/02 3:36pm . . . The suicide bomber was a human being, too -- and faced death, for what he regarded as defense of his country, with a callousness that seems, to me, no different from the callousness that you, Mazza, often show.

Gruesome? Yes.

Reprehensible? Yes.

But how different, and how much worse, than other things that happen, and are thought just fine by Americans, in war. How many innocent civilians have been killed by Americans in Afghanistan? Probably more than 500. Were there "extenuating circumstances" -- "suffient reasons" -- it is easy to say so.

Palestinians, who are sacrificing their lives, feel that they have extenuating circumstances, too.

rshow55 - 05:45pm Apr 3, 2002 EST (#1038 of 1053) Delete Message

Here is an article, and a quote, that I find sad, but understandable in an intellectual sense:

Relatives and Neighbors Proud of Suicide Bomber by JOEL BRINKLEY http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/01/international/middleeast/01ARAB.html

"At his family's home in a prosperous part of town, the suicide bomber's father, brother, uncle and other relatives sat at a wake, receiving congratulations from friends and neighbors even now, four days after the death of the bomber, Abdel-Basset Odeh. "Everyone's proud of him," said his older brother, Issam Odeh, 35. "This is a war. . . . . "

. . . .

"On a street near the center of town, Feras Kassam, an unemployed electrician, said: "If you don't choose your type of death yourself, Sharon will do it for you. All of Tulkarm is proud." Mr. Khreisheh, the legislator, said: "None of us wants to kill civilians, but we are obliged to defend ourselves. We have nothing else with which to fight this huge machine of Israel's. They have everything; they have all the power. We have nothing but our bodies."

Is Khreisheh taking a terrible stance? He is. But it is dangerous to be too quick to condemn it -- if the condemnation cuts off contact. Suicide bombing is a kind of warfare. If we ever want peace in the Middle East, we may have to deal with people who, terrible as it is, use the weapons that they have. Like other people. The objective, after all, is not an endless cycle of violence.

Over the years, many, many millions of people have sacrificed their lives for their countries -- often facing essentially suicidal odds. It wasn't difficult for the Japanese to recruit Kamikazes, and it doesn't seem difficult for Palestinians to recruit "martyrs."

We may think the suicide bombing tactic very ugly.

I think suicide bombing is very ugly.

But it doesn't help to dehumanize or cut off contact with those involved, unless, as a practical military matter, it actually does help. We shouldn't forget how brutal war has often been, and remains, in many other circumstances.

And we should look for ways where we can move to a peaceful solution --- not continuously set up circumstances where only continued fighting is possible.

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