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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?

Read Debates, a new Web-only feature culled from Readers' Opinions, published every Thursday.

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rshow55 - 07:52pm Apr 21, 2002 EST (#1621 of 1634) Delete Message

rshowalter - 01:23pm Aug 24, 2001 EST (#8108 of 8109) . . . Robert Showalter

MD7653 rshowalter 7/31/01 2:54pm reads in part:

" Dawn and I have been suggesting that crucial issues about missile defense, and related matters of military balances, be checked in detail, in ways that other people could judge. In a real sense, for people with enough interest, background, and attention span, this thread has shown some of that checking and shown how more checking can be done. But the evidence wouldn't work well in a courtroom, for real jurors, and probably wouldn't work as well as it "logically" should even for juries of engineers. The jobs of persuasion and illustration done here may be good in some ways, but in other ways they fall short of standards that are needed to convince real people. Especially, to convince enough people.

. . .

" The requirements of that checking are small compared to the stakes, but they may, given the barriers, involve some institutional responses. There have to be ways to get things to closure. The requirements are comparatively small, but they involve resources that no one person can bring to bear. Including illustration and evidence presentation skills. For example, I've shown, in words, simple calculations, and references, that lasar based space militarization is technically hopeless. Unless I've made some mistakes that can be pointed out. Logically, and in words, I feel that the job is pretty good. And subject to correction in public.

"But by the standards of exposition needed, in a competitive environment, before juries, the presentation is nothing like complete. With a few tens of thousands of dollars worth of effort, spent on skills I lack, that case could be much better.

I think this sort of thing is practical to do, illustrating particular points already made, and related points, and that the issues could be checked to closure. On questions of technical fact , perhaps people who write the professional engineering exams could umpire questions, if questions arise. In public -- basic questions of "what is possible in terms of the open literature" may not arise at all -- because some arguments, solidly enough embedded in matrices of knowledge and practice, are undeniable.

Here's one example. It is easy to protect missiles and warheads with high reflectivity coatings. After 99/100ths of the energy in the lasar is reflected away, even with everything else about the lasar weapon perfect, there isn't enough energy left to do the heating needed to damage the target.

I can't for the life of me see how a "lasar death ray" weapon can work for missile defense.

rshow55 - 07:53pm Apr 21, 2002 EST (#1622 of 1634) Delete Message

rshowalter - 01:23pm Aug 24, 2001 EST (#8109 of 8127) . . . Robert Showalter

There are other examples. That can be checked, to the extent that they are specified in detail.

When these things are made clear -- the rationale for missile defense becomes much more examinable than it now is.

A phrase I heard in Washington that I liked was this:

" There's no there there.

I believe, as many others do, that the proposals lack reality. We need to show that -- and show it well enough to work, not only for specialists, but for the people who serve on juries.

(Horror stories aside, the juries usually get things right, when evidence is well presented.)

wrcooper - 01:30pm Aug 24, 2001 EST (#8110 of 8127)

rshowalter 8/24/01 1:19pm

I was under the impression that the limited BMD program envisioned by the Bush administration had no intention of using beamed-energy weapons. My understanding was that only smart pebble-type devices were contemplated.

In my view, the biggest problem faced by any BMD system is target acquisition and penetrating countermeasures such as decoys. I just don't see how they'll be able to defeat such inexpensive means of tricking the the onboard targeting systems. The antimissile missiles get only a single chance to strike their targets. The notion that the computers will work right in real time under wartime conditions and that the sensors will detect the true targets, as opposed to the dummies, stretches credibility to the breaking point.

It's a Rube Goldberg fantasy.

rshowalter - 01:39pm Aug 24, 2001 EST (#8111 of 8127) ...Robert Showalter

A problem involves force -- just as getting to true testimony involves force, latent or in action.

If professional engineers, with names and credentialling at risk, said the technical things gisterme has said -- well -- it would be possible, reasonably directly, to see if those engineers were right, or if I was -- on specific issues.

And if arguments weren't good enough, they could be refined. The question "what is possible in terms of what is known to be attainable" is a well defined question, when it is applied to cases where the causal sequences can be examined in detail.

Based on my knowledge of the circumstances, it would take some sort of force to get engineers to stand up and do that in the United States of America -- and people responsible for decisions about the program are the people who should be defending it.

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