Re: go interceptors!

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Mon Jul 16 2001 - 13:37:42 MDT

On Monday, July 16, 2001 8:12 AM John Clark wrote:
>> Why the focus on a land invasion
> I don't believe I did.

Your question: "What would it have to do with defending your land against
an enemy army? Zilch." shows otherwise.

You earlier arguments seemed to be that we should be against the current ABM
program because:

a) it won't stop a land army,
b) it won't stop a massive strike -- e.g., the Russians launching everything
they've got,
c) it will provoke another nuclear arms buildup, making the previous
[massive strike] more likely, and
d) it doesn't work.

To this we can add:

e) it won't stop a nonmissile nuclear attack -- e.g., a suitcase bomb or
something along those lines.

More below.

>>Defensive technology was doing fine until about 1918
> Castles and forts stopped being important long before then.

Castles did. Forts did. Trenches did not. Certainly the Allies and the
Entente had a hard time penetrating each others defenses between 1915 and
1918. This doesn't matter as much to the ABM discussion. I was just trying
to show that offensive and defensive technology are both a bit more dynamic
then the version of history you gave.

That said, there's no a priori reason to think defensive technology has
somehow been permanently routed.

Getting back to "d" above -- "it doesn't work" -- does this foreclose on it
ever working?

>>If, e.g., Iraq or Serbia had the US level of technological and military
>>development would the recent wars with them have turned out the same?
> Of course not, and we would have been fools to start a war with such a

My point: it was not so much offensive technologies that won these
conflicts, but lack of adequate defensive technologies. See, e.g., Stephen
Biddle's "Victory Misunderstood: What the Gulf War Tells Us about the Future
of Conflict" in _International Security_ 21:2 (Fall 1996), 139-179.

> In the cold war people said we don't have to worry about a suitcase H bomb
> Russia because the Russians haven't invented the suitcase yet. It was a
joke, and
> so are the reasons I've heard to justify Star Wars. If North Korea wanted
to kill us
> and they had The Bomb why on earth would they send it to us with a ICBM
and not a
> UPS? An ICBM is expensive, harder to make than The Bomb and everybody
> where it was launched from. UPS is cheap, easy, and nobody will know where
> came from, all they'll know is that Seattle no longer exists.

I agree with you here, but this is not the scenario which the current ABM
work is built to handle. Disengagement would still be the best policy.
Again, I don't support the ABM program per se. I just don't think your
other arguments against it are cogent. (See above.)

You have to also ask yourself, why North Korea -- the archetypal rogue state
in most public discourse -- is building long range missle technology. I
think it has more to do with having a threat than using it, but that's my
guess. I'm not inside their leader's head.

Also, I do think it might be a bit easier to build missile technology and do
it openly. A lot of the components for it are easier to develop and obtain.
Part of this has to do with the weapons control regime in existence right
now. The main focus of it is to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Missile technology is also on the list, but the detection and monitoring
capabilities are a bit different. After all, short range missle technology
is not banned. (This would be equivalent in the area of nukes to banning
H-bombs, but not A-bombs.)


Daniel Ust
    See "The Many Births of Free Verse" at:

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