Re: SDI was Re: Expanding the "United States of America"

Date: Thu Jul 19 2001 - 12:32:41 MDT

I wrote
>The point of a defensive system in a military theater is as you describe.
>The point of a population defense system against WoMD has to be to stop
>or probably all incoming missiles. If you stop 90% of 20 missiles, the
>threat has not been countered. replied:
> That doesn't have to be the point of a population defense system.
> Stopping a single accidentally launched missile doesn't sound like a
> frivolous goal.

While not frivolous, it doesn't remove the threat. If someone tries for
nuclear blackmail, (or wants to take vengence on civilians) being able to
stop 90% of their missiles won't stop them if they have a few. And while
it would reduce the casualties, it wouldn't reduce the value of the threat,
or significantly reduce the quality of the revenge.

As you reinforce, the value does depend on what the goals of the defender
are. I'll admit that Redell & Nelson's points (on which I base most of my
arguments) were rooted in cold war strategies, which assumed that the
opponents were armed, dangerous, and willing to fire if the value of their
arsenal was threatened. In that situation, working toward population
defense undercut the value of the the oponent's arsenal, moving him closer
to firing preemptively. The current level of relative peace does change
the strategies.

That said, there are still many cases in which having a not-perfect
defensive shield encourages attacks, and many in which it encourages
potential attackers to invest in an arms race. I haven't seen anything in
this discussion to make me think we're much closer than 20 years to
creating a near perfect interdiction system given the approaches SDI
considers. If we (the gov't) save the billions of dollars that SDI
proposes to spend on deploying partially effective systems in the short
term, we (the people) will have more money to spend developing technologies
that may make this whole approach obsolete.


             C. J. Cherryh, "Invader", on why we visit very old buildings:
                         "A sense of age, of profound truths.  Respect for 
Chris Hibbert        something hands made, that's stood through storms and   wars and time.  It persuades us that things we do may
                                                         last and matter."
Yahoo Instant Message: ag_cth

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