Re: [>Htech] Media ignores Ballistic Missile Defense lies (fwd)

From: Chen Yixiong, Eric (
Date: Thu Aug 23 2001 - 18:07:41 MDT

> No one on this list by any means knows whether a missile defense system
> would work, or when, but really, no one else knows for sure either. The
> future takes a long time to happen.

I think such a system would work, with more advanced tech, but unfortunately this tech would most likely obsolete such defenses, even if working.

> One factor is that it complicates the psychological game. A North Korean
> dictator who is planning to blackmail the U.S. with ten missles that he's
> set up has to ask himself this question (the day before he issues an
> ultimatum): "Does their system really work?" "Um! Do they *think*
> that it really works, even if I don't think so?"

This requires a study of game theory. From what I know, guaranteed MAD (played over repeated iterations) has high stability because a nuclear nightmare would cause such devastating destruction that no nations would want it, and since no nation can get rewarded with world domination because a nuclear devastated country obviously cannot rule the world. This has some similarity to the "cartel-like" behavior of petrol companies who prefer to cooperate by following a price leader than defect by cutting prices to marginal cost.

The only problem occurs when someone sends in stealth nuclear missiles, in the sense that someone attacks you but you don't know who. Only in this case would a nuclear defense have any use. Someone could probably send a submarine into range of the US cities and fire the missiles.

If you build some missile shield that works, maybe you can stop them, but maybe they will just send in agents with smuggled nuclear briefcases and time bombs instead. Even if you build an effective nuclear shield (with an accuracy of over 99.99%, since the enemy can use decoys and one "escaped" bomb can devastate an entire city), the cost may get too prohibitive and the actual protection close to nil.

Unfortunately, this nuclear shield does not work, and it costs so much that even the military wants to shift this item from its budget to someone else's.

This sounds like the Libertarian problem of either conscripting people to fight a war to defend a Libertarian nation, hiring mercenaries at tremendous cost or letting the obviously non-Libertarian enemy overrun the nation. We count in not just the cost of construction, but also how much more debt can the US shoulder and what consequences would this cause to world peace.

By breaking the relatively stable MAD equilibrium, the US may cause an arms race to occur that it can ill afford given its weakened financial support, but which it has a good chance of winning and bankrupting its enemies. This arms race will also have a low probability of causing a nuclear war directly, but it will greatly increase such chances by forcing countries like China to increase its arsenal. This will cause India, and then Pakistan, to follow suit. A multi-polar world would have lesser stable points along its probability space and more proneness to random events that could "tip the balance".

Given such a situation and analysis, I urge the US to immediately back down from its stance of building a nuclear shield, issue an apology to the world and concentrate on building local defenses (such as bunkers and missile silos). This has nothing to do with the right to defend oneself, or US politics, but plain economics and game theory.

The US should cooperate with the rest of the world in signing important treaties such as the landmine banning treaty and additional nuclear reduction treaties. Why would any nation want to attack or blackmail the US? Probably because they perceive the US as an arrogant bully (so with a moral justification) or that the US interfered with their affairs (so with a practical justification).

The US should diplomatically preemptively defuse any such potential situation instead of trying to stop a nuclear attack in progress. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and with Big Apple around, the US should know better.

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