Fear of Nanotech 2

Robert J. Bradbury (bradbury@www.aeiveos.com)
Thu, 9 Sep 1999 11:30:15 -0700 (PDT)

I would like to put this thread *BACK* on track, since it has decayed away into a confusing SWAMP.

The point of the original discussion was -- what would have happened if Saddam had used Bio/Chem-weapons *first* on the U.S. or Israel?

Various people pointed out that Iraq had been concerned or was even warned that the use of B/C WoMD would draw a Nuclear response.

Now, the scenario I proposed [A] was that *if* S. had used B/C on Israel *and* there were a significant loss of life, they would have responded, justifiably(?) with nuclear weapons. I base this on my read of Israels willingness to use preemptive military force to prevent "crazies" from obtaining such weapons so that they will be able to play this trump card for a few more years. [this is my "political" thinking, good or bad.]

Looking at scenario [B], what would have happened if S. had used B/C on U.S. troops is quite different. The U.S. troops were quite prepared for this and would have at least to some degree been able to withstand such assaults. There is a big difference from using B/C on civilians unable to defend themselves and a military apparatus this has at least some defenses.

In (B), I suspect that the U.S. would have withstood this for some time, probably added an aircraft carrier or two and really stepped up the conventional response. I do not think we would have "lightly" used the nuclear response. Only if it were clear that the B/C were causing *extreme* levels of casualties, would this have been justified.

I think the problem here comes down to a general perception that the people of Iraq are victims of their leaders. Harming the people in significant excess of that necessary to achieve a military victory would have been viewed, as Marc points out, with some distaste by various people around the world. It is worth noting, that while War is not perfect, it may have become "cleaner" in the sense that most of the casualties were troops and not civilians.

If you look at the history of the Gulf War, a great deal of attention was paid to both image management and the minimization of casualties. Only if the casualties had been very high, and extreme justification (such as the violation of the Geneva Convention by using B/C weapons) were available, would the U.S. have risked playing the nuclear card. It is far more likely that the U.S. would have used N. weapons against the Iraqi army (military vs. military) as compared with Israel using them on Baghdad (civilians vs. civilians).

I think the reason for a major reluctance to use the N option is the reason that the more nuclear is used, the further down the slippery slope you go of when using it is justified. If it is used often, it becomes ok for other countries to use it when they get upset (witness Pakistan & India).

On the two occasions when nuclear was used, I was taught it was because of the expected loss of life an invasion of Japan would have required. Iwo Jima had cost 6,800 men; 25,800 casualties. Okinawa had cost 16,000 men; 68,000 casualties. I believe the casualty estimates for an invasion of Japan were > 100K. Now, it is interesting that I was recently told by a Russian friend, that they are taught that the American's had no need to use the bomb, since (a) Japan would have been facing the combined American & Russian armies and (b) Japan was on its last legs and would have surrendered soon anyway. The Russians generally believe we used the bomb simply to demonstrate to them that we had it and weren't afraid to use it.

Whether the American or Russian perspective is the most accurate is difficult for me to say -- it does however point out the degree to which opinions regarding the use of weapons of mass destruction can vary and how history is written by the teachers.

An interesting information source about The Bomb/Cold War is: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/experience/the.bomb/

Now onto some of the comments:

On Thu, 9 Sep 1999 mark@unicorn.com wrote:

> Brian D Williams [talon57@well.com] wrote:
> >Wrong era, this isn't WWII, A 20 megaton H-bomb would vaporize
> >baghdad.
> You're seriously suggesting dropping a 20MT bomb on Baghdad? Really? I'm
> not misinterpreting you here? Are you insane?

We would have more likely dropped bomb(s) of the appropriate size on the armies in or around Kuwait. If that didn't result in a surrender or coup, I suspect we would then have marched a fairly large force up to Baghdad (since the opposition would have been fairly limited).

The Israeli's however could have been justified in a small Nuclear response against civilian populations *if* they themselves were suffering high casualties. I think the only reason that this whole thing did not escalate was because S./I. were afraid of the N. response as has been discussed.

> When they're acting as hired mercenaries, sent out to put Western puppet
> leaders back in place in the name of 'freedom' and 'democracy', why should
> anyone value them higher than the hundreds of thousands or millions of
> Iraqi civilians who you would happily kill with your hydrogen bomb?

I will agree that in the Mideast we were acting in our own selfish interests (oil) and that we have a sloppy record of choosing where and how actively to get involved (compare Kuwait with Bosnia). However, I'm *unclear* about whether "put Western puppet leaders back in place" is an accdurate statement. My impression is that the Arabs in power in the various countries, have made their own political paths to controlling things. If these people were the puppets that you describe, then I would think that the Arab oil embargos of the mid-70's should not have happened. I will agree that Kuwait and certainly Saudi Arabia are not democracies, and seem to recall some discussion that we would only become involved in Kuwait *if* they agreed to adopt more democratic system. Whether this was ever implemented or not I am unsure.

> So when Arabs decided to use nukes or bio/chemical weapons on DC and a few
> other US cities in retaliation for the US nuclear strike on Baghdad you'll
> just nod your head and say 'Well, that just serves us right for using
> nuclear weapons'?

I doubt seriously whether anyone believes this would occur. David didn't take on Goliath without some belief that he would win. Terrorists might slip a bomb into a U.S. city and detonate it but you can rest assured that the country from which they originated would suffer the consequences.

Perhaps the worst thing to fear now-a-days is a distributed stateless terrorist group that could potentially gain access to nuclear technology. They could use WoMD with relatively little fear if they were willing to sacrifice their lives. Irrational people are very dangerous.

> I mean, seriously, forget for a moment that you're American. Imagine
> yourself as a foreigner reading this discussion, realising that
> ordinary Americans believe that they should be able to attack
> any other country which annoys them, for any reason, and if that
> other country decides to defend itself with the only effective
> weapons it has, those Americans believe that they are perfectly
> justified in vaporizing foreign cities containing millions of
> civilians in retaliation.

I believe this statement to be an *extreme* distortion and misinterpretation of the discussion! *AND* the people who contributed to it by making statements that *might* be misinterpreted may want to keep this in mind in the future [myself included!].

We didn't attack Iraq. Iraq attacked Kuwait, Israel and perhaps Iran (I'm unsure how that conflict got started). We were invited into Saudi Arabia by the Saudi's (who feared they were next) and exiled leaders of Kuwait. *I* personally and I believe most, if not all, of the other members of this group do not believe we should "attack any other country which annoys them". The only time when I believe WoMD are justified would be an extreme utilitarian point of view. It would require the saving of tens of thousands to millions of lives or the defense against the loss of such lives. As the Baghdad area has a population of 1.7 million, the use of a large WoMD against Baghdad could only be justified as an absolute last resort.

I note that nowhere in the discussion has there been any explanation for why any of Saddam's actions were justified.

Also, to move back to nanotechnology, the interesting thing about it (unlike Bio/Chem weapons) is that it is highly probable that it *does* allow *extremely* surgical strikes. You sprinkle nanodust all over the city with a program that says: "Does this man's voice print match 'Saddam Hussein'?" "If yes, put him to sleep for the next year."

Not too difficult for simple Mednanobots to do. And even if you get it wrong, they bring the person in and if you determine it isn't S.H. you provide the code to turn off the sleep-inducing bot.

The problem becomes would a government (or a dictator like S.) carefully monitor your actions...
"Is this person planning to flee the country to avoid paying his share of the national debt..." "If yes, take over his mind and prevent him from thinking those thoughts."

Now, I will admit that developing a program that can do *this* is *VERY* difficult. It would require very sophisticated nanobots and internal nets to monitor your actions and control your thoughts. I question whether there would be any point to this in a nanoera as the scenario assumes many pre-nano perspectives (governments exist, national debts exist, people exist, etc.).