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Madman Theory, Preemption and Nukes

Discussion in 'Alley of Dangerous Angles' started by Ragusa, Nov 11, 2003.

  1. Grey Magistrate Gems: 14/31
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    Mithrantir, you're right - it all comes down to "good relationships" with other nations. The problem is that for some nations and groups, the best relationship we can get is one of fear. Machiavelli was wrong - to be loved IS better than to be feared. But if you can't get love, then fear is better than contempt or hatred. In the optimum scenario, everyone would love the US and the hundreds of billions we blow on weaponry could be better spent on art, science, the environment, etc. But in lieu of a global love-in, we settle for the next-best thing - security through a combination of love and fear.

    This is a delicate balancing act, because the US has to balance relationships on a global level, not merely regional. Yes, it makes France more uncomfortable to have the US develop new weapons, but it makes al-Qaeda a lot more uncomfortable; and, if we lowered our defense budget, that would make France a little friendlier and al-Qaeda a lot bolder. So it isn't that the US is thumbing its nose at the world, but that measures aimed specifically at some people incidentally discomfit others, too.

    Mithrantir, I would disagree that France, North Korea, al-Qaeda, and Exxon-Mobil are equally dangerous - or that the US uranium weaponry is actually the "greatest danger at this time in the world". Even from an environmental standpoint, isn't a nuclear-armed North Korea more dangerous than a heavily-armed but internationally-mature France? And we should balance benefits and costs. Suppose uranium does poison the air and kill a hundred people this year (one hundred more than UN studies have counted). Or five hundred. Or even a thousand. That's still less than the death and environmental degradation wrought by the Ba'athists and Taliban.

    The realists and neo-realists are wrong. It's not the weapons that count, but the people wielding the weapons.

    Per democracy: yes, this needs a separate thread. I think it would be fair to say, though, that the US is more democratic than it was a century ago, and is more democratic than most nations in today's world, even if the US is not yet a pure democracy.

    And yes, many of these same radical forces that we worry about today are ones that the US supported - al-Qaeda, Iraq, etc. But the reason we worry about them today is because we used them as pawns to paralyze the major ideological threats - Soviet communism and Shi'a Islamism. We are right to worry about the snakes, but we don't need to be ashamed that we used them to help slay the dragons.
     
  2. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    Grey Magistrate,
    you know you have used a phrase used by Woolesey, ex-CIA chief?
    When used this phrase in 1998 this sounded a little different, especially about Shia Islam, and it's mainstay, Iran:
    Considering Iraq, Lebanon (despite it's past Hizbollah behaves since Israel left Lebanon) the major threat to the US in the middle east today is sunni islam, the wahhabi sect in particular. Just a point.
     
  3. Grey Magistrate Gems: 14/31
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    Ragusa, I had heard that phrase before and figured it was familiar to everyone, but couldn't remember who'd said it. I hope that counts as a reference and not plagiarism!

    In that speech you link to, Woolsey says this:

    Well, yeah. And Marxism was a complete break with classical communism, too. That didn't stop Marxism from being a poisonous ideology with global reach. The Iranian political variant of Shi'a Islam, mixed with modernism in a very anti-classical way, was a potent mix. Or so it appeared in the '80s, when the Soviet system was losing its grip on the global ideological imagination, and Iran had the resorces, manpower, ideological zeal, and strategic position to seize regional hegemony and make life very difficult for both the West and the USSR. Today the Iranian system has been drained of its ideological power (like the USSR), but we shouldn't suppose that its weakness today means it was never a real threat. If Iraq hadn't locked the country down, or if Iran had won the war with its neighbors, who knows who would have regional control today?

    So yes, today politicized Sunni Islam has eclipsed politicized Shi'a Islam. But that's partly because the Iraqi snake poisoned the Iranian dragon.
     
  4. Mithrantir Gems: 15/31
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    Grey i think that if you can't get love indifference is the second level, you seem to disregard the benefits of that. An ally who fears you is worst than enemy because he will support you as long as he can't do anything else but if he gets his chance he will backstab you. At least that is the way i perceive it. You can't trust a guy you force him to follow you.
    Well as far as i remember i have not heard NK doing nuclear tests despite the worlds resentment at this tests. As for depleted uranium various organizations seem controversial to the issue of how dangerous is. But the rapid increase of cancer, disfigured born babies, leuchamia and other related diseases in the areas and countries that were bombed with this kind of weapons, makes me think it may be related.
    I agree for France but Al-Qaeda is not a nation and does not rely on standard military tactics. So i would dare say that increased spenting in weapon reseasrch does not really affect Al-Qaeda one bit. They will never engage in open combat. In fact this helps them a lot because alot of people will feel threatened and will accept Al-Qaedas positions and action easier, even help some undecided to join her. But decreasing spenting on weapons and increasing spenting on more humane causes, will makes Al-Qaeda feel insecure since USAs evil figure is what supplies them with young blood.
    Pure democracy is not applicable so easy. In true Democracy you and everyone else is taking the nations decisions and not a represantative of you and the people in your region. Secondly Democracy has as a fundamental principle equality before the laws and the authorities. Do you see this happening in USA or anywhere in the world for that matter? I don't instead i see a continuous diminishing of true democracy and the rising of feudalism hidden behind a cloack that writes Democracy with big neon flashing letters.
    Communism is an utopic political system. It is good in theory but Marx and many others after him forgot one crucial factor, human nature. In action communism and capitalism have a great difference than theory because people are people and corruption is inevitable. It is not a poisonous ideology at least no more than capitalism or Democracy or Feudalism or Monarchy or any other.
    I don't really think that this is true. Iranian politicians and administration simply have become more dubious and diplomatic keeping a low profile. They still have power in that region and it looks like they have made some moves to keep and expand this power.
     
  5. Chris Williams Gems: 9/31
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    First off, Grey Magistrate, you're a very perceptive chap.

    Second, here are my thoughts on the matter. I personally lose no sleep over America's nuclear arsenal. Neither do I lose sleep over those of Britain, France and China. They're not going to be used - they simply have deterrent functions which may or may not be obsolete.

    I am rather more worried about Russia's nuclear arsenal. I do not suppose that there's a danger of it being used directly but given the lax security in the post-communist chaos, there is a real danger of weapons grade material being smuggled out of the country and sold to the highest bidder. There have been foiled attempts. We do not know whether there have been successful attempts.

    I am rather more worried about the nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan. The two nations are in a constant state of heightened belligerence and the idea of a nuclear explosion over Karachi or Delhi does not bear thinking about. However, this very real danger may lead paradoxically to rapprochement between the two nations, or at the least the bizarre sort of peace created by MAD.

    I am very worried about the arsenal of North Korea. Kim Jong Il does not strike me as a wise or restrained man. He is a vain despot who has created a personality cult and who shows the instincts of a bully and a psychopath. He uses North Korea's (probably small) nuclear arsenal as leverage to wring concessions from his neighbours. Who's to say that when it came down to it, he wouldn't order a strike on Seoul or Tokyo out of sheer malice.

    Now for Iran. The Iranian government are far from the worst in the world and the state is moving gradually towards a pluralist democracy. However, in the bizarre system that currently prevails, a mixture of elected government with a self-appointed religious elite, there are real dangers. The extreme elements wouldn't launch a direct nuclear attack on American forces - I'm sure that they're not that ready to meet their makers - but who's to say that a little bit of plutonium or even a few spent nuclear fuel rods wouldn't somehow find their way to their fun-loving friends in Hezbollah. Then all they'd need to do is grind it into a powder and have some gleeful martyr detonate himself in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Now that's frightening.

    Hence, the reason for the apparent hypocrisy of a nuclear armed America seeking to enforce non-proliferation treaties: in the current state of the world some governments are less responsible than others.

    Now for the question of whether high military spending can buy security, particularly in this age of unconventional enemies. The simple answer is that it buys more security than low military spending. A more considered answer is this: unconventional enemies require unconventional tactics and I am certain that a fair proportion of the US budget goes on things like communications eavesdropping and other forms of intelligence gathering, not to mention tracking and stopping the terrorists' sources of funding. There has been some success. You may argue that this hasn't enabled them to get Osama Bin Laden but they've taken out a fair few of his lieutenants. Likewise, they ain't found Saddam yet, but they've killed his sons and killed or arrested most of his generals.
     
  6. Grey Magistrate Gems: 14/31
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    I can't add anything to Chris' comments (especially your oh-so-generous opening!), so instead one very quick aside to Mithrantir. You write:

    Marxism IS a poisonous ideology. When I studied Marxism at college, I once ended an essay by noting that Marxism was a "beautiful" theory. I wasn't Marxist, but I admired how neatly the pieces fell together, and how carefully systematic the ideology was. It was certainly a lot tidier than its barbaric counterpart, Nazism! But my professor reprimanded me and insisted that Marxism wasn't at all beautiful. Why? Because it bases its utopia on the murderous removal of a segment of the human population. Utopia comes tomorrow...once we kill such-and-such today. Ideologies are not morally equivalent.

    And that's why - to come back to Ragusa's original topic - it very much matters who holds the nukes, and whether the holders are sane or otherwise. America, Europe, and today's Russia aren't ruled by murderous ideologies. Iran and North Korea are. Hence why I would trust France with a million nukes long before I'd trust North Korea with just one - and why I wonder at the world's distrust of American power in the face of its actual practice.
     
  7. Kyiro Gems: 1/31
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    Going off topic, but all I wanted to say was, this was a very interesting read...

    Being from ZA (South Africa) and not really too much into the whole American political situation other than not liking them very much at the moment, I am however always interested in reading up on weapons programs and development, especially concerning nuclear WMD and the MAD theory.

    Now some interesting facts (non-nuclear, sorry): South Africa is not really destabilizing as said above, I'd say it's rather settling well, however the President's continuing support of Mugabe is not something I agree with but not something I can do much to, other than voting. Zimbabwe is however a bit of a problem here in lower Africa, it's not something I am particularly proud of supporting (Tyrants never really had my favour anyhow) but it *is* happening and it's real.

    The lunacy of the matter is: Africa has little to no (I am unsure of this fact) nuclear power in the form of WMD, as for chem weapons, I think you'll find more AK-47's than litre's of chemicals here, but what we do have is starving people, rampaging dictators and lots of very young soldiers killing eachother for the last couple of decades.

    In the light of the UN's proposed reshuffle of the Security Council, I thought that it'd be interesing to hear your thoughts on this subject. You see Africa, being the backwater of the world, never seems to enjoy any attention whatsoever, and the meetings between African presidents and American presidents is usually more of a public feature than an actual progress indication. Having someone from Africa on the defece council could mean placing Africa on the global map, as a threat perhaps, (I don't believe so...) or as a potentail ally (in certain countries) whose resources are, as yet, untapped....

    Okay, at this point I'm ranting, I know it's off topic but I had to ask, and this being one of the few topics in which South Africa was mentioned along with the global political stances, I thought it'd be the best place to ask...

    Thanks in advance.
     
  8. Lokken Gems: 26/31
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    I think most people consider the american government rather spontaneous in their actions to go to war (depending on the president of course). Which has hardly lessened considering the Iraq war. At least this is my opinion, and shared by many from my school.

    Of course we'd rather US had the nukes, than say North Korea, though we're not in favor of having nukes alltogether. And since US has been in so many wars, makes people like me.. see them in a light where they seem a little too fond of the gun so to speak.

    I'm not the one to say how it actually works in US, but it appears as the president could initiate a nuclear launch by giving the order himself without actually needing any confirmation from 3rd party organizations in the country (like the people from a people's vote for instance or an ethical/morale council). That the will of one man could initiate a nuclear strike concerns me.
    If I'm mistaken, please enlighten me ^_^
     
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