Thursday, November 02, 2006

The devil's due

Neither deterrence nor statesmanship saved the world during the Cold War, just plain dumb luck. Walter Laqueur writing in the Opinion Journal summarizes the thesis of former assistant secretary of defense Fred Ikle's book, Annihilation from Within who argues that modern society has made a Faustian bargain with technology, which has now given individuals the power to annihilate cities. It's been a good life so far but the hands of the clock are edging toward midnight.


It's gratifying to see Ikle's book noticed somewhere else. It was the subject of a Belmont Club post a few days back. And the frightening thing about its thesis, in common with Huntington's thesis about the clash of civilizations, is that the probelem he describes is built into the fabric of our modern world. It is neither Clinton's nor Bush's fault. It's not anyone's fault. The risk of destruction is the price of harnessing the power of technology. I suppose we knew that already. We are our own blessing; and our own curse.


Blogger Pyrthroes said...

In 1959 Jacob Bronowski, a well-known British physicist, published "Science and Human Values". A classic to this day, Bronowski nonetheless fell victim to an expert's mortal sin: Intimate knowledge of his subject led him to state mere opinion as unequivocal prognostications.

Within fifteen years, i.e. 1975, Bronowski said, "We physicists know, we KNOW," that nuclear weapons will have been employed in war.

For all his virtues, Bronowski knew no such thing (thank Heaven!). What we absolutely do know is: No-one is an expert on the future. Think Tom Watson's prediction that IBM need never build more than 25 computers worldwide-- "no need, who'd ever have a for use such a thing?"

Another classic misapprehension is: "It can't be done, because we don't know how to do it."

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) technology spares populations but totally disables infrastructure down to home light-bulbs. Applied to Teheran and Pyong-yang, among others, EMPs might at least get their crummy little dictators' attention. Do this in context of a New Monroe Doctrine: The Nuclear Club is closed. Sorry you were late to the party, but civilized States shall now take steps to ensure threatened survival.

Cry Imperialism! Racism! Shout, "Barbarians have rights!" Too late, no-one can afford to chance your vicious little whims. Anyone attempting to circumvent this ban will be --as the Mullahs say-- dead meat. We mean it; we have the power and the will. Next step: Vetting which regimes loft vehicles off-planet. Alas for Mullah Omar, his Taliban will not be among them. Probably, not many Mullah-istic individuals will hitch rides up there.

"Politically impossible", you say? Wait 'til Notre Dame and Chartes go down, or perhaps Chicago becomes a seething crater for 10,000 years. As Bronowski did not realize, circumstances alter cases. Good night, and good luck! That's how it is.

11/02/2006 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger Aetius said...

Ah yes, the fate of the Krell.
Forbidden Planet, 1956

11/02/2006 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...

For some reason I suspect the West's survival has far less to do with any conceivable bad guys getting some weapon and has a lot more to do with the West deciding that what it has and what it is is worth protecting and fighting for.

For all the pants wetting I often read in the comments section here I'll simply say that Osama Bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are downright impotent and hardly capable of minor scratches compared to the lacerating blows our own elites self-inflict.

Of course, that's just ideologically speaking. But when it comes to nasty weapons I'm more afraid of a well-engineered bio-attack by a domestic apocalyptic environmentalist than a nuclear attack by some mullah.

11/02/2006 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"...the problem he describes is built into the fabric of our modern world."

Over here, I'm tryin' to figure out how agression is just a problem of "our modern world." The 7th Century contingent has a bit of an agression problem...or, maybe, my definition of "modern" is insufficiently broad.

11/02/2006 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Db2m said...

"Consumers want us to build cars that can do 60 miles per hour in less than 10 seconds, and get 20 miles per gallon. It's just not in the cards."

Automotive engineer quoted back in a 1960's car magazine issue, I fergit which. (The quote doesn't googleize.)

Ah, them were the days: persnickety points and finicky carburetors...

11/02/2006 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Shocker: New York Times Confirms Iraqi Nuclear Weapons Program
NRO ^ | Jim Geraghty

Posted on 11/02/2006 8:09:04 PM PST by hipaatwo

When I saw the headline on Drudge earlier tonight, that the New York Times had a big story coming out tomorrow that had something to do with Iraq and WMDs, I was ready for an October November Surprise.

Well, Drudge is giving us the scoop. And if it's meant to be a slam-Bush story, I think the Times team may have overthunk this:


NYT REPORTING FRIDAY, SOURCES SAY: Federal government set up Web site — Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal — to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war; detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research; a 'basic guide to building an atom bomb'... Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency fear the information could help Iran develop nuclear arms... contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that the nuclear experts say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums...

Website now shut... Developing...

I'm sorry, did the New York Times just put on the front page that IRAQ HAD A NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM AND WAS PLOTTING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB?

What? Wait a minute. The entire mantra of the war critics has been "no WMDs, no WMDs, no threat, no threat", for the past three years solid. Now we're being told that the Bush administration erred by making public information that could help any nation build an atomic bomb.


I think the Times editors are counting on this being spun as a "Boy, did Bush screw up" meme; the problem is, to do it, they have to knock down the "there was no threat in Iraq" meme, once and for all. Because obviously, Saddam could have sold this information to anybody, any other state, or any well-funded terrorist group that had publicly pledged to kill millions of Americans and had expressed interest in nuclear arms. You know, like, oh... al-Qaeda.

The New York Times just tore the heart out of the antiwar argument, and they are apparently completely oblivous to it.

The antiwar crowd is going to have to argue that the information somehow wasn't dangerous in the hands of Saddam Hussein, but was dangerous posted on the Internet. It doesn't work. It can't be both no threat to America and yet also somehow a threat to America once it's in the hands of Iran. Game, set, and match.

11/02/2006 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

The new appeasement (Victor Davis Hanson reviews Mark Steyn's "America Alone")

11/02/2006 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"It can't be both no threat to America and yet also somehow a threat to America once it's in the hands of Iran."

Can be if one does not think...a pasttime at which Dems excel...either that or they areevil.

11/02/2006 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Towering Barbarian said...

"...modern society has made a Faustian bargain with technology, which has now given individuals the power to annihilate cities. It's been a good life so far but the hands of the clock are edging toward midnight."


Not really. In pre-industrial days when most cities were built from wood that power has always been in the hands of any individual with a torch. "Fire & Civilization" by Johan Goudsblom (New York: Penguin Press, 1992) might be a good place to start for those who are interested. In more recent times, a cow in 19th Century Chicago was all it took. The knowledge to do such things is as old as cities themselves. What sustains us is that those who have such knowledge prefer creation to destruction. ^_^

11/02/2006 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

The New Yorks times confirms that in 2002 Saddam Hussein’s “scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away:”

11/02/2006 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

There's something very wrong indeed about talking as if we are exposed to 'annihilation' as a nation. Nuclear weapons are just not individually that powerful, and no adversary outside Russia is anywhere near being able to launch a massive, coordinated several hundred warhead attack. The geographic dispersion of the US population centers protects us fully from that exposure (other countries such as Britain and France by the way are not protected in this way and definitely do face the risk of effective annihilation via an attack at a single point, but that is and will remain their problem, not ours).

The risk we really face is the destruction of a single city, because there can be little doubt that after such a thing occurred our response would be devastation on a global scale, and the destruction of any likely capability to launch such an attack again.

What it really comes down to is that these Islamist clowns pose a mortal threat to a about one million Americans (out of 300 million) plus a billion Muslims, and that the absurdity of this ratio may not be enough to stop them.

11/02/2006 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

A quote from the Bible.

"Man's heart is deceitful above all else and desperately sick, who can know it."

The New York Times doesn't seem to be encumbered by the demands of logic; at least not in the meaning conveyed by the ink they spread on their pages.

I think Mr.Ikle is spot on. But it would be too depressing for too many people for them to consider the implications. It is something out of a science fiction horror story. The wars of the 20th century have served to hold it at bay but the pressure is building. "All those who hate God's wisdom love death."

Who ever could have imagined in 1950 that abortion would become legal and protected by the government founded(in part) by George Washington?

Remember Renfro asking Dracula for" little lives Master, you promised me little lives". The count is up to about 47 million little lives since Roe vs Wade just in the United States. God is counting. We havn't heard the last of this. Not in a long shot.

Some people will survive the Tribulation and go on to populate the Millenium. There is a time coming when "men will be rare on the earth".

I'm looking for the Rapture; the snatching away of the Church. Till then, make hay while the sun shines. Spread the word.

11/02/2006 11:24:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Unfortunately, the world - indeed the Universe - gets more dangerous day by day. We discover more ways to wreak havoc - and discover more ways that the Universe can wreak havoc on us on a completely uncaring way.

But in fact, the Universe does not become more "dangerous" - at worst it becomes more "hazardous". It does not become more "Dangerous" because we get better at hazard-mitigation.

The way forward is through greater competancy in all things, not less. And believe it or not, there are people who are quite upset by this fact. They seem to major in either Education, Journalism, Law, or Art History.

11/03/2006 05:40:00 AM  
Blogger metaphysician said...

Hey, think its bad already, try some of these future hazards. :)

11/03/2006 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

“The 7th Century contingent has a bit of an agression problem...”

It is inte5resting to note Huntington’s diagram, “Clash of Civilizations” all conflicts lead to Islam.

11/03/2006 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/03/2006 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

re: fire as WMD (Chicago, London, ...) (also liberal use of quarantines for disease, etc.)

Yes, and (even) back then we (civilized) society fought with the humanity we could afford.

So we made liberal use of nut-houses, there was little to no privacy (because there was little mobility), and those who believed in catch-and-release (of arsonists) were also in the mental institutions (aka "are you nuts?!") of the day - assuming the lack of a safety net or caring relatives did not drive the troubled and the trouble-makers to an early end.

11/03/2006 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

"What it really comes down to is that these Islamist clowns pose a mortal threat to a about one million Americans (out of 300 million) plus a billion Muslims, and that the absurdity of this ratio may not be enough to stop them."

This truly is a terrible notion, one all the more believeable since it has played out in recent historical past on a smaller (but still vast) scale. As the final days of Nazi Germany came to a close, Hitler refused to admit defeat, refused to beg for peace believing that if Germany was too weak to defeat its opponents, it should be completely destroyed.

I seem to recall a recent post containing a parable by Wretchard which runs a close parallel. We seem to be facing a similar all-or-nothing mindset in the Islamist foe.

11/03/2006 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...


One of the most interesting things about Hitler is that he wasn't German (he was Austrian). When he finally and contemptuously tossed the Germans to their fate he was trashing foreigners. This was also true of another dictator who brought a catastrophic defeat on his adopted country (Stalin was Georgian, not Russian).

From this perspective it's interesting how many of today's Islamist terrorists seem to like to operate outside their own countries, and appear not to reflect on how the conflicts they so enthusiastically stir up will likely rebound on their own homeland and relatives. Iraq is an obvious case, but terrorists from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, England and France also seem to believe and act as if the communities they grew up in themselves are inviolate.

11/03/2006 08:01:00 PM  

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