[fa.arms-d] Arms-Discussion Digest V3 #54

arms-d@ucbvax.ARPA (07/03/85)

From: The Arms-D Moderator (Harold Ancell) <ARMS-D@MIT-MC.ARPA>

Arms-Discussion Digest Volume 3 : Issue 54
Today's Topics:

                          Nuclear Terrorism
                     Offensive Uses of Star Wars
                    Democracies and Dictatorships
                           SDI Software...
                      Wolfgang Panofsky's on SDI
                 Responses to Will Martin's Question

Date: Mon,  1 Jul 85 10:02:13 EDT
From: Herb Lin <LIN@MIT-MC.ARPA>
Subject:  Nuclear Terrorism

    > ...  Finally, bombs are damned hard to make, even if the raw
    > material is (relatively) easy to get.

    Ted Taylor was a professional bomb designer, and he thinks
    otherwise.  According to him, getting the materials is the only
    really hard part.  (This assumes that you don't care too much
    about building a "professional" bomb with a precisely-predictable
    yield.)  Virtually all of the major bits of knowledge that you
    need to do your own design are declassified now.  As for actual
    construction, the Manhattan Project did not use any overly fancy
    technology in their shops, and their bombs worked just fine.

I take Taylor seriously, but he's not the only one I've read or talked
to.  For example, Philip Morrison is also an ex-Manhattan Project
person, and he believes just the opposite.  Professional bomb
designers may live in a rareified world, in which things happen when
they order it to happen, and many technicians struggle very hard to
implement their directives.  An analogy is with auto executives, who
always drive cars with full tanks of gas and on-call mechanics, and
who also don't understand how to make a car that works as well for the


Date: Tue, 2 Jul 85 09:08:30 EDT
From: Michael_Joseph_Edelman%Wayne-MTS%UMich-MTS.Mailnet@MIT-MULTICS.ARPA

   Not to digree too much from the discussion of terrorism and
hijacking, but I feel I must respond to Jan Wolitzky's use of the term
'Jewish Gunmen' to characterize Israeli troops. Not only does this
disguise the fact that we're dealing with troops taking prisioners of
war in a combat situation (prisioners who were accorded all the rights
of POW's), but it betrays a certain predjudicial streak as well; every
time I hear someone say that they're not against Jews, just against
Israel, I suspect that behind that statement lurks a sympathy not
unlike Wolitzki's.


Date:     Tue, 2 Jul 85 09:47:36 PDT
From:     walton%deimos@cit-hamlet.arpa
Subject:  Democracies and Dictatorships

Recent messages, both to this net and to the print media, imply that
there is some moral equivalence between the US and USSR and/or between
Syria, the Shias, and the Lebanese.  I think this is demonstrably not
the case.

Democracies are not perfect.  However, if we hope to survive, we must
stop judging ourselves solely by our occasional failure to live up to
our ideals, rather than our everyday successes at following them.
(Were you jailed for not voting for the victorious candidate in the
last election?)  Our recent joint (with the Israelis) misadventure in
Lebanon was a mistake, we all realize it was a mistake, but no one in
Israel or the US was jailed or shot for saying it was a mistake.
Assad had 50,000 people, an entire village, murdered for daring to
suggest that Syria might be better off if someone else ran it.  Berri
lost the support of the more radical Shias (NOT Shiites--they are
another sect entirely) because of his bungled attempt to finish the
job which the Israelis and the Falange started, namely killing and/or
forcing out of Lebanon all armed Palestinians (reference: LA Times,
Opinion section, Sunday, July 23). The Shia prisoners which Israel
holds were, at no time, threatened with death if certain conditions
were not met.  In fact, more than 1/3 of those captured had already
been released when Flight 847 was hijacked.

Make no mistake, I think that the policies of the Reagan
administration, both domestic and foreign, are fundamentally wrong,
and that they are the root cause of much of the trouble in which
Americans find themselves around the world.  However, we do ourselves
a grave disservice when we oppose those policies by drawing moral
equivalence arguments between ourselves and the various brutal
dictatorships around the world.

Stephen Walton
Caltech Solar Astronomy


Date: 2 Jul 85 08:23:05 EDT
Subject: Offensive Uses of Star Wars

I've mentioned this before in the context of nuclear pumped lasers,
but any space based laser weapon using visible frequencies should be
suitable for ground attack, given that it has enough power.  The
ground attack mission is actually much easier than strategic defense:
only one target needs be hit at a time, the attacker can choose when
to do it, and bugs in the system merely cause delays.

How would one use space based lasers (or mirrors reflecting ground
generated laser beams) to attack the ground?  Significant problems
are: (1) clouds (wait until they go away), (2) turbulence (since the
turbulence is near the target, this will cause less spreading, and we
can wait for calm days), and (3) thermal blooming, where the laser
heats the air, causing the beam to diverge.  This last problem can be
averted by using multiple low power density beams converging on the
same point (this probably rules out pulsed lasers, though).

Note that I am talking about soft targets: wooden buildings, exposed
unarmored vehicles, oil refineries, vegetation, people.  Targets are
destroyed by ignition.  Noninflamable or armored targets are immune.
White paint is a good countermeasure.

[Note from the Moderator: However, smart rocks would be very effective
against most or all hard targets.  I suggest people read _Footfall_ by
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle for a very good exposition of what
spaced based lasers and smart rocks could do to conventional warfare.
Its also a great alien invasion story, if you like that sort of thing.

					- Harold


Date: 2 Jul 85  20:44 EDT (Tue)
From: _Bob <Carter@RUTGERS.ARPA>
Subject: SDI Software...

    From: Herb Lin <LIN at MIT-MC.ARPA>

    Full reliability in the context of a defensive system means that is
    does its assigned task with 100% assurance.  

    This is precisely the point of the entire SDI debate: the defense of
    population is *entirely* different than the defense of missile silos.

You and I are part of the population, and we don't demand 100%
assurance in (say) trying to avoid carcinogens; we are satisfied to
alter our conduct in quite uncomfortable ways in order to lower
risks by a few percentage points.  Is SDI so different?

What continues to trouble me is the feeling that some opponents, in
demanding SDI be perfect, in effect argue for doing nothing at all,
and are not being forthcoming about their real reasons for doing so.

    In my paper, I *do* argue that for more limited goals (such as
    enhancing deterrence), SDI *is* feasible.

I think we would agree on this one.  (Where is the paper, anyway?
Have you made the filespec public yet?  I don't like addressing it in
the abstract.)

    Therefore, the apparently technical argument over feasibility of
    SDI is in fact a *political* debate over the actual goals of SDI.

I disagree.  SDI is proposed as a planning program.  The time for
debate about actual goals is in the planning process, and indeed, is
the planning process.  The argument right now is whether SDI is so
frivolous an idea that it is not worth even inquiring into.  The
opponents seek to win this argument by convincing the American people
that for mysterious technical reasons SDI, unlike all other human
constructs, has to be 100% reliable.  I still don't understand why,
but I remain eager to read your paper.



Date:     Mon, 1 Jul 85 09:31:33 PDT
From:     walton%deimos@cit-hamlet.arpa
Subject:  SDI

I highly recommend Wolfgang Panofsky's article about the realities of
SDI in the latest issue of Physics Today.  Dr. Panofsky has no
illusions about the morality of the Soviet Union, but still makes a
convincing case that SDI is being oversold by those who stand to
profit from it, and that the sales pitch comes from political, rather
than technological, drivers (we need to arm in order to disarm...).
If I may summarize his argument: the ABM treaty was signed in 1972,
and largely obeyed since then, because both sides were convinced that
ABM systems could not accomplish any significant defense against a
first strike by the other side and were enormously expensive compared
to the countermeasures available.  Panofsky argues that no significant
advance in the technology has occurred in the past 13 years to justify
an all-out effort.  Arguments to the contrary stem from the lack of
agreement as to exactly what SDI is to accomplish.  The President
seems to be the only one who thinks that we can render nuclear weapons
(actually, land-based ICBM's) "impotent and obsolete."

This possiblity of partial success of an all out American SDI effort
explains some of the Soviet response to SDI. (reference: William
Martin's question about why the Soviets are so opposed to SDI if it
can't possibly work.) They have enormous respect for American
technological ability, and if we can succeed in creating a partial
strategic defense, we then have the option of a first strike at the
Soviet Union's land-based missiles, confident that our partial defense
will be adequate against the remaining force of Soviet ICBM's.  Since
the Soviets have chosen to place most of their nuclear strike force on
land-based ICBM's, this is a frightening possiblity for them.
Unfortunately, the Soviets are guilty of crying wolf by calling every
new American weapon "a major threat to world peace by the leading
imperialist power and enemy of freedom-loving people worldwide" or
some such, so we tend to ignore them.

Panofsky again: The main argument about SDI should be to answer the
(1) Exactly what is SDI to accomplish?
(2) Is the technology available to achieve goal (1)?

(3) What Soviet advance, current or prospective, will SDI counter if
    it is constructed?
(4) What Soviet countermeasures are available against prospective SDI 

Panofsky concludes that current technology does not justify any more
than a moderate program to pursue the various possible strategic
defenses in order to prevent any technological surprise by the
Soviets.  He feels that the pre-Reagan research program of some $1.4
billion a year was adequate for this purpose.  In the absence of
strong argument to the contrary, I am inclined to agree.

Stephen Walton
Caltech Solar Astronomy
BITNET: swalton@caltech
ARPAnet: walton%deimos@cit-hamlet


From: The Moderator
Subject: Responses to Will Martin's question

The rest of the digest's messages are about Will Martin question, the
important parts of which are excerpted below (I removed everyone's
inclusions to save space):

This question is so simple and obvious that I can't believe I haven't
already run across it clearly stated and answered, but I sure don't
recall doing so:

| If the SDI is hugely expensive and yet ineffectual and worthless, why   |
| are the Soviets against our attempting to create and deploy it?         |
Or are they reasoning that their public opposition to it will *encourage*...?


Date: Sun 30 Jun 85 22:26:43-CDT
From: Don Stuart <ICS.STUART@UTEXAS-20.ARPA>
Subject: Re: Arms-Discussion Digest V3 #52

First, I don't think anybody outside the Kremlin really knows.
Second, I'm sure that the guesses of some people (experts in this or
that) are more educated than mine.  Third, I suspect all such guesses
are strongly colored by the guesser's political or technical opinions
about the SDI.  Having disclaimed all that, here are my stupid

The Soviets may believe that a strategic defense is possible, even if
not probable.  Indeed, given our clear superiority in technology, they
probably think our desire to build one is evidence that it can be
done.  Even if they thought SDI was flat impossible, they are
apparently very impressed (rightly so) with our scientists.  They may
be afraid that we can do the impossible (it takes a little longer...)
and so want to discourage us, just in case.  SDI research will
probably lead to improvements in anti-satellite weapons, which
certainly are possible.  Many of the arguments against it have to do
with countermeasures.  Even if countermeasures are possible, they will
cost money.  By the way, I am not impressed with arguments claiming
the SU will go bankrupt somewhat before we do.  Finally, it makes good
propaganda for the rest of the world, arms race in space and all that.

On the other hand, who cares what the Soviets think?  The situation is
complex enough that we can't trust them to tell the truth or to lie
reliably.  Even if we could, do you trust their technical judgement?


Date: 1985 June 30 20:10:19 PST (=GMT-8hr)
From: Robert Elton Maas <REM@IMSSS.SU.EDU>
Subject:non-zero-sum forgotten again, Will Martin guilty this time

This question has been answered many times before, but some still
haven't heard, so here is the answer again.

(1) Nuclear warfare is *NOT* a zero-sum game!!!!! There are some
 things that are bad for both the USA and the USSR, for example
 actually having a massive nuclear exchange that anihilates most of
 the population of both nations and maybe even causes nuclear winter.

(2) Strategic Defense Initiative (space-based partial defense against
 ICBMs) would cause such a massive nuclear exchange. Why? Because of
 massivenumbers of accurate multiple-warhead missiles. In the past MAD
 kept either side from starting the exchange. But with SDI in
 operation one side could launch an all-out pre-emptive attack,
 knocking out most of the other side's retaliatory missiles. SDI
 couldn't stop any significant fraction of the pre-emptive missiles,
 but might adequate defend against a retaliatory strike using the few
 missiles that didn't get knocked out by the pre-emptive strike. Thus
 multiple-warhead missiles together with partial SDI would create an
 ability for either side that has such SDI to strike first and win
 without suffering much damage in return. During the time SDI by one
 side is being built, the other side may be forced to start a nuclear
 exchange just to have a both-dead-draw instead of waiting and being
 decisively defeated. On the other hand, if both sides build SDI, we
 have a long-term unstable situation where at the slightest sign of
 upcmoing war whoever shoots first wins so there's a high incentive to
 start a war rather than sit back and hope it doesn't happen.

(3) If, however, SDI were postponed until the total weaponry were
 reduced by a few orders of magnitude, then a feasible SDI might be
 able to defend against not just a retaliatory (MAD) strike but also
 against a first strike. Then SDI would be peaceful like Reagan claims
 insted of destabilizing and thus undesired by both sides.

(4) So get it out of your head that every time the USSR complains
 about something they don't like it must be something good for us.
 Think for yourself, is it good for us and bad for them, or is it bad
 for both us and them?

So in direct answer to your question, USSR doesn't like SDI because it
 will put them in a position of having only two choices:
  (a) Getting destroyed and not being able to shoot back, the end of
   the Marxist doctrine, everything they worked for destroyed;
  (b) Starting WW3 themselves, contrary to human decency and their
   operating principles for decades.
If they can get us to hold back on SDI, they will have a third option:
  (c) Avoiding WW3 for long enough to negotiate some kind of arms
   reduction that eventualy yields true peace.
I happen to think (c) is better than (a) or (b) for the USA too, thus
 we should go along with USSR's desire to halt SDI development.

Quote for the week: "Living in fear of nuclear anihilation is not the
 same as living in peace."


Date: Mon,  1 Jul 85 09:57:39 EDT
From: Herb Lin <LIN@MIT-MC.ARPA>
Subject:  Basic SDI / Star Wars Defense Question

Two reasons:

1. The probability of not working is not 1.0, though it may be close.
They hedge.

2. SDI has lots of alleged spin-offs that are likely to be useful:
silo defense and better command and control, for example.


Date: Mon, 1 Jul 85 09:56:05 pdt
From: mikes@AMES-NAS.ARPA (Peter Mikes)

   There is actually little reasoning going on (on either side). The
 Soviets need to respond to the US initative in order to maintain the
 impression that they can present a credible threat. They need that to
 defend their global policy and position.  So:
           It is irrelevant if the system is technicaly sound. It only
 matters if the SU (public, aparat..) believes that US is now
 non-vulne- rable (and there is little they can do about that
 (intolerable) situation.)  So it is the other way round. It is the
 US, which is staging the show, based more or less on illusion for
 both US public and for SU and other nations.  The motive is to move
 the show to area where we (US) have the clear and manifest advantage
 -e.g. We may know that it does not make much sense to write 10e7
 lines of code (in ADA?? haha ) to get a working real-time system.
 But once we sell the public on the idea that is what it takes - we
 have scored a point becouse an average guy in Edinburgh will rather
 bet on US getting there first than SU.

     ..This may look as cheap salon cynicism - until you look on
 actual exam- ples of how present nuclear capability is used e.g.: The
 Suez crisis in - was it 66?  The issue - as you remember - was who
 will get the refinery money and how the Aswan dam will be financed.
 The outcome was based on asses- ment of the threat - A letter to A.
 Eden saying: It would be worth to us to have a real war about this.
 Similarly = present (in)balance in Middle East is based on
 credibility of our statement - Saudi Oil is so important to us - that
 we go to war to keep it.  It is much less incredible when (we - they
 - all ) believe that we could go to real war without being

    So it is really question of our picture of what their model is -
 or the model of a model of a model... a situation well known from
 poker. It will work wery well until some idiot will call our global

[End of ARMS-D Digest]