[fa.arms-d] Arms-Discussion Digest V3 #48

arms-d@ucbvax.ARPA (06/22/85)

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

Arms-Discussion Digest Volume 3 : Issue 48
Today's Topics:

          Questions on Submarine Launced Ballistic Missiles
                          The Fire Unleashed
                            Media Reality
                       Nuclear Pumped Gas Laser
                      SDI (Fossedal commentary)

Date:  Wed, 19 Jun 85 11:46 EDT
Subject:  Questions on Submarine Launced Ballistic Missiles

Does anyone out there know if SLBM's, Soviet ones in particular, leave
the atmosphere and later re-enter near their target?  What I want to
find out is if these missiles are killable by SDI type defences.  I am
reasonbly certain that cruise missiles and bombers/bombs are not
affected by SDI, but verification on these points would be nice also.

John Mills


Date:     Tue, 18 Jun 85 01:03:21 PDT
From:     msev%phobos@cit-hamlet.arpa
Subject:  The Fire Unleashed

Thanks for including Ray Simard's piece on "The Fire Unleashed". 

(I saw the second and third hours of the show.)

I agree that there was quite an editorial bias, particularly in the
second hour, on nuclear power.  Just to include nuclear power on an
equal footing with proliferation and the arms race reflects a pretty
strong bias, since, to first order nuclear power is an independent
issue.  (My bias!)  I think nuclear power has some serious problems
and is a doubtful source of new energy under present political and
economic circumstances, but I don't see why it can't be reasonably
safe in principle. The French seem to be able to do it well enough.
The common aversion to ionizing radiation hazards as opposed to other
greater but more conventional risks (coal mining or automobile
driving) probably accounts for the easy linkage of power and weapons.

I also have to agree that the third hour (superpower relations) was
biased, but since it was biased toward my position, I can't complain
too loudly.  A little bias may be useful to overcome the strong public
presumption that "everything is OK - the authorities in Washington
(especially the President) are taking care of us".  The value of the
third hour, I thought, was the strong suggestion that the situation is
genuinely frightening and that the old boys in Washington (Moscow,
too) don't seem to appreciate what is happening.  In fact they are
doing what they can to make it worse. I would like to qualify that
last with the word "unintentionally", but when our not-so-private aim
is for nuclear superiority and/or first strike capability (a
by-product of SDI), I can't be so sure.

The TV/entertainment/news industry (which surrounds me here in LA) has
to be given credit for one thing -- they know how to avoid boring
their audience! An academic, dispassionate discussion without those
exciting/frightening graphics would have had an infinitesimal
audience, though we would it otherwise.

-Martin Ewing

        Caltech (818-356-4970)    PHOBOS::MSE or mse@phobos
        Radio Astronomy 105-24    mse@caltech.bitnet
        Pasadena, CA 91125 USA    mse%phobos@cit-hamlet.arpa


Date: Fri 21 Jun 85 01:33:56-CDT
From: Don Stuart <ICS.STUART@UTEXAS-20.ARPA>
Subject: Re: Arms-Discussion Digest V3 #47 - Media Reality
To: jmiller@APG-1.ARPA

I think you are being unfair to the media.  I have watched mostly ABC
and have had no feeling that Nabih Berri is being portrayed as a hero.
He may or may not be able to guarantee the hostages' safety, but that
is a question of fact, not virtue.  He may be our "best hope" but that
is a commentary on how bad off we are, not how wonderful he is.  He is
often referred to as a "key" individual, but that is neither praise
nor false.

In the beginning he was portrayed as an "honest broker".  That was
probably reasonable, given the situation at the time.  Since then his
public role has changed and it has become apparent that he has a large
role in the holding of the hostages.  Although they have presented no
evidence yet, the TV people have suggested (as has the State
Department) that he may have been involved from the beginning.  They
certainly have made no secret of the fact that he is involved now.

Of course, most of my impressions so far have come from TV, but I
don't think of myself as one who absorbs verbatim without reflection
and I haven't heard that much difference between the surface and the

In fairness to Berri, by the way, we should not jump to the conclusion
that he has as much power as he says he has.  He may be the most
powerful individual in Lebanon, but he is hardly an unquestioned
leader.  It is not clear that he could release them if he wanted to.
He apparently does not have much influence with the more radical
groups and it is entirely possible that they hold an effective veto on
his actions.  He may be firmly in charge of this mess.  He may instead
be, like many of the people we dealt with in Iran, essentially
powerless, trying desperately to keep up a front while not losing an
internal power struggle.  None of this means he is a nice guy, but
there are many worse men to deal with, I suspect including most of his
likely successors.


Date: 21 Jun 1985  03:04 EDT (Fri)
Subject: Media Reality
To:   Jeff Miller AMSTE-TOI 4675 <jmiller@APG-1.ARPA>

     Your suggestion that "the media" are conspiring on their own
initiative to falsely portray Nabih Berri as an enlightened
humanitarian when he is actually a "thug" and a "terrorist" seems to
be greatly at odds with the facts.  In adopting this line CBS, ABC,
and NBC are apparently taking their cue from the highest levels of the
national security community, from people in the State Department,
National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency, etc. with the
greatest expertise about the internal dynamics of Lebanese politics
and with access to the best intelligence on the current crisis.  In
fact, in recent days I have seen three former heads of the Central
Intelligence Agency--Richard Helms, William Colby, and Stansfield
Turner--forcefully promote a moderate approach to handling the present
mess and subtly deride the blustering calls for massive vengeance
which would be justified by the crude demonization of Berri.  (Henry
Kissinger, by the way, has proven to be one of the worst blusterers in
recent days; he is beginning to sound more and more like Ariel
Sharon.)  I suspect that the views of Helms, Colby, and Turner are
consonant with the consensus of expert opinion in the Reagan national
security community.

     What's probable is that Berri is trapped in a delicate and
dangerous situation, and the American government knows it.  Although
the Shiite constituency he represents is relatively moderate and is
eager to maintain good relations with the U.S., it is being threatened
by a groundswell of extremist opinion from below which is fueled by
rage at the destruction Israel has inflicted on Lebanon with American
weapons.  If Berri fails to take careful account of this surge of
feeling in the Lebanese body politic he, along with the relatively
moderate movement he represents, will likely be deposed and crushed.
If we push Berri too hard, we run the risk of undercutting his
authority and driving Lebanon into even greater extremism and into a
state of permanent hostility against the U.S.  We would then be faced
with another Iran, and with the unpleasant prospect of setting in
motion a successful campaign by Islamic fundamentalists to seize power
in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other states in the region.  The Reagan
Administration has to take these factors into account, and not allow
short-term emotional outbursts to undermine long-range global
strategic interests.

     How well do you think the media have covered the exercise of
massive state terrorism by Israel against Shiite villages which
directly triggered this crisis?  Do you think the thuggishness of
Berri remotely approaches that of Ariel Sharon, who was the architect
of Israel's disastrous invasion of Lebanon, a policy that has been
vigorously condemned by the U.S. government?  My impression is that
_The Washington Post_ , _The New York Times_, and _The Christian
Science Monitor_ have done an excellent job in reporting on Israeli
activities against the Shiites in southern Lebanon, but that the
television networks have failed to fully inform the public about the
causes of Shiite anger against Israel and the U.S.  If we don't soon
begin to make an earnest attempt to understand what is happening in
the Middle East, we stand in danger of losing all influence there.


Date: 21 Jun 85 08:16:55 EDT
Subject: Nuclear Pumped Gas Laser

One early criticism of space based chemical lasers is the bulk of the
fuel supply needed.  Attempts have been made to get around this
problem, using ground based lasers reflecting off orbital mirrors or
by using nuclear explosive pumped X-ray lasers.

Clearly, if you're going to put a laser power source in space you want
to use some kind of nuclear energy.  The nuclear x-ray laser uses a
nuclear bomb, and is not reusable, both fatal problems.  How about
using more conventional nuclear power sources?  We could orbit a
nuclear generator and use the electricity to power a laser, but then
most of the energy is lost as waste heat from the generator, and the
laser itself will be very inefficient (10%?).

My suggestion is to pump the laser medium directly.  We mix U-235 or
U-233 hexafluoride gas with the lasing gas.  Fission fragments from a
nuclear chain reaction will slow down in the gas, exciting the atoms
and causing laser action.

This idea comes in two flavors.  In the first, a steady state reactor
pumps a continuous wave laser.  In the second, a pulsed reaction is
used in which the gas is allowed to go supercritical on prompt
neutrons alone for several microseconds.  This could allow very high
peak power levels.

For thermodynamic reasons we want the laser medium to be very hot, to
reduce the size of the radiator.  Problems to be solved include:
selecting a lasing gas that can (1) lase at very high temperature, and
(2) is chemically compatible with UF6.

It is conceivable that very high power lasers (gigawatt range) could
be orbited.  These lasers would have ground-attack capability (1GW
will produce ~100x solar intensity over a square 100 meters on a
side).  Whether this counts as a "weapon of mass destruction" and is
therefore banned by the Outer Space Treaty remains to be seen.


Date: Fri, 21 Jun 85 16:11:34 EDT
From: Herb Lin <LIN@MIT-MC.ARPA>
Subject:  SDI

       Do readers of ARMS-D agree that the critics have been routed in
    confusion on the technical front, SDI is possible, and the
    discussion is now wholly political?

Far from it.  The critics have the upper hand, IF you believe that the
goal of the SDI is "to eliminate the threat of nuclear ballistic
missiles".  Even proponents argee that SDI can't do that.

The discussion is political, though, since even a *perfect* BMD would
not buy us security.  We had the logical equivalent to a world with
perfect BMD in the 1950's, when there were no nuclear armed missiles,
and we were scared silly then.  Weapons exist because of bad political
relations, and if the relations are bad, we will always have things
about which we should be scared.

[End of ARMS-D Digest]