Re: state of memes

Date: Tue Oct 02 2001 - 22:55:59 BST

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    Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2001 17:55:59 EDT
    Subject: Re: state of memes
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    In a message dated 10/2/2001 2:22:44 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

    > Aaron,
    > Your "thought contagion" site is the best discussion of memes I've seen yet
    > (if you don't mind me using Dawkins' slippery term.) Thanks.
    > I can't say much in favor of your analysis of American policy in the Middle
    > East. It's silly to think that Iraq, had it possessed the requisite
    > technology, would have considered launching a nuclear attack against the
    > United States. Armed with 24 missiles, each containing up to 17
    > independently maneuverable warheads, a single Trident submarine (of which
    > have 22) could have obliterated the country in minutes. Saddam wanted
    > because boys like toys. At no point would such weapons have offered him
    > leverage against the US.
    > Ted

    Thanks, Ted.

    The unfortunate thing with nuclear weapons is that there are far too many
    scenarios that you and I would regard as utterly silly causes for an attack
    but which have been shown dangerously possible anyway. Despite the assuredly
    mutual destruction, the USA and USSR, for instance, have repeatedly come to
    the brink. Besides accidents and misinformation, there are also possibilities
    of dangerous miscalculations. I fully agree that Iraq could be reduced to
    smoldering, bubbly, radioactive glass. But there are still avenues to
    miscalculation. For example, Saddam Hussein, if armed with a handful of
    nuclear weapons placed secretly in US cities, might assume that the USA is
    simply "too soft" to tolerate any mass casualties at all. They might conclude
    that a "demonstration" blast would be useful in convincing the USA to simply
    let Iraq do whatever it wants to do militarily in the Middle East. They might
    miscalculate that they could then count on the USA to not only not retaliate,
    but also to give Iraq free reign to invade its neighbors with conventional
    and/or nuclear weapons. Using a demonstration blast to extort large and
    advanced thermonuclear weapons from the USA or Russia is also a danger worth
    considering. Just having additional countries running the kinds of risks that
    the USA and the USSR took creates a major danger. It is hard to go through
    all the possibilities, but it strikes me that there are some situations where
    nuclear proliferation is so dangerous that the nuclear threat alone warrants
    a conventional military war by a country such as the USA. In my opinion, Bush
    senior's administration could have sent different signals that would have
    prevented the invasion of Kuwait. Whether non-proliferation was one of their
    major motives is an open question, though. It is entirely possible that the
    desire to have and win a war was a bigger motive to the administration. If
    so, then we might consider it a "lucky" coincidence that it also happened to
    set back the Iraqi nuclear program. As high as the death toll was in Iraq,
    death toll if they had used nuclear weapons against their neighbors or much
    larger countries such as the USA or Russia would have been far higher.

    --Aaron Lynch

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