Sunday, 10 August 2008

Why MAD was mad

MAD, mutually assured destruction, was the policy that the US and the USSR (Russia) pursued during the cold war. It meant constantly building more and bigger nuclear bombs and deployment techniques so that no country could attack first and disable the enemy without suffering a catastrophic retaliatory strike.

The cold war arms race was basically started at the end of the Second World War when the US dropped 2 nuclear devices on Japan causing almost unimaginable damage. Russia knew it needed nuclear bombs of its own.

We then had the two industrial giants of the world (the UK and Germany were economically drained by the war) constantly trying to either gain a significant advantage or avoid the other side having one to the point were an all-out war would lead to the earth being virtually uninhabitable for humans.

One mistake or misunderstanding potentially wiping out the human race? That can't be good. But in a period of paranoia how can a reasonable person be heard? If anyone suggested that someone better put down their guns before someone got hurt they were a commie, or a filthy capitalist pig and were hung out to dry.

Does any of this sound familiar to the present situation? Fear and panic in the population, cool heads being shot down, rational discourse making way for political extremism (Bill O'Reilly).

Now I have a long term view of the human race (a short term view of me, but that's another post). There was no logic to either side who were basically arguing over a political view: communist imperialism vs capitalism imperialism. Neither is intrinsically right or wrong, they are just two different ways of allocating scarce resources: centrally managed vs. market forces. The way they are implemented can be VERY different. A Communist country can be reasonably well run with freedom for the people and even democracy and religion, it very rarely happens in practice though. Best examples are small collectives, or small towns where they all pull together, each specialist doing his or her thing for the common good. Ironically these types of places are usually centred around religion.

Long term both countries wanted humans around. US wanted capitalists, Russians wanted communists. At least they wanted people around. Russia was always in danger of a popular uprising, which happened, and the US as a democracy can have its govt. changed by a popular leader campaigning for big changes. Or a populous so afraid of something that they will give up everything that made them them to feel secure again. Americans will not always be Americans as we know them and Russians (as we can see) won't always be communists, so why risk everyone?

The right thing to do for one (or both) countries to do was look at the big picture,
US "We will decommission our nuclear weapons in the hope and belief that you will too, but we do this even if you don't. Our reasons are as follows:
We cannot, in good conscience risk the lives of our entire population, and could not in good conscience risk destroying all human life because the leaders of a country committed the worst atrocity in all of human history. Humanity must survive. We would rather Americans lived in a communist world than no world. The old idea of give me freedom or give me death does not apply in a situation where the entire country can be wiped out in one evening.
Thus, if you wish to see this as our surrender so be it, but we believe this world is big enough for two ideologies to sit side by side without catastrophic conflict."

As a supposed Christian country how could the people be so blood thirsty over what the leaders of a country did that they'd want to wipe out every person in that country?

Countries come and go, political ideas come into fashion and then fade into history the only necessary constant is that there are humans there. MAD threatened that. that's why it was mad. Why no nation blinked early on is a complete mystery to me. I suppose the leader that did it would have been seen as weak and would not have been the leader for very much longer, voted out in the US. Democracy in action.

When the US isn't the US

And I don't mean places like Gitmo.

The Register has noted here that a US Senator has realised that immigration officials have powers that the police and FBI would kill for - the ability to seize and search computer equipment with no cause and no judicial oversight. This has been known outside the US for a while as it has inconvenienced many a business traveller, having to turn their computer on with the officials able to take it away and check the contents of your hard drive if they feel the need, or they're bored.

The Washington post wrote an article and (some of) the country is now unhappy at what would appear to be powers trampling all over at least 2 amendments to the bill of rights (the right to privacy and the right against unwarranted seizure of possessions). The officials dubiously reasoning that as you're not through customs you're not officially on US soil yet. Maybe it's more like Gitmo than I thought.

If they get the law changed for US citizens will it change for foreigners too? I ask (with the full knowledge it won't) because the section of the amendments mention any "person" not any citizen. All people (not Americans) being born equal and all that. It would appear both the logical and right thing to do, but we can't vote so what's the point in doing anything to help us? Democracy in action.