Monday, February 19, 2007

Counterintuitive Contemplation

What happens when one Nobel laureate in economics interviews another? A slew of provocative ideas appears to be a good answer, particularly if the interviewer is 2001 Nobel laureate Michael Spence, the interviewee is Spence's Ph.D. thesis advisor and 2005 Nobel prize winner Tom Schelling. As Spence writes, Schelling "received the Nobel Prize in economics for the originality and impact of his applications of game theory to negotiation, nuclear deterrence, global warming, and the surprising effect of preferences for diversity on the composition of neighborhoods. If Tom's work has a leitmotif, it is counterintuition."


Here are some of Schelling's thoughts during that conversation:
[I] was in South Korea shortly after North Korea exploded their [recent] nuclear device.... Condoleezza Rice went to East Asia to organize a punitive response to the North Koreans. In my view that should have been the second priority.

The first mission should have been to encourage the three countries most threatened, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan ... to reaffirm their commitment to the NPT and non-nuclear status with support from the U.S. and the leading nuclear powers .... I view this as a significant missed opportunity on the part of the international community and the U.S. to reaffirm the deep importance of the non-proliferation regime....

Once a country becomes the owner of nuclear weapons, it is imperative that they learn to deal with them responsibly....

There was, for much of the Cold War, a surprising, effective, direct and entirely unofficial conversation involving policy makers and 'military' intellectuals from all the nuclear powers, including enemies, whose purpose was to learn and disseminate knowledge in this arena.... Iran should probably be the next member of the group with North Korea to follow....

Part of the learning process is learning to be deterred....

[Terrorists] also need to understand that nuclear devices are really only useful for deterrence.... The object should be not to blow up a city but to deter attacks on their country, region or organization....

I asked how long it would take for a smallpox epidemic deliberately started in the U.S. to spread around the world. The answer was 'Not long.' Then how practical are infectious diseases as bioweapons? ... But I was struck by the fact experts in bioweapons are not strategists, and by the thought that if our experts hadn't thought of this, could we be sure that others, including terrorist organizations, had?....

China has a small, well-managed nuclear arsenal, which they have never brandished or threatened to use.... Recently China conducted a test and shot down a satellite, and was criticized for contributing to the militarization of space. What appears not well known in the U.S. is that China has been trying to negotiate treaties on outer space, antisatellite weapons, and limiting the production of fissile material for a number of years, and has not been able to get the U.S. to participate. Since we are clearly developing antisatellite capabilities, accusations against China for escalation are viewed by them and others as hypocritical.


From the Wall Street Journal of February, 17, 2007
Article available at Opinion Journal - free to non-subscribers



4 comments:

LOGUE said...

you can submit your blog to Blogger-blogs-by-topic directory at www.blogsbytopic.blogspot.com. just follow the instructions on top of the page there.

chuck b. said...

By blasting the satellite to smithereens, China was also criticized for contributing to space pollution which is a topic (space pollution, Chinese or otherwise) I wish someone would make sexy before it's too late to have satellites of any kind in orbit.

Internet Ronin said...

Thanks, Logue, I'll look into that.

Internet Ronin said...

Good point, Chuck. (I have this vision of an astronaut wandering around space with a giant Hefty bag and one of those gizmos I see people using to clean up debris on the sides of highways.)