An aphorism says "The best defense is a good offense" --- but (when?) is that a fallacy? Is a preemptive attack ever acceptable? What if it's far cheaper than a successful after-the-fact defense against an assault? Would it (still?) be immoral? What if the blow is aimed at a person who's almost certain to do something evil? How sure must one be to justify such a strike? What if one is wrong?

Freeman Dyson (in Disturbing the Universe) argues for a simple "defense good, offense bad" rule on moral as well as practical grounds. John McPhee (in La Place de la Concorde Suisse) tells of the Swiss army's vision --- to be so hedgehog-like that no sensible attacker would even try to swallow it. Are these examples of the right direction to move?

Mutual Assured Destruction ("MAD") is a strange beast, wherein defense becomes offense: it's arguably destabilizing to defend a country's civilian population (because that takes a hostage away from the adversary). And to maximize deterrence, it's better to cultivate the perception that one is a ruthless automaton than to be seen as an empathetic human being. Is MAD madness? Or does it just make good sense from a game-theoretic perspective? Is it an example of an evolutionarily stable strategy, which perhaps isn't optimal but rather is like a local minimum, the best we can do given our history?

Friday, May 12, 2000 at 05:50:29 (EDT) = 2000-05-12

TopicSociety - TopicJustice

The recent big-ticket film "Minority Report" was one which I went to see partly in hopes that it would at least ask a question like this. The premise as I thought it was, that some fictional mechanism could predict criminal acts before they occured, and that a good, honest man was targeted, suggests a slew of philosophical quandries. Instead, the movie is a mere mixture of sci-fi 'mystery' and sci-fi action. Disappointing ...

- RadRob

(correlates: Eight Days a Week, NothingHappens, DangerousPhrase, ...)