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"The Unthinkable" - Response from IEEE PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harris Georgiou   
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 18:19

To: "Harris Georgiou"
From: Glenn Zorpette
Subject: Re: Open letter to IEEE Spectrum - The Unthinkable (EN)
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2003 08:31:00 -0400
...........

 

Dear Mr. Georgiou:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me on the Gover/Huray article. I regret that it has upset you so, and I can well understand from your letter why it has.

I doubt that anything I can say will alter your way of thinking, and I am not going to try to do so. All I can do is explain the background of the column and make certain points clear. The "Speakout" column is our op-ed page. It is where we allow people with solid credentials to speak their mind about technology-related issues of major importance. Drs. Gover and Huray, both IEEE members, were expressing their view on a critical and timely technology-related subject, and marshalling technology-based arguments to support it. The views of Gover and Huray are shared by some people within IEEE, and are rejected by others. Nevertheless, they were fulfilling the mandate of the column.

Spectrum has from the beginning had a multipart mission. That mission has always encompassed explaining important developments in technology, offering insights into the technologies and technical aspects behind current developments in the news, and acting as a forum in which experts can offer their views on technologies and technology-related issues. Thus your statement that the article is "clearly political in nature and totally outside the scope and technical nature of the specific magazine" is incorrect. We have long had a history of tackling issues that are politically charged and also technology based. A great many of these articles involved nuclear technology. All you need to do is look back through the Speakout columns that have been published over the years to confirm that this is so.

In other words, the point of the Speakout column is to argue a point of view. That is the point of all "op-ed" columns. Sometimes you are going to agree with that point of view, sometimes you are not. What Gover and Huray were trying to do was question whether the policy of mutual assured destruction continues to have force to dissuade nuclear nations from using nuclear weapons. "Nuclear nations" includes ones other than the United States, as the authors clearly state. The authors were not advocating nuclear war. As they state, "no one wants to see these weapons ever used." They were explaining why, in their view, mutual assured destruction has lost much of its ability to deter a nuclear strike now that the Cold War has ended.

In their view, to pretend that mutual assured destruction still has the same preemptive force that it did 15 years ago would be a dangerous fallacy. By bringing this fact to the attention of an influential audience, they believed they were performing an important service. Perhaps some other preemptive force can be found. At any rate, in their view, mutual assured destruction has lost its potency. Obviously, you disagree. So I suggest you write to the authors to get exchange views first hand. I am sure they would be quite interested in hearing from you.

It may surprise you to know that the authors' view has been adopted by many strategists both inside and outside of the U.S. Government. (There have been articles in both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times confirming this fact.) It is part of the purpose of the Speakout column to make readers aware of momentous policy shifts such as this. Ignoring them, pretending that they did not occur, does no one any good. After all, it is even possible that you yourself became aware of this shift in nuclear policy by reading this article. Now that you are aware of it, you have expressed your disapproval, and in so doing have reached and influenced those who will come upon your writing on your web site.

In short, a worldwide debate has been started, thanks in part to you, and that is a very positive outcome.

In any event, I am grateful to you for sharing your views with me. It is important for me to know how readers react to articles because it helps me decide how we should handle difficult subjects in the future. (And which difficult subjects we should handle in the future.) In the mean time, you may be pleased to know that we are going to devote our entire letters column ("Forum") in our May issue to readers' mail on the Gover/Huray article. The Forum section will have two rebuttals to the Gover/Huray article from prominent nuclear thinkers.

Thank you for taking the time to communicate with us.

Sincerely,

Glenn Zorpette
Executive Editor

 

 

From: "Harris Georgiou"
To: "Glenn Zorpette"
Subject: Re: Open letter to IEEE Spectrum - The Unthinkable (EN)
Date: Sat, 12 Apr 2003 22:47:52 +0300
........

 

Dear Mrs Zorpette,

First of all, thank you for taking the time in reading the full (I suppose) letter and writing a few words back to me. It seems that you were the only one between the IEEE-related receivers I sent it to.

I should re-assure you that, as stated in my letter, I have nothing against solid technical views, suited for this magazine. I provided some examples on this, including the "9/11: One Year Later" case and the "Getting the Message" article (see refs for details). However, these articles have absolutely nothing in common with the Gover/Huray case, as well as the "Are We safe Yet?" article. Most of the readers of the Spectrum magazine have long experience in technical reviews and scientific publications. If this was to be a "technical review", it should mainly examine the situation analysis, in terms of strategic stability (see my introductory section) or, at the very least, present facts to support every aspect and possible solution to each problem. In any case, the fact is that this is a political issue with diplomatic and (maybe) military side-effects. The involvement of nuclear weapons is not the core issue of the investigation, as it should be in a publication dealing with engineering. Surely, I would not enjoy seeing new advances on nuclear bunker-buster warheads or eavesdropping on satellite communication channels, but nevertheless both of them would be subjects well-suited for the magazine. On the other hand, the way politicians and goverments would like to use them, is not.

I respect the different views that other readers have expressed, as you state. However, issues of this magnitute and severity do not have to be "dropped" in a tecnical magazine, to awaken every thinking person. The shift on US nuclear policy is a well-known fact for over two full decades and an issue for serious debate, both inside and outside of the US. And, of course, I am aware of the the US analysts and press that have adopted and supported similar views. Even though my field of expertise is nowhere near nuclear arms or foreign policies, it took me little time to find numerous references and sources, and as you can see, even amongst the US sources, there is a great deal of them supporting my arguments too. In any case, I do not think Spectrum readers need to be informed on this kind of material through an article-manifestation of personal views (not even my own, of course), and I do not think Spectrum is the right site to do it in the first place - this was my most firm objection to this afterall.

I also respect the decision of the editorial staff of introducing this and other similar articles, even if I disagree with the scope and applicability of them to the readers of this specific magazine. My disagreements and counter-arguments were formulated mostly on the base their own, not the magazine itself. Truth is, there was no direct reference regarding the expertise, profession or contact point to either one of the two writers. If it did, they would surely receive a copy of the letter as well. Obviously, this article received some extra attention, as you report that on the May issue there will be a full coverage of these responses within the letters column, although it would be nice to see a full article of similar size and depth as the original.

Finally, I assure you that this article, as well as all the other ones I am referring to, did not upset me in the way it may seem. Over time, I have read relevant articles, much more extreme and "trigger-happy" than these ones. I just thought that they deserved some kind of response - someone had to do it and I took the time to do it myself, just to be sure that it reached the editorial staff. I am not sure if anyone else really read it except yourself - I thank you anyway :-)

With best regards,


_______________________________
Harris Georgiou
Informatics Systems Analyst
Med.Im.Anal. (MSc, PhD cand.)

 

 

From: "Laura Roa"
To: "Harris Georgiou"
Subject: Re: Open letter to IEEE Spectrum - The Unthinkable (EN)
Date: ..........
........

 

Dear Prof. Georgiou,

I thank you very much for sending me a copy of the letter that you have addressed to the IEEE Spectrum Online Editorial Staff. As a matter of fact I have been so busy during the last weeks that the article had gone unnoticed to me as I glanced at the March issue of the IEEE Spectrum.

Once I have read the referred article I must say that I feel astonished and I completely agree with you that it is totally outside the scope of the magazine. The article states very grave assertions that cannot be shared by the scientific and technical community. I cannot understand opinions that try to justify the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.

In my opinion the editorial staff has established a serious precedent including such article with opinions clearly political in nature. If you agree I can show our disagreement with this article during the next AdCom IEEE-EMBS meeting that > we are having in Vancouver in three weeks.

Sincerely,

Laura M. Roa
--------------
IEEE-EMBS Region 8 Representative

 

 

From: "Harris Georgiou"
To: "Laura Roa"
Subject: Re: Open letter to IEEE Spectrum - The Unthinkable (EN)
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2003 16:04:07 +0300
........

 

Thank you very much for your response. It is quite reassuring to see that some senior IEEE staff agree with my assertions - I must say I did not get this kind of response from Mrs Glenn Zorpette (Executive Editor) or any other IEEE Spectrum personnel. However, they informed me that on the May issue of the magazine they are going to devote the entire letters forum ("Forum") to readers' mail on the Gover/Huray article.

I would be glad if you can also bring this subject forward during the IEEE-EMBS metting. Furthermore, do not hesitate to ask for any more details (references, sources) regarding the issues investigated in my letter. As I will not be able to attend at this meeting myself, I would really appreciated if you could keep me informed about this subject.

With regards,


_______________________________
Harris Georgiou
Informatics Systems Analyst
Med.Im.Anal. (MSc, PhD cand.)

 

 

From: "Laura Roa"
To: "Harris Georgiou"
Subject: Re: Open letter to IEEE Spectrum - The Unthinkable (EN)
Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2003 18:22:21 +0200
..........

 

Dear Prof. Georgiou,

Many thanks for your response. I take note of your request, which I will submit to the AdCom meeting. I will keep you posted about all the information I can obtain.

Best wishes,

Laura M. Roa

 

Original Article: J.E. Gover, P.G. Huray, "Not So Unthinkable", IEEE Spectrum, March 2003, vol.40(3), pp.15-16.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 October 2009 21:08