The Descent of Star Trek; Deterrence

Chaos Manor Mail, Sunday, September 6, 2015


Spent the day fooling with computers and then having a big barbeque dinner. Eric was over, and we got around to copying everything off some of the upstairs systems I don’t use any more to various backup systems including the new many terabyte RAID. I really don’t like the way WORD has changed the way you could add words into the autocorrect dictionary; it was easy in Word 2008 and has been getting harder with every silly and often needless improvement they have made. They are always fixing things that aren’t broke, breaking something that wasn’t broke in doing it. It used to be simple; when I hit multiple keys in typing, I could easily tell the system to, in future, turn that mess into a real word; indeed, it offered me several that it might be, and I could choose one, after which it would always autocorrect to that; now, though, it is quite complicated to do that. Now it will correct it, but it has taken away the option to add that to autocorrect. Whatever genius decided to remove that ought to have a stroke and desperately need autocorrect. That would be justice.

Took a mile walk after dinner.




Star Trek and the descent of liberalism

I found this opinion piece tracking political parallels between the Star Trek TV series and films, and changes in liberalism over the last 50 years interesting. Perhaps you will find it so also:

Tom Craver

I found it fascinating, and I heartily recommend it. Gene Roddenberry was a Kennedy Liberal Democrat, and when he no longer controlled Star Trek the show changed to the modern form of liberalism. The essay tracks that nicely, and is quite well written. Thank you for telling me of it.


Iran and nuclear weapons

Greetings Maestro;

I think a comparison of nuclear standoff between the US and USSR and a hypothetical (for now) standoff between Israel and Iran is fundamentally flawed. The USSR was run by people who were cynical in their pursuit of power and advantage. The mullahs of Iran have a religious basis for their belief in the righteousness of destroying Israel and the United States. religion, when applied as a tool of hate, derails logical, self advancing thinking. If the mullahs in Iran are immersed in this mindset (and NONE of their public statements to their own people or the world argue against this), then no sane person should expect rational behavior from a nuclear armed Iran.

Yours in dismay, JC

Yet we know that there have been truces, often very long ones; they may be crazy but not that crazy. The Koran does not command useless sacrifice in war; if winning a battle is impossible, withdrawal is permitted; if a campaign is lost, truce is advisable. Deterrence is possible; it is more difficult against determined religious leaders than cynics, but it is possible: but if you are to deter, you must have a real and believable threat.

Dismay is not a useful strategy in these matters; you need resolution and ingenuity.


Iran, Israel, Syria, etc. ad infinitum

Hi Dr. Pournelle – been reading your site for awhile now but just wanted to ask a couple of questions about Current Events that you have been discussing.

First of all, let me get the Gushing Fanboy stuff out of the way and say I have been a huge fan of yours since I was in Jr. High back in the early 80’s when I discovered the joys of reading (SF in particular). The “Mote in God’s Eye” and “Lucifer’s Hammer” are two of my all time favorites, along with pretty much anything you and Mr. Niven have written together. Have you discussed elsewhere which elements of your collaborative works that either of you are more “responsible” for (one more the technical side, one more the soft-sciences aspect, or whatever the actual breakdown of work is), or by the time your work is done is it hard to say where your work begins and his begins? To me, they are such seamless reads that I couldn’t tell, which is the mark of near-perfect collaborative writing IMO.

Syria – With each passing development (the latest being the slow revelation of Russian involvement, including troops and planes in-theater), my mind always goes back to the early chapters of “Alas, Babylon” and the “accident” that triggered WW III. Have you read the book? I discovered it in High School and it has become one of my all-time favorites, which I’ve probably read at least 10 times over the years. I’ve taken to referring to the impending catastrophe in Syria as the “Alas, Babylon” incident, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if/when some type of “technical failure” occurs, God help us all.

Israel/Iran – regarding the need for Israel to ensure a second-strike capability, wouldn’t that be served by the addition of one or more smallish ballistic missile (or cruise missile) equipped subs? It’s unlikely that, for the foreseeable future, any of Israel’s regional enemies would be able to counter a threat from sufficiently advanced submarines stationed in the Eastern Med, for example, and submarines have the advantage of not being fixed emplacements that could (conceivably) be overrun or destroyed in a coordinated strike. Although the US/Russia/etc. obviously could keep tabs on them, any attempt by a major power to destroy them in the event of a war in the Middle East would simply trigger the Big One, and it’s unlikely that any superpower is willing to risk worldwide Armageddon in defense of Iran. Hopefully, at least.

In closing, thank you again for many years of enjoyment, and I look forward to many more.



I have read Alas Babylon many times – Mr. Heinlein recommended it to me, as well as his Korean war novel Hold Back The Night; I recommend both to this day.

Submarines and cruise missiles are necessary but not sufficient. You cannot fight a strategic counterforce war with only submarines and cruise missiles, or submarines and ballistic missiles for that matter. They are a useful part of a deterrent mix, but they cannot be the only part. Deterrence is an event taking place in the mind of the enemy commander; you can influence it, but never control it. As for fanaticism and irrationality I refer you to the body of literature on the rationality of irrationality; as Herman Kahn put it, he may be crazy but is he that crazy. It is never simple when the stakes are so high. And the best way to survive a nuclear war is not to have one; I wrote that when I was a contributing editor to SURVIVE magazine. It remains true.

Syria is complicated, but we know ISIS is an implacable enemy.  We can deal with Assad, who does not murder Christians and Druze for religious reasons. Our only interests there are avoiding entanglement, but we do have some obligations.

Thanks for the kind words. Sorry to be brief, but it’s ;late.


On Being Late

Hi, Jerry. Thought this might be of interest…

Wil McCarthy <Engineer, Author, Inventor, etc.

“The innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.” — Nicolo Machiavelli





The next time a data transfer seems slow…


Today we did some big backups that took hours…






Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.





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