martes, 20 de febrero de 2007

Entrevista a Thomas Schelling

[Thomas Schelling, premio nobel de economía en el 2005, uno de los autores más importantes en teoría de juegos y aplicaciones en temas de cooperación y conflicto en las relaciones internacionales, entre otros temas. Varios de sus libros son imprescindibles: entre ellos The Strategy of Conflict (1960), y Micromotives and Macrobehavior (1978) ]

Mr. Counterintuition
America is safer with sophisticated enemies.
BY MICHAEL SPENCE Saturday, February 17, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
Wall Street Journal

CHEVY CHASE, Md.--On a recent Sunday, I showed up on Tom Schelling's doorstep for lunch, having flown in from California via Europe. Although it was still 25 minutes before noon, he uncorked some wine--red for himself, white for me--and we sat down for a chat in a living room that boasted two Chagalls on the walls (and one painting that might just be by Chagall, Tom thinks, although he hasn't had it looked at by an expert).

Tom, now 86 years of age, was my Ph.D. thesis adviser at Harvard, and this conversation--in which we focused on global threats--reminded me of so many others from the past, conversations that affected permanently the way I think and reason about the world. Every interaction with Tom is energizing. He is erect in his bearing (suggesting a military background) and precise with his words. And then he will think of something funny and dissolve into laughter. There is so much that is original and surprising and often funny when he thinks out loud and talks.

The last time I saw Tom and his wife, Alice, was in Stockholm in December 2005, when, surrounded by a large contingent of children and grandchildren, he 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.

Sipping his Cabernet carefully, Tom tells me that he "was in South Korea shortly after North Korea exploded their [recent] nuclear device. When I got back, Henry Kissinger and others were suggesting that this was the beginning of the end of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and era. There are 30 to 40 nations that have the capacity to acquire nuclear weapons, and that was true 30 years ago. 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--all of whom have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons--to reaffirm their commitment to the NPT and non-nuclear status with support from the U.S. and the leading nuclear powers, signaling that they had no intention of using North Korea as an excuse to start building weapons. 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."

Tom Schelling expects Iran to get nuclear weapons. "Once a country becomes the owner of nuclear weapons, it is imperative that they learn to deal with them responsibly." He pointed out that it took the U.S. 15 years after World War II to learn to think seriously about the security of its weapons. Before that, weapons did not have combination locks, let alone complex electronic security codes. Now, most weapons will not detonate even if given the codes unless they are at their designated targets. He recalled that a friend who had a role in developing the weapons told him that one day in the late 1950s, he got off a plane at an air base in Germany and saw a military aircraft on the tarmac with a bomb beside it guarded by a single soldier. In those days there were not locks and codes. The man strolled over and asked the soldier what this was. The answer: "I believe it is a nuclear bomb, sir." When asked what he would do if someone started to roll the weapon away, the soldier replied that he would call his superiors for instructions. A further enquiry established that the phone was some 300 meters away.

The issue of learning to be a responsible owner of these weapons goes beyond security and codes. "The Soviet Union," Tom says, "always had civilian officials in charge of the weapons, and never let an aircraft carrying nuclear weapons out of Soviet airspace. China has a very separate army unit for this purpose. Who has control, are they trustworthy, are they put under control of the military, do we trust them? And if [control is] given to civilians, is that an act of mistrust of the military that may have adverse consequences? What are the safeguards against theft, sabotage or unauthorized use, and how will the weapons be protected and hence be credible with respect to retaliation and deterrence?

"These issues were addressed collectively and quietly by the nuclear powers during the Cold War. 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." This took placed because of the recognition on the part of all nuclear powers that there was a shared interest in elevating the level of competence in the nuclear club. "India and Pakistan and China were all involved in these conversations and have deep knowledge of the issues and best practices. Iran should probably be the next member of the group with North Korea to follow. Perhaps China, a highly competent and experienced owner of weapons, could start the process by organizing a conference that included others with experience, India, Pakistan, and then Iran and North Korea."

It was clear to me that Tom--who, as chairman of several interagency committees concerned with nuclear weapons policy in the 1960s and early '70s, participated in much of the effort that ensured an effective taboo against the use of nuclear weapons in the Cold War--was deeply worried that in the post-Soviet period, the isolation of the newly arrived owners of weapons would lead to seriously inadequate strategic preparation, and therefore imperfect deterrence, and the risk of miscalculation or misuse.

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