SMART Letter #62
Letter from my Brother
October 8, 2001

!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*() ------------------------------------------------------------ SMART Letter #62 -- October 8, 2001 Copyright 2001 by David S. Isenberg -- "living in interesting times" -- -- 1-888-isen-com ------------------------------------------------------------ !@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*()!@#$%^&*() CONTENTS > Smart Remarks from SMART People: Robert Reynolds > A letter from my brother Daniel > A letter from Phil Neches to Arno Penzias > 9-11, a poem by Frederick S. Tipson > What the SMART Letter is about > with Smart Remarks from SMART Person Andy Snow > More on "Wars Against Concepts" > Conferences on my Calendar > Copyright Notice, Administrivia ------- Smart remarks from SMART People: Robert Reynolds "Communications is the second most important field, second to world peace." Robert Reynolds [] recently joined the SMART List. ------- A Letter from my brother Daniel []: "David, "I don't feel comfortable with your [Other People's Words -- SMART Letter #61]. I think the dilemmas are much more severe and complex than you implicitly present them with your selection of quotes. "As a person who lives in Israel, with terrorism on a daily basis, who recently has been doing his grocery shopping while keeping an eye out for suspicious looking, potential suicide bombers, booby-trapped cars, and suspicious objects (as I did today in Netanya, where there have been 5 or 6 suicide bombings, etc. in the last 12 months) AND as someone who hurts when civil liberties are denied and who speaks out against prejudice and discrimination against Arabs and Jews, I feel these dilemmas personally. "The big dilemma is this -- whose civil liberties are more important? If you can get information about real terrorists planning real attacks to be carried out tomorrow or next week, and to do it you need to slap around a captured terrorist to do it, whose civil liberties are more important to protect/sacrifice? The captured terrorist? The suspected terrorist who is innocent but who, by some fluke was in the wrong place at the wrong time? The mother and her kids at a restaurant that is the target of the next attack and who WILL be killed? What if they were your mother and your kids? And we are just talking probabilities here, right? What sacrifices and compromises do you make? "This is a real dilemma. Real people make these decisions. People with friends, families, and values have to resolve these dilemmas on a personal and daily basis. It is not easy. Mistakes are made. Liberties are denied. Lives are saved. "Experience (in a democracy such as Israel's) leads to improvements. Today there are institutionalized checks and balances that lead to fewer mistakes. More and more, the guilty are punished. But there are almost always 'externalities' (an economists' phrase which I personally dislike). What to do about these? Which are the best 'externalities' to live with? There is no clear way around them. "How about the terrorists who are now planning suicide bombings, who have located their HQ's in populated areas so that if Israel tries to assassinate them (I am personally a strong supporter of Israel's increasingly effective pinpoint assassination policy) civilians are in jeopardy. This is not just theoretical; civilians have been killed this way. Whose lives are more important to protect, the terrorists, the terrorists' innocent neighbors, or the terrorists' prospective targets? "30 years ago I conducted some research at University of Oregon under social psychology professor Mick Rothbart, which we ended up calling the liberal distance law. We could show that people's liberal attitudes towards various issues decreased as a linear function of distance from their own lives. For example, locating prison halfway houses in residential areas to improve prisoners' reintegration into society is great, but the further from my neighborhood, the greater it is. If the PROBABLE terrorists were discovered in your hometown, how would you want the FBI to respond? As your brother, I would not worry too much about their civil liberties. I would worry more about you and your wife. "There, now I feel better. Dan --- [Regardless of whether my brother (and his adopted home country) has chosen the wisest path, I respect Dan's real- world experience and the learning that has resulted. However, I would like to rebut my brother's "liberal distance" conclusions in the specific September 11 incident. I was not a bystander. On a normal pre- September-11 day, my wife would pass through the World Trade Center at 8:45AM. She works less than two blocks away. As events of that morning unfolded, I was tortured by the thought that she might not come home. For two interminable hours my house was a nightmare museum of her life. Then, at 10:52AM the phone rang. It was my wife. She was all right. Thanks be. However, one of our neighbors lost his entire office; he would've been there himself, save for a meeting uptown that morning. Close family friends lost a son-in-law. Another friend survived by diving under a car while debris killed and maimed people near him. The tragedy came very, very, very, very, very, very close to home. Yet I am still humbled by what I do not know. I still want justice more than revenge. I still wish fervently for less over-simplification, less denial, more-thought-out responses, more human understanding. On these things, I think my brother and I agree. -- David I] ------- SMART Person (and former AT&T colleague) Phil Neches [] writes: "I thought you would be interested in this piece I wrote in response to an e-mail from Arno Penzias. Arno expressed alarm at the prospect of the US stumbling into a war with the whole Islamic world . . . [Phil responded to Arno as follows:] "You raise a truly horrifying thought. However, I think and hope that it will not come to such a dire extreme. "I am cheered by many thoughtful pieces I have read in the press or received via e-mail. Americans are starting to learn about a world that until now has been on the fringe of our collective consciousness. We are starting to realize some things that are not so simple: "+Islam, like Christianity and Judiasm, in not a monolith. The many branches speak with different voices. Many are soothing, some are strident. "+More Americans practice Islam than Judiasm. Most Muslims came to America for the same reasons as everyone else: freedom and opportunity. "+The 1 billion people who live in Muslim nations are not a "no man's land" between the Soviet Union and the West. US policy in this region has to move beyond outdated Cold War paradigms. It has to be based on principle as well as pragmatism. "+The new war is not at all like the last war. Our institutions, including our military, have a lot to learn. Sun Tsu would not be at all surprised. "+We're in for a long haul. Push-button victories and sound-bite rhetoric won't do. It took over 45 years to prevail in the Cold War. The victory happened just as Harry Truman predicted it would in 1948: the enemy fell from within brought down by the wrongness of their own system. America can be awfully persistent. "+America is worth fighting for. That means keeping our core values intact. Even in this period of hottest rhetoric, Congressmen and Senators from both the left and the right have forestalled a wild rush to ill-considered new police powers. "+Americans are right to wonder why no Muslim-majority nation has a democratic government. Does our complicity in this lie in too much involvement? or not enough? "+Our economy was in deep trouble before September 11. The Internet bubble was an international nightmare of insane expectations. Computers and telecommunications are in a period of secular, not cyclical, challenge. Our system wasted an enormous amount of capital on worthless projects, and we cannot absorb that folly without impact on lives and livelihoods. Greenspan's magic wand won't solve this one. "+We won the Cold War, but we didn't secure the peace. (Sun Tsu again: in times of peace, prepare for war; in times of war, prepare for peace. Our president's father didn't do too well on the second part of the statement. His successor wasn't much better). Now we're contemplating the down payment on the price of that monumental blunder. It could turn out to be a bigger and costlier blunder than the failure of the Allies to secure a just peace after World War I. The Marshall plan looks awfully cheap by comparison. "Nobody seems to have conniptions when these issues come up. Americans seem hungry for information and analysis that put their new view of reality into perspective. As the first wave of emotional reaction to the events of September 11 recedes, I find that our national debate process is returning to normal. "+It's OK to question our leaders and our policies. "+The President, military, and FBI can't get everything they want. "+The President's own cabinet has diverging opinions on what to do. "+What was all that noise between the parties about, anyhow? "+We all need to be more careful. But that means we should think like good cops, not mindless vigilantes. Cops look for bad guys in a world mostly populated by good guys. We only need to stop about 10,000 really bad guys out of 1,000,000,000s of mostly good people. "+The world is quick to condemn the terrorists, but cautious about supporting US action. The Arab world wants to see principles first. Even our closest allies won't stand for rash action on our president's part. "+Every war-time president rides the polls to 90%+ approval at the outset. Remember Truman in 1945, Johnson in 1965, or G.H.W. Bush in 1991? In 6 to 12 months, the euphoria evaporates, and harder reality sets in. The polls drop south of 40% approval (Truman in 1947; Johnson in 1968; G.H.W. Bush in 1992). The once invulnerable sitting president has a hard time even keeping his job. Our current president will also face this very severe test of leadership. Even if he fails the test, which history says is the more likely outcome, the nation will go on. "Winston Churchill once said that you can count on America to do the right thing, having exhausted all other possibilities. I share the old codger's realism -- and confidence." ------- 9-11 by Frederick S. Tipson [] written on September 12, 2001 [Fred is a former AT&T colleague who recently joined The Markle Foundation to work on developing national strategies in poorer countries to make better use of information and communications technology. As long as I've known him, he has had a prolific, slightly perverse, but always well- aimed talent for doggerel. -- David I] "The size of this atrocity, we simply cannot grasp; Its numbers-depth-velocity can only make us gasp. Our senses grope to gauge its scope, yet sense and judgment fail; For evils of this magnitude, we just don't have a scale. "The sorrow of a single family struck by such an act, Is hard enough to comprehend--the pain too inexact. And as the horrors multiply, increasingly we find, They far exceed the limits of our stomach, heart and mind. "And likewise, no amount of hate, revenge or retribution, Could match our loss or come across as equal restitution. We can't get compensation for Virginia and Manhattan, No matter how much blood we spill or buildings we might flatten. "So our response must serve a different kind of calculation, We must be sure to make secure our future as a nation. *** "The perpetrators must be found-imprisoned or destroyed; Making sure we learn of all the methods they've employed. Such vermin must be vanquished, but to beat them at their game, Before we open fire, we must take a careful aim. "For nothing would be worse than to react in such a rush, That when we draw up targets, we use much too broad a brush. We must reject the preaching of some prominent proponents, Who'd make the whole Islamic world implacable opponents. "Likewise, we should forge a "coalition of the willing", Joined in concrete measures to prevent such massive killing. This challenge is much wider than one network or one villain, It can't be done by Rambo, Wyatt Earp or Marshall Dillon. "In short, we must be sure our means don't undercut our ends: Energizing enemies and frustrating our friends. *** "But longer term we need to recognize the larger threat, And understand how hostile, and how ugly, it could get. Unless the global system is perceived to be more fair, Many more around us may descend into despair. "And desperation leads to acts of crime and acts of war, For those who won't accept our civil ways of keeping score. Nothing can excuse their ghastly terrorist displays, But don't depend on preaching them the error of their ways. "Faced with this week's massive dose of murder and destruction, Let us turn our anger into global reconstruction. Fighting back to build an anti-terrorist consensus, While building stronger bridges, not just building higher fences. "Security requires force, but these days so much more; To really win this battle, we will have to win that war." ------- What the SMART Letter is about by David S. Isenberg Recently I got a letter from SMART Person Andy Snow [] that said: "I am offended by many of the political views you have chosen to champion . . . I am also offended you have chosen the SMART Letter to promulgate your set of political views . . . please remove me from your SMART Letter distribution list." He's not the only one recently, just the most articulate. In ensuing correspondence, Snow said: "I have enjoyed for some time your unique perspectives on telecommunications technology, policy and industry. In my opinion, the value of your perspectives deal with your ability to think out of the box, and at times to advocate iconoclastic viewpoints . . . However, when I want editorial views from political pundits, I will click on CNN or Fox, or read a newspaper. "I do not expect you to always write what I agree with. . . . So I will turn the proposition back to you. If your SMART letter is to deal with telecommunications technology, and its implications on business and society, etc.(including the impact of terrorists on this domain) then I would like to remain on the email list." I've returned Andy to the SMART List for now. He's free to get off anytime. Maybe this issue of the SMART Letter will do it for him. (This week only: double your subscription fee back.) I am not sorry that I haven't written about telecom lately. The central concern of my life remains the impact of telecom on human institutions and business ideas, and vice versa. I will get back to it. However I do want to apologize to SMART People for getting swept up by current events -- I think I can contribute more when I am able to cut through fads of the day. Regardless, I write the SMART Letter about what concerns me. More often than not, I will apply my "unique perspectives . . . [my] ability to think out of the box, and . . . advocate iconoclastic viewpoints" to telecom. But I might also apply them to a Japanese fish market, aviation policy, Y2K, America's New War(tm), etc. Finally, I note that my thinking, even on telecom, is not apolitical. I believe that communications technology should be used to promote democracy, capitalism, competition, choice, value creation, globalization, and the spread of ideas of all kinds. I like new, small, energetic companies that are out to change the world better than big, old, stodgy companies that want to preserve the status quo. I like bottom-up markets better than top-down regulation. On line or off, I favor freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the freedom to petition government for the redress of grievances. And I like the right of people to be secure in their personal (note, personal) effects -- informational as well as material. These are political values. [Andy Snow gets this, by the way, but some recent correspondents don't seem to.] I value my readers, especially people like Andy Snow, who are willing to engage me, educate me, and articulate their disagreements. It hurts personally when I lose readers. But I am going to continue to write what I think is important, regardless of its distance from telecom. I hope that readers will continue to find the stuff of the SMART Letter worth reading. ------- More on "A Brief History of Wars Against Concepts" In SMART Letter #61 I presented: >War on Poverty -- Poverty 1, U.S. 0 >War on Cancer -- Cancer 1, U.S. 0 >War on Crime -- Crime 1, U.S. 0 >War on Drugs -- Drugs 1, U.S. 0 Pete Kaminski ( wrote to add: "War on Alcohol -- U.S. 0, Alcohol 1 (ended by FDR) War on Slavery -- U.S. 1, Slavery 0 War on Polio -- U.S. 1, Polio 0 (started by FDR) War on Smallpox -- World 1, Smallpox 0" [Pete, mea culpa. Things are always more multifaceted than they seem at first glance. Nevertheless, we must admit that the U.S. record on wars against concepts isn't very good. -- David I] ------- CONFERENCES ON MY CALENDAR RESCHEDULED -- NEW LOCATION & DATE: November 4-6, 2001. San Francisco, CA. Telecosm. Latest word is that I will be moderating a panel on the morning of November 6. Telecosm will be much different than last year, probably quieter, perhaps more thoughtful, and certainly different. For information, see POSTPONED -- NEW DATE TBD: Sarasota FL. Gilder Fellers technology investor's conference. Gilder and other notables will be there. I'll be Moderator. In other words, I'll be trying to get the participants to hold down the hype, jargon, positioning and techno-babble so the individual investors in the audience will understand. Some might argue that this'd be like the pot calling the kettle . . . For information, contact Joel Srodes []. ------- COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Redistribution of this document, or any part of it, is permitted for non-commercial purposes, provided that the two lines below are reproduced with it: Copyright 2001 by David S. Isenberg -- -- 1-888-isen-com ------- [There are two ways to join the SMART List, which gets you the SMART Letter by email, weeks before it goes up on the web site. The PREFERRED METHOD is to click on and supply the info as indicated. The alternative method is to send a brief, PERSONAL statement to (put "SMART" in the Subject field) saying who you are, what you do, maybe who you work for, maybe how you see your work connecting to mine, and why you are interested in joining the SMART List.] [to quit the SMART List, send a brief "unsubscribe" message to] [for past SMART Letters, see] [Policy on reader contributions: Write to me. I won't quote you without your explicitly stated permission. If you're writing to me for inclusion in the SMART Letter, *please* say so. I'll probably edit your writing for brevity and clarity. If you ask for anonymity, you'll get it. ] ** David S. Isenberg, inc. 888-isen-com 908-654-0772 ** -- The brains behind the Stupid Network -- **