Herman Kahn

Herman Kahn
Herman Kahn
  • Born: February 15, 1922
  • Died: July 7, 1983
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Futurist, Military Strategist, Systems Theorist









Quote Topics Cited
A surprising number of government committees will make important decisions on fundamental matters with less attention than each individual would give to buying a suit. Policy & Policy Making
Deterrence is part objective and part subjective. The objective part is that adequate military preparedness could be critical in some important circumstances. The subjective is, in part, the perception by the potential enemy of the other side’s power, determination, and courage, as well as its estimate of the wartime effectiveness of the other side’s relative nuclear capability. If the aggressor believes that his opponent has the weapons and will use them, deterrence is likely to be effective. Therefore, a nation’s defense lies, in part, in the credibility of its threat to use nuclear force as a last resort, which means that the need remains for coherent and plausible policies for the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy
One significant indication of the effectiveness of deterrence is that the Soviet Union and the United States share the belief that a nuclear war would begin only out of desperation or inadvertence. A weakening of deterrence could increase the possibility of a calculated “voluntary” war or worse. Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy
The notion of Armageddon has created a self-defeating prophecy: the more frightened decision makers are, the more careful they become and the less likely they are to initiate any action that might bring about the dreaded escalation to nuclear use. Armageddon is averted to the degree it is feared. As a result, nuclear deterrence has not only worked remarkably well in peacetime and served to limit the scope and intensity of conventional warfare, but it is likely to work surprisingly well in a large U.S.-Soviet conventional, and even a limited nuclear, war. Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy
A healthy and fully functioning society must allocate its resources among a variety of competing interests, all of which are more or less valid but none of which should take precedence over national security. Society
A total nuclear freeze is counterproductive - especially now, when technology is rapidly changing and the Soviets have some important strategic advantages. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Anything that reduces war-related destruction should not be considered altogether immoral.
Because of new technologies, new wealth, new conditions of domestic life and of international relations, unprecedented criteria and issues are coming up for national decision. Life
Deterrence itself is not a preeminent value; the primary values are safety and morality.
Failures of perspective in decision-making can be due to aspects of the social utility paradox, but more often result from simple mistakes caused by inadequate thought.
For if enough people were really convinced that growth should be halted, and if they acted on that conviction, then billions of others might be deprived of any realistic hope of gaining the opportunities now enjoyed by the more fortunate. Hope
For some years I have spent my time on exactly these questions - both in thinking about ways to prevent war, and in thinking about how to fight, survive, and terminate a war, should it occur. Time ;War & Peace
From a scientific perspective there is some indication that a nuclear war could deplete the earth's ozone layer or, less likely, could bring on a new Ice Age - but there is no suggestion that either the created order or mankind would be destroyed in the process. War & Peace
Hopefully, nations will refuse to accept a situation in which nuclear accidents actually do occur, and, if at all possible, they will do something to correct a system which makes them likely.
Human and moral factors must always be considered. They must never be missing from policies and from public discussion.
I am against the whole cliche of the moment.
I'm against fashionable thinking.
I'm against ignorance.
I'm against sloppy, emotional thinking.
In 1960 I published a book that attempted to direct attention to the possibility of a thermonuclear war, to ways of reducing the likelihood of such a war, and to methods for coping with the consequences should war occur despite our efforts to avoid it. War & Peace
In a world which is armed to its teeth with nuclear weapons, every quarrel or difference of opinion may lead to violence of a kind quite different from what is possible today.
It is immoral from almost any point of view to refuse to defend yourself and others from very grave and terrible threats, even as there are limits to the means that can be used in such defense.
Many people believe that the current system must inevitably end in total annihilation. They reject, sometimes very emotionally, any attempts to analyze this notion.
My guess is that nuclear weapons will be used sometime in the next hundred years, but that their use is much more likely to be small and limited than widespread and unconstrained.
New developments in weapon systems during the 1950s and early 1960s created a situation that was most dangerous, and even conducive to accidental war. War & Peace
Nuclear war is such an emotional subject that many people see the weapons themselves as the common enemy of humanity. War & Peace
Nuclear weapons are intrinsically neither moral nor immoral, though they are more prone to immoral use than most weapons.
Only those who are ideologically opposed to military programs think of the defense budget as the first and best place to get resources for social welfare needs.
Projecting a persuasive image of a desirable and practical future is extremely important to high morale, to dynamism, to consensus, and in general to help the wheels of society turn smoothly. Society ;Future
The objective of nuclear-weapons policy should not be solely to decrease the number of weapons in the world, but to make the world safer - which is not necessarily the same thing.
The widespread diffusion of nuclear weapons would make many nations able, and in some cases also create the pressure, to aggravate an on-going crisis, or even touch off a war between two other powers for purposes of their own. War & Peace
There was no race - but to the extent that there was an arms competition, it was almost entirely on the Soviet side, first to catch up and then to surpass the Americans.
To the extent that these advanced weapons or their components are treated as articles of commerce, perhaps for peaceful uses as in the Plowshare program, their cost would be well within the resources available to many large private organizations.
World War I broke out largely because of an arms race, and World War II because of the lack of an arms race. War & Peace

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