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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:26 am 
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NephyrS wrote:
Diamondeye wrote:
NephyrS wrote:
DE, did you read the payload analysis article? As you mention, trajectories aren't simple arcs, and I feel like that analysis was a lot more thorough.


I have read all three articles you posted, but I am not sure which article you mean by payload analysis.


I posted 4 articles, so perhaps that's where you're missing it.

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/07/this ... n-missile/

Was the first one I posted, with what I think is a more nuanced discussion of thrust vs. likely payload of the missile, and effects of increased payload on range.


That is a pretty good article, but I take some issue with their assessment of what is a "useful payload". The W78 is in the category of 350kg, and that is not a new weapon; it was designed in 1974. While it still might be hard for the NKs to design a W78, they might be able to design a warhead of that size with a 35KT yield (around twice as large as the Hiroshima bomb) rather than the 335-350KT of the W78. Even accounting for the technological gap between NK and the U.S., or even China, saying that they can produce a weapon 10% as efficient (in terms of yield to weight) as what we could make 40+ years ago is not something I would put in the category of alarmist or unrealistic.

Another warhead, designed even earlier (late 1960s) is the W68. The W68 weighed only around 166 pounds, but it had a yield of only 40-50 kilotons. It was a very unusual weapons because it was designed for the Poseidon SLBM which could carry up to 14; it had an unusually small yield for a strategic warhead, but it was fine for countervalue deterrence - Poseidon wasn't accurate enough to attack ICBM silos, but getting 14 warheads on each SLBM meant a really widespread retaliatory strike was possible from SSBNs hitting all sorts of valuable targets all over the USSR.

It might be a stretch to say NK can build a W-68, but I do not think it is nearly such a stretch to say they could build a weapon with similar yield that is twice as heavy as the W-68, seeing as we designed it 50 years ago. Even if they do not have it ready for use today, I think such a device-RV combination is within their capabilities.

The bottom line conclusion of that article: "This is not a liquid-fueled, road-mobile ICBM" is valid, but of very limited value. It isn't an operational weapon today, and it doesn't need to be liquid-fueled, road-mobile, or operational this very moment to still be a very serious concern; it still represents a major step forward, years earlier than it was expected. Nevertheless, the article is instructive because it does contain important information and analysis about the size and construction of the missile. Size matters a great deal in evaluating the capabilities of missiles. I do not think their analysis is terrible; what I take issue with is that I think they are overestimating the weight needed for a "useful payload" when North Korea does not need to achieve even the level of efficiency we had 50 years ago.

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Last edited by Diamondeye on Wed Jul 12, 2017 12:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:39 am 
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There is also one other point to be made about anti-nuclear whackos:

Anti-nuclear whackos never overestimate the threat posed by another country; they consistently underestimate and minimize it because any threat means that there's a valid reason to defend against it. Anti-nuclear activists are just gun control activists writ large - they imagine that if they can make our weapons go away, everyone else's will as well. Disarmament is seen as an end in itself. All actual threats have to be minimized or in some fashion explained away in order to justify this sort of magical thinking.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 12:05 pm 
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Thanks for all the data, DE.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:07 am 
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NephyrS wrote:
I don't think you really have a good grasp of what doctoral training in the sciences is about if that's your perspective. There's a reason you can't get more than one doctorate in very broad swaths of fields, and that's because you are expected to be able to rapidly teach yourself what you need. Knowing how to analyze data is a rather generally applicable thing.

That's exactly the mistaken view I'm talking about, though, Neph. Certainly advanced training in a STEM field makes one more qualified to evaluate data and conclusions in another STEM field than a pure layman would be, but without the relevant expertise in the specific STEM field involved, you won't even know what the relevant data is, let alone how to interpret it in the broader context of the field. Pardon the over-used expression, but without the field-specific training and experience, you don't even know what you don't know. (Just to be clear, that's a general "you", not a personal one.) The problem, as I see it, is that many highly intelligent people, particularly in STEM fields, seem to consistently underestimate their limitations in that regard.

NephyrS wrote:
The bigger issue seems to be that you assume the "experts" that news sources are using are any better. In the fields I am an expert on, they're wrong the vast majority of the time, and rarely do most news outlets report developments accurately or choose experts that have half a clue what they're talking about. Health and science reporting in the US is among the worst in the world, and is amazingly bad at the current time. Taking a half of a side step from my field to "rocket science" I see no reason why that is suddenly going to universally change, especially when there's no legitimate source or backing for the information that is being released.

I completely agree that health and science reporting is in the regular media (heck, even in media that focuses on health and science matters) is generally atrocious and given to "gee whiz" sensationalism. So if the global media picked up a story about some supposed breakthrough in gene editing technology that would revolutionize the field, I'd take it with a huge grain of salt too. However, your reference to health and science reporting made me realize that we're probably talking past each other here. The NK missile launch isn't a health and science story, and the relevant experts that the media needs to consult aren't the engineers at NASA, but rather the military and policy analysts who cover NK at the Pentagon, in think tanks, and often even at the major media outlets themselves. Those people are intimately familiar with NK's known and suspected missile capabilities as well as their prior launch practices, and those are undoubtedly the "experts" that the major media checked with and refer to in their reports. Yes, many of them use a pull-quote and/or numbers put out by the UoCS as an on-the-record anchor for their stories, but I guarantee the reporters' first calls were all to their contacts at the Pentagon, NATO, Brookings, etc. to get the background and confirmation. If there was something about this launch and the reported trajectory/range that was screamingly odd or wildly unexpected based on what NK-watchers already knew, the initial reports would have been very quickly challenged by those contacts and that challenge would have been baked into the stories. DE's comments are a good example of what I'm getting at - his response to the technical points in the articles you linked wasn't to dive into a bunch of calculations, but rather to put the reported launch profile into context given what we know about NK's capabilities and prior tests as well as what we can reasonably expect based on our experience with the Soviet and Chinese nuke programs. That's the kind of knowledge/expertise that matters for determining whether the reports here are credible.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:48 am 
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The issues involved in the NK missile test are not exclusively STEM issues.

Obviously the mechanical workings of the missile itself are STEM, but we don't need to get into the weeds about the missiles motors, pumps, tanks, etc; only a cursory glance at payload and possibly fuel system (liquid vs. solid) is really of even passing importance to this discussion.

The dynamics of its flight path are of considerable interest, but they are not so STEM-specific that lay people can't understand the math, which is why Coro was able to whip it together and post it with a reasonable expectation that we'd understand what he meant. The flight path of an ICBM is rooted in math we all should have learned in high school. There is obviously more to it than "This is a parabola" but nothing so esoteric that we can't understand it well enough for an informal internet discussion.

However, there are a lot of non-STEM aspects to the decision-making process of the North Koreans that explain their course of action. I won't re-hash what I already posted, except to point out that what initially appears to be nonsensical information for an ICBM flight becomes reasonable once the circumstances it was conducted under are fully considered.

These circumstances are not difficult to understand either. One need be neither an engineer, a military officer, or a defense analyst to understand NK's technical limitations in observing a missile flight over the horizon. Anyone here can readily understand this once it is pointed out. It just needs to be pointed out because it takes a certain degree of experience to know to look at those things in the first place, just like it takes a certain degree of scientific education to remember things like the fact that the missile accelerates rather than flying like a bullet shout out of a gun (both Coro and Arathain pointed this out.)

The same applies to the question of the warhead. It is an amateur question to ask "can Norks put nuke on missile, y/n, plzkthx?" However, one does not need to be an engineer or an expert on weapons to understand what I posted above regarding "They can't build a W78, but they might be able to make something 10% as efficient, seeing as its a 40 year old design" and understand both A) why that's a reasonable proposition and B) that I didn't say they have done this, or that they could., but rather that it's reasonable and prudent to think they have a likelihood of being able to do so in the reasonably near future.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 12:43 pm 
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RangerDave wrote:
NephyrS wrote:
I don't think you really have a good grasp of what doctoral training in the sciences is about if that's your perspective. There's a reason you can't get more than one doctorate in very broad swaths of fields, and that's because you are expected to be able to rapidly teach yourself what you need. Knowing how to analyze data is a rather generally applicable thing.

That's exactly the mistaken view I'm talking about, though, Neph. Certainly advanced training in a STEM field makes one more qualified to evaluate data and conclusions in another STEM field than a pure layman would be, but without the relevant expertise in the specific STEM field involved, you won't even know what the relevant data is, let alone how to interpret it in the broader context of the field. Pardon the over-used expression, but without the field-specific training and experience, you don't even know what you don't know. (Just to be clear, that's a general "you", not a personal one.) The problem, as I see it, is that many highly intelligent people, particularly in STEM fields, seem to consistently underestimate their limitations in that regard.


Agree to disagree then. As a professor, I would feel like I'd failed my students if they couldn't do this type of analysis by the time they finish a BS, much less with an advanced degree.

I think perhaps you're making some statements without being really familiar with the standards of doctoral training in STEM in the US. It's really not that hard to find out what the relevant data is, or analyze it. Scientific papers are remarkably similar across disciplines in how they communicate data and expectations, and it's pretty easy for someone with a PhD to cull through papers in another STEM field and quickly figure out what the most relevant researchers are and what they're saying.

The difference between working in another field and your own is the amount of time and effort that takes. In my subfield, I don't need to look it up. I know it. In related fields, it takes a few hours of reading to pick it up to the level I feel comfortable talking about it with people who are experts in the field. If the field is really distant to mine (i.e., psychology for me in chemistry), it might take an afternoon rather than a few hours.

You also have to remember that most people who get a PhD in STEM (or even a BS) have taken a variety of undergraduate classes in other STEM fields, which gives them a pretty good starting point for understanding the work. From a college perspective, even the field you got your degree in qualifies you to teach in a range of related fields. The upper limit of that is, well, pretty much infinite. As I mentioned, it's expected that you have the qualifications to teach yourself what you need. Outside of immense jumps (English Lit to Particle Physics), no school will even accept you for a second PhD if you already have one- it's expected that you can transition yourself to the new field by reading and doing work in that area.

Maybe this is just a difference of how we define "layman", but I wouldn't think the average layman could competently talk to an expert in the field about nuances in their work with an afternoon of reading, and that's the expectation I would have for a competently trained PhD. Certainly for myself. It's how I keep up with my colleagues work in different fields.

Also, as DE mentioned, it's not like we're dealing with complex concepts here. It's a worthy question to ask how things are determined, and to call attention to things that are unusual or seem off. You assume that any decent reporter is going to call experts before publishing numbers, but I can almost guarantee you that isn't happening. That's why you end up with so many embarrassing times when reporters have cited things that are completely wrong- they don't check facts themselves, they assume someone else did and report the same number someone else gave. That means it's even more important to be skeptical of facts given without anything to back them up.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:33 pm 
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NephyrS wrote:
Also, as DE mentioned, it's not like we're dealing with complex concepts here. It's a worthy question to ask how things are determined, and to call attention to things that are unusual or seem off. You assume that any decent reporter is going to call experts before publishing numbers, but I can almost guarantee you that isn't happening. That's why you end up with so many embarrassing times when reporters have cited things that are completely wrong- they don't check facts themselves, they assume someone else did and report the same number someone else gave. That means it's even more important to be skeptical of facts given without anything to back them up.


Reporters do this with all sorts of fields, not just STEM and medical fields.

Part of the reason for this entire line of discussion was the failure of media outlets to bother to explain WHY the missile was fired on such an unusual flight path, or how that translated to a 4000+ mile range capability. That could have been explained in a few lines, but reporters just toss out numbers like 578 miles and 1550 miles and 37 minutes and don't explain what they mean. I don't think the problem here was so much lack of backup for the facts, as a failure to convey their significance, which caused the facts themselves to appear suspect.

Whether one is a STEM person or not, one expects ICBMs to fly like ICBMs as a general rule. STEM people will naturally want to do some math with numbers they see and find out if they make sense. When Coro saw a suspicious altitude figure, with no explanation as to why it was abnormal, he rightly got out his calculator, and equally rightly called bullshit on the numbers.

Being proficient in STEM areas, however, does not translate to having the experience to identify unusual circumstances in areas one doesn't generally work in. I had initially not thought about the altitude and range as much as the flight time and the fact that the missile was not reported to have failed in flight. 37 minutes instantly told me ICBM.

It was not until I saw Coro's math that I put the whole picture together of NK firing an ICBM at unusually short range and high altitude to test and demonstrate it without losing observation or accidentally provoking anyone. Similarly, Coro did not put this together either, most likely because he's trained to do the math and figure out if the numbers make sense rather than look at an enemy and determine that enemy's most probable course of action.

I think that is what RD is getting at - STEM training in one field does not mean STEM training in all fields and especially once it goes over the line into non-STEM areas. Coro was not stupid or foolish in his analysis; he is an engineer and naturally expected a machine to perform within normal parameters and performed an analysis with that in mind. This was all entirely reasonable. All it illustrates is that in the real world we have engineers to design weapons and soldiers to employ them; the two have overlap but neither should assume the other one's job.

I know a man who works on air defense systems and planning, especially naval. He has repeatedly said that naval officers are the worst ship designers there are (even though it is common for naval officers to hold engineering degrees). However, we don't send naval architects or engineers to sea to fight. That's for naval officers and sailors to do, and I imagine that naval officers are often equally frustrated with naval engineers when it comes to how to employ the ship in combat.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:46 pm 
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I agree that it doesn't make you an expert on things that are non-STEM, or even an expert on STEM things. But this is the reply of RD's that I'm taking exception to:

RangerDave wrote:
Actually, there's a third proposition you could accept:

3) You have neither the information nor the expertise to independently evaluate the capabilities of a North Korean missile launch, so given that the governments and organizations that do have that information and expertise all seem to agree that this was a steep-angle launch of a missile with a potential range of 4-5k miles, that's probably the case, notwithstanding your back of the envelope math.

Seriously, I don't get the skepticism on this. All the major news organizations are reporting the same thing, and none of the governments with an interest in the situation (even those with very different interests) are contradicting those reports. If reputable organizations or governments start contradicting or questioning the current estimates, then fine, uncertainty will be warranted. Until then, back of the envelope internet speculation is just silly.


Back of the envelope speculation is the reason to be skeptical of results, or at least say they're abnormal. And saying that you need to be an expert to say something was odd about this launch is silly. And that we'd like to see more backing behind the numbers that are being reported, because they don't quite add up.

To answer that saying "well, if everyone is reporting the same thing with no source, that's fine!" is, in my mind, quite silly, and assumes an awfully high bar for reporting.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:34 pm 
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The relevant condition you are all interested in is termed the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 7:56 am 
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NephyrS wrote:
Back of the envelope speculation is the reason to be skeptical of results, or at least say they're abnormal. And saying that you need to be an expert to say something was odd about this launch is silly. And that we'd like to see more backing behind the numbers that are being reported, because they don't quite add up.

To answer that saying "well, if everyone is reporting the same thing with no source, that's fine!" is, in my mind, quite silly, and assumes an awfully high bar for reporting.


The other side of that coin though is that places like the Union of Concerned Scientists can also do back-of-the-envelope calculations and get the same results, and while they may be a bunch of climate or anti-nuclear whackos, I feel confident they can do the same level of mathematical work Coro did in this thread.

I think what RD is saying is not that there's anything wrong with the back-of-the-envelope calculations, but that it was premature to dismiss the reported results as "bullshit"; especially since the flight time was consistent with the distance and altitude achieved. As you put it, there was indeed something "abnormal" about the results, but that was not "this is bullshit".

As to the source, I think it is pretty obvious that tracking data on any North Korea missile launch comes from the DOD and any partner agencies who have the equipment and capabilities to detect and track the launch. Had the DOD come out with a statement saying that this was not an ICBM-class missile or something to that effect that would give great cause for skepticism, but they were not contradicting it, so the appropriate thing to do would be to say "this missile flew unusually high at an unusually short range for an ICBM, but had an appropriate flight time; what other explanations are possible for this very abnormal flight path?". It sounds to me like RD is taking issue with the fact that, at the time he made that post, that question had not really been asked.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:27 am 
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So... can Norks put nuke on missile, y/n, plzkthx?

I know there are issues besides just strapping a warhead bus onto the nose of an ICBM and hitting something on the other side of the world. Targeting is a big one, especially with MIRVs right?

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:01 am 
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Müs wrote:
So... can Norks put nuke on missile, y/n, plzkthx?


I guess you'll just have to wait and see.

Quote:
I know there are issues besides just strapping a warhead bus onto the nose of an ICBM and hitting something on the other side of the world. Targeting is a big one, especially with MIRVs right?


In the sense that you or I, or even Coro, can't design one that would actually work with just some library books, Google searches and Windows calculators, yes there are issues, such as the design of the re-entry vehicle.

However, NK has engineers and scientists that work on this stuff all day, every day (and probably face the threat of execution for repeated failure). It might be fun to denigrate them, but they are in fact capable of solving these problems - NK does build missiles and other things that work, even if they are laughably primitive. Our 1950s and 1960s technology would be laughable today, but the people that designed it were competent.

Furthermore, NK can look at existing designs and glean a lot of information that puts them near a solution just from a starting point. A trained person can look at a picture of a re-entry vehicle and get a lot of information about its properties just from its size and shape that is not obvious to a layman. MIRVs are somewhat more complicated than the re-entry vehicle; that complication coming from the energy budget of the warhead bus and the precision required rather than the actual targeting. However, MRVs (MIRVs without the ability to target independently; essentially using several smaller devices instead of one large one, like a cluster bomb) are much simpler.

I have some pictures that will illustrate the MIRV stuff better that I can post later on this evening.

As to the targeting, that isn't really particularly hard for NK purposes. NK is going to target large, and relatively soft things such as power plants, factories, naval or air bases perhaps, not ICBM silos or specific targets within military bases such as runways. It is not hard to get the locations of targets with basic cartographic and geographic information that's readily available to essentially everyone. You can see individual ICBM silos on Google Earth; targeting Seattle or Honolulu is orders of magnitude less difficult.

The math involved is fundamentally no different than any other artillery calculation. The mechanics of the missile itself are different and more complex, but its flight path is, at its core, a ballistic arc. Accuracy is a matter of refining the technology, not of understanding the principles better.

It's important to understand that NK has rather different goals with its weapons than the US or Russia; attempting to strike military targets or hard targets is not something they are concerned with. The UK, France, or China, with their small arsenals might still want to do so as a "warning"; for example the UK might, in a confrontation with Russia, strike a major naval base and warn the Russians "back down or the next one goes at Moscow."

NK has rather different goals. They want to be able to threaten o do something crazy, much like some whacko with a hostage. They want to hold US targets at risk the same way they hold Seoul at risk. Then, they feel they will be able to make demands from behind the shield of deterrence.

Several years ago, NK sank a SK naval vessel with a torpedo attack. Normally, this would be justification for war - an unprovoked surprise attack on a naval vessel is unquestionably cause for war in retaliation, but SK did not go to war because Seoul. NK wants to be able to do the same thing - they want to be able to demand things, with the threat of a nuclear strike behind it. The idea is "Give us this or we vaporize four of your cities. Yeah, you'll slaughter us, but who cares? We're already starving so it hardly matters, but you will have lost four cities."

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:35 am 
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There was a 2nd test on Friday, demonstrating higher capability than the initial test (although, according to other reports, not a successful use of a re-entry vehicle yet).

http://washpost.bloomberg.com/Story?docId=1376-OSPJG66KLVRA01-4BC32DBRD0J9SCGQOC1T3AHKP1

At this point, there should be no doubt that NK can build a working rocket in the ICBM class; they are not in the "figuring out how to do it" stage, but are at the "working out the bugs and turning a prototype into an operational weapon" stage. Seattle is not going to get nuked tomorrow, but 12 or 18 months from now they are highly likely to have that ability.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/na ... 14ff320cde

Well, it looks like Norks can put nuke on missile. Maybe.

Damnit.

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Müs wrote:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/north-korea-now-making-missile-ready-nuclear-weapons-us-analysts-say/2017/08/08/e14b882a-7b6b-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.1714ff320cde

Well, it looks like Norks can put nuke on missile. Maybe.

Damnit.


They likely can, the problem they now (probably) need to solve is making it go off properly as it comes down.

unfortunately, that problem is just not that hard to solve. Really, we should never have gotten it into our heads that North Korea couldn't solve problems we solved almost 60 years ago.

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shuyung wrote:
The relevant condition you are all interested in is termed the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.


Yep.


Also, for what it's worth, uncited sources in journalism are effectively worthless. It used to be a journalistic standard to not go to print with uncited sources unless you had multiple. "Experts say" isn't good enough for Wikipedia, it shouldn't be good enough for "news."

I have not, and don't intend to, read everything cited in this thread. RD - I can relate to your point but conversely I think you need more skepticism of "official sources", "sources at the pentagon", etc.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 11:51 am 
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Casualty estimate for a NK attack on Seoul/Tokyo
Not cutting and pasting the article here because it has pictures and charts in it that are necessary to understand it.

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"Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed" - On War


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