Talk:Herman Kahn

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Untitled[edit]

The info on him coining the word escalation is wrong although he did invent escalatory in On Escalation. The first cite in the OED is from the Kansas City Star 29 March 1938 and another quote is from his Thinking about Unthinkable written 3 years before the book he supposedly coined the word. So I've removed the claim.MeltBanana 01:09, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)


In the "Cultural Influence" section, the mention of the bombing of New York City is a rather large spoiler. Therefore, I have added a spoiler warning. Georgesch4 10:25, 31 December 2005 (UTC)

Nice article here. TNKS, Narnia.Gate7 (talk) 00:55, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Megadeath was not a word used by Herman Kahn in "On Thermonuclear War" or other books and talks[edit]

I've read Herman Kahn's books On Thermonuclear War, On Escalation, and Thinking About the Unthinkable, and his testimony to the June 1959 Congressional Hearings on the "Biological and Environmental Effects of Nuclear War", and nowhere does NOT use the term "megadeath", which as far as I'm aware was invented by Stanley Kubrick in his 1964 film "Dr Strangelove". I've also read arm-waving apocryphal allegations made by recent "biographers" of Herman Kahn, which claim he used "megadeath" in the 1959 hearings (where they also misrepresent his excellent testimony entirely), which he clearly did not from the published testimony. Can anyone cite any examples of Kahn's writings (including page numbers, or quotations of sentences) containing "megadeath"? 82.21.58.162 (talk) 21:26, 25 March 2011 (UTC)

  • This comment is wholly justified and I have deleted the erroneous "megadeath" entry.173.21.65.42 (talk) 01:57, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

Now its the time for to read the "thinking the underthinking" look for Irã and Korea.

Dr Strangelove[edit]

"It was said that Kubrick immersed himself in On Thermonuclear War and insisted that the film's producer also read it."

On the Dr Strangelove page, the film's producer is listed as ... a Mr. Stanley Kubrick. Erm... --HiddenInPlainSight 11:18, 19 January 2006 (UTC)

I heard Kahn speak in 1965 at the Contra Costa Junior College in San Pablo, CA. I was at that time an electronics technician at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Khan talked about the Viet Nam War. He told the crowd that the US could not win that war because the enemy were totally committed to winning at all costs. His words were like this, "We cannot win a war against an idea with all of our bombs and rockets unless we are prepared to go all of the way." I find that to be very relevant today. We cannot win in Iraq unless we are prepared to eliminate all of the people there. There are about 1 billion Muslims in this world. Must we kill all of them? We must find a way to coexist with Islam. There is no other way.

Scenarios[edit]

In his book The Year 2000, he first used the word "scenarios" to describe hypothetical series of events that may possibly occur. Since then, the word has found common use among the general population.Lestrade 12:57, 3 February 2006 (UTC)Lestrade

Cultural Influence[edit]

Also based upon Kahn was Walter Matthau's maverick character Professor Groteschele in Fail-Safe, in which a nuclear crisis forces the President (played by Henry Fonda) to order the U.S. Air Force to bomb New York in order to avert an all-out nuclear war.

The description in this sentence of Goteschele's role in the movie could afford some elaboration. I think there needs to be a link made between Fonda's and Matthau's roles in that second part of the sentence or it becomes just a superfluous review of the movie with no particular relationship to Kahn. Not to nitpick, but the "in which" linking the first phrase and the second seems grammatically a bit awkward.

Pat 04:54, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

Perhaps someone with more time than me, but with a real understanding (read academic and historically accurate) of US nuclear deterrence theory can compare him and Thomas Schelling. They were contemporaries, and their theories on deterrence, and how to achieve it, were in direct opposition. For example, Kahn felt it was imperative that the US build a large, and diverse nuclear arsenal to give credibility to our nuclear threat, thereby achieving the necessary deterrent effect: but, Schelling advocated building an arsenal that was large enough to threaten, but no larger...as the cornerstone of his theory of deterrence was instability- ie, the system is inherently unstable by the presence of nuclear weapons, and that instability is what keep s the system balanced, therefore a few nuclear weapons can achieve the same affect as many nuclear weapons. I realize this Wiki is not about Schelling, but any discussion of Kahn in a vacuum devoid of Schelling (and likewise) is silly considering the immense influence they had on each other, and the competition between their two theories to form US nuclear policy in the Cold War (a contest ultimately won by Schelling's theory, and one which strangely is still in effect today, much to the detriment of the safety of 330 million Americans). 72.83.168.197 13:18, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

Family Matters[edit]

In the Background section, the information on Herman kahn's family is formally unencyclopedic. It seems as though it was written by either a person who is ignorant of conventional writing or is under the pressure of haste.Lestrade 19:57, 13 July 2007 (UTC)Lestrade

Agreein.' If I'm not mistaken, there's a seperate Wiki project dealing entirely with family trees and such. It should be there. I'm deleting it. tildetildetildetilde —Preceding unsigned comment added by 134.114.231.10 (talk) 06:51, 15 October 2007 (UTC)

I am curious as to why so many Wikipedia entries go out of their way to identify whether someone is Jewish -- most typically as is done in this case, where Kahn's "Jewish family" is referenced.

I don't see mentions of whether someone is born to "a Christian family", or "a Hindu family", or "a Muslim family". But it always seems somehow important to multiple Wikipedians to make gratuitous mention of an individual's Jewish heritage.

Roberterubin (talk) 03:07, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

LSD[edit]

According to Tim Leary in an interview with Paul Krassner in the Realist, this man did LSD, and it changed his life. Should that be included?

I know several people who were peers or protégé's of Herman, he never did LSD. That is a pop culture myth perpetuated by people who likely sought/seek to assassinate his character for a variety of reasons. Suffice it to say, there is no way to effectively describe why here, but I fully trust these people, and I am confident in saying Herman never "dropped acid." - 72.83.168.197 12:47, 3 December 2007 (UTC)
Timothy Leary, as an addictive drug pusher, had in interest in making it seem that drugs are acceptable and used by famous people. His veracity should always be doubted, especially when he made such assertions.Lestrade 22:25, 3 December 2007 (UTC)Lestrade

Reference problems?[edit]

I added a reference to something in Cultural Influence, but although there is a ref list, for some reason I see no references in the whole article? Very odd... talk § Arsenic99 04:44, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Corpulence[edit]

What was his weight when he died?Lestrade (talk) 20:04, 12 April 2008 (UTC)Lestrade

I noticed that and removed it, finding it rather priggish in tone, and inherently POV-pushing and moralistic editorializing. - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 15:54, 9 February 2009 (UTC)

"Megadeath"[edit]

This word derives from "Dr. Strangelove" in which the Air Force general played by George C. Scott is carrying a notebook labeled "World Targets in Megadeaths." It seems doubtful that Kahn would ever have used this term. 76.216.65.127 (talk) 14:10, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

I agree that it appeared in Dr. Strangelove. I don't know whether Kahn used it. You're right to challenge it. The reference really ought to cite a page number.
I'm not so sure that it was unlikely. Kahn made a point of being pretty in-your-face about such things. He had one chart captioned "Tragic but distinguishable outcomes," in one of which the U.S suffered (say) 20,000,000 casualties and in the other of which it suffered 100,000,000 casualties. He was quoted as saying that he'd yielded to an editor's pressure in adding the words "tragic but..." One of his books was, of course, entitled Thinking About The Unthinkable, and it seems to me that he was positively an advocate of treating thermonuclear war in a dispassionate, distanced way that struck many, including me and apparently Terry Southern too, as being casual and flippant. Dpbsmith (talk) 14:33, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
A Google Books search on "Herman Kahn" megadeath turns up many references to him as having coined the word, and, significantly, many of them are earlier than 1983, the year the band was formed. It doesn't appear as if Google Books has indexed Kahn's own books. Dpbsmith (talk) 14:37, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
Amazon has a 1980 version of the book and "search inside the book" turns up many instances of "overkill" but none of "megadeath." I'm beginning to wonder if it was really Kahn's coinage or whether (as my Googling tells me) it was Marcus Raskin's, in an 11/14/1963 article in The New York Review of Books entitled "The Megadeath Intellectuals." Dpbsmith (talk) 14:44, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
Teltsch, Kathleen (1961), 6 Nations In U. N. Bid Soviet Cancel 50-Megaton Test, The New York Times, October 21, 1961, p. 1 quotes Sir Michael Wright, the British delegate to a U. N. committee, as saying that a test ban would "halt testing and consequently the production of still more horrible weapons--100 megaton bombs, neutron bombs, all the panoply of megadeath." That at least shows the word was in the air and was not a satirical invention of the screenwriters of Dr. Strangelove. Dpbsmith (talk) 14:51, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
Kostelanetz, Richard (1968) "One-Man Think Tank," The New York Times, December 1, 1968, p. SM58; it's a long profile of Kahn. The word "megadeath" appears in it only when Kostelanetz himself refers to Kahn as "the first of the great 'megadeath intellectuals.'" Some nuggets:
He once boasted "I can be really funny about thermonuclear war."
Kahn deliberately uses irony to shock his audiences into recognitions that might otherwise pass them by. 'You'll never get people to understand what's confusing,' he said, 'unless you make it stark.'
Kahn characterizes the title figure of Stanley Kubrick's film "Dr. Strangelove" as "part Henry Kissinger, part myself, with a touch of von Braun.
"I liked the move, while Jane didn't. Since Stanley lifted lines from 'On Thermonuclear War' without change but out of context, I asked him 'Doesn't that entitle me to a royalty?' He pretended not to hear me at first, but when I asked him again, Stanley replied, in the firmest tone I've heard him use: 'It doesn't work that way.'
Russell, I. Willis (1954), "Among the New Words," American Speech, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Oct., 1954), pp. 214-217

Published by: Duke University Press, © 1954 The American Dialect Society:

MEGADEATH, n.: ... B'ham News 21 June p. E3, "He does not deal in numbers of atomic bombs or precise methods of delivery, in kilotons or megadeaths." Seattle Times 24 June p. 6 "What is a megadeath? It is a the death of a million human beings, as in the phrase 'a saturation attack resulting in eight megadeaths.'"
That's all the article says; no more context for the word is given. However it's interesting that the phrase "saturation attack' is used, because that seems to suggest that the word was coined in connection with the "saturation bombing raids" of World War II, which used conventional weapons. Dpbsmith (talk) 15:27, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

Dpbsmith (talk) 15:08, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

Club of Rome reference in Hudson Institute section[edit]

Removed this sentence from the Hudson Institute section:
The organization challenged the public policies of left-wing groups like the Club of Rome.
It's just silly to call the Club of Rome "left-wing"...perhaps a NPOV version would be: "The organization sought to challenge liberal internationalism as expressed in the views of organizations such as the Club of Rome." I don't know if this is *actually* true that the Hudson Institute did this (ie critiqued the Club of Rome), but just offering a suggested NPOV text to replace POV text...adding a citation would be useful though if the text goes back.--Goldsztajn (talk) 14:23, 5 December 2009 (UTC)

Kahn did indeed counter the Club of Rome's views on the future. Kahn's technological optimism is expressed in The year 2000 and World economic development, and mentioned in his obituary in The Times, 9 July 1983. Also note The coming boom, (1983). Macdonald-ross (talk) 15:21, 19 September 2012 (UTC)

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