Tag Archives: atomic weapons

What will the world’s tyrants learn from the Libyan War? Get nukes.

Summary:  Events in Iraq and Libya show the two-tier nature of the 21st century geopolitical system.  First tier nations are those with nuclear weapons, or are so large or powerful as to be almost immune from conventional attack.  Everybody else must ally with a great power, or avoid angering them.  As the march of technology makes nukes (and other WMDs) ever easier to use, we can look forward to the next Axis of Evil being far more dangerous.  They’ll devote whatever resources necessary to retain their sovereignty.

From Libya’s Lessons for North Korea, Jeffrey Lewis (Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program, Monterey Institute of International Studies; bio here), Arms Control Wonk, 21 March 2011:

Hey, remember when Bush Administration officials tried to convince Kim Jong Il that he could get the same denuclearization deal Bush gave Qadhafi? Yeah, the last couple of days might explain why Kim didn’t think it was such a great idea.

From the Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK, 22 March 2011:

A spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry gave the following answer to a question raised by KCNA Tuesday as regards the U.S. military attack on Libya:

… The present Libyan crisis teaches the international community a serious lesson. It was fully exposed before the world that “Libya′s nuclear dismantlement” much touted by the U.S. in the past turned out to be a mode of aggression whereby the latter coaxed the former with such sweet words as “guarantee of security” and “improvement of relations” to disarm itself and then swallowed it up by force.

It proved once again the truth of history that peace can be preserved only when one builds up one′s own strength as long as high-handed and arbitrary practices go on in the world. The DPRK was quite just when it took the path of Songun and the military capacity for self-defence built up in this course serves as a very valuable deterrent for averting a war and defending peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

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This is how a nation thoughtlessly slides into stupid wars

Summary:  Week after week.  Month after month.  Year after year our national security hawks warn that Iran will have the bomb soon.  advocate war with Iran.   Eventually real experts tire of rebuttals, and the public becomes acclimated to the pending war.  Then, without debate or rational thought, we start a war. This was how Europe slid into WWI.  This was how we slid into Vietnam.  Perhaps this is how we’ll slide into war with Iran.

Today’s soothing warnings that we’ll attack Iran.  How odd that America has found it necessary to attack so many nations during the past century or so.

From the transcript of CNN’s State of the Union, 25 July 2010:

CANDY CROWLEY: Joining me now is Michael Hayden, a retired four-star general in the United States Air Force, former director of the CIA and currently a principal with the Chertoff Group, a security firm in Washington, D.C. … When you left the CIA about two years ago, you said the two biggest problems facing your successor would be the Iranian nuke program and the drug smuggling and the violence from Mexico. Would you change either one of those?

HAYDEN: No, no. To be accurate, counterterrorism was job one. Beyond counterterrorism, I would put counterproliferation as job two. And within counterproliferation, it is inarguably Iran. …

CROWLEY: Do you think, though, there is any answer? Iran doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the sanctions. As far as we know, they are still trying to get nuclear capability. If it should, is there any alternative to taking out their facilities?

HAYDEN: It seems inexorable, doesn’t it? We engage. They continue to move forward. We vote for sanctions. They continue to move forward. We try to deter, to dissuade. They continue to move forward.

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Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan

Summary:  About conservatives opposition to arms control treaties, including those that ended radioactive poisoning of the atmosphere and won the Cold War.

Mitt Romeny (“Obama’s worst foreign-policy mistake“, op-ed in the Washington Post) and the Heritage Foundation (“Stop START Now“)  have joined the conservative chorus denouncing the new START treaty.  It’s all lies and misrepresentations, as befits a political movement making the big lie its primary tactic — and implacable opposition to Obama (irrespective of the national interest) its only objective.

So experts must do the yeoman’s work of line-by-line refutations, as Fred Kagan does to Romeny’s rant in “Mitt Romney’s dumb critique of Obama’s New START nuke treaty“, Slate.  (Disclosure:  I voted for Romney in the 2008 Presidential primary)  And Gary Schaub Jr and James Forsyth Jr do more generally in “An Arsenal We Can All Live With“, op-ed in the New York Times.  But a quick look at history puts the conservatives’ complaints in a clearer context.

They opposed the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, stopping open-air nuclear testing — which was rapidly polluting the biosphere.  Even after a full-court press by Kennedy, 19 Senators voted against it.   To get an idea of the results if the conservatives had won, read the National Institute of Health’s pages about exposure to radioactive Iodine-131 from fallout.  However that’s long ago.  Let’s look at the arms control efforts of the Right’s hero, Ronald Reagan.

On 8 December 1987, at Reagan’s third summit with Mikhail Gorbachev, they signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (Wikipedia).  This marked the beginning of the end to the cold war, a major step to lifting the threat of global annihilation that had existed for 3 decades.   How did conservatives react to this bold step by their leader?  To cite two of the tsunami of criticism:

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Let’s seal the Gulf oil well by using atomic weapons!

Summary:  Now that BP’s third and fourth attempts appear to have failed (the “top kill” and “junk shots”), discussion turns to darker methods of sealing the Deepwater Horizon well.  Most of our journalists and Internet experts get the story wrong.  Often grossly so.  But the truth is available, for people who exercise care when selecting their sources of information.  This is another post about the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which vividly illustrates America’s dysfunctional OODA loop — increasingly contaminated by ignorance and hysteria.  At the end are links to previous chapters of this saga.

Update:   for a  status report on the disaster see “Top kill fails“, Upstream Online, 23:00 GMT, 29 May 2010 — BP will try attempt other solutions, but the best hope are the new wells being drilled.  They will take several months to complete.

At the end of the post is the accurate information.  The story begins with  “Nuke that slick“, Julia Ioffe, True/Slant, 4 May 2010 — Excerpt:

Komsomoloskaya Pravda, the best-selling Russian daily, reports that in Soviet times such leaks were plugged with controlled nuclear blasts underground. The idea is simple, KP writes: “the underground explosion moves the rock, presses on it, and, in essence, squeezes the well’s channel.”

Yes! It’s so simple, in fact, that the Soviet Union, a major oil exporter, used this method five times to deal with petrocalamities. The first happened in Uzbekistan, on September 30, 1966 with a blast 1.5 times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb and at a depth of 1.5 kilometers. KP also notes that subterranean nuclear blasts were used as much as 169 times in the Soviet Union to accomplish fairly mundane tasks like creating underground storage spaces for gas or building canals.

This quickly propagated through the Internet.

  1. Very inaccurate:  Matthew Simmons interview on Bloomberg, 28 May 2010 — Send in the cavalry with nukes!
  2. Inaccurate:  “Nuke the Oil Spill“, Christopher Brownfield (former nuclear submarine officer, an Iraq veteran, and a visiting scholar on nuclear policy at Columbia U), Daily Beast, 16 May 2010
  3. Accurate data, misleading context:  CNN Newsroom, 14 May 2010 — “{H}ere’s an idea. It worked before. The soviets had this kind of problem more than once. Their solution, nukes. That’s right. They use a limited nuclear explosion to basically blow the well shut. End of story.”
  4. Excellent reporting:  “Why don’t we just drop a nuclear bomb on the Gulf oil spill?“, Christian Science Monitor, 13 May 2010 — “The Russians have used nuclear bombs at least five times to try to seal off gas well fires, and it usually worked.”

From the CSM article (red emphasis added):

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Stratfor discusses the Jihadist WMD Threat

Is this threat understated?  Or overstated?  

The Jihadist CBRN Threat” — chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

By Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 10 February 2010 — This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

In an interview aired Feb. 7 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she considers weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of an international terrorist group to be the largest threat faced by the United States today, even bigger than the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. “The biggest nightmare that many of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction,” Clinton said. In referring to the al Qaeda network, Clinton noted that it is “unfortunately a very committed, clever, diabolical group of terrorists who are always looking for weaknesses and openings.”

Clinton’s comments came on the heels of a presentation by U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In his Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community on Feb. 2, Blair noted that, although counterterrorism actions have dealt a significant blow to al Qaeda’s near-term efforts to develop a sophisticated chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attack capability, the U.S. intelligence community judges that the group is still intent on acquiring the capability. Blair also stated the obvious when he said that if al Qaeda were able to develop CBRN weapons and had the operatives to use them it would do so.

All this talk about al Qaeda and WMD has caused a number of STRATFOR clients, readers and even friends and family members to ask for our assessment of this very worrisome issue. So, we thought it would be an opportune time to update our readers on the topic.

Realities Shaping the Playing Field

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Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again)

Summary:  We see another round of news about Iran getting the bomb.  Just as they would have the bomb in a few years — ever since 1992.  Of course, all these threats to bomb Iran probably only increase their interest in getting the bomb.  A perfect example of American geopolitical strategy, ensuring what we’re trying to prevent.  You’ll find reading this an easier cure for amnesia than a knock on the head. This is the third in a series; at the end are links to the other chapters.

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An amazing characteristic of many US journalists is their amnesia, writing news as if the past never happened.  Today’s example is “Coming Around On Iran“, Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, 15 January 2010 — Excerpt:

“Three U.S. and two foreign counterproliferation officials tell NEWSWEEK that, as soon as next month, the intel agencies are expected to complete an ‘update’ to their controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Tehran ‘halted its nuclear weapons program’ in 2003 and ‘had not restarted’ it as of mid-2007.”

This is hot news, just as it was in 1992, 2006 and 2009.  And will be next year.

The point is not that Iran’s bomb projects are not serious, nor of concern to us.  But rather a more serious problem is our willingness to accept the flimsiest propaganda, even to the extent of forgetting the last ten rounds of exaggerations and outright lies.  Our weaknesses might be the greatest threat to the Republic.  We can and must do better, which will drive our institutions (e.g., government and press) to higher standards.

Maelstrom

Contents

  1. Flashback to 1984
  2. Flashback to 1992
  3. Flashback to 2009
  4. A history of flawed predictions about nukes
  5. For more information

(1)  Flashback to 1984

The Iranians may have an atom bomb within 2 years, the authoritative Jane’s Defence Weekly warned.  That was in 1984 {24 April 1984}, two decades ago.  Four years later, the world was again put on notice, this time by Iraq, that Tehran was at the nuclear threshold, and in 1992 the CIA foresaw atomic arms in Iranian hands by 2000.  Then U.S. officials pushed that back to 2003.  And in 1997 the Israelis confidently predicted a new date — 2005.

— “Ever a ‘threat,’ never an atomic power, Iran points up challenges of nuclear technology“, AP, 27 February 2007 (red emphasis added)

(2)  Flashback to 1992

Bad Intelligence – But in Which Direction?“, Justin Logan, Cato, 24 August 2006 — Hat tip to Matthew Yglesias.

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Follow-up on America’s latest wetting our pants episode: Iran’s secret atomic facility

As was perfectly clear in September — but lost amidst America’s hysterical crying — the Iran atomic facility at Qom is not significant.  I will not embarrass anyone by providing links, but you know the stories.  The rest of the world must believe us daft, going through this again so soon after the “Saddam’s nukes” fiasco.

Contents

  1. IAEA Found Nothing Serious At Iran Site“, Reuters, 5 November 2009
  2. Bunkers or Breakthrough?“, Roger Cohen (journalist), op-ed in the New York Times, 6 November 2009 — Interview with boss of IAEA.
  3. Iranian enrichment has not grown, diplomats say“, Reuters, 11 November 2009
  4. Future of Iran-U.S. Relations“, Christiane Amanpous interviews Mohammed ElBaradei, CNN, 8 November 2009 — A must-read for anyone interested in this situation.

Mohammed ElBaradei is Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). See his Wikipedia entry for details.

Excerpts

(1)  IAEA Found Nothing Serious At Iran Site“, Reuters, 5 November 2009 — Excerpt:

U.N. inspectors found “nothing to be worried about” in a first look at a previously secret uranium enrichment site in Iran last month, the International Atomic Energy chief said in remarks published Thursday.

… The nuclear site, which Iran revealed in September three years after diplomats said Western spies first detected it, added to Western fears of covert Iranian efforts to develop atom bombs. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for electricity.

(2)  Bunkers or Breakthrough?“, Roger Cohen, op-ed in the New York Times, 6 November 2009 — Interview with boss of IAEA.  Excerpt:

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