Posts Tagged ‘Arms Control Industry’

The Washington Post ran an anti-nuclear weapons column written by the National Evangelical Association (NEA, but not the National Education Association lobby, headquartered at 1201 16th Street Northwest, Washington DC 20036). I suspect the Post ran this article because it agrees with their political sensibilities (versus, for example, running an NEA column advocating reducing the approximately one million abortions performed each year in the U.S.). Anyway, the NEA has come up with a corporate position on nuclear weapons that reflects the following:

We question the acceptability of nuclear weapons as part of a just national defense.

Hmm. I question your question.

I’m not sure if the above is a long-recycled NEA talking point (if so, they’re Green!) or not, but since the United States has had nuclear weapons for over 60 years, did they think of bringing this concern up earlier? Regardless, there’s more:

In our globalizing world, security cannot be obtained by threatening retaliation after a nuclear strike. Instead, our security – as well as our commitment to seeking genuine peace – requires that we eliminate the very possibility of such an attack.

Well, if the NEA wants to cross the security bridge, why not go all the way? What can be done to obtain security and to eliminate the very possibility of a nuclear attack (or any attack of any sort, for that matter)?

Of course, that’s a rhetorical question and history seems to indicate there are no security guarantees, only prudent courses of action (and I don’t think the NEA is providing a stealthy call for more missile defense). Nuclear weapons are not designed to be all security things to all the peoples’ security needs at all security times. They are (for example) an ill-fit to prevent social unrest in Greece, human rights violations in China, the repression of women in the Arab states, the meltdown of the Euro, a worldwide pandemic, or even reality television like A Kardashian Wedding: The Mulligan.

The NEA uses an old chestnut, the appeal to authority, to make their case:

As nonpartisan statesmen like George Shultz, Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger and William Perry have written, the logic of deterrence fails to guard against the dangers of our post-Cold War era. Against these perils, the very existence of nuclear weapons may be more of a liability than an asset.

The NEA also appeals to THE authority, God, and they even reference two pieces of Scripture, Genesis 1:27 and Romans 12:14.

But what are the NEA’s goals, nuclear-wise? It’s a mashed-up laundry list of common sense items and a dash of delusion (along with a splash of self-limiting U.S. behaviors):

Re-examining the moral and ethical basis for the doctrine of nuclear deterrence

Maintaining the taboo against nuclear use

Achieving verified mutual reductions in current nuclear stockpiles

Ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Increasing safeguards against accidental use

Resolving regional conflicts

Preventing the unauthorized spread of fissile material

Continuing dialogue on the effects of possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons

Another hmm, a big one: there were two World Wars in a thirty year period that are estimated to have killed well over 100 million people and with countless others wounded. What about the World Wars since the introduction of atomic/nuclear weapons? Let’s just round it off to zero. Is this luck, or is it possible nuclear weapons have introduced more warfighting discretion and restraint by the world’s political leaders? (Granted, this line of thinking is not provable, but it is suggestive.)

Yes, there have also been plenty of not-natural deaths post World War II, but they can be largely charged to the state-sanctioned non-nuclear butchery of men like Joe Stalin and Mao Tse-tung.

When the wheels finally fell off the Soviet Union two decades ago, they were forced to deal with issues like nuclear stockpile reductions, physical security, and proliferation. The United States aided Russia greatly in these efforts and even drew down its own weapons count dramatically. Yet today, the world is more multi-proliferated than it’s ever been. What’s up with that?!

It seems to me that it’s safe to say the NEA is preaching to the saved on this entire issue. But who are the saved, you ask? The arms controllers and their like here in the friendly confines of the U.S., the UN, and Western Europe; the ones who favor U.S. nuclear disarmament without addressing the reality of nuclear proliferation or the need for nuclear deterrence.

Has the NEA has ever considered how Iran or North Korea view their nuclear weapons programs? It seems to me that those two nations (as well as China and Russia) would certainly be pleased were the U.S. to self-limit, or better yet, disarm. Perhaps the NEA will submit their piece to the Tehran Times or the Pyongyang Yeller for further support of their position.


Loren Thompson, writing at Forbes, points out that President Obama is likely to spend more on nuclear modernization than any president since Ronald Reagan.  Why? 

This may be the ultimate example of how gaining political power can transform the beliefs of leaders — not because Obama has abandoned his support of disarmament, but because of how being responsible for the nation’s security forces him to think in practical terms about the dangers of disarming.

Later, Thompson offers this:

The paradox is that the fewer weapons each side has the greater the danger of a surprise attack because at lower numbers it becomes easier for each country to disarm the other side.

That’s not exactly a paradox as I see it.  Instead, it’s a simple reflection of the fact that as the numbers of nuclear weapons go down, the value of each remaining weapon goes up.  Similarly, the value of missile defense goes up and the value of cheating on arms control treaties and on nuclear proliferation issues goes up.

While there may not be much deterrent difference between 4800 and 5000 nuclear weapons and if the world is in a fairly stable bipolar configuration, today we’re instead looking at a third that number, as agreed to in New START.  Even at 1550, assuming a target set of (say) 700, you’re looking at up to two weapons per target.  But that assumes much including an immobile and unchanging target set and an unchanging target count.

However, nuclear proliferation is busting out all over and those nations busy plussing-up their weapons count and delivery systems don’t have a well established track record of political and military stability or friendliness and good humor.

In the bad old days we were more interested in counter-force targets, those military targets of great value in the Soviet Union.  While the Soviets may or may not have used a similar philosophy, today’s nuclear proliferated world, with less reliable weapons and delivery systems is likely to look at soft, asymmetrical targets like cities, population centers, centers of industry and government, and the likes.

What’s it all mean?  I’ll count down with five suggestions to make the United States safer: 5) stop the arms control insanity, 4) revitalize nuclear deterrence, 3) plus-up missile defense, 2) grow civil defense, 1) spend more time on anti-nuclear proliferation and more money on anti-nuclear proliferation technologies.  Concurrently develop and execute punitive (and effective) policies and sanctions for nuclear proliferators.

These are wicked-type problems, but let’s deal with the world as it is and not as we wish it to be.

Always bear in mind the basic arms control script: 1) it’ll never work, 2) it’ll cost too much, and 3) it’ll destabilize international relations.

Act four of the script is never stated, but it’s this: mutually assured vulnerability is preferable over single superpower (with the weapons systems to stop a missile attack), that is, the U.S. 

Arguing against missile defense has to be an uncomfortable subject for the arms controllers who have taken up a dogmatic, faith-based, and non-historical position that 1) arms control actually works and 2) technologies don’t mature.  

So when one of the usual suspects from the arms control cult argues against missile defense, you get the standard script with a few deviations.

Reference the script’s item one: because missile defense haters have seen missile defense work as advertised in a number of tests, the standard playbook needs some adjustment.  The first adjustment is an allowance and it goes like this, “OK, missile defense has worked but it’s easily defeatable.”  Such thinking is the classic argument from ignorance and the idea (missile defense is easily defeatable) is asserted to be true because it hasn’t been proven false.  The next argument is the first’s evil doppelganger, “And it hasn’t been tested under warfighting conditions.”  No, and neither has an ICBM.  Do you doubt its efficacy as well?

Missile defense, as it’s currently being set up, can be easily defeated by any country that can field ballistic missiles…

So there you have it, missile defense (with the weird qualifier “as it’s currently being set up”) will never work.  These are the types of assertions the missile defense haters have been recycling since at least the 1980s.  Their proof: the papers they’ve written and they studies they’ve done themselves. 

Ted Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and I carried out a detailed study of the planned system.

Yes, going Postol on missile defense with a self-referential study casting doubt of missile defense.  I’m shocked, shocked!

So what about the irrationality of nation-states themselves?  It’s all a form of cognitive dissonance…no wait, paranoia!

So, if missile defense could be so easily defeated by North Korea and Iran, why are the Russians so up in arms about it? The answer is simple: Their military planners are paid to be paranoid — just like the ones in the Pentagon — and they must assume a worst-case scenario in which they treat the system as being highly effective, even when it isn’t.

Yes, and China is doing missile defense as well.  And we all have the warfighting annex addressing the alien invasion right there in the vault just in case Mars Attacks.  C’mon, we’re paid to be paranoid! 

The hits just keep on coming with non-sequitirs like this, which segues into step two of the arms control script:

The possible disclosure of sensitive U.S. secrets…is just one of the many risks of an ineffective missile-defense system, from engendering a false sense of security that could lead to serious policy miscalculations to greater worldwide stockpiles of military plutonium to a relaunching of the nuclear arms race with Russia.

Right.  Because missile defense doesn’t work, Russia will start an expensive nuclear arms race.  Why?  Because they’re paranoid!  And along the way, the U.S. will somehow be compelled to participate in a nuclear arms race with Russia.  (Begin sarcasm font) Of course!  It’s so simple; why didn’t I see any of this before?! (Close sarcasm font)  And since we’re now living in financially austere times, we need to save all the money we can, so the arms controllers would say, let’s cut missile defense.

The bogusness would be incomplete without a good faulty dilemma (and step three of the script) to get off the stage:

Is it really worth giving up the Russian queen in trying — and failing — to protect from an Iranian pawn?

If the linked article represents the sort of flawed thinking that’s typical of the scientists of the arms control cult, their handlers (read bill-payers) should look for more capable thinkers. 

What is it about nuclear weapons that give the arms control industry such angst?

Threat-wise, the U.S. government is unconcerned about the nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles of Britain, France, and Israel.  The USG is not really highly concerned (that is, worried) about the same regarding Russia, China, and India.  So who is the U.S. we concerned about?

Pakistan (loose nukes, insider issues, and a sort of whole of government concern); nutty theocracies like Iran; of course, the hermit kingdom, North Korea.

As such, consider a Ronald Reagan paraphrase: Pakistan and India don’t distrust each other because they have nuclear weapons; rather, they have nuclear weapons because they distrust one another.

If you believe the crux of Reagan’s thought, it would seem the issue is not in the weapons count, but rather in who holds the weapons and what their relationships are with other such states and their neighbors. 

So when the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Director Daniel Nord says

because [the recognized] "nuclear weapons states [Britain, France, China, Russia, and the U.S.] are modernizing and are investing in their nuclear weapons establishments (it) seems unlikely that there will be any real nuclear weapon disarmament within the foreseeable future."

The elephant in the room that Nord misses is the ‘so what?’  Nuclear modernization is not the real issue; that’s something that happens on an ongoing basis.  Nor is the issue the weapons count for the recognized nuclear weapons states; after all, weapons and delivery vehicle counts have gone down significantly and continually since the 1960s.  Rather, the most destabilizing and concerning aspect of nuclear weapons is their proliferation to states like Pakistan, North Korea, and soon to be, Iran.

The arms control industry feels compelled to do something but that desire almost always leads back to the U.S. instead of to where the much more difficult and dangerous problems are, North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan.

My suggestion for the arms control industry writ large is for a couple of self-help books.  One would deal with procrastination; the other would deal with prioritization.

nuclear proliferationWhy doesn’t the arms control industry seem to care much about Pakistan?  Is calling out Pakistan is somehow being repressed by their sponsors?  Anyway, on with the show…

Nuclear weapons proliferation king AQ Kahn blames India for Pakistan’s nuclear program in a Newsweek article (why Newsweek gives Kahn a public platform of any kind is another issue altogether).  Kahn says:

I would like to make it clear that it was an Indian nuclear explosion in May 1974 that prompted our nuclear program…

In Pakistan, blaming India is a pretty safe strategy, so Kahn is staying on script. 

By the early 1990s, Pakistan had nuclear weapons and delivery systems.  Kahn adds:

For a country that couldn’t produce bicycle chains to have become a nuclear and missile power within a short span—and in the teeth of Western opposition—was quite a feat.

Yes, it was quite a feat.  So who should we credit the assist to?  China or Russia?  Given the geography and the history of the region, I favor China (and massive industrial espionage by Kahn and his team).

Kahn moves on to the topic of nuclear deterrence:

India doesn’t need more than five weapons to hurt us badly, and we wouldn’t need more than 10 to return the favor. That is why there has been no war between us for the past 40 years…

Don’t overlook the fact that no nuclear-capable country has been subjected to aggression or occupied, or had its borders redrawn. Had Iraq and Libya been nuclear powers, they wouldn’t have been destroyed in the way we have seen recently. If we had had nuclear capability before 1971, we would not have lost half of our country—present-day Bangladesh—after disgraceful defeat.

Kahn’s statement shows why the global zeros are unlikely to achieve their goals, unless something more asymmetrical than nuclear weapons are developed or unless missile defense becomes a ubiquitous, highly available, ready, and credible capability.

From the comments section on Kahn:

This criminal, this merchant of death peddled WMD technology to various terrorist nations of the world. When he says there is no reason to be afraid, that is exactly the reason to not believe that. 

So did Kahn really do that stuff?  If you can believe the the Wikipedia entry on Kahn, yes.

In early February 2004, the Government of Pakistan reported that Khan had signed a confession indicating that he had provided Iran, Libya, and North Korea with designs and centrifuge technology to aid in nuclear weapons programs…

The title is “Hey kids, what time is it?!”  The answer is “It’s time for another arms control treaty!”

Or as Christopher Walken might say, “Guess what?  I’ve got a fevah.  And the only prescription is more arms control.”

Yes, the administration is pondering introducing an “education” campaign deigned to culminate in the Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which was first not-ratified in 1999.  

From Global Security Newswire:

[Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher] said the case for the test ban treaty would consist of three main arguments: that the United States no longer needs to conduct explosive tests to ensure the viability of its nuclear arsenal; that the agreement, once it has entered into force, would obligate all member states not to test; and that the international organization that supports the treaty has a greater ability to catch nations that cheat than it did when the Senate last considered the pact in 1999.

Tauscher’s “no longer needs to test” might make more sense if we had a highly modern nuclear weapons inventory.  We don’t.  The newest U.S. nuclear weapon was made in 1989, before the Soviet Union fell

Since then, configuration changes to the weapons have occurred as components age out.  At some point (are we there yet?), you end up with significantly different, not tested for effect, life-extended nuclear weapons that you think are going to work because the algorithms say so.  Tauscher’s “no longer” means never.  Never is too long, especially when there’s no purpose served in agreeing to such a self-limiting restriction. 

“Would obligate all member states not to test,” eh?  Some of the proliferation kings (North Korea, Syria, and Pakistan) have not signed the treaty to begin with and neither has India.  Others (China, Iran, Israel, and the U.S.) have not yet ratified it.  At least one signatory member state (Iran) is known to be a nuclear cheat.  Is any of this important? 

I suppose the next argument will be “The treaty has the full force of the law,” as did 1928’s Kellogg-Briand treaty, the one which outlawed war and is still in effect today.  A snip from the Wikipedia entry on that treaty:

As a practical matter, the Kellogg–Briand Pact did not live up to its aim of ending war, and in this sense it made no immediate contribution to international peace and proved to be ineffective in the years to come. It did not prevent the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, and the German and Soviet Union invasions of Poland.

Start sarcasm font: So other than that, I guess Kellogg-Briand worked great! End sarcasm font.

Tauscher mentions “a greater ability to catch nations that cheat.”  Yes, the ability to catch may be greater but it hasn’t been enough to stop Syria, North Korea, or Iran from cheating.  Catching dedicated cheaters, especially in closed-societies, has shown to be a difficult task.

Besides that, catching is one thing.  Getting the international community (other than Israel) to do something about it (or, gulp, having the U.S. go it alone) is another.

History shows that arms control is subject to the aforementioned cheating, lacks meaningful enforcement, and is contrary to human nature.  The asymmetrical security benefits of being a nuclear state seem to be too great to resist.  But as with Kellogg-Briand, other than that, arms control is working great!

If our elected leadership decides we’re not going to test nuclear weapons for effect that decision should be made unilaterally (as was the bin Laden raid) so as to preserve future testing options.

Guess what? I’ve got a fevah. And the only prescription is more arms control!

The great Global Security Newswire has an article, Russia Calls For Common Ground With U.S. on Missile Shield, which offers an interesting Russian perspective on missile defense.

“We need to seek common approaches and breakthrough positions on this issue,” [Russian General Staff chief Gen. Nikolai] Makarov was reported by ITAR-Tass to have said following his meeting with [U.S. counterpart, Joint Chiefs of Staff head Adm. Michael] Mullen.

It would first be useful to define and understand what Makarov means by “common approaches and breakthrough positions.”  I’d offer it means this: the U.S. needs to assume the Russian approach and that the U.S. needs to assume the Russian position (no innuendo intended).

Makarov said he wanted to see Moscow and Washington come to an understanding on missile defense…

I’d offer “an understanding” in this context means the U.S. will comply with the Russian missile defense desires.

The Kremlin vehemently opposed the Bush plans and remains wary of the U.S. proposal to deploy more limited-range interceptors around Europe. Moscow has demanded an equal role with NATO in the planned missile shield…

Desperate acts for desperate nations.  “Vehemently opposed” and “demanded an equal role” are little more than table-pounding. 

Russia has also called for a legally binding pledge that the NATO system would not be aimed at its nuclear-armed missiles.

So why would the Russians appear to fear missile defense when U.S. “experts” say it’ll never work and when it does, it’ll cost too much?

Maybe because missile defense works.