Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Proliferation’

When you look at the popular culture, the duck and cover era of civil defense (CD) in the 1950s and early 1960s is often mercilessly mocked. The reason is likely because it seemed insane to take shelter under a desk when nuclear weapons are landing nearby.

However, in those days, the miss distances of the weapons were quite significant, far greater than they are today. As such, they were inclined to be used against soft targets like cities and industrial areas, and less so against hardened military targets. Duck and cover was actually a reasonable bit of preventive guidance for these inaccurate city killers.

However, modern nuclear weapon delivery systems have far greater accuracy. For example, the Claremont Institute’s says a Trident D-5 has 90 meter accuracy. Duck and cover might make a real difference when a weapon misses its target by two miles; not so much when that miss distance is down to 300 feet.

But here we are, fifty years later after the duck and cover era and it would appear much of the world (the parts of the world that make good targets for those who would disrupt our security) is stuck with… duck and cover. What’s up with that?!

First, there is the general weakening and unilateral disarmament of the U.S. nuclear umbrella associated with New START but also with the administration’s decision to depend more on conventional forces (which by the way are likely headed in one direction; down) for U.S./allied security needs. Next, there’s nuclear proliferation (North Korea and Pakistan; Iran’s apparently imminent nuclear breakout; likely growth in Chinese nuclear weapons and certain growth in delivery systems) and even greater missile proliferation. Finally, we’re certain to have less-capable-than-hoped for missile defenses as a result of expected defense cuts.

What’s left? Duck and cover, folks, duck and cover.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with taking shelter, and it’s certainly prudent. In fact, given the high-return/low-risk and cost of civil defense, it seems our CD capabilities should be our first step without ignoring the other aspects of deterrence (missile defense; reliable, capable, and available nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and warning methods; conventional capabilities; diplomacy; etc.) which are all part of the deterrence recipe.

When your options are only limited to duck and cover, your approach becomes one of hope (“I sure hope those nuclear weapons miss us!”) and it’s generally well-known within military circles that hope is not a substitute for strategy.

Finally, hope-is-not-a-strategy also explains why the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Japan have vital interests (and investments) in missile defense.


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.

It seems if you work at one of the secret Iranian facilities associated with the nuclear weapons program or the ballistic missile effort, life is fraught with risk. Stuxnet, Revolutionary Guard mishaps, what’s next?

Oh, another mishap. Wonder how many are dead this time?

An explosion rocked the western Iranian city of Isfahan on Monday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, adding that the blast was heard in several parts of the city.


The reported incident occurred about two weeks after Gen. Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam was killed together with 20 other Guard members Nov. 12 at a military site outside Bidganeh village, 40 kilometers southwest of Tehran.

The Revolutionary Guard said the accidental explosion occurred while military personnel were transporting munitions.

Who to blame? Should Iran finger Stuxnet, Part Deux? The Russians or North Koreans (with their traditional quality control “challenges”)? The rocket scientists associated with the Revolutionary Guard? The Protocols of the Zionistic Sons of Katie Elder? All the above?

If it was Israel, look out: Ming150,000 rockets are headed their way, under the command of the winner of the Ming the Merciless look-alike contest.



Iranian Missile WorksIt appears Iran killed at least 20 of its own in a secret missile test, including Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hasan Moghaddam. Details surrounding the disaster are not well known.

Given the observed outcome, all I can advise is this: keep working boys, keep working. You’ll know you’re fully successful when you’re all dead.

Of course, over time, practice makes perfect, especially when Iran is likely to be getting a fair amount of outside help.

In other news related to the foreign policy success of the so-called Russian Reset comes this from NTI:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday said his nation would target U.S. antimissile installations if the two nations cannot come to accord on the Obama administration’s missile defense plans, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Nov. 22).

The United States and NATO for the last year have sought to reach agreement with Moscow for collaboration on a developing Europe-based missile shield. Several rounds of negotiations have failed to produce a deal, with the sides remaining at odds over the set-up of a cooperative defense system.

The Kremlin has also demanded a legally binding pledge that the NATO defenses would not be aimed at Russian nuclear forces. The alliance has rebuffed the request but says the missile shield is intended to counter ballistic missile strikes from the Middle East, notably Iran.

Medvedev said that should the dispute continue Russia was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles in the far-western Kaliningrad region that could be fired at U.S. missile defense facilities in Europe. Additional missiles could be placed in the west and south of Russia, he added.

New long-range nuclear missiles would be equipped with technology enabling them to defeat antimissile systems, Medvedev said.

There is a potential upside to U.S. national security embedded within Medvedev’s threats:

The president also said that Russia could suspend participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States and curb additional arms control discussions with Washington.

"The United States and its NATO partners as of now aren’t going to take our concerns about the European missile defense into account," according to Medvedev.

With security partners like Russia, who needs non-partners?

As relayed by the AP, Russian’s top military man says

Russia is facing a heightened risk of being drawn into conflicts at its borders that have the potential of turning nuclear

While it’s easy to dismiss this as vacuous saber-rattling (which it is), it’s also difficult to avoid drawing the conclusion that Russia will continue to use this as an excuse to avoid drawing down its massive inventory of tactical nuclear weapons.

Were it only possible that we could play a mulligan on the Russian reset.

At some point, will the Global Zeros accept self-evident reality, history, and human nature?

Continuing Russian anxiety regarding missile defense is also telling. With Iran poised to open the floodgates of worldwide nuclear weapons proliferation, being able to stop an adversary (that is, having a robust missile defense capability) from the most consequential of all actions (that is, releasing a nuclear weapon for effect) is an important competence for the U.S. and its allies to continue to build out.


Iran had a deal with Russia to buy approximately $800 million worth of S-300 ground-to-air missiles.  The deal has subsequently been canx’d, attributed to the Iranian sanctions.  What’s Iran to do?  Lawfare!

Iran’s ambassador to Moscow, Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi, announced on Aug. 24 that Tehran had lodged a complaint against Russia with an international court of arbitration, Russian news agencies reported.


Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti, quoting Sajjadi, said Iran had filed the complaint nearly half a year ago.

So why’s the issue being brought to light just now?  Perhaps it’s some sort of disinformation campaign to move the focus off the Russian agreement to deal Iran yet more nuclear capability.

Or perhaps the S-300 wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?  That is, the Russians didn’t want to sell something which had great foreign military sales potential only to have it defeated/bypassed by Israel in real-world conflict?

It’s interesting that then-vice president Dick Cheney urged George Bush to bomb the stealthy Syrian nuclear reactor in the summer of 2007.  As it turned out, Cheney was a voice crying in the wilderness and the administration’s course of action turned out to be more diplomacy.

Why was the diplomatic course of action pursued?  It’s because of the loss of credibility the Bush administration, prior administration, Congress, world-in-general, and especially the U.S. intelligence community suffered following the invasion of Iraq.  You remember: the thought-to-be-there WMDs that were a foundational part of the case for action against Iraq turned out to be not George Tenet’s slam dunk, but rather his missed lay-up.

The lack of an accurate intelligence assessment regarding Iraq limited the ‘kinetic decisions’ regarding Syria, but the reality is Cheney had a brilliant idea regarding the use of airpower; that is, get in, kill people and break their stuff as required, and leave.  Boots on ground?  Fuggetaboudit. 

In fact, Cheney’s ideas was so brilliant, it was later perfectly executed by the Israelis, who have a tradition of pulling off this sort of bold and decisive action in the face of developing existential threats.  Could Israel pull it off today?  With greater difficulty, I’d speculate.  And against Iran?  With greater difficulty still.

But the idea (bold and destructive airpower missions designed to destroy the Syria’s emerging nuclear program) was just what the security doctor ordered.  The IAEA, while blocked in most of their efforts to access the bombed site, still has plenty of suggestive forensic evidence (analogous to the DNA of the OJ Simpson criminal case) regarding the illegal Syrian nuclear program (by the way, the Syrians were signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  I think the NPT has “the full weight of the law” behind it).  Given the revealed nature of Syrian leadership, bombing the site now appears to have been a superior choice.

In the meantime, remember the lesson of Great White: