Posts Tagged ‘Washington Post’

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.


nextOn Iran and its drive for nuclear weapons, the Administration has lost a traditionally reliable supporter, the editorial board at the Washington Post.

ACCORDING TO a recent story in The Post, the Obama administration is “quietly toasting” the success of international sanctions against Iran.  


We don’t begrudge the White House a toast or two over these developments; the administration has worked hard and relatively effectively to make the sanctions work. But it’s important to note a stubborn reality: There has been no change in Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons or in its aggressive efforts to drive the United States out of the Middle East.

If anything, Tehran has recently grown bolder.

After observing that Iran is just a short hop, skip, and jump away from having the highly enriched uranium they need, and having demonstrated a credible “space launch” program, the Post closes with a question:

The bottom line is that the threat from Iran is not diminishing but growing. Where is the policy to reverse that alarming trend?

Could Iran still have some sort of national-level Berlin Wall movement?  Possibly, but in that regard, remember the West was able to fill the power vacuum (and the USSR held the nukes anyway).  So regarding Iran’s nuclear program, it seems sanctions are having a slowing effect, sabotage, cyberwar (Stuxnet) and wet ops are having a slowing effect, but the thing that will cause a stopping effect is yet to be found.

There’s little doubt that the Post is advocating starting the prep work for direct action as the tactic of last resort.  The lesson of history is if you want peace, you prepare for war.  I wonder if the Saudis are whispering in anyone’s ear on this situation?

Once Iran goes nuclear, in time the entire region is likely to become nuclear proliferated.  Global zero, anyone?

(buy the t-shirt image at cafepress)

William Wan and Peter Finn, writing at the Washington Post, tell us that aviation’s hottest sector is UAVs.  I’m shocked, shocked!

More than 50 countries have purchased surveillance drones, and many have started in-country development programs for armed versions because no nation is exporting weaponized drones beyond a handful of sales between the United States and its closest allies.

“This is the direction all aviation is going,” said Kenneth Anderson, a professor of law at American University…

So who are the nation-states being talked about?  On the manufacturing and/or export side, the U.S., Israel, China (one Chinese UAV looks like a Predator and another looks like a Global Hawk—what are the odds?!), Russia, and maybe Iran.  On the demand side, among those 50 countries are Pakistan (armed UAVs and buying from China, go figure) and soon, traditional U.S. defense industry customers like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt.

What’s the solution to these amoral mechanical beasts prowling the otherwise friendly skies?  According to university professor Noel Sharkey, it’s (wait for it…) arms control.  Specifically, the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.  I got a fee-vah and the only prescription is more arms control! 

And is there a space lesson here?  You’d think so: if robotics are the way ahead in aviation, it’s likely true in space as well.  If so, the real space future is still unmanned. 

Why?  life in space is harmful to children and other living things.

(Photo from Global


The David Ignatius article Dazzling new weapons require new rules for war in the Washington Post leaves a lot to be desired from the messaging and consistency points of view.

Mr. Ignatius first sets the stage…

A year ago, Saudi Arabia was fighting a nasty border war against the Houthi rebels across its frontier with Yemen. The Saudis began bombing Houthi targets inside Yemen on Nov. 5, 2009, but the airstrikes were inaccurate, and there were reports of civilian casualties.

The Saudis appealed to America for imagery from U.S. surveillance satellites in space, so they could target more precisely. Gen. David Petraeus, who was Centcom commander at the time, is said to have backed the Saudi request, but it was opposed by the State Department and others. They warned that intervening in this border conflict, even if only by providing targeting information, could violate the laws of war.

So the Saudis turned elsewhere for help – to France, which has its own reconnaissance satellites. The French, who were worried that imprecise Saudi bombing was creating too many civilian casualties in Yemen, agreed to help. The necessary details were arranged within days.

Here’s both a summary and a question for Mr. Ignatius: so if the U.S. intervenes, it could violate the laws of war.  But the French do it and…what?  It’s OK, or is it not OK?  And do the French operate under different laws of war than the U.S.?  But never mind, the story continues…

Using this precise satellite intelligence, the Saudis were able to monitor the Houthis’ hideouts, equipment dumps and training sites. Saudi warplanes then attacked with devastating effectiveness. Within a few weeks, the Houthis were requesting a truce, and by February this chapter of the border war was over.

Again, what is issue here?  That devastating effectiveness is bad?  Or that it ends wars quickly and that it’s good?  We don’t know, nor can we tell.  However…

But the Saudi incident raises larger questions about the transfer of technologies that have demonstrated their deadly effectiveness during the past decade in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas. These weapons are seductively attractive; they offer the promise of destroying an enemy from a safe distance of 10,000 or 20,000 feet in the air.

Mr. Ignatius appears to be mixing the issues of intervening by providing overhead imagery (which by the way is buyable on the open market down to 20 inch resolution) and the issue of applying weapons against targets from aerial platforms.  I think aircraft with air to ground capabilities have been around for some time – and in the Saudi inventory — so where’s the technology transfer issue?

The lid on Pandora’s box is coming open: The Saudis, understandably, now want their own satellite capability, and they will soon request bids from Western companies for such a system. Riyadh also wants drones that can see and attack enemy targets in remote places. Washington has been weighing whether to include versions of its Predator drones in an arms sale to the kingdom. Such weapons would boost Saudi ability to deter Iran, but they could also threaten Israel.

Goodness.  Satellites that have been taking pictures have been around for almost fifty years.  Additionally, if the Saudis can buy satellite products from the French, what’s the big deal about them having their own organic systems that provide the same product?  And drones…they’re considered high-tech?  If your car’s engine makes more than 116 horse power, it’s more powerful than a MQ-1 Predator.  UAVs are good for those dull, dirty, and dangerous mission areas, but they aren’t (yet) all that.  As of today, how about an F-22 versus a UAV?  Game over in about 15 seconds from 40 miles out.  Now, onto more “high-tech” confusion…

Consider the case of Turkey: For years, Ankara has sought U.S. technology to fight what it sees as an insurgency by Kurdish rebel groups, especially the “PKK” that hides in northern Iraq. Now, that high-tech help has arrived.

The United States has quietly created a joint “centralized command center” with Turkey for surveillance drones flying over northern Iraq. Turkish officers look over the shoulders of their U.S. counterparts at the imagery and are free to target suspicious activity when they see it. The United States doesn’t pull the triggers; it just shows the pictures.

It isn’t clear how the Turkey scenario is any different from Saudi one which ‘might violate the laws of war.’  Oh well…

These weapons are so good that they can become addictive. They make possible precise acts of war that, in another time, would be called “assassination.” Other countries want to protect themselves from terrorist rebels just as much as the United States does. This means the demand for such weapons will grow.

Addictive, eh?  That’s kind of a weird way of describing the situation and it goes without saying that demand for capable weapons will grow.  But in the situations described, satellites and UAVs aren’t assassination, they’re combat systems (even if they are no longer part of the Global War on Terror, but are now merely a part of our Overseas Contingency Operations) being applied for combat effect.

The “laws of war” may sound like an antiquated concept in this age of robo-weapons. But, in truth, a clear international legal regime has never been more needed: It is a fact of modern life that people in conflict zones live in the perpetual cross hairs of deadly weapons. Rules are needed for targets and targeters alike.

Is an ICBM a robo-weapon?  We’ve had those for 50-plus years and we will until we can think of a cheaper/better/faster robo-weapon.

So, Mr. Ignatius here’s the summary.  The truth is we have laws of war and terrorists don’t abide by them.  The U.S. military does.  Satellites and UAVs are here for the duration of the planet.  Technology and allies and the complexities governing the battlefield will continue to be an issue just as they have since times immemorial.